The rains finally ceased on the 18th March, some 6 months after the rainy season started and then we went in to drought mode. From the 20th March, the river dropped steadily for nearly six weeks and only right at the end of April did there appear to be any rise…..and then only a small one of 9” at Llanstephan.

Times are indeed strange: no fishing and as a consequence we have little idea about what has entered the river. Living right on the water’s edge (but thankfully 40’ above it) at Llanstephan, we have seen the highest ever flows here over the past winter followed by one of the driest and sunniest late March and Aprils. This is backed up by the greatest PV generation in both those months and only just over 1” of rain in our rain gauge during April itself.

The Erwood (upper Wye) hydrograph over the last three months

Initially, the low flows gave us the opportunity to see what the floods shifted and for those familiar with the boulder strewn nature of upper Wye, we have been amazed at what has moved and, of course, what has stayed put. There has been much movement of the 2-3 tonne size of rock. The round ones have travelled furthest and annoyingly, the flat ones have ended up in the pools. Gravel has been cleaned out of some pools but landed in others.

In other rivers, it will take some time to assess the damage. We know of some significant damage on the Usk and having looked at an Oxbow close to break through on the Tywi back in January, there may well be significant changes there too. 

There have been sightings of fish: we have seen several enter the Ferry pool at Gromain, no doubt anxious to press on upstream. Usk owners have seen one or two there and in the lower Severn at Tewkesbury weir salmon have been showing. What is encouraging is the many reports of smolts heading downstream on the Wye and not just at one place either.

What isn’t so encouraging is the sparsity of fly hatches. There were odd moments when March Brown, Olive and Grannom appeared but in short bursts and not for long enough to get the natives excited. Worrying too is that by the 28th April, there was a full algal bloom on the upper Wye. In addition to the not inconsiderable growth attached to the rocks and bedstones, the actual water column went the characteristic green and we lost that clear spring water evident since March.

If you imagined that all that water would have washed the Balsam seeds out to sea, then be prepared for some disappointment. How did they cling on? Though the size at present is ideal for pulling or burning.

Finally, I include a much magnified picture of what I first thought was a small salmon, lying in about 8’ of water. I would guess its weight was about 5 lbs. However (sorry for the quality BTW) you can see it has a very large dorsal fin and quite probably this is one of the largest Grayling I have ever seen.

All the best,

Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith OBE