Even in the grey of late winter there are splashes of colour supplied courtesy of Mother Nature in the form of the Scarlet Elf Cups.
I was pleased to see the livestock we have grazing Mockbeggar have managed to get out on to the islands. This will save me hours of strimming and provide a far richer flora for the butterflies in the coming summer. Its the hope of a warmer spring for the emerging butterflies this year, which is at odds with my wish to see higher flows in the river for the well being of the valley creatures. I don't suppose I will influence what we eventually receive, which ever way it goes I must take the positive view that it will benefit one or the other. I noticed the number of Shoveler at Mockbeggar is beginning to reduce as the birds begin to return to their summer haunts. Today there were less than two hundred, down over a third on the counts of three hundred plus earlier in the year. The number of Shoveler that have been present throughout the winter are of national importance, which would seem to point to us getting something right. It was good to see four pairs of Goldeneye had joined the Shoveler today, the displaying drakes always make a fine show.
The second photo shows the unringed Great white egret that has been with us since the middle of November. Usually seen on the Ellingham meadows, often with the long returning ringed bird. I did also spot a further one at Hucklesbrook but I can't be certain it wasn't one of the usual pair so I will have to settle for just the two. Goshawks, lots of croaking Raven and pleasingly, at least one and possibly two Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, spring is on its way.
I think that's the first cut of all sixty pools complete, at least they're all fishable, unless of course you know differently! I will replace the seat at the head of Blashford when we can get out on the meadows without sinking. In the meantime treat with care as we have lost a further meter of bank alonside it this winter.
This morning I had occasion to walk some of the hundreds of acres of restoration that we have on the estate and despite being bare gravel a twelve months ago many puddle seemed to be full of frogs spawn. Perhaps a less desirable re colonisation of the site was the presence of so much crassula in an equal number of wet areas. In the afternoon I was up at Cabbage garden cleaning up the last few salmon pools, which despite the cold clear conditions looked wonderful in the late light of the day.
WeBS day and we have 149 of these in this section of the valley. Twenty five pairs of which are busy re-establishing their nesting territories with swans scrapping where ever you seem to look.
"Can't get the staff" Feeling pleased with myself having managed to get the long distance pools down at Lifelands and Ashley all clipped out and ready for the off I had forgotten the pool nearest the Lodge. I made amends this morning and the couple of shots show Dog Kennel looking a lot more user friendly.
There's absolutely no doubt about what this fish is! Its the first salmon of the year off Somerley, a 3SW fish in the twenty pound class, landed by Paul Greenacre this evening. Paul rang at about ten to five to say he was into a fish, which was behaving like a big fish, very steady and repeatedly returning to its lie. Five minutes later I was heading for the river out across a very wet and splashy field that made progress extremely tough. I arrived with the fish still reluctant to leave its lie with the occasional foray into the deeper water at the far side of the pool. After ten minutes the pressure was telling with the fish now moving more freely about the pool with a couple of jumps on a very short, tight line thrown in, miraculously Paul stayed in contact. Down to the tail of the pool where she was succefully scooped up on our first attempt. As I drew her toward the bank the hooks dropped out and snagged in the rim of the net, by then too late, she was safely ours. Well done Paul, congratulations on a great fish and opening the account at Somerley.
Below is one of those fish again! If you caught this in July you would confidently believe it to be a fresh run sea trout, which it certainly looks like. The only problem, apart from being out of season, is it shouldn't be here at this time. The first big, fresh sea trout usually enter the system at the end of April or May and given reasonable flow and water height continue to run until they cut in November. Low flow summers are different and as with this year just past, the fish all end up bottled up at the bottom of the river but that's a different story. That being the case it doesn't alter the fact these early fish don't fit the pattern we might expect. I believe they are fish that entered the river last autumn to spawn during the normal cutting period and are taking their time to run back to sea. The Avon is full of invertebrates and fry right through the winter so why would any fish rush to get back to sea. Once they decide to return to the coastal feeding, just like their earlier juvenile smolt run, they silver up. So this fish probably had an easy run into the river late in the year on one of the few spates we enjoyed at the beginning of November. Its had two or three months of good feeding getting back into reasonable shape and now taking a leisurely trip back to the seaside.
At about three and a half pounds a good looking fish, for which I must thank Thom Board for the photo.
There just has to be one in there somewhere! Perfect running conditions that give the early fish the chance to reach the higher river in safety. It has to be remembered all fish that make that journey pass through every pool on the fishery, all you have to do is be at the right place at the right time, easy.
With the high water the Hucklesbrook Marshes have sprung into life with wildfowl numbers looking a great deal healthier than they have for most of this dry winter. With over 150 Wigeon, 200 Teal, 55 Pintail, over a hundred Shoveler, a 150+ Lapwing, 140 Canada Geese, Little egrets, Great white egrets, Kingfishers, Mute swans, Goosander, Tufties, Heron, Egyptian geese an Oyster catcher and all sorts of odds and ends, things were definitely looking up.
Ronnie was about to feed "Chance" when Largue and myself arrived at the Lodge today providing an ideal photo opportunity.
Here's a great shot of a delighted fisherman, with a wonderful Avon Springer to open the new season. Paul Shutler proudly holding his magnificent 22 pounder he landed from the compound down on the Royalty today. Fantastic opening day fish and it couldn't have come to a more deserving rod. Many congratulations Paul and thanks to Danny Taylor, who accompanied Paul today, for the pic. Lets hope its a fore taste of things to come in the season ahead.
Whilst we didn't manage to see such a stunning fish today up on the estate it was a enjoyable day to see the fishery buzzing with nine or ten rods out seeking the fish of a lifetime under the difficult conditions. Perhaps the greatest pleasure for me was the social activity at the Lodge as the rods met up for the day and enjoyed a leisurely lunchtime catch-up. High expectations and enthusiasm, making for a really positive vibe.
Still rising this afternoon and further rain forecast. The colour of the water is strong, milky tea, which will make fishing difficult on opening day tomorrow. I have long since learnt never to say never with regard to fishing but the next day or two will be hard work if we get the forecast rain which will maintain the height and colour. I would suggest that other than a visit to straighten the line keep the bulk of your effort for a little later in the season when conditions will be more favourable. Its very easy to become jaded through too much effort early in the year and miss out on the peak run in a month or two.
If ever there was advice that was guaranteed to put a fish on the bank on opening day, as we managed last year, that is it!
Up another six inches and still raining. If you listen carefully I think you may well hear the chanting and stamping of feet as the local salmon community frantically leap and reel their way through yet another rain dance and thankfully it looks as if it may well be working. Looking at the river this morning if I were to ask for perfect conditions for an early fish those we are currently enjoying would fit the bill perfectly. I would actually like to see the river continue to gently rise and hold its height for several weeks to allow the ground water aquifers to completely fill to safeguard our summer flows. It may possibly make the early fishing difficult but for the long-game we need the summer flows so keep on dancing!
The water height and colour at Ibsley Bridge this morning. The EA flow stations that can be found at the links below will provide a good indication of the river state for travelling anglers.
Two or three miles upstream, showing an 0.2m/8 inch rise in levels with yesterday's rain.
Down at the tidal limit showing a less distinct rise.
A mile downstream reacting in a similar fashion as the main channel.
The Dockens that enters the Avon on the Lifelands, Ashley boundary, showing the rapid flood spike of the forest streams.
The first shot shows a hazel coppice that is past its prime as a usable wooodland resource. It has value as logwood but the young five to seven year old timber, historically used by the hurdle maker, has grown out. This particular parcel of woodland is too small to be economically viable so I have always attempted to keep on top of the coppicing purely as a wildlife resource. Alas it has outgrown me and along with the increased deer population, eating out any remaining undergrowth, much of the copse is looking very sorry for itself. When we first brought the hazel back in hand twenty years ago Nightingales took up residence within a year, we found dormice and the only deer we ever spotted were the occasional roe. I haven't heard a Nightingale for ten years or more, dormice for a similar time, although I have to admit I haven't looked and we now have a dozen fallow deer stamping about in the wood most nights.
The second shot is quite interesting as it shows several aspects of the wood that can be easily overlooked. The hazel is easily cut back and the logwood salvaged, The top brash is stacked back over the stools in an effort to keep the deer off the young regrowth. In the middle distance are two oaks I planted fifteen or twenty years ago, to replace the over-story that draws up the young hazel below. The better specimen will be selected the weaker will join the log pile. The Holly beside the ancient old oak is the home of a tawny owl who will appreciate the rejuvenated undergrowth, patches of wild raspberries and blackberries will attract a new fieldmouse and vole food supply to suppliment his diet. I'll also have to have a word with Kevin, who keeps on top of the fallow population in the forestry, to add the hazel coppice to his list of vulnerable woodland. I have to admit that I always enjoy a day spent in the hazel copse, my only problem is its very difficult to justify financially so even this freezing fog that puts pay to much of our usual work has a silver lining.
This is a good photo for which I must thank syndicate member Colin Ives. It shows Colin's grandson Elian with a good pike, taken on the coldest of days with the frost still on the ground but judging by the grin on Elian's face the cold is the last thing on his mind. Its a photo that will stir memories in most of us older anglers as we think back to the days when we experienced the magic of our early years with the rods. Elain has accompanied Colin for many years and loves his time by the river, a grounding in angling that will stand him in good stead for many years to come. He also managed a 15.07 PB a week or two ago so he's starting to make his teacher look to his laurels! Well done Elian keep up the good work.
20th January 2017
The perfect frosty weather job.
17th January 2017
Sad, sad news for those in the carp world and the commercial fishermen of Mudeford, in that “Gill”, Mark Gillard, has passed away. I suppose during the shared dark nights beside the carp lakes and the close company of the fishing community, we often glimpse the deeper side of our friends. Gill was very much part of his chosen environment, be it beside our lakes or at sea and he lived that part to the full. His laid back ways, dodgy beanie hat and knowing smile will be sadly missed. I'm sure I speak for all the carp community when I say our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.
16th January 2017
I did make it down to the river today and found several members out making the most of the change in conditions. A coloured river, with mild overcast conditions, it looked spot on and it was certainly producing the goods with some amazing chub bags coming out. The chub fishing is quite simply staggering, the number and size of the fish throughout the entire length of the fishery is providing fishing to dream of. I did also get a further update on the lakes with Frank Lamb manageing five fish during a single night session last week. That included at least one thirty and a couple of twenties so it seems to have continued to fish well in my absence.
Ollie Johnson with a great looking six that he landed as I walked the bank today, one of half a dozen superb looking chub. Good to see you today Ollie and thanks for the photo.
15th January 2017
Back from my travels in the West I may be but it hasn't allowed me a great deal of time to catch up with events on the fishery as yet. The shoot season is drawing to a close with the last major shoot of the season at the weekend, add a WeBS count and a Bakehouse24 bread class learning how to make sourdough bread and it left little time for the river.
I did get the opportunity to drive around the lake at lunchtime on Saturday, just as John Keirle was landing a common of 21 pounds. Just reward for sticking it out during the bitterly cold conditions. I'm not sure how Andy Grant his fishing partner at the weekend fared, I think bream were involved somewhere along the line!
I have to say the prospect of a day kneading dough felt a little daunting first thing this morning as we set off to our bread class at "Bakehouse24" that we both had so generously been given at Christmas. I needn't have worried as the wonders of sourdough bread includes not having to knead it into submission, thankfully its more to do with timing! I found the entire experience thoroughly enjoyable and very enlightening. Whilst we have been customers at BH24 for some time I hadn't appreciated just what goes into providing our daily bread. A big thankyou to baker Pete and his partner Jo for producing a top notch day and not an aching muscle to be found anywhere!
The Shoveler were still sheltering from the cold north wind behind the islands.
13th January 2017
Now this has to be a pretty good start to the New Year, Darrel Hughes with a 2.09 roach, its certainly the finest roach I've seen for a good many years. Great fish Darrel, congratulations and thanks for the photo. Lets hope we see a rise in water that brings a little extra colour and you never know what we may find. I've been over in the Welsh mountains for a week which accounts for the lack of entries but I'm back on station and looking forward to catching up with events.
4th January 2017
This was taken back in November and the gravel shoal that extends below the Hucklesbrook is even more exposed now.
The Lodge, where we may be spending more time than we should if the water remains as low as it is now through into the salmon season.
I was up at Hucklebrook North Marsh this morning where the low water has exposed an unprecedented volume of gravel on the Hucklebrook shoal. This is the gravel that the flash floods up on the Forest, through the Latchmore area, bring down to us. If as we have experienced this winter flash floods in the forest, bringing down fresh gravel, yet the flow in the main channel is too low to scour it on into the main system this shoal grows dramatically. I'm not sure the volume of gravel the shoal comprises of, somewhere between fifteen hundred and two thousand cubic meters, in the order of three and four thousand tons of material I would estimate. If this material grasses over and becomes the new profile of the main river channel it will dramatically alter the natural regime in that area. I'm not sure whether that's good or bad for the river, we will just have to wait and see, it will be an interesting aspect of low flows to keep an eye on in the future. I noticed the other day in the press that the Forestry Commission have seen their plans to rewild the Hucklesbrook up in the forest thrown out by the National Parks planning committee. Seems an odd way to carry on when the process of rewilding is seen in such positive light in most areas of the country, I think world might even be applied there. Still, I'm sure the Latchmore area will continue in its main use as an urban playground and dog latrine.
3rd January 2017
A cold, very frosty start to the day.
Seems sensible to sit in the sun whilst you await the lake to thaw.
1st January 2017