16 July – River Itchen

I remembered to take a waterproof jacket. I also took a three course lunch and plenty to drink. No beer. The journey west was a nightmare of dense traffic and endless average speed cameras. My mind was cluttered with non-fishing things but all thoughts disappeared when I drove over the bridge and saw the green fronds waving in the crystal clear water.

The early morning overcast had burnt off and the sunlight was intense. I had good access to both sides of the Beat and could easily avoid casting shadows everywhere. I peeped around the corner of a bush to scan the depths of the hatch pool and saw two huge dark shadows gliding around in the ribbons of the main current. I must have been seen as they melted into the depths of the pool never to reappear. I consoled myself with the thought that they were probably Chub.


My last visit was a bit of a mare. Everything went wrong and the day was only rescued by a late Grayling and the gorgeous scenery. I had worked too hard and messed things up. Today would be different, calmer, no pressure.

I sat behind the fringe of cover and watched a couple of Trout. A fish of about 2lbs and a smaller one were visiting the surface occasionally and sipping down invisible insects. They were feeding confidently and hadn’t seen me. I thought “try the big fish” but that would have lined it’s companion and good sense prevailed. I estimated the distance to the nearest fish at two rod lengths, twenty feet. I flicked ten feet of fly line and the same length of leader along the grass and added a yard for drift. I held the parachute Pheasant Tail between finger and thumb and rolled the line out. The fly landed well upstream of the Trout, there was no drag and the fish lifted slowly to gulp the fly down.

I fully expected the fish to shake the hook but after a long battle, well downstream, the net engulfed a beautiful brownie. I released it into the streamer weed and made plans to move down the Beat. The fly was trashed and by the time I’d replaced it the bigger Trout had resumed it’s station and was feeding again.


I watched the bigger, dark coloured Trout for a while and studied it’s routine. It was slightly head-down and quite deep but every few minutes it would rise to the surface and inspect the debris, looking for food. The cast was about three rod lengths. Once again the roll-from-the-hand positioned the fly about a yard upstream, the fish rose in slow motion and took the fly. When hooked it shot downstream and tried to bury itself in a weedbed but I bent the rod and held tight knowing that I had already avoided a blank day.

In an hour I’d had two takes and landed two nice fish. None escaped and I hadn’t scared any Trout. That was well above my average. It was time for lunch.


After lunch and a long chat with the Keeper, I walked down the shady side of the Beat looking for fish in the pockets of clear gravel. I found a fish but although I was peering through a gap between the rushes and an overhanging Willow, not skylined or in sunlight, it slowly drifted sideways under a weedbed. I noted the patch of gravel for later.

I walked the rest of the Beat and found two huge fish in a big pool. They looked about 10lbs and were either Barbel or Salmon, it was difficult to tell in the deep fast moving water. I wandered back upstream and found the patch of gravel. Two fish were in residence. I prepared the line and raised the rod to start the cast, both fish immediately bolted. It was probably sunlight flashing on the glossy varnish.


In the top pool another Trout was feeding. I presented a parachute Pheasant Tail which was closely inspected. I tried a smaller size, that was also rejected although the fish seemed more convinced. I swapped to a size 14 parachute Iron Blue and that was taken as the fish turned around to follow it downstream. The fish was the biggest of the day and put up a good fight.


At the lower end of the Beat, in a narrow stretch, I found a nice fish between tall beds of sedge. The cast was tricky and the fish was deep. I induced a take but although the fish came to the surface it shied away at the last moment.

Back at the top of the Beat I found two Trout, an Eel and several Grayling on a shallow gravel bed. They were occasionally visited by a pair of nice Chub. It was like an aquarium. I had the luxury of presenting a series of flies to various fish, all of which ignored my best attempts.

The day had been a complete success. A welcome change, even the drive home was bearable. It’s all in the mind, relax and enjoy.