If you don't have access to a car or just want to cut down on your carbon footprint, let the train take the strain and spend time fly fishing within easy access of a station. You can do just this thanks to Fishing Breaks, which was set up by Simon Cooper to make fly fishing accessible to everyone - and that includes getting there by train.
The idyllic gin-clear chalk stream River Test was the birthplace of fly fishing and there are several places to fish that are accessible by rail.
Broadlands House is the private beat of the Mountbatten family flowing alongside the lawn that slopes down from this magnificent Georgian home. This is an opportunity to fish on one of the most iconic sections of the River Test and can only be done so through Fishing Breaks. The Tanyard and House beats have open banks and large sections where you can get into the water and wade. (For the novice, the best way to catch fish in the spots you're targeting is by getting in the water and wading). As with most of Fishing Breaks' facilities there is a fishing hut for your use but The Cromwell Arms is just 100 yards' walk away, offering breakfast, lunch and dinner and also 14 bedrooms, some of which welcome dogs. A little further afield are more facilities for a short break in the market town of Romsey. The fishing at Broadlands is available for 1-4 Rods (1-4 people) except during the famous Mayfly season (the season when fish go into a feeding frenzy and take the flies from the top of the river in the last 2 weeks of May/first week of June, otherwise known as Duffers Fortnight!), when it is booked for exclusive use by groups of 3-4 Rods.
Another wonderful River Test area run exclusively by Fishing Breaks is Mottisfont Abbey, also the place where Frederick Halford, the man who can truly lay claim to have established the sport of dry fly fishing, spent many a summer in the early 20th century. He fished at the famous Oakley Hut and you can follow in the footsteps of this fishing giant as well as other greats of the Victorian era who fished here. Now under the careful management of the National Trust and Mottisfont Fly Fishing Club, the banks at Mottisfont are well maintained and nature takes the lead allowing for an abundant wild trout population. Four beats include Oakley, Rectory and Main (suitable for 2 Rods) and one on the Test's Tributary the River Dun (for 3 Rods). Each of the beats is within a mile of the nearest train station at Dunbridge.
Dunbridge is near the Mottisfont beats and on the River Dun. Simon calls it ‘a little bit of chalkstream heaven' - immaculately maintained with good fishing for one Rod or 2 friends. This is the nearest fishing to a station, just 0.3 miles from Dunbridge and also close to The Mill Arms which serves food and drink and offers 6 en-suite bedrooms for those wanting to make a break of it. The river holds wild trout and grayling plus some very large fish. This beat regularly gets an evening rise (for the novice, this is a hugely enjoyable fishing moment when fish rise to the surface in abundance, creating perfect conditions!) and the fishing here is also exclusive to Fishing Breaks.
Whitchurch Fulling Mill is another River Test fishing area, suitable for 1-2 Rods, and only bookable through Fishing Breaks. Simon explains that it's ‘one of those rare places where you can get up so close to feeding the fish that you can sometimes almost pick them up in your hand!' The water is incredibly clear and the abundance of food for the fish is exceptional, meaning that there's always plenty to keep the fisherman happy! There are 2 wading sections and a third with a choice of bankside fishing or wading. The area is well maintained and much restoration work has taken place. The nearest station is Whitchurch, just a mile away and in the historic town of Whitchurch is The White Hart, with restaurant, bar and rooms.
For some the River Itchen is the ultimate chalk stream. Shawford Park is a hidden gem in the grounds of the magnificent Shawford Park House, dating back to the 15th century. The fishing here is beautifully maintained - carefully looked after for a decade by river keeper Pete Glyn-Jones. There are 2 beats - exclusive to Fishing Breaks - providing close to a mile of water in wonderful surroundings. You can wade or stay on the bank and the fishing is available for single rods or parties of up to 4. Shawford station is just a ¼ mile away and there's plenty of accommodation in Winchester, a short train ride away. The Bridge in Shawford serves food and drink and is just 1/8th mile from Shawford Park.
The River Kennet is another of Fishing Breaks' fly fishing greats. The 3 miles of the River at Barton Court (former home of the late Terence Conran) lie to the east of Hungerford in Berkshire and is regarded as the best section of the chalk stream. Stocked with brown and rainbow trout, it offers everything you could want from a day's fishing for 1-6 Rods. It's just 0.7 miles from Kintbury station and just 0.7 miles from the Dundas Arms in Kintbury which is a pub and restaurant with 8 bedrooms, some of which are dog-friendly.
Fishing Breaks caters for both the experienced fly fisherman, those who are tasting it for the first time and all in between. It offers private tuition and courses on the River Test as well as your own personal and very knowledgeable fishing guide.
Says Simon Cooper; ‘Fly fishing has seen a real surge in popularity with all kinds of people recently, offering the perfect fresh air pastime for all levels. And for those who want to keep things as environmental as possible, or who don't have access to a car, the train is a great solution. A break away is easy too, with close access to some characterful and comfortable places to stay.'
The fly fishing season is between April and September so hurry and book your break with a difference now! To find out more visit https://fishingbreaks.co.uk