At the beginning of August, I was able to fulfil a dream that probably all friends of traditional fly-fishing have, that is, to spend a day with fly-fishing in the gin clear chalkstreams of England.
Last winter, whilst visiting Susku, Teppo and the boys in Poole, I was casually browsing the internet for fishing stuff and I found something about chalkstreams. I began digging for a little more detailed information and was amazed that almost all the chalkstreams are located in the South of England. Nearest places from Poole are less than 30 min. drive away! Already then I found a perfect website that has all the information you need about chalkstreams, the Simon Cooper site https://www.fishingbreaks.co.uk. I also got an approval from my family that on our next visit, grandpa could take one day off and go fishing.
When back at home, I boldly e-mailed Simon and he responded really quickly. I told about my interest for fly-fishing and my wishes and he e-mailed me back giving three possible options about the streams, River Allen (https://fishingbreaks.co.uk/chalkstream/allen.htm#wim), River Nadder (https://fishingbreaks.co.uk/chalkstream/nadder.htm#compton) or River Test (https://fishingbreaks.co.uk/chalkstream/test.htm#mottisfont). From these I chose River Allen. The main factor weighing in the selection criteria was the proximity of the place, only about 13 miles or 20 kilometres from Poole! So I made a reservation for River Allen through Simon’s website, and with his guidance I booked Home Beats, which has three different pools. When I made my reservation, I received a great info pack about the river and the flies. A few days later, I got a confirmation message that I could fish alone on all three pools from dawn to dusk!
The big day dawned on August 6, 2019 and Teppo drove me to the river on his way to work. On the banks of the river I met a gentleman named Stewart Hand, who was just trimming the fishing hut’s farmyard. We had a long conversation, and he said he had been working in Shaftesbury Estate for 32 years, where his duties also consisted of river keeping/maintenance. After retiring, he agreed with the owner to lease the river and has then became a full-time river keeper, meaning that he takes care of the river and the surroundings and to lease it onwards. I got some good advices and tips from Mr. Hand for my fishing day at the banks. The best and truthful advice was, that; you can see lot of fishes, but remember, they can also see you!
Home Beats consist of three pools; Upper Brockington, Lower Brockington and Bowerswaine. First I started walking downstream to the middle of Bowerswaine. Downstream from the house, the river was really shallow for the first 500m, but then started to get deeper, where I also saw first fishes. Also in England the weather had been exceptionally dry and the water level was apparently much lower than usual. As promised, the water was clear as gin and you could easily see even bigger fishes swimming around. Steward’s words came to my mind immediately as the fish lurked when they saw motion on the bank. I stopped at a place where there was a small bridge across the river and a bench on the beach where, according to my own instructions (http://sipinrinne.com/2004/12/28/runua/), “I sit and wait – and watch” I enjoyed a cigar accompanied by a slice of cognac .
For my first fly, I chose Europa 12, the smallest version found in the box. A small trout was visible against the bottom and, by the fence of the river, I offered a fly for the fish. On the second roll, it got up and caught it. For a while I thought this was an easy fishing. Well, during the day, I noticed that it was not that easy. Fishing at Allen is only allowed with dry flies and nymphs and traditional upstream casting. I was fishing up the river and saw a lot of fish. They were timid and immediately dodged if the throw was not done properly. Likewise, they would run away if my own movement was visible to them. However, I did catch a few fish to watch the fly, but with a laugh they spun out when they saw what I was trying to offer them. Last night tied foam beetle was pushed by one of the trout, but it was not suitable for picking either. From the low stream on the Lower Brockington section I was able to catch a few small trout, but the big ones were too wise.
After a light lunch at the fishing hut, I moved to Upper Brockinton. At first, that section runs along the electric fence of the fish farm. The river is quite narrow and could not be fished. After that, however, deep pools were found in the stream, where I also saw the biggest trouts of the day. A few pools could easily be fished from the bank, but in some places the trees curving over the river and the shoreline made those very difficult to fish. At the top of the pool was the widest and perhaps the deepest place of the Home Beats. Before that, the river ran again in narrow reed beds, which were difficult to fish at least from the bank. Then the river expanded into a bond, surrounded by large trees, whose branches still posed an additional challenge to the fisherman descending in the middle of the bond. After the bond, the river again narrowed into a small stream that crossed the bridge where the pool ended. The bond could be fished correctly upstream, as long as the cast didn’t hit the twigs. It took quite a few flies and swearing off the pool, but it was probably the coolest spot in the entire river. I got a couple of bigger trouts to try the fly, but the strike did not succeed.
I went back downstream and there I heard the trout rise. I gently moved in and there was a handsome trout waiting there for the prey to appear. The fish was unfortunately in a place where only one tenth of a throw could be successful with my skills. There were high reeds on the beach and a dense bushy tree above the fish, so I had to manage to throw over the reeds, but under the twigs! And I didn’t succeed, but the fly plunged into the water too much and the trout was dripping. I returned to the same place about an hour later and the fish was back in place. I ordered a bunch of chalkstream flies through Simon in the spring, and among them I chose Pink Shrimp on a 14 hook. I managed to make the throw and the fly landed above the fish. As soon as I went to pull the fly, another hidden trout rushed to it. Then there was the use of Haldin’s 3/7 rod. The fish was well over 50 cm and really upset about getting caught. In the end, it floated itself and the fly to the shoreline, where I waded to release it. It was by far the biggest fish of the day and by then, all my dreams on fishing in chalkstream had been fulfilled.
I continued fishing both Brockington pools until the evening. And I still caught a few smaller trouts. A pick-up time was agreed with Teppo at 8pm and then it was time to say thank you for the first experience on chalkstream fishing.
I hope this was not my last experience about the chalkstreams. Perhaps the next place could be the River Test, which Simon describe in a mail, “The most famous chalkstream of all!!” Now, afterwards, after watching again those river presentations by Simon, the River Allen is defined as the most difficult class to fish. On the other hand, it is also of the highest order in tranquility. The river flows in a genuine English country landscape. One kilometre down the river, there is also a local pub Horton Inn, where you could have a lunch. I planned to visit there but the desire to fish won. Only on the way back home we visited there with Teppo and tested the local beer. My fishing day was really great and if anyone is planning to go out for a chalkstream, it is definitely worth contacting Simon and getting to know the destinations thoroughly through the Simon’s site.
Thank you chalkstreams for a great experience!