A tale of two chalk streams

jerryrum

Well-known member
Joined
May 13, 2016
Messages
309
Location
Milton Keynes and Leighton Buzzard
In my neck of the woods, once the winter rains start, the rivers run muddy for months at a time.

Although this doesn't stop me fishing, it always makes me yearn for clearer running waters. Normally I would take myself off to the southern counties or the Derbyshire dales to seek out the saviour of winter fly fishing, the Grayling. This year however, with Covid in mind, I am choosing not to travel too far.

This lead to a day being booked off work with the intention of exploring a couple of local chalkstreams.

You may ask why, if I have chalkstreams on my doorstep, would I bother to travel at all? The simple answer is the fishing they offer is not great. A combination of over extraction, farm run off, litter and all the other normal human interference's have left them some what lacking in aquatic life.

Never the less, on a cold an foggy morn, I set out to explore them.

The first beat is set on the edge of an urban conurbation amidst some municipal football fields. Once away from the dog walkers (don't get me started on the lack of control some owners show), you could almost ignore the police sirens and believe yourself to be in the countryside.

The first thing I noticed was that the water was extremely clear, which put me in a good mood:
SB1.PNG

The second, however, was that there were no fish to be seen. Where were the silver shoals flitting between the weeds?
SB2.PNG

I have only a little experience of chalkstream fishing, but normally when I don't catch much it is because the fish have seen me first. In water like this I am used to seeing dark shapes shooting off upstream.

I fished through the shallows and on in to a thinner but deeper section. Here reeds fringed the banks and weeds filled the channel. It looked like perfect fish territory but there was no hint of anything finned.

As the stream widened out again I was considering turning back but then I finally had a fish on...... and of again! I only saw a flash of silver but from the way it took the fly I would guess it was a small Chub (possibly a trout). I fished that run again for a few minutes (then a few minutes more) but to no avail.

The knowledge that there was something present kept me going and eventually I hit a likely looking pool where a small side stream joined. Sure enough, in the riffley water at the head of the pool, I was in.

The fish that saved the day:
SB3.PNG

Not much further upstream I reached the end of the public land and had to turn back.

I fished a few likely spots on the way down stream, but my thoughts were already on venue number two.

A short drive away I parked up in a even more urban setting. This was a place of swing parks, bandstands and cafe's. The sort of place where you have to look over your shoulder on every back cast to ensure you don't hit the gathered hoard of spectators.

The stream itself was also anything but natural:
CB1.PNG

though there were parts that looked like they had suffered less from human influence (as so far as any chalkstream has):
CB2.PNG

I had waded at venue one, so it was wellies only here, which restricted where I could fish and I quickly gave up any hope of catching, having seen no signs of life.

I was heading back to the car, when I stopped to look at some of the pollarding that had been done, presumably to protect the bank, when I realised just under the overhanging branches were three big Chub and a small jack Pike.

There was no way I could have got a fly to them, and I only had 2lb leader on, but it was good to know they were there.

You'll just have to take my word that my rod tip is pointing at the Pike and the Chub are just upstream:
CB3.PNG

Overall I enjoyed my day exploring, but I can't help thinking streams like these should contain more fish.

Jerry
 

Jason 70

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
434
Location
The congested SE
Jerry,

Do you think the fish could be tucked right under the bank? I was out on Monday for four hours on a similar-looking venue, it had rained heavily the night before and put some colour in the water. And the fish were active. Today out for the same amount of time, but the colour had gone, I did not spot a fish. I also spoke with guy trotting maggots, who could not buy a bite. But on Monday he mentioned that he did well. I prefer some colour in the water, not chocolate, but light tea.

Nice write up.
 

jerryrum

Well-known member
Joined
May 13, 2016
Messages
309
Location
Milton Keynes and Leighton Buzzard
Jerry,

Do you think the fish could be tucked right under the bank? I was out on Monday for four hours on a similar-looking venue, it had rained heavily the night before and put some colour in the water. And the fish were active. Today out for the same amount of time, but the colour had gone, I did not spot a fish. I also spoke with guy trotting maggots, who could not buy a bite. But on Monday he mentioned that he did well. I prefer some colour in the water, not chocolate, but light tea.

Nice write up.
Could be, but on the first venue I was wading, so I would have expected to see them shoot off when I got close.

As I said, I don't fish chalksteams very often. Could they dart away while still staying under cover?

If they are tucked right under the bank, what are the best tactics to tempt them out?
 

Jason 70

Well-known member
Joined
Jan 3, 2020
Messages
434
Location
The congested SE
Could be, but on the first venue I was wading, so I would have expected to see them shoot off when I got close.

As I said, I don't fish chalksteams very often. Could they dart away while still staying under cover?

If they are tucked right under the bank, what are the best tactics to tempt them out?

Looking at your photos it made me think of yesterday, it looked pretty similar conditions wise. A mate phoned me before I had strung up a rod and asked what it looked like. My reply 'Shite'.

IMG_20201216_095244_copy_756x1008.jpg

As mentioned in my previous post I could not spot a fish in four hours. On Monday it was up about six inches and had some colour and I caught fish. When it's low like this perhaps the fish are tucked right away and no matter what we do it makes very little difference? So what may appear a barren stretch one day, given the right conditions the fish magically appear. I think Skateboard Dave mentioned on here he much preferd some colour in the water on these small venues in winter. I still enjoyed myself as I was not in work.
 

Perch@1

Well-known member
Joined
Mar 2, 2018
Messages
205
Location
South Wales
In my neck of the woods, once the winter rains start, the rivers run muddy for months at a time.

Although this doesn't stop me fishing, it always makes me yearn for clearer running waters. Normally I would take myself off to the southern counties or the Derbyshire dales to seek out the saviour of winter fly fishing, the Grayling. This year however, with Covid in mind, I am choosing not to travel too far.

This lead to a day being booked off work with the intention of exploring a couple of local chalkstreams.

You may ask why, if I have chalkstreams on my doorstep, would I bother to travel at all? The simple answer is the fishing they offer is not great. A combination of over extraction, farm run off, litter and all the other normal human interference's have left them some what lacking in aquatic life.

Never the less, on a cold an foggy morn, I set out to explore them.

The first beat is set on the edge of an urban conurbation amidst some municipal football fields. Once away from the dog walkers (don't get me started on the lack of control some owners show), you could almost ignore the police sirens and believe yourself to be in the countryside.

The first thing I noticed was that the water was extremely clear, which put me in a good mood:
View attachment 33507

The second, however, was that there were no fish to be seen. Where were the silver shoals flitting between the weeds?
View attachment 33508

I have only a little experience of chalkstream fishing, but normally when I don't catch much it is because the fish have seen me first. In water like this I am used to seeing dark shapes shooting off upstream.

I fished through the shallows and on in to a thinner but deeper section. Here reeds fringed the banks and weeds filled the channel. It looked like perfect fish territory but there was no hint of anything finned.

As the stream widened out again I was considering turning back but then I finally had a fish on...... and of again! I only saw a flash of silver but from the way it took the fly I would guess it was a small Chub (possibly a trout). I fished that run again for a few minutes (then a few minutes more) but to no avail.

The knowledge that there was something present kept me going and eventually I hit a likely looking pool where a small side stream joined. Sure enough, in the riffley water at the head of the pool, I was in.

The fish that saved the day:
View attachment 33509

Not much further upstream I reached the end of the public land and had to turn back.

I fished a few likely spots on the way down stream, but my thoughts were already on venue number two.

A short drive away I parked up in a even more urban setting. This was a place of swing parks, bandstands and cafe's. The sort of place where you have to look over your shoulder on every back cast to ensure you don't hit the gathered hoard of spectators.

The stream itself was also anything but natural:
View attachment 33510

though there were parts that looked like they had suffered less from human influence (as so far as any chalkstream has):
View attachment 33511

I had waded at venue one, so it was wellies only here, which restricted where I could fish and I quickly gave up any hope of catching, having seen no signs of life.

I was heading back to the car, when I stopped to look at some of the pollarding that had been done, presumably to protect the bank, when I realised just under the overhanging branches were three big Chub and a small jack Pike.

There was no way I could have got a fly to them, and I only had 2lb leader on, but it was good to know they were there.

You'll just have to take my word that my rod tip is pointing at the Pike and the Chub are just upstream:
View attachment 33512

Overall I enjoyed my day exploring, but I can't help thinking streams like these should contain more fish.

Jerry

Interesting article Jerry, I need to research local resevour near me to record inlets and outlets but the beauty of national park is outstanding, and I've only just joined MTAA so lots to learn.

Chalk streams are not local to myself so lacking Knowledge or experience, infact recently a JCB removed stone from bed of local river, so next years fishing will be interesting.

Safe fishing Neil 🎣
 

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