Caught by the River

The Ebble

Malcolm Anderson | 10th July 2021

Malcolm Anderson dons his waders for a serene Friday evening in the Ebble Valley.

It’s been quite a week, but it’s Friday now, and at 4:30 I turn the laptop off and sit back and look out of the window across the fields of barley by the house as they shift slowly from green to yellow in the July sunshine.

I’ve got a night to myself tonight, and although I’ve planned to fish I like to make decisions on exact details as late as I can.  I want to feel that illusion of being a carefree teenager once again, footloose and fancy free, if only for those few moments where I decide which direction to head in.

Grabbing the waders and vest from the hook by the door I step out into a warm, still afternoon.  There’s not a breath of wind and the cloud is building thick and grey to the south; it’s muggy.  Hopefully that means buggy too.

I inch across a town choked with Friday afternoon traffic. Tempers fray in the heat, all horn sounding and engine revving bustle.  Strangers sit behind their windshields, fingers tapping steering wheels, faces expressing desires to be somewhere else.  The man in the BMW in the next lane is singing along to some Taylor Swift with his windows down.

An ambulance flies through the queue, cars parting, angst forgotten for seconds while people reflect on someone else’s problems as the blue lights vanish towards Salisbury District Hospital.

The traffic changes my plans so I duck off onto a side road and zig-zag my way across country lanes and head for the Ebble Valley.

The Ebble rises up near the village of Alvediston and flows for 12 miles through a mostly unspoilt valley towards Bodenham just south of Salisbury, where it joins with the main river Avon and heads off south to the sea.  Although small it is without question one of the finest trout streams in the south of England, if not in the whole country.

The stretch here is managed by Salisbury & District Angling Club, and although no-one should tell the river keepers, is managed almost as perfectly as is possible.  It’s fenced off well to keep the cattle out of the river and avoid poaching of the banks, there’s a path cut well back from the water’s edge and the fringe and emergent vegetation is kept at a good, almost unkeepered length.  Honestly, with the exception of journeying up into the almost-unfishable headwaters, this is for me as good as it gets.

I’ve eaten my dinner, had a drink, watched a barn owl quartering silently across the waist-high meadow behind me and talked absent-mindedly to the golden cattle on the opposite bank before I remember that I’m actually here to fish.

Sometimes it happens that way. There is so much to soak in and be grateful for experiencing that actually casting, that unthinking movement of line described by Maclean as “an art that is performed on a four-count rhythm between ten and two o’clock” becomes almost secondary to simply being here.