Chalk Stream Keepers

Chalk stream keepers all have something in common with the waters that they care for. They are shallow with a few deep bits. I will say nothing about the dark and dirty parts. Ask most of us what we would like in a new job and we will come back with simple responses.

A blank canvas.

A boss who supports innovation and improvement.

Beautiful weather and plentiful nocturnal winter rainfall.

Two out of three ain’t bad.

At the time of writing I have been at Barton Court for 4 months and I am immensely happy here. I have been made welcome and know that I am part of an amazing team. I have been a member of teams that had to be tight because of the stuff raining down on them. At Barton Court we are tight because we are happy and like one another. More importantly, we all know that we are here because Sir Terence and his family want us to be here.

The river needs a great deal of TLC and really is that blank canvas that I have been yearning for. Sir Terrence and his family are enormously supportive and encouraging and one of my goals is simply to create a fishery that they can be proud of. I also hope that first time visitors to the Kennet will, whilst travelling home, wonder how they have overlooked this delightful stream for so long.

I grew up in West Wales and was a wildlife nut from my earliest days. I pinned insects to boards, collected owl pellets and hunted for sloughed grass snake skins, dipped ponds and streams and dreamt of introducing elk back into the UK. I’ve always loved a project.

I only started to fish as a part of my wider curiosity about wildlife. I had caught minnows in my little nets but there were some enormous fish that I only ever saw as fleeting shadows in the streams. I gathered advice from every adult I could find who had ever fished and begged and borrowed all manner of broken fishing tackle. Despite this information and equipment, I eventually caught one of these giants of the stream. A brown trout of at least 6 inches/ very nearly 6 inches.

I have a clear memory of my life changing at that moment. After 9 long, aimless years of life I finally had a purpose. I still love fishing for trout.

A little while later I read ‘The Keeper of the Stream’ and, for the last 20 years, my life has been the rivers. There were a few bits in between these 2 stages.

I have a very simple philosophy about river management. If I manage the river for wild trout and for native wildlife in general, the visiting rods will find themselves on a great fishery and go home with memories of more than just the fishing to keep them warm on a winter evening.

My aim is to try to maximise the potential for wild trout at Barton Court and to offer the fish the most diverse range of desirable habitats possible. To manage this fishery for trout I will first try to manage for vegetation. With that come the invertebrates and these feed the fish (and the birds and the larger invertebrates and the bats and the … you can probably see where I am going with this).

As a keeper I think it is important to grasp the challenges of the modern world and the environmental changes that we are experiencing and even to embrace them. These are the cards we have been dealt so let’s make the best possible environment for our precious trout from the hand that we hold.

Embracing these changes and challenges might sound as enticing as kissing a frog but let’s see what kind of prince or princess we get as a result.

I would love to see the Kennet rise from the status of Princess to become the Queen of the Chalk Streams.

Like I say, I love a project.

Dean Taylor