Itchen to go fishing…

As if a four day trip to Scotland to fish the Tay wasn’t enough young Tales couldn’t wait to get back out on the water. With fine weather forecast we put a small amount of tackle in the back of the sliver arrow and headed south down the M3 to fish the River Itchen.

Driving along under a clear blue sky we arrived at our destination after just over an hour. We parked on the bridge across the river, tackled up and headed up the narrow path that had been clearly trodden by many. A touch of colour filled the river so it was difficult to see any fish.

Young Tales was set up with a short #4 Sportfish rod paired to a Heddon 300 reel, basically a copy of a Hardy Featherweight reel. Armed with a light tippet and a small haresear dry fly. Not long into the fishing he was into a small Gayling, this time he managed to net the fish in his own.

It was interesting to observe how he is mastering the sport and with each outting he demonstrates his ability to do things just right. His casting even gets comments from passers-by as they admire his finness.

With bright sunshine all day the fish were tucked away in the far margin and under any overhanging tree. By mid-afternoon the sport had died off a bit a few takes to out offerings. Observing the water there was a sudden commotion as several small squares of  bread floated downstream, the water erupted as fish came from the depths to take such offerings. An element of frustration could be seen on young Tales face. With a change of fly still nothing, for the next hour we moved few fish. I decided to lengthen the leader of my young companion and switch to a CDC olive emerger which started to get things moving. Within 20 minutes another couple of small Grayling put a smile back on his face.

The hours had passed all too quickly but a day in the sun by a Hampshire chalkstream can’t be beaten especially when graced by the odd dart of iridescent bright blue of a Kingfisher.


Nothing to take away from the Chinese Pool

The wind had set in and there was a chill in the air blowing along Loch Tay from the distant snow capped mountains.

We fished several named pools but not a fish to be see all day. At least yesterday at Cargill we saw fish break the water not a ripple today on the Upper Tay. However on Friday an 18lb Salmon was caught.

Having fished the morning and then decided to take a break before fishing early evening at the Chinese Pool our luck didn’t change all day. My young companion kept his resolve to fish till last knocking but nothing to my fly or his Rapala.

Hopefully tomorrow brings new hope and a sense of optimism filled the air as we reflected on our day.

Heading down memory lane…

        A mere 18 years have past by since I last fished the River Tay at Kenmore.  Now I’m back with young Tales fishing the Tay and hopefully cementing memories that will last a lifetime.

        Ever since I mentioned to my young fishing companion that we would head north of the border for a few days fishing he has spoken of little else. Sheer excitement and the anticipation turned into reality today when we fished the Lower Tay on the Cargill beat, a part of the river known to be productive in early season.

        We booked a day with Tay Salmon Fisheries Company. Guided by our knowledgeable Ghillie David we took to the water just after 9am and fished all day. Fishing with a copper Abu spinner and selection of flies our endovours to catch a bar of silver will have to wait for another year eluded today. This popular beat opposite the imposing Ballathie House Hotel is booked up until the end of the season which ends in mid October so we’ll have to return next year.

        In the fishing lodge there is a wall of photographs capturing moments of triumph, prized catches of seasons past, memories captured on film.

        By late afternoon and having tried hard to allow young Tales the opportunity to play a fish we had to face the fact that it wouldn’t be this time so we packed up and moved on up river to Kenmore, the location for the opening of the season on the Tay. Hopefully tomorrow will allow another opportunity to catch a fish and create lasting memories of our time together which means so much to us.

        Let’s see what tomorrow brings. One thing for certain from what we’ve learned today a gold and brown Devon will be used. What did work today was a highly polished copper lure for one lucky fisherman.


        IMG_1309Today is a day for planning and preparation of all the things we’ll need for our forthcoming trip to the River Tay at Kenmore. It will be young Tales first salmon fishing adventure in Scotland. Some two years have past since we last went to Wales in search of sea-trout. I’m not sure where that time has gone,in fact time is now passing by all too quickly. Is that something that happens with old age or just that our lives in this modern and ever changing world are all too consumed by the internet and the information highway? For sure it has helped in being able to research quickly and acquire all manner of fishing tackle at a touch of a button or tap on a screen.

        It will be early April when we head north, for me back to familiar territory but for youngy Tales a new adventure. He is so eager that he mentions the trip every day, if not every hour. The pages of Trout & Salmon are being turned like never before and it will be a trip up in the loft for me to retrieve the box of reels, fly boxes and salmon lures – flying C’s, Abu and Mepps plus a few old Devon Minnows. I will take my old Hardy Jet #9, hopefully a usable rod for my fishing partner. Some years ago I purchased a Sage 15ft #10 but it’s never really been used. I think the last trip to the Tay I ended up spinning most of the time.

        Today is the last day of the Fly Fishing Show at the Business Design Centre in Islington, unfortunately we won’t be able to make it which is a shame as it would have been an opportunity to discuss with the guys from Tay Fishing who are exhibiting there. I’ll just have to catch up on phone with them. I have fished the Tay on the Cargill beat before back in 2001, a great streatch of water in front of the Balathie House Hotel. The day I fished it is was productive for those spinning but more challenging on the fly.

        Hopefully it will be a rewarding trip for my young companion, as he has already said ‘I don’t really mind if I don’t catch a salmon, it’s just the opportunity to be by the river and out in the open air’, music to my ears.

        Winders and spools…

        Grey clouds passed overhead and a light precipitation filled the air accompanied by a chill March wind. Being the first Sunday of the Month meant that it was the second car boot sale of the year held in the playground over in Chiswick at the School beside the A316. I missed the one last month but the having been woken up early thus morning by one of our mischievous cats I decided to stroll over the bridge and have a look to see what was for sale.

        Usually this sales is well attended by both buyers and sellers however you could count the amount of stalls on both hands. The cold, wet, windy weather had severely reduced the numbers, the upside was with a reduced number of buyers there were deals to be had and a greater likely hood to find something interesting and that’s just exactly what happens. On the second stand I looked at were several cane, bamboo and glass sections of rods. I assembled one rod a 10′ #7 fly rod, inscribed The Greys Inn Fly Rod, beneath the inscription a small rectangular transfer but unfortunately missing sections so difficult to identify. When I asked the vendor how much, he replied ‘a tenner’ which was cheap enough however to use it it needed new guides however it did retain it’s agate butt and tip rings. The action was extremely soft and although tempted I decided to give it a miss. I then spotted over in the corner of the back of the playground a bundle of rods in different rod bags, the distinctive blue and olive green of Hardy’s of Alnwick. The whole bundle was wet firm the rain and tied to it was the Lot No. from the Auction House they had been purchased from. I asked if I could undo the bundle to inspect was was on offer and to my amazement the following came to light. A Hardy Houghton, a Hardy Peferction, a Hardy Knockabout all with both tips but in need of restoration, most sctions missing whippings and guides, an Edgar Sealey in good usable condition but a bit on the heavy side. There was one other smaller fly rod which I think was by C Farlows but the small oval stamp on the base of the butt section was difficult to read, unfortunately the eyesight isn’t what it use to be. Tempted I was. However every rod needed restoring and although the purchase price was affordable and I know one would make a tidy profit I just couldn’t be seen going home with another bundle of sticks so again I passed up on these, if any of you reading this would like them I have a contact email address for the vendor.

        I had a look at all the other stands and on a second glance at one stall I found a small black travel case of terminal tackle and old Bakerlite reels. A stack of old line winders retaining a few vintage Harcork and cellulose floats helping to date this haul between the late 50’s and 60’s, 3 old pike floats and on another stall a bobbin of fine copper wire which will be ideal for tying flies with or for young Tales to use for detailing his home-made bank stick.

        I’m always astonished and amazed at what I can find at this car boot sale, however the Allcocks Wizard I’m hoping to find one day wasn’t to be found today.

        The cane Priest…

        Recently sent from the Sussex Coast in two separate packages were two very fine split cane fishing priests made by Paul Lavender, a respected maker of traditional fishing accessories. As the trout season fast approaches I though they were great additions to our traditional tackle collection of fine split cane rods, Hardy Pefect and LRH Lightwieght reels, silk lines, traditional fishermen country tweeds and moleskins all in the spirit of the TFF.

        There is something most pleasing about the handling of honey coloured cane, crimson or emaraled greed silk whipping, turned brass which is married to vintage rod butts and rubber buttons. These recent purchases will last young Tales a lifetime. Each one matching the whippings of vintage Hardy, Allcock’s  and Sharpes rods. His eye for detail and appreciation of natural materials for fishing tackle sets him apart from his peers however this is in contract for his appreciation of automotive styling which is mainly from contemporary composites, but then again he admires a DB5 and the lines of the old W113 SL Mercedes and their Pegoda roof.  

        It’s great to see the the craft and skills of the likes of Paul Cook, Rawson & Perrin and Paul Lavender admired by such a young individual. 

        A pastoral scene…

        The ground was hard with frost, the air cold and the sky crystal clear and blue. The water of the Itchen ran slow and clear, crystals of ice glistened in the morning sun, Kingfishers darted low across the water and the sound of cows split the air.

        For the second time this month we had made our way to the River Itchen just outside Winchester to fish for Grayling, however we weren’t the only ones this time, in fact the river and riverbanks were littered with figures resembling Action Man, dressed in their olive neoprene waders and comofalaged jackets, they certainly were dressed for the occasion. Young Tales made a quick observation, with three men fishing 10 metres apart there was a sense that they weren’t going to catch anything other than each other. A stunning comment from young Tales ‘ all the gear but no idea’ was most apt, especially in light that these gentlen had blanked where young Tales had managed to net two pewter bars within 20 mins of being on the water.

        Fly fishing such a narrow stretch of the Itchen requires stealth and an understanding of where the fish hold up, unfortunately we witnessed a lot of thrashing about on the water, bite indicators and little understanding of the water. We met a gentleman called Clive, a friend of the renowned Garry Mills of Mills Tackle who demonstrated how to set up for a successful days fishing, trotting a chubber float above a olivette weight and linked to a size 20 hook was clearly an effective set up, 18 fish and one shy of 3lb with numerous trout in the tally was impressive.

        What made me smile was young Tales ability to hook two 1lb Grayling and several juvenile salmon Parr in the process. He seemed to be at one with his surroundings knowing exactly where the fish would be. Mrs Tales spotted a good size Barbel further upstream, we investigated, but as the temperature dropped we decided to retire to The Bridge for warmth. I cloud cover would have helped the fishing however watching the fluorescent orange tip of the float dip beneath the water of the river was enough to put a big beaming smile on a certain young boys face.

        Lady of the stream and Robbie the bank stick…


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        The title may lead you to think I’m about to review a new children’s title by Julia Donaldson & Alex Scheffler, but no this is about our day out on the banks of the River Itchen on a damp January day.

        Having been away up in Derbyshire over the past couple of day I promised young Tales that we would head out fishing over the weekend, I did give him the option to spend time flying his new remote control Super Cub S, a rather substantial model plane but with low cloud and damp conditions fishing was the preferred option. 

        It took a few trips up to the loft to store away the Christmas decorations and find a couple of bags of tackle and rods that had been put up there to clear space before my Mother arrived for the Christmas period, I could locate everything we needed however enough to tackle up a fly rod and a 11ft float rod for trotting.

        Our destination today was on the outskirts of Winchester, we a fish a section fish the Itchen that run through meadowlands, flanked by trees and with the distant silhouette of Chuch spteeples whilst cattle graze on new shoots as mild conditions and no snow allows the grass to be lush the time of year, occasionally tugging at the holly trees that over hand from the boundary of the hedgerow with the river. The river path was well trodden as it is a popular spot for destination ramblers as well as local dog walkers and those who just want to take to the country to fill their lungs with fresh air and feel the chill wind against their faces.

        It didn’t take us too long to commute the 68 miles but as the rain pelted the windscreen we glanced at each other wondering if we were just completely mad or were those clouds going to break to give us an hour or two of solace on the water, for us a pilgrimage as both the Itchen, Test and Avon are for us as much a Mecca for our fishing.

        The river was running clear not quite gin clear but clear enough to feel confident if the fish were around we’d tempt one or two out on what would be our first fishing trip of 2017, may they continue in the months to come with greater frequency than last year. After we had the rods set up we walked down the hill from the Station where you can park to the small bridge that marks the start of the free fishing beat. Armed with a mixed box of maggots for trotting and a Wheatley box full of woven Czech nymphs we felt we had all we needed plus ‘lady luck’. 

        As we walked the riverbank it was not long before we can across a father and son fishing, trotting their float mid-water and as we watched the tip of the rod started to bend, they played a grayling into the margin before we picked up conversation with them. I did notice the use of a closed face Abu reel, vintage and still in my mind one of the best river trotting reels I’ve ever used the Abu 1044. Fishing a mix of casters and maggots they seem to have had success so that indicated a way forward.

        Young Tales took up the fly rod, with his first cast the yellow woven nymph pulled around with the current only to be taken by an eager grayling close in the margins, however after a momentary tug the fish was off.

        The scenery in this valley of Hampshire reminds me of the etchings of that truer British romantic artist/etcher Samuel Palmer,distant church spires, grazing cows, streams, woodlands and low flying barn owls- it is truest a magical place that is only just over an hour from London. I am lucky to own a collection of Palmer’s work and the scene today reminded me of ‘The Willow’. It was under a willow that young Tales was casting, several follows but no takes so we moved upstream past a small a weir or flow regulato, here the water runs dark, deeper and through a narrower channel lined with reeds giving you between 18 inches and a yard to fish from if you are without waders. 

        The drips of water from the hood of my Barbour ran consistently indicating that the drizzle had now turned into train, soon the rain passed over and fishing resumed. The bright orange tip meandering through the pale gray reflective water, in and out of shadows and momentarily pulling back in an eddy as the current flowed over a submerged tree trunk and clump of weed, most of the weed in the river has broken off as it decays before it starts it new growth. As the float swung to the left of a channel it disappeared beneath the surface at the same time the top of the rod bowed to the water and the line pulled tight. There displaying her pewter coloured scales and crimson dorsal fin a ‘lady of the stream’ gracefully made her way to the straw coloured reeds and deep green cress that grace the margins. For young Tales a beaming smile and a voice full of excitement as his is what we came for. Several trotts later another pewter bar came drop the depths. These fish are strong, if you try to handle one they have immense strength that pushes against your grip. Having returned the fish and taken time to observe the flow of the river we where joined by two Officers from the Environment Agency, they had come to check that we were carrying our Lisence to fish, to some this is an unwelcome visit however this is the first time for many years I’ve been asked. I have to say I was please to see these Officers of our sport, for it is the revenue from our licenses that help manage the waterways we fish.

        The rain had set in and my old Barbour was leaking, classic it may be but not as functional/waterproof as more contemporary outerware. As Mrs Tales points out my old Barbour not only smells like a pocket full of change but stiffens in the cold and from age is more like a sieve. The warmth of home seemed more inviting than another hour on the river so we started to make our way back to the car, we stopped for one last cast and out of the corner of his eye young Tales spotted a stick, not any old stick but a home-made bankstick. Made of bamboo, brass, alloy with silk whippings and a Hazel twig fork at the top. Buried deep into the bank and on the edge of reeds to most it would be unnoticeable, it had probably been there for sometime and only now visible because the surrounding vegitation had died back. On inspection it was thoughtfully constructed, along the shaft was a paper tape measure varnished along the bamboo length but it was showing signs of weathering but did have the name ‘Robbie’ written in ink beneath the varnish. After much debate we decided to take the bank stick home with us..we will take ‘Robbie’ out on another adventure and should ‘Robbie’s’ owner get in touch then happily return it. As you can imagine ‘Stickmam’ came to mind and young Tales was quite chuffed with his riverbank find.


        After 4 days into the New Year I report that there has been no fishing, no car boot fairs and vintage tackle purchased. However, on my travels around the metropolis I have been close to the rivers and canals that once formed the arteries of how trade was done in the City, the Thames is still as important to trade and industry as it’s always been, but the canals that fed the metropolis with coal, goods and all manner of things did so at a price to the environment and the ecology of the waterways.

        My commute into London means crossing the Thames twice a day, usually by bus across the elegant structure of Hammersmith Bridge during the winter months and by foot in spring and summer. Recently I have been plying my trade around the Paddington Basin and around the area of regeneration of Kings Cross where the canal is a feature of the landscape. What is pleasing to the eye is the level of conservation of these historic waterways and more importantly the upkeep and state of the water. Once filled with pollutants, bikes, shopping trolleys, car doors and rubbish they now form part of the gentrification of what were run down areas of London.

        I was please to see that these historic waterways are being managed and form the focal points of bars, residential properties, an Art School, Theatre and a gateway from Europe to the centre of London. The graphics surrounding part of a building project gave me great heart that we may be able to fish for silver fish once more…an excuse to pack a travel rod, reel, float and end tackle for an evenings fishing in the summer  with a G&T in one hand and a rod in the other just a stones-throw from The Lighterman.

        Last cast…

        The lack of posts on my blog certainly reflect the changes in our lives this year along with the loss of my Father. As they say ‘time and tide waits for no man’, how true those words have been during 2016.

        As I write this last post for 2016 I can’t help thinking about how time has passed by all to quickly. In the early spring the focus was on the ill health of my Father, he seemed to rapidly go downhill faster than a skier on a run down the Matterhorn. On reflection it all seemed to happen so fast and when I think about it although 7 months have now passed the rawness of it feels as if it were only yesterday.

        I took on a new role in late March which has been all consuming of my time every day and weekends seem taken up with planning the following week or working at Gin Festivals. There seems to be little down time these days and as a consequence little time to fish however we have been afforded a greater involvement in motor sport, another of young Tales’s passions, so I guess not all bad.
        Again I seem to be pressed for time to write as we head out of the door to see in the New Year. So as a last cast can I take this oppprtunity to thank each and everyone of you who have view this blog and may I wish you all a happy, healthy and rewarding 2017 and those of you of the brotherhood of the angle, many a tight line.