Fishing The Fly Scotland

Index => Stillwaters => Topic started by: Ewan Lindsay on 10/05/2012 at 13:11

Title: Chilly Chalkstreams!
Post by: Ewan Lindsay on 10/05/2012 at 13:11
The first visit to the River Test was completed last week on the way home from work.  This time I fished the Whitchurch Fulling Mill beat which is quite high up the river and a beautiful spot.

The Beat is effectively divided into two sections; the section above the, recently renovated, Mill House is a long and straight wading section.  The section below the Mill House is split into two; the River Test proper and a carrier from the Mill workings.  The River section is best waded and the Carrier section is fished from the bank.

The 'Carrier' section below the Mill

The River proper below the Mill

It was cold on Friday and felt more like March than May!  :z8  However, the weather was overcast and there was little wind to speak of so things looked pretty good when I arrived.  The water was a little low but was running crystal clear.  Not bad at all considering all the aquifers are 'empty' and the drought conditions the South of England has been experiencing recently.  Some rivers and streams down there have dried up altogether...

I fished the carrier section below the Mill first.  Single Dry Fly, upstream only at this time of year remember.  The river keeper had told me that the beat was only lightly stocked and that most of the fish were wild.  You could tell;  very wily fish that scarpered at the slightest sound or movement!  There were some cracking Grayling in this section too; 3-4lb specimens but I was unable to interest any of them all day as they were rummaging around on the bottom the whole time.
The flow was slow and the water was like glass.  There was not much in the way of fly life visible on the top of the water which made fly selection difficult too.  I eventually caught a couple of small 8oz wild brownies on a small black klink which broke the duck.  The section just below the Mill race was fast and deep and would be mental later in the year when you could fish a weighted nymph.  I could see several large, dark shadows lurking in the turbulent water but none of them were vaguely interested in a dry fly.

I then moved onto the river section below the Mill.  The wading was easy and only knee high at the most.  The flow was significantly faster and there were lots of nice riffled sections in this part of the beat.  By this time I'd noticed a few small olives drifting down from time to time and there were trout rising to them.  On went an Olive Klink.  Another couple of 8oz were fell for the Klink but none of the larger fish I could see could be tempted.

A bit further up towards the Mill there was a superb section where the weed covered the river bed from bank to bank for 10 yards or so and ended in a straight line all the way across the river.  Just below the end of the weed I could see several decent sized trout holding station and rising steadily.  I picked out the (easiest!) one to cast at and covered him well but he was not interested.  Fortunately, one of his mates lying next to him was and my second decent trout of the day put up an excellent fight leaping clear of the water several times before I got him to the net.  A fine example of a wild Test Brownie with high shoulders and a fat belly.


Just below the Mill there were some hatch gates that created another deep turbulent pool that would be great with a weighted nymph.  Again, I could see lots of large fish lurking down deep at the tail of the pool so decided to try and tempt them up to the surface with a large Daddy.  I got a rise a couple of times from a couple of the smaller ones but no hook-ups.

There was a large eddy to the left of the hatch gates where the flow went back upstream and looked like a good bet for a lazy trout lie.  I put the Olive Klink back on and cast into the fast flow at the hatch gates and let the fly drift into the eddy and then back up towards the gates.  The fly was sipped by a trout the 1st cast and so I gave it a second cast and this time the fly was nailed by a nice one and a half pounder when the fly was stationary on the slack water of the eddy.  The fish made for the deep part of the pool and some tree branches on the far side but a bit of side strain encouraged him back to my side of the pool and he was netted safely.


After lunch (sponsored by Spar), I moved upstream of the Mill for the afternoon.  Above the Mill the beat is all wading and almost straight as a die.  Most of the section has overhanging trees and bushes which make for colourful language and plenty of knot tying practice...!

The river above the Mill

The fish were bigger in this section but were just (if not more) wily than those below the Mill.  The weather had still not warmed up significantly and the fly life was still sparse.  Even so, there were fish rising every so often which kept things fun and interesting all afternoon.   The best (and most satisfying) fish of the day came at mid-afternoon.  I'd made it half way up this section and found two nice looking trout sitting in a gravel bed just below a large weed bed.  Both seemed to be feeding steadily and hadn't seen or heard me.  They were lying right next to each other and so I was casting at the nearest one so as not to spook them.  I covered the nearest one several times but got no joy from him.  I tried again and once again the nearest fish ignored the fly, but this time his pal decided to turn and follow it downstream...he seemed to drift downstream, watching the fly for ages before he finally decided it was the real deal.  A gentle sip and I lifted into him and he was on!  A cracking fight from a two and a half pounder ensued and he was released, like the others, to fight another day.


I caught a couple more one pound wild fish on this section before the end of the day.  I packed it in around half past six as it was getting colder and there was no fly life on the top of the water at all by this time.


When I got back to the car the River Keeper was there looking a bit flustered.  I asked him what was up and he said that there had been Diesel Fuel spill into the Bourne Rivulet (a Test tributary) from a salad washing factory  :shock that afternoon.  The Bourne joins the Test just below this Whitchurch Beat so I was lucky...the keeper said that he had driven down to the Bourne as soon as he had heard of the spill and only had to open the window of his car to smell the diesel.  The Environment Agency hit squad were already there in numbers and had booms and absorbent pads out across the Test.  I checked a few days later and they apparently did a great job in containing the spill and it appears that anglers on the Test below the Bourne had noticed no problem.  It just goes to show though how fragile our rivers and streams are...


Title: Re: Chilly Chalkstreams!
Post by: Mike Barrio on 10/05/2012 at 13:58
Hi Ewan
Thanks for the great report and photos! :z16

Title: Re: Chilly Chalkstreams!
Post by: Rob Brownfield on 10/05/2012 at 17:09
And to think, I looked into the Don the other day and coul;d just make out a few shapes on the bottom and thought, "My, this is clear water!"...Having seen your photos, THATS clear water!!