Friday, 20 November 2009
Up here in Cumbria we have been affected by some of the worst flooding in living memory. For many in the Eden Valley the affects have not been too bad. However communities along the Eamont and on the main Eden at Appleby have been affected and my thoughts are with all those that have been flooded - it must be a very traumatic time. The Lakeland rivers have been particularly badly affected and the TV pictures showing the devastation in Workington, Keswick and Cockermouth are very distressing to see.
Is this climate change and the shape of things to come? If it is we will all have to learn to to adapt and allevaite against these big flood events.
Here at ERT we are leading on a project called ALFA (Adaptive Landuse for Flood Alleviation). The aim of the project is to develop innovative schemes that would aim to protect citizens within the Eden Catchment against the effects of flooding due to climate change. A major part of the project will be to look at ways of storing water or discharge of peak floods within the Eden. Flood Management is a Europe wide issue and we are part of a transnational consortium of organisations based in Germany, Holland, Belgium and France. We are also working with the Environment Agency on a major flood alleviation scheme on the Thacka Beck, on the north side of Penrith. The beck is being diverted which will allow the creation of a wetland storage area to be be brought into usage during flood events.
ALFA is a long term project (no quick fix's) and we are working with Durham University and the Environment Agncy to identify key rivers that have the biggest effect on the timing and peaks of flood flows. Once this has been completed we will then identify projects that could be undertaken in the upper reaches of the catachment that may help to reduce the impacts of flooding on communties in the lower part of the catchment such as Carlisle and Penrith. There will be a lot of buy-in required from a great many stakeholders to make this happen but events over the last 24 hours show that the stakes are very high indeed.
My thoughts go out to all those affected by these terrible events.
For more information visit www.alfa-project.eu
Monday, 19 October 2009
Volunteering for ERT is a great way to 'give something back' to your local environment. Each year we are on the look out for 'willing' volunteers to assist with a diverse range of conservation activities. These range from elctrofishing and crayfish surveying to water crowfoot planting and himalayan balsam control. Not only are doing something good but it's also a great day out in our wonderful catchment.
But don't take my word for it, here's what two ERT volunteers have got to say about their experiences.
John Rothwell, Burgh-by-Sands
“Having started aiding the Eden Rivers Trust as merely an attempt to complete the service aspect of my Duke of Edinburgh’s award it came as almost a surprise that I begun to enjoy my weekly commitment of crayfish surveying, filling the otherwise empty void of my summer holidays. The best site we surveyed contained about 40 crayfish under 50 rocks. Unfortunately however there was one week where I couldn’t make any of the crayfish surveying dates and so I tried my hand at electro fishing and to my surprise we caught approximately 60 trout and 40 salmon fry. Overall I found that Volunteering for the Eden Rivers Trust is a fun, useful and interesting way for anyone fill any spare days.”
David Peggs, Gamblesby
"You are standing calf-deep in a tributary of the Eden, peering through a foot of clear water at the riverbed. There's a warm sun on your back and you are in the company of a Trust Biologist and other volunteers, somewhere in the glorious countryside of the river’s extensive catchment. The object of your scrutiny is the elusive white-clawed crayfish – a suitably retiring native, now threatened by its more demonstrative American cousin, the signal crayfish.
On another day, your attention will be focused on trout and salmon fry, temporarily stunned by the electrode-wielding Fisheries Biologist – an opportunity to observe the pristine, individual beauty of these infant fish at close range.
There will be some friendly banter. There will certainly be a chance to learn more about the river and its inhabitants, and at the end of a stimulating day in the fresh air, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you have contributed something towards the protection of your local environment. A degree of smugness is allowed.
It costs nothing other than your time. You can choose when and where you wish to go. And if neither fish nor crayfish appeal to your sensibilities, there are other Trust activities from water-plant management to the control of alien bank side vegetation (Japanese knotweed and Himalayan balsam) – which might appeal to gardeners!
Trust volunteers come in all shapes and sizes and range from the spring chickens to the geriatric (like me). You will not feel out of place. No skill, or specialist knowledge, is required and all equipment is provided, and since days on the river are only scheduled from June to October, you are unlikely to freeze to death.
I have been involved in a number of excursions over the last two summers – all of them a pleasure – and I look forward to more of the same next year.
There’s just one possible inaccuracy in this otherwise honest account: given the nature of the English summer, that warm sun on you back which I mentioned cannot be guaranteed!”
The picture heading-up this blog is of a recent volunteer crayfish training day - there must be a whitty caption out there?
Wednesday, 14 October 2009
Today Joanne Blackshall took part in a radio interview on the Gordon Swindlehurst Show. The subject was ERT's work on Invasive Species within the catchment. In five short minutes Joanne managed to cover Japanese Knotweed, Hymalayan Balsam, Signal Crayfish and then end of the trout fishing season.......quite a trick!
We also highlighted that one of our Corporate Sponsors Japanese Knotweed Solutions has just undertaken a whole of river survey of the River Eamont for Japanese Knotweed. More of this in a future blog.
The interview came accross very well and for me demonstates everything that a Rivers Trust should be about.
If you would like to listen to the interview you can do this by visiting BBC iPlayer over the next few days the link is http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/p004nv4z/Gordon_Swindlehurst_14_10_2009/
and you should be looking for the interview that starts at 11 min and 10 seconds into the show.
Monday, 12 October 2009
The Drake is a very cool magazine published in the States. Within it's pages you'll find conservation taking centre stage along with fantastic articles about fishing. The images are superb. Makes you want to get out on the river.
This really is an aspirational publication and not a single how to do it article within it's covers...how refreshing!
The website has some breathtaking videos on it....and I promise you John Wilson isn't in any of them!
Tuesday, 29 September 2009
Almost at the end of my first trout season on the Eden. It's difficult to draw any specific conclusions as I only got going in June and missed three months of early season trouting. To keep my enthusiasm going a good fishing friend of mine sent me this picture of a large wild trout he caught from a tributary of the Eden...although he won't tell me where...some friend?!
I have really enjoyed my season and have experienced some very absorbing and challenging fishing. Many times I have been left scratching my head. Having moved from lowland rivers that consistently perform throughout the season. The rivers in this neck of the woods are fickle beasts and it often boils down to being on the river at the right time. My best sessions have come when the river is finning down after a flood and during those last few minutes of fading light before darkness.
My last visit to the Upper Eden a few days back produced a brief flurry of late evening activity of about 15 minuets with hatch of olives that put the grayling in the mood. One of thse fish which fell to a dry was a stunning fish of nearly 2lbs.....and it doesn't come much better than that!
Next season I hope to explore more of the lower river to try for a 'big mamma' of a wild brown(4lb+)and I've also set my heart on making contact with an elusive Eden Sea Trout....they are there!
I've seen many wonderful sights on the river this year, but my most precious memory is standing in the river on a June evening with Ian Gregg watching Sea Lampreys spawn at Warwick Hall..it's moments like this that make you pause for thought and reflect on what an unbelievably special catachment the Eden is.
I feel an incredible sense of responsibility to ensure that ERT continues it's vital conservation work. It is a great river and I feel we can show that populations of wild trout and salmon can not just co-exist, but thrive, alongside development, agriculture and significant human populations. We still have a fantastic chance to improve things even more and we have new opportunities through the Water Framework Directive. To quote American Conservationist 'Boots Allen' "This is a place where hope and faith lives or dies"
......now I do believe it's Grayling time!
Monday, 14 September 2009
I have just returned from one of my favorite rivers in the UK, The Derbyshire Wye. I was lucky enough to be invited to fish on a tributary the Lathkill which runs through the Haddon Estate, by kind permission of Lord Edward Manners. I have been involved with this stretch of river for a number of years and have watched with admiration how the river keeper, Warren Slaney has transormed this water from put and take fishery into a wild trout utopia!
Warren and his team have undertaken a widespread programme of habiat restoration and stopped stocking the river some years ago. The results have been spectacular and the production of wild fish has been nothing short astounding. The river has been narrowed, had weirs removed, woody debris has been installed, spawning gravels re-introduced and bankside vegetaion allowed to flourish. The river is a shinning example of what can be achieved when everthing falls just right. Lord Edward Manners deserves special mention, for he has embraced this project with great gusto and has also supported changes in land management to benefit the river.
Many might say Haddon and the Lathkill are a one off and are on a scale small enough where all the variables can be controlled. However if we take a look around this isn't quite the case and many clubs and associations are also Going Wild.
The River Derwent Angling Association (Co Durham) took the decision a couple of seasons back to go wild. The results have been very encouraging an increase in catch returns and members.
Closer to home Kirby Stephen AA also undertook a similar approach in 1995. Recognising the increased interest in wild fishing and the savings to be made by not stocking, the KSA committee agreed to 'Go Wild'. Catch returns have been very encouraging showning that the club do not need to stock with adult fish. Catches have also increased per hour of effort as have number of juveille fish. Membership remains healthy aswell as have day ticket sales.
I will be the first to admit that this approach may not always be suitable due to habitat and water quality problems. However if there are no bottle-necks to wild fish production, surely going wild is worthy of some serious consideration?
The picture above is of a stunning Lathkill wild fish and is very much the product of the hard work of Warren Slaney and the Haddon Estate. Keep up the good work Warren!
Wednesday, 2 September 2009
After 220 miles of calf busting effort we managed to complete the gruelling Coast to Coast Mountain Bike Challenge. The weather conditions were absolutely dreadful and I'm truly amazed I managed to complete the ride. It was simply the toughest thing I've ever had a go at. We made 14 seperate ascents over 1000ft in five days whilst pushing a bike up of most of them. In many cases we had to carry them, which is termed 'hand-bagging'.
Rather than go into too much detail here you can read all about it on our ride blog
We are still looking for donations and these can be made through Just Giving at http://www.justgiving.com/c2cmtb/
Money raised will be used to develop an new and exciting education initiative (Mayfly in the Classroom) But more of that on my next blog.
Please support us!
Thursday, 20 August 2009
Wednesday, 12 August 2009
In Japan, Japanese Knotweed is controlled naturally by a combination of fungus and insects. However, in the UK, there are no natural enemies for Japanese Knotweed and it out competes all our native species for light, water and nutrients.
The speed at which Japanese Knotweed has spread throughout Britain has been nothing less than spectacular. The damage it has already caused to commercial and domestic sites is practically unquantifiable and it now occupies a site in every 10km_ of England and Wales and is also present to a lesser extent in Scotland, Ireland and other parts of Europe.
The aggressive growth pattern is capable of exposing weaknesses in hard engineered structures such as concrete, tarmac, brick walls and foundations.
Specific problems caused by Japanese Knotweed are:
Damage to paving and tarmac areas
Damage to retaining wall structures
Damage to building foundations
Damage to flood defence structures
Damage to archaeological sites
Reduction in land values
Reduction in biodiversity through out-shading native vegetation
Many insects / wildlife that are dependent on our native plants are lost or in danger
Restriction of access to riverbanks for anglers, bank inspection and amenity use
And it's here. We know that it is present in the Eamont system but have scant information on it's distribution throughout the rest of the catchment.
Between the two of them Balsam and Japanese Knotweed represent a serious threat to the ecology of the Eden system. When all of this is coupled with threat from other invaders such as signal crayfish and the salmon parasite Gyrodactylus Salaris (GS) things can look pretty bleak.
However in Eden apart from extensive distribution of balsam, we have managed to avoid being colonised by the others. This has been due to a combination of awareness raising and a huge slice of luck.
We must raise our game to not only control the rate that non-native species are having in the catchment but mount a extensive awareness raising campaign. Sources of introductions can be numerous from 'well meaning' individuals who think they look pretty through to commercial sources such as garden centres. There are lots of other species to be aware of. I've just heard of problems being caused by 'Skunk Cabbage'...the mind boggles as to what that looks / smells like?
We should strive to ensure the Eden retains as many of it's native species as possible...in short we need to repel these alien invaders...before it's too late!
The 'striking' advert is from a company called Japanese Knotweed Solutions (JKS) who's Director Mike Clough is helping ERT to scope a project map the distribution and produce a strategy on the Eamont and Petteril sub-catchments. Mike and JKS are donating a significant amount of time to support our charitable activities. They are also corporate sponsors of the Wild Trout Trust. Visit their very informative website http://www.jksl.com/.
Monday, 3 August 2009
This alien invader is really the scourge of the Eden valley.
It out-competes our native plants and in the winter when it dies back can leave river banks vulnerable to erosion. All of that eroded material can choke spawning gravels which in turn will reduce the recruitment of wild salmon, trout and grayling....all in all very bad news.
The distribution of this plant is widespread throughout the catchment and it may appear to some to be a problem that can't be tackled. But here at ERT we feel differently and we are doing something about it. We organise balsam bashing days with volunteers to tackle reaches of the upper Eden where the problem isn't too bad. On it's own this approach will not solve the problem at a catchment level, but it is a very useful at raising awareness of the issue . Moves are a foot to start to co-ordinate efforts not only within the Eden catchment but across Cumbria as a whole. The Cumbria Invasive Species Forum is co-ordinating a bid for funding to take a county based approach to invasive species control. This would be backed up with local coordinators on a catchment by catchment basis. But this still would not be enough ....and this is where angling clubs can really make a difference.
Fishing clubs on the Eden are in a perfect position to make a major contribution in helping to eradicate and control balsam. Each year many clubs organise working parties to 'tidy-up' the river, repair stiles, etc.... Well, how about organising balsam bashing parties as well. This is one of the more significant threats facing the quality of fishing on the river and clubs simply cannot afford to ignore the problem.
It may seem like the problem is too big, but it's not too late and with hard work and co-ordination we can win this battle to eradicate this alien invader!
Invasive issues are rising up the conservation agenda and are also being incorporated in to legislation through mechanisms such as the Water Framework Directive. Here at ERT we would like to have an officer on the ground to co-ordinate our efforts and work with interest groups such as fishing clubs and community groups. We are resource limited but we are hoping to start a demonstration project on the Petteril later this year. Hopefully what we learn will then be used as a blue print for the rest of the catchment.
Please contact us if you would like more information about invasive species and their control within the Eden catchment. Why not attend one of our Balsam Bashing Volunteer Days as well!
Tuesday, 21 July 2009
Now, I'm not a catch and release purist and I do not think it should be a religion. However, the taking of these three wonderful wild trout from this tiny stream seems to be on the excessive side. On such small waters I really do feel that anglers have to exhibit some sort of restraint and that Catch and Release is the only option if consistent quality fishing is to be sustained. As a sportsman I would always want to reserve the right to take a fish for the pot, but only where it is sustainable and certainly not on a small stream.
I feel a wild fish is just too special to be enjoyed
After this rather disappointing interaction I made my way down to the river and enjoyed a very absorbing two hours on the dry fly with some very tricky wild trout. These fish were fit for purpose and were full of aerial combat tactics and not at all like their lethargic farmed cousins who have grown fat on a diet of unsustainable fish meals!
If you are unsure about catch and Release here are a few basic pointers:
- Use barbless hooks, or debarb the hook with small pliers or forceps.
- Use tackle that is strong enough to bring the fish to hand quickly to avoid overtiring the fish. The longer a fish is played, the more lactic acid is built up which in turn threatens the survival of the fish.
- Do not remove the fish from the water after playing it. It would be like you trying to hold your breath for a few minutes after running a marathon. Fish cannot hold their breath, and so may suffer damage to their gills and respiratory system. Lactic acid build up from playing the fish cannot be metabolised and poisons the fish.
- Wherever possible use a de-hooker to safely and quickly remove the hook without the need to remove the fish from the water, or even handle the fish. These are innexpensive and stocked by many good tackle shops. Ketchum Release, Orvis, Stonefly etc.
- Use a net if it is the only way of controlling the fish. Only use a knotless net, cotton mesh or rubber net to avoid damage to the eyes, gills, fins and body.
- Wet your hands when handling the fish. Dry hand or gloves will remove the protective mucous membrane (slime) that covers the fish, exposing it to waterborne infection and disease.
- Do not squeeze the fish, do not hold it near the gills or eyes.
- Gently hold the fish under the belly, facing the current, allowing it to recover until it swims away. This is a good time for a photo opportunity.
- Congratulate yourself on your contribution to the future of game angling!
Monday, 13 July 2009
Myself and two good mates, Richard Handley and Mark Warren will be putting ourselves through 5 days of cycling hell by riding 220 miles, ‘Coast to Coast’ over mountains and moors, to raise £5000 to support three education initiatives: Trout in the Classroom; Mayfly in the Classroom; and Eden Rivers Trust’s ‘Rivers in the Classroom’ initiative .
All three initiatives focus on primary and secondary school children who:
•Engage in stream habitat / ecology study.
•Learn to appreciate the value of healthy rivers and streams.
•Begin to foster a conservation ethic.
•Grow to understand ecosystems.
The projects are interdisciplinary and have applications in science, social studies, mathematics, language, the arts and physical education. They are also a lot of fun and it’s a great opportunity for kids to discover the natural word in an outdoor classroom....it’s also a good excuse for a game of Pooh Sticks!
Outdoor education provides a whole range of benefits to kids, including learning about nature and nature-society interactions. It involves them with others, developing new skills, undertaking practical conservation and influencing their values within society.
You can follow our exploits on our website at
and..............please feel free to sponsor us through Justgiving, using this website:
Donating through Justgiving is quick, easy and totally secure. It’s also the most efficient way to sponsor them, as we receive your money faster and, if you’re a UK taxpayer, Justgiving makes sure 25% in Gift Aid, plus a 3% supplement, are added to your donation.
The ride takes place at the end of August and is a daunting prospect with 14 climbs of over 1000ft. Gulp...........I think I'd better get some training in!
Wednesday, 8 July 2009
Tuesday, 7 July 2009
My one regret is that the clock ran out before I had a chance to get him to the banks of the Eden, which I'm sure he would have loved as I am starting to.
Shooting days were fantastic and although not the steadiest dog in the world he pulled-off some spectacular retrieves including a very special underwater retrieve of a teal on the River Windrush. In the last four years Harry almost single handedly did all of the picking-up and flushing on our small grey partridge shoot in Yorkshire. All our visiting guns were always appreciative of his drive to pick and flush everything. These were special days indeed that will remain vividly etched in my memory for the rest of of my life. We got to the end of last season and I remember saying to him "I reckon we have another season left before you retire". Sadly this wasn't to be and I have lost my best friend before the start of another shooting season - and without him it will feel very empty. I think about him every day and I can't get used to him not being there.
Over eleven years Harry built up quite a reputation and a bulging fan-base. As the news got out lots of my sporting friends rang me. During these emotional conversations we swapped stories about the various 'incident's' Harry had been involved with and we had more than one belly laugh. This was great therapy for me and that is how I will remember him. I know one day we'll both meet again on that great partridge drive in the sky.
Later this summer I will spread his ashes at the Holkham Estate in Norfolk, his favorite walk and coincidentally just happens to be the birthplace of driven shooting. I think he would approved of my choice.
Harry Johnson - (March 1998- June 2009)
Wednesday, 17 June 2009
I will report on progress.
I finished the evening by sampling the wild trout fishing the Annan has to offer and was rewarded with a fabulous 2lb 4oz wild fish on a spinner pattern I had tied the previous evening. It doesn't come much better than that!
Tuesday, 16 June 2009
Our volunteers are fantastic and are very enthusiastic supporters of our conservation work. They really should be classified as 'Super Volunteers' and I find working alongside them to be very inspiring. Volunteers are the lifeblood of a small charity like ERT and without them our organisation would be a poorer place. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude. If you would like to volunteer I can assure you we'd welcome you with open arms and you'd find it a fulfilling experience. We always need help at events, and with conservation tasks such as electric fishing, balsam bashing , crayfish surveying and transplanting water crowfoot. Contact office@edenriverstrust if you'd like more details.
Wednesday, 10 June 2009
Thursday, 4 June 2009
Wednesday, 3 June 2009
Tuesday, 2 June 2009
After a few changes of fly I eventually caught my first fish a delightful wild brown of about 10cm. This was made all the sweeter as it was the first to fall to my new 5ft6" cane rod, kindly presented to me on my last day at the WTT. I went on to fish through to about 9.30pm and a further two fish came to hand including a little belter of around 20cm.
What a great finish to my first day in post and I couldn't think of a better way to start to get to know the catchment. I'm so excited to be living in such a wonderful place and to be working with such a great organisation!