Monday, April 22, 2013

The River Itchen

For those who appreciate fly fishing history, two storied locales in the UK, birthplace of dry fly fishing, are the River Test and the River Itchen.  The River Itchen is located in and around Winchester, southwest of London about an hour and a lovely English country town.  Izaak Walton's tomb lies in the cathedral in Winchester and his "The Compleat Angler" remains a classic in which much is written about the gin-clear English chalk streams.

I spent a day on the beautiful River Itchen recently as part of a trip to London.  My guide Mick Siggery and I had a "beat" all to ourselves on what was the worst weather day of a week long trip.  Wind at 30-40 MPH, periods of rain and overcast conditions not worth venturing into.  Since all beats on the chalk streams are private, requiring advance payment and arrangements, I had little choice but to take the train ride from London to Winchester and hope for the best.

A brief moment of sun!
"Those of us who will not in any circumstances cast except over rising fish are sometimes called ultra purists and those who occasionally will try to tempt a fish in position but not actually rising are termed purists... and I would urge every dry fly fisher to follow the example of these purists and ultra purists."  Frederic M. Halford

In the brief minutes that the wind subsided, we had a few rising fish to olives...larger than the olives we are used to here in the colonies! Not inclined to nymph, I managed to raise a few fish, with no success in hooking.  Large Grayling were also present hugging the bottom.  Hooked a couple small ones, but all in all the catching was not good...the experience and the setting was great!  The day is what God gives us, so "no worries" as the English say...I thoroughly enjoyed the once-in-a-lifetime experience on a famed English chalk stream, and can check off one of my "Bucket List" items!

We don't realize how great we have it as fly fishers in the US.  There is simply no open rivers and streams to speak of in the UK; every outing requires a reservation and a fee to fish a certain "beat."

For those who have fished the Montana spring creeks, the English chalks are similar; gin-clear, lots of vegetation and the fish are visible and spooky. Here's a look:

DRAG FREE everyone...local reports on CT opening day coming shortly!

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