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Robjent's Chalkstream Diaries - Magical May

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Just another day at the office for Alex's father - well-known fly fisher Charles Jardine. Just another day at the office for Alex's father - well-known fly fisher Charles Jardine.

May has now come and gone, the true opening month of our Chalkstreams and the tradition of the ultimate art of upstream dryfly. The month began with the continuing of the wet weather of April which suppressed early hatches of Hawthorn fly (Bibio Marci), but when the weather finally took a turn for the better the Hawthorn fly were in abundance which brought about some spectacular days dryfly fishing in early May.

Key patterns for this period were; traditional Hawthorn and black Klinkhammers. In very considerate fashion for us anglers, the Hawthorn kept the fishing good up until the Mayfly hatches began.

Hawthorn_may_211395222.jpgAs usual the Mayfly (Ephemera Danica) hatches began on the lower stretches of the river around the Southampton area, particularly Nursling and Broadlands on the river test experiencing hatches from the second week of May. From then on the hatch is like a domino effect running up the river day by day. For me, I saw the first Mayfly on the middle reaches of the river Itchen on the 12th May but the fish were mainly ignoring the miniature sail ship-like flies and opting for the smaller olives that were around. The fish really switched on to the Mays around the 15th/16th May, once they had overcome their original fear of our largest upwinged fly in the UK. The hatches were somewhat restricted by a period of north and north-easterly winds that kept surface temperatures low, but fish could be convinced by good imitations.

With the third weekend in May came a mini-heat wave for just over a week, temperatures reaching 30°C and above which meant that the Mays hatched in full force on the Itchen and Test river systems. Although fishing in the middle of the day was hard there was still good fishing to be had either side of the heat of the day. Other rivers in the southern area are slower on the emergence of the Mays, the Frome and Kennet saw hatches of good proportions in the last week of the month, whilst the River Avon system is just getting going. Dancing_mays_863896791.jpgThe good weather has allowed for some spectacular viewing of the Mayfly Spinners (the imago stage of the fly) dancing near the river’s edge, the Males use the repetitive vertical flight to attract females who will sit in the nearby vegetation. This evening action leads to some spectacular yet difficult fishing as the fish switch from the Mayfly dun (subimago) to the female Mayfly spinners laying their eggs and eventually dying therefore providing the trout with an easy meal.

During the Mayfly hatch the best patterns have been emerging patterns and realistic imitations of the duns, during the first few days of the fish coming onto Mays Grey Wulffs are also a good pattern but the fish soon become more selective. In the evenings the better patterns have been the longer tailed and flat winged spent imitations that are white and black in colour.

On a hot and sunny Sunday I travelled down to a stretch of the River Frome near Dorchester, it started off rather tediously by timing my journey down there with every person descending on Bournemouth beach causing my journey to take twice as long as usual. Timing my arrival just as lunch was being prepared on the bank, while the group of us sat there under a copse of trees enjoying food and a drink we observed a fish doing the same on the opposite side of the river. taking_flight_815498800.jpgThe fish was switching between the emerging Mays and the full duns; it was a joy to watch what appeared to be a small Brown Trout or Grayling getting its share. After the lunch the challenge was set for the fish to be caught, he saw the first 4 drifts of from the first person, an American by the name of Jason experiencing his first ever Mayfly day on our glorious clear waters. So the next challenger stepped up, my Dad Charles, and first cast from a slightly different angle the fish’s nose broke the surface and sucked in the Mayfly imitation. To all of our surprise the fish dived deep and the #4 rod seemed completely powerless against the fish’s strength, we then looked on in awe as the light caught the side of a big wild Brown who was very much in control of the fight! The fish towed of downstream trying to disappear into reedy bank whilst Charles tried to steer the fish away from various snags and obstacles. After a good 10 minute tussle the fish was finally defeated and slid over the net, a stunning fish, epitomising a chalkstream Wild brown, a plump Brown of around 4lbs with a scattering of large black spots!

The afternoon of fishing was filled with plenty more plump wild Brownies enjoying Mayfly time and a fantastic display of dancing Mays in the setting sun. Now, to June and the main of the river Avon Mayfly time as well as the start of black Sedges.

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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