Don Macer-Wright

A Short autobiography

For as long as I can remember freshwater habitats have thrilled me. My earliest days were spent exploring ponds and small streams and by the age of 8 I was mounting zoo plankton on slides in preparation for the microscope. That was in 1957. Around that time my father introduced me to fishing, both fly and bait and we spent many days together fishing the trout pools of the Forest of Dean and the river Wye shallows below Wilton Bridge at Ross on Wye where I learnt to fly fish. My father was taught to fly fish on the Tillingbourne at Abinger Hammer by his father, a Victorian gentleman born in 1860 who learnt the art on the Shropshire streams of Onny, Teme and Clun and in the words of my father had “in his time belaboured streams from Ludlow to Longparish on the Test”. He learnt it from his father, who was born in Cambridgeshire in 1825 near the banks of the river Cam, then a trout filled chalk stream. My great grandfather’s rod was a 15ft greenheart, my grandfather likewise fished with a greenheart as did my father in 1926, by which time the immense length had shrunk to 9ft. I was very lucky to be given a 9ft Hardy Perfection as my first fly rod with which as a teenager I toured by bicycle the rivers and lakes of North Wales.
My father, according to his book A Fish Will Rise, David & Charles 1972, was into water delving in the Tillingbourne by the age of seven, so my love of freshwater life and fishing seems to be well grounded and an inherent streak spanning four generations and the best part of 200 years.

By the age of fifteen I was tying my own flies and three years later in 1968 on the strength of it got a job at the Rod Box, in Winchester. I was looking for a River keeper’s job, but as my father advised the Rod Box couldn’t be a better starting place, and in no time I was looking after Colonel Hay’s fishing on the Itchen in my spare time after shop hours. Ian Hay taught me the art of split cane rod building and the Hays sent me on a crash course to Redditch, heart of the fishing tackle manufacturing industry. I and Ian Hay were amongst the founder members of the Fly Dressers Guild which held its first Winchester meeting in the pub by the Cathedral green. I spent many memorable days visiting and sometimes getting to know some of the great river keepers and fishermen of the southern chalk streams, including Mick Lunn and his father Alf on the Houghton Club, Frank Sawyer on the Officers’ Fishing Club water , Oliver Kite and many others. The Colonel wanted me to fill the vacancy at the Houghton Club on the Test as Mick Lunn had no son to continue into a fourth generation. I think I said the wrong things at the interview as I did’nt want to be tied to the same job for life, although it was the most famous trout fishery in the world!
Amongst my most memorable times at the Rod Box were trips to Chew Valley and Blagdon with Colonel Hay and Ian and soldiers from the Greenjackets Regiment.
My career in river keepering and fisheries management started from the Rod Box and continued as follows:-

1969-71 River Keeper on the Itchen, St Cross Water. Part time keeper Test, Itchen and Avon. Carried out the 1st phase post 2nd World War restoration of the St Cross stew pond system.

1971-79 River Keeper River Kennet, Littlecote Estate.

1973. Qualified as a Water Bailiff with the Institute of Fisheries management.

I was offered and took up post of under keeper at Littlecote in September 1971, below Fred Rutter, having not received notification of my appointment to head river keeper for the Piscatorial Society, due to the infamous Postal Strike. I took over the single handed running of the Littlecote Fishery on death of Mr Rutter and continued the restoration of the fishery following on from Fred and Sir Seton Wills’ programme of bank and river channel improvement I restored and developed the trout rearing programme and regained the fishery’s status as the Upper Kennet’s principal fishery. I instigated the joining together of the three fisheries that made up the Littlecote Estate water, beat 1, Home beat , beat3 (The Robinson syndicate) to create the Littlecote Fishing Club. Many famous people fished the Littlecote Fishery while I was there, most memorable for me as an avid amateur entomologist, were John Goddard and his close fishing friend Brian Clarke.
I handed over the charge of the Littlecote fishery in 1979 to Pete Warnlough who joined me as a river keeper there in 1975.

1974 – 85 Fishery Consultant and part time fishery assistant at the Lockinge Still Water Fishery, Wantage where I adviced John Haigh the Agent for the Lockinge Estate on setting up and restoring The Lockinge and Ardington Lakes as a commercial trout fishery. I designed a rearing pond system and assisted the late Mr Ron King on a part time basis in the running of the fishery.

1979 – 95 Fishery Advisor and part time keeper to Sir Seton Wills Littlecote Fishing Club

1979 – 2000 Worked as a freelance Fisheries Consultant including projects on the Dorset Frome, Sydling Brook, Churn, Coln, Leach

1993 – present day. Owner and keeper of the Wyebank Fishery, River Wye.
I fished the Wyebank for two seasons catching and returning 5 salmon each season and decided to stop fishing in 1995 due to the accelerating decline of the Wye salmon stocks. I re-commenced salmon fishing in 2005 following the 2004 season which produced the first solid evidence of a recovery in stocks on the river Wye.

1995 -98 Wye Salmon Hatchery, LittleDean, Glos.

With help and advice from Mr George Woodward, ghillie of the Lydbrook Fishery and through the Wye Salmon Fishery Owners Association I helped establish the grounds with Severn Trent to buy the Greenbottom Pumping Station at Little Dean for conversion to a salmon hatchery. I designed and built the salmon hatchery, holding facility and salmon kelt reconditioning unit with help from my son Tom and assistance from the Wye Gillies Association . The first successful kelt reconditioning in England  was achieved here in 1997 with a successful rearing of fry which were stocked into the headwaters. ( report in progress). In 1996 within 6 months of building the hatchery 125,000 fry were stocked into the headwaters and in 1997 that number was doubled.

2006 I took a five year lease on the fishing rights Courtfield Fishery

2010 I renewed the Courtfield lease for a further 5 years.