A couple of weeks before the end of this river season I joined Gardner Tackle’s Mike Lyddon, some of his friends, and a few Osprey Specimen Group members for a days fishing on the River Itchen.
It’s become an almost yearly outing for me, as living in Essex the travelling down to the outskirts of Southampton is not something I’d want to do that regularly even though the venue, and fishing, is great.
Once I’d arrived I headed for the top end of the fishery, which meant a lively 3 mile drive alongside this meandering stretch of river belonging to the Lower Itchen Fisheries.
This famous chalkstream contains salmon, trout, and grayling, as well as the more common river species. The fishery offers a limited number of pre-bookable day tickets, but season tickets, group bookings, etc, can also be purchased, just check out their website for whatever type of fishing you’re after.
Parking up I then made my way to the top beat which is just past the train bridge. Passing a few of the lads on the way it’s a quick hello as they’re busy setting up, and I want to be fishing as soon as myself.
Nearly all of us are using medium action rods and centrepin reels which are the ideal set-up for long trotting. With your stick float set at a depth that allows your bait to sway enticingly a few inches above the river bed as it’s carried along by the flow.
Throw in a dozen maggots or so, then an underhand cast to drop your float in the same spot, and let your hookbait sink, then mingle with the free offerings as they are all whisked away by the current.
Which all sounds good, but after an hour I had nothing to show for my efforts even though I’d baited regularly, so I decided to move twenty or so yards down the bank towards a bend that sat at the end of the run. This seemed to do the trick as within 15 minutes my float dipped away sharply and with a crisp strike I was playing my first fish.
It’s a grayling, that only goes about 12-14ozs, but I’ve caught so I’m happy. And after a few more trots through I have my second catch in the net. It’s a slightly bigger fish at around the 1lb mark.
Not long after the stretch goes very quiet and I stroll back towards the car, now it’s nice to stop and chat with some of the lads and find out how they’re doing.
There’s been the odd fish out here and there, and I’m still trying different spots myself as I make my way back, before I notice photo’s being taken of another nice grayling which I find out weighed in at 1lb 14ozs.
We have a loosely planned break at around 1pm to give those that fancy a rest the chance to fire up their stoves and get some soup, or with the fashionable toasters in abundance (hasn’t RidgeMonkey done well!), it was anything from pizza’s to pasties being cooked and quickly swallowed.
The break also gave me a chance to don my Osprey Secretary’s hat and present our trophy for the best multiple species captures during the previous year to Mike himself. He seems to be making a habit of winning this the last couple of years so it looks like we’ll all have to try harder this year!
Our chat returns to the fishing and it’s mentioned that Mike and some of his mates had fished here the day before, so could that mean the fish are bait shy because of what went in yesterday? But it’s soon pointed out that the guys fishing the lower beats have done reasonably well today, with fair numbers of grayling, some nice chub and pike, plus the odd salmon.
So it looks like there’s no excuses, I’d just picked the wrong bit of river to fish. But that’s where I headed now and I kept on with the trotting all afternoon picking up the odd grayling in most swims. A lot of the lads had changed to other tactics and were targeting the other species, and quite successfully at that.
By the time I finally left and started for home news of the days catches were starting to filter through, a cracking barbel of 12lb 10ozs had been banked, pike up 14lb 4ozs, a lovely roach of 1lb 10ozs, and talk of grayling caught at 1lb 12ozs, 1lb 14ozs, 2lb 3ozs and 2lb 8ozs were confirmed by some of the guys.
All in all a smashing days fishing on a beautiful river, with plenty of banter, amongst good company… and I imagine many of us can’t wait until next year!