24 September – River Itchen

My final trip of the season to the Itchen came round quicker than I had expected. The Summer weather had been kind, I was only rained-off once. Generally the water and weather conditions had been excellent and I’d had the opportunity to learn a lot about chalkstream fishing. I only missed one day at the very start of the season and I had been invited to swap beats on a couple of days to take full advantage of the fishery. The crystal clear water and water meadows were uplifting, an insight into how fishing must have been on many other rivers during the early 20th Century.

Autumn arrived on 24 September. The chill wind turned the willow leaves over and the trees looked silver, a sure sign of rain. The rain arrived as I stood behind the car setting up my rod. The strong upstream wind soon blew the rain away and I could see the Trout. The water was slightly cloudy but I counted about a dozen good fish in the top pool. Quite a few looked like Sea Trout, the lighter coloured fish were active, taking the occasional sedge. For two hours I watched, selected feeding fish and offered the usual patterns. Mild interest was shown in sedge and Daddy-Long-Legs but none of the fish bothered to take close look. I switched to a Black Gnat and immediately hooked a good fish. It took a lot of line and nearly reached the pile of debris trapped below the footbridge. Thirty minutes later I had caught another two Trout about 2lbs each, both on the same fly.

I wandered down the right bank, under the trees, looking for feeding fish on the patches of gravel but the sky was grey and in the poor light it was difficult to see a target.  I found a good fish in the edge near the end of the Beat and detoured around the marginal plants to get below it. I flicked the fly into the run several times anticipating a take but when I peeped around the rushes, the Trout had gone.

I crossed to the left bank and found three fish on gravel above the big hatch pool. They were rising near a Willow tree and several of my flies were sacrificed in attempts to reach them. One fish reacted to a sedge and a Daddy, turning and following the flies downstream but veered away on closer inspection. I returned to the top pool and soon had another beautifully marked fish in the landing net, the best of the day. My self-imposed four fish limit had been hard work but when I had presented the right fly without lining the fish, they had responded well.

It was good to end my season on the Itchen with such an enjoyable day. I will be able to relive the memories during the winter months.