After a record breaking winter (floods) and a record breaking April (drought), it’s no surprise that May too was …..record breaking! May will be remembered for the most sunshine, some really quite heavy frosts mid-month and crucially, virtually no rain. As you would expect, the rivers continued to drop throughout the month. It’s unusual that river levels drop low enough to trigger regulation flows but on the Wye this happened on the 15th. The Photovoltaic units here at Llanstephan recorded the highest ever level of generation (i.e. sunshine) in any month, 21% above average.

The river Elan May hydrograph showing the start of the regulation releases from Caban Coch
The Erwood (upper Wye) hydrograph for May
Low flows and algae on the Tywi
The lower Wye "pea-souper"

As the month drew on, fishing started in the English section of the Wye and later under certain conditions, in Wales. However, what opportunities there were came to an abrupt end when high temperatures, sunshine and high nutrient levels brought on yet another ‘pea-souper’ to the Wye, with low flows and algae on the Usk and Tywi too.

The first Usk fish was landed by Mike Bolt (10lbs) from the ISCA water at Newbridge-on-Usk, followed by his second of 14lbs and then a fine 6lbs sea trout. Details of catches trickled in from the Wye, some just a whisper: while some fish have been recorded others remain a secret! Pride of place goes to David Slade’s 30lbs fish from Ingeston who have had three to date. Bigsweir, Redbrook, Wyesham, Coedithel, and Cadora Backs have all recorded fish. Upriver, Goodrich, Wyebank, Aramstone Ross AC and, of course, Ingeston. There are 20 in all and half as many again in the secret list!

So what will June bring? It is often the month of real heat and sunshine but if this continues, we are facing serious dangers in all our rivers. The reservoirs need topping up and rain is urgently needed. In 1976 this didn’t happen and there were significant fish kills; in 1980, after a similar hot spring and a bad algal bloom, it started to rain in June and then didn’t stop. That’s what’s called for again this year. Writing on the last day of May, there is the possibility, even a promise of some rain in early June. It’s going to take more than one spate to cool the rivers and clear away the algae and rubbish but a second could move fish and allow lockdown fishers a chance in Wales … last!

All the best,

Dr Stephen Marsh-Smith OBE

Mike Bolt with the first 2020 salmon reported from the Usk, a 10lb fish from Newbridge-on-Usk
Mike Bolt followed his Usk salmon with this fantastic 6lb sea trout

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