Chalk Stream Fishing

We are extremely lucky within the UK, over 85% of the worlds known 200 chalk streams, are within our own little island. Some of the more well-known streams like the Test, Avon, Kennet, Frome, Meon and Itchen have long held reputations for good fishing and are known worldwide, but many smaller relatively unknown rivers such as the Pang and Nadder offer challenging fishing that can test the most successful fly fisher man or woman.

During the mid-60’s as a young lad, I used to cycle miles to fish the River Pang with nothing more than a length of line wrapped around a 6 foot stick and a few worn out flies. Crawling to the edge of the riverbank, I would flick the line and fly with a length of whip stick (commonly known as a ‘Clay Wanger’) into known hot spots directly below the bank with some very successful outings. I can honestly say I cannot remember a time when I was not successful, although with the passage of time this may be wishful thinking! I have not been back in over 50 years but would relish the opportunity of returning sometime in the future, I can even remember most of the old beats I used back then, but as wisdom and age have caught me up, I will forgo the Crawling and Clay Wanger element.

How to fish on Chalk I have never found fishing on chalk streams any more difficult than normal rivers or lakes, but a few basic principles should be followed. The most obvious difference is the clarity of the water, generally known as ‘Gin Clear’ and for that reason, visibility for both angler and fish is extremely good which means you need to constantly think about the intervisibility between you, and your quarry. Also think about the colour of your attire. There has been much debate on the colour perception of fish and whether they can distinguish between bright and dull colours. For me, a convincing argument was watching a university experiment of a captive trout in a water filled tube being faced with a wide range of coloured discs, its reaction to bright colours was perceptible, so dull colours are my choice. As an old sniping instructor used to say to me many moons ago “To see without being seen, is to kill without being killed’. The message remains much the same today, although thankfully in a much more peaceful environment!

One important element of chalk fishing to remember, is that unless you are fortunate enough to own the land through which a chalk stream flows, you will invariably have to belong to a club to fish them, all clubs have rules, many are quite restrictive and may ban or limit the use of Nymphs or sub surface flies, which means Dry only. Additionally, other rules may dictate no wading and bank fishing will be the order of the day, again this will challenge the way in which you fish. Wading is obviously the preferred method to bank fishing as you are in a much better position to fish directly upstream. This method will give you the opportunity of limiting the ability of the fish to see you, if your movement is careful. Remember fish can feel vibration and increased pressure in the water and will react accordingly if spooked.

As with any type of fly-fishing time taken to watch hatchings on the river is rarely wasted, identifying the insects ‘Hatch & Match’, and matching them to your fly will always pay dividends. Methods used are basically the same as any fly fishing, but the obvious difference is the water clarity. Using a long-degreased leader, try and ‘target’ your fish, placing your upstream fly close to him (if you can see him), or by placing it in the region of risings and probable hatchings.

Popular Flies on Chalk You can build your most suitable collection of chalk flies whilst you gain experience and this can be based on your visual experience of watching the hatchings throughout the year, but to begin with here are some suggestions that should allow for success throughout the season: • April – Large Dark Olive, Hawthorn Fly. • May – Hawthorn Fly, Black Gnat, Mayfly, Medium Olive. • June – Mayfly, Medium Olive, Caddis Flies, my own preference the Elkhorn Caddis. • July – Blue Winged Olive, Medium Olive, Caddis Flies, Winged Ants. • August – Winged Ants, Blue Winged Olive, Caddis Flies, Medium Olive. • September – Large Dark Olive, Caddis Flies, Blue Winged Olive, Crane Fly/Daddy Long Legs.

If you have the opportunity to fish on a chalk stream, then I would urge you to take it. It offers new challenges and can provide a method of fishing that is unsurpassed in taking on your quarry on equal terms. The water clarity is always to your disadvantage, and should you be fortunate enough to land a fish, then you can be satisfied that it is well deserved. K…

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