Thursday, 30 July 2015

Over Time

And an astronomer said, "Master, what of Time?" 
And he answered: 
You would measure time the measureless and the immeasurable. 
You would adjust your conduct and even direct the course of your spirit according to hours and seasons. 
Of time you would make a stream upon whose bank you would sit and watch its flowing ....
Time Xxi - Kahil Gibran

First day at Joint Services Mountain Training Centre
How about a Canyoning training practice suggested the leader (John) ok says the team, where?  Let’s get a chopper and fly into the gorge above the German camp Kinlochleven at the end of April suggests the leader.  O.K we say.  Two Sundays later we have an interesting day with me a bit twitchy as I start a new job at 7.00pm that night.

It all begins at the new rescue centre.  We meet, and as usual plans are laid back.  Rescue 137 arrives to find a semi comatose bunch of ex hippies and thrusting youth ready for action.  Wet suits and other apparel is donned by John who has a cunning stunt in mind.  We land amid the alder clad brush above Kinlochleven in a scene that would do justice to the classic Vietnam chopper book “Chickenhawk”.  Paul Moores decides to climb into the gorge and simulate a broken neck.  Rudimentary belays spring up all around as a variety of MIC’s and prawn fishermen try to assert who is best with ropes.  The result was functional rather than aesthetically pleasing, and a truce was called.  Paul is packaged ready for hauling when a shout is heard and John  falls backward over a 20’ raging waterfall and disappears off downstream.  John reappears some 30mins later wondering why nobody went to his aid.

Much hauling and cursing sees the Paul transported to a clearing in the wood and all 15 of us pile in for the flight back to base.  Coffee and biscuits then later the winchman runs in to find John as they  have a  big "job” and need 2 team plus “the medic” which is me.  In we pile with no idea where we are going.  Ronny, Paul Moores and I.  No word yet from ARCC as to where the job is. We fly over the by now wet and gray hills Southward to the Arrochar "Alps" for 30 mins.  Word is the casualty is in a serious condition after a long fall.  We fly up through the mist to the ridge above the South and spot figures waving frantically.  The chopper lands on the ridge and out we pile running along the ridge then down to the foot of the climb to get him. 

We find him on a grassy ledge 80’ below where he fell. He is unfortunately surrounded by doctors and nurses from a medics hillwalking group. Many pale anaemic doctor types looking 16 but probably 30 years begin to be assertive in the company of us aliens from the sky.  Diagnosis’s abound.  It soon becomes apparent that none are as slick as they thought or ought to be, and good old fashioned naked aggression from us seems to get things back under control.  As a peacemaking gesture the oldest looking of the bunch was given the cannula to put in.  This he did with gusto, but when he seemed perplexed as no blood came out the end,  it became apparent that unlike the cannula, he wasn’t the sharpest tool in the box. In I go wondering who will write letters about me this time. He is very badly injured and needs to go to hospital quickly. I do my best for him airway, chest drain, cannula, spinal care, load and go.  Isn't that always the default on a mountain. I hate fuckwits who think it's a science. It's just common sense.

The casualty is quickly packaged and carried down a little way till the chopper could come in and lift him by winch. After this the helo landed again on the ridge, and after a sprint back to get on board we were winging our way to The General Suffering hospital in Glasgow. 

After a 15min flight we landed on what appeared like a Tesco car park miles from the A/E entrance.  Winchy and I disembark with the casualty onto the back of a flat bedded van with two gum chewing pirate earinged and orange tanned people dressed as nurses on board.  I am met with  “ah like yer truss jimmy - musta been some party”, referring to my state of the art Petzl guru harness and jangly bits.  After a short journey we entered the A/E and do our handover. The casualty has spinal injuries as well as a pneumothorax and pelvic fractures, so all in a good bit of teamwork  between SAR crew and MRT, so we feel chuffed. 

Some time later  I need a pee.  Wandering around I see a doppelganger - bugger me, its Ronnie!  “How’s it going Dave? I’ve been wandering around for ages.  The choppers gone to Glasgow airport with Paul.  How are we going to get back home?”  I see a clock and its 5.00pm.  I start my new job at 7.00 so it looks like a bad start in my career as an honorary soldier.  Several phone calls later the Police agree to take us to the airport.  The police duly arrive and drive us like the clappers through Sunday football traffic to the airport police station.  Good news is that I can phone wifey to say I may be late for tea.  “Where the ****k  did you say you are!”  she says incredulously.  Bad news is that they won’t allow us onto the airfield to look for the chopper unless we get searched.  So, off we go in with all the dangly jangly bits, accompanied by sniggering from the pale anaemic wee jimmy’s who think their smart. making comments on our atire.

We eventually get ushered to a small departure lounge and meet up with the SAR aircrew.  It seems that such is the paranoia about terrorism that despite having a big yellow budgie with RAF on the side, and flying suits/helmets etc, that they also had to be searched and are not amused.  Beep goes the body scanner again - ****k it goes Davy.  Off we go then, eventually - and try and find what is a big  ****k off helicopter in Glencoe, but which looks like a wee budgie when we eventually find it among some 747’s.  We eventually get on board and ages later get permission to taxi out among the giants.  We take off into the gathering gloom and fly North down Loch Lomond.  After 50 mins of juddering and shivering we land back in Glencoe where a  quick shave and change sees me racing off to start my new job. Shiny shoes, smart blue polo top, pressed trousers.  A uniform!

I’m in the door at JSMTC at 7.00 exactly,  and sort out the gear.  First student in is most unimpressed by the gloomy damp weather,  and a bit ratty.  His first words to me;  “fuckin ell mate - must be fookin borin stayin in this place” - Great joy at being paid overtime in my new job, and having had a nice wee day out, I said nothing.
Davy Gunn
April 1998

Friday, 3 July 2015

Recreation versus Conservation

As a keen angler brought up in an area where at one time game fish were very abundant, it's a constant topic among other older anglers about the lack of fish nowadays and taking fish home to eat versus conservation.  Brown Trout are a resilient species who's main predator is man. Certainly abundance varies, but unless they are in a nutrient poor loch and river system where they are forced to migrate to sea making the physiological adaptions to live there (some don't) for better feeding, they are a more sustainable catch by and large than salmon and sea trout with less threats and predation along a migration route which for salmon can be 3,000 miles.

Migrated Brown trout or "Sea Trout" where they become a coastal fish feeding in the sea and open to more predation from seals, cormorants and even sea otters. Uncontrolled blooms of the natural parasite "sea lice" coming from fish farms almost obliterated Sea Trout on the Scottish West coast as the blooms occurred in the sheltered inland lochs and the sea trout couldn't escape. Stocks are still very poor in comparison with 30 years ago.
Too many lice parasites and the sea trout dies
I am not against modern salmon farming as in some ways they have taken the pressure off the Atlantic Salmon from poaching. Also its become a criminal offence to sell or buy wild salmon even if its just a part of one (hotels and restaurants beware, as fisheries bailiffs have the right to enter and check your premises).  Fish farm lice controls are now much better and more natural by using Wrasse a little fish that eats the lice off the salmon in the cages. In the past attempts to control the lice was with "SLICE" a pesticide,  pretty horrible stuff to the environment.

Because juvenile salmon have to migrate through these sea lochs and the blooms they were killed by lice infestations and the west coast salmon stocks collapsed through the 1990's onwards.  In fact in some rivers the native salmon are now extinct or on the brink. Initiatives like that by Lochaber Fisheries Trust with the river Strontian Anglers are trying to bring them back by a conservation and a restocking programme. You can only stock with native fish as it just doesn't work importing fish from one river to another, and research has shown that each river no matter how small has its own genetic stock different from one even a mile away.

This year for the first time there is a glimmer of hope and signs that early spring fish have been coming back. These bigger mainly hen fish carry many more eggs than the Grilse who more often are male and the smaller late summer salmon, and these "springer's are rarely killed especially by knowledgeable anglers, as they are the fish equivalent of the White Rhino. Don't get me wrong taking home a salmon to feed youre family from a sustainable stock is ok, but most anglers these days whether trout or salmon only take what they need for a meal.  Who needs to kill more than that?  Farm Salmon is so cheap and of such a quality in the shops that its much more affordable, so if friends other than immediate family like salmon they can get it there and help conserve the rare wild Atlantic salmon and sea trout. 

Anglers should enjoy their fishing but know that they are also conservationists.  A recent chat with a local angler reminded me that there is still work to do getting that message across as the fisher moaned about not being allowed to fish with a worm and releasing fish.  I pointed out that they were not anglers in the true sense then, as none I know have a problem as they care as much about the fish as they do the fishing.
A Spring fish of about 15lbs held briefly in the water and released full of energy
The joy of angling and conserving.