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River Meon trout rise in the sun at Titchfield.

July 15, 2013 at 7:35 pm

Long time fishing buddie John, made contact earlier this year, saying he’d been accepted as a member of Park Gate Fly Fishing Club, which had trout fishing on the River Meon near Falmouth. John relocated to the area a few years ago, and   following a few successful outings of his own, he secured a guest ticket for me, which saw us parking up at the Fisherman’s Rest pub on one of the hottest days of the year. 

In the lee of Titchfield Abbey, the Segensworth Beat sees the Meon meander through meadows, on it’s steady flow towards the English Channel a few miles downstream. At 10 am, a blustery wind was the only relief from an already baking sun and I was not too optimistic, that we would see any action from the native brown trout, as we made our way upstream.

This mindset was soon dismissed, when I saw the spotted back of a trout rise a few yards ahead, the fish tight to the bank on the outside of a bend, protected by cow parsley overhead and a weed bed ahead.  An accurate cast was called for and against the downstream wind, I succeeded in putting the fish down, when I piled my line onto the surface with a splash above it’s head. Getting to grips with a new, shorter rod, John fared no better, when he gave the fish a try. Putting this one down to experience, or the lack of it, we moved upstream to a clump of trees, where we could see another trout rising. John moved up to cover this, while I tried a small gold head pheasant tail nymph along a weedy channel, without success. I watched a small fly hatch from the surface and drift down back to the bend, where our trout rose and sucked it down. A year as a nymph on the riverbed , then a brief few minutes in the July sun, before it’s end in the stomach of a trout. I retraced my steps, back below the bend and sat with my boots dangling in the river, while I tied on a size 16 brown, ribbed Klinkhammer to match the doomed fly. The wind had dropped slightly and with a better angle of attack, my fly was dropping softly to the surface, just inviting a take, which never came. Between casts, it had risen again and I could see it come up from the bottom three feet below. The size 18 pheasant tail went back on and made a cast well upstream to allow the nymph to sink, then as it drifted past the trout I lifted the rod to induce a take. Second cast it worked, the leader straightening after the lift and I was playing my first Meon trout, although this was not that rising fish, but a well marked little wildie.

I didn’t try for the larger fish, feeling that it deserved to be left alone and moved up to join John, who was still trying to attract the attention of another educated trout. Typically, while I was throwing out a line onto the water, prior to casting proper, a small brownie grabbed the nymph, then came off, proof that the scorching weather had not put the trout off feeding. There was another rise up and across, so having greased the line to within 6 inches of the nymph, I made a cast just above and struck, when the surface bulged with a taking trout. This was a better fish than my first and bored deep, shaking it’s head, then came off. I cursed myself for trying to play this one on the reel, having given it too much slack, while I recovered line. The surface upstream was becoming dimpled by rises and a good hatch of olive duns was under way and moved up to join John again.

A trout was rising steadily beneath an oak to my right and a change back to the Klinkhammer, got a response first chuck, which I missed with a snatched strike, not delaying long enough for the fish to turn over the fly. A few yards up, two fish were rising together between weeds and the opposite bank. I tried for the nearest, but was ignored several times, then pulling out more line, dropped the fly on the nose of the second and saw the satisfying sight of a good fish roll, when the hook struck home. This was a very hard fighting trout and this time I stripped the line back, when it made a break for the roots downstream of me, hanging on, until the runs reduced and John slipped the net under it.

The fin perfect brown trout with a massive tail,  measured 15 inches. If a stockie, it was certainly over wintered, although with so many fish introduced to these southern streams over the last hundred years, it could have been a naturally bred fish. These days introduced stock browns tend to be triploids incapable of breeding, so that the pure strain survives; whatever that is. The fight had taken the steam out of this one and it was ten minutes before it swam out of my hands. This was a good time to return to the Fisherman’s Rest and join the packed riverside garden for a liquid lunch, watching more trout rising beneath the trees on the downstream stretch.

Despite these free rising trout, we elected to return upstream, as John wanted to check a gate, where poachers had dug underneath to gain entry to the fishery. The Club’s working party two weeks before had filled the gap with large logs wired together, in an attempt to keep them out, but to no avail, the logs had been dragged clear and the gap was back. These were strong and determined poachers, who will only be stopped by iron bars set in concrete. 

 We continued to fish on the way up to and back from the gate, both rising and losing trout on our way, but landing no others, but were content having had the privilege to enjoy this pretty little river. After a quick cup of tea, with some of Wendy’s lemon drizzle cake, I was soon making my way through the traffic back to the Motorway and home.

Chimenea for hot smoked trout

July 11, 2013 at 5:52 pm

With the BBQ season in full swing, and if you own a patio chimenea, you may wish to try my method to produce some delicious smoked trout.

Many years ago, a friend used to smoke his trout using a length of clay soil pipe, standing upright on bricks. He would light a small wood fire in the gap between the bricks, then put wet oak chippings on the embers, hanging the filleted and prepared trout down the pipe. It worked a treat. This was always in my mind, when I bought the chimenea as a patio heater and have also used it to smoke mackerel.


A 2lb rainbow trout, filleted down to about a pound, removing back and pin bones. Leave the skin on.

Two table spoons of demerara sugar.

One table spoon of sea salt.

One dessert spoon of  ground black pepper.

One cup of hickory, or oak chips (available at garden centres) soaked in water for at least an hour


Part of the smoking process is to draw the moisture out of the fish.

Mix the sugar, salt and pepper together in a bowl.

Place the fish skin side down in a dish and spread the sugar mix over the flesh, gently rubbing it in, until evenly coated. Cover the dish and leave in the fridge over night at least. I usually prepare mine the morning of the day before smoking and take it out in the afternoon of smoking. You will be amazed at the amount of liquid extracted by the mix. Wash off the salt/sugar mix under a tap and leave to dry in the covered dish. The texture of the flesh will have firmed up during the drying process.


I often smoke the trout during a BBQ and scoop out some greyed off  embers as a heat source. Place these in the chimenea and test the heat coming out of the chimney. You should be able to hold your hand over for ten seconds. Tip some soaked chips over the coals, which will begin to smoke.

The fish should be put in clamps and suspended in the chimney, using a skewer though the clamps, to allow the smoke to rise up. To keep the fire low, cap the chimney and cover the door to the chimenea with foil. Keep the smoke going by adding more soaked chips at ten minute intervals.

Depending on the heat, the fish should be ready after about 25 minutes. It is easy and chef’s perks to test the flesh by lifting and pulling off a flake. The timing usually works out, so that the fish is ready, after the meat is consumed from the BBQ. If just smoking the fish, start a small fire using briquettes, or charcoal on the chimenea and allow to burn down to embers, before putting on the chips and suspending the fish.

Food Heaven on a Plate, helped down by a glass of Pimms






Dry fly reward at Latimer Park Fishery

July 8, 2013 at 1:05 pm

A short email from my friend Peter simply said “Would you like to be my guest at Latimer next Tuesday?” My reply “Yes please!”, resulted in an early start, being the first anglers to arrive at the exclusive syndicate trout fishery near Chesham. The delightful river Chess, now returned to it’s former glory as one of Buckinghamshire’s best chalkstreams, runs through the heart of the fishery, forming two lakes stocked with rainbow trout, while the indigenous brown trout grow large on a ready supply of natural food.

Peter suggested we begin fishing in the top lake and as we made our way up towards the weir, it was hard to believe that this part of the rural Chilterns, overlooked by it’s stately home, was only a few miles from the M25 motorway. The lake is only a few feet deep at it’s edges, but the depth increases considerably, where the valley follows the original river course and a few fish were already rising in the middle and towards the far bank, when Peter suggested we give this side a try first.

I set up my 9 ft Diawa Whisper, a soft action rod ideal for surface fishing, when it is sometimes too easy to snatch the fly from a taking trout, or break off on the strike. Coupled with a No. 7 weight forward floating line, I was soon casting towards the trout, lazily sampling the surface soup menu, my Shadow Mayfly sitting proudly, awaiting their attention. There was a rise a few feet away and I twitched the fly on the surface, then a nose appeared to nudge it. I twitched again, a back rose up and the fly was engulfed. My rod bent over as the hook took hold and the fish bore down towards the floor of the lake, before making a dogged run towards the far bank, stripping line in spurts of power, that saw my flyline down to the backing. At this time, my only sight of the fish had been it’s broad back, when it took the fly, but then it broached, shaking it’s head in an attempt to throw the hook and I could see a very large rainbow. The commotion brought Peter to my side and we waited for the runs to shorten, before I brought the rainbow to the surface, for him to assist with the landing net and exclaim “A smoker!”. Peter cold smokes all his big fish and volunteered his services on this one.

This trout measured 24 inches from tip to tail and fought well, pushing the scales round to 5 lb 12 oz, being my best rainbow ever. The club rules for guests allow seven rainbows to be caught between us, the first and last to be killed, plus one other. Peter had had several misses, before once again I was into another fish, a plump full tailed two pounder. We moved back towards the club house, where a ripple had formed and several trout could be seen feeding. Blowing down the lake from right to left, the breeze made it more difficult for us “righthanders” to cast, but twitching the fly worked well and Peter had soon broken his duck, with me following up with a three pounder on the bank, which was returned to “become a smoker”.

The time flew by, with us both hooking and losing fish on the barbless hooks, until our limit was reached late in the morning, four for the guest, with the biggest fish, while Peter was content with his three, knowing that he would be back the following day. Returning to the clubhouse for the weigh in and a welcome cup of tea, one of the other members had banked a 7lb wild brown trout, before returning it. The members returning all browns.

As Peter drove up the lane away from this peaceful haven, back to the M25 and reality, I reflected on a perfect morning’s fishing, while I’m sure my host was pleased, that he had been able to provide it.

Back to basics for carp in the local pond.

June 28, 2013 at 11:36 am

Nestled between the railway line to London and houses bordering the local recreation ground, is a small pond, where mothers take their children to feed the ducks, unaware of the monsters, that swim among the lily pads. Fed by a small stream, flowing from a much larger lake and inaccessible by road, this 100 yard long pool remains untested, apart from those anglers prepared to travel light. I’d discovered this hidden gem, while on a scenic walk to the neighbourhood Tesco, the glint of water through the trees, gaining my attention.

Being a quarter of a mile from my house, it is an easy walk and with a trolley to take my tackle box, I only need to carry a landing net and  a pole. Being a fly angler, this style of fishing suits my mood, being that it can be done on a whim. A can of sweet corn, or luncheon meat is usually on hand at home for an instant bait supply. Bread also works well here, but also attracts the nibbling smaller rudd, while I prefer the larger common and crucian carp, these fish happy to take any bait, unlike the hard pressed commercial fisheries visited by the majority of fishermen these days. On this occasion my bait needs were satisfied from the freezer, boiled hemp seed and cubed luncheon meat from a previous outing, thawed in a saucepan by boiling water, had me ready in minutes.

Being mid afternoon, I set up beside a shade giving tree, the late June sun giving blasts of unaccustomed heat, whenever it appeared from behind the clouds. The swim was edged by lilies, which grow out to the edge of a deeper channel in the shallow pond, about a metre at it’s deepest. My aim was to feed an area with hemp seed, eight metres out towards the drop off and along the lilies, with the occasional free offering of luncheon meat loose fed from time to time. I had two flavours of luncheon meat, termeric and strawberry, the prepared cubes having been placed in bags, a spoon full of each flavouring added and shaken, coating the cubes. These had been done on my previous outing and were well infused. My float rig was a simple affair, a dibber float cocked by two BB shot, with a No 6 down the line, 150 mm from the size 14 barbless hook.

Having fed the area as I set up my tackle, it was no surprise, when the float zoomed away on my first cast, with a 2 oz rudd hooking itself. I continued to keep a steady supply of feed going in and after about a dozen rudd, the float slid slowly away in the direction of the lilies, followed by the bright orange elastic stretching out, when I lifted into a good sized common carp, which broached on the other side of the bed. This was a an untested top two pole section, with heavy 16-18 elastic and decided to hold the pole at right angles to the carp, pulling hard through the lily bed, letting the elastic do the work. This was a mistake, the fish gave another lunge and the hook pulled out. With the pond so shallow, the carp go away at tremendous speed, unable to use their weight in deep water. I resolved next time to follow the fish through it’s run, with the pole, to reduce the load on the hook.

I didn’t have long to wait to test my theory, a bit more feed and the float sank out of  sight to be met by solid resistance, the elastic tracing the path of the fleeing carp. This time I followed with my pole, reducing the pressure, the fish cutting  through the lily bed in seconds to come out on the other side. As the elastic reduced in length, so I brought back my pole, until the chunky common carp was in the open water in front of me. Feeding the main length of pole behind me, I detached the top 3 metres and played the fish on the elastic to the net.

 More  commons followed, I still lost a couple of nice fish, despite my efforts, two 4lb hook links snapping like cotton, when the elastic shot out to it’s limit on possible double figure fish. An hour in, the bites changed as a shoal of crucian carp moved onto my feed, gone was the steady sinking away of my float, to be replaced by bobs and lifts as they played cat and mouse with the bait. The crucians seemed to prefer the strawberry flavoured meat, lifting the bait off the bottom, along with the No 6 shot and sucking the small cubes, the float rising slightly each time. A strike would often result in a bump and no fish, or a short stabbing fight before the fish came off. This did not put them off, and I landed more than I missed, most hooks dropping out in the landing net, these 6 to 8 oz crucians scrapping hard. I was still being bothered by rudd, but some were a reasonable size, my best being fin perfect at around 8 oz.

A lone tench gave a solid fight, but it was the crucian carp that made the running, with the occasional common rushing off to provide a bit of excitement and a few Oooos and Aaaahs from a varied gallery of onlookers, that had gathered, or were passing along the raised ground behind me. The warm evening had brought everyone out to enjoy their particular pastime, but at eight o’clock, with the bites still coming, I called a halt on mine and pulled in my keepnet, accompanied by a few gasps of my audience. I’d only kept the  carp and the scales swung round to show over 18 lbs in the net, so including those roach and rudd thrown back, over 20 lbs in four hours was good going from such a small pond.

Rhubarb and Ginger Jam

June 26, 2013 at 6:20 pm

With the rhubarb season in full swing, why not try making rhubarb and ginger jam. The unique flavour of the bitter sweet rhubarb combines perfectly with the zing if the ginger. This is a simple recipe for 4lbs of jam.


2 lb fresh rhubarb

2 lb preserving sugar

4 oz of ginger root


Wash and cut the rhubarb into roughly one inch lengths. Place in a large bowl.

Peel and chop the ginger into thin slices 2 mm thick, then cut to smaller pieces 6 to 8 mm long. If you like a ginger surprise, then leave the ginger in larger pieces.

Add the ginger to the bowl of rhubarb and mix in.

Pour in the sugar and stir together. Cover the bowl and leave for 24 hours. After this time the sugar will have drawn the juice and flavour from the fruit, leaving a semi liquid mix. Transfer to a preserving pan, or a large sauce pan. Bring to the boil slowly and continue to boil gently, stirring frequently for approximately 12 minutes.

Test that the jam is ready by placing a small amount on a cold plate for a few seconds. If it wrinkles, when pushed, it’s ready. If not, give the jam another few minutes and try again. When ready, leave to cool for ten minutes, while you thoroughly clean your jam jars, which will still be warm when you pour in the jam. Immediately place a waxed disc on top of the jam, followed by the lid. This will prevent any chance of mould forming, when stored. When cool, label up the jars for future use.

Wild brown trout fishing among the rocks in Wales

June 21, 2013 at 11:54 pm

In one of my other lives as the owner of a classic MGB sports car, a long weekend had been booked by my club at a remote Bed and Breakfast on a farm in mid Wales, from where motoring tours were arranged. Not wishing to miss out on the chance to fish one of the wild streams in the area, I squeezed my brook  rod and a bag of bits into the small boot, before heading west on the 200 mile journey.

The farm had a small river along it’s border and with a couple of hours to spare on the last day, I went down the valley to investigate, rod in hand, wearing borrowed wellies.

This was a typical mountain stream, a complete contrast to the lazy south of  England chalk streams I usually fish these days, but I cut my fly fishing teeth on the streams of Devon, the Isle of Man, Wales and Scotland and I knew that any deep pocket, or pool would have small brown trout in residence. Walking up the valley bluebells were still in full bloom, testament to the hard Welsh winter this year.

The fun of these rivers is discovering the holding spots and wading up amongst the rocks, the best way to find them. Traditionally two flies are used, a buoyant “bob” fly as an indicator and a small down winged, wet fly on the point, fished downstream, but I opted for a small Hares Ear nymph fished upstream to start. With any new water, there is always that feeling of doubt, “are there fish here, or not?” I had just moved up to a run below a fall of water, when I got my answer. Flicked into the boil, the line drifted back, then shot forward as a bundle of energy made off with the nymph and came off seconds later. My appetite whetted, I tried again and missed another take. Another pool and a deep run with an eddy hard against the rocks.  The nymph bounced off  the bank, the nymph sank in the eddy, with the line going in the opposite direction, then moved upstream, a lift and a 7 inch trout was zooming among the rocks.

I’d picked my way upstream, in and out of the river for maybe a quarter of a mile before I saw THE pool. It was formed above a series of small waterfalls, the river forcing through two large rocks, scouring out a channel four feet deep and opening out to a pool twenty feet long, which was up to three feet deep in places. The surface was covered in clouds of small flies, while large crane flies bobbed up and down in a courtship dance. Small trout were splashing on the top and I changed flies to a tiny buoyant Klinkhammer, but could not get it onto the pool due to overhanging trees and a gusting wind blowing down the valley. After several position changes, I backtracked down the river to a stony beach, then made my way through the virgin undergrowth, up to one of the rocks at the head of the pool and made myself comfortable. From here I had a view down the pool and could see, against another rock, an eddy with a half pound trout sitting above it’s outlet. For this river, he was probably the king of the pool, occasionally rising in a swirl, to suck in flies trapped in the surface of the eddy.

Several attempts to land the Klinhammer within range of this fish failed miserably, the trees and wind adding to the complication, but now another problem raised it’s head. Without warning I was engulfed by a cloud of minute midges, swarming over my hands and face. I could feel them before I could see them, semi transparent dots, like oil clinging to my skin, which I wiped away with my hands. My hood was pulled over my cap and my sleeves over my wrists, but still they swarmed. I changed my fly to a heavy nymph to get down to the fish at the tail of the pool, but my concentration was going fast and my first take raised a trout to the surface to be lost. At this point I was spending more time thinking about the midges, than fishing, when the rod top rattled, bent over and I was playing a better trout, which took refuge beneath the rock I was sitting on. Bringing this beautiful wild trout through the foaming river to the net, made me briefly forget my agony and once unhooked and released, I had one thought, get out of there quick.

Once on the move again, the swarm was gone, but my hands were covered in red dots and once I returned to the farm, could see that my eyes were ringed with red. The farmer, who had lent me the boots, now held up a bottle of midge repellent with a knowing look that said “fancy going out fishing without putting on midge repellent” We do not get midges like it in southern England, my only other experience being when fishing a similar stream in Michigan, but they were full blown mosquitos and looked dangerous, not these micro blood suckers. The post script to this tale, is that five days after being bitten, my hands, arms and face are still covered in raised welts, which itched to the point of burning for days and resisted every remedy known to science.


Baked rabbit loins in pesto and bacon parcels.

June 20, 2013 at 10:50 am

The best parts of a rabbit are the loins running either side of the spine. A quick, easy and very tasty way to cook these is to bake them in foil, wrapped in bacon with red pesto. As in the illustration, they compliment a stir fry perfectly.


1 pair of rabbit loins, filleted. (per person)

2 rashers of smokey bacon cut in strips (two per rasher, or single streaky)

1 heaped table spoon of red pesto (Sainsbury or Waitrose)

As an alternative to pesto, try mixing soft cheese with mixed Italian herbs to add to the chopped chorizo.

I always have some chorizo sausage in the fridge and a 4mm slice finely chopped, added to the “sandwich” can give an extra boost to the flavour.

Kitchen foil to suit


Liberally coat the loins with the pesto, then lengthwise put them together side by side, making sure there is plenty of pesto between them like a sandwich. Take the strips of bacon and wrap them at an angle round the loins to make a parcel. Using a square of foil, loosely wrap the completed parcel leaving an air gap and seal the top. Repeat for each parcel.

Bake in a hot oven at 200C for twenty minutes, then open the foil to allow the bacon to brown and bake for a further five minutes. Pour the juices from the foil over the parcel and enjoy. As a winter dish, serve on a bed of mashed swede and potato, with a side of chopped bacon, onion, red pepper, tomato and mushroom, softened in a frying pan. Delicious.





Mayfly still on chalkstream trout menu

June 18, 2013 at 3:34 pm

Rain streaked windows, spelled out no fishing for me on my only available day this week, but the good old English weather relented once again and I found myself on the banks of my syndicate river by late afternoon, hoping for a last chance at Mayfly gorged trout.

Always an optimist, I tied on a Shadow Mayfly and went in search of rises, but the surface was undisturbed by any sign of fly, or fish, as I made my way downstream and paused at the tail of a deep pool. I thought it was worth a chuck and pushed down through the now tall undergrowth to the edge of the bank, from where I was able to parachute down the big fly. It had barely settled on the surface, when from below, a shape appeared and the Mayfly was gone in the boil of a take, as a fat wild brown dived back to the riverbed. Now the fun started, the trout running in all directions, only for me to realize, that I’d not extended my net, with the fish crashing around unseen,  somewhere below the bank. On the third attempt, I steered the beaten fish to where I thought my net should be and lifted to feel the weight of a successful netting.

This 13 inch brownie was quickly returned and I moved down to the the next pool, where I’d seen the first rise of the afternoon, a crease between flows holding a fish. The downstream wind blew the fly back a couple of times, but third time lucky again, there was enough slack for a decent drift and it was taken, just as it began to drag, by another battling wildie.

Slightly smaller at over 12 inches, this well marked brown swam off on release and with two fish in ten minutes, I tied on a fresh Mayfly and in the absence of more rises, began searching out along the edges, while I waded up to another pool.

The fly swept by a bush and sank beneath a ripple. On automatic, I made a sideward strike and felt the solid resistance of a good fish, seeing it’s full tail, as it bored deep into the pocket beneath the bush, refusing to budge, then bursting out and speeding off down the shallows, with me in hot pursuit, landing net in hand. An overwintered stockie, it took refuge in a hollow, where I netted it from behind.

At 17 inches with a massive tail, this fish had worked hard for his freedom and it settled back to the slower pace of the hollow to recover, while I decided to take the short drive down river to fish the big S bend, where I’d had  success earlier on this season. Wading back upstream to get out of the river, I couldn’t resist casting to another rise with the sodden Shadow Mayfly. Rubbing in Muccilin , the fly sat in the surface, rather than on it, but it was afloat long enough to take this 11 inch wild trout. Four individual trout, from four locations in under an hour, not bad for an old ‘un.

Resisting further temptation from more rising trout, I drove in my waders down to park at the road bridge. From here it is a 500 yard obstacle course through tussock grass to the S bend, where the stinging nettles were now at chest height along the bank.

Recovering my breath, I could see mayflies popping up to the surface everywhere, drifting down in the flow and lifting off, but no surface activity, bulges and bow waves indicating that the trout preferred taking the mayfly nymphs just below the surface. The wind was swirling about the pool, but now and then it would drop enough for a cast and I got in position at the tail to wait my turn. From that angle, the glare from the surface, even with polaroids, didn’t allow for a visual warning of trout and I kicked myself a couple of times for missing the unmissable. Having put these fish down, I waded deeper into the pool and could see large trout casually nosing into mayflies and managed to briefly hook and lose one, then miss another, before my timing was perfect and I set the hook into a water foaming stockie. Long runs gave way to short bursts of power and I eventually slipped the net under another 17 inch beast.

My need to catch fish was satisfied for another day and this one was returned, while others continued to rise despite my efforts to put them down. By the time I reached the van, I’d been on the water for under two hours, time enough to get my weekly fix, while the unfortunates toiled.

Urban river trout rise to the mayfly at last.

June 11, 2013 at 6:05 pm

Less than two weeks had passed since my last visit to the urban chalk stream, where unknown to many, wild trout flourish as the river winds through housing and industrial estates, offering free fishing to those willing to search out access to the water. My target this day was a short fifty yard stretch, surrounded by impenetrable trees on either side and accessed down the side of a bridge. Upstream the trees meet in the middle forming an arch, but once through the arch, like a secret garden, a long pool is revealed, before being shrouded by more trees. This has been my special place for years and has provided hours of sport from some of the most colourful trout in the river. Instead of gravel, the bottom is covered with broken bricks from a building that once stood on it’s banks and the trout have taken on a dark colouring to match the bricks. This is now history. I arrived to find a building site where the trees had been, only stumps remained among the rocks, a fence now preventing entry to the leveled ground and the river running along a naked bulldozed bank.

I was saving my visit, until the mayfly were hatching and had been cherishing the thought of catching naive trout on the dry fly. The next option was plan B, a return to the roadside along the bus route, where I knew others fished and the trout are not so forgiving. Intending to fish the overgrown secret pool, I’d only brought my seven foot brook rod, but this would now allow me to fish a few tree covered pools, unfishable with my 9 footer.

Mayfly were beginning to lift off as I waded up the clear shallows and I could see trout were already rising to them further up, where trees hide the river from the busy road just yards away. A deep pool runs alongside a lone far bank bush and I could see a good brown just below the surface, moving from side to side intercepting mayflies as they drifted down. My first cast went wide of the bush and I waited for the fly to get downstream of the trout before lifting, when splosh, a smaller fish took, taking me by surprise and hooking it’self. Although only a few ounces, it scrapped all over the river before coming to hand. The big one was still there and I could clearly see the spots standing out on it’s back, when I made a better cast, the wind helping my Shadow Mayfly to drop gently onto the surface. A movement of  it’s fins and the trout swung across and engulfed the fly. I struck and the trout launched vertically out of the river, falling back in a cartwheel motion, then zig zagging upstream  across the shallows, my reel screaming on the rachet, before diving for cover beneath a willow. My line was near the backing and I followed upstream trying to recover line, allowing the trout to wear it’self down, pulling against me and the current. The line went slack and I thought I’d lost it, but the line was doing a U-turn, following the speeding brown. I stripped line as it turned again and made firm contact, bringing the fish downstream under my terms, back to where my landing net was propped against the bank. A five, or six minute fight, who knows, it seemed to go on forever. Scooped up in the net, I made for the bank to remove the fly and take a picture, this being a silver bronze fish with huge spots of at least a pound, grown fat on mayfly.

Unfortunately this picture does not do the brownie justice, it’s red spots almost invisible from this angle, the light bouncing back off it’s silvery flanks. I could have stared at this wild fish all afternoon, but soon returned it and worked my way upstream hooking, or missing several other fast risers in the shallow pockets, before reaching  the willow pool, where I saw a the broad back of a trout of major proportions. No wonder my fish had come back out so quickly, he’d probably got a nip from this one. I tried several times to side cast beneath the willow fronds, to where this possible three pounder was lying slurping in mayflies, only succeeding in catching my fly. Being a cheapskate, I waded forward to get my fly, trying to keep low, but a bow wave heading upstream meant the fish was long gone. So was my fly. Beyond this point the trees make casting very difficult and I decided to get out of the river to fish above a concrete bridge.

Rejoining the river at the bus stop, there was sporadic rising, despite a steady supply of mayfly, just the occasional trout feeding for a few minutes, then stopping, only for other fish to start. My 4 lb tippet and fly renewed, I sat on the bank waiting for rises, sneaking within casting range, sometimes with no response, some with a miss and a couple with six and eight ounce browns that had no problems jamming the Shadow Mayfly in their mouths.

With the afternoon turning to evening, I began walking back down the river, eager to get on my way before the hordes headed home from work, but stopped when a swirl deep behind an overhanging tree indicated a better sized fish. Another swirl and a bow wave made me unclip my fly and have a go, this trout having dropped down from it’s safe position to begin feeding.

Being close to the road, I needed to time my cast to avoid passing cars and cyclists, a gap came and the cast fell short, another few feet and the fly bounced of a leaf , dropping into the sweet spot beneath the bank. A bow wave, a nose and the fly was gone. I knew the fish would be there when I lifted the rod, a splash and foaming water proving the point as I set the hook, followed by an upstream dash at high speed. These wild fish have so much muscle and power in their tails. The fight went from side to side, under banks of weed, along both banks, then finally downstream, where it arced back to my bank, it’s head came out and I netted it. The hook came out in the net and I worked hard to take a photo, when it wasn’t jumping about. Again the camera did not do this fish justice, this brown being almost as wide as it was deep.

As I was releasing this jewel of the river, a cyclist stopped saying that he was amazed to see this fish and asked if there were others like it. I just replied”Lots” and watched the spots blend in with the bottom and vanish.

Dog day afternoon start to Duffer’s Fortnight.

June 7, 2013 at 1:47 pm

A short evening visit to my syndicate river last week, saw more trout rising to the fly and more mayfly present, though ignored by most fish, the browns preferring to mop up waves of the smaller olives. Highlight of that evening was a fish rising hard under the bank foliage, which sipped in my Klinkhammer with barely a ripple, only to erupt into life  on the stike, the low sun on the water blinding me to the whereabouts of this large fish, as it dashed round the deep, root lined pool. I’d already extended my net to cope with the high bank and soon had this 17 inch stockie in my hands.

There were several bursts of activity typical of olive hatches, again mayflies were being ignored and I took wild browns up to 12 inches on the Klinkhammer from between the trees, the water was like glass, as the sun set.

Mayflies were settling on my van, as I pulled on my waders a few days later, the midday sun already 10 degrees centigrade higher than then, typical of English weather, giving the promise of free rising trout to the mayfly. Duffer’s Fortnight being the usual duration of the mayfly hatch, when even the most wary trout throw caution to the wind, to gorge on these large protein rich flies, giving fly fishermen a chance to catch the biggest fish in the water. The duffers are not the anglers, who still have to present their mayfly imitations among a constant supply of the real thing, but the trout slurping down two or three a minute in a feeding frenzy.

Once again my optimism was tested, as I looked upstream from the road bridge at the lower end of the fishery, to see mayfly drifting around in the breeze, but no rises to those lifting off the water. Emerging from the trees and walking along the meandering banks, the full heat of the sun now blasted down on the fields, which a few months ago had been covered by flood water.

Polaroids on, no fish were visible in the first five hundred yards, but a plop and a spreading ring on the water from under a tunnel of trees, was the first sign of a feeding trout. To get a chance at this fish, I continued upstream to a clearing, waded across, then hugging the bank, made my way down to to a bend, where a large tree formed an eddy, the trout stationed against the bank sucking in flies as they drifted in range. A normal cast was impossible, so I made several roll casts, until my upbodied mayfly landed just right and disappeared, leaving a bubble on the surface. I pulled into solid resistance, the river boiled and a very determined trout rushed out of the pool and made off downstream round the bend, where rooting along the bank, it snagged me and the leader snapped. Twenty minutes to present the fly and the fight over in seconds! Another fish had begun rising yards upstream, so a new length of 4 lb line was tied on along with my last remaining upbodied may fly and cast to this trout, which obliged with a slow take. I pulled out of it’s jaws and the fly pinged back and snagged in a tree out of reach. Snap! My two upbodied mayflies, bought in Colorado last year, gone in five minutes.

The afternoon was not going well and the sun was even hotter, when I climbed out of the river to continue my search for rising trout. Another few hundred yards on, I reached another small pool, where two trout were rising and taking mayflies from behind a bush. I got back in the river and waded up the shallows and managed to raise both fish to my Shadow Mayfly, twice each, without making contact. This pool is very deep, so continued up along the bank again, wondering if I would actually net a fish that afternoon, stopping at footbridge, where tell tale rings showed mayfly were now on the menu of several fish. My fly floated down to the surface, a dark shape slowly rose to take it, turned and I struck, the brief fight telling me that this was not a trout, but a chub and I swung in the red finned coarse fish. This released I cast again, same result, another chub about six ounces.

Above the bridge I could see a large fish was now feeding with abandon on mayflies and I approached low from the bank to see the swirling takes behind a bush on the other side. Getting as close as I could, this was not an easy cast with reeds on my side of the river and the bush to lose my fly in on the other, but the sight of a full, spotted tail each time the fish rose, spurred me on and my fly was snatched down seconds after touching the surface. After the initial battle was over, I had to find a way to net this big stockie, getting into the water off the steep bank was not on, with deep mud from the reed bed at it’s base. The only option was to play the brown to a standstill and steer it through the reeds to my extended net.

This well conditioned, overwintered stock fish measured 18 inches and needed ten minutes held upstream in the well oxygenated shallows to recover and certainly brought a sweat to my brow during the fight. I’d now broken my duck  and continued upstream, but saw no more rises, until I reached a tree shrouded pool, getting down into the cool, shaded river, where a pair of trout were rising line astern between the trees. The first took and fought well, netting a 12 inch silvery wild brown. This released, I tried for the other rising fish and was soon playing a very strong trout that stayed deep in the pool, being much smaller than the first impression given, another silver wild brown at 14 inches.

I now moved up to where I’d finished up a few days before and had caught a small 6 oz wildie, when my mobile rang, my wife curious to know when I would be home for our evening meal, this being a reminder that it was time to make my way back downstream. I passed numerous rising trout on my way back, the hot afternoon bringing clouds of mayfly spiraling into the air, but I managed to walk on by, until another big tail broke the surface below a bush on my side. My mayfly was again on the water and soon deep in the jaw of a spectacular stockie, bending my seven foot rod to the butt, as it made repeated dives, refusing to be beaten, but giving and taking line, I netted him from the high bank.

An inch shorter at 17 inches this heavily marked brown fought harder than the first, a just reward for persevering in the heat of the day and as I climbed back to the road, the river was echoing to the sound of rising trout taking mayfly. It could all be over by tomorrow.