The Early Days
I used to go to Breckenridge Colorado with the family every summer when we lived in Texas. I learned to fly fish on the wonderful rivers which surround Breckenridge. Coloradans call them gold medal water or blue ribbon, and they represent some of the best alpine trout fishing in the world. I learned to fly fish from the best, Jackson Streit.
When we moved to the UK, I lost touch with fly fishing. My fly fishing gear languished in the garage. This year though, I was reintroduced to it on English chalk streams. These streams, the Test being the most famous, meander through beautiful southern English countryside. Because they sit on a deep chalk bed laid down in the Cretaceous period. The head waters of the Test are from spring water deep down in the porous chalk aquifer. As a result the streams are “gin clear”, and remain that way even after heavy rains because water does not run into them. The chalk bed’s porous nature means that any rain water immediately travels downwards, to reemerge again in the myriad of springs.
Just Like Colorado – Only With Class
In a country which gets more than it’s fair share of rain, this is a godsend. It means that the Mayfly hatch of May and early June is not spoiled by cloudy water and unseeing fish. Which brings us to the reason these streams are so fascinating, and the fishing so good in the spring and early summer; the Mayfly hatch. I won’t bore you with the entire Mayfly life cycle story, just the important part.
The Mayfly lives less than a day. It emerges from the river when the temperature triggers a hatch and swarms above the water to briefly mate. At that point the Mayfly takes her eggs and collapses to the water to secrete them. The egg waits as a larvae in the river until the next spring when it too emerges for the briefest of time to mate and continue the lifecycle. These mating frenzies generate the swarms that fly fisherman lust after, and so do the trout. The emergence of the Mayfly when the water temperature hits that magical number triggers fish to feed and fisherman to fish.
The Beautiful River Test
Last week I was lucky enough to fish Bullington Manor, a “beat”along the Test in Hampshire. The fishing was slow for most of the day, but at the appointed moment, on Thursday that was about 6:30 in the evening, the Mayfly did their thing. All of a sudden, the river woke up and fish were eating anything that looked like a Mayfly, including my hook which had feathers attached to look like a Mayfly. In fly fishing, you can do one of two things to catch fish on man-made flies; imitate or intimidate. Fish will bite stuff when they are annoyed and want it to go away, they will also bite to eat, or actually almost slurp, so when they aren’t actively eating things, you can try to tick them off. There are a variety of “flies” which do this, but when the Mayfly are on the water, it is much better to imitate.
After an hour and a half, I had caught more fish that I had since 10 am when I started the day. However, if you show up at 6 expecting the hatch to happen at the same time everyday, you may well be disappointed. It might have happened in the morning, or worse yet, during the lunch hour, which brings me on to one of the best parts of the day, eating.
In a very curious English eccentric fashion, the river banks are manicured. For an old Texas boy used to stumbling around a western trout stream, it is all very civilised! Lunch in Colorado might have been, at the very best, a couple of steaks trow on a portable BBQ next to the stream bank with a cold beer to wash it down. The English take stream-side dining to a whole new level. In your comfy tent, you sit at a table with tablecloth and eat three courses with champagne and wine! No cold ones with a slightly charred steak here. The chef, in his whites, along with staff, serve lunch. You could imagine the English in one of those far away lands they tended to conquer in the 1800’s, sitting by a stream being catered to by the locals they have just enslaved. However, these were not enslaved locals, they were professional catering staff who served a wonderful and very alcoholic lunch.
Technical Stuff – Or Not
I could go on about the flies I used and the techniques for sneaking up on unsuspecting trout, but I will leave that for another website. Suffice it to say; I had a wonderful day beside the Test. I am also happy to have reestablished a relationship with a long lost love.
I will pass along the contact details for Fishing Breaks, they arranged a lovely day as well as all the catering. I used a guide, although not essential, he was a practicing Veterinarian, and a wealth of information, not to mention very good company. I highly recommend them if you are thinking about a day on any of England’s chalk streams.
Thanks for taking the time to stop by – see you again soon