Paleochannel. It’s a recognised phenomenon that when you first learn a word, you start seeing it everywhere. “Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon” or “frequency illusion” are the terms for this apparently. I recently saw the term paleochannel is some interesting Tweets.
In the 18th century, the landscape architect Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown redesigned the grounds of Syon Park, the London home of the Duke of Northumberland. One of the large ornamental lakes he created to the west of the house, is home to an outpost of the Albury Estate’s fisheries. An onsite information board suggests that the lakes themselves lie in the paleochannel of the River Thames.
Just eight miles from central London, it’s a peaceful setting, only slightly spoiled by the frequent police sirens and lumbering jets making their approach to the runway at Heathrow Airport. It’s far from the wild brown trout fishing I’d prefer, but it’s a convenient place to get my fly fishing fix.
I had a clutch of the Albury Estate’s fishing tokens which expire at the end of March. I would rather fish at the Estate’s Surrey lakes; however the blustery forecast for the Albury area informed my selection of Syon Park (which is also conveniently much closer to my home). It would be a chance to reawaken the muscle memory of casting as much as anything.
The fishery’s website suggested that a concentration of fish could be found in a netted-off section at the shallow end of the lake. Suitably tipped off, fellow fishermen keen to use up their tokens, were spaced evenly along the banks of this honeypot . One group were making moves to leave. I congratulated them on what looked like a five-pound rainbow, and slipped into the vacated slot.
Long casts to the centre of the lake with a Blue Flash Damsel had previously worked for me, and seemed the best way to start. I set up my 6-weight Greys rod, the reel loaded with a floating line. On the end of the leader was the very light tippet (with the odd wind knot) I’d used for dry flies in this very location last year. Keen to get fishing, I shrugged and left it on.
Most of the people around the lake seemed to be catching and within a dozen or so casts, I too was into a fish. I instantly regretted not tying on a new leader, and so overcompensated by being gentle with the fish. Too gentle. The trout slipped off the barbless hook. A minute or two later, I felt a surprisingly delicate pull of another fish. It too slipped away.
I persevered with the Blue Flash Damsel, and eventually netted a Rainbow Trout of three pounds or so.
Whilst casting I kept a wary eye over my shoulder at the black clouds closing in from the west. The forecast hailstorms were on their way. As soon as I felt the impact of the first drops, I scooped up my catch and ran for the car. The hailstorm caught me before I made it to safety.
I returned to the lake a couple more times in breaks in the weather, but the cold soaking meant my heart wasn’t in it any more. I varied my approach with a Cat’s Whisker, Taddy Hot Viva, and even my favourite river pattern the GRHE. No luck. I signed out in the members’ logbook exactly three hours after arriving. Roll on warmer spring weather.
- 1 Rainbow Trout (Blue Flash Damsel)