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July 2018

In my report last month I said I would read July’s catch returns with interest, and they are indeed revealing in many respects. The exceptionally hot weather has continued remorselessly (with just one day’s wind and heavy rain) and of today (5 August) there is no sign of any real change. But for the Upper Salisbury Avon this is not yet a repeat of 1976, and of course we have the late winter rains and snowfall to thank for that, as the season started with the aquifers well charged. Although the ground water has now fallen right off, much of our fishery still looks very healthy and it is quite clear that those of our members who have persevered have been rewarded, with fly life better than normal in the annual post-Mayfly slump. To illustrate this I must quote two comments: the first on 3 July stated “...hard work. No rise visible”. The following day, 4 July, came this from another rod: “...superb fishing...big fish very active...” These fish had moved from deep, cooler water into shallower runs to take advantage of a hatch, and when this does occur, it is usually late in the evening, after 8.45pm. From now on, however, I think we can expect more movement in the day, and I have already seen signs of this very recently on Reach 7 downstream of Choulston bridge. Although the Glorious Twelfth of August has implications for a different sport, I have always felt that to be a very significant date on our fishery in terms of an upturn in prospects . But with crystal clear, warmish water, in harsh sunlight and in very low flows, this is chalk stream fishing at its most challenging at the moment. Anyone who can outwit a takeable fish in these conditions deserves full credit, and until dusk a nymph is probably still the most effective weapon – even better if it is coupled to a very fine leader (one rod mentions he has gone down to a 2lb point: risky where there is any weed!).

But overall the number of fish taken is of course well down on May and June, despite the fact that the river was re-stocked during the month. Only 144 takeable brown trout have been recorded in July so far, (do send in any late returns), but I am very pleased to see that the wild stock continue to flourish with a total of 49 under-sized browns in the book for the month. There is little doubt that some of the bigger takeable fish will also be wild, although it is very difficult to identify these from shape and colouring when they are in the net. One clue is that I am convinced that the wild fish do start to take advantage of a hatch of fly much sooner than the stockies; the other is that they produce such a violent reaction to being hooked, and a subsequent fight out of all proportion to their size.

I have already mentioned the big thunderstorm mid-month, and thank you for letting me know about the tree blow-down. As at today we have four trees down, and I am afraid these will take some time to clear as three of them will require help from our work parties, and the fourth – downstream of Gunville hatch pool – will require Landmarc to employ contractors in order to clear. It is very sad to see that old black poplar go, as it has been a feature of so many photographs although it has had an ominous lean for some years. I think there is only one black poplar left, which stands opposite the second lake at Corfe, unfortunately providing an ideal cormorant roost. Could I just take this opportunity to plead for a strong response to the call for work parties to deal with all this? But do not be put off from fishing the reaches in question – it is a simple matter to get round all these obstacles, and while they are in the river they do provide cover and shade for fish.

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of your returns is the distribution of fish caught from the various numbered reaches (see the map). Reaches 6,7,8,9 and 11 have all performed really well, and while this is  not surprising in itself as these form much of the core of the fishery, why is it that Reach 10 (recently restored and in good order) has performed so weakly? Any ideas let me know! And while I understand the reason for the lower beats not producing any significant returns at all (Reaches 12, 13 and 14) is this just because they are more difficult to fish or is it that nobody is fishing them?

Anyhow, do keep at it, and remember that many of our long-term members believe that late summer and early autumn produce by far the most interesting fly fishing of the season.

Martin Browne

Tel: 07768 354788