April 2016

I am sorry that the first newsletter of the season is a little late. It is an exceptionally busy time for me and made worse this year by the number of large trees that came down in the gales at the end of March. So I must start by thanking the members of the working parties that have helped me with the clearance: without that help I could not possibly have cleared the banks before the season got under way.

On that subject please do tread carefully when walking the bankside path. There are a  number of places where there has been a bank collapse during the winter and there is a dangerously small margin between the fence-line and the water. I have to undertake prolonged negotiations with the tenant farmers if I want to move a fence, and on Reach 13 (opposite Avon Springs lakes in particular) there is quite a problem with this.

But fallen trees and bank collapses apart, the outlook this season is very promising. Corfe End Lakes fished extremely well during the cold weather in March and April before the river season opened, and the fact that I have had to cut some weed in the permitted April slot indicates that the river is in a very healthy state. This is reinforced by the exceptional clarity of the water – the best it has been for at least five years. A number of members have commented in the past on the murky state of the water in the spring months – common to all the local chalk streams – and although the present very warm weather may yet trigger the algal bloom that causes this, with any luck we will see the river in almost perfect conditions for the start of the Mayfly hatch. I have incidentally advised the Management Committee not to re-impose the restriction on nymph fishing, because for once there is the opportunity to stalk visible fish and tempt them with a perfectly placed nymph – and of course I trust that you will all have some version of Frank Sawyer’s Pheasant Tail nymph in your fly boxes: it was invented for precisely these conditions.

The warm weather has generated a proper hatch of Hawthorn fly for the first time for several years, and this is also a must for the fly box. Although it is not an aquatic fly it does seem to be drawn to the river and is blown on to the surface of the water from which it cannot escape – and the trout absolutely love it. Although you may be lucky enough to encounter an occasional hatch of Olives before the Mayfly appear, it is the Hawthorn pattern that is so deadly at this time of the year, wherever you can find a rising fish. Both Orvis and Robjents in Stockbridge sell them – and the more straggling and untidy the pattern, the better.

Turning to the Mayfly, the peak of the hatch is almost invariably reached in the last two weeks of this month. I have already seen one or two, but the message has not yet reached the trout, and of course it is abundant hatching fly that seems to trigger a really widespread response. The exciting, slashing rises that are so typical of the Mayfly period are caused by fish racing to take the hatching dun before it leaves the water. In warm weather this is a matter of a few seconds, but as I always have said, do not neglect the river if the weather turns cold, wet and windy. Cold temperatures pin the hatching fly to the surface, and some of our very best and most exhilarating fishing happens in those conditions.

Remember, too, that if the weather is warm, and the columns of spinning fly are visible in the afternoons along the bank (sometimes spectacularly so) there is a very good chance of a fall of spent fly in the evening – when most people have gone home for supper!

Please do take a moment or two to enter your catch returns on the web site when you return from the river, and make a note in the Remarks column if you are lucky enough to get hold of a big fish or wish to draw attention to anything else of interest to others. Likewise of course please do ring me (07768 354788) if you have any concerns or queries. I will be away on holiday from 21 to 28 May, so please contact the Vice Chairman, Tony Wells, on 01980 620474 who will field queries on my behalf while I am away.

Good luck!