In the first of our planned annual river trips, six of our members journeyed to the River Test at Wherwell. Ray Marks, Richard Ellis, Stephen Lew, Bob & Nick Ring and myself.
The day started with us meeting at Fleet services at a fairly civilised 8am for a coffee and catch-up. The gates at Wherwell open at 8.30am but you are not able to cast a line until 9am.
When we got there, we found that apart from one other angler we had all the beats to ourselves, which encompassed a very large area. The facilities include a toilet and a lodge which has a small kitchen.
As you can imagine there are certain rules to abide by, even in the grayling season.
Upstream fishing only.
No targeting of browns, although catching some is inevitable.
No wading, this is a change from previous seasons and after talking to the riverkeeper who described the appalling behaviour of some previous visiting groups, we could all fully understand why it was introduced.
The weather was dry, bright and pleasantly cool certainly an improvement on the Thursday before where Bob and I had a pretty torrid time on the River Test at Broadlands. There the river was high and coloured and not helped by the persistent rain. I was hugely relieved to see the river crystal clear and flowing nicely.
It was also pretty apparent that there were plenty of fish but, as we all know, that doesn’t mean they are interested in feeding. My strategy for the day was to fish an emerger on its own, or as part of a duo with the emerger on a 3-inch dropper and a small nymph some 2 ft below it. I used my favourite wally wing & turkey biot emerger plus a size 20 silver beaded ginger tom and later on a more subdued size 18 green nymph with a black tungsten bead. I did o.k. with some very nice grayling of between half and one pound, but failed miserably on some of the larger fish which frankly treated my offerings, and skill levels, with contempt.
Inevitably a few brown trout were caught and returned promptly.
At midday we all convened at the lodge for a convivial lunch and caught up on the highs and lows of the mornings fishing. We agreed that these highly pressurised fish were very spooky in the bright sunshine, but we were eager to accept the challenge.
When we left for the afternoon session I saw plenty of midges and some small size 18 olives hatching. I had some great sport as the fish suddenly started feeding on the surface in 10 – 15-minute bursts. Accordingly, I just concentrated on fishing the size 16 wally wing emerger and a size 18 midge pattern. I was fishing from the right bank (traditionally the banks are left or right according to their position when looking downstream). In between hatches and assuming that I didn’t see any fish between me and the far bank (of course, that doesn’t mean that there weren’t any there!). I would work my way upstream and cast to theththe close as possible to tthe far (left) bank with an aerial mend and then a spiral pick up to extend the drift. I don’t know about you but I always have the most trouble presenting the fly to those fish that are tight up to the near bank, sometimes right next to me.
I know it is time to put the rod down when I start losing more flies and getting into more tangles. Ray and I had spent most of the day on beats 10 & 11, so we went to explore the other beats in preparation for future visits. My favourite river rod is an 8 ft 4 wt. with a middle to tip action, but we encountered some stretches where a lot of fun could be had with a 6ft 6-inch 3 wt. fibre glass or full flex carbon rod.
Eventually we had to drag ourselves away, it was a fantastic day in great company, even the journey home was plain sailing. Another trip will certainly be on the agenda for next year and I hope others will join us. We will also be exploring more river fishing options, if anyone has any ideas for trips or are interested in joining us please let me know.