As I write this the evening haze is setting in and shadows are lengthening as the sun begins melt into the distant West country hills. It has been a crisp, bright and gently warm day as the afternoon sun was tempered by a playful breeze present in the Wylye's broad valley.
After initially planning on dutifully tidying my house, catching up on the washing and doing that bit of DIY I have been putting off for a year or so...... Needless to say, I quickly abandoned all plans of productivity and set my mind to exploring a stretch of my local river, and after all, what harm can come from putting the rod and waders in the back of the car, just in case?! I am incredibly fortunate to live within five minutes of six beats of the Wylye, but I settled on the beats at Wylye Village for a couple of reasons; firstly, I had taken a walk there the previous evening and had spotted a couple of particularly "fishy" looking spots, and two - it is Pub adjacent!
Upon arrival at the hall car park, I was somewhat surprised to see that I was alone in my decision to take up rod and go thrash the water. Sure, the conditions were not entirely ideal. We had flash floods in the area two days before meaning that the water level was higher than some would like and there was a slight - bet very definite - tint to the water that meant visibility was less than Gin clear. On top of that, the day was bright, very bright! I could hear my old Welsh "trout bum" of a Prep School Geography teacher in the back of my head saying "Hmmmm tough fishing out there today Barclay" in his distinctive Valley accent. The thing is though, when you're not very good - *spoiler alert! I'm not very good!* - the "tough conditions for fishing" are simply always great conditions for standing in a river.
Ever the optimist, I struck out across the road and down the foot-path. However, ever the pragmatist, I didn't actually set up my rod and tie the fly onto the line until I went through the gates, passed the cattle-drinker, under the bridge, out into the meadow and caught a glimpse of the first rise of the day. Truth be told, I always take my time when it comes to actually getting the fly wet, as previously mentioned I'm not very good, I don't have the knowledge or the skill to actually go about seeking out the fish, reading the river and understanding where those trout hide, I don't do well with subtlety. Fortunately a trout on the feed is a less than subtle beast and my - just about acceptable - casting ability can usually put the fly in the path of a rising fish.
Despite a fairly consistent blanket of Black Gnat/Midge type fair both in the air and on the water surface, the amount of fish rising was very infrequent, but every now and again a cumbersome looking pallid yellow number would career itself through the air or kamikaze into the water, it was a small hatch of Pale Watery. Time to play 'Match-the-Hatch', having worked for me well in the past on other rivers, I swear by Fulling Mills V Wing Pale Watery pattern at a time like this and it didn't fail me this time either. Give the fish what they want! Third cast of the day, a take, set the hook and I was into a fish, and after a short play followed by what was probably an unnecessary use of the net given the size of the fish, it was done, I had broken my duck. This is a seminal moment, this truly handsome Wild Brown Trout of only a few inches in length marks my first ever fish on the River Wylye.
The rest of the day was a bit of a bust all told, I missed a couple more and spooked a whole load more than that but today will live long in the memory, because today I can finally say that I have caught a Chalk Stream Tiger on the beautiful River Wylye.
If anyone wants me for congratulatory purposes, I will be in the Bell at Wylye with a celebratory Beer.