April 2018

I am sorry that this report on the start of the season is a bit late – but at the time of writing we are still in the pre-Mayfly phase, and I had to snatch a quick holiday between stocking and the busiest time of the season which is about to hit us. But what an extraordinary contrast there is between the water conditions now, and at this time last year! I mention this first because I know a lot of our members have blanked on the river, which, to quote several catch return comments has been: “high, fast, full, murky, difficult to to fish….” and so on, throughout the month. Your returns show that only two brown trout have been killed in the month, and 26 returned, which indicates the effort needed to make contact with a fish. Most of these have been caught on a nymph,

So I will give you my interpretation of current conditions, and I must stress that I do remain optimistic, although I realise that conditions will remain difficult well into the Mayfly hatch and possibly beyond. The reason for the contrast between the end of April 2017 and this year will be apparent to everyone and is a result of unusual weather conditions – namely a very dry winter followed by a spell of exceptionally cold weather and then by very high rainfall at the commencement of spring – in other words completely the wrong way round for the usual chalk stream cycle. The springs did not break until well into February, which drastically suppressed winter water temperatures, and they did not peak until the end of April. So the river is at least a month behind its normal cycle, and the most obvious symptom of this is lack of ranunculus weed. There is therefore nothing to hold up river flows, and as the ground water now starts to fall off river levels will drop dramatically.

We must be patient! I believe that weed will recover slowly, and the algal bloom which has discoloured the water so badly throughout the month is already starting to clear, which will further assist weed growth. But “where are the fish?” many of you will say! – and quite justifiably so, because despite quite a bit of Hawthorn fly and some spring olives there has been minimal surface activity. Well, I can assure you that the fish are there, because I put them into the river! On top of that, our catch returns last season demonstrated that our wild stock of brown trout and grayling is flourishing. Without the shelter of weed most trout, in particular the wild stock, will take cover wherever they can find it – either under the bank or using bankside woody debris in the margins. The grayling (out of season until 16 June) will hug the bottom of the deepest pools, feeding largely on shrimp. But given a prolific hatch of fly the trout will emerge and throw caution to the winds. We can expect that magic moment any day now, although the strange winter weather may delay the big hatches until the end of May.

I am afraid Corfe End Lakes have now succumbed to a serious algal bloom triggered by the glorious hot weather at the beginning of May, but not before some quite respectable returns were achieved during March and April – we are approaching last season’s totals there already. Cress Bed Lake has also produced some good moments for those rods who have fished it.

Please do keep your catch returns coming in – with your comments, which are extremely helpful to me and the committee. If you have not yet used the new format, you will find it a great improvement on last year. I hope you all have a lot of fun over the next few weeks.

Martin Browne
Tel: 07768 354788