It was one of the very few times I could say that I had a very pleasant drive down the M6 and M5 on my way to Amesbury in Wiltshire. The roads were fairly quiet and the sun was shining, and for a change I was in no particular rush to get anywhere fast; except I wanted to have a peek at Avon Springs trout fishery http://www.fishingfly.co.uk/index.html in Durrington before my session on the river Avon Chalkstream the following day.
I arrived at 2pm in glorious weather for early November. 16 degrees, bright sunshine and no wind.
(Picture pinched from website)
My mind was in turmoil; would I, could I, or even should I. I didn’t want to kill and take any fish because I wasn’t going home for a few days.
Last cast was at 4pm, or so it read on the board; but that doesn’t mean much as anglers always have a minimum of 18 last casts and it wasn’t going to get dark until about 5pm. A word with the chap in the workshop about which flies have been working was inconclusive, but a fellow angler was just coming off the water and told me he had caught his quota on large Mayfly! “MAYFLY” in November? I looked at his fly and it resembled more of a drowned Daddy Longlegs than a Mayfly, which seemed much more plausible for this time of year.
Well; the temptation was too much to bear and I gave in and paid my fees for a couple of hours fishing. The odd fish was rising in the middle of Club Lake to what seemed to be Midges and so I tied on a Daddy. Well, you would wouldn’t you? Not enough time to ponce about with small flies on 5 acres of water, I wanted the fish to see my fly immediately upon splashdown. Well that idea failed miserably and I persuaded myself to try something smaller. A Klinkhammer never fails to attract fish and amazingly enough a fish rose to my first cast, but I was so startled I struck about a week too late as the fish snatched my fly down into the crystal clear depths of the lake before my tiny brain could register that I had had a take. I put it down to the fact I was fatigued after the long drive and in any case I wasn’t too bothered about catching. This happened once again during a quiet period when all signs of fish rising had ceased. As the sun began to drop behind the trees a chill came over me letting me know time was moving on. I changed my Klink to a nymph for the remaining twilight half hour, performing a fast roly-poly retrieve with intermittent pauses and receiving a couple of indications on the line from fish……….or was it weed? It was soon time to continue my journey to the hotel in Amesbury with a blank. But who cares; at least I had seen the venue and had a few casts to pacify my lust for wetting a line.
The next morning was much colder than recent mornings with a thick fog blanketing the countryside on the short drive back to Durrington. The weather forecast was once again good with plenty of sunshine and a slight breeze. Perfect for river fishing. The gates were still locked when I arrived, so I waited outside.
Dead on 8:30 the gates opened and that same old feeling of excitement came over me, just as it always has done since I was a young boy waiting to get down to my local stream and river near home.
A chat with the owner whilst changing into my waders and having a coffee and a doughnut to start the day off I tackled up my #5 Streamflex with a 4.5lb tapered leader and a 4.1lb tippet and attached my flashback Pheasant Tail Nymph for Grayling. Wading in general is not permitted here but it is always advisable to wear them when river fishing and in any case the short grass was soaked from the morning dew and you never know when you may have to get down to the water-edge to release fish or to prevent snagging your line whilst playing a fish.
With a spring in my step I soon found myself at the bottom end of the beat. The water level was lower than its normal winter level, consisting mostly of shallow riffles at this end. Highly oxygenated water is the prime habitat for Grayling, but I couldn’t see any fish in this clear fast flowing water, but I knew there must be some hiding in the stony bottom.
It wasn’t long before I felt my first hit from a fish and I struck into solid resistance from an out of season wild Brown Trout.
Ooops!! Here we go again. I changed my flash back PTN to a tiny tungsten bead PTN and began getting small Grayling at a rate of 1 every 2 to 3 casts for a while, but they too were tiny and I did really want something a bit bigger.
I changed to a Caddis Nymph which brought fewer but larger net fish to the bank.
As I continued upstream I approached an inlet from the trout farm and instantly spooked a huge fish from the shallow glide, but this was definitely not a Grayling.
Several casts here returned a few more small Grayling and another little Brown Trout. But I needed to locate the larger Grayling that I had been told were present, so I began stalking instead of just blind casting, but I only saw 1 of about 3lb which was impossible to cast to as it was underneath an overhanging shrub that was touching the surface in between 2 trees. I waited for several minutes watching its movements, but it wasn’t going to come out on its own free will so I moved on. There was no point in spooking it out.
By now I was more than half way up the 1 mile stretch and still had only seen the 1 large Grayling and so I resorted back to blind casting picking up more small ones and another little Brownie.
Reaching the end of the beat where the water was slower and deeper, I had only seen 1 very large Brown Trout and several small Grayling by the time a lunch break was due.
Back to the car park for a brew, a doughnut and a welcome rest. Sitting on the banks of the river watching nature is the most idyllic way to spend a lunch time for me.
But then, we anglers spend all day just doing that. What a life, but I suppose someone has to do it!!
It appeared as though I was not alone at this moment in time having lunch. A flock of Seagulls appeared from nowhere and began swooping down on the river. A Swan was slurping at the surface and fish began to rise everywhere. There were several big fish breaking the surface regularly all over the pool and for several minutes it was absolute pandemonium.
The reason soon became clear when the owner returned from the fish farm, having fed pellets to the rearing pond fish. The rearing pond is fed by an offshoot from the main river further upstream and flows out at the top of this pool. Some of the pellets float out with the flow back into the river providing this bonus feed for all at this point. I would never have believed how many fish were in this pool had I not witnessed this chaotic feeding frenzy myself. After all the pellets had been consumed the Seagulls flew off, the Swan continued its journey upstream and the fish returned to wherever they came from. So just where did they all come from and where did they all go?
After my lunch there was only one place for me to fish. I couldn’t see any fish at all but clearly they were there and they were in a feeding mood. A change of fly from the small nymph to a larger morsel such as a beaded Squirmy Wormy was hastily made. Blind upstream casting close in was the starting point and I would fan out my casts across the pool making my way up to the inlet.
Only a few casts in and I felt what I initially thought was the bottom, but on the strike it bolted off upstream. Quite a tussle ensued as the fish tore up and down and then again with me just hanging on. In turn I was up and down the banks trying to keep in touch at all times, wading through the weed to keep the fish away, and in open water it eventually tired and began to come to the surface. This was no small minnow as at the first attempt of landing I failed. With both of us tiring I beached it onto the weed and scooped it up in the net. It weighed 6lb exactly.
Totally dishevelled following my bank running antics I triumphantly posed with my catch for a photo shoot by the owner who proclaimed “I told you there were some bigguns in there”.
The fight took it out of the fish and it was a couple of minutes before its strength returned to swim away safely.
Pleased as punch with my biggest ever river caught Brown Trout (albeit out of season) I carried on casting in the same pool. After picking up a couple more small Grayling I changed the Squirmy back to a large nymph and rested the pool for a few minutes.
There were plenty more fish in there to be caught and I was sure I could get one or two more before it was time to go.
I thought about dropping the nymph into the head of the glide where I had spooked the big fish in the morning. Of course it could well have been the fish I had just caught but my thinking was; where there is one there may be another.
I was right, a fish took the nymph as it landed in the shallows and turned 180 degrees and took off into the deeper water. Another fight was on and it was pretty much the same up and down tug of war fight that the other one gave me. It was a fish of similar size, but surely it couldn’t be the same one. As it came to the surface it was clear that it was a different fish and once again it took me a couple of stabs before it went in the net.
It weighed slightly under 6lb.
With both arms tired of casting and catching all day I decided to finish the day on a high and what a day it was. Beautiful setting and excellent fishing, I will definitely be back during the trout season.
Heading off the following morning to Hampshire I fancied a day’s catch and release at Meon Springs http://fishing.meonsprings.com/. This is one of very few fisheries in the south of England that operate catch and release and at £20 a day, its great value. I fished here earlier in the year and had a great day. This morning I arrived shortly after 8:30am and there was nobody about so I signed in and drove off to the lower 2 pools that are c&r only. Having been here before I didn’t bother to look at the pools and just tackled up as per my previous visit. #5 rod and reel and small nymph on a 10’ tapered leader.
Fully attired and looking forward to a good days sport, imagine my disappointment when getting to the water edge to find the entire pools covered with thick blanket weed. Only 2 small areas had been cleared for fishing, one in each pool, and there was no way I was going to waste a whole day thrashing about in two areas not much larger than your average back garden goldfish pond. I wasn’t going to embarrass myself in even wetting a line, so put my rod back in the van and went back to sign out. By this time the fishery manager was in the office with other anglers and I expressed my dissatisfaction to everyone and left.
What a shame the management couldn’t be bothered to maintain those two pools to the same standards as the others. I certainly will not be returning until next spring when the weed will have naturally died back over the winter months.
Back in the van I pondered on where to go next and after much deliberation over several possibilities I decided to go to Chalk Springs in West Sussex http://www.chalksprings.com, a venue I have fished many times before.
There is no catch and release here but I was sure I could do long distance release on a few fish as well as land a few. Arriving at 10.00am I chose a 3 fish ticket which would also allow me up to 7 hours fishing if I so wished, prolonging the day by stalking particular specimens. It is quite possible to reach a quota within minutes at this venue, but there is not a lot of point in that so fish selection is the way to go.
The fishery always looks good and is well managed, with rearing and stock pools providing a mouth- watering spectacle of provocative and tantalising viewing to the angler as he walks by on his way to the 4 beautifully manicured lakes.
I remember thinking; even Millie could catch a few in these stock pools!!
Bypassing North Lake (it looked far too easy) I spotted a couple of fish at the top end of West Lake. Once again armed with my #5 rod and reel I cast my PTN in the general direction of the cruising fish. They both showed interest in the nymph as I pulled it away from the smaller more aggressive Rainbow that would have devoured the fly if allowed. I cast again to the larger of the two and instantly it was on and a fight ensued. My first fish of the day was in the bag. One down, two to go and I had only been fishing 5 minutes.
Leaving West Lake I moved on to East Lake and walked all the way around looking for some larger specimens to stalk.
There was one sandy coloured Rainbow near the surface of about 5-6lb and set myself up to target this fish for a while. Cast after cast in front of it brought no interest from the fish and it totally ignored my offering. I spent about 30 minutes targeting this fish and it wasn’t having any of it so I left it alone for a while and ventured over to South Lake.
Both pools were flat calm which made it harder to land a nymph without making an un-natural disturbance on the surface making the fish aware that something was not quite right. With several other anglers on the water, casting their lines, this was obviously making the fish cautious as to what was natural and what wasn’t. I gave up on the stalking tactic as this was clearly not working and resorted to nymphing with a Copper PTN much deeper down.
The sun was dropping behind the trees and dark shadows were cast across the pools and the fish moved deeper which is exactly where I wanted them and it wasn’t long before my second fish came to the net. I had about 4 hours left on the clock, so there was plenty of time to get my last fish. Time for a brew, a doughnut and a general walk around searching for larger fish.
I couldn’t find anything larger than I had already caught as by now the fish in South and East Lakes had all but disappeared. I moved up to West Lake where a few fish were still moving around in the mid-afternoon sunshine. The fishery keeper joined me and during our conversations I hooked and lost 2 at distance, blaming it on my lack of concentration whilst chatting. He went on his way laughing and ½ an hour later I began to get a little bored, so paying more attention to what I should be doing I soon picked up my third and final fish of the day.
I called into the cleaning room on the way back to weigh and record my catch and the three fish weighed 7.3lb.
A nice couple of days out fishing visiting 3 Springs in 3 Counties with 3 fish to take home.