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Robjent's Chalkstream Diaries - Season Round Up

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Chalkstream Brown trout on a mayfly Chalkstream Brown trout on a mayfly

The curtains have now been drawn on a unique and bizarre trout season on the chalkstream and indeed the nation as a whole. Fishing has always been about searching into the unknown and testing your own ability against nature, this year has epitomised that. Alex Jardine looks back at what was a strange and testing trout season.


We started the year with crystal clear water and low flows and the outlook was bleak for the rivers and aquifers with estates threatening to shut their doors to fisherman for the season.

My earlier instalments covered the low flows, and as is the way with nature as soon as national water restrictions were imposed the rain came. And it came in biblical proportions, I’m almost certain I saw Noah rounding up animals at one point! The rain did not have immediate effect on our low rivers, but it did supress the fly hatches. Rather than having long-lasting trickle hatches they tended to be condensed into short-burst big hatches, some were missed by fish and fisherman alike and others made it all worthwhile to head to the riverbank.

Another_Storm_Rolls_inThe Wiltshire and Dorset rivers were the first to be hampered by the incessant rainfall; they coloured up and even burst their banks in places. The Hampshire rivers are less affected by precipitation, this is one of the reason why I love them – they are fishable 99% of the time, but even these rivers were shown to be mortal. The lower sections were the first to see bank-high flows and coloured water making the idea of ‘dry fly only’ hard to fathom. Due to this miserable, weather-wise, summer fishing pressure on the Southern Chalkstreams dropped considerably, for us slightly mad fisherman it meant that time spent on the river was largely undisturbed by others. The fish have also benefitted by this as they too have been undisturbed and the high flows have cleared the silt from their homes and provided them with a constant stream of nymphs being swept down the river.

All this rain may have made the fishing conditions this year testing but listening to the riverkeepers speak gleefully saying that they have never seen the river look so healthy has restored some faith in me. We, the anglers, should share their optimism and look forward to a far improved season next year, let’s hope the weather is better too.

Until then there is still plenty of fishing to be had and, I think, the river is at its most beautiful in October. This is when the lower angle of the sun turns the rivers surface into a perfect mirror, reflecting the autumn foliage. It is nature’s last display before winter takes its hold and the serious grayling fishing can begin. I am also hopeful for good pike fishing this winter, with the regular fluctuations in flows all summer long this would have meant that the smaller fish would have constantly been on the move. In other words, fast-food for pike so in theory they will be bigger, stronger and more numerous this winter, we will see… I am already at the fly-tying bench; the scene resembles a pantomime dressing room rather than the subtle delicacy of the summer’s work.

Mayfly_TowerThe 2012 trout season wasn’t all doom and gloom there were highlights. Early season saw clouds of Hawthorn fly on the warmer days, but even on the damp miserable days the fish were out and hunting for unfortunate Bibios getting blown onto the river. This was followed by some brilliant Mayfly hatches; I remember at times being covered with 40 - 50 Mayfly Spinners. The daytime fishing during this period was spectacular but the evenings were a different matter, the fish were full by this point and incredibly picky. There were times when I watched fish ignore 20 or so naturals coming down to then just lift up and take one that was obviously better tasting/more perfect/fatter/less chewy/a more agreeable colour, I’ll be damned if I knew what they wanted. My many fly changes were completely refused along with many ‘imperfect’ naturals.

Perhaps the best thing to take away from this season is that for those who managed to succeed on most occasions would have had to work hard and improve their own fishing. This year, more than any other, required you to think about every choice you made, how you approached the water and how you presented the fly.

I am left to round off with the knowledge that we can’t predict what is going to happen during the season so the only thing we can do is continue to enjoy our days spent on the water and get out whenever possible. I now look to the pike and grayling season with great excitement; and  I hope to see you on the riverbank soon!


Alex Jardine
Alex Jardine

Alex Jardine works for international fly fishing specialists Aardvark McLeod where you can contact him at alex@aardvarkmcleod.com

Robjent's is 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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