‘See! See! Someone behind me exclaimed. I turned, and there in his shirt sleeves, was the Landlord of the little inn at which I was staying. With outstretched arm he was pointing at something in the blue air athwart the copse bordering the water, and his eyes were gleaming with some hidden joy. It was the first Mayfly of the year that had moved him.’
— W. Earl Hodgson, Trout Fishing
We’ve waited all Winter and our first trips have been pretty poor (one could say abysmal even) we were both beginning to wonder if it will ever happen. But there we are, kneeling in the tall bank-side grass watching a small hatch of black Mayflies. It’s mesmerising the way they lift, tilt, then drop back, all to be repeated again and again. They love those little quiet corners where the wind leaves them in peace to go about their buggy-business. The sun cuts through the cloud, flicking little shafts of light through the trees giving the scene a sense of infinite possibilities, the Mayflies seem to bask in the warmth and freedom of their new lives above the surface and continue to flutter and dip, gathering momentum as they dance towards an inevitable end.
It seems that we are not alone in watching them as a small brown is now kicking up off the edge and grabbing any individual that drops too low. I see Marcus eyeing him, trying to fall into his rhythm and get the timing right. With a slight turn I see him adjust then quickly work out the fly. It’s a good cast, it just seems to roll out so gently, the leader unfurls and the little black spinner seems to kiss the surface, he throws a quick mend and the fly settles into a steady drift, just as I think he’s about to recast, the fish makes a lunge then tries to head back to the safety of the weed, as soon as he feels the pressure of the line he kicks to the surface, tossing his head and rolling with all his strength. Marcus puts the wood to him and is pretty soon lifting him from the water, gently removing the hook he drops him back to the surface, and with a quick kick he’s gone. I look at Marcus and we both start laughing, the sheer enjoyment of Mayfly fishing makes you feel that life is so bloody good!
On the drive out earlier in the day the wind had been blowing all over the shop and the clouds were trying their best to keep any warmth out of the air. We visited the owners and stayed far to long, when you stand in the kitchen of those old homesteads you feel as if time has stood still, you know that the same scene in front of us is one which has been going on for over 150 years. As we spoke about all the food they where preparing for the big party later in the day – smoked hams, onion tarts, bread from a the old woodfired oven in the kitchen – it made me ponder. A great deal of enjoyment that comes with fly-fishing is the wonderful relationships that develop with all the people that you meet and all the unusual situations you find ourselves in, fishing is a great leveller, and the time spent with great people only serves to enrich the experience.
We said our goodbyes and headed off downstream, the wind trying to send us home, Marcus had his new 4 weight and was not leaving until he’d nailed a fish. I had seen that look before and knew there was no way that he was going to give in. We walked for a kilometre down to a larger pool section but the wind had whipped it to foam, this was not going to be easy. Fortunatley the wind was behind us and he started flicking a Fast Water Dun onto the obvious bubble line, trying to draw up a fish. On and on we walked with no success, the wind kept pushing and the cloud seemed to be intensifying, I’d had doubts but it seemed that it was all about to come to an end. Marcus looked over with less than a smile and asked ‘what do you want to do?’, I could see that he was willing to leave but that he really wanted to continue, ‘ok’ I said, ‘lets change tactics, tie on a black spinner and lets start hunting for some softer sections, we may find something if we can get out of this shitty wind.
Heading straight for a high bank further upstream, we bypassed some beautiful pieces of water but the wind had made them unproductive. We cut through the trees and all of a sudden seemed to enter a different world, the treetops far above us were blowing apart, but down near the rivers edge it was warmer and the sun was starting to edge through. A tall grass section between the trees and the bank gave us the perfect view of a fifty metre pool in front of us. At the top of the run a huge Willow dangled its lower branches in the river, rising and falling with the push of the current, animating the scene with an eerie sense of speculation. Almost immediatley a fish rose ten metres up and Marcus was down the bank and casting, I think I was as excited as he was when the fish gulped down the fly. Edging him in quietly, another fish started feeding in almost the same spot, he quickly released the first fish and moved onto the second, another quick flick and he’s on.
We fished on like this for the next couple of hours and managed to grab a few more, we kept to our plan and just kept searching out those softer sections which early season mayflies seem to love so much. We made it back to the car and started eating our very late lunch, how good is it to just stand there in your waders washing down your very tasty sandwich with an icy cold beer? Already reliving those wonderful moments that only Mayflies can give. As we drove past the farmhouse we could here the music drifting across the paddocks like a Summer festive. The drive home was quiet as we both just relaxed into our individual thoughts and let our minds replay the day. The easy silence broken by Marcus asking, ‘do you want to fish Penstock in the boat next weekend? Pete told me that the fish are up taking Mayflies already’. I run this question over in my mind and honestly contemplate my answer, ‘they really love that Possum Emerger don’t they?’, I say. He smiles and settles back in his seat and we both start to think of those amazing days at Penstock in Seasons past, just drifting down the middle with duns popping up all around and the fish being as co-operative as they can be…
So, as Spring rolls on those wonderful words of David Scholes’ come back to us… The Mayflies are up!