The Future - Lodge Proprietress Glenda Powell releases a fine springer on April 14, 2007
Blackwater Lodge Fishery - The Net Result
The Drift Nets are Gone!
Larger Grilse & Summer Salmon finally return!
This was the season that our dreams came true!
The drift net fishery was gone, and the ban was effective as only one net-marked fish was reported out of the 802 caught on the fishery for the season!
Even more encouraging was the large increase in the number and overall size of the fish running into the river.
This was coupled with a large increase in the percentage of fish taken on the fly and also the number of fish released alive back into the river.
The improved runs should also be seen in western UK fisheries, notably in Wales & Wessex.
The First Half of the Season
The opening week of the season saw the river at a lovely height, with the river falling from 70 to 54 cms on the gauge. All of the fish taken for the month were baggots or kelts, and all but two were taken in this first week. Then the rains came and for the rest of the month the river was between 105 & 264cms on the gauge which meant that fishing was impossible.
The high water continued well into March with the height between 94 and 314cms up until the 20th. A few rods only ventured out after the 10th., and were rewarded with five fresh spring salmon. The rain stopped around mid-March & by the end of the month the river had fallen to 50cms – a very low level for the time of year.
The river fell from 50 to 30cms through the month which brought it down to low/medium summer level and few fish were running. All but one of the fish caught were taken by the 20th.
The river was between 30 and 20cms for almost the whole month. On the Blackwater, we usually enjoy a very good run of what we would call our May fish. Well into double figures with a good proportion in the 14/15lb. class, this is a distinct run that comes later than the springers & usually just before the grilse.
Unfortunately for us this year, we suffered abnormal drought conditions from mid March right through until a 4 foot flood on June 22. Consequently, very few fish moved into the system and the May catch was well below normal – exacerbated by the low number of anglers fishing.
Overall Comments on the Spring Run
In recent years, we have seen a significant increase in the spring run. This was not evident from catches this spring, but most of the run had obviously come in on the abnormally high water from mid-February to mid-March, leaving few fresh fish to come in during late March & April. This was exacerbated by the drought conditions that immediately followed the floods.
The Second Half of the Season
The drift netting season was June and July, and we naturally had high expectations for improved runs of fish at this time now that they had free passage into the rivers.
However, Nature was cruel, and the drought extended right up to the last week of June so the few anglers fishing out of the Lodge in the first 3 weeks of June didn’t see the benefit of the drift net ban. The river level was between 37 and a disastrously low 15cms right up until the 19th., during which time only 7 fish were taken.
Rain then put the river in flood & out of order for 5 days, and 37 fish were taken in the last 9 days of the month as the river began to fine off.
The average height in July was almost 60cms, very high for the time of year and with four spates spread over the month which took the level to 100cms & one to 70cms. This of course got a great run of fish coming into the river. Rather low angling effort kept the actual catch total lower than would be expected, but the catch per rod day was very high at 0.6.
Again the level was very high for summer time, with a couple of spates reaching 90 and 130cms. The catch level was exceptional (the fourth best ever for August) considering the number of rods fishing, and the catch per rod day was a spectacular 0.8.
The river fined off steadily from 35 to 24cms for the first 3 weeks of September when a flood took it up to 190cms on the 21st. It fell back to 50cms on the 24th, rose again to 59cm the next day then fined off to 32cms by the end of the month.
The catch total was very good, partly due to a much higher rod effort in this very popular month, with the catch per rod day at 0.4.
Overall Comments on the Second Half of the Season:
Percentage of Fly-caught Fish
There was a dramatic increase in the percentage of fly-caught salmon this year relative to the 10 Year Average. The only month which showed a reduction was July, which was due to the very high water for the time of year making fly-fishing very difficult – if not impossible.
Increase in the Weight of Fish Caught
There was a significant increase in the weight of the fish caught this year relative to the 10 Year Average. Overall, the increase was 17%, with the months which were formerly the netting season ie: June & July both showing a massive 36% increase!
Number of Fish Caught and Catch per Rod Day
The total number of fish caught for the whole season was 8% higher than the Five Year Average to 2006. However, this is relative to the number of rods fishing.
If we take the catch per rod day, the overall figure for the season is a remarkable 0.46, which is 41% higher than the Five Year Average and 58% higher than the Ten Year Average. It was only equalled by the superb catch in 2004, when August floods brought in huge numbers of autumn fish.
The removal of the drift nets has been of immense benefit to the stocks of salmon in the Blackwater. There have been far more and far bigger fish running than normal, and the sport anglers have enjoyed has improved as a consequence.
Most importantly, the drift net ban has also evidently held up well, as only one fish caught in the whole season displayed net marks.
There is a massive stock of fish in the river, which should ensure an excellent spawning year and further improved runs in years to come.
There has been a huge and welcome change in visiting anglers attitude regarding releasing of salmon, and a far higher percentage of fish have been returned alive than ever before. All sporting anglers realise that “a wild Atlantic Salmon is far too precious a resource to be caught only once!” (Lee Wulff).