There’s no getting away from the fact that this July was one of the worst for algal blooms I’ve experienced. In previous years it would come and go a couple of times per season perhaps. Amazingly last year during the very hot and low conditions, we experienced very little compared to other years. Some “experts” think it’s just down to the sun, high temperature and low oxygen levels. To a point that’s true, but it’s not the cause, it’s the trigger. The cause? This year we experienced pretty big floods in June, silt laden water made its way down with sediment clinging to every leaf. Then followed high temperatures and very little rain. To me the answer must be in this sediment but the general response is that it’s nutrients, especially phosphate, often attached to soil but not always (e.g. chicken muck, slurry). Whatever the cause it’s a very complex issue that needs much better understanding.

What it does to the fishing is hard to say. Obviously sight fishing is restricted, so static baits are your only real option. Do the fish still feed? Sure they do but not as consistently as in clearer water. Generally though, a murky river is just not a pleasurable fishing experience in summer, no matter how many fish you catch. That’s about it though, as some of the reports in July proved – some beats fished just as well as if the algae wasn’t there at all.

So what can be done about it? Well apart form supporting your rivers trust so they can continue to work with farmers to improve practices, thus reducing the negative impacts, you can hope and pray for some rain – the cold and fresh water flushing the algae into the estuary. We had one very small flush in July, it was cold water which knocked the fishing about a bit, and it carried a fair bit of debris as the rise brought with it the flotsam and jetsam that accumulates in the slack, marginal water that exists much of the summer. It was only a small rise however, and although it cleared the algae, at which time the river returned to a glistening clarity for a few days, it was not enough to flush through all the nasties that would ensure the favoured conditions would hang around.

As we got to the end of the month, there was still a slight tinge, but not as bad as it was, and to be honest the sport to the float has been excellent. I had several days where plenty of barbel came to consistent and sometimes very heavy baiting tactics. You can see a recent Youtube video of this – please do like and subscribe for more content.

There’s certainly been high weed growth this year. This is good but it hasn’t had the effect some of us expected. One might think it should filter the algae but, in fact, the lack of it has been one of many excuses for the presence of so much algae in recent years. However, it’s here and it’s abundant and the algae is no less. In fact the weed has been that heavy that some anglers have reported it as a nuisance when playing fish back through it – if this is the case, I’d strongly suggest you pick a more fish-friendly swim. No matter how strong your tackle is, it’s not good welfare to be trawling any fish back through ranunculus beds.

One thing for sure from the reports is that the fishing has been patchy - good when good, but overall inconsistent. Fish have been elusive where they were once prolific, and vice versa. I think last year’s low flows, combined with a big early season flood, followed by a cold spring (fish still spawning in late June), have just moved the fish all over the shop.

More evidence of how it’s just been a weird old season is the amount of eels being caught. Someone reported 20 from How Caple Court – this has been unheard of for perhaps 20 years. Elsewhere and during the rest of the month, just about everyone was a reporting at least one eel in their captures. Is this anything to do with the algal bloom? Obviously we have known of good eel numbers before, it’s only natural, but why now? Ok their numbers are returning we hope, but I think it has something to do with the lack of clarity and, when the fishing is slow for other species, the eels are in mopping up bait. Is it something to do with the dry summer last year, where any ditches/wetlands/bogs, that may have contained eels, were particularly dry so the eels fled to the rivers? Either way it’s good to see, as their numbers dropped hugely in about 2005 – I was on the river almost daily over that summer, where we witnessed dead eels floating down river along the river bed – it was a memorable and sad sight. Cause? Who knows?

There’s been the usual reports of lack of access across fisheries. Where this is happening this year is surprisingly contradictory to the reports that some fisheries, and some swims, are getting overfished. That’s a new one on us as the way the rod numbers are kept down should prevent this. The recommendation from one party is that WUF should be closing stretches for a few days a week, Strangford in particular the latest fishery under attack. Well what happens if areas don’t get fished for a week or so? They become overgrown very, very quickly. As I point out every summer, a lot of work goes into clearing WUF stretches ready for the start of the season – if there’s floods, or certain anglers only fish certain areas, then those areas unfished grow over – it’s simple really. Yes Holme Lacy 3 is particularly well maintained, as is Holme Lacy 4, and both are a credit to the respective keepers (if you like manicured fisheries). However, these are the only stretches these keepers have, therefore they can commit their full time to them. If only we all had that opportunity. I’m also a firm supporter of wild fishing – you should do the minimum amount possible to make a swim fishable, not have to cut steps etc – which is not encouraged as the Wye is an SSSI and SAC anyway. Areas may look like jungle, but it’s not that bad – make your way through with long sleeves and bank stick, make every foothold secure, the rest will become clear. Considering then the anglers that are feeling we are overfishing the same swims/areas; does leaving a few to overgrow not encourage this? It’s a form of management you could say.

Middle Hill Court is a good example of this misunderstanding. There’s a few swims at the top end, which according to some anglers are useless for barbel as the water’s slow and deep (some of the best barbel swims on the Wye actually!). Then through the middle section where it’s fast and shallow (really shallow), there’s no swims, much to some angler’s annoyance. As I’ve said before, there’s no swims because the water is not conducive to good fishing – if it was any good, it would be worn and clear. Then there’s the Rope Pool at the bottom. Some of the best fishing on the stretch is here, but as it’s a “long walk” from the car, it went a few weeks at the start of the flooded river season untouched. Guess what happened? It got overgrown – since then no one has really ventured down there to open the swims up. The bonus of course is that these fish are having a rest. Now if you take the last 2 convoluted and contradictory paragraphs, you’ll see we just can’t win! After years of trying to explain to people, I myself am headed for an exulansis over it all but then what would I write about each summer?!

The stillwaters don’t get much of a mention each month as they’re very lightly fished, but there was a pleasant report from Trelough – an example of just what it’s all about to fish there…

C. P. from Bristol 

Saturday 6 July 2019

Area:Hidden Lakes

Beat:Trelough Pool


No. of Anglers:2

Fished the car park end in the morning, plumbed the depth to find it only about 7 inches deep, Lots of fish swimming past and stirring up the silt obviously munching on my hemp and corn free offerings, managed 2 bites but hook did not set, ventured down the deeper end in the afternoon, again, lot's of fish showing but not able to catch anything, no fish caught all day but I was on the edge of my seat all day anticipating catching one of the giant carp swimming around. I would go back but would start off fishing at the deeper end near the oak tree, the fish seemed to like the corn and hemp so would recommend these baits as a starter. Stayed at the three horse shoes 3 miles up the road.. great pub and nice rooms at a fair price.

On the 24th July it went hot, very hot – 30C+ across much of the country. The whole of France were sweating into their brie, with much of Europe experiencing a record of some kind. Here we wondered if we were headed for another summer like last. However it didn’t last and those mad enough to sit out in it did catch a few, fast water and a change of approach proving most productive. Small baits, hemp gave the chance for the fish to grub around at will rather than head-but a 5oz feeder. Whilst mentioning France – snails (in hemp from Dynamite Baits) have been pretty popular barbel baits lately, and some fish they’ve caught too. I must say, I find sardines hard to stomach after using them for pike bait in winter, but snails on a recent trip to France took on a whole new level of queasiness as I chewed them up…

To counteract the negativity of an angler photographing a decent barbel at the top of the bank, metres from flowing water at Canon Bridge, there is now the ability to drive down to the river bank on this excellent fishery. Take advantage of it whilst you can would by advice – a stunning piece of countryside and a real treat not to have to lug all your gear down there anymore.

The chub fishing was a bit of a mystery – whilst many caught over 20 one day, there wasn’t a chub in sight the next. As experienced by HS from Watford at Foy – “I managed 3, David had 2 barbel, strange that no chub were caught over 3 days”.

What’s for sure is the average size is looking very healthy. I said it last year but I’m really looking forward to the winter to see if a 6lb + fancies some praise from me face to face.

There’s always a report or two that leave me feeling warm and fuzzy that we might be spreading some good vibes to the angling world – this below claimed that prize this month.

D. C. from Malton 

Thursday 4 July 2019

Area:Middle Wye

Beat:How Caple Court


No. of Anglers:2

Started just after lunchtime in the blazing sunshine but we managed to catch using steady tactics with light feeding.
No prolific feeding spell, just picking fish off here and there.
Lots of wildlife, a barking deer in the wood behind us, 65 Canada geese in front, Kingfishers and buzzard active, baby swans learning the ropes. One of my favourite beats and remains so. Best fish was 3oz short of a celebration. 

Going forward I’m afraid it could be canoe hell depending where you fish on the river – with the introduction of “evening trips” there’s no longer a peaceful few hours at dusk to enjoy at one with nature, on the lower river anyway. Still, it won’t last long and hopefully after some rain the river will return to a gin clear paradise, with September to look forward to when the season’s changes become really visible once again. Good luck and enjoy whatever, and whenever.

Adam Fisher is a coarse and game fishing instructor and guide who has a wealth of experience fishing the Wye.
He also writes for magazines such as 'Improve Your Coarse Fishing' and works closely with the Foundation as a fisheries consultant.
For more information, please click here.

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