I spent the day strimming, which didn't provide much opportunity for any photography, so I will just put up this shot from yesterday of the new donkey foal up on the Marsh.
Not perhaps as dramatic yet even with this stubborn north wind the Avon valley is a wonderful place to be at this time of year. The first Goosander brood of the year, the single Whitefront that has been in the valley all winter remains with us and at least three pairs of Mandarin are currently sitting. This particular pair have learnt that anglers bait is an easy hit for dinner.
The flowers are also looking well with the bluebells enjoying the extra light where we have coppiced the hazel. The kingcups on the Northern Marsh surrounding the first donkey foal of the year and the cowslip over the lakes putting on a brave show despite the overnight frosts.
Despite the frosty nights and the cold northly wind the lakes continue to provide some excellent fish. Richard Handel with a brace of thirty plus fish and a big twenty for Russ Breckon.
As some of you were aware Anne and I have been away for a break in celebration of a significant birthday and monumental wedding anniversary. Having enjoyed some wonderful R & R in warmth and sunshine, which doesn't do justice to the sun and the sea we enjoyed, I am once more back in harness. Probably a strimmer harness as all the salmon pools could do with a trim by the look of it!
I have to admit to being a little surprised at the state of the river and the lack of growth of the vegetation in many spots. I was expecting the banks to be waist high but it would appear the cold north wind and frosty nights you have endured have applied the brakes to the spring growth. It was a little disconcerting to see the new growth on the brambles limp and blackened by the frost. You also appear to have experienced a total lack of rain, hence the low clear state of the river. If ever we could do with a good soaking to reset Natures time clock now would seem a good time. The fish will still be creeping through and as if to prove a point to welcome me home, Colin Morgan had one stay on in the shape of a sixteen pound cock fish, which I was very pleased to spot in the book. Well done Colin, good fish and thanks for the photo.
Elephants and butterflies, it was all very dramatic.
Well done Paul, second twenty of the year in the shape of this great looking 23 pound hen and I've heard just this minute that Mike Tolley has added his second to his 2017 account in the form of a 12+ fish. Congratulations all around and I appreciate the updates.
That's more like it, yet another fish, in this case a bright summer fish for Pete. Smart fish Pete plus a smart photo.
A most welcome sight. Ray Finch with a fabulous Avon Springer. Great stuff Ray, congratulations and thanks for the pic.
Its the Julian Ward show! I just had to share this as its one of the best looking commons I've seen. Julian kindly sent me a couple of shots of this fish, which was 25.8 and was one of three 20+ fish caught last night. From a fishery perspective this is where we're looking to be with absolutely scale perfect fish. Wonderful common to add to the catch from Meadow last week. Brilliant stuff Julian and thanks again for the photos.
Like father, like daughter. Julian has had a good week to round off his Somerley Lakes season. He did a single night session with daughter Eleanor and between them managed six 20+ carp up to 29.12. Not content with his haul he spent a couple of hours beside the lake today and landed this magnificent looking creature, quite one of the most stunning fish you are ever likely to encounter, an absolute gem at 34.14. Well done Julian and Eleanor. Its somewhat odd for me to see Eleanor with her dad as many moons ago, when I was secretary of one of the local angling clubs, I used to take the junior section with Julian as one of the young anglers when he wasn't a great deal older than Eleanor! I can assure you that a great deal of water has run under Ibsley Bridge since those far off days. Julian and Eleanor weren't the only members to finish in fine style as Nigel Keats added to his top catch of last week with a further eleven carp to 31 pounds in his last two night stint. Nice one Nigel, you should take Adam along with you to show him how to do it, like Julian and Eleanor! Along with Kings-Vincents the lakes have done us proud yet again this year. There have been lean spells but that is what makes us all keep coming back, if we caught every time we went fishing it would soon loose its appeal. With Mockbeggar now open again after its six month rest the challenge of a wild more natural water lays before us once more and the old girls of Somerley can take a well earned rest for the close season.
Odd world; this is not a tenth of the roach that I netted out from behind a hatch board today as they were struggling to get through into the lake beyond. The problem is I don't want them in the lake in question as we already have far too many small fish already in there. I am also reluctant to apply to move them into any other water as although I didn't spot any today, there is the chance that hidden amongst the many thousands there may be rudd or hybrids. If I were being hard nosed about the management of the lake I should take them out, dig a hole and bury them! That doesn't quite fit with my philosophy, particularly when applied to roach and I lifted them over the hatch. I just hope the Cormorants and Grebe are hungry to help balance the scales.
Yesterday I spotted the first Orange-tip of the season, which was an early record for us. Today I spotted three different specimens! Just what that has to say about the climate change our butterfly populations are undergoing I wouldn't like to say but its certainly not the norm with us. The photo's are of different males with the classic orange wing tips and the wonderful pattern on the underwing.
Thanks to Karl for the shots of the two "Old Girls" he managed from the lakes at the weekend. I'm not axactly certain how old those two fish are but they are well over twenty and are probably approaching thirty years old. I believe the second fish, which is an ounce or two short of 35 pounds, is a personal best for Karl from the lakes. Well done Karl, great result.
With Anne having just finished her fourth night shift the chance to soak in some vitamin D in this afternoon's sunshine was just too good an opportunity to miss. It also provided me with the excuse to visit the lakes as we have now removed the last of the winter grazing stock and I wanted to have a look at the sward to see how it might fare this coming summer. One of the meadows running north south and sheltered from today's cold north east wind seemed as good a place as any to spend an hour peering at my feet. Anne stationed herself on a sunny bank over looking my eratic wanderings as I sought out the sorrels and the plantains, sorted the bents from the fescues and the colts-foot from the cocks-foot. With cowslip and dog violet seemingly established well and not forgetting that important food plant for so many of our resident species of butterfly, the common nettle, I have to say the meadows are looking very well indeed.
I was pleased to see increasing numbers of dog violets, I'm sure the fritillaries will be even more pleased than me to see them. It was not only Anne that was enjoying the sunny aspect of the bank as within 50m of her at least six commas and three peacocks were also soaking up the sun.
I was supposed to be bobbing about in a boat off the end of Portland Bill in search of turbot today. As it happens it was wisely decided by the skipper that Portland Run was no place to be in today's blow so it was cancelled. On the principle that its an ill wind that blows no good I did get to visit the lakes this morning and timed my visit to coincide with Paul Powell photographing this scaly 20+ mirror. Cracking looking fish which I would like to know a little more about, if any members have landed this fish in the last couple of years could they email me any pix they might have. The lake has produced several good fish this week with Nigel Keats timing his visit on Wednesday night to find commons of 25, 32 and 38 nice one Nigel, that'll do nicely.
That didn't take long to find out a little more of its history. There's a photo of it on here on 3rd October 2015!
Whilst on the subject of stillwaters. All members should have received an email reminder that subs are due at the end of the month. Contact the office if you failed to receive the email.
Spring's here, the Red-eared terrapins are basking in the trees beside the lakes. We don't see as many of these as we did a couple of decades ago, which is probably a good thing. Still plenty of "Red-necks" about the valley, which probably isn't a good thing! The Tortoiseshell is a shot from last week, which I've put up just for balance and because I like it.
Peter Morrison returning a good common, despite the cold snap that has slowed the fishing considerably this week.
After a dinner of seared pigeon breast, on a bed of mashed potato with romanesco broccoli, pigeon courtesy of Acker and a glass of fine port courtesy of an extremely considerate traveller returning from Portugal, I feel almost human. I never did get out to look for a super chub, or mega barbel come to that but knowing so many of the members had a great end to the season is reward enough, honest!
With the coarse season on the rivers over we can draw breath and look back at events that made up the year. As I write I sit with my aching muscles slowly recovering having spent the best part of the day over at Mockbeggar clearing a window through the willow and alder to allow light onto an area of meadow that lay in shadow. As regular readers are probably aware I have a thing about light and flow, the balance of the two control a significant proportion of all our lives. As with the light and flows in our rivers being critical in ensuring their health, light, along with a drop of rain and a few other bits and bobs, controls the life in our meadows and woods. My current distraction involved managing our fishery habitat for the greatest benefit of the creatures that share our valley with us is strapped for time so every opportunity is welcome. I had a couple of hours clearing the last of the swims and waiting for the loos enabling the chance of a little light and shade balancing. It was of course also the opening day on the lake, providing the opportunity for a chat with some of the members. As it happens I didn't see any anglers, only the toilet delivery man and Frank Lamb, who I caught up with just as he was leaving. I'm not saying Frank isn't an angler, or the toilet man come to that, but Frank didn't have his rods and I don't know the toilet guy, he may well be a fisherman elsewhere. Frank was just out on a recce and expecting to see others on the water, he convinced himself the lakes weren't actually open and was about to leave when I bumped into him. The lakes looked superb in today's warm sunshine and as Frank and I chatted, looking out to the islands, several large carp threw themselves clear of the water returning with seriously impressive splashes. I know the other lakes are fishing well but not a soul on opening day is slightly disappointing. I guess tearing yourself away from the known and taking on the vast unknown of Mockbeggar is a hard choice. Whilst talking of Lakes I should say well done to Alan McAvoy who landed eight fish in his session last week including a new English PB common. Nice one Al, well won.
Back to those mega barbel and super chub, the numbers that we are currently blessed with is simply astonishing. I find it hard to believe the Avon has ever produced fish and fishing of such quality. Certainly not the chub in the fifty plus years I have fished it. Perhaps in the dim and distant past the chub may have achieved such size but never such barbel as they simply didn't exist. To see the shoals of chub moving over the gravel last summer gave a hint of what lay ahead but this angler friendly winter had excelled itself. The prolonged clear water of the late summer and autumn, combined with the reduced flows of the winter seem to have held the weights back a few ounces. I didn't hear of an eight pound plus fish this season, having said that the number of seven plus fish in the last week or two of the season was just fantastic. Not only huge fish but scale perfect, as if just out of the makers mould. A maker who has obviously smiled benignly on us at Somerley for yet another year.
There are probably over a dozen barbel that exceed fourteen pounds to be found on the estate at the current time. At least four or five of those huge fish are upstream of Ibsley Bridge where members appear reluctant to fish for them. I appreciate its our mile or so of shared bank and being a club water is busy. In fact extremely busy but it is a wide river and several of those fish spend a great deal of their time under our bank. A little disappointing not to see that big brace in Botney on the bank this year. Plenty of other doubles and thankfully shoals of baby barbel visible on the shallows. The chub and barbel are undoubtedly in good shape, lets hope it continues to be the case for the foreseeable future.
I know a man that knows how to cheer me up in the form of Mike Tolley who rang this afternoon to let me know he had just released a 21 pound Springer. Just the news I needed after the recent loss a couple of fish and the numbers starting to come out at the bottom end of the river below the Great Weir. Well done Mike, may it be the first on many in 2017. With the Wessex hydrology making pretty depressing reading I fear we are going to struggle in the higher river as fish hold for longer and longer periods as they wait to run those bloody hatches. We are entering the most productive time for the salmon with the next couple of months being the cream of the Avon salmon fishing. Make the most of what flows we have as the fish will still be getting up to us at the present time and cross everything you have in the hope of regular rain to keep the river topped up.
To end with a slightly easier spot the bug shot. The Red Admiral on the tree trunk proved vexing for several readers so this one will hopefully restore the confidence.
One day left of the Coarse season on the river and this is a taste of what is possible, alternatively of what you've missed! The shots are of Ollie Johnson with a brace of sevens at 7.2 and 7.1 that are simply stunning. To complete the day, Ollie added chub of 6.10, 6.3, 6.2, 5.14 and a tacker of 4.8. What can you say to such a bag other than well done Ollie, brilliant catch. Perhaps the icing on the cake was that they came on the traditional Avon tactic of float fished maggot. Ollie used one of his own Avon floats, part of the Clearwater series he designed and manufactures, which are almost tactile they are so elegantly balanced and have tips that even I can see, if I could get out that is. I suppose that's the coarse equivalent of a salmon on a self tied fly, surely a personal Red Letter Day of a lifetime and the chub catch of the season across the country. Superb Ollie and thanks so much for the report and the photos.
A few photographs to provide a flavour of the last day or two. The top line shows two good double figure barbel, the first by Mark Sherborne the Second Jim Innes, both taken when the fishing has been difficult over the last few days. The middle shot shows Bob Windsor and Paul Shutler with Bob's salmon from the compound last week. Nice one Bob, even if you did catch it on the wrong part of the river! Thanks to all for the photos, there have been some stunning fish in recent weeks.
Elsewhere, the middle line starts with a shot of the coltsfoot that is a welcome sight signalling the change of seasons in the meadows. I'm desperately trying to finish the coppicing, the stools are all cut I now have to pile the brash over the top to keep the deer off. Beside the lakes the toads are in full spawning mode with what can best be described as toad balls as clumps of males fight to gain prime position with the females. The two males in the shot having turned their backs on the melee as they stopped for a rest. The bottom line captures some of the other welcome arrivals as the weather warms. Buff-tailed and Tree bumblebees in their dozens, all seeking early pollen to get their new nests underway. The over-wintering butterflies have emerged in good numbers from the cool dark shelters they have occupied for the last four or five months. I imagine the old control tower and the other WW2 shelters that are dotted about the lakes have provided perfect cool, cave like quarters to pass the cold months.
, 9th March
A day or two of sharp contrasts, particularly when it comes to the weather we have experienced in the last seventy two hours. We had strong winds and heavy rain at times earlier in the week that made fishing extremely difficult yet there were some great fish caught. Today we enjoyed a wonderfully warm afternoon, we had bright sunshine and light winds yet the fishing was really difficult. What the sunshine did manage was to bring out the syndicate members and I believe we enjoyed probably the busiest day since the fishing came back in house. With less than a week until the end of the coarse season the river coarse members were doing their best to get a last session in and the near perfect state of the river for salmon has brought the salmon rods out onto the bank. From what I can make of it and according to those I spoke to today the salmon rods fared no better than the coarse guys with no sign of any fish being landed. Thats not quite correct in that Bob (The Mars Bar Kid) Windsor departed south to the the Great Weir compound and produced a 18 pound hen fish, at least proving there are one or two in the river. I should mention one other fish that came out during the rain earlier in the week, that being a 7+ new PB chub for Mark Tutton, well deserved for persevering through the rain and wind, great fish well done Mark. Mark also happens to be a fellow butterfly enthusiast who spotted the first Small tortoiseshell of the year during the earlier part of the week. Today butterflies seemed to be everywhere and during my travels I spotted 8 Brimstones, 4 Commas, 5 Peacocks, 1 Red Admiral and my first Small Tortoiseshell, definitely good for the soul.
Hooray summer is here! Long may it last.
The Snowdrops have faded back into the woodland floor litter and the wild daffodils have taken their place. Its a good year for the dafs with carpets of yellow covering the undisturbed woodland floor. The middle shot is of a Red deer hind, which are now becoming a more frequent sight on the estate. They are a very large beast and increased numbers grazing alongside the existing fallow, roe, sika and muntjac would be a disaster for the wild flora we are attempting to preserve. Finally its been a bad week for otters with the second dead one of the week turning up beside the Trout stream. Just what killed this one is a mystery. It looked as if it had been dragged out of the water by a fox scavenging a free meal but there were no obvious signs of the cause of death.
I just love getting reports and photos such as the one above, it shows Mike Skittrall with one of our lunker chub that beats his PB of 20 years standing. I don't need to go fishing when I can share in the pleasure such a fish brings, its simply superb. Congrats on the PB Mike and many thanks for the great report and pic.
You know how I feel about Avon perch, they absolutely conjure the magic and mystery of the underwater world of the Avon. That's Dominic Longley holding that piece of perfection for which many thanks for the pic. I'm now convinced I have to get a trip or two in before the close in ten days time.
Definitely three in the valley this year. Two Great White Egrets both unringed, going to prove we had three in the valley for several weeks this winter. I think the regular ringed bird has now gone back as I haven't seen it for a day or two but these two seem to be happy in each others company. There has been a very large number of Great White Egrets in the south and south west this winter and it won't be long until they are breeding as they do down in the Somerset Levels. The Curlew have been here for about a fortnight. They arrive every Spring as they make their way back to the nesting grounds, either further north or out on the forest.
Finding the two Great White Egrets today was the icing on the cake for what was a fine walk from Ibsley up to the northern boundary of the flooded marsh. Last nights rain had done its job and the water had risen to spill out into the fields attracting a diversity of our valley wildlife. I'd parked at the Botney car park and climbed the style that immediately allows a view out over the river to the Ibsley Splash and Harbridge Church beyond. The swans and geese could be seen dotted about the meadows enjoying the shallow flood. Canadas, Greylags, Egyptians and if I could be bothered to scan the flock with the binoculars I would probably find the White front that has been with us for several months. The far bank of the river was also dotted with the coarse lads who are keen to fit in a few last visits before the close in ten days time. The barbel fishing, along with the chub fishing, has been unbelievable with multiple catches of big fish through out the river. I'm not sure we've seen the biggest barbel on the bank yet this season with several of the summer fourteen pound fish yet to show this tail end. With possibly six different summer fourteens between the weirs and what ever lives in the section I was now walking beside, I imagine we may well see a sixteen or even a seventeen plus fish if someones luck holds. Certainly the big brace in Botney are under threat judging by the attention they are receiving in recent weeks on the far bank.
I waded across the dodgy bridge just below Ham Island and out onto the southern marsh. Twenty or so Tufties departed upstream and as I watched them go I spotted a pair of Goldeneye keeping them company. The first Redshank of the Spring piped his annoyance as he drifted off up a side carrier where he joined a Green Sandpiper seeking his lunch in the soft ooze of the margins. As I drew level with the top of the island a group of seven Goosander flushed and followed the Tufties up river. The gravel at the confluence of the Hucklesbrook was well under water and a pair of Little Egrets stalked the margins seeking unwary fry. On reaching the Hucklesbrook stream the depth meant I had to detour upstream to the ford just below the Red Bridge car park. At least the extra couple of hundred meters allowed me to wade the stream and approach the North Marsh without being seen by the wildfowl enjoying the flood. A hundred Wigeon even greater numbers of Teal and good numbers of Mallard and Gadwall. The Shoveler were tucked up under the clumps of Soft Rush and the odd Snipe could be seen picking its way from clump to clump. A scan of the marsh with the bino's showed several pairs of Lapwing, a pair of Oystercatchers and the first pair of Shelduck I'd seen for quite some time out on the shallow flood. In the far distance I could see the flock of Curlew that has been with us for a fortnight but they were too distant to get an accurate count so I headed over to Gorley to follow the river north in an effort to get a closer look. A Cetti's on the corner and a second called from the island to let us know this was their patch. Another Little Egret and a couple of pairs of Coots departed as I made my way upstream and as I cleared the corner I came across a syndicate member sitting at the head of the island shallows. Ten minutes chewing the fat and hearing the highes and lows of recent weeks and I left the river bank and headed out directly across the field toward the Curlew. As soon as I changed my direction from following the river, where I was taken as an angler and no threat, the heads of the geese came up to take a closer look. The Crows and Jackdaws decided descretion was the better part of valour and left for fields anew. The geese also decided to walk to a safer vantage point whilst the Curlew failed to even notice my approach. I didn't have to get too close to establish that there were nine preoccupied with probing the soft soil and turned south back toward the river and the car. I hope these birds are heading north to breeding grounds in Scotland or even further toward the Artic Circle. If they are local birds I hold out little hope for their survival in what has now become the New Forest urban park the uncontrolled dogs, ramblers, mountain bikers and horse riders that will eventually drive them out. I think I might suggest to the National Park authority they stop playing lip service to conservation and ban ALL people from the majority of the New Forest as they do in areas of the world where the well being of creatures that share this planet with us are taken a little more seriously.
Having got that off my chest, back to my wandering, which now took me back to Gorley Corner and the Old Man with his attendent Buzzard watching my approach. I hadn't taken much notice of the bird as I walked by, aware he was still there watching me splash through the shallow flood water. I has thirty or forty meters beyond the Old Man when a Red Kite drifted no more than twenty feet over my head. Definitely a case of failing to check the obvious. No panicked departure, a casual drift with cocked head looking down at me through his pale yellow eyes, truly magnificent bird at close quarters. I would imagine he is one of the resident breeding pair we have in this section of the valley, what ever the reason his presence is certainly a welcome sight.
On over the culvert on the central drainage ditch where the presence of our otters was very evident in the number of prints in the soft mud. A casual look over the white lumps of the Mutes out on the marsh, just checking the obvious, where two slightly smaller stationary lumps looked out of place. The photo above captures the reason for the odd appearance of the lumps making for a super end to my walk.
On a different subject I'm sure many readers will be aware that the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust have been monitoring breeding waders and the various predators that impact upon them for more than twenty years at Somerley and other estates in the valley. This has taken many different paths to establish the various impacts such as mink and otter monitoring, corvid counts etc. Just yesterday Mike Short of the trust contacted me to ask if they could collect fox scat (poop) to analyses to establish diet of flood plain foxes. Not unlike the recent otter paper on here.
To say I'm impressed with the GWCT is an understatement, just 24 hours in and they have the foxes trained to crap into bottles ready for collection!
I walked a couple of hundred meters up the A338 from Ibsley Bridge this morning to check on a road casualty that Phil had spotted on the way into work. What ever your views on otters the sight of such a beautiful creature laying dead amidst the accumulated rubbish beside the road is a pretty depressing sight. It was the bitch that was a regular visitor around the river at Ibsley, she has certainly been with us for three years. It probably means we will have a new incumbent taking up residence in the near future, I just hope she is as well behaved as this one. The middle shot shows the accumulated rubbish I referred to previously. What is going on when it comes to the people and I use that term loosely, that throw this rubbish alongside one of the finest rivers in the country? What sort of individual leaves such rubbish anywhere? We have fly tipping down at Ringwood weir that the Highways Agency are supposed to be responsible for clearing. Its probably been there almost a year without so much as a hint of removal. The regular tipping at Ellingham beggars belief, its almost become a weekly event. If you ever see rubbish being dumped see if you can get a car reg or a pic on the mobile and text it through, I'd just love to find out who our local cowboys are. The final shot is to brighten the mood, its some of the thirty odd Goldfinches in the front garden. I was actually trying to photograph the Bramblings but they would never stand still long enough. With 96 Starlings, 70 House Sparrows, 22 Chaffinches, 10 Siskins, 16 Collared Doves, the 30 plus Goldfinches and an assortment of Blackbirds, Thrushes, Robins and the odd Blackcap the front garden is thankfully pretty busy at the moment.
The last day of February and the star of the photo above made me feel a great deal more positive about winter finally loosing its grip on the countryside.
Here's an article that many of you may find of interest, produced by Bournemouth Uni's; Prof Rob Britton, Matthew Berry, Samantha Sewell, Corina Lees and our very own Pete Reading.
Definitely a foot in many camps when it comes to work in recent days. Liming and clearing line from the lakes, trees, ditching and strimming on the river and resetting the water meadows in readiness for the new growing season. Add in a sea fishing trip and my weekend breadmaking, time has been in short supply. The river continues to fish well for chub, pike and barbel with the lakes providing some lovely days in the recent mild spell, I really must get the rods out before the end of the river season and have a look for a chub or barbel or two.
Tom Fowler grinning over the top of a fine double figure Undulate Ray. We also managed Thornbacks, Spotted and a good 20+ Blonde, add several Conger to 35 pounds and some reasonable Whiting, we enjoyed a good day for a February boat. We organise our boat and beach fishing through our local Armfield and Ringwood Sea Fishing Club, of which Tom is our chairman and in reality is a small group of about a dozen of us who meet for a couple of hours each month to plan our events. We are always on the lookout for new members so if you feel like adding seafishing to your calendar on a couple of occasions a month drop me an email. If I could remember who our membership secretary was I would give you his email but I've forgotten who we voted into the post in their absence!
Sourdough bread making becomes a routine where producing the leaven, making up the dough, folding, resting, proving and baking all take set times which can't be rushed. I enjoy the set routine of producing the basic loaf and the ability to try out all sorts of recipes that you are unlikely to come across in the local bakery. I think it must be the total opposite from the never ending changing aspects of my usual day that appeals.
Even in the grey of late winter there are splashes of colour supplied courtesy of Mother Nature in the form of the Scarlet Elf Cups.
I was pleased to see the livestock we have grazing Mockbeggar have managed to get out on to the islands. This will save me hours of strimming and provide a far richer flora for the butterflies in the coming summer. Its the hope of a warmer spring for the emerging butterflies this year, which is at odds with my wish to see higher flows in the river for the well being of the valley creatures. I don't suppose I will influence what we eventually receive, which ever way it goes I must take the positive view that it will benefit one or the other. I noticed the number of Shoveler at Mockbeggar is beginning to reduce as the birds begin to return to their summer haunts. Today there were less than two hundred, down over a third on the counts of three hundred plus earlier in the year. The number of Shoveler that have been present throughout the winter are of national importance, which would seem to point to us getting something right. It was good to see four pairs of Goldeneye had joined the Shoveler today, the displaying drakes always make a fine show.
The second photo shows the unringed Great white egret that has been with us since the middle of November. Usually seen on the Ellingham meadows, often with the long returning ringed bird. I did also spot a further one at Hucklesbrook but I can't be certain it wasn't one of the usual pair so I will have to settle for just the two. Goshawks, lots of croaking Raven and pleasingly, at least one and possibly two Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, spring is on its way.
I think that's the first cut of all sixty pools complete, at least they're all fishable, unless of course you know differently! I will replace the seat at the head of Blashford when we can get out on the meadows without sinking. In the meantime treat with care as we have lost a further meter of bank alonside it this winter.
This morning I had occasion to walk some of the hundreds of acres of restoration that we have on the estate and despite being bare gravel a twelve months ago many puddle seemed to be full of frogs spawn. Perhaps a less desirable re colonisation of the site was the presence of so much crassula in an equal number of wet areas. In the afternoon I was up at Cabbage garden cleaning up the last few salmon pools, which despite the cold clear conditions looked wonderful in the late light of the day.
WeBS day and we have 149 of these in this section of the valley. Twenty five pairs of which are busy re-establishing their nesting territories with swans scrapping where ever you seem to look.
"Can't get the staff" Feeling pleased with myself having managed to get the long distance pools down at Lifelands and Ashley all clipped out and ready for the off I had forgotten the pool nearest the Lodge. I made amends this morning and the couple of shots show Dog Kennel looking a lot more user friendly.
There's absolutely no doubt about what this fish is! Its the first salmon of the year off Somerley, a 3SW fish in the twenty pound class, landed by Paul Greenacre this evening. Paul rang at about ten to five to say he was into a fish, which was behaving like a big fish, very steady and repeatedly returning to its lie. Five minutes later I was heading for the river out across a very wet and splashy field that made progress extremely tough. I arrived with the fish still reluctant to leave its lie with the occasional foray into the deeper water at the far side of the pool. After ten minutes the pressure was telling with the fish now moving more freely about the pool with a couple of jumps on a very short, tight line thrown in, miraculously Paul stayed in contact. Down to the tail of the pool where she was succefully scooped up on our first attempt. As I drew her toward the bank the hooks dropped out and snagged in the rim of the net, by then too late, she was safely ours. Well done Paul, congratulations on a great fish and opening the account at Somerley.
Below is one of those fish again! If you caught this in July you would confidently believe it to be a fresh run sea trout, which it certainly looks like. The only problem, apart from being out of season, is it shouldn't be here at this time. The first big, fresh sea trout usually enter the system at the end of April or May and given reasonable flow and water height continue to run until they cut in November. Low flow summers are different and as with this year just past, the fish all end up bottled up at the bottom of the river but that's a different story. That being the case it doesn't alter the fact these early fish don't fit the pattern we might expect. I believe they are fish that entered the river last autumn to spawn during the normal cutting period and are taking their time to run back to sea. The Avon is full of invertebrates and fry right through the winter so why would any fish rush to get back to sea. Once they decide to return to the coastal feeding, just like their earlier juvenile smolt run, they silver up. So this fish probably had an easy run into the river late in the year on one of the few spates we enjoyed at the beginning of November. Its had two or three months of good feeding getting back into reasonable shape and now taking a leisurely trip back to the seaside.
At about three and a half pounds a good looking fish, for which I must thank Thom Board for the photo.
There just has to be one in there somewhere! Perfect running conditions that give the early fish the chance to reach the higher river in safety. It has to be remembered all fish that make that journey pass through every pool on the fishery, all you have to do is be at the right place at the right time, easy.
With the high water the Hucklesbrook Marshes have sprung into life with wildfowl numbers looking a great deal healthier than they have for most of this dry winter. With over 150 Wigeon, 200 Teal, 55 Pintail, over a hundred Shoveler, a 150+ Lapwing, 140 Canada Geese, Little egrets, Great white egrets, Kingfishers, Mute swans, Goosander, Tufties, Heron, Egyptian geese an Oyster catcher and all sorts of odds and ends, things were definitely looking up.
Ronnie was about to feed "Chance" when Largue and myself arrived at the Lodge today providing an ideal photo opportunity.
Here's a great shot of a delighted fisherman, with a wonderful Avon Springer to open the new season. Paul Shutler proudly holding his magnificent 22 pounder he landed from the compound down on the Royalty today. Fantastic opening day fish and it couldn't have come to a more deserving rod. Many congratulations Paul and thanks to Danny Taylor, who accompanied Paul today, for the pic. Lets hope its a fore taste of things to come in the season ahead.
Whilst we didn't manage to see such a stunning fish today up on the estate it was a enjoyable day to see the fishery buzzing with nine or ten rods out seeking the fish of a lifetime under the difficult conditions. Perhaps the greatest pleasure for me was the social activity at the Lodge as the rods met up for the day and enjoyed a leisurely lunchtime catch-up. High expectations and enthusiasm, making for a really positive vibe.
Still rising this afternoon and further rain forecast. The colour of the water is strong, milky tea, which will make fishing difficult on opening day tomorrow. I have long since learnt never to say never with regard to fishing but the next day or two will be hard work if we get the forecast rain which will maintain the height and colour. I would suggest that other than a visit to straighten the line keep the bulk of your effort for a little later in the season when conditions will be more favourable. Its very easy to become jaded through too much effort early in the year and miss out on the peak run in a month or two.
If ever there was advice that was guaranteed to put a fish on the bank on opening day, as we managed last year, that is it!
Up another six inches and still raining. If you listen carefully I think you may well hear the chanting and stamping of feet as the local salmon community frantically leap and reel their way through yet another rain dance and thankfully it looks as if it may well be working. Looking at the river this morning if I were to ask for perfect conditions for an early fish those we are currently enjoying would fit the bill perfectly. I would actually like to see the river continue to gently rise and hold its height for several weeks to allow the ground water aquifers to completely fill to safeguard our summer flows. It may possibly make the early fishing difficult but for the long-game we need the summer flows so keep on dancing!
The water height and colour at Ibsley Bridge this morning. The EA flow stations that can be found at the links below will provide a good indication of the river state for travelling anglers.
Two or three miles upstream, showing an 0.2m/8 inch rise in levels with yesterday's rain.
Down at the tidal limit showing a less distinct rise.
A mile downstream reacting in a similar fashion as the main channel.
The Dockens that enters the Avon on the Lifelands, Ashley boundary, showing the rapid flood spike of the forest streams.
The first shot shows a hazel coppice that is past its prime as a usable wooodland resource. It has value as logwood but the young five to seven year old timber, historically used by the hurdle maker, has grown out. This particular parcel of woodland is too small to be economically viable so I have always attempted to keep on top of the coppicing purely as a wildlife resource. Alas it has outgrown me and along with the increased deer population, eating out any remaining undergrowth, much of the copse is looking very sorry for itself. When we first brought the hazel back in hand twenty years ago Nightingales took up residence within a year, we found dormice and the only deer we ever spotted were the occasional roe. I haven't heard a Nightingale for ten years or more, dormice for a similar time, although I have to admit I haven't looked and we now have a dozen fallow deer stamping about in the wood most nights.
The second shot is quite interesting as it shows several aspects of the wood that can be easily overlooked. The hazel is easily cut back and the logwood salvaged, The top brash is stacked back over the stools in an effort to keep the deer off the young regrowth. In the middle distance are two oaks I planted fifteen or twenty years ago, to replace the over-story that draws up the young hazel below. The better specimen will be selected the weaker will join the log pile. The Holly beside the ancient old oak is the home of a tawny owl who will appreciate the rejuvenated undergrowth, patches of wild raspberries and blackberries will attract a new fieldmouse and vole food supply to suppliment his diet. I'll also have to have a word with Kevin, who keeps on top of the fallow population in the forestry, to add the hazel coppice to his list of vulnerable woodland. I have to admit that I always enjoy a day spent in the hazel copse, my only problem is its very difficult to justify financially so even this freezing fog that puts pay to much of our usual work has a silver lining.
This is a good photo for which I must thank syndicate member Colin Ives. It shows Colin's grandson Elian with a good pike, taken on the coldest of days with the frost still on the ground but judging by the grin on Elian's face the cold is the last thing on his mind. Its a photo that will stir memories in most of us older anglers as we think back to the days when we experienced the magic of our early years with the rods. Elain has accompanied Colin for many years and loves his time by the river, a grounding in angling that will stand him in good stead for many years to come. He also managed a 15.07 PB a week or two ago so he's starting to make his teacher look to his laurels! Well done Elian keep up the good work.
20th January 2017
The perfect frosty weather job.
17th January 2017
Sad, sad news for those in the carp world and the commercial fishermen of Mudeford, in that “Gill”, Mark Gillard, has passed away. I suppose during the shared dark nights beside the carp lakes and the close company of the fishing community, we often glimpse the deeper side of our friends. Gill was very much part of his chosen environment, be it beside our lakes or at sea and he lived that part to the full. His laid back ways, dodgy beanie hat and knowing smile will be sadly missed. I'm sure I speak for all the carp community when I say our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.
16th January 2017
I did make it down to the river today and found several members out making the most of the change in conditions. A coloured river, with mild overcast conditions, it looked spot on and it was certainly producing the goods with some amazing chub bags coming out. The chub fishing is quite simply staggering, the number and size of the fish throughout the entire length of the fishery is providing fishing to dream of. I did also get a further update on the lakes with Frank Lamb manageing five fish during a single night session last week. That included at least one thirty and a couple of twenties so it seems to have continued to fish well in my absence.
Ollie Johnson with a great looking six that he landed as I walked the bank today, one of half a dozen superb looking chub. Good to see you today Ollie and thanks for the photo.
15th January 2017
Back from my travels in the West I may be but it hasn't allowed me a great deal of time to catch up with events on the fishery as yet. The shoot season is drawing to a close with the last major shoot of the season at the weekend, add a WeBS count and a Bakehouse24 bread class learning how to make sourdough bread and it left little time for the river.
I did get the opportunity to drive around the lake at lunchtime on Saturday, just as John Keirle was landing a common of 21 pounds. Just reward for sticking it out during the bitterly cold conditions. I'm not sure how Andy Grant his fishing partner at the weekend fared, I think bream were involved somewhere along the line!
I have to say the prospect of a day kneading dough felt a little daunting first thing this morning as we set off to our bread class at "Bakehouse24" that we both had so generously been given at Christmas. I needn't have worried as the wonders of sourdough bread includes not having to knead it into submission, thankfully its more to do with timing! I found the entire experience thoroughly enjoyable and very enlightening. Whilst we have been customers at BH24 for some time I hadn't appreciated just what goes into providing our daily bread. A big thankyou to baker Pete and his partner Jo for producing a top notch day and not an aching muscle to be found anywhere!
The Shoveler were still sheltering from the cold north wind behind the islands.
13th January 2017
Now this has to be a pretty good start to the New Year, Darrel Hughes with a 2.09 roach, its certainly the finest roach I've seen for a good many years. Great fish Darrel, congratulations and thanks for the photo. Lets hope we see a rise in water that brings a little extra colour and you never know what we may find. I've been over in the Welsh mountains for a week which accounts for the lack of entries but I'm back on station and looking forward to catching up with events.
4th January 2017
This was taken back in November and the gravel shoal that extends below the Hucklesbrook is even more exposed now.
The Lodge, where we may be spending more time than we should if the water remains as low as it is now through into the salmon season.
I was up at Hucklebrook North Marsh this morning where the low water has exposed an unprecedented volume of gravel on the Hucklebrook shoal. This is the gravel that the flash floods up on the Forest, through the Latchmore area, bring down to us. If as we have experienced this winter flash floods in the forest, bringing down fresh gravel, yet the flow in the main channel is too low to scour it on into the main system this shoal grows dramatically. I'm not sure the volume of gravel the shoal comprises of, somewhere between fifteen hundred and two thousand cubic meters, in the order of three and four thousand tons of material I would estimate. If this material grasses over and becomes the new profile of the main river channel it will dramatically alter the natural regime in that area. I'm not sure whether that's good or bad for the river, we will just have to wait and see, it will be an interesting aspect of low flows to keep an eye on in the future. I noticed the other day in the press that the Forestry Commission have seen their plans to rewild the Hucklesbrook up in the forest thrown out by the National Parks planning committee. Seems an odd way to carry on when the process of rewilding is seen in such positive light in most areas of the country, I think world might even be applied there. Still, I'm sure the Latchmore area will continue in its main use as an urban playground and dog latrine.
3rd January 2017
A cold, very frosty start to the day.
Seems sensible to sit in the sun whilst you await the lake to thaw.
1st January 2017