As you’ll be aware it’s been testing times for the last 6 months or so – from unprecedented winter floods, to the virus, to drought and algae bloom.

The floods went on for months and were so incredibly destructive. Once the levels had subsided, we were keen to see the damage left behind after such a sustained flow for such a period of time – for about 3 months the river was never less than 3ft on normal levels. As a result, huge amounts of in-stream debris was moved, ripping out gravel bars in some areas and creating new ones in others. The bankside vegetation suffered too of course, and it was mid/late February before we could get anywhere near the river to do anything about it. By that time Natural England rules regarding tree removal and nesting birds had come into place, so we have been restricted on what we can do. All this came just as we’d made a plan to do some of the more serious work that’s been building over past seasons. Still, while old swims may be blocked off, new ones have been created elsewhere.

The general policy at WUF to leave fisheries as wild as possible but, despite the weather, some work has gone into making fisheries accessible. This will have been done sympathetically (the banks of the Wye are a SSSI) and may not be enough in the eyes of some. What we ask is you exercise patience when reaching the river during the early part of the season. You have to admit it’s a joy that we’re even fishing at all given what we’ve all been through - a few nettles and some bracken is the least of concern for the chance to enjoy the riverbank once again.

Following the floods came the sunniest May on record. This has meant drought conditions and a subsequent algae bloom – this makes the water turbid and turns it a grim greeny/brown colour and, although it doesn’t affect the fishing too much, does make the river somewhat uninviting. Fishing the float can be tricky, with maggots whizzing past fish before they see them. Early in the day can be better and when temperatures drop and we get some rain, the algae should disappear pretty quickly. However, if the drought conditions continue and we start to experience high water temperatures with low oxygen levels, we may look at closing fisheries. Until then, we can only apologise that it’s not the gin clear paradise you came to expect – rest assured that will return!     

The lockdown came just after the close of the river coarse season, on the 23rd March but by the 13th May, restrictions had been eased sufficiently to permit water fishing once again. As the river season opens we still have to be vigilant and as with anything like this, if you’re unsure about what the rules are, please seek clarification before doing anything. We encourage you to socially distance of course but overall to follow government guidelines as if you were carrying out any activity away from your home. Ultimately it is your responsibility to keep yourself and others safe. Padlocks, gates, stiles, sharing a landing net – these are where you might want to consider sanitization.

Bailiff presence may be up this year – this will be with the aim to combat other issues than just checking tickets. Fishery owners & bailiffs like to respect your privacy and your wish to just get on with it however, so unless it’s absolutely necessary you’ll be left alone to enjoy your fishing.

Due to the virus keeping people off work and having to entertain themselves locally, we have seen a huge increase in the general public using the countryside like a playground. From giant inflatable flamingos to parking in clearly signed private driveways, we’ve seen it all recently. We hope that as people are allowed to travel further things will return to only the usual levels of idiocy and ignorance! Canoe companies are not operating to full capacity, so we expect their traffic to be down. The trade-off is more private traffic and whilst they may be more respectful in ways that visitors aren’t, there may be an increased sense of entitlement when it comes to access and egress on the riverbanks. This could bring other problems but we will do our best to keep on top of things.

As always if you encounter what you feel to be any sort of antisocial behavior, or pollution, or any general wrongdoing, please call the EA Hotline on 0800 807060 first, and then WUF.

To finish on a positive note the Wye Valley is looking stunning and there’s plenty of fish showing from huge shoals of fry and silvers, to plenty of chub and barbel that got their spawning out the way early in the spring. This should mean good sport and fine conditioned fish for the start. I always encourage a combination of a patient approach and not having catching as your number one priority. This should give up the superb experience we expect from fishing the Wye, enabling you to take in everything the river has to offer.

Good luck, and enjoy.

Adam Fisher is a coarse and game fishing instructor and guide with a wealth of experience fishing the Wye. He also writes for magazines such as 'Improve Your Coarse Fishing.' For more information can be found here.

Please note that the views within this report are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect those of the Wye & Usk Foundation.