This new page is dedicated to the clubs and individuals who generously have offered access to their water to supporters of the WTT, whose ambition to fish some exclusive beats have fuelled some impressive contributions to WTT funds. It also recognises the incredible dedication of Denise Ashton who organises and manages this amazing program, which now contributes more than £50000 per annum, to the WTT’s important works.
As I have remarked previously, this seems to me to be the ideal ‘win – win’ situation, and I have enjoyed the six experiences of which I write, immensely.
6 The Leigh & Cradley Brook 
A busy summer last year meant that I was unable to take up this Lot, but Roger Smith kindly agreed that I could this year. When the weathers made even this look unlikely, I could not abide having to make a similar appeal as last year, and the opportunity to head a few miles north up the M5 after enjoying the Little Avon, in my end of season ‘dash’, prompted a note to Roger who….well, see what follows!
I over-nighted in historic Malvern and the next morning, I met Roger near Storridge then we drove the few miles through narrow country lanes to the beat, which is leased to the Leigh & Cradley Brook Fishery. Roger explained that the Brooks are in fact one, and this beat of circa one mile was fishing well, and that a ‘clink and dink’ rig was the preferred one. In truth, we spent more time chatting broadly as keen anglers do, and he was flattered to be asked to sign a copy of his book, ‘Flyfishing the Welsh Borderlands’, a splendid guide and compendium of the history of fishing in this region, ideas on how access its multitude of streams and rivers, and the flies which have been used with success over many years. It was published by Coch-y-Bonddu Books last year, to great acclaim. A convert to tenkara (he wrote to tell me of his six fish from the Wye later the same day); an Area Secretary of the Grayling Society; a busy man and passionate fisher, I wish we had had more time together. I know that I would have learned much from him.
This is another of Britain’s wonderful small streams and about which I wrote about when I caught five wild fish on a beautiful April day at Tundridge Mill – https://afishermansjourney.com/category/worcestershire/
Downstream from there, it is still narrow, wooded and overhung; there are many subsurface features, mainly fallen limbs and root systems; little weed of any substance, at least when I was there; and long flat shallow glides where wading had to be done so carefully. Access from above was over wired fences to keep cattle from stumbling into the stream, and through tall nettles of five feet and more, or dying fronds of various wild flowers.
This is a challenging fishery, for sure, and, I will let my pictures tell the tale…
Piles of bank side debris, suggested severe floodwaters from time to time, and served as a reminder of the care and respect that even the smallest of streams demands.
A fish on an elk hair caddis, quite early on, fooled me into thinking this would be a busy morning,
and there was only one more, sometime later on a PTN, after I relented and went subsurface.
Memo to me – perhaps I would have had more fish if I had followed Roger’s advice!!
5 The Little Avon (2012)
Avon, Afon, or Abona… an old Brythonic word, and all three mean ‘river’, hence, the ’little river’.
And so this is, flowing as it does, from the east of Wickwar, near Horton, passing near Charfield, Stone and Berkeley, and entering the River Severn via Berkeley Pill. In total, probably no more than fifteen miles in length, and for most of it, of a width of mere feet.
The Berkeley Estate Fishing Syndicate of 75 members, generously committed their
water this year, as they, proudly, have done so before. Their water flows from Damery Bridge,
through the seven miles to Berkeley Castle. The Club is active in the River Fly Monitoring Programme.
My host was Toby Jefferies, and in our early correspondence, he hoped that I could come down in the May season, but as we all know…! Well I had all but given up hope for this year, when a window, both in time, and luckily in weather terms, presented itself, and I was delighted when Toby gave the ’thumbs up’ to a September visit.
We, me, Toby and his lovely wife Emma, met over a hearty breakfast of delicious Gloucestershire bacon and sausage at the Tortworth Farmshop, close to Damery Bridge. Poring over Toby’s OS map, he showed what he had described to me in his welcoming note –
“There is circa 6 miles of river from The Kennel’s Bridge, opposite the Berkeley Castle Meadow … running to Damery Bridge, which is set in amongst St Michael Wood (near the M5 service station of the same name).
The best fly fishing sections are a short section near the A38 called cascades and then two longer sections, through from Middle Mill to the M5 (tree lined, tight and a little tricky, so fished less than some spots) and from the M5 to Damery Bridge which is the most picturesque (and fished more heavily).
It’s all good small stream fishing though – can be tricky at times but plenty of dry fly sport when the time is right – I use a 6’3” #2wt (well I did until I snapped the tip off in January) but 7′ #3wt is usual. I mainly dry fly during the warm months, I’m spoilt living nearby and I know when it’s just right. “
It is all very well seeing what is to come on a map, but once mobile, the memory of what was plain to see normally evaporates, and luckily for me, Toby took me on a short guided tour and noting the best parking spots he set off to leave me to it, for being a small stream, he noted that – “It’s best fished alone”, and from our first stop
a rising fish (at 930-ish) excited!
Returning to where we first stopped in the middle of the upper section, it was on with an elk hair caddis, to a 3lb tippet, 3wt line and my trusty Loomis. The river flows below steeply wooded hillsides here, and slipping into the water needed care for the water was low, and the glides were smooth and I needed to minimise disturbance. I was searching for feature and scanning the water for feeding fish, and very soon spotted movement in the ripple behind a belly of weed,
and two casts later, a fish of six ounces or so, splashed its way into my net.
I took my time moving upstream, noting that the bottom of the river was gravely in part and produced very easy wading, but eager to avoid rippling by leaning into the side of the stream, released clouds of muddy waters, from its silted sides. No doubt winter rains flush this through during the closed season, and I bet this cleaned stream looks pristine in Spring! It is really pretty, and at its upper reach has enough weed for cover and good flylife, and at this late stage in the season fish rose all morning, and I was happy to take four browns and a solitary grayling, under sunny skies. And all of my fish were taken on Toby tied flies!!
The Cascades, downstream of the A38 are another matter.
Access was interesting, wading through one of two culverts to where the river flows below and between grassy meadows,
and in spite of a sandy bottom, the weed growth is prolific, even with the unwelcome presence of four swans. So named after debris from roadmaking was carefully positioned to create flow and feature, Toby had told me this stretch fishes well toward dusk, and at 1pm, I saw only a couple of fish rising just down from the right hand culvert, and netted one of them.
I had to fish to try the middle section, too, at Middle Mill, and a PTN in the deep waters of the mill pool, yielded another grayling.
Of the three beats, I preferred the seclusion and the intimacy of the top water where scrambling onto roots whose anchoring earths had been washed away got one into two or three feet of cool clear water, and where there was in the overhanging mix of bush, canopy of mature trees, and flowing weeds, plenty of security for a good head of wild fish; and foodstuff aplenty to satisfy them.
A small stream of the type I adore.
Also, Toby writes his own blog which chronicles the year of his river, and I thank him for his kind words!
4 The Meon (2012)
Maybe it was ‘Botham on the fly’ which made me want to fish this beat. I fished with Beefy on the Tummel near Pitlochry, in the mid-eighties, when he was taking a short break from the first of his many Hannibal-esque charity walks, and I was living in Edinburgh. I remember that the rest of us were taking a dram of J&B well after dark, when he was still on the water. When he appeared, he was grinning with satisfaction, and rightly so, as he revealed a 5lb sea trout…there may be a message here…you decide!
Or maybe it was because he was accompanied on this particular episode of this Discovery Shed series, by one of my favourite rock stars….who I happened to bump into at Keflavik when returning from this year’s trip to Iceland with Fraser, just few months ago? It matters nil!
In my view, the Meon, a pristine chalk stream, has equal claim to quality as some of its more famous Hampshire neighbours. It is a small classic, though, but just as difficult to access, until the WTT Auction came along!
And the WTT has contributed to the conservation of this beat at Soberton, near Droxford, which Howard Taylor lets through his UpStreamDryFly business, which is why Denise came to visit to explain just what had been undertaken.
My companion for this two rod Lot, was Paul Jennings,
a contributor to the same programme, not only by his generous bidding, but also through offering his stretch of the Chess (one I have been privileged to fish when the Mays are up) to other WTT devotees.
I was on scene at about 10am, and peering over Cutts Arch,
the fish in the deep pool were feeding, and there seemed to be some big chub competing with both small browns, and some sizeable ones, on what was tumbling over the small sill below me. (Denise, later, also advised us that the odd sea trout is to be found in this samepool) Paul arrived a little later than we had both expected (SatNav may not be all that it is made out to be) and by the time he did, I had already had a 1 1/2lb fish to my net on an elk hair caddis.
Although it felt just a little like still water fishing, and I would judge that most anglers fish this same pool on arrival, so why the fish are not line shy, I do not know?
That the weather on that day was not great is not important.
As far as two WTT devotees are concerned-
– We had a great day out together
– We were chuffed that Denise took the trouble to come and see us, and brief us on what is being done….the ‘before’/ the WTT in action –
– We were impressed by what we saw….the ‘after’
– And, we caught a few fish…a bonus!
In truth, this is a tricky fishery, or at least, I realised that this tiny stream deserves a respect and patience that the ‘visitor’ has to appreciate, so I envy those who have regular access to it…
My only ‘advice’ if you want to fish it is…Go for it! BID in 2013 !!
3 The Loddon (2012)
Steve Webster told me about the excellence that is the Loddon in its upper reaches, and a Lot in this year’s Auction gave me an opportunity to try it for myself!
My host on the Gresham Angling Society (a very private club)
water was Tony Richards, and Denise, we all met, on what turned out to be the most glorious end of May mornings on which even the drive out of London on the M3 was a joy. It was one of those special Spring mornings that makes our countryside so exceptional – birdsong and blossom, clear blue skies, bright light and sunshine, and delicious warmth, which sponsored hopes for the Spring idyll of fly hatches and hungry rising fish!
My first exposure to this stream was after bumping over luxurious farmland, and it lay beneath a line of bushes and was ‘invisible’ to the uninformed eye…I discovered a tiny stream but with deceptively deep pools and filled with streaming ranunculus, a typical chalk stream with crystal clear water….a narrow waterway, protected by hawthorn bushes in glorious pink bloom…and with then, an early day breeze from the West which was just enough to snare the careless cast, but the water was so clear that to close on the odd rising fish then,
was risky and a longer line/cast, even more so in such a narrow channel…
My first casts produced nothing, and Tony drove us a quarter of a mile or so, in his trusty Defender, to a wider piece of water,
and the runs between the streaming weed delivered almost immediately.
The next couple of hours were divine
and made the more so by the surroundings,
which in reality were only a stone’s throw from one of Hampshire’s thriving commercial and retail centres, but one ringed by rolling chalk downland, into which’ treasures, one has to hope, the sprawl, is constrained.
It was a pleasure to witness a visit by an EA team who were there to measure flow strengths.
We drove a few miles downstream to Sherfield. A wade across the diminutive River Lyde was followed by a picnic lunch beside the Loddon where our attention to Tony’s fare, was at once, diverted off stream to watch the meadow’s Fresian herd edging closer in increasing inquisitive mode, then back onto the stream as rises excited. Here the river begins to take on a slower meander, as it meanders between large mature deciduous somethings, and no doubt our prey are matched in number by the roach it must hold. But what we sought are there in number, and on the basis of my success that afternoon, slightly more sizeable too, than at Old Basing.
The Gresham water is very well cared for, and I applaud the officers of its club, for their diligence in protecting it in its natural finery, and for allowing me to fish it…I had the most lovely day, curtailed only by the need to return to London or a dinner engagement. I hope that Tony and Denise stayed on for the evening opportunity!
2 The Colne and the Holme (2011)
A founder member of the Wild Trout Society, I remain a devotee in its, now, more tax efficient charitable status as the Wild Trout Trust, and bid for several lots in this year’s auction.
Securing Lot # 171 in March, I welcomed the opportunity to fish with Paul Gaskell,
of whom more later, in June, because this might have enabled me to fish and ’net’ South Yorkshire. But before this means was even a possible, I was already there, as My Readers will know! [see April 2011]
But a note to Paul enquiring whether I could parlay his guiding in the South Riding, to some time in West Yorkshire, produced a positive response for which I was grateful, and entirely, it seemed, within the spirit of how we fly fishers behave.
Paul is one the small full time team of five (now, six) which does the work of which we are all proud, and testified to, by the enormous sum which was generated from members in this year’s Auction, and was of the order of £50000. He, is a passionate outdoorsman and intellect, and the WTT, and therefore, we too as members , are lucky to have him. A PhD, and father to a handsome young son with his PhD-ed partner , he/they (and their energetic greyhound!) live a lovely life together, and I wish them happiness…he is great company, and our chatting during the ride to Huddersfield was illuminated by his love for his work and his care for the environment. Some conversations of this type can veer toward the negative, the concern voiced in dire terms…but his tone was positive, but realistic, and constructive…he is a ‘builder’, and I was energised by his enthusiasm.
The WTT Newsletters chronicle the activities it conducts, and you will find there is fishing to be found which remains ‘free’, and of this, much is in urban areas, where programmes have been devised to seek to improve the water quality by the removal of detritus,
and more, to encourage the next generation, to understanding the value and vitality of our streams. The early work of the Wandle Trust is to some, an example of what can be achieved. And it is working, and the WTT’s ‘Trout in the Town’ shows just how well, but so much more has to be done. But without wishing to sound negative, no one, reading of the joy of finding trout fry in Carshalton earlier this year, cannot have felt pride for the efforts of Theo Pike and Will Tall, and their group. And all of they who are so committed to such programmes, share their learnings and give of their time, as does Paul…but it’s tough. Just how many tyres and supermarket trolleys are there subsurface in trout waters? Far too many is the answer, and we saw them this day on our first river –
My ‘quest’ has taken me to lovely places. I have discovered that wild trout can be found throughout England. Many of my days have been spent in tiny rural streams, and there are more trout in these, because there are more of them, than in the rivers which are written up in the fishing press, which one imagines are because these are more easily accessed. Overlooked, are the streams which flow through busy places.
And I understand this. We fishers enjoy solitude, for all the benefits which counterbalance our busy lives. So who wants to fish in sight of a bus garage, anyway? [see Greater London!] But…and this closes the loop, so to speak, as to why the WTT focuses its education programmes in towns where it can, hopefully, influence more effectively, at least as far as numbers are concerned.
Whatever my first thoughts about the river flowing through Huddersfield were, after observing the obligatory traffic cone or two, I was thrilled to see the spreading rings of rising fish. And in the heat of an August afternoon, and in its brightness, I knew with Paul’s thoughtful guiding, it should be possible to net another county. And if my first fish, caught on his rod, rigged with two weighted nymphs, cast to run along a fast run only a couple of feet deep, produced snags and misses then a grayling, I registered the key point about the grayling need for good water!
So whilst traffic cones are artistically disgusting in trout streams, presumably they are not contaminants! A wade back to the town bridge, under which we had seen a golloping rise earlier, produced, after just two casts, a lovely trout of ten ounces or so, to a CdC olive.
Forget the ‘county’, or rather my ‘netting’ of another…this trout was a tribute to cleanliness, and to the efforts of all those who believe in restoration of our wonderful waters. And especially to Beth Allcock and her team at Greenstreams who have achieved so much in improving the Huddersfield rivers.
We walked upstream awhile, and cast into a tributary of the Colne, almost alliteratively named, the Holme
and, together, caught half a dozen or so wild trout, and right up to Bridge Street, and even if the felt sole of my left wading boot did fall off, (and all credit and thanks to Orvis for replacing them very quickly!)my memories of a lovely afternoon with Paul, live on. For me four trout from urban streams…all of them on dry fly. The rather pale worm on a hook at the end of a static line tied to a stick wedged between rocks sometime ago, opposite an old mill…just reminded me…I am not sure, of what. But this is an urban stream!
1 The Willow Brook (2011)
There is only one trout stream in Northamptonshire. I am happy to share its history which, Secretary, Mike Palmer suffixes his emails with –
“The Willow Brook starts life in the industrial estates of Corby, Northamptonshire, and runs for about 15 miles until it enters the River Nene at Elton. Historically there has been heavy metal pollution from steel production until Corby steelworks closed in 1980. The steelworks took water from Eyebrook Reservoir for cooling and conveniently discharged it into the Willow Brook.
The first record of stocking with trout was in 1954 when Peter Tombleson, Editor of the Angling Times, stocked a short length near to his home at Woodnewton. Four years later The Willow Brook Flyfishers was formed and 3 ½ miles of river was stocked annually. This continued for the next 46 years until 2004 when an Advisory Visit from the Wild Trout Trust started changes in management which are ongoing. We have introduced a hatchery box, installed flow deflectors, cleaned gravel beds and ceased stocking in half of the water.”
Whilst the Willow Brook Flyfishers is a small club of just 30 members,
their generosity stretches to offering a two rod visit to their water in the WTT Annual Auction, and having missed out in 2010, I was determined not to, this year, and thanks to the wizardry of e-sniper, did not!
[Forgive me for recommending the IT way of winning bids via on-line auctions, for as I see it, whilst bids may rise higher than some would consider reasonable, there will always be two winners, which is rare….and by the way, the WTT is making a big difference in my view]
Mike ‘hosted’ my visit thoughtfully, suggesting that we walked parts of the beats in the late afternoon, prior to an evening fish, and after supper in The White Swan…and a good pint of local ale! But first things first.
A short drive to the most beautiful village of Fotheringhay, in the grounds of which Abbey, Mary, Queen of Scots was executed in 1587 on the orders of Queen Elizabeth 1…and my first sighting of this pretty brook. Clear, limestone, narrow, waving weeds, overhanging trees…the odd dart of a disturbed juvenile, spied between high nettles and dying cow parsley and grasses on the set aside of a farmer with whom the club has a symbiotic relationship!
And Chub…some of the biggest I have seen were cruising quietly, while around them, busy dace were sipping off the surface. We walked three parts of the water, and Mike shared his knowledge of his water and I sipped on this as busily as the dace I was not interested in!
I picked up a ridiculously obvious tip from him…look in the spider webs to see what is hatching…how long have I been fishing? My sense is that Mike defaults to nature and rejects the current nonsense that fly pattern is unimportant, and secondary to precise presentation of whatever takes your fancy! He is mainly, like me, a dry fly fisher.
So supper with Mike and Ian Canadine, was followed by an evening fish, which for me, wading upstream from the bridge below Martins Farm produced five uninvited dace onto my carefully presented elk hair caddis, and a growing sense of frustration when I never thought any of the rises I cast to, were to the spotties I sought, that produced these slippery, silvered, delicately rouged finned, little ‘coarse’ devils. And a quick drenching rain shower improved nothing, nor did the winds nor the fading light in which I had to rework my leader, spoiled by too long back casts into the enticing grasses behind and beside me,
nor did the returning Ian, who had a 3lb chub AND a 10” wild brown on a black klinkhammer…maybe Northamptonshire was not ready for me?
The highlight of my evening was an excited Mike, who, seeing fish moving in riffles somewhere below the Farm bridge, with spent olives afloat, caught a ‘small’ brown…..and then….the largest brown he has taken in all his years on his water. He was justifiably excited. A fish of more than 18”, weighing in, at close on 3lbs, and taken on a Sherry Spinner. He was beside himself…who would not have been? And a celebratory pint at the White Swan (albeit rather late) seemed reasonable, as I considered ’tomorrow’!
It was dry, sunny and only a little windy, and in those conditions, Mike had suggested that I worked the bottom of the water on the Nassington Road stretch, where for the right handed caster, the trees offered some protection from the westerly winds. A walk some quarter of a mile and I was into the water and hopeful. I saw some lovely chub, and some frisky shoals of dace, and at least two small trout which saw me long before my first cast to them.
Wading varied from 6” over gravel, to waist deep on the edge of bends where fallen trees had scoured out silt edged deeps, and care was essential. Bravery was important because the options were limited, and even within a six foot breadth, it was either a nettle attack escape, or a watery, over the top of the waders soaking….all fishers know what I mean. But in such small waters, this is always a surprise, and in particular, when seconds before you were treading on wet ranunculus, and wondering where the fish were!?
Any way…I caught nor rose a single brown. But added to my catch of the now, dreaded, dace! And saw more Chub (there were some serious specimens below the bridge here), and began to wonder if it was not to be!
So I drove back to Woodnewton, and began to cast into the interesting runs and deeps there, and it started to rain…hard…and even hiding under leafy fronds could not stop me from a right soaking. But when, eventually the clouds passed (for twice I ventured, prematurely, from my hideaway, and twice more a soaking!) I walked down to where, on the previous evening’s tutorial, Mike showed me where his team had manhandled one hundred tons of gravel to create new flows and breeding grounds. These were not pebbles, but stones and the work effort that must have been needed to create this stretch was massive. Wading to it, I noted the swirl of a fish in shallows at the top of the bar, that did not look chub-like! Tail fin out of the water, was it raising caddis from the stones, perhaps? To the outside of the gravelly mound, revealed by low water, in the faster run under the left bank, two fish scattered upstream when they saw me. And there’s was not chub like flight. But there was movement and some feeding no more than a decent 15 foot cast away…probably not the frightened, and my second cast, with a yellow klinkhammer at the serious end produced a ferocious take, and an excited prospector, knowing he was in danger of achieving what he came to achieve, netted a 14” Northamptonshire fish, when the same prospector thought that a ‘blank’ was most likely.
The rain was followed by bright sunlight, and this must have had the awakening effect on the river that a shower can…31 now!
I am immensely grateful to Mike, who as a result of our fishy conversations, and who, in admiring my lovely Moreno rod, must have realised my interest in such aspects, thought to write to me with information on where to buy the silk lines and furled leaders he uses, which I now will do. Will these help me catch more fish…probably! And even if I don’t, my pleasure in using materials which our forebears used, will connect me with our influences.
Thank you, Mike
…thank you Willow Brook Flyfishers, and cheers to the WTT.
And….a thank you to Judy and Rod, for a very comfortable overnighter at the lovely Bridge Cottage