Robjent's Chalkstream Diaries - Spring has Sprung...
After what felt like an eternal winter of snow storms, rain and generally miserable conditions the trout season kicked off this month with the coldest Easter weekend since modern records began. Thankfully the weather has finally warmed up, a bit at least.
On the whole April has supplied us with its usual unpredictable mix of weather, from heavy showers to warm sunburn inducing days but the fly hatches are notably slow to get going. My first outing of the year on the River Wylye, on the 1st, was greeted with a hostile downstream (Northerly) wind and stinging rain. As you can imagine fish and flies alike were reluctant to rise to the surface! I turned to the attractor patterns in my box, they’re not pretty and they’re not delicate but they usually get the job done.
Fortunately as the month progressed hatches of Large Dark Olives (LDOs-Baetis rhodani) emerged from the clearing chalkstream waters enticing the brown trout to follow them up to the surface. After a couple of “back to the drawing board” attempts I found the fly with the right body colour the fish wanted and began to capitalise on the LDO hatches.
These olive hatches emerged at around the same time as the countryside began to spring back to its summer glory, Daffodils bloomed, trees blossomed and the hedgerows filled with birdsong. Throughout the month the olives started hatching in decent numbers between 1-2pm and carrying on to 3pm+, this was obviously when the day got just warm enough to encourage them out. Although, I did find them hatching in just 6°C on one day this month and sure enough the fish followed them up.
The chalkstreams are not rivers that should be fished fast; the angler should take their time and observe their surroundings. This is why the fishing hut is so vital on the beats up and down these rivers, a place where you can sit and watch the river as people have done for many decades. April is an important time for these huts as this is when their doors are reopened to anglers or, in some cases; new lodges are opened for the first time.
I was honoured this year to join a small group of avid fly fishermen on the beautiful middle reaches of the River Itchen for the grand unveiling of their new hut. The day was blessed in glorious sunshine and LDOs hatched all day long. The red tape was cut to the popping of river chilled Champagne and the fish rose in the background.
As we sat there under the hut’s awning we watched the wild trout feed feverishly, with each rise the large tails would wave teasingly on their way back down. Before too long we had selected our imitations and we went off to catch the first trout of the season. The fish took an instant liking to our offerings but the long winter of rods being hung up saw to it that several fish were missed or lost, and smiles soon turned to sheer determination. Before too long the first trout was landed and the nerves were settled.
We fished on for an hour or so, I often found myself forgetting to cast and instead just sat watching the fish rise with great confidence. It almost seemed a shame to disturb their post-winter feasting, the fisherman in me soon managed to shrug off that feeling and I enticed a couple of beautiful brownies to the net. With the rise in full swing we pulled ourselves away from the water and back to the hut for lunch, still bathed in sunshine. It may be considered an act of madness but after all this is fishing and sometimes lunch is almost as important as catching.
After barbequed steak and fine wine we all, well nearly all of us, wandered back along the banks in search of more hungry trout, and there was certainly no shortage! Fish rose all around us and although they were taking LDOs we found that a size 16 parachute adams worked better than anything else. We caught fantastic wild brownies up to 2.5 lbs and it was great to have a fishing day that was more than just catching fish.
As we look towards May, we hope for a little bit of warmth to really kick the rivers into full fly hatch mode. The Grannom (Brachycentrus Subnubilis) are late so far but anytime now and the River Avon and Dorset chalkstreams may kick off with big sedge hatches. There have been rumours of the odd hawthorn fly (Bibio Marci) being spotted, this dangly legged black fly can bring the River Test to life and offer memorable outings to those fishing at this time.
The big question is when will the mayfly (Ephemera danica) appear this year, there is no conclusive answer but the end of May is a usual safe bet and this year we may see Duffer’s Fortnight stretch into June.
Alex Jardine works for international fly fishing specialists Aardvark McLeod where you can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org
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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