Tuesday, 5 May 2009
First week of the new fishing season, steady rain on the first day improving throughout the week. Fish have been caught on every day, all are fish from last year or longer, all have over wintered well bar one of two and a bit pounds that had been chewed by an Otter. Olives have been hatching steadily throughout the day with a few sedges fluttering about. The Hawthorn have been disappointing although I have seen numbers of them on hedges a hundred yards from the river, a good blow of wind would have instigated a feast for surface feeding fish and some exciting fishing.
Fish have been rising but not freely, looking and rejecting Naturals as well as imitations, it may be that the river is still a few degrees too cold to set them off.
I carried out the monthly kick sample to assess numbers of important invertebrates. As expected there were oodles of Gammarus Shrimp, hundreds of Olives and Caddis along with many Mayflies and Stone Flies. The Blue Winged Olive numbers were low, only nine, where previous samples on nearby stretches of river ten years ago threw up hundreds of the tri tailed, stripy legged little critters. The sample also threw up a huge number of newly hatched Bullhead.
A lone Cuckoo continues to patrol, the main body of Swallows and House Martins have yet to arrive along with the Swifts. A pair of Swans is “loved up” near the bottom boundary. The courting ritual of mirroring the other’s movements and wobble necked courting dance mesmeric, although I don’t think I would get anywhere with my wife if all I did was copy her movements and waggle my neck. “You’ll have to try a bit harder than that” would be the response.
The candles are out on the Horse Chestnuts, the Oaks and Ash holding on for a little warmer weather. Ramsens are in full bloom and scent around the pond and much of the week has been spent cutting grass and sorting through fish. The small fish in the hatchery are thriving in the big tank so I may hold off a little longer before putting them out into the pond running with river water.
While visiting a friend on the middle reaches of the river concerns were aired about the quality and clarity of the river. Last year the middle river to the sea suffered from coloured water and rafts of weed for much of the season. This year the winter colour remains and weed continues to make it’s way down the river. Twenty-three years ago I saw my first Grayling, an alien species to an angler who did much of his fishing in the pits and meres of Cheshire. I saw the fish with my parents while being interviewed for pre college student work on the Middle Test. The fish was in around six feet of gin clear water, the interview was held in mid May. A Baby Hippopotamus could conceal itself in the same hole today and not be visible to the passing angler, let alone a pound plus Grayling.
Water quality is becoming a real problem for parts of this river, and one that needs to be addressed if the reputation of the fishing is not to be damaged. The “gin clear” water for which the Southern Chalkstreams are famous is a rare thing for some beats which are vulnerable to actions and operations carried out upstream.