July 22


We are told this has been the driest July in England since 1935 – and of course we all experienced that record-busting day this year on the 19th July when temperatures knocked on 40C. But just pause to consider Frank Sawyer’s comments on the 1976 season of drought and heat wave:

“That we got through the season without complete disaster to our fishery is still something approaching a miracle to me...It is not surprising therefore that the bag of trout taken during the season is the lowest we have had in the in the history of the Association as far back as I can remember...Members realised just how hopeless and serious conditions became ... and though many came to look, very few had any real desire to try to catch fish.”

Of course we are nowhere near the end of the season at the moment, but your catch returns for the month do present a very cheerful and productive contrast to Frank’s verdict in 1976. Despite all the gloom and predictions of catastrophe that weather TV so enjoys broadcasting we actually recorded more takeable brown trout for the month (181 killed and returned) than we did in July last year (164), Likewise for the under-sized wild fish (117 as opposed to 102). So I am absolutely delighted with those results for the month, as it does demonstrate that the fishery has acquired considerable resilience over the years. Undoubtedly the many projects of restoration work are now proving their worth, reinforced by our policy to allow bankside vegetation and marginal reed beds to move out and establish new boundaries on exposed silt and shallow water. Over the next few weeks we will see the banks of cress reinforce this seasonal narrowing even further - thus retaining the energy in the flow and keeping the main channel clear of silt.

Stock Fish

But I have to confess that my concerns last month were focussed largely on the stock ponds because very high water temperatures do present great danger to our stock fish. As soon as the heat wave was formally predicted I cut right back on feeding, and indeed ceased it altogether in the very hot spell. I was certain we would lose some fish, which indeed we did – but far fewer than I expected, and (touch wood!) nothing that will affect our stocking figures next April. I concentrated on maximising the flow through the stock pond, cleaning the grills several times a day, which I think did the trick. But we did have one very close shave when the hatches at the Stonehenge Brewery were vandalised,  lowering the level in the river to the extent that the off-take to the stock ponds carrier ceased to flow. We were very lucky indeed to spot this in time and to take the necessary action with the judicious use of some old railway sleepers! At the moment all is back to normal, and our stock fish are looking healthy and active.

Low Water Challenges and Fly Patterns

With crystal clear shallow water this has not been a great month for bank fishing, and it is interesting to speculate how difficult it must have been in Frank Sawyer’s time when wading was not permitted. At the moment any movement along the bank, particularly when combined with light coloured clothing, causes panic among the juvenile grayling shoals, often spooking better fish, while our stockies, which are quickly becoming very street-wise, quietly sink to the river bed or edge into the nearest weed cover. Wading avoids these reactions, and providing it is done quietly and cautiously it should allow an approach to a feeding fish and the chance to put a fly into its “window” at least once. Looking at the returns, it is clear that the good old Klinkhammer has been the most successful dry fly. There are so many different patterns of this fly these days that the name really applies to almost any dressing that sits in the surface film with a tuft of cdc projecting forward or vertically – it is often sold as an emerger. However, as one of our rods pointed out: “black flies matter”, and it seems that this fly is most effective with a sparse parachute black hackle. All that said, my favourite pattern at this time of the year is what I call a “Grizzly Mole” – which is a conventionally- tied dry fly with a grizzle hackle and whisk and mole fur body – it looks like a cross between a Grey Duster and an Adams.

With regard to taking times there have been reports of a good rise to small olives as early as 8.30am in the hot weather, and certainly it is a lovely time of day to be on the river. I would suggest that afternoons are not very productive at the moment although shaded stretches are always worth watching for an occasional feeding fish. But as I have said many times it is that last hour or so before dark that gives the best chance at this time of the year.

Other Points

  • At the moment we have to share the Gated Crossing with the members of the Netheravon Shoot, who have been blocked from accessing their land via the west bank. So please would you park neatly there at right angles to the track to allow their keeper and other vehicles in.
  • There have been some interesting wildlife records in July, including Green Sandpiper and Osprey. We are also starting to see Common Lizards on the bank this season. This is entirely new to me, so please would you report any further sightings of these creatures.
  • We all hope fervently that Rambo, the aggressive swan downstream of Figheldean road bridge, finds a new mate among the five remaining swans from the juvenile herd at Gunville. He may then drive the remainder away as he re-establishes his territory, thus restoring Reach 10 where the weed growth has been trashed by the juveniles for the season so far.
  • Regrettably Corfe End Lakes remain closed as they are not fishable due to the build-up of algae and weed in this exceptional weather.
  • Please remember to put a direction card (arrow indicating whether you have moved up or downstream) on the dashboard of your car to indicate your movement to other arrivals.

As always, tight lines for August, and keep those returns coming in!


Martin Browne

Tel\; 07768 354788