Spring is here and the fish are jumping

It's March and it really does have the feeling of spring about it. Carpets of snowdrops everywhere, wild garlic is coming up all over the place and first of the season's sea trout are being caught, only a few but a big tide next week means there should be quite a few in about 10 days time. The season opens in Wales on the River Towy and the licensed fishery here specialise in fishing either in coracles, or it’s the seine net fishermen fishing on the incoming tide. The Welsh have the season to themselves until the 1st of June when the salmon and sea trout season starts in the rest of the UK. Buyers beware though; it's at this time of the year that unscrupulous mongers offer silvered brown trout masquerading as sea trout, so if it doesn't have an environment agency tag through its mouth and gills it's not a sea trout.

We had the opportunity on St David’s day of showcasing our new Seaweed Cured Smoked Salmon at the Welsh Assembly in Cardiff. This forms part of our Welsh cured range of fish that we have developed with Ashton of Cardiff. At the Welsh Assembly things kicked off with a brief concert from over 60 voices from the Caldicot Male Voice Choir. We then served our salmon as part of a buffet, showcasing Welsh food producers to over 200 delegates and guests. Rosemary Butler, the Residing Officer of the Welsh Assembly, was most complimentary about the seaweed cure and described it as best smoked salmon she had tasted. There were lots of nice comments from many others which make us think this is a cure and smoked product that will do well.

To those of you that need reminding 18th March is Mothering Sunday. Boys, what better chance do you have to treat your Mum or the mother in your life? Severn & Wye's mail order service can make up deliveries to suit all tastes and pockets so why not give Paula or Claire in the office a ring and see what we can do.

The Exeter Food Festival (13th - 15th April) plans are coming along nicely, still haven’t decided on our BBQ menu (still in pending file), no progress on accommodation (in pending file), elvers for our tanks publicising our ‘Tanks in Schools Scheme’ still need to be caught, but the production line for our prestige mobile smoke houses are in full production. We are planning on bringing Version 1 Mk 2 that proved so successful and popular at Dartmouth Food Fest last year. But our new prestige model (Version 2 Mk 1) made of teak with rustproof handles and hinges has certainly caused a stir locally when we have had it out the front of the smokery on testing. With its sleek lines even smoking is going to make this a 2012 must-have boys toy. Built to fit any garden or small patio and when smoking it's bound to be a topical conversation piece with the neighbours. We really are looking forward to Exeter, and as we haven't been to the festival before, quite excited. A warm welcome awaits all those who come and support us.

The salmon rod and line fishing season has got off to a good start considering the rivers low levels. At Bigsweir Bridge on the River Wye two salmon over 15lbs have been caught and released this week. Further upstream on the other side of Hereford a 30lb fish was landed and released today, so all bodes well for the season ahead. After the 1st of June when the catch and release restrictions cease, fishermen will be tempted when they catch a monster specimen, and probably say "that’s a nice size fish I think I’ll get that one smoked". A word of warning, the bigger the fish the harder it is to successfully smoke. It's no surprise that farmed fish are bred to the ideal smoking size of 4-5kg. Wild fish being sleeker and leaner mean the ideal weight is about 11-13lbs. So it’s better to catch small fish for smoking, and think poaching or cutlets for the larger ones.

Cheltenham is just around the corner and jump racing enthusiasts from all over the UK will be descending on the town for a week of racing and fun. I, and a couple of cheffy pals, will be there for a few days, so anyone after tips or advice on who will run well will have to wait until next month’s newsletter. As we are only 12 miles from Cheltenham anybody travelling up for the racing why not make a detour, we are open for breakfast from 8 o'clock, or maybe we could make you up a hamper for the long day ahead.