The great survival race

The great survival race is on – in the red corner seventy to one hundred trout and in the blue corner otters.
Here at Nether Wallop Mill the teaching lake is stuffed with fish April to October; you could almost walk across the lake on their backs there are so many. They are mostly rainbows but there are a few blues plus some browns that sneak in from the river for an easy life.  Each morning now the season is over I feed them with a scoop of fish pellets; the moment they see my shadow with Pavlovian response they leap and pivot. In early November the lake positively boiled. Today the recipients are fewer.  The response less muted and every few days I see the reason – fish corpses.
Otters are ever present in the Wallops valley, but it is only when winter starts to bite that the lake becomes a living larder. They don’t visit every night; I’d say maybe one in every three.  In the darkness I can hear them, sometimes two, other times three as they hunt. It is a noisy process, not least because they announce their arrival with high pitched chirrups between themselves. It is almost as if they are genuinely excited to be here. I suspect they have good reason for that.
Stealth does not appear to be essential to the otter hunting lexicon. They flop into the water with a resounding splash.   Once in the lake they swim with practised ease. If I shine a torch it is simple to track their progress back and forth across the surface as the eyes shine back at me and I’ll just about be able to make out the flat domed head. At first sight of the beam of light they will turn their head in my direction. No panic, just idle curiosity and thenceforth they go about the business of fish hunting regardless of me.
By this point I shudder to think what panic is occurring in the trout community. The otters dive and surface with increasing rapidity. Otters are naturally buoyant so they put huge effort into diving, arching their backs and half leaping out of the water before plunging beneath. It is clearly a fairly hit or miss affair, with more hits than misses until each comes up with a fish clamped in the jaws. They eat with unrestrained savagery. On a still night you can hear the tearing of flesh from fifty yards. The head and the top half of the body is the favoured feast, eating out the innards to leave the skin, back end and tail like a discarded sock.
This morning the count was two dead on the bank, which brings us up to about ten in the past week. By Christmas the population will have halved with the end game sometime in February. In this particular survival race my money is on the otters.
Bad news about Arthur
Nature is a cruel mistress; Arthur having briefly tasted love last month is now close to death. It’s nothing as romantic as a broken heart but rather the inevitable rivalry of swans.
Having reclaimed his home, Arthur was back enjoying the bachelor life until two swans dropped in from the skies. Arthur is nothing if not pragmatic so he beat a retreat from the lake to the mill pond.
However it was far from being a safe place. The pair followed him up the brook until they cornered him, the male asserting territorial rights in the brutal way that swans do. Left for dead in a backwater a neighbour found Arthur, called the swan sanctuary and they took him away.
The sanctuary is nursing him but the outlook is fairly bleak At best he will recover and end out his days in the sanctuary, a return to the river being deemed too high risk. Personally I’d like to see him back. I miss him already.
Sneaky Sharks, Cunning Crocs and Testy Trout
Paul Colley has risked his life underwater, photographing sharks and crocodiles which led to him picking up a British Wildlife Photographer of the Year 2015 award.
But such is the bizarre nature of life it was none of those projects that hit the headlines for him but rather a side stream of the River Test in our very own Stockbridge.  Staking out the stream for up to 12 hours a day Paul has captured some amazing underwater shots of both trout and grayling, not to mention that unequal contest between duck and trout in the race for bread which I suspect many of you have witnessed in the past.
Paul’s talk ‘Sneaky Sharks, Cunning Crocs and Testy Trout’ takes place at Stockbridge Town Hall on Friday December 11th at 7pm. Tickets are £4 from  barniesdandj@yahoo.co.uk If you can’t make it do take a look at hisweb site.
Quiz
The usual random selection of questions to confound and amaze. Answers at the bottom of the Newsletter. It is just for fun!
1)   What is the smallest city in the UK by population?
2)   Karl Marx is buried in Highgate Cemetary. Where is Friedrich Engels, co-author of the Communist Manifesto buried?
3)   Who lives in a drey (or dray)?
Alan Middleton tying in Chichester
If you are heading into Chichester on Thursday for the Christmas shopping evening drop by the Orvis store on South Street.
Our very own Alan Middleton will be on hand  in the store offering advice and giving one of his unsurpassed fly tying demonstrations. 5-7pm.
Alan tying at BFF
1)   St David’s, Pembroke, Wales 2) His ashes were scattered off Beachy Head 3) A squirrel.

 

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A fly fisher calling Santa

 

Dear Santa,

I know I have denied your existence in the past but please forgive my letter; I require help.

My family claim I am difficult to buy for; apparently they believe I have everything I need or at best I am failing to express preferences on which we can all agree. It is a sorry state of affairs but I am hoping to enlist your expertise as some sort of celestial interlocutor.

In truth my loved ones do not understand my fishing. They dismiss it as a ‘hobby’.  Attempts at explanation are met with incomprehension, ridicule or indifference. Often all three. That said they rarely complain at my absence, so maybe deep down they respect the wanderings of a piscator. Or maybe they just like me out of the house.

Regardless, fishing is a passion that can only be fuelled by fishing itself. Past conquests and memories can only sustain one so far.

Just fishing!

Point them in the direction of the ‘Your Choice’ voucher. That way I get to choose where and when I go fishing.

Link …..

Converting the unbelievers

Heaven forbid that someone in the family might one day share my passion. Let me take them to a place where the fishing is easy and the tuition falls to another …….. Link …..

Future proofing my dotage

I have this idea that my children will take me fishing in my twilight years. Maybe the Summer Fish Camp will sow the seed? Link …..

Anyway Santa, it has been good to talk. I have no idea whether you are an ice fishing enthusiast. If you are I’m sure the elves show the same disregard for your pastime, so maybe you understand my predicament on a visceral level.

All the best for the holiday season; I guess you will enjoy the New Year more than most.

Yours in hope,

A Fly Fisher

PS Normal Newsletter service will be resumed next week.

01264 781988

www.fishingbreaks.co.uk

info@fishingbreaks.co.uk

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Hedgehog rescue

The headlines in the past few days for hedgehogs have been pretty stark – their numbers have apparently halved in the past 15 years. As is often the case the facts behind these sorts of headlines, generated by a pressure group, aren’t always as rigorous as maybe they should be. You will find the press coverage caveated by plenty of phrases along the lines of ‘reliable estimates of hedgehog numbers are hard to come by …… ‘.
All that said from my various perambulations around the rivers I’d say I don’t see as many Erinaceus europaeus as I did. Believe it or not, despite appearances, hedgehogs are really quite good swimmers. Living beside rivers is a favoured haunt with worms and insects aplenty plus, naturally enough, fresh water. They don’t seem to relish swimming as a pastime but they will happily cross a fairly sizeable stream when need be.
I will also promise you for such a tiny creature a baby hedgehog, combined with a panic stricken mother, is capable of creating a considerable racket. Two winters ago I was at home beside the fire late one night when I heard this piercing wail outside; at first I assumed it was the cat or a stoat doing to death some rabbit or other but the wailing kept on and on. Eventually I had to investigate. There trapped between the slats of a bridge over the stream was a baby hedgehog, its mother at its side trying to haul it out.  But somehow however much the infant scrabbled and however much the mother screamed (I assume it was encouragement but it was hard to tell), the situation was not getting any better.
I headed back indoors, grabbed a tea towel and whilst the mother eyed me from a distance I managed to safely extricate the baby from the slats. The poor thing was completely exhausted so I left him (or it could have been a her) for while until the mother returned to investigate and then the two toddled off together.
When is a restoration not a restoration?
You will read a great deal about river ‘restorations’; in plenty of cases it is nothing of the sort. Chalkstreams in particular are very much the creation of man and the rivers have been adapted over millennia for all sorts of purposes such as agriculture, navigation, milling and so on – today we want something different from our rivers and so what we are really creating is something new that chimes with our current desires. I am not exactly sure under which heading the recent work on the famous Oakley beat at Mottisfont Abbey on the River Test would fall but I am certain that as the home of dry fly fishing under Frederick Halford he would have approved.
If you’ve ever fished the Oakley Stream you will know that the character of the beat very much divides into two sections; the first half is relatively shallow, with a fast flow over gravel and the river is very much part of the landscape. The top half is different in two ways; firstly the river almost seems ‘above’ the surrounding meadows the banks built up like small dykes and the river itself is deeper, without the gravel bed. This is probably not accidental.

In all likelihood in the dim, distant past the gravel river bed was dredged out, the spoil used to build up the banks to their current height. I can’t be exactly sure why this was but my guess is that the deepened main river was used as a reservoir to feed a now defunct side stream that branches off the Oakley Stream. What that side stream fed again I’m not sure but it could have been for water meadow flooding, fish rearing or powering a mill. These were fairly typical uses for a river in times when neither ecology nor fishing featured much in the calculation of many.
Today of course we feel differently; rivers are being changed to create a diverse habitat both in and along the river, with great emphasis on work that encourages a self-sustaining wild trout population plus spawning areas for salmon.
With all that in mind a jointly funded project between the owners of Mottisfont Abbey (The National Trust) and the Environment Agency, using the brains in the hydrology department of Southampton University, has seen 1,600 tonnes of gravel put into the upper section of the Oakley Stream. It has all been part of a scheme under the guidance of Heb Leman, the man who runs the Test & Itchen Rivers Restoration Scheme and really we have him to thank.
Yes, you have probably guessed that what Heb and the team are essentially doing is putting back what was dredged out all those years ago. It is a fairly common sight along the chalkstreams these days. ARK (Action for the River Kennet) recently completed a similar project in Berkshire with almost twice that amount of gravel, though shockingly they were making good dredging done as recently as the 1970’s.
The work itself is quick and straightforward. Bring in the gravel; large stones for the base and smaller stuff for the topping. Scoop it into the river with a big machine and then use a smaller one in the river itself to profile the gravel. Job done. Sometimes the banks are graded down to create a gradual slope but this wasn’t required at Mottisfont.
The before and after photos  give you some idea of what is trying to be achieved. The after is a short section that was done on the Oakley ten years ago. In fact it is a little on the shallow side so some of the gravel will be scraped off as part of this work.
The effect on the river is almost immediate; the heavy winter floods will re-profile the gravel yet again but in the exact way nature likes it. But even before then the new gravel will show those tell-tale pock marks as both the trout and salmon get busy spawning. Some judicious planting of ranunculus will kick start the weed growth and I suspect in less than a year it will all look totally natural, which is exactly how it should be.
Jon Hall’s pike secret is a comb
 
Really no excuse is required to show this great photo of Jon Hall with the monster pike he caught back in February.
 
However if you want to read more about Jon’s deadly weapon (a comb) and how he finds these huge female fish catch my interview with Jon in the December edition of The Field magazine.
 
Quiz
The usual random selection of questions to confound and amaze. Answers at the bottom of the Newsletter. It is just for fun!
1)   What speed does Usian Bolt reach during a 100m race?
2)   What do you call a baby beaver?
3)   What is a petroglyph?
Tattoo artist turns fly tyer
I have watched a great many fly tying films in my time and frankly they are generally on the boring side of interesting. This one however, about tattoo artist turned fly tyer Pat Cohen, is different. Get a cup of coffee, set aside 10 minutes of your day. It will be worth it.
Here is the link that will take you to the Bloomberg page. As the screen will say click to watch or scroll down to read the article.
Enjoy the rest of the week.
Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director
1)  28 mph 2) A kit 3) An image carved into rock.
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The course of true love

The course of true love
 
Dear Simon,
I have a pet swan; his name is Arthur the Arthritic on account of a gammy leg. He is of indeterminate age, though clearly getting on a bit and lives on the lake here at Nether Wallop Mill. I must admit I never set out to have a swan for a pet – they are not the friendliest of creatures and are, in truth, a bit messy. That said we have reached a sort of amiable compromise over the past four or five years.
Happier times?

His daily routine mainly involves paddling around the lake, rear end in the air and head underwater whilst he eats away at the pond weed. For this he has my eternal thanks; he is my 24 hour a day feathered river keeper who requires no more payment than a chance to gobble his share of the fish pellets. You might wonder if he is a nuisance to the fishing. Well, not really. Our accommodation is so complete that at the sight of fishermen he hauls himself from the lake to spend the day in the mill pond, returning again when all is quiet.

For years he has been a confirmed bachelor, the sole guardian of the lake since his mate died some while ago. In the intervening time other pairs have dropped in from the sky, but after a fierce turf war left Arthur all to his lonesome. That is until last Saturday when I woke to the unmistakable sound of swans in flight, the whooping wings alerting Arthur to inbound strangers. As is his wont he positioned himself in the middle of the lake, arching his body skyward, aggressively flapping his wings as the pair circled ever lower.
Now swans in a straight line, high in the skies are graceful birds but a low speed, with sharp turns to make they are anything but and as one of the pair took aim for landing she entirely misjudged the landscape hitting the chimney of the fishing cabin, tumbling down the roof into the trees behind. For the other swan clearly out of sight was out of mind so after a few desultory minutes circling the lake he disappeared into the distance.
I was firmly convinced, such was the thump, that the swan had died on impact but a little while later this slightly dazed and wobbly bird came out from behind the cabin slipping gently onto the lake to join Arthur. His joy was unconfined. He preened and pivoted as the two became a pair within minutes. By the afternoon they were together on the bank, tearing rough grass from the fringe, a sort of nesting thing swans do. By dusk they had settled down to roost together for the night. I could hear the distant pitter patter of little cygnet feet.
But by morning it had all gone woefully wrong. Whilst Arthur, clearly agitated, pushed himself around the lake, the female stood on the bank, twitching her head this way and that. Occasionally he’d make a pass to bring himself as close to her as he could without leaving the water, but she’d edge ever further away until her mind made up, she ran at the lake flapping her wings and paddling her feet on the water until she took flight to never be seen again.
Since then I haven’t seen much of Arthur as he’s forsaken the lake to sulk on the mill pond, even forgoing his daily pellet ration. It is hard to work out what could have gone wrong in those few hours of darkness. In the bird kingdom what on earth is the ultimate dating crime? Was he too old? Or maybe swans truly do mate for life and she felt impelled to find her erstwhile mate. Frankly if I was her I wouldn’t have bothered; he was quick enough to say adieu when she thumped the chimney but then again even in the animal kingdom it is doubtful that the course of true love ever ran smooth.
Ban on sea bass fly fishing 
Unless my memory serves me wrong I am pretty certain that two decades ago sea bass on a menu would have been a rarity. Maybe it was common enough in top end sea food restaurants, but on a pub menu, well hardly ever. Today it is very different and sea bass are paying a price for their popularity; the breeding population around our coast has dropped from 16,000 tonnes in 2010 to 7,000 today.
This has not gone unnoticed. ICES, the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas, flagged this up during the summer and the EU acted yesterday with a complete ban on all sea bass fishing January to June, with severe restrictions for the remainder of the year.
For the day trawler fleet, that is boats under 10m, this is a body blow. Behind sole, sea bass is the most valuable catch. For the line fishermen who specialise in sea bass out of ports like Weymouth, it is crippling.
But this is not just a commercial decision; we 300,000 recreational anglers are included with a complete ban for the first six months of the year and a limit of one fish a day for the remainder of the year. Quite how it is going to affect the saltwater fly fishing guides I do not know. Will we be able to catch and release, or will even the intention to fish for bass be illegal? In truth it is going to be impossible to police but nobody wants to wilfully break the law with a livelihood at stake.
In part I can understand bureaucratic even-handedness when it comes to applying a ban equally to both commercial and recreational anglers but is it really necessary? I suspect fly fishermen and beach casters are a pinprick on the sea bass population. It is time for a rapid rethink from Brussels.
Quiz
The usual random selection of questions to confound and amaze. Answers at the bottom of the Newsletter. It is just for fun!
1)   Other than Great Britain itself which is the largest island in the UK?
2)   It is Prince Charles’ birthday this week. How old will he be?
3)   What is a dynast?
Review of the season & feedback winners
Two winners this month as we wrap up another trout season; thank you to you all who contributed replies, which are an invaluable insight to every day on the river.
2015 will be the year the dog didn’t bark in that we almost had a drought but nobody talked about it. Certainly the water companies, scared of egg on their faces so soon after the floods, didn’t say a word but the winter, spring and autumn have been exceptionally dry, especially the last two months with rainfall only half the normal average. I guess our memories are coloured by a very wet May (157% average rainfall) and August which was the wettest on record. If you want to check out the full statistics for southern England follow this link to the Met Office web site.
All that said the chalkstreams held up well, though they were certainly starting to look thin as the season drew to an end. Generally I thought hatches were good in every month.  The Grannom has made a comeback as the April fly of choice, the Mayfly was a good as any year though the wetness of May itself seemed to stop and start the hatch from day to day. Sedges continue to be prolific and the back end has seen huge clouds of tiny olives daily.
The feedback showed remarkably consistent fishing across the season; no sudden decline after the Mayfly and only a few dog days in high summer. If I had to pick out one theme it was the lack of consistently rising fish. I think as Guides it is fair to say we read the water more, pick the best seasonal fly and encourage more speculative casting. Poor old Mr. Halford, who thought such a tactic was a crime, must be spinning in his grave.
Anyway enough of the past: well done to Graham Dunn who picks up the October draw prize of a signed copy ofLife of a Chalkstream having fished at Avon Springs. Philip Watkins, who took his children on Fish Camp to the River Dun in July, collects the Hardy Cascapedia reel in the annual draw.

Have a good weekend; I certainly will if Storm Abigail brings a dump of rain.
Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director
1)   Lewis and Harris, Outer Hebrides 2) 67 on November 14th 3) A member of a powerful family, especially a hereditary ruler.
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How genius endures

This month Orvis celebrates 30 years on the English high street and it is an odd thought but I write this from the very same room from which the Orvis operation was run in 1985, the American firm having acquired Nether Wallop Mill and Dermot Wilson’s famous mail order company four years earlier.

For nearly two decades the Orvis HQ remained at The Mill, the Stockbridge shop the first of a chain that now numbers close to 20 nationwide. The mail order operation and the logistics for the shops were all run out of here and as the firm expanded it truly became a hub of activity. First one of the Perkins, the family that still owns Orvis, came over to oversee the new venture and lived in the Mill Cottage to be succeeded by a UK managing director John Russell who raised his family here.
I don’t think anyone would disagree but the foundation of the Orvis enterprise was the genius of Dermot Wilson. I never met Dermot, but I suspect he was restless soul. He came to fly fishing by way of Winchester College where the Itchen runs beside the sport fields and a distinguished service in WW2 where he was awarded the Military Cross. He dallied with the Foreign Office (he was fluent in Mandarin Chinese) before joining the advertising colossus J. Walter Thompson to become its youngest ever director.
But selling cornflakes was clearly not his thing. As his wife Renee told me he arrived home one day in 1968 announcing that he had found the most wonderful mill in Hampshire and that he intended to resign his job to start a mail order fly fishing business.
I am not sure if Dermot was entirely truthful with Renee about the condition of Nether Wallop Mill. It was in a truly dreadful state so they set about restoring it, living in the cottage and making offices of the mill building. To boot Dermot dug the trout lake which within three years produced the British rainbow trout record (9lb 12 ½ oz in case you ask) which to this day remains the spot where countless fly fishing lives have begun.
Not much changed today …..
There were two secrets to Dermot’s early success: the first and most obvious was that he was the first to offer a full service mail order company which combined with his marketing genius and considerable expertise, to make his catalogues annual bibles to the temple of fly fishing. But I think more than that he realised the British fly fishing industry had fallen woefully far behind its American counterparts. In the post-war years all the innovations were coming from the US so he set out to find the best tackle and sold it to an eager market that was exploding as the craze for stillwater fishing took off.
The Mill became something of a Mecca for all the greats of the 60’s and 70’s: Frank Sawyer, the man behind the lake construction, and Ollie Kite lived just up the road. Charles Ritz, Lee Wulff, Ernest Schwiebert, Bernard Venables …. well the list goes on. Even our very own Charles Jardine lived here for two years as ‘the apprentice’ when he was fresh out of art college.
Dermot was always a marketing man to his core; he understood that the fishermen he sold kit to would appreciate somewhere to fish so he bought what are still the two Orvis beats at Kings Worthy on the Itchen and the Ginger Beer beat at Kimbridge on the Test. Here at The Mill his tuition, largely done by Jim Hadrell and Charles Jardine, was the pipeline for a new generation. At the height he had fourteen people working here.
If that seems a lot (if you have ever visited The Mill you will agree it is) Orvis took it to a new level; I think I am right in saying that by the time Orvis were ready to leave in 1998 to a less lovely but more suitable warehouse in Andover there were close to forty full and part time employees. The phrase quart and pint pot comes easily to mind. To this day we still get the odd rod delivered for repair and there are plenty of Orvis employees who tell me wistfully where they had their desk or office. I have to tell you they made a clean job of clearing the place out; I never found a cache of Battenkill reels. In fact all I ever found were two empty rod bags.
Anyway congratulations to Orvis; 30 years is a mighty achievement for a specialty retailer on the brutal battlefield of the English high street but maybe a quick glance to the heavens in appreciation of Dermot Wilson might not go amiss.
Sawyer’s Lake
In dangerous company ……
 
Somehow I’ve been invited to talk at the Petworth Festival, that includes best selling authors such as Andy McNab (hope I don’t say anything to offend him…) and David Starkey.
I’m up at noon on Thursday November 5th so if you live locally do come along to hear my ‘Life of a Chalkstream’ show. Tickets from the on-line or from the festival box office 01798 343055.
Quiz
The usual random selection of questions to confound and amaze. Answers at the bottom of the Newsletter. It is just for fun!
1)   Who won the 2015 World Carp Fishing Championships?
2)   How often does an otter have a litter of cubs?
3)   What is gault?
Sporting hospitality
Congratulations to The Greyhound in Stockbridge who have just picked up an award for Britain’s Best Sporting Pub 2015, organised by Country Life and the Countryside Alliance. It is a great accolade for Lucy and the team (you may remember her from her days at The Peat Spade) that is fully deserved and we wouldn’t expect anything less of the inn that very kindly hosts the River Test One Fly.
There’s Lucy ….
On that thought entries for the 2016 contest that takes place on Friday April 22nd are now open. The Iron Man Fly Tying Challenge and the Fly Fishing Film Tour will be in Stockbridge the previous evening. Get those rooms booked! More details …….
Have a good weekend.
Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director
1)   England. River Ebro, Spain October 7-10th. 2) Once every two years. 3) A thick, heavy clay found under southern England.
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Cut off in it’s prime?

Nether Wallop Mill, Stockbridge, England – Tuesday October 13th 2015
The death was swift. A brief press release from the offices of the CLA (Countryside Landowners Association) consigned the annual Game Fair to history. The biggest event in the rural calendar, at least measured by the number of people that attended, was to be cancelled. No reprieve was offered. Even though dates for the 2016 event at Ragley Hall had been in the diary for two years, it was all over forever. The show, despite being visited by around a 150,000 people, was a loss maker for the CLA and the membership could no longer support the losses.
Heady days. Kate Middleton at the 2004 Game Fair.

There will be many of you out there who will never have visited the Game Fair and plenty more abroad who are not familiar with the concept. In a nutshell take three glorious English summer days at the end of each July. Against the backdrop of a magnificent stately home erect a show ground amidst the oak parkland and alongside the Capability Brown lake. Invite the best of British rural sports, trades and craftsmen to showcase their wares. Throw open the gates to make this a celebration of all things great about the countryside. A place where old friends reconnect and new eyes are opened. What could go wrong? Well, apparently quite a lot.

I must admit I always thought the Game Fair and the CLA odd bedfellows. The latter, as the name suggests, is an upmarket association. I always rather enjoy its glossy, quarterly magazine but the contents are more suited to Downton Abbey that your local dentist surgery. If it had a problems page (maybe it should ….) the letters would read: “Dear Edgar, My gardener has announced his intention to take his annual two weeks vacation in July. Does he not realise this is grass growing season?” I am probably being a little cruel but you get the general idea.
I don’t want to describe the Game Fair of its last few years as downmarket but, in what was clearly an effort for survival, it was chasing an audience that was a very long way from both the magazine and my Utopian vision of what it might be. As an exhibitor and visitor I have been unfulfilled. Certainly financially. As an exhibitor it was a black hole. As a visitor the £35 entrance fee in 2015 was eye-watering. The first ever Game Fair in 1959 was 13p; that is Weimar Republic scale inflation. But setting the money issues aside the show had lost its way. It’s USP, unique selling point, that opportunity to offer a glimpse of the magic of country sports, was lost in the melee stands more suited to an urban weekend market.
Has the Game Fair died in it’s prime? Well, probably not. At 56 it was showing its age in a world that has moved on, where I doubt even the term “Game Fair” in itself means anything. It will leave a hole in the summer calendar and plenty will mourn its passing, but maybe in its place will rise something that will inspire future generations as the shows of the 1970’s did for me.
Knotweed and other menaces
Ever wondered why the 2012 London Olympics cost us taxpayers so much? Well, I don’t exactly know but I bet nobody surveying the Hackey site prior to construction gave the Japanese Knotweed a second glance. They should have done. It took £70m to eradicate before the first concrete slab was poured.
Japanese Knotweed

This I know because I have been re-reading Balsam Bashing and How to tackle other invasive non-native speciesby Theo Pike who I bumped into at the Wild Trout Awards last week. Though he likes to deflect, Theo is the undoubted authority on all things invasive.

I know the title of the book is a bit prescriptive but it truly is a good read. I never knew that the Freshwater ShrimpGammarus pulex, a staple diet of chalkstream trout, was entirely absent from Ireland until misguidedly introduced in the 1950’s to Northern Ireland. Now spreading south it is devastating the native population. Our good friend Himalayan Balsam (Britain’s tallest annual plant) gets a mention as do rabbits that took me up short. My daughter, a keen spotter of crayfish, was horrified to read Theo’s advice “It is illegal to release or allow to escape non-native crayfish ….. crush underfoot.”
Anyway it is very good bible to the law of unintended consequences; it should be mandatory reading for anyone keen on introducing beavers, wolves and their like.
Which all leads me in a very roundabout way to congratulate John Wyett who wins the September Feedback Draw winner with a signed copy of Theo’s book on its way to you.
John you, like everyone who has sent in a form this season, goes back in the draw for the fine Hardy Cascapedia reel to be drawn on 31st October.
Hardy Cascapdedia reel
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Jonny’s trout
If you ever wondered what a river keeper does at lunchtime, well wonder no more. Jonny Walker, with a deftly placed Daddy Long Legs, plucked this monster trout out of Wallop Brook here at Nether Wallop Mill. Got to be six pounds or more ……
It actually caused a little bit of debate when I posted it on Facebook. Nice stockie said some. Others were not so sure. The truth is Edward leads something of a gilded life in the mill pool. Life is easy. The water is slack and the food plentiful from the bread he steals from the ducks to a multiplicity of small fish that he snacks on for a pastime.
Is he a stockie? Well, he may of been a very, very long time ago but no more than half a pound in weight way back then. Anyway he is back in the river, hopefully relishing his momentary fame.
Mystery fish
We had our end-of-season Guides party last week (yes, we went fishing …..) and Bob Preston bought along a photo of this fish he recently caught. Could we guess what this salmonid was? You can just see the adipose fin, so it is no coarse fish or sea fish but even with that clue we were all bamboozled.
It was caught on a fly, but not in any traditional method. As Bob describes: “About 15 years ago I finally found out the method that the locals use which is a team of about 6 tiny buzzers with a decent sized lead underneath to get the flies down the 20 metres or so where the fish seem to spend most of their time feeding on plankton.”
Maybe you know? Answer at the bottom of the page.
The Invisible World – award winning film
Great work takes dedication; this film is that. The director and film maker Andrew O’Donnell arrived at my home at 9am in July to film
the chalkstreams. ‘Come far?’ I asked, ‘Glasgow’ he replied. Yes, they drove down and up in a single day to shoot a few hours of footage.
Andrew’s short film The Invisible World has just won the Salmon & Trout Conservation UK video competition which in the words of the organisers seeks to ‘to explore the beauties as well as the threats that face our underwater environment – the invisible world that no-one sees, but which surrounds us all and is so vital to our well-being.’
Well done Andrew. The £2,000 prize will go some way to paying for the petrol!
View the film on You Tube click on the image or here.
Have a good week.
Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director
Mystery fish: It is a European whitefish Coregonus lavaretus. We did briefly think it might be a Houting, a fish that is technically extinct, but still caught from time to time in Norway. That said this particular whitefish, caught by Bob in Austria, is pretty rare in itself listed in the vulnerable species category. More about it on Wikipedia.
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Think like an eel

Think like an eel
 
Dear Simon,
Here’s a problem to solve: up and down the rivers of Britain, and indeed across Europe, thousands of turbines are being installed to generate electricity. In our drive for ‘green’ energy they seem the ideal solution but aside from the large, big money projects a vast majority are small scale, bringing to life water mills that have lain idle for a century or more. So far, so good. But here’s the issue. Turbines are not benign. Those blades rotate at a terrific speed, shredding in the blink of an eye, any living creature unfortunate enough to get sucked in. And sadly that is often eels and eels are one of the great ecological disaster stories of recent years. A population that used to sustain a whole industry on the chalkstreams is in headlong decline, by some estimates collapsing by as much as 90%.
Eels in a netMuch is still unknown about the life of an eel, but in a nutshell the eel starts its life as an egg attached to the sargassum weed of the Sargasso Sea which lies off the east coast of Florida in the Atlantic.  Once hatched the tiny elver hitches a ride on the Gulf Stream that carries it across the ocean for 3.500 miles to the shores of Europe. Seeking out freshwater by smell our international traveller is now 3-4 inches long, heading up a river system in search of a new home. Guided by who knows what the eel hauls himself from the water to find a damp ditch or pond where he will live out the next 10-20 years growing at no more than an inch a year.
Mature and ready to procreate he will use the same sense of smell to find his way back to the river, slivering through the meadow grass in the damp dew of morning. That was the easy bit. Once in the river it is back to the ocean and the return trip to the Sargasso Sea by catching a southern current, but this time the return trip that takes as much as a year. However, this is a one way ticket for the eel for once he re-enters saltwater he stops feeding and will gradually absorb his innards for nourishment, dying once spawning is completed back in the very place of his birth.
During the past decade the number of eels making this amazing round trip has declined dramatically. I’ve noticed it. Once I would have barely given an eel a second glance, today my sightings are fewer. You don’t hear them sucking insects off the reeds at dusk and fish guts that were previously snatched away into the deep by the unseen jaws of ravenous eels now drift downstream unmolested. It is generally thought the collapse in stocks is due to a virus the European eel has caught from the Japanese eel out in the mid- Atlantic. The one or two commercial eel catchers that are left live off slender pickings.
Eel traps: redundant for ever?

So back to that problem – how do you prevent eels entering the turbines? A grille would seem the obvious solution but eels are so slender and lithe that the mesh would have to be so fine as to render the turbine inoperable. With up to third of every eel run being sliced up the scientists at Southampton University, England turned their minds to the problem but cunningly looked for a behavioural solution. The Irish Examiner takes up the story:

“The Southampton scientists wanted to find a way to warn eels of the danger. They began by studying the behaviour of the fish as they travelled down river. A hydro-electric station on the River Stour was taken out of service in the 1970s. It has derelict turbine bays where the team could adjust the flow and velocity of the water passing through them and simulate various conditions eels might encounter approaching a power-station. Forty migrating eels were captured and fitted with acoustic transponders. Eight hydrophones, fitted around the study site, enabled the locations and behaviour of the eels to be monitored. The eels were released upstream of the turbine, five at a time.
Three of the 40 swam upstream and did not enter the study bay. Most of the remaining 37 moved downstream “approaching the intake semi-passively”. They followed the main flow but, on encountering a structure ahead of them, made multiple exploratory approaches before passing it. When the rate of water flow increased gradually, the eels continued to move with it, drifting into the turbine shaft. If the water flow began to increase suddenly, however, they avoided the turbine; sudden acceleration warns eels of impending danger.
If engineers can come up with devices to constrict the flow of water and increase it rapidly ahead of a turbine intake, it will be good news for eels. The sudden change in the speed of the water will alert eels to the impending danger. Engineering a slow steady flow towards a fish-pass, on the other hand, should persuade the frightened eels to use that route instead. This won’t solve all of the eels’ many problems but every little helps.”
It is an amazing thought that a solution so simple might work.

.

Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust fisheries report
 
It is not all light reading but if you get a chance the latest Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) fisheries report is worth delving into.
Poole Harbour electro fishingThere is some good stuff on the Frome salmon work, more on hydropower schemes in relation to salmon smolts, sea trout research, the beaver issue and an update on the long-term grayling study. The report is littered with nuggets of information. For instance I’ve long known that grayling are an indicator species, perishing or leaving water at the first sign of pollution but I never knew why. Apparently they have a small liver in proportion to their body as compared to trout and salmon so are more sensitive to environmental change.
If you’d like to read the GWCT 2014 report click on this link.
Angling Trust Paul Whitehouse video
Baby blue marlinIn the August Newsletter I posed the question Can you trust the Angling Trust? which sparked some email correspondence with the Trusts’ CEO Mark Lloyd.
As ever Mark was congenial and constructive, but he rightly pointed out that the Paul Whitehouse go fishing video is embedded on Matt Hayes’ Facebook page where it has been viewed at staggering 185,000 times. If you are a fan of Facebook Matt’s is one of the best and most regularly updated of all the fishing sites.
His photo today of a baby Blue Marlin is typical of the cool stuff he posts. View it here …..
Quiz
The usual random selection of questions to confound and amaze. Answers at the bottom of the Newsletter. It is just for fun!
1) What would you make with Arundinaria amabilis?
2) When did Ernest Hemingway, author of Old Man of the Sea, die?
3) What is limnology?
Have a good weekend.
Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director
Quiz answers: 1) A split cane rod 2) 1961  3)  The study of inland waters
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Can we trust the Trust?

an we trust the Trust? ….. Bob Church ‘Memories & Reflections’ ….. Video: It takes the eye of a stranger …… Quiz ….. Plants of the riverbank
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Newsletter
Thursday August 27th 2015
info@fishingbreaks.couk
01264 781988
Can we trust the Trust?
 
I recall talking to Mark Lloyd not long after he took over the Angling Trust which rose into being out from the ashes of the crisis-ridden Anglers Co-operative Association (ACA).  With no money, little organisation and mainly hope to sustain him I don’t think many people gave Mark much chance of success. But six years on Mark has confounded his doubters to create what he set out to achieve; an Angling Trust which speaks with a single voice for game, coarse and sea angling.
Mark Lloyd Angling Trust CEOHe has every reason to be proud. I am sure out there in the bigger world beyond angling there is a plum job ripe for him, but for now he may rest on his laurels having landed a £1m a year contract from the Environment Agency  (EA) to increase angling participation, tackle illegal angling and manage a fund to improve angling facilities.
It is a mighty task he has set the Trust and one I suspect will give him as many sleepless nights as he had when the infant Trust lived life from day-to-day. And I’m sure he is being assailed from every side with not only advice but snouts heading for the trough of public money.
I have no interest in the latter, but this opportunity to change the landscape of fishing for the generation to come deserves some radical thinking.
Know your market You will often hear it said angling is the biggest participation sport/pastime in Britain. It isn’t and not by a long way. Natural England, the quango tasked with protecting rural England, carries out a quarterly participation survey. Guess where angling ranks in the activity list? 16th. You might not consider some of the things listed as true sports or pastimes e.g. dog walking but twice as many people went horse riding as went fishing and five times as many road cycling (4.5m vs. 26.3m) in the last three months.
We have to come to terms with the fact that angling, however passionate we might be as anglers, is a minority sport. I wrapped my head around this some years ago when the marketing director of a well known fishing tackle retailer slipped me some data that showed there were only 150,000 regular fly fishing participants in the UK. If you are in the fly fishing business I can tell you that is a sobering fact.
However, it is not all gloom – as a nation we love our rivers, lakes and canals. In the same Natural England survey people were asked where they chose to spend their leisure time when visiting ‘green spaces’. Beside those same rivers, lakes and canals they said, ranking it 4th in the table with 102m visits in the most recent three months. By the way the top place to go is a park, with just over two and a half times that number. The message is clear; you will get people passionate about rivers for reasons other than angling.
 
Reform the fishing licence Two things scream out for reform – criminal convictions and the abolition of licences for children. Taking the second first I truly cannot think of another sport in Britain were we tax a 12 year old to take part in a healthy, life fulfilling activity. OK maybe it is only £5 for the 12-16 year olds, but a fiver is a fiver and maybe not that easy to squeeze out of Mum or Dad. And once you are sixteen it jumps up to £27, which is a lot of money in a cash-strapped household where that is half a days’ pay on minimum wage. The income from child licences is paltry – something like 2% of the total. It should be abolished as of now for anyone under 18.
The acceptable face of angling?
The decriminalisation of the rod licence is a more nuanced argument. Currently if you are caught fishing without a rod licence you risk a criminal conviction and a fine. In the world of carrot and stick this is most definitely the stick approach but you have to ask how effective it is. By all the estimates only one in three anglers bother to buy a licence, with just 2,800 convictions in 2013 from 70,000 checks by wardens. When you add up the huge manpower this took, the cost of court and police time you have to wonder whether we have this one right.
In much the same way as the debate surrounds the BBC licence a radical solution is required. Let’s face it the licence in itself is useless – no more than a simple ruse, backed by the force of law, for raising money by taxing fishermen. I have nothing against cyclists, but when was the last time they paid a cycling tax?
Put that way I think it is hard to win any goodwill for the current system, but as I said it is more nuanced. Every single penny that is raised by the licence (roughly £18m) goes to fishery management though the EA, which is matched in turn by another grant from the government of £12m. It doesn’t sound quite so bad now.
I think the trick here is to talk to anglers like adults, decriminalise the licence and put our future efforts into persuasion rather than enforcement.

Treat every pound as if it was your own Earlier this year I bumped in an Angling Trust camera crew making a promotional video to promote their new app. It was the full works: script, cameraman, lights, soundman, makeup and director, featuring a well known comedian.

Seemed a great idea I thought. Where was the video to be used I asked; for all the effort a TV campaign seemed the natural choice. Nobody really had any idea. Maybe we’ll put it on the web site somebody ventured.
Well, yes it is currently on the Angling Trust web site and at the current number of viewings (7,000) it has cost £7 for each viewing thus far.
The relentless pursuit of purity The Angling Trust is doing a lot; one look at its (rather messy) web site proves this and with the new contract with the EA it will expand further. However, the Trust should never forget its roots in the ACA which was dedicated to protecting rivers from pollution, seeking out wrongdoers and giving a voice where needed.
In an increasingly crowded island, where a growing population demands more use of water, protecting our rivers and lakes will prove harder with each passing year. The relentless pursuit of purity should be forever the reason for the Trust’s existence.

Can we trust them do this? I think and hope so.

It takes the eye of a stranger
 
Sometimes it takes the eye of a stranger to remind you how beautiful your home patch really is; Tom Moen’s short film not only has stunning spey casting footage but some wonderful chalkstream action.
I am fairly certain the chalkstream section was shot on the River Avon at Heale House. A majority of it was clearly filmed in late September but they have, rather mischievously, cut in some Mayfly which is just a little confusing.
However, that rather pedantic comment does the film a great disservice as it is well worth watching. Click here ….
Bob Church ‘Memories & Reflections’
Bob Church made himself an angling brand. Nothing unusual about that but he did it across both fly and coarse fishing which does make him unusual, following in the footsteps of Dick Walker.
In the 1980’s virtually every fishing magazine was by default the Bob Church special edition. If there wasn’t an article about him there was an article by him. Failing that there were pages of advertising for his mail order firm.
As world fly fishing champion team member in 1987 and 1988 Bob proved you could be a good all rounder and his legacy will be that he broke down the class divide between coarse and fly fishing.
Now largely retired Bob has just published ‘Memories & Reflections’ a sort of autobiography that charts his life through his fishing adventures including the up and downs of the world championship that at one point saw him almost banned from taking part.
It is good to see for both him and angling that he was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours earlier this summer. The book is available fromwww.calmproductions.com or Amazon at £25.
Plants of the riverbank
Hemp Agrimony will be in flower all along the riverbank from July to September. The frothy, pinkish flower heads are a magnet for nectar seeking insects (watch out for wasps) and with its thick green foliage all manners of moths and butterflies call it home.
The Latin name Eupatorium cannabinum gives a clue to the shape of the leaves, but it shares only a resemblance to the Cannabis plant rather than any other ‘qualities’.
Hemp agrimony
Quiz
The usual random selection of questions to confound and amaze. Answers at the bottom of the Newsletter. It is just for fun!
1) What is lepidoptery?
2) In traditional quoits how heavy is the steel quoit?
3) Based on the past 30 years averages which is the wettest month of the year?
Have a good Bank Holiday weekend.
Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director
Quiz answers: 1) The study of moths and butterflies 2) 5 1/2  lbs  3) October
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Intrepid Brit sets world fly record

IN THIS EDITION:  Intrepid Brit sets world fly record …. Where are the English youth? ….. Special offers ….. Balsam bashing ….. July feedback draw winner …… Quiz
Fishing Breaks 25th logo banner
Newsletter
Thursday August 13th 2015
info@fishingbreaks.co.uk
01264 781988
Intrepid Brit sets world fly record
 
What size is the largest freshwater fish ever caught on a fly? Now I happen to know this as a new record has just been set by an intrepid Brit, but in the spirit of being a know-all I quizzed the office and the Guides. To start off a big Pacific salmon variant in Canada or Alaska got the nod. Then someone proposed that Asian salmonid, the taimen. Mmmmmm most people thought that is a good call. But how about a giant catfish from one of those legendary Spanish rivers? Without reverting to Google nobody really had a clear idea which of the two grew bigger but in the end a catfish at around the 150-200 pound mark got the thumbs up.
Richard Hart with his guide and record fish

Well, actually thumbs down all round. The record caught last week now stands at a staggering 415lbs and the fish is an arapaima. Now I can’t pretend to having ever heard ofArapaima gigas that lives in the remote jungle rivers of Guyana and Brazil. It is probably the world’s largest freshwater fish which unusually for a fish has to surface to breathe, an adaptation it has acquired over millions of years of evolution to cope with the hypoxic or low oxygen levels of the Amazon floodplain.

These huge beasts, that can grow up to 15ft in length, haven’t had a great time in the past century or so. Despite their size they don’t seem very fearsome but having to surface every 5-15 minutes for air made them easy prey for spear fishermen who found a ready market for the boneless, nutritious steaks for which they became valued. Today the commercial fishing that remains is a fairly brutal affair but is confined to special areas for local consumption only with some arapaima farmed in river cages.
However, I am pleased to say the same fate has not befallen our record fish though all-in-all catching it and confirming the record does seem something of a palaver. To start with the angler, Richard Hart, a 45 year old auctioneer who lives in Orlando didn’t exactly come upon this record by chance. He already holds or has previously set 50 IGFA (International Game Fishing Association) records and had been tracking down a monster arapaima for a month in the remoter regions of Guyana before he came across this one.
In a 20-foot dugout canoe, accompanied by three native guides Richard was geared up for a fight. His outfit? A 16wt Sage more normally used for sailfish, matched with a Tibor Billy Pate tarpon reel and a 100lb mono tippet. And the fly? A modest 7 inch big-game streamer with peacock bass colours that goes under the delightful name of the Chuck-N-Duck. I guess the moniker tells a story all of its own.
“I saw the fish come up for air, which is the way you fish them, and then I threw the fly and he sucked it in. It was an enormous fight.” reported Richard, in what sounds fairly typical British understatement.
However to claim the record the fish must be weighed, in this case alive because the Government requires all catch-and-release for sport fishing, on certified scales. How do you do this in a primitive canoe? Well, by using a pulley, a makeshift sling and a heavy rope over a conveniently located tree.  And the result 415lbs 8oz, 13ft 5 inches in length and 7 feet in girth.
Richard says he is going back next year to better his record. Somehow I think that might be a tough call; the biggest arapaima ever recorded is 440lbs but then again the Amazon basin is a mighty big place.
Deans Court (River Allen)
Special offers
 
Just two this week to tempt the fishing buds, which includes our new beat on the River Allen.
2-for-1 or half price if you want to fish alone. £37.50/Rod for the remainder of August.
Book on-line or call 01264 781988
2-for-1 on our teaching lake at The Mill which is stuffed with fish. Sunday August 23rd. £125 for two. Save £125.
Book on-line or call 01264 781988
Himalayan Balsam: the Asian invader
I find it  hard to hate Himalayan Balsam; that heady sweet scent that hangs over the river bank on a still summer evening is both exotic and unexpected. I know it is a menace, but those pink/purple flowers are beautiful, so unlike anything native.
But it is an insidious guest, quick to grow and fast spreading. Like our native nettles it has that ability to crowd out everything else, creating the plant equivalent of scorched earth. Look down amongst the stems and all you will see is bare soil.
I think I did read somewhere
that a selective weed killer is
on the way but if your problems
are more immediate I’d highly
recommend Theo Pike’s book
Balsam Bashing. It is available
direct from the
publishers Merlin Unwin.
 

July feedback draw winner

I think it is fair to say that I approached July with a certain amount of trepidation as the dry spell looked to continue and everyone assumed that the weed after the June cut wouldn’t grow much. Happily on both counts I was wrong. Though the fish were resolutely picky some days, the rivers looked great and held up all month long.
The fates have decreed that the July winner, like that of June, was fishing at Compton Chamberlayne on the River Nadder. This time it is Graham Nicholls who has a choice: a signed copy of Life of a Chalkstream in paperback or a Union fly box. I will not be offended if you choose the latter. The end of season draw is for a wonderful Hardy Cascapedia reel.
Quiz
A trio  of questions to either confound you or confirm your brilliance. Answers as the bottom of the Newsletter. It is just for fun!
1) What does a herpetologist study?
2) What is the biggest ever fish caught on rod and reel?
3) Who lives in a holt?
Where are the British youth?
I did hope to bring you news of how the British or any of the home nation teams were doing in the World Youth Fly Fishing Championships that are taking place in Vail, Colorado, USA this week.
I scanned down the list of teams to see how we are doing: Canada, Czech Republic, France, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, Slovenia, South Africa, Spain, USA …… it is not that we are doing badly it is simply that we are not there at all.
In the middle of what is National Fishing Month wouldn’t it have been the coolest thing to have sent a team out to participate? It is not as if the competition is new; this  is the 14th year. I don’t know the whys and wherefores ofFIPS-Mouche who run both this and the World Championship (by the way in the USA in 2016) but maybe someone out there knows why we don’t have a team.

Have a good weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director
Quiz answers: 1) Amphibians and reptiles  2) A Great White Shark of 3,427lbs caught by Captain Frank Mundas the inspiration for Quint in Jaws. 3) An otter.
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Are we accidental fish killers?

Are we accidental fish killers?

 

Dear Simon,

Whatever your views on the Environment Agency, the government arm of the Department of Farming and Rural Affairs tasked with looking after fishing, you can’t ever fault them when it comes to sending out letters guaranteed to scare the living daylights out of you. One such letter arrived last week entitled “Advice note to river and stillwater fisheries – Protect fish and wildlife in dry weather”.

Now my eye was immediately drawn to the graph in the letter (reproduced opposite) that is alarming to say the least. It is stating that over one third of trout caught and released after 30 seconds of air exposure will die.

Double the time in air and seven out of ten fish will die. This is no hooky survey, but rather from the much cited study by Canadians, Ferguson and Tufts back in 1992 that examined the physiological effects of brief air exposure in exhaustively exercised rainbow trout and the implications for catch and release.

Somehow this survey doesn’t seem right to me. Here at the teaching lake at Nether Wallop Mill I’d guess we catch and release at least fifty rainbows each week, most of which are taken out of the water before being unhooked and released. Are they out for as long as a minute? I doubt it, but thirty seconds seems a reasonable estimate so do I see fifteen or more floating belly up each week?  No I don’t. Maybe one or two, but even that is unusual. So what’s this all about?

I guess we all assume catch and release is a relatively new concept, but actually it was first proposed way back in the early 1800’s and the first formal regime for recreational angling I can find was introduced to the Penobscot River, Maine, USA in 1873 for Atlantic salmon. That said it was not until the 1950’s that anyone started to question the mortality rates and since then there has been a surprising amount of science about it all.

The one thing everyone seems to agree is that barbless hooks reduce mortality for all the obvious reasons. Surprisingly some studies rated treble as better than single hooks but this was only for certain species (not salmonids) like striper bass who tend to swallow a single hook. Where in the body is best to be hooked? Well, the jaw by far with 98% survival as against 18% survival when hooked in the gills. Should you cut the line rather than struggle with a hard to remove hook? The answer is yes; the distress is less and fish will shed hooks over time.

The biological characteristics such as size, age or gender hardly features in any of the analysis, whereas there has been a great deal of work on temperature. For instance it is critical for Atlantic salmon that the water temperature is in the 8-18C range for survival. The reservoir anglers amongst you might be in for something of a shock; the depth at which you fish your fly has a significant impact on trout survival. Hooked on the surface 98%, hooked on a lead line 92% and with downriggers 85% survival.

I must admit I never thought very much about what happens to a fish once it swims away; my assumption has always been that if it swims away with a healthy kick of the tail all is well. Apparently not. There is plenty of evidence of delayed mortality, though statistics are hard to come but I did see one study where nearly half of all bonefish died due to sharks predating on the fish during the post-release recovery phase. But that is really a habitat issue.

The critical thread that runs through every study you’ll ever read on catch and release is that the biggest killer of trout is exposure to air; however gently you release your fish it is the air that kills them. There is plenty of disagreement as to what is the critical time period for different species but for trout more than two minutes seems to be the point of no return. The fish may swim off, but there will be too many physiological changes for long term survival. Clearly every second counts. We might debate whether thirty seconds is twice as bad as fifteen seconds but ultimately once a trout starts gulping air the clock is ticking. One of our Guides likes to tell pupils to hold their own breath for as long as the trout is out of the water. It is a good way to make an important point.

Last minute deals

 

Three cancellation resales on a 2-for-1 offer. You’ll have to be quick for Whitchurch Fulling Mil which is tomorrow, but there are two consecutive days for Bullington Manor next week
Whitchurch Fulling Mill (River Test) – July 24
One of my my premier wading beats. Save £245 with this 2-for-1 offer.
Bullington Manor (Upper Test) – July 28/29 
If you like classic chalkstream sight fishing with nymphs and dries you won’t do much better than Bullington Manor. Save £229 with the 2-for-1 on Tuesday or Wednesday next week.
Book on-line or call Diane on 01264 781988.
Bullington Manor John above Venice Bridge
Bullington Manor
July Mayfly hatch
 

I can’t believe I am writing this but don’t stow away your Mayfly patterns just yet as I’m getting plenty of reports of Ephemera danica hatches.

And as they say hatches make catches with plenty of people digging deep into their fly boxes to take fish on May favourites like huge Grey Wulffs and French Partridges. It is far from unheard of on the Avon at this time of year, but the Nadder and Test? Well, it is something of a freak event to be relatively commonplace so don’t be surprised if a few make an appearance.

On the subject of oddities there has been a spate of chub caught on the fly this month reported via the feedback forms. I’ve most frequently caught chub during the Mayfly weeks, so maybe there is some sort of connection but for the moment I can’t work it out.

Quiz

As it is the CLA Game Fair next week (July 31-August 2) five related questions. Answers at the bottom of the Newsletter. It is just for fun!

1) Where is is being held?
2) In what year was the first Game Fair?

3) What was the admission charge?
4) What is the record attendance?

5) When did it change from 2 to 3 days?
Have a good weekend.

Best wishes,

Simon Signature 

Simon Cooper simon@fishingbreaks.co.uk

Founder & Managing Director
Quiz answers: 1) Harewood House, Leeds, Yorkshire 2) 1958 3) 13p (£35 this year) 4) 138,000 at Broadlands in 2006 (the only time Fishing Breaks had a stand!) 5) 1979 at Bowood, Wiltshire.
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