July 2023

Falls Mainly on the Plain

There are probably plenty of our rods who do not wish to know anything more about July, which was generally windy and wet for much of the time. But I must qualify that because we did not get the heavy rainfall that hit other parts of the country. Those rods who persevered by fishing our sheltered reaches on windy days did not do half badly. Nor did the water colour up impossibly although often holding that sherry tinge which outside the chalk streams usually hints at promising conditions. But we did lose some trees, and clearing them is a time-consuming occupation. There is still one to be cleared upstream of the Cress Bed corner on Reach 6 and another which I am going to leave until the end of the season on Reach 11. That one is serving a useful purpose as it is a deterrent to dog walkers and poachers parked at C Crossing while it can be waded around by our own rods without difficulty. A very active wasp nest there will reinforce deterrence! But please do keep me informed if any other tree fall is preventing access along the bank.

But I will keep this short as, weather apart, it was an uneventful month on the river with the returns very much what I expected. Last year we recorded 192 takeable brown trout in July, this year the total was much less at 146. Number crunching by our Hon Sec also showed that catch per visit was down from 2.8 in July last year to 2.3 this July with the only surprise (to me anyhow) being the much greater success of the dry fly over the nymph. I mentioned this in the June report but it may now be due to the extensive spread of weed and marginal cress which in a normal year I would have cleared in mid-June. In several places this had presented the opportunity to “pick the  pockets” of clear water and given some accurate casting and quick tough action on a take, it undoubtedly favours the dry fly.

On the weed cut cancellation the Environment Agency has been under some pressure to reinstate the service of extracting cut weed, without which we are not permitted to cut. The local MP, John Glen, has been drawn into the dialogue. Worst affected has been the Salisbury and District water downstream of Amesbury where fishing has had to be stopped, but despite the intervention by John Glen it seems unlikely that the EA will reconsider. As you can imagine, alternative schemes to extract cut weed next year are being worked on energetically..

Successful Flies

Reading your returns carefully, two dry fly patterns stand out. The first is the Elkhair Caddis – presumably imitating the small sedges which we have in abundance. The pattern sold in most fishing shops is very variable, and ultimately is another of these flies that came to us from the USA. Some come with a hackle, often wound the length of the hook with the usual tuft of hair lying along the top ; others (more effective in my view) have minimal throat hackle or none at all, just the flat hairwing, and hence lie low in the water. I have mentioned this fly before and we often advise it to visitors: it certainly does the trick more often than not once the Mayfly is over on our water.

The other successful pattern last month, not often acknowledged but probably fished by many of our fathers and grandfathers, is the good old Black Gnat. If all else fails try it – and in as small a size as your fly box can manage. It has always been a great mid/late summer fly.

One of our rods reported a good hatch of Blue-winged Olives on Reach 2 of which we hoped to see more following the encouraging reports of the nymph stage of the fly in our invertebrate sampling. If the long term forecast is correct and we do get some warmer weather again in August. I would expect to see more of them.  Imitations are always controversial but in my book you can ring the changes widely: Adams, Tups and even the F-fly will work in active BWO hatches.

Anti-social Behaviour

I was pleased that we have not been unduly harassed by poachers or dog walkers this month, though I realise that August may well bring them out of the woodwork again. Thank you very much for your reports. I think word does get round that the police (civilian and MOD) are taking an interest in poaching activity, particularly with teenagers. There are a couple of tougher groups, however, one operating from a van with Irish plates, and I would strongly advise that you do not get tangled with them: ring me or the police if you come across them breaking the law..

But by all means remonstrate cheerfully with paddle boarders. It is not permitted in a SSSI, as the notice boards make clear. Thank you to those rods who successfully challenged this activity last month.

Let us hope that August brings some really interesting and challenging fishing. It will be interesting to hear how you get on.

Martin Browne

07768 354788