The River Test and River Itchen are currently flowing very strong and healthily….how they should flow (before over-abstraction for water supply).  Although it was February when the winter floods peaked in Romsey (River Test) and Winchester (River Itchen) it is taking months for the flow rates to subside fully back to normal.

Although I now live and guide in Yorkshire from 16th May to 24th May I guided seven days on a number of different beats of the River Test and River Itchen.  Although the actual river levels were only up a couple of inches on a normal late-May level the hatches were wider open than usual and so the flow rate was considerably faster than usual.  In places gullies had been washed out in the river bed and in other places the river banks were at river level and sometimes muddy.     

There was concern from some people that the turbulent currents which had washed away accumulated silt might also have washed away many Mayfly and other nymphs.  However on 21st May (near Romsey) and 23rd May (near Andover) there were very large hatches of Mayfly.  I took a day off on 19th and also saw lots of Mayfly while walking along the River Thames (near Maidenhead). River Test 17th May

My visit started with bright sunny conditions on 16th, 17th and 18th…not ideal conditions for good fly hatches.  Mayflies did hatch but not in the numbers that I had hoped for.  My clients on all three days caught plenty of fish but they had to work hard for them.  Fly hatches were sparse and the fish harder to tempt.  The stronger flow rates meant that keeping the dry fly in a ‘dead drift’, without line drag, was harder than usual and so rejection rates from the Trout were higher than usual.  

Colin playing a good sized Test Brown Trout.

Sport was much better on 20th, 21st and 23rd.  The weather turned poorer (better for fishing!) and the fish were very much ‘on the bite’.  On 21st and 23rd it was true ‘Duffers Fortnight’ style sport – large Mayfly hatches all afternoon long; every fish in the river up rising; and lots of good sized Trout landed.  24th turned back to bright conditions and although there were good numbers of Mayfly on the water the fish were harder to tempt to take the fly.  

River Test 24th May

As I write this on 2nd June the Mayfly season is almost over on the River Test although it usually continues into late-June on the River Itchen and later still on the lovely River Wylye in Wiltshire.

These current strong flows will guarantee better than usual river conditions throughout the summer months.  The flow rates will slowly subside and the banks dry out and grass over.  Prospects are great for an excellent summer of sport on the chalkstreams and it all bodes well for the medium term health of the rivers and their fish.