I’d read the magazine articles, and seen the YouTube videos of Dever Springs. Tapwater-clear water and big stocked trout were enough reason to send me down the M3 motorway to Hampshire. The fishery consists of two lakes (Spring Lake and Willow Lake) flanked by the River Dever, a tributary of the famous River Test. The grounds are beautifully manicured; vegetation is cut back around the margins and there is plenty of room for the backcast. I alternated fishing between the two lakes.
Very large trout were patrolling just below the surface. I tied on a stalking bug and directed it towards the fish. They were totally uninterested. Thinking they would maybe prefer something more natural, I tried a Diawl Bach, a Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear and various Buzzers. Again, no result. Around the lakes I could see a few fish coming out. Several anglers were eschewing conventional casting and were simply drawing their flies through the water, little more than a rod-length from the bank.
I got no takes at all from the trout until I tied on the old standby small stillwater favourite: the blue flash damsel. In the clear water, I could see the enticing pulsating motion on a slow jerky retrieve. Surely this would be irresistible?
I cast amongst several large fish; mostly they would ignore the fly. A few times I mis-timed the strike, but with this many fish present, it had to be only a matter of time before one connected. The inevitable happened and I was into a good fish. In the clear water I could see it was larger than five pounds (and a little fat to be honest) but the fight was over suspiciously quickly.
With the rainbow trout on the bank, the reason for the lack of fight was clear. A large section of the fish’s tail fin and flesh and been cut away. The wound poured blood. This had happened during the fight. My damsel’s hook had come out in the net, but I’m pretty sure the fish was not foul hooked. Surely a barbless hook couldn’t make this much mess? And where was the missing portion? Even the weight of the fish against a nylon leader couldn’t have caused that cut. It really did look like a bite. I suspect one of the lake’s Pike may have taken a mouthful, or even another trout given the strange behaviour I saw later. This rainbow trout weighed in at five and a half pounds.
Repeated casts of the blue flash damsel couldn’t interest any more fish. They seemed bored with it. I tried a cat’s whisker. A few more casts and I was in. This time there was a real fight. Strangely, a larger rainbow – maybe into double figures – swam alongside my fish. Whether out of sympathy, competition for food or an aggressive response, I don’t know. I’ve only seen a similar behaviour once before with bass fighting over a Rapala. Five minutes of struggle, and the five-pounder fish was ready for the net.
I switched over to using a tungsten-weighted pink shrimp. I was interested in how this heavy fly would cast and behave in the water. It will be useful in the fast flowing water of the rivers Wye and Usk – the destinations for an upcoming fishing adventure.
While waiting for the filleting-and-weighing hut to be free, I dangled the shrimp amongst the weeds in one corner of Willow Lake. Many small coarse fish loved the lure, but were too small to take it, until a larger specimen shot out and hooked itself. The roach are apparently a bit of a pest-species in these lakes and are regularly removed. This one was lucky and was returned to the beautiful clear water.
I’ll certainly return to Dever Springs to target a double-figure fish.
- 2 Rainbow Trout (Blue Flash Damsel, Cat’s Whisker Gold)
- 1 Roach (Depth Charge Shrimp Pink)