In 2003 my brother Peter invited me to go salmon fishing as his guest on the Hampshire Avon and the Dorset Frome. Upto then I had only caught one salmon, at Hodder foot on the Ribble about 25 years before.
So I caught the Virgin train 'Pines Express' from Stockport about 7.30 on a Monday morning in mid May, when spinning for salmon was permitted. The train arrived in Bournemouth about 12.30, Peter picked me up, and by 2 pm we arrived at the car park. The rod I was to use had been made by my other brother John. After tackling up Peter decided to show me the power of a salmon by tugging on the line!
We fished first in the Weir? Pool, when after about half an hour I caught a salmon of about 12 pounds on a red and silver flying C. Peter duly returned the fish and I watched the water fill his boots, a fine Yorkshire expression!
We moved down through Edwards Pool and I hooked another salmon pretty quickly, but lost it. So Peter then showed me the rest of the beat. About 5.30 we returned to the Weir Pool and Peter noticed a salmon moving up the crease at the edge of the slack water. I changed from a red to a black flying C and he told me to cast where I saw movement of the fish. The salmon rose and I cast straight to the rise, and within 2 or 3 turns of the reel I was into a 15lb salmon! The fish turned and, as I walked with it, Peter, now in his chest waders, jumped in to net the salmon. It turned back, but before it could move, Peter netted it with the water at chest height. The salmon was on the bank after about 30 seconds!
The following year it was the turn of the Dorset Frome for my salmon, this time on a small shrimp. The simple, but effective technique, was to long trot the shrimp on float tackle down the pool, whilst standing at the head of the pool. The trouble was that although the surface of the water was smooth, the float soon became hard to see, so Peter suggested stopping it from time to time, and then the drag of the water made it detectable. After doing this for about 30 yards the float went under and a salmon was on! Peter ran along the bank with the net and I followed as fast as I could reel in to keep contact with the fish. Soon a 7lb salmon was landed, and like all the fish caught, was safely returned.
In 2005 I took a video of Peter catching a 15lb salmon from the Ibsley bridge pool on the Avon. On the way back home about 6 pm we stopped at a pool called Severals, a long pool with a metal bank support at its tail. Peter suggested casting to just beyond the support, and to my surprise as the spinner came past the support a salmon of about 12lb took. It used the length of the pool to put up a good fight.
The following morning it was back to the Weir? pool, and I got lucky again, with a salmon around 10lb, again on a flying C.
In 2006, I drew a blank, but Peter caught two salmon, one from Ibsley on a Mepps, and one from Blashford on a flying C. I took a video of the Blashford salmon, and made a bit of a mess landing it, since I was videoing at the same time!
The next year, the Frome produced yet another salmon for me on a shrimp, this time from 'Kissing gate'. The pool was accessed by a narrow wooden jetty, and had high reeds on both sides. I was trotting the shrimp through this slow-moving pool, with no luck, so Peter the Ghillie suggested setting the float a few inches deeper, and trying again. Sure enough about the third cast at this depth the float disappeared and I hooked a salmon of about 13lb. I could not move from the jetty, so when the salmon moved out of the pool to my left the line was cutting through the reeds, and I could not see what the fish was doing. Peter's friend Adrian, standing on the opposite bank, was reassuring me that the fish was not too far away. Applying pressure made the salmon return to its lie, and after three of these runs it was netted by Peter. Afterwards, I took a video of the pool, and realised I was shaking, and had quite a headache!
On the last afternoon, Peter took me to see his new beat on the Avon. On the way he suggested we stop at Ibsley bridge pool so he could have a fish. I am sure I saw a flip by the weir as we walked across the bridge, and would you believe it, as Peter was finishing tackling up, a salmon showed right in front of us! Was the 'flip' I saw the fish arriving in the pool? Two casts later Peter caught a salmon - we had only been there ten minutes!
Over those five years, fishing maybe a total of 10-15 days, we caught eight salmon from the Avon and three from the Frome, and quite a few sea-trout from the Frome. Given the great sport we had on the few days we fished the Avon and Frome, it's hard to believe that the salmon fishing has declined so much in recent years.