Fly fishing on the River Test Fly fishing on the River Test Fly fishing on the River Test Fly fishing on the River Test

The River Test

The most famous fly fishing river in the world

The River Test is a fabulous fly fishing river – arguably the most famous fly fishing river in the world. It was here that Frederick Halford, the most influential fly fishing writer of the 19th Century, fished. His works on dry fly fishing were the foundation of the sport as we know it today. He mainly fished the middle reaches of the Test near to the small old town of Stockbridge and this remains to today an ideal base for fly fishers visiting this very special river.

The River Test is situated in the county of Hampshire around 70 miles south west from central London and is easily reachable from there by fast road and train. As with most chalkstream rivers it is noted for the high alkalinity and extreme clarity of its water. Prolific aquatic insect and shrimp life make the river a very fertile environment for fish.Fly fishing on the River Test

The main hatches of upwinged flies start in late-April and peak from early-May onwards to late-June during which time the famous Mayfly hatches of Ephemera Danica take place. Autumn hatches can be very good right up to late-November and although nymph fishing is important from the summer months onwards, around half of all Trout and Grayling caught during the autumn will be taken on dry fly and those fishers that wish to stick to dry fly only can usually have good sport all day long. Even in the winter most days there will be a small hatch of flies and Grayling will be caught on dry fly.

We do guided days and fly fishing tuition days at a number of locations on the River Test from the upper reaches near to the town of Andover downstream to the lower reaches near to Romsey.  

We provide the best value River Test fly fishing days

On some beats wading is allowed (but not necessary) but on some beats wading is not allowed. Different beats have different prices at different times of the season and generally the more costly beats provide the best fishing for experienced fly fishers. However some of the lower-cost beats are ideally suited to beginners learning the art of fly fishing. Contact us for the specific prices of specific locations on specific dates. Note that we do not provide just day rod beat access to fish without a guide/instructor.

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Fish species / seasons

The game fish in the River Test include Brown Trout, Rainbow Trout, Grayling, Sea Trout and Salmon. It is most famous for its Brown Trout but is also one of the very best fly fishing rivers in Britain for Grayling. The Trout season on the Test runs from mid-April to early-October with Grayling being in season from mid-June to mid-March (we continue to catch Brown Trout while we target the Grayling). Thus the river is open for fly fishing for 11 months of the year. The spring and the autumn provide the very best fly hatches and the best dry fly fishing. The famous Danica Mayfly hatch takes place from early-May to early-June. The mid-October to Christmas period provides the lowest prices combined with very good fishing, including often excellent dry fly fishing.

Upstream from Stockbridge the river is narrower and shallower and contains just Brown Trout and Grayling. Some Brown Trout are stocked but natural recruitment is good and wild Brownies are often caught. Below Stockbridge the river becomes wider and deeper and relies more on stocked fish and these include Rainbows as well as Browns. Salmon and Sea Trout fishing can be good in the summer months in the lower reaches of the river from Romsey downstream to the sea at Southampton water.

At certain scheduled times during the summer the river is closed for fishing for weed cutting so in 2018 avoid planning days on the River Test between June 14th and 24th, July 19th and 26th and August 21st and 30th.


The River Test is the largest of the chalkstream rivers but often its total flow is split across multiple smaller carrier streams. In the wider main river sections a 9 foot 5 or 6-weight rod would not be out of place but on the carrier streams an 8 foot rod for a 4-weight line would be more suitable. An 8’ 6” rod for a 4 or 5-weight floating line is recognised by most fishers as being the perfect all-round chalkstream set-up.


Mostly the Test is fished by casting upstream from a position on the bank. However on some beats wading is allowed. Although ‘match-the-hatch’ fly selection and delicate accurate casting are important the number one skills on chalkstreams are stealth and observation. In the crystal clear shallow water sight casting is the norm and the fisher would be advised to make all his movements very slow and considered. In an ideal world false casting is kept to an absolute minimum and all casting is done to individual sighted fish – either clearly seen in the water or seen to be rising regularly. Polarised sunglasses are a vital part of the chalkstream fly fishers equipment.

Go Fly Fishing UK have considerable experience in offering guided days on the River Test as well as fly fishing tuition days for beginners and improvers. We have access to excellent beats in the upper, middle and lower reaches of the river. Most River Test beats are limited on any one day to just one or two fishers. Given the density of fish and the need to fish the water very slowly and carefully only a short beat is needed for a full day of successful fishing. In some cases our guides have guided over 100 days on some beats so they know these waters better than anybody else.


As well as providing a superb fly fishing guide service our guides will also loan all the required fly fishing tackle, waders, flies, etc. – or you can bring your own - and can provide a local railway station collection and return service for fishers. This would usually be from Basingstoke or Winchester (less than an hour from London Waterloo). If required some of our guides will also act as a chauffeur/guide for non-fishing sight-seeing as part of a fly fishing trip. Situated very close to the River Test are some of the United Kingdom’s most important historic sites such as Stonehenge, Winchester (Izaac Walton is buried in the ancient Winchester Cathedral), Salisbury (inc. Old Sarum), Portsmouth (inc. HMS Victory), Southampton and the New Forest.

If you fancy making your fly fishing part of a short-break in the Hampshire countryside then we can advise you on the best accommodation options. These including manor house hotels, country hotels, inns and bed & breakfasts, each within a short distance of superb fishing.


River Test costs reflect the special nature of the river; its top quality fishing; river maintenance costs and the privacy and seclusion being offered. Prices are lowest from October to mid-March and highest in the mid-May to early-June Mayfly hatch. Our guided day prices in the Trout season start at £300 (from just £209 in the winter season) to include the guide and the beat and the price depends on the number of people fishing and the specific location and date. Please contact us for an exact quote for your day. Note that we do not provide just day rod beat access to fish without a guide/instructor.

For more detailed information about the non-fishing highlights of the River Test area please click here.

Contact Dave to discuss your preferred fly fishing location and date or to make a booking – telephone 07899 034728 or email

Happy Clients

"Once again many thanks for a couple of great days fishing and your excellent tuition and guiding. It really was a treat to fish on the chalk streams again."
Nigel McCallister, Majorca - Guided fly fishing days, River Itchen and River Test, Hampshire - January

"Many thanks for making my clients day at the River Test such a memorable experience for them.  They thoroughly enjoyed it and in the evening were discussing going back at some point! Your personal touch in terms of arranging everything made all the difference and your passion for the sport made it a unique experience.  I hope that we will have the opportunity to work together again in the future."
Lisa-Jane Ryan, London - River Test guided day (nr. Romsey) – October

"Despite gale force winds, torrential rainfall and a pair of River Test novices you managed to deliver a wonderful day yesterday. The first ever Grayling for both myself and my friend, and also our 2nd & 3rd each! My five largest ever Brown Trout - all two pounds or more! My first dry fly catch on a chalk stream! Thanks very much for your patience, coaching and assistance - thoroughly recommended. We hope to visit you and the wonderful River Test again soon."
Stewart Roberts - Guided day, River Test - Andover, 15th January.

"Thanks for a great day. My dad really enjoyed himself (I mean REALLY enjoyed himself) and you looked after us just great. Many thanks."
Chris Brown - Guided Mayfly day, River Test - Andover, 22nd May.

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