Trout river desperate for a drink

July 23, 2013 at 4:55 pm

Returning to my syndicate trout river, after a few week’s break, I was met by a jungle of bankside growth and the lowest water levels I have seen. The banks were to be addressed by an imminent working party from members, but the river was on it’s stones, when I arrived for a couple of hours in the evening.

A mini heatwave, enjoyed by most humans, has forced the trout in this little river to search out the faster, more oxygenated water at the tails of recently created pools, or where there is direct flow. This allowed me to target these areas, which were holding more trout than usual, although choice of fly was difficult, as despite clouds of olives, sedges and even late mayfly spinners, spiraling into the air, few fish were rising. Much of my trout fishing has been done using nymphs, but the challenge of bringing a trout up to the fly, then timing the strike, as it turns back down, brings it’s own rewards of satisfaction. My easy option choice of fly was a size 16 ribbed Klinkhammer, it casts and lands well on the water, while it’s buoyancy allows it cope with the faster riffles.

I’d decided to walk down the fishery, before fishing back up, but got tempted by rising trout in the shallow water at the tails of the deep pools I passed, the toes of my waders barely covered, as I stalked over the stones to within casting range. This is real in and out casting, the fly dragging, if on the surface for a few seconds, while the fish have to react instantly at the sight of the fly in such fast and shallow water. The action was supplied by two year old wild browns only eight inches long , sometimes a heavy cast was enough to spook them into zig zag panic back to the deeper water, at other times the drop of the fly was met by a swirl, a splash and the satisfying thump of a fighting trout.

I reached the meadow and waded up through a channel of encroaching undergrowth, a spot where a deep pool had formed around a bush, which was now shallow with reeds growing up in the middle of it. I’d had some good fish here earlier in the season, but this time my fly got no response from the hot spot and waded up further towards a trout rising at regular intervals above the reeds.  I made casts to each side of the reeds, getting agitated every time my line caught in the overhanging nettles and grass, but the fish would not move from it’s safe haven. I made a cast over the reeds, the fly drifted six inches and was sucked down by the unaware trout, which, after a short tussle, buried it’self in the reed roots and I had to wade up to get it out. Another perfect plump young brown.

The evening was getting on and I’d taken my fourth small brown, along with several on offs, while wading up the river, mudflats exposed where there had been deep water, when another rise from a small bay, saw the klinkhammer parachute down to the waiting trout. A take and the shock of a larger trout boiling, then speeding up to the pool above, awoke me from my relaxed state, line streaming from the reel, as it plunged round the depths, only for it to surface, then spin around on it’s back like Flipper. At this point the hook lost hold and the one pound brownie drifted back towards me on it’s side, before it awoke again, to charge around the pool in a panic. I can only think that the river had deoxygenated in the heat and the trout had run out of “breath”.

With the Klinkhammer now sodden, and no more rises apparent, I put on a size 18 GH Pheasant Tail nymph to continue my walk back to the van, stopping when I saw a swirl in the shallows of a small weir, where a tree grows out of the pool. I worked the pool with the nymph, taking another small brown, which I shook off the barbless hook in the water. Lifting off a few cast later, the line went solid and a powerful fish dived down into the base of the tree, with my rod at full bend, as I tried to get it out. Next thing, the rod came back and a fat perch of around a pound and a half, zipped across in front of me, dorsal fin raised and made for the faster water, pulling hard upstream. The perch was soon beaten and drifting on it’s side across the stones toward my hand, my net being on the bank. It’s striped flanks and big white mouth, were intimidating, big perch having a fixed look of being very cross about them. My luck ran out, when it jumped from my hand in the shallows, the tiny hook coming out with a pop and I watched it’s broad back disappear, as it made it’s way with a waddling motion across the shallows to the pool.

Another good photo opp0rtunity missed, the light was now fading and I made my way along the bank with purpose, stopping to amuse myself, sneaking a few more small browns out from their various lies, feeling slightly guilty for disturbing them on such a sultry evening.

Winning the match that never was

July 21, 2013 at 9:10 pm

Last year notices appeared, by order of The Council, that fishing on two local ponds would be banned, unless a fishing club was formed, due to a litter problem. Now, I had been fishing one of these ponds for a year and witnessed a whole variety of people leave sandwich wrappers and drinks bottles within feet of the litter bins, while walking by, or picnicing. Placing the blame on only anglers was unjust, many of whom like myself, walk round at the end of a fishing session and pick up all the litter, which is then dropped into the bin.

Under pressure to avoid losing a local amenity, a club was formed by the usual suspects, those interested in their environment and who believe in sticking to the rules, while many others refused to pay for fishing, that had been free since childhood, which is understandable. Forwarding on a year, working parties had been carried out and banks cleared by the Few, but poor bailiffing did not get the message across, that this was now a private fishery, so returning membership fell away at the start of the 2013 season. The Committee of the Club, decided that a fishing match would be a good showcase, so today’s date was decided upon and notices posted.

Having  agreed to run the match, I arrived early to do the draw and take the entry fee, it to be a winner take all pool. The car park was empty, so busied myself unloading my fishing tackle and fitting it onto my fishing trolley. The allotted time, 8 am, came and went. A lone dog walker arrived for a chat, eventually being dragged off on her way by a tree sniffing mongrel. No Chairman, no Secretary, or Treasurer, let alone an ordinary member appeared on a balmy Sunday morning, just right for fishing. 

Shrugging my shoulders, I decided to start anyway, the others would have to slot in, when they turned up, first come first served. The sun was masked by cloud, but the air was warm and the wind light, perfect for fishing a short waggler rig over what was now becoming a jacuzzi of bubbles and swirls, as carp began to home in on my feed of pellets. It wasn’t long before my float began to dip and bob, then move slowly across the surface, as a carp picked up the bait, the line veeing over the surface. I lifted into the fish, bending the rod for a moment, before it sprang back, when the bait pulled out of it’s mouth, leaving a black muddy stain on the surface, as it sped away.

With no dedicated carp gear, I’d pressed a 10 ft heavy feeder rod into service, the reel, an old ABU 501 loaded with 5 lb line completing the set up. New to this form of fishing, the local tackle shop had advised me of the terminal tackle and bait, this being a pellet held onto the line with a small elastic band, the bare hook 6 mm up the line, the carp supposed to suck in the pellet and hook it’self on the bare hook. My carp were obviously, just holding onto the pellet and not getting hooked, so after my third miss, I threaded a small piece of Spam onto the hook, which resulted in a 3 lb carp dashing across the shallow pond, with my rod arced over in response. The initial run countered, it was just a matter of a few minutes, before I was able to slip the net under my first fish. I was winning the match already, even though no other competitors had turned up yet.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky, burning off the cloud, so the bites slowed down and when carp began to hover in the surface, their backs absorbing the heat, it was time to change tactics with a finer line and hook, to try for the plentiful rudd. I’d had four nice common carp to 4 lb and a couple of  stunning mirror carp, their large scales giving a metallic glint to their bodies. I started with thin slithers of luncheon meat for the rudd, but the bites were hard to hit, so white bread slices from the freezer were unwrapped and punched onto the size 14 barbless hook, bringing a 4 oz rudd first cast. The bread transformed the bites, the float no longer bobbing and dipping, but now slowly sinking away, as the soft offering was sucked in. The bread brought a few surprises, the first a hard fighting 8 oz common carp, which was no problem. The next was a gentle disappearing of the float, to be met by an explosion of water, as a larger carp panicked, when it felt the hook, speeding off in a shower of bubbles and black mud, the 2 lb hook link snapping like cotton.

By now I’d given up on the hope of another club member joining me to fish and when another big carp took the bread, I decided to enjoy the power of this fish, keeping only the lightest of pressure on, allowing it to run over to the island in the middle, before reining it in. This of course was a mistake, as once it had it’s head, there was no stopping it, my restraint being met by more acceleration and another “ping” moment from another hook link. There were no more surprises after this, the only one would have been the sight of the Club Chairman, or one of his henchmen, but no, it became a rudd a chuck, many slipping the hook, as I bullied them back to my net.

At 2 pm, the official end of the match, I pulled in my line and took stock. No-one had visited from the Club, my wife had walked down to see me, sitting on a nearby bench, but had grown tired of making conversation with someone preoccupied with catching fish “Oooh, did you see that bite!” I had around 16 lb of carp and 3 lb of silvers, not bad for 5 1/2 hours fishing and probably would have won the match anyway, although they would no doubt had more than me IF they had attended. Needless to say this will be the last match I will arrange for them and next season will join the ranks of the great unwashed and become a poacher on these waters.


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.