Avington Trout Fishery
One of my new years resolutions was to get out and do some fishing, no more work, work, work. I also have an old bucket list of must visit fisheries – Avington Trout Fishery was one.
2011 had been a long hard year and I wasn’t going to just do beer, IT and more IT. I have a wonderful girlfriend, I just never took any time for me. I am sure that some of you reading this will be from my beery life, so a little bit of history of the small 3 water fishery to put it in perspective.
Located on down in Hampshire, not far from Winchester in the beautiful Itchen valley. Made famous as a fishery by a boyhood hero, Richard Walker, a real renaisance man when it came to Fishing – be that at the legendary Redmire lake, catching carp to 44lb in the ’50s, from what was then an unknown small estate lake in the welsh borders or here at Avington where he caught the then Record trout of 19lb.
Avington Trout Fishery is perhaps the best known name in small stillwater stalking. the lakes, and scenery are as good as you will get anywhere with clear water, luxuriant weed growth and good bankside keeping it natural, but still castable. It’s held many records, and there’s always the sense of history as you turn up to fish. This is a place of history, legends and monsters.
I did some research on the interwebs as to where, what and how… I had been told, albeit sometime ago that the fishing can be tricky. Stalking, watching big big rainbows in the edge.
So, on a sunny saturday in January I headed from Dover, at 5am, heading to Henley on Thames to see the very cool Jeff Rosenmier of Lovibonds Brewery, after that I hit the road south. Tom Tom guiding me to Itchen Abbas, and on to the postcard perfect Avington village.
I followed the road along side the fishery, noticing a number of anglers – yes, I was in the right place.
It should come as little surprise that the county of Hampshire, with its clear chalk bottomed rivers such as the famed Hampshire Avon and the Itchen, should also boast one of the finest – and oldest – stillwater trout fisheries in the UK.
Avington Trout Fishery, to be found in the little village which bears the same name, was once part of Avington Park, a Georgian manor house which was extended by its owner in the mid-17th Century to accommodate Charles II and Nell Gwynne, and once part of the adjoining Avington Estate, designed by the great Capability Brown. The park is still in private hands but is open to the public between May and September.
Interestingly the The lakes, together with the carrier stream of the nearby River Itchen, were built to hold water to drive the generators which supplied electricity for the estate and half of the village.
Purchased and developed as a trout fishery, Avington Trout Fishery was bought in 1970 by Sam Holland, the British NASA space scientist and acclaimed trout angler who pioneered the introduction of big trout in England. It was Sam who extended the fishery further by digging Lake One, the lake nearest the entrance.
When you talk about the finest fly fishing and dip into the history of the place – even to the modern day, regularly featuring on Sky Sports Tight Lines. Characters such as Charles Jardine, Pete Cockwill doing their thing for the cameras.
So what does the “finest fishing” cost: Paying the £80 for the day, yes, £80, this wasn’t a cheap days fishing. But, hell, it’s not the cost of a beat on the Tay. I had to have my game on to make the most of this.
On to the fishing
Strolling toward the lakes, focusing on the cleanliness and smartness of the place, past the lodges, meeting, I think, the owner Bob. He recommended clear intermediate lines, check. A black bug with some fluff, check. And, find the fish, well, time will tell. I was also told to introduce myself to one of the keepers, who’ll help me catch; a Tibetan or Nepalese chap I was told, but I forget.
Donning the polaroids, I scoured the long, thin, first lake that you come too, and I am told fishes better at the far end from the lodge. A quick chuck to straighten the line, and see if I could still cast, with out being under the eye of seasoned Avington visitors; saving vanity if you like.
A tug greeted the 4th or 5th tug of the retrieve. I thought, well, this must be the easy lake. So I moved on.
I moved on to Lake 2. This is a more rounder lake. I had read that the hotspots are half way up the left bank (as you approach the lake) and the far end. I was told to ALWAYS look under the overhanging tree on the Right hand bank. Looking into the lake, with the clarity of spring water, it appeared Lake Two is shallower in the centre than around the edges, which you can then see why it makes it a popular stalking water with many of the fish being taken fairly close to the bank.
I walked around the lake, to the left. Seemingly someone learning to chuck fluff was walking back with a spanking brace of 5lb+ fish. Perhaps the clear blue skies and super clear waters may hold a few gems after all.
Now, £80 is the top end of what I would pay for a days fishing, no mater what or where. I have had many a days angling, for £80 a season… but I was going to love this…
Following the flow of the lakes, the water man controlled from pool to pool, I love the way the water quietly surging into the lakes.
I got to meet one of the Keepers, said chap from Nepal… plus a couple of regulars from Coventry. Yes, these chaps haul down from Cov to enjoy these fine green pastures. The tell tail sign of slimed up nets gave rise to the, “any good?”. A quick, “yeah…” moved me on.
I walked on past, looking in the edge, searching for 2-3′ long grey subs. I found a little pitch with no foot prints in it. Time to explore with the line, in anger.
Eye spy with my little eye.
I noted moving scum, popping up from the bottom. So, here’s a space for a little science; when sun light hits the bottom, warming it a couple of degrees speeds up the composting of the bottom pre-winter detritus. A by product of the composting is the production of gasses, typically methane. What also happens is there are sometimes bloodworm attached. These little red wiggly things are trout crack. They also fall of their old homes when they rocket to the surface. Of course, the trout know this.
Here they were. See one, see more. Your eyes tune into the water and knowing what to look for. There they were.
Sneaking a leadhead black bug of my own creation out into the wet stuff. I had it in my head that these trout were sneaky. Flicking the 8′ stick back and forth, trying not to hit the trees, or drop the line in an inelegant fashion. I must say, for all that I love in big hairy, ugly, inelegant flies, I hate indicators. If you want to go float fishing, try a waggler and chuck out for Roach.
Back to the fishing in hand; Launching the fly line the first time in anger, count to 10, and retrieve. 4th curl of a figure of 8… bang. First thing that crossed my mind was, really? I missed that tug.
Retrieve, recast, tug… again. Missed that.
They are grabbing the end. Time to stick on a meal. At the same time, the Keeper came round, asked after how I am getting on. Opening the box of tricks we both decided on a monster white lead head fritz dog nobbler. Yes, I didn’t go to the elegant school of Fly Fishing. I do use a small 8′ 3-4# for blue lining and urban stuff – I can’t wait for April and May this year.
Fourth cast. count, 1,2,3,4,5,6… retrieve…. BANG!
One 3lb ‘bow in the bag.
Fifth cast. count, 1,2,3,4,5,6… retrieve…. BANG!
fish 2, a bigger ‘bow in bag.
Keeper wanders off. ”you seem to know what you’re doing…”
I sat on the bench. Normally I have a little hang up about benches. None seem to be sturdy. They are always dedicated to dead people. Creeps me out a little. But, since the day was so sunny, I had to chill out, but I had to be in Bournemouth by 2 and with MoorBeer by 4pm.
So I carried on. A quick breather was enough to collect my thoughts, since there wasn’t many. I switched from the big leadheaded cheater fly, to a little black number again, just a little smaller. I had to chill out.
I went for a wander up the river bank of Lake 3 has a deep channel along the Right side, and a deep hole at the closest end apparently this is where to fish. All I saw were Carp. Holed up under the tree, with a big ghostie. Another day, another dollar, I would have had a sneaky chuck such is the carp angler DNA in me.
I saw no big trout. I wandered back to the spot I had my gear laying at.
I switched to my floating line and a long leader with the black bug – a hometied lead wire and marabou. Sinks, fluffy and zig zags on retrieve.
Back and forth, and plop. Sink, retrieve. Bang. This was a different fight, certainly a smaller fish. Turned out to be a clonking great perch. Back she went.
Back out, retrieve… bang. Another perch, somewhat bigger certainly over a 1lb, nearer 2.
I had to slow down. I went for a cast along the scum line. That wind created tide mark is a great place on a trout water to investigate. The little black bug plopped just into the light edge of the scum. I counted down, hoping that the bug would hit near bottom before the retrieve. I believe you get more takes from flies like this, when the come up from the bottom rather that on the way down. Theories schmeeries. I went to retrieve my fly, and found that the line was heading out into the lake. Hello Mr Trout. A lift and the rod bent into its working curve. Trout #3 in the bag.
I went back to the clear intermediate rod and a little red bloodworm. I launched it into the middle of the lake, let it sink and draw’d a slow figure of 8 retrieve. BANG. Biggest of the day was man handled into the net.
4 fish in the bag for 17lb. There have been single fish caught to the same weight, but all scrapped like hell, great for the put and take nature of the venue.
It’s not cheap at Avington Trout Fishery, and in my opinion, its going through the late part of a transition phase; perhaps as is trout fishing in general. Reading about visits have seen small fish of a uniform size and little to stalk, I may be part of that statistic. That said, I am told there are always a few biggies in there if you can find them.
Certainly Avington Trout are worth fishing for, such beautiful surroundings are applause worthy, but as a regular destination, I couldn’t justify it. I prefer the challenge of larger, less densely populated waters; perhaps this is a consequence of being a long time serious carp angler, but I certainly understand Avington Trout Fishery has taken a lot of criticism over the past few years and it’s past glory was severely undermined. However, in my opinion, that has now changed and very much for the good.
I think the moral of the story is take your time and enjoy.
Avington Trout Fishery
Tel: 01962 779312
Researching great fly fishing and great beer… Bozeman, Montana? Or I wonder if there’s beer in Kamchatka??