May 2018

After one of the more extraordinary starts to the season that I can remember (see my remarks on the April Keeper’s Page), May eventually came good as I optimistically predicted. Although I know some of our members have found it difficult, and the fly hatches have so far not been up to last season’s standard, your May catch returns are really encouraging – compare 28 takeable fish caught in April with 256 in May (with some returns presumably still to come in). As always in the early part of the Mayfly period some great fish have been caught – a 4lb 5oz fish upstream of Choulston and a stonking great Avon Springs escapee of around 7lbs from Reach 13. I am not sure how that one fitted in the net but it was apparently an over-wintered fish, so to all intents a wild one – caught on a Mayfly emerger. Several other good fish have been caught, but one remark on the catch returns did worry me a bit as it was critical of the quality of some of the stock fish – the first time for very many years that we have had this comment. All I can say (defensively!) is that these are not our fish. As you will recall, we had to de-silt and otter-proof our stock ponds last autumn, consequently as a one-off we were forced to buy in our stock this year. Inevitably, a few fish reared in these high density commercial fish farms slip through the screening process, resulting in fin damage, hence the comment. In fact we should probably see this as justification for the system we operate in rearing our own stock, so I do take some comfort from that.

Reverting to the matter of fly hatches, some interesting points have already emerged. From the appearance of the first duns in mid-May right up until the present, there has not been any sign yet of the hatch peaking – just a sporadic, consistent, but fairly sparse hatch of Mayfly here and there, sometimes only in ones or twos, although as always far better on wet and cold days when the duns have difficulty in getting off the water. This pattern was predicted by our committee invertebrate expert, Steve Perkins, who told me at the beginning of the month that the Mayfly nymphs were less developed than normal and also in variable states of development. So, as he said, we should expect the Mayfly period to be prolonged well into June, but without any huge hatches. In fact we are already seeing a fall of spent spinner in late evening, but very few of our members take advantage of this – we are told that Frank Sawyer used to say regularly “you lot always go home too early!”.

Another point, related again to weather and ground water, is that the late springs have produced a big push of water throughout the fishery, with most impact occurring on the restored reaches. These have been now well scoured of silt, and it seems to me they have also been well scoured of Mayfly nymphs – which rejoice in silt. Consequently the restored reaches have not fished as well as the slower, siltier, unrestored parts of the fishery, although the former will certainly come into their own in the second half of the season – they are in wonderful order. The late weed growth is of course a factor in this, as weed holds up flows and maintains the pockets of silt, but as you will have seen there are some stretches devoid of weed altogether. Nevertheless I will certainly be cutting weed in the second half of June, so please do ring me if you are concerned about this and want to fish upstream of the cut.

Regarding threats and hazards, I am afraid that we are suddenly seeing an increase in poaching activity – and thank you to those members who have reported this. Identification of poachers is fairly obvious. We do not permit spinning, and our members do not usually run away when another rod appears on the scene! So please do let me know if you encounter this: descriptions and car numbers are always very useful. “Natural” poaching also continues, but I think we are coming to terms with our otter population, and cormorants have not really bothered us this winter because of the low water.

So you will gather that I remain very optimistic. Thunder storms apart, the water is now much clearer having largely rid itself of the algal bloom that once again afflicted the whole of the Upper Avon in the spring. We should soon see some good hatches of small fly, indeed some olives are already appearing, and of course in June the beetles are in profusion particularly where there are overhanging trees. So please do not pack your rods away once the Mayfly is over!

Martin Browne (07768 354788)