Although the Mayfly hatches will continue well into June, I think I can already deliver a cheerful verdict on “Duffer’s Fortnight” this season. We are so fortunate on our fishery to have these often spectacular hatches year on year which always provide very exciting and challenging fly fishing towards the end of May and into June. This was not always the case – read Chapter 7 of Frank Sawyer’s brilliant little book “Keeper of the Stream”, where he indicates considerable variability in the abundance of Mayfly, ...” I would like to see big hatches of Mayfly occurring year after year without a break as they did when I was a boy (and) as they did from 1927 to 1930...” Or again read Chapter 3 of Brigadier Carey’s book “One River” which was written only two years earlier in 1952 where he discusses the various species of upwinged fly found on our water and points out that for Mayfly there was “none to speak of “ between 1939 and 1942 (what a grim few years those must have been!), and at the time he was writing “..it has practically disappeared again from this water”. How lucky we are, as during my time as Keeper our Mayfly hatches do seem to have achieved Frank’s ideal: they have been remarkably consistent, even surviving the big flood of 2012 which must have moved many tons of silt downstream, and with it the Danica nymphs.
One theme recurring in the catch returns is choice of fly. Our more experienced members picked up quite quickly that the big Mayfly hatches often coincided with hatches of small upwinged fly – and that even the stockies frequently preferred these to Mayfly. These small duns were often difficult to spot because the quite windy conditions this spring did blow a lot of leaf debris and willow fluff on to the surface. I have had a difference of opinion with one of our committee members as to which of the small upwings we have been seeing: I do not think these were Iron Blues which are so unmistakeably inky black (at least the males are), but they are more probably one of the small olives. In any case that great fly, the Adams, seemed to work its usual magic, but if any entomologist among our members can give a reliable identification I would like to hear it. I will not harp on about Mayfly patterns – everyone has their own preferences – but it is also noticeable that emerger patterns have been very effective so far this season. Hopefully your June returns will give some evidence of the late evening falls of spent fly too, which are not often exploited because supper has taken precedence.
Your catch returns provided some great bedtime reading this month, and I think my overall verdict is that on the whole it is a more satisfactory and predictable Mayfly period than last year. May has produced three times as many takeable brown trout than in April and also 191 under-sized (wild) fish which is so encouraging for me and the committee. Several of you noticed that the wild fish were in the faster runs and riffles,with the stockies still seeking conditions that felt like home – namely quiet, deeper, slower water. Perhaps a bit more of a conundrum is our grayling stocks. Some very big grayling have been caught – the best on the catch returns being 42cms, but there seems to be an absence of smaller grayling (one year plus age class) which indicates that spawning recruitment last spring was poor.
Could I just remind members of a couple of the rules (see the web site for chapter and verse), as I have received some comment on both of these. Our rods are only permitted to catch 6 takeable trout in any one day – regardless of whether these are killed or released, and “...having caught 6 takeable trout a member must stop fishing” .Two or three of the catch returns have declared more than this, so this is clearly one rule that may have been overlooked. The other, which is more difficult to interpret, is the “100 yard rule” which asks members to keep 100m from another rod who is fishing. In the end this is common sense: some rods like to remain in one place for a long time to watch the water and await a rise or other movement, while others like to move quickly along the bank and have to overtake. Both are entirely acceptable but obviously some tact and politeness are needed to avoid the risk of crowding a rod who is fishing and thus spoiling his or her enjoyment.
Hopefully you will all by now have hoisted in the change in padlocks and combination code. Give me a ring if you run into trouble on this. Another change is that, as an experiment, we will not be cutting the banks upstream of C Crossing for the time being in order to deter dog walkers and poachers. If this does cause difficulty or spoil the enjoyment for you please do comment directly to me, or in your catch return. As the military population builds up as a result of Amy rebasing we are bound to get more pressure on the banks, so this experiment is an important one. You will have already noticed that we do not strim the banks adjacent to areas of frequent public access for the same reason, - but there is a difficult balance to strike on this, and access upstream from Figheldean mill pool (still fenced off against vandalism) is I am afraid one casualty of the dilemma we face.
Do remember that I will be cutting weed from next week onwards. Because we are in an exceptionally low water year this will present problems: if I cut too much, river levels will “crash” unacceptably, if I cut too little, large stretches will become unfishable. Additionally the low water will make it extremely difficult to clear weed down and out of the fishery as it is bound to strand on the various shallows. But there is no reason at all why the weed cut should interfere with fishing. As I say every year if you encounter floating weed merely move upstream of where the cut is happening; alternatively give me a ring for advice. And above all, please be tolerant if you do find at any stage you are being hampered; the weed cut is a crucially important management measure.
Finally, you will all have had the Secretary’s advice on car security. Do not cover anything up, and leave the interior as bare of possessions as you possibly can. If there is no attraction to break into a car the thief will not risk it.
I look forward to hearing your comments on the June fishing, in particular the flylife.