Fly fishing in Enlgand and the southern chalkstreams are synonymous, the crystal clear waters spawned the elitist upstream only dry fly and nymph standards that many still hold, not me though. The majority of the chalkstreams are playgrounds for the rich and famous, memberships can cost tens of thousands and day tickets are well in to the hundreds for the more famous beats. Unfortunately this does not make them good, rich people tot up with the newest most expensive gear with the flies they are told they must have and cast at freshly stocked monstrosities which would surely take the hook alone. These people do not understand the true enjoyment behind fly fishing. It is not about filling your bag with big fish, there is no shame in blanking on a hard water, fishing for easy big fish is no fun, without the challenge where is the sense of achievement?
It is a real shame then that nearly all of the chalkstreams are now like this, the only true fishing left on them is for the wild grayling which manage to thrive despite these keepers best efforts and I happily spend many winter days trying to catch them after the Lords and Dukes have left the beats for the colder seasons. One of the few exceptions is the lovely river Wylye, the price is the same, way out of reach for a student like me but it has never (and hopefully will never) be stocked. The banks are also allowed to grow, mowing and weed cutting are left to a minimum and the result is a very special river, one of the last of the true chalkstreams in my opinion.
I was over the moon therefore when I had an email from Roger Fagan (his impressive blog) inviting me down for a day to fish it. They were letting the riff raff on one of the most exclusive pieces of river in the country, 11 miles of river are shared between 40 members and half of them apparently never fish it!!
I was too busy fishing to take many photos of the river unfortunately so the blog post may be a bit dull. I had been warned before we started that better fishing than myself had blanked on this river which can be incredibly hard, however there was a bit of colour in the water due to the recent rain and the fish were less spooky because of it. Working up the first beat I had plenty of fish, in fact far more than I could have hoped for. 40+ grayling and a dozen trout came to hand that morning. At one point I managed to hit a pod of large grayling and had half a dozen grayling over 12" in as many casts.
At one point I even had my first ever double hook up when two grayling attached themselves to my leader simultaneously, crazy fishing.
During this spell with the big grayling I hooked a 6" fish and was bringing it swiftly in when an enormous trout chased it to my feet where he turned and dirfted back under some weed. A few casts past the weed later and he hit my pheasant tail hard and tore off down river. A lifetime later and he was ready to net, he was atleast 2-3" longer than my 18" net and had tried every trick in the book to get under the bank and weed, finally just as he surfaced and I dipped the net the hook pulled, I had to laugh, I have now lost 2 enourmous fish in 24 hours gutted.
In the evening we decided to fish on one of the little carrier streams, I had my fill of nymphing in the morning and was stubborn only taking my dry flies to fish the little stream which averaged about 7' wide.
There were some large sedges about and I did not want to faff about changing and drying flies in the gloom so a Moser Balloon caddis was tied on and flicked upstream over and over again until it erupted. What followed was brilliant fun with half a dozen fish bought to hand over the space of an hour as they battled hard in the little stream, they really had to be bullied to keep them out of the weed!
It was a brilliant day and Roger has been kind enough to invite me back, is tomorrow okay mate?