(Last updated: Wednesday 3rd September)
What do we expect from August on the chalkstreams? Hot, bright days, little activity and then some short but frantic evening rises? An over generalisation I know but this month, as we had one of the coolest Augusts, it's been a bit different. With a generally northerly airstream we had cooler cloudier days but the showers and bursts of warm sunshine brought plenty of daytime hatches and fish were often on the feed, albeit for short periods during the day. I saw a variety of olives including the expected Blue Winged Olives and the Autumn staple, Pale Wateries almost every day I was out and a full range of sedges both in the day and evening. Occasionally there was a good evening rise but more often as the sun went the temperature dropped and all went quiet. For many of my guiding clients who often have to leave the river early this gave some great opportunities during the day. Lovely days were had on the Test, Itchen, Lambourn, Anton, Avon, Wylye, Frome and Bourne Rivulet.
Through Fishpal I was contacted by someone who wanted a day on a chalkstream but his only opportunity was during the August weed cut. After a few calls I found a beat on The Anton which was high enough in the Test system to ensure weed cutting had ended and it was cleared down. It was a great day, weed cut done, clear water and some excellent fish. Happy client.
Later season fishing can be tricky particularly when no flies are apparent. For fish that seem lethargic an accurately placed nymph, where allowed, either dead drifted or 'lifted' in front of their nose often elicits a reaction. Where fish that are on the fin but not taking fly off the surface a daddy long legs or high floating sedge can work. Although drag free drifts are normally essential for any floating fly cast upstream, a timely twitch with this technique can get a fish airborne in spectacular style. In both cases an easy mouthful is just too tempting.
The two main Berkshire chalkstreams, the Kennet and The Lambourn have both fished well with higher than normal summer water levels keeping the rivers looking healthy.
The rain in mid August caused a fresh run of salmon and sea trout into the chalkstreams. The lower beats of the Test, Itchen and Frome all had a good second half of the month and I, at last, broke my duck on the Frome. Grilse numbers are down everywhere this year but there is a good number of smaller sea trout, always good for the future. For those salmon and sea trout fisherman used to swinging a fly across a freestone river, the chalkstream techniques may be strange but it is an absorbing and very different day with much to recommend it.
Water levels have remained higher than summer normal height and now with the August weed cut behind us we will have good levels for the rest of the year. The early Autumn rains will continue to bring in the
migratory fish with more big late season sea trout to come.