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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Aug 2019
    Winchester, UK

    Default Beginner moving from stocked stillwaters to rivers?

    I've just started learning to fish on the fly. After an experience day, I bought a 9ft 6wt Greys GR20 rod, some floating line, and some flies and have been practicing my casting on the local stocked stillwaters catching trout on damsel streamers and dries. This gets expensive, however, and ultimately I'd like to get out on the rivers.

    My angling club owns a decent stretch of the Itchen. What kind of skills do I need to practice to fish a chalk stream successfully, especially if my only experience is on stillwater? Is there any new tackle I'll absolutely need or is it worth going out and giving it a bash?

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Sep 2017
    Thick end of the stick.

    Default Re: Beginner moving from stocked stillwaters to rivers?

    Stealth and observation are the vital skills. Spend more time watching than casting, make every cast count.
    Rod and line should be fine (some folk will say go lighter but I wouldn't worry about that yet) but maybe leave the streamers at home. Go and give it a gentle bash.


  3. #3

    Default Re: Beginner moving from stocked stillwaters to rivers?

    I'd say a 6wt is probably a little heavy for a river. Get yourself some parachute Adams in varying suzes I don't leave home without them . Good polared sunglasses Smith from edel optics online are good value paid 55 for lowdown that were classes as prescription but if you dont provide your prescription details they just send the originals.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2019

    Default Re: Beginner moving from stocked stillwaters to rivers?

    I fish a largeish river (the Usk) with a 9ft #6. Honestly it's mostly about presentation and less about the kit. You'll be fine with that and I'm quite sure you'll catch fish with it as well. Just be prepared not to catch for a little while and enjoy being out on the river. Also you'll find that with rivers, being there at the right time is half the battle. Ask club members about that, they'll know when. But I'd reckon that the evening hatch will probably be a good time. My local stretch seems dead at midday. From 7pm onwards fish start rising and it's a different place.

    Also at the same time slinging a woolly ****** through the river works as well it does on stillwaters.

    For me a nice mix would be a 5 hour boat hire, followed by a late afternoon/evening on the river.

    Put simply, just get out and fish. You'll find out what works and what doesn't soon enough. Just persevere and have fun!

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Default Re: Beginner moving from stocked stillwaters to rivers?

    You're fishing a chalkstream so streamers, lures are not on. Backend of the season now so the fish are getting a bit canny and all the more so given the low water conditions.

    As stated above you need to spend time looking and observing what the fish are doing. Flogging the water might work on the Usk, but it sure as hell won't work on the Itchen. Fishing will be in an upstream or up & across direction. Parachute Adams are probably as good as you'll get at present. Remember to cast above the rise, not at it. 2' above is about right. Use a decent length of leader given that you only have a #6 so around 12' should give a bit of separation between line and fly. 3lb tippet should be OK.

    Don't rush it, and only cast when you are sure you can put the fly over the fish. Keep control of the line by retrieving it as it drifts towards you so you don't have lots of slack on the surface. When he takes just lift. If he doesn't take wait to lift off until the fly is well past the fish.

    If your club allows grayling fishing during the winter then spend time on the river. It will pay dividends.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    May 2009

    Default Re: Beginner moving from stocked stillwaters to rivers?

    Two points not already covered.

    1. When I moved from stillwaters to rivers I quickly learned to false cast much less. River fish can be a lot less forgiving and you'll want to get your fly out with as little fuss as possible.

    2. Drag. Try avoid it. You'll have to learn how to 'mend' your line and even a different cast or two (like the tuck) to give you as much time as possible in the sweet spot before drag kicks in.

    Enjoy the curve! You won't regret it, and remember, you're on a pretty decent and historic river to be learning the art. Count your blessings!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct 2007

    Default Re: Beginner moving from stocked stillwaters to rivers?

    A couple more points. Drag is a pain in the proverbials and is difficult to avoid sometimes. Micro-drag where the fly moves very slightly off track is very hard to spot at any sort of distance. One method of reducing drag is to track the path of the fly with the rod. This reduces the impact of the intervening currents on the line and is, in my view, a better option than mending, especially on the sort of flows found in the Itchen and other chalkstreams.

    To counteract your line weight which is heavier than most in use on the chalkstream I'd be inclined to go for a leader around 12' in length. So buy a leader tapered down to 6lb, add a tippet ring and then 3' of finer tippet to suit the flies in use and the conditions.

    The American visitors we have love two things. a) long casts resulting in long drifts, which in turn results in drag long before the fly gets to the fish and and then leads to b) aggressive mends which more often that not yank the fly off line before it gets to the fish.

    So, shorter and more controllable casts aiming to put the fly no more than a couple of feet above the rise and lift off once the fly has passed the fish by about the same distance. The reason for this is that quite often the fish will change its mind after the fly has passed it and will turn round and grab it before it can escape. This happens a lot during the mayfly so let the fly drift past the fish and then lift off quietly.

    Most of what I have referred to applies to dry flies, but can equally apply to nymphs. Single fly, 12' leader, track the fly line on the water to avoid pulling the nymph off line before it gets to the fish. Don't be shy about using an indicator which can be attached just above the tippet ring. Ginked up wool attached with the New Zealand system is as good as any and is generally quite unobtrusive if you use white wool which will look like a feather to the trout.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    May 2006
    Near Southampton

    Default Re: Beginner moving from stocked stillwaters to rivers?

    Very often your first cast at an observed and targeted chalkstream fish represents your best shot, and your chances diminish with each successive try., So make that first cast count...
    "In wine there is wisdom. In beer there is strength. In water there is bacteria." - German proverb
    JH based near Southampton

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Mar 2012
    Hesketh Bank, Lancs

    Default Re: Beginner moving from stocked stillwaters to rivers?

    I think BobP has offered some good advice there for you.
    In simple terms I'd say a few main things which may echo it..
    Fish the river in an upstream direction and let your flies drift back to you...don't swing 'down and across'
    Keep your line fairly short,don't try to make massive casts and don't have loads of line on the water. If you can just have enough line out that you can easily lift/back cast and forward in one movement..20 foot or so is enough
    Try to keep that fly (be it dry or nymph) moving in the most natural way possible (i.e. in the same manner as anything else coming down the river) that is what you are aiming for.
    If you are fishing a small a size 16/18..a pheasant tail variation should do.
    If wading be careful and above all enjoy it...the river soon hypnotises you.
    Good book? George Daniel's Dynamic Nymphing..essential imho
    I was in a similar position to you maybe 4/5 years ago coming off the stillwaters..I caught very little for 2/3 years until I turned around and fished upstream..that made the biggest are coming up behind them..they can't see you as well..and when you set the hook you're going straight in to their lip not pulling it away from them.
    As for the Itchen, I've never fished a chalkstream but I'd alwayslook for where the running water is..if time is precious fish the running/ white water not the very slow deep pools.
    I realise there may be many who may disagree with all of this ;-) but that's my tuppence worth Have fun!
    "If people don't occasionally walk away from you shaking their heads, you're doing something wrong." John Gierach

  10. #10

    Default Re: Beginner moving from stocked stillwaters to rivers?

    Loads of good advice already. I'll add these, although I also don't have chalkstream experience so may not apply.

    1. Get a wading stick, makes a big difference to safe wading

    2. Furled leaders will help your presentation

    3. You will lose flies in the trees so multiples of a small number of patterns is better than one or two of loads of different patterns

    4. And just to repeat what others have said - for flies on the surface, drag is the enemy. Fishing upstream is the easiest way to reduce it. However sometimes swinging spiders or nymphs down and across can let you fish situations which dont really allow an upstream approach so dont completely ignore it

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