By Phil Spratt
So where did this journey start? I grew up in Shoreham by Sea and cut my angling teeth, like many living near the cost and growing up, shore fishing and catching flounders, mackerel and any other fish that passed by my bait and took a fancy to it. After moving away from the coast and living inland for 30 years, I moved to near the south coast again and returned to shore fishing. But in the meantime, the fishing had got much harder, not to mention the huge amount of equipment that needed to be lugged around. Surely there must be a better alternative.
During a drive through the Hampshire countryside, I stumbled across Meon Springs. It is in an area of outstanding natural beauty and therefore a wonderful location. I was curious. What would fly fishing be like? But hang on a minute, isn’t fly fishing just for posh people and not for ordinary people like me?
I tentatively approached the lodge not quite knowing what to expect. Far from being elitist, the welcome was warm, having no experience was not a problem, the right gear could be loaned and an Experience Day could be organised. Emboldened, I signed up for the Experience Day and was taught how to cast, play a fish and what flies to use. I was mobile, the equipment was just so light, you were always in direct contact with the fish…I was hooked (pun intended).
The following months were a learning journey: entomology, what flies to use when, how to fish a dry fly and, most important, how to cast properly. This is where Keith Poulton came to my rescue by teaching me the basics of casting and, crucially for the future, how to double haul.
Meon Springs held an annual open day with fly fishing demonstrations, tuition, fly fishing companies and, as it happens, good weather. One demonstration was on double hauling by Justin Anwyl, a local saltwater fly fishing guide. So it was possible to fly fish in the salt. I was fascinated. Could I do this? I bought a secondhand 9# rod, a cheap reel, some clousers, some waders and headed off to Hayling Island, which according to my research, held the promise of bass.
When I arrived, reality took place. The wind was blowing, there was a vast sea and my casting was woefully inadequate. It was time to back back to the drawing board and a return to Keith for more casting lessons. I had to improve my double hauling and more tuition with Keith helped. I got better. I caught my first bass, then mackerel and, on one occasion, a sea trout. The saltwater season from the shore is short in the UK.
So it was back to Meon Springs. Sunday fishing at Meon Springs became a ritual, as did Rainbow Trout for Sunday dinner! My wife is not really a fish eater but she quietly accepted my Sunday night offering and supported me in my fishing. I was improving. Now for the catch and release. This was a stern challenge. It needed finesse and smaller flies. At this time I started to tie my own flies and experienced, for the first time, the joy of catching a fish on a fly I had tied myself.
I was now fly fishing the salt during the summer season and Meon Springs the rest of the year. I was making fishing friends too who offered their help and guidance. What now? I started watching fishing programmes and really looked forward to any fly fishing parts. Salmon fishing seemed the next step. However, I always remembered a comedian’s comment after catching three salmon in Russia: this isn’t proper fishing; proper fishing is Scotland where you don’t catch anything. But the tropical saltwater fly fishing looked spectacular. To go tropical saltwater fly fishing became a burning ambition, and catching a torpedo like bonefish in particular.
I looked at various websites, did some research and then saw an advertisement for a bonefishing school in Crooked Island in the Bahamas organised by Go Fishing Worldwide and hosted by Dave Grove and Fly Fishing & Fly Tying’s Mark Bowler. Supported and encouraged by my wife, in November last year I found myself on a plane to Crooked Island and experienced six days of exhilarating fly fishing for bonefish. I had satisfied a burning ambition.
What now? It was back to Meon Springs, where the journey began; fly fishing, learning to tie flies courtesy of the monthly sessions run by Mark Roberts of Lost Lake Fly, having a cup of coffee and an obligatory Kitkat and catching up with Greg and the team. Crooked Island still beckons for another day…
Its that time of year again to put your name down for one of the most testing fishing challenges going and a chance to win a new Sage One X rod (£839 in the sportfish catalogue!),at the same time helping the Wild Trout Trust to raise much needed funds. Places are limited to only 30 this year so send your cheque as soon as possible to book your place.
Offers of auction and raffle prizes are also gratefully received, please let me know if you can help.
The Three-Fly Challenge is a fishing tournament that will test your skills and catching ability as you will only be able to use three flies (one at a time), these will be provided on the day: Kites Imperial dry (3 points per fish); Black buzzer (2 points per fish); GHHE nymph (1 point per fish).
Points will be awarded according to the fly used and the weight of the fish, i.e. a 3lb fish caught with dry Kites Imperial would score 9 points (3 points x 3lb = 9), a 3lb fish caught with a pheasant tail would score 3 points (1 point x 3lb = 3) etc. The angler with the highest number of points will win a new Sage X 9ft 5wt rod.
Many other runners-up prizes. A raffle and auction will be held at lunchtime. If you would like to attend you will be helping the Wild Trout Trust, a registered charity (no. 1162478) that was formed in 1997 to conserve wild trout throughout the UK and Ireland by encouraging people to protect and restore habitat.
Tickets cost £90 (same price for the last nine years!),including breakfast, cooked lunch, afternoon tea and a 4-fish ticket and flies.
Applications with a cheque for £90 made payable to The Wild Trout Trust should be sent to: Neil Mundy, Pine View, Forest Road, Denmead, Hants PO7 6UA.
Applications can also be taken online at www.meonsprings.com
For further information: email: email@example.com or tel: 023 9225 4886 / 07964 379988 Closing date for entries is Saturday 3 June 2018 www.wildtrout.org WILD TROUT TRUST The Three-Fly Challenge at Meon Springs Fishery Hampshire (www.meonsprings.com) Saturday 16 June 2018 9am Start 4pm Weigh-in .Fund raising Event For The Wild Trout Trust All monies raised to go towards ‘The Pasco James Project.
1/ No catch and release allowed, all fish caught must be counted towards the 4 fish bag. All standard fishery rules apply.
2/ The winner will be the person with the heaviest 4 fish bag, plus time bonuses
3/ All competitors will be given a peg number to start the fish off. Once you have caught a fish you will move to the next free peg available to your right, or every 30 minutes which will be sounded by a whistle.
4/ Fishing will start at 10.00 hrs, and finish at 16.00 hrs. All competitors must sign in prior to fishing.
5/ Bonuses will be issued for every 1 hour not used once you have caught your 4 fish and have reported to the fishing lodge for the weigh in. For every 1 hour not used, 1lb in weight will be added to you actual 4 fish weight.
6/ Single fly/point only and maximum size 10 hook.
The first entries in this year's Festive Fly Tying competition is in - and it's a cracker. Well, not just a cracker, but also some Christmas lights and a tree. These pictures were sent in by Tony Czapp.
He told us: "[I] Have tested them for sink speed and all do what I want them to do (at least in the washing up bowl!). I am now waiting for them to dry out before adding a few blobs of resin to finish them off."
Fingers crossed he'll be bringing them along on Members' Day to give them a proper dunking.
In an earlier blog post we sang the praises of the Blue Flash Damsel (BFD) and how it can either be fished slowly to imitate a natural insect or stripped fast as a lure.
Taking this further, it's clear that different flies need to be fished in different ways. Some fast. Some slow. But if you're fishing a natural fly such as a nymph it's important to introduce a pause into your retrieve.
Why? The pause imitates an insect resting after moving through the water. And it is often at this point that a trout will often take its prey. The theory is that the fish recognises that the insect is vulnerable and that's when it attacks.
Now that autumn has finally given way to winter there is no need to put away your rod until next spring. As any fly angler knows, the fishing can be excellent this time of year. The trick is to plan for it. Make sure you have the right clothing for the elements - plenty of layers and good waterproofs. And, of course, a decent pair of boots is always essential.
If you have the right gear, then there is no reason why you can't fish year-round. Unless there's a prolonged icy snap the fishing can be explosive. And don't forget, if the weather does turn nasty while you're on the bank, we always have the wood burning stove on to warm you up.
Last week, we mentioned how a wide array of flies - both wet and dry - are still taking fish even at this time of the year. Although the spread of working flies is wide, it's clear that there is one stand-out pattern that succeeds whatever the weather - the blue flash damsel (BFD). On may still waters - and not just ours - the BFD is a winning pattern. It's designed to resemble a damselfly nymph, which emerge in the warmer weather as blue damselflies. Some people fish them slowly - with spurts of speed to get the tail waggling - to imitate the nymph. Others just let it sink and strip it as a lure. Either way, the result is often the same.
More than 20 anglers took part in Meon Springs' first Vintage Fly Fishing Day at the weekend. Dressed in vintage clothing and using split cane rods, it was a throughly good ay out. And the fishing wasn't bad either! Andrea Smith landed the biggest rainbow wth 9lb 7oz - pipping Ron Wilder to the top spot by just two ounces. David Rowe won the award for best dressed angler. A massive thank you to all those who took part - and also for those who helped out with the catering. Thanks must also go to Phoenix Fly Lines and Snowbee for donating prizes for Andrea and David. Here's to next year's event!
The annual 'Cast & Blast' fundraiser for Fishing for Forces is expected to raise in excess of £10,000 once all the monies are counted. That's fantastic news! Last year, more than 500 service men and women went fishing courtesy of this great charity.
For the record, the winners of this year's event were:
Rob Dallas - heaviest fish 7lb 10oz
Chris Hodge - best bag at 12lb 14oz
Richard Lovett and Tim Mundy tied in the shooting with both hitting 23 out of 25 clays. Richard Lovett won the shoot off.
Andrea Smith recently returned from Ireland's Lough Melvin, where she was part of a 12-strong England Ladies team participating in the 2017 Loch Style International and gaining her First England International Cap. Here's her story, in her own words...
I never in my wildest dreams thought that I would be representing my country in a sport I only took up three years ago. The England team was made up of twelve ladies to fish the competition and one reserve, a Fly Tyer and Manager. Some of the ladies have as many as 22 England caps to their name, so it was an honour - but also a little bit stressful - to be fishing with so many capped ladies.
The competition took place in Ireland on Lough Melvin, which is (to make it even more daunting) internationally renowned for its unique range of plants and animals. It is located in the northwest of Ireland, on the border between County Leitrim and County Fermanagh. With an area of 20 square km, it was a daunting expanse of water to be out in such a tiny little boat fishing.
The team practised for four days prior to the match fishing, from 10am till 5:30, with a 20 minute comfort break to replicate the match day conditions.
With winds gusting up to 20 knots, torrential rain every day, and a tiny little boat, it was hardly the idyllic idea of fly fishing I had when I first started. But I am always up for a challenge and it was certainly that.
Match day saw conditions worsening. With up to 30 knot gust and 48 ladies from England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales taking to the water, it was all very nerve jangling, but it was a grand sight as the flotilla of 24 boats waited for the claxon to start the match.
My boat partner was from the Irish team, and this was her local water so I had to play that to my advantage, as well as listening to the boatman who was our controller and driver for the day.
I had the captaincy of the boat, so I got to decide which end I wanted to fish, and where we went first. So that was me on the pointy end (bow) and heading to where I had caught three fish the previous day. Unlike the day before, the wind direction had totally changed which meant the fish had moved, which put kybosh to may plans for my favoured location.
Both the boatman and my boat partner said that a more shelter location would be better, and they knew a good spot, so I bowed to their local knowledge, and headed to Lareen Bay on the north east side of the Lough, where my Irish Partner had caught eight fish the day before.
FISH ON !!! - but unfortunately it wasn’t measurable, qualifying fish have to be 25.5cm long from nose to fork in the tail to count. Several fish later from me and my partner saw me get the first measurable fish - a Monaghan - and we're off.
Phew! a weight off my mind, at least I wasn’t going to blank on my first International, I could relax and enjoy the fishing, wind and rain. Mid-morning saw both of us with a fish a piece, but the wind was playing havoc with our lines, and wind knots were coming faster than the fish.
Second fish in the boat and it's only 11:40 - 'this is looking good', I thought. Then my boat partner got her second, and while the boatman is dealing with hers, I am into my third fish. It was definitely a good decision to listen to the boatman and my boat partner.
3 - 2 to me and the weather is getting worse, and the fishing is getting a lot more difficult.
Fishing with barbless hooks in such challenging conditions was making keeping fish on very difficult. I must have lost at least three measureable fishing and numerous small fish.
With only 40 minutes to the end of the match it was time to head back, the waves on the lough were so big we had to surf the tops of them, as we headed back to the safety of Garrison.
Then the results were announced.
o England Ladies Team - Winners of the Team Gold
o Individual 2nd Overall.
o Top England Rod Winner
o Angelo Irish Cup winner
This has been one of the greatest moments of my fishing career so far, which hasn’t been very long one;
As well as the competition fishing, I have also been working with some really great charities that do some great work, not only supporting people but encouraging people young and old male and female to the sport of Fly Fishing.
It has become an over whelming passion.
Meon Springs anglers raise record £6,955 for Wild Trout Trust
Money raised will help fund a graduate post of Assistant Conservation Officer with WTT.
JUNE 23 2017 – A record £6,955 was raised at the weekend for a leading wildlife charity following a popular fly fishing competition at Meon Springs, near Petersfield.
Now in its eighth year, the ‘Three Fly Challenge’ – which is run in support of the Wild Trout Trust – has now raised almost £30,000 for the wildlife charity. The money raised from the competition last weekend will help fund a young graduate to learn about river conservation.
The winner of the event was Neil Mundy – the second year on the trot he has held the coveted Three Fly Challenge Silver Platter. The runner-up was Mark Roberts and the angler with the biggest rainbow trout was Tim Mundy with a fish in excess of 10lb.
Neil is also a great supporter of the Wild Trout Trust. And when you include the fundraising he’s done over the eight years – including being seconded to the charity – the total raised is nearer £40,000.
For Roger Greentree, fishery manager at Meon Springs, the most important part of the day was to see so many anglers come together to compete and raise money for charity.
“The Three Fly Challenge is a really popular event and it just keeps getting better and better,” said Roger.
“It was a blisteringly hot day – but despite that plenty of fish were caught – and some big ones too. This year the lunch and auction was held in our newly-converted 17th century barn – it really made the day!” said Roger.
The Three Fly Challenge is held each year in memory of Pasco James, an avid fisherman, whose life ended tragically early in 2010 at the age of 22. Since then, the Wild Trout Trust and Meon Springs Fly Fishery has run the Three Fly Challenge in his honour. All the money raised is used to improve the wildlife and habitat on the River Meon.
This year, the money is going to be used to fund a graduate post of Assistant Conservation Officer with WTT.
According to WTT Director Shaun Leonard, up until now, the funds raised have been used exclusively for project work on the River Meon, most recently in the village of East Meon.
“Now, though, we’re going to re-direct Pasco’s cash to fund a graduate post of Assistant Conservation Officer with WTT,” said Shaun.
“The ideal candidate will be a young person who can learn from our expert team and, who knows, maybe one day become a leading light in river conservation. I imagine this would be Pasco’s dream job,” he said.
Next year’s Three Fly Challenge is to be held on Saturday 16th June 2018.