Monday, 16 November 2009

The Dove, A Salmon River: Part II

This afternoon, I went over to the same spot on the River Dove as I visited with Glen yesterday just to make sure that I wasn't going bonkers through knocking about with Pointon, and to confirm that I had indeed seen dozens of Atlantic Salmon, and Sea Trout trying to negotiate a weir on a river just outside a quiet little village in the heart of rural North Staffordshire. How often have you seen the words "Atlantic", "Salmon", "Sea", "Trout", "North" and "Staffordshire" in the same sentence without them also being accompanied by "Aren't" and "Any"?

Please click on the images below to start a couple of brief videos of Salmon leaping. The first is a single Dove Salmon leaping at about 9 seconds into the video, and the second is of two Salmon jumping. The fish that I managed to capture on film were smaller than most that I saw jumping. The fish in the videos I would say are of around 5 - 6lb in weight. As yesterday, there were lots of double figure fish on the move, I just wasn't filming at the right times!

I bumped into a couple of other chaps who were having a look at the river, one a fisherman and one who wasn't. Both of them expressed the opinion that the weir should be altered in some way as to allow the fish to get up. Some local fishermen have objected to this apparently, as they are concerned that the Brown Trout would also leave to spawn upstream. This would be the case, but surely, having spawned they would return to their usual swims given the fact that they are notoriously territorial?

The River Churnet has also been stocked with Salmon Parr, and according to one of the chaps that I spoke to, they will only get up the river so far, as there is another, even bigger weir that the fish won't be able to get up. Both were of the opinion that given the time and expense that the Environment Agency has committed to this project, that it should be a priority to allow the fish to travel as far up the river as possible. I am inclined to agree.

If these fish were helped to negotiate huge man made weirs and dams, as they are on Scottish rivers, we could quite easily have Salmon and Sea Trout running up through the Rivers Hamps and Manifold as well as the Dove. How fantastic would it be to see Salmon running through Ilam, Dovedale, Wolfscotdale, and Berrisford Dale as they surely must have at one time. One could even watch them running through the beer garden of the Jervis Arms in Onecote! Imagine Salmon running up the Dove past Walton and Cotton's fishing Temple in Berrisford Dale, what an achievement would that be?

One of the men I was speaking to said that he had read something that was written in the late nineteenth century about Angling in our rivers. It said that at that time, there was no better Salmon nurseries in Britain than the little rivers Dove and Lathkill. I was also very interested to hear in a radio 4 programme, "The Philosopher, Fish, and The Dove", (please click to hear) that said that the decline in the numbers of Salmon running up the river, which was usually between 1100 and 1500 fish at a time, was indeed attributed to the Industrial revolution but not just because of pollution.

By the late seventeen hundreds, Richard Arkwright along with other contemporary Industrialists, had began building large scale factory style mills on the rivers and streams of Derbyshire and Staffordshire. Arkwright's first mill was built in 1771 on the Derwent at Cromford and he went on to build another on the Dove at Rocester.

Mills were popping up everywhere and always with large weirs which kept water back to supply the millraces that inturn supplied the power to the machinery. None of these weirs, many of which still exist today, had fish passes and so the population of Salmon and Sea Trout declined as the fish simply couldn't make their way up the rivers. (Not surprisingly, the Otter population declined at exactly the same time due to the dwindling supply of it's staple diet). Our weir, where I've been watching fish today, supplied a mill with power that ground flour, and last did so in, wait for it, 1890, so it's a little redundant then, and deserves a fish pass in my book.

Both of the men that I spoke to earlier today were sure that, despite the weirs, a few of the fish do manage to travel further up the Dove. One also said that there is quite a bit of rain forecast for Wednesday and Thursday and that if the river rises another couple of foot, and if the flow is stronger over the weir, then the whole shoal will be over late Thursday night and Friday morning.

Once again it was amazing to see these beautiful fish in such close proximity and just upstream from a swim that I regularly fish.

Please do leave me a comment if you have any further info, history or stories about Salmon or Sea Trout in the River Dove.


PS Here is a link to an article written by the BBC and an episode of "The Philosopher, Fish and The Dove" . You can "Listen Again" to a radio programme about Salmon in the River Dove....Please click here