Sunday 4 November 2018

Hampshire Avon – Hedge Whores and Hatchet Faces

One’s itchy finger was hovering over the confirm payment trigger, let’s just say I didn’t hesitate for too long, you see Undercastle Cottage near Fordingbridge had been under my radar for a while, I’d stumbled upon it by chance as I was perusing Google Maps after initially looking to book Sandy Balls Holiday Village but the horrendous reviews put me off. It looked such a unique property that I’d found from looking at the aerial satellite image that I needed to book it up if at all possible.

It didn’t take long to find a website that allowed me to book it, the problem was it was already blocked booked up for the next 12 months, so I kept my eye on the dates available and it was becoming booked up extremely quickly so I had to act fast and book it well in advance.

As soon at the Warwickshire Schools 2018/2019 term dates became available I was right on it, luckily Warwickshire had their October half term break later than lots of the country so it sort of all fell in to place really as it was much cheaper to book, not only that but it was available.

A Times travel article had named it as one of the “50th best cottages in Britain” and more recently it featured in the last episode of the BBC2 programme Mortimer and Whitehouse : Gone Fishing.

If you haven’t seen the series it’s well worth a look. It’s about “two old blokes going fishing” and at times as funny account of how to cope with those years when their bodies begin to fail and they had to accommodate some grim personal realities.

Paul had to have stents fitted and Bob had open heart surgery. Between them they were responsible
for a defining chunk of what has been funny on British television for the past 30 years and certainly I grew up with them in my youth. Obviously Paul Whitehouse best known for The Fast Show, and Bob Mortimer for the various incarnations of his on-screen relationship with Vic Reeves, but made up a big part of my life when I was a youngster.

All very apt, it certainly appealed to non-fisherman and showed just how many of us have it as our pastime. It had more viewers than they expected so they have been given another series apparently, so good on them, even my Wife enjoyed it and her eyes glaze over when I talk about fishing.

Anyway better get on track, the thatched cottage is found at the bottom of a wooded track in the heart of the New Forest and stands on the banks of the famous Hampshire Avon. There is immediate access into the woods and open heathland and nearly half a mile of private fishing.

Now I was sold on Fordingbridge looking at its location, a traditional Hampshire town on the banks of the river, and offers a good mix of shops, pubs and restaurants, a small museum of local history and a display of original work by the artist Augustus John, who lived here for many years. Talking of history the medieval Great Bridge, with seven graceful arches, is a major feature of the town and is conveniently situated for the magnificent cathedral city of Salisbury to the north, and the super seaside resort of Bournemouth to the south. 

We'd not ventured down to this neck of the woods that often., so a few trips put were planned as this wasn't all about the fishing, still plenty to occupy the diary makers with.

So anyway Undercastle Cottage came with two detached out-houses close to the main cottage providing additional sleeping accommodation, the Fishing Lodge (yes really) and The Hayloft (If I was in the bad books) and within the cottage bumph and blurb the comment, ‘the river is famous for large Barbel and also Chub, Pike, Trout and Roach’, so what’s not to like….? Oh yeah the family.

“Hey Sarah, have a look as this”

“Yeah that looks lovely, but you do know it hasn’t got any Wifi !!!!”

“Errr yeah, but there is 4G if need be and we can hotspot the kids ipads if we have to, the kids will love it as there is lots to explore, Sam will love the fishing”

“Oh and that’s another thing, I don’t like the fact there is direct access to the river”

“It will be fine, don’t worry !!!!, oh and anyway, I’ve already booked it”

"Errrrrrrrr, ok", “I thought we were having less holidays next year ?” (This being our fourth and my fifth)

“Yes I did say that didn’t I, we are only here for a visit I suppose, I’ll worry about the money later, it’s more than a year off away anyway”

“Oh and it’s not far from Bournemouth you know” “See it’s sounding better already isn’t it ?”

“Yeah, if you say so !!!!”

This was a family holiday after all however there would be plenty of fishing opportunities despite having to forget it's not all about me, but then I'm quite happy to work within the family routine. Not knowing that much about the Hampshire Avon I did a bit of digging and came to the conclusion that Roach, Chub and Barbel would be my main target, the Roach in particular got my interest up because of the size that inhabit this river.

I'd heard about and seen videos about before about the Avon Roach Project before but I did a bit more reading about it and what a fantastic project by some dedicated anglers and conservationists. The scale of the operation is massive and respect to those involved in it and I was hoping to benefit from the good work and catch something half decent.

'We all have our memories of roach, be it the first fish we caught as children, the sight of red fins and silver flanks in a clear stream, the catching, or not, of the whopper, or the stories told on leaned gates and bridges.

The common thread is that the roach is loved by all and remains the country’s favourite coarse fish species. The roach is welcome in any swim, and while the chub may be a nuisance to the barbel angler, and the carp to the tench man, the roach never is.

The roach has something that no other fish species has, but no man will be able to tell you exactly what that is. It isn’t the great size the roach grows to, or its power, nor is it the enormous distances it travels to breed, or the spines, the stripes, the spots, the teeth, or its speed. It is simply humble and modest, gentle and pleasing, but the absolute quintessence and personification of coarse fish'

I did think about just targeting the Roach altogether and maybe a decent Chub would slip up but then I saw some pictures of the Barbel that had been caught in the area, and that just wouldn't do especially when I could fish well in to dark if required.

I'm sure I could manage at least 1 PB....!!!!

So 4 rods (for me) in the end should do just fine for the week where I’d try and capture a decent specimen and maybe even a PB beater. So in the holdall went a 14ft trotting Drennan Acolyte Plus set-up that I’ve used on the Lower Itchen, 2 11ft 1.75TC Barbel rods and also a light(er) quiver set-up, my trusty 1.25 TC TFG river and stream rod with 3oz tip. All rods were fitted with centerpin reels as they seemed to suit the location and methods I’d be using.

Bait well the usual really, maggots, bread,casters, boilies, paste and a few small pellet and meat, errr yeah, the kitchen sink more or less.

The (meticulous) plan was, because you know I always have them, was to fish the ledger rods come dawn, dusk or dark and then trot light during the day with either maggot, caster or maybe breadflake.

The quiver rod I’d fish a small cage feeder with liquidised bread filled with a small amount of hemp and aniseed flavour .

Hookbait well I’d fish breadflake to try and tempt a big redfin from their streamer weed sanctuary or hopefully one of the greedy clonking chevin that swims within these meandering mesmerising waters.

The slim faced Barbel, how will I target them ?, well hardly a secret, my tried and tested method of a big chunk of garlic spam on the big hook and a PVA bag of freebies or a dropper of bait before fishing.

From time to time I’d swap the hooklink to one equipped with a drilled pellet or a boilie with paste.

The tangleator Sam would be fishing with me from time to time, so I’d have his well used little float rod with the gear, as well as the little F1 wand that would have a light link ledger set-up on.

The problem with these sort of the trips is the amount of gear that you need to take knowing that the family and clothes and bags for the week would be needed to be packed first before the tackle went in. So I had to be quite ruthless, slim the gear down and take really only what was needed. That’s easier said than done, however I found it easier by writing it down beforehand and cross off the essential items of the list one by one when I came to pack.

So the longest preamble I’ve ever written I think, how did I, sorry, how did ‘we’ get on ?

Well the weather decided to change quite a bit for the week we were going to be there, a considerable dip in temperatures could well put the fish off, fingers crossed it would be fine. So there were a couple of tweaks here and there to my approach, but largely the plan was unchanged.

A years wait since booking it all came down to this week, a week I'd been looking forward to, for such a long time.

What a setting, the river, the wildlife, birds the gardens....

As expected the river was tap water clear and after a quick nosey up and down the stretch I realised hmmm, this could possibly be a tough one, and boy it was. You can take the boat over to the otherwise which is what I did for one sunny afternoon and not one fish other than minnows were spotted, now we are talking nearly a mile and half, or something like that.

Cormorants active like they usually are at this time of year, so maybe they had driven the shoaled up fish off. There were plenty of minnows that occupied Sam, and he also managed a Salmon Parr, but for me trying every trick in the book, the fish were not having it.

Rolling meat, trotting maggot, bread, caster and lobworm, zilch. Even well in to dark with boilie and paste the fish were nowhere to be seen, nowhere to be spotted. I didn't fish during the day, well the odd time, mainly concentrating on dawn and dusk, but literally nothing topping, even with a load of floating bread going down.

The problem with static fishing at night was the debris floating down, which sometimes bordered on the ridiculous.

Eventually after appeasing the fishing God's an old warrior of a Chub of about 3lb's turned up out of the blue when I was trotting bread and that probably felt sorry for me. At least it was a blank avoided.

Luckily the weather was kind despite the hard frosts on most mornings, so we had a visit to Hurst Castle by ferry, a trip to Sandbanks and Bournemouth, Lymington and Mudeford. The cottage as well lovely and despite only being 18 years old which I didn't know, was built with plenty of character and warmth because of modern underfloor heating.

So I was expecting more a write-up with the fish caught, but sadly not, a disappointing trip to this magnificent river, maybe the Warwickshire Avon ain't so bad after all. The only saving grace of the trip, well I managed to get a cracking couple of picture of a Kingfisher that shared lots of bank time with me.

The fishing was all a bit horse sh*t (loads down here), so much so, I'm thinking of taking up knitting....

With a pin board in the cottage showing big Chub and a Barbel of 14lb, I'm sure there are so crackers to be had here, I'm sure the rain due next week and milder weather, the fishing would have picked up. Oh well, the holiday itself was really enjoyable, plenty of pubs, good food and decent weather, and the journey down to the new Forest was 2hours 15 minutes door to door, I'm already looking at the next trip down.

1 comment:

  1. Looks lovely but my little uns would be in the drink in the blink of an eye.


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