Just a few years ago I can remember fishing the River test for just £20 a day until the influx of river fishermen took over… The rise in anglers fishing the river meant that more and more people wanted to fish somewhere different, sometimes because of over crowding on certain rivers or it may be just the hunter instinct kicking in. But the price for a day ticket for grayling throughout the winter months grew to what can only be described as Trout rates for the river Test.
Just a few weeks ago I was told about a part of the river test which was still only £20 for a coarse ticket which grayling fall obligingly (for me!) under… It was a no-brainer to pick a day and get on the stretch. I rounded up a couple of mates, Dean Kibble, Jonathan Bishop and Dylan Harvey.
Upon arrival after the two and half hour journey down to Timsbury we were greeted with a flooded car park and a bunch of anglers who were heading to the river before us… not the greatest start but we hadn’t seen the river and things could change! After setting up our fishing tackle, I chose my Airflo Streamtec 10ft 5/6 weight admittedly not something I usually choose because it’s a bit heavy for most of the fishing I do here in Wales, but I had good reasoning.
On the stretches we fish further up the Test at Wherwell the fish always seem to push across the river after the first run through. With the majority of the river being no wading. it means the further away the fish go the harder it gets to cover them. So long casting with heavy flies could come into it. The 5/6 weight also copes with the french leader fairly well as does it the stimmy, klink & dink and dries.
We approached the river with our anticipation running high only to be met with it being coloured and higher than normal! The wind was blowing hard with leaves falling from the trees littering the surface. Where’s Terry when you need him? We walked to the bottom of the stretch, which was around 500 yards, and stretched upstream for a further 8/900 yards or so including a carrier, no wider than a single lane rod, of about 400 yards in length.
I tackled up with a french leader thinking i’d be able to pick off a few grayling which I could see, but the coloured water put an end to that. Before settling on a part of river I decided to change the french leader for my trio setup with a sliding indicator. It’s the same setup as the usual trio but instead of a fixed dropper, the dropper is able to slide under pressure enabling you to change the depth of the flies within seconds.
With Dylan and Jonathan both below me I fished the inside edge of the river working my way towards Dean who was above. It was difficult to determine a depth as the colour was masking the week but after a few snag ups I settled on the flies fishing around three feet down, seemingly above the weed. Within minutes of finding the optimum depth I banked two grayling of around a pound each and lost another not far off the same size.
As I met up with Dean his indicator shot forward and a good brown broke the surface, it was our first brown of the day which would have easily had made three pounds!
Jonathan and I made our way upstream, passing Dean and entering the top stretch of the river and also finding the carrier. The carrier was perfect, a proper example of what English chalk stream fishing should be, perfectly clear water with shoals of grayling and the odd large trout. Pushing less water and being hell of a lot shallower, I decided to change from the stimmy to the french leader. Jonathan was messing around with his duo and taking a few fish on a white headed nymph, it was nice to see as I tied a few white beaded nymphs which have yet to hit water!
I was instantly rewarded as my indicator piece slid away and I stuck into a small grayling, probably half a pound in weight. Throughout the carrier I managed to take a few more grayling and a couple of trout, nothing of any size but a great hours fishing. Jonathan took a few more on his white headed nymph but the fishing dried up as the cloud cover came over and hindered our sight fishing.
After meeting with the beautiful river keeper (it was a woman), paying our dues and some friendly conversation we wandered back down river to see how the guys had got on. It was like walking into a different world, Dean and Dylan had gone upstream, so we left them to it, but looking downstream fish were rising all the way down the far side below a couple of pike anglers.
We made our way down and I rigged up a long, stiff tapered leader. This would aid presentation at distance, with casting like mine its needed! I made my way down the river and found a group of large trout rising on the far bank. It was a tough cast, high grass on the back cast and a distance well over 25 yards! 15 casts in, id landed well over 8 fish and hooked the rest which managed to come off… Was I glad I took the heavier rod? YES! Without that I would more than likely have missed most fish on the take if I was able to reach them, it was a great tool for the day, also helped casting in the strong breeze. I think sometimes we look past the heavier kit, especially now that most of the rods are much lighter than just a few years ago.
Here are a few pictures from the day… None of the grayling unfortunately…