Friday, July 25, 2008

Week 29

Week 29

A better week for weather but not for fishing; Monday and Tuesday were allocated as “clearing off” days, when all cut weed that hangs up on bridges, weed bars or shallows is moved on downstream. The clearing off days are staggered, for example if Monday and Tuesday are “clearing off” days on the upper Test and its tributaries, Tuesday and Wednesday are the “clearing off” days for the Middle Test, and Wednesday and Thursday for the Lower Test. Weed Cutting Dates are roughly the same every year, are proposed by the Test and Itchen Association and Licensed by The Environment Agency under the Water Resources Act. The main aim behind the Weed Cutting dates is to ensure the minimal disruption to fishing on the river, if keepers were permitted to cut weed whenever they choose there could be cut weed coming down the river on every day of the season, which would ruin the fishing. A mechanical digger on a weed rack North of Romsey takes all of the weed cut out of the river, if the weed were allowed to go beyond the rack it would block the many culverts that flow through Romsey and flood the town centre.
Over the past few seasons, more and more weed has been flowing down the river outside the weed cutting dates, “clearing off” days are used for weed cutting particularly by hard pressed keepers who often have several bits of river to look after across the county. It is not that long ago that upstream of this stretch of water there were four full time keepers, now every keeper above this stretch has other fishing elsewhere to look after, with their stretch of the Dever keepered part time.
Several years ago I was asked to look at a piece of water on a neighbouring chalk stream with a view to looking after it on a part time basis, the stretch was nearly twice the length of the stretch that I currently care for and needed several major areas of work to bring the fishing up to the level that the owners were looking for. I declined the offer and the owners have gone through more keepers than I can count on one hand in less than ten years. While machinery and technology can be labour saving, there are still many aspects of this job that are labour intensive, cutting weed with a scythe is one of them, requiring the same number of man hours today as it did fifty years ago.
This week after clearing my stretch of river of cut weed on Tuesday, I awoke on Wednesday to find my beats choked with cut weed, nothing had come down the river in the preceding seven days. It is not the first time it has happened, and it is becoming all to frequent, last year, after a particularly heavy June and July weed cut, I was still seeing huge rafts of weed coming down the river two days after the last “clearing of” day
I have spoken to several keepers on the middle river over the last week about my problem of cut weed coming down the river outside of the weed cutting dates, all have shrugged their shoulders and said that has been the way for the past few seasons.
Twenty years ago, as a student on the middle Test I was admonished by a keeper from a lower beat for allowing fringe cuttings that would not fill a supermarket carrier bag to fall into the river. Cut weed should not be going down the river outside of the weed cutting dates. Anglers are having an expensive days fishing spoiled by cut weed coming down the river outside the weed cutting dates, in “corporate terms” the reputation of the end product is being damaged by the ineptitude of the few, and we will suffer all the more because of it. Weed Cutting dates are stipulated by a Government Agency under a Legal Act yet no one is ever admonished for breaking the rules.
On a lighter note, the fringe of the river is coming into flower, the Purple Loosestrife and the fine weather bringing an influx of butterflies. The fishing is the hardest I have known it for some years; wild fish and fish stocked have kept their heads down, although I have just taken some fish in for smoking from a rod that has had some late evening sport with a Lunns Particular, a fly that imitates the spinner stage of the Blue Winged Olive, and has hardly been seen so far this season.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Week 28

Week 28

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.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Week 27

Week 27

Rain and wind continues, along with cool temperatures. The fishing on the river, as is often the case on this stretch has become increasingly difficult as July progresses. All of the weed in the river has grown spectacularly since the June weed cut, the July Weed cut that starts next week will be a heavy one on this stretch of the Dever, many of the fish that we stocked over two weeks ago have not put in an appearance, choosing instead to tuck themselves away until the last hour of the day before feasting on the huge numbers of Sedges that continue to bumble around on the surface of the river. There have also been several big fish of around six pounds hooked and lost this week, these will have been in the river several years and could probably tie their own flies. Often at this time of the year we will have a big fish on the bottom part of the beat who will sit high n the water and look at most flies offered to him, in cricketing terms you would say that he is “in” well past his hundred and seeing it like a football. They are real time wasters, confident in what they are doing and unperturbed by the angler on the bank, it is nothing to retire after several fishless hours with the fish still high in the water and feeding confident that he will be there next year and a few pounds heavier.
I have continued to chop down the trees on the Iron Age defence ditch and while doing so have seen several broods of wild Pheasant who must be having a tough time of it with the cool and wet weather. On the neighbouring estate there has been a big effort to increase the numbers of English Partridge in the area. The results have been mixed, but I would guess that numbers of chicks surviving through to adulthood would be down on previous years after the spring and early summer of this year. We rarely see English Partridge on shooting days, although when we kept chickens at the bottom of the garden there was a covey of between twelve and fourteen that would come and feed in the chicken run for around three weeks.
Along with the huge hatches of sedge at this time of the year we are also inundated with a spectacular variety of Moths, ranging in size from a quarter of an inch to three inches across. Some have great big knobbly heads others intricate markings all over their backs. I know nothing of moths but am told by two of my fisherman that we are blessed with a range of unusual species. They suggested that I catch some moths by painting a sticky substance containing alcohol on a tree just before dark, I could then observe the hungover moths the following morning as they struggled in the sticky goo and ascertain what type they were. I told them that it was completely uneccesary as I only had to open our bedroom window for ten minutes at night and most of them would gladly fly in. If ever there was a market for Moth safaris I have the perfect location and you wouldn’t have to bounce around in the back of a Landrover to see them, just plump up the pillows and watch em fly by!
I have started basic training with Otis, sitting, staying and short retrieves with a dummy. Like his Uncle Zebo he is intelligent and steady, he has it all between the ears, it will be my fault if he is not up to the job.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Week 26

Week 26

More rain, and more wind. Last summer was particularly wet, but this summer will run it close, and the wind has not stopped blowing all season. Small branches have been blown down and the river has gone over its banks again. Fishing is proving to be difficult in the conditions, although there are some superb hatches of Sedge in the evening when the weather permits. I have also moved all of the little fish out from their “fry stew” into the pond that is known as the old swimming pool; they are packing on weight and will be glad of the extra space that the new pond provides.
I was lucky enough to be invited fishing twice this week. Firstly to Stratfield Saye to fish the River Loddon, a lovely little river containing most species of fish, we were permitted to fish a nymph, my friend Gary proceeding to catch his first Gudgeon on a fly. On Wednesday evening my son and I fished on the Middle Test at Bossington, the river was a little coloured and there were still rafts of weed coming down the river despite the weed cut being finished for nearly a week, a situation that justifiably irked Brian the Bossington keeper. There was a superb hatch of sedge, and we both caught fish on a small fluttering sedge between eight and nine. With school the next day we were forced to leave the river just as the fish were becoming really active.
Another feature of the past few week and the reason fro the delay in posting on this site, have been the presence of our leading Telecommunications provider in our lane. I must explain that for several years we have had an ongoing battle over our phone line and the quality of our service. We live a mile and a half from the main village; the phone line follows the lane down to 3 houses on 22 poles and support 4 numbers. The line itself was designed to be buried underground over fifty years ago, it is patched in many places and is regularly hit by lightening, it has a ticking on it that is supposedly caused by an electric fence, despite there not being one within a mile of it and works intermittently if the wind blows. It does not support broadband, and struggles with a very poor dial up connection.
Seventy yards across a paddock from our house there is a line that travels in the opposite direction to another exchange that supports a very fast broadband connection. My two children at school have more and more homework that they are expected to do online that requires a faster connection.
Despite a lengthy campaign that included a hard hitting campaign by our MP, The Nation’ s Leading telecommunications provider surveyed the line 6 months ago and decided that rather than connect us up to the pole seventy yards away that supported broadband and would require a maximum of 3 poles, they would replace a mile and a half of cable and 22 poles, blocking the road for two weeks and leaving us with an intermittent phone service. Since the installation of the new line we have had more faults than before. Connection boxes were put on the poles upside down resulting in them filing up with water, several times the line was cut through by well meaning engineers who returned several days later to fix the fault. A hedge cutter mashed up a fifty yard length of the line, that was repaired and left lying alongside the road for days and would have been mashed up again when he returned to cut the grass had it not been for several irate phone calls. We have seen between thirty and forty telephone engineers since Christmas over a myriad of problems.
We have received various pieces of advice from the Nation’s Leading Telecommunications Expert ranging from putting our own poles up or digging our own trench to install the line. There are even poles in place between us and the Broadband line that carry our electricity supply, but because the agreement between The Electricity board and The Leading Telecommunications provider over pole use expired two years ago and they couldn’t agree on a new one they could not hang a line from it. I am not a huge fan of the phone, but in today’s world it is impossible to get by without a phone line. My elderly neighbour relies on it and has an emergency button that uses the phone line in case she should get into difficulty. We regularly receive invitations to upgrade our Broadband connection, or hear people bemoaning the fact that they can only connect at 4mb speed. We are unable, or are ever likely to be able to get Broadband and have to accept that it is part and parcel of living where we live.

Week 25

Week 25

Fishing is now starting to pick up again, the fishes’ appetite re-emerging post Mayfly. The fishing is not easy, any fish caught in the day between showers on olive patterns or a Daddy Long Legs, fish in the evening to Sedge patterns. Numbers of sedges are really building up and by eight o’clock there are literally thousands of them skittering around just above the water, we are also starting to see some of the huge sedges that appear late in the day during the summer months. Fish often slash at these at dark, and if your eyes are up to it, it is well worth staying into the last few minutes of daylight as the bigger fish often have a go at these dusk dwelling flies. Quite a few fish have been caught this week, several of them fish that were stocked in previous years, big fish and in superb condition; they know what it is about and take some catching. I have also stocked the river this week, and in previous years have been busy this week with several fish deliveries to other rivers and beats. Unfortunately this year this has not been possible, and is unlikely to be possible in years to come. After consultation and research, the Government are phasing in the implementation of the “National Trout and Grayling Strategy” over the next seven years. This strategy has been much talked about over the last few years and its main aim is to protect the wild stocks of Brown Trout and Grayling in all of UK’s rivers. Heavily influenced by the Wild Trout Society, it means that any river with a genetically identifiable population of wild Brown Trout must only be stocked with sterile fish – Triploids, or Diploid fish rose under a suitable rearing regime. What is considered a suitable rearing regime we wait to see? We currently raise our own fish from our own Brood Stock; the progeny are male and female and are fertile, as nature intended them to be. While we will no longer be able to supply fisheries on other river systems with these fish we hope to be able to continue stocking them into our river. It means a scaling down of our already small fish production, and a loss in revenue that will have to be passed onto the angler, or increasing pressure on the river by selling more rods.
While I can see the benefit of stocking Triploids in some rivers and lakes, I do not agree with the enforced stocking of them into this river system. Triploids are produce by interfering with the cell development of a newly fertilised Trout egg when they are around twenty minutes old. The eggs are subjected to either a short period in water at a significantly higher temperature, or a short period in a pressure vessel at an incredibly high pressure. The technique was first developed to enable Put and Take Trout fisheries to provide better fishing through the winter, previously they had been able to stock with rainbow Trout that do not breed in this country, although the females still developed eggs and the males milt. While in spawning condition their sporting value was diminished going off the feed and losing condition. Initially there was a move to stocking all female fish, a technique developed for the table market where there was a problem with cock fish having poor flesh quality for several months of the year. A normal batch of fish are fed a diet containing methyl testosterone for several months, all the fish develop male characteristics including the production of milt. The fish that were initially female remain genetically female but can produce milt, these fish are then used to fertilise normal eggs the result of which are all female progeny.
Both of these techniques have been in wide use over the past thirty to forty years. There hasn’t been a male trout sold in a supermarket for many years, something that the GM food lobby missed out on.
Today the ideal fish for stocking into a river containing Wild Brown Trout is deemed by the Government agency to be an all female Triploid Brown Trout. A fish that will feed throughout the year will not spawn and is capable of out competing most other fish in the river. Some stretches like them because they are said to be relatively easy to catch, there are also many reports of how they like to shoal. Many American rivers love them to bits, others are not so sure.
With today’s powerful move towards the ethical production of foodstuff, the label of Frankenstein science could quite easily be thrown at the production of Triploids and All Female Trout.
At the moment we rear and stock male and female Brown Trout, some at a takeable size some undersize to grow up in the river. This is a practice that has gone on in The Test Valley for nearly two hundred years with fish introduced from all parts of the country; it is not possible to identify the initial wild “Test” stock. The Wild Trout Society and the Government Agency state that these fish have interbred with wild populations; because they have been farm reared they have not been subject to the rigours of Natural Selection and could in some cases be weakening the strength of the spawning fish stock in the river. To get round this one I would suggest that instead of stocking Triploids that will out compete a normal fish for food at a critical time when it is looking to recover from spawning, beats are encouraged to stock with greater numbers of smaller undersize fish that are left to grow up in the river and would be subject to a certain amount of natural selection. Support the Keepers and Owners on Predator and Fishery Management issues; let the Keeper “keep” the river in a strategy that mirrors the much-lauded Salmon stocking policies for many rivers. The fish may not be the genetically wild stock, but after two years in the river they look wild and are more likely to be successful spawners.
The National Trout and Grayling Strategy is flawed, the biggest problem being that is a National one and not a regional one. Management practices for rivers in one part of the country will not necessarily work in another. Of course this will be dismissed as another rant by a keeper on a river in decline where they cut the grass too short and the fish are too big. I would point out that many of the practices claimed and practiced by some of these conservation groups were developed and used on this river a long time before they got hold of them. There is a depth of knowledge passed on from generation to generation about how to keep Mr & Mrs Trout Happy that should not be discounted, and would urge many of them to take on board the advice in the response to the strategy by The Test and Itchen association.

Week 24

Week 24

End of the weed cut this week, everyone upstream of us finishing on time meaning that I could send down all of the cut weed that hangs up on bridges and weed bars on the final morning of the weed cut. Because the river on this stretch splits into two channels, much of the weed that comes down gets stuck on bars or shallows, as the momentum that it had from a single channel of water is lost. At the end of each weed-cutting period it is necessary to jump into the top of the river with the “grabs” a long handled garden fork bent over at ninety degrees, and work your way downstream pushing on any weed that has hung up. It takes around four hours and is relatively easy. The dogs can come along and work their way slowly down the river with you. My two older dogs have seen it all before, but for Otis it is an exciting and exhausting morning that involves running around with lumps of weed in his mouth. He has now decided to bring his work home with him and for two evenings this week has disappeared out of the patio doors, returning with a mouthful of lily pads from our garden pond that he then spreads around he room, it makes a change from running around the settee with the video camera in his mouth. Zebo - his uncle went through a very difficult period at this age, destroying a mobile phone, chewing up a digital camera and eating 7ft of an 8ft Hardy Fibalite spinning rod. Otis has had his jabs now and is coming to cricket matches and bumping into other dogs. Zebo has a few gnarled lumps and bumps that have appeared from nowhere adding to his “old warrior”appearance, Dobby the Spaniel remains highly entertaining but absolutely rubbish.
With the weed cut finished, I topped the water meadows and then made a start on some work on one of the drives on a piece of land that we rent for shooting. The drive consists of a belt of ancient trees that lie on top of a 200-yard long Iron Age Defence barrier, consisting of a large Earth bank with ditch. English Heritage has requested that some tree work be done on a footpath that travels down one side of the ditch. It will take me a fairly long time, but I hope to have it done before the start of the shooting season. The ditch once protected one side of an Iron Age settlement that was protected on the other sides by the river Test and Dever, the confluence of which would have been on this particular stretch of river. The rivers then would not have had clearly defined channels the valley bottom being one wide boggy morass, that would have provided not only protection but also a source of food and clean water. I am told, by the man at the museum, that there were several round houses on the raised area to the West of the defence ditch. More recently the Footpath was used by people from the army camp situated at the top of the defence ditch, as a quick an easy route to the pub that is now a private house that backs on to the river. For some reason there were several beds set up in the ditch alongside the footpath the remains of which were still there ten years ago. The camp is now gone, the footpath goes nowhere and is hardly used. We have several strips of game cover, one of which borders the Defence ditch. This year we have grown Maize, but previous cover crops have included Sorgum, Millet, Kale Sunflowers and Stubble Turnips. Around an acre and a half each, some years I have had to put them in, other years it has been passed over to a contractor with varying results. Each year the strips get a healthy dressing of pig manure, weeds sprayed off, cultivated and then drilled. The two plots were drilled around three weeks ago, the newly emerged plants and are now attracting the attention of pigeons and Crows so it has been necessary to put some slow burning bangers up that go off every half hour or so to try and protect the crop, although this has not been necessary while I have been working on the footpath.

Week 23

Week 23

As the Mayfly draws to a close, the fish start to reject most flies that they are offered, gorged by the heavy hatches in preceding weeks they may only be tempted by the smallest offering, preferring to rise to an Iron Blue or a Black Gnat rather than stuff themselves with another Mayfly. One sure sign that the Mayfly hatches are waning is the appearance of the “Yellow Sallies” slightly smaller than the normal Mayfly they are much more yellow in colour and always appear late. Fish rarely seem to rise to them although this may be because they arrive late when the fish are sated.
The weed cut started this week, first job being to sort out the fringe that, along with the grass has grown at an alarming rate. With the heavy showers of the past few weeks it has been necessary to edge the fringe in hard, making the river channel as big as possible to accommodate the extra water.
Fishing during the weed cut can be sporadic. This particular stretch of the river is high up in the system; there are only three or four people above this stretch who will be cutting any weed. Further down on the main river their will be weed coming down constantly throughout the weed cutting period, whereas here we will often get a few days when nothing will be cut and the river is clear. A constant flow of weed coming down the river often unsettle the fish, and make fishing difficult although occasionally you will get a fish feeding hard sub surface on food that is dropping from the cut weed.
This week it has been necessary to strip all of the weed out of the bottom fifty yards of the beat, in order to drop the level of the river that is now coming over the banks. The remainder of the river I will cut into horizontal bars across the river. Bar cutting helps to maintain depth where required, spreads the flow out evenly across the river so spreading the fish out between the bars. One particular right hand bend at the top of this stretch can be altered drastically through weed cutting. Over widened due to two spring ditches entering on the bend, the flow rotates in an anti clockwise direction with no weed, but in a clockwise direction with half a bar of weed at the head of the pool. One week the fish are facing one way, the next week they are facing the other way.
My son and I have been over to the North New Forest to play cricket at the weekend, my wife travelling as scorer. The two grounds we played at were situated in the Avon valley. Stopping at the bridges as most fishermen seem to do I was amazed by the weed growth across the whole river channel. One particular stretch was two thirds flowering ranunculus in six feet of water as far downstream as you could see. A daunting prospect for one bloke with his scythe, and one that would now be undertaken with a weedcutting boat; it would have taken gangs of men with links and pole scythes to clear it fifty years ago coupled with various people moving the cut weed on downstream.

Week 22

Week 22

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.

Week 21

Week 21

What a wet week! The first three days a complete wash out, the following two marginally better. With the luxuriant weed growth holding the water up and the extra water from the rain the banks are becoming pretty soggy. The Mayfly continue to hatch and despite the weather this is turning into one of the best years for Mayfly for some while; most fish being caught between four and seven o’clock. Walking up the river in the morning the fish are hard on the bottom, sated from the previous evenings feed, the few fish that have been caught in the morning ignoring Mayfly patterns, taking instead small Olive patterns, a black Gnat or an Iron Blue. On the wet days the rain has ceased at around four in the afternoon and has had the effect of flicking a switch, fish high in the water slashing at hatching and falling Mayflies. A late shower on Thursday resulted in a huge fall of spent mayfly onto the road bordering the river, the flies dropping to the sodden surface of the road to die and lay their eggs believing it to be the river. While walking the dogs up the road I saw hundreds of spinners lying on the tarmac. The June weed cut cannot come soon enough, the Ranunculus is now out of the water and flowering, forming a dense obstacle for the river to flow over or through, related to the buttercup it has a flower made of white petals and a yellow centre, does not flower every year but is spectacular when it does. More funny birds continue to turn up with reports of a purple Heron around the middle Test. Some of the early flowers are now out in the water meadow, the first signs of early Purple Orchids, and swathes of ladies smock/cuckoo flower. The “fringe”, the line of reeds and sedges that border the river are starting to get high and will need cutting next week, full of flowers and made up of a variety of “marginals” that cost a fortune in a garden centre it forms an important part of the riverkeeper’s job through out the season. It must be kept at the right height around 18 – 24 inches for this beat, to allow the angler to scan the river for fish, and to use it to conceal himself from the fish. It cannot be allowed to fall over in to the river so obstructing flow, and making the river smaller, it provides a valuable protection against erosion but must not be allowed to grow too thick, it must be allowed light and protected from too much shade, too little light resulting in the fringe thinning, leaving the bank open to erosion. During periods of low flow, the fringe can be allowed to grow out into the river, squeezing the making body of water so keeping the flow of water up, in periods of high flow it is cut right back. At the end of each season I cut the fringe right down to a height of around six inches and edge it in hard, this allows the river to scour out any silt that may have built up along the side during the summer. A practice that has been carried out for hundreds of years up and down the river.