If you are anything like me that first ever trout will be seared on the memory, right up there as one of the best ever moments of your life. Occasionally I re-visit the exact spot where I caught mine and more decades on that I care to recall from that blustery April day the river is precisely as it was that day.
The River Meon in Hampshire is not up there in the pantheon of chalkstream greats. It doesn’t get many mentions by the giants of fly fishing nor does it feature much in where-to-fish directories or magazines, but it is, even though I am biased, a perfect small stream. Fast, not very wide, with great weed growth, wonderful hatches and about 10 miles to the east of the Itchen it is, petty well to all intents and purposes, an all wild trout river. In its lower reaches just up from the Hamble where it joins the Solent the sea trout are prolific and salmon used to run up as high at Wickham Mill.
I have not visited the Meon on the opening day of the season since I was a teenager; so on Thursday (3 April) the official opening day I determined to turn back the clock. Opening my fly box I was transported back to that first day as the April array of Dark Olives, Grannom, Greenwell’s Glory, Hawthorn and March Browns winked back at me in the afternoon sun like old friends. I genuinely felt excited and nervous tying on the Grannom, deliberating ignoring those modern day interlopers the Klinkhammer and Parachute Adams.
Sight fishing is not the general mode de la jour for the Meon. It is one of those streams best fished by speculatively casting in the margins, along the current between the weed and into the open spaces. In the fast water and with all that weed the fish are too hard to spot, so unless you see a riser nine times out ten the first time you see a fish is when it comes up your fly. Ring rusty after months away from the rivers (well that is my excuse) I missed the first fish of the day who boldly came straight up to the Grannom from under a trailing branch alongside the bank. The photographer asked whether it was normal to swear so much. Giving up on the Grannom which was ignored by a couple of risers I switched to the Dark Olive, but against the gloom of the dark clouds it was too dark to track on the water. So sacrificing tradition on the altar of practicality out came the Parachute Adams. Much better.
Upstream we went, prospecting in all the likely spots with no success but just being able to track the fly on the water and get some satisfaction from well executed casts was something of a pleasure in itself. The photographer got out the hyper-zoom to take some line and fly on the water shots. At one particularly tasty looking eddy behind some woody debris I pinged in the fly, came up dry on the first cast and as I fired it back in I turned to the photographer saying, “Canyou believe such a perfect spot does not have a fish?” It is no credit to me that the photographer pressed the shutter on the rising fish before it even occurred to me to strike. But no matter, it was one of those kindly fish that hooks itself and, for me at least, a new season is now officially christened.
I was fishing at Exton Manor Farm on the River Meon in Hampshire. Clickhere for more details.