Jan 15th, 2020
The United Kingdom boasts many historical references in both it’s culture and architecture yet none maybe more impressive than the fact that this is where the very sport we dedicate our lives to was born over 700 years ago. For many, fishing here is a right of passage as a fly angler. A true bucket-list trip.
Contact Max at 800.552.2729 for more information on the River Test, England.
Expert Q & A with Paul Richardson
Top reasons to go.
1. Experience a world-famous chalk stream destination with large brown trout & grayling.
2. Enjoy premium English country manor accommodations with fine dining.
3. Historic private beats that were not available to the public are now.
4. Experience rich, quintessential British culture, lifestyle and history.
5. Fish manicured grounds boasting 700 years of river keeping & management.
6. Take advantage of the strong dollar to pound exchange rate.
Where is the lodge?
The accommodations, like the river, are set in the heart of Hampshire in the Test Valley, about 15 minutes outside the towns of Stockbridge and Winchester.
Where do we stay?
Think Downton Abbey and you’ll be on the right track! Lainston House is a 17th Century country manor, now converted into a luxury hotel. Luxurious suites each individually and tastefully designed are supported by award-winning dining; a combination that is sure to impress.
How do I get there?
Guests will need to fly to Heathrow (LHR), where they will be met by their hosts, Paul & Katie Richardson, who will transfer you by private minibus to your luxury accommodation – which is located approximately 1hr 30 minutes away.
Do I need a visa?
With a valid USA passport, U.S. citizens do not require a visa when travelling to the U.K. For any other nationalities please inquire and we can advise.
Who is best suited to this destination?
The fishery is so well managed and maintained that this trip is well suited to any angling skill set and ability. Access to the water is very easy, with very little energy consumed. In fact, our pace is centered around a more relaxed format, as the water you are fishing is yours for the day meaning there is no need to rush. If adventure travel and long wilderness hikes to the water are your game, this is the complete opposite – this means our custom UK countryside trip is encouraged for single travelers and couples. The riverside fishing (no wading) allows for a much wider range of angler to be able to fish with ease, and without the worry of entering the water.
For the history buffs that want to be immersed in the history and culture of England this is a great trip. It was here on the Hampshire chalk streams that rich English aristocrats of the 13th century first started using flies as a means of catching fish for sport. Over centuries the sport of fly fishing has been refined and mastered here, paving the way for an unrivalled riverside experience.
Best summarized, this trip is perfectly suited to anyone that is eager to see historic English towns and countryside at their finest, enjoy fine dining and accommodation in the evenings, experience “going for a pint” at the Mayfly pub in-between casts, all while fishing arguably the most famous chalk stream in the world.
When should I go?
There are three different windows during a fishing season on the River Test – from May 1st until October 15th.
Late-Spring: The most productive window by far is mid-May to May-end. Thanks to the British Mayfly, the up-wing, Ephemera Danica (better known in the USA as the Green Drake hatch) this is the most sought-after time to fish the majestic chalk streams of England. Fishing can be so productive that throughout the generations this electric window has been referred to as “duffer’s fortnight”. The timing of the hatch is within a short 2 to 3-week timeframe – which we have centred our pre-determined trip dates around – to increase the chances of your exposure to this feeding frenzy. We have secured what is traditionally the beginning of the hatch, in the hope of providing a fishing week that improves progressively. Once in full momentum the fish become very active, acrobatically attacking flies that are still air-born – even the tough-to-find, big, wild fish emerge from their lairs and commit to a dry fly!
Summer: Following the Mayfly hatch fishing becomes a little tougher as we enter early Summer. As we move into the heart of Summer in July/August, we enter a more pleasant weather window which is a fantastic time to be on the river. Olives, BWO’s and Caddis become a stable part of a fish’s diet and fishing can be great.
Early Fall: The month of September and early October can be a fantastic period, thanks to the Crane fly, or Daddy-longlegs as it is better known in the UK. The damp, dew-ridden grass banks provide an abundance of these insects. Takes can be very aggressive and persistent, whether on the surface or sub-surface.
Where do they fish?
Each day, you will have your own private beat (sharing with one other person in the weekly fishing party) on the River Test via private-estate water – some of the most exclusive beats available on the River Test. Beats will be rotated daily to ensure optimum fishing conditions, whilst fulfilling a wide variety of coverage for our guests on the River Test.
NOTE: A fishing beat is a small section of river (single-bank) that is your designated water for the day to fish at your own pace and leisure. No other pressure other than from your rod, and your fishing partners rod will occur over the duration of a day – essentially a private section of river for you.
What is a typical day like?
A typical day will begin at your leisure with a 5-star traditional English breakfast served to you at Lainston House. Your host/guides will be ready at the foyer for 8:30 AM to transfer you and your party from Winchester to Stockbridge which takes approximately 15-20 minutes. Here you will be given your private beat for the day which you will share with one other individual in the fishing party (two persons per beat) to ensure you can fully maximize the breadth of the river.
Around 1 PM your guide will host you in a riverside cabin where you will be served a selection of delights such as pies, cheeses and pastries. A riverside English lunch would of course, be incomplete without a “tipple” of Sherry or Port – sending you back to the river to soak up the rest of your afternoon.
At 5:30 PM your guides/hosts will transport you back to Lainston House where you will be able to dine in the evening at your leisure at a 5-star award winning, fine dining restaurant where a delightful meal will be included [tasting menus and wine flights are available at an additional cost].
For 4-8 people only, join ‘The Avenue’s Chef’s Table’ for a truly unique dining experience [additional cost]. The ‘Chef’s Table’ allows you to watch as the chefs prepare and present your delicious tasting menu. Please speak to your host who would be happy to arrange any of the above on your behalf.
What are the meals like?
Every day, Lainston House will provide you with a classic ‘Full English Breakfast’, cooked to your liking and served to you by your waiter. This is alongside a buffet style continental breakfast which includes cereals, breads, fruits, pastries, juices, etc.
Most days, lunch will be served to you in a riverside cabin. This will be family-style dining where anglers come together and enjoy a selection of treats such as breads, pickles, cheese, pastries and sandwiches. Lunch will also include soft drinks and a small aperitif.
In the evenings, you will be welcomed into a 5-star restaurant, The Avenue. Taking its name from the magnificent mile long avenue of lime trees as viewed from your table, the award-winning Avenue restaurant is an intimate, elegant restaurant, enjoying the most beautiful of settings. Inspired by seasonality, the superb and varied à la carte menu is tempting to all palates and tastes. If our British weather permits, there is no better place to enjoy than a table on the pretty, Indian stone terraces. Drinks are not included. Sample menus are available on request.
How would you describe the general vibe and atmosphere?
Historic, charming, green, quaint, relaxed and essentially delivering a feel that you are “living the good life”.
Is there an on-site manager, owner or point person at the hotel?
Yes. There is always a host on-site with the group.
Is there internet and cell service?
Yes. You may lose service when you are on certain parts of the river.
How do they fish?
Upstream, single-fly presentations only with dry flies, nymphs and traditional wets. Streamers are not allowed.
How many fish will I catch?
Depending on the angler’s skill set and conditions, one would usually expect to have an opportunity of catching 3-5 fish over 18 inches per day.
What are the guides like?
All are individuals with unique personalities that take pride in patience and British centred fishing knowledge.
Will we see other anglers?
You and one other person will have a private beat for you to enjoy – so there will be no-one else permitted on your beat. However, the opposite bank could also be occupied in the same manner, with another pair of anglers – in this instance British fishing etiquette means that the river is shared straight down the middle. No casting onto the opposite bank.
Is there wade fishing?
No. The UK chalk stream riverbeds are protected from damage, to encourage weed grow, insect-life and ultimately preserve the health of the river. All banks are manicured lawn, to make for easy access to the fishery and fly presentations.
How far is it to the fishing grounds?
Approximately 20 minutes.
Does the outfitter provide equipment?
No. Anglers should bring all the relevant fishing equipment. Any items forgotten or damaged on a trip could potentially be loaned (depending on the guides available kit list). The town of Stockbridge features a world-famous fishing store; Robjents – who will be available to service any anglers’ requirements.
Do the guides provide Flies?
No. Any flies required must be purchased from the tackle shop each morning prior to the days fishing. Anglers will be offered this opportunity by all guides on the way to their beats.
What is your favorite rod for this trip?
Guides prefer a medium to fast action rods that are 8’6” or 9’ and suited to 4 or 5-wt lines.
What is the preferred setup?
Fly Water Travel Favorite Presentation Dry Fly Setup:
Rod: 9 ft. 5-weight Sage Trout LL (590-4)
Reel: Sage SPECTRUM LT Reel 5/6
Line: RIO Products InTouch Technical Trout WF5F
Leader: RIO Products Powerflex Plus Tapered Leader, 12 ft / 4X
Tippet: RIO Products Powerflex Plus Tippet, 4X – 6X
What are the top flies?
As this is predominantly a dry fly fishery, (depending on seasonality of visit) the best patterns are: Mayfly, Cranefly, Sedge’s, Caddis, Olives, CDC’s, Gnats, Midges and Ants.
In more testing conditions flies such as hot-headed beaded nymphs, freshwater shrimp imitations, GRHE’s, PTN’s, Caddis nymphs are permitted. All of which are patterns very similar to the smaller sized flies that are often fished on western U.S. rivers.
Are there other activities?
Yes, many! The area of Hampshire is rich in English history and culture so there are many towns and landmarks to visit. In addition, there are also activities such as countryside walks, road cycling, award-winning English wine, beer and gin tasting tours, and visiting National Forests are just a few of the many things available to you in Hampshire.
You can also make the most of your hotel with perhaps an afternoon Cream Tea with far reaching views down the avenue of limes on ‘The Terrace’, or, order a luxury picnic hamper from the kitchen, borrow a rug from reception and saunter down to the beautiful avenue of lime trees or you’ll find a seat for you to relax and soak up the splendid views of the 63 acres of parkland.
For a more leisurely activity, the croquet and French boule lawns are located just outside the Drawing Room, along with the option of tennis. You can also take a trip to the Sundial Garden for something incredibly relaxing.
Lainston House also offer a half day falconry experience; this is the ultimate experience for an in-depth look into the world of falconry. Spending time with a falconer and her birds of prey, you will learn all about the birds and their history, watch them flying, and experience handling and interacting with our collection of raptors and owls. On this adventure you will fly, handle and interact with the collection of raptors and owls.
All of the above would be separate activities to the trip agenda and would therefore need to be organised and paid for separately and privately. Hosts can assist and arrange where possible.
Are there hidden expenses?
Guide tips are appreciated, but not necessary and will not be expected. Tipping whilst dining on an evening at the hotel is a discretionary 12.5%.
What is the cancellation policy?
In the event a cancellation is necessary all deposits will be non-refundable unless a suitable replacement is found.
Do I need trip insurance?
No, but we always recommend it. We recommend Global Rescue for trip insurance and evacuation insurance.
Does this trip combine well with other trips?
Absolutely. With Heathrow only 1-hour 30 minutes away you can continue your trip on to Europe very easily. You may also want to explore the rest of the UK such as Wales and Scotland to which you can go by train or plane.
Are there special skills required?
What are the physical demands?
The fishing activities here are at the very low-end of physical demands.
Dangers and annoyances?
Whilst the UK boasts beauty and elegance, creating a natural draw to many around the world – it is worth highlighting that this is factually the best possible time for US citizens to travel to the UK. The exchange rate is working very well to make this a much more affordable, yet very exclusive excursion.
Guests have the opportunity to experience a unique, luxurious and relaxed fishing trip that is not only based around the enchanting River Test, but the delight of staying in a beautiful English manor surrounded by charming winding roads, thatched cottages, local pubs and countryside. All attendees will leave having had a true immersion into an exclusive, British way of life.