The chestnut-flanked cattle lolled in the shallows, nodding their heads to keep the flies on the move, and exotic green dragon-flies and whirling blue damselflies hunted the water’s margin for midges as the great conveyer belt of insect life, the River Test, streamed past. A kingfisher flashed past like the strike of a match and was gone.
I was alone beside one of the rarest ecosystems on the planet, a chalkstream, 80% of which are only found in Britain. I was there to fish, but, for half an hour, I just watched the watery perfection, Nature’s art gallery. I could see in it, on it and above it. Emerald weed swayed in the current and, between the patches, plump, golden-scaled trout waited for the next insect to be presented to them by the great river.
Trout are perhaps the greatest exponents of eating things in season. Their diet broadly pro-gresses from hawthorn flies to mayflies and onto olives as April becomes May and then June, but trout are contrary feeders and may also change their menu choice by the hour and this is part of what makes fishing so interesting. I couldn’t match the hatch with my artificial flies until I tried a rather dumpy looking Brown Sedge, which turned out to be the trout dish of the day. Suddenly, I wasn’t fishing, but catching.