August 2020

Corfe End Lakes

Could I ask you all please, not to park at the Corfe End Lakes car park (Reach 3) between 14th and 21st September, and also to keep clear of the lakes when moving up the river bank as we will have a contractor working with heavy plant to clear the reeds over that period. If he achieves this successfully (and that is not a done deal as there are access and disposal problems), then I very much hope we get a really wet winter and a good recharge of the aquifer, so that we can start fishing them again from 15th March next spring. It seems clear that (as advised by the experts) we will have to rely mainly on ground water for the Lakes in future rather than through-flow from the river. This is the only option if we are to minimise silt build-up and also delay the algae and weed growth as long as possible into the summer. But if the plan works this should provide some interesting pre-Mayfly fishing next season at a time when the river itself is at its least productive.

Verdict on August

I think difficult is the key word, particularly in contrast with the earlier months of this season, which have been very successful, and this is reflected in the statistics. The takeable brown trout catch in the month was almost exactly half that of July, with very similar falls in the numbers of grayling and under-sized (wild) browns. That said, our Secretary has number-crunched your returns, and told me that the average catch per visit is 1.5 takeable trout which is only 0.2 down from August last year. And at least two fish of over 3lbs were recorded, which will have given a lot of fun and satisfaction to the rods concerned. But it is clear from all your remarks in the catch returns that it has been quite hard work, in extremely variable weather, and success was enjoyed on the whole by those who had the time and stamina to persevere. As always the late evenings on warm days were the most productive.

 I was pleased to see from your returns that the rather tentative tips about fly patterns which I made in July – in particular the Tups and the Killer Bug have proved useful for one or two of you, while in the low, clear water at this time of the year the smaller patterns – dry or nymph – were more effective than anything more “clunky”. One long-suffering rod commented: “...small nymphs worked in the end...” which is no surprise, nor indeed were the dry flies recorded as successful: I am sure you need no reminding – Black Gnat, Elk Hair Caddis, Daddy Long Legs, Parachute Adams – these all scored well in August.

Wild Brown Trout: Catch and Release

Although we only class fish of under 12” as wild in our returns (as you know we do not stock under this length) there can be no doubt that there are bigger wild fish in our water, as indeed there always have been. Both I and the committee really do welcome those rods who return fish carefully to the river: as far as stock fish are concerned these will live to fight another day and give us all a lot of fun in doing so. But unremarked, and not even identified, I am sure that a number of takeable wild fish are going back too, which benefits the river tremendously. It is these fish that pass on their genes on the redds every winter, making their offspring fit for purpose to live in the particular habitat of the Upper Avon. While I must emphasise that there is absolutely nothing wrong in taking fish home to eat, there is undoubtedly a big cultural shift in fly fishing towards catch and release at the present time, and on our water I do think that we have the balance about right.

I am sometimes asked how to identify a wild fish. One thing is certain, colouring and “spot patterns” are irrelevant. Much more telling is the lie: an adult wild fish will have competed hard to find the optimum place in the river where surface and sub-surface food is channelled to it, and where there is a high level of safety from predators – and that is often very close indeed to the bank, sometimes with overhead cover, and usually inaccessible to the casual fisher. In other words: challenging! I remember that very fine fly-fisher, Charles Rangeley-Wilson talking about this and advising people not to worry about identification: “...if you get hold of a wild fish you will know about it soon enough....!”

Other Points

Thank you for recording your otter and water vole sightings (thankfully no mink as yet). I am sorry if you have encountered “wild swimmers”, paddle boarding and dog walking, but I fear that this will feature every summer in hot weather, and the closure of Figheldean Mill pool has displaced this activity to elsewhere on the river. But unless we get another hot spell, September should be a better month in this regard, so make the most of it!

I will report on the whole season in my next bulletin – which will appear after the last day of fly fishing for trout, which is 14 October.

Martin Browne

Tel: 07768 354788