River Whitewater work party progress

March 21, 2021 at 1:42 pm

With only a couple of weeks before the 2021 trout flyfishing season opens on the River Whitewater, members of Farnborough and District AS were busy this weekend getting their three mile stretch of the Hampshire chalk stream ready.

The team split in two, half clearing the banks and trimming back over hanging trees, while others carried out much needed work constructing a safe bridge over a steep sided, often water filled drainage ditch.

Early in the day, a hen mallard flew out from the bankside undergrowth as it was being cleared, revealing a nest with a dozen eggs.

Work stopped on this section of bank and the mallard was soon back on her clutch of  eggs.

The Farnborough club engaged a commercial crayfish fisherman last year, who has been been setting nets along the river, at one time collecting 50 kilos a week. Several nets were in place along this stretch, one that we examined having over a dozen large signal crayfish trapped waiting for collection.

It is hoped that once the numbers of this invasive species are under control, the wild trout spawn will have a chance to develope and grow. When I first joined the flyfishing section of the club, juvenile wild brown trout were present in large numbers, often at nuisance levels, but now they are a rare, but welcome sight. To complement the wild trout population, the club will be stocking a limited number of triploid brown trout throughout their section of the river.

Walking downstream to view the new bridge, the farmer had been busy adding to his stock of wood for sale, while also erecting 300 yards of cattle fence, again without consultation with the club, who have held the riparian fishing rights to this water for over 50 years. If he had consulted the club, we would have asked for the inclusion of a couple of access gates through the barbed wire fence, now we will have to wade across the river, or approach form downstream at the stile. The only good thing about the fence is that it will keep the boisterous young bullocks, that are brought on at the farm, well away from the anglers.

The new bridge at the stile was a work of agricultural art, with heavyweight railway sleepers bedded down into the ground over the ditch.

I can testify that the new sleepers are firmly held in place by steel brackets, while a wire mesh covers the woodwork giving a non slip surface. This ditch has ben a problem for years. Too wide to jump, with sides too steep and slippery to climb. The Farnborough club’s new management team are to be congratulated for their enthusiasm and ongoing improvements, which will result in a better angling experience for the paying members.

 

 

Looking forward to a complete 2021 trout fishing season

February 28, 2021 at 4:56 pm

A bright, but frosty morning greeted second planned River Whitewater work party of the year this weekend, the first having been cancelled due to a local Covid 19 outbreak. Our first sight of the Hampshire trout stream brought a shock. The farmer had cut down the riverside alders downstream of the farm bridge, extending down to the copse.

As we had passed through the yard, we had seen crates of freshly cut logs ready to be put in a barn for drying out, fuel for the ever growing domestic wood burner trade, now part of the farm’s regular income. The Farnborough club have the riparian fishing rights over this water, but the farmer does what he likes on the banks, including fences. I just hope that he leaves the stumps where they are to sprout new growth and offer bolt holes for the trout. More light getting through to the riverbed, will also help weed growth and provide cover.

These images were taken before last season, this one up to the bridge.

This image was from the copse looking back to the farm. All these alders are gone.

We can only look forward and plans are already underway to transplant ranunculus weed from a lower section of the river into what is now barren gravel.

From the farm bridge we walked upstream to begin clearing the banks, while cutting back far bank  brambles and overhanging branches, that had claimed flies during last year’s shortened season. It was good to see that the wild trout population had been busy creating spawning redds along the riverbed at intervals. We hope that the efforts of a couple of commercial crayfish trappers will have had an effect on the chances of the juvenile wild stock, with reports of 50 kilo hauls of signals a week up to the autumn.

This area benefitted from a much needed trim, with far bank branches and brambles cut back hard along the deep run that spills out from a deep pool top centre of this image.

Cutting back this bank was hot, back breaking work in the late February sunshine, but team work cleared the area ready for the new season, while with the aid of chest waders, the far bank head of the pool was made more accessible to a cast fly.

This pool has held several good fish for me in the past, including the over wintered beauty below.

In three hours, dead trees washed down by the floods had been removed, access points to the river improved and banks cleared, but more important was the fact that we have a fresh start to look forward to following a year of uncertainty.

Spring sunshine in the English countryside. What more could you want?

 

Fishing in and out of Lockdown

February 2, 2021 at 9:15 pm

Kept at home with Covid travel restrictions and no end in sight, I have concluded that it will be a long time before I can travel to my Farnborough and District Club waters, where I am Vice President, driving fifteen miles from my home not considered a reasonable distance to travel for exercise.

As a fly fisherman, I was first attracted to the Club to fish the tiny Hampshire chalk stream, that is the River Whitewater. Only seven miles in length, the club has the final 3 miles to where it joins the confluence of the River Blackwater, and is classed as a mixed fishery, with wild brown trout on fly fishing gear from 1st April until 30th September, with a crossover of methods with coarse fishing from the 16th June, until 15th march.

When the first Lockdown ended in mid May, I drove to the River Whitewater with my fly rod to take advantage of the annual Mayfly hatch and was fortunate to find a large over wintered brownie smacking into a hatch of green Mayfly. Being early in the season, the flies were hatching intermittently and this trout was making the most of those on the surface. I waded up along the bank until I was within casting range, a gusting upstream wind making placing the fly difficult, but after several casts, the fly drifted onto the surface just above the trout’s nose and it took. The 7 ft No 3WT rod bent double on the take and after a ten minute fight, the 22 inch trout was on the bank.

In early June I booked in to fish Shawfield Fishery, the Club restricting numbers to 15 people a day due to the Covid regulations. Opting to fish the small lake with the pole and the bread punch, I fed a heavy mix of liquidised bread and ground carp pellets in balls 7 to 10 metres out, plus a couple more in close alongside a bed of lilies. Small rudd were a nuisance, but tench moved into the swim and I landed four between 3lb and 4lb 8oz, my 12 – 18 red elastic coping well with the hard fighting tench. This was the biggest of the afternoon.

During August, just as we were beginning to think that life was returning to normal, the Club carried out a much needed work party on the badly overgrown bottom stretch of the River Whitewater at Ford Lane, opening up several swims for coarse fishing. A few weeks later I travelled light with just a rod and a landing net to try one of the new swims, catching roach on the bread punch, until a pike took one of my fish, the pike finally snagging me in some roots. Trotting worms on the stick float brought a succession of  perch, while a switch back to the punch put more roach and some chub in the net, before the pike returned to fish off the day.

The River Blackwater at Camberly club stretch has proved a perfect venue for bread punch roach on the stick float, but this Autumn after the second Lockdown, I found that the chub are growing on quickly, taking five hard fighting chub and some quality roach on the stick float with punched bread on the hook.

Now in 2021 the year ahead beyond the third Lockdown looks to be one of continuing restrictions, which I hope will be lifted enough to allow wider travel to some of my favourite fishing haunts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown 3 Latest. Angling reinstated as a permissible recreation

January 7, 2021 at 1:38 pm

Following representations from the Angling Trust and Members of Parliament, the Government have backtracked on their earlier decision to ban angling, due to it not being considered a viable form of exercise, but have reconsidered it as a permissible form of recreation. Tier 4 rules apply, with social distancing and no more that two people fishing together, while fishing competitions remain banned. Tackle shops can open on a strictly click and collect basis. Travel to fish should be kept as local as possible.

Having allowed angling to continue throughout Lockdown 2, it did seem illogical to ban it for this third lockdown. The mental health aspects of getting out in the fresh air and fishing are well documented, while anyone that has dragged their fishing tackle from the car, then trudged over wet ground to their favourite fishing spot will agree, that it is also a healthy form of physical exercise, apart from landing a decent net of fish.

 

 

 

Whitewater work party breathes new life into a neglected fishery

July 26, 2020 at 6:45 pm

A new committee has been working wonders at Farnborough and District Angling Society this year. Having signed a new three year lease on the river Blackwater, but lost a stretch of the river Loddon due to a housing development, it has decided to revitalise a long neglected mile of the river Whitewater, which is known for big chub and the occasional barbel. The upper reaches are reserved for fly fishing during the trout season, but the lower section has become overgrown and impenetrable over the years.

Arriving at the 9:30 am start time, it was obvious that I was not the first to arrive and the sound of chainsaws and strimmers could be heard in the distance.

Managing to squeeze my car onto a narrow verge, I walked back over the river bridge and followed upstream the sound of machetes on undergrowth, joining a couple of the guys clearing a pathway through seven foot high ferns. Armed with an extendable pole saw, I decided to concentrate on chopping Himalayan Balsam. Having tried pulling the balsam, it was much quicker to chop it, getting three, or four plants at a time, knowing that the flowers had little chance of growing on again.

Swims were already being opened up by small teams, while larger groups were dealing with trees with a chainsaw.

I continued upstream doing my balsam chopping, working up a sweat, while others made their way up toward Riseley Mill. Once I had dealt with this lot, I made my way back.

I was amazed to see this swim, it had been completely closed in when I had move up earlier on, now it was looking spick and span.

I can’t wait to trot a stick float under those trees. These swims are virgins in need of violation.

Another job well done by the Farnborough club’s volunteers. This was just the first phase on opening up this water, many of the members there unaware that the club held the rights to this interesting little river. The Whitewater confluence joins the river Blackwater a few hundred yards from this point, where the club hold the rights up to the Ford. Another work party in the offing.

There was one last job to do for the FDAS crew. Get my car out of the ditch at the side of the road, when the car managed to embed itself in the verge, due to too much right foot of the driver. After demolishing a jungle, it was nothing that a dozen pairs of hands, a tow rope and a FWD pick up couldn’t handle. Thanks lads.

 

 

A late visit rewarded by a wild Whitewater trout

July 24, 2020 at 10:19 pm

While my wife settled down to watch a couple of her TV favourites, Garden Rescue and Location Location, I put my fly fishing gear in the car and headed off to the River Whitewater this week. The river has not been stocked this year and for my first visit in six weeks, I was not expecting much, but it was good to get out on a warm sunny evening with nothing more than a flyrod, a net and a box of flies.

Parking at the farm, I walked down to the old cattle drink looking for rising fish, but apart from a few minnows nothing was moving and after trying a size 16 dry Hares Ear without a touch, I waded back out of the river looking for an alternative in my box. I found a smaller size eighteen Gold Ribbed Hares Ear Goldhead nymph and attempted to tie it on, but managed to hook my lip, while pulling the knot tight. Yeouch! That was extremely painful going in, while  extracting the tiny barbless hook was eye watering. It is amazing how much blood came out of that hole, needing to wash the fly in the clear river.

Recovered, I waded back in past a dead branch, that had been washed down in recent floods, keeping my casts up to the right, as the crayfish man had a couple of pots mid stream. The flow was just right and I retrieved to stay in contact with the nymph as it drifted back, the leader greased to within two feet of the fly acting as an indicator. I saw a few taps, which I put down to minnows, or small dace, but nothing else.

Enthusiasm diminishing, I moved further downstream to the old weir, where there was bound to be a trout lurking, even a small perch would have been welcome at this time. Working both sides of the race and the pool along the other bank without a pull, I waded up to the base of the weir, casting along the bank under the trees, once guaranteed to get a take from a chub, or a trout, but again nothing.

With the sun gone behind the farm buildings, this used to be the time for catching on the Whitewater, but something has gone wrong in the past five years. OK it is not the River Test, but enjoyment has given way to punishment these days. Maybe it is the multitudes of signal crayfish scraping a living on the bottom, the crayfish man is apparently having trouble carrying the hauls back to his van, or maybe it is the mink and pike?

The light was going and I was having trouble seeing my leader against the surface, so I decided that enough was enough and retreated to the bank, walking back to the cattle drink, where I stood on the gravel of the overspill casting up into the gloom of the pool. This was the last chance saloon, having caught many trout that have dropped back into the fast shallow water in the past. Extending my casts a yard at a time, the line suddenly zipped taut and a trout tumbled on the surface as I lifted my rod.

The power of a trout is always a shock after months of catching roach, even a relatively small one, as this one was, fights for all it is worth. The bronze, gold flanks of this fish flashed beneath the surface as I tried to stay in contact, elated yet fearful, that the tiny hook would lose its grip. Was this the same fish that I lost here two months ago? At the tail of the pool, I waited for the trout to give up, lifting my rod as it drifted down into my landing net. Full bodied and about 6 oz, I carried the wild brownie to the bank for a photo, the camera flash whiting out much of the colour, but still a beautiful fish.

The hook was just inside the jaw, which pushed out with forceps and while still in the net, I held the trout facing up into the flow on the gravel run, until it was ready to swim free. Thinking that it would return to the pool, I was surprised that it turned and disappeared downstream.

My last Whitewater outing had resulted in a wild fish, but they are few and far between these days.

 

 

Wild brown trout hard to find after the Mayfly hatch

June 11, 2020 at 7:02 pm

A late afternoon visit to the river Whitewater this week, saw me heading toward black clouds, as I drove west, but hoped that a late Mayfly hatch and a trout, would compensate for a soaking. By the time I reached the river, the clouds had parted to allow sunshine to break through, warming the air as I heading down from the road bridge. I kept my eye open for Mayfly and rising fish, stopping below a tunnel of trees to watch a brownie of a pound rise occasionally to a sparse hatch. A sideways cast was needed to avoid the overhanging branches, while a down stream wind added to my difficulties, but after several attempts, the fly line carried enough momentum to cast the fly into the shadows. As my Mayfly emerged from the gloom, the trout rose from the side and turned, taking the fly, a reflex action setting the hook, but not for long as the brownie boiled on the surface and came off the barbless hook. Struck too soon! Lack of practice.

Not stopping to fish on, I decided to walk to the bottom of the beat about half a mile down, where a work party had cleared the banks, stopping at the farm bridge to view the river, another trout rising twice beneath the over hang of a tree, safe from any angler’s fly.

Walking down to the spot, I could see it through a gap in the trees. There was faster water here at the tail of the pool, but no chance to cast a fly, even with chest waders from the middle of the river, so I contented myself by watching as it hung around at midwater, drifting up to the surface to gently sip in small flies that I could not identify, while ignoring a mayfly that scudded across its vision.

Continuing past the jungle of trees, I came to an opening, where a tree had been removed, allowing a clear upstream cast up to a gap in the vegetation, where a fish rose. There were no Mayfly about, but I cast mine to it, the fish coming up again after the big artificial had passed it by. Another cast and the Mayfly was ignored again. I tied on a size 16 Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, which is a good general pattern, that seems to work for me in most situations, sitting high in the surface film, when rubbed in with floatant and unaffected by the wind.

By the time that I was ready, the fish had risen again and I made false casts up to it. Another yard from the reel and the fly floated to the surface, drifted a foot, then disappeared in a swirl. Striking, I lifted the line from the water making contact and boiling the fish on the surface. It was not a big trout and I stripped back line to stay in contact, not wishing to loose this one, no matter how small. Zig zagging from side to side it fought well and I took my time to net it from the bank with my net fully extended.

Not a monster, about 4 oz, but a perfect wild trout all the same, proof that this little river still has a self sustaining wild trout population. After unhooking it was lowered back in with the landing net, bolting back to the depths with no ill effects.

I headed back, unsuccessfully trying my luck again at the S bend, but by now the clouds had returned and drizzle was blowing across the field. Time to go.

 

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  trout 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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

River Whitewater trout fishing revamp

February 10, 2020 at 3:39 pm

I always look forward each year to the first working party on the River Whitewater, the little Hampshire trout stream showing early signs of spring, as members began work cutting back trees and tidying the banks in preparation for the trout season opener on April 1st. The distinctive aroma of wild garlic crushed under foot welcomed us, as we made our way down to the intended work area, hazel catkins having already matured and fresh bright green leaves bursting from buds.

For the coming season, the fly fishing has come under the control of the parent club, Farnborough and District Angling Society, offering trout fishing to members at a reduced rate as an add on to the general membership. Another bonus is the removal of the nominated three day a week fishing, Sunday to Tuesday, or Thursday to Saturday, which restricted fishing time. As a Thursday to Saturday fisher, I often was forced to sit on my hands on a glorious Tuesday, only to have it rain from Thursday onward. With such a good, but brief Mayfly hatch on this river, it will give more opportunities to tempt some of the elusive better specimens.

Work intended this year is to construct more berms to speed up the flow, felled trees providing the raw materials for this work. Here’s one we made earlier.

This weekend, the same berm has been working well for two seasons, creating a clean gravel run, ideal for spawning fish and feeding trout later on.

Another good sign this weekend was to see that ranunculus weed, taken from other parts of the river and transplanted elsewhere had taken well, despite the attentions of a family of swans, that spent much of their time feasting on the luxuriant growth.

With the full resources of the Farnborough and District club at its disposal, the fly fishing section are looking to take advantage of the opening up of a further mile of the Whitewater, the long neglected downstream section, the subject of further river improvement under the supervision of the Environment Agency this year.

One of the many variants of wild trout caught in the Whitewater.

 

 

 

 

Syndicate trout stream rewards persistance

May 18, 2019 at 11:34 am

Following up on my visit to a free urban trout stream, where the mayfly were just beginning to fly, I was encouraged to take the ten mile drive to my Hampshire syndicate chalk stream. The sun was shining and a light upstream wind was ruffling the surface, when I arrived after 3 pm.

Walking upstream it looked perfect, but something was missing, flies and rising trout. I had hoped to start with the White Mayfly, that I had used on the urban river, but was not so sure, deciding to make my way up toward the wier, before changing to a nymph.

This is what I found, when I got my rod down from its rack in the garage. A mouse had eaten the cork of the handle. Although off the ground, the mouse must have considered that it was worth the climb, only eating into one side, where my fingers wrap around. Maybe the floatant grease that I use had permeated into the corks, making a tasty mouse snack. The positive side is that I now have finger grips in the handle!

Without waders, I kept well away from the bank, pausing to study the river ahead, spotting a single rise 50 yards upstream close to the opposite bank. It rose again as I neared the spot, a raft of branches that had collected at a small bush. Another rise coincided with the first sight of a white mayfly lifting off from the surface. Casting was going to be difficult from this high bank, with trees hanging over the water, but a mayfly disappearing in a swirl ahead of me spurred me on. Sitting on the bank with my legs over the river, I made side casts up to the spot, but the upstream wind caught the leader each time, swinging it back over to my side. Mayfly were still lifting off, but a vertical cast saw the fly line land heavily ahead of the fish. It stopped rising.

The artificial was soon waterlogged, sinking on landing, so I got up and moved on, making false casts as I walked to dry it out. There were still a few Mayfly about and another rise a 100 yards ahead saw me approach with caution. Here cattle had broken the bank down and was able to stand at water level to cast, although once again overhanging branches called for a side cast.

The trout was rising every few minutes on the outside of the bend below a willow and I edged closer, increasing the length of my casts, being frustrated each time that I had the range, to catch on dead, long grass and cow parsley along the bank behind me. Plenty of time, mayfly were still coming off and the fish was still plopping away. Retrieving the fly for the second time, I went grass cutting, reducing the obstacles by hand, then inched back to my rod to start again.

The artificial was regreased, rubbed between my fingers, recast and ignored. The wind was still blowing the fly away from the bank and I aimed further in, watching it float down dangerously close to the bank. The trout took in a side swipe and I was in! An initial boil and it bolted upstream, stripping line toward the bend. Side on it was a long fish and not stopping, testing the rod as it bent to the butt. Against the pressure it came back, giving repeated, but shorter bursts of power each time. Standing at the tail of the pool, I bided my time, until it was ready for the net, drifting it across the shallows to be scooped up.

Not a wild fish, but a well conditioned stockie 17 inches long, fueled by a regular supply of Mayfly. After returning to the river, holding its head facing upstream, it kicked away to swim back to the pool.

I was content with this brown trout, walking back to the road, not being tempted by the few fish now rising to another Mayfly hatch.