River Whitewater 2022 trout season open day put on ice.

April 3, 2022 at 4:53 pm

A week is a long time regarding the British weather. A week ago I had attended the Farnborough and District Angling Society’s work party on their Hampshire chalk stream, the River Whitewater. There was a good attendance of members, working in the Spring sunshine, clearing banks and removing fallen trees following the winter of storms. Wild garlic was scenting the air, while hatches of large dark olives were fluttering across the river and I looked forward to my first trout fishing outing on the following Friday, Open Day on April 1st .

In the meantime temperatures had plummeted to below zero accompanied by showers of hail, sleet and snow. By midday the frost had been thawed from the grass, with the sun shining between breaks in the clouds and I decided to drive to the river, taking a chance on the weather. I had a new fly line on my reel to try, plus some non traditional fly patterns in my box from Fish4Flies to compare with my own successful early season GH Sedge nymph, Deerhair Emerger and Blackdevil nymph.

Three of the Fish4Flies patterns I was keen to compare my traditional patterns with, were their Pinkey Tungsten Bug, Olive F-Wing and Zug Bug, all tied with synthetic materials.

As I drove closer to the river, the sky darkened with a massive black cloud, but there was an patch of blue in the distance and I parked up. My goodness, there was a bitter wind blowing, what a difference to last week, but I was here now and determined to get my line on the water, walking across the field to a pool that is noted for a few juvenile trout. I started off with my Blackdevil nymph bouncing along the bottom, impressed with the new Sunray 4 weight floating line, which flew out from my seven foot Shakespeare Agility rod with just a flick of the shoulder.

Running the nymph close to the edge along the deep run, the line straightened. A fish! No a branch on the bottom. Oh well, it got my heart racing for a second. Thankfully the branch came away from the bottom and drifted back to me. Picking it out of the river made me realise just how cold the river was. My hands were already frozen and now they were at another level, too cold and numb to try one of my new flies.

Having covered all the lies that have produced trout in the past, I climbed out of the river and walked up to deep a pool with a back eddy. I warmed my hands on a cup of hot tea. I could feel the hot liquid going down to my stomach. Very reviving. Time to try out the Pinkey Bug, casting along the crease of the eddy. This has a tungsten bead as a thorax and hit the water with a “plip” and sank quickly, like a Czech nymph, keeping the rod tip high and watching the line drift back to me. The line straightened. Another branch from the bottom. The eddy was full of them.

The wind was getting up and sleet began to fall. Sheltering under a tree, I checked my watch. I had only been there for 45 minutes, enough time to know that no trout would be caught by me today. After all, April 1st is All Fools Day in the UK and I qualified at this moment.

The weekend was forecast to be even worse with heavy rain and sleet again. Next week? My wife was not surprised to see me home so soon, even a life long optimist like myself knows when to quit.

Trout anglers get ready for the 2022 season on the River Whitewater

March 7, 2022 at 12:16 pm

The small Hampshire chalk stream controlled by Farnborough and District A.S, is looking in good condition for the 2022 trout fishing season, after working parties cleared away fallen trees from the River Whitewater and cut back over growth.

More a social event, than work, members were able to catch up on last season’s successes and failures, while notes were swapped over what was caught from where and with what fly. With only a small fly fishing membership, it is rare to meet another angler on the bank during the season and the preseason work parties are ideal for getting feed back.

Covid restrictions had limited the amount of work that could be undertaken on this natural river last year, but members have been busy making up for lost time. Above, willows were beginning to restrict the flow, while making casting impossible. Below, brambles had grown out across the river, catching flies, while the preseason haircut will allow casting to trout sheltering under the opposite bank.

Running through working farm land, the Whitewater fishing has to be a balance between the angler’s interests and the farmer’s commercial requirements. The land is rotated between arable and livestock, the anglers happy with a recent change over to sheep, following years of rearing frisky young bullocks, which roamed around in gangs terrorising any angler that they spotted on the bank. After a few near misses from flying hooves, I avoided any of the fields where they were pastured, preferring personal safety, over catching trout.

A dedicated team that has removed literally tons of signal crayfish from this little river over the last few years, resulted in successful spawning of wild fish, which are showing up in greater numbers.

There are now all year classes of trout showing.

The Whitewater was stocked with a wide variety of trout in the years before triploids and now has a mix of classic browns, and more silvery browns similar to the this one below, that I took last season on a mayfly.

Whatever their variety, these brown trout fight to the maximum effort and all require nursing back to full strength, before releasing. With only a few weeks to the start of the new season on April 1st, we can only look forward to balmy spring and summer days and the chance to net one of these beautiful fish.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last of the Mayfly bonus

June 10, 2021 at 1:34 pm

An evening visit to the tiny Hampshire chalk stream, the River Whitewater, gave  me a last chance to fish the Mayfly this week, hot sunny days and warm evenings extending the hatch. Arriving before 7 pm, the sun was still streaming across the corn field as I made my way upstream and the Mayfly were already dancing on the breeze.

A Mayfly on my arm

Without waders and only wellies, my fishing would be limited to fishing from the bank, but I already knew where I would start first, far upstream toward the weir, where I had lost fish the week before. So I thought anyway, the sound of a big fish crashing into a Mayfly stopping me in my tracks.

Looking back downstream I could see possibly two fish rising with abandon, attacking the latest hatch. Minutes earlier when I had passed the area, there was no sign of fish, or Mayfly on the water, but that is the potluck of fly fishing in early June. By the time that I had travelled back, all was quiet again and I positioned myself as close to the river as I could. Behind was a tree, while upstream were reeds and a clump of cow parsley, with willows along the opposite bank.

Suddenly a fish rose beyond the clump of cow parsley, then another. There were definitely two good fish there, but the cast was impossible. After  extending my landing net to about 8 ft, I went for it, making horizontal false casts past the bush, but the Grey Wulff landed nowhere near the spot. The flow was too fast to avoid the fly dragging and I was lifting and casting. The trout were in a frenzy and so was I. Suddenly the line went tight as I lifted off and chaos ensued as the trout imitated an out board motor, hidden from view. I assumed that I was going to lose this fish in the following seconds, but stayed with it, relieved when it surged upstream, across the shallows. The monster had transformed into a pound plus stockie and I had gathered my senses to take control. It now burrowed in the reeds on my side, heading downstream toward a deep root lined hole, letting the 5 lb tippet and my rod take the strain, it turned back and rolled on the surface. I sat down and stuck out the heavy ali landing net into the flow and the trout obliged by swimming in. Phew! I was shattered and on the verge of slipping in on the sloping bank. I managed a couple of quick photos, removed the mangled barbless fly and slid the net back to the river for the trout to recover, then swim off.

Not the best image, but better than the one with my finger over the lens.

Waiting for a knee replacement, regaining my feet was a struggle, but helped by my sturdy landing net I managed it and continued upstream, rises were few and far between, most coming from beneath bushes, no doubt from previously hooked fish. My Grey Wulff was now changed for a smaller white Mayfly, more of a match for those around me and having reached the deep run, that had been full of fish last week, I began working my fly upstream, but with no rises, or takers.

I moved up to the next section, where a fish rose close to the bank behind a bush and I slid down the bank to stand on the marshy bottom. With overhanging trees and standing cow parsley, this was another difficult cast, but as I edged closer, the fish rose again. I managed to get the fly behind the bush and it came up and I missed the take. The line now became entangled in the cow parsley on my side and as I sorted it out the fish rose again. I tried and missed again. I’m obviously losing my touch. I hadn’t put it down, as it rose again. A few more casts and the fly fell right. It came up and third time lucky, it was on. Not a big fish, I drew the wild brown trout back as it tumbled on the surface, then it was off the hook. As I said earlier, I’m losing my touch.

Getting back up to the top of the bank taught me a lesson, don’t try that again until post operation. I continued upstream, to the weir, but despite plenty of Mayfly about, there were no more rising fish and I turned back. The sun was now behind the trees and a few fish were rising toward the road, but apart from the occasional pause to consider taking them on, I made my way back contenting myself with the fact that I had landed a lucky stockie and for once had not lost any flies.

 

 

 

 

Wild trout respond to the Mayfly on the urban river

June 4, 2021 at 7:46 pm

My first evening visit to an urban trout stream paid off this week with a hectic hour of action, until heavy rain forced me to take shelter, before finally giving up. I had left home in bright sunshine, but the sky was black on the horizon. I had not heeded the forecast of isolated showers, keen to get to the river while Mayfly were still flying, trouble was that it isolated over me!

Walking over the bridge at 7 pm, I could see Mayfly in the air and trout rising upstream. My rod was already set up with a small White Mayfly and made my way past the bus stop to begin fishing from the green. I had just needle knotted on a new 11 ft weight forward leader and was keen to see how it performed. Casting up to a rise, I was impressed to watch the leader punch out, then gracefully float down to the surface. Second cast a fish rose and a small trout was on, but then buried in the weed. Easing the pressure, but keeping up the tension, saw the trout swim out of the other side and the battle commence, until beaten it drifted into my landing net.

Due to the barbless hook, this 8 inch wild brown was quickly returned unharmed to swim off strongly against the flow, although the artificial Mayfly had not survived the head shaking fight and required replacing. Fortunately I had a duplicate and was soon ready to fish again, but the hatch was over, with just the occasional fly floating down.

Suddenly the river was alive with rises again, as another flurry of Mayfly began lifting off, skidding across the surface. Smaller fish were launching themselves out of the water as they chased their prey. On the far side, a larger trout was smacking at the flies, sometimes clearing the surface, its golden flanks flashing as it turned. Protected by an overhanging bush, it remained close to the edge ignoring my imitation each time it drifted by.

Measuring out another couple of feet of line, I managed to bounce the fly off the bank and watched with anticipation as it drifted under the bush. Plop! The fly was gone and the line tightening as I lifted the rod. It boiled on the surface and I stripped line to pull it from the roots. My 7 ft rod took the strain as I rewound the spare line onto the reel, only for a sudden run to strip line off it again, back to the far bank. I could see that this was a good fish for this small river and had my landing net ready, when it dived toward a bank of weed close to my side, but thankfully side strain pulled it round and after a run downstream it was on its side and in the net.

I am afraid that too much adrenaline had caused camera shake and this was the best one that I took, but it is still a pretty fish, these wild trout fat with their Mayfly bonanza.

By the time that I had tied on a small yellow Mayfly, it was spitting with rain, but the trout were still rising and after a couple of missed fish, I moved down to where I heard a better trout rising just upstream of an overhanging horse chestnut tree. It was only rising occasionally and waited for it to come up between the far side and a long raft of weed. Making rapid casts to avoid line drag and the tree, the yellow fly was like a beacon, drifting a yard then being extracted at the last second. The fly was becoming waterlogged by the rain and I blobbed drying powder over it, making false casts, before watching the fly float down, travel a foot and disappear. Wham! I was in again as it ran straight down under the tree, forcing me to keep the rod flat as it fought unseen, the rod bucking and bending. This was not as big as the last and was soon playing it on the reel, bringing it out from cover on the surface to the net.

The light had gone, but the rain was now beating down and after releasing my last captive, I headed for cover and the comfort of my car, then home.

My evening had been saved by a speedy delivery from Barbless Flies, www.barbless-flies.co.uk, a friendly Yorkshire company with the personal touch, that supplied my new leader and fly floatant powder.

Mayfly slow to hatch on the River Whitewater

May 27, 2021 at 2:29 pm

Cold winds and torrential rain have kept the brakes on the annual Mayfly Hatch on the River Whitewater this year, but with the promise of warmer weather to come, prospects could change for the better by the weekend. Getting down to the river on the first decent afternoon for weeks, I stood on the road bridge looking upstream hoping to see a few Mayflies hatching, or fish rising, but was disappointed. The river was still slightly coloured and it looked like more rain was on the way.

This was only my second visit since a cold windy open day in April and had tied on a small yellow Mayfly pattern in my optimism. At this time last year, the Hatch was in full flow and I set off upstream in search of rises. A few hundred yards on, the unmistakeable splashy rise of a decent trout, then another further up got my heart racing and I managed to get down into the shallows to wade the last few yards. On the waiting list for a new knee, this was an effort, having to make do with wellies instead of waders.

There was a strong downstream wind adding to the line drag and I needed an accurate cast to reach the first fish under the left hand bank. My back cast caught in the alders above my head and I lost the fly. By the time that I had tied on a replacement fly, the short hatch of a dozen flies was over and my imitation was ignored.

Continuing upstream small yellow mayfly were fluttering across the river and another trout was feeding close to a sunken branch. From the high bank I could see a wild brown of about 12 oz and measured my casts, the first few ignored, while the trout continued to feed as a steady supply drifted down. On my next cast, the trout moved toward the fly, then turned to the right to slurp in one closer, before darting to the left to scoop up mine. It was on! Initially diving beneath the branch, I pulled it out, only for it to start tumbling on the surface, coming close to my bank and the shallows. I had no control and reached forward with my already extended landing net, while the the trout continued to thrash on the surface. It came off and darted back to safety. Not a big fish, but it would have broken my duck.

This part of the river was always a good nursery for juvenile trout, while holding a few rod benders, that only come out from their deep pools, when the Mayfly are on the water. There were still a few crayfish nets secreted along the banks and it is hoped that the reduced number of crays will result in more surviving wild fish.

I continued upstream to the weir, but with no sign of rising fish, I tried my luck with my Blackdevil nymph, casting to likely holding areas and runs.

Casting up between the post of a berm, the line arced round into the eddy as it passed, but I lifted into thin air, the weighted nymph flying back. Too late, or too early? A missed fish all the same.

I saw one more crashing rise on the way back, plenty of fly life of all sizes, but few mayfly. Crossing the road, I entered the next beat, seeing another member Steve wading up to his waist, casting up under the bridge, where fish were rising. He reported netting a 2 lb fish above the bridge at the weekend, which was encouraging news. I continued down to the next pool, seeing several rises among a hatch of small white Mayfly. Removing the nymph, I tied on a bodied Mayfly and cast among the rising fish, only for the fly to be attacked by a small fish, which I missed. A few more tries and a small chub of six inches took a flying lesson before falling off. Move on.

More Mayfly were now in the air and I watched a big trout sucking them in from an eddy among the safety of roots and a fallen tree. If I could get the fly in there, it was unlikely that I would be able to get it out. The sound of another fish rising further down saw me enter the river again, almost falling in, when I used a dead tree for support, it crumbling in my hands as I gripped it. Fortunately I avoided a soaking, my heavy aluminium extendable landing net coming to my aid as I stumbled.

I have had many fine trout from this pool in the past and as I waded through the shallows, a good fish rose among the roots on the left at the top end. Keeping close to the edge, I cast to the area. The fly sat for only seconds before it was engulfed and I was playing a hard fighting trout, that was charging toward the roots. I have been lulled by catching chub lately, this was no chub, the power of a trout is up several levels. It turned and rushed back, rolling in the shallows, before another long run. With a dark back and silvery sides, I was reminded of a seatrout as it rolled again. Tightening down the line, it fought in diminishing circles, until it turned on its side and drifted back to my net.

A sleek wild brown trout of about a pound and a half, that rewarded persistence, a beautiful fish that my camera could not do justice to. The barbless size 12 fell out once the pressure was off and I held the trout facing upstream, until it swam back out of the landing net. Another member Richard had stopped, while I waited for the trout to recover and he extended a welcome hand to pull me up the bank to save my aching knee. My cancelled operation would have been a few days before, so good came of it in the end, as I would not have been able to catch this fine fish, if it had gone ahead.

River Whitewater work party progress

March 21, 2021 at 1:42 pm

With only a couple of weeks before the 2021 trout flyfishing season opens on the River Whitewater, members of Farnborough and District AS were busy this weekend getting their three mile stretch of the Hampshire chalk stream ready.

The team split in two, half clearing the banks and trimming back over hanging trees, while others carried out much needed work constructing a safe bridge over a steep sided, often water filled drainage ditch.

Early in the day, a hen mallard flew out from the bankside undergrowth as it was being cleared, revealing a nest with a dozen eggs.

Work stopped on this section of bank and the mallard was soon back on her clutch of  eggs.

The Farnborough club engaged a commercial crayfish fisherman last year, who has been been setting nets along the river, at one time collecting 50 kilos a week. Several nets were in place along this stretch, one that we examined having over a dozen large signal crayfish trapped waiting for collection.

It is hoped that once the numbers of this invasive species are under control, the wild trout spawn will have a chance to develope and grow. When I first joined the flyfishing section of the club, juvenile wild brown trout were present in large numbers, often at nuisance levels, but now they are a rare, but welcome sight. To complement the wild trout population, the club will be stocking a limited number of triploid brown trout throughout their section of the river.

Walking downstream to view the new bridge, the farmer had been busy adding to his stock of wood for sale, while also erecting 300 yards of cattle fence, again without consultation with the club, who have held the riparian fishing rights to this water for over 50 years. If he had consulted the club, we would have asked for the inclusion of a couple of access gates through the barbed wire fence, now we will have to wade across the river, or approach form downstream at the stile. The only good thing about the fence is that it will keep the boisterous young bullocks, that are brought on at the farm, well away from the anglers.

The new bridge at the stile was a work of agricultural art, with heavyweight railway sleepers bedded down into the ground over the ditch.

I can testify that the new sleepers are firmly held in place by steel brackets, while a wire mesh covers the woodwork giving a non slip surface. This ditch has ben a problem for years. Too wide to jump, with sides too steep and slippery to climb. The Farnborough club’s new management team are to be congratulated for their enthusiasm and ongoing improvements, which will result in a better angling experience for the paying members.

 

 

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?

 

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lockdown 3 Latest. Angling reinstated as a permissible recreation

January 7, 2021 at 1:38 pm

Following representations from the Angling Trust and Members of Parliament, the Government have backtracked on their earlier decision to ban angling, due to it not being considered a viable form of exercise, but have reconsidered it as a permissible form of recreation. Tier 4 rules apply, with social distancing and no more that two people fishing together, while fishing competitions remain banned. Tackle shops can open on a strictly click and collect basis. Travel to fish should be kept as local as possible.

Having allowed angling to continue throughout Lockdown 2, it did seem illogical to ban it for this third lockdown. The mental health aspects of getting out in the fresh air and fishing are well documented, while anyone that has dragged their fishing tackle from the car, then trudged over wet ground to their favourite fishing spot will agree, that it is also a healthy form of physical exercise, apart from landing a decent net of fish.

 

 

 

Whitewater work party breathes new life into a neglected fishery

July 26, 2020 at 6:45 pm

A new committee has been working wonders at Farnborough and District Angling Society this year. Having signed a new three year lease on the river Blackwater, but lost a stretch of the river Loddon due to a housing development, it has decided to revitalise a long neglected mile of the river Whitewater, which is known for big chub and the occasional barbel. The upper reaches are reserved for fly fishing during the trout season, but the lower section has become overgrown and impenetrable over the years.

Arriving at the 9:30 am start time, it was obvious that I was not the first to arrive and the sound of chainsaws and strimmers could be heard in the distance.

Managing to squeeze my car onto a narrow verge, I walked back over the river bridge and followed upstream the sound of machetes on undergrowth, joining a couple of the guys clearing a pathway through seven foot high ferns. Armed with an extendable pole saw, I decided to concentrate on chopping Himalayan Balsam. Having tried pulling the balsam, it was much quicker to chop it, getting three, or four plants at a time, knowing that the flowers had little chance of growing on again.

Swims were already being opened up by small teams, while larger groups were dealing with trees with a chainsaw.

I continued upstream doing my balsam chopping, working up a sweat, while others made their way up toward Riseley Mill. Once I had dealt with this lot, I made my way back.

I was amazed to see this swim, it had been completely closed in when I had move up earlier on, now it was looking spick and span.

I can’t wait to trot a stick float under those trees. These swims are virgins in need of violation.

Another job well done by the Farnborough club’s volunteers. This was just the first phase on opening up this water, many of the members there unaware that the club held the rights to this interesting little river. The Whitewater confluence joins the river Blackwater a few hundred yards from this point, where the club hold the rights up to the Ford. Another work party in the offing.

There was one last job to do for the FDAS crew. Get my car out of the ditch at the side of the road, when the car managed to embed itself in the verge, due to too much right foot of the driver. After demolishing a jungle, it was nothing that a dozen pairs of hands, a tow rope and a FWD pick up couldn’t handle. Thanks lads.