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A Pleasant and Surprising Day

By Mike Pratt

This turned out to be one of those days that one usually hears about from other people or read about in books.

Being late May there was a certain confident expectation about spending the day on the river. There should be a good Mayfly hatch to look forward to with all the attendant excitement and activity and the opportunity to relax in the late spring warmth. In anticipation of such events my son Jon came down from University for the day to accompany me and indulge in the prospected sport. A rare treat for him.

However . . .

It was wet, cold and misty with a leadon overcast sky when we arrived on the bank. The previous night it had rained almost continuously and everything was soaking wet and miserable looking, with no sign of the sun's presence. The temperature was unseasonably low but, at least the wind was almost non-existent. A small but welcome bonus.

All in all it was not what the assembled company expected.

Having tackled up we made our way through the wet grass over the sodden ground to the island and just above the Copper beech tree.

There is a sad poignancy pervading the stoic optimism of the would-be Test fly fisherman on a May day such as this. What is there left for mortals such as these when the Gods have contrived to conspire against them? It is that inbread belief of Englishmen that summer is in fact just about to start - in just a moment. It may not appear obviously imminent, but to those who believe, it is as certain as day following night. And so it was.

As we surveyed the river, mirror like, with not even the slightest of ripples to disturb its meandering flow, a Mayfly hatched in front of us. It hatched, struggled into life and was sucked under the water before it had travelled 10 feet.

A large trout was on station just up-stream of the beech tree. Within a quarter of an hour more Mayflies hatched, some taking to the wing, one or two falling prey to the chap by the beech tree. Jon tied on a good old traditional Mayfly pattern and cast to this trout - nothing. He cast again and sploosh! A very solid determined take visible in all its elements from the rise up from the river bottom, the mouth opening, the swallowing of the fly, the turn down and the rolling shake of the head as it sensed resistance.

It was a classic take.

Jon now found himself with a fight on his hands because this fish was big and strong. There was much dashing about, tugging, twisting and turning as the line was gradually shortened and it was brought nearer the net. A momentary panic as some weed managed to wrap itself around the line just above the trout frightening it into renewed activities. Eventually it was landed and a lovely specimen it was too. Three pounds eleven ounces of beautifully formed and coloured trout. What a way to start the day, second cast with the chosen Mayfly and a take by a large trout. Summer was indeed about to begin.

Although the weather was not showing any inclination to improve there were quite a few Mayfly coming off the water and there were trout rising to them. Whilst Jon wandered about reaquainting himself with the beats I sat quietly watching the river up-stream of the beech to where some just submerged weed was causing an eddy on the surface. Every now and again a nose broke the surface and dragged a passing Mayfly under. When Jon returned I pointed this fish out to him. He put his fly to it and it rose, seamingly to prick its nose on the hook. Whatever the event it pushed the fly with its nose, turned with a rush and was gone. Although we waited some time it didn't show again. Jon went off to fish from the wall and I remained in speculative contemplation, wondering why I could see my breath condensing in clouds like it was a winter's day. The temperature had dropped quite appreciably during the morning but, even cold though it was, the flies were still hatching and being taken by the trout.

I noticed that the trout we had put down was now feeding again, and when Jon came back I took my rod and put a Mayfly to it. The second time over it, it took and a one and a half pound fish was landed. I moved over to the garden wall, watching Jon as he attempted to interest the rising trout in his artificial offering instead of in the plentiful supply of naturals that were appearing all over the river. The river really was a wonderful sight. It was flat calm, no wind disturbing the surface and Mayfly after Mayfly floating down like miniature sailing barges. A privilege to witness such a scene.

The trout were going mad taking fly after fly, but they showed little predilection to take the artificial.

We stopped for a bite of lunch in coincidence with a short rain shower. Whilst so occupied we decided, by observation, that all the trout appeared to single out the most upright of flies for their meals. Jon opined that a Mayfly pattern with large wings might be the very thing needed to ensure success. After lunch, with the temperature rising and the lightening sky producing much more acceptable conditions, he tied on such a fly and wandered off to the top of the garden wall to rejoin battle with a fish that was feeding under the Yew tree. This fish had been, and still was, feeding noisily and voraciously. It had spurned all previous attempts to entice it to take the offered fly. This time things were different. With a slashing take it was into Jon's fly the third time of asking. It put up a spirited fight before he brought a three pound trout to the net.

About two thirty it was noticeable that the hatch was dying away fairly rapidly and the river was quietening down. As it was now quite pleasantly warm I was happy to sit and watch the river as Jon tried his luck on other parts of the beat. There were still many fish active, most being small grayling, but every now and then a small silver coloured fish, about five to six inches long would jump clean out of the water taking an airborne mayfly. It was an amazing feat of interception the like of which I had not seen performed so frequently and successfully before. I was not certain what fish was doing this, but a fisherman on the far bank thought they were some of the introduced Salmon par getting their eye in. Whatever, it was fascinating to watch.

About four-thirty the hatch started up once more with many flies in evidence.

Jon changed his fly to a large Grey Wulff and promptly made contact with a two pound four ounce fish off the point of the island. Like all the other fish caught today it put up a strong fight before it could be landed. Although we now had a limit of two brace in the bag, Jon continued fishing for another hour returning back to the river any others he caught. One doesn't often get the opportunity to fish a Mayfly hatch on the river Test in such pleasant conditions.

As we were packing the rods away we could see that the hatch was once again stopping and the river was going dead. This was about six-thirty.

In retrospect it had been quite a day. It would have been difficult to have predicted the outcome that we experienced when we first arrived on the river this morning. Mayfly in abundance, trout galore, trout in the net and the weather warming as the afternoon wore on. It is this unpradictability of fishing which contributes so much to its undiminishing fascination.

We went home happy and content with the day's events. ~ Mike Pratt

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A Pleasant and Surprising Day - By Mike Pratt
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2004 Fishing Season in the Czech Republic - By Tim Baldwin

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