On Failing the Test
A short stay in Hampshire, and an opportunity to make a pilgrimage to the sacred water.
A bridge over the Test - a rare opportunity to gaze in wonder at the fabled river.
As I walked out of the grounds of Mottisfont Abbey and on to the main road, the late afternoon sunshine reluctantly relaxed its hold on the day. Highland cattle lazed in the shade, paying me no attention. They must have seen a dozen worshippers pass by already that week. And just beyond the bend, the bridge: a rare window through which riff-raff like me can watch gentlemen flick fly-lines over the River Test.
As I stood leaning on the concrete railing, near the sign marked ‘Private’, an angler walked on to the stage. He slowly worked his way along the bank, peering into the depths, looking for trout within casting range. The minutes rolled by and I watched spellbound as his fly rod moved back and forth, dropping a short line and a weighted nymph into the glassy current. How I wished that I could leave my vantage point and join him in this most idyllic scene.
Our 'gentleman', generous with cash; miserly with respect.
And then the rod was bent, and a fish drawn close in. But the moment was ruined when I watched him hoist the trout out of the water, and crane it over the marginal reeds. A landing net remained attached to his jacket, unused. The fish was then grappled by dry hands, separated from the fly, and tossed from waist-height into the water below. A couple of minutes later another small trout was treated in the same way.
Saddened that this beautiful river had been abused in this way, I trudged miserably back to car, regretting that this ‘gentleman’ had paid the owner handsomely but then short-changed the river itself, and the fish that live there.