Sunday, 4 October 2020

A sting in every tail




Wasps. They are something of a menace for us at this time of year as they have a propensity to nest in river banks which is often alarming for both a river keeper armed with a strimmer and the unsuspecting angler kneeling in the fringe for cover. Now, why wasps particularly like our banks I do not exactly know, so I set out to find out why.


The wasp year starts in April, the low point in the annual population cycle. Here in the UK there are roughly 7,000 species of Vespula but the two you most commonly see are the Common and German wasp, the typical ‘yellowjackets’ which are the bane of picnics and outdoor dining. The wasp population in Britain would be huge if it were not for winter; between October and March the population collapses to just a few females who survive to create small colonies in the spring with the population increasing exponentially to a peak in September.


For all their apparent menace, wasps are important to the ecological balance of our nation – without them we would be overrun by insects, spiders, caterpillars and greenfly. In total, wasps consume something in the region of 14 million kilos of invertebrates annually, which also includes their own – wasps are partial to a bit of cannibalism. Your garden could literally not exist without the intervention of wasps as pest controllers. 



Strangely, however, insects and their like are not the favoured food for wasps. Sugar from flowers or fruit is their basic diet, making them accidental pollinators or they eat the sugar produced by larvae in the nests. But once they have young to feed, they switch to the invertebrates, moving as most dieticians would advise, from carbs to protein as they rear families in nests which can be as large at 10,000 strong.


As we probably have all experienced, wasps have a painful, but generally non-fatal sting that they deploy, as with most creatures, by way of defence rather than attack. However, unlike bees that die after inflicting a single sting, wasps are able to sting multiple times and live to tell the tale. You may also wonder what is the difference between a hornet, that has a far more painful sting, and a wasp? There is in fact none. Hornets are simply large wasps, growing up to 55mm in length compared to a more normal 20mm. However, if the size does not give it away the easiest way to differentiate the two is that hornet colourings are brown where a wasp would be black.


It seems wasps are not particularly fussy about where they nest: buildings, log piles, hanging from branches (pictured) or in the hollow of trees …… in fact, just about anywhere dry, safe and sound. However, nowhere in my research could I find a specific mention of river banks so my best guess is that as the late summer population explodes wasps have to seek out new, but secondary nesting sites which sees them occupying the now-dry-but-vacant homes of voles, moles and other burrowing creatures.


Of course, I could well be wrong so if anyone has the definitive explanation, I’d be delighted to hear it. In the meantime, go carefully along any riverbank!




What is a good catch?


What do you consider a good catch in a day? 2? 5? 10? Or are you simply grateful if any fish, of any size, troubles your hook? Well, should you be Jeff Kolodzinski of Illinois, USA you will be counting your daily catch in not singles, dozens or hundreds, but in thousands. For Jeff last week set the World Record for the number of fish caught in a single day at 2,645.


There is no trickery or artifice about this number. This is a single person, fishing unaided with a single rod and hook. Jeff took up position on a platform at his local lake last Tuesday at 9am and fished for 24 hours straight. I will save you doing the maths – his haul represents two fish every minute on a simple $25 graphite pole with 10 foot of line with a live bait beneath a bounce float.



Now Jeff, as a seven times member of the US National Team, is no fishing novice and was in fact breaking his own record of 2,172 that he set last year. The fish were mostly blue gills, crappies, perch and the occasional largemouth bass. None spent much time on the hook – Jeff reckons on 4 seconds from strike to release. At the most productive time he was catching 4-6 fish a minute and the longest blank measured no more than two minutes.


One way or another, Jeff has set a remarkable record that earns him an entry in the Guinness Book of Records. Of course, you might be tempted to wonder why he does it or even, what kind of guy he is? In truth, in a fifteen minute interview I heard with his local radio station, he is clearly a massive enthusiast for fishing with nothing but good intentions to spread the word that fishing has no bars to entry and is, as we will all agree, one of the best shared experiences on the planet.



The beauty of fly rods


The New York Times regularly carries interesting articles on fly fishing and during the lockdown the paper launched a series called The World Through a Lens which rook Montana based freelance photographer Janie Osborne to the workshop of Tom Morgan Rodsmiths in Bozeman.


It is a wonderful photo essay that captures the essence of a small company that handcrafts fly rods in both cane and graphite. It shows what a quirky lot us fly fishers are, specifying reel seats in woods as diverse tiger stripe maple, black ash, briar, thuya, sapele, buckeye, white briar and box elder. The cork for the handles, in their many different shapes, comes from Portugal and one client even sent in a photo of his hand for the perfect fit.


Each graphite rod takes 6 weeks; cane closer to 4 months with each rod signed by hand in liquid gold leaf before leaving the workshop.


You can read, and enjoy the photography, via this link ….




Half Term Kids Camp


I know it seems hard to believe that having packed them off to school not so many weeks ago after months at home, that you’ll be welcoming your children back sooner than maybe seems decent.


This October half term, hosted by instructors Bob Preston and Angus Campbell, we’ll be hosting One Day Fish Camps here at Nether Wallop Mill. We intend to pack each day full of casting, catching, competitions and fly tying as we try to clear out the lake to end the season.


·      8-11 years   Monday 26 October

·     12-15 years  Tuesday 27 October

·     16-17 years  Wednesday 28 October


Each day is limited to six children and runs 10am-4pm. All tackle is provided. To book and for more information click here ….




Andy Buckley fishes the River Itchen


As promised, here is part two of Andy Buckley’s chalkstream adventure as he dons waders with his partner Ieva, to fish the River Itchen at Kanara. She catches a monster brown. I have rarely seen anyone so excited and delighted. The film is worth watching for that alone.


Watch it here ….


Fly Fishing The River Itchen In England For Brown Trout With Fishing Breaks - Chalkstream Day 2!




This week as we return to the random collection of questions to confound, dismay or delight.


The answers are, as ever at the bottom of the page.


1)     In which town is rugby union team Wasps based?


2)     What are the two zodiac signs for September?


3)     In what year was the Guinness Book of Records first published?



Have a great weekend.



Best wishes,




Simon Cooper

Founder & Managing Director



Quiz answers:


1)     Coventry

2)     Virgo and Libra

3)     1955, following a shooting party debate amongst the guests of Guinness MD Sir Hugh Beaver as to which was the fastest game bird in Europe. PS It is the Golden Plover pictured above.

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