It seems unbelievable but there's almost a glut of grilse on the Itchen. On the Lower Itchen fishery, rods had 267 fish, easily beating the 1965 record of 246. It is, in fact, the best since the fishery started back in 1954.The great mystery is "Why?" Some theorists put it down to the longstanding policy of catch-and-release, but if that is so why no effect on the Avon and the Test?One definite fact is that the water quality has improved dramatically after the update to a local sewage works. Owner Lyndsey Farmiloe, who's been involved in the Lower Itchen Fishery now for almost 25 years, said: "This year I've seen parts of the riverbed I have never seen before! We had tremendous ranunculus cover all year and had no blanket weed at all, unlike last year. All the signs are encouraging for future years".
Just when you thought it couldn't get any better than six salmon in a day, along comes Peter Littleworth who, in one day on the Lower Itchen Fishery, got seven grilse. Then, just a week later, he went back and got eight in a day. His secret? Putting his size 8 treble in the body of the prawn rather than at the head. He explained, "I found grilse were taking the prawn sideways and that way I was losing them so I changed it round and it worked." On his seven-fish day the biggest was 7lb 8oz and on the eight-fish day the biggest was an eight-pounder. Peter's a relative newcomer to salmon fishing but this year, his fourth season, he's already had 21 fish and he told me "I haven't finished yet." Fishery owner Lyndsey Farmiloe is now hoping for an all-time record for her fishery since in just one week in August rods had 57 fish, some falling to the trout rod's nymphs. By the end of the month rods had 169 fish, compared to last year's whole season tally of 140. The fishery record, set in 1965, is 246 fish so who knows what might happen? The season ends on October 2. It's much the same on the two beats just upstream. StandfordMeadows expert Tony Timms reports: "We are having a great year, with David Browse, Chris Pearson, Terry Hannamand myself now catching two or three grilse on each visit with the odd double-figure salmon as well. There are a lot of fish in the beat and last week I spotted two in the 20lb class; it looks very encouraging." The big puzzle, of course, is why this sudden bonanza on the Itchen when figures for the Avon and the Test are nowhere near as good? On the Test at Broadlands keeper Jon Hall says there have been 23 salmon so far with plenty of fish showing.
Lower Itchen Fishery is having the time of its life. By August 1 it had had 47 salmon to 18lb compared to 34 at the same point last season. Last season's tally was 140 and in 2008 - the best year for 20 years - the total catch was 173. And again at the same point I the 2008 season as now they'd had only 29. What will they end up with? Owner Lyndsey Farmiloe tells me: "There's a tremendous amount of fish to be seen throughout the river. In one pool alone on August 1 seven fish were spotted and one angler caught two of them." But nothing compared to the achievements this season of Dr Tim Haskins. In June he had three fish in one day. Then, in July, he managed to get six in a day. All his fish were caught on shrimp.
Dr Tim Haskins who had three fish of 6lb, 8lb and 12lb on June 22 and two days later had another. So far this season the fishery has had 11 fish -one more than last year and among them was one around the 20lb mark grassed by the former Bishopstokekeeper, Mick Didlick. All of them, though, would be outshone by Lyndsey's grandfather, who started the fishery and who, in just one week on the Royalty had three 40-pounders. Nowadays salmon fishing stops when the water temperature at Knapp Mill exceeds 19 degC, which it did recently.