Beat 7 flows and swoops, crashes, tumbles and chatters, yet holds glassy dim depths with denizens, otters and egrets. Wading and access ranges from the challenging and athletic to the forgiving and pedestrian!
Having strode with great purpose and intent all the way down from the Fishing Hut, 20 yards before a loosely slung gate blocks your way, you can see a great scoop carved from the bank. Step down to the water and wade across to the far bank. Continue downstream until you reach a wooden stile; cross this, edge your way forward until 10 yards from the bridge. There, gently clamber down the rocks to reach the start of Beat 7, Viaduct Flats. Here, there is a lovely streamy pool to the right (looking upstream,) with easy casting, and a short riffly run to the first weir, Viaduct Weir. From there to Viaduct Run lies a lovely deep pool with rises extending all across the water, starting as early in the pool as you can as fish are spread throughout. Start wading Viaduct Run on the left as the right side drops off quickly. Excellent marginal cover gives good security for all the fish. Cast well across Songe’s Fancy, making sure you cover the prominent rock surround at the head of the pool. You will now need to retrace your footsteps to get above Songe’s Fancy.
Now begin casting towards the left hand bank from the start of Brushwood Flats up to the deep water just downstream of the bank scoop where you first wetted your waders! Work your way up now casting towards the right hand bank until you reach a shallow riffle and the first tree on the left hand bank. The wading now gets deeper, and you can continue effectively up to where the clumped trees on the left stop. From here you are casting across Two Bushes and into the tail of Perfect Busseys Weir. Retrace and climb out then bimble along the bank until you encounter another, greater, scoop in the bank. Drop into it and get as far upstream in the scoop as you can. You will see 3 good-sized rocks at the water’s edge; launch rather onto them and from there you can cast across the whole of Perfect Busseys Weir. Pay particular attention to the far bank bush and rock 10 yards upstream on the opposite bank where the run funnels.
Ho for the beat with the greatest polarity of water type! There is some bank fishing here, and some remarkably difficult wading, topped off with broad skies and lowering trees. Spice of life stuff, you know!
At Gannon’s Tale, cover the overhanging tree from the bank and continue covering the centre and far bank until the trees first start covering the water. At this stage, work where the water channels narrowly very carefully as big wild fish haunt the depths. Remain on the bank, casting easily all the way up to the central rock (rather unmissable, being a big rock in the centre of the water!)
Here you begin the tricky work of Light & Shade Weir. Drop down carefully into the water and make your way across the river and with a short line, work your way upstream hunting the streamy lies of some rather big fish. Once you have reached the head of Gannon’s Tale, exit the water through the arched tree branches. Now galumph back in to the water to fish Whylde’s Fancy. This is the hardest wading of the whole water; it’s not deep but the bottom is bouldered and a sure footing is pretty tough to find. Work your fly right up into the foam as there’s always a good chance sea trout are holding there before they next launch further upriver.
Thus we plunge our fly, merrily, into the deepest, glassiest depths of The Basin. This is a slow moving current with boulders underwater to offer protection, and cattle stirring river mud from upstream to provide a rich and generous diet. It calls out for a nymph; weighted is good but too much and you will run foul of the boulders.
And so toward the last section: enter Tough Guy from the first available drop in point and slowly work it up until the shallows short of Dippers Pool. Here, cast to cover all the water, but focus your magnificent efforts on the swirling run moving down the right hand bank beside the covering tree. Wade up the left side to pop the fly as far upstream as you can, and there ends Beat 6! Exit is easy enough; look to the left bank a few yards short of the left hand tree clump and there is a scrabble exit right there!
This is the longest wade, but the most productive, generous and abundant stretch. At times the wading is deep, but should be accessible with care and caution to most fisher-folk.
Start by getting in to the water at the very tail of Rolleston’s Delight. Work both banks carefully round the bend under the trees; there are some excellent fish in there!
If the water becomes a bit deep there, haul out and follow the bank until you can safely drop back in (no more than 20 yards.) From here, you begin Meadow Run. The bottom undulates rather, but wade centre to right and cast to cover all the water; there are frequent midstream rises. Keep going until the large reeded bank on the right which denotes the start of Kingfisher Pool. Move to the right side and carefully fish this lovely run all the way up; rises can be rather dramatic here so keep alert.
Make your way up over the shoals, move to the left, and cast along the right bank getting under the large tree spreading out over the water. This is the start of High Bank Flats which is straightforward wading all the way up. Concentrate on covering both banks and centre as it is a rich environment for the trout. From the large tree at the start, work through the streamy water and wade up the left hand side, paying particular attention to the large fallen log 50 yards up on the right. After this, concentrate on the left hand bank casting up through the swooshy run.
Move up over the shingles and now really concentrate on fishing the whole water in front of you. From open water you will wade between trees from both banks, all giving super cover for the fish. Emerge from between the trees and once again you are in clear open water; stay central in the river and where the stronger flow moves along the right bank, fish there up and until the large tree on the right bank that narrows the flow considerably. Walk through the shallow riffles and you now enter Iron Bridge Run.
Stay centre left and cast in front and to the right. Tuck the fly right up against the bushes on the right side that force the flow through a pinch point. Work this carefully as you walk up, casting through the gap into the open water just short of the bridge itself. Bring the fly in, wade upstream of the bushes and move over to the centre right. Resume casting and keep a good lookout for rises in line with the large tree on the right. Fish feed freely through and under the bridge water. To exit, move under the bridge and climb out on the raised section of left bank.
Probably the most popular section of water, Beat 4 demands thoughtful choice of fly; tough days can result from poor fly box management here, so buff up your entomology and let’s launch ourselves into the water!
It starts at Gilbert’s Weir (no longer a weir but you can see the marks where it once stood.) Moving up the right hand side, cast well in to the left bank, seeking out all the little hollows and cuts the bank offers. It remains shallow until the overhead trees start, whereupon you are into Sanctuary. This long rippling run down the right is fairly deep but very wadeable, the left hand side moves gradually out of wading depth so stay central as you work up. When you have fished all the way up, wade through the head of the run and onto the shallow shingles.
Spit Glide begins with a short and shallow pool; fish the right hand side, tucking the fly under the trees for the lightening fast fish here. Continue up over the broken rapids and, moving to the left, cast all across the water in front of you. It starts with a slow and deep run, becoming swirling and lively further up. Make sure you cast under the tree’s cover. It’s not possible to wade all the way up; about halfway it gets deep so after long, reaching casts to the head, retreat back to the shingly shallows where you can easily climb out and follow the waterside track round to the next drop-in point. Here the water is fast but shallow. Pop a fly under the overhanging tree on the far bank. Make your way up through the shallows until there is a narrowing of the river. Now cast up, moving on the right and casting to the left through all the riffles until the water opens up into the start of Hanging Bush Pool.
Hanging Bush Pool is broad with meandering currents coming down. Stay very much to the left as it is deep in the centre and to the right. Cast all the water but as you move up to halfway, run a fly through Noar’s Rest. Now look to cover under the left bank tree in front of you that marks the start of the narrowing. From there, now move your cast to fish the lovely deep run with tricky currents upstream right. There are some very big fish there!
To exit, track back until you see a rope and post for climbing out. Gamble and frolic along the path until you reach a fordable entry. Here, move to the right and fish up the first run on the left, finishing with an immaculate fly against the large boulder jutting out and jinking the left bank.
Perky little runs, a stately pool and expansive weir will rustle up a frisson for even the most torpid of fly fishers (not that there could ever be such a thing! Perish the thought!)
Wading up the right bank from the top of High Rise Pool, cast lightly and with vim into the swift and narrow runs down the left. Do not underestimate the prodigious number or appetites of the Dead Man’s Glide trout. Push on until you reach an overhanging tree and very fast shallows curling away to the right. Stow the fly and wade through the current whereupon the water opens quite suddenly into a broad and slow moving run, capped by a beautiful tumbling Otter Weir. Staying to the left, very slowly work all the water. Fish begin from the outset so take care not to spook those early numbers. 10 yards up on your left you can see a path cut to the bank; this is your exit point once finished. Keep to the left for another 8 yards then move across the river until your feet find a spit under the water that carries on upstream as far as you need. To your left, in the top section, is a slow deep pool. Straight ahead is bubbling shallow water, and to your right is deep, dark and pacy.
Once you have exhausted yourself upon the wiles of Otter Weir, step out and follow the path upstream, round a corner and into the islet that is Git Passage. Slowly enter the water but stay tucked in to the bank as it drops off rapidly. Cast downstream to cover the overhanging trees; they are good cover for some excellent fish. Then shift your attention to upstream. There are two casting areas: to your left is the Ginners Weir and all the foamy water between. To its right is the deep dark pool that flows very slowly, has unplumbed depths, and is reputed to hold some true denizens of the deep. Absolutely in the middle of the pool is a submerged stake; this will gobble an unwary fly with startling ease!
Exit the way you came, trot round the bank and drop in to the river at the bottom of Mayfly Weir.
Mayfly Weir starts with a lovely shallow pool that holds trout mainly to the centre and right, up to where the islet branches the river. Take the right hand line and fish the riffle up then swing the cast over to the little pool on your left; it’s deep and holds fish. Climb upon the weir’s rocks, move to the left bank and hop out for the end of Beat 3.
Kingfishers, darting dippers and glistening otters make Beat 2 a haven of peace, beauty and wonder. The fishing can be challenging, but the fish are there in number!
Starting from the rocks of Mayfly Weir, step upstream into the broad and pastoral scene that is High Bank Weir. Fish thrive throughout its water, so cast gently and a section at a time; spooked fish will put the whole pool down so go carefully. Wade centrally, but toward the top the riverbed slopes rapidly to a tumbling depth so make sure you stop in good order. When you’ve fished the pool, exit the way you came in, take the path upstream, and drop in wherever you may find a break in the bankside vegetation. Wade upstream covering both banks until the flow narrows and then retrace your steps, hop out and walk once more round the corner, down and up a little ditch on your right, to rejoin the river at the start of Lazy Run proper.
Lazy Run is a wonderful stretch; fish are everywhere, there’s good weed growth, lots of bank-side cover and it’s wadeable all the way. The first tree on the right, overhanging the water, shelters some very good fish. Past the tree, watch for the rises as you push on; overhead trees will start to challenge you. Move to the right as the river widens slightly, as the left goes deep. Keep casting centre and left until you reach very tight and narrowed water with the last of the overhead trees. Wade through this faster water and you will emerge onto a shingled shallow with more gorgeous open runs ahead. A large bush is growing out onto the water just ahead of you; this offers good shelter for the fish. Keep wading on the left, fishing to the right. Go past the bush and in front you will see trees from the left altering the flow. Wade up, round the primary tree and you can see Long Reach Pool ahead. Move over to the right side of the river now.
Long Reach Pool is so named because of the very long, technical cast you’ll have to manage to fish it stealthily. But there are some magnificent fish as you work up the pool’s length. Where there is a great confluence of waters all rushing busily off in different directions, look to your right and there is Duck Run.
It starts fast and bumpy; small and fast fish here but tricky to cast. Head through the riffles and emerge into clearer water. The river goes around a tree island; follow it round casting all the way, then wade on the left side into all the little rills and runs down the right. There is then a capacious fallen tree; mount the bank briefly to circumvent it and fish the pool in front of you when you come back out at the water. This is Willow Pool.
Quick, chattering water that swoops and glides. Curling runs brimming with life. The top beat is a halcyon memory such as Jack Hargreaves may have dreamt of. Nothing too testing, no wading to tricky, this is a lovely way to relax and just enjoy the glory of the River Otter.
With Willow Pool to your left, make your way upstream, casting under the trees ahead of you always searching for those darting wild trout. It opens into the short, glass-like Boulder Pool with cover mainly to the right. Take care as you wade through, hunting out those rests and lies, those breaks in the stream where a larger fish may rest. Keep very much to the left as you exit at its head through the narrow corner as it drops into a swirling depth on the right.
Cottage Pool next; a short streamy section but stay on the left and enjoy the short line casting down the lively water. The trees are then overhanging, so cast up and through and hop onto the bank if the left side becomes a bit slippery underfoot.
Lodge Glide and Ripple Pool lie ahead of you. Stay to the left and consider running a weighted nymph down the faster water on the right. Fish the centre and the right, get under the trees and round the corner. Cast out all the way round the jink and finish with the shimmery depths of Ivy Pool. The exit is just on your left, and the path will wind you back to the Fishing Lodge from whence you first began.