I think if we fishermen are honest with ourselves we spend the first couple of months of the season waiting. Throwing weighty nymphs and speculative casts are all well and good but it’s never truly satisfying.
So, for the early parts of the season we watch and wait for hatches of march browns and clouds of grannom but nothing captivates us like the mayfly. Their life cycle means crazed fish and fishermen. There’s an intense sense of getting to the river “first” at my club at the moment. Members are determined to grab the best beats as they hunt for fish and the mayfly. For many, this is the only time of year they fish. I’d like to say I’m immune but there is nothing quite like watching a river change and go into a frenzy as angry looking trout gobble up lace-like and fragile mayfly. Or indeed my favourite spectacle of all, watching little ducklings strain their necks to snap at them.
Last season enormous hatches blessed my daily cycle along the Thames. They seemed to be everywhere, dancing above the brambles or fluttering into my face. Every evening as I crossed the bridge at Hampton court, there were always a few resting in the stone bridge. Normally, the webs, which span the fine, baroque ironwork at the palace are peppered with mayfly corpses. I enjoyed listening to squeals of horror as they invaded the garden of my local pub. For me, a resting mayfly on a cool pint glass is a welcome companion.
This year, my cycle rides are spent straining my neck to see traces of mayfly in cobwebs, or their shucks floating on the slower, gloomier parts of the river.
I’ve become fascinated by scavenging seagulls, dipping and diving for elusive insects over the barges. I question the custody team at work about them, and none have become imprisoned in the Tijou.
I’m getting desperate. Where are they? I angered a speedy lycra-clad cyclist by dithering on the banks as I searched for signs of mayfly presence. He shouted “fucking knob” at me and I shouted back “Don’t you care about nature you sweaty bastard?” At first I questioned my aggression but I was anxious. Anxious over the whereabouts of an ephemeral insect.