Wednesday, 1 April 2009
A prolonged period of dry weather with daytime temperatures slowly on the rise and the briefest of frosts first thing in the morning. The river has continued to clear weed is growing well, one particular parch of ranunculus on the top shallows that was cut back in October now at the water’s surface, the luxuriant growth unhindered by grazing Swans this year. A short stretch of the main river not half a mile from here has been hammered by Swans since Christmas, clear baron gravel replacing yards and yards of ranunculus beds by over thirty grazing Swans. The fish in the river look to be in tip top condition, feeding gently on the surface in the middle of the day. A few Pike have shown up, mainly small Jacks but also a couple of larger females. All dabbed up with Pike pomade to draw as many males as possible to spawn in the spring ditches.
My son and some friends were lucky enough to be asked to fish for Pike further on down the middle river, having some success on a glorious afternoon, they knew that if they started to pick up a few Jacks in the same spot more often than not there would be a big Female in the vicinity. The biggest they had was just over sixteen pounds, although twenty pound fish are not unusual in the lower half of the river, and thirty pounders do exist. The middle to lower river suffered terribly last season. The annual Test & Itchen Association report reflecting this. Look beyond the flim flam of the jack the lad fishing salesmen who now inhabit much of this valley, and it is apparent that many keepers have grave concerns about water quality and clarity during the fishing season.
A declining Grayling population on the main river is also of some concern. It has been heartening to see big numbers of Grayling kicking up on the shallows over the past week. Fat females and dark males backs occasionally breaking the water as they chase around on the shallows, a ford that I regularly cross in tractor and truck has had up to a dozen Grayling wriggling around, oblivious to oncoming traffic it is almost necessary for me to toot the horn to shift them from the gravels. They are particularly vulnerable to Heron and Egret on the shallows, some have stab marks some have a touch of fungus on their nose over the next few weeks some of the bigger and older fish will die, the rigors of spawning proving too much. Year classes in Grayling population are relatively easily identified by size. One of our regular Grayling fisherman with a particular talent for measuring and graphs, has monitored the population here for some time. All year classes are present in numbers which is encouraging and is not the case on stretches of the main river.
Along with the Grayling many other animals have become dumbstruck by impending Spring. Hares are going crackers in the field behind, while Cock Pheasants scrap in the middle of the road holding up the traffic. A few female Mallard are on eggs, the boys reformed into gangs before another bout of rape and pillage on the water. The Jackdaws are hoarding all sorts of odd things in their “chez nook” in the big ash tree and all the damn Doves do all day is coo and dance on the roof above our bedroom; the dance of love kicking off at first light.