June 2016

With the June weed cut completed very successfully (and many thanks to those members who worked hard to assist me with this), the Fishery now enters the second half of the season, and it does so in much better condition than at this time in recent years. The river and lakes have just been restocked and it is clear from your catch returns that our wild population of brown trout continue to thrive. At the end of June, river flows and ground water (measured by the Tilshead borehole) were exactly normal on the EA’s long term average figures. The algal bloom that has previously coloured up the water in the spring months was almost non-existent this year, and the water is currently ideal for nymphing: with a decent pair of polaroids you can spot a fish that is “on the fin” – feeding sub-surface - from well downstream, and I would hope that Frank Sawyer’s copper-wired Pheasant Tail is working its customary magic. That fly, which is now used in all types of rivers and still waters all over the world, was designed for our Fishery, and the weight always seems to me to be exactly suited to our pace of current and general depth. That said, if you want to ring the changes, I think the very next best choice of nymph pattern is the good old Gold-ribbed Hare’s Ear, preferably in size 18, or even smaller.

I must just repeat to our new members without apology that to fish a nymph effectively throughout our water there is no doubt that it helps to wade. There is no need to wade deeply, but to get down stealthily off the high bank and into knee-deep water alongside it, will almost always move you below a trout’s horizon. There is the added advantage too, of not getting your cast inextricably and infuriatingly caught in the grasping flower heads of water dropwort, (the cow parsley type of bankside plant which is widespread this year).

Quote from a committee member on the fly opposite:


This is the Mayfly pattern – rather scruffy as it has caught a lot of fish, but note that the underhackle has been trimmed right back, and the wing is a single large c-de c feather. I think the detached body is part of the magic, and of course the whole think is incredibly light and falls like thistle down- nor does it ever get twizzled. It is lethal and quite the most effective pattern for the hatching dun that I have ever encountered.


I have no doubt that a few Mayfly will continue to appear in July, but the fish seem to lose interest in them, particularly if there are olives around. However I am personally delighted with how the Mayfly month developed. It started earlier than usual, with some sparse hatches around the 16th/17th May, but before long the splashy rises showed that the fish had got the message, and by the 24th May the hatch was in full swing – “a veritable blizzard” as one of our catch returns reported – leading on to another rod proclaiming “one of the best days’ fishing of my life” at the end of the month. Several fish of 16” – 18” were caught, and as I predicted, the wet and windy days were on the whole by far the most productive as is always the case. Surprisingly this season the period coincided with some prolific Hawthorn hatches – much later than usual and a very welcome sight because they have been absent almost entirely for the past couple of years.

Mayfly patterns remain a controversial topic! A few of our members still swear by the Grey Wulff, but I always think it is a bit “clunky” like many of the old-fashioned patterns, except perhaps in the smaller sizes. One thing I am certain of is that the arrival of cul-de-canard wings in Mayfly patterns is a real revolution in imitating the hatching dun - it seems to produce a lighter and more attractive silhouette, and I will ask the Secretary to reproduce a photo of a particular pattern that has been remarkably deadly for one of our committee members this season, so hopefully you will see it with this report.

Enough on Mayfly! What we need now is some warm weather to encourage the olive hatches, and we have already seen enough of the Pale Wateries to be optimistic about small fly in the second half of the season. The river is in such good order that I would be amazed if we do not get some great dry fly fishing – that is providing we do get some proper summer weather to trigger these. If we do, you really must try to have an early supper and get down to the river in the late evening. Apart from the Mayfly hatch that is the very best of our fishing, particularly if you have found it frustrating when fishing a dry fly during the day.

As you know, we try to keep on top of the bankside paths, but you must let me know if you find places that need urgent attention- in particular if they are becoming dangerous. Unlike other estates we suffer endlessly with tenant farmers’ fencing being positioned far too close to the bank, and as some of the banks are badly undercut as a result of recent flooding this can lead to obvious problems. But I am pleased to say that we will at last be restoring the top half of Reach 13 which is very rarely fished for that very reason. The Wiltshire Wildlife Trust will be leading on this restoration project which hopefully will take place this autumn along the water meadow opposite the row of expensive houses on the northern outskirts of Durrington.

But before that happens we have three great months of the fishing season still to go. I hope you all have an excellent “second half”, and please do not hesitate to give me a ring if you need any advice or help.

Martin Browne

Tel: 07768 354788