In the middle of the high street in the town of Stockbridge a small stream runs in front of the shops to one side, in fact at varying points between the houses you will find small channels of water, some gin clear with bright green weed and other clear but with a tope coloured sediment. Disguised through the rippling water are wonderful specimens of brown trout, hard to spot but the size of some will take your breath away.
As chance would have it a journey south took me to Southampton to The Rockstone and then back up to Stockbridge. After a light lunch at the Greyhound in the High Street there was time to sneak across the road for a visit to Orvis before a short drive to the Peat Spade at Longstock, I know it sounds like a bit of a pub crawl but it really was all work related. I was out presenting and selling my Gin.
Whilst in Orvis I just had to purchase a few Elks Hair Sedge flies some bass flies for a forthcoming trip to Norfolk and a couple of ‘dog biscuit’ flies for carp fishing. When I was asked by the shop assistant if they could help me I enquired about flies for carp fishing, the answer from the assistant was, you need dog biscuits. Dog biscuits I replied, yes Sir, dog biscuits – he headed off in the direction of the shop window to return with 3 deer hair tied balls with three tufts of wool resembling dog biscuits, they’ll do the trick.
I mentioned about my recent visit to Morden Hall armed with a 7ft #4 fly rod where a wild carp took an interest in an emerging fly, he was slightly alarmed at the thought of me hooking into an 8lb carp on such light tackle, fun was the thought in my mind.
After the brief visit to Orvis we headed up to Longstock a quaint village where the Test runs through the lower pastures. There is one place where a wooden bridge crosses the river with a thatched fishing hut to one side with eel traps set above the bridge, for me this was just heaven to have the chance to watch trout rising to flies in the afternoon sun. All that was missing was that gin and tonic.
If you are in search of some great food and drinks with good service then I can recommend all three of the above Pubs, see below for links.
As the sun shone on another warm May afternoon I couldn’t resist a trip to Spitalfields Market to see Andrews of Arcadia. Earlier in the week I had missed out on an evening of verse, visual and banter for a get together of the Caught By The River Social Club, this time held at the Queen’s Head in Denman Street.
I scoured the stalls for vintage glassware for my new gin project but little was to be found that ticked the visual boxes. However I did find a rather large salmon priest, a Hardy svelte reel pouch and a Stanley fly rod. Two of these items ended up in the Tales collection of vintage fishing tackle.
After an hour of conversation about fishing, tackle, conservation and the art of writing with Mr Andrews and fellow fisher Marc Simperallan, Marc and I adjourned to a near by watering hole for a pint of Broadside. On a chance meeting it was clear that Marc and I had the same passion for trout fishing. What I was to learn was that Marc knew of many waters that I had passed by in Norfolk that were to be the hunting ground of small wild trout.
Upon the downing of a second jar it was time to part company and it was on my cut through the market back to Liverpool St Station that I was to stumble upon a large salmon priest, resembling a rather large matchstick, its egg sized lead head married to a malacca shaft. The other item was an olive green Hardy reel pouch, unfortunately the sewn label was detached but all the same for the price of a pint of Broadside a worthwhile purchase.
Late yesterday afternoon I was to meet with Mr Matthew Steeples of The Steeples Times an erudite gentleman who words may be profound and sometimes controversial but none the less a stimulating observation of day-to-day life. We sat in the afternoon sun to discuss the vertues of the growing gin market and to sample Sloane’s Gin, the award-winning Dutch Dry Gin. A gin much to Mr Steeple liking though his personal gin of choice is Miller’s Gin.
As the evening sun started to set I could only think about those summer evenings spent by the River Test, Compton beat on the Sopwith Estate where a G&T was order of the day before the evening rise.
On a bright Wednesday in June, now being the 27th day of the month I note that the tides are right for a little bit of fishing. The only thing stopping me is the pressure of work but I still know the tide will be right for at least an hour on the river bank. It is also Wimbledon week and the start of Henley Royal Regatta. So if you are interested to mingle and drink, the Regatta is a great experience. See http://www.hrr.co.uk for details, the fireworks on Saturday evening are a must.
Having travelled West to Henley-on-Thames last night to meet up with a group of old friends of which half were keen fishermen it wasn’t long after the initial meet and greet that the conversation swung round to fishing much like a fly or float in the current. The other half of the table discussed past relationships, good and bad and took pitty on those that had come off worse for their dealing with the opposite sex.
Over 20 years ago I had the pleasure of fishing with ‘Edge’ and his father being their guest on the River Test. I recall one trip to the river near Stockbridge on the Compton Manor Estate where just before breaking for lunch we saw a large brown trout held up beneath a small footbridge across the river, it probably weighed in at a good 3 to 4lb, keeping station in the current and occasionally opening its mouth to take in food. After lunch Barry, James’s (Edge) father thought it would be amusing to tempt the brown trout we had seen earlier by dangling a fly over the edge of the footbridge, to his surprise the trout pushed up through the water, took the fly then all hell broke loose. To this day that image of Barry working out what to do makes me smile.
My other friend present at last nights meeting was Rupert, a confident character who has packed his bags and now resides in France but had decided to head back to our old stomping ground for the Regatta week. Clearly the only thing he was fishing for this week was a string of pretty ladies. Previously Rupert and I had fished Blagdon Lake in the West and on our last trip bagged a good size brown trout that took his fly from the surface. Having moved to France, Rupert now has a sizable lake and a stream on his property. There were some amusing stories told but good to see him happy and enjoying the manual work that managing his estate provides him with.
Before I head West this afternoon I thought it would be good to share the image of the work by artist Keith Haynes who recently exhibited at an exhibition to celebrate the Queens Diamond Jubilee. The exhibition was held at the Belgravia Gallery in Mayfair and featured works by Prince Albert, The Prince of Wales and Lord Snowdon, here was a true celebration of all things connected to the Monarchy.
For me the highlight, however, were the works of Keith Haynes. Haynes is a graduate of the Harrow School of Art, Haynes exhibited a series of works inspired by both The Queen and the Sex Pistols that were to some kitsch but collectible. Priced at £350 each and limited to editions of 100, these inspiring works represent a great way to remember this historic event. They also reminded me of my time studying at the London College of Printing where the age of Punk had its influence and I remember memorable days down the Kings Road and the music by the Sex Pistols, Paul Weller and the Jam.
As I think of heading west, the duo Cox and Drummie come to mind. They were Go West who’s music use to reverberate around the studio. Tracks like Call Me , Dancing On The Couch and The King Is Dead remind me of the past and my early days in the design world. Peter Cox and Richard Drummie set out in the music business around 1974 then it wasn’t till 1982 the year I graduated did they get any form of hit.
Well time to head West now…
With Payne’s Grey skies over London the rain fell from early morning and didn’t give up all day. The Thames ran with colour in it and low tide was to be later in the day heading into early evening. My day was to be taken up with meetings in Soho and Piccadilly but interestingly enough two of them were about fishing or fishing related.The first was about the creation of a new online members club where fishing will be part of the offer and the other was a visit to Farlows to discus their involvement and the forthcoming event on Thursday evening see http://farlows.com
Thursday’s event at Farlows will be about fishing in far off destinations and one company I will aim to cover over then next few weeks is Frontiers see http://frontierstrvl.co.uk. When heading to these destinations you’ll need some good quality optical ware of which I have been given a few samples to try out from the newly released Bigatmosphere brand. See http://bigatmo.com . These high quality frames and lenses offered by Bigatmo fit well as they were designed around the needs of commercial pilots. Having been tested by pilots and professional drivers I was asked to try them for fishing….well maybe not today but I’ll give them a try on the next bright day. The frames are light and can be fitted with prescriptive lenses. The prices range from £195 upwards so you don’t want to drop these into the river.
During the year I plan to review Salty Dog Game Fishing, the bass fishing specialists who operate guided tours from Chichester Harbour on the south coast,and Hotchkiss Fly Fishing who offer guided tours on premier beats of the Test, Itchen, Kennet, Avon and tributaries.