November 7, 2014

Home Fishery and Thomas Wood Fishery Breaking News 7th November 2014

From January 1st 2015 HOME and THOMAS WOOD coarse fisheries, collectively known as the Upper Courtfield Fishery, will be run by Adam Fisher as part of his fabulous ANGLING DREAMS portfolio.

This will allow these great Wye coarse fishing beats to benefit from Adam’s skills and experience and to be managed to the level necessary for fishermen to best enjoy the diverse potential that they offer for specimen barbel,chub,pike and perch.

Spring Salmon fishing between 3rd March and 15th June will continue to be run by Don Macer-Wright through Lower Wye Fishing. See Upper Courtfield Spring Salmon pages Home Beat Thomas Wood Beat

“The salmon fishing continues to be difficult on the Wye. However there is nowhere where salmon fishermen are more likely to catch MSW salmon upwards of 20 pounds in weight in the British Isles than on the river Wye, as recent seasons have demonstrated. Courtfield fisheries get their share of these wonderful salmon and Upper Courtfield beats provide some historic pools and runs where great fish were regularly caught in the past. By concentrating on the salmon side of the fishing only I shall be better able to promote and maximise the salmon fishing potential for the benefit of salmon anglers. My policy is to provide fishing at reasonable and for that matter unbeatable prices for the lower Wye.”  Don Macer-Wright

July 12, 2013

Dissolved oxygen, canoes and barbel – a few thoughts

The catches of barbel from Wyebank last week and early this week were notable and coincided with rapidly rising water temperatures and high turbulence flowing over the riffle into the bottom pool where barbel congregate. Within the space of this scorching hot and bright week these good flows of well oxygenated water have dropped rapidly and the barbel have become very hard to catch. I have noticed from feedback that the most spectacular catches were made on weekends coinciding with the high numbers of canoes. One cannot underestimate the number of canoes, which some Saturdays have been enormous.

I wonder whether there is a correlation between barbel catches and canoe paddling. Notably fishermen have commented that the canoes have made little difference to fishing. If there is a correlation what then may be the cause? The act of paddling is breaking up the water and helping oxygen to dissolve rather than escape more rapidly to the air, thus giving a significant boost to barbel welfare. The fact that barbel congregate in these faster flowing places is well attested and it is reasonably clear by inference that they seek out better oxygenated water, where they will feed more readily. So canoes may be a benefit to coarse fish species in the riverWye, particularly as the signs are that barbelmay have  now adapted to the presence of canoes in the river environment of the Wye.

May 5, 2013

Sedimentation and no Ranunculus in the lower River Wye at Lydbrook 2013

Water levels have been slowly falling and at the beginning of May are now 2″ and more below summer level. Clear water and bright conditions have allowed a full inspection of the stone and gravel  river bed through the Lydbrook shallows at the bottom end of Courtfield and Wyebank. As suspected the bed has significant sedimentation and hardly any ranunculus. From my experience I believe it is the only year in a decade or more when  ranunculus growth at this point in time has been limited to a few patches here and there. I believe  it is probably the result of protracted turbidity since May 2012 up to early 2013. More worrying is the extensive growth of blanket weed showing over much of the river bed combined also with extensive covering of blanket weed stifled by sedimentation.

Ranunculus whilst important in the habitat of the lower Wye for providing shelter for fish species, is vital for maintaining water levels. As flows drop through the late spring and early summer ranunculus grows and creates an expanding biomass, which acts as a natural dam, thereby raising and maintaining water levels, whilst maintaining daily oxygen levels. Without the ranunculus there is nothing to prevent the important shallows from rapidly drying up.

There must be a concern that with an enriched river bed, as demonstrated by the blanket weed, and a rapidly falling river that we may be facing a high risk of excessively low water, high algal blooms and de-oxygenation, if the weather moves back to low rainfall and high temperatures. There is probably no single greater issue on the river Wye at the present time than the appalling loss of soil from the land, being carried directly into the river with every flood, with the diffuse pollution it brings, combined also with storm discharge policies allowing untreated sewage and chemicals to flow freely into the river.

April 15, 2013

A river Wye monster salmon?

I am back both physically and mentally exhausted, after the best part of two hours bank work, whilst struggling with my conscience and replaying what appeared to have happened this afternoon after lunch.
Simon this morning reported filthy water on its way from the Ithon which will put paid to any fishing for days, so with 3ft of water and only one place that I know of with deep water and a fishable flow at this level I headed for Legg meadow crib and the last chance of a last fish before this water takes them all upstream.
This is the story of what happened. I should start by saying this is the first time in what I have to admit is 45 years of river keepering and occasional fishing, that I have ever fallen in, whether river, stream, lake or pond. I have always maintained this fact as rather a proud boast, and if you have ever cleaned rickety chalk stream weed racks, worked on hatch control in all weathers of flood and ice and once upon a time worked the eel traps in the pitch dark of August floods, electro fished from punts for spawning pike and walked the gunwale with loads of chalk for bank repairs, you’ll know why. Today’s experience was also the scariest thing that has happened to me in those 45 years.
I cast out my yellow belly devon minnow with a sliding weight set up I use and after a number of casts snag free, I had the sort of take which I have now experienced several times on the Wye, and particularly in this stretch when the slow retrieve of the devon just stops and everything goes solid. These aren’t aggressive takes but seem to be big fish moving to the minnow and sucking it in before closing their jaws on it. The previous two occasions when both fish were lost, the fish moved after about 15 seconds to half a minute, this time it didn’t budge and the steady side strain I applied did nothing. I was sure it wasn’t the bottom as I was fishing what I am pretty certain was mid water. For what seemed to me a good 5 minutes but was probably half that, nothing happened beyond a periodical tremor through the line and what felt like head shaking but could have been the play of the current, Although I have rewound this over and over in my mind I think I was convinced it was fish as there was none of the give and take from a snag and I think there was a subtle movement in the body of the beast.
Then it was really over,  the fish moved 4 or 5 yards or so up into the pool allowing me to exert massive, and I mean all or nothing, side strain as for once I was as convinced as I could be that my line would hold. The fish must have suddenly freaked as without any warning it turned and came towards the bank fast when I saw this monstrous shape, all black, and I have this frightful image of its eye as it turned making a huge vortex like swirl and sped into the deep water causing a huge hit to the rod which pulled me off balance, and you all know what these Wye banks are like. I slipped and went straight in to my waist on my back. With rod grasped in my right hand it was pointing straight across the river and the fish would have pulled it clear of my hand had not the line stretched giving me that sickening knowledge that it was all over, as I grasped at the roots to prevent me sliding into the depths. The line went slack and in my subconscious I’m sure I heard the line ping as it broke. You’re probably thinking what an idiot for not releasing the clutch a little!

I had tightened the clutch to allow me to keep a constant heavy strain on the fish. When it moved it came up river so that I could gain line and then I gave it stick, not expecting the fish to rush the bank. I must have then reeled some line but it was all happening so fast. I think the fish either surprised itself or saw me. I don’t think it realised it was tethered by the line until I got the side strain on, when it suddenly took fright rushing towards the bank only to realise its mistake. I in the meantime literally had no chance to lessen the clutch tension and found myself staring and I think transfixed by this beast of a fish which looked huge and black, and I saw its eye as it turned at about 2feet below the surface. The water literally opened into a hole and the next thing I knew was the rod hit by the tightening line as the fish took up the slack it had created, I slipped lost my balance and was in the water foolishly grasping for the bank as the rod pointed towards the river and it was all over.

As I crawled back up the bank, having pulled something in my leg I thought to myself what was that fish, had I hooked a sturgeon I thought. of course not. I possibly saw a streak of silver but all I can see in my mind is a big black green fish as long as my computer table that I’m now sitting at. in fact it seemed bigger than that but of course it can’t have been. Fish are reckoned to look smaller than they are in the water, well to me this one did not. It clearly was all wrong for a big pike and no way was it a pike’s head. It was a great salmon, that in Adam’s words of the other day “was to big to lift”. I cannot possibly put a weight on this fish, It really was a big one that got away. Adam Fisher has had one, I saw one the other week before Adam’s fish was caught, which looked hugely bigger than a low thirty pounder. Last year a fisherman in Legg meadow saw a huge fish “porpoise” in Legg meadow of Courtfield in late January/ early February. I believe Gilbert’s famed portmanteaux may be back in the Wye and it is now only a matter of time until one is photographed on the bank.

The sensation this fish created in me was one of pure adrenalin filled fear for the unknown, the type of fear I have experienced as a surfer committing myself to a danger filled wave carrying the banner of drowning writ in invisible writing along its pitching crest.

June 21, 2012

Wye barbel update Courtfield

Some good bags and some big fish have been caught this week, details will be posted tomorrow. Today we have had a rest day on the river as the party of 5 rods could’nt make it due to work and illness.

This first week has seen some very high water conditions and very coloured water. At least half a dozen barbel over 10 lbs have been reported as lost through breakages. Fishing with a lot of weight and in very heavy water for specimen barbel, particularly in those areas noted for snags and big fish, it is a must to use 15lb or heavier breaking strain at the hook. The heavier line is after all camouflaged by the heavily coloured water. It is unfortunate that there are now double figure fish possibly with hooks in their mouths. If we are to conserve a healthy stock of these magnificent Wye barbel it is vital we fish in a way which best suits the conditions.

June 20, 2012

Lower Wye Fishing on Facebook

There is a facebook page with regular updates on river heights, catches and prospects etc., for all coarse and game fishing.

February 15, 2012

Best Practice

I had an email recently from a fisherman who was concerned by some of the Gallery pictures, where it is obvious that fish mats have not been used. This is a fair point and hence forward I shall be actively encouraging the use of fish mats for unhooking fish and also for pictures. So please, if you have’nt already got one, add a fish mat to your tackle bag and use it always.

July 30, 2011

Salmon plenty in Courtfield beat

After years of scarcity we are now seeing salmon all over the place on the Wye. July has seen Courtfield absolutely full of fish. I estimate there was between 60 and 100 fish spread through the beat with good sightings of many grilse as well. I caught a 9lb small summer fish in Legg meadow on the 16th before the river rose and a fish of 10lbs was caught by a salmon rod on the 25th. A good fish leaped clear of the water above the Wyebank crib yesterday while a likely small grilse was lost the day before and very small grilse have been showing along the bottom end of the Wyebank stretch. Our catch of salmon has now risen to a respectable 7 and 1 kelt for Courtfield and Wyebank.

Its early days but I for one feel confident that we are on the cusp of a major turn around, particularly with the evidence of the super small grilse which hopefully will be followed now by grilse of increasing size more typical of the late summer Wye fish.

June 8, 2011

Low Water Contradictions.

Yesterday I was horrified by a one foot drop of water below summer level over a period of 36 hours. Today I am resigned to the reality that we are looking at conditions similar to 75/76 and yet with a load more abstractors. Our nearest point of major abstraction is the Severn Trent pumping station which compensates flows accordingly from the Elan Valley. this means that upriver beats reap a dividend which we don’t. In practice it appears there is more water in the middle river as a result of the Lydbrook pumping station. As for the farmers, they all have permission to abstract until flows reach the appallingly low flow of around 133 million gallons per day at Redbrook, downstream from Monmouth. I can’t remember the exact figures I was given by the EA, but today there is around 197 million gallons flowing past Redbrook and so the river will have to drop by approximately 33 percent of its present flow in order for these pumps to be turned off. That in itself is a very worrying concept.

When I looked down on the wharf pool yesterday it was clearly unfishable due to the flow being cut off by the dropped river and the ranunculus, which was now all trailing on the surface. I went to bed depressed. Today I have cut the weed to reopen the pools and was astonished by what I found. The main fly channel is averaging 3ft with holes to 4ft 6″. The overhanging and trailing willows along the far bank are providing adequate cover with upto 2ft of good flowing water over gorgeous clean gravels, while the bottom pool is perfectly clear of weed and clean to a depth of over 5ft covering a flat rock slab floor in places and gravel and small rocks in others. The whole stretch of Wyebank is good clear well oxygenated water still providing a more than adequate habitat for the salmon.

My greatest surprise was to find two big salmon redds from last winter’s spawning and several smaller ones and sitting in the smaller ones I saw the biggest sea lampreys, with one as long as my leg and all of them as long as my arm. In other words they were upto their maximum given length of 90cm. In all I saw at least half a dozen sea lamprey spawning sites. I have seen the clear stones before, evidence of lamprey activity, but never have I experienced standing so close to these extraordinary creatures that I could put my foot under them and lift them up. Quite remarkable.

May 19, 2011

Fly Life bonanza Courtfield and Wyebank

Invertebrate Fly life along the Wye at Courtfield and Wyebank has been fantastic this Spring. The mayfly hatch has diminished today to a trickle and I suspect it will be over by the weekend after a month of pretty well continuous daily hatches from early morning till dusk. During the peak there were some fantastic afternoon hatches about 2.30 with green drakes pouring off the water. It should of course just be getting into the hatch at this time of the month. There was lots of spinner along Legg Meadow this afternoon with  warm sunny spells to bring the mating mayflies out of the trees and bushes after the last few days of cooler weather.

The sedge flies are hatching in profusion, too many too identify without a net and a guide book and even then its pretty uncertain with a lot of species. The Alder fly is also once more making its friendly self apparent in a way unseen for many years

Yesterday evening there was a large swarm of Sherry Spinner (Blue winged olive) through the wood beat of the Courtfield on a par with the River Kennet, but extraordinarily early. Also large swarms of medium olive  red spinner which I have’nt seen here in such numbers for years.

Bleak? in their multitude have been surface feeding along with dace, the occasional salmon parr, some large chub and the odd trout. Trout fishing has not been too good and most fish would seem to be feeding on nymphs and sub surface food. But then the water along Wyebank is now so low that the trout have had to abandon their bankside haunts and move into the faster mid stream flow. Also there has been virtually no fishing effort at all. Rather disappointing in that regard. Shad have been scarce so far and only the odd  tiny twaite have been taken accidentally on fly whilst trout fishing.

Also exciting is the re appearance of spotted flycatchers after some years of absence.

So all in all it has been  a prolific Spring at the waterside on the river Wye at Lydbrook.