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Robjent's Chalkstream Diaries - Vlad is back

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Alex Jardine's favourite grayling fly - the Vlad - makes a triumphant return Alex Jardine's favourite grayling fly - the Vlad - makes a triumphant return

Alex Jardine looks back at the winter chill. January and February have given us in the land of chalkstreams our first and possibly only taste of winter weather; we have had several frosts and some snowfall but nothing that can be compared to the winters of late.

Unfortunately, I am still left to comment on the lack of water in the area, we have had very little rain and various drought news stories are appearing in the press. There have been some reports of some of the upper parts of the rivers being mere trickles or dry currently leaving you to wonder what the trout season will bring to some beats this year.

For the time being I have managed to have some quite successful days on the water, after struggling to catch during my new years trip I went back to the tying desk and made sure I had my faithful grayling pattern back and stocked in my box! The Vlad, a pattern descending from my time spent in the England youth setup when we were in the Czech Republic, it combines all the things that a grayling seems to love about a sub-surface fly; gold tungsten bead, pink, hackle, brown and red (see photo). First cast with this firm favourite saw my grayling tally for 2012 finally get off the mark, is it the fly or is it just confidence?

The Vlad grayling fly

Over the days I have ventured out during the last month or so I have been greeted by low, clear rivers but on the whole they have fished well. The Upper Avon at Manningford fishery produced a nice small hatch of olives which brought some of the grayling up to the surface. The day itself was challenging with the fish only allowing themselves to be caught by those who possess the ‘Divine-Right’ or tried every fly in their box. I fished with two friends; we worked hard for a handful of fish each with nothing going over the 1lb mark although they were there and usually noticed when swimming away in the wrong direction! The river stretch at the fishery is very long, not greatly wide but offers some great sport and I am hoping to head back in the summer to test my wits against some wily Avon brownies!

KingfisherThere have been some positive sights to be seen in and around the chalkstreams of late, a recent trip to the small Stour tributary the River Allen was greeted with visible scarring on the river bed caused by trout reds. This is a healthy sign that the wild trout populations of our southern rivers have not been offset by the mild winter this year. I have also noticed kingfishers on most of my recent outings, a sign of good water quality and a joy to see the flash of blue as they speed past you.

The trip to the River Allen was made on a crisp and frosty day, on arrival to the water all layers were doubled up; two pairs of socks, two pairs of long johns and so on until I resembled something more Michelin-man like than fisherman! A pair of winter fishing gloves completed the look and off to the water we headed to take part in something best defined as self-torture. The fishing began in depths of water more suited to summer’s paddling pool than a fishable river but there were fish holding up and with careful tactics and heron-like stalking we managed a couple of fish early on.

Manningford on the Avon

As the day progressed the numbing pain of cold could be felt working its way from the tips of your toes and fingers and chilling you to the bone, but the periodical rush of a catch brought a belief that you got just that little bit warmer. For the first outing this winter I had that disconcerting feeling that I was losing the ability to fly-cast anymore only to realise that the rod rings had frozen over and any flyline movement had been encased in a clamp of ice! Regardless of the weather, it was a hugely enjoyable day with some nice grayling and even a roach that rather made my day - the warm mug of coffee at the end of it all was the icing on the cake!

I wish you all good fishing, next month we will look at gearing towards the trout season 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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avon, manningford

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