Daily Prompt: Trout Fishing Diary

via Daily Prompt: Fishing –

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Last week I took my Trout Fishing Diary to the book binders. It’s a long story.

A few years ago, during a fishing holiday on the River Wye, I chatted to Bob Brookes in the bar of the Red Lion at Bredwardine. Bob showed me a leather bound book which contained photographs of huge carp and barbel he’d caught. It was a lovely book, full of memories and Bob was justifiably proud. Fast forward to January 2016. I wanted to keep a diary of my trout fishing and decided to use technology. After several false starts I designed and built a website using WordPress.  Other design tools are available but they are not as good. I kept the diary going throughout the season. The website made it easy to write a short story about each trip and to add a couple of photos.

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During the year I  was worried about the security of my diary and made regular backups. I also thought about printing a copy, just to be on the safe side. I remembered Bob’s beautiful book and thought about having a printed copy professionally bound. I researched different types of book binding, paper and book designs. I decided to keep the design of the book close to that of my website. I sourced high quality paper, edited the text for consistency and printed each page. In my wanderings around the internet I found Otter Bookbinding in Midhurst. I visited their workshop to discuss the binding and left the text block with them. About a week later the book was ready for collection.

It’s the only copy. It’s not for publication.  It’s a permanent record of my online diary that will exist long after I and the website have decayed. It contains 238 pages and about 250 colour photos.

Many thanks to Bob for the inspiration. I will attempt to repeat the process next year.

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6 December – Fishing Jackets

Country sports people are very polarised when it comes to clothing. One side of the divide requires high-tech, lightweight, synthetic materials like Gortex.  The other more traditional side wants rugged, natural, low-tech waxed cotton, leather and tweed. Rods and Guns on the big country estates conform to a dress code. If a Gun arrived at a shoot dressed in jeans and a hoody, they would probably not be invited back. Similarly, I would feel out of place if I arrived at the river wearing flip-flops and shorts. I would look like a poacher.

I bought my first Barbour jacket over forty years ago. A Solway Zipper which I still wear. It’s an old friend with frayed cuffs, a few small holes and a belt that shrinks with each passing year. City gents used to arrive at work wearing a Barbour. A fashion statement about the commute from their country house in Clapham. Fashions changed and the economic downturn left people unwilling to pay for top quality, handmade English clothing with heavy brass zips and studs.

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Musto jackets are popular. They are well designed and made from machine washable, breathable fabric. They have no soul. The melted chocolate in the pocket washes away. It’s no longer a reminder of a peaceful moment sat watching the river. My Musto Keeper jacket smells of fabric conditioner. The plastic zip broke last week.

I have four Barbour jackets to choose from, one for each season. They hang in the downstairs cupboard awaiting my departure. They smell of bees wax and muddy water. They are vintage, made in the UK from 6oz heavyweight cotton. A recent addition to my collection came from eBay. It only cost £22 , a tenth of the price of a new jacket. It has a patina and quality that can’t be matched. I might have a look for another, a Christmas present to myself.

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3 December – ‘River’

River‘ by Andrew Thompson and Dominique Kenway.

I received an invitation to the launch of this book from one of the authors, Andrew Thompson,  who is the Keeper on the stretch of river where I fish. The trip to Petworth also enabled me to drop off my fishing diary at the book binders. More of that in a later post. Andrew has lived beside and worked on the Rother for many years. He is a Trustee of The Arun and Rother Rivers Trust and a life member of the Hawk and Owl Trust.

Dominique Kenway is an artist who uses the South Downs countryside as a source of inspiration. She selected the poetry and prose to complement Andrew’s photographs.

Max Egremont (Lord Egremont) contributed the Foreword. The Rother runs through his Petworth Estate. He is an author, historian and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature.

The launch party was hosted in a converted Sussex barn close to the river, a great location. I chatted to both authors about the design and production of the book. I also discussed the season’s fishing with other members. I had to wait until I got home before I could discover the books contents. It was worth the wait.

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River‘ is a book about the beauty of a lowland river and it’s wildlife. The photographs preserve “an astonishing survival of calm and peace“.

Chris Yates wrote the following; “……the wide green fields behind, this part of the Rother must be the most exquisite piece of river fishing I’ve ever seen“. He describes his fishing trips and the wildlife in ‘River Diaries’. I first read Chris’ book in 1997 and formed pictures in my mind of swirling water, streamer weed and overhanging trees. Andrew’s photographs capture the serene and relaxing atmosphere that Yates described. ‘River‘ is not a fishing book. It is about why I go fishing. The unspoilt countryside, wildlife, sunsets and occasionally a Trout. I will keep the book close by and dip into it, accompanied by a glass of single malt. It would make a perfect Christmas present for anyone who loves the Sussex countryside.

The book is hardback, 28 x 24 cm, full colour, printed beautifully by The Lavenham Press, 96 pages, limited to 500 copies. Price £29.50 plus postage and packing.

The book is self-published. You can buy a copy from Andrew at rotherbridge@talktalk.net and from the bookshops in Petworth and Haslemere. 

I highly recommend the book, it will sell out quickly.

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2016 Season Summary

I had a very good season on both the river and the lakes. I fished a couple of times a week, visiting different beats as the river conditions changed. The shallow top beats fished well when the water was high or coloured. The deep pools on the lower beats were more productive during the summer. I caught my first fish on 21 April, the Queen’s 90th birthday. It was a small wild trout.

From late April to mid May conditions were often challenging with high, coloured water. I caught a few fish on nymphs. The Mayfly hatch started a little later than last year and there were good hatches of Alder and Olives.

During April I resolved to catch a Sea Trout. The high water during the early summer should have helped them up the river.  It was not to be.  The Environment Agency carried out their annual survey just below Coultershaw Bridge and found nothing. I didn’t hear of any members catching a Sea Trout,  it was a poor year for migratory fish.  There must be an explanation.

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The Mayfly hatch was not as prolific as last season. The Mayfly has a two year life cycle and that bodes well for next year.

During June and July I usually sat and watched a stretch of river until a fish revealed itself. Watching the water was also an opportunity to see what flies were hatching. There were plenty of Trout in the river and I often saw a fish rise while setting up my rod. I kept off the skyline and crept towards the fish. I found that presentation was important. A poor cast, a heavy tippet or drag scared away the Trout. I used a landing net with a handle that extended to ten feet. That was essential for both landing the fish and allowing them to recover. I returned all my fish to the river except three which I took home to eat.

On 9 June I fished the Wey by invitation. I had a long, hot and exhausting day. The fishing was excellent, probably the best Trout fishing I have ever had. It was definitely the high point of the 2016 season.

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The fishing on all of the Rother beats was demanding.  Not because of a lack of fish, there were plenty of wild fish and the numbers of stocked fish seemed to increase as the season progressed. The Trout were difficult to tempt. Probably because most were returned, much wiser for their experience.

It was demanding because I had to work hard for each fish. A careless approach,  a botched cast or a dragging fly and the Trout went down into the weeds for an hour. Watching the river and waiting for fish to reveal themselves was the right approach.  Walking about and casting randomly into likely pools was not a success,  particularly during the Summer.

The evening rise was a regular occurrence, fishing in the mid-day sun was not as productive as in recent years. Even during the Mayfly hatch. The old adage about the ‘best’ fly was never as true. My favourites, the GRHE nymph and Black Spider, were my default flies and thus caught most of the Trout. I settled on 4lb bs Stroft for both dry fly and nymph tippets. The knots are more reliable than fluorocarbon and the line is strong enough to bully a two pounder away from the weeds. Most times.

The improvements to the river should help with spawning and it will be interesting to see if the river has more young Trout next season.

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There were no monsters this season. One fish I well remember. The big, wild Brown Trout I caught on an upstream nymph from the upper River Wey. I saw it take in the crystal clear water and it fought like a tiger. I eventually climbed down into the chalk stream to net and release it. My host and namesake was on hand to take the photos.

I maintained my diary throughout the season. It bought a new dimension to fishing. Each trip was a combination of fishing, photography and mental notes about the highlights of the day. Writing made me more observant and it filled the time waiting for a fish to rise. I have made an appointment with Anna at Otter Bookbinding in Midhurst to have my diary bound.

If I had to sum up the season in one word, it would be “demanding”.

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24 October – End of the River Season

Monday, probably my last visit to the river this season. It’s Half Term and my diary for the last week of the season is full of Grandchildren and shooting. Pheasants that is, not children.

It was a very cold morning with a strong North East wind and a heavy overcast. The Autumn colours looked a bit tired under the grey sky. A watery sun appeared occasionally but it didn’t warm the air. Where to fish?  I went through the options on the drive to Coultershaw. Rotherbridge seemed to be the best bet. I would fish the pools downstream until I reached the weir. There was always the chance of a fish there. It’s also a nice walk.

By the time I arrived the sun had broken through the overcast and it was bright. The wind was blustery but upstream which helped with presentation and minimized drag. I looked upstream from the middle of the bridge and saw a big Trout in midstream on a patch of sand. I marked it and went back to the Land Rover to set up my rod. I tried the fish above the bridge but to no avail.

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I crossed the bridge and looked under the trees. There was an enormous Trout just under the bank on my side about ten feet away. I could see it’s fins clearly. It was a dark brown colour, almost black. It looked like a Sea Trout about six pounds. I watched it for about five minutes and then got my rod. I could flick a fly over the fish but there was a dead Cow Parsley stem on my left hampering the backcast. I snapped the plant stem with a crack. The fish heard the noise and disappeared. I cursed.

I cast to a smaller fish which took the Black Nymph and charged downstream. I netted and released it without much fuss. I rested the pool for a while and another fish swirled. I cast upstream of the fish and it took confidently but came off after a few seconds. Two casts, two takes. Casting into the jungle of Willow and Alder was a challenge. The fish were feeding under the branches and in the main current where the leaf debris and buzzers were drifting downstream. I had to cast over my left shoulder and curl the leader around an overhanging branch. The fly landed in the branches several times but a twitch of the rod made it plop into the water amongst the fish. I only lost one fly !

My Black Nymph looked a bit tatty after being chewed by two fish so I changed the damaged tippet and the fly. I tied on an unweighted Pheasant Tail nymph and greased the leader. The fish were taking sub-surface and the weighted Black Nymph was sinking too fast.

I crossed back over the bridge and saw a fish rise under the big Alder tree. It was moving up and down the main flow, regularly taking buzzers. The next time it rose I presented the fly accurately and the fish was hooked. It fought well and I bullied it over the dying Potamageton fronds into the net. It went quiet after that. The fish were rejecting the Pheasant Tail so I changed to a lightly leaded Coachman. The white wing attracted the Trout’s attention.

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Coachman – before and after a Trout

I moved downstream and covered a fish under the far bank. It took the fly and when I got it in the landing net, I saw it was an unusual colour. It also had a curly dorsal fin. I needed to use the artery forceps to remove the hook from the left side of it’s throat. It swam off from the net into the weeds. Two hours later, using a different fly, I hooked and landed the same fish. It didn’t fight much. The colour,  dorsal fin and hook mark were confirmation. Does that count as one fish or two ? On the way back to the Land Rover I looked for the Monster under the tree. It wasn’t there.

The afternoon was a great success. The weather had been kind, I had the river to myself and the fish were free rising. A fitting way to end the season on the river. The lakes are open until the end of November. I will have time for a couple of trips after visiting Wales.

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