Fishing on the River Itchen. Photo by Derek Hampshire
I regret that I have never taken up fishing, apart from catching minnows in the Meon as a child and doing some desultory sea fishing from boats in Wales in my teens. I should have done so, particularly as we inherited my step-grandfather's rods and tackle. I always knew that he was a keen fisherman, having beats on the Bourne and the Test when he lived at Dunley, but only recently did I come across a monograph which he wrote in the thirties about some of his fishing experiences. It's a marvellous read, and the full text of it is on the Archive here. It's also been given to the Fly Fishers' Club where an old friend is Secretary.
Here are some extracts:
And then I discovered the dearest of all little rivers, the Leach, which rises among the downs and runs through Eastleach to join the Thames at Lechlade Mill. Eastleach was a much larger village in the past; there are actually two parishes Eastleach and Eastleach Turville. The two churches are hardly a stone's throw apart and the custom was to hold morning service in one and evening service in the other.
On the Leach, Haig, Downing, Bankes-Price, my eldest daughter Gladys, and I had great times. There was a good Mayfly rise and for some time before and after its appearance the Alder was very successful. Indeed, even while the mayfly was on, trout would often prefer the Alder.
As I have not kept a fishing diary, I can only trust to memory for some of the good days, but some recollections come back to me: A wonderful Mayfly rise, in heavy rain, Penson carrying a huge umbrella, pointing out the rises and laughing with delight as one fat trout after another came into the net.
Another day on the water below Arkell's when I waded a rather deep stretch of not more than a hundred yards and came out with nine good fish all on the Alder.
Still another day when my daughter, Gladys, and I got twenty-two trout before lunch an not one after, and once more when whole day's fishing had resulted in nothing up to six o'clock, then it suddenly turned cold and the fish came madly on and six brace were killed.
But every day on the Leach was delightful, whether the bag was heavy or light, and I remember every twist and turn of the stream with the regret that the fishing is no longer mine, but with the hope that my lucky successors have as good times as I had.
Here is my ideal:- to wade up a long and broad shallow in May or June, the water just deep enough to come halfway up one's thigh, and with patches of weed alternating with clear spaces of clean bright gravel; a gentle breeze at one's back, bright sunshine but with occasional clouds and a gentle shower every now and then; a rise of Olives or Iron Blues, just enough to bring the trout out from their shelters to take up feeding positions over the gravel patches, and with the light just right so that every fish can be seen.