Big Whitewater brown trout, a fitting end to the Lockdown

May 13, 2020 at 9:58 pm

The UK Government took everyone by surprise, by easing the English Lockdown and allowing travel to extended periods of exercise, including angling and other fieldsports among their list of approved exercise. I had already decided that my first foray into the countryside, would be a session on Farnborough and District’s Hampshire ┬átrout stream, the River Whitewater.

Due to the Covid-19 outbreak, there had been only the minimum of work parties and no stocking, so was not optimistic about catching much as I climbed the gate, the code in the club book not opening the lock, a sign of things to come? Once in the open pasture, the icy north wind was cutting through my lightweight jacket. Despite bright afternoon sunshine, the air temperature was 10 degrees C down on last week, not ideal for my hoped for Mayfly hatch and I headed straight for a big S bend in the river, which has been kind to me in the past.

The river was pushing hard round the bend with a tinge of colour, but it was good to see it rushing over clean gravel. There was no fly life visible and no rising fish, so a good early season stanby, an unweighted Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear was tied on and I worked my way up round the bend toward the main pool. Once teeming with dace, this fast run yielded no takes and I was already considering the points that I would gain from my wife for being home early for Tea. Working to the top of the pool, I considered my options, go home now, sit and wait for the Mayfly to hatch, if at all, or continue downstream to another promising area. I chose the latter.

With only sheep for company, I was alone with my thoughts. Again there were no rising fish, but it was good to be out with the fly rod among the luxuriant spring growth, although the gusting wind caused a few close calls, as I tried some of the more over grown runs, where no winter trimming has taken place.

After an hour, it was time to head back upstream again, watching a few Mayfly drift with the flow, temptingly spinning in the current, as I waited for a spotted nose to appear to suck them down to oblivion. None rose.

Walking through the copse close to the S bend, I heard the unmistakable sound of a large fish breaking the surface and as I emerged, saw the swirl of another rise in the main pool. Without waders, I had to edge along the bottom of the high bank with reeds out in front of me, the bank stopping my progress. I could now see a few light green Mayfly lifting off and being intercepted by a large fish in the middle of the river.

I took this pic just after it had risen again, a cast of about 20 yards, where the faster water entered the pool. Looking in my Mayfly box, a likely candidate stood out, a green bodied, shadow Mayfly.

With fumbling fingers, I managed a perfect improved clinch knot, licked it and slid it down to the hook, then tested it and trimmed off. This was a big fish and the last thing I wanted was to lose it due to a dodgy knot tied in haste.

Rubbing floatant grease into the Mayfly, I tried a few false casts to get the range, battling the wind that blew my 4 lb tippet off target, everywhere but down the middle, where the trout continued to slurp down Mayfly. My artificial was riding the surface perfectly as it passed out of range of the feeding trout, but a moment of calm allowed the fly to float down to the surface, where it was engulfed.

I struck, feeling the full weight of the trout, as it powered up toward the bend, screaming the reel as it took line. Not for long, it turned and rushed past me, heading for the fast water downstream. Stripping line, I lost contact momentarily, fearing that the barbless hook would lose its hold, but my 3 WT, seven foot rod was soon bending double with the run. Now the fight began, giving just enough line, letting the rod do its work, the trout leaping clear in a shower of spray and spots, shaking its head as it made off upstream again.

Last season I had lost a decent trout at the net from a high bank, but this time had extended the landing net to full length and waited for the trout to come to the surface, letting it swim in, only for it to accelerate out again! Take your time Ken, the hook is holding. This time the head went in and I lifted. It was mine! Phew, that was hard work!

22 inches of pure muscle, that tested man and rod. I did not have scales with me, but estimate that this twice over wintered stockie went about 4 pounds. Inside the scissors of its jaw, the mangled fly pushed out with forceps and I returned it to the river in my landing net, keeping the head upstream for ten minutes, it swimming strongly away, when released.

Checking my watch, there would be no brownie points tonight. I had said that I would be home by 6 pm, it was almost that now and I still had not reached the locked gate. At the van I called to make my apologies for being late. “Why break the habit of a lifetime? Dinner will be ready for 6:45” I made it with 5 minutes to spare. Homemade chicken and ham pie!