Friday 23rd October, Lower River Itchen, Hampshire, 09:15 - 18:00. Mild and dry with some sun.
Leyton from the Barbel Adventures Forum provided the invite for this one; a day trip to Hampshire to fish the River Itchen after Grayling, Roach, Chub and Barbel and anything else that swims.
Jeff Hatt and I travelled together from Coventry and met up with the remainder of the party at the river; Leyton, Simon, Sash and Paul. Paul is the founder of the Barbel Adventures website and forum.
This trip required an early start and I was round at Jeff's for half five on the dot. Punctuality is the Jobling way. At five thirty five I saw Jeff come flying down his stairs. He bowled out of his front door, the momentum from the descent apparently carrying him and as he strode past me stocking footed to his gallery to collect his things he enquired how long I'd been waiting. It soon transpired he'd awoken only seconds before.
Shaky from an early start we drove for a couple of hours South and talked up the fishing to be had.
The river Itchen is one of England's premier chalk streams and the fishery we were visiting is predominantly a game anglers paradise for most of the year. Each October the fishery opens it's doors to those from the broader church and bait fishing (with conditions) is allowed.
We arrived at the fishery for eight on the dot, hoping to start at eight thirty. Unfortunately, apart from Sash, the remainder of the party had met with a Sat Nav malfunction. The underlying cause of the malfunction was later determined to be user error.
While we waited for the rest Sash dispensed some high quality tips and observations to chalk stream virgins like ourselves. Top bloke.
While we waited for what seemed like an eternity for the others to arrive (it was actually about fifteen minutes) Jeff and I stared into the clear split streams of the Itchen that ran around us. This was my undoing as I wound myself up into a right state. I was practically frothing when we jointly decided it wasn't rude to move up to the beat itself and put up our rods (tackle up to us normal folk).
Driving up to the fishing hut which acted as base we saw the river properly for the first time. It was amazing. Mist hung over the water and the manicured surroundings added to it's appeal. It looked like a cross between a thoroughbred race horse and a preened poodle. A Ferrari of rivers. Every glide, sweep and bend made the mouth water. I half expected God to turn up and say he was on the syndicate here.
The others soon arrived and a friendly and optimistic mood prevailed and persisted throughout the day. Good company.
The longitude latitude coords in the title are where I started the day. I offered double or triple maggot on a fourteen hook under a chunky stick float on a fourteen foot rod and centrepin with 4lbs line. I had with me quite a few pints of maggots which were liberally fed by hand from my bait pouch.
With the water still low from the recent lack of rain we each sought the deeper scoops and holes.
First trot through and I had a small Grayling.The flow was strong enough to really pull line from the reel and the bites were sharp and deliberate. Very few bites were missed all day.
After a some more Grayling I had a nice Brownie;
After this Trout I had a Sea Trout about a couple of pounds! This was dream fishing. The fish pulled back hard in the strong flow.
Still in the first spot where I'd been for about forty five minutes the bites started to dry up. As I was thinking about moving the float disappeared and I was into a better fish. It was frighteningly fast when it turned on the power. It tested my tackle and swam upstream with real purpose.
After a great scrap Jeff did the honours with the net and on the bank the fish was a riot of colour. My initial thoughts were that it was a second sea trout but to be honest I'm still not sure if it was a Salmon that had been in the river a while.
It weighed we estimate somewhere between three and four pounds. It was not weighed properly and was returned to the water quickly after some photos. After a short recovery it righted itself and sulked in the edge over some gravel for an hour afterwards.
The rest of the day was a magical blur exploring and fishing various different swims. I did better in the morning than in the afternoon but still lost count of the number of fish I'd had. I had a go on the quivertip in the afternoon but the weed and leaves coming down the powerful flow curtailed almost every cast as they inevitably caught on the line.
One peg on the lower section in the afternoon yielded five Roach on the trot but I didn't have one over twelve ounces. All of the Roach were minters.
Jeff had a Roach weighing one pound ten ounces at last light. He should be home by now after I left him to cycle back up the M40.
As dark fell I had a massive tangle and so called it a day. I took the car down and found Jeff still fishing away. Had we been closer to home we would have both stayed until we fell asleep I'm sure.
This was a fantastic day. Thanks again boys for the invite and the good company.