26th June


Big barbel

Paul Fuller with a cracking summer barbel at 13.4 Congratulations Paul and thanks for the photo.

Small Skipper Comma

A lovely transect today at lunchtime with 471 butterflies on the route.

23rd June


The Back Lagoon Chub Double figure barbel

The carp are still shoaled up in teh Back Lagoon waiting to spawn. Just what they are waiting for is any ones guess. Judging by the number of fry in the margins something has managed to spawn, I only hope its roach and rudd fry and not the bream. On the right is a photo of John McGough with his second eleven pounder of the day. Pleasingly both fish were completely clear of spawn looking as if the fish that were cutting on opening day were the last to finish.

Cocks-foot grass Grasslands Grasslands.

Whilst I am delighted with our flower meadows that result from our winter grazing regime the stands of tall meadow grasses are equally important for many species. Many butterfly larval stages, Small skipper, Meadow Brown, Ringlet and Speckled wood feed on the grasses that we find in such patches of timothy, cocks-foot and fescue. Getting the balance of flowers and grasses in harmony on such a small area of land such as we manage around the lakes is fraught with problems. The demise of the rabbits through myxi and hemorrhagic disease has given the edge to the course grass. The flocks of moulting geese many with their rapidly growing broods are tipping the scales back in favour of the flowers.

21st June


Mockbeggar sunset Ibsley sunset

Solstice Sunsets.

Meadow Lake sunset Kings-Vincents sunset

18th June


Upper 20 common Chub Salmon on

The coarse river season, the beginning of bait for salmon and Meadow lake opening made for a pretty hectic week. Despite the chaotic rush to get banks and swims trimmed and cleared it all seems worth the effort when we see the anglers back on the bank. The first shot shows Dave Winter with a 28, he went on to add a 27 and a 23. His fishing buddy, Malcolm Tryhorn had the pick of the catch with a 37+. It all sounds almost too easy but in reality it was a very difficult couple of days, hot days and cold nights provided the backdrop for a typical beginning of the season. John McGough in the middle shot posing with a sparkling little chub, John had landed nine to four pounds when I last spoke to him with the witching hour yet to come. The chub would appear to have got their spawning over and done with the barbel yet to complete. There were several shoals of barbel cutting on the shallows and I was pleased to see members spot them yet leave them undisturbed to get on with their efforts. Dominic Longley also enjoyed a day doing what he does so well, trotting maggot with the pin. Pleasingly numbers of dace, grayling and chublets would seem to have held up well over the winter with fish throughout the section of river he visited. The start of the salmon bait fishing saw four fish landed and several more lost. Paul Greenacre took the laurels with three on the bank, taking his tally for the year to eleven. With the water temperature now back over 19 degrees it would seem we will have to wait before we see any more fish in the book.

Eristalis nemorum Flower meadow Coupled Meadow Browns

Three male Eristallis nemorum, doing what we associate with hover flies, hovering, in this case as part of their mating ritual over a female of the species. The middle shot shows a "Where's wally" shot of the flowers with a Meadow Brown hidden in there somewhere. The Meadow Brown numbers have risen from a single specimen on the 31st May to several hundred in the meadows by this evening.

Big common

I have to admit to having been a little distracted myself in recent days with preparations for the off, yet I did get some time to fish, landing some stunning specimens.

Frustratingly I have to report a break in from a members car last Thursday evening whilst parked at Ibsley Bridge. Sadly if you park at Ibsley Bridge sooner or later your car will get broken into. all the forest car parks, both Ringwood Forest and the New Forest and all the open anglers car parks get visited on random occasions. We must see these people as we go about our daily routines unfortunately we are unable to recognise them for what they are. The anser is NOT TO PARK AT IBSLEY BRIDGE use the new car park at Fools Corner, which is behind the locked gates of the estate.

14th June


Large Skipper

I haven't put up a photo of a butterfly for over a fortnight, so I'm sure you all must be missing them desperately! To make amends for my tardiness the shot above shows the first Large Skipper that emerged with us at Mockbeggar this week.

13th June


Reed Warbler chicks

If you have been fishing Mockbeggar recently you will undoubtedly have seen two people, Brenda and Simon, staring at the reed beds in an effort to locate and record our Reed Warbler and Reed Bunting population. Brenda is a schedule 1 bird ringer and will hopefully provide the base information for the warblers we have present on the lakes. Hopefully in the not too distant future I will get a few shots of the actual ringing in progress and at the end of the summer I will let you know just what they found. Thanks to Brenda Cook for the photo and also for taking on this difficult and time consuming work.

Dace shoals Dace Big dace

They may disappear every winter but as regular as clockwork, when the water clears, they are back in their summer haunts as if they've never been away. The shoals in mid river were mainly C3 and C4 but if you looked in a deeper hole, tight under the bank, much larger speciemens can be seen.

Track down to the lake Basking carp

The track down to the lake. Only three days to go and the lakes and the river open up again for the coarse season. It was the first really hot and sunny days for weeks and the carp were soon up on the surface soaking up the warmth. The fish in Meadow have yet to spawn and it looks as if they may be spawning when the season starts. If they are still spawning I will shut the Back Lagoon, between to car parks, to allow them to complete their spawning with the minimum of disturbance.

Laying Emperor dragonfly Damselfly

The dragon and damselflies were also out in force today with flocks of Azure and Blue damselflies on the wing. The female Emperor in the photo on the left is engaged in egg laying.

12th June


Wild flower meadow Bee Orchid Wild flowers

Worth another look, the flower meadows looking magnificent including a scattering of Bee Orchids, this one being a much richer colour than our usual creamy white blooms. Despite this relentless wind one or two butterflies are doing their best to enjoy the surplus of nectar. The first Large Skipper and Marbled White of the season put in a brief appearance, disappointingly proving too difficult to get a decent photo.
Like the butterflies there are one or two salmon still reaching us despite the less than favourable conditions, well done to Colin Goh, Paul Greenacre and Richard Murawskifor finding fish in the last day or two that was willing to join in. After I had finished picking up the empty crisp packets and pop bottles left by the weekend trespassers I returned to my strimming in an effort to get the lakes and the river ready for the arrival of the members as the new river coarse season gets underway on the 16th. The river is looking well if somewhat weedy which should provide plenty of food and cover for the fish as they go through their spawning rituals. Due to the poor weather spawning has been a little eratic. I think most of the chub have managed to complete their cutting but I'm not sure the barbel have finished which means we may see fish on the shallows at the beginning of the season.

7th June


Treecreeper

The Treecreeper that is feeding young in one of our workshop walls carrying a beetle, I hope the young are close to fledging as that will be quite a mouthful!

7th June


Wild flower meadow

A wonderful summer wild flower meadow, the only problem is not a butterfly in sight. The constant wind we seem to suffer these days appears to have driven them all into hiding, lets hope its only a temporary dip.

5th June


The Night Ropes Buzzard Juvenile Grey Heron

Lots going on but just a flavour of one or two interesting pieces that cropped during the week. The "Night Ropes" clipped up ready for the off in a fortnight. My strimming and topping has proven of interest to the local Buzzards as a new source of insects and small mammals were exposed. The Heron is a juvenile from the heronry just over the river at Ashley. They young have just fledged the nest and juveniles can be seen dotted about the lake trying out their new found fishing skills. Unfortunately one or two are learning the hard way that landing on the water isn't a good idea. Should you bump into one of these individuals ensure you keep hold of the beak and don't let your dog go near it as they instinctively strike for the eyes as a defensive measure.

Ermine caterpillar web Spindle Ermine caterpillars Peacock caterpillars

The web of Ermine moth caterpillars high in a Sallow tree and a closer look at the caterpillars. There are also several hatches of what I believe to be Peacock caterpillars on the nettles, lets hope they all grow into adults later in the year.

Southern Marsh Orchids looking well in the meadows Pyramidal Orchid Emperor Dragonfly

The Southern Marsh and Common Spotted Orchids are looking well and we have one or two early Pyramidal Orchids now in full flower. After my earlier concern over the appearance of the Bee Orchids we now have thirty plus putting on a show in two areas on the lakes.

31st May


Mandarin brood Juvenile Long-tailed Tit

Good to see the large Mandarin brood is still intact with all fourteen ducklings looking well in today's sunshine. There is a second brood that has about nine ducklings but the duck is far more secretive and we rarely see them about the lakes during the day. Not quite so rare but very much as welcome are the broods of Long-tailed Tits that are to be seen in the willows and alders all around the lakes.

Small tortoiseshell Painted Lady Meadow Brown

Today's sunshine was just the tonic I needed at lunchtime to ease the stresses of a very frustrating morning. What to many appears the perfect job has several drawbacks and one is the almost certain knowledge that these days I will have an argument with some trespasser, poacher, canoeists and the latest disrespectful intrusion on the private property of the estate, bloody drones. Three in recent days who seem to think they can fly just where and when they feel like it. I must take my telephoto lens around to their place and stand on the lawn taking pix through the windows, the mind boggles! Back to my lunchtime walk and today's selection from the transect, the first Small tortoiseshell for some weeks, another fine example of our summer migrants from Africa and last but not least the first Meadow Brown of the year.

29th May


Ranunculus

The River water-crowfoot (R. fluitans) is well established in some sections of the river.

28th May


Salmon Fishing appears to be okay today.

I'll move the Knappmill link to the header on the diary to enable ease of access. It may be sensible to click on the temperature link to ensure you have the correct day.

27th May


Salmon fishing is suspended on the Hampshire Avon as in accordance with the riaparian owners agreement when the water temperature at Knappmill is reading in excess of 19 degrees centigrade salmon fishing will cease.

I've been informed that the EA thermometer at Knappmill is not functioning correctly and we may fish up to 19.5 but as this is not confirmed by the EA and we do not have any means to notify the membership I fear we must adhere to the original agreement and fishing ceases at 19 degrees when shown on the Knappmill webpage. If it is simply the case the thermometer is caput I'm sure the EA will be on the case first thing Tuesday and have it sorted asap.


Knappmill website

26th May


The river has cleared, dropped back and the water temperature is rising to within a degree of the fishing cut-off point. We did see a surge of activity when the spinning came in but the few fish we managed were for the greater part colouring up and had been in the system for a week or two. We are in desperate need of a really serious summer spate to get the fish that are now down in the harbour and lower river up into the system but I fear a flood of such proportions is unlikely. I should most definitely say well done to Stephen (Mr Consistent) Hutchinson who has done it yet again. In four visits between the 12th and the 19th of May he landed four fish, a habit that stretches back many years, just how he does this is starting to take on the proportions of legend!!!

If you're wondering why the diary has stuttered to a halt again it's because I've spent three nights out on the lakes looking to test my skills against one or two of our commons. Its been an interesting time and I've seen some fine fish but not the leviathan I was hoping for. I also discovered it takes me a geat deal longer these days to get to my rods when the action kicks-off and three nights has tested the system to the limit!


Returning a fish at dawn

Safely back at first light.

Syndicate member John Slader paid a visit without his rods when he came down to do a kick samples up on the shallows at Ellingham. Nothing like a bit of pond dipping to conjure up the kid in me and I was delighted to join him for an hour. John has considerable experience with riverine invertebrates through his work with the Salmon and Trout Conservation UK and his teaching work with young anglers. The new weed growth has yet to provide the habitat for the huge number of creatures we will see in a couple of months but there was still plenty to provide interest. The Salmon and Trout Conservation have been taking a close look at the invertebrates in many of our rivers including our southern chalk streams. Their findings are proving extremely interesting and more than a little worrying. The 2015 report can be found at the link below, it's well worth a look.


S&TC Riverfly Census 2015
Kick sampling grannom caddis More familiar caddis cases Less desirable capture

John, out on the shallows at Ellingham taking a kick sample. A sample showing the grannom in their vegative cases and a sample of the more familiar stone clad caddis. The final photo shows a less welcome visitor in the form of a tiny Signal crayfish.

Southern marsh orchids beside the lakes Bee orchid Juvenile Lapwing
Southern marsh orchids beside the lakes. Having earlier in the week said during a conversation that the bee orchids weren't out, two days later I find a dozen! On the right is a juvenile Lapwing tucked down in the grass where it hopes to remain unseen by any approaching predator. The problem with this tactic is that we may also fail to see them and tread on them, so please be careful if you are off the beaten track. Not that being off the beaten track is the only place you are likely to see such behaviour. Last week a brood of Little Ring Plover attempted the same tactic in the middle of one of our gravel tracks, which is certainly bound to fail in front of approaching vehicles.

Common Blue Cinnabar Moth Small Copper on an Ox-eye daisy
Just a shot or two of the weeks butterflies and moths of course.

21st May


Mandarin brood Small copper Sunbathing fox

A thoroughly enjoyable butterfly transect today, not perhaps the perfect weather as it was a little too windy but it was near enough. As well as the butterflies the first brood of Mandarin were out and about. There are fourteen in the brood although the photo only shows thirteen, one must be tucked in behind the others. The Small copper is in recognition of having found specimens on seven of the ten sections, which is a definite record. The fox just resented my disturbing his sunbathing to the extent he almost braved it out and sat tight until I got within twenty meters of him.

Painted Lady

I always enjoy the arrival of the Painted Ladies as they migrate north from their African home. Across the Med, up across Europe, across the channel to arrive on our shores. It never ceases to amaze me just what Mother Nature can achieve.

Juvenile Starlings Bumblebee on Southern Marsh Orchid

The back garden is full of juvenile Starlings as the broods in the nestboxes on the side of the house fledge. The second shot is of a bumblebee hoping for a little pollen or nectar from a yet to fully open Southern Marsh Orchid. The bumblebees have struggled with the late frosts and limited supply of early pollen, from a promising start with higher than usual numbers on the wing in March, April saw numbers tumble.

18th May


Southern Marsh Orchids Tadpoles Sunset at Mockbeggar

The rain has done wonders for the meadows which have already flushed with green after the slow, cold start to the year. The tadpoles have survived well with thousands in the shallow margins of the lakes. On my way home from the river this evening I called at Mockbeggar and was rewarded with a wonderful sunset. Such a sight makes even the toughest day seem a great deal more worthwhile.

17th May


Kestrel

Not everyone, or everything, was as pleased as me to see the gentle rain we have enjoyed all day. The rather damp Kestrel sat and watched us from the top of a nearby lime tree as we carefully dug across Ellingham Drive, doing our best to avoid the fibre optic cables that the water main has to cross at this point. The river will undoubtedly benefit from the fresh water and this evening the forest streams were beginning to add some colour to the main river. There was a very large, fresh salmon lost today after being played for some considerable time, lets hope the fresh water will encourage others to push on into the river.

16th May


I took the opportunity this evening of getting a Woodcock count under my belt. The late frosts and recent windy evenings have been less than ideal. This evening started well but as sunset came and went the rain arrived too, spoiling the final half an hour. Having said that no evening spent in the forest can be classed as wasted or spoilt. My survey square seems to be as far from roads as is possible to arrange and the walk to the count site provided some interesting viewing. A pair of Curlew drifted in to the nearby heathland where Cuckoo and Stonechat could be heard calling and making the presence known. Thirty odd fallow does and a pair of Nightjars as the light faded along with thirty million midges. Added to that I did spot seven roding birds beating their bounds so I will enter the count and return when a more settled evening is on the cards.


Dusk in teh New Forest

Dusk at the survey site.

The valley is beginning to fill with the broods of the Mute swans, geese and duck. The terns are collecting fry on every beat and the Black-headed Gulls are up to their usual trick of pillaging the scattered hatch of Mayfly. A spell of warm wet weather would be gratefully received if it could be arranged.

Add to the new life in the bird world we have the barbel and chub busily cutting on the gravel shallows. As with the carp in the lakes their chasing and cutting easily visible if you stand quietly and keep a low profile. I also spotted a 20+ hen pike being closely escorted by a pair of Jacks. Late for the pike to be spawning, I presume this is a second attempt, the earlier more normal time having been delayed by the week or two of frosts we experienced during March.

One of the odd things about the spawning in both the river and the lakes has been the size of the fish involved. Strangely its the number of small fish that has come as a surprise. In the case of the lakes I was beginning to think we were getting near the correct balance of large fish. Some of the members catches have seen multiple numbers of thirties and high twenties giving rise to an average considerably higher than in previous years. I was expecting to see these large hens almost out numbering the attendant males. Nothing could have been further from reality with probably the larger fish being outnumber in the region of thirty of forty to one. Its normal for hens to have three or four cock fish following them not the numbers we witnessed. It looks as if a further five or six hundred smaller fish will have to be removed. On the river the shoals of chub on the shallows appeared to have far higher numbers of small fish, two to four pounds, than the huge fish we were seeing being landed throughout the winter. The big hens were present and we certainly have no intention of removing any of these smaller fish. It would be interesting to discover if the small fish were males of similar year classes as the large hens or younger fish coming through. I'm not sure we are going to answer that question but it was good to see them however old they are.

Yesterday on the salmon front spinning came into season and we have seen a couple of fish falling for the Mepp. Perhaps the most pleasing fish from my perspective was a fresh twenty plus cock fish that Rob Smyth landed Sunday evening before the spinning began. The fish came on a floating line and was seen taking the fly just below the surface. Surely the finest way to take a salmon, especially an Avon fish of such proportions.


First cygnets of the year Coloured hen Frosted phragmites beds

Cygnets have started to appear about the valley along with a multitude of other juveniles. That man again, Paul with a 20+ coloured hen he took on the mepp today. I'm not sure you've worked out how those waders work yet Paul! Luckily Colin Morgan was on hand to do the honours and take the snaps. The final shot shows a frosted Phragmites bed which I'm sure will recover but it will be interesting to watch to see if it effects the warbler and Reed bunting nesting results. Not only phragmites was hit hard by the frost, bracken and pleasingly Japanese Knot Weed were also blackened and knocked over. Hopefully such a hit will slow the invasive progress of both these undesireable species.

Salmon were not the only fish we have seen landed in recent days as the invading hoard has moved through the estate. They have been caught down as far as Ringwood and Ellingham and Mike Beauchamp landed forty of the wretched things today at Ibsley. Hopefully the next day or two will see the latest round of rainbow escapees clear through the estate and any that remain are quickly devoured by the pike. Its surely time that Defra had a very close look at the trout farm industry and made them accountable to the law. I'll await the EA investigation into this latest incident with considerable interest.


14th May


Common blue Escaped rainbow trout Brown argus

Ah, summer's here at last; Common Blue, escaped rainbows and Brown Argus!

11th May


Juv Oyster-catcher Queen hornet Greater spotted woodpecker at nest hole

Whilst its interesting to see the spawning carp, especially as it appears to be a mirror, its the juvenile Oyster catcher on the island that's particularly worthy of note. It's the little guy at the front watching the carp so very nearly ready to fly I would imagine. The middle shot fails to do justice to the size of the magnificent queen hornet photographed inspecting a patch of lichen, she must have been approach 35mm in length. Being a European hornet she has legal protection and if you leave her alone she will not bother you. Just enjoy her company and remember like many of the fair sex she has a sting in her tail! I put up the shot of the Greater spotted as we seem to have flocks of GSW and Greens about the lakes at present. I assume, in the case of the Greens at least, its to do with the ants nests.

10th May


Spawning carp Spawning carp

The carp have been very busy with their spawning for the last couple of days.

9th May


Underwater salmon photo

Paul sent through this lovely underwater shot of his third of the season, taken last week. He landed his fourth this evening, from the lower end of the estate, which is quite an achievement with low numbers of fish struggling to reach us at present.

8th May


Swift box

This week has seen the Swifts return and our four pairs are back in their boxes on the back of the house. They join quite a list that are already in residence in the garden and our nestboxes, it includeds; 5 pairs of House sparrows, 3 broods of Starlings, 1 Blackbird, 1 Song thrush, 1 Wood pigeon, 1 Collar dove and probably a Wren and a Dunnock. The last two can be seen in and out of the various shrubs and ivy but I can't locate their nests.

7th May


Small copper Small copper aberrant

I don't imagine the majority of readers will share my enthusiasm for the difference between the Small Coppers in the two photos. As with the photo from yesterday the one on the right is the aberrant form; caeruleo-punctata, its all about the little blue dots.

Green Veined White

A picture in shades of green as the Green Veined Whites go about their business.

6th May


Peacock on May blossom Green and Greater spotted woodpecker Greenwoodpecker in flight Small copper aberration

An enjoyable walk despite the best efforts of kayakers and bogged down cows to take the edge off the day.

3rd May


Weirpool salmon Ringwood Weir Weirpool salmon

Despite the fact the fishery value of the Ringwood weirpool has been totally destroyed by the mismanagement of the weir I still find myself down beside the pool strimming out the banks. I was down there at the weekend to witness the passage of a boat through the gates in line with the EA management strategy of setting the gates in the best interest of the trespassing boaters, completely ignoring their statutory obligation to; improve, maintain and develop the fishery value. The two bordering pix are from the days when the pool was operated with a fishery interest in mind. These days it seems that unless you are a water company or a trout farm hiking up the head of water and exploiting your fishery asset is frowned upon. We were promised a meeting to sort out the management, or should I say mis-management of the hatches but that seems to have been forgotten. As with the Highways Department and their obligation to keep the nearby balancing pond clear to prevent pollution of the river, you can ignore any statutory obligations you might have toward the river and the assets of the owners as no bugger is going to fight that cause. When the fly tipping and squatting travellers turn the place into a tip once more we might see some action on the part of those insulated from reality in their publicly supported ivory towers. Chocolate bloody fireguards spring to mind!

1st May


Bank holiday weekend and I was hoping for three days of torrential rain the forecasters had promised us. To put the river up of course, not to keep the Great British Public from stamping all over the estate, although rain is always a blessing on holiday weekends.


Dark skies

Not the rain we were promised but several good showers did arrive providing some dramatic skies.

As it happened we did see a little rain but nothing like the forecast deluge, we also experienced the GBP in the form of a couple of idiot boaters in an inflatable. Totally ignorant and too stupid to understand the concepts of English law and respect for other peoples property. Whilst I was at Ibsley Bridge I also bumped into a potential poacher who turned up and asked me if he were to have a fish what was the likelihood of the keeper coming along! I assured him it was almost a certainty as the miserable bugger that looks after this bit of river is backward and forward over this bridge all the time. Thanking me for the tip he headed off upstream to try further afield. Add a couple of individuals who couldn't read or understand what a simple; private, no unauthorised access, meant and it wasn't an overly taxing weekend on the trespass front.

The unforeseen bright start today did hold a bonus in that I was able to get the early Breeding Bird Survey completed on the valley route I survey each year. My recent travels, frosts and high winds had made last week unsuitable and I was beginning to worry it was getting late to get the route walked. From the results it would seem the birds had yet to get into full breeding mode with numbers down on recent years. Despite the low numbers it was a fine morning to be in the valley and I worked up a good appetite before heading home for breakfast.


Reed Warblers


Reed Warblers not overly advertising their presence today.


Mute swan nest
Nesting Mute Swan, one of twenty pairs and sixty non-breeders currently on the estate.

This evening my rounds took me through the lakes and out into the river valley once more. The lakes continue to fish well with some superb carp being landed, which always cheers me up on my travels around the estate. I also enjoyed a call from Simon Tomkinson telling me of his second salmon of the season in the shape of a fresh, twenty plus fish. Great result, congratulations Simon, well fished.

I was hoping to catch a glimpse of the Harrier that was spotted at Ibsley yesterday, unfortunately luck wasn't on my side and it looks as if our visitor has moved on. There was a Montagu's recorded in the valley down at Christchurch yesterday and it would have been nice to think it was this bird, unfortunately the description didn't tally so I think this one will have to go down as a “don't know”


28th April


Donkey foal

I spent the day strimming, which didn't provide much opportunity for any photography, so I will just put up this shot from yesterday of the new donkey foal up on the Marsh.

27th April


Goosander brood White-fronted goose Mandarin ducks

Not perhaps as dramatic yet even with this stubborn north wind the Avon valley is a wonderful place to be at this time of year. The first Goosander brood of the year, the single Whitefront that has been in the valley all winter remains with us and at least three pairs of Mandarin are currently sitting. This particular pair have learnt that anglers bait is an easy hit for dinner.

Bluebells Kingcups Mandarin ducks

The flowers are also looking well with the bluebells enjoying the extra light where we have coppiced the hazel. The kingcups on the Northern Marsh surrounding the first donkey foal of the year and the cowslip over the lakes putting on a brave show despite the overnight frosts.

30+ common 30+ common Big 20 common

Despite the frosty nights and the cold northly wind the lakes continue to provide some excellent fish. Richard Handel with a brace of thirty plus fish and a big twenty for Russ Breckon.

26th April


Macaque
Enjoying some rest and relaxation.

Paradise
Paradise Island, Anne just beyond the boat.

As some of you were aware Anne and I have been away for a break in celebration of a significant birthday and monumental wedding anniversary. Having enjoyed some wonderful R & R in warmth and sunshine, which doesn't do justice to the sun and the sea we enjoyed, I am once more back in harness. Probably a strimmer harness as all the salmon pools could do with a trim by the look of it!

I have to admit to being a little surprised at the state of the river and the lack of growth of the vegetation in many spots. I was expecting the banks to be waist high but it would appear the cold north wind and frosty nights you have endured have applied the brakes to the spring growth. It was a little disconcerting to see the new growth on the brambles limp and blackened by the frost. You also appear to have experienced a total lack of rain, hence the low clear state of the river. If ever we could do with a good soaking to reset Natures time clock now would seem a good time. The fish will still be creeping through and as if to prove a point to welcome me home, Colin Morgan had one stay on in the shape of a sixteen pound cock fish, which I was very pleased to spot in the book. Well done Colin, good fish and thanks for the photo.


Elephant parade Butterflies seeking minerals

Elephants and butterflies, it was all very dramatic.

13th April


Number two

Well done Paul, second twenty of the year in the shape of this great looking 23 pound hen and I've heard just this minute that Mike Tolley has added his second to his 2017 account in the form of a 12+ fish. Congratulations all around and I appreciate the updates.

Fresh summer salmon

That's more like it, yet another fish, in this case a bright summer fish for Pete. Smart fish Pete plus a smart photo.

6th April


Ray Finch springer

A most welcome sight. Ray Finch with a fabulous Avon Springer. Great stuff Ray, congratulations and thanks for the pic.

3rd April


Julian with a stunning common

Its the Julian Ward show! I just had to share this as its one of the best looking commons I've seen. Julian kindly sent me a couple of shots of this fish, which was 25.8 and was one of three 20+ fish caught last night. From a fishery perspective this is where we're looking to be with absolutely scale perfect fish. Wonderful common to add to the catch from Meadow last week. Brilliant stuff Julian and thanks again for the photos.

31st March


Julian with a 34.14 mirror


Julian with a wonderful 34.14 mirror.


Eleanor with a 20+ common
Eleanor with a lovely 23.12 common

Like father, like daughter. Julian has had a good week to round off his Somerley Lakes season. He did a single night session with daughter Eleanor and between them managed six 20+ carp up to 29.12. Not content with his haul he spent a couple of hours beside the lake today and landed this magnificent looking creature, quite one of the most stunning fish you are ever likely to encounter, an absolute gem at 34.14. Well done Julian and Eleanor. Its somewhat odd for me to see Eleanor with her dad as many moons ago, when I was secretary of one of the local angling clubs, I used to take the junior section with Julian as one of the young anglers when he wasn't a great deal older than Eleanor! I can assure you that a great deal of water has run under Ibsley Bridge since those far off days. Julian and Eleanor weren't the only members to finish in fine style as Nigel Keats added to his top catch of last week with a further eleven carp to 31 pounds in his last two night stint. Nice one Nigel, you should take Adam along with you to show him how to do it, like Julian and Eleanor!
Along with Kings-Vincents the lakes have done us proud yet again this year. There have been lean spells but that is what makes us all keep coming back, if we caught every time we went fishing it would soon loose its appeal. With Mockbeggar now open again after its six month rest the challenge of a wild more natural water lays before us once more and the old girls of Somerley can take a well earned rest for the close season.


Juvenile roach by the thousand

Odd world; this is not a tenth of the roach that I netted out from behind a hatch board today as they were struggling to get through into the lake beyond. The problem is I don't want them in the lake in question as we already have far too many small fish already in there. I am also reluctant to apply to move them into any other water as although I didn't spot any today, there is the chance that hidden amongst the many thousands there may be rudd or hybrids. If I were being hard nosed about the management of the lake I should take them out, dig a hole and bury them! That doesn't quite fit with my philosophy, particularly when applied to roach and I lifted them over the hatch. I just hope the Cormorants and Grebe are hungry to help balance the scales.

Orange-tip Orange-tip

Yesterday I spotted the first Orange-tip of the season, which was an early record for us. Today I spotted three different specimens! Just what that has to say about the climate change our butterfly populations are undergoing I wouldn't like to say but its certainly not the norm with us. The photo's are of different males with the classic orange wing tips and the wonderful pattern on the underwing.

27th March


Old Girl Big Old Girl

Thanks to Karl for the shots of the two "Old Girls" he managed from the lakes at the weekend. I'm not axactly certain how old those two fish are but they are well over twenty and are probably approaching thirty years old. I believe the second fish, which is an ounce or two short of 35 pounds, is a personal best for Karl from the lakes. Well done Karl, great result.

26th March


With Anne having just finished her fourth night shift the chance to soak in some vitamin D in this afternoon's sunshine was just too good an opportunity to miss. It also provided me with the excuse to visit the lakes as we have now removed the last of the winter grazing stock and I wanted to have a look at the sward to see how it might fare this coming summer. One of the meadows running north south and sheltered from today's cold north east wind seemed as good a place as any to spend an hour peering at my feet. Anne stationed herself on a sunny bank over looking my eratic wanderings as I sought out the sorrels and the plantains, sorted the bents from the fescues and the colts-foot from the cocks-foot. With cowslip and dog violet seemingly established well and not forgetting that important food plant for so many of our resident species of butterfly, the common nettle, I have to say the meadows are looking very well indeed.


Dog violets Welcome Comma

I was pleased to see increasing numbers of dog violets, I'm sure the fritillaries will be even more pleased than me to see them. It was not only Anne that was enjoying the sunny aspect of the bank as within 50m of her at least six commas and three peacocks were also soaking up the sun.

25th March


Scaly 20+ mirror

I was supposed to be bobbing about in a boat off the end of Portland Bill in search of turbot today. As it happens it was wisely decided by the skipper that Portland Run was no place to be in today's blow so it was cancelled. On the principle that its an ill wind that blows no good I did get to visit the lakes this morning and timed my visit to coincide with Paul Powell photographing this scaly 20+ mirror. Cracking looking fish which I would like to know a little more about, if any members have landed this fish in the last couple of years could they email me any pix they might have. The lake has produced several good fish this week with Nigel Keats timing his visit on Wednesday night to find commons of 25, 32 and 38 nice one Nigel, that'll do nicely.

That didn't take long to find out a little more of its history. There's a photo of it on here on 3rd October 2015!


Whilst on the subject of stillwaters. All members should have received an email reminder that subs are due at the end of the month. Contact the office if you failed to receive the email.

22nd March


Red-eared terrapin Small tortoiseshell

Spring's here, the Red-eared terrapins are basking in the trees beside the lakes. We don't see as many of these as we did a couple of decades ago, which is probably a good thing. Still plenty of "Red-necks" about the valley, which probably isn't a good thing! The Tortoiseshell is a shot from last week, which I've put up just for balance and because I like it.

21st March


Returning a good common

Peter Morrison returning a good common, despite the cold snap that has slowed the fishing considerably this week.

15th March


After a dinner of seared pigeon breast, on a bed of mashed potato with romanesco broccoli, pigeon courtesy of Acker and a glass of fine port courtesy of an extremely considerate traveller returning from Portugal, I feel almost human. I never did get out to look for a super chub, or mega barbel come to that but knowing so many of the members had a great end to the season is reward enough, honest!

With the coarse season on the rivers over we can draw breath and look back at events that made up the year. As I write I sit with my aching muscles slowly recovering having spent the best part of the day over at Mockbeggar clearing a window through the willow and alder to allow light onto an area of meadow that lay in shadow. As regular readers are probably aware I have a thing about light and flow, the balance of the two control a significant proportion of all our lives. As with the light and flows in our rivers being critical in ensuring their health, light, along with a drop of rain and a few other bits and bobs, controls the life in our meadows and woods. My current distraction involved managing our fishery habitat for the greatest benefit of the creatures that share our valley with us is strapped for time so every opportunity is welcome. I had a couple of hours clearing the last of the swims and waiting for the loos enabling the chance of a little light and shade balancing. It was of course also the opening day on the lake, providing the opportunity for a chat with some of the members. As it happens I didn't see any anglers, only the toilet delivery man and Frank Lamb, who I caught up with just as he was leaving. I'm not saying Frank isn't an angler, or the toilet man come to that, but Frank didn't have his rods and I don't know the toilet guy, he may well be a fisherman elsewhere. Frank was just out on a recce and expecting to see others on the water, he convinced himself the lakes weren't actually open and was about to leave when I bumped into him. The lakes looked superb in today's warm sunshine and as Frank and I chatted, looking out to the islands, several large carp threw themselves clear of the water returning with seriously impressive splashes. I know the other lakes are fishing well but not a soul on opening day is slightly disappointing. I guess tearing yourself away from the known and taking on the vast unknown of Mockbeggar is a hard choice. Whilst talking of Lakes I should say well done to Alan McAvoy who landed eight fish in his session last week including a new English PB common. Nice one Al, well won.

Back to those mega barbel and super chub, the numbers that we are currently blessed with is simply astonishing. I find it hard to believe the Avon has ever produced fish and fishing of such quality. Certainly not the chub in the fifty plus years I have fished it. Perhaps in the dim and distant past the chub may have achieved such size but never such barbel as they simply didn't exist. To see the shoals of chub moving over the gravel last summer gave a hint of what lay ahead but this angler friendly winter had excelled itself. The prolonged clear water of the late summer and autumn, combined with the reduced flows of the winter seem to have held the weights back a few ounces. I didn't hear of an eight pound plus fish this season, having said that the number of seven plus fish in the last week or two of the season was just fantastic. Not only huge fish but scale perfect, as if just out of the makers mould. A maker who has obviously smiled benignly on us at Somerley for yet another year.

There are probably over a dozen barbel that exceed fourteen pounds to be found on the estate at the current time. At least four or five of those huge fish are upstream of Ibsley Bridge where members appear reluctant to fish for them. I appreciate its our mile or so of shared bank and being a club water is busy. In fact extremely busy but it is a wide river and several of those fish spend a great deal of their time under our bank. A little disappointing not to see that big brace in Botney on the bank this year. Plenty of other doubles and thankfully shoals of baby barbel visible on the shallows. The chub and barbel are undoubtedly in good shape, lets hope it continues to be the case for the foreseeable future.

I know a man that knows how to cheer me up in the form of Mike Tolley who rang this afternoon to let me know he had just released a 21 pound Springer. Just the news I needed after the recent loss a couple of fish and the numbers starting to come out at the bottom end of the river below the Great Weir. Well done Mike, may it be the first on many in 2017. With the Wessex hydrology making pretty depressing reading I fear we are going to struggle in the higher river as fish hold for longer and longer periods as they wait to run those bloody hatches. We are entering the most productive time for the salmon with the next couple of months being the cream of the Avon salmon fishing. Make the most of what flows we have as the fish will still be getting up to us at the present time and cross everything you have in the hope of regular rain to keep the river topped up.


Hidden Comma

To end with a slightly easier spot the bug shot. The Red Admiral on the tree trunk proved vexing for several readers so this one will hopefully restore the confidence.


13th March


7.2 chub Ollie's Avon Second 7+ chub

One day left of the Coarse season on the river and this is a taste of what is possible, alternatively of what you've missed! The shots are of Ollie Johnson with a brace of sevens at 7.2 and 7.1 that are simply stunning. To complete the day, Ollie added chub of 6.10, 6.3, 6.2, 5.14 and a tacker of 4.8. What can you say to such a bag other than well done Ollie, brilliant catch. Perhaps the icing on the cake was that they came on the traditional Avon tactic of float fished maggot. Ollie used one of his own Avon floats, part of the Clearwater series he designed and manufactures, which are almost tactile they are so elegantly balanced and have tips that even I can see, if I could get out that is. I suppose that's the coarse equivalent of a salmon on a self tied fly, surely a personal Red Letter Day of a lifetime and the chub catch of the season across the country. Superb Ollie and thanks so much for the report and the photos.

12th March


Double figure barbel Avon Springer Double figure barbel

Coltsfoot Coppicing Common toads

Buff-tailed bumblebee Small Tortoiseshell Tree Bumblebee

A few photographs to provide a flavour of the last day or two. The top line shows two good double figure barbel, the first by Mark Sherborne the Second Jim Innes, both taken when the fishing has been difficult over the last few days. The middle shot shows Bob Windsor and Paul Shutler with Bob's salmon from the compound last week. Nice one Bob, even if you did catch it on the wrong part of the river! Thanks to all for the photos, there have been some stunning fish in recent weeks.
Elsewhere, the middle line starts with a shot of the coltsfoot that is a welcome sight signalling the change of seasons in the meadows. I'm desperately trying to finish the coppicing, the stools are all cut I now have to pile the brash over the top to keep the deer off. Beside the lakes the toads are in full spawning mode with what can best be described as toad balls as clumps of males fight to gain prime position with the females. The two males in the shot having turned their backs on the melee as they stopped for a rest. The bottom line captures some of the other welcome arrivals as the weather warms. Buff-tailed and Tree bumblebees in their dozens, all seeking early pollen to get their new nests underway. The over-wintering butterflies have emerged in good numbers from the cool dark shelters they have occupied for the last four or five months. I imagine the old control tower and the other WW2 shelters that are dotted about the lakes have provided perfect cool, cave like quarters to pass the cold months.

, 9th March


A day or two of sharp contrasts, particularly when it comes to the weather we have experienced in the last seventy two hours. We had strong winds and heavy rain at times earlier in the week that made fishing extremely difficult yet there were some great fish caught. Today we enjoyed a wonderfully warm afternoon, we had bright sunshine and light winds yet the fishing was really difficult. What the sunshine did manage was to bring out the syndicate members and I believe we enjoyed probably the busiest day since the fishing came back in house. With less than a week until the end of the coarse season the river coarse members were doing their best to get a last session in and the near perfect state of the river for salmon has brought the salmon rods out onto the bank. From what I can make of it and according to those I spoke to today the salmon rods fared no better than the coarse guys with no sign of any fish being landed. Thats not quite correct in that Bob (The Mars Bar Kid) Windsor departed south to the the Great Weir compound and produced a 18 pound hen fish, at least proving there are one or two in the river. I should mention one other fish that came out during the rain earlier in the week, that being a 7+ new PB chub for Mark Tutton, well deserved for persevering through the rain and wind, great fish well done Mark. Mark also happens to be a fellow butterfly enthusiast who spotted the first Small tortoiseshell of the year during the earlier part of the week. Today butterflies seemed to be everywhere and during my travels I spotted 8 Brimstones, 4 Commas, 5 Peacocks, 1 Red Admiral and my first Small Tortoiseshell, definitely good for the soul.


Peacock butterfly Red Admiral Comma

Hooray summer is here! Long may it last.

7th March


Wild dafodils Red hind Otter skeleton

The Snowdrops have faded back into the woodland floor litter and the wild daffodils have taken their place. Its a good year for the dafs with carpets of yellow covering the undisturbed woodland floor. The middle shot is of a Red deer hind, which are now becoming a more frequent sight on the estate. They are a very large beast and increased numbers grazing alongside the existing fallow, roe, sika and muntjac would be a disaster for the wild flora we are attempting to preserve. Finally its been a bad week for otters with the second dead one of the week turning up beside the Trout stream. Just what killed this one is a mystery. It looked as if it had been dragged out of the water by a fox scavenging a free meal but there were no obvious signs of the cause of death.

4th March


Mike Skittrall PB

I just love getting reports and photos such as the one above, it shows Mike Skittrall with one of our lunker chub that beats his PB of 20 years standing. I don't need to go fishing when I can share in the pleasure such a fish brings, its simply superb. Congrats on the PB Mike and many thanks for the great report and pic.

Avon Perch

You know how I feel about Avon perch, they absolutely conjure the magic and mystery of the underwater world of the Avon. That's Dominic Longley holding that piece of perfection for which many thanks for the pic. I'm now convinced I have to get a trip or two in before the close in ten days time.

Two Great White Egrets Curlew

Definitely three in the valley this year. Two Great White Egrets both unringed, going to prove we had three in the valley for several weeks this winter. I think the regular ringed bird has now gone back as I haven't seen it for a day or two but these two seem to be happy in each others company. There has been a very large number of Great White Egrets in the south and south west this winter and it won't be long until they are breeding as they do down in the Somerset Levels. The Curlew have been here for about a fortnight. They arrive every Spring as they make their way back to the nesting grounds, either further north or out on the forest.

Finding the two Great White Egrets today was the icing on the cake for what was a fine walk from Ibsley up to the northern boundary of the flooded marsh. Last nights rain had done its job and the water had risen to spill out into the fields attracting a diversity of our valley wildlife. I'd parked at the Botney car park and climbed the style that immediately allows a view out over the river to the Ibsley Splash and Harbridge Church beyond. The swans and geese could be seen dotted about the meadows enjoying the shallow flood. Canadas, Greylags, Egyptians and if I could be bothered to scan the flock with the binoculars I would probably find the White front that has been with us for several months. The far bank of the river was also dotted with the coarse lads who are keen to fit in a few last visits before the close in ten days time. The barbel fishing, along with the chub fishing, has been unbelievable with multiple catches of big fish through out the river. I'm not sure we've seen the biggest barbel on the bank yet this season with several of the summer fourteen pound fish yet to show this tail end. With possibly six different summer fourteens between the weirs and what ever lives in the section I was now walking beside, I imagine we may well see a sixteen or even a seventeen plus fish if someones luck holds. Certainly the big brace in Botney are under threat judging by the attention they are receiving in recent weeks on the far bank.

I waded across the dodgy bridge just below Ham Island and out onto the southern marsh. Twenty or so Tufties departed upstream and as I watched them go I spotted a pair of Goldeneye keeping them company. The first Redshank of the Spring piped his annoyance as he drifted off up a side carrier where he joined a Green Sandpiper seeking his lunch in the soft ooze of the margins. As I drew level with the top of the island a group of seven Goosander flushed and followed the Tufties up river. The gravel at the confluence of the Hucklesbrook was well under water and a pair of Little Egrets stalked the margins seeking unwary fry. On reaching the Hucklesbrook stream the depth meant I had to detour upstream to the ford just below the Red Bridge car park. At least the extra couple of hundred meters allowed me to wade the stream and approach the North Marsh without being seen by the wildfowl enjoying the flood. A hundred Wigeon even greater numbers of Teal and good numbers of Mallard and Gadwall. The Shoveler were tucked up under the clumps of Soft Rush and the odd Snipe could be seen picking its way from clump to clump. A scan of the marsh with the bino's showed several pairs of Lapwing, a pair of Oystercatchers and the first pair of Shelduck I'd seen for quite some time out on the shallow flood. In the far distance I could see the flock of Curlew that has been with us for a fortnight but they were too distant to get an accurate count so I headed over to Gorley to follow the river north in an effort to get a closer look. A Cetti's on the corner and a second called from the island to let us know this was their patch. Another Little Egret and a couple of pairs of Coots departed as I made my way upstream and as I cleared the corner I came across a syndicate member sitting at the head of the island shallows. Ten minutes chewing the fat and hearing the highes and lows of recent weeks and I left the river bank and headed out directly across the field toward the Curlew. As soon as I changed my direction from following the river, where I was taken as an angler and no threat, the heads of the geese came up to take a closer look. The Crows and Jackdaws decided descretion was the better part of valour and left for fields anew. The geese also decided to walk to a safer vantage point whilst the Curlew failed to even notice my approach. I didn't have to get too close to establish that there were nine preoccupied with probing the soft soil and turned south back toward the river and the car. I hope these birds are heading north to breeding grounds in Scotland or even further toward the Artic Circle. If they are local birds I hold out little hope for their survival in what has now become the New Forest urban park the uncontrolled dogs, ramblers, mountain bikers and horse riders that will eventually drive them out. I think I might suggest to the National Park authority they stop playing lip service to conservation and ban ALL people from the majority of the New Forest as they do in areas of the world where the well being of creatures that share this planet with us are taken a little more seriously.

Having got that off my chest, back to my wandering, which now took me back to Gorley Corner and the Old Man with his attendent Buzzard watching my approach. I hadn't taken much notice of the bird as I walked by, aware he was still there watching me splash through the shallow flood water. I has thirty or forty meters beyond the Old Man when a Red Kite drifted no more than twenty feet over my head. Definitely a case of failing to check the obvious. No panicked departure, a casual drift with cocked head looking down at me through his pale yellow eyes, truly magnificent bird at close quarters. I would imagine he is one of the resident breeding pair we have in this section of the valley, what ever the reason his presence is certainly a welcome sight.

On over the culvert on the central drainage ditch where the presence of our otters was very evident in the number of prints in the soft mud. A casual look over the white lumps of the Mutes out on the marsh, just checking the obvious, where two slightly smaller stationary lumps looked out of place. The photo above captures the reason for the odd appearance of the lumps making for a super end to my walk.


On a different subject I'm sure many readers will be aware that the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust have been monitoring breeding waders and the various predators that impact upon them for more than twenty years at Somerley and other estates in the valley. This has taken many different paths to establish the various impacts such as mink and otter monitoring, corvid counts etc. Just yesterday Mike Short of the trust contacted me to ask if they could collect fox scat (poop) to analyses to establish diet of flood plain foxes. Not unlike the recent otter paper on here.

Bottled scat

To say I'm impressed with the GWCT is an understatement, just 24 hours in and they have the foxes trained to crap into bottles ready for collection!

1st March


Road casualty A338 rubbish Goldfinches

I walked a couple of hundred meters up the A338 from Ibsley Bridge this morning to check on a road casualty that Phil had spotted on the way into work. What ever your views on otters the sight of such a beautiful creature laying dead amidst the accumulated rubbish beside the road is a pretty depressing sight. It was the bitch that was a regular visitor around the river at Ibsley, she has certainly been with us for three years. It probably means we will have a new incumbent taking up residence in the near future, I just hope she is as well behaved as this one. The middle shot shows the accumulated rubbish I referred to previously. What is going on when it comes to the people and I use that term loosely, that throw this rubbish alongside one of the finest rivers in the country? What sort of individual leaves such rubbish anywhere? We have fly tipping down at Ringwood weir that the Highways Agency are supposed to be responsible for clearing. Its probably been there almost a year without so much as a hint of removal. The regular tipping at Ellingham beggars belief, its almost become a weekly event. If you ever see rubbish being dumped see if you can get a car reg or a pic on the mobile and text it through, I'd just love to find out who our local cowboys are. The final shot is to brighten the mood, its some of the thirty odd Goldfinches in the front garden. I was actually trying to photograph the Bramblings but they would never stand still long enough. With 96 Starlings, 70 House Sparrows, 22 Chaffinches, 10 Siskins, 16 Collared Doves, the 30 plus Goldfinches and an assortment of Blackbirds, Thrushes, Robins and the odd Blackcap the front garden is thankfully pretty busy at the moment.

28th February


Undulate Ray

The last day of February and the star of the photo above made me feel a great deal more positive about winter finally loosing its grip on the countryside.

20th February


Here's an article that many of you may find of interest, produced by Bournemouth Uni's; Prof Rob Britton, Matthew Berry, Samantha Sewell, Corina Lees and our very own Pete Reading.


Avon Otter Diet


Definitely a foot in many camps when it comes to work in recent days. Liming and clearing line from the lakes, trees, ditching and strimming on the river and resetting the water meadows in readiness for the new growing season. Add in a sea fishing trip and my weekend breadmaking, time has been in short supply. The river continues to fish well for chub, pike and barbel with the lakes providing some lovely days in the recent mild spell, I really must get the rods out before the end of the river season and have a look for a chub or barbel or two.


Undulate Ray

Tom Fowler grinning over the top of a fine double figure Undulate Ray. We also managed Thornbacks, Spotted and a good 20+ Blonde, add several Conger to 35 pounds and some reasonable Whiting, we enjoyed a good day for a February boat. We organise our boat and beach fishing through our local Armfield and Ringwood Sea Fishing Club, of which Tom is our chairman and in reality is a small group of about a dozen of us who meet for a couple of hours each month to plan our events. We are always on the lookout for new members so if you feel like adding seafishing to your calendar on a couple of occasions a month drop me an email. If I could remember who our membership secretary was I would give you his email but I've forgotten who we voted into the post in their absence!

Cheese sourdough


Camembert sourdough bread.


Cherry and chocolate sourdough
Cherry and chocolate sourdough dusted with cocao.

Sourdough bread making becomes a routine where producing the leaven, making up the dough, folding, resting, proving and baking all take set times which can't be rushed. I enjoy the set routine of producing the basic loaf and the ability to try out all sorts of recipes that you are unlikely to come across in the local bakery. I think it must be the total opposite from the never ending changing aspects of my usual day that appeals.


17th February


Scarlet Elf Cup

Even in the grey of late winter there are splashes of colour supplied courtesy of Mother Nature in the form of the Scarlet Elf Cups.

15th February


Mockbeggar grazing Great white egret

I was pleased to see the livestock we have grazing Mockbeggar have managed to get out on to the islands. This will save me hours of strimming and provide a far richer flora for the butterflies in the coming summer. Its the hope of a warmer spring for the emerging butterflies this year, which is at odds with my wish to see higher flows in the river for the well being of the valley creatures. I don't suppose I will influence what we eventually receive, which ever way it goes I must take the positive view that it will benefit one or the other. I noticed the number of Shoveler at Mockbeggar is beginning to reduce as the birds begin to return to their summer haunts. Today there were less than two hundred, down over a third on the counts of three hundred plus earlier in the year. The number of Shoveler that have been present throughout the winter are of national importance, which would seem to point to us getting something right. It was good to see four pairs of Goldeneye had joined the Shoveler today, the displaying drakes always make a fine show.
The second photo shows the unringed Great white egret that has been with us since the middle of November. Usually seen on the Ellingham meadows, often with the long returning ringed bird. I did also spot a further one at Hucklesbrook but I can't be certain it wasn't one of the usual pair so I will have to settle for just the two. Goshawks, lots of croaking Raven and pleasingly, at least one and possibly two Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, spring is on its way.

14th February


Island Run

I think that's the first cut of all sixty pools complete, at least they're all fishable, unless of course you know differently! I will replace the seat at the head of Blashford when we can get out on the meadows without sinking. In the meantime treat with care as we have lost a further meter of bank alonside it this winter.

13th February


Frog spawn


Frog spawn and Crassula helmsii in the new puddles.


Cabbage Garden
Looking down Cabbage Garden to Middle Cabbage on the far bank.

This morning I had occasion to walk some of the hundreds of acres of restoration that we have on the estate and despite being bare gravel a twelve months ago many puddle seemed to be full of frogs spawn. Perhaps a less desirable re colonisation of the site was the presence of so much crassula in an equal number of wet areas. In the afternoon I was up at Cabbage garden cleaning up the last few salmon pools, which despite the cold clear conditions looked wonderful in the late light of the day.


12th February


Mute swans

WeBS day and we have 149 of these in this section of the valley. Twenty five pairs of which are busy re-establishing their nesting territories with swans scrapping where ever you seem to look.

11th February


Dog Kennel upstream Dog Kennel downstream

"Can't get the staff" Feeling pleased with myself having managed to get the long distance pools down at Lifelands and Ashley all clipped out and ready for the off I had forgotten the pool nearest the Lodge. I made amends this morning and the couple of shots show Dog Kennel looking a lot more user friendly.

9th February


First of the year from Somerley

There's absolutely no doubt about what this fish is! Its the first salmon of the year off Somerley, a 3SW fish in the twenty pound class, landed by Paul Greenacre this evening. Paul rang at about ten to five to say he was into a fish, which was behaving like a big fish, very steady and repeatedly returning to its lie. Five minutes later I was heading for the river out across a very wet and splashy field that made progress extremely tough. I arrived with the fish still reluctant to leave its lie with the occasional foray into the deeper water at the far side of the pool. After ten minutes the pressure was telling with the fish now moving more freely about the pool with a couple of jumps on a very short, tight line thrown in, miraculously Paul stayed in contact. Down to the tail of the pool where she was succefully scooped up on our first attempt. As I drew her toward the bank the hooks dropped out and snagged in the rim of the net, by then too late, she was safely ours. Well done Paul, congratulations on a great fish and opening the account at Somerley.

8th February


Below is one of those fish again! If you caught this in July you would confidently believe it to be a fresh run sea trout, which it certainly looks like. The only problem, apart from being out of season, is it shouldn't be here at this time. The first big, fresh sea trout usually enter the system at the end of April or May and given reasonable flow and water height continue to run until they cut in November. Low flow summers are different and as with this year just past, the fish all end up bottled up at the bottom of the river but that's a different story. That being the case it doesn't alter the fact these early fish don't fit the pattern we might expect. I believe they are fish that entered the river last autumn to spawn during the normal cutting period and are taking their time to run back to sea. The Avon is full of invertebrates and fry right through the winter so why would any fish rush to get back to sea. Once they decide to return to the coastal feeding, just like their earlier juvenile smolt run, they silver up. So this fish probably had an easy run into the river late in the year on one of the few spates we enjoyed at the beginning of November. Its had two or three months of good feeding getting back into reasonable shape and now taking a leisurely trip back to the seaside.


Sea trout

At about three and a half pounds a good looking fish, for which I must thank Thom Board for the photo.

5th February


Ibsley Pool

There just has to be one in there somewhere! Perfect running conditions that give the early fish the chance to reach the higher river in safety. It has to be remembered all fish that make that journey pass through every pool on the fishery, all you have to do is be at the right place at the right time, easy.

Southern Marsh Northern Marsh W|ildfowl over North Marsh

With the high water the Hucklesbrook Marshes have sprung into life with wildfowl numbers looking a great deal healthier than they have for most of this dry winter. With over 150 Wigeon, 200 Teal, 55 Pintail, over a hundred Shoveler, a 150+ Lapwing, 140 Canada Geese, Little egrets, Great white egrets, Kingfishers, Mute swans, Goosander, Tufties, Heron, Egyptian geese an Oyster catcher and all sorts of odds and ends, things were definitely looking up.

Ronnie with Chance Largue and Chance

Ronnie was about to feed "Chance" when Largue and myself arrived at the Lodge today providing an ideal photo opportunity.

1st February


First of the season

Here's a great shot of a delighted fisherman, with a wonderful Avon Springer to open the new season. Paul Shutler proudly holding his magnificent 22 pounder he landed from the compound down on the Royalty today. Fantastic opening day fish and it couldn't have come to a more deserving rod. Many congratulations Paul and thanks to Danny Taylor, who accompanied Paul today, for the pic. Lets hope its a fore taste of things to come in the season ahead.

Whilst we didn't manage to see such a stunning fish today up on the estate it was a enjoyable day to see the fishery buzzing with nine or ten rods out seeking the fish of a lifetime under the difficult conditions. Perhaps the greatest pleasure for me was the social activity at the Lodge as the rods met up for the day and enjoyed a leisurely lunchtime catch-up. High expectations and enthusiasm, making for a really positive vibe.

31st January


Rising water

Still rising this afternoon and further rain forecast. The colour of the water is strong, milky tea, which will make fishing difficult on opening day tomorrow. I have long since learnt never to say never with regard to fishing but the next day or two will be hard work if we get the forecast rain which will maintain the height and colour. I would suggest that other than a visit to straighten the line keep the bulk of your effort for a little later in the season when conditions will be more favourable. Its very easy to become jaded through too much effort early in the year and miss out on the peak run in a month or two.
If ever there was advice that was guaranteed to put a fish on the bank on opening day, as we managed last year, that is it!

water height  Coloured water

Up another six inches and still raining. If you listen carefully I think you may well hear the chanting and stamping of feet as the local salmon community frantically leap and reel their way through yet another rain dance and thankfully it looks as if it may well be working. Looking at the river this morning if I were to ask for perfect conditions for an early fish those we are currently enjoying would fit the bill perfectly. I would actually like to see the river continue to gently rise and hold its height for several weeks to allow the ground water aquifers to completely fill to safeguard our summer flows. It may possibly make the early fishing difficult but for the long-game we need the summer flows so keep on dancing!

30th January



water height

The water height and colour at Ibsley Bridge this morning. The EA flow stations that can be found at the links below will provide a good indication of the river state for travelling anglers.

East Mills

Two or three miles upstream, showing an 0.2m/8 inch rise in levels with yesterday's rain.


Knapp Mill

Down at the tidal limit showing a less distinct rise.


Bickerley Millstream

A mile downstream reacting in a similar fashion as the main channel.


The Dockens Water

The Dockens that enters the Avon on the Lifelands, Ashley boundary, showing the rapid flood spike of the forest streams.


23rd January


Old hazel copse
Old over stood hazel copse.


Coppicing
Coppicing whenever I can find the time.

The first shot shows a hazel coppice that is past its prime as a usable wooodland resource. It has value as logwood but the young five to seven year old timber, historically used by the hurdle maker, has grown out. This particular parcel of woodland is too small to be economically viable so I have always attempted to keep on top of the coppicing purely as a wildlife resource. Alas it has outgrown me and along with the increased deer population, eating out any remaining undergrowth, much of the copse is looking very sorry for itself. When we first brought the hazel back in hand twenty years ago Nightingales took up residence within a year, we found dormice and the only deer we ever spotted were the occasional roe. I haven't heard a Nightingale for ten years or more, dormice for a similar time, although I have to admit I haven't looked and we now have a dozen fallow deer stamping about in the wood most nights.
The second shot is quite interesting as it shows several aspects of the wood that can be easily overlooked. The hazel is easily cut back and the logwood salvaged, The top brash is stacked back over the stools in an effort to keep the deer off the young regrowth. In the middle distance are two oaks I planted fifteen or twenty years ago, to replace the over-story that draws up the young hazel below. The better specimen will be selected the weaker will join the log pile. The Holly beside the ancient old oak is the home of a tawny owl who will appreciate the rejuvenated undergrowth, patches of wild raspberries and blackberries will attract a new fieldmouse and vole food supply to suppliment his diet. I'll also have to have a word with Kevin, who keeps on top of the fallow population in the forestry, to add the hazel coppice to his list of vulnerable woodland. I have to admit that I always enjoy a day spent in the hazel copse, my only problem is its very difficult to justify financially so even this freezing fog that puts pay to much of our usual work has a silver lining.


21st January



Good pike

This is a good photo for which I must thank syndicate member Colin Ives. It shows Colin's grandson Elian with a good pike, taken on the coldest of days with the frost still on the ground but judging by the grin on Elian's face the cold is the last thing on his mind. Its a photo that will stir memories in most of us older anglers as we think back to the days when we experienced the magic of our early years with the rods. Elain has accompanied Colin for many years and loves his time by the river, a grounding in angling that will stand him in good stead for many years to come. He also managed a 15.07 PB a week or two ago so he's starting to make his teacher look to his laurels! Well done Elian keep up the good work.

20th January 2017



Bonfire

The perfect frosty weather job.

17th January 2017



Mark Gillard Gill Gill

Sad, sad news for those in the carp world and the commercial fishermen of Mudeford, in that “Gill”, Mark Gillard, has passed away. I suppose during the shared dark nights beside the carp lakes and the close company of the fishing community, we often glimpse the deeper side of our friends. Gill was very much part of his chosen environment, be it beside our lakes or at sea and he lived that part to the full. His laid back ways, dodgy beanie hat and knowing smile will be sadly missed. I'm sure I speak for all the carp community when I say our thoughts are with his family at this difficult time.

16th January 2017


I did make it down to the river today and found several members out making the most of the change in conditions. A coloured river, with mild overcast conditions, it looked spot on and it was certainly producing the goods with some amazing chub bags coming out. The chub fishing is quite simply staggering, the number and size of the fish throughout the entire length of the fishery is providing fishing to dream of. I did also get a further update on the lakes with Frank Lamb manageing five fish during a single night session last week. That included at least one thirty and a couple of twenties so it seems to have continued to fish well in my absence.


Ollie with a 6.06

Ollie Johnson with a great looking six that he landed as I walked the bank today, one of half a dozen superb looking chub. Good to see you today Ollie and thanks for the photo.

15th January 2017


Back from my travels in the West I may be but it hasn't allowed me a great deal of time to catch up with events on the fishery as yet. The shoot season is drawing to a close with the last major shoot of the season at the weekend, add a WeBS count and a Bakehouse24 bread class learning how to make sourdough bread and it left little time for the river.


21 pound common

I did get the opportunity to drive around the lake at lunchtime on Saturday, just as John Keirle was landing a common of 21 pounds. Just reward for sticking it out during the bitterly cold conditions. I'm not sure how Andy Grant his fishing partner at the weekend fared, I think bream were involved somewhere along the line!

Bread class Finer points One at home

I have to say the prospect of a day kneading dough felt a little daunting first thing this morning as we set off to our bread class at "Bakehouse24" that we both had so generously been given at Christmas. I needn't have worried as the wonders of sourdough bread includes not having to knead it into submission, thankfully its more to do with timing! I found the entire experience thoroughly enjoyable and very enlightening. Whilst we have been customers at BH24 for some time I hadn't appreciated just what goes into providing our daily bread. A big thankyou to baker Pete and his partner Jo for producing a top notch day and not an aching muscle to be found anywhere!

Sheltering Shoveler

The Shoveler were still sheltering from the cold north wind behind the islands.

13th January 2017



2.9 roach

Now this has to be a pretty good start to the New Year, Darrel Hughes with a 2.09 roach, its certainly the finest roach I've seen for a good many years. Great fish Darrel, congratulations and thanks for the photo. Lets hope we see a rise in water that brings a little extra colour and you never know what we may find. I've been over in the Welsh mountains for a week which accounts for the lack of entries but I'm back on station and looking forward to catching up with events.

4th January 2017


Hucklesbrook low water
This was taken back in November and the gravel shoal that extends below the Hucklesbrook is even more exposed now.


The Fishing Lodge
The Lodge, where we may be spending more time than we should if the water remains as low as it is now through into the salmon season.

I was up at Hucklebrook North Marsh this morning where the low water has exposed an unprecedented volume of gravel on the Hucklebrook shoal. This is the gravel that the flash floods up on the Forest, through the Latchmore area, bring down to us. If as we have experienced this winter flash floods in the forest, bringing down fresh gravel, yet the flow in the main channel is too low to scour it on into the main system this shoal grows dramatically. I'm not sure the volume of gravel the shoal comprises of, somewhere between fifteen hundred and two thousand cubic meters, in the order of three and four thousand tons of material I would estimate. If this material grasses over and becomes the new profile of the main river channel it will dramatically alter the natural regime in that area. I'm not sure whether that's good or bad for the river, we will just have to wait and see, it will be an interesting aspect of low flows to keep an eye on in the future. I noticed the other day in the press that the Forestry Commission have seen their plans to rewild the Hucklesbrook up in the forest thrown out by the National Parks planning committee. Seems an odd way to carry on when the process of rewilding is seen in such positive light in most areas of the country, I think world might even be applied there. Still, I'm sure the Latchmore area will continue in its main use as an urban playground and dog latrine.

3rd January 2017


Frosty weir pool Teasels White out

A cold, very frosty start to the day.

Kingfisher

Seems sensible to sit in the sun whilst you await the lake to thaw.

1st January 2017



First catkins Constant companion

First catkins of the year and the anglers constant companion.