An idyllic Hampshire chalkstream, a rod, a reel and a box of flies. Purveyors of fly-fishing’s finest, Orvis, let NICK HAMMOND loose on the Test…
Big Brownie, Big Brownie, Big Brownie…
It’s a weird little phrase that repeats through my brain as the long, sluggish fish slips out from the bankside vegetation under my feet and leisurely drifts into the current.
I can see every inkspot on his yellow-brown flank because the water here is the very definition of gin clear.
And with a reaction cast I make before I have the chance to think about it and cock it up, I drop the little dry fly gently onto the surface some 15 yards away, a few feet upstream of the Brown Trout’s nose.
For a few, spun out, pulse-quickening seconds, the tiny speck on the surface bobs and dips gently and begins its journey downstream. And wonder of wonders, as it does so, the great leviathan rises effortlessly in the water and sips it down from the surface.
Even more remarkably, I don’t yank the fly straight back out of the fish’s mouth. I wait another eternity before striking and a silvery splash confirms that the trout is indeed on the hook.
The above description can’t do justice to the sheer, ancient thrill of fly fishing, but it will have to do. To catch my first brown trout on the legendary River Test is one thing; to do it under the auspices of fishing Gods Orvis is quite another.
An early alarm and a pitstop bacon sarnie start my Friday, but by the time the rest of the world is arriving at its desk and firing up the dreaded computer, I’m shaking hands with an Orvis ghillie bankside.
The water chortles past; ducks up-end among the ranunculus; damsel flies dance and a water vole doggy paddles past on his way to some important business or other.
Usually fishing a spot like this is a ‘dead man’s shoes’ proposition; beats on the Test are rarely available and hugely expensive.
So it’s with a glowing sense of real satisfaction that I accept a mug of coffee and a muffin and begin to chat with my guide for the day.
Even non-fishing folk are fascinated in an Orvis shop. Long racks of elegant rods; gleaming reels and spools; and of course, hundreds and hundreds of exquisitely detailed flies. But Orvis clothes are wonderful too; outdoor clothes for all weathers. Practical, incredibly comfortable and with oodles of pockets and style, they are treasured possessions and last for years.
I have an Orvis cap on my head. Perhaps it’s this that makes all the difference this morning.
After a couple of hours of fishing, I’ve admired serpent-like eels cruising the margins and the timeless tranquility of an English chalkstream in the summertime. But what I’m really here to do is catch fish. My wife has a tendency to crow when I return home from such ventures empty-handed.
And so, when I spot my Big Brownie, I’m in full predator mode. When he is hooked and races off downstream, I try and remember my training and keep the rodtip high, allowing him a little line to play with, but not too much.
There’s a good old scrap between us, but I have Orvis on my side.
And as James, my ghillie for the day, scampers up the bank towards me shouting encouragement, I hold my breath and slip the silvery slab of fish gently into the landing net. My first river-caught brown trout.
It’s a good one too, weighing perhaps two pounds. The slap on the back from James is accepted graciously and I pose for the obligatory photo with a smile that doesn’t need forcing.
Nothing else matters for the rest of the day. Over lunch and more coffee on the bank by a bucolic thatched fisherman’s hut, I smile sweetly at all and sundry and listen with carefree abandon to descriptions of the underwater nymph activity that abounds in such places.
But in reality, my day is already complete. I don’t really care what happens for the rest of this Friday. I have a long journey home ahead of me, but nothing can shake this inner contentment.
Can’t wait to tell the wife.
Orvis are running a Fun on the Fly afternoon in Green Park on 16th September 2015, which includes a free casting lesson with Orvis’s experienced ghillies. If you would like to participate, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org. For details of Orvis’s range of products and services, visit www.orvis.co.uk.
Trout season on the Test continues until 31st October. For more information on fresh water fishing in the UK, visit www.gov.uk.