Common carp

A fish on a net photo, worth including as its such a beautiful looking common. This stunning 20 plus fish, once more landed on the fly by John Slader, is exactly the quality of fish we wish to see.

Thanks for the photo John, well fished.

14th September


There's a great deal going on at present that is occupying my time, making adding entries to the diary a little difficult. Most of it doesn't fit into the normal content of the diary anyway, the greater part being involved with lots of red tape and bureaucracy. I'm sure at some point frustration will get the better of me and I'll have a rant about the difficulties of being a simple country bumpkin. In the interim, catch up with Feargal Sharkey's interview below. Its a good way to pass twenty minutes of your day. His commitment to our rivers makes me feel guilty for hiding away on the Estate.


Summing up the state of our rivers

Well worth a listen.

9th September


Hot stock

This typifies the last few days. The other memorable photo would be the traffic jams about Ringwood and the coast. Anne and I got up at 05:00am to head for the beach in search of a mackerel or two for breakfast. When we got to the usual parking spot that on a busy day may have involved a dozen cars, it was two Kms of camper vans, some numpty had put the parking on a camper van website as free parking. We didn't stop but kept going and returned home by 06:30. We have undoubtedly reached saturation point in the New Forest yet those clowns in the NPA continue to promote the place as a peaceful retreat. I suppose it justifies their existence!

4th September


Swans on the spillway Stuck cow

A mixed day to welcome the Indian Summer we seem to be entering. I spent a satisfying morning clearing banks up at Ibsley at the start of my autumn clean up. I packed up at lunchtime as I was afraid I would get a repeat of the recent heat stroke I suffered a fortnight ago. Despite having plenty of water to drink the heat inside the protective clothing is something to take very seriously to ensure you don't over do it, plenty of fluids and plenty of breaks are the key. I took the shot of the swans on the spillway to illustrate the minimal head of water above and below the gates. I think there were thirty one birds on there at one stage, which is about a fifth of the number we currently have on the Estate.

A couple of other issues that cropped up today to add to the mix were a dead carp and a very stuck cow. The dead fish was in a plastic bag that some amoebic brained numpty had thrown over the bridge at Ibsley. Where it came from I have no idea, possibly someone's fish pond in their back garden. Disposing of dead fish may prove a problem but there is absolutely no justification for trying to dispose of it in the river. The Avon fish population has sufficient pathogens and grot dumped on them by the water companies, without some idiot adding to the problems they face. Luckily they missed the river and I was able to remove the offending bag from the riverside brambles.

The cow just rounded off the day a treat! How the stupid thing had managed to get itself in the ditch is anyone's guess. They have been in that field for months so its not as though it didn't know where the boggy bits are. As it was all ended well and she was soon out and glad to be back grazing with the herd.

On a brighter note, to round off the day, I had a report from John S to report a thirty one pounder on the fly. I would think that John's actual rod hours per fish make fly fishing for carp one of the most effective methods there is when it comes to landing carp. Another great result John, well fished.


3rd September


September sunset

Autumn is now here and the September sunsets signal the start of the change of seasons. Heavy dew, the evenings closing in, the first frosts and in a time when we experienced seasons that followed a regular pattern, autumn rains won't be far away. The weed will be flushed from the channel and the Avon takes on its blue-green winter hue, and perhaps most important of all the fish reach their peak of condition.

1st September


Big common

Roger's been amongst the carp this week. The last few days have seen him land seven fish, with four over thirty, topped by the fabulous 38.12 in the photo above. I have included the shot, which wasn't the best Roger kindly sent through, as it clearly shows the pristine condition of the old girls mouth. This is what we always must aim for. This is the reason only barbless hooks are allowed at Somerley. Hopefully it goes without saying, no briad hook lengths, preferrably no braid where it can come into contact with the fins or scales. A good measure of the acceptability of your rig is if it falls out in the net as you land the fish. Once a fish gets slack line it should be able to shed the hook. I appreciate the requires a higher standard of skill when playing a fish but at the end of the day if we wish to enjoy these fish for twenty or thirty years we have a duty of care toward them. Well fished Roger, that's a great result.

Ellingham Lay-by

The local bandits cut the padlock off the car park by the Ringwood electricity substation yesterday. Once in the car park they were able to access the sub-station for their nefarious purposes. I think it may be a little more than coincidence that a heap of industrial insulators appeared in the NFDC free tip, up at Ellingham. If over the last fourty eight hours you spotted any dodgy vehicles, either down at the sub-station possibly involved in the heist or up at the Ellingham lay-by, let us know and we'll pass on the details.

31st August


Well that's it! The salmon season has ground to an undignified close. With a rod catch for the season of just fourteen fish, it came close to being the worst on record. The average weight of fifteen and a half pounds sugared the pill a little, yet it remains an uncomfortable truth we have to accept. After the bright start of a couple of early fish in February the season simply stalled and never got going again. Back in the early 00's we recorded just 10 and 11 in a couple of consecutive years. For reasons that are beyond my understanding we bounced back to the highs of the years 2015 and 2016. No idea how or why and no one can answer the multitude of questions that gives rise to.

I will have a closer look at the season in relation to flows, water temperature and seasonality in a few weeks, once I have had time to digest our current situation.


John Slader with one of his triple

A photo of John, taken yesterday, with one of his catch of six carp to over twenty pounds, all taken on the fly. More remarkable is the fact that it culminated in an amazing triple on the fly, one from Mockbeggar, Meadow and Kings-Vincents. To have caught them on the fly is achievement enough, to have managed fish from all three lakes, in just a few hours, is certainly a first. Well fished John, a great result.

Dockens confluence bridge

Good news for those that enjoy a walk in that we have replaced the bridge down at the confluence of the Dockens with the main river. The water level in the meadows had dropped, allowing the grass to be cut and enabling us to access the site. The old split oak that had floated out into the field has been replaced by a wider, safer, plank bridge. Hiding behind the far upright is Adam, a new member of the Estate team, getting a glimpse of the variety of tasks that lay ahead.

29th August



Chris Ball

Chris Ball

1946 - 2023



22nd August



Osprey Splash down

In typical fashion this bird made fishing attempts all around me yet I never managed to get the camera pointed in the right direction. After half a dozen failed attempts the compilation was in desperation as it hovered overhead before plunging into the river yet again. I imagine this was a young bird as it never managed to catch a fish whilst i watched for half an hour. I could see any sign of rings or tags so this may have been a wild bird moving south for the Winter.

Heritage tomatoes Tomato soup

The reason I grow heritage tomatoes, they taste as good as they look, soups, salads, pasta sauce, stuffed tomatoes. The five in the second shot average almost a pound each, a meal in themself.

Ibsley Main Hatches Above the gates Below the gates

A look at the current settings on the main gates at Ibsley. The middle shot shows the back eddy, just below the wall, beside the far gate. The draw-down created by the water flowing through the gate is in the order of 100mm. The actual head of water is between 200-250mm any fish that choses to do so is able to move through the gates or the nearby bypass. It woud be interesting exercise to compare the water head at all controls throughout the valley.

It has to be remembered that despite low Summer levels being easier to control they can still present a serious barrier to passage to fish species if the settings on the gates are incorrect. Winter levels, that can be seen by the high tide marks on the gates, are far more daunting yet often make it eaasier for fish to bypass the gates. Fish and invertebrates are on the move throughout the year so it is essential that gates are also set sympathetically throughout the year.

20th August


Newforest nightmare

Just a word of warning to anyone intending to visit the New Forest, Don't, its full!

19th August


Hampshire Avon barbel

I'm sure you'll all agree this is a superb example of a Hampshire Avon barbel. This is Mark Harrison with a new PB at 18 pounds that he managed to find yesterday evening. Congratulations Mark a stunning fish, an example of Hampshire Avon barbel at their very best. The presence of these wonderful fish is yet a further example of climate change. A couple of decades ago such fish were only dreamt of. These days with milder Winters and longer feeding periods barbel are not alone in exploiting the change with many species showing increases in the maximum size. This is a wild fish, it has not been cowering under a bush eating unlimited volumes of bait dumped on its head. Along with several other such fish of similar size they roam many miles of the Middle River. We just keep our fingers crossed they find what we have at Somerley to their liking and spend a little of their time with us. Congrats again Mark and many thanks for the use of the photo.

18th August


Hay time

Yesterday evening I watched as a contractor scrambled to get the hay baled and carted before the promised overnight rain. I fear it was either going to be a very, very late night or much would be left on the ground. Watching, as I was, the issue of the water height in the valley this year came to the forefront once more. This unseasonal sight requires a great deal of thought if we are going to make headway against such conditions.

One of several hot topics that are currently doing the rounds in the valley. Due in a large part to the state of the water meadows, preventing the removal of the grass crop for Winter animal feed.

The extreme nature of the flooded ground this Summer has concentrated the minds of several groups on the issues they see as contributing to this soggy, sorry state. The fact the Hampshire Avon is classified as a heavily modified river has added a further complication. The artificial nature of the Avon has in many instances created the environment and habitat that safeguard many of the rivers most desirable assets. Assetts such as the water meadows themselves that provide habitat for breeding waders. The braided channels that flood and drain the meadows, provide homes to vast numbers of cyprinid and salmonid juveniles. The biodiversity this has given rise to makes the Hampshire Avon one of, if not the most important fishery in the country. Certainly aspects of the fishery are deemed the very pinnacle of the sport.

Don't fall into the simplistic trap of thinking the fishery is solely about fish. Fisheries require fishermen that bring the financial resource to maintain the artificial structures and controls that create the treasured view of the Avon we see today. The fishery has a hat full of problems of its own that I will further touch on later. As with the flooded meadows these cannot be looked at in isolation, purely from a fishery perspective. Its one thing to attempt to identify a potential cause, its an entirely different matter to ameliorate or over come the issue without considering many other parallel issues.

Perhaps the topic giving rise to the greatest discussion is that of hatch management and potential for upstream impoundment. Upstream impoundment that floods meadows, slows sediment and gravel mobility, inhibits fish and invertebrate migration, through increased energy expenditure increasing risk of disease and predation. As I'm sure regular readers can imagine that last sentence flowed naturally from my pen due, mismanaged hatch gates being one of my pet hates. Mismanaged from the perspective of the riverine ecology that is! Impoundment on the Avon is also a little more complicated than in may first appear.

If we take the natural gradient of the Avon in the lower valley is, for sake of argument, one in a thousand, the upstream impact is easy to work out. The complication arises when perched channels, with much shallower gradients are involved. Perched channels are a fact of life on the Avon. The nature of water meadows and mills requires an artificial head of water to achieve the objective of controlled flooding and water energy. With us on the Estate there are several KMs of perched channels. Each channel if not maintained will attempt to revert to the natural course of the river in the lowest point in the valley. Usually across someone’s hay field!

Further complications with impoundments arrive when sediment loads and gravel mobility are disrupted. One effect of impoundment is that as water velocity decreases, suspended and mobile material being carried in the natural flow of the river channel are deposited as the flow loses its velocity. Channels silt up and gravel shoals appear where they have no business to be. As the river channel silts and gravel shoals create restrictions the water either has to erode its way past, or spill into the flood plain, via someone’s hay field.

Dredge it I hear you cry, “bollocks” cried Milligan. Why should we bugger up the river if a more environmentally expedient means to resolve the issue exists. In light of the more environmentally aware practices we are all being asked to adopt, justification of a structures management, or even its existence should be considered. When many of these controls were constructed those building them were not aware of the implications for river. Other controls have uses today that they were not constructed or intended for. Some of these hatches give rise to habitat that adds to what we deem desirable for the benefit of the rivers biodiversity, the impact of the controlled reaches need to be considered over the length of the river. If any particular set of controls have disadvantages for the entire river that outweigh the original reason for construction, removal or alternative means to achieve the current aims need to be urgently implemented. Identifying and reviewing the operation of all these structures is an essential requirement at the earliest possible opportunity. Not I hasten to had in isolation. Its no good looking at Ibsley Main gates without considering the Secondary Hatches at the Pink Cottage, the Penstock at the head of the Trout stream, the Northend Harbridge Stream gates and the main Woodside Gates. Once these are in harmony the impact up and downstream has to be thought through.

If it is the operation of certain hatches is only part part of the problem, where else should we look? Weed growth perhaps, always contentious on the Avon. The Avon is a designated site for: Ranunculion fluitantis and Callitricho-Batrachion vegetation. In other words its indigenous aquatic weed. Its hard then to justify artificially slicing the desirable vegetation out. Encouraging an undesirable weed community to establish and adversely impacting on both salmonid and cyprinid populations. In these enlightened times destroying a rare chalk stream habitat doesn't bare consideration. Chalk streams have been often likened to our tropical rain forests, with 85% of the worlds total being in the UK.

We're running out of options here! If we can't dredge or cut the aquatic weed and the desirable artificial nature of the Hampshire Avon requires a percentage of impounded reaches, what option are left?

I think even the most die-hard climate change philistine now recognises the reality of the situation we all face. The days of complacently ticking along with the regulators making sympathetic noises, a couple of times a decade when the farmers bemoan the loss of their livelihoods, must now be considered over. I come at this problem with the ecology of the river being the number one priority. Potable water, STW discharge, aquaculture and agricultural requirements need to be made to fit in with this priority. The precautionary principle needs to be applied and the current lip-service it receives shown up as the green wash it is. I well remember in the late 80's being told, by someone within the EA, that the flood we were experiencing was a one hundred year probability event. We subsequently experienced a further flood, of similar severity, three of four years later and have gone on to accept they are now becoming a regular event. This wet Summer may be unusual but extremes of weather are now the norm. If its not floods it seems to be droughts. Under drought conditions water meadows have the advantage of a high water table and grass will remain viable. Viable to graze or mow.

If we are to see these flooded meadows, on a more regular basis, the regime we currently work under regarding their management will need to be reviewed. Here in the Avon Valley the conservation designation for the flood plain is based around breeding waders, Lapwing, Redshank and Snipe, being the primary concern. To safeguard these breeding birds the management prescription for the water meadows was developed when dairy herds and hay/silage were the farming drivers. Dairy herds have almost disappeared, just a fraction of the numbers in the 80's at the time of notification. Suckler herds, first year beef and one or two other livestock options have filled the space, alongside monoculture silage. To meet the requirement of the waders, and fit in a viable agricultural income, is the target we must achieve.

If a farmer is reliant on the floodplain for a major proportion of his income, be it from grazing or hay/silage, a means of safely gathering that income has to be sorted out. That requires a regime that allows mowing when the crop is ready and weather permits. This has to be fitted in around the breeding waders to ensure their safety. If we were to move the cutting date forward a month, from 1st July to the 1st June it would provide that greater flexibility. It has to be remembered the greatest free-board is usually to be found at the end of May, when Winter flows have reduced and the weed is yet to be high enough to coffer the water back. I hear you cry, “What about the breeding waders” the way around that is to provide an independent assessment of the wader population of the meadows involved, enabling the risk to be assessed and managed. Areas that contain nests or juveniles allowed to stand whilst other areas are mowed and baled. Later mowing of the sanctuary areas, conditions permitting, provides a chance to recoup the full crop. The earlier cut also allows the chance of a second cut, adding to the normal income.

Who does the independent assessment? In the case of the Avon Valley the obvious answer is the GCWT, who have been studying breeding waders in the valley for decades. Working under contract from NE most farmers would trust the well known staff of the Trust to complete their surveys fairly. If they don't want the task the wildlife trusts, not quite so well known and expert in the habits of the Avon Valley, they are trained ecologists.

Simple, farmer wishes to cut early, contacts wader surveyor NGO, who provide the information related to his land. Farmer follows advice and adopts a conservation mowing pattern. Head down contractors may have to lift their foot a little for such a scheme to work. Failure to do so would cost the farmer his stewardship payments etc.

Alternatively the government cough up millions in the “Making Space for Water” scheme and we let the valley revert to a swamp. On what is recognised as a heavily modified river system and one of the most biologically diverse rivers and river valleys in the land that would quite simply be negligent.

That's hot off the keyboard, without me having proof read it, so it may contain a few fliers. Bear with me, I'll have a look through it later.


Betsy in the stream

Should I appear stressed and ranting its because I have Betsy for the weekend again. We seem to have a different take on who gives the orders and what rivers are for. I'm definitely too old for dogs!

10th August


I spent several very tiring but interesting hours, recording the newly established weed beds in the north lake at Mockbeggar. I spent the day, in the boat, pulling myself around the lake with my extendable rake. This had the advantage of not only collecting weed samples but also the nature of the bed. I have a long way to go to finish the survey but I made a reasonable start and have a base document that I can now work on. The presence of weed is particularly pleasing in that it suggests we are winning the battle with the suspended solids that cloud the water a restrict growth. The lakes further south are deeper and the middle lake in particular are murkier, weed is much slower establishing. If we can fix the soft mineral silt we will hopefully get more weed established in these two lakes, more akin to the massive beds that are now to be found in Meadow Lake. The knock on effect of the water weed found in Mockbeggar is the number of waterfowl that are now present. Hopefully the grazing will not restrict further expansion.


Hornwort Canadian pondweed Potamogeton

Some of the weed that is now to be found in Mockbeggar; hornwort, Canadian pondweed and potamogeton.

Mockbeggar weed plan

The start of the lake survey that some of the members may find helpful in identifying the nature of the bed and whereabouts of weed. The pecked lines are depth contours that I have yet to annotate. Once I have them a little more refined I'll add the depths until then they can be used as pointers.

9th August


I'm sure that most of you in the carp world will already be aware that Chris Ball has so sadly passed away. I didn't know quite how, or when, to write this next entry that puts into words the loss of such an extraordinary person. The gap he will leave in the life of every one who was lucky enough to have known him will be immense. He was first and foremost a family man and I'm sure I speak for the entire syndicate in passing on our condolences to Lynne and the family.


We all know of his writings, in both books and articles, that were so painstakingly researched and allowed us a glimpse of the development of the sport as we know it today. Out of his writing grew the historical archive that he so carefully created. He was custom made for the role of Carp Society President. His understanding of carp and carp anglers, based on many decades of experience, allied with his historical archive made him unique.


There are however two characteristics of Chris that I will always remember him for, firstly his enthusiasm. Not only for his fishing but for everything he came across in life. He was delighted to see other anglers doing well, always willing to provide a helping hand or spot of advice. Advice that so often proved successful in helping others achieve their goals. His almost photographic memory allowed him to recall incidents and fish from decades earlier. To add to his photographic memory he also had the photographs. I've probably seen more fish caught by Chris than any other angler I've met. He just loved to share his successes and allow us to feel the excitement of each and every capture.


His sense of humour that was always bubbling just under the surface, perhaps made our meetings so enjoyable. Never cruel or personal, a simple enjoyment of our everyday situations that at times appear so ludicrous to us all. I'm not sure when our paths first crossed, some time in the early to mid 80's I believe. Those early days with his ether foam, popped up maggots and his bucket of floaters set the scene for many enjoyable times that followed. From those first meetings to those of the last few months he never changed, he was always the same genuine, gentleman we all grew to love and respect.


Chris Ball with a 30+common One getting its own back Chris Ball with a big mirror

One or two of Chris's recent captures and adventures.


PS
Its a given that Chris will now be fishing on that great carp fishery in the sky, alongside the likes of Dick Walker and Fred J. If when you are queuing at the Pearly Gate, to see if you make the grade, should you be able to glimpse over St Peter's shoulder the reed fringed bays and overhanging willows, there on the far shore will be a circling flock of pure white birds, with the sunlight sparkling on their plummage. That's where Chris will be, with the bloody gulls still nicking all his floaters. Rest in peace Chris and thanks for the memories.

6th August


Prep for the show Exposed wasps nest Ellingham Show prep

All systems go in preparing the park for the forthcoming Ellingham Show. As well as a great deal of mowing the odd unexpected snag has to be dealt with.

Brimstone Six-spot burnet Peacock on teasels

The wet weather has at least saved the day for the butterflies and day flying moths. What had been within days of being yet another disasterous drought has seen the wet weather produce fresh growth and good nectar flows

Standing water

An earlier gap in the weather allowed a little silage to be wrapped but the subsequent rain has softened the meadows, preventing the removal of the bales. This looks as if it may be a more common sight if climate change extremes are to become the norm. A great deal more to say on this subject later.

Beefsteak tomatoes Heritage and beefsteak tomatoes Heritage tomatoes

The beefsteak and heritage tomatoes are ripening at long last. Its a case of fingers crossed the wet weather doesn't encourage blight to spoil the crop.

29th July


Jenkins

Didn't he do well. Tim cradling what I believe to be one of our oldest residents in the shape of "Jenkins" weighing in as a big thirty. Tim was after bream, on the feeder, with six pound line and a single pellet and struggling to get through the rudd. No bream, just a single tench and "Jenkins" to add to the rudd. That said it certainly beats a blank and as Tim said, she certainly fights better than a bream. Well fished Tim and thanks for the photo.

29th July


Mandarin

Just a shot of a few of the Mandarin Ducks that are about the lakes. I think the Mandarin has perhaps the most beautiful eye in the bird world, always a delight to see these delightful little ducks as they go about their daily business.

I put this up just to show I still exist, having failed to add many entries of late. Unfortunately, we are very busy at the moment, finding time to put entries together is a bit of a struggle. I have been giving the current state of the flooded meadows and the problems faced by our forestry demands, in relation to the action of our regulators, a great deal of thought. Once I have the time I will put my thoughts about their mixed talents down on here.

23nd July


Bishop of Oxford Bishop of Canterbury Cinnabar caterpillars

A splash of colour to brighten a pretty damp and grey weekend. The Bishop of Canterbury flanked by two Oxford Bishops, being enjoyed by the bumblebees and hoverflies in the front garden. Whilst the buddlia attracts the butterflies the dahlias are the favourite of the bees and hoverflies.

22nd July


One of the river syndicate has lost a mobile. Sorry for the delay in letting members know, I forgot to put it on last Thursday when Darren told me he'd found one. Should the owner contact me I'll reunite you.

19th July



Summer on the Avon Summer on the Avon

Summer on the Avon.

Buddlia

Buddlia, the butterfly bush. If this bush was growing on my butterfly transect I would have to cut it down and remove it. Buddlia is classed as an invasive alien and has to be removed from conservation designated sites.


Butterfly Bush.

It seems odd we are not permitted to provide such a rich food source.

Comma on buddlia Brimstone

There were in the region of 45 butterflies on that single buddlia bush. Thirty two of them were Red Admirals, more than twice the number recorded on the entire transect.

Teasels

The indigenous wild flowers we are charged with maintaining. In this particular shot the dominant flower being teasel. Whilst popular with butterflies it cannot compete with the buddlia

red Admiral on teasel Peacock

Feeding on teasels as no buddlia is available. It does seem odd that the food supply most saught after we cannot plant on the lakes. I can't quite get my head around that. Change is coming, in more ways than the arrival of one or two buddlia bushes and any help we can provide for the struggling butterfly population. When counting butterflies, do those that are feeding on buddlia get included on the count sheet?

Front gardens

At home the flower borders are full of buddlia, of every shade and hue and they repeatedly prove the most attractive to the butterflies.

18th July



Clearing paths The tail of the weirpool

Third cut and different from the earlier two in that more marginal vegetation is left to provide cover when approaching a clear river.


Small Skipper Six Spot Burnet Six Spot Burnet
White Admiral White Admiral
Holly Blue Meadow Brown Cinnabar caterpillars

Some of today's transect with the two photos in the middle line, shots of the first record of a White Admiral at Mockbeggar. After such a cold windy start to the recording season, with such poor numbers, the last three weeks have seen a return to a more normal counts. The White Admiral record is the highlight of the year, going some way to compensate for the Spring.

17th July


Correction, to the addendum, of the postscript! There has been a little miscommunication re the weight and time of capture of Richard's fish. It was in fact caught in February, 2020 at 14 pounds 15 ounces and that comes from the horses mouth, otherwise known as Richard himself. Cheers again Richard for putting me right, it makes that growth rate even more pleasing, or amazing!


16th July


Big common

A bit of an addendum to yesterday's postscript. The fish above is the common that Pecks had in his bag yesterday. I put it up because it was just immaculate, not a mark in its mouth and scale perfect. A simply stunning fish to go along with the big mirror and a brace of twenties. As for the mirror, the photos below fill in some of the gaps. Thanks again for the photo Pecks, fabulous fish.

Mirror carp Big mirror

The first is Richard Handel, with the fish back in 2016 weighing in at 16 pounds. Landed just a few months after it was introduced as one of the first batch of new stock. The second shot a year ago when Mark Madden landed her at just over thirty pounds. Great to see one of the new fish, without a name, looking well and growing nicely. Thanks to Julian for filling in some of the gaps, also Richard and Mark for the use of the photos.

15th July


A bit of a postscript for today in the shape of a cracking mirror of 38.03 taken by Pecks, along with a big twenty and another thirty. Particularly nice in that I do not recognise it but I'm sure some of the regular members will be able to throw some light on her history.

38.03 mirror Big mirror

The left and right sides of cracking looking mirror. One of two 38+ fish taken from the lake today. Great fish and a great session, congrats Pecks and thanks for the photos.

Milfoil water weed

Interesting shot of a clump of milfoil water weed from one of the newly established beds in the north lake at Mockbeggar. The extent of the weed beds I have yet to establish but there is certainly a great deal of it this year. Nothing like the scale of weed in Meadow Lake yet always pleasing to see water weed establishing. I will take the boat out and do a transect or two, to establish just where and what we have growing. One of the changes weed brings about is the number of water fowl that have moved in, to enjoy the rich feeding. Whilst the ducks and Coot are welcome, the geese are also welcome, welcome to clear off back over to the reserve whenever they should wish!

Avon Valley flooding

We are most definitely in new territory with the state of the valley flood plain. Mid way through July and many of the meadows remain water-logged. Whilst the Hucklesbrook Marsh is always wetter than most, I have never seen standing water in the meadow in July. Fortunately we do not remove silage or hay from these meadows, others are not so fortunate. Further south meadows are over-stood, collapsing and mowing remains a distant hope. Just where this is heading we have no idea but I believe a rethink of the imposed mowing regime may need some thought.

Great Crested Grebe

A late Great Crested Grebe brood, on Meadow Lake. This year has seen grebe nesting and rearing young out in the middle of the meadow shown above.

Big Avon chub Big Avon chub

A couple of shots of our stunning chub, with a tale to tell. The first is a very wet Steve Kenchington, the second a dry David Redfearn. I do have a shot of David looking considerably wetter, having been unceremoniously dumped in the river when the bank gave away beneath his feet. Fortunately for David, fishing mate Kenny was on hand to assist in regaining terra firma. The recent rain and extremely high river have given rise to some stretches of extremely unstable bank and the utmost caution must be taken when getting near the edge. Below a couple of photos recently taken by Dave Charles, as he sat waiting for events to develop.

Before bank collapse Missing bank.

The first shot shows the bank before collapse. In the second you can tell by the docks how much has disappeared. I can do no better than to copy Dave's words below.

"Yesterday in that foul weather I nearly found out the hard way I wasn't kitted out for wild swimming !!! I was sitting there under my brolly about 9ft from the bank and heard a sudden loud splash and saw the water turning a clay colour. I was very lucky not to lose into the 11ft or so depths £700 of rod and centrepin, I just managed to grab the back of the rod handle and all I lost was the front rod rest. An hour or so some more of that bank went in and in total I reckon about 3ftx 9ft caved in. To be safe I moved back further into the field about 5ft. Could have been a lot worse".

Please, please be careful and do as Dave did, sit a little further back from the edge. It has the added advantage it may just provide a little extra cover that may well make the difference between outwitting that huge Avon chub or barbel, or scaring it off.

7th July


Brown Argus Large White Comma
Green-veined White Peacock Painted Lady
Marbled White Silver Washed Fritillary Beewolf

Because its been such a poor Spring you thought you'd got away without the umpteenth shots of my butterflies. Well, bad luck, its been such a glorious butterfly day above are some of the twenty plus species that were present on the transect at lunchtime. You couldn't have asked for better conditions, light SW breeze, unbroken sunshine and the recent rain has saved the day with the wild flowers out in all their glory. The last shot is of a beewolf, just because they seem to be particularly abundant in recent days. Its a solitary wasp that lays its eggs on a captured bee that it paralyses and then buries, so its grubs can feast on the fresh bee when they hatch. Pleasant little beggar!

6th July


North Hucklesbrook Lapwing

The recent rain, combined with me shutting down the west side of the valley to dry hay fields, the water is once more flowing back into the Hucklesbrook Meadows. Whilst it make sthe southern eadge of the marsh impossible to graze, the birdlife continues to enjoy the unseasonal flood.

2nd July


New generation Introduction New generation mirror

Interesting comparison of fish from the same stock. The first shot is Clint with a fat mirror of 16.08 that he caught recently. The middle shot shows that same fish being introduced two and a half years ago. It has about double in weight but being short and fat, not quite in the direction I had thought it might put it on. The third shot is James, with another mirror from the same stock that has grown in the body ratio we had hoped for, being longer and proportionally thinner. Unfortunately I have been unable to find the introduction photos of James's latest fish, or the black mirror I put up on here a few days ago. I know I had fifteen fish that were introduced that we failed to photograph, which unfortunately must include James two.

1st July


Harry's bream

Like father, like son, a great shot of Harry with a lovely bream, dad Nigel's favourite fish. You have to say these river bream are wonderful looking fish, almost slime free and a gorgeous deep bronze. Well done Harry, great shot Nigel, thanks for sending it through.


Mowing on the SSSI Plenty of swans

As of today we are allowed to cut the grass on the SSSI's, which meant the mowers were in full swing up and down the valley. A change in scene in that not only seagulls out following the tedder but Buzzards and Red Kite also in attendance. The Kite chased the Buzzard away, seems there may be more changes ahead as the Kite population continues to grow.

A pic of some of the one hundred plus swans we have about the Estate. The moult is underway and the banks are littered with primary wing feathers. Along with the swans we have in the region of five hundred geese, also going through their moult and being a complete pain, fouling meadows and lakes. We seem to have more than our share this year as we have one complex where we have promoted the growth of elodea for the benfit of the fishery. It seems many of the other lakes locally do not treat their silt and curly pondweed has taken over, which doesn't seem so attractive to geese, ducks and coots. If you would like some geese I can recommend treating your lakes! On a more positive note the northern marsh still contains a veritable smorgasbord of waders. There were over 250 Lapwing, two Great White Egret, two Little Egret, two Green Sandpiper, two Common Sandpiper, five Redshank, five Oyster catcher, three Snipe and five Little Ringed Plover. Add the geese and ducks and I've probably missed a few it remains a superb habitat.

Whilst on the subject of the river, the water temperature dipped below 18 degrees yesterday and Hugh Taylor, made the most of the moment and landed a sixteen pounder today. Congratulations Hugh, lets hope the water temperature remains below eighteen so you can add one or to more.

29th June


Its raining

There is an almost audible sigh of relief from the flower beds as it does its best to rain. Fingers crossed we receive sufficient to soak in and get the grass and wild flowers moving again.

29th June


Large oak

The last three warm decades have been devastating for our ancient oaks. Just a word of warning as Summer gets hotter and in full swing, don't stand under them, particularly on sunny days when they may just decide to drop a ton of limb on you.

Honey bee colony The business end Under construction

Manny has decided a look into the life of the honey bee and their interaction with us humans over the ages, should be included in his trilogy. To that end a hollow oak branch, with suitable woodpecker adjustment, was selected and adapted to provide a glimpse into the world of the colony. All that was needed was to find a swarm that could be run into the log and the stage would be set, literally! As it turned out I needn't have worried about finding a swarm as Manny phoned to say thanks for running a swarm in when in fact I hadn't been near the place. It seems luck was with us and a swarm had arrived and moved in, they must have considered it was a very fortunate discovery, within a couple of days of getting it set up. The first shot is Manny looking around the corner to see the new arrivals. On lifting the back off the viewing chamber it can be seen that it was a very large swarm indeed. Large enough for Manny to require one or two more additions to the film set to ensure he didn't end up with that lot in his lap. The third shot is me just checking he hasn't got that drill on the hammer setting, it would require something a great deal more effective than that dusting brush he is clasping to persude that lot to go back in if he upsets them.

Above the gates Below the gates

A couple of shots of the main gates at Ibsley that show them wide open with a large air gap, the spillway completely dry and a water head difference of 600mm. With the current flow rates down the river, somewhere in the region of ten cumecs, I would expect to be shutting gates down to conserve water in the upstream beat. As it is, the upstream beat doesn't require more water, far from it, it could do with quite a bit less. The freeboard a KM upstream is completely non existent, with water actually running out of the channel and into the meadow at one point. One might suspect the weed to be creating a coffer dam and holding the water back. In fact weed growth isn't particularly high this year. So if our gates are wide open, at Winter settings, what may be causing the problem? I suspect that the prolonged floods of last Winter may have caused considerable bed shear, particularly in the vicinity of the extensive in channel engineering that was undertaken a year or two back. The gravel that has been set in motion looks to have been swept downstream causing gravel shoals, adding to the existing shallows and creating a pinch point.

What do we do about it? I'm not sure. First task will be to survey the extent of the flooding to see if we can live with it. If stock can still graze, as you will have seen in previous entries, it has the added silver lining of being wonderful habitat for the valley wader and wildfowl population. If the loss of grass and grazing is too extensive other means to deal with the problem will have to be looked at. If it comes down to lowering the shallows that will be a major task, requiring all the bureaucracy and bullshit that attends such operations. It would have been much easier if I had been running the gates closed and I could simply have opened them up and run the excess water off. Also with the added benefit of ensuring the free passage of fish. Life's never that simple I'm afraid!

28th June


Large chub

Another entry to re-dress the lack of recent river entries. Many thanks to Andy Hunt, for the photo that clearly illustrates the quality of our chub. The belly on this fish looks quite slack and the vent extended, suggesting it has already spawned, promising to make this a wonder fish next Winter. Great fish Andy, thanks for the photo and the report.

27th June


Large barbel

With the salmon fishing on hold, as the water temperature remains over 18 degrees C and my lack of entries on the diary from the start of the river coarse season, the river anglers must be feeling sadly neglected. In an effort to make amends I have John Mcgough to thank for this photo of a great looking 15+ barbel. Catch reports are a little thin on the ground as the size of the Somerley Fishery makes finding anglers on the bank a bit of a route march. I do know of one or two further large barbel and a scattering of smaller fish. The mainstay of the fishing is currently our astonishing chub population with several six plus fish already accounted for. I've yet to speak to anyone targeting the dace, perch or bream, hopefully over the next few days I'll bump into someone having a go for them.

26th June


Fly caught common

A great shot of John, with a good looking 28 pound common. This is the largest of three fish John caught on the fly today that included another twenty, plus a nineteen pounder. John has certainly refined fly fishing for carp, making catching them look simple. There in lies the art of the true expert, making the impossible look easy. Well fished John and thanks for the report and photo.

Now for something completely different. I'm not on facebook but I am reliably informed that Jason, on his Hampshire Avon facebook page, runs a fish of the month competition. For the best fish from the Avon each calendar month. Now I think this is a first class idea and I believe I should run a similar competition. I'm afraid, unlike Jason's competition, there will be no prizes in my competition. I think my competition will be run along different lines and it will be entitled, "NFDC flytip of the month". Its simple, each calendar month I will select the best photo of submitted flytipping and publish the winner on the diary. This will bring the associated kudos that such regular and and persistent infringement deserves.


May's winner June favourite

May's winner, remains outside the gates of the lake, where it was carefully moved off the highway by some caring individual. June's potential winner in the infamous, Blashford layby. If you know better, feel free to email me the contender.

25th June


Black Mirror

This is a real black mirror, as opposed to a TV programme. James, with a stunningly dark mirror, one of the new generation fish. The clear water and large weed beds allow fish to spend more time indulging in their favourite pastime, sun bathing.

23rd June


Knockers.

I don't know what you were expecting! These are next year's first time breeders, looking for nest sites to return to next May. They knock on the boxes to see if they get a reply from a sitting tenant, telling them this box is already spoken for.

21st June



Weighing Juvenile Kestrel

Brenda concentrating as she weighs one of the brood during ringing and recording. The second shot shows one of the five young from the Kestrel brood in question.


Adding colour.

The first of several layers of Mesolithic undercoat being added to the dugout.

16th June


The river coarse season is underway, the Meadow complex is open and the salmon season remains closed. I'll try and put some meat on those bare bones over the weekend, as I discover what has been landed. I imagine the start on both lakes and river has been slow today, with the blazing sun sending everything and everybody in search of shade.


Fly caught carp

One person who did get the better of the elements and add a further first to his impressive list of angling achievements was John Slader. John decided on an early start over at Mockbeggar to see if he could find a carp or two feeding where he could cast a fly. When I say early, it was about 08:30, which is an early start where John is concerned. No one ever having landed a carp on the fly from Mockbeggar, a challenge well beyond the scope and ability of most. Undaunted and enjoying the challenge, a shoal located, feeding on the shallows and the rest as they say is history. The result as shown above, a great looking mid double, completely spawned out and back in shape. Luckily Andy Jackson was on hand to do the honours and record the catch. Great piece of angling John, one for the record books, congratulations. Thanks for the report and the photo.


Spoonbill in flight Spoonbill in flight

A couple of grainy shots of our unusual visitor that remains up on the marsh.

15th June



grey herons Spoonbill

The Heron are just a few of the local population, making life uncomfortable for our frogs. The Spoonbill was a visitor on the marsh at lunchtime, along with a fabulous assortment of geese, ducks and waders. Some of which were; Teal, Gadwall, Curlew, Redshank, Lapwing, Great White Egret, Little Egret, the entire place remains alive with birds. Which is a great deal more than can be said for the Hucklesbrook stream that comes down off the forest, collecting the Latchmore Brook on its way. I believe there was a plan a few years back to restore the natural wetland habitat at the top of this system to slow the discharge and help prevent such ecological disasters. I believe the plan was shelved when the dog walkers bitched about it, which seems about right in the New Forest.


That would seem to be about that, as far as the Hucklesbrook is concerned.

I've got no idea what the water temperature currently is. I'll take a thermometer out tomorrow and let you know. I do know its remains above 18 degrees C so salmon fishing is still suspended.

13th June



Exclusive, read all about it, shock horror, piss found in the sea!

The most concerning thing about this is that it is in a more concentrated solution flushing through our rivers. Its not the coc that's the primary concern, if you're off to hell in a hand cart you might as well go with a smile on your face, its the symbiotic mess that is associated with our sewage and industrial waste. This has been recognised by the water companies and the EA for decades and I mean decades, yet it has been studiously ignored. Don't hold your breath for a solution, pun intended, top heavy empires have been built on pumping shit into our rivers for generations. I'm not sure who sets the water quality parameters these days. I don't know if UKTAG still exists or whether that has been quietly done away with in the rush to deregulate industry. I'll make some inquiries to see who pulls the strings these days.

...............and I hope you're getting more success than I am in downloading temperature from that EA website at Knappmill. How can any agency, that is in agreement with the riparian owners, provide such a crap source of vital information. Of course, I forgot!

12th June


Preparing for the new season Cleared swims

Its that time of year again with preparations in full swing for the opening day this coming Friday. Phil and Kevin brought the tractors with the swipe and the flail down to break the back of the work, leaving me a few days to add the final touches.

I'm sure the salmon rods will already be aware, I should point out however that the water temperature has reached 18 degrees C, the point at which we cease fishing for salmon at Somerley. Please watch the temperatures closely on the Knappmill counter website. The website is a proverbial pain in that it doesn't refresh or update unless you empty the cache on your computer. You can download the latest temperatures on the spread sheet data set that is available if you follow the links on teh site. Ensure you view the download on a full screen or it won't scroll on the sidebars.

11th June



Chafer beetle Basking carp

At last, certainly the most welcome rain I can recall. We enjoyed three or four hours of steady rainfall, enough to save the day when it comes to plant growth. We can only hope we see regular top ups to save the Summer. Whilst I was out with the water bowser before the rain I answered the question as to what all the gulls and Starlings are eating. The parkland and many of the surrounding meadows have been receiving the attention of large flocks of Black-headed and Herring Gulls for almost a fortnight. They are seeking the chafer beetles that are emerging from the grassland in their tens of thousands, it would seem high water tables and cold Springs, suit this species at least.

The carp are waiting for conditions to suit them before they get on with spawning. With this particular complex due to open on 16th June, I bet I know when they'll start. Should that be the case and they are activily spawning when we open I will close all access to the "Back Lagoon" which is usually their preferred spawning area. Having said that, wit all the weed that is out in the main lake they may well choose to the large central weed beds. Should they decide to do so just what will be closed remains to be decided, we'll cross that bridge at the time.


Garden Pond Toadlet

On the subject of lilies, the ones immediately above are in my garden eco pond, which means there are no fish in it to eat the other inhabitants. All this eco friendly gardening has a bit of a downside in that where ever you look you see toadlets, dozens of them, heading off into the garden to find a rock to hide under. In the evenings you have to go about at a snails pace, almost on tiptoe for fear of crushing them, or the dozens of stag beetles that are about this year.

10th June


Poachers

All part and parcel of the job. It does make the world of difference when the people involved are polite and move along without giving me a load of grief, spoiling my day!

9th June


redshank

A ringed Redshank but not one of the GWCT birds ringed locally in the valley.

Hoverfly Hemlock water Dropwort Hoverfly

The vast banks of Hemlock water Dropwort that line many wet areas and paths throughout the valley, remain almost silent. The hum of the tens of thousands of bees and hoverflies that normally cover the flowers remains absent. I looked back over my transect records for the year to date, starting on 1 st April, the intervening ten weeks on all but one instance have recorded northerly winds. Hopefully, a return to south west winds and desperately needed rain will correct some of the current problems. Despite being such a common plant hemlock water dropwort is one of, if not the most poisonous plant in the UK, so don't take liberties with it. I am reliably informed that insect numbers are similarly down across in West Sussex pointing to a widespread problem. Is it simply a weather blip, or are there more sinister factors at work. Pesticide residues have been suspected. If so giving a bleak choice between pollution and climate change.

8th June


Oyster catcher Swans

Oystercatcher on the river bank and swans eating what little ranunculas has reached the surface. I have been giving the lack of insects to date this Spring a little thought. Its some ungodly hour of the morning now and I wish to turn in, I'll write up my thinking in the next day or two.

Swimming buck Six point Roe buck

A case of spot the roe buck. This one decided to swim across rather than walk around the lake. Roe swim remarkably well, often crossing the river every night to graze without a second thought.

Sunset on the marsh

Last knockings.

5th June


Shoveler drake Great White Egret Great White Egret

Just a few more shots of the marsh from the weekend. The first being a Shoveler drake, a most unusual Summer visitor with us. No sign of the duck that accompanied him a few days earlier. The middle shot captures two Great White Egret disputing the favoured fishing spot. On the right the winner of the dispute, showing the darker livery of a mature bird.

4th June



Hucklesbrook Marsh Starlings

A very enjoyable hour or two watching the meadows at Hucklesbrook this evening. I went up at about seven o'clock purely with a view to confirming drumming Snipe that I had heard early this morning. Snipe haven't nested in the valley for several decades and the sound of drumming drew me back to see if I could spot them. I'm pleased to say I can confirm drumming but as for establishing they are breeding that will take considerably longer. Normally at this time of year the meadows have drained and we have little more than a rough pasture. Always a pleasant area to walk of an evening but nothing out of the ordinary to see on the bird front. This year's high water however has seen a complete transformation of the site. It remains flooded and the bird world are making the most of it. Along with the drumming Snipe I spotted at least three pairs of Redshank and seven or eight pairs of Lapwing being extremely protective of nest sites or juveniles. Add to those, two Curlew, Shelduck, Mandarin Duck, Great White Egret, Little Egret, Shoveler, over eighty Gadwall along with thirty plus Mallard, swans, geese, Great crested grebe, Coot and Tufties and that is a far from complete list. The calling Lapwing, Redshank and Curlew were accompanied by a Cuckoo, a Starling flock and a very noisy family of Kestrel, in a nest box we had stuck up a nearby oak a few years ago. A male Marsh Harrier, three Red Kite and a Buzzard were all in attendance looking for an easy meal amidst the high bird numbers. To say the place was buzzing doesn't do it justice.


A fox causing concern.

If you look closely just above the front shoulder of the cow you will see a fox that has upset the breeding waders.


Noisy Starlings.

Small flocks of Starlings are gathering as a precursor to the winter murmurrations.

3rd June


Common blue damselfly

Emperor dragonfly Sheltered paddock Scarce chaser dragonfly

Red-eyed damselfly Large red damselfly

In warm paddocks sheltered from the cold north wind, life for the local insect populations seems almost normal.

toad Tadpoles

The toad tadpoles are just beginning to grow their back legs. The lakes are currently full of them, it won't be long before they all head out to find their place in the big wide world. The Stag Beetles were also out in force this evening with five in the air at one time over our fron garden. Hopefully these are some of the seven I recently dug up whilst doing the gardening. It would be nice to think they were all none the worse after our recent meeting.

2nd June



Shearing

Phil, ensuring the ewes keep heading in the right direction on shearing day. Thanks to Milli, for sending through the photo to record the occasion.

1st June


Ibsley Bridge Pool Ibsley weirpool

As it was the first day of spinning, with us, I thought I better clip out the Bridge Pool and the weirpool. I always leave them until this time as they are not recognised fly water and it also discourages the idiots that think its a public footpath. Thank you Hants CC. From the bridge it still looks as if the weirpool isn't accessible, which is deliberate for the reason above. The areas of the weirpool that are worth spinning have been clipped out. I didn't wade the small outlet stream and clear the other side as I didn't have waders on. Anyone wishing to fish the tail of the weirpool would do better to wade that small section anyway. Don't ignore the last few feet of the retrieve alongside the Water Dropwort that is shading the first four or five feet of the water. In bright conditions fish love to lay up under this margin covering, only showing on the final seconds of the retrieve.

I could have written this next piece yesterday in that "Mr Consistent" Stephen Hutchinson, landed a fresh 2SW fish of thirteen pounds today. Well fished Stephen. I also believe Gary had a fresh eighteen pound fish from Bisterne today, well done Gary, well fished. There have also been several fish seen and lost today, so there are fish in the river.

On the subject of fish in the river, my favourite EA publication, the first quarterly report from the EA counter arrived yesterday. It seems up until the end of April fifty six fish entered the river. Of which we had twenty percent, which is about norm for exploitation on the river for these early fish. Why it should have been with us at Somerley they all came out, is open for debate. Personally I believe it couldn't be more obvious, its that old elephant in the room, that bloody blockage down at Knappmill on the tidal limit. We've had sufficient water and an open setting on the gates that has allowed the fish to come straight through and up to us. I believe its unprecedented that no fish have been caught down on the "Royalty" at this stage in the season. Don't worry if you've paid your money and failed to catch, the flow is dropping so you'll soon be able to winkle one out, stuck in the lock below the old turbine house.


For your perusal.


I'll finish with just a couple of reminders to the syndicate. During this dry weather would members please keep speed on the dusty gravel roads about the Estate to an absolute minimum. Its no fun living next to one of these roads when an over excited member, rushing to get to the river, creates their own personal sand storm to drift over adjoining house and garden..... and washing! So if you don't want the lady of the house on your case, take a little care please.

Also now spinning is allowed please do not forget to keep on the move, no static fishing on any pools please, especially the Ibsley Bridge Pool. Keep moving and please no return within six hours. If you move a fish you can obviously rest it a while and go back over it, just once please and then move on. I know that is the protocol that most of our rods fish to and I always thought I had that in the rules but I've just looked and its not there but it probably will be next season.

If you spot a fish and don't manage to move him on the first run through, admit defeat and put that up as one to the salmon, please don't keep pestering him, or her, they probably could do with a break.


31st May



They say its a wicked man curses the wind.

Unfortunately I think I may fall into that category. Six weeks ago we were praying for dry weather to dry out the meadows. We're now praying for rain to soften the parched ground and enable a nectar flow for the insects.


Transect section 2 Small Copper transect section 2

My lunchtime transect was pretty dire, lets hope its an early June drop. The Water Dropwort in the first photo should be covered in pollinators, as they love the flow it produces, unfortunately it was almost devoid of the usual bees and hoverflies. I attribute the lack of insects to this wretched, cold wind that has blown from the north for weeks.

Southern Marsh Orchid Common Spotted Orchid

Southern Marsh and Common Spotted Orchids growing beside the lakes. There were over one hundred and seventy Common Spotted in this one fifty meter length of margins


Little yellow rattle Souther Marsh Orchid

This is the first time I have recorded Yellow Rattle over the lake. Unfortunately of the dozen or so flower spikes the deer had managed to eat the tops off all but a couple. The Souther Marsh Orchid has been present on the site for several years and given sufficient moisture hopefully they will continue to thrive. As for Bee Orchids I only found one spike, the area where they were most frequently found is already bone dry and baked solid.


Fry

Millions of 0+ and 1+ fry in the warm water flowing from the North Marsh. Most was minnow but a high percentage were dace and chub.


Odd what you find in the river!

The local bandits stole this Landrover a few miles up the road. Whether they intended for it to end up in one of our carriers is open to debate.

29th May


Blashford

As spinning is to start in the next day or two I decided to take the fly rod out and fish down through Blashford Pool this evening. In reality I should have said that I took the fly rod for a walk, as the river seems devoid of fish at the moment. It wasn't even a particularly pleasant evening as the wretched north east wind, that has been blowing for weeks, was still howling down the valley. We seem to have suffered high pressure and these northerly winds every Spring in recent years. It used to be called the "Blackthorn Winter" and last for about a fortnight. It now seems to drag on for far longer, drying the ground and wilting wild flowers on our thin gravel soils. It was also blowing the Mayfly hatch out into the fields where the gulls were devouring the lot.

Flytipping Flytipping

You can't trust anyone these days! The first shot shows a sofa and an armchair that were fly-tipped in the entrance to the lakes. The second shot shows that some untrustworthy individual has nicked the armchair. Don't worry, should you require one there is another sofa and lots of beer cans in the next lay-by up the road. The one that NFDC spend a fortune collecting the regularly fly-tipped rubbish from, instead of closing the b..... thing. I'm not sure if I've mentioned it on here in an earlier entry but there is also a television over on the Gorley Road and an American fridge on Mockbeggar Lane. I was going to collect then all together in the NFDC layby, put the TV on the bank, pull both sofas up in front and put the beer cans in the fridge. I decided against it as with my luck I would have been nicked for fly-tipping!

Stuck sheep Interesting wind blow

A couple of photos from the weekend, firstly I must thank Simon for alerting me to this pair. Thankfully both were safely retrieved and back with the flock, until next time! The windblown oaks I have put up as they may prove interesting when it comes to felling them. I'm not sure snip and run is a recognised method these days, so it will probably involve a winch and steel cables.

27th May


Curious otter otter sore nose

An early start this morning for the second BBS of the year. The count itself wasn't of particular note, with most of the usual culprits on parade. The highlight of the morning was in fact the curious little otter in the photos above. As I walked upstream alongside a carrier, on the survey route, I spotted this young female rooting in the reeds sending a trail of silt downstream. She was probably looking for eels or crayfish and preoccupied to the extent I was able to get to within ten meters of her. Usually at this point similarly approached otters become aware of my presence and immediately dive and disappear. This one decided on a different approach, she spotted me and swam downstream towards me until she was directly opposite me, just a few feet away. She rose up in the water and gave me a good dressing down for disturbing her with lots of hissing, teeth chattering and squeaking, before she turned and dived. Certainly the first time I've been told off by an otter. If you look closely at the second shot you can see she has a nasty cut on her nose, possibly from getting too close to something that wasn't as pleased as I was to see her.

Bare banks Summer growth

I was out at Provost's Hole last week clearing the banks of the salmon pool. Obviously the most obvious change from my last visit, that I recorded on the 7th March entry, was the staggering amount of growth the intervening couple of months has seen. The reeds and grass now were standing three or feet, where previously had been bare mud. Even more impressive, the Water Dropwort and nettles were taller than me in places, making keeping on top of the clearing almost impossible this year with the flood only now dropping back sufficiently to get out there.

24th May



Mockbeggar Lake Mockbeggar Lake Mockbeggar Lake

I did my butterfly transect at lunchtime today. The sun shone, the flowers bloomed and the butterflies were noticable by their absence. was it the notherly wind keeping them from emerging? Have the droughts in recent years decimated their food plants reducing their numbers? We have yet to confirm the reason one way or the other, hopefully when the sind swings back to the SW things will improve. Its a bit like trying to establish what makes salmon tick that I'm pretty sure isn't related to the north wind. The shot on the right shows Roger landing his forth carp of the morning as I walked by.

21st May



Just who should we trust to protect our rivers?

The publication of the report, by the stonewalling CMA, won't make a jot of difference to the state of our rivers. The sad reality is that we already know politicians, be they corrupt or incapable, will always put self interest, money and political expediency before protecting the environment.

19th May


Woodside Pool Pallet snag Lower Cabbage

In the first photo of Woodside you can see that wretched pallet that has spoilt the tail of the pool for the last few years. Today, whilst I was out there clipping up the pool, I decided to get the bloody thing out. It took several boot fulls of water and a strained clapper valve but I won the day and the tail is now looking a great deal better for it. Actually getting out to the pools remains sticky but once there they are fishable without too much effort. The pools remain a little over the bank but please give it a go just don't be over ambitious, take your time and take care. The Middle shot is the offending pallet and stake it was wired to. On the right is a shot looking down Lower Cabbage, one of the finest pools on the fishery. The thing to note in that shot is that, other than mine, there was only one set of footprints in the soft mud.

18th May


At long last, the flood has receded sufficiently for me to be able to clear the paths and most of the salmon pools. For the first time this year all the pools from Penmeade down to Dockens, on the right bank, are clear. We are at the height of the salmon season and the next month will hopefully see the fish arrive in numbers. Saying that, they may well be with us, running straight through to the higher river without pausing to offer us a chance. That relates back to my bleat yesterday, the EA could answer that question in five minutes yet they remain silent. Determined to make the fishery as difficult as possible. Despite our lack of information I have to believe the fish will be with us throughout the next month. The river remains high with plenty of flow, so there is no reason they should wait in the Lower River. The water clarity is perfect for the fly, so everything would seem to be in our favour. I'll clear around Harbridge and Ibsley over the next few days hopefully getting all the pools clear for the final push of the season.


Dockens pool

A shot, from the archive, of the right bank of Dockens, which is now clear.

I shouldn't need to put this next photo up. It shows a rig that was removed from a fish that was dragging this monstrosity about the lake. Whoever tied this contraption together, you need to have a rethink about what you are attempting to do. I was at least pleased to see the barbless hook but a barbless hook doesn't work when it is continuously under tension. The helicopter bead was unable to slide up the line, to the line break, and separate from the lead. The bead needs to slide over any knot, clip or splice that joins the lead core to the running line. Nuff said!


Dangerous carp rig

The offending rig.

17th May


Great White Egret The North Marsh

I think there are eight Great White Egret in the first photo. I can't be sure as they continually bob up and down as they stalk their prey. There were also nine Little Egret, goodness only knows how many geese and swans there are but when the Marsh Harrier went over somewhere in the region of eighty Gadwall flushed from the reed beds. A simply stunning wetland habitat.

Silver Y moth Holly Blue stag Beetles

A few of the Summer regulars in the form of the first Silver "Y" of the Summer. The Holly Blue isn't the first but it is the first that has sat long enough for me to get a photo. As for the Stag Beetles they haven't emerged as yet, these were two of seven that I dug up in our flower border this evening. In just three or four fork fulls I suddenly realised there were Stag Beetles crawling about all over the place. It meant I had to cease my digging and change the intended planting plans for the border until such time as I'm sure they have all safely emerged and are no longer at risk of being crushed. Fortunately the seven I had exposed seemed none the worse for their rude awakening and I tucked them up in a hollow log I have in the border, where they will hopefully be safe until the decide to fly.

2022 fish counter data.

Now here's a thing that serves to bring out the worst in me. Its the EA fish counter report from Knapp Mill for 2022. What this illustrates, beyond a shadow of a doubt, is that it serves no purpose what-so-ever to Maintain, improve and develop our salmonid fishery on the Hamphire Avon, as is the EA's statutory duty. Twenty odd years of reports and files, with in depth analysis that is totally useless in protecting so much as one single parr. I should stick in a FOI request to discover just how much public money has been spent to achieve all this stunning data but I can't be bothered. One thing is certain, we will have the best monitored destruction of a fishery in history. There seems to be a disturbing lack of understanding in the EA and Defra that monitoring for monitorings sake will not solve the issues faced by our rivers.

A piece of advice that isn't rocket science. If the EA wont to help the fisheries, just tell us if fish are entering the system. If we are to retain the rods and encourage bums on seats, or more correctly, rods on the bank, we need to know what is happening in real time. Fisheries are equally dependent of rods, who pay for the upkeep and maintenance of the river, as they are on the species we seek. If the EA were to disappear we would not notice for years, if our rods disappear we notice immediately.

15th May


Roman pottery Roman potter Potters home

A further instalment of Manny's trilogy, the evolution and interaction between the New Forest, Avon valley and the Solent. These shots are of a seasonal potters sites that were found in the Forest in the late Roman period. Incredible amount of work to set the scene and produce the authentic looking re-enactment. One of numerous scenes to be filmed that show how man has lived alongside and impacted on the wildlife of the area. Thanks for the superb photos Manny, I can't wait to see the finished product.

Great white Egrets on the floods Egret fishing four Great White Egrets

Great White Egrets out on the marsh. There are four in the final shot, with at least one further bird out of shot. Interestingly one of the birds was in full adult colours, possibly indicating breeding, if not now in the near future perhaps.

Destroyed Sand Martin colony

Once more the local fox population has dug out the Sand Martin colony. Its no wonder that Sand Martin numbers are collapsing, this has happened for the last four or five years at least.

14th May



They're off, Spawning has started.

The carp started their spawning yesterday on the shallower lakes that warm quicker than the deep shaded ones. I wish I could in some way publish the odour of carp and disturbed lake bed that accompanies the spawning, its a unique, easily recognised scent, adding to the chaotic scene.



Trespass Canoe trespass Trespass

Summer's here, along with the associated Dick-heads. Stupid? ignorant? or just don't give a damn about anything but their own hedonistic pursuits. English common law, the rights of others and perhaps in what are supposed to be enlightened times, the environment, they simply don't give a toss. The police, NE and the EA care about the same amount. I dare say they won't be the last grinning fools I come across, or get to hear of this Summer.

10th May



May floods video clip.

We are in new territory with these water levels, almost the entires Hucklesbrook meadows are still under water. The video shows the carp that have come out of the river and are now rummaging about out in the meadows.


May floods Lush marginal vegetation Hucklesbook flood

The marsh remains underwater and is still proving attractive to an odd assortment of birdlife. There over fifty Mute Swans out there, with the territorial cob chasing the nonbreeders that are intent on enjoying the rich grazing. There are six Great Crested Grebe in the first shot. Along with over thirty Gadwall, lots of Mallard and Tufties, Coot and Moorhen, the presence of which attracts regular Marsh Harrier visits. A real watery wonderland.

The middle shot illustrates the now rampant marginal vegetation. The depth of water beside many slamon pools prevents them being strimmed out as the plants are standing in a foot or more of water in some places.

Looking north from Gorley Corner.

Congratulations to Stephen Hutchinson, who emailed this evening to let me know he had landed his customary May salmon. Its good to see Stephen back in form after the disruption of the pandemic, hopefully more to follow.

9th May



Sand Martins Shelduck

It may look like a moon scape but it is to the liking of several bird species. Shelduck, Sand Martin, Oystercatcher, Little Ringed Plover and Lapwing on the gravel decks. Plus Coot, Moorhen, Mallard, Gadwall and several pairs of Little Grebe, on the flooded areas. I'm sure I've missed one or two but the list does illustrate how adaptable Nature is given a chance. There is a LRP in both shots if you look closely enough you may spot them.

Fish on Male tench

One on the float for Brian, in the shape of this feisty little male tench.

Leather carp

Here's an interesting fish that Darrel landed yesterday, almost a leather with just a few scales along the dorsal line and the tail root. It came as part of a catch that included, a 28 common plus two tench. At the same time as John was landing his tench on the other side of the point. It also included a good soaking in the downpours that were about yesterday but well worth a little discomfort.

8th May


Please take note, the East Mills flume is currently showing 1.18, which is the cut-off height for spinning. As such, as of now spinning is not allowed at Somerley.

More rain is forecast, so please check before fishing each morning.




Playing a tench.

This is how you do it, John playing a tench on his delicate tip rod. I called in at lunchtime and stopped to chat for less than an hour, in which time John landed four tench around the five pound mark. A perfect example of tench fishing.


Tench Tench Tench

Like peas in a pod. John with three of the tench he caught whilst I was there. They were all about the five pounds mark and as pretty as a picture. Really well fished John, a pleasure to witness.

7th May



Malus hupehensis

Its apple blossom time. The beautiful Malus hupehensis in our front garden. Much loved by the bumblebees and each one of those flowers turns into an 8mm apple the birds go crazy for.

It seems we are back in action on the salomn front with a 2SW fish being landed today by Paul Greenacre. I'm also informed another rod had a second fish follow, fingers crossed they are here and we'll see more in the coming weeks.


Two sea winter cock salmon

Well done Paul, lets hope this is the start of the Summer run.

We are back over the spinning height, as determined on the East Mills flume.


Six pairs now home!

4th May


We seem to be struggling on the salmon front for the last few weeks. Why this should be, when we are enjoying good flows and almost at the peak of the season, I have no idea. Are they running and passing straight through us, into the higher river? Is there an element such as; temperature, air pressure, water quality, a factor lost on us but not on the salmon? Or are they simply not here because the last Spring tides of April failed to encourage any fish to enter the river? Whatever the reason I hope they soon get it out of their system and return to normal patterns of migration and numbers we might expect.

The next couple of days will see the first Spring tide of this month. A tide when we would hope to see the number of two sea winter fish increasing dramatically. We still have perfect water conditions hopefully making a return to better times imminent. You've got to have faith, so keep a fly in the water.


Tench

This is another of John Slader's tench that he kindly sent through to lift my spirits. It almost looks as if this lovely fish is lit from within, apparently having its very own inner illumination system.

2nd May


Park Pool

Just a word of caution for those lucky enough to fish the Avon. After the recent floods, as the water recedes and drops, we are left with some areas of unstable bank. Please be careful and try to avoid standing on the small promontaries that are to be found on many pools. They are not artificial croys but the last sections of bank left to be undercut and drop into the river. Should you be out on one and "feel the earth move", it probably is, some two feet behind you! A hasty exit is advised.

Dam Removal Europe

South West Water now control the movement of fish in and out of the Avon. I wonder if they will get on and make the barrier at the tidal limit at Knappmill cyprinid friendly?



The Swift Report

Five pairs now back in residence, fingers crossed the others aren't far behind.

1st May


Please take note, the East Mills flume is currently showing 1.18, which is the cut-off height for spinning. As such, as of now spinning is not allowed at Somerley.

Cannibal pike

One thing the high water spinning has provided were one or two more pike encounters than we might normally expect when fly only. Glyn Thomas, one of our rods, took this photo when trying a spot of spinning down the lower end of the Estate. Just about to land a Jack, he estimated at six pounds, when one of our larger ladies decided to join in, frightening the life out of Glyn as she did so. She held on to the luckless Jack for long enough for Glyn to take the photo before letting go, allowing him to the land and release an apparently unscathed Jack. That's the second lucky pike encounter I've put on here in recent days.

I does go some way to answering the question I was asking back at the end of the coarse season when I was wondering what our large number of big pike were eating. Thanks to Glyn for sending through the photo, hopefully it will be a salmon next time around. That Glyn lands, not that the pike eats!

29th April



Valley perfection.

The pick of the day with this clip Mike Hornsby kindly sent me. The magic of the valley captured perfectly as Mike's first Cuckoo is the lead in the accompanying chorus. Lovely video Mike thanks for sending it through. Definitely deserves a salmon next time for allowing us to share in the valley's beauty.

North Marsh South Marsh

I put similar shots up a fortnight ago. The water level remains virtually unchanged yet it appears drier, simply because the vegetation has grown and masked the flood. There is a Great White Egret in both shots, two of several that remain in the valley.

Spawning bream.

The bream were spawning today and the carp were doing their best to eat the eggs adhering to the roots of the willow.

Chilling out.

It doesn't take long for this lot to get their confidence back, with the return of the warmer weather. I enjoy seeing them cruising the margins without an apparent care in the world, stopping where ever they please to enjoy a few freebies.

Goosander trip

The first Goosander trip of the year, ten ducklings, opposite the Lodge this evening.

28th April



Swift

Two pairs back, seven to go, a second pair arrived today.

Black tulips Bonsai apple Tadpoles

An hour this evening out in the garden waiting for the Swifts, a cuppa and time to sit back and chill. Whilst waiting, time to also enjoy the return of warmer weather, being the first evening I've even felt like sitting out in the garden. How things have changed in recent years, along with the usual garden birds we now have Buzzards and Red Kites drifting over just above the roof tops. At least a more enlightened attitude toward our raptors has seen a most welcome recovery in their numbers. Other bits and bobs as I whiled away the time were the tulips, along with my bonsai apple, putting on a brave show despite the best efforts of last week's hail to destroy them. I was also pleased to see the garden pond was full of toad tadpoles indicating a successful spawning. Lets hope the wild population enjoyed similar success.

27th April


Removing a difficult oak Total root loss Removing the butt

The photos above are not new. They are connected to the removal of dead and dangerous oaks that we continually have to deal with. You have often heard me lamenting the loss of our oaks, most of which are of a similar age and suffering badly through the recent decades of hot dry Summers. The Estate for the most part is on gravel that dries and drains extremely quickly. Once stressed, Summer drop, of massive limbs and fungal infections, such as ganoderma sessile, get a foothold and the writing is on the wall for these giants. Especially if they are close to habitation, roads or public access, we have to make an assessment as to when they have to be removed on health and safety grounds. The top wood taken away as firewood and the stick, off to the sawmill.

Moylescourt Oak Wildwood oak boards Mockbeggar Gate oak

The large oak at Moylescourt is in the last throws of its span. Despite thousands spent by the Estate and the local council trying to save it. Unfortunately the close proximity of the road and the thousands of visitors feet that have compacted the surrounding soil, the ringing of the death knell seems inevitable. The middle shot are a couple of oak boards that Kingsley, up at Wildwood tables, has cut from previously felled Estate oaks. With the number of flaws and rotten holes in the trunk of the Moylescourt tree I don't think the butt will have much timber capable of being salvaged. There may well be sufficient top wood to cut some decent boards that might go on to make some unique, bespoke furniture. Time will tell how this story ends. The third photo on the right is a new shot taken today of a large oak over on the Gorley Road. This tree looks magnificent, despite the tell tale bracket fungi clinging to its wrinkled hide, it will have several more years to grace the forest.

New oaks

The final shot is the reason I put this entry up in that it's a good news story. It shows young oaks that have in the last week or two broken through the soil to begin their hundreds of years of life. In this case the acorns were collected from beneath that oak on the right above, the oak over on the Gorley Road. There are several pots of young oaks currently bursting into life alongside this one. Oaks from acorns that were picked up from beneath specimen trees on the Estate. Oaks that will hopefully, after a few years of TLC, take their place on the parkland and woods across the Estate.

Further good news this evening as the first pair of Swifts arrived back at home and immediately entered the nestbox they used last year. Fingers crossed the others arrive in the next few days.

25th April


Watermeadows Watermeadows

The salmon seemed to have shut up shop for a day or two but just being out there has its rewards. The first looking south towards St Peter and St Pauls in Ringwood. Second pic taken across the meanders upstream of Park Pool.

Why are the directors and CEO's of these companies not in prison?

This is the moral and ethical standards of big business that we are expecting to act responsibly when it comes to reducing carbon output. Dream on! If we own shares or trade with these people, at any level, we are complicit. Its not a secret, governments turn a blind eye, as it suits them. Politicians, Oil/petro-chemical companies, agri-chemicals, water industry, car manufacturers, the list is almost inexhaustible. Off to hell in a hand cart, springs to mind but those low lives will be the last to go and they'll go in style.

24th April


Early morning common

Chilly morning common.

Karl with an atmospheric early morning common. Great photo, great fish, well fished and thanks for the photo Karl.

23rd April


Breeding Bird Survey

BBS day.

Tench fishing

I'm sure most readers know how much I enjoy tench fishing and how I believe they are the very essence of our Summer stillwater sport. Regular readers will also know how I have struggled, in recent years, finding it almost impossible to put a bag together. The lovely photo above is of a man who is used to "Catching the Impossible" Hugh Miles, with a tench of 5.12 that was part of a five fish catch. This tench is a female that is yet to lay in any spawn. She looks as if she may be one of our older inhabitants, possibly the source of some of our deep bodied, younger fish that are beginning to put in more regular appearances. Well fished Hugh and many thanks for sending through the photo for us all to enjoy.

18th April


Charlie Orchard

I'm sure many on the syndicate who knew Charlie Orchard will be sad to hear, after a short illness, he has sadly passed away. Almost a fixture in the "Aquarium" and the tail of "Tizards" I will miss our regular chats when our paths crossed. As I will miss his little blue Honda parked at the bridge. Rest assured he will still be a part of the the Ibsley atmosphere, keeping an eye on his beloved Hampshire Avon.

Woodside Hatches

I spent the afternoon attempting to balance the gates on the water meadows on the east side of the river at Ellingham. Balancing is the right word to describe this job as I attempt to dry out the meadows to allow the long overdue return of the stock. I also have to ensure I do not dramatically reduce the flow and height in the carriers, changing weed growth and fish habitat. Similarly ensuring I do not leave dead ended carriers that can trap fish such as smolt on their downstream migration. The key to this job is little and often, ensuring no sudden changes. It means it will require me to make several extra visits but thats no hardship in the valley at this time of year.

Woodside Hatchpool Ellingham Woodside divide Ellingham Top Hatchpool

One or two of the delightful little hatchpools associated with the gates on the Woodside and Ellingham. The margins of the streams were full of fry that for most part looked like minnows but there were also good numbers of dace and chublets, plus pleasing numbers of C1 roach that seem to have survived the winter floods. Unfortunatey it doesn't look like the large ash tree in the middle shot will be with us for much longer.

Flood nests

Here's an odd sort of thing! Yesterday I was bemoaning the plight of our waders, having been displaced by the floods. Today the other side of the coin. Out on the flooded meadows we have swans, coots and grebe all sitting on nests that within a week or two will be left high and dry in the middle of a field. Being left high and dry probably means they will be lost s they will become all too easily predated by our resident fox population. I could shut the gates and retain the flood for a longer period but that would be at the expense of our tenants and the wild flowers in the hay meadows. The retention of wet meadows and floodwater will be an important topic of conversation in the future, as our climate becomes more and more eratic.

Stranded pike

This is a shot of a pike stranded in a pool by the receding floodwater. This lucky pike was fortunate that Jon Dent, one of our salmon rods, came along and returned him to the river, as can be seen in the clip below. Thanks for sending through the pix Jon and thanks for rescuing our pike. More reasons to ensure meadows are not drained too quickly.


Lucky pike.

A clip of our fortunate esox.

17th April


Thirty pound plus common carp

Roger with a great looking Mockbeggar thirty plus, he landed at lunchtime today. That's a stunner, well fished and thanks for the photo.

You will notice I have added a small tag at the bottom right, to signify that it is a photograph Roger has sent to me for the diary. Photo's will normally be a large "C" with "ad" inside, or the initials of whoever sent me the photo, as with Roger, to signify it is the intellectual property of the diary, or the individual. Once published on the diary the content is in the public domain, I have absolutely no objection to other sites downloading and using the content. I have no objection to receiving no accreditation or acknowledgement for the content. I do however object to people using the diary content and changing the narrative. It has recently been brought to my attention that a couple of Twitter and Facebook sites are using the content incorrectly for their own ends. If you do fall into that category, at least have the decency to copy the original text as well as the pix and ensure its faithfully re-tweeted. As you were, moan over.

North Marsh South Marsh

The Hucklesbrook marsh remains flooded to a depth that has seen the Lapwing and Redshank population abandon the site. Just where they have relocated to is somewhat of a mystery. There are one or two pairs of Lapwing nesting on higher ground within the Estate but I have not spotted any of the Redshank elsewhere. I wonder how many failed nesting attempts it will take for us to lose our dedicated, distinct wader population. After two or three years I imagine they will look elsewhere and they will be lost to the valley permenantly. I suppose the longevity of the species has a bearing on this, as in the case of our salmon the entire population could be lost with four consecutive recruitment failures.

Whilst our waders might be struggling there are several birds about the valley worth keeping an eye out for. An Osprey has been about for a day or two and has been spotted over both the lake complexes and the river, so where ever you are keep a look out. There has also been a Black-winged Stilt about the valley and yes, I haven't spotted it yet! I will certainly be watching the floods as the extra depth is perfect for this bird. The clue being in the name! Lots of the Summer migrants have now arrived, Sedge and Reed warblers, Swallows and Martins by the hundreds. I am keeping a close watch on our Swift nestboxes in the hope of our regular birds reappearing any day now. Today was a milder, more pleasant day than we have experienced of late, a great day to be in the valley.

14th April


Classic Avon Springer

You can't keep a good man down! David with a big twenty, which I called at 28, wonderful fish congratulations David, as good as they get. On the same black and yellow, single hook mount, as the previous four fish he has landed this season.

Cracking common

To keep a balance, a great photo of Karl with a 29.14 common. A couple of ounces off thirty has taken nothing from such a great looking fish. Well fished Karl, thanks for the photo and the report.

13th April


twenty pound Springer Avon salmon Safe return

Well done Colin, lovely twenty pound fresh fish. Taken on a Devon, bounced across behind two ounces of lead, just the ticket. The photos are taken out in the field in the interest of safety for both fish and angler. Releasing a fish into the main channel risks it being swept away and unable to right itself. The return in the field, too deep for wellies at that point, allows the fish to regain its breath and equilibrium before deciding in its own time when to enter the flow.


I've just received a call from Paul Greenacre to let me know he has also opened his account today, in the form of another twenty pounder. Hopefully Paul will send me a pic and a little more detail later.

Good hen Springer

Paul's big hen Springer.

Paul's twenty four pound Springer going back.

Paul has kindly sent through a video clip showing the release of his fish. Many thanks Paul and congratulations on a super fish.


Ringwood Weir

Don't forget the Ringwood Weir during this high water. The pool is not a holding pool it is best fished when the salmon are running, which with the current flows I believe they will be. Whilst the weir does not constitute a barrier as the head of water is minimal and no jumping is necessary but the gates do create a great deal of turbulence that will cause the fish to pause to assess the feature ahead.

12th April

Flooded meadows North Marsh Park Pool

We are entering new territory with such high water at this time of year. I can recall one other such occasion back in the 90's when we had a sudden spate but it did not involve the scale of flooding we are currently experiencing. The first shot is the Avon Valley Path footbridge, over the Harbridge Stream, looking out across the meadows to Ibsley. If you look back to the entry on the 7th, one of David's misty shots is the same bridge with the water level a foot below the decking. The path is not for the faint hearted, waders are certainly recommended. The middle shot is looking north up the North Marsh at Hucklesbrook and it will be some time before the stock are out on those meadows. The final shot is looking down Park Pool with the water well out over the bank.

The Humps, Lifelands Below the Cut Through

Down at Lifelands looking across to the "Humps", that today looked more like a string of stepping-stones. The second shot is looking upstream from "Below The Cut Through". This is still fishable as it is from the higher bank in Up-mead, the clues in the name. You won't often hear me say this but with today's high water, heavy showers and forty mile an hour winds, fly fishing was proving difficult. With the water height well above the agreed derrogation limit, better grab the spinning gear, along with a couple of ounces of lead and a wooden Devon, fished on a paternoster, to search under the banks. Taking extreme care not to step into deep water.

Wind blown hazard

The gales tumbled several large oaks the one above dangerously caught up and hanging over the road. A little assistance from the machine resolved the problem allowing us to safely clear the road.

Cutting clear Clearing the root plate

Removing another of todays casualties.

Misty start to the day

I took this shot from the far bank, at the weekend, as one of the rods fished down through Pile Pool just as the overnight mist was lifting. I'm not sure what his faithful companion was thinking about the early start but he was certainly paying attention to his master.

11th April


Smart tench

I always appreciate receiving reports and photos of how the fisheries are performing and Karl sent me a couple of his last trip to Mockbeggar. As well as a great looking carp he also landed this fin perfect little gem, flat belly, lovely arched should and a georgeous almost lime green. Thanks Karl, delighted to see what is in there, should I get a chance to look for them.

9th April



Big common Double rainbow Big mirror

Meadow and Kings-Vincents now being shut for the close season perhaps a couple of photos to record the season. The first is Dave Winter, with a big common, which I believe took the scales down to 37+. Dave had a quite staggering season with thirty fish over thirty pounds, including two forty plus. Whilst Dave is an extremely gifted angler and has long experience of Meadow, he tells me he has done nothing different this year, which has produced so many fish, than he has done in the past. I guess that is the appeal of angling that keeps us all coming back. The rainbows Dave took from his swim at sibleys, perhaps he managed to find the pot of gold? The third shot is another reason for our return, it is Mick Cutler with the Three-quarter Linear, at 41.08. She is one of our oldest residents but continues to look magnificent.

Many thanks to Mick and Dave for sending through the photos, if only to stop me nagging. I know many readers appreciate and enjoy seeing the success of others so your efforts are doubly appreciated.

7th April


Perfect Catch and Release.

I spent the day twenty odd miles out in the channel, nailing the odd large pollack. Guess who drove the seventy odd miles from his home and added yet another salmon to his tally. Congratulations David, your fourth and our seventh to grace the bank, great result and a lesson to us all. The reason I have included a second shot of a fish swimming out of a net is the very fact both these fish look absolutely rested and raring to go, the perfect example of catch and release. Brilliant David, thanks for sending through the reports.

Frosty start

It would seem catching salmon is not David's only talant, the photos he sent through with his report would suggest he also has an eye for the beauty of our valley. When I left for the coast just after five this morning my max/min in the garden was showing zero degrees, the photos show it was several hours later that the frost and mist eventually cleared the valley.

Harbridge mist harbridge swan Lifting mist

Many thanks David. I may have been away from the valley for the day but your photos provide my daily fix.

5th April


Catch and Release.

David's added another to his seasons tally with this lively seven pounder. Its difficult to say just what age that fish might be. Is it a very small 3SW or an early 2SW. My money is on a small 2SW fish, having left the feeding grounds early. What ever its age its a real pleasure to see it, well fished David, congratulations.

4th April


The North Marsh Great Egret

The North Marsh remains under water, much to the delight of many of the valley wildfowl and waders. The Great White Egret was stalking fry and frogs out in the soft rush stands, whilst the Black-tailed Godwits enjoyed the shallower water further up the meadow.

Harbridge Church Garganey Garganey and Gadall

The wildfowl were also enjoying the late flood with four visiting Garganey joining with the Gadwall on the South Marsh.

The Southern Marsh Looking south

The Southern Marsh is looking well in today's sunshine.

Warm start Kestrel basking carp

I spent the morning burning up the risings from my recent hedge laying, much to the interest of the local steers. I know it was a frosty morning but this lot stood directly in the sparks and smoke, far closer to the fire than I could have managed. They were not the only interested party as this Kestrel spent ten minutes watching me from the top of a nearby ash. I imagine he was hoping for a vole to make a run for it as I moved the brash about. Unfofrtunately there was no free meal for him today. I put the shot of the basking carp up as I found a couple of dozen of them enjoying the warmth of the sun in a sheltered bay as I did one of my rounds at lunchtime today. I didn't have anything for them to eat but I don't think food was upper most in their minds, they were simply enjoying the sunshine.

Peacock butterfly Orange-tip Comma

Today also saw the butterflies making the most of the sunshine with, Peacock, orange-tip, comma, red admiral, small white, lots of male brimstone, plus two females and yesterday a large white was reported over at Mockbeggar. Fingers crossed we continue to enjoy regular spells of warmth, gentle showers and plenty of sunshine.

3rd April


Spring highwater

Looking out across the Harbridge Stream towards the main river that runs by the tree line on the far side of the valley. The Kingcups remain flooded yet the river is now slowly dropping back.

Midge cloud

Clouds of Midges dancing in the shelter of the drive this evening as I heade dout to count the egrets. As the light faded the bats were enjoying the sudden appearance of the hatch, with dozens of all shapes and sizes twisting and turning to catch their meal. Earlier the grannom had put in a brief appearance on the main river. This is a day or two early for their main hatch, probably accounting for the low numbers. As for the egret numbers, we still have at least five Great Egret and thirteen Little Egret using the roost.

1st April


Congratulations to Steve Turner on landing a fifteen pound hen from Ashley today. Taken on a Yellow and Black, the high water, poor vis and high winds, didn't prove too great a problem. Well fished Steve, especially under such difficult conditions. Proving that its always worth having a go, whatever the conditions confronting you.

High water Wet pheasant Butterbur

The heavy rain has seen the river continue to rise, with the Ibsley spillway in full flow. Our old cock pheasant looked extremely wet and less than impressed, sat in the usual spot in the Top Park this morning. The righthand shot showing the Butterbur, as it emerges into bloom alongside the weirpool footpath.

Triplets Lamb

The weather is doing Phil and Millie no favours with the lambing. The Romney flock lambs outdoors but if things look a little stressed they are brought into the barn for shelter. Given twenty four hours in the warmth and shelter the lambs are soon able to stand the elements and the ewes always prefer to be out on the grass.

Disappointingly, the high water has proven too much for many of the lapwing nests out on the meadows. A year or two years ago it was the very late hard frost that wiped out the nests. Our weather is becoming less predictable be it droughts, late frosts, high winds or floods.

31st March


Spring highwater

Blashford this afternoon, with the river well out in the fields and the colour of milky tea. I shouldn't moan as I have been praying for rain to top up the river since it dropped so quickly after the Winter rains.

30th March


Spring salmon

Well done Peter, there just had to be one or two about on the water we are currently enjoying.

29th March


Early tench

This is a really great example of sticking to your guns and pulling off a well deserved first. John has persevered with Mockbeggar tench and roach and last season began to reap the rewards of his efforts, with roach to two pounds and tench from several different areas of the lakes. The photo above the shows John with, as far as I know the first, intentionally, March caught tench from the lake, weighing in at just an ounce or two under five pounds. A perfectly proportioned hen fish yet to develope the distended belly that spoils the look of these lovely fish as they get closer to spawning. Well fished John, hopefully a taste of things to come.

27th March



Grey heron at the nest Little and Cattle Egret

Grey heron at the nest, taken whilst undertaking the heronry census count. Numbers of Grey heron in the valley have crashed over the last twelve months. Its difficult to attribute the cause, possibly avian flu, or more likely the closing of the nearby fishfarm that provided a significant proportion of their diet. We have seen many corpses in the valley, starvation or disease we will never know. The second shot, taken as they were sat out preening alongside the South Marsh, shows ten Little Egret, plus two Cattle Egret. The roost still contains over twenty Little or Cattle Egret, plus several Great White Egret. trying to seperate the Little from the Cattle Egret is almost impossible as they come into roost as they arrive so late, just as the light is fading.

First lamb

It looks as if Phil and Millie are in for a few busy weeks as the first of the lambs put in an appearance today. Judging by the surprised look of the other ewes I'm not sure they know what lays ahead! Nice photo Phil, thanks for sending it through.


23rd March


Male tench Terrapin

Despite the pouring rain this is a nice shot of Karl with a fine male tench. He also had three or four nuisance fish to about thirty pounds and definitely an improvement on the terrapin he landed in, No Carp Corner, recently.


Teasel Thistle Dog violet Cowslip

I can't say I was overly upset at the prospect of a days heavy rain preventing further clearing. After three days swinging a chainsaw my aches and pains were beginning to tell and besides, we always need rain for the river. With my planned day cancelled I took the opportunity to visit some of the areas I have been neglecting of late. The problem with such a day is that I always end up adding to an already lengthy job list as I find tasks in need of urgent attention.

Besides finding depressing volumes of work, it also allows me to see how some of our earlier activities have fared. It is at this time of year that the growth in the lakeside meadows and woods, that we manage in the interest of wildlife, begin to burst into life to greet the warm Spring days ahead. The winter grazing stock had been removed three or four weeks ago, so I should now be able to assess how successful our regime had been. Deciding when to take the cattle out is always a tricky call. It has to be at the point they have eaten back most of the course vegetation and broken the ground up sufficiently to allow new flowers and herbs to get a foothold and become established.

In the photos above rosettes of teasel, thistle with dog violet hiding among the cranesbill and vetch plus a pleasingly increasing number of cowslip. These all look splendid, along with, docks, ragwort, ox eye daisy and the dozens of other plants about to fill the meadows with the foliage, pollen and nectar our invertebrates require to survive.


Wet grassland Badger disturbance Rabbit and mole activity

Along with the cattle and ponies, Nature has its own way of breaking up the ground to allow the dormant seed bank to germinate. We take the stock off just as the wet meadows break up, allowing the soil to dry in the coming weeks, to encourage new plant growth as opposed to matted grassland. Other areas we encourage the grassland to remain thick and uneaten, protected by layers of brambles we carefully left when topping in the Autumn. This of course is all dependent on not having to endure a further baking hot Summer such as we have experienced in the last year or two. Summers that have baked the ground like concrete and burnt off all the young and shallow rooted wild flowers and plants. Nature's way of disturbing the soil and providing seed beds is also shown above. The middle shot is the result of our local badgers, rooting out worms and the last shot, mole hills and signs of our rabbit population. On the formal lawns and parks surrounding the main house, I hate to see the wretched mole hills blighting the landscape. Out on the lake complex meadows they are welcome, playing their vital role.


Germinating seeds Rabbit scrape seedbed

Germinating seeds in the soil disturbed by our stock, badgers, moles and rabbits.


Bumblebee on willow catkins Gorse in bloom The first of the blackthorn flowers

The pollinators are already in action, with numerous hoverflies, solitary bees and bumbles busy on the willow, gorse and early blackthorn flowers.


Springtime solitary bee Solitary bees.

Springtime solitary bees, probably Clarkes Mining bee and one I have yet to identify, were active along with several butterflies, Red Admiral, Peacock and Brimstone, in the brief spells of sunshine this morning.

22nd March


Turfer in action

Due to the time lost to the Winter floods, perhaps a week or two later that I would have wished, I have at last completed this seasons major tree work. This week the regrown willow surrounding the Ellingham Oxbow and several of the windblown snags in the lakes have finally been removed. I still have one or two bits and bobs to sort out but thankfully the bulk of the work is behind us. The photo shows the removal of a fallen willow with a turfer winch. With the ground remaining too wet to get the tractors close enough to the tree work I had to resort to the Turfer today. It may be a slow process but the Turfer is as reliable way to remove large snags, as long as you can find a suitably solid anchor and have enough energy to crank the handle.

21st March



Ghost carp

Hooray! At long last Roger has got her. One of at least four ghosts that are in the lake, this one had been ignoring all attempts to get her for weeks; this season and last. No idea how they got in the lake, they've been in here for years, probably as long as that bloody terrapin that Karl landed the other day, its first capture of the season! What I can say for certain about Roger's carp is that she weighed twenty two pounds and is most definitely yellow. Well fished Roger, perseverance rewarded.

As for my three hours tench fishing, the highlight of the session was Roger's tame ducks turning up to add a element of interest. They joined me under the umbrella and ate any bait they could get hold of. I don't know where they came from either, they certainly don't give the appearance of wild Mallard when they're standing in your groundbait bowl and refusing to get out. I think Roger has been training them during some of the quieter sessions recently. They won't be so welcome next Summer when they have a brood of a dozen ducklings and have learnt what floaters are!

18th March



Ruddy Shelduck

I still have several reports of the river season to include, when I find time. Until then please accept this shot of our daft duck, that thinks its a goose, as a time filler. This is actually the Ruddy Shelduck that has paired with an Egyptian Goose. Neither species indigenous, or I suppose desirable, yet their presence certainly adds a splash of colour to the Park.

The river is of course remains open for salmon fishing a continues to look very fishable with good flow and colour. With a Spring tide mid week, at the time of the New Moon, the latter half of the week will hopefully see a salmon or two in the system. The stillwaters are now showing increasing signs of Spring, with the carp appearing on the surface with tench and bream increasingly caught by the carp guys.


Carp on the fly

A fish on a net shot, as caught today by John Slader on the fly. Well fished John, that's yet again a quite remarkable result.

16th March



Fine perch

A further fine catch at the end of the season was landed by Martin Pollok, simply feeder fishing a likely looking slack. If I remember correctly there were three, two pound plus perch, similar to the 2.09 in the photo above. I believe Martin also landed bream to six and a half, plus several chub and a lump of a dace. If it wasn't Martin who landed the chub and dace it must have been Steve Mays his fishing companion. Martin did say that whilst he was delighted with the perch he wasn't targeting them, he does however intend to have a serious look for them next season. Thanks for sending through the photo, great end of season mixed bag.

15th March


Following up on yesterday's look back at the season with Terry's wonderful pike catches, I recently spoke to Mark Woodage about his season. Mark has kindly dropped me a few words and a couple of stunning shots that captured his season. Showing the rewards that can be achieved if you just stick with it.

In Mark's own words.

"I won't forget Autumn 2022 in a hurry. It started off as a typical couple of months when early morning sees a mist following the contours of the river, the air is fresh and you know the chilly start to the day will soon be warming up as the sun breaks through. It was during one such week that I was fishing with my good friend Andy Little and between us we had a couple of swims in mind to try. Either of us could have chosen either swim, it just turned out I ended up in the right hand swim and Andy fished the left swim. Good fortune was with me when I landed a stunning fish of exactly 14lb. Apart from being overjoyed at it’s capture it was a great boost to moral as we had seen very few barbel and even started to question their existence. Not in a million years, did I expect over the next three visits to catch another 2 barbel including a fish of 16lb 14oz. The Avon can be a right bitch at times, moody and daunting, but the treasures are there, you’ve just got to find them and when you do these are not just barbel, they are Hampshire Avon barbel, without question the most majestic barbel that swim in our waterways".


Fabulous barbel

I need say no more.


I will add just one further photo that Mark sent me, capturing the perfection of an Avon late Summer session. This is what we are so keen to promote at Somerley, a happy angler, seeking wonderful fish, in perfect surroundings. Thank you so much for sending over your memories Mark, well fished and well deserved.

Perfect setting

"Waiting for the pin to burst into life"

14th March


Well, that's the coarse river fishing done for another season and what a mixed season it was, mostly due to the vargaries of the weather. We endured drought and flood, sky high water temperatures and even a cold spell this winter just past. Despite the challenges there have once more been wonderful fish and magical days of classic Hampshire Avon fishing. I will try and put together one or two results that give a flavour of this staggeringly beautiful river. I may be bias of course, due to my job requiring me to walk the banks at every opportunity I can find, it does however take an awful lot of beating.


Big pike

This is a really good photograph to illustrate my point for several reasons. Firstly a great shot of a beautiful twenty seven plus pike, now that is pretty obvious, stunning fish. A further aspect being a lovely shot of captor Terry, which is quite a rare thing. I have known Terry for years and I believe this to be the only shot of him I have, I may have more of him in the earlier years on the diary but nowhere near to capturing such a scene. There is a reason for the photo in that whilst Terry accurately weighs and mat shots his fish, he is not interested in personal appearances. Fortunately for us, on this occasion his daughter accompanied him and did the honours with the camera, which I'm sure you'll agree, she did a great job.

This also helps me to assess the state of the fishery overall as this is just one of an amazing run of big fish Terry has enjoyed this year. This is not the largest he has landed this season that title going to the twenty nine, twelve, I mentioned on here the other day. A fish in fact he had landed three times this season, each time from a different swim well over a KM apart. To add to those two, this season he has landed two other, different, twenty five pound plus fish, with numerous young hens into double figures as backup. I am certainly aware of two more twenty five pound plus hens on the fishery, possibly three, making for a remarkable density of big fish. To achieve such a healthy population of pike it requires a reliable food supply. These are not artificially reared fish in the confines of a stocked trout water, these are truly wild fish dependent on a wild, sustainable diet. It's hard to be certain what is the food source but I would think chub and dace must be high on the menu. If it is chub and dace it certainly doesn't seem to be harming their numbers, or size, as we are equally fortunate in having a superb chub and dace fishery. Whatever it is providing the protein lets hope it continues to do so. Well done and congratulations Terry, that's some season and thanks for sending through the photo.

13th March


Steve landing a chub Nice chub

On the penultimate day of the river coarse season a shot of Steve Mays landing a nice chub from the weirpool. The fishing has followed thesame pattern of the recent weather with all sorts of ups and downs. One day the fish are feeding the next they have disappeared completely. Despite the unpredictability there have been some good fish with chub to seven and barbel to almost seventeen, incredible stuff, if you can just find them.

12th March


Redshank Lapwing Pintail

WeBS,(Wetland Bird Survey) day, the last weekend of the coarse season, poachers and canoes, it all made for quite a busy Sunday. The WeBS and the fishing went well, the poachers and the canoes, hopefully don't signal an early start to the silly season. The Shots above show the marsh is still very wet, yet the Lapwing and Redshank have returned and are all noisily establishing their territories. The small area that is the most popular having thirteen pairs of Lapwing looking for space to nest pleasingly an increase of two pairs on last year. Lets hope we now have a period of benign weather and sufficient numbers to drive off predators, allowing them the time and space to successfully rear their broods.

Shoveler Shoveler

The highlight around the lakes were the two hundred plus Shoveler still with us. don't suppose they will be hear many more days as the weather seems to be a little more Spring like over the coming days. Its always difficult to count the large flocks as once disturbed they will move location and we have the problems of avoid duplication of the count. In an effort to avoid putting them up I usually end up creeping around the lake trying not to be seen.

The fishing was also ended the weekend on a high, with pike to within a few ounces of thirty, several six plus chub and one or two fine perch and bream. Conditions may not have been ideal yet the river once more produced some wonderful specimens. I'll provide a little more detail a little later in the week.

10th March



Ibsley Weirpool.

The rise in water we were all hoping for has arrived perfectly on cue. The spillway is now in full flow, hopefully encourage a further salmon or two to run up to us. Any rods wishing to find out where the water height is, don't forget the links for East Mills Flume and Knappmill, in the headers above, will tell you where the river is.

Barriers to Passage.

Interesting article, particularly re distance fish will retreat downstream to await further attempts and impact on larger fish.

I don't think cyprinid passage comes into the equation!

9th March


Mollusc sediment banks Stranded rubbish

Regular readers will know of my fascination with the vast numbers of mollusc shells that make up a large percentage of the silt banks on the inside of river bends. The recent floods have piled further huge volumes of shells on the banks, along with a frustrating volume of rubbish. This is the downside of the welcome floods that clean out the detritus and silt from our rivers.

Stranded boot Flood damage Weirpool jetsam

As the water drops in the meadows and we can once more walk the banks we get to see just what humanity has sent us during the floods. With the welcome rain my intended strimming and chainsawing was put on hold making it a perfect day to do a little more hedge laying and walking the nearby carrier to collect some of the accumulated rubbish. The first photo shows one of the dozen or so ubiquitous shoes I picked up in my litter clearing walk along 500m of carrier. The middle shot shows the bits and pieces that came off the cars that drove through the Harbridge floods that covered the road. Sump guards, numbers plates, side light units and various assorted trim, all out in the field, where we are hoping our Lapwing will be nesting in a few weeks. The third shot shows just what accumulates in just one corner of one of the weirpools. In that shot alone there are five shoes and a further one hiding in the ivy along the face of the wall. Two soccer balls, five plastic coke bottles, seven tennis balls, lots of polystyrene bits and bobs and a vanilla pod tube. There was loads more general crap, plastic coffee cups, pens, combs etc but the overriding material was plastic. Plastic that will breakdown into micro plastics to become invasive in all aspects of the environment. If this heartless government is serious about banning single use plastics an immediate ban on plastic bottles would be a serious step in the right direction. I believe Costa Rica has managed to ban them, showing it is possible.............and can the people of Salisbury please stop throwing their shoes in the river!

7th March


Provost's Hole

I was out at Provost's Hole today and no I don't know how it got its name, which appears to have moved slightly downstream. The taking spot in Provost used to be in the area of what is known as the "Aquarium", where everyone catches the mega chub. It looks as if recent erosion and gravel mobility, now has the best looking water well below the Aquarium, downstream of the willows on the far bank, almost meeting with the top of Cabbage Garden opposite. Whilst wondering about gravel mobility and changes to flow I couldn't help wonder what cocktail of chemicals was flowing by in what looked like a perfect section of the Hampshire Avon. Only yesterday I was discussing with one of the rods how standing beside the Hampshire Avon has to be one of the best places on the planet to be. I had to agree our big, magical, mysterious, wonderful river certainly takes some beating.........but for how long?

Carrying on from the comments above, I'm sure most readers will have seen Paul Whitehouse trying to make sense of the desperate situation we have gotten ourselves into with our rivers and lakes. Like Paul, I'm sure most of us are at a loss in trying to understand how this has been allowed to come about. Surely our regulators will have seen this coming and if not able to act through inadequate legislation or funding, flagged it up very publicly to raise awareness? Alas there seems to be almost an embarrassment within the realms of the regulators. There seems to be an overriding feeling of guilt that makes them reluctant to highlight their failures. Not through lack of effort on their part I hasten to say but by cynical underfunding on the part of successive governments. You can't, for political sound bites, insist from central government that local authorities build houses at an ever increasing rate if the infrastructure is not there to support them. Correcting the lack of adequate infrastructure should be the driving force of development. Where our regulators point this out and are ignored, they should be shouting it from the rooftops. Embarrass those Whitehall mandarins and sycophantic managers that hide the problems that are recognised and ignored. Embarrass those politicians that toe the party line, well knowing the consequences for our environment, yet only concerned with their own survival.

At this point I should say and I'm sure it won't come as much of a surprise to most regular readers, I was very much against the privatisation of the water companies. Once market forces and the over riding concern becomes the pursuit of profit, the environment goes out the window. Plenty of sound bites and lip service yet the top priority remains the share dividend.

To understand the scale of the problems faced by our rivers I might ask how many have read their local water companies, Water Resources Management Plan, their infiltration Plan or their Drainage and Waste Water Management Plan. If you have done so you are a better man than I, Gunga Din. To sit down, on your own and make sense of and understand the complexities of the problems faced you need several different degrees and a lifetime to read them. Before you all rush to your computers to download them, they are only part of the problem. There are a multitude of additional sources of pollution and environmental stresses to add to these. Once more, that said, you have to start somewhere so go for it.

This was the point we arrived at back in the 90's when we first set up the rivers trust at Somerley. A group of concerned rods sat in the fishing lodge and the local pub, trying to make sense of the gigantic issues confronting us. Understanding was difficult enough for the layman, tackling such issues as the Irish nets, abstraction, discharge, agri-chemicals, road drainage and a myriad others was almost impossible. The only way out of this mess is for professional, well funded monitors, with powers to fine and punish infringements. With as I've said on here before, deliberate criminal infringement taken seriously enough to warrant personal penalty, involving serious fines and most importantly penal incarceration. Lock the buggers up. When I think back to the 90's when, like headless chickens, we rushed from one meeting after the other with water companies, EA and NE trying to bring pressure to bear I can see how little we achieved. Talking shops have very little value when it comes to solving problems. The more direct approach, taken by Paul W and Feargal S, of embarrassing the buggers seems a more likely way to succeed.

When we took on the issue of the Irish Drift nets, which the then chair of the EA refused to support and advised us against trying, we had one or two advantages over that we would have as amateurs today. Firstly we had the late Brian Marshall, who was retired and had time on his hands, secondly and probably most importantly we had the WFD backed up by the European Commission for the Environment. Once we had convinced the Environment Commission of the validity of our claim, they took over the complaint and after a great deal of further work took it before the full EU Commission. Where, as we all now know, they took our side of the argument and dealt with the drift nets. We no longer have the EU to watch our backs and insist our government of the day act in the best interest of our rivers. We do have the OEP, newly formed under the Environment Act 2021, who's chair is appointed by the government, Environment Secretary to be exact, and currently appears to be looking up its own backside in an effort to clarify environmental law! The organisation, not the chair person! I'm afraid however well meaning and honourable the OEP's intentions if forced to confront its own employer bias may rear its ugly head.

That was all a little tongue in cheek, as I'm sure you appreciate, it is virtually impossible as an individual to take on board the issues and isolate the most pertinent facts and figures. Even if they are included and not tucked away, hidden behind claims of commercially sensitive information. That is what I thought we paid our regulators to do, on our and our rivers behalf. Then of course I was forgetting the regulators have, deliberately, had their funding cut to the bone and do not have the staff to independently verify the claims of the water companies. Water companies that are legally obliged to have produced the data in the first place.

I'm going to stop at this point for fear of depressing readers, who may have made it this far, beyond the point of recovery. Suffice to say there's plenty more in a similar vein with a similarly depressing outlook.

Please forgive any typo's as my HTML prog doesn't have that facility and I haven't read through it, for fear of inflicting similar despair on myself as I have just saved you readers from!


6th March



7+ chub Big chub

As we approach the end of the season the conditions are far from perfect and the fishing is currently very hard, there are however bright spots that give us all encouragement. This is a brace of chub Gavin caught yesterday, the first being a well known fish at 7.11 a similar weight when Gavin caught her last year. The 6.13 is the icing on the cake, well fished Gavin and thanks for the photos.

15+ barbel

Continuing his run of big fish Darrel managed his third different 15+ of the season Sunday evening. With the water so clear and almost devoid of weed that hour into dark seems to be when the barbel feel safe enough to move out of cover and get their heads down. With a water temperature of 5 degrees conditions were about as difficult as one could imagine making that extra element of darkness all important. Hopeefully we still may get a rise in temperature before the end of the season that will see the barbel move out from cover and get their heads down a little more confidently.

6th March



Moving the ewes Ewes on Shepherds Hill

Its that time of year when the ewes leave the Lower Park, where they have been over-wintering, and head for the lambing meadows closer to Phil's house. I always enjoy helping Phil move them and with Kevin and I bringing up the rear we ambled along behind the rotund old girls as they followed Phil up the aptly named Shepherds Hill. None of the chaos and rushing about when moving the lambs, these ladies are not to be hurried, the more gentle the walk the better for all involved.

Cleaning out the reed beds

Last week one job I was delighted to get in before the nesting season gets underway was the burning off of one of the phragmites beds. Ideally we would cover the dozen or so reed beds about the Estate on a rotational basis ever few years. This one had not been cleaned off for probably closer to twenty and a great deal of the reed had been lost to nettles and sedge. The burning sets back the nettles and reinvigorates the phragmites so with any luck the new growth will take back some lost ground and thicken the reeds for several years to come.

5th March


Odd sort of weekend, complete contrasts in several areas. The number of syndicate members out on the river on Friday must have been a record, with fifteen or sixteen cars dotted about the car parks. Come Saturday and not a car or member to be seen when I went around at about ten o'clock. Half a dozen guys after the Meadow carp failed to see a fish between them whilst John Slader, fishing on Kings-Vincents just over the bank, landed a good bag of bream and a carp for good measure. The river season now has just over a week to run, hence the number of members out on Friday I guess, and the weather is not looking like its going to do us any favours. With a rapidly dropping and clear rive,r it will be difficult to persuade the fish to take freely, requiring a low profile and a light touch to bring success.

It now looks as if the pike have spawned with several of the big hen fish, coming out in recent days several pounds lighter than when we last saw them back in the Autumn. I think 28.15 was the best we managed back then and we were hoping to see her and one or two of the others closer to spawning, when we hoped for a thirty but it wasn't to be. I can't say I was overly disappointed as we did see at least five fish over twenty five pounds, with a further two possibles, yet to be confirmed. It certainly points to there being a healthy prey predator balance if so many big old girls can survive in relatively close proximity of each other.

Whilst this cold snap will make barbel very difficult to find I'm sure we will see some specimen chub in the last few days. I haven't heard of an eight this season so if you know different, or manage to find one this week, I would very much like to hear about your success.

Finally, just to let members know I am currently putting the stillwater syndicate review and renewal together that will hopefully be sent out later this week or early next. Its been a good year on the lakes and I'll update you on one or two of the achievements that have amazed us this season. The lakes don't see the enforced break of the river members so no need to rush out and endure this wretched cold. Or is that just my old blood getting ever thinner!


2nd March


Lower Avon Springer

I was delighted that Pete Jarvis, who fishes the Lower Avon, contacted me today with news of a belter of a 21 pound Springer he landed on Tuesday. Great result, congratulation Pete and it was really good to have news of the lower river to put on the diary.

Avon kelt

Pete has also landed three or four kelt, which added to the numbers recorded throughout the beats it hopefully indicates the redds were well occupied this year. I have included this photo as it is a really good example of how bright and well mended Avon Kelt can appear. Thanks again for sending through the photos and the report Pete, it is very much appreciated.

Whilst on the subject of redds, I walked as section of one of the carriers today and spotted a massive redd on one of the gravelly sections. Hopefully a further sign of a good spawning year, to boost stock for the future.


Removing a snag from the river

We did get back to Cabbage Garden and remove the snag I found the evening before when I fished through the pool. In fact despite what appears to be Kevin heaving the snag across the river it was in fact the winch on the front of Phil's Range Rover that did all the hard graft. Unfortunately, the Range Rover made light work of getting into position across the soft ground and the pull. I say unfortunately because it means, credit where credits due, I have to stop slagging off Range Rovers as polluting, noisy, hedgehog trucks; definitely a brownie point or two earned today!

That's a vast pair of track suit bottoms appearing from the water attached to the snag just in front of Nic. Probably from Salisbury, as I also found one trainer and you know my theory about most of the population of Salisbury having one leg, judging by the number of single shoes I remove from the river. If you recognise the strides its no good trying to claim them back as the river had done its worst and they were riddled with holes.

End of play

End of play, time for home.

1st March


St David's salmon

A St David's Day salmon for David.

Hedge laying

I don't like clearing pools too late in the day as it risks rubbish disturbing the rods. I had dealt with one or two other issues about the place, giving me an hour or two to spare, which I decided to spend laying the hedge around the Fools Corner car park. After a couple of hours, brooding about a lost fish yesterday and with my hands suffering from a new assortment of hawthorn and bramble thorns, I was quite relieved when the mobile rang with David Windsor in need of help with a fish-on. To add to his difficulties, with a good fish in fast water, his four piece rod had snapped just below the third joint. With four or five feet of rod spooking the fish as it shot up and down the line, I was relieved to see it roll gently into the net at the first attempt.

Resting before unhooking Avon Springer Ready for release

With the fish safely in the net David is resting it for ten minutes before removing the single barbless that could be seen sitting perfectly in the scissors. On the far bank another sixteen pounder being returned. In Terry's case it was a sixteen pound pike making for an unusual brace from the pool. Well fished Terry, it makes a good photo. Another shot of a delighted David with his perfect Avon Springer. Finally, after a further ten minutes, almost ready for the release. Congratulations David, a great result under the most testing of circumstances. Personally, I think I might be having a conversation with the rod manufacturer seeing that break.

Sundown at Cabbage Garden

Enthused with David's success I stuck the rod on the truck roof and headed for the river for an hour before sunset. It also allowed me to have a look at a couple of pools with regard to what work was required. I fished through Hoodies and Cabbage Garden, without disturbing any lurking Springers but as I suspected, there are several issues that require a little attention to improve the way they fish. Hopefully I will get them sorted out this week to make life easier. I was fishing a wetcel two with a ten foot fast sink tip, the tip I could well have done without as I was dragging bottom in the shallow pools. I was also quite surprised to see that after a month into the season there was not a footprint in the soft mud beside either pool. Don't forget them, they are two excellent pools and usually produce a fish or two each season.

28th February


Somerley Fishery map

As an aid to some of our new rods, a plan of the fishery with some of the pool names included. The pool name is included on the bank from which it is fished. I will include this map on the salmon syndicate page of the diary when I get a minute.

25th February



Reed Warbler juveniles

Reed Warbler juveniles. Below is a link that will download Brenda's full Mockbeggar Report for 2022.


Brenda's Mockbeggar Report 2022

Year on year Brenda's data on the Reed Warblers at Mockbeggar becomes more and more interlinked. Ringed at Mockbeggar, to be recovered and recorded in increasing numbers, not only locally but in Europe and even Africa as they migrate. It's all too easy, for us who live and work close to the fishery world, to forget that it is not only our salmon and eels that have incredibly involved and distant migrations. Late Summer, every year, the young that Brenda has ringed, that hide in the reed beds and look as if they would struggle to fly across the lake, begin an astonishing journey of thousands of KMs down through Europe to West Africa. Just like our salmon returning to their natal gravel to spawn, Brenda's work has conclusively proven our Mockbeggar Warblers return to their natal reed beds on their return in the Spring.

22nd February


Common Carp Big Mirror

So as not to be accused of ignoring the lakes, a couple of recent captures for you all to enjoy. The first a good Common to Andy, one of several he has managed during recent day sessions. The second, one of the "Old Girls" that Steve was pleased to see after the recent cold spell. Weighing in an ounce under forty, Steve wasn't that disappointed being delighted to see her whatever she pulled the scales down to. Well fished to both captors and thanks for the photos to inspire us.

21st February



Ashley Straight

Don't forget the Ashley Straight when your next down the bottom end of the Estate. The straight is an early season piece of water, before the weed gets up and makes it unfishable, so make the most of it whilst you can.

Barbel Big barbel

Darrel enjoyed a few hours after work for the first time this year and was rewarded with the lovely brace above. Barbel are proving elusive at the moment due to the clear water making Darrel's result is even more impressive.

Big chub Perch

The chub have been feeding well, making up for the reluctance of the barbel to feed. John with his best of the day at 7.03 plus a cracking bonus perch. Wonderful fish and wonderful fishing, the Avon magic of yesterday's entry. Thanks to Darrel and John for sending through the photos.

20th February


The Breakthrough Pool Below the Breakthrough Ashley Pool Wildfowl

Four photos that capture the magic of the Hampshire Avon. The first is the view upstream into the Breakthrough Pool, taken from the point where the scrubby willow has been scoured out during the recent flood. A pool that has a list of specimen fish to die for; thirty pound pike, eighteen pound barbel, eight pound chub, double figure bream and even the odd roach and perch. The second shot is the tail of the "Breakthrough" oddly enough known as "Below the Breakthrough" This is a classic salmon lie where big twenty pound fish are regularly taken. Immediately down stream, the third shot is the run into "Ashley Pool" under the powerline, a lie that has great history of large salmon. Before in the fourth shot the pool itself, home of chub to a massive nine pounds, plus huge pike. It is the diversity of the Avon that is its magic, being able to provide anglers from different disciplines the chance of the fish of a lifetime.

Coppice Chestnut posts

The chance of a day coppicing a few hazel stools and one or two long overstood sweet chestnut. The reason I was keen to get a day coppicing was to provide me with three or four dozen stakes and bindings for layering the hedge around the Fools Corner car park. Hopefully I can get this done befor ethe end of the month and the birds nesting gets underway. The old naturally seasoned chestnut also provides one or two good strainers and the odd gate post as a bonus.

19th February


Well mended kelt

Don't get excited! It's a well mended kelt that made the blood pump and the heart thump a little quicker for one rod today. Please be aware there are still one or two in the system that are out there just to test you. They will all be hens and usually of a decent size, probably 2SW fish when they came in. This particular fish would have been high teens a year ago, lets hope we see her again next year.

Lapwing Ruddy Shelduck Wildfowl

WeBS day, which turned out to be a little disappointing. With such perfect conditions in the valley for waders I was hoping to see the Godwits, Snipe and Sandpipers well represented. Apart from Lapwing that are present in higher numbers than they have been for years, not one of the hoped for waders was recorded. The first photo shows some of the Lapwing as they left on mass to avoid the attention of a Peregrine that put in an appearance. Wildfowl numbers remain reasonably high especially on the quieter wooded lakes and larger bodies of water. There were one or two oddities recorded, one being the local Black Swan, the long staying Ruddy Shelduck that thinks its an Egyptian Goose was also picked up on the count.

Egret roost

Some of the pre-roost gathering of egrets out on one of the islands.

14th February


Ringwood Weir

Ringwood weir is now clipped up for any members wishing to intercept a running fish.

The East Mill Flume website is currently showing water height of 1.17. meaning spinning if no longer an option.

12th February



Atlantic salmon Sealice

David's and our second of the season with a sparkling fresh sixteen or seventeen pound Springer. Great result David congratulations. The second shot shows how quickly it had reached us with sealice, that have lost their tails, still attached. They lose their tails after twenty four hours and drop off after forty eight. Another fresh fish was moved by one of the other rods out today, so there are fish in the system.

Resting in the net.

A short video showing David's latest fish resting in the net after landing.

Hemlock Water Dropwort Tree strainer Juvenile bream

Despite what the East Mills flume is showing the water in the main channel is now dropping back quite quickly with us, so keep an eye on the levels as spinning will soon be called off. Not that we need it if David's efforts are anything to go by!

The first shot shows Hemlock Water Dropwort that has had the roots exposed by recent erosion. Also known as Horse Bane, or Dead Mans Fingers, with good cause as livestock, or humans, eating the swollen roots will most definitely dropdead, so don't mess about with it! You've heard of tea strainers, well, the gates at Ibsley make pretty efficient tree strainers. Unfortunately the water height and pressure still make clearing the gates a no go. Its a bit of a double edge sword as I want lower water, to get on with the much delayed work, but high water to keep the salmon running.

The final shot shows a Juvenile bream that has been swept out of the channel. I have mentioned on here before that skimmers are the first fish we see washed out of the channel. Their deep body makes them susceptible to the pressure of the high flows. The reason why we associate bream with still and slow moving waters not rivers such as the Hampshire Avon.

Ewes in the valley

To finish, a shot of the ewes as they left there overnight shelter, as the sun rose over a frosty valley on Friday morning.

11th February


Old Harry Rocks

As is my wont on occasions, today I spent a very pleasant few hours bobbing about in a boat, bothering strap conger out in Poole Bay. Whilst out there I couldn't completely forget about work as I wondered if any of our salmon, that at this time of year should be heading back to their natal home in the Avon, were passing beneath the boat. Alas, that is just one of a great long list of imponderables we face in the world of fisheries.

One of the other great unknowns that you can't help but to notice out there are the number of gill nets strung out for miles across the entire bay. We weren't out far, certainly less than ten miles, and it was almost impossible to drift due to the number of nets. An invisible curtain stretching for miles. Do the salmon run at the height these nets are set? Do gill-netters catch salmon on a regular basis? Certainly the rod fishing for sea species has declined dramatically over recent decades. Bearing in mind, where possible, many pleasure anglers now return most of their catch voluntarily and there are laws that ensure species under threat from over exploitation, such as bass, do not suffer at the hands of pleasure anglers. Perhaps larger marine protection areas, with complete netting and trawling bans, combined with more enforcement of the existing regulations might be a good idea as stock levels continue to decline.

10th February


Pile Pool coming into view Getting closer Getting closer

The first glimpse of Pile Pool on breasting the conveyor bridge. With anticipation building as the start gets closer, there just has to be a leviathan laying halfway down the run.

Milleed oak

Kingsley's been busy again milling some of our locally grown oak. I would love to create a piece of bespoke furniture from such a lovely board of local timber. Unfortunately it requires a great deal more time than I have to do the job justice but it doesn't stop me dreaming.

9th February


Bickton Hatches Hatch gates

Now there's an odd thing? The other day, at the height of the flood water, I received a phone call asking if I had the hatches at Ibsley open on flood settings as the caller was getting flooded at Fordingbridge. I have to admit to being a little surprised to be asked such a question when considering that Ibsley is at least five thousand meters downstream of Fordingbridge town centre. Added to which there is an extremely large set of hatches between Ibsley and Fordingbridge! Given the average gradient of the Avon is about 1:1000, I would have had to have a head of water at over five meters at Ibsley to overwhelm and impound the intervening hatches and impact on the town.

Having suggested to my caller that it was far more likely that the intervening gates were responsible for any problems they were experiencing, I thought very little more about the strange request. Until that was I had occasion to be passing Bickton a few days later and curiosity got the better of me. I thought I would drop in and have a look at the hatch settings from the public footpath that crosses the hatches. I have long had a thing about certain hatch settings on the Avon and these gates are high on my list as requiring a rethink in their management. My gripe is that during the Summer and at times of low flows they are a barrier to passage of fish. The EA will tell you there is a fish pass and they use that. Quite so, when desperate salmon will run through what ever is available, as long as it covers their tail, or even on their side. It doesn't mean however they are not stressed at having to wait for either desperation to force them up the fish pass, or die through being held at an unsuitable location exposed to the pathogens that enter the river. I was once tipped off that as many as twenty salmon could be seen laying against the concrete apron of those gates. I did on that occasion pop along and have a look for myself and whilst I couldn't see twenty there were at least have a dozen fish laying there. Many showing the unmistakable signs of fungal infected skin damage through abrasion. As for cyprinid migration it is a non event through that barrier, so you can see why its a definite blackspot for the Avon as far as I am concerned.

Back to Fordingbridge's problems and the settings on the gates. As can be seen in the first photograph one of the three large hatch gates was fully open. What was surprising was the fact the other two remained banged tight shut. I seem to be missing something here, bearing in mind we were at the time at the height of an above normal winter flood. When those gates were designed, no doubt a very clever engineer built in a control that could deal with the Avon at times of peak flow. He wouldn't have built two extra gates just for the fun of it, the guys who designed and constructed the heavily modified Avon Valley flood plain seemed to have an amazing grasp of the complexities of the Avon's behaviour.

So there perhaps is the question my caller should be asking. Why keep all that extra water impounded above those gates when the capability to get rid of a great deal of it exists? At the same time he might like to ask why the EA allow such a massive barrier to passage of species within the Avon SSSI/SPA/Ramsar/UTCA.

8th February


Pre-roost gathering

Whether its the cold or the floods the egret are still with us, where in previous years numbers are usually decreasing by now. The photo is a pre-roost gathering showing about half the thirty Little Egret that are currently with us. The seven Great Egret that came in this evening went straight to roost without joining their smaller relatives.

7th February


The first salmon of the season Fresh Avon Springer

Congratulations to David Lambert on landing our first of the new season. I'm not sure if its the first off the river, I dare say I will hear in the next day or two.

The fly responsible

The fly responsible, classic Avon colours, barbless, straight eyed circle. David also had the fish he landed last season on the same set-up.

The mobile chirped into life and there on the display was David's name. At this time of year there is a new excitement when the phone rings, especially when the name displayed is one I associate with a good chance of a FISH ON. Sure enough, a breathless David announced he was into a fish. I was down at the lakes at Blashford, a mile or so downstream, fortunately I was next to the truck and I was under way like a shot. With such high water fish were likely to give a good account of themselves so I felt I would be in time to help land the fish, despite that I was making good time through the Estate. I arrived at the car park and could see David out beside the pool still firmly attached to a fish, which thankfully was showing no sign of giving up the fight. Crossing the intervening flooded meadows at a gallop proved testing but within five minutes of getting the call I was on site. David said the fish had initially sulked under the bank reluctant to run, almost convincing him he had a large pike on. By the time I arrived it had woken up and was making the most of the powerful flow on the outside of the bend, hanging in the flow and proving difficult to shift. A nerve racking further five minutes followed as the fish made several strong runs across the flow and moved steadily upstream. With very little in the way of a decent landing site I was dreading knocking the thing off as it finally rolled in front of us offering a chance to do the honours. Thankfully Lady Luck smiled and a bright fifteen pound Springer sank safely into the folds of the waiting net. Job done, congratulations David, well fished, especially in such difficult conditions.

A classic Avon fish, fresh into the river. The barbless hook falling out in the net as soon as the pressure was relaxed. David had two fish last season on the same single hook set up, so it does have considerable merit for fish safe handling. It did have a graze across both flanks just in front of the dorsal fin that may have resulted from a net, or possibly a run in with a seal or dolphin. Fortunately the scale loss didn't look serious and it certainly didn't detract from such a wonderful fish. I think David was the only salmon rod on the fishery today but I expect his success will create a little excitement and hopefully a little more rod effort.


6th February


Peacock butterfly

Some one else who can't wait for the warmer weather. Soaking up what Wintery sunshine it could find on the gravel track around the lakes.

4th February


Ancient willow

I have been searching my photo archive for a shot of this willow I had taken a couple of decades ago. When I took the original shot the gnarled trunk was almost vertical with two skeletal branches hanging on, some six or eight feet off the ground. In the intervening decades the trunk has bent through almost one hundred and eighty degrees to bring the branches into contact with the ground where they have successfully rooted. These ancient water meadow willows display an amazing tenacity for survival and I'll certainly aid this specimen to achieve its goal by whatever means I can.

The reason I was out on the meadows was that at long last the water is draining away and we are once more able to reach most areas without donning waders. Some areas remain tricky but we are most definitely heading in the right direction.

The Blashford new carrier The bed beginning to clean up

The reason for my visit to that particular area of the meadows was to see how the newly cleaned out carrier had fared whilst impounded throughout the period of the flood. It's counter intuitive to think of carriers being impounded during a flood. However, when the main channel rises the water in the carrier is unable to discharge into the higher water level of the river, forcing it to back up into the carrier. Whilst this creates an undesirable silt drop in the carrier the benefit is that it provides areas of low flows that act as sanctuaries for the juveniles of both carrier and main channel that can retreat into them.

As can be seen in the photos the top four or five hundred meters of the carrier is now back between the banks. The very top end where sufficient velocity is established once more the bed is cleaning up a treat. The marginal weed is also safely established, providing extra areas of cover for the juveniles. As the velocity of the carrier increases, as the water level in the main channel drops, the cleansing flow will provide a short window where we can chase any accumulated silt off the bed.

Middle 30 common

Woody with a lump of a mid 30 common, proving there are one or two fish still awake! There was an element of "Meadow Lake Karma" about this capture, which I'm sure Dave Watkins, who shared the swim with Woody, will tell you about when you next see him. Well fished Woody, thanks for the pix.

1st February


Sparctic Trout

We're off! Not quite what we were expecting, to say the least.

Great to see rods braving the elements in search of the first of the season. Most agreed the river itself was in cracking condition even if getting to it was a little problematic. The fish above was caught by Rob Smythe, who had the first salmon off the river last season. This one is another first for us, not the salmon we were hoping for but a six pound Sparctic Trout. A lovely looking fish but not one we wish to see in the river, especially over the salmon redds were this one came from. They are a hybrid between a Brook Trout and an Artic Char, bred for the stillwater fishery world. A great looking fish that is obviously in good condition, hopefully not through gorging on our Avon juveniles. This one gave a good account of itself on Rob's light fly gear. Held in his net whilst we determined its fate, which was to be removed from the river.

The EA are keen to get details of any captures, with the body if you haven't eaten it! Any photos, details of length, weight and place of capture, plus any physical remains; head, gut and a scale sample if possible. If in any doubt hold it in the net, give me a call and I'll appear. Don't guess, I'll be less than impressed if you've whacked a salmon or native trout!

This is a re-run of the rainbow saga that we suffered for decades. Floods overwhelm fishery bunds and the contained fish make a break for it. No one is happy about it as it amounts to a considerable loss for the stillwater owner and we don't want them eating our stock. The EA do their best to resolve the problem, which will hopefully be sorted out quicker that the rainbow escapes that were never totally dealt with. In reality the numbers involved are nothing like we suffered with the commercially reared rainbow. Hopefully this will be the first and last Sparctic trout we see.

31st January


The Lodge Park Pool

A day to go before the salmon season swings into action and a look at the water height this morning as I came in alongside the river. Its all very much a river for the brave and careful. Whilst the water is dropping, as can be seen Dog Kennel and Park Pool remain extremely challenging. On a brighter note the water clarity is amazing with the bed visible in eight to ten feet of water ensuring your fly or spinner will be seen by any fish that await us. The volume of water also has the advantage that fish will not be held up down at the bottom of the river ensuring fish in the system will reach us without any barriers to passage. As an extra straw to clutch at, in 2016, when we faced similarly high water, Colin landed a sparkling twenty plus fish on the opening day. Tightlines and I hope to see you on the bank in the coming weeks.

Ibsley Pool Lapwing on the receding flood water Hucklesbrook North

A few more shots of current conditions. The first of Ibsley Pool, always a favourite for an early fish and dropping to a very fishable height. The middle shot shows several hundred Lapwing sat out in the meadows at Ibsley were the water is dropping sufficiently for them to wade. On the right a shot of Hucklesbrook North Marsh, where it will be somewhile before it is accessible to either fishermen or birds.

Dead Barn Owl

The sad end to one of our Barn Owls, beside the track today, spotted by Nic on his rounds to feed the sheep. Its looks as if it became the hunted as opposed to the hunter. Several of local bird population might be the culprit. The ride where it was found is a favourite route for a pair of Gos that could have made short work of a Barn Owl. Having said that when the food is in short supply, as it is at the moment, Buzzards and even a tawny wouldn't be above suspicion. The flood has forced the Barn owls that usually hunt the valley reed beds and areas of rough grass up onto the higher ground where larger, more aggressive raptors and owls have their territories. Hunger is also making them hunt in daylight where they are more likely to meet such predators. All in all these floods are bad news for our valley owls. Thanks for the photo Nic, a great illustration of the delicate balance of Nature.

30th January


Coppicing Snowdrops

A day out to do a little coppicing in one of the woods that has not been cut for over a hundred years. One of my favourite tasks in that its easy to get absorbed in the cutting and clearing, where the phone is inaudible over the sound of the chainsaw. The hazel stools are covered with as much brash as can be found in an effort to keep the deer off the new growth. It used to be relatively easy to keep them at bay when it was just roe deer, nowadays of course we have fallow to contend with. Fallow can graze over five feet meaning the brash piles take considerably more effort to construct. The gate posts, cut from the over stood chestnut, produce a satisfying end product from this long ignored woodland.

The snowdrops grow in our front garden and welcome us home with their brave defiance of this grey Winter weather.

28th January



needs must

There comes a point where you've just got to get out, come hell or high water!

You can see from the weed festooned bottom strand of the barbed wire fence that the water is dropping back, thankfully!

27th January



Black Swan

Two of the weird and wonderful that can now be found in the valley.

Meadow and Kings-Vincents have thawed out, allowing the brave to try their luck. The river remains out in the flood plain only for the adventerous. I'm sure that the odd fish will oblige. Personally I think a few days of milder weather, to lift the water temperature, is required before I brave the elements.

Holm Oak down

Bugger!

24th January 2023



Roach

A fish on a net, which I don't usually put up, however on this occasion I am prepared to make an exception for such a fin perfect roach. Not the largest roach in the world at 1.10 but surely one of the prettiest of our fish species. Thanks to Darrel Hughes for cheering me up by sending it through. Caught over the weekend, with ice in the margins, a real winter jewel to warm the old cockles and give us all hope for the future. Thanks for sending it over Darrel, fish of the year as far as I'm concerned, well fished.

23rd January 2023



Poole Harbour

A day away yesterday saw me bobbing about out in Poole Bay. After the last seven of our consecutive boat trips have been cancelled, due to adverse weather, it was good to get out to chase the whiting about.

Kings-Vincents frozen over Frozen Meadow Lake Mockbeggar iced over

With the valley remaining underwater it has been only the stillwaters that have provided fishing of any sense. Unfortunately the weather has conspired to put an end to that last option. The first pic is Kings-Vincents, middle is Meadow Lake and finally Mockbeggar all iced over and looking decidedly unwelcoming.

Roe deer

One impact of the flooding out in the valley is that the animals usually to be found out there have had to up-sticks and head for higher ground. Several roe families that live out there have moved up to the lakes and surrounding gravel plateau. Birds, small mammals and invertebrates have also arrived around the lakes to seek sanctuary. The Lapwing seem particularly badly effected with the valley unavailable for feeding the higher ground is now frozen solid. Small groups of Lapwing can be seen hunched up, sitting about on exposed banks and bars. The drop in water levels and a return to milder conditions can't come soon enough for them.

19th January 2023


Flooded car park

Ellingham car park remains unusable.

Ellingham Pool.

A short video showing the high water flowing out of the channel onto the flood plain. It shows the natural meandering course of the river, with the turbulent water on the outside of the bend, where erosion is at its greatest. It clearly illustrates the forces that rid the channel of accumulated detritus and silt.

The process of ridding the channel of silt also brings a welcome layer of nutrients to the surrounding hay meadows. The prolonged flood is now supported by the groundwater from the chalk aquifer that ensures the water is now running clear with the river bed visible down to six or seven feet without the aid of polarized glasses. This may well be the saving grace of the early salmon season if we face continued deep water and are forced to wade to the pools. With such water clarity at least the salmon will be able to see the passing fly without any problem. I have yet to hear if we have a high water derogation in place to allow spinning above an agreed height this season. I'll contact the EA and see if is to be sorted in time for the off.

18th January 2023



Frosty morning Common Snipe

A very cold night has given the flooded valley a second frosty start this week. It all looks very picturesque although just adding to the problems of the valley residents. With the majority of the flood plain with two feet of water covering it the few shallower areas dotted about the edges are proving attractive to the few waders that remain with us. One or two Snipe remain as do a handful of Lapwing, the latter will soon be looking to establish their nesting territories. High water has given the Lapwing problems in previous years where they are forced to use sites that would not normally be considered.

There is a further problem looming on the horizon in that the salmon season is set for the off on the 1st February. Whilst the high water will ensure a good freshwater signal is reaching far out into Poole Bay, there is also plenty of water to allow the fish to enter the sytem without any passaage problems. The snag is for the rods to safely reach the pools if the ground water flow prolongs the duration of the flood.

Winter carping

It just goes to prove you've got to be in it to win it. Despite ice in the margins Karl enjoyed a short session that produced half a dozen carp to fifteen pounds. I have to say that when I drove around at lunchtime I thought Karl was on a hiding to nothing. Well fished Karl and thanks for the photos.

17th January 2023


North Ellingham

The water briefly flowed over Ellingham Drive yesterday, thankfully it has dropped back an inch or two overnight. That white square is a peg number that sits on top of a four feet tall hazel stake. Hopefully the guns remember their wellies!

14th January 2023


Avon Valley flood.

Showing the current extent of the flooding as the river continues to rise. The video, taken by Lord N, up over the House starts by looking south toward Lifelands and Blashford. Moving north Meadow Lake can be clearly picked out as can the inundated water meadows at Ellingham. Over the drive at Ellingham, with Phil's fat ewes in the Park, with Blashford Lakes in the background, Mockbeggar is just visible beyond Ibsley Water. On up the valley with Harbridge and Ibsley Meadows before finishing away to the north at Hucklesbrook. I would estimate the average width of the flooding across the valley is four to five hundred meters. With an average depth, over the meadows out of the channels, of just over welly height. With such a depth the waders are unable to feed and many of the ducks unable to reach their grazing. As the water drops hopefully the bird life will reappear to feed on the emerging grass and soft mud.

Trailer repairs

At least all the rain last week gave us the opportunity to give the ancient Warwick trailer a little TLC. Clamped together and welded up, dried out and given a coat of anti-rust paint and fitted with a new deck, it'll be good for another decade.

Ringwood gates.

I'm delighted to say they're not my problem! Its good to see some one else has their hatches full of junk that will have to wait a drop in water levels before they can be cleared.

11th January 2023


Looking upstream Avon Valley flood

The view of the valley from the House, taken as today's torrential rain adds to the flow. I'm afraid it will be several weeks before we get to the banks again without waders. Thanks to Lord N or sending through the shots.

Mark with another Jack Good common carp

Mark with another Jack, in one of his great selfies. Karl with a lovely looking mid-twenty from King's-Vincent's, one of three he managed today. Thanks to Mark and Karl for the reports, I very much appreciate them to keep me in touch with goings-on.

8th January 2023


Flooded road Hazel catkins

The overnight rain has seen the water rise over the road between Ibsley Bridge and Harbridge, with the height gauge on the bridge now reading 21.80m. For a little colour in these grey times, the first of the hazel catkins are now showing bravely in the uncut hedges surrounding the lakes.

7th January 2023


Sentinels Bird table Windblown willow

We are teaching the Grey Herons to act as sentinels so anglers can spot from the bridges when out in the floods. Lots of geese and ducks are also still out there making the most of the water meadows. This afternoon one of Steve's eagles came through sending panic amongst the geese that made off in the opposite direction as quickly as they could. The middle shot shows some of our resident Starling flock on the bird table. I think here are about 38 in the photo, which is about a third of our flock. Today they were joined by forty Goldfinch, forty or fifty House Sparrows, ten Green finch, twelve collared doves plus assorted Chaffinch, Wood Pigeons, Jackdaws, Blackbirds, tits and Dunnock. The final photo shows a large willow that has uprooted with the soft ground and high winds. This will require winching across the river as there's no vehicular access on that bank. First the root plate will have to be cut off and dropped back into the water-logged ground. We will have to cut the top off, as close to the river as possible. Once cut we will winch it back over the channel. Hopefully that little job will wait until the waterlevel drops, making access easier.

6th January 2023



Robins

A photo that illustrates the change of heart Anne's Robin has had towards her mate of last year. She's the larger bird on the right.


Blashford Meadows High water wonderland

Blashford Meadows showing no sign of draining, which suits the wildfowl perfectly. Shallow enough to feed safely, without fear of disturbance or predators. There are two Great White Egret and the Pink-footed Goose that has been with us for several weeks. The second photo shows one of the Egrets just landing, the other flying towards the dead tree with the Grey Heron and Cormorant already in residence.

Scattered scaled common

Karl with a lovely fifteen pound, scattered scaled, next generation common. Thanks for the photo Karl well fished.

4th January 2023



Winter Hellebore

It may have been beaten to the first of the year in the garden by the dafs but the Winter Hellebore is now putting on a brave show.


Below Blashford Island.

I had to wade out to secure a bridge that was threatening to break its fixings. I should add that I do not recommend wading about in the flooded meadows as they are flowing deceptively quickly. There are also numerous channels and ditches that are now submerged and hidden that have the potential to catch you out if you are unaware of their position.


Escaping the flood Clearing flood water Beetles escaping the flood

The scaffold poles securing the bridge were covered in beetles of all shades and colours escaping the flood and the attention of the flocks of gulls. There were at least twenty species on the one pole, how many species were clinging to the emergent dead vegetation is any ones guess. What impact this has on the invertebrate populations of the meadows is an unknown. Just how long the various species take to re-establish their numbers is possibly a link to the success of failure of next years wader chicks that depend on the invertebrates for their survival.

The flood waters have over-spilled the channel and now occupy the entire flood plain, relieving the pressure on the perched channels, gates and hatches. The increase in water height will slow now the flood plain is behaving as nature intended. The shot of the knee deep flood illustrates the clarity of the flood water is improving as the volume of water flushes the silt and detritus from the channel. This natural nutrient supply to the meadows flushes the undesirable nutrients and silt from the channel, settling on the flooded meadows, hopefully ensuring improved water quality for the salmon ova that will be developing in the recently cut redds. Always assuming Wessex Water doesn't fill the channel with untreated sewage as soon as the diluting waters subside. Sewage, road drains, town and industrial site storm drains that will coat the eggs with organic silt and suffocate them. Also assuming the chemical cocktail discharged along with the sewage and leaching in from the surrounding agricultural land doesn't poison them first.

3rd January 2023



Ibsley gauge

I could put up a shot of another flooded field but I'm sure you'll see plenty of them over the next few days. This is the water height gauge at Ibsley Bridge showing 21.75, a small rise on yesterday and its still rising. It still has a long way to go if we are to see levels of previous years when the Harbridge road, which is currently dry, was impassible for six weeks. To reach those record levels we need a further 300ml rise. I hope we don't see a repeat of these super high levels this year as it will certainly make the start of the salmon season difficult and for a poor end to the river coarse.

Dark honey

A pot of honey I have just microwaved and given a good stir, in order to get rid of the crystallisation. Simply because I don't like crystallised honey. I extracted this pound in the region of thirty years ago and whilst it may look a little bubbly with suspended bits and bobs of wax and legs but in those early years filtering usually involve muslin more akin to my old socks. I am now getting down to my last half dozen jars from that particular vintage. I'm not sure I can swear it was a vintage year, I can however confirm it was mainly from the bramble flow with oddly enough some honey dew from the hundreds of limes that line the A338 close to where I had my apiary. Had, being the operative word as last year I gave my remaining colonies away as after thirty years I came to the conclusion beekeeping probably wasn't for me! Not that I didn't enjoy their company when I kept them. I had avoided the disease and pestilence that is associated with keeping them, neither of the foul broods and pleasingly I had managed to keep the dreaded varroa at bay. Other problems did crop up of course, such as the local woodpeckers and wretched wood mice, despite keeping them in WBC hives. Whilst I had a maximum of five hives going through them every nine days throughout the Summer was often very difficult. Fortunately during the early years I had managed to stash several hundred pound jars at the back of the garage. Hence the jar in the photo. I had the strategy of leaving the honey on the colonies each winter, unless I required some for our personal use, I never sold any, it avoided the need to put syrup on them as winter approached, or candy in the Spring so things did tick along nicely. It also did away with the necessity of extracting heather honey, which I find rank and unpleasant, often leaving four or five lifts on a colony.

The problem started to arise when the hives became old and fragile. I had been replacing odd lifts and chambers over the years, that had been battered by the woodpeckers etc but time began to tell on the bulk of my frames. Lifting them out to go through them became a dice with death as lugs cracked off and the extremely fed up residents became airborne looking for the invading culprit. It usually happened when I had forgotten my veil and gauntlets and thought as the weather was fair they wouldn't mind me having a quick look through them, wrong!

I did have one or two other tales that were down to them. One that sticks in in my mind came about when a group of travellers set up across the road in a nearby field. The children of the group, being adventurous little darlings, decided they would raid my hives for some honey. As it happened the colony nearest the apiary gate were English Blacks and about as miserable and vicious as any bees can be. Their advantage being they make beautiful white wax for frame honey, so they were tolerated. As events developed our young adventurers decided the first hive was probably the best to raid and lifted off the lifts containing the honey, putting them to one side. They then grabbed half a dozen of the large brood frames and did a runner heading for the camp across the road. I must have arrived on the scene within half and hour and immediately spotted the agitated bees flying randomly around the apiary. I did a quick inspection of the damage and realised they had taken the brood frame that must have contained the queen. At this point the red mist descended and stamped off across the road to remonstrate with the travellers. The first lady I spoke to pointed me in the direction of the head honcho and I knocked on the door and explained my annoyance not at the loss of honey but the loss of my brood and queen. I have to admit I was now beginning to regret my hasty action as by now most of the caravans were now doors open listening to my ranting. What happened next came as quite a surprise as far from telling me to B....r Off our man called all the kids out and lined them up in front of him. He then demanded of them who had been over the road damaging this gentleman's beehives. The culprits looked pretty po-faced in the line up before one lad stood forward to admit his involvement. I was amazed. I thought good move son, honesty is always the best path. Unfortunately for his troubles this lad received a pretty serious clout behind the ear and a demand to names of the others involved. The obviously shaken youngster didn't need to name names as the other desperadoes all stood forward to receive a tongue lashing, that made me quake and an order to go with this gentleman and show him where they has stashed the frames. The oldest brave lad spoke up and said they didn't stash them but had thrown them away when the bees had set about them and beside that my honey was no good as it was full of maggots! I didn't bother explaining about brood at that point but accompanied the lads to where they had abandoned them in the nearby brambles. Whilst we headed back to the spot I asked what would have they done if the entire hive had set about them to which they quickly said they would have jumped in the nearby lake, which horrifyingly was a silt lagoon. The thought of the potential disaster doesn't bear thinking about. We reached the bramble patch and there, scattered about on the top of it, were my missing frames. Getting them was going to be tricky as the bees were still clustered around the queen and in a far from friendly mood. I thanked the lads and suggested they get off home, not before I had lectured them on the dangers of silt lagoons and offered the eldest lad a couple of quid for owning up and to ease my guilt for the clout he had received. To add further to my amazement he refused, saying quite simply that if his dad ever found out from one of the other boys he had taken the money he would kill him!

The lads departed and armed with a brood chamber and a pair of secateurs I set about retrieving my frames. Happily the queen was there and unharmed and the damage to the brood was minimal. Within half an hour I had rebuilt the hive and everything was peace and tranquillity once more. Never let it be said bee keeping can't be exciting!


1st January 2023


Ibsley bridge water height gauge Ibsley Bund

The height gauge on the bridge reading 21.70 at which point the bund over tops. This flooding is a result of upstream changes that occurred at the end of the previous century and will require further reinforcing of the bund to prevent a breach, when the ground eventually dries out.


The hatches fully open.

That's about sixty percent of the flow as there are four further gates drawing downstream. Any further rise in water level and the bund between the bridge and the hatches will overspill releaving further pressure on the gates. Make sure you put the audio on as it will give an idea of the forces involved with high water.

The valley path from Fools Corner.

The Hampshire County Council, Avon Valley Path and still people are turning up to walk it before abandoning the attempt and climbing out over our security gates!

Blashford from the footbridge.

Well under water at Blashford.


A 31 plus common

Whilst the river is extremely difficult at present there is always the chance of a fish or two from the lakes. Jason saw out the year with this fine thirty plus common. There were a couple of tench and a bream landed, just to rub salt in my wounds. With any luck the weed will die down and the tench will respond to maggot, as they have done in previous years, if I make time to look for them.

Clint and Roger were also catching over on Kings-Vincents, they had managed three carp when I walked around the lake at lunchtime. As did Simon last week, on the maggot feeder, finding the roach and perch still feeding.

31st December


Early daffodils

Ending the year as we came in with a shot of our dafs out in the front garden. Despite the recent cold snap our daffodils have seen in the New Year once again. Sorry about the photo it was taken whilst it was tipping it down. The last fourty eight hours have seen the river once more topped up and remaining well out into the meadows. I'll put up a few photographs tomorrow to give an idea of what awaits anyone thinking of braving it.

29th December


Ibsley across the floods Mistle Thrush

The water is well out in the valley with more to come, making conditions extremely difficult. The Mistle Thrush is in the Himalayan crab apple in my front garden. It's become extremely aggressive towards other thrushes, guarding its larder of mistletoe and the small apples. It won't let any blackbirds or thrushes come anywhere near, even after filling its crop it remains on guard chasing all new arrivals. I can take shots of the birds in the front garden without leaving my desk so if we continue to suffer rubbish weather you may be getting quite a few of these!

26th December


Boxing Day rainbow

I knew I should have fished for a couple of hours off Sibley's Point, there was obviously denizen hiding at the end of that rainbow.

24th December



Christmas Robin

Seasons Greetings to all readers in the form of a Christmas Robin. In actual fact its Anne's familiar, I can safely get away with that as she doesn't read my ramblings. There is also a further tale related to this bird in that since the end of the nesting season she has protected our garden from all comers. Including her mate with whom she rearer two or three broods last Summer. Since last Wednesday, the Winter Solstice on the 21st December, she has allowed the male bird to once more feed with her in the back garden. Is this a simple softening of her attitude towards her mate, who attentively fed her throughout the three broods they reared together. Or is it the first step in the reaffirmation of their partnership in readiness for the next breeding season. I believe it to be the second as not only the Robins but the Blackbirds seem more tolerant of each other and the Canada Geese have paired off over the lakes and establishing their territories out on the islands.


Finches on the feeder

The finches in the front garden seem more intent on filling their bellies than worrying about the Spring ahead.

21st December


Playing a carp The next generation

Roger playing his sixth of the day closely watched by Betsy, my charge for a day or two whilst Richard, Jade and the girls are away visiting Santa. Roger ended up with ten in his four and a half hour session including one of the next generation mirrors in a double hook-up. These young fish look in tip top condition, hopefully the coming season will see them kick on, becoming the specimens of the future. Well fished Roger, that's quite a catch from a lake that was frozen just a day or two ago.