After a long dark, dreicht winter most trout fisherman can hardly contain their boyish enthusiasm as the new season approaches which on most British rivers is in April / May. Most hope for their opening days to coincide with the Mayfly, that transitory entomological phenomenon that live for a year or so as nymphs on the river bed before emerging as an adult to mate and die, usually within a day. The trout, having endured a winter every bit as barren and boring as the fishermen, gorge themselves on the swarms of Mayfly in what is known as “Duffers Fortnight.” For the Mayfly, it’s a short, wistful existence predicated on breeding but they have a charm and elegance for lovers of river life that passes as soon as it arrives leaving us with long sultry and tough days of summer fishing when the sated trout lose interest.
Of course in America they do things differently. Somewhat predictably even the Mayfly come Super Sized and this year the town of La Crosse in Wisconsin is enjoying not so much a hatch as they are an invasion. As far as I can surmise huge swarms of Mayfly are far from unusual but to have them so numerous that they show up on weather radar and block out the sun is going a wee bit too far. Still, the good people of La Crosse can at least go about their business safe in the knowledge that all the Mayfly will soon be dead and their town has suddenly become famous across the world.
Back to the gentler waters of the chalk streams of Hampshire and indeed gentler times. Here’s the late, great countryman himself, Jack Hargreaves telling us about the Mayfly in his Out of Town television series. We’re blessed that at least one man took the time to explain and teach us all those years ago about a pre-war countryside way of life that has all but vanished. Top man, top programme.