Chalk Stream and Lake Fishing in Hampshire - Sweatford
Imagine a 25 acre fishery comprising unspoilt woodland ¾ of a mile of chalk stream and two lakes where you can fish 365 days of the year on whatever day you want to go. Sweatford is a great hidden spot in Hampshire that combines all the things you need when Fly Fishing.
If you love the challenge of moving water, and stalking wary Brown trout on a gin clear chalkstream – stealth and attention to detail are required, and of course the right choice of fly. If you can’t catch on the stream, or it is the closed season, there are always the two lakes (open 12 months of the year) for a strong fighting rainbow trout.
At Sweatford we are fortunate to have a small enough syndicate to allow members to fish anytime they like; so nice, if the weather isn’t as you’d like, to be able to go on another day of the week, or simply to fish for a couple of hours on a summer’s evening.
With tranquillity, peace and quiet – a lot of the time you may find that you're the only person there and can enjoy the remarkable wildlife. Enjoy the electric blue of a kingfisher as it flashes up the stream, the varied waterfowl, the deer, and the whole rich tapestry of fauna and flora also the changing seasons and weather that means that no two days (or hours!) are the same -Just being at Sweatford and seeing it all is a delight, but we should really mention the fishing!
The stream has a good head of wild Brown trout and stocked brownies of 1-1 1/2 lbs with some larger fish. Experienced fishing with a bit of luck and a 2lb point on a 2/3 weight line on a 7’ rod. The real key is choice of fly (and you are in the right place for that!) and finding a feeding fish to offer it to. Slowly walk up the stream looking for the right fish, and then of try to work out what it might be feeding on…. Is that splashy aggressive rise a fish taking a sedge? Is the gentler rise to a black gnat, or a small dry olive? What seems to be hatching? Can they really be feeding on those tiny white things (possibly a caenis) what have you got that might match it (try a size 20 Last Hope!)
So much is in the planning and patience, and remembering that the fish is less wary and easier to catch on the first cast than the fifth, so anything that can be done to maximise that is worthwhile. How often possibly you wished you would have checked where the back cast was going rather than having the frustration of extracting a fly from a branch (never easy when fishing very light!)
And the sheer joy and thrill of watching a trout rise to and take a floating artificial… Never ever tire of it.
At Sweatford there usually is a reasonable Mayfly hatch, though it can be frustrating towards the tail end of the mayfly season watching fish taking the real thing and spurning artificials!
The stream is upstream dry or nymph. Getting the nymph to the right depth is more important than pinpoint accuracy on the cast – fish seem happier to move sideways to take a nymph than they do to move up or down. Again, with Brown trout the main requisite is a feeding fish – always be on the lookout for the side to side movement and flash of white from its mouth that tells you 'I’m in with a real chance'.
As well watch closely for the take and need to be quick, - the trout will mouth then spit a nymph in a moment, so immediately when you see movement, raise the rod, and again the pleasure is indescribable when suddenly you are in…
The nymph to choose is dependent on time of year, weather conditions and what is hatching. Small weighted pheasant tails and Copper John’s can be great in the spring – but try flies in a variety of sizes and tend to start small and go larger if unsuccessful. At Sweatford on our small water, small flies are often the order of the day. A very small gold ribbed hare’s ear will sometimes entice a fish on a warm still summer’s day. The options are endless and if a feeding fish has seen and not taken a fly simply move on a little and try another fly.
Dont forget every time you go fishing, you learn something new, and the thrill you get from seeing and feeling a fish take is as great today as it was when you first started.
At Sweatford our lakes are less challenging than the stream, but still provide excellent sport (and supper). Again, being prepared to change fly to take into account time of year, weather conditions, time of day etc is often key, as is speed of retrieve and depth. Damsel nymphs are abundant, and always a popular choice, but great sport can also be had from Daddy Long Legs and, earlier in the year, Grey Wulffs. The powerful rainbows turn faster than brownies, and a heavier leader is advisable. With fish running from about 2 to 5lbs I favour 4lb, and to get a reasonable distance, a 5/6 weight line with a 9’ rod.
As the days cool down and we move into winter, a small nymph on a long leader fished with a very slow retrieve can prove effective.
Sweatford is a private fishery, owned by the syndicate members, and only fished by them and their guests. If you’d like further information, please email, ensuring you include your name and phone number. firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks go to Perry Letcher for a great write up.