A bout of illness and the unprecedented bad weather has kept me at the vice rather than fishing. So a somewhat late start to the blog this year, but what a great way to start! The original plan was to go to Broadlands but this was not possible due to the size of the river with more rain on the way. Jon Hall the keeper at Broadlands posted a video of the river on Thursday and I had feared the whole thing would have to be called off. That coupled with the news that the upcoming rescheduled Grayling Festival had also been rescheduled (again) nearly broke me I don’t mind telling you. Not only that rescheduled for the weekend of Mothering Sunday, I like my nuts where they are thanks and unfortunately will not be able to attend.
So it was all looking rather bleak but a man of Charles Jardine's experience soon threw up a contingency plan enter Rockbourne Fishery. Small Stillwater’s are not my bag, to be honest, but Sunday's trip was more about getting together with like-minded anglers and having a bit of banter and the chance stretch your legs. I had not had much time to prepare my kit due to decorating duty immediately followed by a late supper while a good friend and I done some damage to a bottle of 12-year-old Bunnahabhain. Still, the adrenaline rush of the first fishing day of the year forced me out of bed early enough to get a cup of coffee and two Ipbrufen down my throat. I grabbed at random bits of tackle which was unusually really disorganised and I was fairly happy that I had enough kit to muddle through. I plugged the postcode into the sat nav from the website and was a little perplexed when I ended up in a housing estate in the New Forrest. The nearest thing to a fishery was a large puddle that I did not fancy my chances in. A careful check of the website and the correct address thankfully I was only ten minutes away. When I got there I was really impressed with the large cabin and an already toastie log burner. A few of the boys had already turned up and we all grumbled on a bit about the horrible weather. It was great to meet some new folks and catch up with some old friends. After the pleasantries it was time to tackle up, I had surprised myself with my packing plenty warm kit the right rod and reel bonza! I reached for the 8.5lb Rio Fluroflex Plus as I had been told there were some big fish to be had here. Only to find when I took the elastic from the spool there was like 9” of tippet there…..bollocks. I scrabbled through my bag and checked my little chest pack that I had brought and sure enough, another spool was nestled in the chest pack and there was at least 12” on that spool….tosser! I eventually found a spool of 5lb and thought that will need to do. I stuck on a floating line and a single blob and wandered up to the top pond. There are several little ponds scattered around a very well maintained complex and although there were quite a few anglers present it did not seem crowded.
There is no catch and release at this fishery which is a great shame as it is extremely well stocked. The first cast I was still sorting my admin out when the line shot away. Ah, a bit of a fluke the next cast saw my fly ripped from the line. I had only brought a handful of flies and was not best pleased. I decided to cut off the hook and just fish for takes as I did not want to end my day before it had begun. It was great fun and at the risk of over-egging it I have to say that I was getting an offer every other cast. Julian joined me on the lake and was fishing a buzzer but not for long, I offered him one of the winning flies and he was soon enjoying some action. After forty minutes or so I had stopped fishing and was just wandering round chatting and seeing how folks were doing. Everyone seemed to be having a bumper time the fish were on average around the 4lb mark and a lot fitter than most for stock pond trout I have encountered in the past. They gave a really good account of themselves when hooked and several time I watched anglers playing the fish on the reel. Stuart a visitor from Oz had barley learned to cast a line and was soon into a hard fighting fish much to his great joy the smile said it all.
At one o’clock we all met up for a veritable feast Charles had made a number of dishes and some of the other lads had brought their speciality dishes. Not a bad one amongst them and I know because I tried them all. The banter was good and those that were in the lucky position not to be driving could have a few beers courtesy of Adam Stafford and there were various bottles of wine to sample if a beer was not your thing. All very civilized and most enjoyable, the pinnacle of the lunch break was, of course, the cake…..the cheesecake I know what you're thinking a cheesecake for a birthday but its worse than that. The cake was actually made out of real cheese which seemed to have caught fire as Adam was bringing it out, Charles quickly blew the candles out before we had a fondue disaster on our hands. After lunch, some did not bother to return to the fishing but I was keen to take a couple of fish. The fishery offers to exchange your freshly caught catch for smoked trout and I had promised my pal a bit (how many times has that gone wrong…lol). I had given all my catching flies out but as I scrabbled round the back of my car I found a few of candy floss boobies and a sinking line. I went back up to where I had started and cast out across the lake. The first three casts resulted in me losing all three flies the trick was to just let the fish run and don’t strike. I was joined by another angler and I explained to him where I was going wrong. I then proceeded to demonstrate the failed method one more time……wanker! I tied on a black fly and had a couple of casts with that but the fish showed no interest. I tied on my last candy and immediately stuck it in the tree behind me. Luckily my eagle-eyed companion retrieved the fly almost immediately. The next couple of casts ended with a nice brace of fish on the bank. I headed back to the lodge to deposit my catch in the fridge and grab my camera. I wandered about for a bit snapping anglers with their prizes and just enjoying the venue. I soon bumped into Richard and told him about the booby, keen to give it a go we wandered back to where I had left my rod and headed up to the pool. After a very short time the fly was ripped from the line and as it was barbless unceremoniously spat out into the middle of the lake. Well, that’s that then….Richard said its ok we will get it when it drifts to the bank and sure enough, it slowly started making its way to the bank. Then a ruddy great fish came and took it right off the top, realising its mistake it spat the fly a little closer to the bank. We eventually retrieved the fly but the day was shrinking away and we decided to wander back to the hut.
Some had already said their goodbyes but a few boys were left and we chatted on for a bit putting the world to rights. If still, waters are your thing, then I could not recommend Rockbourne enough it is a really slick operation. The fish are hard fighting and there are plenty of them, including Artic Char if you're looking for something a little more unusual. The fishing lodge is by far the best lodge I have been in by a country mile and the whole setup seemed geared up for large parties. If I was looking to introduce a friend to fly fishing I would seriously consider bringing them here.