Last week I had the privilege of fly fishing England’s legendary River Test’s mayfly hatch with Cheeky Endorsed Guide and U.K. resident David King. Our quarry for the day? Big U.K. brown trout.
I met David riverside for a delicious breakfast and coffee before setting up our 4 and 5wt trout rods for the day. “This river holds the next U.K. record brown trout,” David explained as we tied our tippet. “Think you could check my knots?” I gulped.
The River Test flows through Southern England and is one of the most picturesque rivers in the U.K.
The River Test is home to some of the most famous trout water in England. Its clear, naturally flowing current winds its way 40-plus miles through breathtaking English countryside before emptying into the English Channel. As with many trout fisheries in the States, the Test’s mayfly hatch presents some of the best opportunities of the year to land a trophy trout on a dry fly. And luckily for me, we couldn’t have timed our trip any better.
Wading in the River Test is prohibited, so we snuck along the bank looking for feeding fish.
It didn’t take long to understand first hand why the River Test is such a fly fishing destination. With thick clouds of mayflies dancing in the trees and the sun high overhead on one of the nicest weather days of the year, we spotted more feeding fish in the first few hours than we could count.
The clear water and overhead sun meant we were able to sight fish to feeding browns all afternoon.
“Big brown!” exclaimed David, pointing to an absurdly large shadow next to the bank. “Drop your fly 2 feet in front.” After several attempts, I managed to place my mayfly emerger in the trout's direct line of sight. As it drifted overhead the trout backpedaled with it for several seconds, closely observing every detail of my offering. Finally, its massive snout broke the surface and delicately sipped my fly with a take dainty enough for a 6-inch brookie. An explosion erupted on the surface as line peeled off my Tyro 350 Fly Reel. After a magnificent net job and quick revival by David, the 26-inch, 8 ½ pound brown trout was back in the river and I was left on the bank, arms shaking. It was the largest trout I had ever caught in my life … well, for about an hour or so.
This trophy brown measured out at 26" and 8.5lbs before being safely released back into the river.
By the time we packed up in the evening, I had caught three brown trout, one of which was even slightly larger than the first (pushing the 9lb mark), and one beautiful small grayling. Catching these fish on dry flies was incredible, but doing it while simultaneously sight fishing was out-of-this-world awesome. During the course of the day, I didn't make a single "blind" cast, meaning every cast I made was to a fish I could see. Fly fishing the River Test during the mayfly hatch was the ultimate combination of the technical presentations of trout fishing with the thrill of sight casting on the flats.
This pretty grayling was a welcome surprise on a large mayfly.
Even outside of the awesome fishing, the day was an absolute blast. In typical English fashion, we broke during the heat of the afternoon to relax with an afternoon tea at a local manor in the countryside. It was a lovely respite during the hottest part of the day and certainly an experience you won't find fly fishing in the States.
The afternoon tea at a local countryside manor was a lovely break during the heat of the afternoon.
My guide David was a pleasure to fish with, and his knowledge of the fishery and terrestrial life is simply unmatched. Countless times during our outing he spotted fish that I had simply overlooked as weeds, and he always knew which fly to throw for the best chance at a hookup. If you find yourself in Southern England, I highly recommend giving him a call. Click here to learn more about David King.
Reel of Choice: Tyro 350 Fly Reel
For this trip I fished the Cheeky Tyro 350 Fly Reel. Its award-winning REV Carbon Drag System packed more than enough power to stop these trout in their tracks, and at just 5.3oz, it was an absolute breeze to cast all day long.