SHORTLY before dawn and the shroud of darkness slowly lifts above the River Devon.

The blurry-winged sparkle of a kingfisher whips a blue-frazzled streak across the water surface, but despite its cobalt beauty, my eyes are instead drawn to nearby splashes in the water.

Something large had ruffled the river surface and my heart quickened. Beaver, otter or mink were all possibilities, or perhaps an unusually big trout.

Then, a further flurry of rippled water and a pair of animals porpoised across the river, their backs rolling in boisterous fashion.

They were otters, splashing and rolling, diving and surfacing.

I followed the animals as they splashed slowly upstream.

They were clearly enjoying each other's company, and on one occasion climbed out onto the far bank before sliding back down the muddy incline and into the water.

After a short while, the otters vanished, there one second and gone the next, slipping away under the cover of the alder roots that fringed the bankside.

Buoyed by the encounter, I replayed back in my mind what I had just seen.

The otters appeared small, and I guessed they were either a mother and her almost fully mature cub, or a pair of youngsters that had just embarked upon an independent life.

Unlike the brief adolescence of most other mammals, otter cubs stay with their mother for about a year before eventually going their own way.

The otters were a wonderful sight, and the next morning I spotted them once more in the same spot.

One of the otters was so close that when it surfaced I could hear it exhaling stale air from its lungs and gulping back-in the sweet fresh morning air.

It was interesting watching the otters' fishing technique where they spent most of their time diving down and swirling in the shallows right by the bankside. This stirs up sediment from the bottom.

Such actions may flush fish out from their hiding places, but I wonder also whether the agitated sediment may attract fish such as minnows and small trout looking to feast upon any food particles in the detritus, which are then themselves preyed upon by the otters.

Certainly, when I am fly-fishing on the Devon, fish are attracted by the debris stirred by my wading boots.

The other interesting aspect of their behaviour was that they were largely disinterested by my near presence.

They frequently looked at me, yet continued to dive and fish, seemingly content that I posed no threat.

This inner confidence caused an air of contentment to course through my soul, for it was a perfect illustration of man and beast in happy co-existence, which is how our relationship with nature should always be.