Meon Springs Fishery rainbows come out to play in the sun

April 26, 2014 at 10:39 pm

My first visit to Meon Springs Fishery had been on a dark December day with 80 mph gales whipping the surface, when I’d looked forward to Spring and sunshine for my next visit. That day arrived when I was invited to join my friend Peter and his son Steve, who’d been given a 40th Birthday present, a day’s fishing at this secluded Hampshire water. Nestling in a valley on the upper reaches of the River Meon, a series of dams allow this clear chalkstream to simpathetically follow the contours to provide enjoyable flyfishing for the novice and expert alike. An added bonus to the two put and take lakes are two catch and release sections at the lower end of the fishery, where having caught the two fish minimum, an angler can gain added value to the £32 day charge.

A bloodworm nymph under a yarn indicator had brought success on our previous visit, this being the opening gambit for Peter and myself, while Steve opted for a traditional greased line, nymph approach. Tackling up, another angler came back to the clubhouse with three rainbows, all taken on a Blue Flash Damsel lure in half an hour, his day over by 10:30 am. I hoped to stretch it out a bit longer than that. Walking the bank, I was amazed and slightly intimidated by the clarity of the water, which showed healthy weed beds interspersed with holes right down to the sandy bottom, through which fish were cruising unaware of the fate awaiting them.

It’s not always good policy to stop at the first likely spot, as those fish have probably seen more flies than any others, but stop I did and cast to the clearing fifteen yards from the bank, where I could see three, or four fish. The bloodworm was too small for me to see, but a rainbow reacted as it sank, turning off from it’s line, then rising up to the nymph, where the white flash of it’s mouth opening and shutting indicated a take. I lifted into the fish and felt it’s weight, watching it’s initial struggle before the hook lost hold. An angler to my left smiled knowingly in answer to my look of protest saying “God save the Queen” then raising his rod in a mock strike. I felt sure that I had left enough time to set the hook, but the indicator hadn’t moved. Next time; if there was one.

Minutes later, the indicator bobbed a couple of times then slowly sank away, reminding me of a roach bite on a waggler float, but this was no roach, that accelerated off to the right, then swept round in an arc toward the opposite bank, before tailwalking off the hook. The angler to my left still had that superior smile, despite failing to raise a fish in the time it had taken me to lose two. Looking along the bank to my right, I could see Peter was also into a good fish, only to lose it short of the net. A couple of missed takes and another lost rainbow prompted me to move up to Peter for a chat, arriving as he hooked into another good fish, which tested his tackle to the full, this time netting his first rainbow of the day, a deep bodied specimen of around 4lb. Further along Steve had made a black and red nymph work and was playing a very nice brown trout of 2lb. All browns are to be returned at Meon Springs and Steve released it, after a quick photo session.

I was now feeling the pressure to get a fish on the bank, Peter and I taking it in turns to miss takes, or drop fish, the bright sunlight assisting the trout in distinguishing our immitations from the real thing, just plucking at the bloodworm nymphs, before ejecting them. A skyward rainbow gave Peter his second fish, not a biggy, but his two fish limit all the same, while I continued to be tormented by the educated trout in front of me. The answer was a longer cast towards the the shadow of an oak tree, where the indicator disappeared from sight and a hard running rainbow was firmly hooked.

Several times I had the net ready, only for another finger blistering run, forcing me to give line each time, until eventually the runs shortened and a 3lb rainbow was on the bank.

Steve was now playing a very large rainbow that he had stalked, an induced take, once he had the fish’s attention, resulting in a solid seizure of the nymph. In the well oxygenated water, this rainbow resisted every attempt to get it in the net, several times it turned at the last moment in a bid for freedom, but the hook held on for long enough and it was landed.

With a fully formed tail, Steve’s rainbow had finally fought to a standstill and weighing in at 5lb 10oz was destined for his Dad’s smoker. Meanwhile I was playing my second fish, with one eye on Steve, paying the price when a sudden lunge, parted the 8lb leader. With the other lads now fishing the catch and release, I persevered to catch my second rainbow, a slightly smaller version of the first fish for my limit.

Time for some lunch and bagging up my fish for the fridge at the clubhouse, but not before donating a bloodworm nymph to the angler next to me, who had been struggling for takes on a retrieved nymph. Returning 20 minutes later, he had a fine 4lb trout on the bank and was happy to pose for a photograph, failing to get his name for a credit, the Newbury angler was pleased with his catch.

His brother-in-law was also without a fish, so in passing, on my way down to the catch and release area, another bloodworm nymph was handed over in the hope of more success. Below the dam, several rainbows were facing upstream in the gentle flow and I spent an enjoyable, but often frustrating twenty minutes trying to land one of them, sight fishing the bloodworm nymph on a greased line a foot beneath the surface. Twice I lifted into fish, only for them to throw the hook and dart back to the main pool. In the crystal clear water, I could see the fins twitch, when they saw the potential snack, then move in for a close inspection of the dressed hook. A tweek of the line put movement in the tail of the bloodworm and a bold rainbow moved in for the kill, a firm side strike setting the hook with a boil of exploding energy. In only two feet of water, the rainbow took some stopping, stirring up the mud, as it zoomed about, making several jumps, but staying on. Having followed it down, past another angler, into deeper water, I was able to bide my time, until it was ready for the net, the barbless hook falling free once the pressure was off.

This fully finned rainbow of around three pounds gave me the best fight of the day and I was happy to release it, after a period of recovery in my landing net.

Joining up with the others, we had enjoyed our day at Meon Springs with plenty of action and resolved to return in the warmer months to fish dry flies on the surface.









Trout stream warms to early risers.

April 22, 2014 at 7:07 pm

Traditionally my early season trout river fishing begins on the nymph, due to the lack of rising trout, but having caught on the surface last week, I decided to start on the dry fly for my next session on the local syndicate water. Levels were down slightly on the previous week, with a tinge of colour, following recent rain, but the air temperature was still low and I was not hopeful, as I viewed the barren surface of the river on my approach. Within a hundred yards, my attitude had changed, an audible plop and the spreading rings from a rise in a tree covered pool, instantly gained my attention.

I gave the pool a wide berth and got down into the river downstream, wading up through the shallows, eyes glued to the surface for more rises and possible food sources. A few grannoms were scudding around, but nothing appeared to be lifting off the surface, so last week’s successful choice, an elk hair Grannom Emerger was tied on. Noisy rises usually come from fish deep down and this was confirmed by a splashing swirl half way up the pool in three feet of water, away from where I’d spotted the first rise. Two trout?

Getting into a position where I could make a cast was a challenge, with trees behind me and overhanging the right hand bank, it was a case of side cast, or nothing. In parrot cages like this one, even my seven foot rod is too long, but another rise gave away it’s position only ten feet upstream. I hadn’t scared it off with my wading and also no fly on the surface when it took, said it was probably a grannom caddis nymph providing dinner. Several false casts later, the fly landed untidily to the left of  the target, drifted for a second, before a small trout torpedoed up from the gravel and turned, to be hooked by a reaction side strike. These small wild fish fight hard in this fast flowing river and it dived back into the pool, then escaped into the broken water below, keeping the fish on and the rod tip out of the branches demanding special attention.

Over the many years that this small river has been fished for trout along its seven mile length, various strains of brown trout have been introduced and this is an example of many silver fish, with just a flash of gold on the flanks, that populate our stretch. With a quick photo and an upstream release, I continued downstream looking for more rising trout and stopped at the small weir, which has been almost washed away by the winter floods, creating new territory to explore with the fly.

Sitting on the bank I could cover most of the pool with the buoyant emerger, an upstream wind helping with a light presentation without too much line drag. I heard the take before I saw it among the ripples across from me, in an area where I thought I’d seen a rise earlier, my rod bending into a small brown, that boiled on the surface over a sand bar, then made off across the pool. Eventually it dropped down, tumbling, into the shallows where I swept it into the net.

Another silvery brownie. Fun to catch and full of vigour. I now trekked downstream to try another area modified by the floods, getting in the river at the side of  a cattle bridge and wading up, casting blind as I went, working my way toward another rise in a back eddy, where a willow outcrop had created a dog leg, a deep pool is all that remains.

A boil at the emerger in the fast water ahead of me, saw contact made and yet another ten  inch wildie looking for the escape route, dropping back, rolling at my feet before coming off. The fish in the eddy had risen again and after drying off the fly and greasing the line, I made several false casts to get the range, before dropping my offering into the eddy. A dark shape appeared alongside the fly, turning a circle to inspect it, then as the fly dragged in the current, grabbed it. Too early and too late. I had been about to lift the fly off to recast, when the pound-plus brown took. A brief solid contact, followed by a swirl and it was gone. No more rises prompted a change to the nymph and chose a rubber legged, Gold Ribbed Hares Ear with a gold head, which was a legacy from my trip to Yellowstone last year.

My first cast into the faster water brought an instant response with a firm take and an on/off miss. I then prospected the rest of the pool with only a short take and reluctant to test the depth of the pool ahead, I climbed out of the river to cross the bridge and explore the upstream bank. Already satisfied with my afternoon’s fishing, I spent a few minutes fishing a deep run on a bend, but snagged the nymph in an overhanging branch. Managing to retrieve the nymph, I decided that I might not be so lucky next time, and pushed on back towards the road, stopping at the cattle drink for a few casts.

I’d tried the emerger here on the way down, as it has been a good holding spot in the past, but now it was time to cast the nymph up into the deeps between the trees and along the slack by the pipe. On one of the many passes, the bow in the line tightened and I struck into a solid fish, that bored down into the pool taking line. The fish stayed deep, but a flash of silver suggested a small rainbow, not unknown to drop down from fisheries further up. The fight continued all over the pool and was anxious, that, like some of the better fish this year, I might loose it on the last knockings, but the hook held, slipping the net under the beaten trout.

This was a fin perfect silver sided brown trout, with a purple sheen, not unlike a sea trout, 13 inches long, my nymph firmly embedded in it’s top lip. No doubt this is the daddy of many of those silver sided trout in this section of the river and I was privileged to catch it, keeping it facing upstream in my landing net, until it was ready to swim back to the depths.






Trout river fly fishing gets a cold start.

April 15, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Following months of floods, a couple of last minute working parties revealed many changes to the flow of  our syndicate trout stream, where trees had been washed out from the banks, creating new pools, while existing pools had been gouged out deeper, depositing banks of gravel at the tails. Known eddies were gone and fresh ones born. On my first visit of the new season, I was greeted by a different river and decided to walk downstream for half a mile then fish my way back.

Last year this was one of my most productive stretches, where the pool above spilled against the bank forming a deep eddy, but part of the bank is gone and much of the eddy is now a gravel bar. A new challenge yet to be tested.

Most of the rocks from the small weir have been washed downstream. More holding spots, or snags?

Although early April, it felt more like February, with a cold wind blowing downstream, but the sight of swallows, back from Africa, sweeping across the meadows and tortoiseshell butterflies mating among the nettles told a different story. Before I reached my intended starting point, where a smaller stream enters our river, I passed a previously ignored stretch, that now had more character, clumps of  weed between clean gravel runs looking very fishy and decided to stop and give it a try.

Getting down into the river, even through my waders, the river was very cold and not expecting any airborne fly life, I tied on a heavyweight version of my Black Devil nymph to get down to the gravel bed, this usually working well, bounced along the bottom in early season. I didn’t have long to wait for a response, when the leader darted forward, as the nymph passed beneath an undercut bank, a small brown briefly flashing gold in it’s struggle to successfully throw the hook. The downstream wind and too much slack line caused me to lose contact. More concentration and work was needed. Casting up and across as I moved upstream round the bend, there were more stabbing takes and another tumbled seven inch trout. This was an area, where we saw several spawning redds last year and these small fish are probably the result.

I continued up until I reached a deep pool, where the river cut round the roots of a tree and began prospecting the nymph, missing an easy take, that ran upstream. I was convinced that the size 14 nymph was too big for these small trout and rooted through my flybox for something smaller and came out with a size 18 tungsten copper wound Pheasant Tail. This looked very much like a mini version of the Black Devil, that I’d just taken off and began casting hard into the corner to sweep round the roots. Getting too close on one cast, I lifted off to avoid getting snagged and the line went solid. My heart sank. Roots! Then it fluttered, when the line rebounded slowly, and the white belly of a good trout began a zig zagging roll, deep in the pool. You couldn’t do it if you tried! A flash of golden green was all it took to turn and exit the pool at speed downstream, doubling over my seven foot rod, as the ratchet on my reel screamed. In survival mode, I gave line until it turned, then began to reel the fish back, as it searched out both banks for a snag, getting it close, before it rushed off again. Thinking I had it beat, I began to bring the possible 2lb brownie back, only for it to start rolling and thrashing on the surface out of control in the current. The barbless hook lost it’s hold. Another fish lost!

Shortly after I’d begun fishing again, I heard a “plop” behind me and turned round to see what looked like a rise. I discounted this, as there were only a few grannoms scudding across the surface and continued with the nymph. On hearing another “plop”, I saw the surface downstream was dotted with rises. I managed to get out of the river and made a hasty, wide detour of the bank downstream and re-entered the river below a band of dimples and swirls over a sandy run. The pheasant tail was repeatedly cast among these rising fish with no takes. Tiny black black flies were in the surface film, while grannoms and the occasional olive were airborne. A small elk hair grannom emerger was tied on, the leader greased to within a few inches of the fly and cast in. Due to the strong current, the fly could only travel a few inches before it dragged, so short flicking casts was the name of the game.  The rise was over, but a swirl and a solid strike soon had the first trout of the season in my hand.

Not the biggest fish in the world, but after a difficult afternoon, I was happy with this one. Back in again, there were more takes, misses and on/offs, before a more solid resistance was felt and a ten inch wildie was giving a good account of it’s self all the way to the net.

While this one was recovering in the net, the rise started again, dimples and swirls. A good fish was rising close to the bank, where after a few casts he took and I dragged the trout across to set the hook, before it, like the others, zoomed off with the current. About twelve inches and ten ounces, I was enjoying the fight from this beautifully coloured wild brown, as it dived and rolled in the clear river below me, when once again it was free. The hook had broken at the start of the bend on the body. I had another emerger, but felt that I’d done enough damage for one day and it was time to leave.

Flies used on the day, with the broken emerger centre.

Walking back, I passed several individual rises, but nothing like the mass hysteria I had just witnessed, which resembled a mayfly hatch in it’s intensity. Whatever they were feeding on, probably grannom nymphs by the way they took, I was lucky to be there at the right time.  With warmer weather forecast. I’m looking forward to my next visit.



CZ452 .17 HMR spring rabbits

April 10, 2014 at 11:57 am

Winter rain had kept me away from this landlocked field since November, with no access for my vehicle, it’s a case of walking in over a wooden bridge along a footpath. Most of the time the bridge was under water, or approached through a quagmire created by the horses on either side, so after a couple of abortive visits, I’d not been back.

My worst fears were justified, when I climbed the style from the bridge, the rabbit population had exploded over the mild winter and young kitten rabbits were bouncing about among the hedgerows, evidence of my lack of attention to their parents over the past six months. The land owner keeps about a dozen horses on this field and is not happy sharing his grass with their furry relatives. Walking along the hedge line to my preferred shooting position, I could see rabbits two hundred yards away observing my approach and getting ready to melt back into the foliage. With a gusting crosswind, I was not prepared to chance a shot beyond 100 yards, the light weight 17 grain HMR bullet taking on a mind of it’s own in these conditions, a head shot not a certainty and a miss, or wounding a probability.

By the time I reached my chosen spot, the grass was clear ahead and I tucked myself back into a recess in the hedge and made myself comfortable, lying on my opened out gun bag. At this point I realised that I should have brought my camo net, which I could have draped over the small bush in front of me for more cover.

I didn’t have long to wait, when two rabbits bounded out from my side of the hedge and began feeding 50 yards away. I waited for the one in clearest view to present a head shot, then sent it leaping skyward with a reflex kick. The other one sat up startled, then ran off as I shifted the bolt to chamber another bullet. Once upon a time, in the early days of shooting this field, I could take two, or three at a sitting, these days the click of the bolt can have them running for cover.

I settled down again and watched the world go by. It was good to feel the warmth of the sun again, while long tailed tits flitted through the bushes and a robin sang. Every now and then a pair of frisky rabbits would get my pulse going, as they raced in and out of the hedge in front of me, not stopping long enough for a shot, but keeping me on my metal. It was while watching an out of season pheasant strut casually out from the dark of the blossom covered thicket, that I noticed another rabbit had appeared, as if by magic, from it’s burrow 80 yards away. I swung the CZ452 round and fired, the echoing crack of the rifle being joined by the thwack of a successful head shot.

Through the scope I could see more rabbit activity on the far side of the field 250 yards away and decided to up sticks and work my way round using cover from the bushes to get within range. Picking up my kills, I was making my way over, when the sound of the landowner’s 4×4 scattered my intended targets, as he made his way down to feed the horses. That was it, game over, he would spend the next hour tending to his charges. Time for me to go, but not before showing him that I was back on the scene again.