August 2023

Weather and Weed

It is a real pleasure to read your catch returns for August as they make a very cheerful contrast to last year, when August produced a blistering heat wave and very low flows. So it is no surprise to see from the Secretary’s statistics that that the August catches were precisely double those of August 2022 at 146 takeable brown trout. The very best of these are recorded as being up to 20 inches (just over 3lbs if you believe the length/weight charts on the internet). This is despite the weed cut ban which has made life very difficult - indeed near impossible on certain parts of the river. – so I must congratulate those who have persevered so successfully. On our water there is no doubt that weather plays a big part in the potential for success. This month saw air temperatures in the 18 – 21C range with sunny interludes, plenty of showers, but nothing to colour the water excessively. That is about as good as it gets in my book. (“When the wind’s in the West, they like it best”!)

It will be interesting to see if the weed cut ban generates any beneficial effect, in particular for fly life. When the Avon was designated SSSI and SAC in the 1990s there were some crusading conservationists who believed that the summer cuts should be stopped (there were at least two in those days) as they were believed to be damaging to both invertebrate life and also to juvenile fish which lost vital cover from predation at that stage in their lives. But as this season has shown, to cease weed cutting altogether would degrade fly fishing to an unacceptable extent. We have been fortunate this year in that swan grazing and generally patchy weed growth has reduced the impact of the ban on our water. Not so further downstream between Amesbury and Salisbury where some stretches have had to be closed to fishing altogether.

Fly Life

Nobody has reported any large hatches of small up-winged fly since the Mayfly petered out. There has certainly been some BWO about (four or five rods reported this) but in no great numbers, and the evenings have been more marked by big sedge hatches than by olives. But I was pleased to see that my advice on the good old Black Gnat was taken on board successfully by one or two rods, and inevitably the Elkhair Caddis, Tups, Adams, Klinkhammer and various small c-de-c patterns all scored well – so there must have been some small up-wings about for the fish to recognise our imitations! Please do let me know in your catch returns if any fly abundance does occur, of any species.

Just a brief reminder, too, of Frank Sawyer’s other great creation: the Killer Bug. It comes into its own at this time of the year in any deep, slow stretch and is equally effective for grayling as for trout. Not a pretty pattern to hold in the hand, but very, very effective.

Bank Problems

I am sorry that we have made little headway on the fencing issues, but I can assure you it is not for lack of trying. We are optimistic that Reach 8 will be re-fenced as part of a very extensive and ambitious restoration project due to take place in autumn 2024, which is driven by the requirement to reconfigure the old mill pool at Figheldean. Currently this is fenced off by DIO to prevent further anti-social behaviour there, but ultimately the old weir will be removed and the banks re-profiled.

At the top of Reach 7 (downstream of Choulston Bridge) the bankside path has become so dangerous that we have arbitrarily peeled back the stock fencing to allow rods to bypass the bank collapse.

Downstream of C Crossing and Barn House on Reach 12 the tenant farmer is reluctant to permit fence adjustment as it affects the returns he has to make to DEFRA. We will get there one day! – but meanwhile do take great care where bank collapse has affected the passage along the river.

Miscellaneous

  • Year on year every August I have to battle the pernicious Himalayan Balsam at the top of Reach 13.  We seem to have kept it under control (just!), but do let me know if any more appears elsewhere – I am sure most of you recognise the familiar pink flower with exploding seed heads which smothers all other bankside vegetation – and we are now seeing Orange Balsam on the banks in one or two places too. However this is not such a concern as it does not proliferate to the same extent.
  • Please do continue to record incidents of disruption, such as boating/paddle-boarding/wild swimming, on your catch returns as it provides useful data for the Management Committee.
  •  I will be away on holiday from 14 to 28 Sep, so if you need to report any problem or need any advice, do contact the Hon Sec (by e-mail), or the appropriate committee member by telephone: contact details are on the web site.

 

Martin Browne

Tel: 07768 354788