I met Matthew Wright at the Wild Trout Trust's annual conservation awards held at a posh Mayfair club. I'd been hired to photograph the awards ceremony. He was one of the guests and I'd asked him to pose for a photograph with members of the winning Eastridge Estate team on the River Kennet. He was happy to assist and I grabbed this shot http://www.clearwaterphotography.co.uk/wtt2014/e133c6e58.
Matthew told me he hadn't fished the Kennet much, so I suggested a trip after winter grayling on the upper river. He was up for it! We managed to find a slot in his manically busy diary, but he wasn't able to get to Hungerford before lunchtime. A late start's not ideal on those dark, dank days at this time of year. Undeterred, we met just outside the town, grabbed a quick sandwich and made our way to the river. The good news was that I'd heard from ARK (Action for the River Kennet) riverfly monitors that aquatic insects were recovering well after the serious pesticide pollution in 2013 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-wiltshire-23177777. The bad news was the high groundwater levels meant the headwater springs had broken and this, combined with heavy rain, meant sighting fish to cast to was almost impossible.
The upper Kennet - classic chalkstream
Rob, the keeper, said we might be lucky to get a short hatch of olives if the sun came out. In the event, we saw very few rising fish. This didn't stop Matthew persevering with a dry fly, using his experience on other chalkstreams to seek out likely grayling holding areas in the fading light. I wasn't so optimistic (determined!), so I followed Keith Johnson's advice and stuck to a tungsten headed nymph, fished in the deeper glides.
OK, so it's not in focus. Don't try macro shots when you're shivering!
A lovely Kennet grayling of about one pound. Returned to fight another day.
We fished until darkness. It had been hard work. Matthew ended up with a grayling and brownie, a solitary grayling for me. The lack of fish was made up by Matthew's company. This bloke is a fanatical and knowledgeable all-round angler with some great stories about his fishing trips around the world. We adjourned to a local pub to warm up in front of a blazing fire and plan a future visit when the dice might be stacked more in our favour.
Matthew tells his new best friend about the one that got away.