A COLD blast of muddy brown water swirls around my face, and then I’m fully in, the waters of the River Devon enveloping me as I snorkel across to the far bank.

I’m on a stretch of the river near Alva, and at first the visibility is poor, but as I glide over towards a calm margin, it improves and suddenly a large shoal of minnows flashes and swerves ahead of me, their silvery dark-striped flanks catching the sun.

They are curious fish that watch my every movement, unsure whether I am a danger to them or not.

When one thinks of rivers, especially Scottish ones, then trout and salmon are the fish that come to mind, but here on this stretch of the Devon the minnow is king, and their numbers are quite astonishing.

These fish clearly thrive in this environment, the riverbed rich in detritus, while the alder roots and submerged fallen tree trunks offer great places to forage.

Later in the week I went snorkelling again, but this time on a stretch of the river near Muckhart.

Here, the water was gin-clear and rich in white-flowered water crowfoot – a member of the buttercup family.

These crowfoots had created a vast underwater forest, with their long trailing green fronds providing the perfect place for trout and other creatures to rest and hide.

I part some of the waving weedy strings with my hand and see tiny water snails clinging to the leaves.

Water crowfoot is a fascinating plant, for its floating leaves are broad and flat, but those under the water are thin and tassel-like, so as to minimise resistance from the water flow.

As I snorkel, sticklebacks flicker this way and that, and when I turn over a small rock, a stonefly nymph scuttles away.

Soon, I emerge from the water, enthralled by the abundance of life held beneath the cold waters of the River Devon.

This really is a most magical place; a secret underwater world right on our doorsteps.