Thursday, February 18, 2016

A few hours on the Itchen

I know I'm not alone in having a healthy appreciation for the history of fly fishing, so when I found myself in London on a recent business trip and the opportunity presented itself to fish the famed Orvis beat on the River Itchen, I didn't need much persuading to bring along my waders and gear. After checking out the Orvis UK headquarters and warehouse, I headed out to the beat with Richard Banbury. The English countryside around Winchester was absolutely beautiful with pheasants and thatched roofed houses around every bend, and as we drove Richard told me about all about the region. In short order we arrived at the beat and geared up in the fishing hut.

The Abbots Worthy beat of the Itchen is stunningly beautiful short stretch of chalk stream water and to see a river like this so close to London was quite a surprise. Gin clear water with big wild fish nestled between patches of flowing watercress, a classic little fishing hut, manicured banks and narrow little footbridges combine to make a dream fishery and it's no wonder that Jimmy Carter and George Bush Sr. both came here to wet a line.

On our way to the beat in less than optimal weather.

George, barreling over a footbridge.

A nice brown that succumbed to a dry.
The weather was unfortunately less than perfect, but my habit of overpacking served me well as my waders and wading jacket kept me plenty warm in the howling wind and driving rain. Casting wasn't particularly easy on a day like this, but I was in fly fishing heaven for the few hours that I was there. I sight fished some grayling with a nymph and caught a few browns on a dry, enjoying the company of Richard and his fine black lab, George. Richard took a few fantastic photos for which I was very grateful. One even landed in Trout & Salmon Magazine, much to my surprise and yes, delight.

A beautiful photo by Richard Banbury.

I admit it, I bought multiple issues.

My 10 foot 4 weight Recon was the perfect size for this fishery and handled the wind admirably, but I have to be honest: If the opportunity ever presents itself again, I'm bringing a bamboo rod and a classic old clock and pawl reel. I don't think there would be a better way to pay respect to such a beautiful and storied river.

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