May 2022

Half-time on the Mayfly

Thank you for your very interesting comments in the May catch returns. It has been a most unusual month for several reasons. First of all, the Mayfly (danica) hatches started remarkably early: the first proper hatch was recorded on the 4th May downstream of the Gated Crossing. These then continued in a very sparse, patchy and unpredictable pattern throughout the following fortnight, gradually increasing in spread and numbers. But by the last week of the month what I would describe as a normal pattern was established with the timing of the hatches favouring early/mid-afternoon, with a fall of spent fly in the evening. But for the angler, the key in all weathers, as ever, is to be on the bank before a hatch actually starts, taking advantage of keen, hungry fish. This month it was very noticeable how “picky” many of the stock fish became once they had consumed their quota of natural fly: we all know how frustrating it can be when a sporadic “riser” will ignore several naturals together with your perfectly presented artificial, eventually (after a ten minute rest) choosing another natural – apparently at random!

Whether the early start to the hatch was due to the brief spell of warm weather at the beginning of the month is arguable – in my book the Mayfly hatches seem to take place quite regardless of the weather, the only useful rule of thumb being that a hatch on a cold, wet afternoon often brings very memorable moments when the hatching duns have difficulty in getting off the water. With that cold north to north-east wind blowing for much of the month this certainly did keep fly on the water for longer, but once again this meant we suffered a downstream wind which made presentation difficult.

With regard to fly patterns, it seems from your returns that Robjents in Stockbridge have been doing a good trade, (their Mohican pattern gets a couple of favourable mentions) and of course the good old Grey Wulff is probably the most reliable standby when all else fails. Personally I favour a pattern with a very light detached body and c-de-c wing, rather than the more heavily dressed versions.

To conclude on the Mayfly hatch at “half-time”, it is interesting to note that although most of our rods will concede that it has not been particularly easy so far – most certainly not a “duffer’s fortnight” – the catch return statistics show that in May you caught 715 takeable brown trout compared to 589 last season: an increased margin of 126. I hope you are able to continue this trend in June.

Other Fly-life

I said in last month’s report that the fish were not showing much interest in Hawthorn. This changed completely in the first fortnight of May. There were some tremendous falls of Hawthorn, and several rods observed how deadly the artificial can be – preferred even to Mayfly if the two are on the surface together. In fact the fly was mentioned in the catch returns more frequently than any other artificial, as were other black flies. But there was no mention of the Iron Blues which we saw last year: perhaps June will bring them up.


Weed Cut

This starts next Monday (13 June), and will be quite a challenge for my team this season. Apart from Reach 10 (Figheldean bridge to Gunville) the prolific weed growth since April has reduced fishable water substantially, and of course it has also backed up the river in various places. So be prepared for a significant drop in water level this month which may well change the distribution of fish. But I hope it will also open up areas of the fishery which have been impossible so far, namely where the ranunculus is literally bank-to-bank as in Cemetery meadows downstream of C Crossing (Reach 12) and indeed around Sawyer’s bench on Reach 7.

If you come down to fish during the weed cut and find floating weed causing a nuisance, the first recourse is to move upstream to get above where the cut is taking place. Otherwise by all means give me a call the evening before you intend to fish in order to find out where I am cutting the following day.


I know the Management Committee is grateful for your comments on the use of our bankside path by the general public. Actually, the cool weather has undoubtedly deterred the “wild swimmers” in May as has perhaps also the big press lobby on sewage discharges, so we have been fortunate in that respect so far.  But there have been a couple of comments about one or two rods not following the 100 yard rule. So I have been asked to remind you to respect the usual chalk stream etiquette by not crowding rods fishing upstream of you, and to be polite in asking if you can pass by another rod – whether he/she is wading or on the bank. Thanks! – and the best of luck in June when hopefully, post weed cut, there will be a lot more water to fish.


Martin Browne

Tel: 07768 354788