Last week it was worth waiting for the evening hatch of Sedge on the Avon after a very hot sunny day, even though the fish did not seem to be at all interested - so no evening rise. The hatch was concentrated beside overhanging trees such as this willow, which I included in the shot to give context and scale. Tricky subjects to photograph. I ended up using a very long lens to get the desired photograph. This image is a substantial crop and required a very fast shutter speed of 1/1600 sec to partly freeze the movement of the flies. It was then possible to identify the characteristic long antennae of the Sedge which were near impossible to see with the naked eye.
Now that's what I like to see! This image of brown trout parr was shot last Monday (15/6/20) with a compact waterproof camera. I found a shoal of these 5cm long junior fish by the side of flowing ranunculus on a stretch of the Wylye. What an encouraging sight. It says something for the habitat restoration carried out on this part of the river. Nearby there was a similar grouping of minnows and in another channel, a shoal of tiny minnow fry. A quick kick sample from the gravel also resulted in hundreds of Gammarus (shrimp) in the net. Surely a sign of a healthy river?
The Avon covered with flowering ranunculus at the end of May 2020. Very pretty - but a problem and a keeper's nightmare. The restrictions created by COVID19 have prevented the weed cut on the Avon this Spring. Water is held back, encroaching onto the bank and potentially causing some flooding in the next few months if weed cutting continues not to be possible.
The shot above was taken by wading into the middle of the river and carefully holding the camera a few inches above the water. A bit ambitious for depth of focus, even using a wide angle lens, as the first flowers are extremely close which is why these buttercup sized flowers look so big in the image. The overall effect captures the beauty of a scene that I am unlikely to ever see again.
Ranunculus is the favourite aquatic weed of fly fishers as it is a sign of a healthy chalk stream with fairly clean water and a good flow. It also provides vital cover for fish and especially the insect life they depend on. In the book there are several classic shots of long fonds of ranunculus seen through clear water.
The weed is usually cut two or three times a year for a number of reasons. More of this another time. Usually to is cut before much of it has flowered. The reason being that after flowering it dies off and prevents much life below and restricts regrowth.
The two images above from the Avon show the pretty buttercup sized flowers I found two weeks ago in May 2020. Note the insect on the flower in the top image. In the image below, if you look carefully, the surface of the weed is teeming with insects.
In the next post I will show a wider landscape image of flowering ranunculus.
The mayfly season is all too brief, mostly concentrated over a couple of weeks. I wanted to get a close up image of this iconic chalk stream species, so needed to get some control over the process. To do this I used a very soft bug net to capture a male spinner returning to the Avon late afternoon. I then placed the fly on a leaf set up in a light tent, which gives the soft lighting essential to bring out the features of the body and wings. The mayfly was co-operative long enough for me to get my shot before flying off. I think this image shows the intricate details so easy to miss when viewed from a distance on the river bank. Mayflies will sit quietly for a while but most other species do not, giving me a few problems to solve in order to get a couple of other species for the book.