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The Chalkstream Diaries - A Seasonal September

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September at last saw a little rainfall in the south of England September at last saw a little rainfall in the south of England

We welcome a brand new columnist to the Fly Fishing Forums today - Alex Jardine - widely recognised as one of Britain's brightest young fly fishing talents who will be covering the chalkstream beat for us each month.

Alex is currently based in the heart of chalkstream country living in Winchester near the Itchen and working at the well-known Robjent's country pursuits store in Stockbridge, Hampshire in the heart of the Test valley . He will be sharing his local fly fishing adventures as well as a few further afield with us on a regular basis, looking at seasonal trends, favourite fly tying patterns to match the local hatches and offering some hints and tips that will apply to our own fishing wherever we may be.

Just squeezing this first article in before the end of the month, we hope you enjoy "A Seasonal September" and welcome Alex to the Fly Fishing Forums.

A Seasonal September

by Alex Jardine

It has been an extraordinary year thus far in weather terms; we had an incredibly dry spring, a generally lousy summer and now back to normality with an unsettled September. I write this after a week where I have fished in glorious sunshine, thunderous showers and icy moonlight, but this is what makes September unique – the month that will test the discerning trout, salmon, or sea-trout angler to see just how much they are willing to endure in pursuit of their quarry before the rods are hung up for another year.

A wild chalkstream brown troutThe chalkstreams have been affected by the dry spring and as a result we have had low water conditions throughout the year. These low water conditions have brought with them superb clarity, but on a downside the clarity has made the trout very wary of any movement, leader or wrongly presented fly. The fly-life on the other hand seems undeterred, with great hatches present all season long and September being no different. Notably in the daytime the hatches have been small olives (Pale Waterys and Blue-Winged Olives) and in the evenings the spiralling clusters of sedges have been dancing above the surface tormenting the trout into an occasional hopeful leap, also in the evenings there have been hatches of the Pale Evening Dun usually well imitated with a classic Tup’s Idenspensible.

For the trout this September, even though nymphs are allowed on the majority of beats at this time of year, there has been a lot of dry fly action to be had. In order to successfully target the trout on dries it has been important to scale down tippet diameters (3lb/4lb, 6X/5X), regularly dress the tippet with leadersink (Mud/Fuller’s Earth/etc), and use realistic patterns in size and colour. The fish have seemed more willing to come up for emerging style patterns during the middle of the day, Klinkhammers and CDC Shuttlecocks, and in the evenings the flat-winged patterns have worked well, for example the Walker’s Sedge or Elk Hair Caddis. As for nymphs the usual favourites have been successful, Pheasant Tails and Hare’s Ears, but also Caddis and Shrimp patterns as well as colourful Copper Johns (red being a popular choice).

Testwood Snake FlyThis month I was also treated to a nighttime outing sea-trout fishing with Alistair Robjent, he is somewhat a sea-trout god; it was my first time fishing for sea run fish on the chalkstreams and an incredible experience it was. I arrived at Testwood Pool on the River Test under a starry night with the ambient glow of Southampton rising from the horizon. I was unsure on how prepared I was as I was only instructed to bring warm clothing that had to be as dark as possible and a 10ft #7 rod with different sink lines, as for everything else I was assured that it would be supplied by my host. I met Alistair in the fishing hut with the blinds drawn in all the windows, at this point it was emphasised that no light should be shone towards the water at all. In the hut we set-up a couple of rods, both with intermediate tips and leaders the length of an arm span of 15lb Seaguar and the locally famed Testwood Snake fly secured to the end with the confidence that it was the only pattern I would need.

It took a while to get into the technique, quite different from other fishing I have done, you cast out into the blackness and inch the fly back at a snail’s pace. Then, with some direction from Alistair something clicked and I had a take! I was sure it was a take but it hadn’t stuck, from then on I had some confidence. Just 4 casts later there it was, my first fish of the night and what a fight, even in the dark you could feel and see the displaced water of a reasonable fish boiling on the surface. A lovely fresh ‘bar of silver’ sea-trout had started what was to be a brilliant night, I followed the fish with a beautiful hen fish of around 9lbs within half an hour of the first and then a small fish just over a 1lb. At about 1am the moon broke clear of the trees and the fish just completely stopped, so the decision was made to go downstream, and it was here that I had the best fighting fish of the night a glorious 5lb fish which has since become food for myself. I was ecstatic with my 4 fish, and needless to say Alistair summoned 8 fish effortlessly for himself, but a hugely recommended experience to all.

Now the end of the trout, salmon and sea-trout season is almost upon us it is not time to put away the fishing equipment but rather time to prepare for the Grayling and Pike! More of that next month... 

Sea Trout from the River Test

Alex Jardine
Alex Jardine

Alex Jardine works at Robjent's, a well-known country pursuits store located in Stockbridge in the heart of the Test Valley and a mecca for local and visiting fly anglers.

They stock a diverse range of high quality fly fishing tackle, shooting equipment, clothing and accessories as well as the providing the latest information on fly fishing and the most popular fly patterns in the area.

See www.robjents.co.uk for further information, or call +44 (0) 1264 810829.

Robjent's, Halfway House, High Street, Stockbridge, Hampshire, SO20 6EX

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