June 2024

Mayfly Verdict

I hope you all agree that once again (and despite a winter of record rainfall, plus a cool, windy spring) we have enjoyed some great Mayfly hatches. They have followed the now predictable pattern, with the big hatches starting in the third week of May and running on reliably through the first fortnight of June. But this was not always the case. Those of you who have a copy of Brigadier Carey’s fine book on the fishery (“One River”) can see his interesting comments about the Mayfly hatches on page 20. The book was published in 1952 when, as he says, Mayfly “has practically disappeared again from this water”. He tells us that there were plenty in the early 1930s, but they then gradually diminished in abundance until by the war years of the 1940s there were “none to speak of “. But go to Chapter 7 of Frank Sawyer’s first and best book (“Keeper of the Stream”) and we see that by 1948 and 1949 the big hatches were back, before the next crash of the 1950s recorded by Carey.  We can only speculate as to the causes of those boom-and-bust Mayfly cycles on our fishery, but at least this season we can say that winter flooding events is not among them, and that we can rejoice (fingers crossed) in the now predictable timing and abundance of these hatches.

It is clear from your catch returns that by mid-June the Mayfly was petering out, and that despite the occasional still enthusiastic and hungry fish, those slashing, splashy rises were changing to discreet “sips” to small fly, often right under the bank: a more serious test of casting skills, particularly with that irritating downstream wind that has plagued us this season. Perhaps this was the reason for the downturn in the number of visits to the river this June – only 127 compared to 152 last year with the number of takeable brown trout also down in proportion – 315 to 364. But as revealed by the number-crunching done by our Hon Secretary, in fact the number of fish caught per visit was almost exactly the same as last year, so I am perfectly happy with that result.

Weed Cut

This has been a cliff-hanger. The Upper Avon fisheries were due to start the June weed cut on 12 June, but due to delay in gaining consent from the EA and Natural England we did not start the cut until the 17th. The delay in consent resulted from an entirely new system of weed collection and disposal put in place by the Salisbury and District Angling Club (SADAC) who now operate the new system on our behalf, replacing the EA weed extraction operation which was discontinued last year. We all chip in on the costs of the new system, and we are hugely grateful to SADAC for their skill and determination in creating and operating the new weed boom on their water. Without this I am sure we would still be suffering from water-logged banks and greatly reduced fishable water. So this month we have been able to cut weed over the majority of our water although you will have seen the gaps where depth has made this impossible, most notably on Reach 11 downstream of Gunville where there is also some  dangerous wading in deep silt.

Outlook for the Summer Months

I am sure you will all appreciate that there is a huge amount of work still to be done to repair the damage done by wind and flood last winter. We will work on this steadily over the next few months. For the keen waders among you, this is not really an issue, but for those who prefer to fish from the bank I do realise that the bank passage is still very tricky, with tree-fall still to be cleared by Landmarc, foot bridges still to be repaired, back cast space to be eased, and the spread of various reed beds and pernicious water dropwort fringes to be topped or cut back. Please be patient and let me know at once if you come across any obstacle you feel is dangerous.

But on the positive side I can truly say that I have never seen the river in better condition, with the banks now almost dried out, ground water strongly supporting the flow, and already signs of healthy hatches of small fly at a time when we usually talk of the “post-Mayfly slump”. As normal your catch returns mention how effective the Klinkhammer and Parachute Adams are on our water, and of course we are now into Black Gnats and other terrestrial imitations like the Caperer and small dry Daddy – both killers on still warm summer afternoons. And I can never resist mentioning the value of the Sawyer Killer Bug at times when there is little surface movement.

Other Points

  • Mink, Otter and Water Voles. Do please continue to report otter and water vole sightings. Otters now seem to be very well established on the fishery (one rod had three separate sightings in June alone) while on the other hand there is continued concern over water voles nationally. We do have a water vole population but it is much diminished so it is very useful to have records – and of course the threat to them from mink remains. I still coordinate mink trapping upstream of Bulford; we had one in June so they are still around.
  • We have had one very distressing report of a swan with a bright silver spinning bait lodged in its bill below Choulston bridge. This indicates that the poaching problem remains, unsurprisingly. Somehow the swan managed to get rid of the spinner, but it is worth reiterating that village children are permitted to fish in the mill pools at Figheldean and Haxton, also between the two foot bridges at Milston, but nowhere else.
  • WW1 Artillery Shell. There are well authenticated rumours of a live 18lber shell picked up from the river bed at B Crossing and (briefly) used as a garden ornament. As so many of our members now wade it is worth reminding you to look carefully where you step ,and also that we fish in a very long-established training area so big floods may well bring unwelcome objects to the surface!

A reminder about car parking please. Please be considerate and do not park sideways on in car parking areas thereby not leaving space for other members to park. Please see photos below.

Wrong way to park
Wrong way to park
Correct way to park
Correct way to park

Finally, many thanks for the huge help given by your excellent work parties, and indeed by our hard-working casual labour. Our next working party is 0930 – 1230 hrs on Saturday 13th July – please help if you can and inform Robin Garrett email: robin.j.garrett@gmail.com

We now need some warm weather when I hope your experience in July will justify my optimism!

 

Martin Browne

Tel: 07768 354788