On its day the duo or New Zealand style is an awesome method of catching fish! Small nymphs tantalisingly suspended under a well ginked dry is often kryptonite for unsuspecting fish in any river around the world. My good friend and ex England youth teammate Ben Fox ventured down south from Yorkshire to experience first-hand the glory of a southern English chalk stream.
Favourable weather and good reports saw us head to Manningford Trout Fishery, run expertly my Malcolm Hunt and Fen Oakley. As a part of their superb fishery, they offer 2.5 miles of the stunning River Avon. A quick look over the river saw gin clear water, but little hatching. So, on went the duo and we ventured downstream to start fishing. As it was Ben’s first trip to the Avon he fished first. 2w and duo set up, which consisted of a Jeremy Lucas Dry fly micro thin fly line, which was connected to 6ft tapered leader down to 3lb, with a well-greased #12 Klinkhammer and one and a half foot of 2lb tippet culminating in a #16 nymph.
In less than a handful of casts, he was into a gorgeous, spirited wild brown trout. The first of many! We continued up the river covering as much water as possible. As more and more fish came thick and fast. Nothing massive, but all perfectly marked wild browns and grayling. About halfway up the lower stretch, we came across a large overhanging willow tree, whose branches were trailing in the water. We knew that the pool had to hold fish! “It just looks saucy!” And it was! I managed to winkle out 4 good browns in 4 casts before I gave Ben the rod and he matched it before the pool went quiet.
A precarious back cast meant for tight roll cats, but the JL line was effortless and thrillingly accurate offering ultra-soft presentation. We decided to move on and found what can only be described as a corridor of heaven. As I was the only one with waders I opted to fish it. One side was laid with bankside flowers and various foliage, whilst the other had reeds taller than me! Being 6ft 6 it was both awkward but equally wild and exciting. Nestled between the two was 50 metres of prime glistening chalk stream that oozed fish.,
Working the various runs with the duo, I managed to land 7 stunning browns, all to the same nymph. Many of my river nymphs, especially my brown trout nymphs are just standard and natural patterns like pheasant tails or hares’ ears with just a hint of colour to differentiate them. The Avon fish seemed to pick out anything with a hint of purple. The stretch ended with a slow bend that traversed into a gorgeous looking section of the river. Fen explained that this was the place for big grayling, but stealth was key. However, 6”6 and stealth are two words that rarely fall into the same sentence! Thus, hands and knees in the river it was. Maintaining a low profile, sizing down to smaller nymphs and longer casts paid off with a few small grayling and a brown slipping over my net.
However, I was after a specimen. Following a few missed opportunities, I put a cast out in a likely looking run. It was one of those casts that all fisherman look at and say, “that cast deserves a fish!” Seconds later the dry disappeared and the fish was on. After evading every possible snag in the river, the fish slipped into the net. Not the monster I was after, but a gorgeous 1-and-a-half-pound male grayling. A couple of quick photos and he went back strong. Further moves and fan casting saw me net a few more browns and Ben too getting in on the action further upstream, with all our fish falling to the purple patterns. Once we reached the road bridge, we decided to stop for lunch and plan tactics for the beats upstream of the lodge. The water was shallower here and much clearer. We kept the same approach, but silver beads changed to black and #16’s changed to #18’s, but again all the flies maintained that hint of purple. After a few cats into a small weir pool, I put 4 more into the net, raising my tally to 33 for the day, and so I gave the rod to Ben and guided him for the rest of the afternoon.
His face lit up on every hooked fish, as its softness and ability to bend left us both in awe! Simply awesome! Walking up the river, we came across a rising fish! The first confident and frequent riser of the day! And it was big! Sat underneath a large overhanging tree on the far bank happily sipping down small olives. We watched him for a good 5 minutes before putting a few casts with small dries which he decided to ignore.
Then a switch back to the duo saw him take straight away. A brief and nerve-racking fight saw the fish run straight back home into the submerged branches followed by the heart-stopping ping of the leader as the line fell slack. We sat in an indescribable sense of defeat as we watched the pool fall into an eerie silence. It was a moment that all anglers know but few like to remember! Ben continued to fish after some gentle encouragement and took a few more to the duo before we called it a day. An immaculate stretch of water with superb fish and an awesome natural and wholly wild aura. It’s a river we will certainly be returning to in the future!