Monday, 28 November 2011

The Itchen - 14th November

I left early from Cardiff, 5am to be exact, and headed out on to the M4 or my home from home as it is fast becoming. As day broke a crisp misty start to the proceedings was obvious and I approached Winchester with the excitement steadily building. I absolutely love chalkstream grayling fishing and the Itchen is a chalkstream I had never fished before (way out of my price range during the trout season).
I setup whilst waiting for Nick (the 20 minute drive for him obviously too much on a Saturday morning haha). 

The welcoming party raced over in the hope of sugar cubes or mints, they were disappointed by my lack of treats.

I had already planned this in my head and my smaller rod was put onto the duo method with a size 20, 1.5mm beaded hares ear (on a grub hook) suspended below a size 16 balloon caddis. I also setup the longer (10’ 3#) rod with a French leader but removed the indicator and just had very fine mono (1.8lb) to a single nymph (the same hares ear as below the caddis). This was to be my stalking rod and the duo for searching the riffles and pools where I could not see the bottom. When Nick eventually arrived, all of five minutes after me, I already knew exactly what tackle he would be bringing from his boot, the guy is absolutely addicted to short line nymphing and sure enough a team of flies on a French leader were soon hooked through an eye and we were off. 

We stopped off at the little fishing hut and had a quick chat before starting the serious business. As Nick settled into the very first pool I made my way up to a long sweeping bend. Before I even reached the river Nick was shouting that he had a decent fish on. This guy must have some kind of pheromone leaching from every pore on his body, he simply can’t stop catching the big ladies. However this time he had accidentally put on his rubber hooks and as I turned round all I saw was his indicator spat back at his face, gutting.

The spot I chose to fish was classic Dan, a lovely sweeping bend with all the current on the far bank and no easy way to access it from this side of the river. A reed bed had grown up in the slack on the inside of the bend and what could possible go wrong with walking out over that right? A few steps and suddenly there was no ground beneath my feet anymore and I was up to my thighs in stinky silt. Well since I was already here and now close enough for a cast I decided to fish anyway. The duo was flicked up into the current and it was not long before the caddis disappeared and I lifted in to the first grayling of the day on the nymph. As it was so warm the grayling were still looking up for their food and the nymph was taken at about 2 foot below the surface in 6 foot of water, no need to trudge the depths just yet this year.

I spent about half an hour up to my nether regions in the reed bed, managing to take 4 grayling and 2 trout, one of the grayling absolutely hammered the dry fly and jumped like a dolphin over and over again in a bid for freedom. When I tried to extricate myself I realised my problem, I could not move either leg hmmmmmmmmm. By slowly rocking backwards and forwards I eventually worked myself free and crawled on to solid ground once more, although I somehow left both the soles to my pair of wading boots behind, Father Christmas may have to bring me a new pair this year.

The first fish of the day from deep in the reeds and about average for the quality we were in for.

The next piece of water was long, straight, wide, shallow and filled with weed. Perfect for stalking along trying to sight fish some grayling, luckily by now the mist had burned off (it took almost till 11am). This is exactly the fishing we came for and was truly magical. We both use nymphs that are far too small to see in the water so instead depend on accurate casts ahead of the fish we want and then tracking the line down whilst watching for the lovely lady to suck something, anything in or merely move to the side, flare the gills etc… Once you have your eye in it is extremely rewarding as your arm seems to lift of its own accord before your brain has registered what it is doing and the thumping twisting grayling is attached. 

The long glide was perfect for spotting the grayling (there are a few in this very poor pic), spotting them in real life was just as hard until they moved to take a nymph or rose to an emerging olive.

This sweet little calf seemed to think we were crazy, apparently we smelt as well as he sniffed my hand before snorting and running.

My best fish of the day was this beauty at 1.5lbs, I can still remember watching him move to his right and slightly up as my nymph came past, that was enough encouragement for me to lift the rod slightly to move the nymph and he hammered it.
The top of the beat has some deeper faster water perfect for Czech nymphing and we both caught a decent number of fish blind here, Nick yet again found a shoal and removed at least a dozen fish mainly around the pound mark with the largest of the day at 1.75 lb.

It was a lovely day and one I am hoping to repeat many times this winter, the next will be on the 11th December when I am fishing with my Dad on the world famous River Test. The fishing is well worth the remortgage and 3 hour drive, for those Southern ladies fill my dreams and if I am lucky my net as well.


Right that’s the blog up to date now (well ish) and I am planning to keep it that way as much as possible. I will not blog every trip I have as that will soon get samey and boring, instead I hope to share some magical moments and hopefully some beautiful pictures and interesting thoughts and flies over the winter.
Oh and happy late Thanksgiving to all my American readers.

Oct/Nov Review and a (quick) rant

Where is old Jack Frost? Is he having a longer respite this year? Perhaps he over exerted himself in the early months and is still in recovery? It is now the end of November and I have yet to reach for the thermals for fishing, actually had to think about sun tan lotion on a few outings. Something is weird, not quite right, I can’t help but feeling we are going to pay for this with an extremely harsh winter when it does finally arrive.

The benefits of this milder weather are visible in the fly hatches, the little olives on our waters are still acting like it is a mild autumnal day and the fish are feeding on them. All of my recent outings on to the Taff have seen me leave the 4mm tungsten and 10’ 3# rod at home in favour of my (now fixed) dry fly rod and I have reaped the rewards. Plenty of fish have been taken on small CDCs and Griffiths Gnats imitating the midges and small olives (of unknown species as I am no entomologist). I may have caught more fishing the nymphs but if Jack Frost has been so kind as to leave the Taff alone for an extra month is it not rude to abandon this last dry fly bonanza?

The flipside to this has been the large number of out of season trout I have been catching. These guys and gals really need the hard frosts to switch their mind to more appropriate pastimes for a winter trout. They shouldn’t be bothering my dry flys so much at this time of year with their nasty teeth ruining my pretty, fragile CDC, but boy are they still hungry. I don’t feel as guilty as I normally do catching them out of season though, these fish are clearly not spawning yet and when they do they should be caught less frequently.

On that note I was recently reading a post on an American fly fishing forum about specifically fishing for spawning fish. The bloke was suggesting that large lures should be hung under a float and drifted past spawning fish to generate an anger attack. Is it just me or is this short sighted? Fish when spawning are far more stressed than usual right? Stressed fish produce less offspring, catching them stresses them out even more, you are going to ruin your friggin stream! At least we seem to have some common sense in this country and leave the spawning fish well alone. Salmon seem to be the only fish we deliberately target whilst spawning but that’s a whole kettle of fish I am not going to open here.

I am preparing a post on my favourite winter dry flys and nymphs, once I get around to setting up the camera on a bright enough day for some decent pics I will put my patterns on here. Hopefully there will be a few patterns included which make you think and perhaps even adjust some of your old favourites.

Tight lines