For the last few years I've ventured south in early November to fish the southern chalkstreams for grayling with my friend Chris. Being a Yorkshireman it's the only time I can afford to fish a chalkstream! This year, despite dates being pencilled in the diary in good time, it proved difficult to finalise things with Chris. In the end he could only make two days because of work commitments, so I decided to stick with my three day plan and fish alone on the first day. I was going to fish one of the beats that I'd fished with Chris previously, but late in the day I thought that with Chris's help I might be able to fish a different river that I could add to my growing Grayling Collection. Emails were exchanged and he suggested the River Lambourn at Donnington Grove, near Newbury in Berkshire. Perfect, so I duly booked my fishing and drove south...
...Before I could commence fishing I had to 'check-in' at the Donnington Grove Hotel, the riparian owners. This takes you over the river via a small bridge. The booking literature said that the Lambourn was a small river and suggested using an 8' rod, but my first impression was a much smaller river, more suited to a 7' rod. Luckily I'd packed the car with a range of rods from 7' to 10' so I opted for my Hardy Lightweight 7' #3. As it turned out this was the right choice and I even struggled in places with such a short rod.
|The crystal clear|
The Lambourn is a small river, the smallest chalkstream I have ever fished. It was, though, running well with good flow in most places. Right from the outset I could see fish in the river, most of them spooking at my presence, as I walked the short distance to the bottom of the beat. The weather had improved right on cue for my trip and it was a lovely autumnal day. However, as is often the case at this time of year, the low sun made spotting fish difficult. Standing on the bank made it easier to see into the water but this was counterproductive as the fish could see me easier and fled in all directions. I opted for a wading approach, fishing semi-blind, but sight fishing as best I could.
I set up with a fluorocarbon leader, building a slight taper with 3' of 4lb, 3' of 3lb and 3' of 2lb. I used various tungsten bead nymphs throughout the day with a 2mm Mary Copperhead doing most of the work. I didn't have to wait long and I met the draw on my line with a swift strike. I was attached to my first Lambourn fish and prayed it was a grayling to add to my collection. It was, though it was very small; any smaller and I wouldn't have counted it!
|One of the better grayling|
from the River Lambourn
I progressed upstream, casting into every depression, clear patch in the weed and anything that looked promising. Many fish would spook before I saw them, bolting past me downstream in search of a safe place to hide. Often I'd spook trout from under the bank-side weed growth, highlighting how important this is to trout habitat. The river was teaming with fish, mostly small, but with some good grayling and some real heavyweight stocked trout. Fishing blind most of the time and sight fishing in difficult light meant that I hooked more trout than I'd have wanted to, but it was a good day with lots of grayling to just over the pound mark.
The beat was longer than I'd expected it to be from the map provided and I didn't get to fish the very top section before I ran out of light. The website described the beat as a 1 or 2 rod beat and this is about spot on. Grayling fishing on the River Lambourn at Donnington Grove is available through Fishing Breaks at £55 per day (obviously more in the trout season). Not cheap for a northerner, but well worth it to get the chance to fish a delightful little river such as this!