I was counting the layers of my clothing, while waiting for friend Peter to collect me for some long awaited trout fishing at Meon Springs this week. The forecast had been dry two days before, but now those isobars were shifting and the temperature was down to 5 C, with blustery showers due at lunchtime, so for me it was thermals, a woolly shirt, polo shirt and a dense hoody beneath my quilted fishing waistcoat, with a wax cotton jacket to follow, if things got really bad. In contrast Peter looked his usual dapper self in moleskin trousers and checked cotton shirt, assuring me that he would be perfectly warm in his thin waterproofs. As we drove down into the Meon Valley, the morning mist was lifting and the lake was bathed in golden sunlight to welcome us; it looked like Peter’s clothing choice was the right one.
Tackling up on the clubhouse verandah, we could see the lake was like glass, without a ripple down to the dam and were going to be the first to break it’s surface that morning. Our previous visits had seen us both get our two fish limit within the opening twenty minutes and on this occasion took our time to drink coffee, followed by a stroll along the banks before fishing. Plenty of rainbows were visible in the crystal clear, chalk fed waters, although most seemed stationary, not searching for food.
Peter started off with his current fovourite method, an Orange Blob on a leader greased to within two feet of the lure, fished static, while I began with a bloodworm fished two feet beneath a floss indicator, the method that had proved successful at Meon Springs before. We were both casting to seen fish and the feeling of panic was beginning to set in after twenty minutes of twitching the fly to no response. I broke first, tying on a Blue Flash Damsel lure, which I retrieved with a slow figure of eight. At least now I could see fish move towards it and follow, but they were just plucking at the tail, or lightly holding it. A left hand pull made contact a few times, but it took another ten minutes, before the line held long enough for the rod to set the hook firmly into a fish. At last! A two pound rainbow exploded on the surface, then began the head shaking fight associated with a lightly hooked fish, but it stayed on and was soon on the bank.
A typical stockie, that fought well on my 9 ft 6 in Greys 7/8 rod, the BFD just in the front of the bottom lip. This was the first outing with this rod, bequeathed to me by Peter, as compensation for accidentally shutting my 30 year old hand built rod in the boot lid of his car last time out. I must say this piece of modern technology was a joy to use, light weight and powerful, an improvement over my old Normark blank. Maybe it’s time to start looking at a new fly line? Mind you the current one, a Cortland bought at the factory in New York state, has permanent kinks, that give an early warning of a take, when they straighten.
The Blob was now gone from Peter’s leader, to be replaced by a bloodworm on a very slow retrieve and an instant take resulted in a lost fly. Tying on another, he was soon playing his first rainbow of the morning, a 2 lb fish. Frustrated by the will they, won’t they takes on the Damsel, I too decided to give the bloodworm another go, still tying on the fly, when Peter landed a 2 lb 8 oz rainbow minutes after the first. By now a cold wind had picked up, driving those predicted showers down the valley and Peter retreated to the comfort of the clubhouse to warm up, leaving me to battle the elements. The bloodworm worked with plenty of short takes, but having suffered two dropped trout, I went back to the BFD and was rewarded with a slightly fatter fish.
With my two fish in the fridge, I sat down with a hot drink and a sandwich by the club’s log fire, while Peter walked down to the catch and release lake for some more punishment, where I met up with him 30 minutes later. In that time he’d put two very nice fish on the bank, an estimated 7 lb rainbow and 2lb brown trout in good condition.
Using only barbless hooks on this lake, the fish were returned with the minimum of damage, both having taken the bloodworm. Another angler joined us shortly after, fishing the deep water by the dam and hooking into another monster rainbow, struggling to get the fish in the net, but finally managing to get the barrel shaped brood fish on the bank.
This tank of a rainbow weighed 7 lb 4oz and was full of eggs, spraying them all over the grass, when lifted back into the water.
As the weather worsened, with icy rain now lashing down, it was up to me to follow the Lord Mayor’s Show, when my Blue Flash Damsel was taken by a very ragged looking brown trout, netting this fish as soon as I could, before beating a retreat back to the dry haven of the fishing lodge.
In just three hours, the changeable English weather had transformed this quiet part of Hampshire and we were happy to leave the lake to the stewardship of the swans.