A Sea Trout at Holne Chase

Fingers fumble tying on the size 8 Medicine, the one with the teal wing, even though there is no need to hurry because the grass is still green and the first bat has yet to appear over the water. Falkus wrote that in all angling there is no sense of anticipation greater than waiting to make the first casts over a sea trout pool as the light fades – after fifty five years of fishing myself, who am I to disagree?

I’m on the Chase pool, one of the most famous on the river Dart, and it’s a fine evening in late August. A small fish rises below me and, sure enough, on my second or third drift down, a little brown trout manages to engulf the fly. Nerves suitably shredded, I move down to the next position on the pool. I’m not expecting anything because all the talk has been of the declining runs of sea trout and salmon in the West Country over the past few years, but it’s good just to be out and casting on such a beautiful river, and – and without warning the line is snatched from my fingers, and a solid fish is heading away across the river at such speed this can only be a decent sea trout. And then it is gone.

I don’t get another chance that night, nor for the next five nights. Once, after midnight, I hear a heavy fish splash in the darkness, but by now I’m convinced that the doomsayers are right, and there are very few fish in the river. We take long walks through the ancient woods that surround Holne Chase, much to the dog’s delight, and we spend the days up on Dartmoor. There are some excellent pubs serving home-cooked food and local real ales. On the Thursday, the sun shines properly, and at about eleven o’clock in the morning I think that this is the best chance to have a proper look into the water, just to see.

So, I stand for a long time wearing my polaroids, staring into Chase pool, so long that my wife comes back to find out what’s the matter. The matter is twenty five good peal resting close to the sunken log on the far bank. My flies have passed over them often this week, assuming they were there at the time. I think they were. In the deep water below the cliff I’m on, a large sea trout, four to five pounds, hangs in the current.

That evening, as I wait again on the Chase pool, a salmon flops lazily over in the fast water at the neck. I catch one of the smaller school peal on almost my first cast, and I’m sure that, the duck broken, there are more to come. But it is not so. The fish I have is heavily spotted rather than silver, and I’m sure they have been in the river for a while. They have their heads down, waiting for the autumn spates now.

We stayed in the Fisherman’s Flat, which was ideal for us and very comfortable. We walked through the woods by the river twice a day and saw Kingfishers, Dippers and Grey Wagtails. We watched a Buzzard catching worms on the great lawn, we saw Siskins and Coal Tits busy on the bird-feeders. One night, coming back from fishing, a Roebuck stood on the grass near the back door. Holne Chase has all the beauty and tranquillity that one could desire. And it still has fish in the river. Whether you can catch them, of course, is another matter.


A short story provided by Rob Partridge