The Beautiful Chalk streams of Dorset are well known for their superb, if not testing dry fly fishing for Brown trout. Probably the best known of these productive little rivers is the River Frome. Rising in the Dorset downs at Evershot the river is the largest in Dorset draining about 184 square miles. Over its 30 mile length the river runs over a mixture of sand clay and gravel giving a variety of habitats, which supports a rich variety of Fauna. It finally reaches the sea in Poole Harbour
Historically the river was famed for it’s impressive run of large multi sea winter Salmon. Despite it’s relatively small size the river would support a run of about 4000 Salmon. Sadly, as with many UK rivers the Frome has seen a drastic decline in Salmon stocks with the typical runs now struggling to reach an annual total of 800 fish.
Numerous reasons for this decline include the usual issues such as overfishing, loss of in river habitats due to man made obstacles and survival at sea. If we add to these issues the continued illegal netting operations in Poole Harbour its not surprising this is a struggling river.
Thankfully, continued research on this river is carried out by a dedicated bunch of scientists at a laboratory at East Stoke. They have been carefully monitoring this river for well over 30 years giving a unique insight as to the timing and volume of migratory fish runs as well as the individual sizes of fish. Sadly, these studies show that the large fish for which the river was renowned are now but a distant memory.
I have been lucky enough to have access to the lower stretches of this river for a number of years and I have experienced some amazing fishing. Access to the lower river (below Wool) is limited and primarily in the hands of syndicates. Although a stretch at wool is apparently available on a day ticket basis.
Although the declared rod catch is only about 70 – 80 fish each year the rewards are rich for the dedicated angler. The season begins on March the 1st and fishing is fly only until mid May when spinning begins and in Mid June the Prawn can be used until the end of the season (August 31st).
I prefer to fly fish if possible but once the prolific weed growth starts to take over many of the best lies can only be covered by a well placed spinner of Prawn. Early season is the time for the fly and although not numerous the average size of fish is much higher. In 2011 I landed 4 salmon before the end of May with an average size of 16 3/4lb.
Although now very rare I believe a few of the leviathans for which the river was once famed still slip through the lower stretches in April. These fish would go largely undisturbed, the fishing pressure is very light until the spinning starts. I make a point of fishing the river as much as I can at this time of year as there is always that glimmer of hope of a biggie!