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(2009) It is written, that British gentleman-dryfly-fishermen" are only interested in water, which is as clear as gin - and twice as expensive". I have always loved this funny statement from Thelwell's "The Compleat Tangler", as with many of his other hilarious descriptions of fishermen. The British dry fly waters he no doubt refers to, are the famous chalk streams, which actually are unbelievably clear.02 river itchen 20220211 2038884506

These streams offer visually exciting fishing for trout, salmon and grayling, where you can target individual fish, and have the supreme pleasure of seeing the fish take your bait.

Chalk stream geology
Chalk geology is porous, and rain falling onto chalk hills seeps directly into the ground, where the chalk acts as an aquifer. The water filters through the chalk, re-emerging lower down the slope in springs. Chalk streams transport very little sediment (unlike most rivers), thus producing the "gin clear" water.

The chalk streams have been intensively managed for many generations. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, much of that management has been aimed at producing the best conditions for fly fishing salmon and trout.

These streams are found England's southern counties.

Chalk stream fisheries
Today the chalk streams serve both fly fishermen and coarse anglers. The coarse anglers chase the salmonids with ultra light match fishing gear, very thin lines and small hooks, and natural baits such as maggots and worms. In addition, these streams often hold beautiful, and well-fed pike. To cater for both types of anglers many of the chalk stream fisheries have divided the rivers up in "fly only areas" and "all-tackle areas". Some fisheries, however, only allow coarse angling in certain months of the year, usually in winter time.

Some of the most famous chalk streams are Rivers Itchen, Avon, Kennet, Test, Piddle, Frome ...

A day on a Chalk stream
Last year in November my friends, Nigel Botherway og Steve Glassup, invited me to fish with them at the world renowned River Itchen near Southampton, in Hampshire, southern England.

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We showed up at the river at daybreak; there was frost on the ground and mist over the water, creating at atmosphere like something out of "Lord of the Rings", and it was very cold. I was instantly in an adventurous mood, and I couldn't wait to get a bait into the crystal clear water, where the fish were flashing relentlessly.

Nigel said that before we have our first cup of tea, I should catch a grayling, just to start the day - so I hoped they wouldn't have to wait too long to get that warming cup of brew ... However, I shouldn't have worried, because after only three casts I hooked and landed my first chalk stream grayling, a small and pretty fish - and a very welcome fish, so we could have our tea and biscuits. True British! While we were having our tea party Jon the ghillie showed up. He told me about the many great fish caught on this stretch of the river, and after tea he took us to a bend in the river, where he showed his masterly skills as a fly angler, and caught a stunning male grayling.

During the day we caught many grayling and brown trout, and even a small sea trout, and we ended up at a deep pool in a bend on the river, where there were some seriously big grayling moving in and out. We spend almost all the afternoon targeting these big fish, and we probably only scratched the surface of the potential in that pool, as many big fish eluded us. It was nerve wrecking to one of these bigfinned beauties rise to have a look at the bait, only to return to the dark depths.15 river itchen 20220211 1852428065

And to make matters a little more exciting, nearby we spotted what could be maybe a branch or a big pike, it even looking like a boot from some angles, but suddenly it moved forward from the hole and circled the nearest clear, sandy patch so we could see that it was in fact a salmon of about 6 kilo. My heart skipped a few beats, because I had fished through that pool quite a few times, and even though we weren't allowed to fish for salmon, I couldn't help but wishing that I had made contact. But as it happened, the fish had been completely and utterly uninterested in our baits.

Next season I will be back to have a look at those two pools again!!!

We ended the day with another cup of tea with Jon, and went home to dinner at the local Indian restaurant, and a couple of pints at the pub. I could easily become a Brit ...

Chalk stream favoutite flies
Trout: Mayfly, Greenwells Glory, Tupps Indispensable, Adams

Salmon: Weighted nymphs - black is the best colour on Test and Itchen

Grayling: Klinkhammer, Pheasant tail nymphs, and shrimp patterns such as Pink Scuds.

Chalk stream fishing websites
River Itchen, Hampshire - Lower Itchen Fishery:

River Kennet, Wiltshire - Barton Court Fishery:

River Test, Hampshire - The Fishing Party:

Rivers Frome & Piddle, Dorset :

Or you can see them all on the excellent website:

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