Beautiful weather, and the first signs of Mayfly, only a few hatching but towards the end of the week the fish were starting to take the odd one from the surface. It often takes a few heavy hatches before the fish start their annual gorge during which even the most canny and gnarled old trout in the river may make a reckless mistake. Termed “duffers fortnight” by some, the length of the Mayfly season varies from year to year the heaviest hatches and the best fishing are normally the last two weeks in May and the first week in June, although for the last few seasons I have seen the odd Mayfly hatching at the start of May, and the end of June. Fish become preoccupied with these huge ephemerids, as do the birds. It is no fun being a Mayfly, assuming you make it up from the bottom of the river where you have spent your life so far as a larvae, you must endure a risky period when you are breaking through the surface film opening and drying your wings as the river takes you downstream over all species of hungry fish, and past all manner of hungry wildfowl. You must then take flight, starting slowly, avoiding the wagtails that dart out from the bank to pluck you from the air. You can then rest a while before performing a mating dance in the open air where the Swallows and Martins will mercilessly pick you off before falling back onto the river to die dropping your ball of fertilised eggs into the river, where they will fall to the bottom, hatch out after a few weeks as larvae who will live in the bed of the river until the following May. Fish gorge themselves silly on Mayflies, although every year they will reach a point where they become sated, and will not rise to a natural or imitation mayfly, sticking to the canapés of smaller flies such as Iron blues or medium Olives that may also be hatching at the same time. Early on in the mayfly season the fish may become preoccupied with the hatching Mayfly – the dun. Green, yellow and Grey patterns of imitation Mayfly with the wings erect are the most successful. As the Mayfly period progresses the numbers of spent Mayfly – spinners falling on the water increase, and the fish ignore the duns hatching in the day preferring to wait for the heavy fall of spinners in the evening. These spent mayfly are represented by black and white patterns with horizontal wings.
It is a very popular time to be fishing the southern chalkstreams, most beats will be fully booked, with rods travelling a long way and paying premium prices for the best days. On this stretch of the Dever, if a monster is to be landed it is often during this period, the small number of double figure fish that have been caught here have all been during the Mayfly, the best a fish of over twelve pounds that had been in roughly the same lie for five years.
This week I have also been able to move the fish out from the hatchery and into the concrete stew pond, I normally carry this out during April, but have been holding off because of the coloured nature of the river water due to the heavy spring rain. The hatchery is run on spring water, gin clear and a constant temperature; the concrete stew pond into which they have been moved is much bigger, providing the extra space that they need, but is run on river water. If the river water is too coloured the suspended solids can irritate the young fishes’ gills, causing a build up of mucus, their gills fail to function efficiently and make them susceptible to other infections. At the first sign of a gill infection I dip the fish in a rock salt solution, which is relatively effective if carried out early. If the infection takes a hold then antibiotics are the only course of action.
Midweek we got our new black Labrador puppy – Otis. Nephew of my nine year old black lab Zebo he has already chewed through a phone cable. If he is to surpass his uncle he must now go on to chew a mobile phone, digital camera, and completely consume, bar the reel seat and bottom ring, an eight-foot Hardy fibalite spinning rod.
He is a chunk of a pup with a dome of a head and great big feet, my spaniel – Dobby although male has gratefully accepted the role of dotty aunt.