Thursday, 17 March 2016

Anglers the salvation for rare duck?

Nether Wallop Mill, Stockbridge, England

The headlines in The Scotsman and the BBC splashed much the same message: Survival of rare duck in Scotland 'depends on trout fishing'. I must admit it rather caught my eye, with the article which went on to say:

"Conservationists believe they have identified the cause of a decline in numbers of a rare duck. In the UK, common scoters breed at only a few locations in the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland and lochs in the hills and glens near Inverness.

A key cause is now thought to be rising numbers of trout which eat the ducks' main food source, freshwater insects.

RSPB Scotland and others have raised concerns the bird could become extinct locally because of poor breeding. The charity suspects declining angling on the lochs has helped boost brown trout populations.

Dr Mark Hancock, from the RSPB's Centre for Conservation Science said: "Of all the lochs we investigated during this work, scoters bred most often at those with the shallowest water and the most large, freshwater invertebrates. It soon became clear that there were more insects where there were fewer brown trout, so it looks like scoters are being limited by a lack of food in places where the fish are eating it all. We're now using these results to design new ways of helping scoters. For example, in areas of the north Highlands where angling activity has dropped off and fish numbers have increased, more trout angling is potentially one way to boost freshwater insect life."

Dr Andy Douse of SNH and co-author of the study, said: "Scotland is the only part of the UK to have breeding scoters, many of which nest in legally-protected nature conservation sites.  This study highlights promising management options for restoring populations of this declining species."

A Scoter duck
The first time I read the article I thought interesting, but after a few re-reads something about it slightly needled me. Firstly, it was the assumption that trout fishing was seen as a form of fish population control, the implicit belief that we killed the fish we catch.  I don't know about you but most anglers I know prefer catch and release and on the occasions I have fished Scottish lochs, mostly populated with beautiful wild browns, I wouldn't have done anything else. 
Then there was the statement 'It soon became clear that there were more insects where there were fewer brown trout ....'. Well, I'm sure you know that there have been decades of research into the state of fly life on the chalkstreams and in all that time I have never once seen any fly life decline attributed to the fish population. Invasive species, pollution, climate, water flows to name but four that might be cited, but trout? If anyone ever suggested that the fish be removed from a stretch of river to boost the fly life we'd call the men in white coats.

Then there was that final bit of Orwellian group speak, "This study highlights promising management options for restoring populations of this declining species." I think from all the above we can see where this particular policy might be heading. Encouraging us to fish is great news, but I suspect they may have other measures in mind and that would be wrong because, despite an eye catching headline, the conclusion is based on flawed logic. 


What do Finland, Japan, Luxembourg, Malta, New Zealand, The Netherlands and the United States all have in common? Before you expend too much brain energy on what I suspect is an impossible ask I'll put you out of your misery - they are the first seven (of 30 anticipated) countries that have confirmed for the 2016 World Fly Fishing Championship.

Colorado River
Spread over seven days starting on September 11 this year's contest is being held in Vail, Colorado this only being the second time it has been hosted by the USA, the last being way back in 1997. 

If you are looking for a guide to a possible winner, the host nation is always a good bet; over the past 35 years they have been the victors on ten occasions. The Czech Republic is the form team with victory in four of the past six contests. Spain are the current holders having won in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2015.

Like in football and rugby the United Kingdom enters on a home nation basis. England have lifted the trophy five times, the last back in 2009 when it was held in Scotland, when the Scots took third place as well. Wales have had two second place finishes, 1995 and 2000. The latter I recall very well as it was held in southern England right in prime Mayfly.  Hardly challenging for the 400 odd best fly fishermen in the world? I think it took the remainder of the season for the River Test trout to recover from the trauma.

If anyone out there has news of the home nations teams do get in touch; we'd like to follow your progress. I have to confess I have never fished Colorado, but from everything I have learnt in Idaho and Wyoming it will, as the locals say, be 'totally awesome' but never easy.

More details on the 36th FIPS-Mouche World Fly Fishing Championship web site. 


This week three topical botanical puzzlers; you will see all three currently flowering in your garden. It's just for fun and answers are at the bottom of the page. 

1) What is the common name for Galanthus?

2) What is the common name for Narcissus?

3) What is the common name for Sativus?

NEW FOR 2016 - Wild rainbows

Recently I took a trip to Derbyshire to visit Warren Slaney the keeper on the Haddon Hall Estate. If I recall the number rightly Warren told me he and his fellow keeper Jan Hobot have 27 miles of river under their care including fishing on the Wye that has one of Britain's very few wild rainbow trout populations.

Nobody has a definitive explanation as to why these rainbows have thrived here but nowhere else. It could have just been something as one-off as mutant gene in the original stocked fish. Alternatively it could be that the particular water source from the limestone hills mimics the geology of the American homelands. Whatever freak of nature created this USP it is a pretty compelling unique selling point and I'm glad I made that 3 hour drive north.

The Lathkill. Photo courtesy of Guido Vinck

As many of you will know The Peacock Hotel in the local village Rowsley is part of the Haddon Hall Estate, which sells day tickets on both the River Lathkill and Wye. However, what you may not know is that there is now access through Fishing Breaks to the Dukes Beat on the Wye and the Hall Beat on the Lathkill. This is the private family fishing and only a very few days each season will be made available.

To enjoy them both I recommend back-to-back days. By the way, you can leave your nymph box at home. A strict dry fly only rule was introduced on June 6th 1865.

Details on prices/booking here and there is more on the story of Haddon Hall here.

Have a good weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature    
Founder & Managing Director  

Quiz answers: 1) Snowdrop 2) Daffodil 3) Crocus