More rain, but between the showers the Mayfly fishing has been fantastic. Huge numbers of Adults Mayflies dancing by the conker tree, the week has been relatively free of wind the fall of spent Mayfly from early evening onwards increasing day by day and giving good prospects for Mayfly fishing next season. Strong winds pose a real problem for not only the Mayfly but for all flies that need to get back to the river to lay their eggs. Flies go where the wind takes them and if that is away from the river then their brief life has been in vain.
Everything is growing and my week has been spent mowing strimming and trimming branches that have dropped down with the rain. The schools are on half term and my thirteen-year-old son and his mate put in some hours trying to catch fish in the Flight pond. All the fish are past spawning now, and there are some huge shoals of Fry in the margins around the Lillies, running a fine meshed dip net around the Lillies I caught mostly Roach and Rudd fry but also a few newly hatched Tench, Perch and Carp. The lake is around two thirds of an acre and the water depth varies from three to four feet. It is incredibly nutrient rich due to the amount of Ducks landing on it and doing their business and gets very warm in hot weather. I first stocked it with Carp about twelve years ago, fifty fish who I would guess are around forty years old and have put on very little weight in that time, they are a both Commons and Mirror Carp and a classical long shape. A few younger faster growing Carp have been added over the years that have packed on weight and now weigh around fourteen pounds. Five years ago we added a number of 4 inch long Tench, Bream, Perch Roach and Rudd all of whom have thrived in the pond. This week my son and his mate have fished it at all hours, having most success at five in the morning, catching Tench to three pound and Bream to four pound, along with innumerable Roach to a pound and a half. Several years ago we introduced a pair of Perch approaching two pound with all the fry available over the past few years these stripy predators must have packed at least a pound over the past few years. The boys have caught all their fish while float fishing next to the Lillies. When I was their age living in Cheshire, there were a dozen or more such ponds within four miles of our house, all had fish in and were free to fish provided you asked the farmer. That particular part of the country is Dairy country and to provide water for the Dairy herds Farmers would scrape out a part of the field line it with clay or marl and let it fill naturally with rainwater to provide water for the cows, most of these Marl Pits were populated with Rudd, sometimes Tench and sometimes Crucian Carp. All were relatively shallow and covered in Potamogeton. We would fish through out the summer and before and after school, riding to the pits with the tackle on our bikes, catching fish on a float with bread and sweetcorn. A two-pound Tench was something to boast about, and one pond we fished contained some huge Crucian Carp that we became blasé about catching. Coupled with the numerous pits, there was the Shropshire Union Canal within cycling distance along with the River Dee and the River Gowey. Further afield for a special day out there were numerous Meres between ten and a hundred acres containing Bream Tench and Carp. There was a junior fishing league with forty odd teams of six boys fishing three-hour matches on the River Dee. Fishing was something that everyone had a go at; it was easily accessible free and close to hand. Village DIY stores sold tackle and bait and it was seen as a positive activity that we were all encouraged to try. There were no handrails around the ponds; no life jackets were worn, if you fell in, you got out. Groups of boys would regularly fish throughout the night unsupervised around ponds often carried knives and used matches to light gas stoves, and not many of us had lights on our bikes. No one got stabbed, nothing was burnt down, nobody sued the farmer when they fell over his barbed wire fence in the middle of the night.
We even had a go at various types of fishery management. If a pond had too many small Rudd in, we would introduce a Pike or Perch from another pond. On finding a shoal of 4- 5lb Bream in the River Gowey, we netted the whole river with some Pea netting, moving the few fish we caught, in buckets on our bikes, 2 miles down a busy main road to a large deep pond that we all regularly fished. Fishing was deemed as a good thing for young boys to be doing. In the Test Valley there is very little free fishing, the few ponds and lakes that do exist are snapped up by private clubs or are run commercially, they often require a ticket to be purchased and some parental supervision, the first barriers to a young boy who wants to try his hand at fishing.