At the end of May we organised a day for a group at Broadlands on the lower Test. The day broke clear and our hopes were high for a classic day of warmth, mayfly and good company. Bill Latham delegated groups and guides over fresh coffee and bacon rolls as the first dark olives began to hatch and flutter over the surface. Kit was rapidly broken out of cars, leader setups and fly selection discussed and rods put together. While Bill offered some casting lessons on the grass to one of our less experienced guests the rest swarmed out on to the three trout beats with eager anticipation.

UK, Chalkstream fishing, Aardvark McLeod

Peter McLeod drove Miles and Will down to the bottom of the lower beat with Will on the far bank and Miles and Peter on the near bank. The river had cleared out considerably from the rain of the previous week, and almost immediately the first rise forms began to show. Peter and Miles sat on the lower bench for a while, observing the river and figuring out which fish to have a crack at first.


The first mayfly duns had begun to hatch in the warm sunlight and a few eager fish were slashing at them in the middle of the stream. However, under the bank a larger fish was hugging the bank and sipping duns in a random manner that immediately focused Miles’ attention.


Miles, who had swapped his normal saltwater rig for five weight outfit, flicked the fly back and forth to dry it before gently dropping it down against the bank and taking in the slack as it drifted back in the current over the fish’s head. Nothing. The fish ignored his offering and continued to add insult to injury by sipping one in front and behind. This fish was going to take some time… With Peter on his knees in the undergrowth spotting, the two of them continued to work on this more educated fish as others slashed around in the current. Finally the fly was in the correct succession and the brownie lifted in the water column and inhaled the fly. Miles allowed the fish to turn before setting the hook at which point it erupted from the water. It just goes to show that towards the end of the Mayfly it is vital to be patient as often fish become glutted and lazy. After a brief battle the fish was landed and then released quickly to fight another day.


Will had taken a couple of fish off the other bank as Miles and Peter continued to work back up to the car. Apart from a few fish that came up once and did not come up again and a couple of large chub playing in a pool no more came to hand. Once up at the car Peter switched to the other bank with Will as they moved in under the trees.


The water here was deep, and although there was one good fish lying under a branch it presented an impossible cast so they moved on up. As the two moved around the corner though they came across a couple of lovely fish sitting on shallow gravel bars in between the weed fronds. Having caught one lovely buttery brownie just in front of a stand of trees a much large fish came into view.


Peter ducked down and Will crept up the bank before he executed a longish cast with his 10’ 3#. The fish eyeballed it, dropping back in the current with the fly on its nose as they both held their breath. The nebb came out of the water and the fly vanished in a classic ring. Will set the hook and all hell broke loose as the fish tore off down the river giving the reel and good wrench. After a while Will subdued the big brown and after a few aborted netting attempts Peter managed to slip the net under its flank. A stunning fish of nearly 4 lbs.


At this point the delicious scent of barbecue wafted down the river, and the thought of refreshment and a rumbling stomach made everyone realise how fast the morning had slipped by.


Arriving at the fishing hut they met with the others to discuss the morning’s events over a glass of wine and some smoked salmon entrees before sitting down to an incredible spread based around a fillet of beef done on the open fire.


Excited talk revolves around a multitude of topics while our hosts flipped back and forward bearing further delicious offerings. There is nothing quite like a bankside lunch washed down with a lovely red before coffee and cheese. Once sated, thoughts return to the river and the mayfly coming off.


As the group swapped beats and hit the river in the afternoon, the mayfly spinners danced along the edge and up against the trees, beginning their final courtship ritual. later in the evening they fluttered back to the surface to lay their eggs, spent. This is when the action really will kicked off as the trout zoned in on their dying struggles in the surface film.


The afternoon was very bright as the sun beat down. Lovely to be out, but less good for the trout who stick to the shadows and avoid looking into the bright globe with their lidless eyes. The first part of the afternoon proved hard work, with only a few fish coming to hand before a break for tea and cake.


By the end of the day all of the group had enjoyed the wonders of the mayfly, from emergence to their final lay of eggs, catching wonderful feisty brown trout throughout on various dry fly offerings. Both guide team and anglers left the river that evening with large smiles and fishing appetite well and truly quelled.


If you wish to consider taking a group to the river for an afternoon of fishing, camaraderie, fine food and wine then we can pick the perfect spot for you. We cater for private parties, corporate groups, casting refreshers or individuals, so please contact Bill Latham or call the office on +44 (0)1980 847 389 for further details.