A warmer week, but still the wind blows with some intense showers of rain. Fishing is still difficult, the more accomplished anglers having to work very hard for their fish. You would expect the July and August fishing to be hard going, with red-hot days and fish feeding in the last half hour before dark. This season we have not had the hot days but fish that we have stocked over the past few weeks have tucked themselves away under weed or under roots and concentrated on sub surface feeding. At this time of the year fish can be come preoccupied with nymphs and shrimps, shunning the fly on the surface; many beats allowing nymphs to be used for the second half the season. On this beat we normally allow nymphs to be used from the 1st of August but have on occasion bought the start date forward. This year we have decided to allow nymphs to be used from the end of the current weed cut. There is a dearth of fly life through the day; particularly ephemerids and most of the fish are hugging the bottom feeding on nymphs. There are noticeably low numbers of Up winged flies hatching this month, we would normally expect an early afternoon hatch of Blue winged Olives and Spurwings throughout the month, with a reasonable fall of spinners in the evening, the low numbers may be attributable to the poor mid summer weather last year, with low numbers of ephemerids getting back to the water to lay their eggs. The river and weed growth is in perfect condition for Upwinged fly larvae, so it is hoped that the few that hatch this year get back to the water to lay their eggs for next year.
The weed cut on this beat has been a heavy one, and I have cut weed on every day of this week with Ranunculus, Water Celery and Ribbon weed all out of the water and flowering. Further down the river the story is somewhat different, with the water unusually coloured and weed growth sporadic.
Normally at this time of the year I would have already have had to deal with some wasps nests and have been bitten to death by horseflies. I have had one horse fly bite so far this season and have not seen a single wasp.
They have started to combine the winter Barley on the neighbouring estate so the rape on the land that we shoot over will be done soon, weather permitting. Rape is a crop that foxes love during the summer a thick head of growth on long thin stalks. Lots of room underneath in the shade on hot days and a safe place to bring up cubs; the last time we had Rape on this piece of ground there was a family of six foxes in one twenty acre plot. Foxes are a natural predator of Gamebirds, Wildfowl and Poultry and as such their numbers have to be controlled. With several estates in their area ceasing their game shooting along with others scaling down their shooting operation foxes are on the increase in this area. A friend of mine works on a farm in the Test Valley that borders an estate that closed down its substantial shoot several years ago along with the loss of two full time gamekeeping jobs. The farm he works on has a dairy herd with lots of small fields marked out by hedges and used to have a reasonable head of English Partridge along with ground nesting rarities like Stone Curlews, Foxes numbers were low due to the presence of the two gamekeepers on the neighbouring sporting estate. Two years after the estate closed its shoot my friend harvested a nine-acre field of Maize and saw nine foxes, his farm devoid of English Partridge and Stone Curlew and all natural balance to the wild environment gone.