Opening week of the fishing season and weather affected to say the least. Buds are still waiting to break on many of the trees and the fishing has been heavily affected by the weather. For the first two weeks of the season you would expect most of the fish to be caught on a fly imitating the Hawthorn fly. These flies only appear at this time of the year, are large, black and have two large black legs hanging down from their bodies as they fly. They are easily distinguishable, as they look like no other fly. They are a land based fly and are often an indicator of how wet the preceding winter has been. Wet winters result kin many of the Hawthorn larvae being drowned, resulting in small hatches of Hawthorn. Dry winters can often result in bumper hatches of Hawthorns. They get their name from the Hawthorn that blooms around the time of their hatching, although around here the Hawthorn hatches have been more in sync with the Blackthorn. In this stretch of the river valley, it is not unusual to find large numbers of Hawthorn bumbling around over hedges some distance from the river, sometimes with the right wind you can get large number of these blown down onto the river resulting in some spectacular fishing. The over wintered trout taking advantage of the fat black flies blown onto the water. Over on upper reaches of the Itchen they will be hoping for large hatches of another dark sedge like fly, The Grannom. These will also provide a feast for early season trout; this stretch of the Dever does not experience hatches of Grannom. The number of Olives hatching have built up as spring progresses, coupled with a short hatch of Daddy Long legs that we always experience in late April early May.
This year the hatches of Hawthorn have been later than usual and smaller in number, reflecting the prolonged wet winter. Most of the fish caught this week have been caught with old-fashioned Olive patterns like Greenwell’s Glory. Early in the week the fishing was affected by showers, fly hatching during the brief dry periods from late morning to late afternoon, the drop in temperature late in the day putting an end to the fishing. Wednesday was a wash out with torrential rain all day; the river turned the colour of cocoa, and didn’t clear until Thursday afternoon when rods started catching fish again. The river continued to clear towards the end of the week, the temperature rising and the fishing improving because of it. All of the fish caught so far have been fish that have over wintered in the river, the best a beautifully conditioned Hen Brown Trout of four pounds. This may well have been a fish that was stocked several seasons ago, no fish are stocked on this stretch of the river over two pounds in weight. Several of the fish around the two-pound mark were in tiptop condition, several rods commenting on the hard fight they had put up before being landed. Several looked like they could be some of the fry that we stock directly into river, these smaller fish have to take their chance, growing slower in the river, they often have the appearance of a wild fish when caught, fin perfect with white leading edges to the fins, and a firm streamlined body. One over wintered fish in poor condition was caught; it appeared to be recovering from a Heron stab to its back and was very thin. As spring progresses more and more varieties of bird turn up, the swifts that nest in the top eaves of the Mill house are here, as is the incredibly loud Cettis Warbler that turns up each year, the Martins have yet to arive. Several broods of Mallard, Gadwall and Tufted Duck have hatched off, with others still sitting. The Coarse fish in the pond are showing no signs of spawning yet; due entirely to the water temperature not yet being high enough, but it won’t be long.