|I have seen grayling over three pounds, brown trout over four and sea trout over five in the Frome at West Stafford and have very good memories of the river there
|This is a hidden gem of a chalk stream, providing fishing of the highest standard. The mayfly hatch continued throughout the day on a river where almost no part was unfishable. Deep pools and fast riffles made for a wide choice of fishing, and the fish themselves proved excellent sport. Thank you,John, for a truly memorable day Charlie & Peter|
|Today was one of those days that sums up exactly why I love fishing. Like my fishing brother from another mother, Glen Pointon so rightly said, “fishing runs in my Blood”. It’s something only us obsessed driven fly bums could relate too and knowing non fishing folk think we’re dead and utter crazy and don’t understand the hype, makes it all the more pleasurable. This morning I had the urge to start my 2015 off on a high and damn was I in for a treat.
After seeing all the big G-UNITS being caught all over Scotland and from Mr Pointons endless tease of big fish posts on FB. It only seemed right that I paid a visit to a special place that I like to treat myself to every now and again. So I hopped in the car and off I went. I had, had countless conversations of this section of river not producing the goods over the past coming months but I wasn’t going to let this stop me giving it a shot. And after the sound words of my close friend Sandro Soldarini telling me a few years ago, to focus on fishing tough rivers with not many fish, I went and practiced this approach religiously. (So today’s fishing was right up my street) Hard fishing to big fussy fish is where I get the biggest buzz from. So I knew it would be a case of “Fish hard and slow or go home”. (Stealth, presentation and good form but most importantly have fun.) I didn’t get a take for the first 30minutes so thoughts of the dreaded blank started running through my head. But finally I made contact. A small active little fella but none the less a beautiful grayling. The next fish did the classic bigger grayling trademark take. The indicator just stopped up and as I lifted I could feel the slow heavy thumps of a nice fish. A grayling of around 2lb. I carried on through up the river until I reached the end of of the section taking 9 more grayling ranging in size. Knowing I spook a few fish earlier on I thought it would go back and give it 30mins before I headed home. Getting back down to where I had spooked the fish fish of the morning I slowly approached the pool and it didn’t take too long until I was hooked up. Another decent fish of about a pound. In two minds of whether to leave on a good note or see if I could fool the big shadow I had spooked earlier on. I moved up in to the next run. Carefully casting and dissecting the water the indicator suddenly froze. I struck and everything went heavy. It felt like I had snagged the bottom, suddenly followed by a really big head shrug. I knew I was connected to something big.All of a sudden the thing leapt clean out the water, then again. The emotions quickly turned from excitement to panic. Classic behaviour of not wanting to lose such an awesome fish. It then shot of down stream like a torpedo. Putting as much side strain as my poor Tippet could cope with I held it and moved him over into the slower water. Leaping again. All I kept thinking is ‘please don’t pull out’. One more dart into the fast current and around my legs and I thought this fish was surely in the net but no off he went again, this time heading under the bank and snagging my dropper. Panicking I slowly moved over to where the fish was now snagged up and quickly scooped the net under. Lifting up all I could see was endless amounts of weed. Pulling the weed off, to my relief, I could finally see a head. This was a serious grayling. I then noticed my phone had run out of battery (what are the odds).As I had my huge pan net I carefully propped the net and fish in a back eddy and ran to my car to grab a camera and my Salter Scales.Measuring 51 1/2cm and weighing 3lb 2oz. To say I was a happy man was an understatement. What a day.
|When John kindly invited me to fish his wonderful new stretch of the Dorset River Frome, I just couldn’t refuse such a privileged offer. John’s new fishery is a mile and a half of mostly double bank fishing and its in the middle of the Dorset countryside far away from any towns or roads.
As we made our way downstream we could see there was a good hatch of grannom and olives coming off with fish rising to them. The river was crystal clear, with plenty of ranunculus waving over the bright gravels of this glorious chalkstream beat. We also spotted several big grayling in the deeper runs and I have these on my list for later in the year!
We reached the bottom and opened my fly box to select a fly to try, the air was filled with bird song, sedge warblers, great tits and the shrill of a kingfisher as it darted upstream. The fly selection was easy and out came a “new” pattern, which is basically a GRHE, but with tuft of snowshoe rabbit fur, which helps this little fly float like a cork and is easy to spot on the water.
John had the first cast to several rising fish in one of the many fishy looking spots and it was on his second cast that a fish rose to sucked in his fly. John’s first fish from the Dairy House water and his was was a picture which showed just how pleased he was.
My turn to have a cast and surprisingly a fish was still rising in the same pool, I flicked my fly over the rise and up came the fish and confidently took the fly. That was two fish from the first 10 yards of the fishery, thankfully the rest of the world was busy with William & Kate’s wedding, so we had plenty of time to fish and chat our way up the fishery.
Half way up the main South Stream there is a derelict brick built fishing hut over looking a scrumptious hatch pool, John has plans to bring this hut back to life so that anglers can enjoy their lunch whilst over looking the river. From here you can cross the field to the North Stream which is smaller and more intimate than then South Stream, but this also had rising fish as we walked half of this beat.
Back to the South Stream to fish the top half and another large grayling spotted from the bridge. Now the hatching grannom & olives were joined by falls of black gnat & hawthorn fly. Fish were rising all around and because it was such a special occasion we only cast to a few of the rising fish as we made our way upstream to the top boundary.
John has many plans for the future of the fishery, but one thing he doesn’t have to worry about is the river and the fish, because both are already perfection and it was a huge honour to have been the first to fish this fishery with him – many thanks John – PS> I will be back!
|Read Nick Hart’s recent account of his visit to fish The Home Beat Click here to read more|
|Hardy Greys website “Fin and Fly” Nick Hart’s Big Grayling Click here to read more|
|I was on the River Frome the other day on a photo job with Nick Hart, on a stretch of this wild (proper) chalkstream that a thoroughly nice guy called John Aplin runs (see here). I have had a thing for grayling for a long time now, and I know that Nick does in a big way. There have been grayling over 4lbs caught and weighed from this stretch of the Frome earlier this year, and in anybody’s book that is a world class fish. They have some seriously big wild browns there as well. All wild, no stocked fish at all. Seems that there is a unique strain of Frome grayling that just grow really big. Almost last cast of the day and Nick Hart hooks and then lands this monster you can see above. We had nothing to weigh the fish on, but from a measurement I believe the fish came in at around 3lb 12oz, but from the off I thought this fish was around the 4lb mark for sure. This photograph does not show how broad the fish was. What a grayling. Never seen one remotely close to this. This is some wonderfully true chalkstream fishing that doesn’t cost nearly as much as say a day on the Test or the Itchen. If fly fishing is your thing then you really should get hold of John here and get yourself down to Dorset. Henry Gilbey|
|John, just a note to say thank you for allowing me to fish The Dairy House Beat recently. It was very nostalgic for me as I used to fish this spot many years ago. I never thought I would get the chance to fish there again, it brought back happy memories.
The day, late September was hot and sunny, the river lower than I had ever seen it. The banks were well maintained and the grass nicely mown. The fishing hut was very welcoming with its old tackle items and the table and chairs outside. The de-barbed mayfly attached to the returns book by fishing line was a nice touch.
Due to the conditions, it meant that the fish were spooked fairly easily, but I did manage to catch three wild brown trout up to 15 inches and a big old grayling of 3lb 6.5 oz, which was blind in its right eye. With these big fish it is extremely important that you return them as soon as possible, I prefer to let them recover in a large landing net in a suitable oxygenated spot.
I had a look at the adjacent stream and saw plenty of small fish, challenging fishing that you would need a shorter rod for.
Thanks for being such a great host.
See you soon
|A warm welcome greeted us on our arrival. We had beautiful weather to explore the stunning riverside walks and surrounding countryside. The accomadation was comfortable and well equipped.John and Andrea Alpin have created a delightful holiday home.
Pat & Dennnis
|Went down to Casterbridge to fish the Home beat with the intension of catching a big Grayling to start the 2012 season off with a bang. And boy did it hit off with a huge bang. Caught my personal best Grayling of just over 3lb and another fish of around 2 1/2lb.
Even though John is a good friend due to many phone calls between us and me itching to get up to his for the day. He provide us with a top class service.
John pointed me in the right direction as to where I might find a fish or two as the water had a bit of colour to it and made spotting fish difficult.
All in all, his company made every bit a great day out and on that note will have to put up with me paying a visit on a more regular basis.
The price for a days fishing is amazing considering the quality and size of the fish and the beat itself is stunning and every bit worth the visit. (I am looking forward to a shot of the dry fly action during the summer moths.)
Thank you so much John for a top day out and for looking after us so well.
See you soon
|Just wanted to say thank you for an excellent winters grayling fishing on both the home and gardeners beat. The fishing has been exceptional with a superb average size, most fish have been 1.5 lbs + and we have had several fish over 2 lbs and a few over 3 lbs including a personal best of 3lbs 8oz for Cam. Aside from the quality fishing we were very impressed with the annexe and facillities you have which really make these trips special, not forgetting to mention your excellant hospitallity and the generous offer of coffee and breakfast each morning. Many thanks again and we cant wait to be back to chase those stunning brownies!
Steve and Cam.
|“Bob and I enjoyed our visit to the Dairy House water yesterday, it’s something that I had been looking forward for a few weeks. The location is quite beautiful and we were blessed with some really decent weather for early March.
I’m still coming to terms with the size of the fish that I managed to deceive on a size 14 nymph and keep looking at the photos to make sure that it really happened. Although I have caught large grayling up to 49cm from the river Frome I have never previously seen, let alone caught a grayling of this size and beauty.
I initially saw what I took to be a large fish lying in a deeper pocket of water but although it then moved up and across to a run under the trees I was still able to see it and cast to it. After a few casts it seemed to move to intercept the nymph and I was delighted to find that I had hooked it when I lifted the rod. I don’t think it knew that it was hooked as it just dropped back into the deeper pocket in front of me and it was then that I started to appreciate that it was a really good fish.
I made a half hearted attempt to net it before it realised that it was hooked but it suddenly woke up and tore off downstream in the first of several runs with aerobatics thrown in for good measure. I had called to Bob when I hooked the fish and he was now dancing along the bankside telling me what a lucky so and so I was when I missed my first attempt at netting the fish. Eventually I managed to subdue the fish and it was only when it was finally in the net that we could see its true size.
We attempted to weigh it in the net but my scales, which only went to 4lbs, bottomed out with a resounding ‘clunk’ so even allowing for the net weight of 1lb 3ozs we knew we had a 3lb plus fish. We measured it against the landing net handle and took a few quick photos before getting it back in the water where we took more photos whilst it was recovering. I’m pleased to say that it recovered well and swam away strongly so it’s there for some other lucky angler to try to catch.
Thanks to your trusty tape measure and the research that you and Alex put in trying to find length and weight tables for grayling we established that it was a 51cm fish weighing between 3lb 12oz and 4 lbs. I appreciate that the grayling are close to their peak weight about now but despite your attempts to talk the weight up I’ll settle for the lower figure which is a new personal best for me and may well prove to be a fish of a lifetime.
Best wishes, Tony
I am sorry it has taken me so long to write but I just wanted to thank you and Andrea for having us to stay in the Annex and fish on 1st June.
The annex was great and the home grown eggs delicious. Thanks also to Andrea for providing the delicious mackerel for our lunch.
We all fished pretty hard but were obviously a bit rusty to catch your wild fish – we will have to return again to see if we can do better!
Thanks again to you both.
Best wishes Dan
Very belated I know but wanted to thank you for a fabulous day’s fishing last month. It was very kind of you to put us up the night before and was lovely to meet the rest of the family.
It was the best days classic fly fishing in over a decade, casting to wily wild fish on a glorious stretch of the River Frome. John Aplin has created the perfect balance of wild fish and fishable stretches of water that present a challenge to the discerning fly fisherman. The chance to stalk and (occasionally) outwit both brown trout and large grayling was the experience of a lifetime.
So many thanks again.
Just a quick note to say thanks again for a really great day yesterday.
Having only fished the free stone rivers of the north, yesterday was my first time on a chalkstream and what a lovely introduction! Previous preconceptions of chalkstream fishing included fat stocked trout, over manicured grassy banks and stuffy old men. The Dairy House crashes all these ideas and whilst being beaten by stocked fish hurts, being beaten by wild fish in a place like that is a joy. There are undoubtedly many fish to be caught and some we saw can only be described as massive so i can’t wait to come back.
Captivating waters (an excellent blog about the Dairy House Fishery)
On arrival at the Dairy House owner John Aplin and his wife Andrea gave us a friendly greeting. John told me that the river had been Ok but had started to rise and colour up slightly at around midday.
………… to read more www.2glimpseafish.co.uk
In truth it was more in hope than expectation that I slid over the bank and into the beautiful North Stream water. It was my last session at the end of two hard fishing days. Sure, I’d been in Paradise.
The water had fined down to perfect condition, the May was out, cowslips and cuckoo pint just coming into bloom.
The River Frome at Dairy House is as near a perfect chalk stream as you could wish for, glassy and inviting, flowing with ranunculus just coming into flower. Yes, we’d seen buzzards, jays, a glorious kingfisher on the feed and deer bounding over the water meadows; we’d lunched with a nice bottle of Sauvignon in a fishing hut straight out of Mr. Crabtree. Whats more, just before my last session of the day I’d just woken from one of God’s own perfect naps in the irresistible hammock on the bend of the main river.
But the fishing, these are educated fish, evolved in an elite ecology developed over 150 years of loving care. They weren’t coming easily in Paradise; we’d had a few hard won trout, there was a trickle of olives, the odd yellow may dun, lots of grannom and the odd daddy. The weather was perfect, a bit cool but lovely cloud, the odd shower and sunburst. But rises had been scarce. At this point I’d raised 8 fish and landed four in the two days. Maybe seem a dozen rises. Erratic rises that didn’t reappear. I’d tried prospecting with all kinds of nymphs for only one five incher winkled out from under a bank to a desperate beaded olive. So for my last hurrah I was a bit stumped. In the absence of a sign of a fish I defaulted to where I’d started at 7 a.m. the previous day, a hopeful klink and dink searching the likely spots upstream. Then as I carefully rounded a bend I caught sight of the hint of a ripple, I stopped in my tracks; a rise, there it was. But to what ? I edged into the bank and crept forward. I couldn’t see what was coming off. I was just reaching for a Wickham when I saw, could it be ? A Mayfly ? At the head of the pool right in the food lane, it drifted down to me, untroubled by the trout. So, no question really, I had to try for it and tied a Mayfly emerger, not a fly I’d ever used before but it looked as though something was being sipped sub surface. First cast, right length but just to the right. Second cast spot on, but nothing; damn, probably lined it. A third try. Spot on again, bang ! A proper hungry take and miraculously, I was in. The fish headed to the left to get under the bank, pressure applied on my 7’ 3wt and the fish shot up out of the water and splashed its way toward me. The stream is only 10’ wide here and the trout was now leaping its away across it under my feet, I got it heading downsteam turned it again by which time it was ready for the net. Not a massive fish, but a beauty, a slim and buttery 10 inches. That was it for me, game over. Or nearly. For as I trudged back across the meadow filled up with a satisfied grin what did I find ? Our host, watching the sun go down with large glass of wine for me & my fishing pal.
O yes. Another day in paradise. We’ll be back.
|Thanks again for a really special time. I cant tell you how much it has meant to be allowed to fish your river and to experience being there with those wild fish. A real privilege and some of the best times of my life. Lee was blown away by it all.
Here are a couple of pics as promised. It was such an amazing fish. Ever since I lost a black monster on the boundary last year I have hoped to see a similar coloured one up close. Would prefer the anonymous photo (!) but its your call. You are god after all!
Best of luck for the new season. Looking at the weather outside it is all feeling very optimistic. Hoping we can visit over the summer with family if there is a space.
All the best
Was a pleasure to meet you on Monday – thanks again for a great day out. Have attached below some pictures of the bigger fish, also just gave these and a catch return to the Westcountry Rivers Trust. Still glowing from my first 3lb grayling, have dreamed of one for years! And what a beautiful beat, great to see wild fish of all species and sizes in a natural setting. I’ve flyfished in the Westcountry for over 10 years but strangely this was my first day on an English chalkstream. I was always put off before by the idea of paying exorbitant fees for an overmanaged beat and stocked fish. Not so here – think you’ve done a great job, enhancing the riverbanks and working with nature rather than over-managing or interfering by farming or controlling fish. Hope to visit again soon for some Winter grayling fishing!
Thank you very much for a brilliant day. You are great company and I learned a great deal. I also had some super fishing.
After fun with grayling, I finally got my trout; at 4.15. I had seen him rising hard against the far (left) bank about 50 yds downstream of the main bridge pool by the fishing lodge. He refused my elk hair sedge but when I came back to him with a size 14 grey duster, took it and ran. Just over half a pound I suppose but a little hero.
I look forward to coming back; if not before Montana, then when the grayling season gets going. I haven’t even had time to visit the carrier yet.
“It’s as if we’ve found a secret place no one else knows about,” I said to our host, John Aplin.
“Exactly,” he replied, nodding his head emphatically. “That’s exactly how I want guests to feel.”
My wife, Galina, our son Tommy and I were taking a break from fishing and having lunch along the River Frome in County Dorset, near the southwest coast of England, where Galina’s family still lives. John joined us to chat and tell us more about his experiences as a river keeper on this lovely English chalk stream.
Known as the Dairy House Home Beat, he first came to this water when he was 10 years old. His father, an employee of the English postal service, had come to know the owner of the estate through which this section of the river flowed. Casual conversations about his son’s keen interest in fishing led to a kindly invitation to show the younger Aplin how to angle for winter grayling and John recalls “the Brigadier” showing him how to properly fish the water.
After that, Aplin spent as much of his free time as possible fishing that winter and finally caught his first grayling.
“To this day, I still remember that fish,” he said.
He went on to explain how his vocational college program in fisheries management led him to begin his own business at age 18; in turn, he came to care for the segment of the stream where he had caught that first grayling and where we now sat. After years of patiently caring for the grounds and the stream, he was offered the opportunity to lease the fishing rights and the dairy house itself, which he and his family call home.
This seems a reasonable point to explain some fundamental differences between trout streams in England and the waters we fish in central Pennsylvania.
With few exceptions, all trout and salmon waters in England, especially the streams and rivers, are privately owned. Many of the best portions of stream run through large estates and, while some maintain their water for personal use only, others sell what are referred to as day tickets. One ticket gets an angler or anglers the exclusive use of that specific stretch of stream, referred to as a beat, for the day.
The tickets can cost from 30 to more than 300 British pounds ($60 to $600) per angler. The price tag, combined with private stream ownership, explains why this type of fishing has been traditionally the province of the rich and royal.
Suffice it to say, we stuck with the less expensive options. Though I would love to sample some of the more expensive water, I can’t imagine anything more lovely than the waters managed by John.
A rutted dirt track extends from a gate behind John’s house and leads to the stream, where a bridge just large enough for a truck or tractor crosses the water. On the far bank, adjacent to the bridge, is a small neat grass lawn fenced to protect it from the roving cows. A table and chairs sit in the yard overlooking the pool below the bridge and a small fishermen’s hut sits behind it. The hut provides shelter from inclement weather and, based on empty bottles arranged neatly on a ledge, a pleasant place for daily libations.
The River Frome meanders through pastoral fields, with healthy riparian buffers maintained on both banks. Trees shade both the fisherman’s path running the length of the mile long beat on river right (when facing downstream) as well as the stream itself.
The stream (and it’s more stream than river, with widest points on this section perhaps 30 feet across) is a true chalk stream, kissing cousin of our limestone streams like Tea, Honey, and Kishacoquillas, though more resembling south-central limestoners such as Falling Springs and Letort Spring Run.
Water in these streams comes from underground aquifers, pumping through spring seeps in the chalk substrate at a consistent temperature around 50 degrees. The rich water chemistry and consistently cold-water temperatures promote in stream life, from aquatic insects to water plants to brown trout and grayling.
This watery web of life, most specifically the prolific water plants, lends itself to an understanding of fishing traditions associated with English fly-fishing.
The generally accepted method of fishing chalk streams is upstream only and on some stream beats, with dry fly only; other beats, including John Aplin’s water allow the fishing of nymphs too but once again upstream only.
I had often poked fun at these rules for acceptable fishing practice, which flies in the face of my keenly held belief in flexibility and willingness to utilize a variety of methods as conditions dictate. However, seeing the lush beds of water crowfoot and other aquatic vegetation, I realized in many places, anything but upstream dry fly presentations were nearly worthless; though possible, trying to fish nymphs, wet flies or even streamers would prove difficult in the best of circumstances.
Thankfully, our time on the water found just enough fish willing to rise to the surface to keep us busy. These included a large brown that softly sucked in my small olive dry fly, leapt from the water and promptly dove into the nearest bed of vegetation. My wife Galina heroically jumped into the stream, net in hand, in an attempt to save the day, however a sharp shake of the fishes head was followed immediately by that sense of nothingness anglers universally recognize as a fish broken off.
During our last day on the water, we walked the beat, looking for risers before committing to where we fished. The strategy paid off, as we found what proved to be a mixed pod of grayling and brown trout rising in a hot tub sized pool, with a light colored stream bottom. The dark shapes of the fish stood out against the whitish-tan bottom and we watched as every so often one of the shapes would break formation and gracefully rise to water’s surface to sample a floating insect.
Taking turns, we each caught our first and second grayling as well as a couple of lovely browns. Grayling are an unusual member of the salmonid family, with a prominent sail like dorsal fin with iridescent coloration that seems to change as the fin flexes and moves.
Though these fish weren’t of significant length, it wasn’t the size of these fish we coveted. Simply being in this special place, doing what we most love with our young son along for the fun made our time on the River Frome memories that will last us a lifetime.
Scott McKee writes about the outdoors for The Sentinel, Pennsylvania USA
|We had a lovely stay at the dairy house, John and Andrea were great hosts and made us feel incredibly welcome and we arrived to find a lovely roaring fire and a box of fresh eggs from their hens to welcome us. The accommodation was absolutely excellent, extremely comfortable and spacious, two good sized bedrooms, a kitchen diner and a comfortable lounge. It suited us, a family of four perfectly and we’re hoping to return for a longer stay soon. The best part awaited using the morning though. The cottage is set in the most beautiful countryside with beautiful walks alongside the river Frome, absolutely stunning. Overall one of the best holiday cottages we have stayed in, highly recommended!|
|Read Kris Kent’s wonderful account of his journey from Bockhampton to Bockhampton eat-sleep-fish.co.uk/content/2016/09/bockhampton-bockhampton |
|Kris Kent’s explores new water for the Little Syndicate eat-sleep-fish.co.uk/content/2017/04/little-little ||Thank you for your warm welcome and kind hospitality. The coffee was much appreciated.
We enjoyed the river and wildlife. Signs of otters entering and leaving the river beside the sign at the bottom of the beat, plus a lot of juvenile mallards on the river. The balsam was alive with different species of bumble bees. A few large pale brown sedges were egg laying, some small Ephemeroptera, ?pale wateries? Plus one E. danica.
The fishing gods were not particularly kind today, what with swirling blustery winds and the odd heavy shower. The biggest factor was the roiling of the water that did get progressively worse and the poor visibility meant we weren’t able to sight fish. At first I was puzzled as the water looked much dirtier in the ‘holes’ but soon realised it was because they were so deep.
Despite the conditions it was good to be on the river. The river started clearing as we were finishing; mais c’est la vie, c’est la guerre !
For the record: I had a knock in the first ’hole’ under the willow bush on the far bank, 20yds up from the bottom of the beat. The 1lb brown trout came out of the hole below sheep bridge and a beautifully marked ½ fish came from the North Stream.
Lovely river, sensitively managed to have a wildness to it, but still fishable.