The year is ending on a high, where the water level and temperature are concerned anyway. The recent rains have coloured and raised the water level preventing any further attempts at finding redds. I did get one or two messages from upstream letting me know thay had fish on the redds in the headwaters, which is always pleasing to know. I do appreciate such feedback as it at least allows us to believe that the future generations are safely in the gravel. The tricky bit is getting them back out and onto smolt stage to allow sufficient numbers to run to sea to safeguard the future of the fisheries. As mentioned in the piece below there are changes ahead, one being the trees that can be seen in the three shots are all threatened by disease and climate change. The ash just showing on the lefthand side of the first shot already has die back and will be lost. The ash beside the hatches that can be seen in all three photos remains healthy and it will be interesting to see how long it stays that way. The tangled mess of polar, chestnut and London plane i the middle shot will hopefully soon be sorted out and made safe. It really is an ugly job for the Treemenders as the tops have to be taken down bit by bit to ensure the rotting timber does fall on passing anglers. Hopefully, in the not too distant future, we will get back to a pollarded horse chestnut that will once more be a safe place to fish that classic Avon swim "Hoodies"
At my age there is nothing quite like looking back to, “How it was done in my day” a bit of nostalgia is good for you. My arse, I bloody hate it, particularly in light of the fact it is my generation that has got us into this environmental pickle. Reviews of the year are all well and good, unfortunately other than one or two lessons learned, hold very little value. Its what's around the corner that matters. There are many side issues such as a coloured old cock salmon that still holds the sea trout record to distract. That actually says more about the rod caught record committee than the fish! Its the influence that you can bring to bear on major issues that will undoubtedly impact on us all that should be the focus of our attentions. Ask what you can do for your river, rather than what your river can do for you, sounds familiar? Real issues such as the extent to which the Environment Act 2021 will improve on the WFD, as promised by the Somerset gnome. That's not the ugly little sucker at the bottom of the garden, more the ugly little fuckers sat on their filthy lucre in Zurich.
Will Section 5 of the act see “Storm Overflow Discharge Reduction Plans” actually achieve anything in my lifetime? If so they'd better hurry up as I'm no Spring chicken! Will the Secretary of State be up to ensuring the plans are firstly produced by competent authorities, that bring integrity and understanding to the issues. That's not as simple as it may sound, especially if the advice behind the plans is to be produced by the water companies themselves. Probably better the water companies fund the plans and independent agencies and NGO's, with executive powers with regard to what is included, produce them. Will the plans Impose a time frame that has meaning, perhaps more importantly, with significant penalty clauses for failure to meet any such targets? I can already hear the cries of poverty and diverted infrastructure expenditure. I wouldn't mind the resultant enforcement undertaking if I thought the subsequent bonus payments to the water company exec's and share dividends wasn't as a result of the fines avoided. I look forward to seeing the plan for our area completed and published in the near future. Hopefully we won't have to wait until September 22, by which date the legislation states it has to be published.
We've also got the bright, shiny new Agriculture Act 2020, promising to work with farmers to ensure that further desecration of the countryside is prevented and funded properly. That's not desecration that's funded properly, its the measures to prevent it of course! Under ELMs (Environmental Land Management) will we see less winter brown fields as cover crops provide protection for the soil and potentially food for the wild birds? It won't help the ancient grasslands that covered the downs in walking distance of my ancestral home. They disappeared under the plough decades ago and any true reversion to downland seems highly unlikely. Potentially a step in the right direction if its supported in sufficient numbers. Banning winter sown cereal and mono-cultures might also be an option worth considering.
With the new filters being developed for washing machines will the discharge of micro-fibres into our rivers be prevented? Will the extent and implications of this invidious pollution be fully investigated? Alternatively will we see materials made from these previously heralded man made fibres banned or large sanctions placed on their import. Possibly a resurgence in the price of wool to make it once more the valuable product that shaped the South Downs, Salisbury Plain and Cranborne Chase. As opposed to it costing almost as much to get it sheared than the farmer receives for the fleece. Could that once more see those historically important downlands that now go under the plough each year restored to ancient flower rich grasslands? Considerable thought may need to be applied to stocking densities to avoid a return to economics of scale yet under ELMS anything is possible. I know meat is out of favour in the dietary requirements of many in Middle England but what's better, monoculture cereals destroying the soil structure and causing siltation of rivers, or a return to ancient grasslands? Isn't it odd how so many issues are interlinked.
As well as ridding the countryside of the menace of subsidised winter arable perhaps our greatest concern on the rivers is that of pesticides. Under ELMS we are assured we will continue with the EU's efforts to limit the indiscriminate use of herbicides and insecticides we have become accustomed to. With the current government looking to reverse the ban on neonicotinoids for sugar beet growers I fear it's not looking very promising.
Failure to meet the ELMs requirements, losing subsidy payments is perhaps insufficient incentive to adhere to the rules. A significant fine or potential stay at her majesty's pleasure might focus the attention. Whilst inside they could attend environmental workshops with the water company exec's they may well meet!
I suppose we could all go for “re-wilding” and run tourist trips around the place to show the urban population what we do and the yokels that sit on the village wall watching the world go by. Mind you very few yokels can afford a village home any more, accountants, lawyers, media exec's, retired Middle Englanders and second home owners, seem to have the sway these days where rural properties are concerned.
In reality the idea the countryside can be saved by re-wilding on any significant scale is pure nonsense. Unless of course the government intend to nationalise land, in which case anything is feasible. Otherwise land is an asset and has to be managed as such. If outside finance can support the abandonment of the land all well and good, otherwise it has to produce a financial return or rent.
Lots of other issues to get your teeth into if you feel so inclined and its a good idea if you do. The self regulation of the water industry has proven not to work, it requires honest regulators with teeth and an independent over sight. Carbon offsetting, a real alternative or a developers charter? Climate change and how we can adapt to its reality. Short sighted planners and how do Highways England get away with the run-off from the roads entering our rivers without filter?
Having got that lot off my chest I'll stop there. That's quite enough to add to this depressing, grey old weather without sending you all in search of the Prozac. I dare say the aforementioned will crop up many times in the coming year and I bet a good many more will be added to the list. I just hope there are enough of the younger generation, who care, out there to look over the shoulders of those impacting our rivers to keep them honest.
When you next have occasion to be sat across the table, or on the phone, to someone in the water industry bear in mind the truth behind what you are being told. They are concerned about; antibiotics, microplastics, diffuse pollution, abstraction, nitrates, Tom Cobbly and all, to the extent they will obfuscate, delay, green wash and plead poverty, as long as you are prepared to listen. The water companies are a closed door, hiding behind the regulators, its those self same regulators that have to grow a set and prove they are fit for purpose.
A lovely Christmas Day with Anne, thankfully recovering from her latest work inflicted injury, family coming and going, the Perfect Day. Strictly has just started, much to Anne's delight, which seems an ideal opportunity to sort out next years diary files and enter the WeBS info. With a glass of good red to help the concentration of course. I should add my congratulations to the James Webb launch team that provided such an unusual tension to the day.
George has landed this lovely fully scaled before this year but its no hardship to catch her again for Christmas. Well done George, great result and thanks to dad, Nick, for sending through the pic.
I have received from the EA my section 25 that allows me to collect dead salmon for the ongoing salmon research.
Over the coming weeks we are likely to see the salmon kelts being washed up on the gravel bars as they die after the rigours of spawning.
Should you come across any casualties whilst out and about on the river please give me a call and I'll drop by to pick them up.
A Christmas Message
I've spent several days recently beside the river, preparing for the salmon season, which is just over a month away. Fear not I will sort out the renewals asap! This has also allowed me plenty of time to keep an eye on how the salmon spawning is progressing. Over the past week or so I have found about a dozen redds with fish actively cutting. Recent days have seen a slowdown yet fish are still moving slowly upstream, I walked beside a small hen today as she negotiated the Trout Stream by-pass channel. I only hope this current rain amounts to sufficient to give the water level a boost and enable the fish that have still to cut a helping hand in reaching their preferred destination.
I was somewhat surprised to see reasonable numbers of fish still cutting with us as I would have thought the rains of October and November would have seen the fish move into the headwaters without any problems. I was also surprised at the water levels in the river after the rains of October and November, the plug seems to have been pulled and the water has all gone. Much of the weed has been stripped away by the earlier floods and the swans adding to the drop in levels. Travelling fish will have trouble negotiating obstructions at the current height.
Recorded by Danny Taylor up at Northend, this is a thirty plus cock fish that would have been the fish of a lifetime when it was fresh upon entering the river. An astonishing fish that sadly is not looking its best, fingers crossed it makes it to the redds and finds a mate to pass on its unique genetics. Although touched with sadness it never fails to amaze that such fish are still to be found in the Avon. Thanks for letting me use the video Dan, much appreciated, see you in the New Year.
Several readers have said that Dan's salmon video above does not open so the second link is a different format that will hopefully solve the problem.
This fish should be a threat to all that enter his domain, “Finny bites your legs” that will be lost on the younger generation of readers. Instead we have a saprolegnia plastered lethargic lump just holding station in the shallows. They will spawn even with a certain amount of this fungus attached, see 18th December 2016, but he definitely is not screaming well being I fear. These incredible multi-sea winter animals suffer the maximum extent of societies indifference. Did the MSW cock fish in the video run the river immediately on reaching the harbour or did he wait in the Lower Stour, as many do before attempting to enter the Avon via the Great Weir? Irrespective of Avon or Stour they enter our river system in the Spring and as I said in a recent post, have to suffer the indignity of the abuse we heap on them. They are the first to arrive in our system and have the longest exposure to high temperatures and all the associated pathogens of aquaculture, agriculture and our own “flood event” STW releases. Then their progress is dependent on sufficient water to negotiate the previously mentioned barriers we stick in their way.
I see we have received the latest update from Knappmill that illustrates the problem of both salmon and our coarse fish when it comes to negotiating barriers. The update points out the chublets and juvenile dace that migrate up our river in their thousands mid Summer. It did not show many large barbel, chub, pike and roach that also naturally migrate many miles upstream during spawning migrations. They are certainly large enough to trigger the counter many being considerably larger than the seatrout and grilse that are counted.
When we were running the hatchery we were continually trying to understand the key to maturation in our stock fish, in an effort to avoid the need of pituitary injections. We kept them in black polythene shaded tanks, reducing light levels in an attempt to simulate natural photo-period. We ran coolers to try and stabilise water temperatures all with the minimum of success. I am sure some wizkid fishery scientist will now tell us where we were going wrong. It has to be remembered that at that time they were still destroying the ecology of the Avon cutting out the weed, frying our fish population with the “big boat survey” and chopping off appendages that had taken millennia to evolve.
Are they safer higher in the catchment or do the reduced flow and exposure to exploitation outweigh any advantages. Lower in the catchment where they have deep and hidden sanctuaries and a greater volume of water to await the autumn floods, if they arrive. Does the pollution burden of the river decrease with the greater volume of water in the lower river, as forest stream with less human impact enter the system. Despite the fwit planners in the National Park trying their best to bugger up the west flowing streams. Or is the additional pollution that enters the river on its way, from the huge trout farms and STWs at Downton, Fordingbridge and Ringwood, to the sea counteract this? If they are waiting in the Lower Stour, STWs at Throop, Wimborne etc still pour shite and chemicals into the water column. They also run back out through the Mudeford run and go back to sea, just how many of these ever re-enter the system we have little data.
A classic example highlighted in the FT today in that most water companies have slashed their infrastructure investment since the 1990s. These cuts have for the most part fallen on the STWs that have seen a reduction in the order of 20% over that period. Does that come as a surprise? What do you think? They should be in prison! It raises all sorts of questions that need to be answered by our regulators.?
I cannot say I was a fan of the previous Labour Party leader yet I have to agree with getting the water Companies out of private ownership. As for inspiring, encouraging and rewarding best practice, pay large bonuses to ALL staff, dependent of course on our rivers being in A1 Condition! As in all aspects of life a balance between idealism and realism has to be reached.
Just keep your fingers crossed we see a rise in water levels to get the remaining fish to the redds.
In the true sense of Christmas may I wish all readers a very happy Christmas and a more peaceful and settle New Year than that we have all endured in the one just past. Take care and I look forward to seeing many of you in the approaching new seasons.
This mornings sunrise, the first after the Winter solstice, was cold and bright making the drive to work a joy.
Two very grainy, confusing shots taken as the light faded of one of the lake islands. This roost has been with us a couple of months and I have not mentioned it for fear of attracting unwanted attention. The roost has now broken up and many birds seem to have gone their seperate ways, which makes recording it on the diary safer. At its height it contained 26 Little Egrets, 9 Great White Egrets and 3 Cattle Egrets. I just hope the unseasonally mild weather of recents weeks hasn't lulled them into a false sense of security risking exposure to any cold weather that may return. We still have half a dozen Little Egrets and two or three GWE's but they tend to roost wherever they can find the most shelter from the wind.
A silhouette that we will hopefully become familiar with in the next few years as a White-tailed Eagle circled lazily over Ibsley this morning. Despite its massive size it is all too easy to overlook these huge birds as they drift silently by overhead. The spread of the finger like primary feathers at the wing-tips is the important ID feature.
The Starlings have broken up into two roosts with one at Blashford and the other further north at Ibsley. Over the next few days they may unite again as the southern flock were being continually harassed by a Sparrow Hawk, Marsh Harrier and a Merlin that came through at lightening speed on a couple of occasions. The poplar was one of the largest trees on the Estate towering close to one hundred feet and where it sheared off in the last storm over four feet in diameter. The strength of the wind to snap such a massive piece of timber must have been incredible and it all took place in about ten minutes on a Sunday morning a few weeks ago.
To start with a warning about parking at Ibsley Bridge as once more a car has been broken into whilst left there unattended. Recently there have been several cars broken into locally and an old, Black Daihatsu, the occupants of which were seen acting suspiciously in a nearby car park may well be involved.
A different cock fish has been in attendence with our reluctant hen today, perhaps his attentions may encourage her to get on with her spawning!
Somewhere in the region of twenty thousand starling that amounted to about half the current roost. The have recently moved over to the Blashford Lakes reedbeds from the Estate side of the road. They are now using the reed beds where Kevin and Brenda do their CES ringing, which I don't imagine they will be too happy about as the birds risk destroying the reeds with their droppings and weight. If you look closely at the photo, lefthand side top layer, you can see a Marsh Harrier lazily circling the flock and keeping them active.
....and she's still not satisfied as she continues to excavate the depression she intends to lay her eggs in. Two new redds above Blashford Island today. One can be seen just upstream of the left side of the island, the other mid stream in the nearside channel. Mostly 2SW fish and grilse dotted about the Estate but there was a good sized cock fish in this group today that may well have been a 3SW fish.......and the cockfish, along with Manny, still attend our house proud hen wishing she would get on with it. Thanks again for the frame grabs Manny, great shot of the redd under construction.
Here she is, a hen salmon cutting the first redd of this years spawning. Manny has been with us seeing what can be achieved under the difficult river conditions we are currently experiencing. He sent over a frame grab to let us see the task before him in trying to film chalkstream salmon spawning. Water clarity is far from perfect and this redd was well out in the river to add to the complications. The closer to the bank they are cutting the better chance of getting clear footage, so anything you spot please call as soon as possible. It begs the question why are these fish still down with us cutting when we have had sufficient water for them to have reached the headwaters if they had wished to. Are these fish a population that have their natal gravels with us, feeling they have achieved the return that drives them. To add a further question mark, I was delighted to hear recently from Colin Morgan who had been out trotting the river. He tells me that he has caught more salmon parr this year than for a long, long time, to the extent that he had found it necessary to move swims to avoid them. Whether we will see this reflected in the catch returns in three or four years time will be interesting.
By its very nature in being a lowland, shallow gradient, alluvial river the Hampshire Avon, along with its sister rivers the Test and Itchen, provide a unique challenge not only for our fish but for our film makers. Chalkstream salmon have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years to spawn in these lowland rivers with all the associated problems of high silt burdens and slower flows. Before the hen can begin laying her eggs and her attendent males fertilise them she has to clean the gravel in the area she has selected. The site is usually associated with increasing flow at the tail of a pool or run where she arches her body to create a vortex to loosen and remove silt and fines. The hen in the photo has been cutting and cleaning the gravel in the redd for two days, a cloud of silt is lifted into suspension every time she cuts. The area of the cleaned gravel is about two square meters and still no clearly defined depression created to commence laying. Her male patiently waiting for her to be satisfied with the state of the gravel and begin to release her eggs into the depression, where he will fertilise them before they drift to the rising ground at the tail of the redd where she will cover them with gravel as she repeats the process lifting a layer of gravel over the released eggs, in doing so creating the incubation mound. The process is repeated again and again, a release of eggs and a layer of gravel, until the egg mound is complete she is spent.
The shot above is from the archive, taken back in 2016 with three salmon cutting at Blashford. Today I had a report of the first redd of the year on the Estate and I am keen to discover more that Manny can reach with his camera, to add to his Avon film. Should any members come across fish cutting when you are out and about on the Estate please give me a call or a text. If it comes to that any readers from other fisheries higher in the catchment that can allow Manny access and have cutting fish in easy reach, a call would be very much appreciated.
The large roost has started to break up this evening as several thousand birds headed over to Blashford Lakes to settle this evening. This was an expected development as the original roost has been occupied for several weeks and the reeds have collapsed and become fouled. The smell from the site is evident up to a hundred meters away, adding to their need to move. They have examined two or three different sites in recent evenings from North of Ibsley, Blashford Lakes and the Ashley oxbows. I imagine they will make their minds up very soon and move en-masse to the chosen reed bed.
Late arrivals yesterday evening.
A couple of poor clips of this mornings departure. Low light levels are a little beyond the scope of my camera, or perhaps its me! They are again big files so give them a minute to download.
Count that lot, the first explosion of Starlings leaving the roost this morning. This is less than half the total flock. If you look just lower left of the leaving birds there is a stain on the reeds, spreading behind the willows in the foreground, is a second, larger part of the flock that can be seen leaving in the clip below.
Second departure, with a further third group yet to leave.
This certainly proved correct as a red sky this morning being a shepherds warning. Its rained most of the afternoon.
All done. The hatches are now in with new reinforced gate plates, refurbished winding gear, including new teeth on the racks, walk-ways and safety rails. I won't know myself when I next have to adjust the gates. That's both sets now refurbished and made safe, a great result. These controls are now set for flow control in the summer to benefit breeding waders, hay meadows and these days perhaps most importantly for the river, fish migration. To assist fish migration we aim to achieve the minimum head difference, above and below the gates, and the minimum velocity attainable through the gates whilst retaining the attractant flow. It seems to be working with known fish regularly moving through the gates and appearing in the reaches above and below the gates.
The researchers from Bournemouth Uni are about collecting their shrimps to further their work on the parasite burden of our fish. Its a real labour of love as they hand pick their way through thousands of freshwater shrimps looking for the the specimens they require. Expanding our knowledge of the life of our river is so vitally important if we ever hope to be in a position to ensure the river is safeguarded for future generations to experience.
Now the leaves have dropped we can see the extent of the first Summer regrowth on both the osiers and the pollards. The willows, my predecessor planted on the spoil from his dredging of the weirpool, had rapidly grown to encroach on the water meadows and offer protection for predators threatening our breeding waders. The pollards are ancient trees that had also grown to restrict the flight lines of the meadows and had also become brittle and subject to excessive storm damage. In agreement with NE and the Forestry Authority we have cut back both to benefit the breeding waders, out on the water meadows and reinvigorate the ancient pollards. The first years growth looks spot on so lets hope it continues in a like fashion for generations to come.
The Earlecoate team have been busy refurbishing the hatch gates and making the necessary health and safety additions on the main control at Ibsley. The Goosander are just a few of the dozens that are currently to be found about the valley. In the background three Shoveler that can be seen in the link below doing their strange group feeding.
Its a slow download so give it a minute.
A couple of shots prior to the arrival of Barra, the first showing some of the Shoveler lounging in the lee of the islands. I think every bird in that photo is asleep. The second photo is our old white cock Pheasant that can usually be found in the paddock alongside our workshops. He usually disappears each Summer and I think this will be the forth Winter he has returned to his cold weather haunts up with us.
A big twenty for Mike that will be even more impressive in a few weeks as she fills out over the Winter. With her length and width across the shoulder she has the potential to be the fish of a lifetime for some lucky angler if they find her in the New Year.
I've been out strimming up the South Island today, which involves cutting all the alder regrowth and knocking the bramble patches back into some sort of shape. The island is out of bounds to anglers so the work is done purely to ensure a low flight line connection between the lakes for the wildfowl and provide feeding and nesting habitat for some of our local bird population. Whilst out there today I could see Shoveler sheltering from the wind on the sunny side of the northern islands. They spent almost the entire day just lounging in the lee of the islands only as the sun dropped low in the sky did they become more active huddling together in this very tight flock feeding pattern. As far as I'm aware this feeding pattern is unique to Shoveler and I must look up just why they adopt such a strange habit. There are between forty five and fifty birds in that one huddle with others further out in the lake. The last shot is of the large flock of Herring Gulls that spend the day on the south lake waiting for our neighbour to come out in the paddock next door and feed them. Goodness knows what he puts out but it certainly attracts an awful lot of gulls.
You've seen this fish on here before. Its wasn't long ago I put up a shot of her when Andy Jackson landed her back in the beginning of October. Almost exactly a year ago I put her photo on here with Steve Swift who landed her when she was putting on her winter weight at 40.01. This year Steve has landed her again and this time an ounce heavier during his couple of nights this week. As she is such a great looking fish it's good for the soul to put her pic up once more, one for all you carp guys to enjoy. He also managed a 28.04 common in the middle of last nights freezing temperatures that after returning and recasting saw his unhooking mat frozen solid. Well fished Steve, you deserved that brace sticking it out through those temperatures and many thanks for the report and pix.
This is just a shot of a few of our valley Lapwing feeding out on the water meadows. The report that can be found in the link below, features New Forest Breeding Waders and has been compiled by HOS (Hampshire Ornithological Society). Its a thought provoking work and it would be interesting to know just how the New Forest wader population interact with our valley birds. Are the Curlew we see every Spring, feeding in the valley, Forest birds or birds stopping off to feed on their way north? If we are ever to see a breeding population of Snipe back in the valley I imagine it will be as a result of over spill from these Forest birds.
This is an absolutely fantastic chub, landed by Gavin Barret today, weighing in at eight pounds. I was delighted to be able to get to see this fish at last as I've heard all sorts of tales about its history.
This is a shot of the right flank of this fish with two old, well healed scars that make it easily identifiable. Also a black scale on the left flank that can be seen in the above photo, she also has a colossal frame and a slightly undershot jaw. May I ask all syndicate members and any other Avon anglers who look in on this blog to look through their photos and if you spot this beauty drop me an email. I believe last Winter this fish was on a fishery several miles downstream from where it has been all Summer. I would really appreciate any news of captures dating back a few years to see where else she may have travelled.
I've been moving swims and thickening up the margins again. Due to the tight nature of some of the new swims they will be day only fishing whilst we see how things respond. I'll include all the details when the new maps go out in the new season.
I'm still thinking about the number of fish eating birds that seem to think our lakes are home, today the Goosander count actually passed the fifty mark. Goosander are a bit of a home goal in that they first bred in Hampshire on the Estate! They tend to eat the smaller fish and are probably doing us a favour in eating the rudd and first year carp. They are certainly better occupied over on the lakes rather than eating our juvenile salmon and roach on the river. Despite the positive rationale we do have a problem in that a similar number of Cormorants are not so selective in their choice of food and are doing considerable harm to our fish stocks. The Egrets, both Little and Great, plus the Herons are not a serious threat as they keep to the margins, allowing the stock to retreat to deep water. Unless of course there's a flock of Cormorants out there waiting for them. In an effort to counter this continual onslaught I have been thickening up the margins in several areas of the lakes to provide thicker cover. It does work but in reality with such numbers of birds present a significant toll on the desirable stock is inevitable. I don't quite understand why the piscivorous pests don't stay on the nature reserves next door, there's far greater extent of water over there, unless of course they've eaten all the food sized fishin those lakes. What are our options if our bushes don't work? We do have licenses to cull a few birds, unfortunately dead Cormorants don't learn a great deal and we certainly don't have enough licenses to sort out the number of birds that flop over the fence from the roosts on the reserve next door. Scare tactics, shoot to scare is actually very effective if somewhat labour intensive, requiring regular visits. Putting a shot in the air sends the culprits scattering for the horizon and a mass consciousness soon gets the message out that the area is off limits. The downside of course is that all of our Shoveler, Goldeneye, Goosander, Great Egrets, various mixed grebe and waders, all bugger off over the same horizon!
There are ways around the problem that doesn't involve shooting or scaring, I'm just not sure the regulators and various conservation bodies are ready for the answers yet. I say that in light of the state of total denial of the conservation world that looks upon angling as some sort of barbaric form of entertainment, unless of course there's funding involved, plus the fence sitting abilities of the regulators that would put the most ardent Stylite to shame!
I will expand on my thinking at some point but its a bit like Middle England's cat problem, instead of the forty million birds a year that are sacrificed a whole lot more fish have to pay the price! Out of sight, out of mind?
A brimstone as a reminder of warm, Summer days.
The detailed transect report in the link above will also provide some intersting reading that helps remind us of last Summer. The report has been compiled by the New Forest Butterfly Transect Group.
A few of the birds about the lakes today providing plenty of food for thought, text to follow re the number of piscivorous birds.
Wildfowl sheltering from the cold north wind on the sunny, south side of the islands. Over 80 Shoveler, 40 Mallard, 28 Goosander, five Little Egret, 21 Cormorant, a load of Grey Heron, one Great Egret and a few other bits and bobs.
The Ash die back is providing seemingly endless work in getting any that pose a risk down on the ground. In the case of the half dozen on the back bank at Meadow we actually felled them into the lake to thicken up the sanctuary areas for the fish and nesting water fowl. That's not to say we don't remove trees as well, which is what's going on the right hand photo. This was as a result of moving a swim to provide more cover in a small bay where fish were easily trapped by Cormorants. By moving the swim it enabled us to increase the unbroken run of marginal cover by over a hundred meters. This particular lake is about twelve acres with a wooded margin for the most part. It only has eight swims providing ample sanctuary areas in which to hide from the marauding hoards. This is a relatively deep lake where the water is clearer than on the remainder of the complex and hopefully the water weed is due for one of its boom years that is so good for the fish. Not only from the cover perspective but the huge explosion of natural food that accompanies such weed blooms.
Whiling away the day and trying to decide whether my appearance warranted getting up!
Always a delight to see this lovely looking mirror, especially when "Pecks" has landed her at over thirty pounds and in absolutely tip top condition.
After the recent cold night or two the leaves are beginning to fall covering the surface of the lakes and swirling through the eddies on the river making bait presentation tricky.
The last of the Autumn colour as we are forecast a change to cold, windy weather. The eagle platform stands out clearly across the other side of the lake.
Different styles for different occasions! Dave leaning back to overcome a strong current whilst landing a good chub and Roger doing the second rod straddle to net his ninth carp of the day.
Why aren't the CEOs and MDs etc in prison and where are the share holders? A list of shareholders might prove interesting. It wouldn't actually, I bet there wouldn't be many surprises.
Three are edible, one is an unidentified Amanita that may well contain dangerous poisons sufficient to make you very ill or even prove fatal. Unless you're certain give them all a wide berth. I have an expert seeking a positive ID on the odd one out and will confirm its identification when I hear.
You may notice the Harris fencing currently enclosing the main hatches at Ibsley as much needed repair work is undertaken. We are replacing the rusted steels and rotten boards on the walkway and whilst we are there we're taking the opportunity to replace the gate plates themselves, two of which had completely rusted through. We are adding a security fence to ensure it is obvious unauthorised access and fishing is not permitted. The work will not have any impact on the fishing, or the river, as the structure has always been out of bounds and all the work is taking place above water or away in the workshop, where the hatches themselves are being refurbished.
A bit of a black day, not just the two photos above but the aftermath of COP26 is beginning to sink in. As for the photos, the first is a Raven taken through our sunlounge window. One of four Raven that have been flying about the gardens, tumbling and playing along the roof tops for several days this week. You don't have to go back many years to a time when Raven were a rare sight in Hampshire, Martin Down or Salisbury Plain perhaps but certainly not the centre of Ringwood. Fabulous to see these incredible birds from the comfort of our sitting room. The black buck is a rather poor specimen from over the lakes, barely more than a sore, with a very poor body condition and a broken antler probably the result of a meeting with a larger buck. He is accompanied by several does, which isn't good news for the future of the local fallow genetics.
My thinking about COP26 is totally confused. I can't for the life of me see how our society is going to take on board the amount of change we need to achieve if we are to meet the 1.5 degree target and more importantly subsidise the developing nations to make the changes necessary. I look about me and the driving force of our society remains materialistic, flash cars, foreign holidays now back on the agenda, marinas full of plastic diesel powered gin palaces etc etc. That's not the worst of it when we have a government still considering new coal mines, new oil and gas fields and the extension to Heathrow runway. How we can expect developing nations that in many cases are struggling to keep their heads literally above water to take any notice of what we say is beyond me. Especially when being lectured by someone who is internationally considered a joke, a proven liar with the integrity of a gutter snipe.
Three hours trotting this morning was a real pleasure, overcast, still conditions, with perhaps just a hint of an upstream wind. I fished a couple of swims and caught on flake from both, nothing huge, chub to about three pounds but once I dropped one the swim died on both occasions. With my fishery manager hat on its probably more pleasing to see the next generation coming through rather than landing our huge lumps, not that I wouldn't mind the odd lump thrown in.
I had half a pint of live mealworms with me and I spent forty five minutes unsuccessfully trying them as bait. They were left over from Anne feeding her familiar and as they looked just like caseless caddis I figured they must be worth a shot. Possibly they met with no response due to me having dropped a fish earlier on bread. Or possibly caseless caddis taste crap and that's why they don't need a case, as no fish in the river will eat them! Whatever, bread works so I'll probably just stick to that for the time being. They do look good on the hook, which in this case is a size 16 barbless circle, so I will give them another try when I know fish are feeding in the swim that will be a fairer trial.
I walked up to the Starling roost again this evening and managed a reasonable count, despite approximately half the birds dropping into roost before the others arrived. Between a digital count of the early birds and a conventional count of the late arrivals I totalled 18920, which is considerably higher than I thought when they all went to roost early yesterday during the drizzle.
The Meadow complex is looking none too shabby in all its Autumn glory, especially when you know there are some gloriously coloured carp to match, hidden away in its mysterious depths.
Yet another sign of the approaching winter are the Starlings that have been gathering for the past week or two. Numbers have yet to reach the numbers of previous years with just a couple of thousand currently in the reed beds. The gathering murmurations are also yet to reach the drama of years past with just the briefest of displays. Some evenings there is no display at all with the birds arriving in small groups of a hundred or two and dropping straight into the reeds. Lets hope numbers continue to build over the coming weeks and we will get the wonderful shows of previous years.
Some Autumn colour at last around the lakes, a little sunshine would have added to the scene but the colour alone was a joy to see. The change of seasons was futher demonstrated with the appearance of over thirty Shoveler for their winter stop over in the valley.
A few grainy shots from yesterday's weBS count. A Greensandpiper and a Gadwall drake above a Cormorant making short work of one of the Hamer rainbow trout. Not a great deal to say about the count, the usual local populations with few winter arrivals yet to add to numbers.
A surprise on Meadow Lake today with the appearance of a pair of Muscovy ducks. No idea where they came from but I don't expect they will stay long if they're used to being fed every morning.
Low morning light across the Park with the Pheasants and the roe deer are on the search for breakfast.
It looks as if the rams are doing their job with this ewe showing both raddle colours. Why the green raddled ram has a red back-end I'm not sure, perhaps he stopped still for too long in front of his buddy!
Just what is going on with this Environment Bill that we are assured will give our rivers the same, or better, protection than the WFD? If we are to believe the "Somerset Anachronism", our rivers are safe in UK government hands.
If that is the case the government had the perfect opportunity to illustrate this when the House of Lords wished to add an amendment to the bill to introduced a statutory obligation on the water companies to protect our rivers and coastal waters. The House of Lords amendment would have protected our rivers from water companies pumping untreated sewage into our rivers and coastal waters. This is the current unchallenged policy of the water companies who discharge raw sewage, with all its pollutants, poisons and pathogens, into our rivers for millions of hours, on hundreds of thousands of occasions every year. This was deemed illegal by Europe in 2012 yet the water companies chose to ignore this as they knew the powers of Europe were on the wane.
What did our government do when it had the opportunity to support the Lords amendment and wave it through as a formality? We had the undignified fiasco of the Commons vote regarding the House of Lords amendment where the government put on a full whip to ensure it was defeated. The whips produced and circulated to the MPs a completely fictitious case for voting against. The public outcry when the Party Line was dutifully followed brought about one of Bozo's now famous “U turns” and the promise from the Government to introduce their own amendment ensuring the water companies had a statutory obligation to reduce the practice.
We all understand the problems associated with heavy rainfall overwhelming the STWs and the legitimate use of the emergency EA discharge consent. However this is viewed, it is an undesirable practice and we might legitimately expect the water companies to be investing in its infrastructure to eliminate the problem. We know it can't be achieved overnight and will take massive investment but it has to be undertaken. Instead of which we have foreign investment companies taking multi-billion pound share dividends out of the companies and out of the country. England is alone in allowing the vital utility water companies to be privately owned and exploited. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland all run “not-for-profit-companies for the benefit of their users and the environment.
The Hampshire Avon, worth saving?
After that lengthy preamble we come to the crux of the matter in that the government has at last published the amendment it intends to put before the House to place an obligation of the water companies to clean up their act. With the vote only forty eight hours away the just published amendment that loosely claims to “Secure a progressive reduction” completely fails to achieve the obligation we require. Quite the reverse in fact, it works against the interests of our rivers and coastal waters as there appears to be no statutory time frame to achieve this reduction. There also doesn't seem to be any statutory obligation to reduce frequency or improve water quality. The fact is this gives the water companies the right to continue as they are without restraint or penalty. The simple answer is to vote for the House of Lords amendment that will simply provide the protection our rivers deserve.
Is that government alternative proposal deliberate, to ease the way for their corporate friends and to hell with the environment? In their arrogance do they really believe they know best and simply do not need to hear the concerns of the river owners and users? Or is it through complete and bungling incompetence and stupidity?
Alas, I fear it is the former as I don't think anyone could be as stupid as to introduce such ineffective legislation without an ulterior motive. I have written to my MP asking he supports the environment on this next vote and not his party line but I don't think I'll be holding my breath!
The third night in succession that we have had a hard frost, I think that is probably more than we experienced in the greater part of last Winter. As I headed down to Park Pool to clear a blocked culvert at first light the mist was only just beginning to form. The world was white with frost, my footsteps traced my path across the meadows before the mist arrived and produced a white out for an hour or two. Once the sun rose and burnt off the mist we enjoyed a bright, clear, sunny day. The perfect day for turning the rams in with the ewes to begin their Autumn work. The girls in the last photo don't look overly impressed at the arrival of two of the boys, hopefully matters will take their natural course over the next six weeks! In reality this is the beginning of the year in the sheep world, the success or otherwise of the next six weeks will determine the number of lambs that will begin arriving in the first week in April.
One casualty of the storm was one of the Gorley Twin pollards. Sad to see the willow pollard blown over having occupied that corner of the meadow for perhaps two hundred years.
As they were.
The first real frost of the winter that required the scraper to clear the windscreen before setting off to work this morning. The frost gave way to a dense mist that eventually cleared mid morning. The river remains high and coloured making fishing difficult, the georgeous weather compensated for those that did try their hand on the river. The high water remains in the meadows making the Avon Valley Path unusable, which suits the valley wildfowl that are now grazing the floating grass. A similar scene down at Blashford with several hundred geese out on the floods.
An Autumn scene from the banks of the Dockens water. Forty eight hours earlier the water level was up to the bracket fungi which has since quickly dropped back to a more normal winter level. The two oaks are to record the impact of the weekend's blow. In this instance the majority of trees we lost were non-indigenous Turkey Oaks, which are deemed undesireable as they host a parasitic wasp that damages the acorns of our native oak trees. The Forestry Authority encourage the removal of turkey Oak unfortunately to remove them all across the Estate would take years, it would seem the storm is just lending a helping hand.
I could make today's entry all about chopping up wind blown trees and clearing branches from roads and hatches. I've decided to spare you that ordeal as the sooner I forget todays mess the better. I will just add that today's adventures started without a tree being involved when I had a call from Adam to let me know he had landed a good fish. despite the torrential rain and awful squalls, as it was not too far from my location at the time, I told him to pop it in a tube and I'd be there in ten minutes. That was the easy bit. Had I not decided to zip out and do the shots I would have had to drop in at that location anyway, both Harbridge and Ellingham roads were blocked and on my eventual arrival the top of a willow came down and blocked the road that would have required my attendance to get Adam out. To have had to visit to clear the road and not have seen Adam's super fish would have been a cruel twist of fate and removed the highlight of the day.
Far better than wind blasted trees, some of our wonderful fish. Chris Ball has very kindly sent me a catch report for his last month on Mockbeggar, which I very much appreciate. Without this feedback assessing our stock levels is very difficult, I can't catch them all myeslf to find out! The first photo is Chris with one of his twenty plus commons that were in the report, not the largest fish in there but certainly one of the prettiest. What I also really like about this photo is Chris's obvious pleasure in landing that fish. I don't know how long Chris has fished for but the joy of that capture looks as fresh as a first twenty the magic of angling has certainly not been lost or jaded, lovely stuff.
The middle shot is Adam with his wonderful croc I ventured out to photograph this morning. Adam certainly seems to have the ability to find these big girls. Wonderful fish Adam, delighted to have been able to share your capture and take the pix.
I also received a very welcome report from river member James Martin who spent a few days on the river with his friend Nick Simmonds. Unfortunately their visit coincided with the river rising and colouring making conditions pretty tricky. Despite the conditions they did manage to find some good fish on their preferred method with the float, plenty of quality dace and even half a dozen roach in one swim which bodes well for the future. Along with the dace and roach good numbers of chub to six pounds and even a couple of bream. Rotten conditions on a rising river yet some fine fish and what I was particularly pleased to hear both James and Nick enjoyed themselves. Thanks James, good to see you on the bank the other day, hope to see you again in the not too distant future.
The roach above is in fact not one of James's fish, its one of half a dozen I caught when I managed a couple of hours on the bank this afternoon. Nothing dramatic but very pleasant couple of hours with fin perfect roach to 12 ounces.
Overnight wind and rain gave way a little earlier than was forecast and by mid morning the sun was out in a cloud free sky. I wasn't able to get out with the rods as I had hoped, I did however manage a quick walk around the lakes to check the water levels and enjoy the sunshine. I wasn't the only one enjoying the warmth of the sun as under our fig tree two Red Admirals were enjoying the sugary decay of the last of the seasons fallen fruit.
My walk to check on water levels provided me the opportunity to think about the current debate about the pollution of our water courses and coastal waters. My thoughts were brought around to this line of thinking as I watched the confluence of two different streams of water. One was gin clear the other, reacting to the overnight rain, was cloudy with suspended soil and full of leaves and rubbish being flushed from the forest. The initial thinking would have been that the coloured cloudy water was the polluted stream but knowing it came from the forest, with the minimum of human interference it was probably less of a problem environmentally than the clear water that contained the contaminants from the entire catchment, antibiotics, agricultural chemicals, highways run-off, endocrine disruptors, micro plastics, industrial estate drainage and town and city flood water. This isn't a new problem, it was giving rise to a high level of concern when we founded the Wessex Salmon Association thirty years ago and Harry Plunket Greene wrote one of anglings greatest pieces of literature with the meeting of his bright waters many years earlier. There have been improvements such as the phosphate strippers that now are working to reduce the volume that enters the river. Unfortunately there have also been setbacks and any progress has been negated by the lack of progress on other fronts and the increased demands of our society. Water companies are currently under scrutiny and quite rightly so, for the volume of untreated human sewage they are deliberately pumping into our rivers and coastal waters. Whilst this is undoubtedly true and definitely unsightly the visible element of this pollution, that so appals, is only the tip of the iceberg. The invisible, insidious poisons and drugs that are flushed into our rivers are potentially far more harmful and far more difficult to remove. You can strain out panty liners and turds and tell everyone its a great job and safe to swim in but you can't catch disolved chemicals and micro plastics in a sieve.
Perhaps little will change until we have accountability and the CEO's and Directors of those companies responsible face real personal deterrents. If they wish to receive the obscene salaries we are now informed these failing water company managers and directors receive they should also face the consequences of their actions. Responsibility for failure rests at the top, not hiding behind consultants and fustication, massive fines and the threat of a spell behind bars would I'm sure have an amazing ability to concentrate the mind! I wouldn't just hold private companies to account, those mandarins that sit on high in their whitehall ivory towers, cutting funding and denying problems, would be similarly accountable. In the event of failure on their watch no golden handshakes and disappearing into obscurity on huge pensions, out on their ear with minimum payoffs.
What an odd sort of day, not only the fact all our furniture and this computer have been out in the garden or in the garage as we put in new carpets, the political world has been abuzz with "U" turns and budgets.
The "U" turn is related to the Lords amendment to the Environment Bill that, we are now told by the Minister, will included beefed up obligations on the water companies to stop pumping untreated sewage into our rivers and coastal waters. It appears they have been listening to the concerns that have been so eloquently expressed by Feargal and the public at large. The briefing the poor old MPs that had supported the government in voting out the amendment have now been told the information related to costs and implications for water bills was absolute bollocks, well there's a surprise when Bozo's at the helm! It seems the cost of correcting the worst effending discharges would probably be in the range of four to fifty billion not the 150 to 600 billion those supporters of the government were warning us the public would be liable for. Those water bills that would rise by a grand would be more likely to rise by between twenty and fifty GBP.
As for the budget, the good news for the environment is that the government departments that regulate our polluters are to get more funding. Unfortunately the level of funding is unlikely to reach the levels of a decade ago when the hatchet job was done on the regulators, emasculating them to the extent they were unable to implement an acceptable level of control over our polluters. That brings us back to the Environment Act, in the event the regulators are unfit for purpose through lack of adequate investment, it doesn't matter how well written the legislation without enforcement its useless. Close scrutiny of just what that beefed up obligation looks like when it finally get written into law may well prove interesting. Who will enforce it and how they are funded will prove to be far more interesting.
On the local front, more tangible news with a specimen or two from the river to brighten the week. The first is a float caught 6.12 by Pete Wilson who now has his sights set on a float caught seven, which a year or two ago would have seemed an unlikely dream. Now a days it is a reality as the chub fishing on the Avon has never been at such heights. The other two photos show Andy Jackson who has taken a break from landing large carp on the lakes to enjoy the river now that it has taken on its true colours. The middle shot with a photogenic double taken a day or two ago in the coloured water of the recent rain. The third shot a 7.07 chub taken touch ledgering today in the slowly dropping and clearing river. Three cracking fish, congratulations to both Pete and Andy on their success. Thanks for the reports and photos, I do appreciate hearing how things are going on the waters.
Disappointed to see that New Forest West constituency MP, Sir Desmond Swayne, voted to allow the continued abuse of the Hampshire Avon, which runs from Downton to Ringwood through his constituency. Sir Desmond saw fit to vote against the House of Lords amendment to the Environment Bill, to make the pumping of sewage into our river illegal. With the Environment Bill looking more and more like simple government lip service the future for our rivers looks increasingly bleak. With the protection the EU Environment Commission afforded us no longer available, our regulators clearly unfit for purpose and an MP who doesn't give a toss and is going to toe the party line come what may, what future for the environment?
The Greylag geese heading south over Park pool to feed at first light.
The newly cleaned drains working perfectly as the water in the main river backs up into the cleaned channel. In the second shot the water is spilling out into the meadows providing perfect feeding for the waders and wildfowl. The extra depth of the backed-up water in the channel offer refuge areas for the fry to prevent them being flushed through the system.
Mockbeggar before the storm.
The after effects of a north east blow, trees and limbs down all over the place. Alongside the Fishing Road the root plate of one very large oak taking out a 63mm main when it went.
The Avon Valley path still passable but wellies would be a wise footwear choice. I only hope this isn't a repeat of the last couple of years when the meadows were over wellie depth for five months making reaching the river a real effort. The meadows lower in the valley at Blashford were well under water as the Dockens backed up the carriers.
Getting the ewes ready for the rams with Phil crutching, Millie recording the tag numbers, whilst Zach keeps an eye on the operation.
I am often asked what species I most like fishing for, where are my favourite fisheries and what swims do I most enjoy fishing. Easy part first and that's the fishery, without any question Somerley and that's why I'm here! As for species that's not quite so easy as a lot depends on just what you are trying to achieve and gain from your fishing. I see every walk of life and most aspects of angling at Somerley and my ambitions have tended to alter with time and exposure to the river and lakes. If its an adrenalin rush I'm seeking it would have to be a bright fresh Springer, there is nothing quite like that take and first run of our salmon. Getting to that sudden rush of blood tends to be a case of hours of repetitious casting that can dull the senses. There is even a charm to that repetition in that you can lose yourself in your thoughts and your surroundings, making that sudden resistance even more of a shock heightening the excitement of the chase. Casting can become an end in itself but that is a charm that has escaped me I fear. On the other extreme I love trotting for roach. This delicate species is never going to provide the same adrenalin rush but it will test every angling skill in trying to keep the shoal in your swim whilst you dream of the possibility that a two pounder may be the one that takes your bait next trot down. The problem is I don't think I have a favourite species, I would fish for bullheads in a bucket if that's all I had available.
I enjoy carp fishing in all its various guises, apart I suppose from the war of attrition that multiple night sessions bring. Carp off the top, or freelined in the margins, are as pleasant a way to catch fish on a summer evening as can be imagined. Perhaps a dry fly bobbing down a stream towards a wild brown, or grayling, can be as pleasant way to spend a summer day but there is little to separate the enjoyment. Barbel I'm afraid don't do it for me, they usually turn up half way down your roach trot and completely bugger up your swim as you waste half an hour trying to land it on your light roach gear. There are plenty of anglers out there giving the barbel their full attention so I don't feel the need to add to their numbers. Sitting for hours behind static rods is not my way, simply because I don't have the time. Similarly sight fishing for barbel holds no appeal as they are not at their best and the migration of carp tactics to the river makes their capture a matter of attrition once more. As the river takes on its autumn blue green colour and the weed disappears they hold more attraction as the traditional months to catch your barbel involve more water craft determining where they have moved to, to spend the colder months in the deep holes and slacks.
Pike, perch, chub, bream and even eels, all hold my attention at various times, or they would if I could only find a little more of that precious time, with all due acknowledgements to Lindsey Buckingham! Yet all have one thing in common, what ever the species the one thing they all bring to the party is that they allow me to become absorbed in a natural world where I try and achieve my objective by understanding the feeding and habitat requirements of my intended quarry for the day. I imagine every piece of weed in my swim and every piece of gravel, silt and clay on the bottom. How my chosen species fits into that environment is the key to achieving my goal.
Of course I can add my seas fishing into that equation, be it a sunrise on a deserted shingle beach or mid channel over a wreck seeking Pollock and cod. There is always a further link to all my fishing and that is the element of escapism. The concentration and imagination of what's going on in those hidden depths wipes all other distractions from my mind.
A favourite Somerley swim that holds some wonderful specimens and perhaps the greatest attraction, its a perfect trot with a wire stemmed stick. Oddly I don't think anyone has fished this swim for at least two seasons, which just goes to show how every angler has a different take on why he or she fishes.
I've seen oaks do this on dozens of occasions yet every time I am surprised that the should do such a thing. A perfectly healthy limb, no wind or rain, bright sunshine on the preceding days and they decide to drop a ton of timber in the road? Trying to manage our ancient oaks is almost impossible if they are to behave in such a random fashion!
Despite the best efforts of the above oak to ruin my weekend I did get the opportunity to do a little foraging when I drove out to have a look at the damage. The fungi season is in full swing and the oaks in the park are a favoured site to find the most archetypical of toadstools in the shape of the parasol mushroom. Perhaps the fly agaric, with its red cap and white spots, is considered more representative of the toadstool world but the advantage the parasol has it that you can eat it. Crispy bacon, four parasol caps, loads of garlic, Dijon mustard, topped with cheese and chopped parsley, on toast and you have the perfect lunch. Perhaps a glass of Blind Side cider to accompany it and of course, time to enjoy it.
The black bream is a further piece of foraging, resulting from a recent boat session. Perhaps my perfect dinner, a seasoned bream on a bed of sliced potato and olives, done in the oven, the final ten minutes, a glass of white wine, topped with cheese and chopped parsley. With the remainder of that bottle of white, once more with that final vital factor, time to enjoy it!
The bonsai are turning colour when perhaps they look at their best. Most of the bonsai in the middle shot are over thirty five years old and just beginning to mature. Its an odd sort of pastime that takes thirty years to achieve the desired result. In reality its not that different from everyday forestry and silviculture in that we are planting for those that follow us in forty or fifty years in the future. We are about to start out winter planting period in both the parkland and the woodlands, our problem is that we are no longer certain just what we should be planting. Thirty years ago we were planting ash, obviously no longer possible, unfortunately that is not the only species we are having trouble with as climate change and disease become ever more prevalent. Elm, beech, oak, chestnut, larch, all seem to have various threats making seeing into the future a very tricky exercise.
The third shot is my bonsai oak that has a hollow trunk and starting to resemble the ancient oaks of the forest and our parklands.
The valley beginning to look autumnal as the leaves and margins begin to turn, the river has yet to catch up as the water continues to drop and clear.
They're still crossing the river as they did in the shot from a couple of years ago in the headers above. When I first witnessed them crossing the river I was surprised by the casual nature in which they crossed back and forth, two or three times a day to find shade or preferred grazing. It was not only under the low flow conditions we are currently experiencing but when bank high, with even the cows having to swim. The calves sheltering on the downstream side of the adults. All we need is a crocodile or two and we would have a scene straight out of a David Attenborough, African odyssey. On this occasion though it was Phil on hand to capture the scene and send me the photo.
A couple of shots from recent days with sunrise over the lakes and the Woodside Carrier where I have been rejigging the water levels.
WeBS day produced quite a few large white feathered jobs but not a great deal else. There were the usual residents but very little in the way of winter migrants seem to have arrived as yet, which is hardly surprising considering today was more like August than October. To add to the unseasonal weather the river has dropped back from its recent spate like a stone, from 100mm over the spillway to 150mm below. Hardly chalkstream behaviour, more akin to the rock and gravel catchments of the west coast.
The world has gone completely mad! This is wrong on so many levels its almost beyond comprehension. If some of the fishery, farming and forestry practices, currently deemed acceptable, are to continue what hope of those same politicians and world leaders getting to grips with global warming?
The warm, almost muggy, weather this afternoon gave rise to an all too rare a sight that of a vast hatch of Brown Sedge. Apart from the Grannom that still hatch in clouds in April we see all too few hatches of such scale and most welcome they are. When I see such a large hatch I always wonder what would have happened to all those insects had the weather not been suitable for them to emerge. Would they be able to stay in the river until the water warmed next Spring or are they simply lost to the system. I expect there's an entomologist out there somewhere who has the answer to that?
A shot to please one or two members showing a section of galvanised steel mesh covering the newly eroded ditch across Harbridge Bend. It won't be very many seasons before the river cuts off the bend creating an oxbow that will change the character of several hundred meters of riverbank in that area. Whether for the better or worse we will have to wait and see so make the most of the classic swims along the bend before we lose them.
Final photograph showing a snail that was one of many also making the most of the warm wet weather in the reeds and tall grasses of the margins. I'm not sure of the species, or even if it were a land or water based mollusc, possibly an Amber Snails from the fields or a Wandering Pond Snails from the margins of the river. What it does mean is that I will have to be out checking the number of their tentacles and the position of the eyes.
A further shot or two of the high water that after last nights downpour rose a further inch or two over the main spillway. The forest streams were up over the fords this morning, adding their colour to the main river. I did spend ten minutes watching the shallows to see if any early seatrout were running but failed to spot anything other than the odd small trout. The water was out in the meadows alongside the confluence of the Dockens with the main channel. The wildfowl were certainly enjoying the first real flood of the winter with hundreds of geese and ducks out on the floods.
Another very big thirty for Andy with this fabulous looking common. Well done Andy, cracking fish.
The duck splashes are now well flooded and looking good in readiness for the wildfowling season. The hundreds of tons of alder that has resulted from the ancient overgrown stools being coppiced. The overgrown trees were almost beyond saving as they have collapsed and suffered considerable dieback. Next season will see the stools spring back into new vigorous growth providing fresh habitat and a vastly increased carbon sink. Finally a further shot of one of our lakeside meadows clipped and ready for the winter months ahead. This is one of the most productive sections on my butterfly transect so I'm keen to ensure we maintain the wild fower value of these meadows that is proving so attractive to our pollinators.
Cleaning up the conservation meadows is always enjoyable as anticipation of next Summer and the affect our work will have is foremost in our thoughts. It is the control of the ever encroaching brambles and course grasses that we are trying to achieve. As with previous years we are only removing the worse percentage of coarse vegetation in each paddock, ensuring we leave undisturbed standing grass to protect the over wintering invertabrates that depend on its cover to protect them through the weather to come. This year Phil has brought our front mounted flail over to deal with the bulk of the work and what a difference it makes, no tyre marks and sward cut to the exact height we desire.
The finished result with half the standing grass left uncut to provide cover for the wildlife and grazing for the herds of fallow in an attempt to keep them from over grazing the paddocks. The flail and larger tractor also allows the alder regrowth, right down to the water line, to be cut saving me hours with the strimmer.
The second shot shows some of the sixty five swans that were hiding around just one bend on the river. A week or two back when I did the WeBS count I only recorded 83 Mute Swans, considerably down on our usual numbers. I think this is the reason the count was lower than usual in that I missed this lot tucked up between Park and Coomer hidden by the willows on the west bank. With five miles of meandering river it is easy to miss considerable numbers, it is the longterm record that is so important with WeBS and I'll certainly be checking out this bend on this months count.
I had hoped to get a photo of a couple of otters that were playing on the spillway this morning, unfortunately they refused to pose for the camera. One thing I did learn from this morning encounter was that otters can swim upstream through a hatch gate under high water conditions. I didn't actually see them go through the gates but that is the only explanation I can come up with, one moment they were downstream of the gates the next in the pool above. Hopefully I will get the chance to confirm that in the next day or two if I come across them again.
Twenty four hours of rain has certainly seen the arrival of the Autumn floods. The river is well up and scouring out the accumulated silt and weed in a perfect height to achieve the clean river without taking the juvenile years class fish with it. Twenty one meters on the bridge gauge is a good starting point and lets hope we don't see it closing in on twenty two meters as we have seen in recent winters. The spillway is just flowing and the head difference across the weir is almost zero. As the water rose and the head difference disappeared dace could be seen running the gates in huge numbers yesterday. Just where and why they were heading upstream I have no idea but they were certainly on the move en masse.
Looking up and downstream in the freshly cleared Blashford Carrier. With the main channel bank high and water laying in the meadows the carrier is looking absolutely perfect for the juveniles that had been gathering at the confluence lately to run into and hide from the main channel high water.
Here's a lovely shot showing Pecks with a great looking thirty plus mirror. One of our mirrors that we do not see very often, which is the magic of Meadow in that you never quite know what fish you may bump into. The colour of this fish is about a good as it gets, like Andy's common the other day, the weed and clear water seems to be producing some great fish. Pecks tells me the PH is 8.5 that is about perfect and just what we would wish for at this time of year with the amount of weed we have in the lake. Its always difficult to balance the PH when the lakes have a tendancy to start from a very low level due to the acidic east to west ground water flow off the forest gravel plateau. Although some who are struggling to catch may disagree, we still have too many fish in several of the lakes and getting that balance correct alongside the water quality is the basic requirement of managing the fishery.
With the recent rains giving the river a lift I have been out walking the newly cleaned carriers and ditches to see how they are coping with the increased flows. I'm delighted to say they are looking really well and dealing with the flows to date even better than I had hoped. It was good to see minnows, juvenile dace and chub have taken advantage of the extra water and travelled considerable distances into several of the channels, despite there being very little cover for them at the moment. I look forward to seeing them next season when the in channel weed and marginal grasses provide a complete habitat.
The river itself has seen the start of the Autumn clear out with weed and leaves being swept through the system. Leaves will be an ongoing problem for fishing for some time to come as the trees have hardly began to drop their foliage as yet. Hopefully once cleaned of the Summer detritus and Autumn leaves the Avon will settle into its true winter colour and provide the traditional sport the river is famed for. The thought of the list of Avon species, in tip top condition, seeking my bait in those blue-green depths is the stuff of dreams and the Avon at its best.
Talking of lists of species! I am still compiling the record of Somerley barbel in an effort to establish the true picture of our bit of the Middle Avon. I would appreciate reports and particularly photos of any fish landed by members on the Estate. As many of you who have kindly sent through their reports know they are in complete confidence and will not be publicised. Its very difficult to be certain of exact numbers due to missing pieces of vital information, the most important being the date. Location is optional, upstream or downstream of Ellingham/Ibsley Bridge is good enough, I do like to see captors with their catch as it makes a far more interesting record than a fish on a net! At the end of the season I will make my efforts available to members should they be interested, the exact locations will not be included so don't get you hopes up for an easy means to find a monster. This year I definitely have eight different fifteen plus fish, with a probable three others that at present I can't confirm. Of those, three are currently over seventeen, with two others that are now likely to be above that weight. Just what the top weight of these larger fish might be is anyones guess when one considers the increases in weight of the last decade.
I did tentatively start to compile a similar record of our chub but I'm afraid that will have to be put on the back burner for a future project. If you think the number of large barbel is amazing the chub are simply staggering, seven pound Summer fish, up to 7.13, along with the barbel are setting new heights. I wouldn't be surprised to see a record chub come from the Avon in the coming year or two. I'm sure in one of the little fished Avon stretches some one will connect with an absolute monster before long.
John has put the fly rod away and enjoying a session or two on the tip in KV in recent days. Whilst he managed a dozen or so carp into double figures on a couple of occasions he was actually targeting the bream. Bream have been noticable by their absence throughout the Summer making targeting them a bit of an unknown. Pleasingly the two visits produced nine bream to four pounds and I'm sure he would have landed many more had his swim not been full of carp! Pleasing to have the existence of the bream confirmed, plus a surprise capture on the pellet came in the shape of the perch weighing in at a ounce under two pounds. Well fished John, excellent result.
Whilst down on Kings-Vincents I spotted this small grey dot swimming across the lake. Not a sight one sees every day but at least it confirms they swim if they feel the need.
Here he is, what an absolute wonder. Manny's latest frame grab captures a coloured up cock salmon, the very essence of our lowland salmon. This fish came into the river in the Spring, possibly as early as February, since then he has taken up residence in a deep protected pool, undergoing immense physiological change, where he will patiently await the final stage of his life, up on the redds. He has to contend with the warmer water temperatures we are experiencing these days, the low summer flows that risk de-oxygenation and suffer the indignity of the pollution our society dumps on him. After making it through the trials of our Summer he will run for the redds, there he will fight for his right to continue his line, using those recently developed teeth clearly seen in the shot, protecting his hen from his male rivals. If successful in fertilising his mates eggs he will remain near the redds, as she drifts away downstream her role complete, protecting them from over cutting from other pairs. Not having eaten since he arrived in the river months earlier in the Spring, exhausted from his efforts, tattered and coated in fungus, he will succumb to the inevitable, dying to provide a further supply of nutrient for the myriad creatures that will feast on his carcass. Thank you for the pix Manny, to glimpse and share his story is a privilage.
The Autumn clean up begins. After months of clearing paths and banks that regrow within what this year appears days, I at last can clear banks and pathways in the knowledge I at last have the upper hand. I am not alone in getting rid of the build up of Summer growth. The rain that arrived at the weekend was just about sufficient to lift the water level and inch or two and set some of the trapped weed rafts and duckweed in motion, slowly breaking lose and swirling away downstream through the hatches.
Rafts of weed breaking loose. With a functioning set of hatches life is considerably easier when it comes to getting the weed through the hatches without fouling the central support between the gates.
How many House Sparrrows and Starlings can you get in a single bird bath? Regular readers will have seen similar shots before on here but I never tire of seeing them every day out of our front room window so I feel it fitting to have a further one on the diary.
A different perspective on the "Break through". One of perhaps a dozen deep and mysterious pools that we never quite know what lies beneath. Certain areas of these pools remain unfishable, ensuring the fertile imagination is never without a source of monsters yet to be caught.
John into a nice double on the fly. This particular fish looked like a fully scaled mirror, probably better described as a disrupted scaled common, what ever it was it was a good looking fish.
If you look back to the entry on the 13th May you will see the willows in the second photo when we had just pollarded them. They have now all sprouted new growth taking on the more natural appearance of valley Crack Willows.
Thanks again to Manny for a screen grab of our Dace. Its good to see dace shoals throughout the fishery, this shoal also contained several roach that hopefully bodes well for the future.
I think Andy's fish from the other day was a real stunner, almost like burnished bronze or polished walnut, very much deserving of a second look. The ultimate Autumn carp, well done Andy, great fish. The two sea winter, hen salmon is a further frame grab that Manny has kindly sent over for our enjoyment. We are fast losing the clear water as the dying weed is releasing its algal load gathered throughout the summer back into the water column. If in the next week or two, whilst we hold onto the last of the clear water, should you spot any likely candidates for filming please drop me a text. Manny requires a huge amount of footage to create his film so all and any help appreciated. Whatever species needs to be on the nearside of the river, to enable camera access, be it our bream shoal or a huge crocodile of a cock salmon please keep a lookout and let me know their hiding places.
What do I do on my days off? I go fishing of course. The difference being I am out of mobile signal range and I don't have to worry about anything as far as the horizon. Unless of course that Huss gets those fine gnashers fixed into me before I can get him safely back over the side.
The recent few weeks of dry weather have allowed us to make considerable headway in projects involving the low lying meadows in the valley and the waterlogged woodland surrounding the perched water table springs. We have cleared eight hundred meters of carrier and over a thousand meters of ditches. Cleared and reinstated a dozen culverts, reinforced several hundred meters of access roads, rebuilt a set of main hatches and got to grips with many of our dangerous trees. In the woods we have coppiced a stand of ancient alder that had not seen any management for sixty or seventy years. Originally planted as a charcoal supply, possibly to produce black gunpowder with the additions of sulphur and saltpetre, the growth has been forced up to seventy plus feet in search of light. The age and struggle for light had seen many of the trees dying back and falling creating an almost impenetrable tangle, no good to man nor beast, with the exception of Muntjac deer which seem to thrive under its cover. Once cleared the stools will break back into vigorous growth starting the process all over again, sinking tons of carbon in the process. To gain access we have had to reinforce the old rides to create haul roads capable of carrying today's heavy harvesters and plant. Combined with the removal of the Turkey Oak and thinned larch stands we have extracted thousands of cubic meters of timber. Its been chaotically busy few months but now we have achieved much we set out to complete over the summer the appearance of the Autumn rains won't feel quite so daunting if and when they finally arrive.
The blackberries are starting to rot and ferment on the brambles, providing rich feeding for dozens of Red Admirals and Comma. The test for the towering larch and hardwoods we leave as we thin the woodland will come with the onset of winter storms. Will these spindly giants manage to stay upright or will they succumb like nine pins and require further clearing in years to come. My pollinator garden at home is proving equally attractive as the blackberries with many butterflies visiting throughout the day and moths at night. The Buddlia and Asters we are not of course permitted on the SSSI's so its a totally different environment to that we create around the lakes and always interesting to watch out of the front window the different range of visitors to the cultivated garden. It hasn't taken the local bat population long to also find the new food source repeatedly circling the Buddlia and Asters in search of the moths in the gathering darkness of the evenings.
A more representative fishing photo than my efforts yesterday, Andy returning a good lump when I was passing today.
This is the timber from the London Plane that we winched from the weirpool a year or so back. Kingsley has been milling other sections of the tree and produced this amazing figured timber that now requires a cabinet maker to turn it into a similarly spectacular piece of furniture. The other example of Nature's artwork in the middle shot is the lichen growing on the stone pillars of the garden balustrade. Beautiful patterns found in the most unexpected places.
I had still to catch my tench for the season so as a last ditch attempt I headed for the lake to see if I could find one on the method that we used to fish so succefully forty years ago. I had raked and prebaited a swim in dense weed earlier in the day and arrived at just after five with fingers firmly crossed. I set up a waggler, the successful method I was keen to relive, intending to fish maggot well over depth with a couple of number four shot to keep the bait on the bottom. The first three or four casts proved that wasn't going to work as a palm sized rudd or roach attached itself before the bait had sunk a foot under the surface. A quick change of bait to eight mill pellet at least got the bait to the bottom but the rudd still managed to find it on a regular basis. Whilst considering my next option away went the float again and as I lifted expecting the rattling resistance of a rudd the rod dived over as an obviously better fish headed for the weed. That would do nicely, it played like a tench and shortly after the gallant old girl in the photo surfaced. She may well have been the oldest tench in the lake, which seemed quite fitting as I was certainly the oldest angler on the bank but she was just what I was seeking and removed the need for further tackle or bait changes, job done! I fished on for a further hour and a half and landed countless rudd and roach but no further signs of tench. Its odd how one's expectations and aspirations change with age, or possibly experience. I would have been hoping for a further dozen or a double figure fish to grace the net those forty years ago, today she was all I needed to see as it completed my nostalgia trip down memory lane.
I'm sure many of you will have seen this series that puts our watery dilemma in easily understood layman's terms. I would make this essential viewing for everyone, with our politicians and planners being made to view it on a weekly basis.
Such sad news today as the passing of that most genteel of friends Neil Hurren is confirmed. The many in the angling community that knew Neil will feel the loss of a true angler and passionate defender of our rivers and their ecology. He brought a scholarly understanding of our environment to his angling and his enjoyment of the countryside.
His list of specimen fish from his beloved rivers of the Avon and Stour was quite remarkable, yet he seldom sought the publicity of the angling press. His quiet enjoyment of his pastime was reward enough. To have been privileged enough to have fished alongside Neil and seen his understanding put into action was a lesson few could emulate. Recent years had seen Neil suffer the cruellest of frustration as his eyesight failed, making float fishing the rivers where he excelled almost impossible. I had missed his presence on the bank and the enjoyment of catching up on his news and exploits. I will undoubtedly think fondly of Neil as I pass many of the swims where I witnessed him in action. The reed swim on Vincent's where he would so expertly extracted those crucians, the High Bank on Meadow chasing tench or the Ibsley bends in his search for those Avon two pound roach. They were good times to look back on.
At this sad time I'm sure the thoughts of the many in the angling community that knew Neil will be with his family.
A grainy scan from a photo that predates the digital age, showing Neil with a Rudd brace from a local pit.
I don't normally do "fish on a net" photos on here but I make an exception for this tench in that it reminds me what I should be doing in trying to catch one similar. This one was landed by Simon Jeffs whilst he was after the carp and knowing that I always enjoy seeing the tench he kindly sent the photo over. An absolute beauty and at 7.14 well worth a visit or two to see if I can find one. Thanks for the photo Simon, always delighted to hear news of our tench.
The gate that was blown last winter and the associated smashed and broken superstructure have thankfully been replaced before we face the winter floods. Its such a pleasure to operate these gates without the continual fear of losing a finger or ending up going through the hatch as the walkway gave way. I won't know myself this year when the floods arrive.
I'm not sure what to make of this unseasonal heatwave. Its okay for sitting in the sun and reading a book but not so good when it comes to working. Something to cheer me up was a further frame grab from Manny, this time of baby barbel looking absolutely immaculate. Juvenile fish have an attraction all of their own as fin perfect minitures of the specimens we all as anglers ultimately seek. Tench and carp in the lakes, barbel and parr in the river always a joy when we do get a glimpse of them.
Something else to enjoy that we all see as Autumn arrives is the jewel encrusted filigree that adorns every dock and thistle on these misty mornings as we head for the river.
Its all over and it seems a very, very long time ago when I was fortunate enough to be present when Alex landed this wonderful Springer back at the end of March. At that time hopes were high and conditions were spot on, alas it all came to a sudden stop shortly after in mid April, as conditions turned against us. Both Stephen Hutchinson and Colin Morgan did remarkably well landing four fish apiece and Gary Maidment opened his account with a stunning fish from Ashley. We did see some superb fish and I will expand on my thoughts on the season, on here, in the near future. Syndicate members can find the 2021 salmon return on the salmon members page in the syndicate section. Its on a download link just below the photo of the Springer.
On the subject of salmon. Many of you will be aware that Dr Manny Hinge is currently embarked on the production of a film on the New Forset and Avon Valley. To whom I add my further thanks for the frame grab above as our arriving salmon pass our departing eels as they both strive to reach their spawning grounds. In an effort to assist I have been keeping an eye open for suitable fishy film stars as I go about my business on the fishery. The last two or three weeks I have probably looked in the river more than I have done for a decade. Lots of exciting things to see, especially in the form of the barbel, chub and pike. What I have been surprised to see are the number of salmon that are currently tucked up in the pools. Stale and rapidly colouring fish, many into the twenty pound class, also a scattering of two sea winter fish. What I failed to find were many grilse, possibly they are in the more rapid broken water where they are more difficult to see. Whatever the reason I didn't spot them lets hope they are hidden away somewhere in the system awaiting the autumn rains to help them reach the redds.
Below the breakthrough now trimmed out. Sorry about the delay in getting this sorted, I always seem to forget this short section I did the salmon pool and then missed out the second and third strims.
Yet another welcome yellow to add to the recent list. This time in the shape of a flock of sixteen Yellow Wagtails stopping over to feed, under the very hooves of the cattle, as they migrate through heading south. We see them most years during their migrations yet it wasn't so many years ago they were nesting in the meadows about the valley. Grey Wagtails were the scarcer of the two in those days, now the tables are turned and Grey's seem to nest under every available riverside structure and the Yellow's have all gone. Like so many of our indigenous birds they are a sad loss, the dainty bird was always a welcome sight in the hay fields. I personally believe the loss to be attributable to the change in farming regime, the dozens of dairy herds have gone, along with the shorter sward, dung and associated insect population, to be replaced by barren monoculture silage fields. The Grey's of course have the rich insect population of the river to sustain their broods.
Lots currently going on in the fishery world at the moment as we head toward the close of the salmon season. In reality the season ended a couple of months ago with the warm water and the weedgrowth making salmon fishing for the most part unattractive. That doesn't mean there are not good numbers of salmon in the pools but they are for the most part, cloured, long established residents, showing no interest in taking a fly, disappearing at the slightest disturbance. The problem with that has been trying to find one that doesn't mind posing for the camera when Manny is out filming. Should any of the barbel members find a suitable shock proof salmon whilst they are out seeking their quarry please text me so we can have a go at filming. That equally applies to seatrout, which are even more twitchy and prone to disappear at the slighest disturbance, they are also high on the filming hit list.
The first shot is of a distinctive scale cluster on the side of a recently filmed barbel. I would like to identify that fish to give a scale to our film stars, if any members have a shot of such a fish I would appreciate the details.
The middle shot is John Slader with a five pound plus tench, one of three he recently caught during a session on the roach pole at Mockbeggar. His bag also included good numbers of roach and rudd plus a couple of uncooperative carp. This was John's first session on mockbeggar for many weeks and the first time he had ever fished during August. A couple of sunsequent visits have found the roach but the tench have proved elusive. Its an awfully big pit for one angler to try and track down the tench, should any other members fancy a try at finding them please have a session or two and let me know how you get on.
The third shot is looking upstream at the "Reeds" a pool often favoured by both salmon and barbel. I have been out fish spotting and what appears odd about the pool this season is the almost total lack of weed. Is this due to the last two high flow winters scouring the roots or is there another reason several of the pools are in a similar state this summer. Almost a by product of my recent fish spotting and trying to ID fish has been establishing the number of large barbel currently on the fishery. The bigger fish are relatively easy, so far this season five different fifteen plus fish with at least a simliar number of fourteen plus fish, its when we get down to the lower doubles it gets very complicated. Several of the barbel guys already send me their photos and any members with good distinctive shots of their captures details would be very much appreciated. Hopefully in a year or two we will have a comprehensive record of these stunning fish. I was considering a similar exercise for the chub but I very quickly realised the current number of big fish make that an almost impossible task.
I told him that wouldn't float!
In praise of yellow.
Looking upstream at the Lifelands Shallows, one of the least explored stretches on the Estate hiding some amazing fish.
Thanks to Kevin, of our local ringing group, for pointing out the error of my ways in that I had misidentified this bird when I put up a photo of it a day or two ago. I had described it as a Green Sandpiper, which is the usual sandpiper we see up on the North Marsh, when it fact it is a Wood Sandpiper. No clear distinction of the breast feathers, brown as opposed to green plumage on the back, with larger spots. Add the extended supercilium and a yellowish tinge to the legs and it all points to the Wood Sandpiper and a lesson for me in not assuming the usual culprit. Thanks Kevin, much appreciated.
Continuing on the wood theme the middle shot is of a Sweet chestnut board from the Estate, sawn by Kingsley up at his mill. If you like wood the current fashion for wildwood furniture is showing of some of our home produced timber in a most welcome way and long may it continue.
The shot of the Brimstone on the Purple Loosestrife is just because i like it!
I spent several hours this morning strimming the paths up at Ibsley with the backdrop of what must be one of the most famous bridges in the fishery world. One day I'll write an entry giving a potted history of that wonderful piece of water. Today the Purple Loosestrife, Hemp Agrimony and Fleabane completed the perfect picture.
Manny has sent over a couple of further frame shots of his recent efforts on the river. The first showing just how contrary barbel can be, they don't show up for hours and then they come and sit on the camera! I'm sure several members will be aware of where the swims Manny is filming are, they are not noted barbel swims, could I ask you avoid them for a week or two whilst the water remains clear, making filming possible.
Other bits and bobs about the estate today included one of at least three Wheatear moving through on their migration south. The middle shot shows two "Chicken of the Woods" fruiting from an old decaying oak, a tree which in recent years has provided a safe nest site for Kestrel, Barn Owl and Egyptian Geese. The latter being a pest in that they are evicting many of our indigenous hole nesting birds and taking over the sites. The shot on the right is a nicely figured Field Maple board that came from a wind blow casualty on the Estate that Kingsley has now converted into usable timber. A fine piece of wood that in a year or two will be ready for the cabinet maker to create a masterpiece.
I realise most in the salmon community are aware of these fish, however it is just as likely to be a coarse rod that lands one so please read, what ever disipline you follow. If in doubt don't knock it on the head, at this time of year our salmon are kyped up and wearing tartan so look dramatically different from a Springer. If its got a pronounced hump, spotted tail and black tongue, its definitely looking sus. I don't want the pride and joy of the Avon indigenous stock whacked on the head so let it rest in the net, in a safe area of the margins and give me a call.
Shoals of fry, mostly chublets, dace and minnows, plucking up the courage to enter the newly cleaned out carrier at Blashford. They are currently just getting a few meters up the channel before panicing and dashing back to the main river. One we have some weed established to provide cover they will soon populate the new channel.
Manny has been over filming our fish for his current project related to the Avon and the New Forest and kindly sent over a few frame grabs for our enjoyment. If you think catching them on rod and line is tricky you want to try filming them. Not only does water clarity have to be on your side, the light has to be sufficiently good to penetrate the gloom. Of course the other key factor that has to be on your side is that the fish have to play along. I'm not sure just who was watching who in the shot above!
Whatever the inhabitants are up to, or however they're behaving, a glimpse into a Hampshire Avon swim is always something special, thanks for sending them over Manny.
Bad start to the weekend, wild swimmers last night and an illegal rave to follow. The swimmers weren't serious swimmers, just idiots thought it looked inviting to swim above the hatches and having to climb out through all the nettles. Poor dears got stung to bits! The type that unfortunately become a statistic and a newspaper story. The rave involved cutting the padlock and chains off the gates and setting up in a hay field. Apart from the criminal damage to the gates the hay crop is worthless as baling the assorted poppers, pills, bottles and happy powder is unlikely to do the livestock much good. Much the same mentality as the swimmers I fear.
Interesting meeting with these half dozen guys this morning. They had been on the canoeing websites and seen the usual misinformation related to the Avon. I have to say once the situation had been explained these guys were as good as their word and left the river. In doing so creating all sorts of hassle for themselves in getting their canoes and kit picked up. Just what on earth do these canoeing websites think they are achieving by perpetuating this mistaken belief related to navigation on inland water ways, apart from causing genuine canoers a lot of hassle. Just why don't they publish the Defra advice and legal view on Avon navigation, it would save a great deal of grief and frustration for genuine river users and in many cases their members and supporters. That advice can be found on this blog on the entry dated 29th August 2020. That's not my opinion but that given the Secretary of State.
If you intend to fish that swim be careful how you go about telling him to move! In reality I appreciate he and many of his herd are an intimidating sight. In the many years we have fished in the presence of this herd we have not had any incidents that might be construed as dangerous, licked and slobbered on don't count! Whilst these animals are docile do not take liberties, go about your business and leave them in peace. Don't go throwing your weight about trying to move them on as when it comes to a weight throwing contest they will undoubtedly come off best. Be aware there may be calves about and the cows will be keeping a close eye on them so don't be tempted to take selfies with the fluffy little beggars, left in peace they are not an issue.
Elian proving he can still catch Avon perch with this fabulous two pound plus specimen. Well done Elian and thank you Colin for sending through the great photos.
The North Marsh is looking perfect for migrating waders and our own resident breeding population of waders and waterfowl. There were good numbers of Snipe, Green sandpiper and a couple of bonus Greenshank out there today. The residents mainly consisted of over ninety Mute Swans, forty five Grey Heron and a whole lot of different geese, at least eighty being Egyptians. The middle shot is of "The Old Man of Gorley", sporting his new hair cut and taken from the rear for the sake of modesty. The previous years branches are left at the base to prevent the cattle and ponies from rubbing the bark of the old boy, he's getting rather delicate in his old age. On the right a shot of the rich margins surrounded by warm shallow water. The reed beds provide wonderful sanctuary areas for all manner of wildlife.
Where those hundreds of geese and swans gain access to and from the river they create shallow bays, similar to cattle drinks, that prove equally inviting to shoals of fry and waders such as the Wood Sandpiper probing the mud, see the diary entry for the 25th of August.
Through the good auspices of the local rivers trust and the aggregates levy board we have cleaned out a further 800m of carrier. The cleaned carrier has had shallow bays and a more meandering course incorporated to give a wider variation of habitat and feeding places. It currently looks bare and featureless but given a year or two of marginal growth and good flow we will have a further gem of a wildlife haven in our midst.
At last the weather has looked up and the silage and hay fields are now being mown and bagged as quickly as possible. With the mown aftermath the flocks of Lapwing are out enjoying the freshly exposed food source. If you are beside the river and have your binoculars with you keep an eye open for colour ringed individuals amongst them. The ringed birds form part of the GWCT wader survey that has been ongoing in the valley for many years. Should you spot one and manage to distinguish the flags and rings please make a note of them and let the GWCT know, they'll appreciate any information that adds to the big picture they are greating of our summer breeding waders.
The margins of the lakes are looking magnificent with all the fenland flowers coming into bloom. Hemp agrimony, purple loosestrife, fleabane now coming into their own.
I think these are white-lipped snails, which are currently thriving during the warm, damp weather of recent weeks. Spot the spider that certainly seems well adapted for his cover.
I put similar photos on here before but having spent an hour crawling about in the nettles and brambles that surround this stream I feel it deserves a second showing. This is what the Avon Valley would revert to if we walked away and left the heavily modified river Avon to its own devices.
If asked I'm sure they would profess to be law abiding citizens, living within the social bounds and responsibilities of the rural society within which they live. One area I can assure you they are totally ignorant of are the responsibilities and time scales placed on owners and managers of SSSI's by Defra. Having that knowledge would make little difference of course, were it to conflict with their hedonistic approach to life! At that point respect for the rights of others, English Common Law and environmental law, related to SSSI's, Ramsar sites etc go out of the window. They were firmly of the we're doing no harm brigade and had the actually arrogance and temerity to tell me what I believe in.
When asked why they ignored the half dozen signs, or for an explanation or rationale of their behaviour, claimed to have ear plugs in and can't hear. The signs don't apply to them! Jeez what's all that about?
Insist the footpath affords them the right, thank you HCC, I won't repeat my views on the value of HCC. Suffice to say that many are unfit for purpose and an unnecessary drain on public resources. They have just held a consultation on the future direction HCC should follow, into which I really should have entered a submission. I'm afraid, as with so many of our public institutions and agencies, Parkinson's Law is fully implemented making such submissions worthless and a complete waste of time and effort, institutional protection being the preferred way forward.
Landowners and managers are defenceless against such ignorant and offensive behaviour, the agencies and local authorities are totally ineffective or err on the side with the trespasser on H&S grounds!! The police do not have the resources or the desire to chase infringements of the Wildlife and Countryside Act. We could go down the very expensive route of fencing the footpath. Should we do so Natural England would probably insist we remove it as it may have potentially adverse impact of the designated species. We could take out injunctions against individuals, which is also extremely expensive and time consuming.
Openly confessing they intend to return what is the way ahead? All I can do is to ensure our meeting was as memorable as possible and hope some form of respect for others and common sense prevails.
Give me a run in with a gang of poachers any day, they usually know the law better that I do and are far less obnoxious!
I was heading downstream to visit our contractors, currently cleaning out some ditches, when I came across Pete playing the classic barbel above. Avon barbel really are very special fish, this one proving the point as it looks just perfect. It made Pete wait as he was on his second cast before he made contact, super fish, well done Pete.
Found in a flooded tyre rut. I'm sure there are thousands out there, other than the 30mm long ones that attach themselves to the carp in the lakes, we don't see leeches that frequently. Probably a horse leech that do not as the name might suggtest suck the blood from horses. They feed on earthworms and other small molluscs and invertebrates out in the damp meadows. Considerable numbers were disturbed as we have been cleaning out the field ditches and drains.
I didn't realise until today the splendid Wasp Spiders, such as those above, all have distinctive body patterns. These wonderful spiders are a relatively recent additions to the UK spreading across the channel from their continental origin. They are subsequently moving north across the UK from their foothold with us in the south. Our management of the lakeside meadows, ensuring standing grass and low scrub habitat throughout the year, suits their requirements. On the scrub lines, left last year when we top the meadows in the autumn, there were many dozens of these spiders present today, each with its own unique livery.
In praise of rough long grassland. It may look a mess and full of every conceivable weed, those weeds and coarse grasses are the very foundation of its success. After two Summers where the dry weather burnt almost the entire plant population to a crisp we are enjoying a botanical bonanza, the wild flowers haven't so much a stuttered in their growth this year and the myriad creatures the nectar and grazing provide for have bounced back equally as strongly. There are casualties such as the Cinnabar moth that will take longer to re-establish their numbers, however in the main its been a super year in the meadows.
Every step puts a dozen into the air, the rasping call fills the meadow and the spiders are filling their larders. Meadow, Common Green, Field, without resorting to the book or Google I'm not going to add their titles, simply enjoy their presence.
A fine looking Dark Bush Cricket to add a little drama.
A yet to hatch Six-spot Burnet safely held in its papery cocoon. Another species that requires tall grassland to complete its cycle and there are dozens in the meadows at this time of year.
You could spend a lifetime just identifying the Hoverflies that abound about the meadows. I did buy an all singing and all dancing book to do just that but ended up more confused than when I started so once more just enjoy their beauty and colour. The middle shot captures the rawness of nature, red in tooth and claw, as the fly on the left approaches the skulking Crab Spider.
When the sun eventually came out this evening the lakes were as good a place to be as any for some peace and quiet.
One of the Oystercatcher juveniles with the adults out beside the river.
Goshawk are a complete contradiction in that the bird is incredibly secretive for most of the time as they go about its business in the Estate woodlands. We see them occasionally gliding down a woodland ride or skirting the edge of the thickets. Early Spring they are at their most visible, as they go about their courtship displays and this time of year they are at their most audible as the fledged young continuously shout for food. There are currently three fledged broods kicking up a racket in three seperate areas of woodland. There are two juveniles high in the tops of the douglas firs in the photo above, completely hidden from view but constantly shouting. As I walked one section of woodland today a Jay became the latest meal for one brood, perhaps accounting for the drop in Jay numbers this year. I would be interested to know the number of victims it takes to rear a brood.
This may be the Pacific North West but it has to be born in mind that last week we experienced water temperatures in the Avon of 23.8 degrees C, thats about 75 Fahrenheit.
The Pinot noir have set well and are looking good, the Chardonnay are best not spoken about. The still, humid conditions have been ideal for the production of mildew that Chardonnay seems particularly susceptible. How we get around this one is providing food for thought, a year or two trialling various remendies such as spraying with borax at bud burst, or simply change variety. Time will do doubt tell.
The humid conditions also seem to favour the blow flies that attack the sheep. Despite being liberally treated with the latest and most expensive spray-on treatments the incidents of strike are reaching epidemic proportions. Phil is being run ragged catching and treating the lambs on a twice daily basis. It looks as if a return to mobile dipping may be the only way forward if the spray-ons don't work and for the fourth year in a row they certainly don't appear to.
Should any of the syndicate seen anything suspicious Sunday night give me a call please.
Believe it or not the first shot is our front garden, after I have tidied up for an hour. It is a pollinator friendly garden and should look a little natural and thats my story ad I'm sticking to it. After my hour clearing a little rubbish and one or two clumbs of over vigourous plants that were threatening to take over it began to rain sending me back indoors. As I looked out of the front window to survey my efforts I was delighted to spot a hedgehog that appeared and began to rumage about in the disturbed soil in search of worms and grubs. Whilst we do have a resonably healthy hedgehog population about the gardens locally they also suffer the inevitable mortality through having no traffic sense. I often spot them crossing the roads in the late nights and early mornings as I come and go from the Estate yet a daytime visit is unusual. We do have a couple of hedgehog houses about the garden and after ten minutes scratching about the flower clumps it rambled off in direction of one of the shelters.
The first two shots above are through the double glazing, hence the misty glaze, I opened the window for the third to get a clearer photo.
Researchers from Bournemouth Uni collecting Gammarus, freshwater shrimp, from the weir pool to further their studies into the parasite, Pomphorhyncus laevis, they contain - the shrimps not the researchers. This parasite uses the shrimp as an intermediate host before being eaten by a fish thus reaching its final host. This is the same parasite that so devastated the chub population on the Avon for decades through the 1960's, 70's and 80's. The more we know and understand about the life cycle of this parasite and its intermediate host the better chance we have of safeguarding our chub. That provide what many describe as currently the best chub fishing in the country.
This of course, in common with most rearch, opens up a whole new can of worms, no pun intended. Does the Gammarus population have bearing on the total parasite load? Does the dietary intake of Gammarus by our fish alter with population density? Was the population of Gammarus, which are detritivors ie they eat rubbish, impacted by the tons of artificially introduced detritus created by the EA weed cut through the chub dark period of the 60's and 70's? A further element of the diet of Gammarus is the algal growth that exists within the river. Does the impact of phosphate/nitrate enrichment have bearing on the levels of algal grow hence population? The current alarm being raised by the sudden realisation by the GBP that the water companies have been flushing our shite down the river for years have similar impact? Look on the bright side, along with the phosphates, nitrates, human poo and troutfarm poo, there is also the volume of antibiotics that are similarly flushed down the pan into our rivers that will protect us against the onslaught of crap! Don't rely on it, stay out of the water. Unfortunately our fish can't!
Now the schools are breaking up and the covid restrictions are easing hopefully it won't mean I will see an increase of Hampshire County Council sponsored idiots such as the ones in the shot above. They were of the opinion the one HCC sign outweighed the five others we have explaining the environmental efforts we are making and the private nature of the river. This family, like HCC, were totally ignorant of the rural economy and lifestyle, they decided they would set up camp, have a barbecue, let their dogs have a run and do some fishing. Well done HCC we know you have the rural community and environment at heart!
It won't surprise you to know that this wasn't the first such incident in recent days. The hot weather has brought out the swimmers, canoes, paddleboarders and dog walkers en mass. Strangely there isn't any particular group or type likely to trespass and show contempt and disrespect for private interests and the environment. All social classes and demographics seem to have the ability for hedonistic self interest, be they arrogant, ignorant or just plain bloody stupid they come from all walks of life. You guessed it, its not been a good week.
I believe we are in need of one further annual award A.R.S.E.D
A - Agency or Authority.
R - Responsible.
S - Severest.
E - Environmental
D - Damage
I took these a week or two ago showing a couple of shots of the Silver Y day flying moth that migrate from the continent in large numbers throughout the Summer. They're by no means scarce or hard to find but I just like the photographs that capture the refueling stop.
It is most definitely a case of making hay whilst the sunshine's. In reality ninety percent is actually intended for silage as the hundreds of acres of standing grass about the Estate succumb to the mowers. Tedding out, rowing-up, baling, wrapping and carting, where ever you look we have tractors rushing to gather in the winter feed.
We are on the finishing straight in clearing much of the Turkey Oak from the Top Park. The trees have been cleared and chipped and the roots, rooted out, in readiness for harrowing and planting of parkland specimens. The remaining trees are deemed safe and most definitely stately specimens worthy of careful future management. Those remaining trees were invisible before we removed the Turkey oak and it was astonishing to see the limes reaching up to a hundred and twenty feet and one of the Turkeys towering over one hundred and thirty feet, within a few feet of being the tallest specimen in the country. The roots will be used as a foundation under a road in the next block of very swampy forestry operation due to start early next year. Not that different from the bales of old heather that were used under many of the local forest roads we just take for granted as we go about our business each day.
The middle shot looks down over the Lower Park where over four hundred sheep are hiding from today's intense heat in the shade of the park trees. With a shot taken this evening as they had emerged from their hiding places to graze in the cool of the night.
.........and home for dinner! Twenty eight day aged loin of venison with blueberry and blackberry sauce, simply bloody superb! In the shade of the fig tree I was singing the praises of last year when i was making jam and chutney. I can add its welcome shade to its list of attributes. Every one should have one! Accompanied by a dozen visiting Swifts that are still whizzing about the house.
The sun comes out and the clueless aren't far behind!
I have to admit these days even the predictable appearance of disrespectful, ignorant trespassers can't dampen my pleasure in the habitat we have created at Mockbeggar. This weekend the pollinators in the form of bees, hover-flies, moths and butterflies were probably at the peak. The butterfly count exceeded five hundred with nineteen species, plus seen but not on the transect, a further two species making the meadows an inspiring place to be.
I spent Saturday off West Bay, looking for what ever might put a bend in my rod. Plenty to keep up the interest with Black bream and Conger active throughout the day. What was also of interest was the number of Small White butterflies that were coming in from across the channel, heading for the coast. Often visible ten at a time and they kept it up for three or four hours, which must have totalled many thousands. The middle shot of the ceviche prep should have been the dozen or so Swifts that were circling the house for most of the day but they refused to behave for the camera. I should point out the garlic and the cucumber were not intended for the ceviche. I was also hoping that in the event the Swifts didn't oblige I might have managed a shot of the Red-belted clearwings that were flying around the pheromone attractor that can just been seen hanging in the shrimp plant in the third photo. Alas, in common with the Swifts, they refused to oblige so you get a pic of the pond!
A beautiful and often overlooked flower that grows along our river banks.
Barry being very careful in returning the Three Quarter Lin that he had back in June at 39.14. Just 2ozs off the magic forty but when she looks like that who would complain. Thanks for the photos Barry, the old girl is still looking magnificent, congratulations on finally landing her.
I spent the best part of the day strimming out banks at various spots about the fishery. Comber and McKenzies are looking wonderful, all it needs now is for some one to fish it! The river is producing some stunning specimens and I'm sure several specimens of several species reside in the area covered by those photos.
It was a grey, damp, miserible old day today so above is a little colour from 24 hours earlier at Mockbeggar. The first is a Five-spot Burnet, a day flying moth, the others on the top line are a pair of Meadow Brown and a Red Admiral. Middle line from the left, Marbled White, Peacock and a Small Skipper and on the bottom, Gatekeeper, Silver-washed Fritillary and a Comma to end with.
Pete Wilson with a typical Avon chub from a typical Avon swim. Pete reminded me that I haven't sent out the river map with the renewals this season. There are no real changes related to the fishing but the parking at the Fishing Lodge has altered. There is no parking or access to the old lodge, parking is now 100m further into the wood, beside the Dog Kennel Lodge where the toilet is now to be found. I will get Suzy to send out a map illustrating the change, for those who don't read the diary. Apologies to Pete and any other members this has confused.
After last nights heavy rain we awoke this morning to the forest streams in full spate carrying the colour quickly downstream to the main river that rose slowly throughout the day. Many of the low lying fields in the valley will be laying extremely wet at the moment and as of the 1st July we were allowed to mow the grass on the SSSI the flooded meadows will require several dry days before many areas are workable.
A couple more shots of some of the yew that Kingsley has been milling, the second showing some of the beautiful figured grain that is so sought after. One other beauty of the turned wood such as the bowl on yesterdays entry is that it becomes extremely tactile once polished to add to its visual appeal. You may notice in the background of the shot of the ford the Moylescourt Oak. You may also notice it continues its sad decline and looks like a tree in the last stages of its life. Perhaps its worth considering felling it whilst the timber is still sound and getting Kingsley to mill it into usable slabs to make some wonderful tables, some of which may last for several more hundreds of years!
Some better shots of the rams, starting with the three year old Romneys that have to go this year as they would be covering their own off spring. The business end of the new shearling recruits that will be busy this autumn. Finally a comparison between the Charolais and the Hampshire Down, good looking terminal rams we will be trialling this year. Not that the role of our flock is purely for the production of fat lambs. One of the more important aspects of this flock is to save on teh time we have to cut the grass on the parkland in readiness for the events. Mowing two or three hundred acres of grass three or four times a year in proparation for events takes an awful lot of time and diesel. Th esheep keep the sward at a managable length requiring far less mowing to achieve our close clipped objective.
Here's Colin with his tenth of the season from the Avon, under any circumstances a great season, with the trials and tribulations we have suffered this year he's had a remarkable season. Congratulations Colin well fished and well deserved.
Luckily Gary was on hand to do the honours with the camera and kindly supplied the shot above.
It looks as if this is one of the missing 2SW fish from the end of May or early June Spring tides, just where this fish has been in the intervening period poses interesting questions. Has it been with us all the time but has refused to be tempted by any of the means presented it? Has it been in the lower river, where Avon fish traditionally held when conditions slowed their migration due to warm water or low flow? Possibly in the harbour or Lower Stour, we know when conditions aren't favourable they hold right down at the bottom of the system, the counter figures would suggest otherwise. Unless of course the counter is recording barbel and chub over 50cm running the gates without video, where they don't have to jump to move upstream? Difficult and without more work in this field we may never know. Perhaps a simple means to add to our knowledge would be for fish caught in the lower river to be tagged, with one of the modern transponders under the skin that doesn't require major surgery or force feeding to achieve results.
Two of the new Charolais rams getting to know the older lads next door.
I mentioned the other day that some of our old and decaying trees that have to be felled are picked up by Kingsley of Wildwood Tables for milling, with the objective of eventually producing unique furniture. The shots above record the route the sticks take once they reach the mill in that the first stage is to mill them into boards of the desired thickness. Once converted into boards they have to be dried or seasoned, which involves being "sticked" to separate the boards and let the air flow freely around the boards as the moisture is reduced. To reduce the moisture content to the desired level may take several years, the stack having to be carefully turned and tended under Kingsley's expert eye during all this time. One other use these old trees are put to is the production of beautiful bespoke, turned bowls, such as the one in the photo above by turner Roger Murphy. The photo doesn't do it justice being a snap taken with my mobile in the failing light this evening. A beautiful, permanent memorial to these majestic trees.
Chris with a big spawned out twenty. A fish that would have been a comfortable thirty a week or two ago. Personally I always enjoy seeing the big hen fished well cleared out of spawn and ready to put their weight back on for the autumn. It was one of a brace of twenties and a good double that Chris managed in a short session in the shallows. Thanks for the photo and the report Chris, I love it when a plan comes together.
A direct comparison across the fence from the mixed sward of the grazed side to the dense grass of the silage meadows.
On the grazed side, one of the many splashes that have been created for the waders about the valley. The two splashes I passed today both had Lapwing that mobbed me as I approached, hopefully meaning two late broods were making use of the habitat. On the other side amongst the acres of meadowsweet the perfume of which fills the entire valley, the odd clump of valerian that seems to have an irresistible attraction to small tortoiseshells. Only a mile away, out of the valley, small tortoiseshells have become rare sightings. In the valley the population never seems to have dipped and a dozen or so can be seen on most sunny days attracted to the creeping thistle, hemp agrimony and it would seem valerian.
A clump of valerian and one of the many tortoiseshells that are attracted to it.
I walked back down the river to the car and every swim looked wonderful. The chub swims looked almost as inviting now as they do in the winter and from what I have heard from Steve Kenchington and Mark Sherborne they have been fishing equally as well. Steve informs me they have had a great time on one of their Summer roving visits. The Avon really is a wonderful river, it has the ability to produce those red letter days around almost every bend, a very precious quality we must ensure we fight to protect and preserve at all costs.
Finally I will have to ask Tony, The Terrapin Society president, whether granddaughter Brooke Ellen's catch qualifies her for society membership?
Odd goings on in the poplars! The top two shots show a Poplar Hawkmoth that for the last couple of days has been out in the grassland laying eggs on grasses and ragwort. The moth looks perfectly healthy but its behaviour would indicate a problem as laying would normally take place in the surrounding poplars. The bottom two shots capture the Poplar Leaf beetle, Chrysomella populi as identified by Bob Chapman over on the reserve to whom I am grateful as I didn't have a clue what they were. I have never seen them before and they have appeared in the low hundreds on some of the poplar suckers that are appearing about the meadows. The more suckers they eat the better as it will save on the number I have to put the topper over in the autumn.
Finally John Slader was onhand the other evening to record the formation of the latest specimen group created by Brian and Tony, who I mentioned a couple of days ago in the sunset shot of Brian as having caught some of the tench in Kings-Vincents. Both Tony and Brian don't believe in fishing at range and as you will see in the video can usually be seen float fishing the margins where carp to twenty pounds are often landed. Both Tony and Brian have experienced multiple captures of the species and attempting to establish the size of the population is the primary objective of the new group. Thanks to John Slader for allowing the use of the video and being onhand to capture such a historic moment. Also thanks are due to Brian for permitting the readers of the diary to enjoy the challenges offered by the species.
The challenges of the new species.
Brian landing a common this evening, he and Tony had Kings-Vincents to themselves. Pleasingly both Tony and Brian have landed some of the tench that we put in last year so its good to know they have over wintered well. All we need to do now is work out how to catch the crucian carp and not the rudd and roach!
Whoever lost the above bankstick can be reunited with it on the table in the Fishing Lodge.
Adam with a cracking chub of 7.12 which means she is still probably carrying spawn. Three other big fives that looked long and lean, which looks as if most have but one or two remain to get the process over with. Adam also managed a large perch, so quite a session. Well fished Adam and thanks for the report and pic.
This is a 7.5 that has spawned, caught by Stephen Hutchinson whilst after salmon. Also on the salmon front, congratulations to Peter Timothy on landing an 18 pound cock fish on a Mepp today. That is the eighth salmon this week most if not all the 2SW run we were missing on the earlier Spring tides. Judging by the colour of most of them it would suggest they came in on the rise in water on those tides at the end of May and the first tide in June. Why they didn't take at that time is anyones guess, probably associated with the high water temperatures we also suffered at that time or they have subsequently moved upstream from pausing in the lower river.
The appearance of the grasshoppers in the meadows means dozens of juveniles hop clear of every footfall. The other bug shots are repeats as I struggled to get good shots of the tree bumblebee and the five spot during the week.
In celebration of the humble bumblebee, simply thousands of them working the brambles along with the honey bees today. The photos above start with a White-tailed or possibly a Buff-tailed, I'm not up to distinguishing between the workers of the two. Honey bee to its right, Red-tailed below, The bramble banks that attract them, a Tree bumble and at the bottom an Early bumble. All common species but to see them in such numbers is good to see when we hear so much negative news about their diminishing populations.
A few shots of butterflies and moths about today.
Nice one Jared that makes it two all with dad, building nicely for a tight finish!
I forgot to mention that Colin Morgan had yet another fish yesterday when he grassed a eighteen pounder from Ashley. I'm not sure how many salmon he's landed this season suffice to say he's fished a blinder! Well done Colin congratulations yet again, certainly leading the way.
I've just had a look at the video and had to edit the entry!
Like some of our ancient trees my tree ID is definitely failing with age, or too long an association with Chris!
Mind you Chris would definitely have called it as an oak!
One for the timber lovers amongst you readers. This is Kingsley of "Wild Wood Tables" processing a brown oak stick in his mill on the Estate. This oak was deemed a H&S risk along with the ash that we have recently removed as they become a risk through ash dieback they find a good home with Kingsley. What a wonderful way for these majestic old trees, failing through age or dying in their millions with this disasterous ash dieback to be preserved as they are set to become fine furniture for many more people to use and enjoy. Well done Kingsley, I was going to put a pic of you loading an ash on your car trailer but thought better of it!
I put up this photo of an ancient oak that had dropped a limb just the other day and hoped we would be able to save it for generations to come. In the second photo if you look closely you can see one of the "treemender" team up at about sixty feet reducing the canopy in an effort to reduce the weight and take the pressure off the failure point on the trunk. You most definitely need a head for heights doing that job!
The recent rain has been the answer to our prayers when it comes to saving the flower meadows. White clover, birds-foot trefoil, creeping cinquefoil, all are looking better than in the recent hot summers producing a plentiful supply of nectar and covered with bumblebees and pollinators. To add to this the bramble is just about to come online with the heaviest nectar flow we usually enjoy each year. The dragonflies are enjoying the plentiful supply of food, in the form of the pollinators attracted to the wild flowers. All in all it makes the flower meadows a wonderful place to be, just buzzing with activity and life.
I'm not sure exactly what's going on in our flower meadows with our ant population? Every ragwort and thistle seems to have an ants nest construction attached to it. What they're up to seems to be associated with black aphid that also use the ragwort and thistles, possibly farming the aphids for the honeydew they produce.
Just what are we going to do with this lot and they're one of a dozen such flocks locally.
Well done Stephen, well fished. One of a brace Stephen landed today and thanks to Gary, who was on the opposite bank, for sending through the photo
Everything is new and an adventure for this chap who hasn't been with us for many days. Lots of dragonflies appeared in the brief spells of sunshine we enjoyed today. Finally on the right, waiting to count the Nightjars when they start churring. Look closely, slightly above and to the right of the moon, a roding Woodcock is heading my way.
Better news on the salmon front with a couple of 2SW fish landed today, one of which was a bright fish just days into the system. The first photo shows Peter Littleworth with a bright hen fish that has just arrived with us. There is what appears to be a Lamprey scar just forward of the fishes vent. These scars are not uncommon and the fish usually heal up well so hopefully this fish will add five or six thousand eggs to the gravel in six months time. Hopefully our missing 2SW fish knew of the arrival of this Summer freshet and delayed their arrival until now. The second shot is a great action shot of Paul Greenacre with his second fish in the last few days. Fingers crossed things continue along these lines for a week or two, at least bringing a little respectability to the catch returns. Congratulations both and thanks for the reports and photographs, very much appreciated.
Problems on the horizon as a large limb can be seen beside one of the parkland trees. In this case a very large horse chestnut has been unable to support the weight of the new foliage when wet. Closer inspection of the point of failure shows included bark and decay well established in the bole of the tree. The two remaining main limbs are at risk of similar failure, requiring immediate attention to either reduce the weight of the canopy, pollard or fell the entire tree. With the public on the Lower Park during events we have to ensure there is no risk to people who may get too close for their own good for shelter, shade or parking. We could fence off the area when events are taking place but this will still not prevent the public from getting too close and requires added labour at times when we are usually busy preparing the grounds. It is also just putting off the inevitable as these old giants reach the end of their life span. As it is I fear we are about to lose another of these majestic old giants that create the very nature of the parkland. On a brighter note, as part of a replacement programme we are intending to plant a further fifty young specimen trees this coming winter that will ensure the future of the parkland. We will never see them as mature specimens, such as the ones that currently adorn the park, hopefully future generations will enjoy their presence.
I fear the chestnut above isn't an isolated problem as we have over a thousand such trees that potentially interact with the public and have to be regularly and independently assessed. To give an idea of the problem the first shot above shows a massive English oak that has shed a huge limb, weighing many tons. When oaks become stressed, through drought or age, they are liable to self pollard that involves dropping limbs at the most unexpected times, hot windless, sunny days being a favourite to catch you out. Usually they do not involve limbs on the scale of the one above but it doesn't take five tons or so to do serious damage from forty or fifty feet, a few kilogrammes has the potential to inflict serious injury. An idea of scale can be seen from the trees in the background alongside my truck. The Common Limes to the left are over 130 feet, the Turkey Oak on the right in the region of 140 feet, making them some of the tallest of their species in the country. That a long way up and a extremely large fall radius. Thankfully these limes and Turkey are all currently sound trees and safely well away from where the public roam.
Where the failing trees exist in the woodland, away from the public, they can be safely left for the incedible habitat they provide. Where alongside public roads, Joe Public, tenants, contractors or where staff have to work in their immediate vacinity they have to be removed or made safe on H&S grounds. The large oak that has shed the huge limb is probably capable of being saved. We won't know until the tree surgeons have been up and had a look but the failure point appears to leave a considerable volume of sound timber alongside in the immediate trunk. If so as a precaution we will reduce the canopy weight, in the region of a third to minimise the potential for further failure. The downside of this is that it will cost probably a thousand pounds and require further expensive attention in years to come. Just the maintenance of the trees runs into a considerable sum each year, certainly several tens of thousands of pounds annually.
In the photo of the gnarled old beech you can see the oak that has shed the limb in the background. The beech is of a similar age and shedding limbs at a similar rate, unfortunately it stands on the park where the public often gather, despite being advised to avoid the trees. This poor old beech is completely rotten within the trunk, Ganoderma fungus has riddled the entire root system and the heart wood, its days are definitely numbered.
Bournemouth Water and the EA please take note!
I drew the curtains just before six this morning onto a grey and drizzly old world. Anne wasn't home from work and as she would be sleeping through the morning clattering about in the garage, or the garden, wasn't an option. What better excuse for a mornings fishing, all I had to do was to decide what for.
I'm not a prawn fisherman these days, having had plenty of salmon on them in the past I don't need to add to their woes any more. The river is yet to settle down after the spawning of recent weeks and will have to wait for the autumn before I venture out with the coarse rods. That leaves the lakes, where I might if lucky find out how the crucians and the tench are doing. In Meadow there have been a few nice tench caught by the carp lads in recent days so possibly worth a try. No one has been fishing for them so a bit of a blank canvas when it comes to locating them. As I was only intending to fish for a few hours finding them in a weedy twenty acre acre pit didn't seem very realistic. Perhaps a better option might be to see how the tench and crucians in Kings-Vincents are getting on. So Kings-Vincents it was, swipe the bread from the bread bin and a tin of corn combined with a few pellets that should be plenty to see if I can find them.
When I arrived at the lake, just after seven, the drizzle had stopped and there were fish moving and topping in all directions. Nothing that looked unmistakably like tench or crucian but lots of active fish which always bodes well. Swim choice is relatively easy in that I have favourites from years gone by and a combined nostalgia trip makes for an even more enjoyable visit better. Weighted insert crystal waggler, set up on my twelve foot Daiwa Pro, 3.2 bottom, two number 4 shot to a barbless 14, as good a starting point as any. Start by adding a few 3mm pellets and a little corn into a crumb base, mixed and liberally scattered about either side of the swim. Two lines, one on the inside and one two rod lengths out and all set to go.
A pinch of flake on the inside never hit the bottom, rudd nailed it on entry. Corn got down but was almost as quickly engulfed by roach. Perhaps adding the groundbait wasn't such a good idea? The outside line produced the same result, rudd and roach every cast and I mean every cast. I even had perch taking the sweetcorn! If I keep at it perhaps the tench and crucians may arrive and drive off the hoards ? No, after an hour we were still catching at the same rate, just the occasional larger roach requiring the net but no sign of the intended species. A lazy strike, expecting another roach and thump everything locks up and a carp departs for the middle of the lake. Around and around we go and after five minutes a scraper double graces the net. Not intended and not desired on the set up I'm using, I can do without any more of those. Back to the roach and rudd, plus a repeat performance of the carp, leaving me in no doubt that a new approach was most definitely required.
Three hours of swinging roach and rudd and the onset of the heavy drizzle again was enough to send me a sign that I should head for home. I didn't find my crucians or tench but it was action all the way so as pleasant way as any to while away an hour or two. Add the lake and margins buzzing with birds and insects it was better than pleasant, it was a great way to while away and hour or two!
The swim, the float is just visible almost centre of the pic, just left of the tree reflection.
One a cast for the duration of my three hour stay, even the perch took sweetcorn!
James finished up his session with another of the Old Girls in this case "The Ghost of Jenkins" at 38.4. Add the "Scattered Lin" and eleven other good fish that makes for a brilliant opening day or two for James. A brace of nice tench and bream also added to the final tally.
The drop in water temperature and the start of prawn fishing has seen one or two salmon rods out looking for a fish or two. Paul struck lucky and found this good looking hen that has been in several weeks but looks well. One or two other fish have been lost including a classic very large 3SW fish. Perhaps some ones luck will see it grassed in the next day or two if the temperatures remain below the cut-off.
A few bug shots to celebrate our meadows, the first another shot of a Swollen-thighed/Thick-kneed Beetle. Middle shot of a Mother Shipton's moth, the face of the old hag concealed in the wing pattern and a fine Long-horned beetle enjoying the pollen from a Dog Rose.
There was a vast avian biomass up on the North Marsh today, unfortunately not a great deal of it was desireable. Along with one of our flocks of 80+ non-breeding swans, there were approximately forty Grey Heron that just about make it as indigenous in the valley. As for the forty Egyptian Geese and the one hundred plus Canadas and Greylag I'm not sure they qualify as indigenous residents, which probably means they should be classed as invasive and removed.
Two from the opening of Meadow and King-Vincent's. The first showing Chris with a well spawned out 20+ off the top, one of a nine fish tally. One of the old girls in the shape of the "Scattered Lin" landed by James at 36.9 the best of an eight fish catch from Meadow. Thanks for the photos and the reports guys, very much appreciated.
I've not had the opportunity to walk the river yet so I have yet to hear any news. Yesterday I did find Mike Windows enjoying himself trotting maggot and catching loads of fish in the form of dace, chublets to around the pound and even a roach or two. in my view the perfect way to open the river season, waiting for that float to dip and never knowing just what is on the other end. There's plenty of time to chase those mega barbel and chub on rainy days such as today, when trotting is difficult.
The "Tick Squad" looking less than impressed with ten hours of rain, all the ticks having run for shelter. The two shots of the geese show about two hundred flightless Canada and Greylag Geese currently undergoing the moult and turning the lake side into a crap and feather covered nightmare! This is just one lake with just one flock of non-breeders, there are hundreds more dotted about the lakes that are becoming a very real problem.........and just where are these eagles when you need them?
I've managed to introduce two new boxes in the hope of picking up a couple of pairs of "Knockers" before this weather drives them back to Africa. The two new boxes are in a temporary position, a couple of deci's lower than the final place under the existing boxes. I didn't want to risk upsetting the existing pairs in the top boxes at this time of year, yet introduce them to the new additions to their world. They didn't appear to even notice the new fixtures, sweeping straight into their nests without a hint of any doubt.
The coarse season has opened on the river, Meadow and Vincent's are open, the conventional bales are all safely in the barn and the sheep are all sheared, wormed and treated against strike. The forecast rain is now welcome, it may make the timber work a little more difficult but the gains far outweigh the losses. I've not heard any news from the river however the carp in Meadow fed and pleasingly they appear to have finished spawning. Hopefully I'll report some fishery news when I catch up with the goings on over the next couple of days.
Every morning in recent days the house has been surrounded by "Knockers" screaming Swifts seeking nest sites for next Summer. The five pairs of Swifts we have on the house, along with all the Starlings, have to spend considerable time guarding their nest boxes. Hopefully I will get three or four more boxes on the house tomorrow in time to provide sites for some of our visitors.
If what looks remarably like a marker stick in the North bay of Mockbeggar has been put out there by a syndicate member I would like it removed ASAP please.
I walked the butterfly transect at Mockbeggar at lunchtime, which would seem to point to the June Dip being underway. The over wintering and early emergent species have finished their role and disappeared and the summer and second period of emergence is yet to get underway. The Meadow Brown put in their first appearance apart from that there was little to see on the butterfly front. Plenty of dragon and damselflies to brighten the walk but not a lot else from the insect world. The third shot shows the Common Spotted Orchids that have done well in one particular area.
I bumped into Brenda, counting her warblers, who pointed out the first bee orchid we have seen at Mockbeggar this year. As a result of the previous two drought effected summers we seem to have lost most of our bee orchids, which is a great shame so lets hope they manage to bounce back from the toe hold they have.
I called in on the haymaking his morning and whilst there took the opportunity to walk one of our other fisheries. I don't get the opportunity to walk this lake very often so everything was viewed with fresh eyes. We have left a wide buffer zone between the mowing and the lake, partly for the benefit of the wildflowers and partly because the number of geese had spoilt the grass for hay. Whatever the reason the the end result is a super wild flower meadow with acres of Ox-eye daisies and Birds-foot Trefoil in drifts, being enjoyed by dozens of Common Blues. Lizzie from the GWCT and Kingsley from Wildwood tables, who had recently visited the site, also told me of one other species that was present in vast numbers. Whilst todate we may be down to just one Bee Orchid at Mockbeggar beside this lake there were hundreds, if not thousands, far too many to count. Extremely encouraging that so many have managed to survive and multiply
A proper bug! Another example of the amazing evolution of the creatures we share this planet with, here in the form of a Thick-legged Beetle. On the subject of thick bugs, Mark Tutton contacted me after I put up the bumblebee and its attendant the other day and identified the fly in the photo as one of the Thick Headed Flies (Conopidae) that parasite adult bees. They lay their eggs in the abdomen of the bee where the larvae eventually kill the bee. Pleasant little sucker, I preferred my pollen thief suggestion but Nature has little room for sentimentality. Thanks for the info Mark, always pleased to expand my knowledge of our local creatures.
We seem chaotically busy at the moment with hundreds of acres of grass being cut and baled, the forestry contractors preparing for the autumns work and the coarse season about to start on the rivers and Meadow Lake. One of the jobs that falls to me involves cleaning up miles of pathways and swims in readiness for the sixteenth. All the paths are established and for the most part just require the recent growth, brought on by the rain and sunshine of recent weeks, clipped into shape. Getting these miles of bank ready allows me plenty of time about the fishery to keep abreast of the seasons changes. New life in the shape of roe kids and fox cubs, the rooks have fledged and left the rookery now in noisy flocks about the valley. Geese, ducks, birds of every shape and hue all busy either feeding or being fed. The wild flowers and their attendant insects provide an ever changing picture that on occasions requires five minutes to just stand and marvel at the goings on.
The Honey Bee collecting pollen from the dog Rose seems to capture the essence of Summer. Just what to make of the masses of bees collecting pollen from the banks of Hemlock Water Dropwort gives food for thought. If we consider water Dropwort to be one of the most poisonous plants in Britain, with many references stating all parts of the plant are poisonous, just what does the honey derived from the nectar and pollen collected by these bees taste like? It can't be that harmful as I must have eaten pounds of it as my bees have worked these banks of flowers for years. If you put cattle in a field of lush, fresh grass, with a small patch of Dropwort growing in one corner, before they look at the grass the entire herd will rush over and eat every green morsel they can stuff in without apparent harm. If they manage to expose and eat the roots they drop down dead, which would certainly point to that part of the plant being harmful. Odd sort of evolution to be so attractive above ground and so deadly beneath. There must be a logical answer out there somewhere?
I know how she feels, I can never get all my ducks in a row either!
The Ranunculas is up and flowering announcing that Summer's grip is now in place.
The world of the ox-eye daisy.
Odd goings on amidst the flowers as this hover fly followed the bumblebee from flower to flower occasionally landing on its back. Possibly collecting loose pollen, I've no idea.
The lambs have a new game, "flatten the Raven" they spend ages trying to catch them out, without much success I fear. In reality we are fortunate in the Raven not being a problem with the lambs, not that I would fancy the chances of any that appear sick. The two in the shot are juvenles the beak of a parent is just coming into view behind its stalker. The dragonfly is the first Scare Chaser I have managed to get a shot of this year. I have seen Hairy Dragonfly and Downy Emeralds but not managed a shot for the diary so whilst not the best the chaser shot is better than nothing. On the right, a brood of Egyptian Geese I followed for three hundred meters down the fishing road this morning as they took them down to the river. I have to say it was preferrable to following some "mamil" or "gogil" for miles, in second gear, in a crocodile of traffic, as we go about our business in the forest lanes.
I'm not sure whether I have put the link above on before, if I have its worth further promotion, especially in light of the disgraceful barriers at the bottom of the two greatest chalk streams in the world.
Some swims look easier than others!
I had a walk around Mockbeggar today at lunchtime and bumped into John who was hoping to repeat his recent success with the tench. He'd only just got going and missed a bite almost immediately due to my distracting him and before I left he had the carp in the photo. John doesn't mind catching these whilst he waits for the proper fish to arrive as they give a good account of themselves in the shallow water.
Catching these whilst waiting for the tench to arrive is a pleasant way to spend a sunny afternoon!
I had an email from John this evening to let me know the tench failed to show up. He had to make do with a larger version of the one above so the afternoon wasn't a total loss.
The water temperature in the river has been rising rapidly in recent days and if we continue with the present warm days and nights, it won't be long before we reach the cut off temperature. Keep an eye on the Knappmill website to ensure you spot it should it reach 19 degrees.
The Ranunculus is also surfacing and beginning to flower, the algal platform this provides will hopefully soon provide the conditions for the water to clear. The character of the river is changing from the greys, blue and greens of winter into its Summer mode of clean gravel and dense weed.
Back in mid May I speculated on the exploitation rate of the fish entering the river during the rod season. I based my thoughts at that time on the 100 fish that had passed through the counter between 1st February 2021 and the 31st April 2021.
At that time I used a fish lost to landed ratio of 2:1, which with subsequent investigation and discussion I would now certainly increase to 3:1 and at many times such as the onset of spinning over 4:1. That puts an entirely different complexion on the rates as discussed earlier. At 3:1 if we are to believe the counter figures, every fish entering the river was either landed of lost. I am quite happy to accept the counter figures, subject of course to every hatch being covered, air gaps below the gates and a head of less than 60cm, to allow free passage. Also on the assumption very few fish once hooked will take again in the immediate future.
We have not enjoyed the Summer fish run we were hoping for, to allow me to further monitor the exploitation figures, in reality it is of little consequence for the Avon salmon fishery. The Avon salmon fishery has always been based on 3SW early Spring fish. We are not a prolific fishery and never were. As such our appeal is that magical fish of a lifetime that was clearly illustrated in the early part of this season. Whilst you can play with numbers related to the run based on fish entering the river after June they are not of significance to the value of the asset. It suits the purpose of the EA to compare numbers achieved with these Summer fish and grilse, entering later in the year with the historic catches of the Avon it does not truly reflect the fishery. We are all about big fish, in cold weed free, high flows, making up the numbers with prawn caught grilse, in weedy, warm, low flows, just confuses the protection of the fishery. It is simply a desktop exercise to support failed policy. The same game was always played with the seatrout catches of net and rod when forming policy. Numerically similar, in reality a complete sham to suit further failed policy. The average weight of a rod caught seatrout on the Avon being between one and two pounds, mostly from the Bridge Pool and in those days Clay Pool. The average net caught fish was probably nearer five or six pounds, the cream of the seatrout breeding stock. I have witnessed one haul of a net taking five double figure fish, all destined for the slab. At least that unsustainable carnage has now stopped with such a delicately balanced species.
A further factor that has been apparent this year is the extremely high cock fish to hens. Is it that the cockfish arrive early to take up station in readiness for the spawning to come? Hardly, most are far from the redds and won't be on station until December. Are the higher water temperatures we are seeing in recent decades having an effect on gender as it does in the insect and bird world. Or is there a more sinister cause reflecting the endocrine disrupter concerns that were so prominent a few seasons ago. The recently highlighted misuse of the river by the water companies in dumping raw sewage in the system has the potential to be adding to the exposure to oestrogen and plasticisers that also give rise to these concerns. Plenty of food for thought as to the direction the fisheries should be considering in the years ahead.
The wildflower meadows are coming into their own, with the recent rain, followed by the sunshine fingers crossed we see a more benign Summer than the last two we have suffered. These are not planted they are managed to encourage native wild flowers to establish. Autumn topping, winter grazing and flowers left to seed throughout the summer. The greatest threat they face at present is the increasing number of fallow deer we have grazing at night. On one or two meadows where they are seldom disturbed they have changed the character of the sward beyond all recognition. Just how we manage them in the future may well determine the success of failure of these wonderful wildflower meadows.
I love the margins of the lakes and so do the carp.
It won't be long before this shoal will be busy with their spawning if the weather remains as warm and sunny as it was today. There were over fifty in this group, with some very impressive fish amongst them.
This is another file that will take a second or two to download as its quite a large.
As can be seen in the middle shot the river has dropped right back and the gravel bars at the head of Blashford Island are visible once more. There have been one or two fish lost this week but alas we did not see the hoped for run of Summer, 2SW salmon. There are no doubt salmon tucked up in the pools, tempting them to join in on the fly is hard work. We will see some of these fish fall to the spinner and in a fortnight the prawn but unless we see further low pressure and the late arrival of the Summer fish things are looking bleak. The chub are now gathering on the shallows in readiness for spawning and the first of the Banded Demoiselle have appeared along the banks in the sheltered spots. The boldly marked blue male is a stark contrast to the beautiful understated dark green female.
Some of the habitat areas we have set aside for the breeding waders and fenland breeders are looking well. Despite some of the highest nest density we have ever achieved the valley Lapwing deserted the meadows and the splashes during the coldest April on record that we unfortunately had to endure. Half a dozen pairs stayed in the valley to try again but the majority abandoned the valley and moved to the gravel decks and newly establshed wetlands of the nearby gravel quarries. Hopefully they avoided the ever present risk of predation and we will see sufficient recruitment to safeguard the population and try again in coming years.
..........and they're off! No mistaking that the carp have decided to spawn in Mockbeggar, the margins are being thrashed to bits. I only hope they don't damage the reed beds where Brenda's Reed Warblers are busy building their nests.
Spawning in full swing and if you listen carefully, above the sound of my heavy breathing, you can hear the Reed Warblers complaining.
Give it a second or two to download its quite a large file.
One of fourteen Mandarins that were about the lakes today, all but two were drakes, along with two broods of grebe. Not only the exotics have benefitted from the recent rain followed by the sunshine. The resident blackbirds and thrushes can be seen in the wild flower meadows finding plentiful supplies of worms in the damp soil.
I always enjoy spotting these gems about the meadows.
Phil was busy this afternoon shearing the rams that looked a great deal cooler for his efforts.
Manny has been out in the forest again with the Goshawk and has kindly sent through the amazing frame grabs above for our enjoyment. A stunning bird with an almost frightening presence, to see that wild beauty in such close up detail is staggering. Wonderful stuff Manny, thanks so much for sending them through.
Back to more regular reporting in that the river is still looking perfect yet we are still without any fish in recent days. They are getting fish down at the bottom of the river below the Great Weir and I believe there was one from Bisterne so fingers crossed they get to us before the water disappears again. I was out myself this evening and itfished absolutely spot on, yet not a pull to show for my efforts.
The Mayfly hatch is still going on so there was still plenty to see and keep me amused whilst I didn't catch a fish. Highlight being the number of Yellow May Duns that were coming off. These beautiful little flies were struggling up off the surface of the river and being whisked away on the breeze far out into the meadows. Hopefully as they moult and dry out tomorrow they will find their fellow kin and ensure the future of this rare beauty.
Yellow may dun (Heptagenia sulphurea)the highlight of my hour by the river this evening.
We couldn't have wished for a better freshet of water if we had ordered it. If you add in the high tides of the next three days and the historic seasonal arrival of the 2SW fish we have the perfect conditions for the salmon to run through the lower river to us.
Not the day for being out and about with the camera so a shot of the sparrows from the living room window. I have no idea how many we have this year but the back garden is full of Starlings, House Sparrows, Blackbirds and Wood Pigeons. The photo is through the double glazing so all a lttle misty.
It may have been grey, overcast with light drizzle, yet the valley remains a wonderful place to be.
If you look closely at the surface of the water in the foreground some of the hatch is visible.
Although I have titled them fry-bays they were not dug for that purpose. Whilst they might be mistaken for cattle drinks there has never been any livestock anywhere near them. They are in fact created by the local goose and swan population to get in and out of the river. In the first photo above you can see some of the eighty odd geese that live on these meadows and when forty non-breeder swans are added they amount to a considerable number of comings and goings as they come out to graze the meadows each day. In the second shot it clearly shows the grooves in the soil where the claws of the birds seek purchase as they scramble up the bank. The use of fry bays is quite secondary as the water level rises and falls the water in the shallow bay warms quickly and affords shelter from the main flow. The larger the bays get the more the fry make use of them. One of the few advantages to having so many geese and swans about the estate! The rods have to remember where they are placing their feet as they work down Blashford Pool, getting too involved in whats happening in the river can result in a sudden awakening!
A further half dozen swans to add to our number if they survive the first few months. The pen in the shot had six and we have in the region of a dozen broods hatching over the coming days, potentially making quite a increase in population.
Congratulations to Matthew Parsler on a lovely 2SW fish today. Well done Matthew, now travel is allowed it makes that long trip down to see us seem worthwhile.
Thanks for sending through the lovely photo Matthew, very much appreciated.
Despite the grey skies and drizzle there was a lovely hatch at Blashford today. I'm not the best at identifying sedgeflies as they seem so variable even within the species. I expect some of the readers who study the hatch more closely than I do will know the difference. The middle one looks like a Welshman's Button but I wouldn't swear to it. The righthand species were dancing in groups of between fifty and one hundred in the shelter of the bankside vegetation. I'm actually amazed there is no greater variation within species considering the thousands that hatch.
The beautiful Ephemera danica, the most magical of the aquatic flies. Today's hatch wasn't massive, there were however several thousand hatching and attempting to rise from the surface of the water. There remained a lively breeze and many were being blown well out into the meadows where the Black-headed Gulls made light work of huge numbers of them. When the number eaten from the surface by the Reed Buntings and Swallows are added one wonders they ever survive when the reduced hatches we experience these days is also taken into consideration.
A mammal day today as we don't see many Brown hares in the flood plain so its always good to see one pay us a visit in the drier summer months. The roe are giving birth across the entire Estate and we are seeing more and more kids every day. Finally a Bank vole that are often seen under the herpetology tins. Somewhat of a dodgy life choice as the tins frequently have Grassnakes in residence that I'm pretty sure would make short work of a vole.
As I don't see them that frequently just a couple more shots of yesterday's hare.
Stuart into a Mockbeggar common. When I dropped in for a chat he'd landed two and lost two, including this one!
Well done to Jared in opening his Somerley account with this sixteen pounder. With that capture Jared becomes the leading salmon angler in the Greenacre family this season! Congratulations Jared, well fished, you'll have to give dad a few pointers!
Definitely showeres again today.
Would ALL syndicate members who have occasion to use Estate combination padlocks please ensure the padlock numbers are left FACING UPWARDS when you close it. Its not rocket science and its a bugger trying to open it in the middle of the night if the numbers are facing downwards.
The bluebells are out but the thoughts below do not relate to the woods.
I have to say I am disappointed by the number of fish we are currently seeing in the system. Especially as rod effort has been sufficiently strong to have found any fish had they been with us. I even fished through "Hoodies" for an hour at lunchtime myself. The river had a great colour and whilst the water height remains low, due to a lack of weed to coffer it up, the flow was sufficient for fish to move. I can only hope that in writing that statement Nature will prove me wrong and the river will fill up with fresh run fish from tomorrow.
The recent publication of the Knappmill 2021, Q1 counter information provides plenty of food for thought and discussion. I do not reach any conclusions in what follows, I put it out there to stimulate discussion.
My initial thoughts relate to the fish not actually recorded in 21Q1 but the January 21 fish recorded in 20Q3. What do we take these fish to be? Are they fresh fish entering the system or late fish running for the redds. I can see no reason that they would be late fish after such a high flow winter allowing them easy access to the redds from late autumn. If they were fresh fish where did they go and why didn't we see any of the fish from the final fortnight of January appearing in our catches at the beginning of the season in February 2021? Where ever you fish around the country you hear tales of huge “Bluebacks” that enter the system in the close season unexploited by the rods. I have to admit that I have never seen any of these fish but what do we read into these late/early counts?
Second question is about our exploitation rates of these early season fish. If we accept the first fish off the Avon was taken in the final week of February and very bright. No lice but certainly only days in the system, as were the half dozen fish grassed in March. On the assumption that these fish were less than a week in, the fish we are catching are probably in the system from the early part of February. That would suggest the 30 January fish recorded were not exploited, nor some 15 early February records, meaning the rod catch resulted from the remainder of the records to the end of April, approx 85 fish.
With in the region of 30 fish having been landed we are looking at an exploitation rate in excess of 35%. If you take into consideration fish lost at a conservative ratio of approximately 2:1 the rate is staggeringly high.
We always believed rod and Mudeford nets used to exploit at approximately the same rate, in the region of 10%. The historic rate was based on MSW fish, which few would disagree are far more likely to be hooked than later summer runs. The rod effort involved worm, Devon minnow, prawn, spinner and fly, basically every thing you could throw at them. Also a season that was a month longer! It also has to be remembered ALL those fish met with a sad end with almost nothing being returned.
It could be argued that modern fly techniques and tackle have surpassed the advantages of the multiple historic methods. Although I'm sure many of the older rods would dispute that. What I would say after fifty years salmon fishing and over thirty years at Somerley, the ratio of rods who stand a reasonable chance of hooking a fish has increased dramatically. I used to say that 10% of the rods catch over 90% of the fish, that is no longer the case.
The one other aspect that requires consideration are the number of fish that do not make it through the catch and release process. We used to be quoted figures based on the River Bann in Northern Ireland, I don't know if those figures have been updated but they certainly need to be.
The other aspect of all this are the restrictions we face on the fisheries in the name of conservation without a jot of evidence to support the majority of them. The fisheries face these restrictions because we are the easy target and soft enough to put up with the meddling of the EA as they attempt to justify their existence.
That's a little more like it. At least the forest streams are doing their best to send a signal out into the bay to drag the fish in. Fingers crossed there are fish out in the bay to receive it! The ford at Moylescourt and the Linbrook at Poulner were well up and coloured. Mid morning the main river had lifted about an inch with hopefully more to come. The sign is the result of last nights visit from the village idiots, not necessarily our village, there seems to be no national shortage of them. The same mentality that ignored the signs in the control tower and set light to the beautiful little book exchange cabinet at the junction of Seymour and Northfield Road this week.
I suppose there in lies the answer. We have to accept that seventy five percent of the users of the Ibsley footpath can't read a map. Unfortunately there seems to be an increasing percentage that can't read full-stop and feel threatened by the written word. Why else would you chuck a sign in the river or set fire to a book cabinet? Who is responsible? Not the actual perpetrator, the reason a numpty like that exists? Is it our education system? The home life? Pure and simple hedonism? Lack of respect seems to be a given these days. If those responsible sit in an air cooled office, paid from the public purse and don't have to deal with the results of their actions, there's little wonder we are not making a great deal of progress in getting the message of personal responsibility across.
The bad news this is not limited to any particular section of society, hedonism, greed and self interest are a driving force for half the population. The really bad news. We think we are going to educate this lot into taking climate change seriously?
Back in your box Victor, nuff moaning, whinging isn't going to change diddly-squat.
Another of those wet weather jobs, turning the lemons from our lemon tree into marmalade. The tree resulted from the root stock of a mandarin orange someone gave us that died, a far more useful accident.
Drifted over mid morning carrying a fish, which it sat and ate in the top of a nearby poplar. Three hours later it was sleeping off its meal in the top of the large willow at Park Pool.
Still no salmon to report but I do have to say well done to John Slader who managed three nice tench and a pound plus roach from Mockbeggar. In recent years Mockbeggar has never given up its roach and tench easily, which makes John's deliberately targetted catch a real achievement from such a mega hard water. Well fished John, great result.
I spent a couple of hours today cleaning off the lower regrowth on our recently pollarded willows at Ibsley, all in an effort to drive the growth higher up the trunk to form classic pollard heads. I looked on the group in a different light since a recent guest on the fishery described them as looking like an "Ent Moot" beside the river. It doesn't take much imagination to see "Treebeard" and his ancient kin discussing events in the valley, especially in the misty light of dawn. I wonder what they make of raw sewage discharge and now it seems the major source of micro plastic pollution in our river!
The tree bumblebee nest is hopefully the first of many creatures that will find these ancient trees suitable homes in the years to come.
Still no salmon to report with us although there are fish in the lower system. There is still sufficient flow for fish to move and if these showery overcast conditions continue they will hopefully get to us, even if it takes a little longer than during good flows. Unfortunately there is no information forthcoming from The EA so we can only speculate on the residual flow, number of fish entering the system and the time they are delayed below the Great Weir. This is the unfortunate outcome of having regulatory officers who don't have a clue about the practices they are supposed to be regulating. I'm sure they are suitably qualified to tell us all about the species we depend upon, unfortunately managing the asset is not something they are versed in. Having continually been told by EA fisheries the reason we are not provided with the information from the counter we pay for is that it is not validated, I recently asked for access to the raw data. I received the patronising clap trap that we might misinterpret it so its not going to be released! In this day and age there is absolutely no excuse for not providing such information and more to the point providing flow temperature and video data in real time. Its not rocket science. I suppose I may not use the correct algorithm to fill in the gaps in recording at the end of the year but there again I'm not trying to use the data to justify my existence, I simply wish to encourage the paying rods to get out on the bank. As it is it would be good if we see one or two more fish this week before the metal starts flying at the weekend!
All pretty self explanatary, some shots from out and about today.
I spent the best part of the day removing windblown willows, clearing hatches and unblocking culverts that the debris resulting from the weekend's blow had blocked. Despite the rain and overcast conditions I have yet to hear of any salmon being landed, which means I have no photos for the rods to enjoy so you'll have to make do with some bird shots I took whilst clearing up today.
The first is a good comparison shot between a Ruddy Shelduck and one of the many Egyptian Geese that now call the Estate home. A Grey Wagtail, a pair of which seem to have nested on every hatch and bridge throughout the Estate and a shot of one collecting Grannom for the young in the nest. One of the Goosander broods and in the middle shot all together with a brood of Egyptians. Along the bottom line, a brood of Canada's, one of at least a dozen I have seen dotted about the place, half a dozen Mallard and last but not least the "Tick Squad" scoping out the yard from the top of the shed.
"If I keep my head down like this he won't see me" you've got to have a plan I suppose! One of three pairs nesting on Meadow. One of the other lakes has four pairs of Little Grebe and no Grest Crested, I presume the difference is food source, in that one lake has no fish but plenty of invertebrates.
They epitomise what summer fishing is all about, daybreak, swirling mist and bubbling tench. This lovely six pounder was caught by Andy Jackson from Mockbeggar and I'm beginning to suspect he sends me the pix to drive me mad as they have managed to avoid me completely in recent years. I really must try harder when the weather becomes a little warmer and more enticing. Thanks Andy, a cracking tench and I do appreciate seeing them even though I can't catch them!
I spent a great deal of today clearing access paths to the pools around Ibsley. This late in the year we only cut paths that have previously been cleared to ensure we do not disturb or destroy nesting birds. Whilst the salmon pools have perhaps three meters of clear width beside them, where fifteen foot fly rods are not required to be waved about we try to be a little more discreet. Ideally access to the coarse fishing swims needs to be little more than a couple of meters wide. This season with the covid distancing requirements I have cut them fractionally wider to permit safe passing. Made easier, I'm delighted to say, by the use of Dennis's self propelled strimmer that saves my aching bones for which I am greatly indebted. Our aim is to minimise disturbance and leave as much nesting cover as possible for the warblers whose continual churring is the background track for the day. There seems to be a fashion at present on some waters to destroy vast tracts of wonderful habitat for no other reason than they have a mower that can. If angling ever wants to be taken seriously as the guardians of our rivers for gods sake have a care for the wildlife that surrounds us. Ten or fifteen meter wide paths, you could land a Jumbo on, do not serve a purpose and make the angling community look uncaring, please remove the bear minimum to allow access and no more. The more enclosed approach to the water also adds atmosphere to your day when a glimpse of bright water is just visible through the branches as you creep into position to outwit that massive barbel. If nothing else the Sedge and Reed warblers that return from Africa and find more suitable habitat will thank you.
Dense marginal growth where Reed Bunting, Cettis, Sedge and Reed Warblers abound.
I'm afraid yesterday's rain hardly moved the river at all and as far as I know no salmon were reported from the Estate today. The lack of movement of the water height at least allowed me to get on and unblock the hatches on the Eel Pool. The recent drop in water level has reached the point where the nature of the obstruction could be seen and a plan to remove it formulated, which usually means hitting it with a big hammer or bar. Despite my best efforts with long-handled saw, rake, crowbar and chainsaw and "even with the doors off I was getting nowhere." Thank you Bernard "and so" Had to resort to getting the waders on and getting under the stage to saw the bloody thing out. That didn't prove as straight forward as it might have as with one gate missing and the other jammed partially open there was plenty of water rushing about. The sooner we replace the missing gate and sort out the super-structure the better.
Just a shot of the weirpool the other evening, when it actually felt like a Spring evening should. It felt like a proper April shower that had momentarily sent the grannom in search of cover, the only snag is that its May! As I write this its its heading toward 11pm and its been raining for almost ten glorious hours. I just hope that the flush of water sends the much needed signal to the fish downstream to once more begin their upstream journey. We look forward to their arrival to give the last fortnight of the fly only season a boost to what has been a promising season to date. If the fish aren't listening the I can't imagine the grass and wild flowers that have been so disastrously short of water in the unseasonably cold and frosty April will ignore the signal to bounce back into life.
Just a note to say that if any syndicate member has lost a pair of glasses down at Island Run, they are now in the new lodge.
Talking of eagles and birds of prey, as I was yesterday, here's a treat for the bird lovers amongst you. As I'm sure regular readers of the diary are aware Dr Manny Hinge is currently embarked on the production of a film project featuring the multitude of species to be found in the Avon Valley and New Forest. Among the bird species can be found this superb shot of an incubating hen Goshawk that Manny sent through. Simply incredible, I can't wait to see the finished film. Thanks for sending through the still Manny, very much appreciated.
An unusual sighting this morning as three Glossy Ibis dropped in on one of the Estate lakes, one shown in the first shot. Unfortunately they didn't stop long, the gulls mobbed them continuously and within ten minutes they had moved on. Whilst looking out for them I spotted the third brood of Egyptian Geese I have seen this year. Finally one of many Orange Tip butterflies that were about today, this one feeding on a Cuckoo Flower, one of its larval food plants.
That time of year when the Osprey eyrie is due its annual make over. This year I thought that a little more robust platform might be a good idea, particularly in light of the recent White Tailed Eagle visits. To that end Chris, Keiran and Craig from "Treemenders" arrived this afternoon to knock it into shape. The structure is already reasonably stable as the branches cut in previous years have sent new growth through the weld mesh grid that supports the nest platform fixing it rigidly in position. If we are to accommodate any of the Isle of Wight eagles we needed to extend the sides a little. With the limbs that had to be cleared around the platform and the addition of several Scots Pine branches to make them feel at home the extension was soon taking on the desired look in its lofty splendour.
Sunset over the lakes, the end of a good day..
Congratulations to Gary, you certainly made us wait for this one! The fish that has been eagerly awaited by half the syndicate as no one has been more deserving of an Avon Springer than Gary and to cap it all a twenty pounder. He has been present at the capture and helped with the landing of more than his fair share of fish yet they have long managed to avoid his well presented fly.
A further set of shots to record Gary's great result, as it is lifted from the net having had twenty minutes to recover, a shot to long remember and finally ready to go. Superb Gary, you couldn't have wished for a better fish. When Gary rang to say he was into a good fish I was miles away. Those five minutes I rattled across the Estate seemed like forever, all the while I was dreading Gary would lose the fish through not having a slack to net it safely. I needn't have feared, as I closed the second gate and cleared the heronry in Withy Bed I could see Gary laying on the bank with what, at the several hundred meters I was away, looked like a net below him in the water. Either that or he was about to throw himself in the river in frustration as the fish had slipped the fly! I drove past the car park, down to the farm and through the ford in the Kings Stream, abandoned the truck and ran the last couple of hundred meters across the field. What a result, I think Gary was in shock as below him in the water was the absolute beauty you can see in the photos above. I could not have been more delighted, it was the perfect fish for the perfect occasion. Brilliant, congratulations again Gary, you have made several people's day today and I feel privileged to have been part of it.
If, like me, you love these release shots here's another one to enjoy.
The Swifts are back from their African travels. Their arrival has certainly upset the male Starlings which are all out staking claim to their nest boxes.
I'm sure many of you will have listened to the debate on “Today in Parliament” where the EAC (Environmental Audit Committee) have been looking at the water quality in our rivers. The committee had invited different user groups and concerned individuals to give evidence regarding the state of our rivers. Speaking well and in a heartfelt fashion representing the fishery world was Feargal Sharkey, formally of the “The Undertones”. Feargal has been a long time scourge of the Water Companies, their abuse of our rivers and the cynical way in which they play the system.
From Today in Parliament, BBC Radio 4.
Our local water company Wessex Water PLC were used as an example of the failed system the water companies operate under. Once more I imagine most readers of this diary will be familiar with the published maps in the Guardian that have highlighted the state of our rivers. Wessex are about as bad as it can possibly be in that index of shame discharging raw sewage over thousands and thousands of hours into our rivers. The oft referred to UK rainforests, in the form of the chalk streams, are the recipients of much of this Wessex Water crap. This makes WWPlc about as popular in the fishery world as the also oft quoted “turd in the bath” which has far wider implications now than the original use in the rugby world!
In his statement to the committee Feargal mentioned the unique nature of Hampshire Avon salmon. The genetic signature of Hampshire Avon fish was established back at the time of Wessex salmon Association. For the most part using scales taken from salmon the association was purchasing from the Mudeford Netsmen for release upstream and as brood stock. The EA were keen to establish the purity of the Avon stock in an effort to put barriers in the way of our hatchery programme. They insisted we could upset the genetic purity of Avon stock, telling us the Test was full of Scottish fish that had resulted from stocking programmes. In the next breath they would tell us stocking doesn't work! Enough of the EA and stocking, back to the state of our rivers.
The most scary thing about the entire debate is that expunk rocker Feargal is now voice of the established fishery world! Fair play, talent will out, he's doing a superb job of highlighting the dysfunctional system our rivers are facing. Alas, the EAC, Ofwat, the EA and uncle Tom Cobley, are no closer to sorting this mess out than they were when we began bleating on about this in the 90's. The water companies have got so practised at hiding behind their AMP programmes it will be decades before any real progress will be made toward cleaning this mess up. Once the word mitigation crops up in a conversation I now immediately smell a rat! Stream support, gives rise to the same feeling of dread and nausea.
The end result of this man made chemical soup that now constitutes our rivers is that species after species is failing, be they invertebrate, avian, piscine or mammalian. The water companies acting as poacher-gamekeepers, continue to monitor for their narrow band of chemicals that may impact on the potable water supply. The EA, having been stripped of funding, look for a dozen or so chemicals when they do their regular checks. Alas no one appears to be looking at the entire unholy lot and the symbiotic reactions they create on an independent basis? There are university researchers crying out to look at that very problem over a long term yet they are unable to find the funding. Surely its time the government got of its arse and either put up the finance for independent review or instructed the water companies to fund the independent research through our universities?
As yet I haven't counted the number of swans we have nesting this year. This pair at Park pool are a senior pair and are usually successful in raising young. In a normal year we have in the region of twenty pairs, about half of which are usually successful. The second shot also shows Park Pool with the mud and sand banks now showing as the water continues to drop away. There were two Great Egret there yesterday sharing the shallows with the Gadwall and the swans.
I've been giving the mystery of the whelk shell discovery on the banks at Ibsley further thought. Taking into account the fact the river is not where it was pre the mid 18th century it is unlikely to be human habitation brought the whelks to the current position before that date. To move the river channel from one side of the valley to the other, also to create the miles of perched channels that can be found at both Ibsley and Ringwood, the number of labourers would have been enormous. The many hundreds of men would presumably have been in temporary camps near to the main construction sites. The logistics of feeding these navigators would have been enormous and I imagine whelks brought up from the coast would have been a part of that fare. Its a theory anyway but I don't suppose its one we will ever prove one way or the other.
Phil has almost finished lambing with less than half a dozen ewes left to go. With a couple of hundred new mouths to feed a spot of warmer weather would be appreciated. Well done Phil, they made a fine sight today out in the sunshine beside the new lake.
Not a sight I have witnessed before, there are two lambs and a cock pheasant in the middle shot. I'm not sure whose idea it was but they seemed quite relaxed about the arrangement. As the sun began to warm the field the cock bird got up, gave himself a shake and began his usual scratching about the field looking for food. Interesingly there are seven pairs of Lapwing establishing territories and constructing nest cups around the lake. I wonder if they are the birds that have disappeared from the water meadows. Hopefully these will fair a little better than the meadow birds. There are also two pairs of Little ringed Plover out on the gravel decks looking to nest. The Sand Martins are digging tunnels in a low cliff that is easily accessible to the local fox population so I don't hold out much hope for their success this year. There have been a pair of Red Kites and a pair of Raven cleaning up after the ewes, touch wood they continue to behaved themselves and don't become a threat to the lambs.
The middle shot shows the approach to Ibsley Bridge with the damaged and missing canon post railings having been replaced. I have to say I didn't think I would live long enough to ever see that happen. I presume it was HCC bridges and structures department organised the work for which they deserve a pat on the back for a job well done.
To close, a shot of the tail of Blashford this evening. It always looks the perfect salmon pool and tonight was no exception, except there were no salmon present!
Having listened to the farming forecast at the weekend I am beginning to worry that the early run of salmon we enjoyed may well have known something we didn't about the flows we might expect this summer. The photo shows the freeboard now to be found on Ellingham Bridge Pool, six weeks ago the water was at the top of the bank, a drop of some three feet. If the forecast proves correct and we don't see any substantial rain for a month the river will be down to its bones by the end of May. This seems to be becoming the norm in that a high flow winter is immediately followed by an extended period of north easterly winds that suck the moisture from the ground. The cold winds also give rise to low temperatures that have seen the expected and much needed grazing fail. The forest still looks like a clay court tennis court with the livestock pulling the hedges to pieces in search of food. Grass seed, planted three weeks ago, sits on top of the parched ground awaiting moisture and warmer nights before it even attempts to germinate. Along with the cold nights and lack of plant growth the invertebrate population is late hatching, with the knock on effect on the juvenile bird populations, so dependent on the caterpillars and grubs, risk starvation. This is one occasion when I hope the forecasters have got it very wrong and we soon have to endure three or four days of gentle rain.
I believe this to be the last Great Egret that remains with us, from the four or five that over wintered on the Estate. Just how long this bird will remain before it moves off to a more favourable location for the Summer might well prove interesting. The second photo is a good comparison shot of the Great White and the Little Egret alongside each other.
It didn't take long after the lifting of lockdown for the forest to disappear under the weight of visitors. We have been subjected to two days cycle road racing, with groups flying down the lanes seemingly oblivious to other traffic and road users. Paddlers on the river, magnet fishing from the bridge, walkers heading off in all directions and hedges used as latrines, same old, same old! I think it's time to admit defeat and just give in to the free for all that the National Park encourage, with absolutely no regulation we are simply wasting our time trying to educate the GBP.
On a happier note I must further congratulate Jerry Lloyd on grassing his second salmon of the season from Hucklesbrook this morning. At this time of year the shallows at Hucklesbrook are always worth a visit as fish regularly hold in this water as the river fines down.
I spotted this chap right out in the middle of the meadow where we have two remaining Lapwing nests mid morning yesterday. He was being mobbed by the remaining Lapwing as he moved about the field. I don't wish to jump to conclusions but this behaviour in the middle of a bright sunny day puts this chap high on the list of culprits for the disappearing Lapwing in the field adjoining this meadow. Where does this leave us? If we are to re-establish Lapwing in the valley they will need protection. We are not in a position to remove every fox, crow and magpie, time and labour simply does not exist as they did in the heyday of the shoot and the peak of the valley wader population. With Hampshire County Council doing its best to speed the decline I now believe we face an uphill battle that I am afraid will have only one outcome.
I have to admit to being fed-up to the back teeth with this cold east wind and judging by the goings on in the valley much of our wildlife feels the same. The plant growth has ground to a halt, the plug has been pulled on our moths and butterfly emergence, the river is dropping due to lack of rain and worst of all the nesting Lapwing in the meadows have mostly disappeared. Just what has happened to the Lapwing is a mystery to me. Of eleven pairs nesting in one meadow not a single bird remains on station. If they had hatched the adults would still be mobbing the passing Crows but not a sign. Empty nest cups but not a sign of an eggshell. Whilst we do have Crows in the area that may have predated one or two nests, in previous years the Lapwing have managed to drive off the invaders and a high percentage of the nests have hatched. Four successive hard frosts may have caused them to desert the exposed eggs subsequently predated or possibly they were disturbed and eggs were chilled. I'm afraid we will never know but it is extremely frustrating. The right hand shot shows some of the visitors currently in the valley, whether desirable remains open for debate.
If you look back at the entry for 22nd April 2020 you will see that I was intrigued by the masses of snails deposited in the silt of the river bank. As it happened this week I had occasion to be out with some researchers looking at the possibility of undertaking some research on the river in that area. The mollusc population was under discussion and a visit to the deposited silt banks was involved. The mollusc debris was still evident and what was odd were the presence of numbers of whelk shells. Just how whelk shells came to be in the sediment layer ten miles or more from the sea is somewhat of a mystery. certainly not ancient coastlines as the deposit layer is quite high, well above the pleistocene river gravel base level. Unless there is a whelk processing plant somewhere upstream of us that I don't know about my bet is they are a result of human habitation in the valley in times past. I'll be interested to hear any other explanations that might be out there, if you have a theory drop me an email.
This years deposit layer of shells settling in the drying silt. I think they are the family of the wandering Pond Snail but I stand to be corrected should anyone know the exact species. A closer view of one of the many whelk shells exposed by the winter floods.
I was tidying up Lake Run this evening and I could see a rod fishing down the tail of Harbridge Bend on the opposite bank. With the sun directly behind them I couldn't make out who it was but I do know Michael Robson was on that bank somewhere. He had earlier called me to let me know he'd landed a fresh eleven pounder from Ibsley Pool. Congratulations Michael, that's a great result, especially with such bright conditions making the fish a little shy in recent days.
A shot of the primroses in Riverbank Covert that will shortly be replaced by the bluebells and the comfrey starting into growth that will provide the food source for the Scarlet Tigers that abound along the river.
Rob fishing Park Pool.
The meadows at Ibsley looking wonderful, a blaze of Kingcups and Cuckoo flowers, also known as Marsh Marigolds and Lady's Smock. All it needs now is a return to warmer weather to make it feel like Spring and everything would be in place. There are in the region of fourteen pairs of Lapwing dotted about the meadows, plus several pairs of Redshank adding to this perfect picture. If the weather does warm up a little we will see the Grannom hatch and swarm upstream in their millions to lay their eggs. Always a spectacle to enjoy so lets keep our fingers firmly crossed for that improvement in the weather
Our dopey Mallard is still sitting firmly on her nest slap-bang in the path. I did flush her from the nest today just to check and all looks well. I have to say well done to the salmon rods for managing to avoid her and not upsetting her into abandoning her clutch. Her location is even easier to spot now as she is in the only clump of reeds upstream of the fence on the righbank of the bend that I didn't clip up this evening. I have also added to the sticks and moved them a little closer to her to ensure her location remains obvious.
We have enjoyed the company of a couple of the, Isle of Wight, White-Tailed Eagles about the valley in the last week or so and I have to thank Steve Egerton-Read, of the Eagle Group, for pointing out the attached clip. It shows an eagle giving a Cormorant a seriously bad time. I'll leave you to decide for yourself if its trying to panic it into regurgitating its last meal, or had more sinister thoughts in mind. Whatever the reason I have to admit to being firmly on the side of the Eagle.
The accumulated silt and branches beside the island at the tail of the Ibsley weirpool have beeen removed. This has opened up the tail and I have also cleared about fifty meters of the rightbank to make a visit more interesting. The tail and run through Hoodies is very shallow making it a floating line water. It would benefit from an extra foot of water but I fear we are unlikely to see that this summer.
A good result this evening as Jerry Lloyd opened his Somerley salmon account. A fresh fish, on the favourite Posh Tosh, which in reality is the Black and yellow so long a favourite on the Avon. Congratulations Jerry, great result.
A cold and blustery day seemed like a good excuse to take a walk around Mockbeggar to see how it had fished over the weekend. I think generally it had been hard work yet there had been several good fish out, one of which was the shot of Woody with a great looking twenty eight. These fish are quite amazing in that they are entirely wild, having grown to their incredible size on a diet of bloodworm and buzzers. They look like commercials and whilst they are carrying spawn at the moment, it doesn't detract from the fact they are wonderful fish. The middle shot is a collection of tennis balls I scooped out from a corner of the hatch pool for Richard's Betsy to destroy. How do that many tennis balls end up in one corner of a hatch pool. If every slack along the entire length of the Avon contains twenty odd tennis balls, just how many does that equate to? Take those twenty and raise it to the power of twenty and we start to see the simplest of pollutants in the shape of plastics flushing down our river. Final shot, a big dog mink that Kevin removed from the corner of Meadow Lake. He dealt with the bitch last week, which should make our Mallard, Moorhen and Coot population a great deal more relaxed.
One or two more shots from my walk, firstly capturing the dog violets that have struggled into bloom despite the frosts. Even more pleasingly they are increasing in numbers that will hopefully see an increase in the Fritillaries that feed on them. The blackthorn have increased to a similar extent, where we have widened the hedgerows that surround the complex. Where we have layered trees across the line of the hedge they have gone from a meters width up to five or six meters. They may not look the tidiest hedges in the world but the extra thickness keeps marauding ponies and our deer herds from destroying the vital habitat they provide for our nesting birds. We have left single oaks every fifty or so meters to replace the ancient trees that are now failing, they are beginning to really look the part and the Blackbirds, Song thrushes and Dunnock seem to agree. Finally a Treecreeper carrying nesting material on one of those ancient oaks. Look closely and you will see this bird is ringed, unfortunately my camera isn't quite up to capturing the number. I may take the scope over one day and see if I can get that number as she comes and goes from the nest.
The other evening when I walked the left bank of Lifelands I became aware of the possibility of once more opening up Lifelands pool to provide a further one hundred meters of classic Avon fishing. It was very late in the day when I was there, too dark to go messing about in the area of willow car, stamped out by the cattle. Historical photographs of this area in the 1940's and 50's show it considerably clearer than it is currently, the areas of willow car did not exist. Lack of maintenance since those photographs has seen the encroachment of willow along much of the river. The flow in the photo above, as the river crosses the shallows, is under the right bank. As it continues below the shallows it swings back across the river and is increasingly eroding the left bank, through this area of willow car. The two prolonged floods we have endured in the last couple of winters have significantly alter the flow regime through the top of the pool. Willows are being uprooted and falling into the river as it scours out the left bank at an increasing rate. The bank is quite boggy in one small area but the cattle have crossed it with ease, so I imagine its not beyond the realms of possibility to sort out the willow. The only drawback is the remoteness of this area that will require me getting the truck out across the meadows. I have to get out there at some point with timber to replace the bridge and stiles so perhaps an hour or two investigating what is possible might be time well spent.
The second photo shows the top of a horse chestnut that came down across the path to the weir. Fortunately no one was under it at the time. This does highlight another of the problems that the one dimensional actions of the local authority present us with. The triangle of land that contains those massive, poplars, chestnuts and London planes is a conservation area, deemed worthy of conservation due to their massive size, which is due to them growing in rich alluvial soil with inexhaustible water supply. Several years ago we had eight of those poplars blow down, with a clear-up cost running into multiple thousands of pounds. Since then several more poplars, a large chestnut and the London plane that was included in earlier entries on here as we winched the huge trunk across the weirpool. We have on three occasions had to bring in tree surgeons to remove dangerously hanging limbs and unbalanced limbs at a considerable cost. The preservation of these dangerous trees, at the end of their allotted span, has prevented us repairing the bank of the perched channel between the hatches. An area of eroded bank that should it breach will inundate the meadows downstream, drain the upstream perched channel and undercut the foundations on Ibsley Bridge. Once it breaches we will be able to undertake the work on grounds of health and safety, until such time we just sit twiddling our thumbs awaiting more huge limbs to crash down on whatever is unlucky enough to be below. Those trees exist because of the construction of the hatches and weirpools in the 18th century. It is young newly planted successors that require protection not these lethal old giants that now dictate and threaten the future of the very structures that brought about their existence. Only the myopic empires within the local authority could devise such an arse about face situation.
The odd couple.
This evening I parked at the lakes and walked down the left bank of the river to Dockens Pool. As with most of the pools at the moment it looked perfect and fished well, unfortunately with no response. From the look of the exposed sand and gravel only two sets of boot prints would point to this pool being very lightly fished. I can understand the reluctance to make the long walk necessary to reach the pool but for an hour in the evening a great way to end the day. At the bottom of Dockens Pool the Lifelands boundary bridge has been destroyed by the winter floods. Now the fields have dried as soon as I can get the JCB and some help we will rebuild it. I will also try and make some sense of the assault course the barbed wire fences create between the pools. Downstream of the bridge are the lifelands top shallows that are now becoming more exposed as the water level drops. The section below the shallows runs into Lifelands pool but has become over grown and unfishable. If I can find the time I will see if its possible to clear the left bank making the long run of potential holding water fishable once more.
Rarer than hens teeth, John Slader with a two pound roach from Mockbeggar. They have to be about the most frustrating fish we have on the Estate, we know they exist yet they refuse to be caught. As with the carp in Mockbeggar they have grown up on a natural diet, mostly involving blood worm and buzzers. The carp can be difficult enough but these roach are a totally different scale. There have been carp to over thirty out of Mockbeggar this season and Paul Arrowsmith, who was onhand to weigh John's roach, had four in his visit this weekend. If only the roach were that easy! Well done John, reward for your effort, thanks for the photos and the report.
Another master class from John a photo taken recently during the last few days over on Meadow. The shot is the take from a 28 pound common on the fly, the ultimate action shot. This fish upped John's fly caught PB from the 25 pounder the photo of which was included in an earlier entry.
I've been busy with some of the more distant salmon pools today, in the case above, "Dockens". This is a fabulous piece of fly water, some of the best on the Estate, unfortunately it is a bit of a hike from the car park. Having said that there is a lot of fishing to be had on the way down to it. In the first shot, looking downstream, the water upstream of the bush is shallow and streamy and is at its best now before the weed appears. Below the bush the deep water is on the inside with the fish under your feet. As you get down to where the Dockens Water enters on the far bank the water moves back into mid river for the fifty or so remaining meters to the tail of the pool. Make the most of it this time of year as the water begins to drop the fish will slow as they feel the shallows at the head of the pool.
Some of the pools you can fish on the way down to Dockens. The head of the "Middle Bend at Ashley" is deep and fishy. Its a great holding pool but difficuly to get the fly down to the fish at the head of the pool. As you pass the electricity poles the tail comes into view, which is easier to fish and does produce to the fly. There is a willow laying partly submerged on the far bank so be careful with your casting. There is almost a double tail to this pool as it kicks righthanded it narrows and runs up over a short fish holding section before breaking into the "Bottom Bend". The third shot is the "Bottom Bend" that runs down to almost a lin that breaks righthanded once more. The fish lay in the second half of the pool under the near bank, just before the lin, so a careful approach and presentation is required. It is a good big fish Pool, producing one or two surprises over the years. Once it clears the corner it runs into the shallows at the head of "Dockens", from where the first shot in the two above was taken.
I've changed banks with the two shots above. The first shows the tail of "Lifelands Pool" that now is fishable straight into "Above the Cut Through" I've clipped out the brambles that used to block the way and it makes a super piece of water. The snag that used to be at the end of the fence by the brambles seems to have been flushed away, if so it looks spot on as holding water. As with Dockens as the water drops running fish will pause in the pool as they feel the long run of shallows that come down from Dockens quarter of a mile upstream. The second shot shows the "Humps" cleaned out and just begging to be fished deep and slow.
I will endeavour to get the remainder of the pools sorted out as soon as possible and the second cut is also now required on some of the pools cleared earlier. I remain on flexible furlough, which is the reason the roads around the lakes remain rough and potholed and much of the tree work has been missed for the second year in succession. Despite the frustrations of the current working conditions we will get there eventually, please bear with us and it will all be fine in the end! I'm sure.
Congratulations to new rod Wayne Little, a great way to open your Somerley account. That second shot is such a great feeling, with a flick of his tail he disappeared upstream.
Thankfully the Lapwing sat through the hard frost we suffered last night. The birds on the nests actually look happier than the mate, hunched up beside the nearby splash. There were dozens of Snipe in the valley this morning along with a Great White Egret. I believe there were also seven Little Ringed Plover just south of where I took the Lapwing shots, along with the Snipe I imagine they are migrating north to their nesting grounds. Our project to enlarge the field south of the Harbridge road to benefit breeding waders, by removing the fences and changing the grazing agreements, looks as if its heading in the right direction.
If I get the opportunity over the next day or two I will try and visit the north marsh as that is a further area that will hopefully provide similar benefits for our breeding waders.
Its good to hear that fish are now coming out on fisheries throughout the Middle Avon. The pick of the bunch must be this superb looking cock fish in the thirty pound class by Martin Moyers, grassed on the Severals Fishery, just south of Ringwood. Stunning looking cock fish, classic Avon depth and width. The finest fish in the land, although I have to admit to being bias. Congratulations Martin, a classic fish from the famous Severals fishery, the fish of a lifetime. Many thanks for the photo and report, I'm sure all the diary readers will enjoy sharing your success and the sight of such a special fish.
Betsy meeting the Canada's for the first time proved pleasingly steady.
Congratulations Mike Hornsby, a great looking fourteen pound cockfish. Another with sealice, in this case at the root of the tail, so they are definitely rattling into the system. Thanks for the lovely photo and report, much appreciated.
A cold old welcome into the world for these Easter lambs. Cold isn't too bad for them, as long as they have an attentive ewe to feed and shelter them, its the wet that knocks them for six. Phil is currently flat out seeing to the rush of new arrivals and he could be that way for the next month or more. Romney's are a tough breed of sheep, thriving on the poor grazing arising from unimproved grassland that is a requirement of our Defra management agreements. They are also extremely good mothers and if left to their own devices lamb well outside. The hospital pens are all set up ready in the barn in the event one or two require a helping hand, hopefully they will not see too much use this Spring.
The odd looking tube in the background is the latest thinking in duck nest boxes that Kevin is trialling about the lakes and ponds. The single pole support prevents predation from below and the length of the tube reduces the risk of corvid losses. It will be interesting to see what our Mallard make of them.
He's back! GB35, who stopped over with us for a moth last autumn reappeared this evening. He looks well after his winter break in the sun, I assume he's heading back to his release site on the Knepp Estate in West Sussex. Pity we couldn't find him a mate as he looks well strutting about the Park.
An early entry today to spread the news that in between the four sticks a Mallard has built her nest. If you are fishing Harbridge Bend and particularly if you have a dog permit, please be aware of her position and give her as wide a berth as possible. I imagine she is fairly unflappable, having been stupid enough to build in the middle of the path but please do your best to remember where she is. Thanks to David Lambert for the photo and letting me know, lets hope she is soon to hatch her clutch of eggs and be on her way.
A second shot from David showing sealice still attached to a salmon of about eight pounds he landed this morning. Interesting in that the lice drop off after forty eight hours in fresh water and lose their tails after twenty four hours in. On that basis this fish has reached us on the second day in the river. Its the first I have seen this season but all the fish so far landed have been very fresh most if not all less than a week in the system. The other interesting point about this fish is the weight. At about eight pounds that is small for this time of year. Is it our first grilse or a small 2SW fish. My money would be on a small 2SW fish, had it been a grilse this early I would not have expected it to weigh more than four or five pounds, having left the high seas feeding grounds so early. Well done on the fish David and thanks again for the photo.
Many thanks to Sue Loader for the photograph and letting me know of this recent sighting of a Cattle Egret at Ibsley. As far as I am aware and certainly for me, this is the first record we have of Cattle Egret at Somerley. They are now becoming increasingly common down on the coast yet seem slow to move inland. Hopefully, as with the Little Egret and increasingly the Great White, they will soon be a regular sight in the valley.
The second shot shows the first brood of Egyptian Geese up on the restoration lakes. I fear this will be the first of many as these attractive birds seem to be about in every increasing numbers this year. They are extremely attentive parents and their success rate is extremely high.
I'm delighted to say the official start of the butterfly counting season began today. If nought else it'll give readers a break from all those humungus fish. I only hope we have a decent summer with no prolonged north winds or blistering droughts. Warm, sunny days and rainy nights, to keep the river topped up, would seem about right!
Thats what a 25 pound Avon Springer looks like. Congratulations Alex, simply magnificent.
That makes it seven fish landed at the end of March, four of them twenties. We haven't enjoyed a start like that since 2016, fingers crossed the flow remains decent and we continue to have fish running into the river throughout the Summer.
The first trip of the year.
The rule in red is contained in the coarse river syndicate rules and regulations. For reasons I don't fully understand I have failed to included this rule in the salmon Rules and Regulations, which I will remedy next season. In the meantime could I request members DO NOT fish from the unclipped side of pools as it is nesting season and the birds are now brooding in the reedbeds and uncut margins. 3. During the bird nesting season (March – August) no excessive clearing of bankside vegetation, with reed beds out of bounds. Please consider areas such as the left bank of Harbridge Bend, left bank of Ellingham Bridge Pool and similar over grown margins out of bounds during the nesting season. I appreciate I am a little late in getting all the pools clipped out due to the floods and work elsewhere on the Estate, if in doubt please give me a call.
Tony Myatt playing a good fish at the tail of Blashford. I happened to be on hand to do the honours by an odd set of circumstances. It was such a lovely evening I had stuck the rod in the car and headed for the river to spend an hour having a look for a salmon in the reduced light of the evening. I wanted to call at Meadow to see how the carp guys were faring and after having a chat with one or two to catch-up on events I drove around to the river car park intending to walk across to Island Run. I could see a rod was already down at the tail of Blashford so I decided not to bother with fishing the run I would just walk over for a chat to see how he had got on today. I suppose its about two hundred meters across to the tail of Blashford from the footbridge and I was about three quarters of the way across when over arched the rod and whoever it was had a fish on. In a further stride or two I could see it was Tony Myatt, down for his first visit on the easing of travel restrictions. Tony had hooked the fish vitually on the last cast in the pool and walked it back into the steadier deeper water slightly higher up the bank. A spirited fight and we soon had his prize safely engulfed up in the net.
The result of his effort showing Tony with a 38" twenty plus, sparkling cock fish, classic Avon Springer. Congratulations Tony, an absolute beauty. It did show a little fin damage and one or two marks on its flanks. Very difficult to decide what may have caused them, nets or lice but it certainly didn't detract from the beauty of that stunning fish. Whilst the fight was spirited it was well dealt with and a very lively fish was soon returned to hopefully reach the redds in nine months time.
Tony wasn't the only member making his first visit of the year, Andy Jackson managed to fit in a night to open his seasons campaign. His reward, a lovely brace of commons to welcome him back. Well fished Andy great result, it was good to see you back on the bank. The lake also produced for another Andy with Andy Hemmings getting amongst the fish landing seven during last night and today, two of those being thirty plus. He's also got just onother night and tomorrow to add to that impressive total before we shut up shop for the close season.
The Butterbur flowers are well above ground, to seek the pollinators before the large leaves appear to hide them and blot out the sun. I believe the plant aquired its name through the large leaves being used to wrap butter in an effort to keep it cool in warm weather.
Very few rods out today and I haven't heard of any further fish. Its an odd experience to still be in March with a real chance of a fish or two being in the river, lets hope the season continues in a similar fashion. I could have put up further photos of Hampshire County Council bird scarers marching about out with the Lapwing but I am fed-up of posting them on here. I think I might send them direct to Hampshire CC and Natural England in future and copy in one or two other interested parties.
One or two other nice birds dotted about the estate today perhaps the pick of which was our first Osprey of the Spring. I would have said he was migrating back to the nest sites in Scotland and the north of England but I can't say that as he was heading south! Possibly one of the Poole Harbour released birds returning or a northern bird looking to stop over for a day or two during his travels. Other bits and bobs in the shape of a Great White Egret, a couple of Green Sandpiper, several Snipe and a superb male Marsh Harrier.
A record shot taken across the river by Mike Hornsby showing that Bob Stone can still find them with a bright twelve pounder on his first visit of the season. Congratulation Bob, great start. Missed you this time hope to catch-up when you're next down. Thanks for the photo Mike, that's twice, perhaps third time lucky it will be your turn. It certainly looks as if the 2SW fish are now running, which will hopefully see numbers increase a little.
Just an update on yesterday's entry with a shot of James with a 26 that was the result of a double hook-up yesterday coming at the same time as the 37 pounder. The "fish in a net" is an eleven or twelve pounder caught by new rod this season, Sean English, on his first visit, hopefully a good omen for the rest of his season and making up a little for yesterday's losses. Congratulations Sean, good to meet you today. Its been an interesting Spring with about sixteen fish being hooked and four actually grassed. That would point to a very good early run and losses a little above what I would have hoped for but at least providing plenty of encouragement.
A further frustration I failed to mention yesterday were a couple of clowns with drones launching from the middle of the highway at Ibsley Bridge and over flying the SSSI/SPA, where the Lapwing are currently nesting. Not the fault of Hampshire County Council on this occasion but about the same consideration of the environment, un-bloody-believable!
Lovely fish James, a great looking 37 plus. The middle shot is a new design for a Loop, ten piece, travel rod. I'm not sure our syndicate member has quite got the idea how they are meant to pack away! I would have put a photo of a salmon up next but as there were three hooked and lost today, I didn't have one, so you got a shot of Brian apply sidestrain to a large carp he hooked fishing the float in the margins. It also came off! I think Brian believes I knocked it off with the net. "Honest Guv' I never touched it!
It looks as if the travel restrictions are lifted from the 29th and night fishing is also once more allowed. It will be good to see our out of town salmon and stillwater members on the bank once more. It would also be nice if the local members, who have enjoyed access throughout the lockdown, took the weekend off to let our travellers a relaxed first visit of the season.
A few of our local birds in the shape of a Black-tailed Godwit and one of our white cock birds looking particularly picturesque out in the dafs. I have left the duck splashes to drain naturally as the Godwit and several Snipe are enjoying the slowly exposing fresh mud. On the meadows I did a quick count of our waders on the newly created large meadow at Ibsley. There were also a dozen of our thirty or so Egyptian Geese out on the meadows making for an odd looking flock. In a very quick count I found eleven pairs of Lapwing and two pairs of Redshank in established territories. During the five minutes I did my count the Lapwing were noisily mobbing a Crow, the Redshank were piping in the wet grassland and to add a few top notes two Skylark were singing overhead, the perfect water meadows backing track.
A couple more shots of misuse of the footpath from the last couple of days, two of four events if I include the witless couple in the canoe. Not deliberate in both cases in the photos, just totally ignorant! Just as the waders arrive, the path is slowly drying out and the Great British Public arrived on cue. Six months unuseable and a repeat of last summers disaster looks on the cards. Those claiming to protect the environment in Hampshire County Council and Natural England should hang their heads in shame.
No salmon to report today, although we did have a couple of paddlers! An unfortunate sign of things to come I fear. When I came across them they were bashing their way through the hedge dragging their canoe behind them, total disregard for the damage to private property. Same old same old, total ignorance of either common or environmental law, the alternative is that they are aware and just don't give a damn and lie through their teeth when challenged, totally depressing.
On a brighter note I see that Woody has changed swims, although a similar result, seen here with a 35+ common. Nice one Woody, congratulations and thanks for the photos.
The other photo is the early construction of a beautiful Long-tailed Tits nest. It is the lower cup of the nest, with the top and entrance still to be added with yet more lichen and moss to finish the job. This is one of probably a dozen such nests dotted around the lakes, fingers crossed the Jays and Magpies don't find them all.
Congratulations Peter, lovely fresh cock fish of fifteen or sixteen pounds. Reward for yours efforts, proving they do exist and its not some fishy conspiracy!
Apologies if you have been held up by the traffic lights at Ibsley. They are there to protect the "Treemenders" as they pollard the willows and remove the dead and dying elms that are threatening to fall in the busy road. Hopefully only a further couple of days and we should be clear.
I fear the sunny day brought out the usual members of the GBP and their disregard for the Common and Environmental law of the land. I would like to point out at this juncture that carrying a camera, pair of binoculars or a mobile phone doesn't negate your personal responsibility under the law of the land. Your respect for the Estate property and our wildlife would be enormously appreciated and not using the public footpath unless you are suitably clad to deal with the floods. Deviating from the designated route to by-pass flooding puts the fragile breeding Lapwing and Redshank population of the meadows at risk. Hampshire County Council would do well to look at the problem now the waders are attempting to establish territories. Whilst I appreciate HCC don't consider breeding waders worthy of protection I would point out the path they are so intent on protecting has been unusable due to flooding for twelve of the last eighteen months. During the entire period the path users have been using the road, involving a far greater extent than that the alternative route we proposed. The road HCC said was unsuitable! Or of course they simply trespass to get around the flood, forcing Lapwing from their territories as they wander about the valley. You couldn't write such a thing, it takes the likes of Hampshire County Council and Natural England to create such a balls-up in undoing the good the EU Life funding created!
One surprise I discovered today as that the Dace were yet to spawn, vast numbers were negotiating the hatches yesterday evening as they were heading upstream on their annual spawning migration. One or two huge dace, bulging with spawn, could be seen nosing into the flow. Within a day or two they will be dropping back downstream, from the gravel shallows where they spawned, their bodies now transformed from smooth, polished silver to rough to the touch scaley coats.
Almost the only piece of dry bank on the entire river I spent the best part of the day clearing "Below the Cut Through" and "The Pipe" above the weir at Ringwood. My task was made a great deal easier today as I have the use of a self propelled brush cutter, thanks to syndicate member Dennis Keith. I'm still getting to grips with the machine but it certainly made cutting the connecting paths a lot easier than with the strimmer. If you do get down to the weir and fish "The Pipe" don't forget that at the head of the pool, above the point from where I took the photo, there are the overhead power cables.
Harbridge Meadows still in flood.
The final day of the river coarse season has seen far fewer members out on the banks than we might have expected under more normal circumstances. The lucky few that live close at hand and are able to get to the river have enjoyed some great fishing despite the water remaining in the fields and several inches of silt covering the banks. I did even manage a couple of hours with the rods myself this afternoon, unfortunately I didn't find the perch I was hoping to round off the season. It was also a WeBS day that required me rising well before six o'clock this morning to be out and about as the day broke. It also meant that when I sat down beside the large eddy I was hoping to find my perch there was a greater chance of me falling asleep if sport was slow!
Tom rounding off his season in style with a bag of chub on the float. As well as the chub the bream have put in an end of season appearance with Steve and Martin both landing in the order of ten fish a piece to over seven pounds.
The river coarse season may have closed but the stillwater remain open as young George proved with one of our lovely fully scaled mirrors. Cracking fish George, really well done. When dad sent the photo through he forgot to say what he had landed! I'm sure I'll hear when we next meet on the bank.
One of several small groups of roe that were about early this morning, in this instance four bucks of varying ages and one doe. The bucks may still be in velvet and the rut several months away yet they were jousting, pushing and chasing, getting quite territorial with just the one doe in attendance.
A pic or two from today in the shape of Pintail out on the floods, juveniles now demanding feeding in the heronry and a red kite collecting some very smelly carrion from the silt out on the flooded meadows.
Some of the hundreds of Wigeon and Teal on the lakes today. There were also Pochard, Tufted and Mallard dotted about in the flock making for quite sight.
Well done Woody, result! Added to the 30+ Woody also had two or three twenties during his visits this week. I hope the photo doesn't give away the swim where you enjoyed such success, thanks for the photos greatly appreciated.
Gavin has been looking for our pike this week and managed to find some cracking fish to round off the river season. The fish captured have been out several pounds heavier in recent months so it looks as if the pike are well into their spawning. Good to see them looking so well after the rigors of spawning but it does mean we are unlikely to see a mega hen on the bank this season. Thanks for the pix and the report Gavin a magic end to the season.
We are forecast heavy rain and very strong wind over the next couple of days, making conditions difficult. With the wet we are forecast warmer conditions so we may just see the barbel join in with the chub over the last couple of days of the season. Those of you living locally enough to get to us for your exercise and brave enough to face the bank high river I wish you good luck and tightlines. All the many members stuck at home unable to get to us I can only sympathise and hope to see you in the new season when hopefully Covid will be just an unpleasant memory.
The salmon members have been out trying to add to Colin's efforts. Unfortunately no further fish on the bank, we have however had several lost that seem to be of a similar good size. The rain of the next couple of days, running into the Springs at the end of the week, will hopefully see a further run of fish into the system so fingers crossed we add to the returns book in the coming week.
A thirty for Dave. Great stuff Dave and many thanks for the photo's and report.
I wouldn't swear to it but I think Robert is in there somewhere!
I heard from Colin again today! Don't panic he's not landed another. Yet! What he did tell me was that in the last few days, as well as his two salmon, he has landed barbel over thirteen pounds, chub over six pounds and a pike, all taking the fly fair and square. What is quite amazing about that is the fact they were all on the same fly and the same hook, that is the exact same fly, not the same pattern. It also adds further evidence for the effectiveness of the swing tube circle hooks. Colin has fished circles at sea for several years and had fished the river with them last year. I think his results to date this season speak for themselves, with even the pike being hooked in the scissors. I'll sort out the various hook patterns that are proving successful and put them up on here. If you do give them a go don't forget to let me know how you got on.
An update for the stillwater members in that "Duck 2" is now back in action. The two dangerous willows have been removed and are now safely stacked on the bank.
Dom has been out for a couple of hours roving about with his flake set up enjoying further reward. On this occasion a seven pound chub in stunning condition, Avon chub are simply mid blowing at present. Salmon rods Danny and Alex were on the scene to enjoy the capture of this Avon prize. A river in tip-top form that never ceases to amaze. Many thanks Dom, another great fish and much appreciated report.
High Water Spinning
We have now received notification from the EA that the byelaw dispensation allowing high water spinning, at flows above 1.18m at the East Mills flume at 04:00am on the day in question, is now in position.
In light of this we have decided to permit spinning when these conditions are met on the stretches of main river, upstream of Ibsley Weir, including the Bridge Pool and downstream of the Old Weir at Ashley, including Ashley Straight. The remainder of the fishery between these two points will remain fly only until 15th May in accordance with the existing byelaw.
Just having posted the above I received one of those magical calls again from Colin. Almost a repeat performance with his second twenty of the new season. Almost identical fish, hooked in the perfect fashion and returned beautifully. Congratulations Colin, another perfect result.
28th February 2021
Everything is changing, the Curlew and the Redshank are arriving as the Wigeon, Shoveler and Gadwall get set for departure. Its a little disappointing that it is only now that the marsh has become shallow enough for the dabbling ducks to make use of it. They'll be here for a week or two and then gone. I suppose if we get the conditions correct the summer visitors will make up for those we miss. More and more Lapwing each day are becoming territorial, the first Redshank have arrived as the Snipe and Curlew are moving through on their way north to the breeding grounds. It would be good to see if we have any Snipe remain on the marsh this year, fingers crossed a pair take the plunge and remain with us to breed.
The most populous duck on the marsh today were the Gadwall, with over one hundred and thirty dabbling with the Wigeon or making their courtship flights in circles around the flood. Every year we have a pair or two that stop with us to breed it will be interesting to see how numbers vary as the impact of climate change impact our valley. Two or three Little Egret, dozens of Grey Heron and a couple of Great White Egret, one resident I don't look so favourably upon are our Crows, as soon as the Lapwing arrive there presence on the marsh seems to increase proportionly. The swans are arriving from the meadows outside of the valley where they have been feeding since first light, mid morning and they return to the safety of the marsh.
About the Estate on both river and lakes the Great Crested Grebe are staking their territories with all the deep grunting, diving and chasing. I think we have about fourteen pairs on the Estate and I find them a good measure of what type of Summer we have. If its a wet summer they risk being flooded out, if they suffer disturbance they abandon or have their nests predated, fingers crossed we get a more benign Spring and Summer than of recent years. There are five grebe in that photo, the one closest to the island is just surfacing. The last shot is a small sawbilled diving duck that should have left a week or two ago when the weather began to warm.
27th February 2021
A buff-tailed queen on the gorse.
Every thing was out enjoying the unseasonal warmth today. That is a proper deer in the shape of a roe doe enjoying the warmth of today's sunshine. Whilst I am not a fan of deer our roe population is at far lower levels than the marauding herds of fallow we have to suffer. They may spread ticks that will undoubtedly spend the summer looking for me but I would hate to walk the lakes without the roe deer as company. This doe was sat completely in the open and watched as I walked within twenty meters of her without stirring, a delightful moment on such a special February day. The Comma and Peacock butterflies appeared around the lakes today adding to the Spring like feel. Up on the marsh the Curlew have arrived as they do each year around this time. I always wonder if they are the birds from the Forest or are they heading further north? I notice that Forestry England are closing certain car parks and trying to establish low disturbance areas where waders have nested in previous years. Good idea but if the GBP are involved I fear for the outcome.
26th February 2021
The water is slowly falling back, allowing me to get to one or two of the salmon pools and start the belated clear up. The first thing to note in the photos above is the blue of the sky, its not photographically enhanced, that's exactly as it was mid morning today. A simply stunning day to be out in the valley. Before lunch I took the strimmer for a walk from Penmeade down to the bridge at the inception of the Kings Stream, at the tail of Below the Breakthrough. Penmeade used to produce its fair number of fish, these days it seems extremely boily and it hasn't produced a fish for many seasons. I fear it's a case of mans interference once more cocking it up. Penmeade, where I started, used to run the other side of the copse on the left bank. For reasons known only to himself one of my predecessors decided to dig it the other way around the copse with the result as we see it today being overly boily on the inside. It may be difficult but Nature will correct the meddling and one day fish will hold there again, so if you have the time give it a go, you just never know. The photos I have included look far more inviting, the first looking upstream from the top of Blashford Island along the length of the Swan Island Pool. A great looking pool that's crying out to be fished and I'm sure its a holding pool, it may be a bit of a hike but I'm sure it will produce before too long. It can only be fished from the right bank, the trees that used to stand on the old Swan Island block the left side of the channel and from the deep head of the pool, under the near bank, to the wide tail just above Blashford Island all look perfect. I did land a seatrout of five or six pounds just above the island ayear or two ago. I think it was early June, I was fishing a small Silver Stoat hoping for a grilse, the weed was late that season allowing reasonable fishing and out of the blue, on a bright sunny afternoon it joined in. I never have been able to understand Avon seatrout they are most definitely a law unto themselves. Third shot is below Blashford Island where the wide tail is looking more inviting each year as more flow takes the right channel. It has produced several fish in recent years and in the current high water looks an ideal resting place for a tired Springer. Third and forth need no comment other than to say they are Above and Below the Breakthrough, on their day in the right conditions, as good a salmon pools as you will find anywhere on the Avon.
A beautiful day that did its best to dispell the horror of this terrible pandemic, hopefully, as a taste of better times ahead there were a couple of these gems around the lakes today.
25th February 2021
To ensure a balance between the species, a great shot of Woody with a cracking looking 30+. A fabulous winter capture, well done Woody, just reward for your efforts.
A look at today's goings on in the shape of a view across the South Marsh from the edge of the gravel escarpment. The rotten ash in the foreground along with several other massive misshapen sticks are deliberately left to act as invertebrate habitat. Centre shot shows Kevin adding some of the latest thinking in Mallard nest tubes. Safe from ground predators it will be interesting to see how a couple of dozen of this design will help the duck population. On the right a shot of the shallows in one of the carriers showing a gathering of caddis. Just why they should have decided to get together there is a mystery but good to see the carriers coming back to life after the cold and floods of recent months.
24th February 2021
One pair of the two pairs of Lapwing that have already established their territories at Ibsley. His mate is settle low in the grass to the left of shot. They are already turning in tight circles to practice making their nest bowl. The cock birds chase and dive bomb any passing crows or perceived threats entering their realm. Hampshire County Council will do their best to bugger it up but nothing surprises me with our regulators and local authorities now a days. The second shot I took today whilst clearing brash around the lakes. We wouldn't seem to be making much headway in reducing fallow numbers, its proving extremely trying with an unrestricted population the other side of the fence out on the forest! The doe immediately to the left of the white doe has lost its rear lower left leg, probably a fence entanglement, which is the most common cause of injury. Its been like that for at least three years so it seems to be managing okay.
22nd February 2021
Just a quick shot to post the news that Colin Morgan has landed our first of the year. I was delighted to be on hand to do the honours with the net and enjoy the release. Danny also managed to join us to see the classic 20+ Avon Springer. Hopefully Danny will send through video of the release that is worth seeing and I'll give a little more background to Colin's wonderful capture. Congratulations Colin, I feel privileged to have witnessed such a fish.
A few more shots of Colin and his Springer. Sorry Colin, the shots aren't as clear as might have been, due to having the camera on the wrong setting and being too buggered to check having just run about a mile through the floods. Whilst they don't do justice to the fish they are a record of a superb fish. Taken on a Posh Tosh tube, fished in combination with a Partridge semi-circle on a swing tube. Perfectly hooked in the lower jaw unhooking was as simple as one could wish for. Landing in the high water with the small mesh conservation net was testing but managed without hitch after a fight of twenty minutes. Beautifully rested for probably half an hour, a couple of quick shots and Danny's video below shows the release.
Lovely release, after twenty or thirty minutes rest in cold, well oxygenated water, the perfect departure.
If you have an hour don't forget Ringwood weir, especially with the water at this height and the possibility of running fish. I was down there earlier today and it looked absolutely spot on just up from the sycamore tree.
As a matter of interest its now 10:30pm and I've just got in from there again as I popped out to shine the torch across the river at a swim that has obviously seen some attention of late. Hopefully its a syndicate member and I've just not been about when they have been fishing. Its the swim on the opposite bank from the electricity sub station, just upstream of the cables crossing the river. If you have been fishing that spot of late I would appreciate a call just to allay my suspicions about poachers.
Before all the excitement of this afternoon I was over at the lakes desperately trying to get the tidying up completed before the end of the month. Its the accepted BMP that all tree and scrub work should be completed by the end of March. I always feel that as climate change produces the warmer winters of recent decades thats leaving it too late and I always do my best to get finished by the end of February. Obviously the river renmains in flood and the salmon pools will be finished when I can get to them. The saving grace here is that very few birds will try and nest with the flooded conditions currently to be found out there. The first shot above shows the island where we try and preserve the lichen and moss lawn that is quite a scarce nutrient poor habitat in the area. Since we have cleared the self set birch and brambles the lichen has pleasingly gone from strength to strength. The middle shot show where we leave some of the meadow grass to stand over the winter and just remove self set scrub. This provides a further habitat that shelters many invertebrates that are becoming increasingly rare in our over populated valley. Third on the right can be seen a few meters of the several hundred meters of dead hedges that have become havens for our nesting resident song birds. Not that they are very dead, the hedges that is, they have now thickend up to the extent they require cutting back each winter. Between the hedges and the phragmites beds we clear the scrub from the reed and rush beds leaving between 250mm and 500mm standing. This creates an overstory beneath which our voles and water rails can live in peace hidden from the ever searching eyes of the Marsh Harrier and Barn Owl.
The margins and channels around Brenda's phragmites beds cleared of scrub and tidied up in readiness for the return of her warblers.
This is a fair example of the compensation scheme I believe should exist to protect our fisheries. How much is that fish worth? How many paying members will fail to rejoin if the pike are all predated. Those same paying members that pay for the maintenance and the upkeep of the heavily modified river. Heavily modified is the classification of the Avon due to its vast network of perched channels and water meadows. We hear all the hot air spouted by the conservation world about the value of nature, well there's a direct cost. Whilst its always sad to see the demise of such a beautiful specimen, in this case a known fish of just over 25 pounds, it can be absorbed by a fishery the size of Somerley. We have several other pike in excess of 25 about the river at present so its not a total disaster. Smaller fisheries and fisheries that are not fortunate enough to have an established and balanced otter population suffer catastrophic financial loss through the loss of such fish and the knock on effect of losing members. The carp world is impacted to an even greater extent, where otters become preoccupied on the easy meals available, yet not a bean is available to compensate for the loss. A loss that comes as a direct result of statutory protection of the species involved. This is not a plea to remove that protection, far from it, I firmly believe it remains essential to safeguard our river apex predators. My strongly held view is that the fisheries that suffer those losses should be compensated in exactly the same way as the farmers who suffer losses of stock brought about by badgers through bovine TB culls. Oddly it was the indiscriminate use of DDT and other poorly research pesticides in the farming world that brought about the otter population crash in the first place. As it stands not only do the fisheries lose their stock, lose the paying fishermen and fail to get any protection from the government, society and the farming world fill our rivers with poison and shit. It might be seen as just rubbing salt in the wounds. We can't blame Bozo and his motley crew, they simply don't have a clue what is happening in the countryside. It comes down to our representatives, the bodies that purport to represent angling, it is those august bodies that need to get their finger out and make the case to defra and the minister.
21st February 2021
Believe it or not the river is creeping back into the channel and with a week or two of dry weather forecast fingers crossed we get back to something resembling normality in the not too distant future. Looking at the North Marsh at Hucklesbrook its difficult to ever believe it will dry out again. Overall it remains too deep for the waders, with the exception of the very northern fields where large numbers of Lapwing await the river returning to normal. The first pair of Oyster catchers of the year can just be seen sitting it out on one of the exposed banks and the Great Crested Grebe can't believe its luck in finding such a perfect lake. I only hope the grebe doesn't do as those that attempted to nest out of the channel last year discovered, when the meadows drained they were left sitting high and dry and had to abandon their nest.
Lapwing at Ibsley being harried by a Peregrine forcing them high into the air. Whether these are migrants visiting due to cold weather in the east or local birds its impossible to say. Where ever they originated they are a more than welcome sight in the valley, the 300+ in the photo are just one of several flocks that are currently with us. If you are out and about in the valley we do have a pair of Marsh Harriers that seem to be with us most days. A dramatic looking pair as they drift in and out of the reedbeds well worth keeping an eye out in the hope of a fly-past.
Talking of fly-pasts, I had my first bumblebee queens on the wing today. I spotted two, unfortunately too far away to get a good ID but I think they were probably Buff-tailed. If the forecast warm weather arrives this week I hope they will be the first of many.
19th February 2021
I received the following information from a diary reader who also followed the mission for Mars.
Sadly the news from the joint Environment Agency, Natural England, English Nature and Hampshire Wildlife Trust mission to purchase a Mars bar from Tesco is less inspiring. It seems they did not deploy enough paper work to bring their electric car to a halt in the Tesco car park. A shopping trolley was dented and there will now be a full impact assessment.
Thankfully the crew survived, but they then found they had forgotten their money and mobile phones. Fortunately a shopper called NASA and they hope to launch a rescue mission led by the AA this afternoon.
A mission spokesman said that the whole team is very disappointed; it is the first time that they have failed to stop a project with paperwork. When asked about the condition of the crew he reported that they were in good spirits and relieved that the crash had prevented them from getting cold and wet doing field work.
18th February 2021
Congratulations NASA, simply stunning achievement. Best live TV of the decade.
17th February 2021
Many thanks to Dominic for sending through this fabulous photo of his latest capture. A big twenty, on a lure, amidst the Avon in full flood, it can't get much better than that. Dom had this fish some time ago and I wasn't going to show the photo as the risk of depresssing those that don't live locally may result. Having thought about it and seen the current state of the river that is still the width of the flood plain, I think the delight in seeing such wonder fish outweighs the risk of depressing you all. It certainly cheers me up to see such a specimen and hear of Dom's success. Great result Dom and thanks again for the super photo.
15th February 2021
I'm sure many of our chub regulars will be pleased to see this wonderful fish, weighing in at 7-12, captured by Gavin Barrett, to whom I am indebted for the photograph. The chub have remained active throughout the cold snap and now the temperatures are forecast to rise fingers crossed the water will drop a little and allow us a good finish of the coarse season. Congratulations Gavin, great capture and thanks again for the photo.
14th February 2021
WeBS day requiring an early start to get around the various lakes and the river. With ice cover remaining over several sheltered corners of the lakes and bits and pieces of the meadows add that much of the northern valley still too deep for waders it was a difficult day. Not a great deal to note with the highlight being a redhead Smew. During hard weather Smew do occasionally show up in the valley, once this cold snap is over in the coming days I imagine this bird will head back to its more northern haunts.
I did spot one hardy member out trotting for chub and I hope he caught a hat full as reward for his efforts in getting out to the river.
13th February 2021
A couple of shots from todays visit to the valley. Under the Sparrowhawk in the first there's a Redwing that wasn't quick enough to avoid becoming the main meal of the day. The second shot is a little vague in that it shows steadily rising smoke over the forest that for all the world looked like more heather burning.
12th February 2021
I was also going to add the link to the news that the government road building programme is being waved through by the minister, overriding official advice related to the environmental impact re the Paris agreement. I think to have done so might bring on bouts of environmental depression. I fear this is just the tip of the ice-berg the current regime is impervious to scientific advice, cynically side stepping or ignoring it if it doesn't suit their private agenda. The other question the link above raises is just why I have to discover this through a FOI request submitted by the Guardian?
10th February 2021
That was definitely a cold start to the day and Gary deserves a thirty pounder at least for getting out there covering the water in search of a Springer.
9th February 2021
The river is behaving well, in that its not doing much, the ground water from the aquifer is still holding the water height out in the meadows. The chippers are in clearing some of the stacks of prepared timber and the frost has hardened the ground sufficiently to move the chip without doing too much damage. Once everybody was set up and running smoothly I had the opportunity to get an hour or two cutting some stakes and strainers for the fencing about the lakes. I think of coppicing along the same lines as my strimming, turning ancient over grown hazel and sweet chestnut back into productive stools is enormously satisfying, with the same added advantage as the strimmer in that the chainsaw drowns out the mobile. I only wish I could find more time to work on these ancient woodlands, with a lively fire from the offcuts to keep the icy north east wind at bay.
That single oak has been selected, from a small clump I planted as whips in the early 90's, to form the new over-story hopefully to stand above the hazel coppice for the next two hundred years. Fence posts and strainers from the sweet chestnut that hasn't been coppiced for over a century.
If that's a shepherds hut on the move it looks as if lambing may be with us before too long.
5th February 2021
The river remains boringly high, still out in the meadows making life tedious. The hatch gate, fry sanctuary and carrier bridge can all be found within a few meters of the still flooded car park at Ellingham. One or two syndicate members have been braving the elements with one or two marvellous fish to show for their efforts, more of which later in the season. Unfortunately but hardly surprisingly, we have yet to see the first salmon on the bank. The visibility should improve in the coming days as we are forecast drier, colder weather if that is so the chances of a fish will hopefully look up.
I should have paired this shot with the one above on the left but I'm too idle to redo the html! The shots are from above and below the same gate showing the head of water that has to be retained by opening and closing the gates to achieve the flow desired down the water meadow laterals. Open an inch too much and the upper meadow will drain, closed too much and the lower meadow wont have sufficient water to flood, in this case if you look closely you can see we are working with about 300mm. Basically thats all that's involved with the control of water levels, be they hatches such as the main gates at Ibsley or the foot wide lateral ditches out on the meadows. In a long run of water meadows with multiple gates, the difficulty comes from finding sufficient flow through all the gates involved without inundating or draining a section. It also gets a little more complicated when the flow in the main channel inception rises or falls altering the initial head of water, or backing up the lower meadows, which requires all the dependent gates to be reset. Just when you get it as you wish along comes a request to drain a meadow for grazing in the Spring or flood a duck splash in the Autumn. All with the overriding consideration not to flush your sheltering juvenile fish or flood the hay meadows with the nesting waders.
There are seventy four Lapwing sat out in the meadows at Harbridge waiting for the floods to retreat to allow them to get on with selecting their territories for the coming nesting season. I associate the pee wit call of the Lapwing with the Avon valley meadows in the Springtime. The very best of the salmon season is accompanied by their calls and displays as they see off the local Crows and if you're really lucky the accompanying piping of the Redshank.
2nd February 2021
Sorry there has been no confirmation about early season high water spinning as we had not heard anything from the EA. I can now confirm there will be NO EARLY SEASON HIGH WATER SPINNING THIS YEAR. The disapplication of the byelaw has not been put in place.
Its a pity I didn't know before lunch when I showed these five itinerant poachers off the bank. They didn't know they were poaching, despite the signs, as they weren't from the area. I could have informed them they were not only poaching but spinning illegally! Not that it would have made a jot of difference, they didn't have a licence between them. Hopefully they didn't have a new variant either!
1st February 2021
I did spot half a dozen rods out to welcome the first day, which was good to see. You'll have to forgive me for not wading out to say hello, I'll wait until things are a little less dramatic and catch up in more comfort. Those of you that did venture out found a very big river waiting to greet you. With such water any fish that are about will have no trouble getting up to us, making the effort a little more enticing. Having said that I didn't get any desperate phone calls pleading for help as the first Springer of the year headed back to sea! I hadn't thought of it previously but it may be worth trying to meet up with a fellow rod to fish with to help in the event you do find a fish. Trying to land a big fish on your own in that water will be testing to say the least. Should you hook a fish on your own make sure you have my number handy as with this water I will probably get to you long before you land it.
30th January 2021
In light of the salmon season getting underway on Monday perhaps an update on the state of the river might be opportune. First and foremost the river is still rising and we have more rain forecast, which means this lot is only going to get worse. If you are intending to wet a line caution and safety first is the only approach, a couple of hours should more than scratch that itch. Remember the fields have numerous ditches hidden beneath the water that are currently too deep to wade even in chesties.
As far as Covid is concerned you are permitted to fish for your exercise and if you get out in that lot you will certainly get plenty of that. You are allowed to meet up with one other household outside ensuring you adhere to social distancing recommendations. Unfortunately, as with the first lockdown, the Salmon Lodge will not be available until further notice. Good luck and once it looks more user friendly I hope to meet up with many of you on the bank in the new season. At an acceptable social distance of course.
The latest Catch 22 Report.
You can tell its still bloody raining, I've been sat in front of my screens giving vent to some of my latest frustrations. Leading on from my ramblings the other day I have been thinking about the more immediate, local face of our enforcement agencies. My world is now confined to the Hampshire Avon Valley and it is, of course, this catchment that I feel is in dire need of further protection. This is probably the case across the country but I hide away in the Avon Valley and watch the rest of the world go by. In reality I'm from a generation that has created most of the problems our valley faces. One of the few certainties in this world is that I will not be here to bear the full consequences, or see the correction of our failure to safeguard our environment.
As we go about our daily routines alongside the river there are concerns and fears that appear on a regular basis. We see the changes that are occurring in the valley wildlife and the fluctuations in the fish populations of the river. The extended periods of flooding and the increasing disturbance by the Great British Public at play, concerns are wide and varied. In many instances just what the drivers are behind these fluctuations and cycles we don't even recognise. We have basic instincts, or gut feelings, that point to certain factors but isolating and proving those feelings is an immense task in most instances well beyond the individual. I have watched numerous studies and research projects run for decades and at the end of the day fail to arrive at any firm conclusion or unchallengeable findings. Are the findings subsequently viewed as time wasted or valuable in that they add a further link to our chain of knowledge. What most provide is the need for more research and funding. What they will not do without conclusive findings are persuade the commercial world, or government ministers, to act in the interests of the river. Certainly not if it risks loss to the share holders, exchequer or unpalatable political measures such as raised bills for the voters.
Back to those gut feelings and just what we do about them. The list of concerns is pretty daunting and ever increasing. Societies input alone is enough to make you despair; STW discharge, abstraction, micro-plastics, endocrine disruptors, phosphates, nitrates it goes on and on. Add in impacts such as climate change and species population dynamics and it becomes a complete maze.
A complete review of the current departments involved in catchment management is pretty much a sledge hammer approach. Flood defence, discharge consent, abstraction consent, Natural England. Where do we look for the change we need to make. Just how we get to the bottom of this lot is the very crux of all the heated debate that we see going on around the internet.
A good starting point might be to make ALL planners legally obliged to enforce the “precautionary principle” where the potential for adverse environmental impact may exist. Make planning advice provided by the EA and NE legally binding so we don't see the disregard for flood plains and flood risk until its too late and those involved are weeping about their flooded carpets. The onus of ensuring no adverse impact, to a standard approved by the regulators, to fall on those seeking planning permission. Not the wishy washy environmental impact statements we see so frequently today. That is dependent of course on the regulators having the knowledge, the funding and the balls to stand up for the environment not the institutions that support them. The catch here is our ever increasing knowledge in that what we learn at a future date may negate the best information at the time of consent. It might help to make planners, or their associated bodies, liable for the impact of their decisions. It would certainly focus their attention if there were to be personal accountability involved.
Those couple of simple measures would be a good place to reset the clock and hold our ground before we even start to look at existing problems.
There can be few directly involved in the riverine world today who would dispute the fact the Environment Agency and Natural England have been so starved of central government GIA funding, to the extent they are no longer fit for purpose. That they are now unfit for purpose remains contentious of course as the government remain of the opinion they are meeting their statutory requirements. With the government, via Defra, choosing the boards few in the upper echelons of the regulators will raise a voice to dispel this myth. Are the EA departmental cuts determined at funding source within Defra or are the internal interdepartmental budgets set in house? Who decides the priority, Flood Defence, Water Resources, Waste Management, are in relation to the protection of the Environment? In reality under the ever increasing pressure of society those that remain on the coal face, trying to meet these statutory obligations to water quality, waste disposal, fisheries and the environment, haven't got a snowballs of achieving their goals.Having established what measures we wish to see implemented and our dissatisfaction with the existing state of play, just how do we achieve our objectives. What sort of agency or NGO would we wish to see look after the catchment. An in house reshuffle, renaming a few departments and setting up a few more sycophantic partnerships and public consultations simply doesn't cut it. Anyone trying to get a feel of the problems faced by the Avon can find mountains of reports and scientific papers cataloguing and monitoring a vast array of potential problems. Just a dip into the A&EDA (Agriculture and Environmental Data Archive) will find the volume of information daunting. Added to this information there are countless further; reports, plans, papers and monitoring data that has yet to make it online.
Its all too easy to criticise the regulators, I include NE and the EA in that, all too often they don't help themselves, setting themselves up as easy targets. I admit to be very critical of the protection our rivers are afforded by the government. Whether that's the same as blaming the EA is not quite so clear cut. Are weak management failing to make the case for their agencies to blame? Do the management of the regulators represent the environment or the government? How do they see their role I wonder? Judging by statements coming out of the EA management of late very much a case of “yes minister”. Is it Whitehall mandarins purely interested in maintaining control of their empires, to justify their existence? Or cynical politicians riding rough shod over Defra in dictating the flawed policy that has seen the emasculation of the regulators? Purely as the easy option in balancing the treasury books?
God forbid its politicians looking to ease the way for their party financiers and farming lobbies, in side lining the environmental protection legislation that gets in the way of maximising financial gain. If the latter were the case they would not be simply cynical but criminal and hopefully would be eventually exposed for what they are. Don't hold your breath!
Personally I believe that the underfunding of the regulators is for the main part a treasury driven austerity measure. Unfortunately there are few voices with any sway raised against the perception of this easy gain. Some of the comments from the likes of Rees-Mogg make it very clear how they would wish to see the future protection of the environment. Unfortunately he is far from alone in his views in the world of the politically powerful. The majority just have more savvy than to stick their heads above the parapet. This is perhaps where the greatest fault lies. How can political pressure be brought to bear on the likes of the PM and the Chancellor? Marriage is not an option here. The cuts imposed on the EA have been severest where the political fallout is least or simply side stepped. Fisheries and the environment are seen in Whitehall as easy targets and have been pared down to the minimum. Whilst still allowing the government to claim they are meeting their statutory obligations. That might prove an interesting point of law if it were ever taken to a statutory review in front of an informed bench.
If the riverine world does not have a sufficiently powerful lobby to whom do we look to champion our cause? Perhaps the press and broadcast networks, if sufficient sensationalism and drama can be generated to interest them. Raw sewage being discharged into the Avon may on a slow news day get you thirty seconds on the local news. Celebrity sewage being discharged into the Avon may get you five minutes, which is a sad reflection of the viewing tastes of the Great British Public, the celebrity, not the sewage. Those same GBP would, if we believe the perception of OFWAT, scream blue murder about twenty quid a year on their water and sewage bills, ring fenced for the environment.
Water quality trying to keep tabs on the water companies, highways departments and chemical industry are stretched to the limit. Just how comprehensive a water quality analysis would we like to see? Of the 300 plus known chemicals that flow from STW's, roads, storm drains and agricultural land, how many should we look for. Do we know the cost, not only financial but environmentally, of the symbiotic gloop this chemical cocktail potentially creates. It's no good blaming the EA their remit is determined by UKTAG (UK Technical Advisory Group) or whatever they're called today, I'm probably a little out of date.
Just how do you make sense of a professional quango like the EA its governance and tier upon tier of management to hide behind, 1.3 billion expenditure, employing in the region of 10000 staff. Half the expenditure is paying itself, just how many directors and deputy directors does one quango require? Just who amongst that lot is earning their crust? Who wants to open up the can of worms that a full review of; priorities, responsibilities and restructuring would entail? That's before we look at the structure of UKTAG and Defra.
I can understand the feeling that its simpler just to let it grind on producing its bland, emasculated outcomes. It certainly suits government not to have to answer any real questions. Lip service with the necessary PR produced sound bites for the media allows uninterrupted peace and tranquillity on high.
Just how do we select boards and staff if its not to be a simple reflection of government? I'm sure like me you are amazed at the process that continually allows, like to promote like, within our ministries and agencies.
Just to add a little further confusion, enter NERC (Natural Environment Research Council) As it says on the tin, this further quango holds the key to unlocking many of the questions we wish to have answered. Funded by central government they determine who looks at what in our natural world. Once more of course they can only hand out what the government deem to give them.
Before we even get around to trying to implement change to protect the rivers that unholy mess has to be sorted out and made transparent.
Just what would I like to see from our regulators? It has to be a valid question, its no good bemoaning the inability of our regulators to protect our environment unless we can offer an alternative route to achieve the end we feel our countryside warrants.
I don't suppose things have changed a great deal in the last decade or so since I stood back from the politics of the environment. Back then the fact compensation to restrict or close abstraction and discharge consents was always a major hurdle to overcome when looking at the way ahead.
Before we can press for change we need to have an idea of exactly what we wish to see implemented to safeguard our rivers. Just to provide my aspirational wish list is a starting point for what would end up as a catalogue in its own right.
A combined approach to catchment environmental management with executive catchment committees driving policy. Would be a good starting point. Regulatory control exercised and paid for by central government with officers directly attached to elected NGO regional catchment or catchment committees.
An appeal system capable of holding the government to account. That's certainly aspirational. Parliamentary sovereignty is a principle of the UK constitution. Generally, the courts cannot overrule its legislation. Our recourse to the EU is no longer an option. A judicial review of any questionable decision making process under the existing legislation. Always running to catch up and who pays to establish the facts behind the grounds for a review?
An end to nationally devised policy, where we try and fit the chalkstreams into the same policy as the alluvial rivers of the east and the stone and gravel rivers of the north and west.
Increased research through working in partnership with universities. Potentially NERC (National Environment Research Council) funded option meeting the needs of the catchment and supporting the university research programmes. Another government determined agency but you have to start somewhere!
Population dynamics establishing the interaction between indigenous catchment species.
Water temperature on gender determination and viability on invertebrates/fish.
Weed and algal triggers in response to water temperature, turbidity and enrichment.
The extent and role micro plastics occupy within the system.
Review and determination of the role of monitoring within the catchment.
Input into the UKTAG parameters that guide our regulators attempting to monitor discharge consents. With emphasis on, STW's, agri and aquaculture and highways drainage.
My favourite old chestnuts in the form of an abstraction and agricultural chemical levy the raised monies ring fenced for environmental protection.
Compensation for predation loss, where wildlife legislation overrides fishery protection legislation. Run and funded exactly along the lines of the Bovine TB compensation scheme. NE coordinated, GWCT/wildlife trust operated, based on DNA profiles that are as cheap as chips these days. I've said on here somewhere in the past that the average large carp is a far more valuable creature than the average cow.
A central information online database to catalogue ALL research and monitoring, available free of charge and capable of being catchment specific. (More funding to the A&EDA)
Review of rod licence/executive input into rod licence income expenditure.
More rapid response time from regulators and catchment management bodies, more in line with private sector.
Criminal enforcement to be removed from agencies and incorporated into properly funded police wildlife and countryside units.
Remove the obligation on the public exchequer to compensate environmentally detrimental processes.
Where do we look to see why many of these questions have not been already answered, there is nothing new in the list. What has historically been responsible for the failure to protect our rivers to date? Who do we wish to represent our needs in the future? Prioritise environment and ensure the precautionary principle is steadfastly adhered to Separate fisheries from; Land drainage, Flood defence etc what a maze! ... andI haven't even attempted to discuss the role of our MP's in that lot.
Moving Agency staff into the NGO's gets very complicated due to pension rights and employment conditions. If the will were there overcoming such problems would not be an issue. Unfortunately it suits a disingenuous government to have a toothless guard dog protecting the environment, leaving its corporate a free hand when it comes to exploiting the environment for waste disposal, abstraction and intensive exploitation.
So what are our options? If we wish to change the means by which the regulators work to bring them into the 21st century we could perhaps do better to look to the past. Prior to the privatisation of the water companies the water boards and river authorities were directly funded by the income of the public water supply and LA rates.
In the end the regulator we end up with are a reflection on the state of our society. If society is happy with the cost of our lifestyle being borne by the environment, we will continue on the slippery slope we currently tolerate. If we are prepared to tell our representatives we are not happy things will change.
If nought else, for those that manage to make sense of my ramblings, it provides plenty of food for thought. Those of you that hope it will soon stop raining to get me away from these screens, I sympathise!
I haven't topped and tailed this lot so please forgive the flyers.
29th January 2021
In the post of 7th January I put up the conditions the Estate fishery was prepared to operate under to meet the conditions as agreed by the government re fishing being permitted to continue through out lock down. There appears to be a little confusion over what NO NIGHT FISHING means on the Estate. Just to clarify a return to historic fishing times that means OFF The Estate, one hour after sunset until further notice. Sunset times can be simply found on the net and as an example tonight was 16:54 simple enough, off the estate by 18:00 at the very latest.
Snowdrops above the floodline, which has risen again overnight to 21.70 on the Ibsley Bridge height gauge. Over spilling the bund that looks like it will need reinforcing again next Spring.
28th January 2021
Today I finally managed to get the willow tree that had been stuck in the weirpool cleared and cut up. I have sweated and cursed the wretched thing for the best part of two days. It was the top of one of the large willows that had been blown into the pool last winter. It had circled the pool and eventually managed to get itself jammed under the sheet piling alongside the hatches. It didn't look that troublesome and as I was pressed for time when we removed the large London Plane and the willow on the western side of the pool, I hadn't bothered to snatch a wire on to it and pull it out when we had tractors on site. With the salmon season about to kick off and the weirpool fishable this year, I wanted the tree cleared. With the meadows far too wet to get machinery on, it was a case of clearing the thing by hand. I started by clearing the overhanging vegetation that had tangled with it, hitched a rope to it and pulled, hauled and cursed, yet it failed to move so much as an inch. I tied it to the ash tree next to the hatches and tried tightening down on it with a sheeting knot, not so much as a twitch. I eventually resorted to walking a rope across the width of the pool, dropping a grapnel behind the tree and tightening down on it from the far side of the pool. By now it had rained on me and I was soaked through from pulling on wet ropes, fed-up, cold and suffering various cuts, scratches, grazes, bruises and rope burns, I was about ready to give it best. Just one more last desperate heave, amazingly something gave and it wasn't another hernia, begrudgingly, slowly but surely it began to swing out into the current. What I thought was a twenty foot limb now in finest ice-berg fashion surfaced as a forty foot, weed and root festooned, stag-headed monstrousity. As it cleared the hatches and began to circulate in the pool I gathered as much of the rope as I could as it came around to my side. I had it on a tight line when it came alongside me, where I thought I would pull it into the side and drag it clear enough to get at it with the chainsaw. Wrong, it had no intention of stopping or changing course due to my pathetic efforts and set off for a further circuit of the pool. Around and around it went, each time I tried to steer it into a reachable berth. Ten, twenty, it took for ever but I eventually coaxed it into the big eddy in the corner of the weirpool closest the bridge. Once there, bit by bit, I managed to cut the bloody thing up and chuck and drag it out on the bank. Should you be fishing the pool before I eventually clear the thing completely, watch your step and don't go pitching butt over head off the bank, 'cause I've done with dragging things out of that pool for a while!
Finally my Avon Valley Path update shot, the other day the return of the Lapwing. Today, to celebrate the fourth month of the path being flooded, the return of the Hampshire County Council bird scareres!
25th January 2021
The Lapwing started appearing out on the meadows today, its all to do with the depth of the flood as the river slowly drops back. I'm always pleased to see the Cuckoo Pint start into growth, a sure sign we are heading in the right direction. A shot of the Starlings up over the river as I came over Ibsley Bridge this evening.
23rd January 2021
The view from my desk, despite the ice only having melted an hour earlier this lot couldn't wait for their daily dip.
Woody and Dave still catching dispite the hard frosts of the last couple of days. They look like a pair of old fish, odd that Woody's fish has no pelvic fins, a fish I have not seen seen previously. Whilst I was talking to Dave and Woody we were joined by the Great White Egret in the middle shot. Not an unusual sight these days but this bird was ringed on the right tibia. I'll be interested to hear from anyone locally who may have managed to read the ring and discovered an origin for this bird. I'll see if I can get a little closer to it next time I spot it and try and get a closer photo or read the ring myself.
The main spillway dealing with a great deal of water.
22nd January 2021
Definitely a case of what a difference a day makes as the torrential rain of yesterday gave way to blue skies and cold sunshine. Ibsley Pool, bank high and pushing through that should make it beautifully polished for the start of the season. Always providing we can get to the river banks as the valley floods once more, keeping the Avon Valley path closed for approaching four months.
21st January 2021
Today's view looking south, west and north from Blashford, once more well out in the meadows.
A further good day on the fishery on Tuesday as I got to grips with the preparation for the off of the salmon season. Park and Coomber are clipped up and almost complete, providing an uninterrupted run of 700m of fishing if you start at the seat in Pile Pool. I'm not sure what that equates to in fishing time but if like me you take a pace between casts that's quite a while. Also to be found down that bank are Mackenzie's and Sydney Pool, to keep you going with a further 350m. I must time myself down a couple of pools to see just what speed I do cover the water. It might help when I pop out for an hour in the evening to avoid having to pack up halfway down my chosen pool!
A really odd experience the other evening on the way home from work, I took a walk out to the river during the wind and torrential rain of storm Christoph's trailing front. The meadows at the spot I chose to visit remain flooded probably to an average depth of about six inches to a foot. There was one fifty or sixty meter section that was closer to the top of my thigh waders but nothing ventured! I was out there in the dark, wind and rain as Kevin had previously told me the water meadows in front of his place were alive with wildfowl during the night. Kevin has the advantage of a night vision scope that showed the meadows to be covered in wildfowl of every shape and size. He also mentions a very vocal, talkative group that continuously chattered away as they fed. It was this last group that particularly interested me as there are in the region of 1500 to 2000 BTG in the valley and it sounded as if it may have been them. Godwits have quite particular feeding requirements regarding water depth and the usual meadows I expect to see them remain too deep to let them feed. If the talkative birds that Kevin could hear from his home were these birds it would be the first time I have witnessed them feed during the hours of darkness on the Estate. Whilst the wildfowl were not in the valley during my daytime counts many hundreds, even thousands are day roosting on the pits.
Waders and waterproofs tested to the limit, I splashed my way on out to the far side of our newly created large area of open meadows. To a phragmites bed that I thought may afford a little cover from Christoph's excesses, to perch on a convenient willow stump to await the hoped for arrivals. The wind and rain were coming horizontally up the valley, meaning I could only face away from it to avoid the glasses immediately becoming covered and useless.
Half an hour and the first to arrive were the Canada's, I could hear them coming up the valley behind me in family groups of between twenty and thirty. They passed low overhead, turned in a wide circle in front of me and came back to land facing the wind. Next a few pairs of Mallard and Gadwall that seem to have paired off in readiness for the breeding season ahead. Their arrival overhead, keeping low and facing the gale, they seemed almost close enough to touch. Coil after coil of Wigeon arrived, whistling and splashing noisily into the shallow water, immediately starting to graze. Pipping Teal dropped in with a splash, now too dark to see them arrive. When almost too dark to see a rush of wing beats as a tight cloud of pointed, black and white contrasting wings, created an almost psychedelic pattern as they rushed over and settled onto the meadow less than fifty meters from where I stood. An hour earlier not a bird in site now I had no idea how many birds were out there, suffice to say probably well into the thousands. An amazing unseen world of our incredible valley.
Time to leave and half a mile back to the truck, into the face of the storm, across the flooded meadows. The glassy surface speckled with contrasting silhouettes of the clumps of rush and grass doing their best to trip me made progress difficult. My exit was noisy and very splashy. I stumbled along the flocks barely bothering to break from their grazing, those that did lifting only to splash down fifty meters behind me. Certainly nothing like any of the dozens of duck flights I have previously experienced.
18th January 2021
A fine way to start my day and a familiar sight to many of the early arrivals on the Estate as the sun begins to chase the frost from the meadows.
.......and the day continued in that good vein with nothing drowned, blocked or busted. This afternoon I even managed a couple of hours exercise behind the strimmer after weeks of not finding the time or being flooded off the banks. Personally I think it just has to be the best work out ever, no one to bother you and after a couple of hours you get the satisfaction of the visible return for your efforts. The salmon season will be getting underway in less than a fortnight with miles of pools still awaiting my attention. It will be a very strange start to the season with the limit on travel restricting access for many out of town members. Hopefully within a month or two, as the best of the Avon salmon fishing arrives, we will be out of the strictest lockdown rules and travel will be permitted. If you are fortunate enough to be local and able to get out for your exercise don't forget the lower end of the Estate, especially if its running water as fish always pause before running the gates at Ringwood.
I was thinking about the exercise attached to fishing and to that end I considered the weight of the tackle we carry miles out across flooded fields. Salmon fishing is probably the lightest tackle requirements, rod, reels, end tackle flies, disgorger plus an eco net. Modern rods and reels weigh just a few ounces, most if not all the remainder of the tackle can be stowed in pockets, net across the back and we are off. When chasing the elusive salmon it involves being continuously on the move so by the end of your visit you may have several miles under your belt.
Compare that to my river coarse gear and it doesn't get close, especially when I am undecided on just what I intend to fish for. The rod holdall may contain, two tip and a couple of float rods, landing net handle, bank sticks and a brolly. depending on the brolly that alone can amount to far more than the salmon gear. Add the carry-all that contains the seat, net head, rod rest heads, unhooking mat and most of your bait if it involves a couple of loaves. Then comes the rucksack or tackle box, reels, weights and feeders, float box, scales, terminal tackle beyond description and probably a load more fancy bait. I weighed the lot I take on a normal impromptu visit and it came to over sixty pounds! I have said for years I will slim that lot down and each time I try I end up with even more that I seem to need - just in case. Try carrying that lot out across half a mile of flooded meadow. That's probably why I don't fish a great deal these days! Or if I do I decide exactly what I intend to target before setting out.
As for the stillwater, carp lads don't even go there, that's why if you can't drive to the swim the motorised tackle cart has become a more common sight on the banks of some lakes.
17th January 2021
We seem to be experiencing the lull before the storm, if the weather forecast for the coming week is anything to go by anyway. Not surprisingly there are very few people about at the moment giving the valley an unnaturally quiet feel. Its actually more than the lack of anglers, it also seems to apply to the bird world as the numbers remain well below what we might expect under such ideal circumstances. As usual the swans and geese are about yet wildfowl numbers barely reach into four figures. As we see the water levels drop perhaps birds that are currently elsewhere in the valley will appear to take advantage of the newly exposed feeding. It also applies to the birds using my garden feeders with the resident populations ever present yet we have failed to see any influx of migrants. Siskin, Chaffinch, Brambling and Goldfinch have been noticeable by their absence. Hopefully this is down to warmer conditions in their home countries making their risky, long distance flights unnecessary.
During the current drier day or two the river is slowly dropping back and the carriers continue to play a vital role as juvenile fish habitat. The rising flow and water levels had created impounded sections at the confluence of hatch controlled carriers with the main channel. These slack, impounded sections that may have extended for many hundreds of meters upstream into the carriers from the main river confluence, along with our oxbows, created vital sanctuaries to shelter juvenile fish from the scouring velocity of the rising floods. As main channel water levels fall the velocity in the carriers slowly increases, requiring many of the fish that had taken advantage of the previously created slack water to move. Main channel velocities remain high continuing to make the controlled carriers a better option for juveniles to avoid being flushed through the system. As Spring progresses and we begin thinking of draining the water meadows, to allow livestock out for the early bite the valley provides, our manipulation of the water levels is critical if we are not to undo all the good our sanctuaries have provided for the previous winter months. Key to ensuring a controlled lowering of the water height across the meadows is the graduated manipulation of the gates and hatches. Avoid single visits where gates are opened and levels dropped by several inches or even feet, three or four visits with small incremental changes allow fish to adapt and find new areas of safety. Its noticeable that where flow and cover remain unchanged fish will always be found in areas that suit their needs. Their preferred area may be just a few square meters yet year after year fish will be found in those spots. In carriers that are subject to change shoals appear one day and are gone the next.
A shot or two from about the valley as I checked hatches and gates this morning. The oxbow providing wonderful cover for both fish and birds, a couple of Great White Egret rising from amongst the bullmace as I passed on my way to the top hatches. More pollarding where ever I look, if I can carry the saw and fuel across the meadows. These wizen old crack willows epitomise the lowland rivers, their ancient faces have witnessed centuries of slow and gradual change. Many are now coming to the end of their allotted span and where ever possible we do our best to pollard these grey giants to remove the stress of supporting such extended canopies. To finish just another lost soul wandering about the valley in search of a the Avon Valley Path, or his way home! I say that as a tongue in cheek reference to the basic shelters in Japanese parks that bear the motto "For those that can't find their way home" It always gave food for thought and cause to count our blessings each time we came across such shelters.
13th January 2021
Anyone lost a foot bridge? If so I know where it is, or more correctly I should say I know where it was, well and truly jammed under the Eel Pool hatches. I did in fact smash the thing up and its gone on its way, leaving a well beaten up set of hatches that look as if we will have to replace them come the Spring.
12th January 2021
Now we are once more allowed out on the river banks for our exercise don't forget the EA are seeking dead kelts to help with a research project that is attempting to identify certain attributes of different salmon populations. Should you come across any on the estate give me a call. Other fisheries should give the EA a call and hopefully someone will come out for their daily exercise and collect it. If you are local to the estate and the owners of the fishery are happy, give me a call and I'll come out for a walk.
I have been speaking to syndicate member, Peter Littleworth, about the potential for the use of circle hooks for salmon fishing. Peter is also interested in giving them a try and with his catch record we are perhaps more likely to have a measure of success for our efforts. I'm keen to discover if the shallow hooking ability, associated with circles, can be brought into our daily use to make catch and release an easier, less risky process. I have used circles for everything from sharks to black bream at sea and carp, pike, chub and perch on the river and have been delighted with the results. I've received lots of advice and information from diary readers for which I thank you all very much indeed. The accepted key to success seems to be keeping the hook articulated from the bait or lure and Peter introduced me to "swing tubes" These seem to be designed for use with circles and they look spot on and definitely the way I will be going when we eventually get underway this season.
The red swing tube can be seen in the top fly, the lower being fixed in the conventional tubing. Don't read anything into the choice of fly, or the line gripper. I simply used them as they are lightly dressed and the gripper keeps the line from slipping through the fly.
10th January 2021
Just some ramblings to pass the time and a question that has been occupying a great many of my thoughts in recent days is just what our environmental protection will morph into now we have finally left the EU? Obviously the commitment by our government not to allow the current protection afforded our watery environment by the WFD to be diluted is well documented. Just how much faith you have in our current regime to honour their word is perhaps a little worrying. Especially in light of the latest neonicotinoid news.
We have seen the appearance of the Environment Bill, the 25 year plan and the Agriculture Bill, all will no doubt have considerable impact on the future of our valley. The Environment Bill will see the establishment of the Office of Environmental Protection that will advise the government and have powers to investigate complaints against our environmental regulators. As long as there is not an in house complaints procedure. That's handy, they'll only investigate if those that are being complained about haven't already investigated themselves! The fact the Environment Bill is a little tardy in its appearance has seen a provisional, interim environmental protection secretariat established to clear the way. Not withstanding that the overriding problem as I see it at the moment is whatever you call it, the new group, office or agency, will answer to the secretary of State for the Environment. That about buggers it!
Whatever the extent of the perceived transgression by the government, or the integrity of the board that will be chaired by the vastly experienced Dame Glenys Stacey, the final say will be in the hands of the Secretary of State. Chocolate fire-guard springs to mind! I just hope its not just a further tier of underfunded environmental bureaucracy. I guess the courts will have to be the arbitrators if satisfaction cannot be found through the proposed channels. That has all the hallmarks of a dodgy old route with the current views from government on our judiciary. It all seems a long way from the protection afforded our environment through the WFD via the EU Environment Commission that could hold our government to account. I can almost guarantee that as the mist lifts and the way ahead becomes clearly defined this is a subject that will crop up on here again in the future.
9th January 2021
The river continues to clear and drop back to almost within its banks. Most of the ice has disappeared, so the water looks a little more fishy, chub and pike anyway! The dead hen fish was laying in six inches of water being attended by a Great Black-back Gull that gave away her position. As can be seen in the photos, she had not spawned so a total loss to the system. There appears to be heavy saprolegnia infection around the vent and anal fin possibly damaging the oviduct preventing completion of her vital task. I would dearly like to know the pathogen load the Avon carries from all the STW's and aquaculture discharge load the river collects. A clue might be that the aquaculture industry claim it is impossible to use main channel river water to hatch eggs, yet we expect out wild fish to manage! All that pathogen load is being constantly washed over the incubating eggs deep in the gravel redd.
Good to see the wildfowl numbers increasing today. The old duck in the photo thought she would just take a wonder about the SSSI as the Avon Valley Footpath was flooded. Bless her!
7th January 2021
I'm sure many of you will now be aware that there has been a further change of directions related to fishing during lockdown. The latest advice coming from government, via the Angling Trust, states that fishing is permissible providing it is local and of limited duration. To that end the Somerley Fishery is once more accessible to members provided they adhere to the advice that can be found in the link below. It does mean night fishing is NOT allowed until further notice.
Don't get carried away with the fact we are allowed out on the banks again to take our exercise, ice and freezing mist remained on several of the lakes throughout the day. The rivers don't appear much more attractive with many areas still flooded with cat ice in the margins. The Godwit was a single bird that I think may have been trying to avoid a Peregrine that was circling above. If you discount gulls,swans and geese the valley remains disappointingly devoid of wildfowl and waders during the day. The Wigeon and Teal can be heard overhead as they fly out to feed at dusk but very few remain during the day. Highlights today were probably a couple of Great White Egret and a fine male Marsh Harrier. The tracks on the bridge give an indication of the use our access bridges are put to in reaching areas of the meadows. Good to see he was using the non-slip central section. We were considering making our bridges and culverts fox proof during the wader breeding season, I somehow don't think that will be happening in the near furture.
5th January 2021
Unfortunately as of midnight tonight the Somerley fishery will be closed until further notice.
With the fishery now shut it no longer applies to keep your eyes open for gulls and crows scavenging any salmon corpses that may have been washed up. At least it saves me trudging out across the flood for a no return! Just another powerline strike!
4th January 2021
The river is taking on its true colour as the cold water clears a tinge of "Avon Green" is creeping into it.
In readiness for the start of the new salmon season a selection of early season flies to suit the Avon. You guessed it, black and yellow are my favourite early season colours. Most are between half and one and a half inches, the majority dressed on heavy tubes to get down in the water. If the water remains as cold as it is at present the depth may be crucial, if however we see it warm a little and continue to clear hopefully they will be keener to chase. The water currently has a vis of about five feet that is looking perfect for the off.
The second shot shows a fly with a single, barbless, circle hook, which is the fashion I will be fishing for as much time as I am able. The results I have experienced trying circles in other aspects and disciplines of our sport I believe they should be perfect for salmon fishing. Fly fishing with the rod pointing at the fly is the norm, on a take just lifting into the resistance is exactly what circles require, no striking or jerky retrieves. The tubing at the tail of the fly should be thin enough to allow the hook to separate from the body and articulate on setting the hook. Sounds perfect, I'm sure you'll hear about it on here if I'm successful!
If you do brave the elements just a reminder that we are looking for dead salmon. As the water drops back and slows the passage of kelts through the system will also hopefully slow. Currently, dying and floating fish are being swept through the system in a very short period of time. If they are stranded on gravel bars and slower eddies they are very quickly spotted by scavengers, which is one of the best ways to spot them. Should you see Gulls, Crows, Ravens etc feeding beside the river send me a text and I will check it out but please be quick as they will have completely destroyed the carcass within a few hours. You never know you may spot an IoW eagle recognising a free meal!
2nd January 2021
Combined with the radar tracks coming out of Belgium, showing the scale of avian disturbance caused by New Year's celebrations, pointers to why I have an intense dislike of fireworks.
1st January 2021
Looking as if it may be desperately hard going.
With a year that for many must go down as the most apalling they have endured lets hope that 2021 is a vast improvement. To that end may I take this opportunity to wish all readers a happy and most importantly a healthy New Year. Lets all try and keep our guards up and not fall with the end in sight. I look forward to seeing many of you out on the bank, when conditions and Covid allow, to catch up on news and simply enjoy the magic of the Avon Valley.
An almost ethereal feel to the valley this morning as the freezing mist froze on the cobweb festooned trees. The floods and lakes were like mill ponds, reflecting every scene and there were even a couple of anglers out and about. Not I fear they had done any good but enjoying the wintery scene.
Look on the bright side this will be the last shot of a flooded valley I will show you this year!
I will do my best to shed some light on the situation related to the fishery in light of New Forest now being upgraded to tier 4. Under the current guidelines we are able to continue fishing that is not contested, due in large part to the solitary nature and therapeutic value of our pastime. This has to be viewed in relation to the advice coming from government that states to avoid unnecessary journeys and stay at home. Equally as important, do not to cross tier boundaries. As we are now in tier 4 members living in lower tiers should not travel to the fishery. Similarly travelling the length and breadth of the land to fish is hard to justify as "necessary" and we would ask members not to do so. I can't put a distance on your travels but please be sensible and fish locally where ever possible.
Remains confusing and for many disappointing but with the vaccine on the horizon this will hopefully not be an overly prolonged period before we can resume normal play once more. There is a plus to this in that the weather is freezing, the waters are in flood and the fish aren't feeding, as good a time as any to stay safely at home.