A Special Brace of Trout
Neil Maidment fishes Avington in Hampshire, the home of big trout, and catches a very special brace.
Thanks to the influence of Peter Jacobs, casting a fly is again a big part of my angling life and since March I have been visiting a variety of trout venues near and far. One of those venues is Avington in central Hampshire just a short drive away from where I live. Avington is one of the original homes of big trout and, for me, has a degree of personal history and holds great memories. I fished it a few times back in the 1970’s and was in awe of the place, having seen some very big trout totally ignore my nervous offerings. More recently a couple of short afternoon sessions reminded me of the frustrations and challenges this place offers. Plenty of good fish to be had but if you want the really big ones, a selective and patient approach is needed. The good news was that on each of my trips I had at least located some big trout and had some tentative interest from a couple.
My third trip saw me wandering the banks of the three lakes for over two hours before casting a fly at what looked like “a good double”. Nearly an hour later it finally took my offering! Why it suddenly decided to hit the Olive Buzzer after totally ignoring it for so long I’m not sure. But the result was a superbly conditioned rainbow of just over 11lbs and a good lesson learned.
11lb rainbow and a lesson learned
But, as it’s turned out, that excellent result was just an appetiser preceding a stunning main course!
So far my visits had been during midweek and whilst fairly busy, there had been plenty of room to wander and stalk the inhabitants. Weekends are usually very busy and perhaps to be avoided. But my most recent trip had been very much spur of the moment as I turned up, without pre-booking, early on Saturday morning. Fortunately there was room “for just one more” and I quickly tackled up relieved that my back up plan of a day blanking on the Avon was not required!
Quite a few people had been unable to resist the temptation of the first lake and were already bent into their first trout of the day. I made my way down to the second lake and slowly wandered its entirety without spotting anything too special. My previous trips had revealed one of the overgrown corners had often held a decent fish, but this time someone else had beaten me to it. Fortunately he moved on as I approached so I took up position and watched. About 15 minutes later I spotted a dark shadow drift out of the corner and head towards my bank. A small Goldhead Damsel was nicely placed in its path and snapped up straight away. All hell broke loose as a big rainbow thrashed away under the rodtip and then made several long runs around my end of the lake. I survived several heart stopping moments with overhanging branches, weedbeds and a long run down my nearside bank (9ft fly rods don’t give much leverage in that situation!) but eventually had the trout in my net. It was really only when I went to lift the net that I realised just how big the rainbow was, it was huge! Two hours after arriving, one cast, one fish, 16lb 4oz of prime rainbow trout!
Neil and 16lb 4oz of prime rainbow - the other half of the brace!
My target and a long held ambition had been achieved and it was a satisfying walk back to the Weighing Room for the official recording. It turns out, at 16lbs 04oz; it was the second heaviest of the year so far, just 1oz adrift!
I thought about packing up and heading home but after the photo session with the staff and several cups of coffee I picked up the gear and wandered down to the lakes again. Over the next several hours I wandered the entire lakes actually spotting a couple of big fish but severely spooking both of them. I then found myself back on the first lake which still had plenty of anglers on it and took up position at the top end. Again after about 20 minutes of watching I spotted some movement in the weed in about 7ft of water just a rod length or so out. It was certainly another big trout but was not at all interested in anything I had to offer. I even dropped a weighted Stalking Bug on its head which just prompted a shift in position! I guess it had seen a load of flies presented to it during the day and was more than a little wary.
I stood there for about another hour or so, mainly just watching, as the trout moved around, disappeared, but invariably came back to the same spot. Several offerings were totally ignored. Eventually, whilst the trout was on one of its patrols, I succeeded in placing a weighted Buzzer on the vacant patch. Back it came; I twitched the rodtip and saw the white flash as the trout seized the Buzzer! I’m convinced the trout collided with the far bank on its first high speed run and then went hard left causing the arc of fly line to hiss through the surface water! Another spectacular fight followed for what seemed like ages. Things got a bit more complicated when the trout got the line wrapped round itself and I was fighting it side on for while but I eventually got it back towards my bank. As it rolled a couple of times, I realised I was attached to a superb brownie! I very nearly messed up big time with the net having two failed attempts to get its bulk safely enclosed. The third attempt succeeded and again I had difficulty in lifting the net from the water. Another trip to the Weighing Room revealed the stunner weighed 15lbs exactly; the heaviest brownie of the year and the staff confirmed had avoided capture for quite some while.
The huge brace of brown and rainbow trout
So, amazingly for a spur of the moment visit, I had completed a special brace of big trout, the likes of which I’m sure I will never repeat. Both fish fell to a 9ft 4 piece rod matched to a 6wt floating line with 7lb Incognito Fluoro on the business end.