Country diary: Dragonflies and trout thrive in the quiet of the river

Country diary: Dragonflies and trout thrive in the quiet of the river

Aberaeron, Ceredigion: I come to an old stone wall over the Afon Aeron; there’s enough life here to make me pause for too long

Trees overhang the Afon Aeron

The worst of the heat has slipped away into the east, and a wind from the sea is starting to cool the stone of the harbour walls. It is just after low water, and the streamers of seaweed below me are beginning to turn upstream with the flow of the tide.

I follow their lead, crossing the harbour on the wooden footbridge and taking the path inland on the southern side of the Afon Aeron. New, bright thistle flowers erupt from the old stone wall that guards the stream, the stems describing narrow arcs in the breeze. The tidal limit is quickly reached, and even for high summer the level of the river is low. Angular lines of dipping rock strata that form the river bed hold back narrow pools of water, which overflow without vigour at the lowest points.

Rock strata form the bed of the Afon Aeron.

As I continue east, the trees in full, dark summer leaf block out much of the remaining glare, shading the banks where blackbirds perch to drink. Further on, grey wagtails make short, erratic flights over the water, taking flies on the wing before landing on water-rounded stones to rest and demonstrate robustly how they got their name. My walk has a welcome interruption when I meet an old friend on the path and get introduced to their young – and very enthusiastic – spaniel, which looks down at the cool water with obvious longing.

Above a quiet bridge the river pools idly between overgrown margins. Inconspicuous over the pebbled bed, small brown trout – hardly more than fingerlings – ease their way against the gentle current. On the smooth surface of the water, growing rings appear like the marks of raindrops, but these plot the floundering impact of newly hatched flies. The trout approach and strike, taking the insects with a barely audible plop, while large dragonflies halt and dash in an ancient pattern above the water.

I have paused too long, and dark heavy clouds are starting to build in the humid late afternoon. Taking the lane to the north of the river I head onward once more, leaning into my stride in an attempt to make up time.