Last week’s wild trout hunt was a lot of fun, but if you’re fishing in southeast England, your quarry will inevitably be stocked fish. The chalk streams of Hampshire will have a head of wild trout, but these rivers too are stocked. If I was to fish for ‘stockies’, it may as well be for big ones. I contemplated returning to Dever Springs, but in the end plumped for Avington Trout Fishery, also in Hampshire. It was the chance to fish a carrier stream at the same location, that swung the decision for me. This stream is an offshoot of the famous Itchen, and holds wild trout as well as grayling. On arrival, I was told that the carrier was out-of-bounds today as someone had booked it via some mechanism of which I was unaware. Not Happy. No reduction in the price of the day ticket either. I reluctantly paid the full £70 (for a 3-fish ticket) and set off for the lakes.
The fishery consists of three lakes (and the out-of-bounds stream). Large trout and clear waters are the draw here. Stalking for a large fish is the preferred method; everyone hoping for a double-figure fish. Today, however, very overcast conditions weren’t the best for seeing into the water. Lake 1 was very silty and weed covered. I couldn’t see any fish apart from some large carp near the surface. I moved onto Lake 2.
In the clear water, I could see a large rainbow trout almost stationary a rod’s length from the bank. I tied on a bead-headed daddy and flicked it towards my chosen fish. The trout deigned to turn his head towards my offering, but wasn’t interested enough to take the fly. Up and down Lakes 2 and 3, this pattern repeated itself for an hour or more. Plenty of follows of the fly, but no takes. Varying the lure, made no difference. I just couldn’t induce a bite with any change of fly or retrieve.
The lakes are also home to large numbers of perch. They too, showed a little interest in the flies. The perch would follow a lure, but turn away at closer inspection, and return to their current occupation: nose down in the weed, presumably hunting some tiny water-borne insect.
I found a stony patch of the bank on Lake 3, in which a small wild brown trout was feeding. These fish, and grayling too I was told, wash in from the carrier stream when it floods, and become trapped in the main lakes. I sat on the grass to downsize my tackle appropriately. The biggest dragonfly I’ve seen, was emerging from its nymph stage. The body must have been over four inches long.
I cast my 6 lb fluorocarbon leader and the diawl bach that worked for me last week, towards the small trout. As with its larger cousins, my fly provoked interest but not enough for the trout to view it as a meal. I switched over to a red stalking bug, and targeted a nearby rainbow. This fish took the lure. It didn’t look a large fish, 3lb-ish was my guess. In a fit of hubris – inexplicable for someone who had failed to catch for a couple of hours – I felt that the trout was too small, and I could do better. I gave the fish plenty of line, and let it fight without bullying it to the bank. The barb failed to hold, and the fish broke free. Another fishless hour, and I couldn’t believe my earlier contempt for the fish. That wouldn’t happen again. From what I saw later in the day, I now believe that the fish would have been at the very least four pounds or more. The clear waters and habituation to large trout had destroyed my ability to judge size accurately.
I broke for lunch, and thought about a revised approach. Stalking was not working, so I would cast ‘blind’ into the lake. Maybe not exactly blind, but casting in the general area of sighted fish, rather than to the snout of an individual trout. I tied on my trusty barbless blue flash damsel, and cast amongst the surface scum down the bottom end of Lake 2. Second cast, and fish on! The fish gave a good account of itself, and after a few minutes I had the 5 ¾ pounder on the bank.
Next cast, same result. This one was just under 4 ½ lb. I took the strung up fish back to my vehicle, and resumed stalking amongst the trees of Lake 3. I tried again with the diawl bach for the wild trout. Still not interested. Then on the very last peg of Lake 3, a small perch went for the fly. Of all the perch in the lake, this one decided that the little Welsh lure was of interest.
At 2pm, a small break in the clouds, allowed the sun to shine through. Fish were taking insects from the water’s surface with big splashes. I tied on a mayfly pattern, and targeted the same small brown trout once more. The fish would look up to the surface at my offering. Consider it for a moment. Then turn away. I moved down a few sizes to an Adams dry fly. Again, interest, but no response. The wild fish were too smart to outwit today.
I reattached the blue flash damsel and returned to Lake 2, to catch my final trout of the 3-fish ticket. The first fish to take the lure was another perch.
After this fish was photographed and released, I spotted a real pig of a rainbow trout swim closely by. I put the damsel right in front of its nose, and it took the fly at once. A real fight ensued. I gave the fish all the line it needed as it made several runs. This is the first fish I’ve fought using the reel’s drag. A good five minutes later, the fish was in the net. It later weighted in at 7 ½ lb. The biggest trout I’ve caught.
It was fun catching the big fish, but it left me with more trout flesh than I know what to do with. I’ll look for a catch-and-return water to try next time. If I return to Avington, I will definitely enquire about the carrier stream being available before booking.
- 3 Rainbow Trout (Blue Flash Damsel)
- 2 Perch (Diawl Bach, Blue Flash Damsel)