The challenge this month is to say something different from last month and last year’s August report too.

So let’s look at rainfall first: and yes, we did have some rain and spates this month. Nothing to trouble Noah and only just over the Llanstephan and Brecon gauges but not for long enough. The little rise at the end of July ran off over a few days and the rivers went back to the all too familiar summer level. Quite suddenly, the algal bloom on the Wye ended and the river became quite clear. Down too went the water temperature which had reached 23 degrees C at Llanstephan in the last week of July.

So what happened? As always, there was not much information from the Usk except hearsay accounts of the odd fish – no summer revival here. Tywi beats took a few fish but uncharacteristically, the West Wales rain, so often the spoiler of holidays was much less in evidence. No longer can we say “rain as usual” following the 2018 drought and a series of dry summers! On to the Wye where 48 fish were reported and despite the modest rainfall, these were mainly from the upper and ‘upper upper’ river: 24 and 10 respectively. The two reaches Glasbury to Luggsmouth and there to Monmouth managed just one each. Just 12 were taken below Monmouth. Successful beats included Glanwye and Bigsweir with 7 each while Nyth, Rectory and Wyesham had 5 apiece.

The Erwood (upper Wye) hydrograph for August 2019
A 12lb salmon caught by Philip Batty from the Neck of the Rectory on the 1st August
Tim Hughes with a 14lb hen fish he landed on the 25th, also from the Neck of the Rectory
Brian Skinner's grandson returning a 12lb fish they caught on Gromain on the 8th

With a single Rectory fish on the 1st September the Wye total staggered to 300, still 57 off the worst year ever. It has truly been a celebration for the gloomy amongst us but it remains one of the driest years recorded here: a mere 17.5” has been recorded at Llanstephan, even less than last year. Are there fish waiting out at sea or in the estuary as a result? 2018 showed that fish can do that so let’s keep everything crossed.

September? The trend has been for dry Septembers but we need rain – there is a massive water overdraft to pay off and not much of the season left. The forecast, as I write, does look cooler and wetter so keep an eye on the clouds, gauges and forecasts and grab any opportunity if and when the rivers rise.

WUF projects

The most important piece of work in progress today is the construction of Ballsgate fish pass which is on schedule to finish this autumn. Although there are a number of weirs on the Lugg, our electrofishing results immediately downstream have shown that Ballsgate weir is a significant obstacle, requiring a lot more rainfall (the nature of the Lugg catchment is that it takes a lot more rain to restore lost ground water before it starts rising) in the autumn to get adult salmon upstream where there is an abundance of very good quality spawning and juvenile habitat. When operational, it should translate in many more returning fish in the future.

Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith OBE.

A 17.5lb fish caught by Christopher Morley on the Glanwye beat on the 18th , guided by Jonathan Morris (pictured)

Rainfall at Llanstephan 2019 to date:


('18: 38" '17: 34" '16: 35" '15: 28", '14: 54", '13: 39", '12: 47", '11: 29")

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