13 August – River Itchen

The journey West was tolerable,  while driving my thoughts were mainly about the Willows Beat where I had a fantastic day last season. That day sticks in my memory because it was my first experience of proper chalkstream fly fishing and because the Trout were spectacular. I was also anticipating a cool day beside crystal clear water, respite from the thundery weather hanging over the Surrey hills.

The water level had dropped a little but good management of the weed had kept the gravel shallows covered and provided cover for the Trout. I’d glued a new tapered leader into the core of the Rio Chalkstream Special and cleaned the rod with a baby-wipe. I was surprised at the amount of dirt that came off the carbon.


I started at the bottom of the Beat which would take a couple of hours to explore thoroughly.  I found a couple of fish in impossible lies, where else would they be, but struck gold in the run below the Willow bush. The pool held about a dozen Trout of various sizes and they looked active.

I prepared everything, including the landing net, anticipating an easy first fish. An hour later, having tried every fly in the box, I was puzzled but not frustrated. A couple of flies had stirred a few fins but generally the various patterns and sizes had been ignored. Then, out of the blue, a fish shot across the pool and grabbed the fly. After some aerobatics it shook the hook. Small barbless hooks don’t hold a fish for long.

After another fishless hour I was beginning to think about lunch. I covered a fish in midstream and the presentation was perfect. As the fly approached my target a pale coloured fish dashed across the current and snatched the Black Gnat off the surface. Success at last.


I moved upstream to the pool on the bend but as I sorted out my gear and celebrated, a few drops of rain fell and the temperature dropped. I decided to shelter under the Hawthorn tree, “it would only be a shower”. Big mistake, very big. I moved from tree to tree seeking better shelter but things got serious, the wind became gale force and the rain blew horizontally in sheets. My wellies filled up and I decided to walk back to the main fishing hut. If I had jumped in the river I wouldn’t have been any wetter.


I stood under cover and dripped. The sun came out and I changed my boots. My T shirt and trousers felt like a wetsuit. I wandered, steaming, back to the pool but the water was coloured and weed debris made fishing impossible.  Cut weed left on the racks upstream had been washed off by the rising water level. I waited an hour but the water became a thick grey soup from the road washings so I reluctantly left. I felt relieved to have caught a Trout before the storm arrived. My iPhone is behaving erratically, it’s not storm proof.