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On this web page you can read my fly fishing diary entries for this four year three month period. In February 2011 our new Blog went live so from then onwards you should read my Blog entries (which you can access via the main green menu bar - right hand end) to keep yourself up-to-date with fly fishing tactics, tackle, prospects and news from the chalkstreams of Hampshire and Berkshire. You can also sign up, via our website 'About Us' web page, to receive our emailed Newsletters.
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Tight lines. Regards Dave
Well this report is really only about November. December was the coldest month on record in the south of England and I was glad not to be out on the river bank during the constant sub-zero temperatures. The coldest I saw was minus 9 one evening and again one morning. The snow started in late-November and for most of December we had lying snow. But being at home enabled me to take record numbers of bookings for the coming season. In December I took 17% more bookings than my previous best ever month.
But getting back to the fishing November did provide excellent Grayling fly fishing. I was out on the chalkstreams guiding clients on eleven days. Mostly the Grayling fishing was very good. The rivers were still running low which made for relatively easy fishing with both small dry flies and lightly weighted nymph or shrimp patterns scoring.
November was also a big month for myself and for Go Fly Fishing UK. On 6th November I carried out our booking No.3000 and by co-incidence our brand new website went live on the same day. Then on 9th November I carried out my 1000th booking as a professional fly fishing guide and instructor. I have loved every day!
From 12th to 14th November I had a very enjoyable three days predator fishing with friends on the Cambridgeshire Fens. I landed seven Pike and two Zander. None of my fish were big but my friends caught Zander to just over 10lbs and Pike to 14lbs. Around Christmas and the New Year I had intended to fish for Pike in the Lincolnshire Fens and for Grayling on the River Wharfe in Yorkshire but in both places the ice cover meant that there was no chance to fish.
Early-January has turned milder so I expect that the Grayling fishing will be very good on the chalk stream rivers right through to the end of the season on 14th March. River flow rates are stronger now so although weighted nymph and shrimp flies will catch the most and the biggest fish most days will bring the chance of some dry fly sport. Hatches at this time of the year tend to be short and in the middle of the day. Sometimes the hatch might last a couple of hours but more normally it will be just 30 to 60 minutes. If you like dry fly fishing - which I certainly do - then as soon as you start to see fish rising you should take off your nymph, add some lighter (6X) tippet and a small dry fly like an 'F' Fly or a parachute Adams. Some days the takes can be hard to hit but on other days fish can be hooked regularly during the hatch. Then when the fish stop rising switch back to the nymph. And to maximise on the number of bites you get make sure that your nymph has enough weight to fish on or very close to the river bed.
During the last month and a half I have been out guiding on the chalk stream rivers on 20 days - mostly on the River Test and River Itchen. Despite a good amount of rainfall in the south since mid-August none of this yet seems to have found its way into the rivers which are still running low and slow. But this makes for easier fishing conditions as the dreaded drag does not affect presentation as much as when flow rates are higher and the water more turbulent. As I had hoped..and expected..the fishing has been very good for both Brown Trout and Grayling. There has obviously been a very successful breeding season this year for the Grayling as my clients caught many small Grayling. But there was also a higher than usual number of large 1lb 4oz to 2lb sized fish caught. It was the middle sized fish that we seemed to be a little short of. The dry fly fishing was often excellent. The larger Grayling are usually caught on nymph but this year my clients caught quite a number of big Grayling on dry. Patterns like Kinkhammer (Tan), 'F' fly and Parachute Adams were amongst the most successful. A lightly weighted size 16 Pheasant Tail Nymph was the most successful nymph pattern. Quite a few 20"+ Brownies were also landed by my clients with a 23" fish to Stu Nelson from the US and a 22" fish to Derek Sweeney being two of the best. Derek had never caught either a Grayling or a Brown Trout before his day on the River Test with me on 18th October. He spent the day catching all Grayling - many small ones but also six large ones - but no Trout. Then right at the very end of the day he caught his biggie. A perfect way to end the day! That week I guided four consecutive days on the same beat of the River Test. The fishing was consistently top notch and as well as lots of big and small Grayling increasing numbers of Trout were caught as the week progressed. On 29th October I guided David Langridge and his wife Dilys - both beginners to river fly fishing and neither of whom had ever caught a Grayling - on a beat of the River Itchen just upstream of Winchester. By the end of the day Dilys had eleven fish and David over twenty and both of them caught some very good sized Grayling up to over 1lb 8oz. But to be honest 90% of my clients during this last few weeks have had excellent days catching lots of fish. The autumn really is a great time to be fishing the chalkstreams.
I got a chance for a few days fishing for myself. On 28th September I was up north and had an excellent afternoon on the River Wharfe at Ilkley. This beat holds very fond memories for me because it is where I started my fly fishing career back in the mid-1970's and where I caught my very first ever fly caught Trout and Grayling. As well as a few Trout I caught some really good sized Grayling on a size 16 Biot Yellow nymph. This beat of the River Wharfe provides excellent Trout and Grayling fly fishing on a very reasonably priced day ticket (£11 in the Trout season). This last week (26th/27th October) I got to fish on another of my favourite rivers, the River Wye in Wales (another by co-incidence is the River Wye in Derbyshire). As well as a number of small to medium sized Grayling and Trout my highlight fish was a good sized Chub which took a size 8 Peeping Caddis. The southern beats that I guide on mostly contain no Chub so it was a nice surprise. And the fishing here is even cheaper than on the River Wharfe. The first afternoon I fished the free town water at Hay-on-Wye and the second day the Rhayader angling club beats (£5 day ticket all year round!).
It is likely that the fishing will get even better in the next few weeks. The last couple of years have brought big fly hatches on the chalkstreams in the late-autumn and early-winter and I am very hopeful that we will get good dry fly fishing right through to Christmas. Our prices for guided days are lower now and stay low right through to the end of March. This next two months is the best value time of the whole chalkstream fly fishing year - top quality sport combined with the lowest prices.
As well as being away on holiday in Alaska for two and a half weeks (see below for my report) I guided on fifteen days during the period of this report. All but one were on the chalk stream rivers - six on the River Test, six on the River Kennet and two on the River Itchen. The fishing was mostly very good for my guided day clients. The River Test and River Itchen fished very well on most days both in early-August (before my holiday) and in early-September. The Test and the Itchen are superb rivers and in their upper/middle reaches provide the most consistently good Trout and Grayling fly fishing I have ever known. Despite quite a lot of bright sunny days the fish were biting well for at least a few hours each day and dry fly was often the best way to tempt them. 'F' fly was the most consistently successful pattern - in sizes 18 and 14 (to match the size of the hatching flies). The chalk streams are all now running fairly low and slow flowing after our low rainfall of the past six months. However this proved to deliver better than usual fishing conditions because so long as a cautious approach was made towards the fish this enabled more regularly effective drag-free presentations to made compared to when flow rates are greater.
In August my wife and I had a superb holiday to Alaska - our third visit there in the last few years. We fished out of Brooks Lodge in Katmai and then based ourselves at Cooper Landing on the Kenai Peninsular. Brooks is famous for its Brown Bears and it's fishing and it did live up to it's reputation for the six days we were there. I had to give up my fishing spot to a bear on a number of occasions. The Kenai has superb scenery and a great variety of rivers - large and small. As well as the upper and middle Kenai River I also fished Ptarmigan Creek, Quartz Creek and the Russian River. Over the two weeks I landed around 100 fish including many Rainbow Trout, some Dolly Varden and Sockeye Salmon, a few very fresh run Coho Salmon and the odd fish of other species. 100% of my fishing was by fly with many different techniques catching. The most successful were beads (Salmon egg imitations), streamers and flesh flies but I did catch on dry fly. One memorable evening I waded the upper Kenai River alone - magnificent scenery, no other fishers and regularly rising fish. I was very happy with my seven Rainbows and one Dolly all on dry fly for just a couple of hours of fishing. My wife and I love Alaska. My highlights from this year's trip were fishing with the bears for company and catching big wild Rainbows and sparkling silver Coho Salmon. If you are thinking of a trip there give me a call and I'll try to be of assistance.
The autumn provides some of the very best dry fly fishing of the whole year. As the days shorten and temperatures start to drop this seems to trigger much better fly hatches than through the summer. As I write this report this last week (6th-12th September) has seen the start of this process. On 12th I was guiding on the Test and 'F' Fly, Parachute Adams and Red Sedge were the killer flies, catching both big Trout and Grayling for my guiding client Jim from New York. I expect this good dry fly fishing to continue maybe as long as mid-December with a peak through October and November. The lower Grayling beat prices start to kick in from 1st October with all beats being on Grayling rates by mid-October.
For most of the last two months the weather has been very dry and warm - a good summer at last. However this has made for some difficult afternoon fishing in hot bright conditions. However the second half of July brought lots of good cloud cover and this meant that most of my clients on the River Test and River Itchen had excellent sport to both dry fly and nymph. For example only the other day on 29th July I guided James and Duncan on the River Test at Longparish. After a good morning's sport the afternoon was superb with them landing about 25 fish between them - mostly on small nymph and shrimp patterns.. Also in July as well as lots of Brown Trout the Grayling started to be caught in good numbers adding to the interest and excitement of the day. The upper reaches of the Test and Itchen have fished very well through July and I see no reason why this should not continue through August so long as there is good cloud cover. Despite the lack of any decent rainfall over the past two months the flows in the River Test and the River Itchen have remained excellent but the River Kennet and River Coln (Cotswolds) flows have been reducing through July.
Although generally not the best fly fishing month of the Trout season so long as the weather does not get too bright and hot it should be another good dry fly month. Also a light Pheasant Tail Nymph can be a killer when sight cast to sub surface feeding fish. Also dry fly fishing for Rainbows on the stocked lakes can be very exciting.
May was the excellent interesting dry fly month that I had hoped that it would be for my chalk stream clients. Not every day was good but most were. I'll give you a day by day summary of my guiding days. On 5th on the upper Test there was a decent hatch all day but rising fish only in the afternoon. 6th on the lower Test I saw my very first Mayfly of the year and lots of Hawthorn but few fish rose. On 7th on the upper Test there were more Hawthorn than I've ever seen and a sparse hatch of small/medium olives. On 8th on upper Test there were no Hawthorn at all but all afternoon a very good hatch of assorted small/medium olives and rising fish everywhere. 10th and again on the upper Test there were few flies and few rising fish. 11th on upper Test and we were back to big hatches and lots of rising fish - this time all day (but still no Mayfly). So the last four days have been very different - and this was on beats within two miles of each other. On 13th on the River Coln few flies few rising fish too bright. 14th upper Test very good afternoon hatch. 15th upper Itchen slow hatches but plenty of fish caught. 16th upper Itchen very good afternoon hatch. 18th River Wylye Mayfly trickling off in the afternoon. 19th upper Test few flies, few rising fish too bright. 20th middle Itchen first big Mayfly hatch I've seen but most fish were ignoring them. 21st upper Test no hatch few rising fish. 22nd Frensham Trout Fishery Mayfly hatching but bright and fish caught on small buzzers. 24th lower Test lots of Mayfly but few rising fish. 25th upper Test no Mayfly. 26th upper Test big Mayfly hatch late in the afternoon but despite fly changes fish hard to tempt despite them rising all over. 27th upper Itchen good hatches all day including some Mayfly. 28th River Kennet few flies few rising fish.
I'd say that the Danica Mayfly hatch was around a week later than usual - probably because of the cold weather in late-spring. The hatch starts first in the lower reaches of the rivers and works its way upstream. It can be good on the Kennet right through to mid-June and the Wylye often sees a hatch continuing right through July.
On 28th I headed up to Scotland for a non-fishing holiday week visiting the islands of Arran, Islay, Jura and Bute. I did take a rod but other things took my attention.
For the second year running I've taken a two day 'busman's holiday' trip to fly fish the River Wye in Derbyshire. Last year I landed 32 fish and this year I went even better landing 37. Of these 30 were wild Rainbow Trout. But the highlight was a superb conditioned 21" wild Brown Trout - maybe weighing 4lbs. I fished the Haddon Estate beats. On 1st May the weather was dry and mainly bright and despite few flies hatching there were enough rising fish to target and 'stimulator' dry flies like a Royal Wulff brought up the fish regularly. 2nd May was cold, breezy and cloudy and there were excellent hatches of olives for most of the day. Usually I had a number of rising fish in front of me and imitative patterns like 'F' Fly and Adams brought me regular takes. So four out of four very good days of dry fly fishing on the beautiful Derbyshire Wye. It is a very special river for fly fishers.
So long as the weather does not get too bright and hot it should be another good dry fly month.
April was a cold, dry and bright month in the south of England with almost no April showers. A northerlie breeze dominated and the cold mainly bright conditions limited fly hatches. I was out with clients five times on the River Coln and also had client days on the River Test and the River Kennet. Occasionally there were rising fish but mostly the fish were caught on weighted nymphs. 13 year old master Taylor takes the prize for the best catch. He had never fly fished before and after a blank morning on the River Coln in the afternoon he landed five good sized Brown Trout as well as losing a couple. By contrast his dad fishing close by with the same tactics didn't catch any. Frensham Trout Fishery (in Surrey near to Farnham) fished very well throughout April. I was there on a few occasions giving fly fishing lessons. The Rainbow Trout were in superb condition and everybody caught some good sized ones with the biggest catch being ten fish...and to a complete beginner having his very first fly fishing lesson.
The Orvis Meon Springs Countryside Day on 18th April was again blessed with perfect sunny weather. A record number of people visited and I enjoyed giving my talk on 'Tackle & tactics for stillwater Trout' to a good sized audience.
May should be an excellent month for dry fly fishing. I am hopeful that for most of the month we will be casting imitative dry flies to rising fish. By mid-May we should be seeing the Mayfly hatch starting. Before that medium olive, blue winged olive, pale watery and iron blue dun are likely to be the main flies hatching on the chalk streams.
March provided some particularly good fly fishing for my clients. In the first half of the month I was out on the River Test six times with clients. What was surprising was the number of large Grayling being caught. Normally we catch more small ones than big ones but in the last two weeks of the Grayling season it was the other way round and my clients caught a number of fish in the 1lb 8oz to 2lb range as well as lots of other 1lb+ fish. My last day out wit clients of the winter Grayling fishing season was a perfect day. The weather was warm and bright. Bright is not usually a good thing on the River Test but on this occasion it did not stop my two fishers catching around twenty fish. Gary and Lars had been bought the day as a Christmas gift voucher by their partners and despite both being competent casters neither had ever fished the River Test and neither had ever caught either a Grayling or a Brown Trout. They had a perfect start to the day. In the first hour of fishing both had caught one good sized Grayling and one good sized Trout....with many more, especially Grayling, being caught later on in the day.
In the second half of March I was out a number of giving fly fishing lessons at Frensham Trout Fishery and at other stocked lake locations. The weather was starting to warm up a little and this seemed to get the Rainbow Trout biting even better than usual. On two or three occasions I had complete beginners catch between six and ten Trout for their day.
Just before the end of the coarse fishing season I had three days fishing with friends on the River Avon at Salisbury and the River Kennet. On the Avon I caught a number of Dace including my largest ever of 14oz.
The new river Brown Trout season opens on the River Kennet in Berkshire and the River Coln in Gloucestershire on 1st April. River Test and River Itchen beats start to open up from mid-April and all will be open by 1st May.
Wow what a winter...but not from a fishing point of view! For the south of England it has been an exceptionally cold and snowy winter. I have lived in the south for the past 18 years and I've never seen so much snow. On 6th January I was due to guide on the River Test for Grayling but there was no chance of us even getting close to the river with around 9" of snow having just fallen. On 21st December I was booked to give a fly fishing lesson at Frensham Trout Fishery but the lakes were solid with thick ice. December was a very busy month for me for taking bookings. January is my quietest month of the year but even given the cold conditions I was out seven times with clients - three times on the River Test; twice on the River Itchen; once on the River Kennet; and once at Frensham Trout Fishery. Mostly the fishing was good. One highlight was Nigel from Majorca - an annual guiding client - who braved the cold to catch a number of very good sized Grayling from the River Itchen near to the end of January. In February I have been out with clients on nine days. Another highlight was on 26th February when Duncan, fishing the River Test for the very first time, caught his first ever Grayling - a magnificent fish of 2lbs 4oz. He had been bought the day as a Christmas gift voucher and was very happy with his gift! Flows in the River Test and the River Kennet are as good as I've seen them for many years and this bodes very well for the upcoming Trout season when good water levels are now guaranteed for at least the first few months of the season.
As well as catching up on lots of administrative matters I also had time to go out fishing for myself a few times. Mostly this was unproductive but I did catch some nice Chub up to 5lb 7oz. And on 9th December I fished the River Itchen with Richard Baker of 'Trout & Salmon' magazine. We caught lots of fish and you'll hopefully have a chance to read about the day in the magazine in the autumn.
In mid-February I was up in Yorkshire visiting relatives and friends and I had a very enjoyable day of Grayling fishing with friends on the River Wharfe at Ilkley. During the week there was yet more snow. While it has become milder in the south of England in the last few days and my clients have had some great sport on the River Test and the River Kennet, winter has not ended in the north of England and more snow is still falling .
The winter Grayling season ends on 14th March and I expect some excellent sport to be had by my guided day and fly fishing tuition clients on the River Test before then. Mostly we will be fishing lightly weighted nymphs but we will also be getting the chance to fish dry fly. Hatches of Olives are likely for at least an hour on most days. In the second half of March I will be giving fly fishing lessons on stocked Rainbow Trout lakes before the new river Brown Trout season opens on the River Kennet in Berkshire and the River Coln in Gloucestershire on 1st April.
The last two months have brought very varied weather conditions. After a mild October the weather in November has mostly been wet and windy. However as is often the case bad weather brings bigger catches of fish. The strange thing about November is that despite lots of heavy rain at the end of the month the chalk stream rivers are still running very low...lower than I've seen them in the last ten years. We had a dry summer and the chalk aquifers must have run very low and are now being replenished before letting water out of the springs into the rivers. The low water and associated slower current speeds have made for easier fishing but the accumulated weed has made some spots unfishable. Catches of Grayling have been excellent with some good sized fish up to around 2lbs being caught by my guided day clients. Unusually some of these bigger Grayling have been caught on dry flies. Usually it's just the smaller Grayling that get caught on dry flies.
In the period of this report I carried out 32 bookings, 90% on the chalk stream rivers and of these 20 on the River Test. I also managed to get out fishing for myself on nine occasions. The highlight of these were three days of Grayling fly fishing on three different beats of the River Itchen. In total I landed over 50 Grayling up to around 1lb 8oz along with lots of out-of-season Trout. On 3rd November I was fishing the Itchen with my Go Fly Fishing UK colleague Steve Rhodes when we were hit by a tornado. It arrived very quickly and immediately tore a million leaves off the bankside trees which completely covered the river. I took shelter in the fishing beat hut but had left my (£600) rod outside only to see branches falling onto it, so I quickly brought it inside. Large trees fell and even inside the hut Steve and I felt unsafe for the fifteen minutes or so it took for the storm to pass. The afternoon was nice and we caught lots of fish but on attempting to drive home roads were closed by fallen trees. Later that evening the BBC reported that a tornado had passed up through Hampshire. I was there!!
We have had some pleasing coverage in the 'Trout & Salmon' magazine this last two months. The November edition contained an article written by Paul Proctor about a day of Grayling fly fishing that he had had with me on the River Kennet a year ago and the front cover picture shows me fishing one of the Kennet carrier streams. The December edition features my Go Fly Fishing UK colleague Steve Rhodes fly fishing for Grayling on the upper River Aire near to Skipton in Yorkshire - a water that I am very familar with and very fond of myself.
The chalk streams continue to provide excellent Grayling fly fishing throughout the winter months until the season ends on 14t March. It is likely that levels will raise slightly during December as the autumn rainfall starts to work its way through the chalk. The water will remain very clear, the current speed will pick up and the weed will mostly be cleared away. Some surprisingly good conditioned, and large, Brown Trout will also be caught by accident. Most of the time we will be fishing nymphs for the Grayling but the majority of days will bring a hatch of Small Dark Olives for an hour or two in the middle part of the day and my guided day clients will be able to fish dry fly successfully.
The last few weeks has seen some outstanding fly fishing on the chalk stream rivers. Despite lots of showery weather over the summer there has been a lack of heavy rain. So the River Test and River Itchen are now running a fraction lower and slower than usual but they are also running particularly clear. Fly hatches have usually not been anything special but the sport often has been. Lots of my guided day clients fish have been caught on nymphs but on some days excellent dry fly sport has been experienced from both Brown Trout and Grayling.
In the period of this report I had 24 bookings - 14 on rivers and 10 on lakes. Half of my river days were on the River Test with the others spread across the rivers Kennet, Itchen, Wylye and Coln. In w/c 14th September I had one of my most rewarding guiding weeks of my career. I was out with guided day and fly fishing tuition clients on four consecutive days - three on the Test and one on the Itchen. The week started wet, dull and with a nasty blustery northerly wind but my client Steve (from Perth, Australia) caught around ten Brown Trout and twenty Grayling. I've always known that dull conditions were generally the best for catching fish but this summer on a number of occasions the worst weather has brought the best sport. Over the next few days the breeze gradually calmed down and the sun came out but the fishing stayed superb. All six of my fishers on those four days had superb sport. For each of them it was some of the best river fly fishing sport they had ever experienced and it was a pleasure for me to guide them to such great success. On the last of the four days I was guiding on a different beat of the River Test. My client Joe (from Ohio, USA) started off by catching lots of Grayling on the dry fly and ended up landing large numbers of both Brown Trout and Grayling on small nymphs. His biggest Brown was approaching four pounds and at one stage he caught around ten fish from a single pool. Normally the fish would have spooked long before this was possible. He said 'I'm in heaven'...and I was too!
This is my favorite time of the fly fishing year. There tends to be good fly hatches and so dry fly fishing can be excellent, especially on the River Test and River Itchen. We will be fishing a mixture of small dries and small nymphs and this autumn, with the lower flows and associated even clearer than usual water, the sight casting will be exciting. Some beats on the River Test do not close for Trout fishing until the end of October, others have already closed for Trout at the end of September but the Grayling fly fishing continues into the winter. They will be in the peak of their condition and tend to feed well on most autumn days on both the surface and the river bed. The autumn is also a good time to take a fly fishing lesson on a stocked lake location.
The last eight weeks has mostly brought good Trout fly fishing conditions. Apart from a one week spell of hot bright weather in late-June/early-July it's mostly been dull, coolish and at times wet. For chalk stream day time fishing I find these conditions bring better sport than bright hot conditions. It's the third summer in a row like this and I hope it continues. The River Test has been running exceptionally clear with sight casting and fish spotting, even in deeper water, easier than usual. It's not common to get good daytime fly hatches in the summer on the chalk streams. The main exception to this is the upper River Itchen. There are a couple of beats here that I do guided fly fishing days on that provide the most consistently good summer dry fly fishing that I know of. Partly because of good tree shade constantly rising fish are experienced even on bright warm days.
On 9th July I was guiding on the River Wylye and saw an amazing sight. At the very start of the day my two clients and I were looking off a bridge into the water below. A large wild Brownie was holding station in the current and we were talking tactics about how it might be caught. As the fish was motionless near the bottom I though the chances were slim with any tactic. Then up under the bridge swam a mother duck with her 7 or 8 one or two week old ducklings. Whoosh....and the Trout (about 4lbs) had one firmly in its mouth. A few minutes of munching and the duckling was swallowed. I'd have never believed it if I hadn't seen it with my own eyes. I've heard of mouse patterns being used for the wild Rainbows in Alaska but maybe we need duckling patterns for the big Brownies. My Go Fly Fishing UK colleague Steve commented when he heard that we should have tried a very large CDC fly! Has anyone else seen a Trout take a duckling?
I was out guiding and doing fly fishing tuition on 30 days during the period of this report. Most often on the River Kennet but also on the Test, Itchen, Coln and Wylye and five times on stocked lake locations. I also had time for some fishing for myself and also a one week non-fishing holiday to Barcelona. I've always enjoyed a spot of June Tench fishing and I had some great sessions on the Farnham Angling Club Frensham Ponds where, as well as landing a number of 4lb+ and 5lb+ Tench, I also caught some lovely Rudd up to 2lb 3oz.
The fly fishing on the chalk streams over the next few weeks is likely to continue the pattern of the last few weeks. The quality of the fishing will be weather dependant....the duller the better. Fly hatches usually start to pick up during September but, as previously mentioned, there are beats of the upper River Itchen that provide consistently good dry fly fishing even on hotter / brighter days.
From what I saw it's only been an average Mayfly season. From what I saw the River Test seemed to have a better hatch than for the last couple of years and the River Kennet not as good. But the annual hatches seem to go in cycles of intensity across the various rivers in an unpredictable manner. You have to book and take your chance. I only saw one day of 'Duffers Fortnight' style easy sport (18th May on the upper River Test). On most days it was late-afternoon that saw the peak of both the hatching Duns and the falling Spinners activity. 'Don't bother getting to the river early' is my usual - and correct - message to fishers fishing the Danica hatch. 12th June was a good Mayfly day on the River Kennet and 4th June on the River Coln.
On 4th May I had an interesting day on the River Kennet doing a feature for 'Shooting Times'. My pupil for the feature was celebrity chef Stuart Gillies. He enjoyed himself and caught some good sized Trout to take back to his restaurant to cook. In an email to me he said 'Hi Dave, A very short note to say thanks again for a brilliant day on Monday on the Kennet. I fulfilled a lifelong ambition to learn to fly fish and it will certainly not be the last. I'm off to Farlows this afternoon to check out the range of equipment...!! Best of luck for the future, Stuart Gillies'. Look out for the feature in 'Shooting Times' one week possibly in July.
Despite taking a 9 day holiday in the middle of the period of this 'Dave's Diary' I was still out guiding and giving fly fishing lessons on 28 days. 25 of these were on rivers - most often on the River Kennet but also on the Test, Coln, Itchen, Lambourn and Wylye. The upper Itchen provides the most consistently good dry fly sport of any of the rivers that I guide on and is good right through from 1st May to late-November - even on hot summer days.
I didn't get as much fishing in on my trip to Scotland and Northumberland as I'd hoped to. Other commitments meant that I only had one full day out fishing. This was a very enjoyable day of Pike fly fishing on Loch Lomond. As well as seeing Ospreys I caught both Pike and Perch, but nothing of any notable size. I have landed them there up to 28lbs in the past. They are awesome fighters and take a 'fly' very well.
If you pick your fishing times based on the weather forecast great fly fishing can be had on all the chalk stream rivers right through the summer. If it's bright sunny and very warm try to fish early in the morning and in the evening. Also try to seek out shaded water during the heat of the day. There tends to be more fly activity in the shade and thus more active fish. On cooler duller days good sport can be had through the middle part of the day. From 1st July onwards most beats allow upstream nymph as well as dry fly. I find that sight casting a size 14 unweighted Pheasant Tail Nymph upstream to Trout you can see is effective even on hot days and is just as exciting as dry fly fishing.
This month I'm going to start my diary with my own personal fly fishing highlights of the month. Partly because they were at the start of the month and partly because they were so memorable. From 4th to 10th April I had a family holiday based near to Bakewell in Derbyshire. It was a superb week in every respect. The Derbyshire Peak District scenery is stunning; the weather was mostly very good; and the fishing was excellent. I had long wanted to catch a true wild English Rainbow Trout. To the best of my knowledge the Derbyshire Wye is the only water in Britain with true wild breeding Rainbows. They have been breeding there every year for over a hundred years and surprisingly nowhere else in the UK. I had caught wild Rainbows in Alaska, British Columbia, Montana and Wyoming but never in Britain. I had booked two days on the river and both days surpassed my expectations. I landed 16 Rainbows, 15 Browns and one out-of-season Grayling - about half on dry fly and half on nymph. The Rainbows were absolute jewels. None were bigger than 1lb 8oz but I'm always happy catching wild fish.
On 16th April I had a very enjoyable afternoon fishing the lower River Test with two of my fly fishing guide friends. The fishing was hard but I did catch one very good conditioned Rainbow and some out-of-season Grayling, the largest of which would have been 2lbs.
So far as my client days were concerned I did fourteen, half erre guided days on rivers and half were fly fishing tuition days on stocked lakes. Mostly the fishing was good without being special. Fly hatches are always sparse until late-April but some fish were being caught by my clients on dry fly by the end of the month.
On Sunday 19th April I gave a talk on 'Chalkstream Trout Fly Fishing Tactics and Tackle' at the Orvis Country Experience Day at Meon Springs Trout Fishery in east Hampshire as well as manning the Grayling Society stand. The weather was great, the attendance was big and a very enjoyable time was had by everybody.
May and June are the two best months of the year for Trout fly fishing - all over the UK. Certainly on the chalk streams this is the time we get the best of the dry fly action and the legendary Danica Mayfly hatch. I hope it lives up to expectations.
In the lead up to the end of the Grayling season on 14th March I guided and did fly fishing tuition days on the River Test on 13 days as well as having one day fishing there myself. Mostly it fished well but not always. February 26th and 27th were interesting. On 26th the fishing was hard and even very competent fishers caught very little. The next day in seemingly similar conditions the fishing was excellent. My clients Michael Short and Peter Measey, who have a guided day with me every year at this time of the year, had a superb day and Michael sent me an email saying "Thanks again for a wonderful day. We always enjoy the day and we were naturally delighted to reverse the previous minimally bent rods day to an excellent day for us and you of many bent rods. Pete and I think we had around 20-22 fish between us, amongst which were the fantastic grayling and three great trout. Once again thanks for your patience and teaching, knowledge and river craft, flies and tippet, this all culminates for us in a great annual event." Another memorable day for me and my guided day client Andy Spicer was on 13th March, the penultimate day of the Grayling season. Andy had never fly fished on rivers but is a competent fly tyer. So good were his flies that when I looked at them I had the confidence in them such that I was happy for him to fish with them all day long. He had the best start to a day I've ever known. Before taking his very first fly cast into a river I pointed out the likely taking spots in the first pool he was about to fish. His first cast was blown slightly right by a gust of wind and landed over a weedbed. I expected his nymph to snag bottom but he was immediately into a big Brownie. After a hard fight a fish of around 3lbs was landed. So it took him 10 seconds to hook his first river fish on the fly and a big fish at that and on a fly he'd tyed himself. We agreed that he'd dine out on this story for weeks to come....how he caught his first river fish on the fly on his very first cast and on the famous River Test. He went on to catch lots of Grayling, including some good sized ones, and a couple more out-of-season Trout.
As well as my river days I also had 9 days of bookings on stocked lake locations. Again mostly the fishing was good. Just yesterday my client John Osborne had his first ever fly fishing day. After a mild night the fish at Frensham Trout Fishery were definitely on the take and over the day he landed 8 or 9 Rainbows up to 4lb 4oz. His girlfriend Louise, who organised the day as a 40th birthday gift for John, reported to me in an email yesterday evening - "Dave, yes, lots of gutting has been going on! He had a truly great day and is off visiting the friends who bought the other vouchers with his catch of the day, to say thank you to them! So, many thanks. I think he has been bitten by the fly fishing bug."
I also had time for quite a bit of fishing for myself. Over the two months I fished the rivers Test, Frome (Dorset), Wye (Wales), Kennet, Severn and Teme and also tried Rockbourne Trout Fishery near Fordingbridge in Hampshire. I have to say that while I enjoyed all this fishing a lot I didn't catch much of note.
The Trout season is now open on the rivers Kennet, Wylye and Coln (Cotswolds). Beats on the rivers Test and Itchen open on various dates from mid-April to 1st May. Fly hatches tend to be sparse until late-April although, where it's allowed, nymph fishing can be very good. Look out for Hawthorn flies around late-April and early-May and carry some size 12 imitations. May should provide some of the best dry fly sport of the whole year. The chalkstreams will be running full and clear and there should be no excuses!
A cold winter! But it hasn't stopped some superb fly fishing being experienced on the chalk streams. This winter has delivered more consistently good fishing than I can ever remember. December is our busiest month of the year for taking advance bookings and so I plan to be in the office for much of the month rather than being out on the riverbank with fishing clients. Despite the credit crunch December was our second best ever month for bookings. Over the two months I was out with fishing clients on ten occasions, mostly on the River Test. On 16th December I guided Timothy Tatham and Richard Glaister on the Test. Tim had bought the day in the Wild Trout Trust annual auction and I had given my services and the fishing beat for free. All three of us really enjoyed the day. It was about as perfect a day's fly fishing as could be had at any time of the year. Although dull and cool there was negligible breeze and it wasn't cold. The hatch of olives was superb...as good as you'd ever see. Often Tim and Richard would have four or five regularly rising fish within casting range and both caught a number of good sized Grayling as well as some out-of-season Trout. I was out on the Test with clients twice in the w/c 5th January (a very cold week). Although there were a few rising fish on both these days it was deep fished nymphs which brought them great success.
Over the Christmas period I fished the rivers Wharfe and Aire in Yorkshire for Grayling and the Lincolnshire fen drains for Pike. I caught plenty of good fish but nothing big. In January I had a couple of interesting day's fishing with friends on the Kennet & Avon Canal. I've always liked Perch and I landed a good number both days with the largest just topping 2lbs...but I was after even bigger fish.
The rivers Test and Kennet remain open for Grayling until 14th March and I expect good fishing to continue until the very end of the season. There are less fishers out on the riverbank in the late-season than in the autumn and I feel that this makes the fish less spooky and more likely to take.
Wow what a month! Not only was I busier than I have ever been in November but the fishing was mostly superb. I was out guiding/teaching on 16 days during the month - 8 on the River Test, 4 on the River Kennet, 3 on the River Itchen and 1 on the River Coln. November is normally more of a nymph fishing month than dry fly but most of the days on the Test and the Itchen provided superb dry fly sport....better than would usually be seen during the summer months. As the years go by good fly hatches on the chalkstreams are becoming rarer and rarer but most of my clients fishing the Test and Itchen this last month thought they were in fly fishers' heaven. The Kennet also fished well but that was mostly to nymphs or trotting. I ran two Grayling fly fishing courses on the Kennet in November and 100% of participants caught Grayling with 70% catching plenty. I plan on running more of these courses in October 2009. The other good thing about this November was the number of good sized Grayling in the 1lb 8oz to 2lb size bracket landed by my clients.
On the evening of 4th November I did a talk and slide show to the Romsey Fly Fishers club. They are a friendly club that is open to both experienced fly fishermen and beginners. It aims to promote the art of fly fishing by encouraging experienced fly fishermen to enjoy their sport in the company of fellow fishermen and to help beginners catch fish. It was a very enjoyable evening for me and the members seemed to enjoy my talk. On 7th I headed north for The Grayling Society Symposium and AGM at Llangollen by the Welsh River Dee. Saturday was excellent with memorable talks from local and nationally renowned Grayling fishers such as Louis Noble, Jeremy Lucas and George Ashton. Then the trouble started....the rain!! By Sunday morning the river was in spate and unfishable so I drove home disappointed not to have the chance to fish this famous Grayling river. It makes me realise how lucky I am to guide on the chalkstreams. It is sixteen months since I lost a day's guiding work through bad river conditions and that was the only occasion in 2007.
The River Test will continue to provide excellent Grayling fly fishing throughout the winter months with most days providing some opportunity for dry fly fishing. For those who fancy a little long trotting there are beats on the rivers Test, Itchen and Kennet that are open through the winter. I've been trotting for Grayling with a centre-pin reel for as long as I've been fly fishing (35 years) so if you fancy a little guidance and tuition give me a call. I have plenty of free to book days in December and January.
The next few months will give me a little more time for my own fishing. I was out fishing on my own yesterday on the River Kennet and I look forward to fishing the local Surrey, Hampshire and Berkshire rivers; the rivers Wharfe, Aire and Ribble 'up north'; and the Lincolnshire fen drains for Pike.
I do like October...and it's been a great one. The September weather was mostly not too good and the fishing was OK without being great. But October was much better - the weather and the fishing. Apart from keen Grayling fishers (like myself) I feel that many fly fishers miss out on the delights of October. Although mainly a Grayling month my clients also caught lots of superb conditioned Trout in October with none showing any signs of their upcoming breeding season.
Two days in October particularly stick out in my memory. The first was 17th and I was guiding/teaching Mike Hawkins on the River Itchen upstream of Winchester. He had fly fished on stillwaters but never on rivers. The very clear shallow water of the upper Itchen is not an easy fishing environment but Mike had a superb day catching well over twenty fish - a mixture of Grayling and Brownies - both sometimes small and sometimes large. The sun shone, the flies hatched, the fish rose to take Mike's fly and it was a very enjoyable day for the both of us. The other highlight day was 24th. Eighteen months previously chatting to Paul Proctor he told me he'd never fished the River Kennet and so I said I could fix that for him. What with Paul and my busy diaries it took us until now to get a date fixed. As the day approached the weather forecast was not good. But the weather man was wrong again and the sun shone most of the day. Paul invited along Rod Calbrade to take pictures of the day and hopefully you'll see a few of these in 'Trout & Salmon' magazine some time in the future (maybe October or November 2009). Paul chose to fish a 10' 4-weight for short line nymphing. I went for an 8' 4-weight for light single nymph, dry fly or a dry/nymph duo. It took Paul less than five minutes to catch his very first River Kennet fish - a nice Grayling - and to cut a long story short he proceeded to catch around 40 fish - mostly Grayling. Paul's comments to me by email were "Hi Dave, Just back home reflecting on a great day we had on the Kennet. Just to say it was a really enjoyable day with you and to thank you for organising everything. Best wishes. Paul". Wanting to help Paul spend his time in the very best places I only fished for about a quarter of the day but in that time even I landed about a dozen good Grayling. A very enjoyable day for both of us.
In the two month period covered by this diary report I was out guiding/teaching 34 times - 24 on rivers and 10 on stocked stillwaters. Mainly my river days were on the Kennet or Test with a few on the Coln. 26th September on the River Coln was another highlight. After a slow morning my three competent fishers caught lots of Trout and Grayling in the afternoon. These included a Brown Trout of 20.5" and a Rainbow of 27". This latter fish had obviously been in the river a long time. It was fin perfect, shaped like a Salmon and probably weighed over 8lbs. On 29th October I was guiding a river beginner on the River Test. There was a prolonged and intensive hatch of olives and David fished small dry flies most of the day and ended up with around seven or eight fish - Grayling and Trout. My personal fishing time was limited. I did get out a few times after Pike and landed a few up to 12lbs.
November can be nearly as good as October but depends very much on the weather conditions on the day. Mild overcast calm days should see lots of flies hatching and great dry fly sport. Brighter colder days should see excellent sport with the Grayling to small nymphs and shrimp patterns. I have very few days free in November but plenty in December.
Well what a summer! The record poor August weather led to some unseasonably good day time dry fly fishing. Normally we’d call July and August the ‘dog days of summer’ because of their mediocre fishing. Often it’s early morning and late-evening fishing that brings the best results in bright hot summer conditions. This summer I find it hard to remember any such conditions – maybe one week in mid/late July. So I wasn’t complaining about the weather….that is until I went on my holiday to Wales! More of that later.
My mid-July to end-August period contained a lot of family and holiday time. I was only out guiding/teaching on 15 days during this period. This was mostly on the River Kennet and River Coln although I did have three days on the upper Itchen and the River Test. All the rivers were flowing full and fresh all summer and the fishing was on average better than in most recent summers.
In mid-August I had a five day holiday in Wales based at Machynlleth on the River Dovey. I planned some Sea Trout and Bass fly fishing and had long ago booked the services of local AAPGAI guide/instructor Illtyd Griffiths. The week was very wet and windy with constant westerly winds and a river going up and down like a yo-yo. Despite having good advice on where to go Bass fishing I never saw any sign of Bass on any of my three or four sessions. My guided session with Illtyd had originally been booked as a night time Sea Trout trip but as the week approached he advised that daytime fishing would offer the best chance of success. After a couple of false starts caused by bad conditions he finally said it was OK to go. The river looked great – clearing and falling. Surely there would be taking fish. Not a sausage! However I really enjoyed my day on the Dovey. Superb scenery and my kind of river – not too big and not too small. Illtyd was great company and a great guide but most particularly a master casting instructor. I’ve done very little Spey casting (not much needed on the chalkstreams!) but after his expert coaching by the end of the day I was putting out a reasonably consistent line over the far side lies. I’d have loved a good Sea Trout but it wasn’t to be. He tried hard to get me into one, just like I do with my clients, but it doesn’t always come off. I bought my day permit from an 84 year old local who had caught fresh run 12lb Salmon only the previous day – albeit on a spinner and he had lived by the river all his life! I hope I can report similar successes when I’m 84!
Late-September/early-October sees the end of the chalk stream Trout season (the last day of the season varying by river and by beat) with the very best of the Grayling fly fishing season continuing on immediately after that. After May/June I like the autumn as the next best time of the year for dry fly fishing and for sight-casting with small light nymphs. Very good river conditions are guaranteed throughout the period and so prospects are very good.
The second half of the Danica Mayfly hatch was very inconsistent. Some days there were large hatches, on other days very few flies hatched and sometimes heavy rain stopped the fish rising to flies that were hatching. The Kennet had huge numbers of Mayfly spinners in mid-June and as in 2007 the River Coln in the Cotswolds had some great hatches right up to the start of July. The most consistent river for dry fly sport was the upper Itchen and here, as well as the smaller Mayfly species, there were also good numbers of Danica hatching up to late-June. On 12th July my client Andy from Stratford-upon-Avon who had never fished a chalk stream before had a particularly large catch of Brown Trout from the upper Itchen, including his first ever Grayling. Mostly he caught his fish on a Super Grizzly Emerger - a dry fly of his own tying to a pattern by John Goddard. In early-July we had some unseasonably cool and wet weather and this seemed to really turn on the Grayling. I had a number of clients on the Test catching them as if it was autumn.....great fun they all agreed. The considerable rainfall that fell in the chalk streams area during the last six weeks has ensured that the rivers are continuing to run full and fresh and it has ensured that we will get good river conditions well into the autumn no matter how little rain falls from now onwards.
I was guiding/teaching on 27 days during the period, 10 on the Kennet, 6 on the Test, 5 on the Itchen, 5 on the Coln and 1 on the Wylye. I also had a few days off to fish on my own.
The emphasis will mainly be on sight casting upstream with light nymphs such as a Pheasant Tail or Gold Ribbed Hare's Ear. During overcast warm days the dry fly fishing should be good and if the conditions are right very good evening dry fly fishing can be experienced for those willing to stay on for the last 60 minutes of daylight. Sedge and Spinner patterns are the ones to fish on summer evenings. Watch what's flying around and is on the water and 'match the hatch'. There are scheduled weed cuts on the Test from 14th to 24th July and from 12th to 21st August. The Itchen weed cut is from 11th to 22nd August.
As expected May provided some superb dry fly sport. On 8th my client Ton from Holland had a large catch of Brown Trout from the upper River Itchen, including a high proportion of wild fish - all on dry fly. On the afternoon of 16th May I was guiding on the River Test and there was one of the biggest hatches I've ever seen. There were at least four different Mayfly species hatching simultaneously and at times the water surface was covered with Blue Winged Olives. The Danica hatch had only just started and the fish were mostly not noticing them. However there were rises everywhere as the fish took the smaller duns. 'Matching the hatch' was very important and takes were not easy to come by. It was 19th May - again on the River Test - when I saw the first heavy hatches of Danica. After a slow morning there was a big hatch in the second half of the afternoon and my client Ian caught a number of large Brownies on size 8 Grey Wulff. 21st on the Test was also excellent but with fish feeding well right from the start of the day on both Danica and smaller Mayfly species. My client Keith from New York state seemed to spend half the day with his rod bent into fish.
I was guiding/teaching on 18 days during May and ended the month with a 9 day 'busman's holiday' to Scotland (see below). Apart from 1st May on a stocked lake location all my other days were on rivers - 6 different rivers in Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and Gloucestershire.
The great dry fly fishing will continue throughout June with some rivers like the Wylye and Coln having prolonged Mayfly hatches. The Test and Itchen both have long closed periods for weed cutting. These start from 9th June. Depending on the weather conditions late-June could well see a tail off of the hatches with many beats allowing upstream nymph from 1st July. Sight casting a small unweighted nymph - like a size 14 or 12 Pheasant Tail - is an exciting way of taking the Trout when little is hatching and few fish rising.
I always spend the whole of the Whitsuntide week up in Scotland. I love it, not just for the fishing but also for the scenery and the wildlife. I fished for two and a half days on Loch Lomond and spent the rest of the week touring the Trossachs and the island of Arran. The fishing highlight was an afternoon on Loch Lomond. As well as five hard fighting fly-caught Pike up to 13lbs and a stunningly scenic fishing location I had up to five Ospreys fishing within close proximity of where I was fishing. A magic afternoon.
I was out teaching / guiding for 23 full days during this month. This included eleven days on stocked lake locations, nine days on the River Kennet, two on the River Coln and one on the River Wylye. I also made familiarisation visits to five waters – Meon Springs and Kimbridge Meadows in Hampshire, Halliford Mere in Middlesex, Rutland Water and Harting Pond in West Sussex. These are all going to be excellent venues to host fly fishing tuition by our local qualified instructors. As an Orvis Endorsed Fly Fishing Guide and representing the Grayling Society I also spent three days at Orvis promotional days at Kimbridge on the River Test, Meon Springs fishery and their Farnham store.
The second half of March is the only time in the whole year when I can’t take people river fly fishing so all my days in this period were on stocked lake fisheries. However I was on the rivers right from the first day of the new Trout season on 1st April. The month started warm, went very cold with frosts and snow and ended up mild and very wet at times. The fishing on the River Kennet was particularly good for so early in the season with a number of large catches made. The highlights of catches were two immaculate 23” over-wintered Rainbows and a wild Brown of about 3lb. Fly hatches were sparse right through April and by the end of the month I had not seen one good hatch of olives and almost no Hawthorn flies. I am sure they will come now at the start of May. However the lack of hatches did not prevent great sport.
My visit to Rutland Water in mid-April was one of the highlights of the month for me. I’m not a reservoir fly fisher. I have fished Grafham Water, Chew and Blagdon but had never even seen Rutland before. An afternoon session out on a boat with our Rutland guide/instructor was an eye-opener. There were huge numbers of buzzers hatching and the Trout were gorging themselves on them. I don’t often fish heavier than a 6-weight rod so was please to be casting a good long line with my 7-weight Orvis Western2 rod. A team of buzzers fished at different depths brought regular takes with five hard-fighting Rainbows brought to the net. The weather was great, the scenery stunning and as a bonus we even saw one of the resident Ospreys. Much as I love my river fly fishing I’ll certainly be back to fish Rutland Water. Our local guide has superb lakeside coaching facilities and also runs an excellent lakeside bed & breakfast.
On Sunday 27th April Go Fly Fishing UK was featured in ‘The Sunday Times’. We were the only fishing services supplier in a supplement dedicated to short breaks and activity days in England.
May and June will bring some of the best hatches and dry fly sport of the whole year. I am almost fully booked up and out with clients exclusively on the rivers – the Test, Itchen, Wylye, Kennet and Coln. May should start with good hatches of small olives and Hawthorn flies, moving on to the famous Danica Mayfly hatch starting in anger around mid-month and continuing right through to mid and late-June depending on the river. Last year we had great Mayfly hatches on the River Coln in the Cotswolds right through to early-July and even later on the River Wylye.
On 13th I ended the river fly fishing season with a guided day for Grayling on the River Test. My client Peter, a beginner to river fly fishing, did well and landed eight Grayling with his best fish well over the pound mark. The Test is running faster now than at any time for the past eight years. It looks superb and it bodes very well for the coming Trout season. However the Grayling fishing has not been at its best this last two months. Sometimes late-season brings superb Grayling sport but not this year. Discussing this with Robbie the riverkeeper we wondered if the high river flows have been bringing higher than normal food supplies to the fish meaning that they were less inclined to take our artificials. Who knows! To me it’s the ups and downs and the unpredictability that adds a lot to the interest I get from being out at the waterside fishing. It would be boring if the fishing was great every time we went out.
From a bookings point of view I had a quiet time up to mid-February but have been fully booked since then. In total I was out fishing on 34 days during the two months, 25 being client bookings of which 16 were on rivers – mostly the River Test – and the rest at Frensham Trout Fishery.
At last I had time for some fishing for myself. In my 9 days of private fishing I fished five different rivers and one stillwater. Mostly the fishing was not that good for me. However I did catch quite a good number of Pike and Perch, with a couple of the Pike being 10lbs plus.
The new river fly fishing season opens on the River Kennet and River Coln (Cotswolds) on 1st April. Mid to late-April will see the first main fly hatches on the chalkstreams. The Hampshire/Surrey stillwaters will continue to fish well throughout March and April. Give me a call or drop me an email if you’d like a day with me.
I will again be participating in three Orvis open days at Kimbridge on the River Test on Saturday 12th April, at Meon Springs Trout fishery on Sunday 20th April and at the Orvis store in Farnham on Saturday 26th April. Why not come along for a chat one day? I am also very pleased to again feature in their fly fishing catalogue. On page 24 there is a picture of me fishing for Salmon in Alaska.
The past month and a half since my last report has been the quietest for me being out at the waterside but the busiest for being in the office taking new bookings. December broke all previous Go Fly Fishing UK bookings records. In total I was out fishing on just 17 days during the period. Mostly my client days were on the River Test or at Frensham Trout Fishery although I did have one good day with clients on the River Kennet.
The weather was wicked at times but sometimes the worst weather produced superb fishing. On 21st December I was due to take three beginners to Frensham. It had been a very cold week and the local waters were starting to freeze up. The day before the lakes were over 50% frozen over. I asked Steve if he wanted to go ahead or to postpone. He decided to go ahead. It was a wise move as he caught the largest number of Trout that I’ve ever had a complete beginner to fly fishing catch on their very first day – 12 sizeable Rainbows! On 5th January I took a father and his 11 year old son to Frensham for their very first fly fishing experience – the son Matthew was over the moon with his 5 good Rainbows (and a Roach!). As well as biting well the Frensham Rainbows have been in superb condition.
On 15th January I arrived at the River Test in heavy rain and strong winds. I’ll let my client Stewart describe his day – ‘Despite gale force winds, torrential rainfall and a pair of River Test novices you managed to deliver a wonderful day yesterday. The first ever Grayling for both myself and my friend, and also our 2nd & 3rd each! My five largest ever Brown Trout - all two pounds or more! My first dry fly catch on a chalk stream! Thanks very much for your patience, coaching and assistance - thoroughly recommended. We hope to visit you and the wonderful River Test again soon.’ And that was in mid-winter on a day when most of the UK’s rivers were bursting their banks with flood water. The River Test never floods and is always fishable.
I only fished for my own sport on five days during the period. The Lincolnshire Fens provided me with 8 Pike up to 12lbs while staying with relatives. On 12th January I fished the River Kennet with three friends. It was hard going but I was well pleased to land two Perch of 2lb 11oz and 2lb 3oz.
The good Grayling fishing on the River Test and Rainbow Trout fishing at Frensham Trout Fishery will continue right through the winter. The season ends on the River Test on 14th March but never ends at Frensham.
I was out fishing on 19 days during the month. Mostly my client days were on the River Test or at Frensham Trout Fishery although I did have days on the River Itchen and the River Coln.
As expected the Grayling fishing on the chalkstreams was very good in November. The weather was very mixed - sometimes very mild but at other times there were periods of frosty weather. On some days there were excellent hatches of olives on the River Test and on other days the hatch wasn’t as good. Most days my clients were able to catch some fish on dry fly. The most productive nymph pattern changed as often as the weather. Sometimes lightly weighted Pheasant Tail Nymphs were the best; on one day the Sawyer’s Killer Bug really lived up to its name; and on dull days a Goldhead Gold Ribbed Hares Ear worked very well. I’ve also started to use Bloodworm Buzzers to great effect with the Grayling.
Just as it did last winter the fishing at Frensham Trout Fishery improved as the conditions got colder and the fish started to spend the majority of their time near to the bottom rather than near to the surface. Here at any time of the year it is unusual for even my complete beginner tuition clients not to catch at least one Rainbow but in November most of them were catching three or four fish and going home very happy.
At last I had more fishing time for myself. This was because I had two major trips planned. One of six days took me up to Perth in Scotland for the Grayling Society symposium and AGM. The whole event was a great success and very enjoyable but from a fishing point of view the trip allowed me a full day of Grayling fishing on the River Earn in Perthshire and two half-days on the River Aire in Yorkshire. I had never previously fished the River Earn and I have to say I was very impressed. It’s a lovely river of a manageable size and fairly easily wadeable. It took me less than half an hour to catch my first River Earn Grayling – a superb fit fat fish of around 1lb 6oz. 16 more up to around 1lb 12oz followed over the day along with a few small Brown Trout. The Grayling reminded me of River Aire or Costa Beck Grayling – short and heavy for their weight. Obviously very well fed – probably on a diet of mainly Caddis larvae. Both the River Earn and River Aire were running a little too low for ideal conditions. On the River Aire my highlight was an out-of-season Brown Trout of 23” which I weighed at 4lb 12oz - a superb conditioned wild fish. I added quite a few other Brownies and Grayling to my catches on the Aire and my host Steve Rhodes landed lots of Grayling of up to around 1lb 12oz.
In early November I had a highly enjoyable three day predator trip with friends to the Cambridgeshire and Norfolk fens where I caught a number of Pike and some good Perch but just one Zander.
The good Grayling fishing on the River Test will continue right through the winter to the season’s end on 14th March.
Mostly the fly fishing my clients experienced during October was excellent – perhaps the best of the year so far. Not only were the chalkstreams looking in superb condition but the fly hatches were pretty good most days (Pale Watery, Iron Blue, Blue Winged Olives and Sedges) and the Grayling were usually biting very well.
I had 18 days of client bookings during the month made up of 5 on the River Itchen, 4 on the River Test, 1 on the River Anton, 3 on the River Kennet, 1 on the River Coln and 4 at Frensham Trout Fishery. The highlights were the River Itchen and the River Anton. While the River Test was looking great and there were usually lots of rising fish my clients didn’t catch as many fish as on the Itchen and the Anton. Most of my River Itchen clients landed between 30 and 60 fish for their day. Phil from Virginia had the largest Grayling at 2lbs and Jeff from New York and Nick from Cheriton (Hampshire) had fish approaching that size. Jeff takes the award for the most fish – possibly the most fish I’ve ever had a client catch in one day (we guestimated at somewhere between 50 and 60 fish). This was from the River Itchen and two days before he’d taken Grayling to nearly 2lbs from the River Anton. During the month I saw fish on the Itchen, the Test and the Anton that were well over 2lbs but we could never catch the very largest ones. Jason from Ascot takes the award for the most amazing capture. On 30th October fishing the lower River Itchen with two flies not 10 minutes into the day he hooked and landed two good sized Grayling on the same cast – one estimated at 1lb 10oz and one at 1lb 4oz. Occasionally in the past I have seen two small fish caught at once but I’d never seen two good sized Grayling on at the same time. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing when they came in towards my landing net!
Not only is October a great month for Grayling but it is also the traditional first month of the Pike fishing season. Yesterday (31st October) I took Jason from New Zealand Pike fishing on the River Kennet. It had been a lifetime ambition for him to catch a Pike and after a blank morning he achieved his objective with two exciting captures. Two of my three personal fishing sessions were Piking. One lovely afternoon at Frensham Little Pond produced two nice Pike to large bunny flies and one rainy day on the River Kennet produced Pike to just short of 10lbs plus Perch to 3lb 3oz. Tomorrow (2nd November) I head to the Cambridgeshire Fens for three days of Pike / Zander fishing with long time personal friends. Also in November I will fish for Grayling on the River Aire in Yorkshire and the River Earn in Scotland (while attending The Grayling Society annual symposium and AGM).
Finally I must report a highly enjoyable afternoon of fly fishing on the River Wharfe at Ilkley on 27th October. Although the river was very low there was a good hatch of flies and lots of rising Grayling. Fishing with four very good friends small dry flies produced plenty of takes – many missed – with my biggest Grayling of about a pound coming to a goldhead pheasant tail nymph.
While Grayling fishing on the River Test continues to be good right through to the end of the season (14th March) I’d say that October and November provide the very best of the fishing with a higher proportion of dry fly fishing than later on in the winter.
Following the July monsoon rains all the chalkstream rivers are still flowing very well and looking in much better condition than they did last summer. However, in the main, fly hatches were not very good in September. The weather for most of the month was warm and dry just turning cooler and wetter in the last few days of the month. The nymphs obviously didn’t like the conditions and decided not to hatch!
After my three week holiday in August (see below) September was a very busy month for me. I was out fishing 23 times with clients. 10 of my bookings were on the rivers and 13 were tuition sessions on stocked lakes. The rivers mostly didn’t fish very well – mainly due to the poor fly hatches. The one exception was the River Wylye which consistently has better fly hatches than the other chalkstream rivers. One highlight was a 22” Brown Trout caught by a complete beginner lady fisher from the River Coln in the Cotswolds. Another was a catch of 11 Trout taken by Ben, a 21 year old US guiding client, from the lower River Test at Timsbury on 30th September.
Frensham Trout Fishery in Surrey can be hard (but fun) in bright warm summer conditions but it fished very well throughout September. The stock fish were in particularly good condition and my clients caught some large fish of up to 26”.
I only managed to squeeze in one short personal fishing session. This was Pike fly fishing on the River Kennet. I caught just one small Jack Pike and lost another.
In my opinion after May and June October is the next best month of the fly fishing year. Usually fly hatches are good and great dry fly sport can be had in the rivers for Grayling and in the lakes for Rainbow Trout. Prior bookings mean that I have no free weekend dates in October and only a few mid-week dates near the end of the month. The November dry fly fishing is nearly as good as in October and my availability is much better then. This autumn I also have access to the River Itchen just upstream of Winchester for Grayling fishing. So give me a call or drop me an email if you’d like a day with me.
My wife and I had a superb holiday in August. We flew using free air miles tickets and after three nights in San Francisco headed up to Alaska. When we first arrived (16th) the Coho (Silver) Salmon runs had not started in anger. The first evening session on the Deksha River produced just two Coho’s each for my wife and I. I then fished north of Fairbanks with one day on the Chena River and one on the Chatanika River. On the former I caught 11 good sized Arctic Grayling on nymphs and on the latter 31 smaller Grayling on dry fly and nymph. They were both my kind of rivers – not too wide, easily wadeable and not another fisher to be seen. Further south I had two superb Salmon fly fishing sessions on the Susitna River where as well as catching good numbers of Coho and Chum Salmon I also caught some great wild Rainbow Trout and some more Arctic Grayling. I would thoroughly recommend Alaska as a fly fishing holiday destination.
Very wet weather during this period led to some very unusual summer fishing conditions. The impact is that the rivers of Hampshire, Berkshire and the Cotswolds are now looking the best they have for years. After a wet June and early-July the rain peaked on 19th/20th July with its epicentre over the Cotswolds. This caused the major floods in Worcestershire shown for many days on the TV reports. On 21st and 22nd July I was teaching at Frensham Trout Fishery on the Surrey/Hampshire border. The water here was uncharacteristically cloudy (the peak flows through the lakes having been on Friday 20th) but my clients caught as many fish as I would have expected in normal summer clear water conditions.
I am very lucky to guide and teach in the chalkstreams area as these waters are almost never affected by coloured flood water. On Tuesday 24th July I was guiding on the River Test. The river was lapping the bank top but running crystal clear and a great day’s sport was had. I only recon to lose about one day’s work a year from poor water conditions and that day was on 25th. The riverkeeper for the River Kennet beat I was to have guided on called me on 23rd to say that the water was cloudy. I offered a postponement to the client and they accepted. We would still have caught fish but on the chalkstreams sight fishing in clear water is what it’s all about.
The rivers Test and Coln are currently looking absolutely superb. Last summer the Coln was suffering from the previous winter’s lack of rainfall on the Cotswolds hills and was running sluggish and murky. It is now running fast and very clear and as much as 12 inches of accumulated silt has been washed away making the depth noticeably deeper in many places. The Trout will be loving these conditions….and we are too. We can go back to sight casting and we’ve also had better daytime fly hatches than last year. The River Coln Mayfly hatch was superb again this year and continued right to the end of June. On 30th June I was guiding there and in the afternoon the intensity of the hatch led to ‘duffer’s fortnight’ style fishing for a couple of hours….too easy.
During the period from 16th June to 8th August I was out fishing 35 times, 31 with clients. It was a very busy time both for working out by the water and for taking bookings for August and September. I guided on the rivers Coln, Test, Kennet and Itchen and taught mostly at Frensham Trout fishery. On my limited days off fishing for myself I caught some superb Rudd, lots of decent Pike, a few good sized Tench and Bream and many small Roach, Perch and Bream.
We are now assured of good flows and clear water on the rivers for the next few months. This should lead to great sight-casting sport with both dry flies and nymphs. There is a River Test weed cut from 14th to 23rd August. After May and June September often provides the next best Trout fly fishing sport of the year.
I’ve been so busy this last couple of weeks I’ve decided to make this edition of ‘Dave’s Diary’ cover all of May and the first half of June.
May delivered very mixed weather and very mixed fishing – not necessarily linked. After a very dry April there was a week of very wet weather in early-May. There were some good fly hatches in this wet period but often the fish didn’t notice them. Since then the weather has mostly been dry and bright – perhaps too bright.
As previously reported the Danica Mayfly started to appear on some waters even before May had started. Some clients fishing the River Test just before mid-May had the bonus of some Mayfly activity. It’s been a very strange Mayfly season. All Mayfly years are different but this year it seems to have generally not been very good on either the River Test or the River Kennet. However on 10th and 11th June I was guiding on the Kennet and there was a good hatch in the afternoon as well as lots of spinners around. The fish responded and great sport was had. The River Coln in the Cotswolds had great Danica hatches in late-May and early-June. I was there on 14th June and there were still enough Mayfly around in the afternoon to provide some good sport. So in summary it’s been a long but not often intense Mayfly season.
Other than the Danica the hatches of smaller Ephemeroptera have mostly not been very good. All the chalkstreams and the River Coln seem to have been running less clear than usual and I think the lack of rising fish and the less clear water are linked. It’s only been in early-June that the River Test cleared properly and I expect the other rivers to clear soon as the weed becomes more established.
During May I was out guiding or teaching on 17 days and left for Scotland on 25th May. I returned home on 3rd June and have been out on 9 days since then (to 15th June). 22 of these days were on the rivers Test, Kennet and Coln. All three rivers fished well but not exceptionally well.
I had a great break in Scotland. Although it was a family holiday (8 people and 2 dogs) as I’d hoped it did turn into a bit of a ‘busman’s holiday’. It’s not that often now that I get the chance to fish on my own but for six days out of seven I was out on the banks of the beautiful River Don in Aberdeenshire for 2-4 hours each afternoon. Our cottage was just two minutes walk from the river. The Towie reach is too far upstream for Salmon and Sea Trout at this time of the year so I just took my Trout tackle. In total I landed 40 lovely wild Brown Trout. All were small but beautifully formed. I’m sure there were bigger fish present but I didn’t land any. I lost one good fish and missed a rise from another. Next time!!
The River Test is currently closed for its first weed cut (ending 20th June). The next one is scheduled for 9th to 19th July. On the Wylye 18th June to 2nd July is the weed cut closed period. There are no closed periods on the River Kennet or River Coln. Some beats remain dry fly only until the end of June with most allowing upstream nymph from 1st July onwards, if not earlier. Last year July provided some great nymph and dry fly fishing even in hot conditions. The River Test and River Wylye were particularly good with small unweighted Pheasant Tail Nymph or Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear being the killer flies. It was exciting fishing sight casting to Trout up near the surface and ‘on the fin’. The Wylye even had a small Mayfly hatch on many days through July. I’ll be guiding on all these rivers, and the Itchen, right through to 9th August when I go off to Alaska on my next ‘busman’s holiday’.
Well the season is now well and truly under way. April delivered very untypical weather, being the warmest and driest April in the south of England for 300 years. The season opened on the River Kennet and the River Coln (Cotswolds) on 1st April and on 15th April on one of our River Test guiding beats. River levels were about normal for the time of year but fly hatches were sparse until the very last week of the month. Before then there was a sprinkling of Blue Winged Olives and a decent hatch of Grannom. In the last week of April more olive duns were to be seen and on Frensham Trout Fishery on 28th April Danica Mayflies were hatching in small numbers. I think this is the first time I've ever seen more than the odd stray Mayfly in April.
I had a very busy month guiding, teaching and participating in Orvis open days. The month started with a private four day trip to Yorkshire during which time I caught a number of Rainbows on a recce visit with Steve Rhodes to a new (to us) reservoir location. After that I had no time for fishing for myself. I had bookings on 21 days and in this time we fished the rivers Test, Kennet, Coln, Wylye, Frensham Trout Fishery and Tundry Pond (Four Seasons Hotel). The fishing was about normal for April with most people catching a few good Trout.
The Orvis Open Day at Kimbridge on the River Test and at their ‘Cast & Blast’ day at the Meon Springs fishery were both a huge success for Orvis and for Go Fly Fishing UK. The weather was warm and sunny on both days and large numbers of guests attended. I gave a presentation at both events on the topic of Grayling as well as manning the Grayling Society stand.
May and June should provide the cream of the year's dry fly fishing on the chalkstreams. The rivers are looking great - running fuller, quicker and clearer than last year. Before the Danica Mayfly hatch we should see an assortment of smaller mayflies hatching as well as, at the start of the month, Hawthorn flies. The main Mayfly hatch should start around 20th May on the Test and the Coln and a few days later on the Kennet and the Wylye. A size 8 or 10 Grey Wulff is the best Danica Mayfly imitation on the chalkstreams although it might also be worth having a few emerger and stillborn Mayfly imitations with you. We still have a few openings for guided days during the Mayfly although I myself am fully booked until 19th June. This is partly because I have an annual 'busman's holiday' booked in Scotland for the Whitsuntide week. I will be fishing the River Don in Aberdeenshire - the best wild Brown Trout river in Scotland. I can't wait.
March is a transition month from winter Grayling fishing to spring Trout fishing. The Grayling season ended on 14th and I was guiding on the River Test for 8 of those 14 days. The fishing continued to be good right up to the end of the season. In the last few days quite a few good sized fish of between 1lb 8oz and 2lbs were caught by my clients.
I was also teaching on Rainbow Trout lakes on 9 days during March. Few other fishers were out but they should have been because the Rainbows were biting very well almost every time. The fishing might be more exciting in the summer when the fish are up near the surface and visible but they bite more positively and more fish are caught in the colder months of the year.
I didn’t fish much myself during the month but a couple of days Perch fishing were successful for me with a day on the River Kennet bringing 11 Perch with the two largest being 2lb 14oz and 2lb 1oz.
During the month I was featured in the Japanese ‘FlyFisher’ magazine and the UK ‘Metropolitan Life’ magazine. Also the Orvis UK 2007 Fly Fishing catalogue came out with my picture in two separate parts of the catalogue.
The chalkstream rivers are all flowing very well and I am looking forward very much to guiding clients on them during the spring and summer. After a few days in Yorkshire my first day on the River Kennet is on 6th April and on the Test on 15th April. The month usually starts slowly with few flies hatching but by the end of the month hatches of all the main small may flies should be in full swing. Around the end of the month also make sure you have some Hawthorn imitations as we usually have around a week with lots of these around. The Trout love them and great sport can be had on blustery days when these poor fliers are blown onto the water in large numbers.
The chalkstreams are now running full and flow rates are at their strongest for six years. Good flows are now guaranteed for the coming Trout season. The river level of the Test is about six to nine inches higher than in the autumn and the current speed about double. This has created challenges for Grayling fishers during recent weeks. The hatch pools are very turbulent and more frequent casting has been needed in the glides. The quality of the fishing has been mixed. I had one spell this month when I was guiding/teaching on the River Test for 10 days out of a 12 day spell. Good fishers caught some excellent fish and catches of up to 30 fish were taken, including a surprising number on dry fly. It was busy month for me and in total I was out fishing 20 times.
My own personal fishing was limited but when I did go I was quite successful. A day on the River Frome in Dorset brought just one bite but the 2lb 3oz Grayling landed made the long trip worthwhile. In mid-month I had a couple of days Pike fishing on the Lincolnshire fen drains and my best day saw me landing 9 Pike up to 14lbs.
The Grayling season ends on 14th March with Trout fishing starting on 1st April on the River Kennet and the River Coln (Cotswolds). I can still offer some Mayfly dates although many are now gone.
I was down on the River Test a number of times during January and it’s great to see it flowing more strongly now than for the last couple of years. Even more rain would be welcome but the rain from November and December still percolating though the chalk should see flow rates even higher by the time the new Trout season opens in April.
I was out fishing 11 times during January. It was the mildest January on record and winter only hit us briefly in the w/c 22nd. This was my busiest week of the month. I was out 6 days with clients in the one week and the fishing was good on most days. Not only did the Test fish well for Grayling but the Rainbow Trout in Frensham Trout Fishery were biting very well and were in extremely good condition. The best day Grayling wise was in mid-month when one fisher in five hours fishing landed 60 fly caught Grayling from the Test.
On a personal front I didn’t fish much but when I did I was successful. On 20th I fished the River Itchen with three friends. Conditions were poor but somehow I managed to land a super 2lb 4oz Grayling (see picture). My friend Phil also had one of 2lb 1oz. A short trip to Yorkshire at the end of the month saw me fishing the Rivers Ure and Laver on 30th with my Go Fly Fishing UK colleague (and Grayling Society Chairman) Steve Rhodes. The rivers were in perfect condition, the weather great and the fish biting. After catching around 20 smaller Grayling from the Ure I landed just 4 from the tiny River Laver but one of them was a super fish of at least 1lb 8oz. It was the first time either of us had ever fished the River Laver. We will be back.
During the month I also accepted the post of Grayling Society Area Secretary for their Area 2 which includes Berkshire, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Oxfordshire, Surrey, Wiltshire and West Sussex. I’ve been a member of the society for 12 years and have attended about half their annual conferences during this time and provided quite a few articles for their journal. I’m passionate about my Grayling fishing and so if you are not a member and are thinking of joining or if you are a member and want some information or assistance with your Grayling fishing then do give me a call or drop me an email, I’d be very happy to help you.
I have booked personal fishing trips to Scotland for a week of Trout fishing on the River Don in Aberdeenshire in late-May and a fortnight in the interior of Alaska in late-August fishing for Arctic Grayling and Coho Salmon. I can’t wait.
The weather forecasters are predicting a mild February and a hot 2007. Combined with good river flows in the chalkstreams, which are already guaranteed, this bodes very well for the quality of the sport both in the coming weeks and throughout the summer.
December was the quietest month of the year for me for being out on the bank fishing but it was the busiest month of the year for taking new bookings. We broke our all-time monthly bookings record (of last December) by around 40%. I am already taking bookings for the peak Mayfly season so if you want a guided day any time from mid-May to mid-June I suggest that you contact me soon.
I was out fishing on 13 occasions. As you will know it was unseasonably mild and I feel that the Grayling would have been biting better if it had been colder. Once December arrives I feel that they take better when it’s cold. Coming from Yorkshire as I do I’m used to getting some great Grayling fishing with ice in the margins and perhaps forming in the rod rings. This seems to apply equally well to the River Test as it does to the River Wharfe - my old local river. Last winter we had a cold January/February and the Test fished well when temperatures were around freezing point. But at lunchtime we were usually in the pub warming up! I remember the coldest day very well. On 3rd February it was about two degrees below freezing all day long. As well as catching a number of Grayling and Trout Paul caught fish on the dry fly – the coldest conditions I’ve ever had clients succeed with dry fly.
One thing I’ve noticed the last couple of winters is that Rainbow Trout are often in great condition in the winter. I tend to spend more time guiding and teaching down on the River Test (on the upstream beats that don’t contain Rainbows) but on 12th December I was at the Frensham Trout Fishery lakes teaching Owen and his father-in-law. Not only did they catch quite a few fish – including one on dry fly – but the fish they caught were both of a very good size (up to 5lb 10oz) and in great condition. The lesson is don’t stop fly fishing just because it’s winter.
I didn’t break any records with my personal fishing. However a couple of days fishing with friends in Yorkshire just before Christmas brought me ten Grayling to nearly 2lbs and lots of out-of-season wild Brown Trout. The River Aire, where I caught the biggest Grayling, is one of my very favourite Trout and Grayling streams. It’s a rich limestone stream and as such the wild Trout and Grayling grow to very good sizes. If you fancy a guided day on the Aire then contact my Go Fly Fishing UK colleague Steve Rhodes – see out Yorkshire Dales web page for his contact details.
The great news about the weather in recent weeks is that is keeps raining. This bodes very well for the 2007 chalkstream Trout season. I expect river flows in Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and the Cotswolds to be their best for at least three years. This should mean crystal clear water all season long with better dry fly sport than in the last two seasons of low flows.
So long as we get some cold weather I expect the Grayling fishing on the River Test to be good in January (the season closes after 14th March). It will mostly be nymph fishing but I do remember some great hours of dry fly sport in very cold conditions in previous January's.
Thank you for your many kind comments regarding our new website which went live in October. However if you do see any mistakes or scope for improvement – which I am sure there is – then please let me know.
I was out fishing 17 times during November. After the first frosts of the winter in the very first few days of the month the rest of November was unseasonably mild – and most importantly wet. It’s great to see so much water around for the first time in about two years. On Saturday (2nd Dec.) I was guiding on the River Coln in the Cotswolds. The fields were covered by water and the river was flowing more strongly than I’ve seen it do for many years. This wet autumn bodes very well for next year’s Trout season. We should see flow rates and water clarity on the chalkstreams back to normal for the first time since 2004. This should also mean more consistent better quality dry fly sport.
November was again a great month for Grayling fishing and the River Test provided very good sport for most of our clients. In October small unweighted Pheasant Tails were the best nymphs. This fly continued to fish well in November with small unweighted Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ears and slightly weighted Killer Bugs also having very good days. On the brighter days we also caught lots of fish on small dry flies. A number of clients registered catches of 20 to 40 Grayling for their day. Earlier in the autumn I had measured three Grayling of 17” to 17.25” (43cm-44cm). The largest of November was caught by Simon Stock on 14th. We had seen the fish and were going for it. After he landed it I was just getting the tape measure out of my pocked when it jumped out of the net and swam away. I believe it was 18” (46cm) and would have weighed almost exactly 2lbs.
On 19th November Nigel Aston took his 11th guided day with Go Fly Fishing UK and along with his regular friend Adam they proceeded to empty the river. The fish were definitely on the bite. Very few changes of fly pattern were needed and although we lost count long before lunch we guesstimated that somewhere between 80 and 100 Grayling had been landed by the end of the day along with some out of season – but excellent conditioned – Brown Trout.
On the personal fishing front I had a superb day on the River Kennet on 9th November with my long time fishing friend (and Best Man from 25 years ago) Martin Flowers. He had his best ever days Perch fishing landing fish of 2lb 15oz, 2lb 8oz, 2lb 6oz, 2lb 5oz and a number of smaller ones. I fished for Pike and after landing five Jacks the final fish of the day was a superb conditioned ‘crocodile’ of 24lb 8oz - my largest freshwater fish for nearly 20 years. Just two days earlier I had caught a super River Itchen Grayling of 17.25” (see picture above right). It was not weighed but was probably just less than 2lbs.
Happy Christmas and ‘Tight lines’ for the New Year
Welcome to our new Go Fly Fishing UK website which went live in mid-October. I founded Go Fly Fishing UK in early-2002 with my long-time personal fishing friend Steve Rhodes (see Steve’s Diary). I live on the Hampshire/Surrey border near to Farnham and guide and fish on the rivers of Hampshire, Berkshire, Wiltshire and the Cotswolds as well as teaching fly fishing at Frensham Trout Fishery near to Farnham. I am going to try to update my diary at least once a month so that you can keep in touch with developments on our southern fly fishing waters.
I was out fishing 21 times during October, including 15 days with clients. For fly fishers October is mainly a month for Grayling fishing although the River Test Trout season continues into early October on some beats. It is also open season for Rainbow Trout on stocked lakes with the fish improving in condition all the time.
The Grayling fishing was superb this October right up until 30th when we did have a rare day when the fish were off the bite. Dry fly fishing was excellent with around 50% of all the Grayling caught on my days out with clients being on small dries. The River Test fished very well with regularly rising fish. Small unweighted Pheasant Tails were the best nymphs with the Killer Bugs and my own Pink Grayling bugs not yet working to their full potential.
Steve from Virginia USA landed the largest Grayling of the month at 17” (43cm). Fishing the River Test on 7th October a magic couple of minutes just before lunch saw him and his friend Joe both playing large fish at the same time within yards of each other. Joe’s was a big Brown Trout. Over the day a large number of Grayling were caught along with a good number of large Brownies.
Some clients wished to learn the delights of trotting for Grayling and on the days when we did this large catches were made on the Test and the Kennet. Although I’m mainly a fly fishing guide and instructor I love my trotting. On 23rd and 24th October I made a trip to the upper River Wye valley in mid-Wales. It’s an area I’ve fished regularly for around ten years and I love the Welsh mountain scenery and the wild rocky rivers. The trouble can be the weather and it had rained quite a lot making fly fishing conditions poor. So out came the trotting rod and I had great sport with good sized Grayling and lots of out of season wild Brown Trout. My largest Grayling was just over 17” (44cm) and equalled my largest ever from the upper Wye.
Again on the personal fishing front I had a superb day on the River Kennet on 15th October with my long time fishing friend Roland. Mainly fishing for Perch I landed 12 with three well over 2lbs and the largest weighed at exactly 3lbs. I also caught a 14lb 5oz Pike. The previous day Roland had caught Pike to 15lb 8oz, also from the River Kennet.
On the Rainbow Trout front my highlight of the month was a short session we ran for the board of directors of Pizza Express. They wanted a short fly fishing experience before their board meeting. They only had 90 minutes to fish and starting from almost no previous fly fishing experience I didn’t rate the chances too highly of the eight people catching much. However the fish were on the bite and after some introductory tuition fish were being hooked. Four were landed plus a couple lost which all agreed was a great result.
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