Experiments in an undisturbed, saturated column of weathered and fractured shale saprolite using fluorescent carboxylate-coated latex microspheres as tracers indicate that particle diameter plays a major role in controlling transport. In this study the optimum microsphere diameter for transport was approximately 0.5 ??m. Microspheres larger than the optimum size were present in the effluent at lower relative concentrations, apparently because of greater retention due to gravitational settling and/or physical straining. The smaller than optimum microspheres also experienced greater retention, apparently related to their higher rates of diffusion. Faster diffusion can lead to more frequent collisions with, and attachment to, fracture walls and may also lead to movement of particles into zones of relatively immobile pore water in the fractures or in the fine pore structure of the clay-rich matrix between fractures. Dismantling of the soil column and mapping of the distribution of retained microspheres indicated that there was substantial size-segregation of the microspheres between different fractures or in 'channels' within a fracture. Examination of small core samples showed that the smallest microspheres (0.05-0.1 ??m) were present in the fine pores of the matrix at distances of up to 3-4 mm from the nearest fracture, which supports the hypothesis that small particles can be retained by diffusion into the matrix. Calculations of settling velocity and diffusion rate using simple 1D approaches suggest that these processes could both cause significant retention of the larger and smaller particles, respectively, even for the fast advective transport rates (up to 32 m/day) observed during the experiments. Copyright (C) 1999 Elsevier Science B.V.