The old hippy in me is tempted to misquote The Eagles Hotel California: we haven't had that water here since nineteen insert any year you like. I'll hazard you'll never see chalkstreams during the Mayfly in quite this good a condition again in this life or the next.
As you know I beseech the rain Gods every winter and this year they listened; the rivers are fast and full. It is not unalloyed good news, so sometimes you have to be careful what you wish for. River keepers are mowing with strimmers not mowers having mired a tractor or two in an unexpectedly wet patch of bank. The lower reaches don't have the clarity we'd like and the brown trout, who are lazy at the best of times, have been hiding on the bottom rather than swim against the flow. Many a feedback form has used the word 'doggo' to describe their lack of feeding.
How has this impacted on the hatch? Well, Ephemera danica has been hatching along these banks for millions of years so without the benefit of a calendar the start/finish of the three week frenzy does slide around. The general consensus is that, despite the burst of super-hot weather, is that we are late this year. If you came last week you will have surely seen a few hatching, caught some on Mayfly imitations, but there is no doubt the start of duffers fortnight is not yet upon us.
If you are tempted I'm sure there are a few dates still to be had. Use the Date Checker to take a look.
If you don't get enough of me via this bi-weekly blog/newsletter you'll be pleased (or run screaming for the hills) to hear I am now a regular columnist for
Trout & Salmon.
I must admit it did all rather come out of the blue. Something I never thought I would ever do and my sincere thanks to Editor Andrew Flitcroft for giving me the opportunity for not one, but two sentimental reasons. Firstly, as a schoolboy, confined to institutions far away from the chalkstreams Trout & Salmon was my monthly fix of escapism. A few of us who shared the same passion even managed to gang up on the librarian to convince her that our cause was as a valid as that of the rugby and cricket aficionados so she included the magazine on the library shelves.
The other is to do with Dermot Wilson, who once lived here at Nether Wallop Mill. This year marks the 50th anniversary of him setting up shop and by way of some celebration (more of that later in the year) I went to interview his widow Renée who lives not far away on the banks of the River Ebble just outside Salisbury.
For someone who was so good with words it always surprised me that Dermot only wrote the one book Fishing the Dry Fly but he was a regular columnist for Trout and Salmon. Renée tells me that though he did the occasional piece for Country Life, The Field and so on, they never had much appeal to him and it was his writing for Trout & Salmon that he held most dear right until his death. It is strange how the wheels of fate have turned and I am truly privileged to be able, in some small way, to follow in his footsteps.
Source of much refreshment
I am not sure why this is but chalkstreams are, all of a sudden, seen to be offering not just great fishing, but the inspiration and source for refreshment as well.
Refreshment for mind and body .....
For many years we have had Hildon Mineral Water drawn from the aquifers of the Test valley, which you will find in some of the best hotels and restaurants. Then last year a cider maker sprung up in the Meon Valley with a range of three pressings matured in oak barrels that were named respectively Chalkstream, Brown Trout and Dragonfly. At the confluence of the Anton and Test the Cottonworth Vineyard is making sparkling wines méthode champenoise in both white and rosé.
So, where might you ask, is the beer? Well, don't despair as it has arrived in the form of four enthusiasts who have set up shop behind The Greyhound pub in Broughton, the next village downstream of Nether Wallop, on the Wallop Brook. The first brewing is Wallop Gold (what else?!) which we will be sampling here at the fishing school and at our fishing lunches.
April feedback winner
We have kicked off the monthly feedback draw little late this month but I'm pleased to say the winner for April was Robert Smith who fished Avon Springs on the opening day.
Regular users of the feedback facility (thank you all) will notice that I have introduced a star rating to summarise your day. I know it is something of a blunt tool but once we have sufficient responses I am hoping to use the ratings to rank the fisheries.
The Fishing Breaks snood is on the way to Robert and he, like everyone else, goes into the end-of-season draw for the Simms pliers.
More chances to prove, or improve, your intellect on beer, reading and music. Answers, as ever, at the bottom of the page.
1) When was Trout & Salmon magazine first published?
2) In which country is beer said to have been first brewed?
3) When was the record album Hotel California released?
Enjoy the Mayfly!
Simon Cooper firstname.lastname@example.org
Founder & Managing Director
2) In what is now known as Iran, some 7,000 years ago