I really enjoy fishing private water. “Private Fishing, Charfield A.A.” the sign said. I wasn’t skulking around in the shadows, keeping out of sight and looking over my shoulder either. I had been presented with the opportunity to fish this private section of the Little River Avon in South Gloucestershire which I couldn’t pass up. A rare chance to explore the forbidden unknown, water held in the hands of a club with a waiting list, and the experience was savoured all the more in the knowledge that I wouldn’t be back anytime soon.
The Little River Avon is a limestone river and tributary of the River Severn. As the name suggests, it is a little river, hemmed in closely by trees and bank side vegetation in most places. Casting requires a lot of thought and a short rod. My Hardy Flyweight 6’ 2wt – fast becoming a firm favourite of mine – was perfectly suited to the challenge.
The Charfield Angling Association controls 3 miles of the river near Charfield, between Bristol and Gloucester. I met up with members Neil and Adrian who very obligingly showed me around their river for the day. On top of this, Adrian provided cold beer and Neil provided pork pies, jam doughnuts and a Snickers bar. Great hospitality to go along with the fishing experience.
The UK Met Office had issued a heatwave warning for the weekend, but there was little evidence of this on Saturday – the clouds were low and an ominous grey and a cold blustery wind kept the temperatures pretty cool. The threat of rain diminished as the day wore on, and in the evening the clouds dissipated altogether.
The fishing started slowly, with little interest shown in my dry fly despite sporadic rises in each of the pools as I fished my way upstream. I missed two lightning fast takes in the first hour’s fishing which had me wondering if I was striking too late or too soon. Approaching a new pool, Neil and I would take a minute and watch for any sign of fish, a measured approach which ultimately paid dividends when my first cast to the still expanding ripple rings of a previous rise elicited a favourable reaction to my black Klinkhammer. It was a case of third time lucky as I was able to successfully set the hook and bring to hand a beautifully marked seven inch brown trout, with adipose fin and tail edged in candy apple red.
Long, sweeping tendrils of floating Ranunculus were in flower, adding to the aesthetic charm of the river. They also provide good cover for the trout.
I switched the black Klinkhammer for a Parachute Adams and the change signalled a shift in my fortunes. I was soon into my second trout and then my first grayling of the day.
The fishing improved dramatically in the afternoon, with the fish showing a greater willingness to take the dry fly. With the exception of a short spell with a tiny beadhead PTN tied below in the New Zealand style, I fished the dry fly exclusively and ended up releasing seven trout and three grayling, all between six and 10 inches.
I saved the best fish for last. Neil showed me a little run with a surprisingly deep hole that you only see if you look for it, and told me that it’s largely ignored because it doesn’t look very promising. It’s covered by low hanging branches and the back cast is equally guarded by leafy tree limbs. It requires a stealthy approach and a cramped side cast on the knees to get the fly into the right water. I cast out what I had on – a large elk hair caddis which had accounted for several other fish in the day - and a trout came up ever so slowly and had a good long look at it (I’m sure it even ‘mouthed’ it) but declined the offer. I replaced the elk hair caddis with a smaller Parachute Adams, recast and held my breath as the fly came into range – and struck at the surface explosion of the fish taking the fly. The fish even stripped a little line before coming to hand, a fine 10 inch trout that soon slipped back into the depths of its hiding hole. That little moment summed up small stream fishing for me. I doubt it could have been bettered and was the perfect way to end the day.
Thanks to Neil and Adrian, and the Little River Avon, for a great day’s fishing.
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