Tuesday, 19 March 2019

It's a record breaker

It's a record breaker


It is hard sometimes not to become jaded by records. We are assailed on every side by the biggest or the best in one form or another. A certain degree of superlative fatigue sets in; that's as true for angling as for many spheres of life.

Simon Ellis with his 4lb 8oz new British record grayling

I think long ago most of us dismissed the freshwater records for most pond raised fish as, well, artificial. Now I take my hat off to those who have the dedication and skill to nurture these leviathans but are they really records in the spirit of record taking? I tend to think not. Then there is the thorny question of river caught fish. When does a stocked fish stop being stocked transmogrifying into a wild fish? One week? One month? One season? I truly don't know.

The growing of record fish had become so much of an arms race that the British Record Fish Committee closed the lists for all five of what they term 'cultivated game fish' in 2015. You could argue that that is a bit of a shame but on the other hand it does mean that any new native fish record has to be something truly stupendous.

The bars you have to raise date back nearly a century; the Atlantic salmon record was caught in 1922. At 64lb you do wonder if that will be ever broken as with the 28lb Sea trout from 1998. It is classified as a River Test capture but to my mind Calshot Spit is essentially the English Channel. As for the 31lb Brown trout from Loch Awe in 2002, well the mind boggles quite frankly. It even tops the 'cultivated' monster of 28lbs from Dever Springs. Which leaves us with Paul Mildren's 4lb 4oz grayling from the River Frome in Dorset in 2009 which beat the previous record by an ounce, also from the Frome sixteen years earlier. If you want a British game record a grayling would looks to me to be your best bet. As it turns out that just happens to be true.

Simon with John Bailey who is doing a passable imitation of the worlds happiest leprechaun
I am not great pursuer of records but I do get a little excited by the grayling record. This is probably more to do with proximity than ability. I regularly fish the Frome where the record fish were caught and have come within 15% of the record. That does make me sound a little obsessive but think about getting within fifteen percent of Miss Ballantine's fish - that would be a 55lb salmon. Do the maths on the other records to sort might see where I am going? And the Frome is historically the big grayling Valhalla, the original stock imported by the Victorians from the Derbyshire Dove to thrive in this food rich river; most chalkstreams were stocked with grayling at some point or another, only the Hampshire Avon having a true 'native' population.

Where is all this leading? Well, to a new British record that was caught by Simon Ellis at Ilsington on the River Frome on February 19th. And it wasn't just a nudge over the record. It was in the words of John Bailey writing the tale of the capture up for the Anglers Mail 'smashed'. At 4lbs 8oz it's a monster. The biggest grayling ever recorded. John actually has to take some of the credit as he was guiding a small group that day, putting Simon on the particular pool choosing a weighted pink nymph below a strike indicator. Yes, this is not just a record grayling but a record grayling caught on the fly.

So, well done to everyone involved. It's a distinctive fish with that damaged dorsal fin so if it comes out again there will be no problem identifying it. That said we are not sure how old it is. The literature on the length of a grayling's life is vague. Five years seems to be a norm with eight possible. Does anyone know? Anyway John and Simon will be putting in their application to the British Record Fish Committee. It is a thorough process that takes some time but however long it takes I suspect Simon and John will still be glowing with well-deserved pride.

As for the fish well, after some tender care he (or maybe she) swam off back into the deep. I might just be in the front of the queue when the new grayling season opens .....

Summer beauty

It is entirely serendipitous but no sooner did I write about the River Meon last time around but then this east Hampshire stream appeared on the front cover of the April edition
of Trout & Salmon magazine.

The article on our very own Exton Manor Farm beat was written by Chris McCully and beautifully photographed by Richard Faulks when they visited in June of last year. 

As you can see it is the very epitome of an English chalkstream summer.

I'm very grateful to Trout & Salmon for allowing us to reproduce the photographs here. 

Roll on the new season ....

PS We didn't supply Chris's lunch. He is in the most excellent Shoe Inn a 3 minute amble from the fishing (sometimes a 10 minute stagger back) with its own river garden. One of Hampshire's best country pubs. Check it out.

Let it rain, let it rain ..... not necessarily

Fair to say it has been a confusing winter with records broken for dry, wet, hot and cold ..... and that's even before we hark back to the summer heatwave. So, if you haven't been in sight of a chalkstream since last season you might be in slight trepidation as to what to expect.

Well, the truth is rather dull - despite all the huge monthly variations we are in a highly average annual cycle. The Environment Agency (EA) measure rainfall against what they call the Long Term Average (LTA) that being the average annual rainfall in the years 1961-1990. The southern chalkstreams straddle the two of the regions, the south east and south west that the EA compile data for. So, averaging those two out the LTA for the past three months stands at 90%, last six months 94.5% and the last year 97%.

Translated into what you'll actually see most chalkstreams are currently at Normal flow rates or slightly better. The only ones that could do with a bit more rain are those in Berkshire and Norfolk, plus the limestone rivers of Derbyshire but nothing critical.

So when you do venture out I think, all in all, you'll find them looking good.

The Quiz

More questions to hopefully entertain and enlighten. As ever it is just for fun with the answers at the bottom of the Newsletter.

1)     Today is the Ides of March. What is the meaning if the word ides?

2)     March 15th 1952 is recorded as the wettest day in history. How many inches of rain fell on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean over the 24 hour period? Clue: the UK annual average is 33 inches.

3)     Who died on this day in 44 BC?

Have a good weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director


1)     In the ancient Roman calendar a day falling roughly in the middle of each month
2)     73 inches
3)     Julius Caesar

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