Saturday was our, now annual, trip to the Lower Itchen Fishery in Hampshire. This was our second trip and I was very much looking forward to trotting this fast flowing chalk stream for the Grayling. It would be an early start from our Island base as we have to catch the Ferry to the mainland but fortunately it is only a fifteen minute drive to the Fishery from the terminal at Southampton.
Unfortunately I had a bad nights rest on the friday and felt terrible when I got up to get ready for our trip. A couple of Coffees later and I began to feel halfway human though still fatigued.
The heavy overnight rain which had partly been responsible for My lack of sleep had cleared away, and as I riddled the Maggots for the final time I began to brighten at the prospect of what the day held in store.
Car loaded, I set off to collect My two companions for the days fishing and headed for the Ferry.
A large cooked breakfast on the Ferry and another cup of Coffee and we were set up and raring to go, as the Sun began to light up the morning sky.
Arrival at the Fishery showed that the overnight rain had swollen the river only slightly and had introduced a bit of colour, which was probably a good thing, but nothing compared to our previous years trip when it had been in flood, chocolate coloured and charging through like an express train!
We took this as a good sign and headed towards the upper reaches of the Coarse fishing beat.
Exitement was at fever pitch as we tackled up, and headed off in seperate directions to find our own little pieces of fishing heaven for the day, arranging to meet back by the car for lunch and compare notes.
I guess you could say that I chose to fish the Car park swim, as I found a nice looking run within sight of our base. A gravel shallow led into a deeper pool with fast water on the outside and slower water on the inside, a perfect spot for the fish to hang out and dart in and out to intercept food as it washed past in the faster current. I waited patiently for a while before fishing it though and just fed Maggots to build up the confidence of any fish that might be there.
First run through and the float buried immediately. On striking, I knew that my first fish of the day wasn’t to be a Grayling, but a fiesty Trout! In fact, it turned out to be a Sea Trout and not a Brownie. ( Silvery and no red spots).
The next run through however provided My target fish and a small Grayling was brought to the net, good start! The sport continued alternating between Trout and Grayling, and I even caught My first Salmon, though only a Parr! In fact I had several.
Salmon Parr, Identified by several differing features over Trout. One red spot between each of the Parr fingers, longer Pectoral fin, sharper snout, and the gill cover not extending almost to the eye.
After maybe an hour or so I decided it was time to rest the pool as it had slowed down and a fellow Angler, who had observed the consistent action I was getting, was trying to edge as close upstream to me as he could.
Satisfied that I had achieved enough I decided to wander down to the lower reaches in search of a Chub or good Roach. Sadly despite trying several areas in the deeper slower stretches, all I could muster was brown trout and so headed back upstream, observing a large Ghost Carp mooching about in the edge as I went. I didn’t fancy trying for him on the ultralight tackle I was using though, the out come would be a foregone conclusion!
The Forecast for the Day had specified isolated showers and by the time I got back to base for lunch the heavens had decided to open, and we had a mini typhoon with the wind gusting strongly and rain lashing down hard. I was soaked as were my companions who both arrived as
I did. Shelter was sought in the Car until it had passed and we tried to dry ourselves off with the Car heater. Some food and warm drinks were consumed and we compared notes. It seemed the fish were in feeding mood and we had all caught plenty but with the Trout being a strong feature in the catches.
After a while the rain and wind eased and the sun came back out, so, still damp though re fuelled, we resumed fishing, though a bit more socially for the afternoon stint, fishing within earshot of one another. Once again within sight of base, and on a bend in the river, I spotted what looked like a decent Grayling sitting on the river bed. My personal target for the trip was to catch one of over a pound in weight. There are a lot of Grayling in the Itchen but getting through to better fish is tricky as the little one’s tend to jump on the bait first, or the Trout do!
Settling slightly upstream of the fish I began to feed maggots, from My angle I couldn’t see if the fish was feeding but My first trot through produced a bite and I knew stright away that it was the same fish I had seen as it felt in a different class to the small fish I had been catching all morning. I was jubilant as the fish went into the net as I knew I had a new personal best Grayling. The fish weighed 1lb 4oz, not a monster but a fair Grayling and a lovely specimen.
A few more trots through the swim produced no more bites, and so a move was in order. Both My companions upstream of Me were catching some fish, so I decided to have a look on the next bend in the river above them. There were two areas here that looked interesting, one a deep pool next to a wooden saging in the river and the other being the run down from the bend where a tree was hanging in the water . First fish from this run was in the form of another species for the day, a small Chub of about a pound or so which was a nice bonus.
Alternating between the two spots in the swim I took a good number of Grayling, all of good average size as well as a fair number of Trout. It was while fishing this swim that disaster struck…
Swimming with the fishes……..
By now I was beginning to feel the strain of having not slept all night and being continuously on the go and was feeling very tired and fatigued despite still enjoying myself, I stepped onto the wooden staging to have a few trots through the deep pool next to it and as I did I misplaced my foot, slipped, lost my balance and ended up in the water! Luckily for me, one of my companions had brought some spare clothes that he lent to me, if it wasn’t for that my fishing would have been over there and then.
The swim, surprisingly continued to produce fish, despite the big hairy man trying to take a swim with them! I truthfully lost count of the number of fish I caught, but the tally for the day must have been around 30 or 40 Grayling and nearly as many Trout, Plus the Chub and several Parr. Between the three of us the count must have been well over a hundred Grayling and almost as many Trout, quite some fishing.
All in all a great day even with my little mishap! It’s great to get the opportunity to practice the art of trotting as we don’t have any trottable rivers on the Island. The Lower Itchen Fishery is a lovely spot, and very prolific, I look forward to hopefully returning the same time next year for some more Grayling, but hopefully not taking another dunk in the process!
Next it’s Roach time!