Saturday, 5 December 2015

Lower Itchen Fishery - Strong Tea and Strumpets

I’d never caught a Grayling let alone seen one, there are certainly rivers and streams that would be suitable in Warwickshire which is where I predominantly fish because, you see, many rivers in England and Wales only have them because of introduction by man, the original indigenous stocks of were found In the English Ouse, Trent and possibly the Severn, Wye, Ribble, Hampshire Avon and the Welsh Dee, I live in forgotten Warwickshire, you have to travel.

The presence of the ‘Lady of the Stream’ is a good indication of high water quality as their liver is smaller as a percentage of body weight than in trout and many coarse fish, they just cannot detoxify pollutants as well. Then again I’m not sure I’d want them in the clean lowland river on clay the river Blythe for example, it’s kind of nice they are out of reach, as it makes trips like this one more special. Nearby(ish) Worcestershire and the Teme has Grayling apparently but not quite the same is it. Chalk streams are special after all.

There are 210 chalk streams in the world, and 160 of those are in England.

Just a small part of the Lower Itchen Fishery, the main river and carrier stream.
Anyway, back to the fishing…

So with a date set, tickets bought through I’d luckily have some company down to Southampton, Jeff Hatt off of, Idlers Quest. Now it didn’t take long for Jeff to express an interest, seconds if I recall but and having fished the river a fair few occasions I was glad he was accompanying me as I’d have been fishing blind.

Experience is invaluable especially with me being an Itchen and Grayling virgin. So as it’s a bit of a trek down South on route the conversation gave me a much-needed leg up, knowledge is power, information liberating and all that. At the Zedvember sortie the shared stories from Jeff, Danny and the like really did wet my appetite, so much so if the trip went as suggested then it may well become a yearly trip.

I didn't know you had to return a Grayling a certain way to prevent them going belly up, not liking being handled that sort of thing.

All appreciated...

James Denison  and partner in crime, Brian Roberts would also be joining us at the fishery, the more the merrier and as they are also chalk stream veterans I was hoping to learn from them too.

Different strokes for different folks, so two different setups for this trip...

A mate imprudently lent me his new out the packet Drennan Acolyte Ultra 14ft rod which I mated with my favourite trotting pin the J W Young Aerodex 2900. A very light combination indeed, I’d been looking for a new trotting rod as I’ve always felt the 12ft I usually use was a compromise on some of the Avon swims I fish, so for this Itchen trip would give me a good hands on test to see if this was the right rod for me.

They ain’t cheap, these Acolyte’s, so being allowed to borrow it was much appreciated. The tip looks extremely delicate and prone to damage and I was surprised the rod came in a fabric rod bag so luckily many moons ago a spur of the moment purchase of a cheapo TFG rod bag would give it some much needed protection on the journey ‘ Down South’

I usually have my rods already set-up so initially I fitted a Righyni style self cocking 2BB float. I’d used this float before on the Warwickshire Avon and I liked the extra tip length over a standard Avon as particularly when long trotting it gives a visual advantage allowing the tip to be seen further down the swim.

For my second and alternative set-up I decided to bring one of my favourite rods the 11ft TFG River and Stream. It came to the market some time ago but they appear on Ebay from time to time. What a rod, stupidly small diameter but plenty of backbone. For rivers such as the diminutive Warwickshire Stour I use it as my main trotting rod when fitted with the Avon tip. For this session however I rigged up a helicopter set-up with a Kamasan black cap maggot feeder.

Hooks, I had size 18, through to 14’s, bait in the boot, well....(Guru QM1's worked superbly btw)

...plenty of red and white maggot, hemp and sweetcorn, oh and some Warburtons Blue as back-up.

It didn't take too long to get down there and after meeting Brian and James we went through to the fishery and drove up to the top of the coarse beat. The track was more rutted and puddle riddle than I thought, so a not for next time take the Wife's car which is more geared up for this sort of thing.

The coarse stretch to the start of the game stretch couldn't be more different and it was the game stretch I started from.

A Grayling first trot with maggot, tiny, but a PB

We all went our separate ways,

Jeff straight to the carrier stream, Brian and James further downstream.

The first peg I fished I returned to later in the day as the more I fished it, the more maggots I fed the Grayling stamp was getting bigger and bigger. I thought I might have gone a bit OTT with the big float set-up but it worked so well and Grayling did give some proper pull unders too.

Having not caught Grayling before I was amazed at the power from a relatively small fish, especially when they are handled, they are eel like and so powerful, hard to keep still too.

The bigger fish came to sweetcorn and out of the 40 or 50 I caught throughout the day, the biggest and a PB went 1lb 8oz

Now being a game water, from time to time I hooked a trout, I lost a few too, the biggest went a nadger over 2lb, they give a nice scrap too on the light float rod.

The rod was great, picks up line so easily, so, so light which if you're trotting for a hour upon hour, that's a must. You let the rod do the action, it's proper tippy but has some backbone too, even with the trout I felt it could handle bigger fish.

I could have stayed in the productive swim all day, but I took a lunch break of tea and a pasty and bumped in to Jeff who had the same idea. He had been ledgering bread and was being pestered, if you can call it by trout.

I caught Grayling and trout and almost every swim, now I know James particularly is used to this but me as a Warwickshire angler it was all new and almost a novelty, I'd like a fishery like this on my doorstep.

I'm loving the trotting too, I really should do it more often...

Anyway with time cracking on I bumped in to James again who was heading back to the car to head to move downstream and have a crack at the coarse species.

I decided one last half our in the productive swim whilst James tucked in just upstream...

Again, Grayling after Grayling...bit too easy this...

After giving James's van a push as it stuck in the wet grass we both headed to the mill.

Now, the mill looks fantastic, but after Brian had failed to catch a Pike and James, wasn't feeling it, I decided to stick it out.

I initially trotted some maggot and had a couple of small Roach, and after a brownie disturbed the swim after devouring the corn hook offering I went back the car and for the last hour, stuck it out with the maggot feeder.

A few small Grayling I thought well that's my lot...

With the light fading, Jeff turned up and was surprised no one had caught a Chub.

Then within seconds, a proper whack on the tip, then a proper bite and a fish was on. I initially thought it was another trout but was surprised to see a Chub, a reasonable one too at about 4lb. A nice end to the day. Jeff and Brian left to make their way to the Big Smoke and me and Jeff retired to the pub for a well deserved pint and a pie.

Such an enjoyable day, I can see me paying a visit every year now. Cheers chaps, great company.


  1. Sounds like a fun day Mick. Never had a grayling myself. Keep eyeing up options but never quite get around to it. Maybe this winter...

    1. I'll probably make it an annual trip now, really did enjoy it. Grayling are unlike anything us Warwickshire angler catch.

  2. I enjoyed it too Mick and very glad you enjoyed it, we are relatively spoilt, an hours drive and we are within spitting distance of maybe 20 rivers. Hopefully that's sold the chalk stream approach and you don't leave it so long for your next visit. Get in on your PB Grayling too. Well in.

    1. Cheers James, I could have stayed in that one particular swim for hours, I'm sure they were getting bigger with every trot down...

    2. They probably were with the larger specimens holding back at the tail end just above where I was fishing, you should do the Test, very similar in many ways or the Frome if you can find a beat to fish. Done very well considering it was your first bash at a chalk stream, easy aren't they.......


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