Diane’s nephew and my great friend Carl is Forty this year and his lovely wife Erin has treated him to a day’s fishing on the Test during the August bank holiday. Being the good friend I am, I’m bearing the hardship of accompanying him.
Carl used to fly fish quite a bit in his teens but drifted away from it and hopefully is practising his casting up in Newcastle for the big day. Carl and I have decided to have 2 days down in Hampshire so we have a day to maybe fish a stillwater or try for mullet & bass in the Solent on the day before our booked fishing on the Test carrier at the Greyhound. The trip completes a circle for me as I spent my fortieth birthday on the banks of the Greyhound….
Diane has a lot of family down in Hampshire and most years we are down there for some get together or another and May 2009 saw my fortieth birthday and a family Hampshire wedding so I planned to treat myself to a day on the Test but where?. The chalkstreams of Hampshire were and still are a million miles from my usual fishing, I knew it would be mayfly time so most of the famous beats would be mega bucks. Then on the internet I came across the Greyhound carrier beat at Stockbridge and decision was made for me… “The Greyhound abuts the prestigious Bends beat of the Houghton club”.
The Houghton Club! While I’ll never be considered a fishing snob or anywhere near a good chalkstream fisher, I do enjoy a spot of fishing history and “A Year on the Test” by J.W Hills, which accounts for a year fishing the hallowed waters of the Houghton Club and other spots is a classic. I think the mystique around the famous old club and the fact that mere mortals never have the chance to join (I’m sure I’d heard a rumour that they turned down Eric Clapton) either repels or enthrals opinion and I fall into the latter category. An opportunity to fish next door to The Bends in mayfly time and maybe have a quick look at the posh water wasn’t to be missed. I later learnt that the Houghton club in fact own and stock the carrier, they insist on stocking it with their own fish as they want riff raff fish making their way into their fishing!.
It’s fair to say that the day was a classic mayfly day in that I had fish early doors on the nymph and around 11.00 all hell broke loose with a hatch of mayfly that had every fish in the river looking upwards. The time of the hatch isn’t called Duffers Fortnight because they ran out of names…
In the morning I was fishing a Hardy Palakona cane 5 weight with a Hardy Princess reel which I’d acquired from a colleague in need of quick cash, they suited the Test but weren’t really my cup of tea and I later moved them onto a more fitting owner. The old rod was bent round to the corks on more than a dozen occasions and my nerve finally failed and I switched over to the Loop AEG which was my fortieth present from Diane. I quickly had a great mozzarella salad and a bottle of Summer Lighting for lunch and got back to catching fish. I finished well into double figures if memory serves me right.
The hatch was already over when I had the best fish of the day a lovely brownie of about 3lbs, it was also the last fish of the day, I slipped it back before calling in at Houghton HQ the Grosvenor Hotel for a pint. The drive back down to the New Forest, was a serene one … It was my birthday, I’d had a fantastic day fishing and had a night drinking with some of my favourite people to look forward to. Sometimes life can be very good.