This last week I’ve been seeing small hatch’s of Danica Mayfly on my local River Wharfe and River Aire here in Yorkshire but the chalkstream rivers in Hampshire have much larger hatches.  Here our excellent guide Colin Alexander reports on some recent guiding experiences on the River Test.‘Once the Mayfly start to hatch and make that magical emergence from the surface film to the banks in search of warmth and safety it is very easy to assume that the trout will immediately start feeding in response on such a big meal. But fishermen beware because often the trout will continue their mainstay of the small upwing Olive flies, whilst taking a Mayfly or two along the way.

River Test 11th May

I think it sometimes takes a while for the trout to concentrate on the one offering and even then, if takes are not coming to your Mayfly pattern, then I would suggest making a switch back to a fly such as an Adams or Tups Indispensable and testing the reaction.  Changing the fly serves two purposes in reality…..fish will often react to a different fly immediately but most importantly changing the fly rests the water, even temporarily.

Guiding my client James on 18th May on the lower Test we experienced Mayfly steadily hatching in the late morning but with little rising.  That changed in the early afternoon when the Mayfly hatch was steadily increasing and the odd trout made a splashy rise. The tactic that worked for James,  who doesn’t fish often and for whom the rivers were a new experience, was to watch and wait for a rise before casting and to work the water extremely slowly.  It is amazing how often the fish are at your feet just tucked out of view behind a weed run and careless wading undoubtedly leads to lost opportunities. Also we found fish rising very close to the bank where they perceived safety and cover.

When James caught his first fish to the Mayfly (a Mohican pattern….very true in its likeness with good floatability) I don’t think I have seen a happier client.  The fish had a real Mayfly in its mouth and you can see (on the rod butt) the fly and the insect together in the photo.

Mayfly 18th May

I think stealth and presentation are the number one priority all year and sometimes we can all forget that in the Mayfly,  when for a few days at least the fishing can be ‘forgiving’. The fish will not however very often forgive unnatural drift / skating of the fly so always consider the angle of approach before making the cast. A bit like a good snooker player thinking where the white ball will end up before making the shot. It often pays to come in from the side so the fish sees little of the leader and chances of lining a fish are reduced.

But the fishing will become harder again as the feast crosses over to the trout being selective of which stage of the Mayfly to eat and when the glut comes we can start to think again of lighter leaders and smaller flies.

River Test 22nd May

We have certainly had some mixed weather but generally the fishing on the southern chalkstreams since early April has been extremely good.  On the lower Test beats I guide on the Grannom hatch was excellent, consistent and longer than normal. However, personally I saw few Hawthorn and those were later than the norm. The Itchen has also provided some good sport and I must say James and Becky (above) from Suffolk reminded me just how lucky we are to be living within reach of such waters.

PS – on 14th one of the fishers..Mark.. was sat quietly on the bank near Romsey with his feet in the water…..a water vole came out of the bank and ran across the lap of his waders before plopping in the river. Unlikely to repeat that in a lifetime.’