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Posts Tagged ‘River Itchen fishing’


Yes it was back to the Itchen, although this time lower downstream in search of the big roach that inhabit this delightful chalkstream.  As is typical of late, heavy rain the day before had coloured the river and it looked like it had pushed the levels up a bit.  Overall though the river looked pretty good.  The forecast was for a dry day with no rain, so quite what this wet stuff was falling from the sky is beyond me!  Luckily the rain didn’t last too long.

Geoff and I were particularly after the roach, however beggars can’t be choosers and so anything would be nice and in all honesty a roach would be a bonus.  We opted to start at the lower extremity of the fishery and work our way up, dropping into the occasional swim for a trot through with a float.  A chat here and there with a few local old boys pointed us in the right direction and we kept moving to see what was about.

At the top end I found a very nice, smooth glide.  It looked about right for roach; it was around 4ft deep, smooth water and a distinct crease between the faster flow down the centre and the slower water on the inside.  I’d set up with my 15ft float rod, centrepin and 3lb line.  I opted for size 16 hook-to-nylon and double red maggot.  The float was a 3g bolo, which is about 5AA or 10bb.  If I’m fishing for roach I will bulk the big shot around the float and fish a few much smaller shot shirt button style down the line.  Normally I’d use a few No 6’s and 8’s.  If I was purely after the roach I may use a smaller float but it does need to be able to cope with the deep water and heavy flow.

I’d managed to tempt a number of grayling and salmon par before eventually connecting with something much bigger. Initially it was difficult to know whether I’d hooked a fish or the bottom and then that tell tale ‘thump, thump’ indicated a chub.  After a dogged fight Geoff finally landed the chevin and it looked a decent fish.  After the initial “it looks huge” comments had elapsed we weighed the fish at 4lb 8oz.  It was a lovely fish and would take some beating.  Nothing else emerged and so another move was in order.

4lb 8oz

4lb 8oz

A few trots through the new swim and the float buried.  After a spirited fight it turned out to be a sea trout of about 3lbs.  It put up a great scrap in the flow and a few passers by had stopped to watch the action.  A round of applause followed once the fish was safely landed, unhooked and returned to fight another day.  After that this swim went a bit quiet and so I moved downstream to a pedestrian bridge.

A roar of Merlin engines filled the air and announced the arrival of a Spitfire hurtling upwards overhead.  The Spitfire was first flown from Southampton Airport and with a anniversary coming up soon I believe, I guess this was a practice run.  I do love the sound of those Rolls Royce engines and the sight of that majestic plane maneuvering through the skies.

After the excitement of the Spitfire I managed a couple of nice dace to just shy of 10oz, a few grayling and the ever present salmon par.  Geoff and I then targeted a really nice far bank glide.  It was tricky casting that had to be inch perfect to trot the correct line but the masters that we are, we managed to get the odd one right!  Geoff had the only fish though but it was a lovely roach of 1lb 4oz and any roach over a pound tends to be the highlight of the day.  It had been fun with a good mixed bag of fish and with the season drawing to a close in a week or so, would probably be our last visit to this particular stretch until next winter.

1lb 4oz

1lb 4oz

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After some fairly exhaustive research trips around the Winchester area for more fishing opportunities, Geoff and I finally gave up and headed off to a stretch of river that we knew well.  Conditions have been tough recently and we knew the Itchen had been running high and coloured.  We finally arrived at the river around midday and were pleasantly surprised to find the river looking spot on; a nice smooth pace and just a tinge of colour.

I headed to the top of the fishery and tackled up.  The usual set-up would suffice; 14ft float rod, 3lb mainline and a 16 hook-to-nylon.  I opted to use a 3g Bolo style float and had the option of red maggots or sweetcorn.  I ended up trotting a swim that dropped off into a deep glide under a bridge.  In fact it was the M3 flyover!  Noisy but productive.  I seem to have a thing for motorway bridges at the moment!

First trot through produced a bite and they kept coming.  I trickled in a few maggots every cast and after around 30-40 minutes I banked around 8 grayling, 1 trout and at least half a dozen small salmon par.  I then decided to drop downstream slightly into a beautiful glide on a slight bend.  There was a good depth of around 4ft and an easy pace to the flow.  It looked perfect.  First cast; grayling on.  More followed and in fact by around 4.15 I’d had 31 grayling to approximately 1lb 4oz, with the average around 8-10oz.  Not monsters, but on a cold day it was very rewarding sport.

I decided to move downstream further as the afternoon wore on.  My last swim was a long glide which then narrowed by an overhanging tree.  Again it had a good depth and a nice smooth flow.  Yet again immediate results.  The grayling here appeared to be of a slightly better average size, closer to a pound.  10 more grayling followed to around 1lb 4oz+.  I must have lost 12-18 grayling too, probably down to the barbless hooks.  I find micro barbed tend to loose fewer grayling, although some days it’s hard to keep them on any hook, they all seem to be made of rubber.  Still that’s the fun (?) of fishing for grayling.  The trouble is loosing the biggies tends to hurt a bit.

Gay Pigeons or s scene from the Birds!

Gay Pigeons or a scene from the Birds!

Geoff had also fared pretty well.  He had managed to take 26 grayling to around 1lb 8oz and had averaged fish to around the 1lb mark.  By 5.00pm it was bloody cold and we decided enough was enough.  It had been an interesting and productive day in search of new venues and getting the rod bent again.  Those 2lb+ grayling are still proving to be rather elusive though.

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No, not some form of charity event to rival the Three Peaks Challenge unfortunately.  This was more your physical and mental challenge; human endurance.  Can the body and mind take the harsh and demanding challenges of fishing three beautiful rivers whilst being battered by wind and rain!

First up was Hampshire’s River Itchen.  The area we fished was fairly exposed to the elements however the rain actually held off on this day, although it was perishing cold.  Still one perseveres you know, stiff upper lip and all that…well it was frozen after all, so that wasn’t difficult!

The Itchen here is fairly narrow and quite pacey.  There is a fair bit of bankside cover and we found a lot of enticing swims to fish.  Waders came in useful as they allowed access to swims which would have been very difficult to fish from the bank.  We employed the usual methods; trotting with red maggots.  I think I tried sweetcorn too, although it failed to produce much.

Both Geoff and I lost a few decent fish but we both caught a number of nice grayling to around 1lb 6oz or so and a few trout.  Chatting with a couple of local anglers we manged to glean some useful information about the stretch for future visits.  We will certainly be back for another go at some point.

The next river was in Wiltshire in the shadow of Salisbury’s magnificent cathedral.  We had arranged an Association of Barbel Fisher’s grayling day.  Sadly the conditions forecast were pretty dire and it looked like it was going to be a poor turnout.  I like to think the cream of the crop were present on the day, although that maybe pushing it a bit.  Anyway four of us made the long journey to Britford to try our luck; Colin Walford and his Dad Bill, Geoff and myself.

The weather was pretty horrendous in the morning; very windy with gusts pushing 50mph and some fairly heavy rain.  At times it was difficult standing up in the icy blasts of this northerly wind and walking into the teeth of it was even more challenging.  Luckily the rain petered out by lunchtime but the wind remained strong all day.

I fancied trying a bit of light link legering to start off with, using some big juicy lobworms.  Sadly despite dropping into a number of very promising spots I couldn’t buy a bite.  Eventually I gave up and decided to float fish for the remainder of the day.  I had started off at the lower weir, where the carrier meets the old river and by the end of the day I was fishing on Harnham Island, so I certainly covered some ground.

Trotting double or single red maggot up amongst the trees at least offered a degree of shelter from the wind.  Presentation was still very difficult and this was borne out by the results.  We all caught some grayling and a few dace, roach and trout but results were poor for here.  I am delighted to report though that the two grayling virgins present both broke their duck, so Colin and Bill hopefully left feeling pretty pleased with themselves having caught their first ever grayling.  We finally called it a day about 4.30, the wind and cold eventually getting the better of us.  However as always Britford offers a pleasant distraction from the harsh conditions.

Next up was yet another southern chalkstream.  It cuts through some lovely unspoilt countryside but today it was being battered by strong winds, rain, sleet and even snow.  We arrived around 10am and the wind had abated and conditions were looking rather promising.  The river was at a good level and with only a tinge of colour.  It never appears to be clear at these middle to lower reaches.  I think the upper river runs much clearer, which I guess is due to maybe feeder streams that run into the main river lower down.

The fishing was slow going.  I managed a average size grayling early on but was struggling to get bites after that.  I had a moment of excitement when I hooked what appeared to be an Exocet missile that came headlong out of the river.  It looked like a silver tourist but maybe it was a large sea trout.  Anyway it came off unfortunately, so I’ll never know.  I did follow that up with a 4lb brownie which put a bend in the rod.

Geoff also had 1 grayling and had decided to feeder fish for a while.  This was proving more successful, with a bite a chuck and a number of grayling being netted.  Just to prove a point, he then trotted the same swim for half an hour and couldn’t buy a bite!  Swapping back to the feeder resulted in almost instant bites and fish.  Food for thought I guess.  Perhaps the answer, as far as float fishing goes, is to stret peg.  Fishing a couple of feet over depth and allowing the bait to rest in one spot at a time before lifting the tackle up in the water and allowing it to move downstream a bit.  The only thing that bothers me with this is the likelihood of deep hooking the grayling and therefore I’ve avoided it thus far.

We ended the day by moving to another very short stretch of the river and although we only fished it for an hour it proved to be more than worthwhile.  I found a few grayling where two parts of the river met and tempted several in fairly quick succession  to over a pound.  By now we had some snow falling and it was bloody cold.  The last cast of the day proved to be the most worthwhile.  Geoff hooked into something much bigger and with a few heart in the mouth moments as a big grayling swirled on the surface, shaking it’s head, Geoff won the battle and a lovely 2lb 5oz grayling finished us off in style.  Well done Geoff on a great fish to end our odyssey.

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