River Wissey Lovell Fuller


July 2007

Ivor recors another idyllic day on the banks of the River Wissey.

Time seems suspended. Everything is deathly quiet. It looks like another beautiful sunshine day. There is a low mist over the water and the haze gives a feeling of intrigue and mystery. The perfect calm is only disturbed at intervals by the tell tale ripples of fish rising to the surface. The ripples slowly increase and then fade away. A multitude of green and brown shades blend together and dominate both the water and the riverside. A smell of water mint lingers in the air. There is complete peace and this could easily be the magical place that all fishermen dream about.

It is early morning alongside the river Wissey. The river is at its widest stretch. The banks are fully recovered from the mud and rain of winter. All growth is now lush and overhangs the river in volumes. A thick abundance of weed can just be seen below the surface. Lilies with gigantic leaves float on the surface and the many large buds seem ready to burst at any minute. Only last month the reed beds that marked out the river's course into the distance were dormant but have since found new life and are thick again. The combination of water and heat has caused rapid luxuriant growth everywhere and gives almost a tropical feel to the surroundings.

Beneath the surface is a different world and it is not always peaceful. The fish have finished spawning and the shallow waters now contain a mass of fry. Alas they are fast food for the fleets of herons and kingfishers. If they are fortunate and survive the air raids they will quickly be at the mercy of the perch and pike predators who are always hungry. Despite the odds lots will survive. The deepest parts of the river contain the thickest and almost impenetrable weed beds so it is here that large numbers of fish find sanctuary. They venture out for food or to bask in the sun but they can quickly return when danger threatens. A monster pike with perfect camouflage is laying in wait and watching everything that swims past. He seems to be looking for something specific - rather like sitting in a restaurant and contemplating the menu. His lethargy is very deceptive as he can find instant speed whenever he wants. A party of perch swim past displaying their bold tiger stripes. A shoal of silver roach forever search for food. A host of bream appear and spiral upwards. They are bottom feeders so they are off to enjoy the new warmth. Their black shapes break the surface and disturb the mirror calm. A hatch of mayfly larvae head upwards to end months of inactivity. After changing to flies nature gives them but a single day to lay eggs whereupon their existence ends - if they are really unlucky and get intercepted by hungry fish their sad life can be even shorter! The ugly dragonfly larvae have also reached a state of readiness and are slowly climbing the long mace stalks. For many long months they have been busy devouring fellow insect life and will shortly transform into the most beautiful of all insects. On the surface tiny fresh frogs are swimming in and out of the reeds exploring the watery highways and byways. Little do they realise that they are an important protein for other river life. Danger is everywhere and life within the river is certainly precarious. The hot weather has prompted this feverish activity and given everyone an insatiable appetite.

Life below the water is not unlike our own world. We and all other living things only have a limited span and our well-being is often perilous. The countryside about us even including the tall and stalwart trees will one day drop and decay away. Alas we all come and go ad infinitum and the process cannot be stopped. The only exception is the rivers themselves who are timeless and hopefully they will continue for eternity.

Ivor Hook

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