I always look forward to a day on the upper Hampshire Avon. It’s a beautiful, narrow and intimate river in its upper reaches. During the summer months the river is a colourful mix or fauna and flora and thick, flowing ranunculus dominates as it thrives on the gravels in such a vibrant and healthy environment.
During the winter months the weed generally dies back and those magnificent gravel runs become accessible to the winter float enthusiast. With so many mouth-watering swims, runs and features to fish, you really do feel like a kid in a candy store.
The depth varies throughout. There are numerous deep runs, a few deep depressions (cue Marvin from Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy!) and the usual mix of shallows and riffles. There are plenty of overhanging trees and bushes to offer sanctuary to the fish. So all in all we have a wonderful fishery for those cold winter days, when the ice sparkles on both grass and leaf.
We had decided to target the river a little earlier than our usual visits. This has coincided with some decent rain of late and much milder temperatures. On arrival, we found the river had risen since Geoff visited here a few weeks ago, whilst visiting his daughter in Somerset. The water was also a little coloured. The weed was still prevalent and this made for some very difficult fishing. Had the water been a little clearer, Kevin and I could have seen the clear runs through the ween. Sadly this was not possible, so it was trial and error. Mainly error on my part, I might add!
Kevin got off to a good start. He found a short run over some marginal ranunculus. After a couple of hours he had managed a few trout and grayling to over a pound. Meanwhile I was struggling to find a clear run. I did entice a couple of small trout to take the maggots and then bumped off a couple of fish, but overall was struggling. Added to this a couple of nightmare tangles around the internal workings of two centrepins, resulting in damaged line and thus resulting in a need to re-tackle, didn’t help things.
So it was soon time for lunch and a change of plan. Kevin’s swim had gone quiet and so we both went for a wander. We re-visited a swim that I had tried earlier on in the day. Kevin’s Polaroids helped in spotting fish, mine were left at home somewhere. Throwing in small quantities of maggots soon had some nice fish boiling on the surface. Kevin ran his float through the middle of them time and time again, but the fish just didn’t want to know. Yet they continued to boil on the surface when the free bait was thrown in.
Luckily I had worn my chest waders and so manged to wade in above the fish, which would enable me to hold the float back hard, as it passed through the feeding fish. I was sure this would illicit a few bites. I removed the dropper shot and moved the bulk shot up to the float. Maggots didn’t seem to work, so I tried a piece of corn. This produced a fish straight away. Then I bumped a couple off before managing another trout and then a grayling. The swim seemed to die after that. I tried a few more spots, taking another few fish here and there. Kevin’s catch rate had slowed down a little too.
In the end Kevin went down to a 2lb hooklink and an 18 hook with a single maggot. Each trot had to coincide with 3 or 4 maggots being thrown in at the exact spot. Lots of very fast bites ensued, many of which couldn’t be hit. Kevin did manage a couple more fish before the light faded. I had already admitted defeat. I think I ended up with maybe 8 fish and Kevin about 15 I think. A tough day at what is normally a very prolific venue.
We were lucky with the weather, despite the forecast and the dark, foreboding skies on our journey up. We enjoyed the day and the company (well on my part anyway) and look forward to returning once the hard winter frosts have taken care of the weed.