At last some decent weather for flyfishing. Since our last outing at Bewl Water in November, the winter has been cold and long. January’s trip was cancelled due to flooded banks on the Itchen, although we did get some casting instruction conducted in Winchester before the mere 3c temperatures got the better of us.
Today was fab. Up to 12c, a bright and sunny day on a Hampshire chalkstream, fishing for grayling on the fabled River Test at the kind invitation of Lord Camden on the Wherwell Estate.
6 veterans and 5 guides gathered at 9am for bacon butties and a briefing from Robbie Loseby, waterkeeper on the Estate. Following a full winter’s rain, and then some, the Test is currently flowing clear and very, very high. Some of the banks are leveed, and the surfeit of water coming down the valley is simply pouring over the sides, through gateways and into neighbouring fields.
Wherwell Estate’s fishery comprises a number of beats on the river, together with a beautiful secluded lake, but with the river so high, the fishery appeared to be almost totally awash, with a few forgiving islands where lake bank anglers could fish from, just enough room to park, and a very welcome fishing hut generating meals and some warmth to take the chill off an early frost.
Grayling are not easy to catch. Whilst they are quite free rising, they are an extremely choosy and shy fish, and current thinking on patterns takes you down through the sizes to between 16 and 22 as the most likely. A bit of tungsten weighting, perhaps under an indicator is the most productive method, whilst dries will also catch, but again in very small sizes. Barbless only.
The guys split into two bretheren. Those that tackled the grayling head-on, and those that were just as happy chasing the lake rainbows. Either way, it was a glorious venue at which to fish, whilst Robbie’s welcome and expert guidance, really enhanced the Wherwell experience.
Our guides – Chris, Steve, Mike and John – gave very valuable advice on casting techniques, fly selection, and fishing styles, especially on the river; there were also some England hopefuls fishing alongside us, practicing for an eliminator to be fished tomorrow. To those boys, it was looking like it was going ot be a 20G day – ie 20 grayling. “Somedays, we might get up to 150G”, commented hopeful competitor, Paul. Just one would be nice today!
Fishing achievements today.
Pride of place has to go to Alan Auckland, a newcomer to flyfishing, and a quick learner, who took his first fish – a rainbow – from the lake soon after lunch, kindly assisted by Chris Howitt.
Dog extracted 7 rainbows from the lake, whilst Josh landed a brace, and 1 to Big Al; all fish fought ferociously well, all were returned.
The grayling had the last laugh. Their currency has improved a thousand fold from the 34 years ago when I worked on this river. The lady of the stream is held in high reverence, when back in the old days, they were just considered verminous, forming the greater part of the electrofishing haul each winter.
In a generation, radical fishing foresight has created a new fishery for anglers to enjoy, and we look forward to a return to these spellbinding waters again in the not too distant future.
Next up for Fly trips with FishabilityUK:
Sat 16 March – Albury Park Lake, Albury Estate, near Guildford.
Sat 13 April – Farmoor Reservoir, near Oxford.