The photos below are a partial record of today's walk up on the North Marsh. I know I often bang on about this area of the Estate, it is due to the fact it is so environmentally important within the Avon Valley. Its importance is due to it being an old floated meadow system that we manage with a very high priority on conservation. The management we undertake is proving extremely difficult his year due to several factors. First and foremost this year is obviously the duration of the flooding. Seven months of being completely underwater has dramatically altered the sward. What sward is left that is. Great swathes of the marsh are still shallow water, over a thick layer of deposited silt. The weed growth in these areas consists almost exclusively of pennell speedwell with a scattering of water mint, where the water has dropped sufficiently for it to get growth underway. How we balance the needs of our grazing tenant with the requirements of nature this year, is the dilemma we face. We are currently looking at entering into new management agreements with Defra that may help. The problem being it is difficult to get any hard information out of a department that has proven an extremely poor defender of our environment. The latest brainwave to emerge out of those ivory towers is the carbon off-setting aimed at developers paying for the impact of their building. It seems the developer pays an absolute fortune for some spurious carbon credits and then is permitted to carry on polluting the environment as they have done for decades. The only beneficiary from the carbon off-setting fiasco are those selling the imaginary credits. Give me strength. The years of austerity, foist on the regulators by the shower that have done their best to emasculate the environmental legislation, have just about succeeded in trashing our environment. I find the entire situation totally depressing.


Hucklesbrook Marsh North Marsh

The North Marsh at Hucklesbrook remains underwater for the greater part of its area. I walked the centre drain today, which is probably the first time I have attempted it since last August. Its more akin to a mini Okavango or Pantanal, it is crammed with birdlife fish and even an otter swimming down the drain. Shoveler broods. Teal, Gadwall, Lapwing, Redshank, Green sandpiper and clouds of Snipe, a Marsh Harrier send waders and wildfowl scattering in all directions. I can now record the fact we have had two pairs of Marsh Harriers successfully raise young this year. Juveniles are now free flying and starting to explore the valley.

Redshank pair Snipe Shoveler brood

Spot the waders and a brood of Shoveler now fully fledged and flying.

Pony perch

Some of the Starling flock finding somewhere dry to perch.

Bee colony

One of the boxes I had put up for the Madarins has new occupants. I put them up as the squirrels had taken over many of the old boxes. On putting this one up a Nuthatch arrived and sealed up the 150 mm entrance with mud, just leaving a 25 mm hole. What happened to the Nuthatch I have no idea, I never did see them on my visits. The next time I looked the box was occupied by a colony of bees. It looks like a swarm has taken up residence for the time being.

29th June



Winter feed safely in the barn The Avon in good shape

Phil, looking happy that the hay is safely in the barn, guaranteeing next winter's feed for the ewes. I think Kevin is probably collapsed somewhere in the top of the bay, having just hand stacked over a thousand bales. Great job, well done.

The second photo just captures a view of the river that despite the high water temperature, stopping salmon fishing, still looks in fine shape with good flows and weed growth. Thankfully the barbel have spawned and the chub are certainly almost finished they now need time to get back in shape so fishing may be a little slow for a while. Having said that there are still some wonderful chub coming out throughout the fishery. Perhaps giving me the greatest satisfaction is the sight of so many C1 to C4 juveniles in the carriers. Mostly chub, yet there were plenty of dace, roach, odd perch and unusually, lots of gudgeon. After such a prolonged flood I was worried they would have all been flushed out of the system but thankfully they somehow managed to find safe havens for the six months of flooding.

26th June



Male tench Large eel

Two fish I would very much liked to have caught. The two fish above Karl had landed in recent days on Meadow Lake. He didn't weigh the male tench, which is obviously a good fish, the eal he did weigh and it came in at a massive 8.06 pounds. He has also landed several other good tench and another eel at 4.08, which makes for quite a brace. Great result Karl, convinced me I have to get the rods out.


Baling.

Hay making is in full swing with Kevin and Phil, mowing, tedding, rowing up and baling. Fingers crossed we get the conventional bales in the barn before the next rain.


Swarm.

One of three swarms that were about today. It seems this sudden high temperature has caused the colonies to divide in the search of more space.

24th June


Salmon rods please be aware the water temperature had reached in excess of 18 degrees C at 08:00 am this morning. As such, until further notice, salmon fishing has ceased at Somerley.


Predated tench North Bay weed

Nature made a basic design flaw when it put the heron together. The little male tench in the photo above died as a result of a Heron having eyes too big for its stomach. The eyes are also too large for its beak, this fished died because the Heron couldn't get it down its gullet. The lakes are alive with rudd, roach and perch and I don't mind in the least if the Heron eat as many as they can spike. I do object to the prehistoric looking monster spiking out such georgeous looking little tench and then leaving them on the bank! The second photo shows the current extent of the weed in the north bay. Full of fish food the reason why the little tench resembled a carp, it was so deep.


Carp on the fly.

This is a very large file so give it time to download.

This is a great video of John catching a carp on the fly. Its a real master class in the skill as John makes it look so easy. There are several factors that add to the difficulty, not just hooking the fish, but casting amidst the bankside vegetation and as you can see on the video landing it with the amount of weed now in the North Lake. Thanks for sending it through John and letting me put it on here for others to enjoy.

21st June



Shaded path Memorial seats

Stairway to Heaven doesn't hold a candle to our pathway to paradise! The south bank of Kings-Vincents looking welcoming for a relaxing day beside the lake. Two memorial seats that hold a host of memories of those they remember.

Hatchpool

Today I was looking at several sets of hatch gates that require considerable work to get them back in shape after being inundated for the past six months. Of course, each set of gates has its own hatchpool that provides a home for numerous fish. There were well over a hundred chub in the pool in the photo, they ranged from three inches to over three pounds. These fish are the next generations that will provide the monsters that inhabit the main river in years to come. The carriers themselves seem to have survived the floods better than the gates. The key to their wellbeing is simply flow and light.

As for actual fishing news it seems the barbel may well have spawned as Pete Reading sent me a photo of a nice double that was completely hollow, with an extended vent. That would certainly be good news if along with the chub the barbel have spawning out of the way. On the salmon front we have now landed a dozen fish that at least means it will not be the lowest cacth we have ever endured. I'm sure there will be one or two more to come if the water temperature behaves itself.

18th June


Big mirror Twenty pound salmon Avon sunset

Jason Beckley, with one of the "Old Girls" at 37.14 from Meadow Lake. Great result Jason, well fished. Peter Vale, with a twenty pound class fish taken on the fly from Harbridge today. Another great result, congrats Peter. Finally a sunset shot taken by Bob Edwards on his first visit of the new river season on Monday. Bob landed several chub to a whisker under 7 pounds making for a good start. Thanks to all for the photographs, they make a great record of the last couple of days.

18th June


Park Pool Bank erosion Looking iuptream at pile Pool

The bank erosion, that had caused the trees to fall in at the head of Park Pool, have been removed. It is now possible to fish from Pile Pool straight into the head of Park Pool. I know I think every piece of water I spend the day beside, sorting out, looks full of salmon but I'm sure there must be a couple in there. It looks simply magnificent. The middle shot shows the bank that has colapsed as the tree had gone over into the river. Should you be down there having a go please take care as the root system of a ouple of those trees has left some dodgy pieces of bank. The third shot is looking back up Pile Pool from Park. I put this up as I simply think it looks like a wonderful piece of water.

Big Avon chub

The river is producing some fabulous chub, to seven plus and I did hear of a bream of eight and a half adding to the mix. As far as I know the barbel have yet to put in an appearance. I'm told they are spawning up on the gravels at Bickton, so I guess ours will soon be getting on with it. Lovely fish Andy, thanks for the pix.

16th June


Opening Day

The coarse opening day on the river and on Somerley Lakes, where we still keep to the traditional season. A new season with plenty of challenges on both the river and the lakes.

Coot flock June meadows

Not what you would expect the water meadows to look like in mid June. Flooding to this extent is what we might expect in mid winter. It will be interesting to see if recent gravel mobility in the main channel is having a coffering effect out on the meadows at this point. The bird population still enjoys the unseasonal flooding with over two hundred Coot, several broods of Redshank and Lapwing, plus a Great White Egret, along with the usual swan, duck and goose population.

small Heath

Our first Small Heath of the year on the transect today. The unseasonal cold nights, wind and rain has been making life difficult for the butterflies in recent weeks.

15th June


It looks as if I have a few busy weeks ahead so I think today was the last time I will be out chasing salmon. In recognition of this I decided I would go out this morning, instead of after dinner as is my usual habit. I chose to drop down to, Below the Breakthrough, to see if I could find a fish tucked up under the bank. As it turned out June had a surprise or two in store.


June on the Avon.

Hardly what we associate with June! High winds and torrential rain. It made my last salmon trip of the year an interesting finale! Perhaps not the surprise I was hoping for.

12th June


I swapped the lakes for the river today in an effort to open up some of the lower water for the coming coarse season. I parked up by the sub-station and cleared the pathway to the shallows above Lifelands Pool. As per usual on my forays, the water all looked perfect. Lifelands Pool must surely be the longest fishable piece of water on the Estate. Its a tricky pool to access but the effort is rewarded with a lovely pool for both fly and spinner, if you get there before the weed grows, which in reality this season probably means less than a fortnight. The tricky access is made considerably worse by the ground that has been potholed by the cattle throughout the winter and has now dried into a real ankle breaker, so please take care.

This evening, after dinner, I parked up at the lakes and walked down to the pool to fish it through with the fly. It still looked as good as it did earlier and I expected a take on every cast, unfortunately, I didn't repeat last night's success. Despite that I'm sure it was wall to wall salmon, I just failed to get the correct presentation.


The shallows The head of the Lielands Pool

The first photo is taken looking downstream from the tail of Dockens shallows towards the head of Lifelands. The exposed gravel is a favoured area for the local goose and duck population, loafing throughout the day safe from the attention of the local fox population. Below the shallows the head of the pool starts in earnest, running down to the mid-way reedbeds, where I cleared a pathway now the water levels have dropped back sufficiently to get in there without risk of drowning. The style on the southern end of the reedbed is broken, which we will replace as soon as we get the opportunity. Its possible to actually step over the fence beside the style in the meantime.

The reedbed

The path through the reedbed. It still requires a little tree work but is quite passable.

The middle of the pool Bank erosion The tail of the pool

The belly of the pool, showing the bramble clump on the end of the old fence that conceals the other style. Don't use that one either the bank erosion means that stepping off on the upstream side will drop you straight in the river! I'll take it down in the next day or two so no one is tempted to use it. The final shot looking down to the tail. It clearly illustrates the perilous state of some sections of the bank. I think the extent of the erosion is greater than in any other pool on the Estate. So once again take care.

Greylag Geese

We now know where many of the Greylags have taken their broods and the non-breeders have decided to moult.

The tail of Lifelands Pool.

The bell ringers were busy practising down at St Peter's and St Paul's accompanying my time at the pool this evening.


11th June



Willie Gunn salmon fly

If I had to choose just one pattern it would have to be the Willie Gunn. The one above accounted for a fourteen pound fish this evening in classic circumstances. I had been strimming the High Bank at the lakes for most of the day. The High Bank overlooks the Blashford section of the river and I hadn't seen anyone out on Island Run or Blashford Pool all day. Despite the aches and pains that result from a days strimming I felt it would be worth popping out for an hour after dinner just to cover that section. My new rod travels already made up so I was soon heading out across the now dry field towards the island. As the head of the pool is now very shallow and weedy I decided to start just below the old collapsed footbridge halfway down the island. The set up was as I described the other day, Airflo floating line with a sink tip, with an added five feet of T10, four feet of 24 lb.b.s tippet, down to a Willie Gunn on a 2" copper tube, with a swing hook set up. The idea was to concentrate on the deep water, on the near side, where hopefully the fish will now be sheltering from the bright conditions of the day. Fish out the cast and as the swing straightens lift the rod in the hope of inducing a take.

The trees on the island are a little tight at that point so I was flicking the cast across and throwing a large mend, to straighten the line, minimising the risk of hitting the trees. Half a dozen casts and I was covering the deep water where you would expect a salmon to be. That's always an odd expectation as I think that with virtually every cast I make. As it happened on this occasion as the fly came around and I began to lift, a solid take, no mistaking that, I was most definitely in. The fish stayed deep and conveniently came upstream towards me allowing me to get alongside without any panic, On upstream to the weedy, shallows at the head of the pool, where it came clear of the water giving me a sight of a nice fish that had a tinge of colour. Immediately a change of direction and off downstream we set at quite a rate. Straight through the weedy tail of the pool below the island, over the gravel shallows with its back out of the water swimming over the weed. On reaching the deeper water by the old seat it threw itself out of the water again. On downstream we went, over the footbridge where the fish came and had a look up the carrier beneath the bridge. Back to the main channel and yet another leap clear of the water and downstream once more. By now we had reached the two bays where the swans and geese have eroded the bank, which I thought would be an ideal point to get the net under him. He was having nothing to do with the shallow bays and shot off to the gravel shoal on the far bank, where he leapt once more, before heading back upstream. This run soon petered out and he slowly curved across the stream just upstream of me before rolling on the surface allowing me to get the net under, and he was mine.

The fish rested well in the net, allowing the fly to be slipped out without any hassle. A lovely cock fish that had been in the river about a fortnight with his cheeks just starting to colour. Ten minutes rest and a very lively fish shot off back into the stream. A great way to christen the new rod, that handled a lively fish very well indeed.

9th June



Tench Carp

There's a great deal more to fisheries than fish and fishermen, or at least there should be. Whilst the financial income is dependent on ensuring the correct stock levels and happy anglers, those should sit within the environment and ecology that surrounds the water. To isolate one from the other borders on management incompetence. To fail to appreciate, or place the pursuit of fish above the surrounding environment, shows a sad lack of understanding.

Flower rich grassland Flower rich grassland Wildflower meadow

Surrounding land managed as wildflower meadows for the benefit of our invertebrates. Whilst the ox-eye daisies may look dramatic there are layers of vitally important plants beneath that supply food and cover for the myriads of different species that exist there unseen. The meadows are surrounded by scrub and brambles that provide similar food and cover for a further tier of wildlife. Beyond the scrub the mixed deciduous woodland, with it's further layer of life, to ignore this is to short change your visit.

Five-spot Burnet Swollen-thighed beetle

Five-spot Burnet and swollen-thigh beetle, just two of the myriad of creatures found in the meadows.

Shoveler

Over-wintering wildfowl.

8th June



Goosander brood Oystercatcher Great Crested Grebe brood

BBS survey today required an early start, so I could be out on site by 5am. The northerly wind has kept the temperature down yet for the most part the birds seem to be coping well with the changeable weather. Considering the extent of this years flooding its good to see the grebe on the river are managing to produce broods. Juveniles aren't counted and we also keep to a very well defined route, which these birds weren't on, so unfortunately the birds in the photos above didn't actually get included. They just had the decency to wait while I got the camera out.

One other brood that unfortunately I wasn't able to include was a first for me on the Estate in that a Shoveler duck was present up at Hucklesbrook with her ducklings. The flood remains sufficiently deep to provide plenty of cover and food. There are also a couple of Shoveler drakes present, perhaps further broods may appear before the flood water disappears.

4th June


Please remember to check the water temperature at Knappmill before fishing. The link above will take you to the relevant website. Please remember at Somerley we cease fishing at 18 degrees C.

Now all we need is a live feed to the counter!! Citizen science and all that, it would save the EA a fortune.

An update on the Swift saga, in that we had a colony of bees attempting to oust a pair from their nestbox at the weekend. The furious flapping and calling of the bird that was sitting attracted my attention. This is the second time we have encountered this problem. As before, nothing that couldn't be solved with the hose on jet wash.

3rd June



Geese at Blashford Geese at Harbridge Corner

Every pool seems to have its own flock of geese, there are literally hundreds of them about the Estate. These are a few of the flock at Blashford and Harbridge Corner, by no means all the birds present at these two locations. Our resident eagle doesn't seem to be up to the job, she still sitting up a spiny oak like a bored chicken. I guess there's so much food about she has eaten all she can fit in. I think I'll put in for a bigger one!

2nd June



Wild flower meadow Meadow Brown Wild flower meadow

Whilst the sun shone and the wild flower meadows looked magnificent, we are still suffering from the cold north wind. There were one or two of the summer species showing today although far fewer than we might expect at this time of year. I mentioned it in an earlier entry that we seem to have these north winds on a far more regular basis each spring and early summer. Apart from the cold nights, that set development back, these north winds tend to be very dry and can scorch our tender annual wild flowers very quickly. We are only just getting over the impact of the droughts we endured over the previous couple of years, fingers crossed, things get back to the prevailing SW winds in the near future. Crazy old world, out in the valley we are desperate for drying conditions yet we are already concerned over the risk of a summer drought up on the gravel plateau.


Chris Ball memorial

The photo above shows the setting of Chris' bench as we were preparing for yesterday's unveiling. One thing I did forget to mention in yesterday's entry was to say there are one or two faces missing from the group photo. Those who were taking the photographs, Gelly Sandford and John Slader, are obviously missing. I didn't think that one through very well, we should have had a self timer set up to avoid such gaps. It particularly a pity John isn't in the shot as he did so much to sort out the bench and collect the donations. I thought the bench looks well, in its ideal situation within feet of where Chris had landed several very large carp. Well done John, I'm sure all who were lucky enough to know Chris will think of him every time they pass, or better still spare a moment to sit and enjoy the location.

1st June



Chris Ball memorial

Today we unveiled a seat in memory of master angler and alround good chap, Chris Ball, who so sadly passed away last August. The sun shone and Chris' family, Lynne, son Martyn and grandson Luca, gathered around with many of Chris' friends as Lynne, unveiled the seat and plaque. Fond memories and anecdotes made for a fitting occasion to remember our good friend. Fittingly beside the lake where Chris had enjoyed great success in recent years.

Two pound seatrout

I remain puzzled by these trout, however this one I was pleased to see this evening as it christened my new rod. I also moved two salmon on the fly this evening, both coming short, with one jumping clear of the water ten feet behind the fly. Why that should be I don't know. I was possibly fishing the wrong depth or speed, my leader failing to get the fly in front of the fish to induce the take. I often think I should add or take off some of the sinking ability of the line as I encounter different pools. I'm afraid I am all too often guilty of fishing the same setup all day. Irrespective of whether I'm fishing a shallow run, or a slower deeper glide. They may of course had a previous encounter that made them suspicious of the fly. Today, being the first day of spinning with us, they may possibly have had a close call with a Mepp.

Talking of spinning, I can report that Paul Greenacres managed to add to our meagre total with a bright 12 pound hen fish. Well done paul, keep up the good work.

29th May



15 pound salmon

That's more like it! Mike Hornsby with a sparkling fresh 15 pound cock fish. Congratulation Mike, brilliant result.

28th May


My first salmon of the season At last! A happy fisherman

First and foremost I should say I don't recommend taking photos sat on the edge of the pool. As members will know that is deep and turbulent water under my feet. Kevin had come over from his place to do the photos and he assured me had the bank collapsed he would have grabbed the net to ensure the salmon didn't get tangled and unable to get free. I assume he would have help drag me out after that! I must add my thanks to Kevin for turning out on such a foul night to record my first of the season on the bank. From his cottage that overlooks the pool he had seen my earlier escapade with the pike so he wasn't that surprised when I called. The photos tell most of the tale with a fifteen pound fish on the bank and a very happy, if wet and bedraggled rod. There is in fact a little more to tell that I will relate below.

Today's rain completely messed up my plans to strim out an area of the lakes with the flex head on, as I would have ended up plastered in grot. In light of this, after I'd dealt with one or two other issues that demanded my attention, at lunchtime I decided to take the rod down the river for an hour. Despite the strong and gusting south west wind that would be directly in my face, I headed for Blashford. I squelched out across the mud that was almost dry enough to support my weight, to the head of the run at the top of the island. The shelter of the island gave a false impression of the strength of the wind and I quite enjoyed the narrow channel beside the island. The second I stuck my nose out below the island the wind was so strong when lifting off the line it was being blown up the bank beside me. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, I struggled on and on my third cast below the island, on the tail of the Island Run, a solid take in a couple of feet of water that felt firm and positive, no splashing or jumping, just a solid resistance. Alas it wasn't to be, as a bright 2SW fish of about ten pounds rolled away downstream and all went slack. I did fish on down the pool to the bottom of Blashford Pool, muttering curses about the wind but no other chance came my way. It seems I had just missed my only chance of the day, or possibly the season, the way things are shaping up so far this year.

This evening after dinner, having lost the fish earlier, I decided to head out again but this time I would fish the right, west bank, with the wind behind me. I intended to fish some of the deeper water either Provost, Harbridge Bend or perhaps Park Pool so drove up to Ibsley to come in at Harbridge and see what inspired me. In truth it was more, which pool was going to be nearest the car, it was chucking it down and I didn't fancy a long trudge across to Provost so drove on down to Hayricks car park where the Bend was as close as I was going to find. As the water was quicker and deeper on these pools I had added a ten foot T10, to my floating line with the incorporated sink tip, in the hope of gaining more control and a little more depth in the fast water. I was also testing a new knot, attaching my 25 pound tippet to the end of the T10. I have concerns about the nylon loops I usually tie on the end of the T10 sinking leaders if they have suffered any knocks or tension during earlier sessions. Tackled up and clad in chest waders, more to keep out the rain than in anticipation of any wading, I headed for the seat at the head of the pool. Casting was a great deal easier with just a gentle roll cast comfortably reaching the far bank. The lie at the head of the pool used to be on the far bank on the inside of the bend and I was mending and holding in an attempt to cover this water. I was letting the cast fish out in the deep turbulent water on my bank hoping a fish may follow or be laying deeper below the boiling eddies. After a dozen casts as it swung into the nearside a solid take. Deep down and doing nothing spectacular. As the fish remained in the same lie I walked down to it to get alongside allowing me better control. I decided to apply a little more pressure and out of the depths shot a Jack of about nine pounds that cartwheeled straight out on the bank, thankfully avoiding the need to unship the net. Continuing to be an obliging specimen the barbless semi-circle was neatly removed from the scissors and back he went. all taking about two minutes from start to finish. Now came the rub in that the blighter had shredded my tippet. Decision time, do I change it in all this rain and wind, or risk it? My mind was made up by the fact I was using the new knot that had managed the pike without any sign of slipping but if I subsequently lost a fish I would perhaps be unable to know whether it was through pike damage of failure of the knot. Nothing for it. I dug out the glasses, scissors and tippet and spent a very uncomfortable five minutes changing the nylon, tying a new knot and getting soaked. The two inch, black and yellow, swing tube and hook, all looked fine so back on they went. Back to the pool and step and cast on down towards the fence. Twenty yards above the fence another solid take and a great swirl and tail showed mid river. That was no pike and it was definitely heading back upstream at quite a lick. This is what its all about, that magical take and that first run that sets the nerves on edge and the heart beating like a drum. A great fight from a powerful fish that probably lasted ten minutes before I was faced with netting it in the fast deep water at my feet. Net off and set up and as it came aound from upstream it thankfully slowed sufficiently to allow me a successful shot at netting it. Once in the net I threw the rod over my shoulder onto the bank and sat with the fish resting in the net at my feet. Unhooking was once more no problem with the barbless sitting beatifully in the scissors I just reached down into the net a popped it out. Lovely stuff, I wondered if Kevin was home and able to pop over and do the honours. In order to get my phone out from my chestwaders I had to stand up and peal off the top half, whilst holding the net and trying not to do a head over heals into the river. Holding the net handle, I took a step back and stepped directly on the top section of my rod snapping it neatly off. Not to worry, I had a fish and that rod had given me a decade of good service, it certainly wasn't going to dampen my elation of getting this beauty in the net. A cock fish of about fifteen pounds that had been in the river several weeks judging by his colour. Kevin arrived and with a very well rested fish that was proving very difficult to control, we managed a few quick snaps and back he went. Just the perfect evening and as I'd broken the rod I could go home and get out of the rain and wind.



27th May


Seatrout

A well mended seatrout or a fresh fish?

Colin Morgan sent through the photo above, which shows a seatrout of about three pounds that he caught today whilst out on the Estate. I believe Colin has landed eleven such trout this season, a fact that gives rise to many questions. Why should we still be catching seatrout of this size so early in the trout season. Historically, when I used to attended every tide down at the nets to purchase all the salmon caught for release upstream, we never saw fish of this size until later in the run. May would see the start of the run with the large fish being the first to appear. When I say large I mean double figure fish. I have see seatrout to eighteen pounds and as many as half a dozen double figure fish in one haul of the net, seriously large seatrout. I believe the fish we have been catching of late are kelts from last autumns spawning, yet to return to the sea. If you bear in mind seatrout are exactly the same species as our native brown trout, just with a wander lust. If it were the food supply that first brought about this seaward migration the current state of the river may provide a clue why they are in no hurry to go back to sea. The fly hatch currently ongoing throughout the river is better than anything I have ever witnessed in the valley. Similarly the snail population after the prolonged flood is simply mind boggling. Given a conservative estimate of one thousand snails per square meter that gives rise to about ten million per hectare. I put that up for Bob Stone as he missed it during our recent conversation!! If only a very small proportion of those snails reach the river as the water recedes the trout would find almost unlimited food. Add a minnow population that is currently on its second spawning run with ribbons of fish heading upstream in the margins. Such rich feeding would also explain the well mended condition of the fish. What ever the reason its good to see them so please treat them with care and ensure they go back with the minimum of stress.

I also popped out for a couple of hours this evening in the hope of finding an elusive salmon. I fished Harbridge Bend, Woodside and Harbridge Corner. Alas all to no avail despite the Bend and the Corner fishing well. Woodside is perhaps best forgotten. Whilst the head of the pool, above the hatches fished well the middle and tail were a nightmare, doing their best to drown me in the still flooded gloop that masquerades as a bank at that point. The wind also made life difficult this evening, never able to make its mind up which way it was going to blow. That's my excuse anyway. Although the salmon failed to oblige the valley wildlife put on a display that made all the effort worthwhile. Terns diving on the migrating minnows, cuckoos calling, gosling and ducklings enjoying the late sunshine and stars of the show the Hobbies. At one point eight individuals could be seen twisting and turning in pursuit of the mayflies. Along with something in the order of the one hundred Swifts, at a higher level, there was plenty to provide interest if the fishing was slow.

Hobbies taking Mayfly.

One of my less than stunning videos. If you look closely you can see several of the eight Hobbies that were taking the Mayflies as I fished Harbridge Bend this evening.


Whilst talking of Swifts I have a tale to tell that may provide some food for thought. As regular readers will know I have a fascination with these amazing birds. We have several pairs nesting in boxes on the house and I always look forward to their return in the Spring. A return after continuous flight since they left the previous August. On return the established couples soon find their partners and occupy their chosen nestbox They return to the same boxes every year and protect them from potential squatters by calling from inside to announce they are in occupation. Occasionally matters go a little further and we have had one or two fights to separate locked adversaries, unable to release the hold they have taken with their surprisingly sharp claws. As can be seen from previous dairy entries from late April we had five boxes occupied and a couple of pairs yet to established their own box. I said in that earlier entry I was surprised that our oldest pair were late arriving, which was unusual as older birds are generally the first back. Today took a surprise turn that might well explain the late return. In the last couple of days one of the younger pairs had been attempting to gain entry to our oldest pairs box. They had been knocking and attempting to land on the threshold almost continuously for three days. Their persistence was unusual as in the entrance one of the older birds could be seen maintaining a guard. The presence of a bird occupying the box is usually sufficient to deter such repeated attempts to gain access but not seemingly on this occasion. To add to the mystery we had not seen a great deal of the older pair as they were not behaving as in previous years or like the other established pairs alongside them. The visits to the box were less frequent, which was totally out of character. This morning Anne called me out into the garden to look at the bird guarding the entrance, she was sure it hadn't moved in twenty four hours. I took the binoculars and confirmed things looked far from normal, requiring the ladder and a close quarters inspection. Unmoved by my racket with the ladder it didn't take long to realise the bird in the entrance was dead. I removed the corpse, which looked like our old male in poor condition. I whipped off the front of the box to examine what lay within, only to find no attempt had been made at building or laying, it was completely bare.

So what do we make of that? Well, I have a theory that you may find of interest or at least food for thought. I believe it was our old male bird and he had arrived back fairly early on to reclaim his nest box. He then awaited the return of his mate of the previous ten or eleven years. Spending most evenings circling high above the house. Unfortunately I don't think she made it back to join him this Spring. I believe he has waited patiently for her return, failing to eat normally, as he was single handedly remaining on hand to guard their box. In recent days as the insistent younger pairs pressed him to give up the box he took up his final position in the entrance. Where he could keep the youngsters at bay and hope to see his mate return. Lack of food, exhaustion and a broken heart, finally taking its inevitable toll.

Alternatively it was a young interloper that misjudged the entrance and broke its neck! I'll leave you to decide. By the way, a young pair were looking to take up residence this evening.


26th May


Main channel overspill

The natural overspill from the main channel that is keeping the marsh well under water over much of its area. The levels of the river at this point are extremely complicated due to the gravel mobility of the recent channel repair work and the gravel arriving from the New Forest plateau via the Hucklesbrook stream. The regulators are visiting in the coming days, unfortunately due to the flooding I'm not sure a field visit will be possible. To give a flavour of the marsh I did walk it this morning and below are some, I stress some, of the bird species I recorded.

Mute Swan 93 (there are approximately 40 on the South Marsh as well)
Mallard 200+
Gadwall 70
Shoveler 2
Oystercatcher 2
Black-tailed Godwit 12
Canada Goose 60 (Not including Juveniles)
Egyptian Goose 6
Coot 50
Great Crested Grebe 8 (4prs)
Marsh Harrier 1
Lapwing 3 prs
Redshank 1 Pr
Curlew 1
Little Egret 1
Greylag 12
Garganey 2
Goosander 3
Hobby 2
Heron 12
Black-headed Gull 35 (Eating May and Damselflies)
Little Grebe 1 pr
Cettis Warbler 2
Cuckoo 2
Reed Warbler 2
Sedge Warbler 2

Across the marsh Marsh Harrier mobbed by Lapwing Black-tailed Godwit

The view at the bottom end of the marsh, with many of the Coot and swans making the most of the remaining flood. A marsh Harrier being mobbed by one of the Lapwing. The Black-tailed Godwit on a fly-by.


Canada broods Great Crested Grebe nest

Two of the broods of Canada geese and one of the Great Crested Grebe nests. These grebe nests are second broods as the first that were out in the middle of the flooded meadows were lost when the water drained away.


Natural main channel overspill.

The overspill from these overflows at times of high water keep the marsh flooded. There should be a large number of stock grassing clean grass out there!

Swan brood

An "aah" shot to finish. One of our twenty or so swan families. I'm not sure where she actually nested, somewhere out in the flood.


23rd May


Woodside Carrier

Its amazing what a little light and flow can achieve. The Woodside looking glorious in this afternoons sunshine. Its taken many years to get the carriers back into this sort of shape. Whilst they look perfect I'm not sure they have yet reached their potential fish population.

Pete's bag for life

I have to correct an entry from the other day in that I said Pete's bag was a Tesco "Bag for Life". As the photo above proves, its definitely a Sainsbury's "Bag for Life". Much better quality I'm told!


Woodside Hatches Harbridge Bend

The bank is now clipped up from Ibsley Pool to Harbridge Corner. I don't know how far, how many pools or how many lies that is, all I know for certain, it felt a long way when using a Turk scythe. The fields are still pretty mucky across to Harbridge Bend and Woodsides. Particularly Woodside, where waders are still the order of the day for comfortable access and fishing.


Across to Harbridge Bend.

In many places the meadows remain deep in mud and there's not a blade of grass to be seen. Masses of ddocks and soft rush but no grass. Just what can be salvaged to graze of mow later in the year remains to be seen.

Harbridge Corner

Harbridge Corner looking well. A classic Avon pool, coarse fish and salmon usually to be found in its depths.


Woodside Hatch.

Always difficult to film but it gives a flavour of the hatch again today. Mid afternoon and there were six, possibly seven, Hobby chasing the damsels and mayfly as they came up from the river. Hopefully one may stay and nest. We used to have several pairs about the Estate but since the Goshawk have arrived I fear they don't mix.

Sedge Hatch.

Along with the mayfly there was a good hatch of sedge and reasonable numbers of olives, yet another fine evening hatch.

22nd May


Shearing

An early start to give Phil and Milli a hand to pen the ewes before the shearers arrived at 08:00am. It wasn't the penning that took the time, it was seperating the lambs out from their mothers. It makes my back ache just watching those guys shearing, after our two hundred plus ewes they were going on to do a further 700 elsewhere today.

Shearing

Zac showing dad how to get the ewes to move up the ramp to the shearing doors. Zac has grown up alongside this flock so they look on him as one of their own. Thanks to Phil for sending over the two photos.


Bank collapse Mayflies

The flow has dropped away and the freeboard is currentlt at or near to its maximum,beforethe weed starts to coffer the levels back up again. What the large freeboard does mean is that the banks begin to dry and crack, causing large chunks to collapse into the river. Just be extra cautious when near the edge, we don't want any swimmers risking ecoli infections through falling in.

The second shot just shows some of the thousands of Mayflies that were sheltering on the bankside vegetation at lunchtime today. Along with clouds of banded demoiselles the plants were covered.

22nd May


Lower Cabbage right bank

Middle and Lower Cabbage from the right bank are now clear and looking very well. The pace looks spot on for a fish or two in the coming week.

I have to thank Pete Reading for doing a great job in clearing on the opposite bank up at Ibsley. Pete provides a very much appreciated hand in clearing every year and this year in particular I am extremely grateful when I hear the hiss of his scythe and spot his bright orange Tesco "bag for life", that contains his drink and sharpening stone.

Field path

I have a cautionary tale about the risks of valley life and my relief at getting back to my truck yesterday. It arose when I was cutting a path in between the pools that is necessary to cut across the meadows that remain pretty swampy and are head high in docks and reeds. Yesterday, when cutting this path between Provost and Middle Cabbage, I was too short to see Cabbage, were I was meant to be heading so decided to follow a fresh set of footprints, in the hope the rod that had made them was taller than me and able to see the head of the pool. After clearing about a hundred meters of tough unforgiving docks, I had an uncomfortable thought that the only rod I had seen out here that day was Mike Hornsby. Now the problem with that is Mike's not a geat deal taller than me and his sense of direction has been called into question on previous occasions. Like the time he was found in a release pen looking for the way out of the Estate! I suddenly had the feeling I may be cutting a path that was not heading for Middle Cabbage but the middle of the field. If I kept clearing along the line of these footprints I could be out there for days. Fortunately Mike was spot on, if it were Mike I was following and my worries were unfounded, none the less I was glad to see the truck appear on the horizon.

21st May



The tail of Park Pool

Taken standing on the pipe as I made my way home yesterday evening.


The Pipe.

The pipe has been seriously eroded that will require attention in the near future. The pipe in question is just a discharge from one of the carriers to ensure fish do not get dead-ended in the system. This was yesterday evening as the tail of Park Pool was alive with emerging fly life. If you turn up the sound you will hear the Cuckoo that was calling for most of the evening.


Spent Mayfly.

This years mayfly hatch has been the best I have seen for a very, very long time. Hopefully there are more yet to emerge to add to the hatch. Already numbers exceeding anything I have seen at Somerley, driving from Harbridge to Ibsley there were thousands dancing in the shelter of the water dropwort and hedges.


Large stands of Water Dropwort Honey bees working the Dropwort

Dropwort is having a bumper year due to all the wet weather. There are great stands along the river and beside the lakes. Whilst it may be the most poisonous plant in Britain, honey bees just love the flowers and work them continuously. from previous experience when I used to keep bees the honey produced has a good flavour and didn't do me any harm. Not that I know of anyway!


Provost's Hole clipped out

I spent a few hours this afternoon clipping out Provost's Hole. I believe it was in Stan Crows book "Avon Salmon" that this pool was described as the finest on the entire Avon. Recent years it has failed to produce anything like its historic numbers, mostly due to it be very turbulent on the inside. Under the present reducing flow we can now see that the floods seem to have smoothed the inside bank and the pool once more looks at its historic best. Leave the sink tip on and give it a go, it certainly looks as if it could be olding fish again.

Shelduck and Little Ringed Plover

One for the birders, in the form of a brood of recently hatched Shelduck and if you look closely a pair of Little Ringed Plover can be seen in the background.

Chub seeking Mayfly.

Thanks to Colin Morgan for sending this clip through. It shows a shoal of large chub down at Ashley that were preoccupied feeding on the Mayfly. Colin said they were so engrossed they hardly took any notice of him standing on the bank. If only they showed such disregard when they are in season. Colin watched them for half an hour, just enjoying the scene.

19th May



North Marsh

The North Marsh remains flooded and difficult to access. This seems to suit the birdworld with a flock 93 non breeding Mute Swan enjoying the isolation. There were also a couple of Cattle Egret mixed in with the Little Egret and masses of geese and ducks.


Evening hatch.

The wind dropped this evening and the fly hatch made the most of it with an impressive display against the setting sun at the tail of Blashford pool.

17th May



Well grown Goosander brood Queen hornets

One of the earlier Goosander broods now looking well grown, fast catching up the duck. A fourth brood hatched only this week, with half a dozen day olds following the duck through Park Pool. The hornets are two of four that were drinking the sap from the crab apple in our front garden. Unlike the workers the queens seemed quite agressive toward each other, hence the reason there are only two in the photo.

16th May


Busy, busy days. Now the river has left the meadows I am desperately playing catch up. At the same time I am trying to get the lakes up together for a fast approaching event and the re-opening in a months time. Having bemoaned the workload, it is absolutely superb to be out in the valley again, without fear of drowning. The dropwort, docks, nettles and reeds have gone beresk and almost growing as you watch them. The cuckoo is a constant companion and the air is full of insect life with the meadows full of ducklings and goslings. Your eagles need to man up Steve and get a grip!

I must start this entry with congratulations to David Lambert, for opening his Somerley account with our second fish of the season. Well done David, they are like gold dust this year so I was extremely pleased to get the call. I could put a photo of David's 2SW Summer fish resting before release. A lovely sparkling fresh fish but a fish on a net all the same. Instead I'll put up one of several lovely photos David sent through capturing some of the damsel and mayflies that were out in force today.


Mayfly

Beautiful shot. Thanks for taking the time to send them through David. I just love the valley at this time of year, especially now it is drying out.

Talking of a fabulous place to be at this time of year and the wonder of the mayfly and all the other insect life, Mike Hornsby was out yeasterday and sent through the shot below.



Banded demoiselle

Nice one Mike. Pity about the fish, hopefully the next one will stick!

In an entry a week or two ago I asked members to keep an eye open for an easily identifiable tench that Darrel Hughes had landed. Today Andy Hunt sent through a photograph of the same unmistakable fish landed on the other side of the lake. Its vent looks slightly extended and she was down in weight so it looks as if the tench may well have spawned along with the carp, that now seem to have settled down after their exertions. The carp still seem to be busy in the large weed beds preoccupied with what ever has taken their fancy. I would have thought the spawn would have been finished or hatched so it may be blood worm or snails that are now distracting them.



Tench

Andy, with the easily identifiable tench that had moved to the other side of the lake.

Greenfinch

Talking about the birdlife in the valley, Brenda has been busy with her survey work over at the lakes. The brood of juveniles above are Greenfinch that will soon be ready for ringing. Interestingly, Brenda has noted a distinct increase in the number of five egg, as opposed to the usual four, Reed Warbler clutches. This would seem to be in line with the very large Mallard broods that are out in the valley, also the Mute Swans that have nine at Mockbeggar and at least seven down at Blashford Island in the river. The abundance of food, in both invertabrate and plant growth seems to be the driver of these larger broods. Just how the adults know the abundance will continue until they hatch is a mystery to me.

One other piece of news on the bird front is our returning Swifts. We currently have five pairs back in situ, that leaves a possible futher two pairs to come. One of our returned pairs is acting somewhat strangely in that they appear to be a new pair that has taken up residence in the box of the oldest pair. I believe the oldest birds have failed to return and this new pair are settling in. One of the pairs we are waiting for may be missing, in that last autumn before they left for Africa, we lost an adult that flew into the back of our car parked on the drive. If this was one of our resident birds the remaining partner may be away, busy seeking a new mate.

13th May


The head of Park Pool Park Pool willows Tail of Park Pool

At long last the right bank of Park Pool has drained sufficiently to enable me to clean it up a little. It looks absolutely spot on, I'm sure it must be so full of salmon you'll have to beat them off with a stick.

10th May


Criusing pipe

Carp cruising in the margins during the build up to spawning.

Carp in the margins.

The large fish closest to the bank in the video is the mid thirty being held by Phil in the entry of the 23rd March. These fish are cruising gentle in the margins in readiness for spawning in the coming days, if weather stays favourable.

10th May


Carp spawning

The carp in Kings-Vincents have been spawning the videos below show some of today's action.

Carp spawning.

The bream and carp have been busy spawning in Kings-Vincent fo rthe past three days.


Carp eating spawn.

Whilst some are spawning others are following, mopping up the millions of eggs.


Spawn eating in Mockbeggar.

The Mockbeggar carp have also been busy and the fish in the video are preoccupied eating the eggs deposited in the weed beds.

Mockbeggar weed beds

The massive weed beds in the North East bay at Mockbeggar.

7th May



Sunny day at the lake Basking carp

The sun came out and all is well with the world. The carp appeared on the surface to enjoy the warmth and the insect world burst into life on the may and yellow iris flowers.

Nymph husk Scarce chaser

Scarce chaser nymph case and the newly emerged adult.

Sitting Oystercatcher Starling nest

A sitting Oystercatcher in the sand pit with some less than desirable neighbours. One of our starlings on the side of the house feeding its well feathered young.

Peacock butterfly on bluebell

A peacock butterfly on bluebell, just to round off the day.

6th May



Heronry Heron brood

Manny has been over filming the herons and has very kindly sent over a couple of frame grabs. Amazing looking creatures, one removed from a pterodactyl, ugly little suckers.


Garden pond Micro snails

Bank holiday weekend and I have been waiting all weekend for the mobile to ring and one of the rods inform me they are into a salmon. Alas, it wasn't to be, not so much as a ping of a text. I was away one day, bothering pout off Poole and I felt the garden was owed a day at least. Well, as it happened it rained, which came as no surprise but it does make digging flower beds a pretty impossible job. If I couldn't dig the garden I could at least throw a fly about a pool for a couple of hours in the hope of a salmon to lift the spirits. I decided on Blashford Pool, one of my favourites, from which I have taken several fish over the years. Once more it fished beautifully, unfortunately without so much as a pull from a salmon. One thing I did notice was that there was only one set of fooprints in the mud alongside the pool. If the rest of the fishery has been fished as lightly this weekend, it is hardly any wonder I didn't get that phone call. I did also notice that the entire surface of the exposed mud of the draining watermeadows was covered in literally millions of two or three millimeter snails. What will happen to them I have no idea, possibly dry out and add to the millions that are washed up on silt banks in the river. Or perhaps they will make it to the river, or become a meal for the wildlife in the valley.

4th May



Mute Swan brood

The Mockbeggar swan has hatched and now we have a brood of nine cygnets that will undoubtedly be a handful throughout the Summer.

2nd May



Penmeade Pool

Every year when I clean up Penmeade Pool I think what a great looking Spring salmon pool. Particularly the head of the pool with its steady run of meadium depth water it looks spot on for a big fish. Every year I also wonder why this pool is not more productive. Is it lack of rod effort, or simply the fish don't stop. Its certainly not one of our more frequently fished pools, so if you're down that way give it a go, you never know what may be hidden in the depths.

2nd May



Blashford Pool Blashford Pool

I spent the morning down at Blashford tidying up the Island Run and Blashford Pool. I have to say the bank for the most part remains underwater and is pretty sticky going underfoot, so not for the faint hearted. Once you reach the river it looks spot on, with a lovely pace and visibility. If you do brave a visit, please be careful and pat attention to where you are planting your feet. The first photo shows where the water has been leaving the main channel and flowing out into the meadows, scouring out a deep gulley as it does so. There are five or six such runnels, waiting to catch out the unwary. The second shot shows the bridge at the new carrier confluence with the main channel. Please don't use the bridge until the water drops as its currently floating and despite being wired down is not an easy passage!

I did go out this evening and fish down through the pool and it fished beautifully, despite the best efforts of the miserable downstream wind to upset me. Nothing to show for my efforts, apart from an obliging seatrout that made the heart skip a beat but a thoroughly enjoyable couple of hours. I had the bonus of spotting my first Hobby of the Summer and two or three mayfly clinging to the reeds hoping for the wind to drop that would allow them to get on and dance to impress a mate.

The Breakthrough The Breakthrough Pool Breakthrough Pool

I popped over the other side of the river to clear the willow that was blocking the path beside the Breakthrough Pool. The tree had been undercut and washed out by the floods and fallen across the path. The only problem being as I cut each offending branch the tree started to stand back up. I had to clamber about cutting the higher branches first, enabling me to still cut the lower ones before it lifted them out of my reach. Nothing seems straightforward these days!

I'm sure I've said it on hear before but the Breakthrough is a classic Avon pool. Deep and mysterious with a large slack back-eddy where the denizens hide. It has produced chub over eight, barbel over eighteen, thirty plus salmon and pike and double figure bream and carp. Real Mr Crabtree country and you just never know what might take the bait.

1st May



Top Path Riverbank Riverbank Woodside from Riverbank

I spent a few hours today clearing two fallen pines from the Top Path in Riverbank. The Top Path is atypical of the Avon Valley in that it is the outer bend of the meandering river, where it meets the gravel escarpment. The bank rises almost vertically twenty feet to the copse above. The third photo is the view from the path over Woodside to Harbridge Corner. Just on the tail of Woodside, Alex can be seen looking for a salmon. I think Alex was the only rod out today and as I didn't hear from him later, I assume he failed to find. When we met earlier in the day Alex gave me a landing net he had found in one of the car parks. If you are the owner, get in contact and I'll reacquaint you.

Mockbeggar weed Downy emerald

A further photo of the weed in Mockbeggar that is now covering large areas of the lake. The second shot is a shot of the first Downy Emerald I have managed to get a photo of this Spring.

Reducing the London Plane Reducing the London Plane

Kern and the Tree Menders team have their hands full over the next few days as they reduce some of the dangerous trees overhanging the A338 at Ibsley. Traffic control and overhead phone lines making life more tricky and I believe Ricky drew the short straw and thats him at the top of the tree.

Swift emerging from the nestbox Sparrow interloper

Only two pairs of Swifts have arrived back so far. Strangely three of the older pairs have yet to return and they are usually the first to get back. Early days so lets keep our fingers crossed there are five further pairs heading our way as I write this. As for the Sparrow, I guess he's hoping they don't make it as they will soon turf him out should they find him in their box.

30th April



30 plus common Big common carp

A cracking brace of thirty plus commons landed by Peter on a recent day session. Peter only fishes short day sessions and with results like this there would seem little point in doing anything else. A great result, well fished Peter and thanks for sending through the photos.

29th April



Hoodies Pool North Marsh

Just what we needed, another twenty four hours of rain! The river came up and coloured but has settled back quickly and today whilst six inches extra water was out on the fields, the river has cleared once more. "Hoodies", looking back toward the spillway fished well. Just the fish missing. Hoodies Pool is named after one of my predecessors, Colonel Stan Crow, referencing his nickname derived from the Hooded Crow. The pool has struggled to maintain its reputation having been spoilt by the lunatic dredging activities of a more recent predecessor.

The second shot shows the North Marsh remains well and truly underwater. Swans and geese are about the only birds able to graze what submerged grass remains after seven months of being underwater. One other bird that was about yesterday was one of Steve's eagles, slumped in the spiny oak on the very north edge of the marsh. Hopefully, she was assessing the available food in the form of all the geese that are about up there. I dread to think what the meadows will look like when the water does eventually clear. They will eventually recover but the first year or two will be a dock and sedge filled nightmare. just what the stock will find to eat remains to be seen. I see that the government are going to compensate farmers who have suffered due to the exceptionally wet winter. Unfortunately Hampshire and Dorset are not included in the area that will receive the support. It seems Defra don't believe we get floods down here - that's the trouble with having a desk bound occupation!

27th April



Playing an Avon salmon safely in the net Somerley's first of the year

AT LAST, thanks to Oliver Mckaig, we have our first Somerley salmon of the year safely landed. Certainly this is the latest we have ever had to wait for our first fish. I am certainly very grateful to Oliver for getting us off the mark. Happily we have a good photograph or two to celebrate the capture. In the first shot obviously that's Oliver on the rod and Matt Allin waiting patiently to do the honours and luckily, Matt's guest for the day, Tom Hudson was on hand to do the photos. A bright 2SW fish hopefully signalling the arrival of a more regular catch rate. Congratulations Oliver and thanks to Matt and Tom for being there to complete the picture and make my day.

26th April



Below the Breakthrough The Powerline

I went down to Ashley today, cleaning up one or two salmon pools before the water dropwort takes over completely. All the time I was scything my way along the bank it didn't take a great deal of imagination to believe those pools were stacked with salmon, just waiting to take a fly. The flow is now for the most part back in the banks and the water visibility is perfect.

After I finished down by the Powerline I drove back up the to Penmeade to fish down through Blashford Island and Above the breakthrough, to join up and fish where I had just cleared. Those stacks of salmon must have run straight through as apart from a couple of rattles from trout I didn't meet any off them. That's the trouble with this river, it all looks perfect and an over active imagination can lead you astray! Back to the drawing board and a more basic principle for success, just keep a fly in the water.

I have long said, when asked by new rods where to fish, just fish the bits of bank I have cleared. Unfortunately due to the extended flood I have not been able to clear all the pools, perhaps a more reliable rule of thumb this year might be fish where ever you can get in that looks fishy.


Liquid silt deposits, otherwise known as mud.

I'm not sure which is worse, deep water or mud! Given a dry week this will soon harden off sufficiently to walk on. Making access and life considerably easier..

24th April



Juvenile Coot Confused ram

Brenda and Heidi were doing their warbler nest search and pulli ringing today when they came across a brood of these little beauties. Brenda very kindly sent over a photo letting us get a close-up we seldom see when we are around the lakes.

The second shot shows a couple of our Hampshire rams, with the one on the right somewhat confused, thinking its a dog called Beau. All its life with us it has heard Phil bellowing, "BEAU, SIT DOWN, DOWN, SIT DOWN"


You just couldn't make this up.

Ofwat have always been a complete disaster from the river protection perspective. They may have kept consumer bills down, as best they could, unfortunately at the expense of our rivers. The state of those rivers today is a direct indictment of their complicity or incompetence. I'm sure they have a list of excuses as long as your arm as why it wasn't their fault that we are up to our necks in shit in our rivers. Or why the foreign investors just can't believe their luck being up to their necks in share dividends. Now this government, which I am told are as corrupt as the banks that took out the loans against the value of the water companies, have hog tied Ofwat even more. It really has reached the point where many of our regulators are a serious threat to the state of our rivers. Starved of cash and bound in corrupt legislation they are a serious liability. Their sole purpose is to rubber stamp this corrupt legislation, providing a screen for Defra and the Government to hide behind. Those government spokes persons should be forced to wash their mouths out with a glass of Thames water each time they make such laughable pronouncements.

Whilst on the subject of water companies, I see that disrespectful rag, "Private Eye" has awarded its "Turd of the week" to Thames Water for their achievement in filling Farmoor Reservoir to only 89% of its capacity. Despite six months of exceptionally high rainfall. It would seem Thames Water had stopped filling the reservoir from the mucky old Thames as the river was full of "Dirt and debris" Their words not mine. I wonder how that got in there!

23rd April


THEY'RE BACK -three of our Swifts were circling the house at lunchtime today.

Starling Cock sparrows

........ and the resident Starlings and Sparrows are drawing up their battle plans for the coming weeks.

Mallard brood Godwits on the Avon Valley Path Blashford new carrier

Didn't she do well. That's the largest trip I've spotted so far this year. A further shot of the Avon Valley Path with a flock of Godwits enjoying the rich feeding. The righthand shot is the carrier we cleared out down at Blashford a year or two back. Its looks spot on for providing rich feeding for the breeding waders as the floods slowly disappear.

Nice tench

A good photo of Darrel with a six pound tench. This is a easily recognised fish, with the old dink, just in front of the tail. I would appreciate knowing of any captures of this fish members manage, it gives me some idea of movement and population. Nice fish Darrel, thanks for sending through the photo.

22nd April


Turk scythe clearing

When all else fails resort to the basics. Carrying a strimmer out through the floods and then cutting underwater was a non starter, so I dug out the Turk Scythe and it worked a treat. I may not have achieved quite so much as a normal day strimming, it was however a lot lighter and very much quieter. It also gave some of my muscles a thorough workout, that despite a warm bath still ache as I sit writing this!

Avon Valley Path Avon Valley Path

I'm sure regular readers will know how I feel about the Avon Valley Path and Hampshire County Council. That said, today I actually cut a defined path through the docks to assist the great unwashed find their way across the valley SSSI. I did this, with my trusty Turk scythe, in an effort to ensure path users stick to the designated route, now the flood is subsiding. Not that they will be walking it for a week or two yet without waders or tall welly boots. It may not be passable as yet but it will be within a week or two and then the users will arrive. The actual route of the path will be the last section to drain, as usage has left an indent in the field. What will then happen is our jolly walker, having failed to remember to wear wellies, will ignore the route and head out into the field seeking a drier path. Here in lies the rub as our Lapwing and Redshank are also desperately seeking this same high ground to start the considerably delayed nesting. I leave it to you to work out the consequences. Hopefully you will have a better grasp of reality than the Hampshire County Council footpath people, who couldn't give a bugger about the environment. I don't suppose any HCC people will bother to walk the path in the near future, ELF and Safty, preventing them walking in water in order to do anything useful.

It was the same E&S legislation that made them remove the raised walkway from Harbridge to Ibsley. The self same walkway that would have enabled the residents of Harbridge to walk to the bus stop on the A338 without getting their feet wet over the previous seven months. Sections of the walkway still exist and anyone with a jot of common sense, would get some lottery funding and put the bloody thing back in. On Dartmoor and in Scotland they would have made the walkway a tourist attraction! We offered to put the path back where it was historically, alongside the road and place a footbridge alongside the Harbrdige road bridge to avoid traffic. HCC didn't like that either, so you can see why I may have a pretty low opinion of that particular authority.

sea Trout

Another seatrout kelt, caught by Colin today, on its way back down to the sea. The effect of cutting a redd can be quite clearly seen on the lower edge of the tail fin. Hopefully a spell back in salt water will patch that up in readiness for next autumns spawning run. Why quite so many seatrout kelts and sea trout smolts are still with us is a little confusing. Seatrout smolt tend to run before salmon smolt, starting in mid March. The kelts silver up and very often seem to run back down at the same time as the smolt. They may be a little later this year due to the rich feeding that the massive midge hatch has provided. Or perhaps the diet includes minnows that have been on the first of their many upstream spawning migration in recent weeks. The Little Egrets certainly made the most of the minnow movement. The twenty odd birds that have been out in the middle of the flooded meadows for weeks, could all be seen on the very edge of the river spiking minnows as they passed.

21st April


Cabbage Garden breakthrough

The photo above was taken from just downstream of the style on Harbridge Bend. It is looking directly across the river toward, Lower Cabbage Garden. Judging by the flow that is currently cutting through the isthmus, that seperates the two pools, it won't be long before it breaks through permanently.

Avon Valley Path.

Seven months to the day that the Avon Valley Path has been unpassable without waders. I waded over to Ibsley Pool this evening and fished down to Harbridge Bend. Unfortunately without moving anything for all my efforts. Its not the wading through a foot of water that's so tiring, its the six inches of silt you sink into with every step.

All was not lost as whilst I was out there Stuart Goulding from down on the Severals Fishery text to say one of his rods, Mr Mike Harris, has landed the first salmon of the year off the Avon. A cracking 25 pound fresh fish, taken on a Gold Gun. Congratulations Mike, Certainly the best news I could have wished for. Lets hope this is an omen of things to come.

20th April


Goosander brood

BBS, Breeding Bird Survey, this morning and this years second Goosander brood put in an appearance.

Godwit feeding Godwit feeding

The Godwit also showed up to brighten the morning. They are such good looking birds I couldn't decide which photo I preferred hence I put both up. Not that their presence will have implications for the BBS as these birds breed in Iceland, where they will soon be disappearing towards.

Mallard brood

A Mallard brood with thirteen ducklings, one of three up on the marsh. There are at least six similar broods about the Estate at the moment. All have a minimum of ten ducklings and at least two have thirteen.

Bogbean and marsh marigold Bogbean Bogbean

Bogbean and marigolds on the North Marsh.

Meadow saxifrage Meadow saxifrage Meadow saxifrage

Meadow saxifrage.


Godwits on the marsh Godwits

Many of the Godwit seem to have left heading north, possibly heading for the Icelandic breeding grounds. There were three flocks left on the North Marsh that totalling 1000 to 1500 though too distant to get any sort of count. If you look between the heads of the horses just to the left of the tree you can just make out the flock in the second photo.

Rubbish

Surrounded by all this natural beauty and wonder and some sub-human chucks their rubbish over the hedge. Its not surprising, just disappointing and indicative of far too large a proportion of our society.

19th April


Ibsley Bridge Pile Pool

As the water slowly drops back it allows me, at long last, to get at the salmon pools to clip them into some sort of shape. The right bank between Ibsley Bridge and the hatches is now fishable and with this extra flow well worth a cast. The left bank remains well under water and out of action. The left bank of Pile Pool, between Ron's seat and the gate, is now clear and looking well, all we need now if for a fish to put in an appearance.

Hares

Manny sent over this lovely shot of a couple of hares, a clip from his recent footage.

18th April


Valley wildlife Morning silhouettes Godwit count

The first shot is a view up the valleyfrom Ellingham. The water in the foreground is the flooded meadow, with part of a large Godwit flock loafing just before the line of docks. Through the centre of the photo the Avon is running right to left. on the far side another large flock of Godwits before the band of yellow kingcups. The middle shot is a silhouette of some of the assemble flock feeding onthe exposed mud. Finally on the right today's count. As can be seen, a few hundred more have joined yesterdays flock. The flocks combine and seperate at random throughout the day with no apparent reason or pattern.

Ambitious Nuthatch

Another shot of our ambitious Nuthatch's latest project. This is a different box from that I put on here a week or two back. For reasons best known to itself it decided to change location.

17th April


Godwit flock Godwits feeding Godwits

One of the Godwit flocks arriving today and a couple of shots of them feeding. John Clark, the ex HOS recorder, came over today and made a count of 1950, which is a far more realistic number.

Arriving on the Estate Mallard trip Hucklesbrook flood

Arriving on the Estate in low light level. There is a trip of mallard up on the marsh in the middle photo, one of three good broods of mallard seen today. The first brood of Goosander of the year was also out on the river this evening, spotted as I fished down one of the pools. The righthand shot is the gate beside the Hucklesbrook, looking none to user friendly. It'll be some time before stock can get out on the meadows I'm afraid.


Flock arriving.

One of the Godwit flocks arriving.


Flying in.

Not the best video in the world but if you look closely you can see the birds flying in overhead.

Godwit count

A digital count of the main flock on the meadows today. There were certainly two if not three other flocks close by at the time. It seems they require an Osprey to take to the air. The appearance of one crossing the meadow today had the desired effect of getting them to lift off.

16th April


Male tench Godwits

John, still enjoying his tench fishing with a bag of five, to five and a half pounds, including this immaculate four pound male. The Godwits are also still enjoying the rich feeding out on the drying watermeadows. Today I managed a partial count of 625, unfortunately at least one large flock managed to avoid me yet again.


Midge Smoke.

.........and you think you have a midge problem! In actual fact I couldn't be happier to see the hugh emergence of midges the wet conditions have encouraged. They may be a nuisance if you leave a window or door open and as the vast majority are not the fat, female biting form, they are not a serious threat to humans. Having said that I must have eaten a dozen of them yesterday as I strimmed vegetation where they had settle on to avoid wind and rain. The benefits for the fish and birds in providing a wonderful food source outweigh any inconvenience they cause me. Its not only the adult midge stage that provides food but the larval and nymph stgaes all add to the feast.


Fish fry feeding on midge.

An example of one benefit as fish feed on the glut of food. Trips of ducklings, juvenile coot and moorhen, plus the juvenile wagtails, redshank and lapwind plus a myriad of others all enjoy the rich feeding. .

15th April



Living Bridge

After clipping out Lake Run, down below Edwards Pool, I stopped off the have a look at a fallen oak that had blocked the Troutstream. As it turned out the oak was still alive and just breaking into leaf. The local foxes and badgers had actually been using it as a means to cross the stream, without swimming for it. There is a holly that has fallen across just upstream that will require the winch or the JCB to remove. The oak itself just needed a few limbs snipped off and a step or two added, to make the perfect living bridge.


Black-tailed Godwit Godwit flock

Black-tailed Godwit Godwit flocks Black-tailed Godwit
Godwits Godwits

The Godwits were back in force today with considerably more arriving throughout the day. They were still arriving at six oclock this evening as I waited for them to lift off to enable me to get a photograph to do a digital count. I stood for over an hour and a half waiting for them to get up. All to no avail. We had Red Kites, Marsh Harriers and even one of Steves eagles drifted over and perched up in a nearby oak like a sack of feathers. Yet nothing would persuade them to lift off. Steves eagles are a real disappointment, we are still overrun with Canada and Greylag geese and to add insult to injury we probably have over a hundred Egyptian Geese now breeding furiously about the Estate. Smaller than Canadas or Greylags, they are the perfect eagle sized lunch, yet they sit in the trees looking hopeless. I have no real idea of how many Godwits there were, as on the ground large numbers were hidden amongst the docks. I would think there were well over a thousand. If they return tomorrow I will see if I can get them to lift off for a photo.

14th April


Oystercatcher Greywag

Black-tailed Godwit Filming the flood Black-tailed Godwit
Grass snake Grass snake

Manny was about today intending to film down at the heronry and the Lapwing up on the gravel decks. Never one to miss an opportunity and as there was so much going on, as the flood waters receded, a chance of a little opportunist filming. The oystercatchers were just spending the day loafing alongside the carrier. There are several pairs about the Estate at various stages of nest building and usually found feeding out on the freshly exposed mud. The Grey wagtails just can't believe their luck with the current size of the fly and midge hatches. The raft of scum that can be seen trapped against the strand of wire they are sat on consists almost totally of spent grannom. The shots either side of Manny show the Black tailed Godwit that have arrived now the flood water is receding exposing the rich feeding. The grass snake was just enjoying the week sunshine that has been in short supply this spring.

Pile Pool

As there were three or four salmon rods out over the weekend I was hoping we might open our account. Unfortunately, despite the recent Spring tides and good visibility the fish avoided what was offered them. I even popped out my self for an hour this evening and fished down through Pile Pool. The head of the pool remains a little turbulent but the middle and tail fished beautifully. If there was a fish out there I'm sure I would have moved it. Next time perhaps.

The head of Park Pool remains unfishable due to the state of the flooded banks and the collapsed trees. As soon as we can get at them we will cut them back to allow access. The middle can be reached by going around the trees but be careful as you approach the tail as the bank is extremely soft.

13th April


Cabbage Garden

A couple of days of warmth and sunshine and the river world comes alive.

Chiffchaff Large red damsel fly

The sound of Chiffchaff, Reed and sedge warblers, Blackcaps and a myriad of other resident passerines, now added in the geese and ducks and you have a veritable cacophony of Spring. The air is also full of insect life on the wing. The damsel flies have appeared with the large red, azure and even an early banded demoiselle. The grannom continue to drift upstream, bumblebees, hoverflies and midge clouds by the billion. The arrival of Spring in the valley is my favourite time of year and arrives just in time to charge my batteries for another year.

Collecting nesting material.

Anne brushed out Ashley, her New forest pony, and brought home some of his hair for our flock of sparrows. The effect is almost instantaneous, they arrived whilst she was still putting it out on the rockery.


12th April



Left bank Dog Kennel

A glorious day, a few more like this and things will hopefully start returning to a more normal level. I did take the rod out this evening in celebration. I headed up the carrier from Ellingham car park to Woodside hatches to fish back down the left bank. I only had thigh waders on and apart from a couple of detours around flooded ditches all went well until I got down opposite the Lodge at Dog kennel. I fished down to the tail of the pool and intended to cut back across the field to the truck. A word of warning, the flood has not dropped back sufficiently to wear thigh waders. I had to back track to the isolated willow out in the field, to find a route back across the field.

Peacock on wild cherry Brimstone feeding on wild cherry

The sun brought out the butterflies, making for an enjoyable transect.

11th April



Ringwood Weir Upstream from Ringwood Weir

I clipped up Ringwood Weir today for a couple of reason. The first being its about the only dry salmon pool on the Estate! The second reason is that the weirpool is what is commonly referred to as a running pool. Running being, fish moving through the system pausing briefly before the turbulence of the gates. As such, one thing this most prolonged flood has provided are ample days when fish might be running through the system. Historically this pool was deep enough to have been a holding pool. Unfortunately, since the EA cocked up the design of the weir the pool has almost disappeared and is a turbulent, eddying, scoop out of the channel bed. The gates don't provide a barrier to passage, it is just the turbulence makes them pause. Unfortunately there is no attempt by the EA to manage the gates to flush some of the accumulated gravel out of the pool. It has simply been abandoned in best EA practice. Apart from being a downstream fishery disaster, as I have said on here before the fact the head of water wasn't considred when it was constructed and the most famous roach water on the Avon was totally destroyed. Add a fish counter that hasn't worked since the day it was installed and a serious health and safety issue, related to trespassing boat passage, it is a classic example of a EA masterpiece.

10th April



Hake with clams and beans Limoncello

Well, this its what its come to. After over six months of flooding I have resorted to photographing my dinner. I could have shown yet another view of the floods, or as below yet another swan but I found my dinner had far more appeal after yet one more day staggering about in the rain and wind. Besides, Anne had created another masterpiece to restore my equilibrium after yet more frustration in the valley. Thats Hake and clams, with picante choriso and beans, with anything else she had found in the fridge. Accompanied with a white Burgundy and followed by a limincello, made from our home grown lemon, it was top end soul food.


Mute swan nest

Just to reassure you the river hasn't gone down and I'm not letting on, this was the scene at lunchtime. The swans are nesting in all sorts of new locations where ever they feel they are not going to be washed away. The nests are also much higher than normal in what I hope is purely a precautionary measure. As opposed to them knowing something we don't above future water levels. My concerns the other day about the coots nesting in the middle of the flooded meadows risking being left high and dry, woould seem to be allayed. Certainly one of the pairs could be seen fussing about a brood of half a dozen red headed juveniles today. Hopefully the others will hatch in the near future and if they can avoid the attention of the seemingly ever present Marsh Harriers they should thrive. Especially if their diet included the millions of flies and midges that were also hatching today.


Midge smoke

Looking upthrough a column of midges that were just one of many hundreds of columns of midge smoke in this mornings still air.

8th April



Ashley Old Weir Plan

The inception of the Kings and Ashley Streams down at Ashley. The present inception is blocked with gravel, swept in at times of high water, that means the streams almost dry out completely in the Summer. With this drying out we lose in the region of ten thousands square meters of riverine habitat is lost. We are currently looking at ways to ensure a constant flow down the streams throughout the year.


A 360 degree view from the Old Weir footbridge.

A 360 view of the Kings and Ashley Stream footbridge.


The Old Weir in flood.

The Old weir flowing strongly during the high water of recent months.


The Old weir in flood Kings  and Ashley Inception

With the current high water, making sense of the flow, gravel mobility and erosion is extremely trying. The Old Weir, normally dry for ninety percent of the time has been flowing for months. The high water has also meant the inception has become obsolete, as the water spills out of the main perched channel and flows toward the natural lowest point in the valley, down the Kings Stream.


The water spilling from the main channel.

The point at which the high water spills from the channel at the head of the Below the Breakthrough Pool. The point the Kings and Ashley Stream turn first west, then south, 100 meters north of the inception.

7th April



Full greenhouse Oak seedlings

That's the trouble with heating your greenhouse, you start too early and you run out of room! The second photo are this years oak seedlings that stand outside the greenhouse, just breaking through.

6th April



Ibsley Meadows Ibsley Pool

Views across the meadows at Ibsley that remain flooded beneath the layer of Kingcups.


A couple of video clips to update the salmon rods on the current state of play. The first looking across from the Harbridge Stream Bridge to the Bend. The water is above knee level in places and running extremely quickly. Unless you are equiped to deal with such flows they are best avoided.

Harbridge Bend.

In the distance, fishing the pool is new member, John and his guest, Charlie. They couldn't put off a visit any longer and it was good to see rods out on the bank, even if conditions were less than ideal. The water clarity is perfect once more, after the recent rain. I did hear from them at the end of the day, telling me they thoroughly enjoyed their visit and can't wait to return, hopefully when conditions are more user friendly. Well done to cope with the conditions, it was good to meet up on the bank today.


Blashford from the lakes.

As can be seen in this second clip, looking across to Blashford Pool, the water is flowing at a similarly fast rate before even reaching the footbridge. Wellingtons wouldn't even get you as far as the bridge so waders are a one hundred percent must for anyone fancying a visit.


Lutece elm Lutece elm flowers

The first week of April and its the start of the butterfly transect season. That being so the weather has done it very best to ensure we didn't have sufficient sunshine or warmth to meet the necessary parameters for the walk. I did manage to get around today and despite the high winds the transect sections were sufficiently sheltered to enable me to get a reasonable result. The walk also allowed me to have a look at the Lutece disease resistant elms we planted five or so years ago, in an effort to provide a food source for the White Letter Hairstreak population. Pleasingly these trees are looking well, flowering for the first time as they become more established. Considering they have suffered two or three drought Summers in their short existence, that is quite an achievement. The big question yet to be answered, are we in time to save the remnant population of WLH that inhabit the site.


Speckled Wood Brimstone Comma
Cherry blossom Small tortoiseshell

Some of the species spotted on the transect today.


Tufted duck flock Shoveler and Coot Weird duck

Duck numbers on the North Marsh, over 100 Tufted also over two dozen Shovler plus a weird looking Aythya hybrid. The two Coot nests in the background are in a race against time. They have bilt their nests out in the middle of what at this time of year should be a dry meadow. If the water recedes before they hatch their brood the foxes will make short work of any sitting birds that remain out there. The plantlife in the middle photo is interesting in that it gives an indication of what lies beneath. The Kingcups and the soft rush grow on what should be the dry meadow. In the foreground there can be seen a large clump of bogbean. Bogbean grows along the ditches showing where not to wade. Due to the extent of the flooding it was difficult to get close enough for accurate counts and identification making this a none to representative WeBS count.


5th April



Nuisance fish.

Whilst I was over at the lake today, I knew John was after the tench again, so I called in to see how he was getting on. As on the previous occasion, when roach and rudd were creating a nuisance, he was suffering again today.

20+ common carp 28 common

A brace of nuisance fish John had to deal with whilst after his tench. A brace of 20 pounders the largest going 28. Better luck next time John!

4th April



Marauding gulls.

As well as societies use of the river as a drain, for every pollutant known to man, the invertebrates have to contend with this lot when they survive to take to the wing. This is just one of three flocks of between one and two hundred in each flock that were about the river today feasting on the Grannom hatch. The weather and river conditions have created an almost impossible environment for these delicate flies yet they struggle to the surface to be greeted by this lot. I wouldn't mind but these birds are not an indigenous obstacle, the flies have evolved to survive, they are this high in the valley as they are encouraged by the conservation groups to nest and loaf on the large gravel pits nearby. Islands are deliberately cleared and even created to encourage this unnatural predation - there again, many in the conservation world only consider rivers when they see a soft funding option.

3rd April



Grebe on the nest Lapwing Redshank

Manny is about capturing more of the life in the valley and he has kindly sent over some screen grabs from the film footage. Our Great Crested Grebe are now sitting, whilst our Lapwing and Redshank still await the water levels to drop back so they can also get on with nesting. Whilst Manny was filming there were four or five pairs af Redshank and similar numbers of Lapwing waiting their chance to nest. Just how long they will wait for the levels to drop before they give up and look for alternative sites remains to be seen.

Ambitious Nuthatch

Whilst on the subject of our birdlife, the photo above shows the entrance hole of one of our duck boxes that a Nuthatch, that obviously thinks its a Great Hornbill, has cemented up. I don't know exactly what size I cut the entrance, but it is in the region of six inches. That's work in progress, what its achieved so far has taken less than a week.


A pound plus roach Landing a tench Rudd

One door closes another opens. With Meadow Lake and Kings-Vincents now closed Mockbeggar is up and running. The photos above show John enjoying some feeder fishing for the tench, roach and rudd. Tench were the main target and when I left just after lunch he'd managed somewhere about half a dozen to about four pounds. I can't remember the exact numbers but I'lll add the final bag when I next hear from John. The roach and rudd were almost impossible to avoid, even on larger baits, maggot fishing being simply impossible. With roach to over a pound and good solid rudd, it didn't appear too much of a hardship to fish his way through them.

Nice tench

John with one of the tench he landed today.

Landing a tench.

A clip of John giving a master class landing tench.

1st April



Distant fly fishermen In it to win it

Spot the salmon rod. Certainly working on the principle of having to be in it to win it. Well done that man, I'll be joining you on the bank/flooded field in the coming week. There has just got to be a fish about with this water, finding it is the only problem!

31st March


Big common carp

Meadow and Kings-Vincents are now shut for the twelve week closed season break. Not before signing off with some cracking fish, topped on the morning of the final day with this stunner at 44.12. Absolutely brilliant Mike, talk about leaving it to the last moment to hit the jackpot. Congratulations and thanks for the report and photo. Has to be the perfect end of the season.

30+ common 30+mirr

Roger and Darrel also with a couple of thirty plus fish, from the last week of the season. I also know of several other thirties with Dave Winter taking a brace of 35 and 37, with a back up fish or two to complete the session. Pecs with at least two thirties from "No Carp" this weekend, to make his number of thirties this season up to a neat two dozen. Oddly two dozen was the same number Mike finished on, so honours were even at the close of play. Mike topped the show with the wonderful common above. Frustratingly, for me, Darrel also landed bream over ten and several good tench whilst after the carp. After my eel extravaganza I failed to find my late season tench. Lets hope my salmon season finishes on a higher note!

30th March



Easter floods

Easter weekend, April appoaches and the Avon Valley is still underwater. We are definitely entering new territory with such an extended period of flooding


Easter flood.

A brief video capturing the view across the valley from the lakes.

29th March


Kingcups

The kingcups are putting on a brave show, although they're standing in a foot of water. If you look closely a Redshank can be seen below the Lapwing that is in flight.

Lapwing Skylark Mandarin drake

Last week I was saying the Lapwing and Redshank were able to start selecting their nest sites as the water had dropped back. Today they were looking far from impressed with the newly flooded meadows. The middle shot shows a Skylark that is equally fed-up with the new flood. The Mandarin Drake takes it all in his stride as he awaits his mate to incubat her clutch of eggs and join him out on the water.

Interestly the Lapwing that are on the dry gravel decks within the Estate are already sitting. They have been joined by a pair of Little Ringed Plover and a pair of Woodlark that have a good head start on their valley relatives.

Windblown pine Windblown ash

As a change from torrential rain and hail, the wind got up and uprooted several trees about the place. Thankfully most can be left where they fall, its only in cases such as the ones above where the roads, or car parks, are at risk they have to be dealt with as quickly as possible.


Large barbel

Bob looking over the top of one of our well known barbel. Thanks for the report and the pix Bob, very much appreciated.

I have attached a brief, if somewhat rambling review of the past river season below. I'm sure you'll agree there have been some incredible captures again this season.

In an entry at the close of the river coarse season I said I would give a brief review when time permitted. Judging this season is not an easy task as many members consider the Winter to be the best of the fishing and this winter was a high water disaster. As I've also mentioned previously on here, it was the 21st of September when the river first came out into the flood plain. From that September date it has been six months of unabated floods, requiring considerable effort just to get to the river in many places. Once getting to a swim finding somewhere to put your tackle down, whilst you set-up and fished, was the next issue. Under such conditions I fully sympathise with many members who declared this Winter a write-off.

That said, there are the hardy, driven souls that will get their fishing in, come hell or high water. So our flood came into that latter category and out through the floods they strode. Well splashed and staggered is probably a more accurate description of their passage out to the river. Once out there the floods don't seem to have moved the fish about any more than in a normal flow winter. In many instances the chub remained on the shallows and the barbel in their usual deep glides. After a few weeks the flood water had cleared the silt and debris from the channel and water cleared with the bottom visible in eight or even ten feet of water on occasions. This enabled the maggot to come into its own with the chub and some remarkable bags of fish resulted. Six, seven, eight, nine and even double figure bags of chub. Not only large bags but fish of extraordinary size were regularly caught. There are now members who do not weigh six pound chub, unless they think it may go seven! I have no idea how many seven plus chub are about the Estate, at least a dozen different fish and may possibly be as high as twenty. Of those there are one or two that will go over eight as the end of the season approaches and they begin to get into spawning condition. It may seem that maggot was the only way to attract these staggering Hampshire Avon chub but more traditional large bait approach could be equally effective, particularly for the larger specimens. The larger baits tended to become more difficult to catch on as the water cleared. Very often it was at last knockings the fish plucked up the courage to take a large lump of meat, flake or cheese. The downside of that of course was that if you stayed out there too late you had to pack-up and get back through the flood in the dark.

Not to be outdone, the pike anglers managed to over come the conditions with some fine fish with two different fish over thirty pounds. The best going 31.08 in October that unfortunately failed to be recaptured toward the end of the season when she would have been considerably larger. At the other extreme, the other thirty was a most obliging fish coming out half a dozen times during the season. A third fish that weighed in at a shade under thirty, added to some great sport. Alongside these fish, good numbers of twenties and doubles kept the interest up, with one rod managing four twenties in a session. Multiple catches of doubles hopefully points to a healthy sustainable population that will be with us for some time to come.

Barbel, that many would consider the seasons highlight, have once more been exceptional. The Hampshire Avon record tumbled with a fish going over twenty pounds for the first time on the Avon. Alongside this well known fish there are probably somewhere in the region of ten fish that have gone over seventeen pounds. Some of these fish undoubtedly have responded to bait, others have been in obscure out of the way swims that hardly see a boilie for one year to the next. Astonishing numbers of big fish and as with the pike, considerable numbers of single figure fish, down to a couple of pounds, throughout the river. On the shallows and the hatch aprons, first and second year juveniles can be seen in good numbers, which hopefully indicates a healthy sustainable population to safeguard the Avon barbel fishing for years to come. One of the areas of discussion surrounding these big barbel is their mobility. One or two seem to be regular travellers being caught many miles apart and even on different fisheries. Others, such as the record fish seem to stay in the same pool year in year out. What provides the incentive to get up and move remains a mystery. Possibly upstream spawning migration and the subsequent return to home waters. Seeking new food sources, we simply don't have a clue but what is known is that some of the weirs and hatches seem to present no problem to movement whilst others define the extent of the travels.

Throughout the Summer bream seemed to appear throughout the fishery. I'm not sure if these were different fish or like the barbel are very mobile. Certainly in the early part of the season I had more reports of large river bream being landed than I have received for several seasons. River bream are impressive fish especially when they are in double figures. Usually dark bronze flanks and no layers of slime that are associated with the stillwater residents. They also have no fear of fast flowing water frequently being landed in the fastest of runs to float anglers. The effect of a large bream turning flank on to the flow can be quite a shock when the previous dozen bites have resulted in six inch dace.

Dace remain in good numbers, although they seem to have been more localised than usual this year. It may just be my experience but I didn't hear the usual complaints of not being able to fish small baits as the dace seemed to be in every barbel swim. Flows may have moved them about a little more than usual but the one or two members who do trot for them enjoyed some great sport, with very large shoals. They can provide good fishing with the more traditional Avon of trotted maggot, in the side streams and carriers a great way to spend a day. Grayling, roach, thousands of chublets, gudgeon and even salmonid parr, it all provides me with an idea of stock numbers that I very much appreciate hearing about.

Our roach remain a mystery with number struggling to re-establish. In the summer good numbers of fish, to just over the pound, can be seen throughout the fishery. Where they go in the winter remains to be discovered. The members trotting for dace regularly catch in one or two areas, yet we failed to see them later in the year. Perhaps they are there and due to the lack of rod effort due to the floods they still await discovery.

The perch continue to thrive and be found in their favoured pools and slacks. The season just past probably wasn't as productive as the previous winter, almost certainly due to gaining access to the preferred spots. I didn't hear of any large bags being landed yet the size of the individual fish that were landed was pleasing. Two pound fish remain regular captures, with several three plus specimens joining in. Avon perch are always a pleasure to target as they are such well marked fish and go a long way in defining the magic of river fishing.


28th March


Ellingham Meadows Ruddy Shelduck

Well, that lasted a long time! The meadows having drained on Saturday, yesterday they were under a foot of water again. Six months and counting! The shot of the meadows was taken the other side of the river from where the pike were spawning, unfortunately the end result is exactly the same. Sat on the edge of the flood this morning were a dozen or so Little Egret and one Great White and even they were looking fed up with the rain. The second shot shows the Ruddy Shelduck that is still with us. This is the bird that thinks its an Egyptian Goose, pairing up with an Egyptian for at least the previous three years. I'm not sure whether they successfully rear offspring, having said that we do seem to have a number of dodgy looking Egyptian Geese about.

26th March



Freshwater eel

I had a really good eel fishing session today, four absolute clonkers. The only snag being, I was fishing for a tench. With Meadow about to close for three months, at the end of the week, I thought I should try for my annual winter tench. I had called in yesterday and Darrel, who was chasing the carp, had managed along with a twenty plus carp, a fine brace of tench and a bonus double figure bream. That would do, thinks I, tomorrow I'll slay um. Half an hour into today's session and it started to rain and continued to do so for the duration of my stay. A stay that didn't reach the anticipated climax of a last minute tench, as I cleared off home early.

Regular readers will know I have a fascination with eels as their life cycle is quite an amazing story. A Mid Atlantic birth, which then involves drifting across the ocean to reach our rivers and lakes, where they mature before heading back out to the Sargasso to spawn. Along with our salmon, which do their north Atlantic trip in reverse, both are struggling in our lowland rivers. The roach population is also struggling in the Avon, yet they have no high seas period in their life cycle. Even more puzzling is the fact roach thrive in the stillwaters alongside the river. As it would appear from today's effort, do our eels.

Lots to think about when it comes to shedding light on the mysteries that inhibit the sustainable populations. Natural cycles, climate change, predation or water quality, no one can give us definitive answers, just lots of guess work, hypothesis and talking shops. This afternoon, whilst hiding under an umbrella, I had a call from some one who is similarly puzzled by the goings-on on the Avon. High water, making salmon fishing almost impossible and not a salmon seen in the system so far this year. I'm not overly concerned at the present time as rod pressure and eyes on the water have been at an all time low. If however a further month goes by and we still do not have any sightings I will start to worry. I suppose the publicly funded fish counter down at the bottom end could allay some of these concerns but I don't see the EA doing anything helpful to assist the angling community.

Whilst talking of failing regulators just what is going on with this latest scheme to bugger up the river takes some believing. For decades, we in the angling fraternity, have been complaining to the regulators about the water quality and pollution, both chemical and organic, emanating from trout farms. The EA along with Defra did tests and assured us all was well and having no adverse impact. Those of us who suffered the detritus and escapees knew differently but as with the fish counter no help was forthcoming from the regulators. Well what do you know! It now seems trout farms were the grubbiest, dirtiest, foulest point source polluters imaginable. Everyone is now rushing about measuring the amount of phosphates and crap that they produced to enable any closure of a farm to be seen as a noble deed, and to sell the now admitted phosphate load to mitigate housing developments alongside the river. To enable developers to pump their crap into our catchments with the minimum of infrastructure investment. I think some one is taking the piss, which of course our water company will pump straight into the river!!

From lessons learnt regarding the regulators approach to protecting the river over the past three decades, weed cutting, dredging, planning, agricultural pollution, don't expect either EA, NE, Defra or the local authorities to put the river at the top of their priority list.

25th March



Receding flood

I took the shot above on Saturday, the day after the clip of the spawning pike. It shows that within 24 hours of videoing the pike, the water had almost completely drained from the meadow. That's also the meadow in the view from the Blashford footbridge back toward the lake on the 20th. Hopefully the pike managed to deposit sufficient spawn in the carriers margins to ensure a successful hatch.

23rd March



Ancient common carp

I just love this shot of one of our senior dowagers from the lake, carefully cradled by Phil, who landed her yesterday at mid thirty. I have known this fish a long, long time and she is undoubtedly one of my favourite residents in the lake. If you look closely you can see her eyes are clouded and I doubt she can see a great deal. Despite this handicap, which she has had for many years, she still appears to be thriving. She doesn't come out any more or less frequently than the fully sighted fish and judging by her condition she is not in any way suffering. To see her in her full winter livery is almost magical, what a stunning fish in all her amber glory. Great capture Phil, and thanks for sending her photo through for us to enjoy.

Young generation common

This is a shot of the up and coming generation. One of a brace, landed by Andy yesterday during a day session. Same lake, same day, probably within fifty meters of each other, totally different appearance. An equally good looking fish but not showing the depth of character, colour and battle scars of Phil's fish. Its like good wine, these fish get better with age. Thanks for the use of the photo Andy, much appreciated.

A hare's tale

Do you recognise this chap? Last seen a few days ago in an entry related to the flood. When I scooped him up from the flotsam that had accumulated on a gravel bar he has obviously been in the river a considerable time. Water weed was established on his coat with roots that were firmly fixed in his body. Algal growth had permanently dyed one side of his coat and he was looking none too cheerful. As hares have been a topic of conversation recently and for no other reason, I scooped him up and carried him home in the net. Hand washing was having no effect and I decided a turn through the washing machine, on delicate setting, would either kill or cure him. Had Anne spotted the wildlife in the form of worms and leeches that were abandoning their host I think my use of the washing machine may well have been vetoed. Anne didn't sus the rather dubious hangers on and a wash, spin-dry and an hour in the tumble drier has him back on his feet. I'd love to know his history as I imagine he was dearly loved by some small child upstream. As it is, he now goes under the name of "Lepus" and occupies pride of place amid the debris on my desk.

22nd March



Ibsley Meadows Lapwing

At last, the water is beginning to clear from some of the meadows. Its leaving a great deal of mud and slim that will thankfully soon dry. The Lapwing and the Redshank are also extremely pleased to see the meadows reappearing, allowing them to start selecting their nest sites.

Hucklesbrook panarama

Don't get over excited, there remains plenty of water about to make life difficult. The scene above was taken at Hucklesbrook at lunchtime today and it will still take waders to get anywhere near the river up there.

Spawning pike.

The clip shows pike spawning out in the meadow beside one of the carriers. In the distance the main river channel can be seen out across the acres of recently deposited silt.


21st March


Great Crested Grebe

Great crested grebe, beautiful looking birds that are at present busy nest building. With the river in flood its difficult to know just how many pairs we have about the Estate. Around the lakes we probably have half a dozen and in a normal year there are a further four or five pairs on the river. It will be interesting to see how many pairs have managed to establish nest sites after these floods have dropped back.

20th March



Nestbox Swan victim

A couple of shots that were of note today. The first is a view from the Blashford footbridge, back towards the lakes. In the oak just to the rear of my truck is a new nestbox, hopefully for the use of our resident hollow nesting species that haven't been evicted by the dozens of Egyptian Geese about this year.

The swan demonstrates just how vicious Nature can be. This bird was being mercilessly trampled and beaten by the dominant cob on the lake. Had I not just happened to be passing at the time of the attack this bird would have been killed, it had no means of escaping and getting back to the lake. Mute swans are extremely territorial and they will not only attack other swans but geese, ducks and ducklings. Mute swans may look very regal but they are not very nice birds.

18th March


30+ common

With the close of the river coarse season Darrel has moved location to the lakes. The move doesn't seem to have interrupted his catch rate, as well as the great looking 33 common above he managed a mid twenty during a day session today. darrel's catches from the river during Feb and March are equally impressive including barbel of, 10.06, 11.04, 12.03, 13.04, 14.06 and 15.06, plus a couple of single figure fish and that doesn't include the chub. Considering the terrible conditions we've endured over that period that's a pretty good six weeks.

Egyptian Goose brood Great Crested Grebe nest

Judging by the number of pairs of Egyptian Geese that are about the valley we are going to see a population explosion of this non-native species. The Great Crested Grebe is a more welcome sight with several pairs now busy nest building.

16th March


Roach fishing

John caught a roach a cast if he used maggot, having to resort to pellet to slow the action. Last season it wasn't until May that the silver fish came on the feed. He did manage to get through the roach and rudd to land one tench adding to the mix. It will be an interesting season ahead if the silvers continue to show in such numbers. I haven't heard of any carp over the weekend but I imagine they won't be long in showing up, if the number of fish topping on Friday is any indication. One aspect that will add to the interest is that the weed has remained in the north lake at least. Just how dense the beds will be this season may well determine how the fish respond to anglers bait.

Nest site Oystercatcher

An unseen consequence of these prolonged floods is the confusing effect it has on some of the valley residents. The last time I photographed this particular island, the two Oystercatchers that are currently occupying, was when Dave was heading out to the river last 30th October. The island is in fact the gravel covering of one of the carrier culverts. Should the Oystercatchers build out there I imagine they will be left high and dry before the end of incubation, as the water drops back.

15th March



Halfway to the river.

If you look back a few weeks I put a similar clip up showing very little change to the current state of the flood. I am stood in knee deep water that if you look closely can be seen to be flowing quickly across the meadow. If you look back to the entry for last September the 21st you will see the first time the river came out into the flood plain.

Ibsley Pool

Ibsley Pool, looking well.

Ibsley Pool.

Once you manage to get out to the river, the water is looking well. Three clips that provide an update as to the current conditions.


Provosts.

The flow through Provost's or the Aquarium, dependent on your discipline, has eroded a large chunk out of the bank. The gravel that has been washed out can be seen fanning out into the meadow.


Hemlock Water Dropwort Lost bunny

A couple more shots from my hour or two wading about in the meadows. The first shows the root of, Hemlock Water Dopwort, that has been washed out of the bank during the prolonged flood. Water dropwort is one of the most poisonous plants in the UK. Having proven fatal to cattle and humans when they have mistakenly eaten the root. There are quite a few exposed roots that have been swept out into the meadows or exposed along the banks. Should you come across any such roots and you're close to fenced woodland or the river throw them where stock can't reach them. Just picking them up won't do you any harm, don't go overboard breaking or cutting them up, just lob or kick them into a safe area.

The second shot is another poignant casualty of the flood, alone and lifeless, sadly cast ashore . I don't think dropwort was to blame, a family mishap upstream would seem the most likely.

There are a couple of other points in the two shots above. The first, in the lefthand shot, is the hay bale, that has been out there since last Summer when the ground was too wet to get them off. We are in the lap of the gods when it comes to drying out by hay time this Summer. Another impact of these floods will be the masses of docks that will establish once the flood does finally clear off. I fear there will be lean pickings for grass in the valley this year.
The other point to note is in the second shot where the force of water in the field, immediately beyond the casualty, is sufficiently powerful to sweep you off your feet unless you take care.

14th March


Last day of the river coarse season 30+ pound pike

Well that's it, the river coarse season is now closed and it went out as we feared with us still under water. I was out and about after lunch, looking for a photo for the diary. Unfortunately despite finding Adrian, Martin and Dave, trying their hardest, there was nothing to see the season out in style.

It was almost on dark when the mobile rang and Dave Noble asked if I was still looking for a photo as he had a 30+ pike in the net. I didn't need a second invite and asked him to rest her in the net whilst I got to him. Now that is defintely the way to sign off for the season and as icing on the cake he, had added a 21.07. Along with most of us Dave has been struggling with the flooding this winter and decided to finish the season on dry land and not standing in water for hours. He even decided to give the chub and barbel search a miss and dug out the pike gear, that has gone unused for almost two decades. The change of venue and species certainly paid dividends, congratulations Dave, a stylish end of the season indeed.


8+ chub

I was putting this entry together this evening when the email pinged and and I could see one from Dom Longley had arrived. An email from Dom very often contains good news and this one was no exception, containing what I consider one of the most magnificent shots of the season. As you can see that is just a wonderful chub and at 8.03 certainly a fish of a lifetime. The backdrop of the photo just perfectly captures the state of the meadows and the effort it takes to get onto the river. It is just perfect, congratulations Dom and thanks for the photo.

I had seen Dom's car parked in six inches of water in the car park as I came back from lunch and I spotted him some way down river, across the even deeper floods, so I didn't stop to catch up on his news. What I feared would be a very disappointing end to the season has thanks to Dave, with his pike and Dom's stunning chub, turned into a classic Avon send off.

As you can see from above that despite the almost six months of floods there have been some fabulous catches from the river, for those who braved the elements. To give a taste of the wonderful Hampshire Avon I'll give a rundown on some of the catches in the next few days.

Red Admiral on blackthorn Peacock butterfly Brimstone butterfly

The sun did poke its head out from behind the clouds for two or three hours this morning and everything in the countryside responded to its welcome warmth. The butterflies, bumblebees and hoverflies, appeared as if by magic along with basking grass snakes just soaking up the early warmth.

Comma butterfly Tree bumblebee Red Admiral butterfly

Brimstone, well into double figures, Comma, Red Admiral and Peacock a butterfly count I would be delighted with next month when the transect gets underway. Fingers crossed we don't see a repeat of the north easterly winds that have been such a brake on the arrival of Spring in recent years.

Territorial Bluetit Celandine Blashford

The first shot is a territorial Bluetit that is convinced the bird he can see in my wing mirror is a rival for his mate. Over the next few weeks, as Mockbeggar gets underway, if you are parked in the northern car parks please fold in your wing mirrors, or cover them with a cloth or bag, to save this confused bird from knocking himself out. Interestingly you can see this bird is ringed, probably by Kevin or Brenda over at Blashford. The celandines just shout Spring from the woodland edge, they make the heart swell with pleasure. The shot across to Blashford is just to illustrate the water that remains. There is a Marsh Harrier in the shot just to add a little extra interest.

12th March


Ibsley By-pass stream

Any members visiting Ibsley in recent weeks will have seen that preparation are underway to improve the passage of fish through the Trout Stream and improve on the instream habitat. All very commendable and the passage element I have been bleating on about for years in the hope of such improvements. Wessex Water have appeared on the scene and are keen to ensure their asset, in the form of the abstraction bay weir, is as fish friendly as possible. As I'm sure anyone who has fished that area, particularly the By-pass Stream, will know, it is already an extremely vibrant habitat. My concerns are that the efforts to improve the habitat do just the opposite and mess what already exists. To that end I thought I would just confirm my belief in the success of this little stream and do my own kick sample survey of one or two points. This will provide me with a baseline that is independent, not having been supplied by outside interests.

Way back in 1991 when I first became involved with the fishery one of the first jobs I undertook was to clear the complete coverage of Goat Willow that had collapsed into this channel almost completely choking it. Since that time on my regular visits to the Ibsley Gates I have always kept an eye on this small stream. It has become very popular with some of the fishing club members who often fish it almost guaranteed a great catch of dace and small roach. Such a nursery habitat is irreplaceable and great care must be taken to ensure its survival.

Bullheads and Dragonfly caddis cases Olives and flat nymphs

This is just a glimpse of what turned out to be an enormous invertebrate sample. As I was just exploring the possibilities of a survey I did a recce kick sample of less than two minutes. When I lifted the net I was staggered at the content. Bullheads, dragonfly larvae, caddis both - cased and caseless, olives, flat-bodied nymphs, mayflies, gammaris by the hundred, damselfly larvae, countless molluscs and beetles. A completely dazzling collection that we must ensure remain in such numbers. Having discovered this abundance I will make sure I do a regular sample over the next few months.


Invertebrate sample.

A glimpse of part of the two minute kick sample.

Stone loach Bullhead

A stone loach, which is actually sitting on top of a bullhead, plus a shot of two bullhead, the female looking full of eggs.

11th March



New lambs

It looks as if Phil and Millie are about to become extremely busy as the first of this years lambs put in an appearance exactly as scheduled. Lets keep our fingers crossed that the weather finally gets its act together and the lambing can remain outside, where the Romney ewes are happiest. In the event the weather does turn against us its good to know we have sufficient room in the barns to house the entire flock in an emergency. Thanks for the photo Phil, its always a delight to see the first lambs of the year.

As for news from the river I'm afraid little has changed. It may have dropped a centimeter or two but remains out across the entire width of the valley in most places. With the end of the river coarse season just three days away I'm afraid the last half of the season has to go down in the records as a total washout. There have been one or two good bags of chub, to those brave enough to have faced the elements and prepared to stand in the flood water for the day. The odd barbel and some fine pike but in reality for the majority of the members, a season to put behind them and look forward to a new start in June.

The salmon news has also seen very little change. The water looks well, once you manage to get the bank. The visibility is once more superb as the bottom is visible in eight feet of water. The tally of kelts, to the one or two rods that have been out, has now reached half a dozen, plus an unwelcome capture in the form of an escapee spartic/brook trout. Please don't put these escapees back, knock them on the head and remove them from the river. Please also report them to the EA or myself and I'll pass on the news.

6th March


Crack willows The view from the top Pollards done

Two crack willows that originated at the heart of carp fishing, from the "Willow Swim" at "Redmire Pool". They arrived with us about the size of a pencil, kindly provided by that lovely guy, the late Stew Glover. We have been nuturing them for the last twenty odd years and two of the original six cuttings have survived to maturity. I'm not sure that they came from the actual willow that gave its name to the swim but certainly in the proximity, which is good enough for me. They have been pollarded once before in their progress and now are in urgent need of further attention. We are well behind with this years tree work and it was a great day to be playing catchup, sunshine, blue skies and no wind. There were even several butterflies, passing by in search of early nectar, Curlew calling from the valley and a pair of Marsh Harriers drifting south over the flood.

The middle shot is an unusual view from the top of one of the pollards. That's Henry, over to the left, in the middle of Green Bank, fishing out into Canada Bay.

Marsh Harrier

One of the Harriers.

They've landed

Dave Winter has just sent me this through, he's fishing in "Duck 2" tonight with Malc. Stunning shot taken across the lake in direction of the House. Looks like they've landed!!

Brilliant shot Dave, thanks for sending it through.

I feel like Orson Wells, but I feel I just have to come clean. The three shots immediately below were taken across the river from "Pile Pool" the lower two earlier today as I crossed the park.

Filming lights Filming lights Filming lights

Certainly lots going on.

Lighting cranes Filming light cranes

Two massive cranes used to support the filming lights.


5th March


North Bay Mockbeggar

The North Bay at Mockbeggar looking well in this afternoon's grey light.


Tree work Weed grazing Fallow herd

The lake certainly looked well today but there is a downside in that there is an awful lot of work still to be done in the next week or two. In the first photo the alder regrowth in the margins has yet to be cut in several areas that remain flooded preventing clearing. In the background of the first shot a large willow can be seen to have fallen into the lake. If this doesn't present a snag that can give rise to damaged fish it may well be left where it fell. If however it has to be removed it will be some time before we can get a tractor and winch across the soft ground to remove it. The car park in the clump of trees where that willow has fallen looks like a war zone with rotten branches spread everywhere. Certainly a further day to clear potential disasters under those old willows and ash.

The middle shot is interesting in that the swan in the shot is feeding on the weed beds out in the middle of the lake. It is only in the last year or two that we have managed to establish abundant weed growth on these previously turbid lakes. To see that the weed has survived the winter with sufficient volume to attract the ducks and swans is very pleasing. Hopefully the coming season will see the continued growth that will benefit both the bird and the fish world providing grazing, plus the accompanying snails and invertebrates.

This is not such a pleasing sight being about half the number of fallow that were about the place today. These should be out on the forest, not around the lakes eating the wild flowers and grasses we are trying to encourage for the pollinators that should be with us in the coming months. I have to admit to most definitely not being a fan of deer. The odd pair of roe are fine, they fit into the natural pattern of things. Fallow, sika, red and muntjac most definitely do not and are best seen in association with red currant jelly. If we are to prevent the destruction of the shrub and bramble understory in the woodlands, so important for our passerines and the wild flower meadows, so important for our bees, butterflies and beetles, everyone needs to eat more venison. Minced, in game pies, same as cottage or shepherds but made with minced venison. Steaks, stews, roasts and pies all with organic healthy, fat free meat. It needs careful cooking, especially roasts and fried, as it needs to be rare. Its a bit like squid, either flash fried or casseroled for several hours, get it correct and its second to none. For the brave or adventurous try it twenty eight day aged, it is wonderful. Chose the carcass carefully to ensure you get the age of animal that will mature well. If you claim to be a bird watcher of lepidopterist, get on with it, eat it at least once a week.


River update.

As promised, I've done my best not to post depressing, daily photographs of the flood. With the coarse season on the rivers about to end, in ten days, one or two members have asked for the latest news in the hope of getting out for a final visit. Alas, nothing has changed, in fact if anything the situation has got even more depressing with further rain adding several inches to the already flooded meadows. Harbridge to Ibsley road remains unpassable to all but tractors and the fool hardy. At least five vehicles have failed to make it through and required rescuing in recent days. Not by us I hasten to add. You drive about out there you deserve all you get.

I have attached a video clip of the state of play, taken from the lodge at 07:30 this morning. "Nuff said"

29th February


Lone angler

Spot the lone angler. You can tell the end of the river coarse season is looming!

Mid thirty common carp

Thankfully the lakes remain more accessible. Where James managed this good looking mid thirty this morning, proving there are still one or two fish coming out. Nice one James, thanks for the photo.

27th February


Salmon kelt

Not a photo you will see often with us, as we do not generally photograph kelts. I have made the exception with this fish Gary landed today just to illustrate how bright and well mended an Avon kelt can look. I was onhand to ask Gary if I could take the photo and he kindly agreed. The other reason a photo did not pose a risk to the fish was that there was a foot of water out in the field where Gary landed her. It wasn't a problem keeping the fish, wet due to the surrounding flood, allowing a very well rested and recovered fish to return to the river. This is a 2SW hen that was in perfect condition for a kelt, Sparkingly bright, no fin damage or scale loss, she looked immaculate. This is definitely a candidate to return as a second spawner if she avoids the perils of the North Atlantic.

26th February


Windblown oak

Yet another giant oak bites the dust after the blow last night. Thankfully, Kevin had the unenviable task of cutting this stress laden monster into shape.


Beetling Kestrel Kestrel Curlew and Oystercatcher

Whilst we may all be fedup to the teeth with floods they have far more serious implications for much of our wildlife. With the watermeadows flooded the food source for the insect and small mammal predators unavailable a real risk of starvation threatens them. They are also far too deep for waders to probe the rich soils for their worms and grubs forcing them further afield to forage. Oddly as you go south. down the valley, the flood water actually gets shallower. With us the flood plain is narrower with less area available to disapate the volume of water. The waders will initially find shallower feeding in these southern fields making their way back upstream to us, as the flood recedes.

The Kestrel is seeking the beetle larvea that these floods cause to migrate to drier ground. As they cross the roads and tracks, exposing them to the birds, they are gratefully snapped up by the struggling foragers. The Curlew and the Oystercatcher were searching the small exposed patches of ground at the edge of the flood plain. Normally their feeding grounds would be up on the North Marsh, at Hucklesbrook.

24th February


St Peter's and St Paul's

You will have seen similar shots as that above as its a scene that I find extremely thought provoking. Be it the Summer time, when the hay fields are full of wild flowers and swaying grass or winter scenes of frost and flood, looking south from the valley the tower of St Peter's and St Paul's, down in Ringwood, can be seen in the distance. The particular representation that currently watches us from the south is a mid 19th century Victorian version, being at least the third incarnations since the Doomsday Book record. If you ignore the Ringwood bypass, that almost abuts the tower, to a cursory glance much of the 3000m of intervening valley from where this photo was taken, may look familiar to the time that it was built back in the 1850's. This familiarity is a result of very gradual change that has advanced under cover of stealth. Many structures have gone, the mill and the hotel, compulsory purchased to make room for the bypass. The weir, or more correctly the control hatches that replaced the old weir, designed by the EA and has never worked as intended. The only impact being the loss of one of the most important lengths of fishery on the Estate. Yet the valley flood meadows, dividing around Upmead, retain their constant presence. The large Marl Pond, that once occupied the ground just north of the present dual carriage way, beyond the river, has silted up and now for the most part consists of dense sedge beds and willow car. The channels of the Kings and Ashley Streams seem familiar, albeit with reduced flow due to poor farming practices in the flood plain. Unfortunately their appearance hides the fact they offer little environmental, particularly riverine, benefit. In light of the changes listed above that mankind has imposed, recognition from those distant days would seem unlikely.

What is so thought provoking about today's scene is that it is not directly, certainly not locally, the result of mankind's bungling intervention. Just how familiar would extensive floods, with a six month duration, have been one hundred and seventy years ago? Were they a one hundred year probability event, as I was assured by the EA they were when I dealt with the consequences of the first one I endured back in the late 80's? My subsequent experience would seem to point to something more akin to a five year probability event. Just how the future will unfold and how we make a living and survive these prolonged floods, remains to be seen.

What will need to happen is the regulators and the impacted parties sit down together and discuss what is desirable and just what will be achievable.

A bend in the river Little and Great egret Hiding in plain sight

To avoid frustration, don't look at the shots above as further pix of the flood, consider them as further tales of our egrets. The left hand shot captures a bend in the river where thirteen egrets were busy spiking out bugs and fry in a totally natural and egret friendly scene. The middle photo gives a nice comparison between the two species and the righthand shot captures a Great White Egret hiding in plain sight. We are so used to our swan population being the large white blobs that are dotted about the valley. The presence of a further large white blob concealing an egret can be easily overlooked.

Black-headed Gulls Oystercatchers

Time rolls on whatever the state of the valley and we are seeing more and more signs of Spring surrounding us. The herons have been building for a month and the Eygptian Geese are sitting on full clutches of eggs. Around the lakes the Great Crested Grebe are dancing, Black-headed Gulls are displaying and Oystercatchers a whistling and chasing overhead.


As the Avondiary I just have to include this.

This is not news for those of us that have known the Avon for many years. Trying to persude the EA there is a problem and getting them to act is the hard part.

23rd February


Oak bridges

I think we will be very lucky if after months of floods when we do get out on the valley again all our bridges remain in place. Whilst we have most anchored to heavy concrete foundations I can almost guarantee one or two will have broken their moorings. In anticipation of such failures today I spent several hours productively splitting a four meter length of spiny oak that will provide two long lasting replacements.

22nd February


Avon Valley Path

In future my updates will be of a different nature to that of endless photos of flooded meadows. To avoid depression and flood overload, I will only put up photos of the floods when they have receded and drained the meadows. This move is in recognition of the fifth birthday of this flood, it first flooded the meadows five months ago and hasn't dropped since. We are now entering the sixth month! As can be seen in the photo it was raining and we are forecast further heavy rain over the weekend. This probably means, unless you are prepared to wade and stand in the water, the river coarse season is likely to be a complete wash out.

In recognition of the floods fifth anniversary, Anne and I decided we would drown our sorrows and cheer ourselves up, by eating out. Its amazing what a fine meal and a good selection of wine can achieve. Certainly accepting that the weather and the conditions are out of our control is easier after a thoroughly relaxing evening. It almost makes the potential sixth anniversary a date to look forward to if it involves a further evening at "La Fosse" in Cranborne. I can certainly recommend, "La Fosse" if you wish to enjoy a relaxing and distracting evening, involving good food and wine.

19th February


Ploughing

The higher meadows proved dry enough to break open with the plough, much to the delight of the gulls.


The approach to Penmeade Pool Head of the pool Inside run

Today's update. The approach to Penmeade Pool, if it comes to that it is also the approach to, Swan Island to Blashford Island, the Tail of Blashford Island and Above the Breakthrough. All look as if they would fish perfectly if the water would just drop six inches. As it is, waders are still required to get to the river. Interestingly the very head of Penmeade has a steady run on the nearside that looks as if it may well fish well on the float. Just above the top of the pool alongside the reeds was alway a spot that big chub and the odd barbel could be found. It is also the spot where roach can be seen once the water has cleared in the Summer. Where those Summer roach spend their Winter is the question still to be answered. Anyone with an hour or two to spare and feeling adventurous you could do worse than giving that swim a try. If the water is still high you could hang your tackle box on the rails where the reeds end.

Gorse in bloom

The gorse is in bloom and was covered in honey bees at lunchtime.

18th February


Ellingham Bridge Pool

Just an update to show Ellingham Bridge Pool this morning. As I drove over it the river was still rising and we are forecast heavy rain mid-week.

17th February



Just reaching the river.

Just getting out to the river at Ibsley remains a bit of a trial.


Ibsley Pool

Once you actually make it to the river it is looking spot on and fished beautifully. Unfortunately there wasn't a salmon waiting for me but I will be back!

I don't think I have put the name of the mystery duck on here. To put several of you out of your misery the answer is a Red-crested Pochard, duck.

15th February


Yorkshire board Erecting the boards

Almost complete, as the Yorshire board is fixed into place. Three days ago that had a squirrel running up it in the wood visible in the background. Now fixed in place, where it will season naturally over the next year or two.

Planting whips

Ian and Nick planting the next generation of timber. This season has been extremely difficult due to the high rainfall and mild conditions, water-logged ground and triggering the saplings into early growth.

Hellebore Hellebore Hellebore

The hellebore are now taking the place of the snowdrops and daffodils in brightening the front garden.

13th February


A change from the river in that the forestry has taken top priority in recent days. From past entries you may remember that we have thinned many of our woodlands over the past year or two. One of the problems associated with large scale thinning operations is that you open up the remaining trees to the risk of windblow. On many occasions you may get away without damage, on others, the wind will get in and uproot several trees. The losses do not warrant the return of the chipping operation, so, to avoid wasting these trees we pull them out and stockpile them in the yard. Once we have sufficient volume we call in a mobile saw bench and process the trees for use about the Estate.


Getting underway Sawn timber Looking out to Blashford Pool

The first shot shows Will's mobile bench getting underway first thing in the morning. The middle photo shows the newly processed boards ready for moving into the timber store, for later use in cladding the barns with Yorkshire boarding. The right hand shot the slab wood, that will go for temporary shelters for the sheep and trees stakes for supporting the newly planted whips. This is the forestry equivalent of the locally sourced food movement that is the driving force of today's restaurant world. Its certainly a vast improvement on all the Scandinavian and North American imports.

There is something enormously satisfying in cutting out a tree, processing it and making use of it, all within a distance of two hundred meters.

Mobile sawbench

If you require the services of a mobile sawbench I can thoroughly recommend Will. He made light work in producing seven hundred boards for our use.

Paterdale Terrier

Will's Patterdale, looking less than impressed with the distinct lack of rats and to add insult to injury it had started to rain. Certainly proved a successful ploy to get into the truck out of the weather!

I have added three clips of the sawbench showing the way large sawlogs are manipulated and converted into useable timber.

Handling the log.


Squaring off.


Cutting the boards.

11th February


water meadow Water meadow hatch

After five months of floods there comes a point where it's hard to find anything positive to say about the situation. The forecast for the coming week threatens further rain, so it appears it will be at least a week or two before we see dry banks once more. The Ellingham water meadows are flooded out, the volume of water currently making managing the levels impossible.

Even more depressing, at this time of year we used to have the Six Nations to lift the spirits. Now, when the most influential person in the game is sat in a shed watching tele, you just know the game is finished! Its akin to the excitement of watching Deep Blue play chess!


Duck

The WeBS count was very much as expected, with most of the wildfowl retired to the lakes to sit out the day. One or two unexpected sightings in the shape of a pair of Oystercatchers, a Curlew, I flushed the Bitterne again and the duck above. I haven't named as it will allow readers to see if they can ID it. That's a Coot to its right to give an idea of the size.

10th February


Little Egret

Its a WeBS weekend and strangely with probably well over five thousand ducks in the valley, the count on the Estate will be very low. There will be the resident swans and geese plus a scattering of oddities and several hundred Lapwing. After the rain of the last couple of days the valley is once more flooded to the full width of the floodplain. Providing perfect feeding conditions for the duck and after dark they appear in clouds, dropping on the flooded meadows and feeding until the early hours. Once sufficiently fed they retreat to the large bodies of water over in the lakes to spend the daylight hours loafing, before heading back out into the valley to feed the following evening. The counts from those lakes will probably set records for the number of duck in the valley, certainly in recent years.

The shot above is one of the dozen or so Little Egrets that are also enjoying the flood and being sight feeders, visit us during the day. One other visitor that I spotted today as I made my way around one of the lakes was a fine Bittern that as I disturbed it from its reedbed flew lazily ou across the lake before dropping into another reedbed to disappear without trace.

9th February


Avon Valley Path flooded out

An update on the rivers conditions for any members planning a visit. This was the Avon Valley Path at 08:00 this morning, less than twenty four hours after the middle shot below was taken. The water is back over the Harbridge road and Ellingham car park is once more underwater. Basically, a complete wash-out.

8th February



Above the hatches Avon Valley Path Looking out to Blashford Pool

It was good whilst it lasted! The water looked as if it were actually going to clear the meadows completely this week, that was until the rain of the last forty eight hours. Mid-afternoon and the water was rising rapidly and the colour of mud above the hatches at Ibsley.

The Avon Valley Path, that had been passable in wellies has disappeared once more, heading for its fifth month unusable. It wouldn't be so hard to stomach if those "experts" at Hampshire County Council, who oversee the footpath network, had taken the opportunity to solve this reoccurring problem they had been offered a few years ago. Instead of the ill informed, totally inflexible stance they adopted. Sadly, in reality that doesn't really come as a surprise. Come to think of it, I think I may just have thought of a partial solution to the massive shortfall in the Counties funding.

Lastly the way across to Blashford Pool and the Island Run, rapidly disappearing. Yesterday, Dave S, Manny and I stood at that point discussing the pleasing drop in levels, before Dave made his way comfortably out to the river through just one or two spots of welly depth water.

7th February


Great White Egret Marsh Harrier

A couple of very distant shots of some of the birds about the valley today. With the meadows now having drained the Egrets and Gulls are making the most of the freshly exposed food. Three of five, Great White Egret that were about, often in the company of 13 Little Egrets. There are at least three different Harriers visiting most days, sending gulls and waders scattering when they pass.

6th February


Tizards Pool Willow stump Ringwood hatch pool

We've removed the windblown willow from Tizard's Pool, making it a great deal easier to fish. There remains a small snag on the left bank that is easily avoided and I will remove it when I can find my pruning saw. The remaining stump of the willow looks a complete mess but that is intentional, left along with the brash to provided invertebrate habitat.

The third shot is Ringwood Weirpool that I started clipping out today. This is "running water" when fish are running through the system, they won't hold here when the flow drops. This means its worth a little attention when the river is high, as it is at present. If you have an hour at the beginning, or the end of your visit, its worth giving it a go.

4th February



Ibsley Pool Dog Kennel

The above shots, of Ibsley Pool and Dog Kennel, give a slightly false image of the current conditions in the valley. Whilst many of the pools are fishing well, getting to them can be a bit of a trial. Conditions that understandably account for the lack of rods out and about. I quite understand the reticence of facing such tiring conditions but a February Springer is a fabulous reward for anyone lucky enough to find one. I will certainly be out looking, with everything I have firmly crossed.

During my travels today, with both strimmer and rod, I bumped into one or two coarse members making the most of the milder conditions. The chub were feeding and I believe the barbel have been active so don't miss the opportunity of a visit if circumstances allow.

2nd February



carriers Caddis cases Grass carp skeleton

The first shot is the carrier we cleaned out a year or two back. The impact of the rapidly draining meadows is controlled as the carriers water level is balance by the main channel, at its confluence downstream. The middle shot shows some of the thousands of caddis grubs that are slowly retreating with the dropping water levels.

As for the third shot, is it possibly the remains of a British Record chub? Afraid not, it looks as if one of the local grass carp has succumbed to the winter conditions. Not the greatest loss, they should not be in the Avon and will not be missed by many.

As for the newly opened salmon season, nothing to add today as I didn't see any rods out trying their luck. Hopefully the weekend will see rods out looking to open their own and the rivers account.

1st February




Salmon season opening day on the Avon

Some of today's rods at the lodge at lunchtime. It was good to catch up and discuss just what the season ahead holds for us and take a break from staggering about in the aftermath of the flood.

Opening day of the salmon season and I was delighted to see seven or eight members came to wet a line. Those hardy souls may not have been rewarded with a Springer, the day however proved to be absolutely glorious, mild, with the river looking in near perfect condition. Getting about remains difficult but as the river continues to rapidly drop back matters are improving almost hourly. Fingers crossed it won't be too long before we hear of the first fresh fish off the river.

The clip below is just a second or two showing the thousands of gammarus, freshwater shrimp, heading back into the deeper water as the water levels drop back. With the flood water dropping back and the wildfowling season over I am able to clear one or two of the obstructions in the carriers. I am unable to do this with a machine as the ground remains waterlogged and would be damaged. I can't drain the waterlogged ground because of the obstruction coffering back the water, catch twenty two! The remedy, do it by hand. This has the advantage of being a very labour intensive, slow process. I say advantage from the perspective of the ecology of the stream and its relationship with the flooded meadows. Heavy machines make light work of most obstructions, lifting them out in minutes. The resulting surge of released water rushes downstream scouring all life before it. Similarly as the water levels quickly drop back and equalise above and below the blockage, drains and carriers at the higher level drain is minutes, potentially stranding masses of invertebrates and fish. By doing much of this work by hand a far more gentle and invertebrate friendly regime is created. To fully clear the carrier, as weed and rubbish is either removed or chased from one pinchpoint or hatch downstream to the next, may take a full day. Alternatively if the process is spread over two three or even four days the advantages are obvious for the river and in most cases two or three hours heaving weed and rubbish about is plenty.


Draining flood water.

31st January



Ibsley Pool Tizard's Pool

Last look before it all starts in earnest. Ibsley Pool looking spot on height wise, now just below the top of the bank. Should you be lucky enough to contact a fish in Ibsley Pool, don't let it run downstream into Tizard's as there is a large willow laying in the pool that has fallen from over in the lakes. We will get the winch over by the lakes, where the ground is a little drier, and remove the thing as soon as we can. It will be weeks beore the meadows are dry enough to allow a tractor to reach it from the right bank.

Tightlines to all who venture out and I hope to see you on the bank in the near future.

30th January



Dog Kennel Pile Pool Pile Pool
Mackenzie's Run Sydney Pool Blashford

The shots above are for the most part aimed at the salmon rods who will be joining us on Thursday as the salmon season once more gets underway. We are all holding our breath in the hope this year will be a marked improvement over the disaster that we suffered last season. Only this week the water levels are at last receding allowing me to get a look at the pools for the first time in over three months. I'm afraid conditions remain very difficult, plus the fact I have been unable to get to the pools to clean them up in readiness for the comong season. All that in mind please, please take care if you intend to pay us a visit in the next week or two. The photos above were taken on my walk from Ellingham down to Blashford and back again of course. Suffice to say I was Kn....ed by the time I got back to the car. Wading through the flood water, mud and floating vegetation is extremely tiring, so don't bite off more than you can chew, fish just one or two pools well rather than rushing about like a mad thing.

As you can see from the photos, we are still confronted by a very high river. Tackle will need to be balanced to meet the demands, fast sinking lines will be the order of the day. The water clarity and temperature are in our favour so there's every chance any early fish that have entered the system will see the fly without too much effort, so keep positive and don't over do it. For those of you that didn't recognise the pools, one flooded field looking remarkably like another, they are starting top left; looking upstream to Dog Kennel, Pile Pool, The Pipe down to Coomer. Bottom row left to right, the run into Mackenzies, Sydney Pool and finally Blashford. Good Luck!


Blocked carrier Coomer Ox-bow

Whilst out and about looking at the pools I also had tiime to consider the state of the carriers and oxbows. Over recent years we have been maintaining the carrier system and cleaning out several oxbows in an affort to provide safe habitat for our juvenile fish stock and resident mammals and birds. With such a prolonged flood we are keeping our fingers crossed that the flood water hasn't scoured our juveniles out of the system. Once the flows reach a certain level, beyond which it by-passes the hatches, inundating the carriers. When I first arrived on the Estate, many moons ago, we suffered a prolonged flood that I was condidently told by the EA officers at the time was a one in a century event. Well,surprise surprise, we have subsequently experienced similar floods a couple of times a decade at least in the intervening years. Just what impact these more frequent floods are having on our invertebrates and fish numbers remains a mystery. Perhaps an ongoing PhD study might shed some light and answer a few of the questions we have been asking for the last thirty plus years!


Sydney Pool.

One step forward and you're into twelve feet of very cold water. So please be careful.


28th January



Green Sandpiper flock Green Sandpiper

With the water dropping back into the channel the waders are starting to appear, to enjoy the feeding on the muddy shallows. The two shots above show seven Green sandpiper that were sat beside Gypsy Hole, as I drove by on my rounds this morning.

27th January



Loafing Lapwing

The shot above is of one of two flocks of Lapwing that were loafing out on the meadows today. The water is dropping quite quickly, allowing the waders to access the meadows at long last. The two flocks of Lapwing could be seen at the same time ensuring no duplication and allowing a good digital count of 453, the coloured counting dots can be seen in the photo. They were quite jumpy as a pair of Marsh Harriers were drifting about looking for Snipe that chose to sit too tight.

The main issue included in today's entry is that high water spinning will not be available at Somerley this season. I doubt it will be available on the Avon but to ensure clarity before the start of the season, Somerley will be fly only until the 1st of June. The quite understandable reasoning on the part of the regulators is included below.

In the latest species reassessment by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, released at COP28 this week (11th December 2023), Atlantic salmon have been reclassified from 'Least Concern' to 'Endangered' in Great Britain (as a result of a 30-50% decline in British populations since 2006)

English Chalkstream salmon and the Leven subpopulation in Scotland are given a separate regional assessment and are now classified as ‘Vulnerable’ and ‘Least Concern’ respectively.


As I say above, the thinking on the part of the regulators is quite understandable, its just a pity that its once again the fishery that has to make the sacrifice in the name of conservation. We don't need a body that has proven unfit fit for purpose to lecture us on the state of the fishery. That body should be ensuring we fully understand the requirements and the threats to the species from the great list of outside influences that have brought about this situation. Whilst the fishery, hence the investment in the river infrastructure, is once more made to bear the cost, we still have major barriers to passage at the tidal limit, millions of litres of sewage and contaminated water being deliberately flushed into our rivers and millions of litres of water abstracted and lost to the catchment. Just to give a pointer or two! If the regulators have allowed themselves to be starved of funding through ineffectual management pressure perhaps what funding is left from the GIA and the rod licence income should be distributed by those having to face the consequences?

26th January



Gavin and Chris on a flooded Hampshire Avon

I took this shot a week or so back that captures Gavin and his guest, Chris, enjoying a day on a very flooded river. Cold, bright, flooded and gin clear, about as difficult as it comes but a great Avon winter scene.

25th January


Reed Warblers nest


Warbler Report 2024.

The above link will take you to Brenda's nesting report for Mockbeggar. As you will read in the report, 2024 was not the smoothest for Brenda but I'm sure you'll agree the report is once more a superb record of the Mockbeggar nesting season. Its a download so give it a minute to arrive. Many thanks for sharing your work once again Brenda.

22nd January


Greater Black-backed Gulls

This is just a reminder about my request for dead salmon that I put up on here the other day. Should you see a pair of these large gulls out on the flooded meadows please drop me a text, or call, as they will have almost certainly found a corpse. At this time of year the odds are higher than average that it is likely to be a kelt. Raven, crows, magpies and even the Red Kites may have struck lucky and also found a meal, so if you see any of them feeding out on the meadows I'd appreciate a call.

Salmon kelt Scavenged kelt Cock grilse kelt

The result of donning the waders and splashing out across the meadows to investigate. A kelt, ideal for the research project, washed fifty meters out into the meadows. The stream in the background of the left hand shot, is in fact the Avon Valley Path, so little sign of the water dropping as yet.

Storm damage

Thankfully, we escaped quite lightly from the passing of storm Isha last night. There were one or two willows that succumbed but nothing requiring out of hours attention. The exploded willow pollard in the photo stands, or more correctly stood, between Tizards Pool and the Ibsley Ponds. From the amount of rotten timber at its heart it would appear its time was up, storm Isha or not.

Earlier storm casualty Natural regeneration.

The other day I had occasion to visit some of the casualties from earlier storms. I was looking for a reasonably clean oak stick to provide us with a six or seven meter oak beam. The tree in the first photo came down five or six years ago and was partially naturally seasoned. With any luck Kingsley, in his yard on the Estate, will be able to convert this into the length of timber required.

Whilst out and about I visited one of the Douglas Fir plantations that we thinned a year or two ago. As can be seen in the second photo the natural regeneration looks very well indeed. If the weather permits over the next week or two, to avoid over crowding we will lift several hundred of these young trees for planting elsewhere.

16th January


Iced over

With the river as about as difficult as can be, the weather is now trying to shut down the lakes. Lets hope the warmer weather forecast for the weekend arrives to save the day.

13th January


Red Kites Male Stonechat

WeBS day today that was completely disrupted by the state of the flooding. I did spend an hour or two in the valley but trying to make sense of the birds out on the floods proved impossible. What is perhaps the most difficult challenge is avoiding duplication. There are thousands of wildfowl in the valley but you wouldn't believe it looking out across the valley floods during the day. Yet as the sun sets the sky fills with the sound of wildfowl heading out into the flooded meadows to feed. Literally thousands of duck; Pintail, Mallard, Shoveler, Teal, Widgeon and Gadwall make the bulk of the numbers yet in the failing light accuracy is an impossibility. Thankfully since the gravel extraction in the valley there are numerous disused gravel pits, where the wildfowl loaf during the day, making counting a great deal simpler.

Although the waders and wildfowl may be difficult the valley remains a great place to spend a few hours. The two shots above show a pair of our resident Kites that have been with us for four or five years. No sausage rolls or sandwiches for them to steal, these are real kites, having to contend with the thousands of chip nicking shite-hawks that appear as if by magic if you drop so much as a crust, or fire out a boily! The cock Stonechat is one of several pairs that can be found about the edge of the floods. They may just be down from the forest, over-wintering in the warmer valley, although we now see several pair rearing young in the valley each Summer.

13th January


Marlow Marlow weir Harbridge road

Anne and I have been away for a day or two, hence the lack of entries, enjoying the sights and tastes of Marlow up on the Thames. An extremely pleasant break if at times a little over indulgent. On occasions it also seemed to be somewhat of a busman's holiday. The hotel almost becoming part of the Thames at times, with the high water knocking at the doors. The third shot is the Harbridge road, taken this morning, as the pair of swans enjoyed their new found pool. If you look closely beyond the swans, towards the church, you can see the car that I photographed abandoned further out in the deeper flood water, is still out there. The road does remain closed with the highways signs shutting off both ends.

In our absence the Avon has dropped. Don't get over excited, it is all of 10mm on my guage at Ibsley Bridge. Its not an official guage but its one I have used for over twenty five years so I do trust it. One other change during our absence has been the water visibility. When the light is right, the bed is clearly visible in ten feet of water. It all looks very cold, clear and wintery that I suspect will make the fishing on the river extremely difficult for the foreseeable future.

Red Kite warning

You just know know when you're in a posh area! Surely a sign of the most successful reintroduction in the country.

8th January


Willows in the sunshine

Not everthing in the valley is grey and dismal, the old willow pollards looked magnificent in the afternoon sunshine today.

7th January


Harbridge road from Fools Corner Abandoned vehicle

Oops, got that wrong by he look of it. Spot the car in the first, long shot, of the Harbridge Road as it crosses the valley. The road remains flooded and will do so for several days, so give it a miss if you're in a normal car. You may get away with it, alternatively you may have quite a long walk to dry land.

6th January


The view from the lodge Culvert clearing Great-crested grebe brood

The view this morning from the lodge doesn't look very encouraging for the start of the new salmon season in four weeks. The only straw to cling to is that any fish entering the system will have plenty of water to run through to us. The middle shot shows Kevin trying to unblock one of the old brick culverts under an Estate road. Along with Adam and Phil, they have been doing their best to clear ditches and blockages in an effort to get rid of as much of this flood water as possible.

On a brighter note, these are the two late juvenile Great Crested Grebe I featured on here back on the 5th and 18th of November. They now have adult feathers and seem to be coping with the recent floods well. They have had an even more precarious start in that one of the adults died a month ago. The remaining adult has done an excellent job in rearing these two extremely demanding offspring.

5th January


Winter colour Sunset Sundown

Fed-up with looking at a flooded valley this afternoon I went for a walk around one of the lakes. After so many wet and miserable days it was a relief to enjoy a dry and sunny hour or two. A couple of highlights being a male Marsh Harrier working the reedbeds and four Great White Egrets arriving for roost.

Fallow does and fawns about the lakes

One of two herds of fallow about the lakes this afternoon.

2nd January


Forest ford Harbridge Road Blashford Meadows

I've put similar photos to the ones above on the diary on numerous occasions, I've added them once more purely as a record of the conditions we are currently experiencing in the valley. The first is of the ford at Moylescourt that is now unsafe to cross in anything other than a tractor. Centre, is the Ibsley to Harbridge road that at midday was not suitable for anything other than large 4 x 4, with about ten inches of water flowing rapidly across the road. The third is the view from the lakes across to Blashford Corner. It clearly illustrates the extent of the flood that seven hundred acres of the flood plain on the Estate are currently suffering.

1st January



Thirty plus common

Not the first of the New Year, as Mike landed her yesterday afternoon, which I believe makes her the last thirty plus from Meadow in 2023. He did land a further brace of twenties making it quite a Winter session. Roger did manage a brace of doubles from Vincents today to open the new year, unfortunately he slipped them straight back without a photo. None the less, they did open the 2024 account on the lakes. The lakes have enjoyed a great year so fingers crossed the New Year continues in a similar fashion.

Thanks for the fabulous photo Mike, great way to sign off 2023.



Chris' Memorial Page

Several syndicate members have asked in recent days if I knew of any intention to have a memorial for Chris Ball. I also know that many friends of Chris, other than syndicate members, have expressed a similar desire.

I can now let you all know that several people have been looking into the possibility of a permanent memorial over at the lakes. Lynne has been kept in the picture and is on board, so we are hopefully about to get matters off the ground. The idea of a stone bench, or standing stone, with a suitable engraving, beside the Back Lagoon is being explored. The “Back Lagoon” seems a fitting location, being the scene of several of Chris' exploits in recent years. His brace of thirties and his PB UK mirror, all taken off the top, being within feet of the proposed site of the memorial.


One of a brace PB UK mirror

Chris with two of his captures from the Back Lagoon.


Donations to the Chris Ball memorial are now closed





29th December


I must start with congratulating, Jim Night, who has broken the Avon barbel record with an amazing 20.04 fish. Fantastic result Jim, the first Avon fish over twenty pounds.




Otter feeding

You just know when everything has had enough of this high water when the otters have to climb a tree to find somewhere dry to eat their dinner. Still on the otter front, one of the large dog otters further down in the Estate at the Lakes, has been spotted laying on his back drifting down the middle of the lake. Either that or the high water has seen a sea otter looking for a new home! As an indicator of the change in biomass that now occupies the valley, as opposed from a couple of decades ago, in a wider shot of the otter up the tree I also had a Great White Egret and a Goshawk. Unfortunately the latter two where unidentifiable in the shot. I'll put up one of my famously terrible short clips below that if you listen carefully you will hear a pair of magpies shouting at the otter. One of the easiest ways to locate an otter is to listen out for these scolding magpies. They shout at the otters in the hope of scaring them off their meal, allowing the thieves to nick it.

Aboreal otter.

Listen for the magpies.


Worming otter.

Thanks to Damian for sending through another clip of today's otter activity. He caught the tail end of the activity that he thought may well have been worming out in the flooded field. I've never seen or heard of such behaviour but what ever it was up to, its a atmospheric clip of the flood. It looks as if the last thing it did before entering the river the first time was to spraint mark his territory.

Its a pity we missed the back stroking specimen skulling up the middle of Vincents. It would have made for a pretty interesting set of clips.

Midge smoke Midge swarms

If any further proof was required to illustrate climate change, today there was midge smoke where ever you looked. Any sheltered spot around the lakes and along the miles of roads and tracks about the Estate. There are of course potentially problematic issues attached to these immense, unseasonal hatches. The larval stages of these midges are the food source for many juvenile fish within the lakes and the river. If the hatch takes place early, before the juvenile and fry stages of our fish are present in the lakes and rivers, when they do finally become active in the Spring the food source is no longer available. If this is a direct result of climate change I fear our fish will not be able to evolve as quickly, leading to mass starvation.

Greater spotted woodpecker

Before this Greater spotted flew to the top of the willow where I managed a photo of him, he was drumming in the large poplars close by. Obviously something else that is under the impression Spring has arrived. If you look closely you can see this bird has been ringed at some stage.

27th December


Rough grass Sunset at Botney

Interesting patch of rough ground just north of the Bridge at Ibsley. If you look closely you can see the arc of the old course of the river that was diverted at the time of the bridge construction. The section between the old channel and the river has always been rough ground, mostly, nettles, sedge and reeds. The further section used to be cut every year for silage but the size at less than an acre and the wet ground makes it uneconomic. For the last couple of years we have let it revert to the natural vegetation of the valley. It has been interesting to watch the bird life that now makes use of the rough ground, when flooding permits. It is frequently visited by a pair of Marsh Harriers that quartered the field as they pass on their travels up and down the valley. The Barn Owls visit as do the Kestrels and the Buzzard. The Great and Little Egret, Grey Heron and the occasional Water Rail, Reed, Sedge, Cettis and even a Marsh Warbler have been recorded there. Such an insignificant patch of rough ground that provides an island of vital habitat.

That's the obvious state of affairs as we stand on the Bridge and look north west just a few meters. The hidden threat to that patch of habitat is the latest thinking eminating from Defra in the form of BNG, Biodiversity Net Gain. A scheme along the lines of carbon off-setting that requires property developers to show a ten percent gain for nature from their building activities. Where there is no room for the developer to create this ten percent gain on his site he can buy in units from off site, ie the local landowners. For the landowners to have units to sell they must be able to show that their land is capable of being improved for the benefit of nature. There in lies the rub. We have already improved that patch of rough ground, leaving little scope of value for further improvement or financial gain. This environmental improvement is reflected across much of the Estate, leaving less room to improve. If we had an over-grazed sward, mown and grazed to within an inch of its life, and drained to remove any wetland areas, we would have plenty of room for improvement. Those that have farmed to the maximum permissible degree and greated an impoverished landscape stand to make millions. If we are to jump on this BNG bandwaggon the best thing we could do with our acre or so of rough ground at Ibsley is to mow it to death and drain it.

The sunset shot was taken this evening after all the rain we had endured today finally stopped. I was attempting to discover the where abouts of an Egret roost, without I'm afraid any success. Egret roosts often use islands as they offer safety from many ground predators. The problem at the moment with all these floods is that there seem to be island where ever I look! Currently between Our Bickton boundary and Ringwood there are in the region of six hundred and sevety five acres, two hundred and seventy three hectares, still under water in the flood plain. That provides lots of places to hide a roost but will continue to look. Also on the bird front, it would seem the Starlings have moved over tp the reedbeds to the north of Ibsley Bridge. They put on a good display this evening before settling down for the night.

Home grown lemons Christmas daffodil

Just a couple of updates in that our lemons ripened perfectly in time for the Christmas celebrations. The second is yet again a photo of our Christmas daffodil that once more bloomed before the New Year.