Big trout Spring surprise

May 7, 2017 at 7:25 pm

Following my success on the syndicate trout stream last week, I was keen to get back to fish, although a strong easterly wind and lack of water in the river dampened my enthusiasm. With no decent rainfall during April and none yet in May, this Hampshire chalk stream was now reduced to a series of pools connected by gravel runs of crystal clear water. Fish were rising, but close to the banks under cover, where they were safe from herons and also angler’s flies.

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Several casts to a trout beneath this bush were unsuccessful and I sat for a while watching it top and tail for nymphs. More water and flow would have seen it prepared to break cover to chase it’s food downstream.

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Where the flow came off a gravel run I saw a small ripple, then a bubble, ahead of a patch of scum collected by the branches of an overhanging bush. This was a sign of a fish and I crept along the bank to within ten yards of the spot to make a cast. The wind was swirling, picking up the line and opted for an over cast onto the shallow run, watching the Black Devil sweep toward the patch of scum. Before it got there, the leader dived to the right and I was boiling a good trout to the surface. It turned and ran downstream, as I stripped line back to stay in contact, the brown running past me, bolting to the safety of the bush. “That’s lost it” I thought and turned to face away from the river putting on side strain, only for it to come out stirring up the mud. Once in the open it was a case of hoping that the size 14 hook would keep hold, while it was netted.

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This was beautifully coloured overwintered stockie 17 inches long with a massive tail, that tested my little 7 ft No4 weight rod to the maximum. The Black Devil nymph was just in the nose of the trout and could easily have twisted out.

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Holding the brownie upstream in the shallows with fresh water passing over it’s gills for five minutes, restored it’s strength and it swam across the gravel to disappear among the shadows.

Walking downstream, bailiff Kevin was finishing off for the day, having caught another smaller stock fish, while his fellow bailiff Mick had found some wild fish that afternoon. With wild trout in mind, I continued down to where a long pool runs between tree roots to spill out over a gravel cattle drink. Keeping away from the bank, I circled round to enter the river on the shallows, slowly walking up the the pool. A good fish was rising above the tail, with another preoccupied further up between the trees.

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This was like old times, a hatch of olives was in progress and the fish in front of me was moving round the pool mopping them up. The wind had dropped and I considered tying on an emerger, but with the Black Devil still in place, why change a winning combination? Not wanting to disturb the pool, I stood in the shallows making casts to the right hand side, where the random rises were breaking the surface. With the nymph drifting back, I became aware of a shape slowly coming up toward it. The spots were visible, the leader gave a twitch and I struck into what briefly felt like an immovable log. A split second later, a broad back humped up in the water, the tail slapped the surface and it torpedoed off upstream stripping off line.  The line jammed in the reel and I followed deep into the pool, rod bent double, convinced it would break me. My largest trout from this tiny river had been over 3 lb and this was bigger and stronger.

It stayed on and I stripped line back, until it needed to run again, each time bring it closer, pulling it clear of the roots. My landing net was lying on the muddy shallows beside the pool behind me and I gave line to reach it. Suddenly the big stockie was wallowing on the gravel in front of me and I tried in vain to get my net under it, pushing the rod behind trying to drag it over the lip, while pushing the net with my left. Half way in, I lifted and the trout jumped out, leaving the hook in the net. It floundered in the shallows, as I tried the net again. Like a salmon it accelerated away back to the pool, then turned on it’s side swimming upstream, then faded back into the gloom. It was as knackered as I was!

I stood there surrounded by a tangle of fly line and retrieved the nymph, which was chewed to bits, coming unwound. The other trout was still rising, but I’d had enough for one evening and whatever the size it would have been an anticlimax. Last year there were few rising fish to be seen, this can only be a good sign for the future.