I seem to be living in a bird battle zone. The swans
persecute the geese. The geese persecute the ducks. The ducks persecute the
moorhens. And when the ducks get bored with the moorhens, they turn on each
other. But last night there was a twist as the otters got into the ring.
Recently I bought a pair of night vision binoculars – they
are utterly amazing – I can see our latest otter family, the mother
(daughter of The Otters’ Tale Kuschta and her three pups approaching
a year old) as they arrive nearly every night in glorious blue tinged black
Now, as you well know any family of otters arrive and remain
causing great commotion, but the geese have, until last night, treated them
with considerable aplomb. Mrs. Goose had wisely set up her nest on the
island; apparently a considerable improvement to the rapeseed field last
year which lasted a full two days. Mr. Goose paddles around during the day
roosting himself on the bank at night. And when the otters appear, he
ignores them and they ignore him. He remains rooted to his roost whilst
they run within a foot or two of him, moving in, out and around the lake as
they hunt and play. Until last night.
I don’t know why - maybe it is a coming of age thing – but
after two weeks of ignoring the island nest the otters performed a pincer
movement. At the darkest part of the night around 2am they struck. I was
woken by the geese calling out in protest as Mrs. Goose was driven from her
nest whilst Mr. Goose vainly flapped up and down the bank. Within a few
minutes it was all over. I can’t imagine a clutch of maybe a dozen goose
eggs go far between four otters.
This morning the otters are, of course, long gone but I have
two disconsolate geese paddling around the lake. I’m sure they will try for
another family as they did last year; life in the natural world is rarely
Goose vs. Otter: the battlefield
When bright waters turn grey
You will be forgiven if you’d never heard of the Pillhill
Brook. It is, after all, one of our shorter chalkstreams at just 6 miles
long, a tributary of the River Anton, which is in turn a tributary of the
In truth, it is not a stream many fly fishers head to though
I would hazard that a vast majority of you have driven over it numerous
times without ever knowing of its existence; it passes under the A303 near
Thruxton race circuit. It is tiny, prone to being reduced to almost a
trickle in the height of dry summers. But it has been a feature of north
Hampshire life for thousands of years as villages have grown up along the
life source that water provides. Indeed, despite its brevity, there used to
be four working water mills one of which powered the Tasker Ironworks at
the height of the Victorian era which produced the mighty cast iron
waterwheel we have here at Nether Wallop Mill.
Today the Pillhill
Brook is not really what you would call a working river. It is largely a
perfect wildlife corridor, home to a rare colony of native White-Clawed
Crayfish, and the defining backdrop to higgledy-piggledy villages where
thatch is the predominate roofing material. But this is under threat.
Pillhill Brook at Fyfield
If you watched the recent BBC Panorama programme on 12/April
(catch up on iPlayer) you will have seen the investigation by
Joe Crowley into the discharge of raw sewage into our rivers nationwide. As
you well know 6 out of 7 of British rivers are failing the pollution test
and Crowley’s investigation focussed on how the 403,000 separate discharges
last year, that accounted for 3.1m hours of sewage pumping time, are
contributing to this.
I will not recite the entire programme but the bottom line
is that under the guise of permitted emergency sewage pumping water
companies are playing fast and loose with the regulations by pumping when
they should not be, essentially using our rivers to dump sewage instead of
going to the expense of treating it. Independent data analysis proved this
with such ease it seems incredible that the Environment Agency (EA) are not
all over the water companies like a rash. I can’t offer you an explanation
why they are not; they refused to be interviewed for the programme and in
2020 only bought four (!) prosecutions.
I tell you all this because the Pillhill Brook is about to become
another water company storm drain. In the past few decades, the population
of the Pillhill/Anton catchment, which takes in Andover, has rocketed with
tens of thousands of new homes. But the simple truth is that the Southern
Water treatment capacity has failed to keep up with demand, so much so that
tankers are parked 24/7 by local sewage works to pump the waste to take it
elsewhere and in a recent development Southern Water were granted a licence
under emergency conditions, to discharge sewage to alleviate tanker use.
The local residents are, understandably, alarmed. Not only
was the permitting allowed without any formal application but no local
businesses, including a trout fishery, parish councils or villagers were
consulted prior, or told afterwards and the EA have subsequently failed
(unsurprisingly) to respond to any enquiries. To be fair to Southern Water
the outflow does go through a drum filter prior to discharge to remove
solids, plus a UV filter but ultimately the tiny Pillhill Brook is being
topped up with grey, odorous untreated sewage.
Now, I’m not expert enough to tell you what constitutes an
emergency, but it has barely rained here in six weeks; we are on course for
a record dry April. So, despite Pillhill Brook being at typical spring
levels, Southern Water began pumping into the Pillhill Brook two weeks ago.
You can watch the video (just 8 seconds) where the grey sewage
water meets bright water.
Notes: if you wish to sign a UK Parliament petition inspired
by the Panorama programme click here
Photo and video courtesy of Monxton &
Amport Villages Facebook
Grape for the
Us fly fishers are rarely boring. Our lives take different
twists and turns. Take wine dealer Pete Goss. Years ago, when he was a
Georgian furniture expert at London auction house Christie’s, he went on a
fishing trip to Austria and met, by random chance, an Austrian winemaker.
Years later, having morphed into the wine department at Christie’s and then
struck out on his own, he is the sole UK importer for that self-same
Pete trades under the name of Mayfly Wines, and true to his
other passion beyond the grape, he has just launched a special half case
range of wines for the river with labels painted by his father-in-law. We
are going to be giving away a bottle of the Daddy Longlegs champagne each
month for the Feedback Draw.
But if you can’t wait that long, or don’t trust to chance,
the Mayfly Fishing Half Case is available direct from Pete. In short, it is
a selection of six beautiful wines from artisan growers, presented in a
wooden gift case lined with straw, with a hand drawn fly on each label. It
makes a magnificent gift or will wow your guests at any fishing lunch.
1.Daddy Longlegs - 1er Cru Carte Blanche,
Champagne Benard Pitois
5.Grey Wulff - St. Joseph 'Bergerie' 2019,
Domaine de la Roche Paradis
6.Red Francis - Cotes du Bourg Malbec 2014,
Château Civrac, Bordeaux wines
The cost is £165, including UK delivery. To order call Pete
07940 404018 or email him firstname.lastname@example.org
That's lunch sorted!
I am sad to report that Graham Mole, a long-time friend of
mine, Fishing Breaks and all the Wessex rivers, died 27thFebruary aged 83
Graham started in journalism the classic way – as a junior
reporter on a local weekly paper, then moving into TV and eventually ending
up as a producer on investigative programmes for the national ITV network.
He then switched to covering the south of England, freelancing for national
papers and magazines, running a local TV station and, along the way, bumped
into the Forestry Journal for which he wrote extensively in his retirement
However, you will more likely know him as the man who wrote
the Wessex Rivers report for Trout & Salmon for a great many
years. True to his investigative roots Graham was not afraid of telling it
how it was; I suspect the editors’ desk received a few inflamed missives as
I’ll miss exchanging gossip with Graham but if he’s able to
catch the next edition of Trout & Salmon I’m sure he will be
pleased to see his successor is Tony King, recently retired chairman of
GAIA and Fishing Breaks guide, has taken up his pen a person who I suspect
will follow in his footsteps in every respect.
Media vita in morte sumus "In the
midst of life we are in death"
What's on your
Charles Jardine caused a little, but good, stir on Twitter
one recent Saturday when he told us which Mozart symphony inspired him most
whilst painting. Which got me thinking: do you listen to music whilst
I’m sure for most, like me, the very thought of earbuds is
an abomination. In fact, I ‘m sure it would diminish my success rate – I
often hear rises as much as I see them. But if you do fish to music tell me
your chosen band, singer or maybe the most appropriate choice! email@example.com
I’ll publish our Top of the Streamers next time.
When is a fly not
a fly? International edition
In the continuing monthly series of Hero vs. Villain last
night Charles and I debated the international truth of when a fly is truly
a fly. And at a new day and time which bought in a whole new audience, with
over a hundred joining our Zoom call.
Does fly fishing mean different things to different
nationalities? Does the term ‘fly’ get lost in translation? Are techniques
and practices being exported across borders? And if so, is this always a
good thing? Are we remaining true to the founding fathers of fly fishing
like Halford & Skues? Is the Fulling Mill fly catalogue a work of great
We covered all this and more. You can watch or listen at
your leisure here
questions loosely based on today's topics to confound, dismay or
1)What British coins were first issued
on this day in 1968?
2)Legend has it that in 387 BC an
ancient city was saved from invasion when the geese gave the alarm.
What was that city? Goose family 2020
3)The English Premier Football League
began in what year?