Saturday, August 1, 2015

Selectivity Snippets....the Unpublished Chapters- History_Vol 4- "The First Trout Hunter Rock Star"-Part 1

( The master on his knees...all modern day guide dudes/dudettes need to worship this mans wisdom!-especially nymphomaniacs !) image Terry Lawton UK
(gillie's hut- a guide pad!-Mick Hall- Australia  Image)
As promised...next volume...enjoy!

THE SELECTIVE TROUTMAN’S FIRST WORKING ROCK STAR- FRANK SAWYER

Carrying on the tradition of the nymph master G.E.M. Skues, along with the poetic eloquence of Hill’s natural observations, Frank Sawyer came to be  what many would consider a selective trout rock star!

Sawyer had meager beginnings. Born at the Millhouse village of Bulford on the banks of the famous River Avon and Wiltshire, he was destined to be a man of the River and its trout. He had no other choice than to be troutsman master. What St. Francis Assisi was to be animal world, Sawyer was his beloved Brown trout of the Avon River. Being from English farming stock, he worked hard as a youth always to find time every day to observe an angle for his beloved trout. At the young age of 18 in 1925, he received a “under –Keeper” apprentice job with the tutelage of River keeper Fred Martin, who is employed by Lieut. Col. Bailey. This was a magical stretch of the River Avon which yielded large Brown trout, magnificent hatches and unparalleled English countryside beauty. Today, rockstar”Sting”, has his $7 million, 17th-century manor house located on the same location where Sawyer apprenticed his keeper ship -- rockstar coincidence!

What made Sawyer such a gallivanting selective fly fishing Epicurean was that he was for the first time, a well-paid empirical angler whose job as a River keeper/guide on aristocratic waters allowed him the ability to write books, create flies, develop fly rods, travel the world in search of trout and attend prestigious dinners, partaking of fine gourmet food and spirits, and in a Mozart -- like fashion. Simply put, a true modern day fly fishing rockstar.

His two great works,” Keeper of the Stream”, and “ Nymphs and the Trout” (1952-1958), produced highly observant and analytical writings about the natural world he was”one with”, seeing as his job as a River keeper not only provided him employment, but gave him all the time necessary for observations that would take several lifetimes. Sawyer writes passionately:
“A river keeper's job is to assist Mother Nature, and Mother Nature can be capricious. She has to be studied, and studied thoroughly before she can be assisted, or she strongly resents interference. To be successful in producing either trout or insects, or both, it is first necessary to know something of the habits and lifecycles of these creatures, to learn of their food, their environment, and their enemies. Here is the most interesting part of the River keeper's life.
In rivers, as elsewhere, one thing preys upon another, forming a vast cycle in which one creature is the food of something else. In rivers usually the smaller animals are the food of those which are larger. So it is necessary to start at the beginning with the first living creatures and, putting first life at the bottom of the ladder, work patiently towards the topmost rung. It is the tiny things -- the young -- which need the most assistance, or life in every instance commences in a very humble way.
In this manner only can Nature be assisted. If a suitable environment is made for the smaller animals, then it will also be suitable for those that are larger, and so on up the scale. If one is to keep trout in the river without feeding them artificially, then that river must produce trout food, and if one is to produce successfully the insect life provides a means of existence for the trout, one must first make sure that for the insects, too, there is food.
The sport of dry fly and nymph fishing for trout depends largely on fly life, a large percentage of flies are bred in the river. So it is also necessary to assist in the production of the species of fly which is of most value from the fisherman's point of view; flies which will, in the completion of their lifecycle, be present in and on the surface of the water to form an attraction which tempts the trout rise to the surface to feed on them.
Each season of the year has its attractions as the weeks change to months so change the character and appearance of the river, and the life of the river and riverside creatures. The river keeper need never be lonely, for he learns to understand and appreciate the wildlife which are his constant companions, and as he sees the fruits of his labors all around him he gets a certain satisfaction.” (KEEPER OF THE STREAM)
Though known for his fish catching abilities, Sawyer was a trout environmental naturalist, learned how all the elements of the chalk stream ecosystem must come perfectly into a fine tune harmony. He manicured the waters vegetation like a greenskeeper of a golf course. He built deflector dams to speed up water and create gravel spawning areas. He understood how all the manicuring he did, in combination with weather and the season, all needed to intertwine into a perfect biological harmony.
“The fact that weed beds can help was brought home forcibly to me when a sudden and very heavy storm swept part of the Upper Avon Valley late on June. Thousands of gallons of draining from several roads and farm tracks entered the River at the head of the long reach of shallows -a surging volume of rainwater which, as it washed down the chalky tracks and lanes, down the sides of the hot tarred roads from the hills, and into the gutters and drains of the village, a change to the color of very dirty milk and was impregnated with the filth. As such it was being discharged into the river.
 The level of the river was lower than usual at that time of year I watched in disgust as the filthy muck mingled with the clear water of the hatch pool -- watched until, from bank to bank, water quickly change color and then swept with the current downstream. Such water was unfit for anything to live in. I saw the dorsal fins of several grayling break the surface while hordes of minnows and other small fry crowded to the edges of the river where water, out of the reach of the currents, had remained clear. Here and there flies hatched, to struggle and flutter about for a while before floating away, trapped in the surface film.
Fearful for the safety of the insect life and trout farther down the river, and with the intention of watching carefully anything that might happen, I went toward a set of controls a mile downstream. The mayfly season had finished but so far no weeds had been cut in this particular reach. All dominant, great masses of flowering ranunculus were spread across the surface from bank to bank -- masses which at intervals were so dense that passage of water through them was impeded, and where clear spaces were almost negligible. Into these weed beds swept the dirty water.
I walked slowly to keep pace with the discoloration, but as it passed from weed bed to weed bed I could see it was gradually clearing. Halfway down the reach in a short length clear of weeds, the river bed showed plainly. There I waited. After half an hour the gravel bottom was still visible, though the water had clouded a little. The danger I had feared was passing away.
Retracing my steps and going upstream quickly, I came upon cloudy conditions. After the first hundred yards I could no longer see the gravel bottom -- a farther quarter of a mile and nothing but the tops of the weed-strands was visible, and at the pool above, the volume of filth entering from the ditch and increase. Once more I went downstream.
 It became increasingly obvious the dense masses of ranunculus were acting like a great filtration plant. The widespread fronds and tresses were gathering and absorbing the filth from the water acting like great strainers to purify the river and render it once more fit for the aquatic creatures to live in”


Around 1928 when Sawyer became the head - keeper on the River Avon’s “Officers Club Association”, which later became the”Services Dry Fly Fishing Association”, natural Brown trout reproduction had been greatly reduced due to habitat degradation of farm riparian grazing, silt run- off, agricultural pollution and the degradation by the British Army Tank maneuvers on the Salisbury plain.( Note: In the 1950’s, a similar situation of military maneuvers in attentional chemical discharges into the groundwater occurred on the hallowed Au Sable River of Michigan and has had long term toxic effects on its wild trout). Through his amazing work as a fish culturist,, Sawyer stripped spawning males and females of their milt and eggs, and raised them to fry stage in holding rivers and carriers. Around 100,000 fry were restocked in the river each year from 1930 to 1953, which accounted for many large selective Brown trout that came to the fly anglers presentations.
Sawyer lived and breathed his beloved River Avon and created a dynamic selective trout world that by today's standards would be hard to duplicate. He writes:”
“In face of this kind of thing is easy to understand why few rivers at the present time mind pure, wholesome condition required by nature to enable regeneration of trout take place, and why we have to resort to certain artificial methods to assist in maintaining a stock. Of these, the most widely practiced is to catch up trout of both sexes when they are in the right spawning condition. The female is, by gentle pressure, stripped of her eggs in the male is similarly treated for fertilization, then both are returned to the water unharmed. The eggs are laid down in hatcheries where, if the simple task of fertilization has been properly carry out, a very high percentage will hatch into alevins and eventually become fry.
As one delves into nature, so more and more things become apparent. At first one wonders why trout should choose to spawn in winter, and then why the freshly hatched fish should be encumbered by an ungainly yolk sac, but in all nature there is a reason for everything and in trying to assist her we must find out these reasons and try to follow them through.
 First, the spawning. It becomes obvious that during winter the temperature of the water drops to its lowest point of the year – to a point when all animal and vegetable growths are at a standstill. The increased water supply welling from the springs cleans all the foulness of rotted vegetation from the gravel and with the additional aeration this cleanliness is maintained for eight or 10 weeks. Trout eggs laid in the gravel during this time will remain clean and well, aerated and are unlikely to be affected by animal or vegetable growths
Trout fry need a certain food during the first month  if we are to help them through this precarious stage then we must find out just what this food consists.
 Some say this initial food consists mostly of plankton, but my own studies have proved otherwise on the Avon. March is much to be early for movements of the plankton to take place; this happens in the warmer months of April and May. In autopsies I have carried out on little trout during this first month of feeding I have found food in them has been exclusively the larvae of midges.
My careful study of small wild trout convinces me that they depend entirely on water-borne animal life.  They poise themselves in mid water and just wait for food to come to them. I like to think that nature provided these creatures solely for the food of baby trout, for I cannot discover another reason for their existence.”(KEEPER OF THE STREAM)

Sawyer was gifted with explaining politically and with a sense of natural order how his trout river functioned in perfect harmony with the natural world. As the early 1950s saw the River Avon deteriorate at a rapid pace,  Sawyer instituted the”Great Clean Up”!., a program, whereby through dredging and silt -- traps, set up carrier feeders that cleaned and purified the gravel and added vegetation for insect life and enhanced natural trout spawning areas. Quickly the river returned to its former glory and produced an amazing load of natural reproduction. Insect life rebounded in a big way and the River Avon was one of the best fishing chalk streams in all of England. Sawyer later experimented with the introduction of “chalk limestone buffers”, which clean the water, broke down organic matter and created an incredibly explosive venue for creating insect and crustacean life, which made for fat and fast growing trout.