My Opening Day Past and Present
Simon Cooper officially christens a new season
If you are anything like me that first ever trout will be seared in your memory, right up there as one of the best ever moments of your life. Occasionally I re-visit the exact spot where I caught mine and, more decades on than I care to recall from that blustery April day, I found the river precisely as it was then when I arrived there earlier this month.
The River Meon in Hampshire is not up there in the pantheon of chalkstream greats. It doesn't get many mentions by the giants of fly fishing nor does it feature much in where-to-fish directories or magazines, but it is, even though I am biased, a perfect small stream.
Fast, not very wide, with great weed growth, wonderful hatches and about ten miles to the east of the Itchen it is, petty well to all intents and purposes, an all wild trout river. In its lower reaches just up from the Hamble where it joins the Solent the sea trout are prolific and salmon used to run up as high at Wickham Mill.
I have not visited the Meon on the opening day of the season since I was a teenager; so on opening day this year I was determined to turn back the clock. Opening my fly box I was transported back to that first day as the April array of Dark Olives, Grannom, Greenwell's Glory, Hawthorn and March Browns winked back at me in the afternoon sun like old friends. I genuinely felt excited and nervous tying on the Grannom, deliberating ignoring those modern day interlopers the Klinkhammer and Parachute Adams.
Sight fishing is not the general mode de la jour for the Meon. It is one of those streams best fished by speculatively casting in the margins, along the current between the weed and into the open spaces. In the fast water and with all that weed the fish are too hard to spot so, unless you see a riser, nine times out ten the first time you see a fish is when it comes up for your fly.
Ring rusty after months away from the rivers (well that is my excuse) I missed the first fish of the day who boldly came straight up to the Grannom from under a trailing branch alongside the bank. The photographer asked whether it was normal to swear so much...
Giving up on the Grannom, which was ignored by a couple of risers, I switched to the Dark Olive, but against the gloom of the dark clouds it was too dark to easily track on the water. So sacrificing tradition on the altar of practicality out came the Parachute Adams.
Upstream we went, prospecting in all the likely spots with no success but just being able to track the fly on the water and get some satisfaction from well executed casts was something of a pleasure in itself.
At one particularly tasty looking eddy behind some woody debris I pinged in the fly, came up dry on the first cast and, as I fired it back in, I turned to the photographer saying, "Can you believe such a perfect spot doesn't have a fish?" It is no credit to me that he pressed the shutter on the rising fish before it even occurred to me to strike. But no matter, it was one of those kindly fish that hooks itself and, for me at least, a new season is now officially christened.
Flyfishing.co.uk is delighted to bring you Simon’s 'Opening Day' feature, which was first published in his ‘Fishing Breaks’ Newsletter.
Simon’s company, Fishing Breaks, based in the heart of the River Test Valley, offers some of the finest chalk stream fly fishing available in the UK – and a whole lot more. Check out their website HERE
Articles by the same author
- Crying Wolf?
- Resurrecting the Past to Save the Future
- It was 90 years ago today…
- The 2016 World Fly Fishing Championships
- Trout Anglers ‘Out for a Duck’
- Licenced to Fish
- Spear and Loathing?
- The Rat Must Die
- The Great Survival Race
- River Restoration