Robjent's Chalkstream Diaries - Autumn Colour
Autumn is perhaps the time when nature is at its most spectacular; we see a plethora of colours fill the countryside, the last warmth before we are plunged into the depths of winter. It is as the leaves burn orange and red before falling from the trees that nature’s curtain is pulled back to reveal a busy world of bankside wildlife.
What better way to immerse yourself into this autumnal world than to head to a bank along the crystal clear flows of a chalkstream. For most of our southern rivers October see the start of the closed season for trout, with only a handful of rivers like the R. Frome open until the middle of October, however this is the time when we the angler can look to target the lady of the stream.
The grayling, also known as the lady of the stream, season runs from 16th June through to 15th March but it is not until 1st October and the end of the trout season that we look to really target this fish. They should be bottom feeders by evolution with its down-turned mouth but in reality they are confident surface feeders. I feel that Dermot Wilson (Fishing the Dry Fly, 1987) summarises the grayling perfectly, bearing in mind this was written at a time when they were still considered a pest on the chalkstreams;
“Admittedly, it is disappointing to catch a grayling when you expect a trout, but the grayling has much to be said in his favour. His chief virtue is that he rises freely and constantly. In the sweltering heat of summer or early September afternoon, when too few flies are on the water to attract the lazy trout, grayling are always prepared to rise. Whatever the flies may be, smuts or duns or spinners, they seem to whet a grayling’s appetite.”
This last month I have noticed hatches of Pale Wateries and Blue Winged Olives (BWOs) in large enough quantities to bring to fish up to the surface. These are small insects and best imitated with patterns in sizes 16 – 20, I find at this time of year parachute flies are easier to see on the glared surface (try experimenting with different colour parachute posts). Parachute flies are often questioned by F. M. Halford followers as moving away from the traditional art of dry fly dressing, but to read his literature you will find he was a man using the cutting edge materials of his time. I like to think that if he were around today he would be carving new avenues with the synthetics and materials we have at our disposal.
The fly hatches as we move into these colder months become succinct, termed as 'micro hatches' they will spring up for a short period of time and sometimes limited to a particular area of the river. It is definitely a case of being in the right place at the right time. If you are lucky enough to be in the right place you must prepare fast as these hatches will disappear as quickly as they appeared. When looking for the next hatch this is when you may notice the water vole chewing on some reeds or the fleeing bevy of roe deer through the leafless branches.
For those that want more consistent action, the grayling will be constantly nymphing throughout the day. The large populations of shrimp (Gamarus) keep the fish alert and ready for the next meal tumbling down the river. A good way of nymph fishing in this period is covered in my previous article on Sawyer Nymphing. Personally when selecting a nymph for grayling I will look for patterns that are predominately drab colours; browns, olives, greys, but they will have a hot-spot – a small area (thorax or tail) that is a bright colour; orange, pink or red. It is these hot-spots that seem to make the difference between convincing the fish or going home empty handed.
Winter also allows the wilder side of the fly fisherman to express oneself; some estates will allow you to fish for pike. When equipping yourself for pike you cross over from the subtle delicacies of the summer in to a world of steel wire, rods that look more like telegraph poles with rings attached, and flies that resemble budgies! Now, it seems you may be prepared for war but pike can be spooked easily and are incredibly lazy so presenting with this heavy duty equipment is key. Do not shy away from searching the slow moving deep bends along the chalkstreams, as hooking a pike is explosive and incredibly thrilling. Pike fishing also provides the opportunity for those travelling to saltwater destinations in the winter to practice with their saltwater equipment, as quite often these rods have been sat in the fishing room since the last trip.
The frosts are becoming more frequent, and the rains are still showering us keeping the river flows bank high. My brain conflicts with my obsession to be on the water, it says I shouldn’t leave the refuge of central heating and yet I always seem to end up searching for the next fish in the cooling landscape. Go out and enjoy this special time on the river, you are never quite sure how nature will provide you with wonder on your next fishing trip.
Alex Jardine works for international fly fishing specialists Aardvark McLeod where you can contact him at email@example.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
Articles by the same author
- Iceland, A Return to Northern Latitudes
- Robjent's Chalkstream Diaries - Spring has Sprung...
- Robjent's Chalkstream Diaries - An Early Season Look
- Robjent's Chalkstream Diaries - The Grayling Season
- Chalkstream Diaries - Grayling and Pike on the Fly
- The Chalkstream Diaries - Do The Fish Really Outsmart Us?
- Robjent's Chalkstream Diaries - Autumn Colour
- Robjent's Chalkstream Diaries - Season Round Up
- Robjent's Chalkstream Diary - Sawyer Nymphing
- Robjent's Chalkstream Diaries - Summer Success