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August 2019

It is interesting to compare our results in August 2018 with those last month. The weather was very much the same (hot, dry, with low flows). But the results are more varied. In terms of grayling (296 this August, 302 last year) they are near-identical, and in undersized, wild fish (56 this August and 39 in 2018) fairly similar. However in takeable brown trout there is a wider difference: 159 this August compared to 97 last year. Naturally I am very pleased indeed that the fishery is holding up so well in what most of our members would agree have been very difficult conditions. But our Secretary has brought us down to earth by pointing out that actually there were 11 more visits to the river this August than last (based on catch returns including blank days), so that must account for part of the difference. Nevertheless I would say very well done to all who managed to contribute to the takeable total. And for those who did not, all I can add is that it truly will get easier and even more interesting as we head through September towards the end of the brown trout season on 14 October. One of our former Chairmen was adamant that this six week period produces by far the most enjoyable fly fishing of the season on our water: we shall see how it goes this year!

While on the subject of statistics we should all welcome the initiative driven by Salmon and Trout Conservation and the Wiltshire Fishery Association to “benchmark” the invertebrate populations of the Upper Avon catchment in terms of abundance and diversity of species. Although we have been monitoring our invertebrates for many years now, this project is a rigorous, scientifically conducted analysis which will serve as a yardstick (or benchmark) against which further surveys can be compared over the years to come. There were two sampling sites on our fishery – downstream of B Crossing on Reach 2, and upstream of the Gated Crossing on Reach 7. The results have just been published and bear out the conclusions we have been drawing from own monitoring efforts. They demonstrate that despite all the pressures on the river, we are managing to maintain a healthy invertebrate population which compares well with other fisheries locally. In particular, the “canary in the mine” – the freshwater shrimp or Gammarus - is found in good numbers. There is also consistency between our two sites, which is reassuring, and perhaps the only concern on our water is in the low numbers of Blue-winged Olive, of which we were well aware. In the Avon catchment only the Upper Wylye shows a strong population of this threatened fly.

It is of course Frank Sawyer’s Killer Bug that imitates the freshwater shrimp so effectively, in particular for grayling, and which will indeed also kill trout: it is at its most effective at the very beginning and very end of the season (and of course running into autumn and winter grayling fishing). Everyone should have a few in their box. Meanwhile, it is clear from your returns that there has also been a fall of ants, which is a pattern which not many of us carry, and that the small Black Gnat has been very useful as a back-up to the Parachute Adams and the small sedges and caddis patterns.

Finally, I saw that a member or members intervened to clear the weed blockage at Choulston Bridge. I do not want to discourage our rods from assisting in river management, but that blockage was entirely deliberate and designed to hold up water levels upstream of the bridge on Reach 6. When you see something that you feel needs attention, please do ring me before taking action!

I will be away on a week’s holiday from 20 to 29 September. If any problem arises you can get the telephone number of the relevant committee member from the web site – or of course you can contact the Secretary, Stephen Oxlade.

Good luck for the remainder of the trout season!

Martin Browne, 07768 354788