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Robjent's Chalkstream Diaries - Festive Fishings

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The authors father Charles Jardine with an arctic char from Rockbourne The authors father Charles Jardine with an arctic char from Rockbourne

I would like to wish you all a Happy New Year. 2012 offers the same mystery of what the next 12 months will bring as have the years gone by. For us Southerners we hope it will bring more rain to fill up our desperately low waters but I hope that for us all we receive successful and entertaining fishing activities for the year ahead.

It has always been Jardine family tradition to go out and attempt to defy whatever conditions the Christmas and New Year period can throw at us. On the 1st January 2011, my father Charles and I endured minus 5 to 10 celsius on a stretch of the River Test, and as a reward we had a spectacular day fishing using small dries for obliging grayling. This year we were faced by very different conditions indeed, just before Christmas we got word of an interesting quarry that would offer a good challenge at Hampshire stillwater venue Rockbourne Trout Fishery (http://www.rockbournetroutfishery.co.uk/).

Diving_for_cover_223533959.jpgThe day that we went was an overcast day with threats of showers and a reasonably mild temperature, definitely not the snow drifts and blood-freezing temperatures of the 2010 December. Rockbourne is based in the New Forest and features a series of lakes and a small stretch of wild stream. It is a long established venue that has always had rainbows and brown trout stocked but recently introduced arctic char into their lakes. Arctic char seemed a perfectly fitting festive quarry to match up against; it was not a fish that I had caught before so therefore offered the challenge of the unknown that I constantly search for in my fishing.

When we started fishing I went with my old favourite set-up for small stillwaters, humans...we are creatures of habit after all! This was a 10 foot for a 6 weight rod with matching line, 12ft 9.5lb level fluorocarbon leader and a trusted Spillers Damsel on the business end. As is the case with a new water I varied retrieves and sinking times with a few takes and follows, and as is the way when you are a fisherman, I was adamant the following shadows must have been the elusive char but in hindsight they were most probably rainbows.

The_Prize_491197502.jpgBy noon I had had a few takes and a nice averagely sized rainbow, at this point I saw a bouncy labrador by the name of Midge two steps ahead of his master Charles and he was laden with a much sought after arctic char! “They’re there!” he exclaimed “but, boy do they make you work hard for them!” He had found that the char were visible in the lowest of the lakes, this did not make them easy but at least you knew they were there.

So we proceeded down to the lake, and sure enough there they were. A shoal maybe five strong, clearly distinguishable from the other fish by a solid white edging to their pectoral and pelvic fins, could be seen working a particular path along the edges of weed beds. At this point I switched flies to a hi-vis green beaded hare’s ear; this was to help aid visual sub-surface fishing. The first cast I saw one of the sought after quarry accelerate towards the fly to then turn away at the last second! The following casts resembled something more suited to synchronised swimming, the fly would go in just in front of the shoal which would then evenly split navigate around the fly and then rejoin and carry on, quite infuriating!

Finally it happened, I did it! I cast the fly in; I saw the fish lock eyes with its prey, the kick and flare of fins, the white of the mouth, and then the bend of the rod! The tussle between fisherman and fish was different to that of a trout, there was the mindless ‘swim anywhere but here’ attitude, and it was more tactful. The fish looked to dive for cover and snags, a very enthralling battle that required mindful playing to steer the fish away from problematic situations.The prize was a stunning fish of exquisite colour, and a testing quarry deserving respect, and to top it all off an excellent eating fish too!


The traditional New Years bank holiday fishing trip was not as planned, due to a fishing injury sustained the day before by Charles that is now requiring a month of not doing much. It was left for me to join up with my friend Lewis Hendrie and fish the stunning waters of the Frome. The 2 or 3 hours that we spent on the water were quite unproductive for me, catching a sum total of nothing! Lewis however managed two fine grayling of just over 2lbs and around 3lbs, big old ladies indeed! The day was not a complete loss for me though as I was blessed by being able to watch large salmon and sea-trout cutting their redds, a view of one of nature's truly amazing spectacles! I hope to return next month to the Frome to bring you photos and more...

Once again Happy New Year and best fishes for the year ahead!

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 and further a field. Such brands as Hardy, Greys, G Loomis, Abel, Nautilus, Lamson, Rio, Costa, and many more can be found in store.

Go in and see the shop or for further information call +44 (0)1264 810829.

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


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rockbourne, new forest, arctic char, alex jardine, rob thomas

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