Just reflecting on some of the things that have happened over the year and what a year it’s been. Exceptional flooding at the start of the year seemed to have little effect on what turned out to be another exceptional elver season. In fact catches were so high that the fishery was closed for several brief periods because the elver station couldn’t cope with the fish being caught.
Alongside which we continued to fund and manage our ‘Tanks in Schools’ scheme, an elver restocking project connecting schools to their local water resource.
The flooding this year and the huge amount of water in the river system was quickly followed by a long hot period and no rain. This was no help to the salmon fishermen and numbers caught for rod and line fishermen on the Rivers Severn and Wye were well down on last year. On the other hand in Scotland they just had no water and it was another poor year for them also. I don’t think this is always a true reflection of the fishery. We know a great number of spring fish came up the rivers during the floods and warmer water temperatures during the summer we think are making fish run in much larger numbers at the end of the season. We have one fisherman we know well who fishes all over the world but goes to Scotland for the last week of the season. This year on the fly he caught 47 salmon over 7 days, Oh how I wish I’d been there then.
Earlier in the year Fortnum and Mason chose us as their sole supplier of Farmed and Wild Smoked Salmon. With newly designed distinctive F & M packaging a comprehensive range of Wild and Farmed has just been launched and now on their shelves ready for Christmas.
The first of our water treatment lagoons has been dug. Everything was going to plan perfectly just needed to cement in the pipework and finish the liner when it started to rain, four weeks later still raining. We just need a decent dry window and everything will be back on track soon.
We have a few new faces in the Café/Restaurant, Chris Green has joined as Head Chef. Chris was previously the chef and co-owner of the beautiful Cotswold pub The Lamb at Buckland and he is keen to bring some new ideas and is already stamping his own impression on the menu and food offering on the deli counter. He is at the moment being ably assisted by Tim Payne, a chef I have known for many years who is helping us out during this hectic period. Tim trained at Northcote Manor with Nigel Haworth then came to London to seek fame and fortune. He worked first for Pierre Koffman at Tante Claire and later joined Marco Pierre White at Harveys in 1989. During the next ten years he worked alongside Gordon Ramsey, Phil Howard, Stephen Terry (his flatmate) Robert Reid, and of course many others during that time. There has never been a better time to visit the smokery for lunch. We are also open again Friday nights but booking is recommended to avoid disappointments.
The council have now given us final approval for our barn conversion which we expect to start work on in the next few weeks. The plans have been up in the shop for customers to view and have created an incredible amount of interest already. All being well we hope to have everything completed the middle of next year.
Now for some of the not such good news, salmon prices are going in one direction. We have some pretty reasonable advance indications as to where prices will be, but just occasionally you get surprised by the speed at which the inevitable happens. Russia banning imports from the EEC put a brake on prices and actually caused a drop in the market price, but once supply had been rerouted prices climbed quickly. We have seen an increase of over 22% in the last 4 weeks and expect more increases to follow. There is a shortage of fish and we think the strength in prices will continue until the end of May. All our customers should expect to see some price increases immediately after Christmas.
Of course with Christmas just around the corner now is the time to plan and organise having something special sent to a friend or yourself. We have staff in the office during office hours only too pleased to advise, recommend and talk you through the products we have on offer.
I would strongly recommend our Var salmon as the farmed salmon that customers should be buying. It’s a fish that has been farmed free of chemicals or antibiotics and is what will be on my table this Christmas. Also forget the fry up for breakfast, why not try a little smoked haddock cooked in milk with a soft poached egg, that’s a healthy start to the day. The product of course that always get left behind, and in my opinion is the best smoked fish product you can buy, smoked eel is great as a starter served alongside some smoked salmon with some creamy horseradish and beetroot.
It's time to get our heads down and get on with the Christmas mayhem that has started. I wish all customers and followers a very Merry Christmas and look forward to updating you with more river bank news in the New Year.