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?


Quality roach queue up for the bread punch at the weir

February 16, 2021 at 4:03 pm

Floods, then a big freeze have kept me away from the bankside for nearly a month and after a mild, dry morning, I went in search of roach on my local river Cut this week. Usually a good bet for roach is a weir, where water from the town water treatment works discharges into the river. I tried to reach this swim a few weeks ago, but the river was over the banks and running along the road. Now it looked perfect.

This swim usually has a powerful back eddy pushing upstream, but today there was a defined narrow crease running back toward the weir under the tree stump. This is where the roach lie and after a few balls of liquidised bread slightly up stream of me, I followed down with the float to the crease, the float sank and I lifted. It was solid, a snag was lying downstream of the stump. I pulled until the hook link broke, getting my float back. Not a good start. I now noticed a float caught in the crease above the stump. I was not the first.

I looped on another size 16 hook to my 6 No 4 ali stick rig and started again, the bait just tripping bottom. I had fed a couple more balls just upstream, this time further across to avoid the snag and first trot I held back just as the float reached the crease, the float giving a bob, then sinking. This time it was a good roach, that surfaced, before rushing round the pool, eventually turning on its side to slide over to the landing net.

Following another ball of feed, the float held, then went under before it reached the crease. Again a battling roach dashed back to the foam, before being brought upstream to the landing net, which from the high bank was a stretch, even with the 3 metre landing net, using my foot to support the weight as I brought it up to my box.

Bigger than the first, it was only lightly hooked and wondered if the roach were just sucking at the 6 mm pellet of punch. To draw the shoal from the crease I kept small balls of feed going in upstream of me, which seemed to work, as the float dragged under once the float had settled and I was playing a quality roach under my rod top, backwinding to ease the pressure on the hook, which was just as well as it dropped out in the landing net.

Three quality roach in five casts and I was feeling pretty pleased with myself, when I followed a bite too far into the crease and I was snagged up again, losing another hook. I usually carry a few ready tied hooks of each size from 14 to 20 and I looped on my last size 16. The flow from the outfall had increased and the eddy was pulling the float closer to the stump, the hot spot catching my hook six feet away and guessed that the floods had lodged a big branch down there, which I would not shift with my 3 lb hook link.

To cope with the increased flow, I raised the float by six inches to hold back harder, inching the float to the edge of the crease; bites were still fussy, but a strike to a slight hold down brought contact and another rod thumping roach.

It was difficult to keep the float away from the snag, knowing that six inches either way would be a fish, or another lost hook. Bites tended to develope a few feet from the snag and it was tempting to strike early, sometimes I missed, some I bumped, while others I hooked.

Sorry for the blurred image, but it was still a good fish.

This roach was swollen with spawn.

My next fish was a surprise skimmer bream, which took on the drop and moved off at speed. Thinking that it was a chub at first, by the surging fight on contact that took it dangerously close to the tree, I hauled back putting a good bend in the rod, before it changed tack and headed for the opposite bank and surfaced.

I have had bream of over a pound from this swim in the past, but this is the first for some years.

Shortly after the skimmer, the snag claimed another hook and I was down to size 18s and lost the next good roach, when I tried to keep it out of the snag.

The fish were safe where they were in relatively calm water with plenty food coming their way, while I caught the occasional one, that was tempted out by the fluttering piece of punched bread.

These were all quality roach and I wondered what had happened to the gudgeon and small chub that usually steal my bait.

How did this roach stay on, the hook just in the skin of the lip.

This was my last fish of the afternoon, yet another clonker roach that ran out into the foaming weir race, while my 14 foot Browning took the shocks of its pounding fight, my back beginning to ache from the constant leaning out to reach them with the landing net, the hook holds too light to chance swinging them in, this one proving me right, when the hook dropped out in the net.

A chub and a hook lost while trotting along the brambles opposite, was the decider for me to pack up early and hope that someone armed with a grappling hook will do the honours on that snag.


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.