Perhaps a month even approaching the May and June results was just too much to hope for, and I am afraid this season once again fulfilled the often-made prediction for July as producing quite exceptionally challenging fly fishing. The statistics are disappointing – takeable brown trout were down to only 30% of the June total, although the wild fish continued to hold their own if allowance is made for the reduced number of visits to the river. The weather lurched from one extreme to the other – and neither extreme was an incentive to go fishing! But looking through the catch returns it is clear that those who made the effort to get to the river did have some interesting moments: one rod witnessed a wonderful BWO hatch (commonplace 30 years ago but rare now), and another picked up a lovely 5lb brown from Reach 13. During the hot spell late evenings inevitably produced the most activity from the fish and our more elderly committee members recalled Frank Sawyer’s often repeated comment in mid-summer: “...you lot go home far too early” – and of course he was right on that as on so many other things.
The other advantage of fishing in the dusk these days is that you are less likely to encounter the plague of recreational walkers that now inflict themselves on our fishery during the day. As I said previously please do keep entering your comments on these incidents in the box that the Hon Sec provides in the returns: they are a very useful record.
One unusual quirk of this season has been the way that the Mayfly have sputtered on well into July. This seems to be a feature of our fishery this year, and although the cold spring may have delayed and then extended the hatches, to see more than just the occasional Mayfly in mid-summer is certainly extraordinary. On the Test for example the hatches cease as if a tap has been turned off in early June, and I have not heard of such late hatches elsewhere on the Avon catchment. However the fish do not seem to respond to these late, sparse hatches with the same enthusiasm as they do in late May.
Otherwise fly life has been predictable where extreme weather has not interfered. There is no doubt from your catch returns that in this difficult month the most effective fly by far has been the c-de-c emerger, in various slightly different patterns and sizes. The crystal clear water has also allowed many rods to enjoy sight fishing, and as always the Pheasant Tail Nymph (in small sizes) has worked well in these conditions, while in that very hot spell a well sunk Sawyer Killer Bug in the deeper, cooler pools has also proved a killer.
Bank Work and Explosives
I am grateful to those rods who let me know where problems have occurred which affect both wading and the bank passage. The Defence Estate (Landmarc) have now cleared the enormous fallen beech tree that completely blocked access to the east bank just upstream of Choulston bridge, so the route to the Cress Bed Lake is once again available along the river. I have also placed yellow wire guards over the very dangerous bit of bank at the downstream end of Reach 8. This should allow you to get into the field to skirt that bank collapse without puncturing your expensive Gortex waders!
In this low, clear water would you please also keep an eye open for any suspicious looking objects on the bed of the river. It seems that during the period when the old Support Weapons Wing operated from the camp on the west bank of Reach 7 it was customary to dump unexploded munitions of various types into the river. A number of mortar bombs have come to light in July and have been removed, but there are doubtless more deep in the silt: needless to say do not attempt to move them yourself but let me know at once if you see objects that need investigating.
Interestingly there have been more otter sightings reported in July than in any previous month, including a rather fascinating otter/cat confrontation. This apparently worried the cat but not the otter! Our Kingfisher population seems to be thriving, and although our water voles are still more thin on the ground than we would like to see, at least we do now have an established resident population. This is probably a result of the extensive mink-trapping initiative on the Upper Avon which for the moment seems to have eradicated them. Please do keep reporting all these species.
It will be interesting to see how you all get on in August. I will make no predictions, but there is no doubt that the river remains very well stocked.
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