I think I may have been a bit over-optimistic in my predictions for August in last month’s report. We shared the same rather difficult month with other fisheries on the Upper Avon, in that there seemed to be less fly about than in previous years at this time, particularly in the late evenings. These tended to be dominated by sedge hatches seemingly to the exclusion of the olives which normally start to come into their own in August, although to be fair one or two members have mentioned Pale Wateries which I would certainly expect to see in some numbers by now. Perhaps this is because of the effect of generally higher water temperatures this year, coupled of course with very low flows. I quote from one of our more experienced members: “…river the lowest and slowest I have seen for some years…” and from another: “…lots of trout seen but they just seemed uninterested in our flies/nymphs”.
So perhaps the truth is that we are now paying the penalty for that quite exceptional mid-summer weather. Certainly the August returns are well down on the blistering July, with only 97 takeable trout recorded for the month. But if so, we have got away with it lightly in my opinion – anyone who has read Frank Sawyer’s report on the very similar 1976 season will confirm that – and I have been particularly pleased with the survival rate of our stock fish in the rearing ponds. Some of you will have read the article in the Daily Telegraph about the difficulties and high mortality the trout farms were experiencing this summer during the heat wave, but next year’s stock in our ponds have been relatively unaffected. This in my view vindicates the changes to the rearing system which we adopted some years ago and also the investment made last year in de-silting the main rearing pond.
With regard to the more productive parts of the fishery, Reach 11 (from Gunville to C Crossing) has done best despite the hassle of dog walkers and poachers, closely followed by Reaches 12 and 7. Reach 10 continues to perform dismally. Upstream of Choulston Bridge the river is either heavily weeded or too thin to hold fish other than in the deeper holes, and as the Environment Agency demonstrated to us some years ago the river runs on a “perched bed” throughout the top two reaches which means that we lose a lot of water through the bed of the river once the water table falls away. But do not forget about Cress Bed Lake. It may be a battle to get through the jungle to the banks and extremely challenging fishing when you get there with crystal clear water and spooky trout, but these are glorious fish, “…stuffed with snail..” as one member recorded, very pink fleshed in consequence, and with one or two around the 3 lb mark to boot.
However to encourage you all I have kept the best news to the end. In last month’s Keeper’s Page I was rather rude about Reach 13. I now take that back. The largest brown trout caught on our water for several years, at 8lbs 2oz, was caught there in early August. This was in late evening, on a size 18 Tup’s Indispensable. Another fish of 4 lbs was caught on the same reach. So the fishery continues to surprise us all, and I believe that the river will now start to come back into its own as it usually does at the end of the season, and as the water temperature falls away. My advice for the autumn is to use small (size 14 and below) parachute dries, or flies with the underside hackle trimmed off. Use sparsely dressed patterns – Adams’, Tup’s, Pale Olives or c-de-c. Unless you are going for big grayling in the deep holes nymphs should not be heavily weighted.
Many thanks for your excellent comments and your returns. They really are helpful so keep them coming!