The nutrient rich chalkstreams of the River Test are known the world over for their swift, clear waters. It was along these river banks that the sport of modern dry fly fishing was effectively conceived.
The Test rises in the town of Ashe, near Basingstoke, in north Hampshire. At 39 miles, it is the longest river in Hampshire. As it flows southwest, it is joined by the Bourne, the Dever and the Anton. The Upper Test is small with a good concentration of wild brown trout. Whilst similar in character, the Middle Test, which flows through Stockbridge, is on a larger scale with longer, deeper pools that hold larger Trout, including non-native rainbows and grayling. Continuing through Houghton, Mottisfont and on through Kimbridge, where it is joined by the Dun, much of its path is a collection of tributaries, feeders and carriers (man-made streams originally created for meadow irrigation). For the last four miles, below the ancient and beautiful town of Romsey, the river becomes a single channel, which is sometimes visited by sea trout and salmon, until eventually it meets the tidal estuary of Southampton Water.
While the Test has been recognised as a trout-rich river since the 1500s, it was the new leisure class spawned from the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s that made it a popular angling destination. Riverkeepers were employed by estate owners to maintain a beautiful garden-like setting.
The rural beauty of the Test Valley also supports a thriving economy of businesses, from large hi-tech firms, including household names to smaller businesses offering high quality local produce and traditional Hampshire fare.
The whole River Test comes under the auspices of the Environment Agency.