Fishing Rod Decoration


By Graham Waterton

January 2016 - Winter Fishing and the weather, of course.

- By Graham Waterton


Snowdrops and azaleas out in the garden and the first green blooms of hawthorns in the hedgerows. Its January for goodness sake! 


 Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/gravel-cleaning-bourne.jpg



A few weeks ago I was gravel cleaning on the Bourne Rivulet and could have kept my feet dry in slippers. As the weed died back the chalkstreams ran down to their lowest for several years. Groundwater levels are also in extreme deficit and although a normal wet winter will redress this annual paranoia, watching the extraordinary rainfall and increasingly frequent floods in the north all weather norms are in doubt. So, with some relief, as I post this blog the rain has arrived in the south and all rivers are running high and coloured. You might like to read this article as it explains a bit about El Niño and suggests we may have a very wet, warm and windy few months. 

 Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/nasa-topex-sea-surface-heights.jpg


Although the wildlife is remarkably resilient to floods I know many who work on the river will not want a repeat of the 2013/14 floods.




Up to a week or so ago, with low, clear and increasingly weedless water, the grayling fishing was tough and on occasions almost impossible. Lone fish, without the confidence of the shoal, spooked at the slightest concern. Blowing leaves, falling twigs and the longest most delicate casts sometimes sent them bow waving goodbye up stream. As ever when conditions challenge, success is sweet and a dozen made a letter day redder. I had a couple of good days on the Itchen where the greatest cause of spooked grayling were the antics of spawning

trout charging around the gravel shallows. A healthy problem to have.

Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/itchen-autumn.jpgPicture: /blog-files/blog/w288/grayling-colours.jpg


I heard from an experienced caretaker of wild trout fisheries the other day that brown trout spawning times differ greatly from river to river. At first hand I saw spawning activity on the Avon in November, the Itchen in December and he was reassuring me that the Bourne trout spawn well into January. Water temperature, which on chalkstreams differ from river to river seems the obvious answer but I must find out why.

Pike are canny. Unlike trout and grayling they don't have to find a constant conveyor of food. Occasional feasts and then time to hide and sulk. In low flows they can hide almost anywhere, which in the lower Test beats gives them plenty of mid river nooks and crannies. 

Now we have rain and hopefully colder temperatures both in and out of the water. When the river fines and the fish shoal the grayling fishing will improve. As for the pike, this heavier water, will demand that they tuck themselves into the banks and more predictable deep slow lies. As April approaches the big females will feed more to get ready for spawning.

So, we are dependant on the weather gods, as ever but there will be some sport as we crawl agonisingly slowly to the start of the trout season.


Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/test-pike-fly.jpg


A few brave fishery owners and managers are sending a shiver of expectation up and down the chalkstreams. There is a veritable avalanche, or should that be waterfall of 'rewilding' projects taking place over the winter. A number of the famous stretches and beats have undergone significant works to resculpt river banks and beds to provide better habitat for wild fish. One estate on the upper Test has gone completely wild, as has a beat on the Wylye that I am involved with, to name but two. This means creating an entirely sustainable wild fishery with no stocking and of course, catch and release. It's a brave and applaudable move for an estate which runs a commercial fishery. Whilst some regular rods may have left, they will attract new members who value and enjoy wild trout chalkstream fishing. We are all watching with interest but I'm not the only one who hopes this trend will drift downstream to more and more fisheries. I gather plenty of riparian owners are inviting consultants including those from the Environment Agency and more significantly The Wild Trout Trust to advise on work that can be done in the years leading up to fully 'going wild'.  Watch this space.


I caught quite enough salmon in Iceland in September and had high hopes that this season of plenty would give some clients the same opportunity in Scotland but sadly not. Low water persisted well into mid October and then of course, we had too much. I haven't seen the end of season figures for the Tweed but I suspect it will show a very patchy season, better than last year but overall, worse than average. There's always another season and the 15th January is only a week or so away.


Otters. A Public Relations Disaster Waiting to Happen

- By Graham Waterton



The otter population hit a low point in 1977 since when, their proliferation in England has increased to the point where a serious conflict of interest has arisen between those who treasure its reappearance and those whose jobs and livelihoods could be affected by its continued population expansion. The debate is gaining momentum and I hesitate to join in but I fear we may be heading down a path, which could easily jeopardise the fishing communities current position as the least contentious of the field sport disciplines.


Currently the otter is a European Protected Species and on Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It also gains protection under the Conservation of Habitats and Species Regulations 2010. To paraphrase the regulations, you are breaking the law if you capture, kill, disturb or injure otters, possess, control or transport otters, damage or destroy a breeding or resting place, or obstruct access to their resting or sheltering places.

Although under these regulations it is possible to apply for a licence to prevent serious damage to a fishery, it is unclear if this could enable a cull and more likely could only enable actions such as fencing a fishery where that may obstruct access but not if it 'disturbs' the otter.


Combined, therefore, these afford it almost total protection. A perfectly reasonable position bearing in mind that these beautiful creatures were virtually extinct across the UK apart from small populations in Scotland, Wales and the South West of England by the late 1970s.


England has not experienced otter numbers like this before and they are now seriously affecting a significant number and a wide variety of fisheries. A family group of 5 otters can have a devastating affect on a fishery (whether stocked or naturally populated) in a matter of days.


This situation is known as a 'genuine wildlife conflict'. The hen harrier/red grouse is another.  It took 15 years to establish The Hen Harrier Joint Recovery Plan (which included 6 years of mediated conflict resolution) in which time the apparently legitimate positions of both the grouse shooting community and the hen harrier conservators spread to widen the gap between the shooting/non shooting worlds. We continue to hear of hunt staff accused and some prosecuted for illegal actions against foxes.

My concern is that there are a number of people within the fishing community who are and have probably been for some time, breaking the law by killing otters. Fishing, so precious to all of its practitioners, could follow this path to the courts and a public relations disaster, setting the angling fraternity back by decades in terms of its public image.


How did we get to into this position?


True otter numbers have never been accurately recorded as they are very mobile, both as individuals and as family groups, their behaviour is secretive and they have mainly nocturnal habits. Nonetheless the national population before the 1950s was not considered to be in danger. From about 1956 certain organochlorine pesticides became widely used in agriculture and until they were banned in the mid 60s, they devastated the otter population, which continued to decline until the late 1970s.


In 1978 organised otter hunting came to an end due in part to low numbers but also huge public and political pressure which made a legal ban inevitable. These packs continued to hunt mink, fur farm escapees, many released by animal liberation activists in the late 1990s. That, of course, ended in 2004 when The Hunting Bill was enacted.


Between 1977 and 1979 the first National Otter Survey identified otter presence in only 6% of nearly 3000 sites surveyed. It was the low point in otter numbers.

Since then numbers have increased and the national population has proliferated to every county in England. There were some captive bred releases made in the 80s and 90s, which came to an end when it was clear how quickly repopulation was occurring naturally. The most recent Otter Survey in 2009/10 identified otter presence in 60% of the same sites.

The reason for their recent population increase is, in the main, due to reduced water pollution and improved habitat. It is ironic in this context that the cleaning up of our rivers was due, in the large part to fishing clubs, associations and fishery owners and the pressure applied by them on our national fisheries and environmental bodies. Whilst we have a long way to go in terms of river improvement, the otters ascendancy has been a clear consequence of this on-going success story.


The otter, Lutra lutra, is at the top of the food chain, with no natural predators. They eat fish, water birds, amphibians, crayfish and occasionally small mammals. Fish provide between 75% and 95% of their diet but they appear to have no preference, merely feeding on species in proportion to what is locally available. The decline in eel numbers, thought to be a favourite diet item, will have pushed them onto other species. Although in captivity they will eat about 1.5kg a day it is clear that they can be highly selective in their tastes and will kill more fish than they need to eat to survive, witnessed by the amount of fish with one bite missing, found dead on the bank, a habit not unknown in predators like the fox.


It is unclear why some fisheries are currently more affected than others. Clearly the availability of a significant food source causes the otters to become resident and indeed seems to stimulate a mature pair to breed. Otters kill both large and small fish. Perhaps captive reared trout, large carp and pike for instance because they are relatively slow swimmers, are so much easier to catch?


This is an increasing problem, although there are winners and losers. One beneficiary are the fish farmers who report their busiest year for some time replenishing stocked trout fisheries, both still water and rivers, whose populations have been heavily predated. So for fisheries, what are the implications of all this?


You can fence them out. Expensive but a solution nonetheless, perhaps for small stillwaters, fish farms and fishery stewponds but completely impractical for larger still water fisheries and rivers. Commercially run fisheries can restock more frequently but that will impact on running costs and therefore ultimately the fisherman's pocket. I suspect some rivers will revert to wild fisheries but little is known about the impact of otters on small chalk stream wild fisheries, which have nurtured good heads of large wild trout. Some smaller coarse fishing streams have had their populations of large barbel and chub devastated. More research is definitely needed, particularly in wild trout fisheries.



What we do know is that for the short and I suspect medium term, the otter is fully protected by law. I simply cannot see culling licences ever being granted or a resumption of otter hunting. For those who live and work on fisheries every day and whose living depends on a healthy coarse and game fishing industry, this is deeply concerning and may have a high personal cost to them and to all anglers if something is not done fairly soon. We need quickly to find alternative solutions based on scientific evidence and speed and scientific evidence don't often go hand in hand.



From a personal point of view and I suspect like many of you, I have mixed feelings. For many years I fished the Scottish west coast and the sight of otters in the sea pools and in the estuarine kelp beds was a delight - a breathtaking distraction from our mutual desire to catch a sea trout. My many seasons on the Towy gave me a few evenings sharing a sea trout pool with a single and occasionally a family of otters. Memorable moments.

Now I am involved on an almost daily basis with fisheries across the area. One, a carp fishery, has seen its significant carp population more than halved. The stink of rotting carp carcasses around that lake greeted many fishermen. Several commercially run trout fisheries where I work and fish have had to restock many more times than usual as a result of otter activity. Stew ponds have to be fenced and fish carcasses cleared up daily. 


So, back to the start. Why am I worried? It is not so much the proliferation of the otter as in the long term we must deal with this reality. No, the immediate problem is that we know otters are being killed, deliberately, by a small number within the angling community.  In fact they probably have been for some time. If I am right, it is only a matter of time before someone is caught which, quite rightly, will result in a very public prosecution the likes of which have done so much damage to the hunting and shooting communities in the past. Do we want the exposure that some moorland keepers and owners have endured through killing raptors or the ignominy of hunt staff caught with sacks of fox cubs?


I don't have a solution. I suspect that fishery management techniques must simply adapt to the new reality of life with otters. That reality may mean for instance, more otter proof fences on some fisheries. What it will mean though is that on otter present waters there will be less fish for the fisherman and probably fewer bigger fish. On stocked waters, more stocking or more frequent stocking will be required, both leading to more expensive fishing.


To those who work at the 'coal face' of the fishery sector who daily witness this increasing predatory pressure and whose livelihoods may be put in doubt, please behave responsibly.


What is more important in my view, is that all those bodies in touch with land and fishery owners, clubs and associations, should implore their members not to turn a blind eye and hide behind a defence of ignorance at what may be happening on their fisheries. If they don't, there's a disaster waiting to happen....


October 2015 - The Trout Season and Salmon Ramblings.

- By Graham Waterton


As we reach the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness it seems an appropriate time to look back on a wonderful trout season which has been a very busy one for me.


Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/mayfly-dun.jpg


I returned from the U.S. in mid May and straight into wall to wall mayfly guiding for nearly six weeks. The weather produced a long mayfly this year with

plenty of clients experiencing this extraordinary event for the first time.There were some particularly prolific spinner falls providing some frantic fishing as the light fell.


Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/mayfly-spinner-blizzard.jpg


The post mayfly doldrums were not too long and within a week or so fish were back on their normal summer diet of small olives, sedges and the various terrestrials. The doldrums was short lived this year because the fish were not able to gorge on mayfly for extended periods. The cold weather shortened each day's activity and extended the season resulting in fish not as satiated as usual.

As the summer progressed water levels dropped only being supported by weed being trimmed rather than being cut and in some cases not cut at all. By September we had beats looking very weedy which were tricky to fish but better than low levels and no weed. To fill the aquifers and reduce the groundwater deficit we will need plenty of rain over the winter.


I think it was the calm and well balanced reporting of the Daily Express that predicted 'an invasion of Daddy Long Legs' presumably forgetting that it happens pretty much every year and results in some great fishing in the last few weeks of the season. This year was no exception.



I guided for many good and experienced fisherman this year but some of my best memories of a very busy summer were the smiling faces of novices having their first chalkstream experience and most of the time, catching fish.



Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/first-fish-smile.jpg
     I had lots of family days in August and the Test valley echoed to whoops of delight as the young, and old, earnt some bragging rights.


Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/family-fishing-day.jpg

Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/father-son-success.jpgPicture: /blog-files/blog/w288/first-fish-from-the-test.jpg


I also took a number of more experienced rods to the Bourne Rivulet to experience its unique challenges. A few were rewarded with some cracking fish up to 20" which is around 3lbs. An exceptional wild chalkstream brownie.


Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/bourne-rivulet-20-incher.jpg


It's been a good season for salmon and sea trout on the chalkstreams. Both the principal beats on the Test, namely Testwood and Nursling and on the Itchen, the Lower Itchen Fishery had excellent years for both salmon and sea trout. I had a great evening at Testwood in August getting attached to plenty of sea trout up to 5lbs.  It was really enjoyable and if you haven't given it a whirl I can thoroughly recommend it. For those living in London and the South, excellent sea trout fishing on our doorsteps.


Generally the Atlantic salmon season has been significantly better than last year with most rivers experiencing an increase of spring fish and particularly grilse which were almost completely absent last year. Sadly a few catchments are still having a ghastly time, the Dee, for example, once again very short of fish.


Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/upper-midfjardara.jpg

My annual pilgrimage to the Midfjardara in Iceland reflected this increased improvement with 10 rods catching nearly 200 salmon in 3 days. This had been the story for much of the season; not surprisingly the river has had a record year with just over 6000 salmon. An astonishing figure compared to last years 1700 and the previous best year in 2010 of 4043. The vast majority of these were grilse but who's complaining. By my calculations that's well over 40 fish per rod per week which made the Midfjardara the best of the naturally spawning rivers in Iceland this season. I'm booked for next year already! Even within Iceland there was feast and famine. It seemed that the North Eastern rivers had a bad time and the west and south rivers had some record numbers. All about water temperature, I gather, too cold in the north and perfect for the west. One day someone will completely understand why one river has the worst and another the best season ever. The enigma of the Atlantic salmon.


Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/iceland-splashy-release.jpgPicture: /blog-files/blog/w288/iceland-midfjardara.jpg


Fishing late season in Iceland, we normally miss the summer treat of fishing a small hitched fly for fresh fish but not this year. Fresh fish were entering the system right up to the end of the season and we caught fish hitching, on tiny flies, on small cone heads fished upstream, traditionally swung flies and even bombers. It really is heaven for those prepared to experiment and take advice from their excellent team of guides. 


I have Tweed trips with clients in October and November to come and will report on the Scottish back end season next time. Interesting that the Scottish government have just diluted down their earlier proposals to restrict the numbers of salmon killed in our rivers. Now a 'targeted system based on fish stocks' is proposed. I have mixed feelings about this. It seems to me obvious that if fish stocks are so low we should move to no salmon being killed, rod or net, on all catchments, until stocks recover. I know that the implications of that could be difficult but if we don't, we risk stocks reducing to a level that recovery would be nigh on impossible. No pain, no gain.


A looming issue, particularly in the Southern counties with chalkstream fisheries, is the proliferation of otters. It's a complicated issue which I explore in another article here and which will also be published in the next Piscatorial Society Journal.




May/June 2015 - The Catskills

- By Graham Waterton

May started cold and before I knew it, the frantic mayfly season was underway and before breath could be drawn June was drawing to an end. The early season was notable for all sorts of reasons but the high point was our trip to the U.S.


My wife and I planned to be there for 10 days, part holiday, part attending my sons graduation and three days fishing in The Catskills. I'd never fished for trout in the US and the aim was twofold. Firstly to do some driftboating and secondly to catch some wild brook trout in the upper reaches of the many freestone rivers of The Catskill Mountains. Those of you who have fished abroad will know that extreme weather can strike anywhere and we arrived during a heat wave which persisted pretty much for our whole trip. This very warm unseasonal weather left no snow and having had no rain for nearly a month, the rivers were the lowest for years. Not enough for drifting and the skinniest mountain streams with extra spooky brookies. So both of my original aims were unfulfilled but nonetheless I had some great fishing.


All overseas trips are special but not necessarily for the fish. This was again, a series of days waving a magic wand and trying to fool fish, trout on this occasion, into feeding on my furry and feathery offerings.


What makes these trips special is the places and their surroundings and their contrast to home waters, the different wildlife, the different local methods and the people you bump into. All fish, particularly on first meeting, are breathtaking visions but for me but a fish remains in the memory as much for its context than for its size or intrinsic beauty.  And so it was in the Catskills.Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/catskill.view.jpg


The Catskill Mountains are broadly defined by the 700,000 acre Catskill Park, a protected area in the South East of New York state about a 2 or 3 hour drive from New York City. The mountains rise to about 4000ft and are, in the main tree covered, part conifer, part deciduous, reminiscent of The Chilterns but like everything else over there, on a much larger scale. There are hundreds of rivers which tumble out of the mountains. A few are dammed and provide head and tail water fisheries but most rush through stunning wooded valleys and  eventually  join the giants of the Hudson and the Delaware which spew out of the east coast. It is stunning countryside on a grand scale.

 Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/beaverkill.river.jpg

The bird life at first seemed familiar with lots of LBJs but a more careful look and a local bird book, identified Grackles, American Robins (bigger than ours) Red Winged Blackbirds (bigger and flashier than ours) Barn Swallows (bluer than ours) and Blue Jays (bluer but smaller than ours). The Ruby Throated Hummingbirds enthralled us each evening as we all drank the local nectar. I saw a number of Bald Eagles soaring over the rivers and a single nervous female wild Turkey (it was Turkey hunting season).


Their Brown Bears are few and far between but beavers and their well gnashed trees were evident almost everywhere.

Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/beaver.damage.jpg



We based ourselves near Roscoe (recently granted the descriptor 'TroutTown USA') and fished The Beaverkill, The Willowemoc and the East and West branch of the upper Delaware. Roscoe is a small town but has 5 tackle shops, 2 large outfitters and round every corner is a pick up towing a drift boat.



Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/roscoe.main.street.jpg

Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/

With sunny and hot weather the norm, my excellent guide, Phil Eggleton, suggested 06.00 starts. Once we had a break in the middle of the day but otherwise fished through, often until 8.00pm.

Although I had not given Phil instructions on how I wanted to fish he was keen to show me the dry fly and nymph fishing the area was well known for and I was clearly happy with that. Streamers from the driftboat would have to wait for another trip.  

The Catskills place in American fly fishing history is central. Often referred to as the cradle of American dry fly fishing it was made famous by Theodore Gordon who corresponded at length with Halford (and Skues), adapted his dry flies and developed the Catskill style for dressing dry flies, the most famous of which is the Quill Gordon. In the Catskill Fly Fishing Museum Hall of Fame (no, I'm not joking and it's well worth a visit) Halford's  plaque describes 'The Father of Dry Fly Fishing' and Gordon's as 'The Father of American Dry Fly Fishing'. The two most famous American fly tying families, the Darbees and the Dettes lived and worked in the area and the Dette family still produce wonderful flies, sold through their shop in Roscoe. Lee and Joan Wulff  opened their fly fishing school in the Beaverkill Valley. Joan still teaches there.

The whole place oozes Amercan fly fishing history.  

Phil was keen I fished Gordon's favourite pool and having caught a fish was photographed with the iconic covered bridge behind me. His knowledge of the area and its history was a large part of the pleasure of fishing the area.


 Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/covered.bridge.pool.jpgPicture: /blog-files/blog/w288/covered.bridge.pool.beaverkill.jpg



The fly hatches were often very localised. If there was nothing hatching or rising we moved on, often without wetting a fly. When we did find fly hatching, more often than not, it was on a amazing scale. I missed the Quill Gordon's but saw the end of the Hendricksons and plenty of other olives, several species of sedge, including one very similar to our Grannom. Olives hatched and fell at varying times of the day and on one occasion olive duns and spents and 2 or 3 sedge species all on the water in staggering numbers at the same time for a frantic session lasting only an hour.


Lots of fish and many memories but one particularly notable hour long session saw us scanning a stretch of the Beaverkill just outside Roscoe. Nothing was moving and I sensed we were about to jump into Phil's huge pick up and move on but then we both spotted a single tiny sipping rise downstream of us under the far bank . As we approached, there appeared to be a few fish rising in a small rocky bay, overhung with beech branches. No olives were hatching at that time but two or three spinners were egg laying and we plumped for a dark brown Hendrickson spinner.

We skirted round, waded very gingerly ready for a long delicate cast. Any closer in this crystal skinny water would put them down. The first fish was sipping fly in a seam created from a rock at the top of the bay. The first few casts only inches out rose nothing. Then another long delicate cast right on the money and he sucked it down. We hooked three fish out of that bay, each one needing a cast, literally, within an inch. All beautiful wild brownies the largest around 18". Very, very satisfying.

 Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/beaverkill.trout.jpg

Having returned from the U.S., I started 4 weeks of almost continuous mayfly guiding on the chalkstreams. This year the big floppy ephemerid arrived on time and kept going across all rivers well into June. There were a few tough days with some wet or windy weather but overall a really good mayfly season. For once the cool north or east winds helped, as they suppressed and often extended the hatch over the day and I suspect lengthened the mayfly season as a result.

I do love the mayfly. It's an extraordinary natural phenomenon but it's now so good to get back to small flies as fish regain their appetite.


I'm hearing some good news from many of the salmon rivers here and abroad. Will 2015 restore our faith?

April 2015 - Otters: flower or weed?

- By Graham Waterton

How good it was to reach and pass April Fools Day.  At last the month when the trout season on the chalkstreams gets underway. It's rarely a great fishing month, weather normally inhibits the action to a few good days in the second half of the month and then, often only a few hours in the middle of the day. Sometimes, though it can be a wonderful few hours and thats why early season success is so special. No matter, it's just good to get out, look at the rivers and watch the trees and hedgerows edge from brown to green. How good it is to see that green bloom spread day by day along a familiar thorn hedge. 


The first few days were taken up with a very early Easter but as I had a full week of guiding and instruction the following week, some tidying up down on the platforms was needed. The estate forestry team did a fantastic job removing two dangerous dying oaks and some low branches annoyingly in the way of good long cast.  Close to one of the platforms is a stump, beside which a mallard had decided to nest.  Eleven eggs appeared and she started her 28 days of confinement. Over the next four weeks she had chain saws, tractors, trees falling, people cracking poorly timed backcasts over her head but other than the odd break for a wash and a preen, she sat tight. 

Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/


The next two weeks were characterised by bright sunny days with a nagging cold east and north east wind. The rivers are currently running at a good height but with no significant April rainfall we will see aquifer levels drop and by late summer, some beats will look low. For the next 2 or 3 months however, weed growth will keep the water high and the May and June weedcut will be critical, as ever.

On the warmer days and in sheltered spots, it felt summery and flies and fish obliged for an hour or so either side of midday. All my guiding days brought fish to my visitors but it was far from easy and every bit of action was hard won. One notable day at Bossington on the Test gave my four rods a taste of the best of the chalkstreams. For two hours, the wind dropped and we had a hatch of olives, mainly early medium olives and spurwings and I suspect, a few pale wateries which got dozens of heads out of the water. It was a wonderful sight so early in the season and after plenty of missed rises and long distance releases, all four caught fish. Smiles all round. That was the day I heard my first cuckoo of the year.


Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/home.beat.brown.trout.jpgPicture: /blog-files/blog/w288/happy.client.jpg



The day after, I was invited by the owners to fish a private beat of the Upper Test as a recce for some future guiding work. I've known this fishery for years but hadn't fished there for some time and was lucky to get a sunny day and fish a very sheltered and much improved carrier. When olive hatches are sparse early in the season my go to fly is Bob Wyatt's Deer Hair Emerger and it didn't let me down. I had fish after fish. Can't wait to go back to guide there.Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/upper.test.brown.trout.jpg



I managed to make my traditional early season trip to Devon and had another utterly delightful day.  The river was summer low and ran with amber tinged clarity. The valley was full of the smell of wild garlic and the river yielded a number of those small dapper, lightning fast wild trout. Towards the end of the afternoon as I fished up one tree covered reach, a diseased kelt drifted down past me towards the rejuvenating sea and with my next cast I caught a salmon parr. Life and death, natures cycle. I've written a longer article about this day which will appear in the May edition of the ezine Eat Sleep Fish. 



Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/ /blog-files/blog/w288/devon.brown.trout.jpg


The Test One Fly Competition was a belter this year. A record number of 36 competitors and their guides met at The Greyhound in Stockbridge for what has become an important early season ritual. After last years soaking, this year the weather was fine and the rivers in great condition. A record number of fish were caught and carefully released. My very capable fisherman came 12th and his team came second overall. A lovely day, immaculately organised, lots of friends and all conducted in great humour.


Most of the months instruction was spey casting from both the platforms and the river and was preparation for trips north and abroad later in the summer but I did have a lovely morning with three young trout fishers.  They picked it up quickly, were keen and attentive and to my surprise were very well behaved. All down to my natural control, of course, and nothing to do with their grandfather and mothers who oversaw from a distance.


 Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/casting.lessons.jpgPicture: /blog-files/blog/w288/spey.casting.lesson.jpg
















On my next few visits to the platforms I was preoccupied and not a little excited about the arrival of my eleven mallard ducklings. One morning a quick look showed an empty nest. There was no sign of mother or ducklings and no shell fragments. As the staff in Lindo Wing of St. Marys Hospital will tell you, precise timings in these matters are impossible but for my mallard mum the timing was about right. Where were they? The lake has a family of otters and their presence over recent years has had its effect on all the wildlife. The large carp and pike population of the lake has been significantly reduced with rotting, half eaten carcasses on the bank provided irrefutable evidence. The water fowl have also suffered, they even had a swan. Everyone who works and fishes that lake have noticed the decline. I used to like otters. There was a time when to see or hear an otter family on the Towy when night fishing for sea trout was an experience to be savoured. The otters were part of the scenery and to me there presence was a treat. I don't know what happened to my mallard family. They probably shouldn't, but my views on otters have changed. As they say about plants, a weed is a flower in the wrong place. Oh well, perhaps cougars eat otters.


I managed, eventually, to finish the painting of the 59.5lb salmon caught by Miss Davey in 1923 and it now hangs in her former family's home.

 Picture: /blog-files/blog/w288/miss.daveys.59.5lb.salmon.jpg


For me, next months highlight is a trip to midstate New York to have a few days fishing in The Catskills. It will be early season for this Eastern fishery and after a long cold winter everything is late, so we will see. I hope to fish such iconic streams as the Beaverkill, the Willowmec and to drift boat on the Delaware, West Branch. I have some very special flies to use, of which more next month.


As I write, it is very cold but the forecast is for some warmer weather, as ever, from the south and west. The fishing will now improve and in a few weeks, as I return from the states to three weeks of almost continuous guiding, we will see the start of one of the most extraordinary natural phenomena, the mayfly hatch. I wouldn't be anywhere else.