Two months of record rainfall has returned the sparkle to a river that three months ago was in a parlous state. Weed has flourished and to date there is no sign of any blanket weed in the river although there is some in the stew ponds that I have had to pull out with the grabs, the weed pulled from one pond was thick with small water snails. Over the past week I have had cause to visit a few other stretches of both the Test and Itchen, a beat on the middle Anton had some fantastic beds of ranunculus but on an over-widened stretch the flow had slowed and blanket weed was flourishing. On a visit to the Itchen one keeper who attended the “low water workshop” in March was thankful that most who had attended seemed to have ignored the advice to throw as many bits of wood into the river to hold up water and speed up flow but who could have foreseen the weather to come, if they had followed advice most would now have been washed away and hung up on his hatches. The last two winters of the last millennium were dry and one chap to the east of here made a lot of money on the back of “experts ” who claimed to have invented faggots, bundles of willow used to build up a bank that have been in use since Iron Age Joe was a lad. Many who purchased the magic faggots pinched their flow a bit too much and after one of the wettest winters on record lots of the most expensive faggots ever produced ended up bobbing alongside the liners in Southampton water.
When the rain stops the fishing has been good with Olive patterns the most successful, a fish of three pounds was caught with a fairly unsavoury nymph/lure in its scissors, and the first Rainbow of the year, a long lean fish around the same size gave itself up from a pool just upstream from the fishing hut, goodness knows where it came from or how far it had travelled. The average weight for fish caught so far this season is around a pound and a half.
Over on the Itchen the river is carrying a little more colour and still the odd mayfly rises from the water. The weed growth is prolific and the water has come over the banks, it will be necessary to hit the weed quite hard in July which may persuade the river to get back within its banks, but it is a short stretch and it may be that we are in the hands of the keeper below as to what level the river runs at. The Spring ditch that was cleared out over the winter with the crack willow cut back has doubled its discharge after wet weather and now really rattles along, although the transformer dripping PCB’s remains in situ alongside the channel with a bucket beneath.
Our main flush of orchids have finally put in an appearance although they are almost swamped by the meadow grass that has gone leggy with the rain. Now they are visible to even these duff eyes the meadow can be topped and the Orchids avoided. The margins of the pond are full of fry, a scoop with a net revealed that they are mostly Roach Rudd and Perch. On an evening fishing during a gap in the Euro football I landed a lovely Tench of over 3lb on floatfished sweetcorn , a fat male with paddles for pectorals it thumped away on the rod for quite a few minutes. There are some decidedly chubby Bream doing the rounds, a group of twenty the biggest of which must be approaching six pounds, repeatedly circle the margins of the pond occasionally putting their heads down to feed.
All of the rain has drowned any discussion about becoming more “water wise” the reservoirs are very visible and may have been topped up by record rainfall throughout May and June but the aquifers in these parts are far from being fully recharged and some springs are only just flowing. Daughter is back from the grisly process of studying blood spatters at Uni, so she had yet to hear me sally forth on our extravagant use of a diminishing resource; I took the opportunity one evening last week to explain matters. Unfortunately number one child was engrossed in a TV programme on all things festival where it had rained for days and the whole site was reduced to swamp, which didn’t help my argument. The mood darkened when somebody called Jay Z came on stage to shout all over a backing track of Otis Redding singing “Try a little Tenderness” at the Montreaux festival, an inspirational performance by Otis that held me rapt when I first saw a recording of it in my youth, the black dog who lies at my feet was named in his honour, it was that or the lift company..... probably the lift company having being raised with Mary Mungo and Midge very much to the fore. Apparently Mr Z makes a tidy sum from shouting over other peoples finest work which I suggested was the musical equivalent of driving a JCB across a bowling green. Water was forgotten and a cross generational argument developed over the merits of music. It soon became apparent that her appreciation of music honed from many hours of piano tuition in her formative years and the heady heights of a grade three piano certificate had perversly morphed into some tuneless thump, thump, thump driven by a man who walked around a lot in a hat and dark glasses.
Then again she did used to kick the piano a lot while practising at home chucking in the odd expletive for effect so the signs of her appreciation of rap music were there from an early stage.
Bit short on pictures this week, didn’t want to get my camera wet!