Friday, 13 August 2021

The Gulper is no more. Or is he?




I am sorry to say The Gulper is no more; he swallowed once too often.


The team in the Orvis Stockbridge store are keen followers of this Newsletter (thank you!) which led them to a little sweepstake in the days following the emergence of the existence of The Gulper. How soon they posited, would someone arrive in the shop asking for a mouse pattern? Not long as it turns out.



Mouse to Mouth Popper


A family on the way to a day at The Mill dropped by the shop for that exact purpose purchasing, with great anticipation, the wonderfully named Fulling Mill Mouse to Mouth Popper which the fly maker promotes in its marketing blub with the words, “When you want to wake that monster up, try popping any of these through the surface film. Strip the line in fast and wait for the action to begin.”


Well, that is pretty well what happened word for word. Out went the line toward the island. Down came the mouse. And up came three fish. The one that grabbed it, by all accounts the smallest of the trio, is now in a smoker but at somewhere around 5lbs, with no evidence of mouse or moorhen in its stomach, it seems that the true Gulper missed the take so lives to strike another day.



More water torture


It seems I have found myself on the email list of Ian McAulay, CEO of Southern Water. I don’t recall having ever subscribed to the Ian missive service but somehow, once in a while he updates with goings on from Southern Water HQ in Worthing, a town more famous for its aging population than the epicentre of some epic financial gymnastics.


The latest email was, as ever, heavily dosed with corporate double speak, opened with a paragraph telling me, and I’m sure thousands of Ian’s other cherished stakeholders, that Macquarie Asset Management, essentially an Australian bank, had taken a £1 billion equity stake in Southern Water which would be ‘good news for our customers, for the local environment and our local economy.’


An innocent reading of this, supported by the five anodyne paragraphs that followed, might lead you to think that that billion quid was manna from heaven, cash for better water and sewage services. The truth is Southern Water is seriously in the same stuff they were recently fined £90m for pouring into our rivers and seas. With debts of £4.6bn and losses running to hundreds of millions the future looked at best perilous.


However, step forward the Water Services Regulation Authority, more commonly known as Ofwat, who approved the rescue by Macquarie whose primary qualification for taking control of Southern Water, aside from having deep pockets, seems to be its involvement with Thames Water, who in case you had forgotten, held the record for a sewage pumping fine of £20m in 2017 until it was bettered by Southern Water in 2021. Ben Marlow, Chief City Commentator for The Telegraph, described this sorry turn of events as ‘like asking an arsonist to put out a burning fire’. Because, this is how the private equity model works for utilities.


You buy an asset. You load it up with debt. You take as much annual dividend as you dare. Trim costs and investment to the bone. Then you flog it on, debts included. It’s a bit like buying a house for cash, mortgaging it to the hilt, renting it out, never doing any maintenance then flogging it on for what you paid for it in cash without redeeming the mortgage which the new buyer takes on in full.


So, where does this leave the 4.7m Southern Water customers and our precious rivers that stretch from the New Forest in the west to the White Cliffs of Dover in the east, not to mention the hundreds of miles of coastline in between? Frankly, I’m not exactly sure but none of this bodes well for the £250m Southern Water has pledged to build a reservoir and desalination plant.


I’m no fan of the calls for public ownership; the Welsh water industry is run on a not-for-profit basis and it is hardly a shining beacon of fealty to good environmental practices. The fact is privatisation happened precisely because nationalisation was patently not working. And for a while the free market worked. But that didn’t last for long. Water became political. Ofwat choked off a free market model with regulation that rode three increasingly divergent horses: cheap water services for consumers, profitable companies for investors and diligent environmental oversight.


Well, Ofwat and its handmaiden the Environment Agency, have succeeded in one of the three: water has never been cheaper in my adult lifetime. And for a while owning a water company was a good investment, but Southern Water proves this might be a thing of the past. And as for environmental oversight, we all know how that story has gone of late.


The answer? In the short term force the EA to fulfil its moral and legal obligation to enforce the huge body of legislation that already exists, but is insufficiently used, to protect all the rivers and coastline whilst adding to the Ofwat terms of reference a duty of care for those same rivers and coastlines.



That was the month that was July


Which of these statements is true of the UK? A) July was a dry month. B) July was an average rainfall month. C) July was a wet month. In fact, all three are true for, as with all things weather, it depends where you live.


If you answered A you likely live in Northern Ireland, B Wales or C southern England. For though the average rainfall across the UK as a whole was 93% of the July long term average (LTA) in the southern chalkstream region was LTA was 193%. As far as the chalkstreams are concerned it is a long time since we have had a summer like this.


River flows run from above normal to exceptionally high. Groundwater levels from normal to notably high. Southern reservoirs, sometimes depleted to damp puddles in high summer, are at 90% plus capacity. All of which explains that why, on many of our rivers, our mowers have remained in their respective sheds all year the banks too wet for machinery the trusty strimmer the grass cutter of enforced choice.


Well done to Richard Squire who fished at Compton Chamberlayne on the Nadder who collects the Daddy Long Legs champagne in the monthly feedback draw. Everyone else, including Richard, goes back in the hat for the end-of-season half case draw.



Vintner Pete Goss with his Daddy Long Legs champagne



Special Offers


You rather knocked us down in the rush for the various special offers; as of the moment I write this there is just a single August date left at each of Benham Estate, Breach Farm and Fisherton de la Mere.


However, since you clearly like a bargain (who doesn’t?) I’m running a new 2-for-1 this weekend (August 14/15), next weekend (August 21/22) and Bank Holiday Monday (August 30) at Compton Chamberlayne on the River Nadder. So, that is two Rods for just £158 with exclusive use of the beat.


There are two to five beats currently available depending on the day. Click to go to the Special Offers page.



Compton Chamberlayne




The normal random collection of questions inspired by the date, events or topics in the Newsletter.


It is just for fun with answers at the bottom of the page.


1)     In what year was the first ever England vs. India Test match played?


2)     The construction of what wall began on this day 60 years ago?


3)     Name one of the three grapes predominately used for making champagne


Best wishes,



Simon Cooper

Founder & Managing




Quiz answers:


1)     1932 at Lord’s where England won by 158 runs

2)     The Berlin Wall

3)     Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier

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