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Robjent's Chalkstream Diaries - An Early Season Look

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Early season view of the River Test Early season view of the River Test

Well it seems odd to be considering the trout season, snow is floating through the air outside and ice formation are commonplace, but the season is just about underway. A recent act of madness saw me stood on the banks of a small Stillwater trying to retrieve my line quicker than it would freeze in the rod rings!


The season starts with the Avon and Frome systems which opened on the 1st April shortly to be followed by the Itchen and Test systems on the 3rd April.

The start of the season looks as though we will have the benefit of high flows for the first time in at least two years, with many river keepers commenting that they have never seen the rivers so healthy. The first weeks look as though the rivers will not be running crystal clear, but this is normal for the time of year and the work that the river keepers put in will maximise the fly fisher’s chances.

With the cold weather of winter clinging on to our UK spring we may see hatches making a slow start to the season, but by the time the rivers are fully open (1st May) we will hopefully see some warmer weather and the insects appearing. The first flies we look for tend to be the Grannom (Brachycentrus Subnubilis), an early season sedge that can appear in large numbers and usually found throughout the Avon and its tributaries. Smaller hatches do appear on the Test and Itchen too.

MayflySmall olives are hatching almost all season long on our southern chalkstreams and always provide the fisher with something to represent. It is the hawthorn fly (Bibio Marci) that can really get the rivers performing well on the surface and timed perfectly they tend to fade out as the famous Mayfly begin to hatch.

The Mayfly (Ephemera Danica) is our biggest upwing fly and is the reason why the big fish come to the surface. If you manage to time a trip to the river with a hatch of Mayfly you are in for a real treat. Usually they start to appear in the second week of May and continue through to the first week in June, although we may see it later by a few days this year due to colder spring temperatures. The Avon is unique as its Mayfly hatches, although substantial during May and June, continue on through to August with small daily hatches occurring.

August in theory tends to be the hardest dry fly time on the rivers as this is when we would expect hot temperatures and a bright and high sun, although this weather seemed non-existent last year. Don’t be put off though as the fishing can be fantastic for those who are willing to fish early in the morning and late in the evening. I covered some useful tips for fishing in mid-summer in Summer Success.

troutThe August evenings begin to welcome the bulk of the sedge (caddis) hatches, for me this is an exciting time as fish seem to turn their aggression to struggling sedge pupa in the surface film. The rises seen during this time tend to splashy and explosive and sometime the fish take your offering too enthusiastically, missing it altogether!

September is perhaps the most underrated time on our southern chalkstreams, this is the time when everything seems together. The sedges continue their looping dances just inches from the hungry trout and the olives once again flutter effortlessly along the banksides. The weather can be unsettled at this time but catch it right and you may just experience the best fishing of the year.

So we are now tentatively taking that first cast at the trout once again. Hopefully you have found time to restock your fly boxes in this seemingly endless winter and maybe it is time to try out new fishing equipment.

I hope you all have a great season and I leave you with a thought from Theodore Gordon, "It is impossible to grow weary of a sport that is never the same on any two days of the year".


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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