Chalkstream Diaries - Grayling and Pike on the Fly
December was consistent with previous months and continued to be wet, very wet! Having said this all was not lost, and with a bit of hunting I found a small Avon tributary near Salisbury that would be possible to fish. Although it was high the flows consisted mainly of ground water therefore providing a very clear waterway.
With whispers of the odd large Grayling residing in this stretch my Dad and I grab our rods and headed to the river.
Our day, in the light of recent 'normal weather', was blessed with shards of sunlight and only the odd downpour. Like all fisherman we were drawn to stop and stare into the crystal clear flows from a small footpath bridge. We were inspired by the sight of a small shoal of Grayling, none of which were huge but a fish is a fish... At this point we headed upstream of the bridge not making a single cast, our reasoning being based on the New Zealand philosophy "anglers usually start fishing by bridges and work their way from that point, so if you walk a bit you generally find better fishing".
As soon as we were away from the bridge we lost our elevated advantage and our vision was interrupted by the glared water's surface. December is the month of Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and the druids’ decadence on Stonehenge; it is also the time when the sun's low angle makes for difficult fish spotting. We fished hard with searching tactics and manage to persuade a brace of Grayling a piece to subtle nymphs.
From subtle nymphs to things that look more like Christmas decorations, driven away from the rivers by further rainfall I ventured to a fishing complex on the outskirts of Southampton. Woodington Fishery has everything from coarse match lakes, trout lakes, a trout stretch of river and a small shop. FlyFishing.co.uk Editor Paul Sharman and I headed down to find out more, with specific interest in a lake dedicated to Pike fishing on the fly.
I set off to the fishery in the dark and watched as the sun spread over the Hampshire countryside, on arrival we were greeted by a frosty morning with some ice on the lakes. Fortunately John, the fishery owner, was on hand with bacon sandwiches and a warm mug of coffee to set us up to target the pike (and very welcome they were! - Ed.).
The lake is reasonably small but more than enough to keep anglers entertained on a winter’s day. Paul and I set-up slightly different methods, keen to find ‘the method’ that was going to entice the pike to pounce on our offerings in the colder weather. I went with my current favourite, a white and blue baitfish pattern designed for tarpon and tied on a 1/0 hook, it provided almost instantaneous success. A small jack pike of around 2 lbs decided it was going to have a mouthful but it was a start and gave us both confidence.
As we carried on “chuck & duck” casting, it is honestly the best way to ping out your average parrot-like fly out there, we were certainly moving pike. Paul was seeing slightly more success with a fly that can be best described as a yeti that had been painted gold and stuck to a hook…hard to imagine I know! Setting the hook properly was proving tough though with the pike tending to grab the tail for a few seconds and then let go, quite frustrating but we kept at it.
The early afternoon brought with it a striking lightning storm that surrounded us putting a hault to the fishing, as the sky lit up with fury the rolling thunder caused the ground to shake. With each thunderous boom pike were sent bow-waving out from the lake margins, it was a spectacle that would rival the most explosive of firework displays. As the storm drifted off there was a break in the clouds before the next onslaught of rain would be upon us, so we got back out there.
I failed to really move anything this time yet Paul worked his magic and landed another jack pike. All in all it was a good day, plenty of action just a failing to get a decent hook hold. I will definitely head back down.
As a finale to both December and 2012 I managed a stunning 2 lbs 6 oz grayling from a wider-than-usual River Itchen, a perfect way to end a different fishing year to the norm. Happy New Year one and all, I hope 2013 will bring with it many fishing days to you all.
If you fancy a day at Woodington Fishery you can check out all the details here on their website.
Alex Jardine works for international fly fishing specialists Aardvark McLeod where you can contact him at email@example.com
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