Trout at Thornwood Springs

Thornwood Springs is an interesting trout fishery not far from Epping tube station. It offers year round fly fishing for trout in peaceful surroundings:

Thornwood Springs trout lake

Jan came along for a fly fishing lesson, accompanied by Tim, a previous customer of mine. We started off with some dry land casting practice, followed by a discussion of fly fishing tackle and tactics.

While this was going on, Tim caught a couple of fish on a hare’s ear nymph (a traditional pattern that has been catching trout for hundreds of years). When Jan started fishing we tried a couple of different patterns to no avail. After 30 mins or so we shamelessly begged Tim for the magic fly, and it soon did the trick:

Jan playing a trout

Jan’s first ever trout was duly landed by Tim:

Landing a trout at Thornwood springs

I was back the next day for more lessons. Taking a walk round the lake beforehand I encountered some interesting insect life. This is the shuck left behind after a dragonfly nymph emerged from the water, climbed up a reed stem and hatched out into an adult fly:

Dragon fly nymph shuck

A cinnabar moth:

Cinnabar moth

My customer Leigh was getting ready for a forthcoming trip to Iceland. He had already had a casting lesson on grass and it was now time to try and catch a fish. It took a little while to get the casting going again; after that it was all about keeping the rod tip low and the line straight so as to be able to feel if a fish took. Eventually one did:

Leigh with his first trout

We had a look at the other lake after that, but we had no further action. The casting was flagging a little now, but that is quite usual when you are learning. With some short practice sessions I would expect Leigh to make rapid progress.

Fly fishing at Thornwood Springs

Hampstead carp and tench

There was a moment of drama during the recent school tuition day on Hampstead Heath, when one of the pupils connected with a large fish which eventually broke away. The general consensus was that it was probably a tench – one of my favourite species.

A few days later I came back at daybreak to try and catch one. It was warm, overcast and still:

Highgate boating pond

Nothing happened for a couple of hours, except that twice I saw large tench roll silently right over my bait. They have a way of smoothly breaking the surface with barely a ripple. As you can imagine this kept me in a state of tense expectation, but my float remained motionless.

In a shallow corner of the lake not far away, I could see signs of life – boils and splashes at the surface. I crept in quietly with my gear and after checking the depth, cast in with a piece of bread set to fish on the bottom. As a couple more fish showed I could see that they were carp, but I was still hopeful of a tench.

The float shot under and the rod started bending round before I could pick it up. When I did, there was a massive surge of power. I was only using a 4lb hook length so I had to just let it run at first. It took a few minutes to get it in the net, with the help of a mate who had turned up to fish just before – a 21lb carp:

Hampstead carp

A few days later I gave it another go. It was a misty morning:

Misty lake

I was standing there in the half light deciding where to fish, when a tench rolled right in front of me. That made my mind up for me, and I placed my bait in the exact spot where the tench had been.

An hour later, the float lifted and twitched before disappearing. A tench of 6lb 9oz was responsible – a handsome fish with its olive scales and bluish-black fins:

Hampstead tench

Soon after that, the rising sun started to burn off the mist and light up the far bank of the lake. Eventually its rays crept round to my corner, and I was glad of their warmth after the chill of the early morning.

Early morning sun on the lake

London children try fishing

I’m involved with a group called Hampstead and Highgate Angling Society which is working to preserve access for anglers on Hampstead Heath. There is some great fishing on the Heath but recently some areas you used to be able to fish have been closed off.

We’re offering tuition to local schools and these sessions have proved very popular. The first one got under way on the Boating Pond at Highgate in heavy rain, but this was no deterrent to the children:

Fishing in the rain
School kid fishing in the rain
Young girl fishing in the rain

Everyone caught plenty of fish and enjoyed themselves:

Kids like fishing
Kids like fishing
Girl fishing

After a while the rain stopped as the youngsters carried on learning new skills and enjoying the fresh air and peaceful surroundings:

Hampstead Heath fishing lesson
Youngsters fishing
Boy fishing

A couple of weeks later we ran another session. It was quite hard going with fewer fish biting. Catch of the day was a large perch – by a young girl trying fishing for the first time:

Young girl with her perch

This boy was equally happy catching small rudd:

Boy with a rudd

Let’s hope we can preserve this brilliant London angling venue for the next generation of anglers.

For more details about Hampstead and Highgate Angling Society, please contact chairman Bob Gibbs – email: robertggibbs@yahoo.co.uk tel: 07946-630045

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