River Wensum, Norfolk

I went to Norfolk this month to fish a chalkstream. It was my first foray to the chalkstreams of East Anglia.

18 June

In the theme of this season the river was bursting at the seams with water which was of the aged brandy persuasion, rather than gin or somewhere approaching a single malt whisky.

I fished flat out from 10 am  to 6 pm. I saw only two trout and both were in places where casting was heavily restricted. One darted away when a roll cast fell short. I lost half a dozen flies trying for the other.

There was a smattering of hatching mayfly which were ignored by the trout but mobbed by dragonflies. It was a slow flowing, reedy, dragonfly inhabiting sort of river. 

There was notably little other hatching insect life. No olives or sedges and nothing of the terrestrial sort in the air either. I saw a single rise beneath low hanging, leafy willow fronds. Another impossible to reach trout. The river was under a slumber spell.

When I did use a dry fly it was attacked by fingerling sized fish which did no worse than drown the fly. I wondered what it meant that a plague of prey-sized fish occupied the places where I'd  expect to find the predators.

This was inarguably the most difficult day of fishing I have experienced in two decades. 

I guess two other days stand out. The first was a hot day on a pancake-flat carrier of the Itchen when little trout would scatter at the fall of my fly. That day was rescued when, late on, I managed to catch a single trout. 

The second was an early April day on the Avon when a bitingly cold wind blew, and a dry fly only rule meant that success was nigh on impossible. That day was rescued when I caught a solitary grayling.

I have always been able to find at least one willing fish in a mile or so of water, but there was no rescue on this occasion. 

That said the scenery was pleasant and I was privileged to have a day all to myself. Different birds called from the trees to what I'm used to in the south. I witnessed a new species of small bird flit between the undersides of the leaves of an Alder which grew over the water. It might have been a willow warbler but I couldn't be certain. I also came very near on several occasions - a rod length - to an unusually tame heron which stalked amongst the reeds. 

A pair of RAF Typhoons buzzed in the skies for most of the day. The deep roar of their jet engines offered a welcome distraction from a pretty dreary day of fishing.

I had hoped it would be the fishing but I left Norfolk most impressed by the vast sandy beaches and neat coastal villages, especially in the north. We will definitely return when the boys can properly enjoy a day at the beach and I'm sure I might then also catch my first Norfolk trout.


  1. Justin
    We all have days when we wonder if there are any trout in a stream where we are fishing. It reminds me of the Sipsey about a week after stocking it. In other words, all the trout are either caught and removed or drifted downstream.
    I am hoping I can make a trip there in a couple of days after the tailrace is stocked---thanks for sharing

    1. I had fun nonetheless, Bill. It was a new part of the country for me, and that made it interesting. Good luck on the Sipsey!

  2. Hi Justin, I have been reading your various musings, which I have enjoyed very much.There seems to be very little writing of good quality about fly fishing trips etc. Some of the places you have visited I have been myself. I prefer small stream fishing which is difficult to find. Keep up the good work.

    1. Nice to hear from a fellow small stream devotee, Paul, and thanks for the compliment!


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