The Ginger Beer Beat


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If you are a fisherman you will get this.

If you are not, you may not.

But when a fisherman, the most generous of species ‘homo sapiens’, invites someone who is not a fisherman, to try…

Then links him with someone of patience who wishes to share, to impart…

Some magic can happen.

Such was my day with Satts (Chris Satterthwaite) and novitiate, Ed Pickard, Satts’ running chum, who has never fished before, therefore. Which is why Chris organised Orvis guide/instructor, Brian Robinson (surely one of the best guides in Hampshire) to assist Ed’s entry to our lovely world.

Coffee and early day exchanges done, it was to the riverbank, for some explanation from Brian, of the history of the English chalk stream, and on this bridge


from where we all wondered at the streaming weed, the clear water and the odd fish, holding quite deep. A Mayfly excited, but there were not many, which led to a discourse on what worries so many – the state of our chalk streams and the impacts of man’s actions on them. (The S&TC UK deserve all our support for raising the profile of this problem)

Kitted up, Chris and I walked the beat, leaving Brian to get Ed casting, and before long, Brian declared that Ed was “getting it”. So many listen to his casting technique suggestions, he said, and then put them into practice, but then just as quickly, forget to. But Ed, an eager listener (and hearer!) quickly understood the 10pm to 1pm orthodox, and whilst once or twice the rod dropped to below the horizontal on the back cast (and whose doesn’t some times) and Brian already knew that Ed, who was already throwing the line sufficiently well to go to the river bank, was ready for lesson two…fish spotting!”

And there were quite a few, on view.

There was little fly life though, just a May or two and a few small olives, and the fish were lying well down in the water, so, in due course, Brian opted for a weighted nymph for Ed’s first cast to the flow.

Many forget that for a beginner, hooking is one thing, but playing, netting and landing, is yet another skill which has to be learnt. But how do you learn to do this before you have learned to hook something. Well Brian’s answer to this was cunning. Both went into serious spotting mode and it was Brian who cast to a targeted fish, and with his considerable experience, he secured an induced take quite quickly, whereupon he handed the rod to Ed, and calmly talked him through the process of getting the fish to net and bank, which he did!

So now it was Ed’s turn, solo! And under Brian’s tutelage, and either side of a delicious picnic, he landed four fish on his own.

hope he will by now be kitted up and ready for another day on the water, for I have rarely seen someone casting as well as he, and so quickly, and his joy from a successful first ever fly fishing experience was palpable., and we were all pleased for him.


Where next for him? Frensham Flyfishers…and the Wey, will be my bet, for round two! Wonder whether Brian is available!

Happily, Satts and I caught ten fish, or so, an assortment of browns and grayling, and at least two of the browns were wild fish. (But this day was not about us!)

The Ginger Beer Beat is picturesque and is kept (keepered) beautifully as I hope these pictures show:





Post script: I regret, I am not a fan of the River Test, because it seems to me just daft to have interfered with its natural stock of brown trout by introducing overgrown, aggressive feeding, non breeding rainbows on many, if not all the beats downstream of the A303, in an astonishing trashing of such noble heritage, simply for commercial gain. If those of these beats’/businesses’ clients, for whom catching is so important, still need to, I commend them to the many ‘put and take’ ponds, where they can fish and catch to their heart’s content. For they are not anglers.

Will the owners of these famous beats relent? For it is they who are responsible for this ‘trashing’. Now there’s a challenge…!

So why was I there, then? A hypocrite? No! I was there at the invitation of Chris Satts, who I like enormously and with whom I have fished before and hope to again, and, because of the reputation of a beat, lovingly cherished by Orvis – even if it is slightly overfished.






Dear Reader…

Across the top of this page are references to my two ‘other’ quests.

Please click on ‘La Belle France” and click on the ‘Follow Blog by email’ in the right hand margin to read my latest adventures across La Manche.

Please click on ‘Land of My Fathers’ and do the same to follow my adventures in Wales, where this week I have added the counties of Bridgend, Newport and Torfaen to my catch list, and also enjoyed some splendid fishing on the exceptional R Monnow.

Tight lines…the Mays will be here very soon!



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The Duke of Northumberland owns Albury, through which picturesque village, and in the shadow of the North Downs, runs the diminutive River Tillingbourne, en route to the River Wey, which it joins near Guildford. Toward the western edge of the village is a fishery called Vale End.

Here, the stream offers flow to refresh two man-made lakes which are stocked with rainbow trout for still water preferees.

The shallow stream passes gracefully by the lakes, under the protection of Belmont Wood, and its deciduous heights. It is sandy and gravelly.

The Tillingbourne has a natural stock of small wild brown trout, so there can be no reason to stock the stream, because the more aggressive US ‘arc de ciel’ will likely eliminate the tiny indigenous locals. But escapees, there must be, and so I found there to be.

I have fished it before here, and didn’t (!), and said I would return, and did today on a grey late April morning with the temperature fighting hard to hit double digits, and wrapped up accordingly. There was no fly life or hatch this day, so any residents would be ‘eyes down’ and I set up a duo rig on light tackle for a hoped for, couple of hours entertainment.

When a greedy rainbow realises it is hooked in a seven feet width of stream, it has choices. It can go up and up, or down and further down, or up and down. It can seek refuge in the multitude of tree roots at its disposal, and whichever, on light tackle, the rod holder needs patience. Writers talk about the angler ‘bullying’ the fish into submission, as opposed to the fish bullying the angler. I get that with sailfish in the Indian Ocean, but in a Surrey stream, and a 3-weight…come on!

But I did, and twice.

The first, a solid muscled beaut of about 3lbs,


and the other, a rather pallid and sky blue version of maybe 1 1/2lbs.


….but no browns!

I am still trying, but…

Defensive, negative…me?

Me, he (I) responded indignantly !

Believe me, I have tried.

I have sat in front of my MacBook Air and for hours, searching the internet in hope of a breakthrough find.

Regardless, I have walked the banks of so many streams in that flattest of counties called Bedfordshire, peering amongst weed, along tempting margins, wading occasionally as I like to do, looking for nymphal shucks, imago forms, and begging to see a swirl, a rise, or any evidence at all, of the presence of salmo truta.

I have spoken with countless fishers in said counties asking where and whether. And so many have given me tips, even though most were just over the Herts border!


Merseyside…was once a part of Lancashire, so I should have set my sites on our Counties as established before 1997! But I didn’t. Malcolm Greenhalgh was adamant. There are no trout in Merseyside.

There is no doubt that there are probably brown trout in both counties, somewhere, but now I wish, dear reader, to refer you to the study and detail contained in ‘Freshwater fishes in Britain…the species and their distribution’, a work published by Harley Books, and compiled by several, in conjunction with the EA, and the Joint Nature Conservation Agency.

The distribution map on page 111, clearly shows the indigeneity of our native trout species…but look. Where is distribution of our fario wanting?

My goodness – Bedfordshire and Merseyside!

So now what am I going to do?

Got it! I am heading for the Severn Bridge

Wish me luck




Readers will know that my first experience of fly fishing was at school at Christ College in Brecon, which is probably why, and to this day, the river Usk remains my favourite trout stream. I have fished it on numerous beats from way down in the town of Usk, and all the way upstream to close to Sennybridge. I have been lucky enough to catch many wild trout in Powys.

En route to Cardiff for a board meeting in the ‘noughties’ I stopped off overnight at the Bell in Skenfrith, and landed half a dozen fish in the early evening from their beat on the Monnow, so ‘netted’ Monmouthshire.

And last year, in the then S&TA, Annual Auction, I ‘won’ a season’s membership of the Merthyr Tydfil AA, and fished their lovely waters with Gareth Lewis and Daniel Popp, to capture the county of Merthyr Tydfil, too.

So surely the logical extension of this is to…well, of course it is!!!

There are twenty two (22) counties in Wales, and I have caught wild trout in just three of them, so in 2016, I hope to add to this number.

I will target South Wales, and the plotting and planning begins NOW!

Any help and tips will be more than welcome!!






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