Kind inviteAt the start of the season I received a generous invite to fish the River Avon with David. As I'd never fished a chalk stream before, I could feel the excitement building through to the first day in June. At that time of year, I was informed, the fish would normally be feeding on Mayfly, but as everything was around three weeks late, I tied some duns, emergers and spinners more in hope than expectation.
River Avon at SaltertonIt was a two hour drive to meet David near Salterton and, though early morning, the sky was clear and the sun strong. I'd been out with friends the previous evening and distinctive character and rural beauty of the Salisbury area helped me forget my mild hangover.
Upon tackling up at a small lodge, David informed me that there had been a sparse mayfly hatch but that the fish were not yet 'on' them and had been taking mainly olives. We followed a carrier to the main river, and as we crossed over a bridge, I was struck by the picturesque nature of the place.
David and I took turns casting to feeding fish. This was very different to the rivers of South Wales, and the clarity of the water, coupled with the fact I'd not previously fished with my host, made me twitchy. David was the first to catch - a lovely 14 inch out of season grayling on a CDC and Elk.
As I focused on a fish that was on the fin -coming to look at my fly and turning away last minute- Morgan arrived. He was a welcome surprise as David had deliberately not told me his son (my mate) would be joining us. After a quick chat and photo opportunity, I went back to my two pounder.
|The Jones Boys|
MayflyWe took our time walking the beat looking for rising fish. By midday a few mayfly started to appear and we caught fish on our emerger patterns. I had most success with a Paul Procter Spun CDC version.
Great food and better companyBy one o'clock we were back at the lodge for the best fishing lunch I've ever had. David provided Wiltshire pasties, sandwiches, boiled eggs, salad, various breads and cheeses and strawberries. To do it justice, I had packed a nice bottle of Chablis and a few bottles of a favourite Untapped Pale Ale. A fry cry from the usual flask of coffee, cereal bar and bananas.
Afternoon sessionAs we walked down the beat in the early summer sun, the place shimmered and, I felt, had an almost ethereal feel to it. At the bottom of the beat, we managed to locate good mayfly hatch and a few fish appeared to be taking emergers and duns.
Morgan was his usual efficient purist self, hoovering up the surface feeding wild fish. Further upstream I, conversely, was missing most offers. Or were the fish missing me? The larger fish didn't seem to be turning on my mayfly emerger pattern and I was making no connection at all. I put on a dun and, a couple of times, saw the fish nosing it. I managed two, but one was foul hooked and it was tough going. Morgan then joined me and cast to a few of the difficult fish. He too struggled to hook them until he tried a small olive emerger... We concluded we were too early for the best of the mayfly.
A nice wild fish caught by Morgan
We continued to take the occasional fish on olive emergers until we packed up at around seven o'clock. After we said our goodbyes, the two hour drive did not seem a chore in the evening sun. A day (and a picnic) that will live long in the memory.
Chalk stream splendour