Fly Fishing on the River Test

On Tuesday, Jayshri and I booked a few days off work and escaped the heat of the city for some rest and relaxation in the Hampshire countryside. The Peat Spade Inn in Longstock is a charming village pub with good food, friendly staff and some lovely rooms, and we were invited to stay for a couple of days by our friends Fusun & Alan in order to celebrate Alan’s birthday.

Alan is a keen fisherman, and his birthday treat was a chance to fish for the day at one of the very exclusive beats along the River Test. The Test in Hampshire is one of the most picturesque rivers in the UK. It’s crystal clear chalk streams meander through pretty villages of thatched cottages and are regarded as some of the very best for fly fishing in the country. On the first afternoon, we lunched in Stockbridge and even the river running through the main street seemed to be full of quite sizeable brown and rainbow trout!

As a boy, I was an enthusiastic (but largely unsuccessful) angler, so was really happy to be invited along to watch and even act as gillie if the occasion warranted. Of course, the other reason was so that I could take a camera. I’m not confident as a landscape photographer. I do people! However, despite the fearsome heat, the countryside there is so beautiful, I hoped to capture a little of it along with some photojournalism of a successful day’s trip along the riverbank.

We arrived mid-morning at Wherwell Priory where Alan had exclusive use of the ‘Park Beat’. It’s absolutely gorgeous. The river here is crystal clear and shallow in places, so it’s actually possible to see the fish chasing your fly. In another section, a deep and turbulent hatch-pool swirls by a mill. Where we started, the river splashes over the chalk bed beneath a stone bridge by a thatched cottage. Sadly, it’s not cheap (I’d have had a go myself otherwise). A licence to fish for one day costs between £275 and £375 depending on the season! And, OMG, it was so hot! Over 30 degrees, I think. There isn’t a lot of shade (casting would be difficult if there was) and despite my best efforts to be careful, I did feel a unwell for a while after we stopped for lunch. Mad dogs, Englishmen and, it seems, fishermen go out in the midday sun.

The Peat Spade Inn will cook you any decent sized catch for dinner, but all the fish caught that day were quickly and carefully returned to the clear and cool waters from whence they came. :)

Alan tried a couple of flies, but this one seemed to be the most successful. The little gold metal dome at the head added some weight so that it sank a little and must have glinted in the sunlight…

It took a little while to set up, but within seconds of his first cast, Alan was into his first fish…

A beautiful and healthy brown trout. We did see plenty of rainbow trout too (especially while we were in Stockbridge), but they didn’t seem to be biting that day. I think Al hooked one at some point, but it jumped off the line, so sadly no photographs (they’re very pretty) :( …

The beat is long and varied. We spent about 10 minutes in each location and then moved along…

A tiddler! Note the red spots on this younger fish…

The beat passes along the edges of some private gardens. How lovely it would be to live in one of these thatched cottages. Apparently, no fishing rites though!..

The Mill. Al consults his map of the beat – it’s much longer that you first think!..

We’d had a quiet patch. Maybe it was too hot for the fish as well. However, just beyond the mill, he started catching brownies again…

The river banks are full of wildlife. One of the great things about fishing is that you get to see all kinds of nature. I haven’t been able to identify what this butterfly or moth is yet, but it was so colourful. [NB. Just been informed it may be a Scarlet Tiger Moth]…

After it got too hot for me, we met up with the girls and headed to the local pub for a spot of lunch and a siesta back at The Peat Spade. Alan headed back to the beat late afternoon when the temperature was beginning to drop a little and sun less troubling. As we had his birthday tea booked in the restaurant for 8pm, we went to fetch him (drag him away). By then, he’d worked the whole length of the beat a second time and caught a load more fish.

Some of the thatched cottages along the beat…

Al was particularly chuffed that with the last cast of the day, he managed to catch another really nice one! Think J was impressed too…

Walking home. Tired, but happy…

Alan and Fu…

[dt_quote]All images were taken with a Fujifilm X-T1 and Fujinon XF 35mm f/1.4 R lens.[/dt_quote]
Posted bySteve Butler

"Your first 10,000 photographs are your worst." - Henri Cartier-Bresson

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