Our excellent chalkstreams fly fishing guide Colin Alexander reports on some of his end of season days on the River Test.

‘As March 15th approaches, when the rivers are closed until the trout season opens in April, there is always a sense of urgency to guide just one more client to try for a beautiful grayling or two. After a mild but wet winter we have had some excellent fishing throughout, but no two days on the river are the same, and it is always nice when one or two of the larger fish show up.

Combining good weather and light winds with good fishing is almost impossible when days are booked months in advance and so the reality is to just accept the conditions on the day and adapt your methods to cope.

For example, in strong downstream winds a shorter leader aids turnover and in bright sun with a cold snap I find lesser diameter tippet is essential to encourage positive bites. If extra water has risen the river level then you may need to use a heavier weighted fly when nymph fishing as the flow may look the same as normal levels but is actually running fast enough to keep your fly above the fish feeding over the gravel. 

I was guiding an experienced angler on the last day of the season in very strong downstream gusts with extra flow in the river. Eventually a tungsten beaded pink shrimp got into the feeding zone and instantly took several fish in almost successive casts. I must say up until then various combinations had failed and undoubtedly the flies were simply at too shallow a depth rather than them being the wrong in pattern.

A feature of the last week of the season was cold northerly winds, with increased pressure on the fish from anglers making the most of the remaining days. However, even on the coldest of days grayling in particular will rise if food appears. Sure enough, there were just enough large dark olives hatching to generate some interest, and of course the representative pheasant tail nymph took its fair share of fish preferring to intercept the food sub surface.

J Sharp 8th March

My client Justin Sharp had an excellent day on the Test on the 8th March. Justin is a regular rod on reservoirs but his trip to the rivers soon converted him to the shorter casting style and the need for delicate presentation. He was rewarded with well over twenty fish on the day but a couple of large grayling made his visit special. Please see his photo above …… well if you are going to catch your first grayling it might as well be a good one.

J Hunt 11th March

On 11th March my regular clients James and Shaun had another good day on the Test. It was a day that was slow to start but again increased flow made depth critical with the nymph and perseverance paid off. James’s grayling (photos above and below)  was the best of the fish but Shaun took his fair share and had some excellent late afternoon sport on the dry fly.

Test 8th March

The hardest day was on 9th March when total beginner Mark Collins learnt to cast and caught fish’…… all in a northerly gale…. gusting 50mph and cold as ice. Mark truly deserved a fish or two and got some grayling in the net. His picture (below) shows the less Idyllic conditions we sometimes face but to be honest I often think there is an even greater satisfaction to be gained on such days. I certainly always treat myself to a Bombay Sapphire gin when I get home….. talking of which I am off to do a tour of the Bombay  distillery at Laverstoke, Hampshire this week.  It will be nice to see another use for the beautiful River Test water that runs through there.

M Collins 9th March 

If you like being outdoors in all weathers and having the chance of catching a truly wild fish then I can only highly recommend grayling fishing. You don’t need to be an expert caster before booking…. in fact we teach many beginners on the river….but stealth and presentation are the key so when you do get it right it is very satisfying.

A big thank you to my clients for having the skill to make this blog worthwhile.’