Friday, 21 April 2017

The past is history

Nether Wallop Mill, Hampshire, England
21st April 2017

I do my bit on social media, though I have to confess I really don't fully understand what I am doing. I think I know what a hash tag is, but am I really using them to maximum effect? I stare for hours at Google Analytics but generally spend more time trying to understand the jargon and the endless three letter acronyms. So when Leo and Chris, filmmakers extraordinaire mentioned, Kickstarter I nodded sagely, but truly ..... no idea.

They were convinced that this, the world's largest funding platform for creative projects, was the way to go for CHALK - The Movie. 

I was sceptical, but the world has moved on since that day I had to almost go down on bended knee to convince my local bank manager for a loan to fund Fishing Breaks in the early days. If I want the occasional wry smile I pull out that 1990 business plan.

But the past is, as they say, history. Today entrepreneurial DNA is not confined to the few. The Zuckerbergs and Musks are talismans for a whole new generation. It truly is possible to be a billionaire before you are 25. You don't need to inherit a fortune to make a fortune. A great idea is worth the toil of a million pairs of hands. As Nike have overwhelming proved, there is a generation who truly just do it.

So who am I to stand in the way of progress? And I am glad I didn't because I'd have been knocked down in the rush.

Since we launched the Kickstarter funding just 14 days ago we now have 55 backers who have taken us over 75% of the way to our target. It is a fascinating variety of people who are now involved in CHALK from those with a simple passion for all things fly fishing to the great and the good of the tackle industry. We even have a sprinkling of Hollywood stardust: Elaine Harris, Executive Producer of Carrie Pilby, now on general release across the US and coming to the UK May 1st, is on board as Associate Producer for CHALK.

There are all sorts of ways to be part of CHALK and we need your help for a final push to take us over the top. It is one of the requirements of Kickstarter that a project must be 100% funded or it folds. There are all sorts of way to be part of the movie (you can even be in it!), so check out our Kickstarter page and do tell your friends. The deadline is May 5th

Carrie Pilby (I assume the fish connection is a coincidence .....)


Just a little bit nerve-wracking yesterday as it was judgment day on the Bullington Manor restoration by that most tricky of audiences, the Fishing Breaks guides.

We were having our pre-season get together; gossip, lunch and some fishing. Yes, that is what we do for fun - go fishing. 

This year we headed for the River Itchen trying out our new beats at Shawford Park and Qing Ya Xi. Both looked in superb condition and with reports of a few Mayfly on Tuesday everyone did well. Diane even guided Alan into a fish, so maybe a little bit of dented professional pride?!

Before all that we walked Beat 1 at Bullington Manor. It has been a fairly benign spring so most of the banks have grown back; give it a few more weeks and you'll never see the difference. As for the river itself I was interested to hear everyone's opinion, but perhaps most of all Alan Middleton, as this is where he runs our chalkstream course.

I am delighted to say that Alan, as with all the others, vote it an unqualified success. What Alan particularly liked is the addition of more variety, texture and habitat to the water. He feels he will be able to demonstrate more about reading a river, showing where trout like to hang out and the best methods for coping with a variety of casting/presentation challenges.


I couldn't believe my eyes walking down the Kings Road this week; there was the The Otter's Tale proudly on display in the window of Waterstone's. 

I didn't know the fleshpots of Chelsea went in for a bit of natural history, but very happy that they do. I did momentarily think about trying to do a selfie but that was just a little on the vain side of weird.

If you are interested in knowing more about the book and otters in general, plus a smattering on the chalkstreams I'll be talking at the Wimborne Literary Festival 17/May, in Marlborough 3/June and Hungerford 20/June, plus a series of others in Surrey, Sussex, Dorset and Hampshire right through to 2018.

For tickets and more information click here.


Three random teasers to test your brain. No prizes for guessing the theme - politics! It is just for fun and the answers are at the bottom of the page.
1)      Which fly fishermen and author, famous for the phrase "the lamps are going out all over Europe", was Foreign Secretary at the outbreak of World War One?

2)      Which American general took time out from his D-Day preparation to fish the River Test in May 1944?

3)      Politicians are clearly don't appreciate the importance of the Mayfly. When was the last UK general election that was not in May or June?

Have a good weekend.

PS After Mrs May's announcement on Tuesday my Chalkstreams 2027 piece, which was largely political, has been consigned to the great junk bin in the sky. We will await developments .....

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director  

Quiz answers: 

1)   Edward Grey, 1st Viscount Grey of Fallodon  2) General Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower 3) April 9th 1992 when John Major defeated Neil Kinnock.

Friday, 14 April 2017

April rivers report and hatch update

News and tips for the chalkstreams this month

In this update:
Hatching this month
Tackle tip
April weather & climate statistics
Close seasons

Welcome to April

I must admit a few months ago I was worried as we ended 2016 on the back on the driest July-December in more than two decades. However, the rain gods have smiled on us since so you will find the April rivers full and sparkling.

You will see no shortage of hatches; plenty of olives of all sorts, a few grannom and the odd rogue hawthorn.

Difficult to be precise about timings as everything is early this year. I usually take my cue by the Bluebells in the wood at The Parsonage on the River Test. Some years we will not see a hint of blue until the opening May Day but this year today (13/April) they are in bloom.

My outings thus far have been generally successful. Plenty of fish being seen, that have overwintered well. They do have a  tendency to 'look' at flies, so regularly changing the pattern to a curious fish will often do the trick.

Happy Easter!


April days are always full of excitement as the new season starts; you are straining at the leash after months of confinement and there are new rods, lines, flies and assorted kit to be tried out for the first time.

Large Dark Olive
It is difficult not to let your mood, and by association your fishing tactics, be dictated by the weather that prevails on the day. 

On a sunny, spring day the river will look alive; on a gloomy, rainy day as dead as a door nail. But it is worth reminding ourselves that for the fish the water temperature, flow and insect activity changes very little from day to day.

For the early season angler it is cold winds that are the killer, especially when from the north or east. On days like this fish nymphs well down in the water or seek out sheltered spots. On better days wait for the temperature to rise around mid-morning and have Large Dark Olive patterns ready for the hatch or fish a Pheasant Tail Nymph just beneath the surface.

These are the four main groups to be found hatching on the chalkstreams during April:

Large Dark Olive
Kite's Imperial
This is the predominate hatch for the month and the default fly to fish if you are not certain what to try.

Nymph Pheasant Tail Nymph size 14
Emerger JG Emerger 14
Dun Kite's Imperial 14 (pictured)
JG Emerger
One of the two speciality hatches this month. This member of the sedge family will hatch for 10-14 days in great abundance, though the hatches may be very localised.

Grannom 14

Islay loch and boat
The second speciality hatch, usually appearing for two weeks starting in the last week of April.

Hawthorn 12-14
Black Gnat 16-18

These are the commonest creatures that trout eat; if you see a trout turn on their sides and 'wriggle' along they are dislodging shrimps from the gravel bed.

Green or Pink shrimp 12-14
Sawyer's Killer Bug 14


Not everyone approves of strike indicators but in choppy, dark water and at the start of the season when reactions are still slow (!) they are a great boon.


There seems to be no middle ground in April - the days are positively spring-like or as gloomy as can be, but it is the wind that is your enemy. A cold north or east wind will kill off any hatches as it chills down the surface film, sending any emerging nymphs back down to wait another day.
Source: Met Office 1981-2010 averages


The close season for grayling, all coarse fish and eels is in place until 15 June.
All game fish (brown trout, sea trout and salmon) are in season. 


Buy your fishing licence on-line

Buy flies on-line

Useful information

Fishing Breaks| |01264 781988 |

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Friday, 7 April 2017

My brush with fame

Nether Wallop Mill Friday April 7th 2017

As you may have heard I was a guest on the Radio 4 Saturday Live show hosted by the Rev. Richard Coles. Frankly, as my first time live on national radio, I was fully expecting to be scared out of my wits but it is a huge tribute to the production team at Broadcasting House that I felt nothing of the sort.

Presenters: Laura & Richard. Guests: Lady Carnarvon, Daniel O'Donnell, me & Samantha Renke.
In that old saw of the media world it truly did feel like a fireside chat, albeit shoehorned into an airless fifth storey recording studio somewhere along a multitude of labyrinthine corridors. Believe me if you are a keen watcher of the BBC sitcom W1A they truly do pick out the nicest parts of the building for the show.

But for all the architectural shortcomings they do try to look after staff and guests. Clearly when they remodelled the building a few years back someone on the design team had heard about the food and drink stations pioneered by Google. Sadly I don't think anyone troubled to get on a plane to check them out before including them in the final brief for the BBC. Now I have actually been to Google City in Palo Alto. The food stations are a thing of great wonder. Think Whole Foods dissected down to its finest elements by a committee of the ├╝ber cool. Then throw huge amounts of money at it. Well, you get the idea.

However, whether something was lost in translation or it was simply a budget thing, don't worry about your licence fee being misspent on frivolities. The version our national broadcaster prefers would fit well in the worst of a 1970's motorway service station. Fortunately fellow guest Lady Carnarvon had liberated some biscuits from the Highclere Castle gift shop.

Sustained more by adrenaline than the aristocratic fare my ninety minutes of fame sped by, so after the signing of the guest book and good byes I headed out of Broadcasting House chatting to the true talent of the show, the world renowned Irish singer Daniel O'Donnell.

As the two of us pushed through the revolving doors onto the plaza beyond I spied a large group gathered outside the coffee shop. Odd, I thought, why such a queue for coffee? Then suddenly one of the gathering saw the two of us, broke away and headed towards us at speed brandishing a pen. But he wasn't alone for long as the rest of the posse followed fast in his wake. Is this the fame? I thought. One radio show is all it takes.  But the cries of Daniel! Daniel! spoke of a greater truth as the autograph hunters elbowed me aside.

Daniel gave me one of those 'what can you do' shrugs by way of farewell before engaging with each and every one of his fans as I slunk away towards Oxford Circus to hail a cab. As I gave the driver my destination I fully expected him to look at me with stunned admiration, blurting out, 'Blimey guvnor, haven't I just heard you on the BBC?' but no such luck.  Fame is fleeting but at least I bettered Mr Warhol's fifteen minute predication.

If you would like to hear the show on BBC iPlayer here is the link.


Marina Gibson
Many of you raved about the chalkstream films made by the young, talented filmmakers Leo Cinicolo and Chris Cooper that I showcased via the Newsletters last year.

Well, I am delighted to say that Leo and Chris are trying to raise funds to make a feature length movie. I have a small involvement in that I will be writing the script but they, plus the poster girl of fly fishing, Marina Gibson, will be the stars.

If you'd like to be part of the project you can take a stake in the action via Kickstarter. There are all sorts of awards as part of your involvement including a day on the River Itchen with Marina herself.

Here is the link to Kickstarter

PS Chris Cooper is no relation to me!

Chris & Leo tell you about Chalk - The Movie
Chris & Leo tell you about Chalk - The Movie


Blue White XJ is not the next model from Jaguar - it is the tag on a twenty three year old osprey who I saw last week.

Ospreys, extinct in the UK at the start of the 20th century, have staged a remarkable comeback since the 1950's and here in the south we see them around this time of year as they return from overwintering in west Africa en-route for Wales and Scotland.

We know a bit about BWXJ because he was tagged as a young chick in Aberdeenshire; quite where he currently goes for the summer nobody is exactly sure but we do know he spends the winter in Senegal.

What we also know for sure is that for each of the past six years he has paused his migration for 3-4 days at Wimborne St Giles in Dorset. It is tempting to think that on his landfall after traversing the English Channel he is drawn by the sleepy charm of this olde worlde English village. However, I suspect the fish farm on the edge of the village, that supplies many of my brown trout, is a more likely draw.

So, I'm sorry to report that some of the fish intended for you later this season won't even make it to the river. But I have a feeling that you, like me and all of us that day who looked in wonder as he swooped down to deftly snag a fish from a rearing pond, won't mind too much.


It is Easter next week; it seems to have crept up out of the blue. I sneaked out on the opening day earlier in the week with four fish in an hour to a variety of dries: Cul de Canard, Klinkhammer and an Adams. Make whatever entomological deductions from that you wish, but I think the fish were just glad to see me!

Over the coming Easter weekend and the week following I am surprised to see that fully 15 of our beats, covering 11 rivers are open. They are, in no particular order by county:

Hampshire: Exton Manor Farm (Meon), Avington, Shawford Park & Qing Ya  Xi (Itchen). Broadlands (Test)

Berkshire: Donnington Grove (Lambourn) 

Derbyshire: Cottons (Dove). Haddon Hall (Wye & Lathkill)

Dorset: Ilsington & Wrackleford (Frome). Deans Court (Allen) 

Gloucestershire: Coln St Aldwyns (Coln)

Wiltshire: Avon Springs & Upavon (Avon). Fisherton de la Mere (Wylye)

Yorkshire: Mulberry Whin (Driffield Beck)

If you wish to check a date, best to use this link.

Here at Nether Wallop Mill we have slots available for tuition, courses and family days on April 15, 18, 19  & 20. Details here .....

River Meon - Wednesday

THE CHALKSTREAMS 2027 - 10 years post-Brexit

Ecdyonurus helveticus
I know I promised to bring you Chalkstreams 2027 in this issue but it will now be held over to next time.

However, I have good news from a regular client in Switzerland who wants me to assure you all that fish do rise also outside the EU, even to such non-EU-species as Ecdyonurus helveticus which was discovered by our very own Reverend Eaton who completed his monograph of all the world's known Ephemeroptera species in 1888.

I am sure David Davis will be factoring this into his negotiating strategy.


Starting next week I am going to be putting out a once-a-month newsletter special edition with news from the rivers, hatch updates and general fishing advice.

It is very much work a work in progress so I fully expect the style and content to evolve over time. That being the case I'd really welcome any comments you have. I'm sure I'll be missing stuff I should be telling you or stating too much of the obvious.

Your help, advice and feedback will be much appreciated.


Three random teasers to test your brain. No theme this week. It is just for fun and the answers are at the bottom of the page

1)      Who said "Absolute power corrupts absolutely"?

2)      Who were the six original signatories to the Treaty of Rome, the forerunner to the EU?

3)      When was the French baguette loaf invented? a) 1519  b) 1719  c) 1919

Have a good weekend.

Best wishes,
Simon Signature 
Founder & Managing Director  

Quiz answers: 

1)      Lord Acton in a letter written in 1887, a paragraph of which reads: "Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men."

2)      Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands.

3)      1919, after a change to the laws regulating bakery working hours required a fast baked loaf.