There are some days when it just goes right – even if it doesn’t start out that way. I set off from the hotel at Southampton airport and promptly headed west and not, as I should have done, east on the M27, and without my prescription sunglasses, left sitting in Perth. A U-turn and back up the M27, then the M3 onto the A34 then turn off for Stockbridge, right towards Leckford, left on the single track quaintly named road ‘The Bunny’ to Longstock before turning right – ROAD AHEAD CLOSED. The battery died on the phone so lost the Google Maps instructions but the nice man from Open Reach let me through his roadblock, with directions, and I arrived at Longstock Lake on the John Lewis Leckford Estate (https://leckfordestate.co.uk/) 15 minutes late but in time for a relaxing coffee before pitting my wits against trout in gin clear water. So not the most auspicious start but boy, did it improve.
Longstock Lake nestles in the valley alongside the famous River Test, that icon of clear chalk stream trout fishing with quaint pubs like ‘The Mayfly’ on its banks. The water of the lake is no less clear and trout can be readily seen (even without my sunglasses) cruising along, as they do. The day had been arranged by my hosts and as one of 6 guests, some relatively new to fishing, I turned up with my Hardy Smuggler, Hardy reels and line and selection of flies in 3 boxes that would suffice for a few years let alone a few hours. Three casting coaches were available but my kit led them to determine that I wouldn’t be requiring their services so they could concentrate on the other guests – but here’s a fly to begin with.
And so it was that I found myself sneaking up on trout, trying to hide behind reeds, as I approached the water for 2.5 hours fishing, followed by a sumptuous lunch and another 2.5 hours fishing. I tried various patterns throughout the day and caught fish on almost all of them but it was in the afternoon that things really took off.
I set off from the lodge after coffee, wet the flies in the first bit of lake I came to which promptly sent 3 bow waves heading for deeper water and a lesson that this might not be as easy as I thought. Ten minutes after starting I had a good pull from a rainbow trout to the green damsel fly imitation, but missed it, and the next 3 but eventually I improved and hooked and landed my first trout of about 2lbs. An excellent fight on the light tackle and a bit of showboating by getting it on the reel to hear that screaming sound that anglers love as their quarry dives for the weeds and strips line from the reel – marvellous. Safely landed, hook removed (with wet hands) and the fish was promptly returned to the water. A quick relocation down the lake to fish an undisturbed patch and 5 minutes later another strong pull followed by the total loss of fly, leader and braided loop from the fly line as a good sized fish grabbed the lot. Mental note – check your kit if you haven’t used it for some time, especially if the trout are larger – 45 years of fishing and I still get some of the basics wrong. A total of 4 trout were caught for the morning session ranging between 1.5-2.5lbs, all rainbows, all in good condition and all returned safely to fight another day, and each on a different fly. No photos – flat battery remember! The last being on a daddy-long-legs fished on the surface – great fun.
Lunch, and I have to say I had to excuse myself (quite rude really) to get back to the water with all batteries, mine and the phone, recharged. Sticking with the ‘daddy’ I moved to a different location and quietly approached the water where I saw a good sized fish cruising along and feeding at the surface.The daddy was despatched just in front of the last rise and without any hesitation the fly disappeared and I tightened into a good fish. At first the fish fought strongly but rather disappointingly it ran out of steam way before any of the smaller ones I had caught in the morning but it was netted, photographed (whether it liked it or not) and quickly returned to the water to fight another day – if it gets itself into better shape.I persevered a bit longer with the daddy but no interest – jut like that, they’re on then they’re off onto something else. So I changed for a yellow nymph and just as the others appeared I landed my 2nd of the afternoon. I gave up my ‘easy casting’ spot to one of the less experienced anglers and moved back to where I’d picked up 2 fish that morning. I covered a lot of fish, tried lots of flies and picked up another 2, each about 1.5-2lbs – then it went quiet for about an hour – nothing doing, lots of flies tried but just one of those quiet phases.
Time for a change of location. Move the swans out of the way and fish the wee bay that had not been touched all day. I changed back to a green nymph but this time with a bit of sparkle about it (top left fly in the picture) and flicked it to my right, about 10 feet, to wet the fly and bang – straight away into a fish, duly landed, photographed and returned. Then another , and another and another and by the time the next hour had passed I had landed 7 fish, all on the same fly and all in the same bay, watched by the disgruntled swan.To be honest I lost count but I estimate I landed and returned somewhere between 13 and 16 trout that day between 1.5 and 3lbs – fantastic. As the title says – never knowingly undersold.