Despite living next to the River Test for the last decade, I’ve never fished it. This is mostly due to cost; some of the local stretches that are available for day tickets (and there aren’t many) are £250-£350 per day, which is difficult to justify with a young family. However, a combination of birthday and Christmas vouchers gave me enough for a day on the lower river test, at the Parsonage beat.
I had no idea what to expect as I trundled down the dirt track to the beat but I was delighted by what was waiting for me: well-mown paths and leafy banks, a large fishing hut with running water and a BBQ, a proper toilet (!) and a wide gently flowing, crystal-clear river with plenty of fish which were easy to spot. Not quite what I’m used to but very much appreciated as a one-off.
I was keen to explore the beat, so quickly tackled up and walked slowly upstream. There was the occasional gentle rise but the fish were easy to see, sitting mid-stream. I started with a generic olive CDC and cast to the odd fish as I went. I rounded the first bend in the river and started to see a little more surface activity. The olive was completely ignored by several fish so after seeing a couple of bushy red/brown sedges floating around, I tried a Retirer sedge which had an immediate impact. A very big (probably stocked) brown took it with gusto and immediately dived for the weeds. Unfortunately, adding pressure to keep it from getting tangled resulted in the fly snapping off. After switching to stronger tippet and digging out another cinnamon coloured sedge I managed a couple of decent-sized brownies as I walked up the beat.
After a very lovely and leisurely lunch sat outside the fishing hut, I retraced my steps. The sun was high by this time and the fish, while rising sporadically, showed no interest in a sedge. About half-way down the beat, there was a brief hatch of olives which netted me another couple of lovely browns on an olive emerger as well as a few lightning-quick grayling. As so often happens, there was a lull in activity late afternoon when the fish just seemed to disappear.
It picked up again later on as dusk fell. Slowly, fish started to show, gently sipping something down. As the number of rises increased, I started to see small black midges over the water. I tied on a size 16 black f-fly and managed to tempt a lovely wild brown into the net, followed by another on a small black klinkhammer. As the light was failing the water was absolutely boiling with fish sipping down these small midges but there were so many about I couldn’t get another touch on my imitations, which were probably too big.
An absolutely fabulous day on the Test with a good bag of fish taken on a range of different flies and all by matching the hatch. Perfect!