2 August – Little Bognor

Yesterday at Glorious Goodwood the heat, sun and racing had taken their toll. I needed a relaxing day to unwind. I went to the river via Little Bognor and then to the lakes in the northern part of the Estate. As I drove down the slope towards Great Springs I saw a Buzzard and two Kestrels hunting in the same field. Some of the sheep were nibbling the grass and disturbing all sorts of prey. The sensible sheep were asleep under the hedgerow.

The sun was unrelenting and it was not difficult to decide where to fish. The mature trees and deep sided valley at Little Bognor provided shade and the spring fed lakes cooled the air. I had a long lunch sitting on the wooden seat under the Beech trees. I watched the Trout taking a variety of flies all over the lake, mainly buzzers and damsels. As the sun moved round to the west the shadows on my side of the grew shorter and the fish became less active under the trees.

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I found a hollow in the slope of the bank which would support my back and settled down to await the arrival of a fish. It was too hot to continually flick the fly about under the branches and constant casting would disturb the fish. I waited about thirty minutes for a fish to swirl, it was on my left and only a yard from the bank. I flicked the black buzzer infront of me and about ten feet away. As I slowly drew the fly towards me there was a thump on the rod and then nothing. I had bumped it off on a short line. The seventh consecutive Trout that I have induced to take and subsequently lost.

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I was convinced that another fish would be along shortly so I prepared the rod and rested it on the moss and leaves ready for action. I had started the session with a 4lb bs Stroft tippet and a size 12 buzzer, reasoning that this would enable me to keep hold of the fish I hooked. My approach was partially successful because I had proved to myself that the fish were not shy of the heavier tippet.

I waited patiently but the fish had moved across the lake into the shade on the west side. I knew it would be several hours before the sun dipped below the trees completely and the evening rise started. I was too tired and dehydrated to wait that long.

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30 July – Taylors Bridge

It rained over the weekend and everyone was happy ! What an odd situation. The lakes at Little Bognor looked fresh and clean, the dust had been washed away. The Trout in the bottom lake were feeding and the water temperature was only 18 degrees. The tranquility was shattered by a chain saw and I left. As I drove to Coultershaw the drizzle eased off and the sun came out.

The river was roaring through the fish pass and the Sea Trout only had about a foot of foaming water to clear. The water was dark grey from the dust and road washings. It didn’t look promising. I visited the other beats and the lakes to collect the catch returns and it was 2:00pm before I pulled into the Badgers car park. Over a pint my Guest and I agreed that it would be nice to visit Ladymead as it is a pleasant place to walk even if the fish are sheltering from the spate. We therefore drove along the old railway line to Taylors Bridge where we had two Beats to ourselves.

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I went downstream on the south bank, mainly to avoid the Sussex heifers, I can’t concentrate when they are about. They stare at me. I fished the first pool carefully with a couple of different coloured flies, trying to establish which colour was best in the murky water. There was no response. I moved downstream exploring the usual pools and runs, casting the fly close to the streamer weed where the fish were sheltering. I expected the leader to draw tight at any moment. I walked and fished as far as Perryfields without a take, there were no fish rising. I covered one of the pools below the bridge, a long pool which normally holds several Trout. Nothing.

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As I walked back upstream I stopped several times to look at the cloudscape and the sunlight on the fields of stubble. The river sparkled and looked inviting. I arrived at Taylors Bridge earlier than we had agreed and I decided to spend a few minutes fishing the pool where I had started. I cast a white fly across the top of the pool and was surprised by a big swirl which was magnified by the fast water. It was a good fish. I cast again and the fish swirled aggressively. I wondered if it was a Sea Trout. I rested the fish and changed to a black fly. As I was about to cast I noticed the fish surface close to the far bank, directly opposite me. The fly landed perfectly but was ignored. A few casts later the leader drew away from me and I lifted into the fish which I could see was a brownie about 3lbs. It did a series of Trout cartwheels across the pool and came off.

I was pleased to find that my Guest had caught a Trout in the main pool at Ladymead. As we were standing on the bridge chatting, a Trout rose for a fly just upstream, near the bank. If we had stayed for another hour we might have caught a couple more but we were both tired and adjourned to the Badgers for a celebratory pint.

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26 July – 35 Degrees

It was hot. Very hot Even the wind was hot. There was no point staying indoors, it was too stuffy. I wound the windows down and pointed the Land Rover south, towards the coast. The sky was baby blue and the skimpy clouds were very high. The sun burnt through the clouds and melted the tarmac. I felt the tyres squirm under braking.

The lakes at Little Bognor were cooler and there were fish rising under the trees. The mature Beech trees and the steep valley provided shade and funneled the wind to make the temperature almost bearable. I sat under the Oak tree beside the top lake for half an hour and watched the Trout cruising past in the margins, head-and-tailing for buzzers.

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I thought I might return to Little Bognor later in the day if the river didn’t inspire me. I stopped at Coultershaw Bridge and had a look at the fish pass and the Archimedes screw, they didn’t look particularly fish friendly. I couldn’t imagine a Sea Trout climbing the ladder, it looked too steep. My next stop was at the bottom Beat. I walked across the field to the river and looked for fish under the streamer weed. I couldn’t see the big Chub in the bottom pool but I found a very good fish rising in the pool immediately above the top cascade. I walked back to the Land Rover and tackled up, there was no point in driving away, I might not find another active fish.

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When I returned to the pool the big fish had gone but I walked upstream a few yards and found a shoal of Chub including the big one which looked about 4lbs. There were over a dozen fish in the shoal, mostly small. I chose an Adams and flicked it towards the far bank into the middle of the shoal, aiming for the biggest fish. A few Chub looked at the fly but they wouldn’t take it. I changed to a spent mayfly and put it down close to the big Chub but a much smaller fish cruised over and gulped the fly down. I lifted into the Chub and bullied it into the landing net, hoping not to scare the shoal.

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I released the fish in a pool upstream and crept back to the shoal, some of the Chub were still there, including the big one. I dried the fly and flicked it towards the big Chub which sauntered over to it but didn’t take. I lifted off and recast, another small fish swam towards the fly, upended and gulped it down. After I had released it the shoal had disappeared. I waited a while but they didn’t return. I drove to the top Beat and had lunch from the back of the Land Rover. The sun was relentless and the wind was like a hair dryer.

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It was so hot at Ladymead that after lunch, I decided to return to Little Bognor, I thought that it would be much cooler. I had planned to fish the bottom lake but another member beat me to it. I sat under the Oak tree beside the top lake where I had seen the feeding Trout earlier. They were still there and feeding close to the bank. I was very quiet and dropped a size 14, ginger, palmered dry fly only ten feet from the bank. A fish swam under the tippet but ignored the fly. I swapped to a black hopper and missed a take. I eventually hooked a Trout on a black neoprene spider but it got off just as I prepared the landing net. I must learn to leave the net alone, it is a distraction.

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I rested that part of the lake and moved to the far side of the Willow tree. There were a few fish rising but there was too much debris on the surface to present a dry fly effectively. When I returned to the Oak tree I was surprised to see a couple of fish feeding, the earlier disturbance hadn’t put them down. I positioned a neoprene spider close to a feeding fish which took the fly but shook free. Again. I was hot, dehydrated and tired. I drove home with all the windows open but didn’t cool down until I’d had a couple of beers.

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23 July – A Lovely Day

I listened to the radio as I drove south. LBC was very negative. London-Europe sounded like an alien culture and I was glad when the Defender hit a pot hole and the radio switched itself off. I felt a world away from the Working Dead in the capital. The heat wave continued but was moderated by a south westerly breeze. As I drove down the lane at Riverhill the South Downs looked spectacular. A patchwork of yellow and brown fields edged in dark green. It was a lovely day in the Sussex countryside and Hell if you were commuting to work.

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I greeted the gnomes at Little Bognor and parked in the shade of a Silver Birch. The diesel engine clattered to a halt and there was silence. Except for the gurgling spring and the cooing of wood pigeons. I walked around the lakes and removed a few twigs that had interfered with my casting. The fish were not very active but the breeze had moved most of the dust and leaf debris into the margins and the lakes looked good.

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I left the lakes and drove back through the woods towards Fittleworth. The mature Beech trees cast dappled sunlight on the track and the tyres crunched over last years mast. As I made my way south towards the river I saw fleets of tractors with trailers loaded to overflowing with various cereals. The bales of straw made geometric patterns in the fields of stubble. A pair of buzzards were tearing at the corpse of a squirrel on Kilsham Lane and newly sheared sheep were charging around the field. I stood under an Alder tree beside the river and looked in vain for the big chub. The sound of the water cascading over the fish pass was comforting. There were no fish rising.

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At Rotherbridge I saw a few Dace but there was no sign of the Trout or the big carp. I could see the dimples in the sandy bottom and every leaf in the clumps of streamer weed but no Trout. A swan was uprooting weed and the river looked untidy.

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The top beats looked good but I was not inspired. I saw a trout in midstream just below Taylors Bridge but it saw me and turned downstream towards a raft of rubbish. I waited a few minutes and the fish returned but although it was feeding, it was uncomfortable with my presence and drifted away again. It was a spooky fish, I thought it might take an Adams at sunset.

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I left the river and drove north to check the lakes and collect the rest of the catch returns. The landscape looked like the Mid West dust bowl. The sandy soil was parched, a cloud of yellow dust followed the Land Rover to the fishing hut.

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I returned to Little Bognor and had lunch under the Beech trees. The little seat was perfectly placed, it was in the shade and I could see the entire lake. A few Trout were taking flies off the surface but I was in no hurry to set up my rod. I wondered how many people had rested on the little seat and perhaps, like me, enjoyed the scenery with their picnic.

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After lunch I tackled up and started with a dry fly, flicked out from behind the ferns. A couple of good fish ignored the fly. I wondered if it was hard to distinguish from the tree debris and swapped to a black spider. The response was immediate, the fish darted away in alarm. I tried various nymphs but although the fish examined the flies, they were too well educated and refused everything.

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I moved along the bank and hooked a fish on a black spider with a red hackle, it came off after a few seconds. I moved along a bit further and sat on the stone steps. I hooked another fish but after a long fight, it snagged me in the tree roots and got off.

The third fish took an Adams and towards the end of the fight, I was determined to keep it away from the snags. The hook pulled. Nevermind, it had been a lovely day. The fish had escaped but I had connected with the best the Sussex countryside can offer.

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21 July – Rotherbridge

I took my time driving to Petworth, it was a lovely morning and strangely, there wasn’t much traffic about. The weather forecast was hopeless, the only thing I could be sure about was that it was going to be hot. I stopped at Riverhill to look over the gate and to see how the harvest had changed the landscape. The breeze kept the humidity down and I stayed at Riverhill for a while admiring the scenery.

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I checked the lakes at Little Bognor, the fish were feeding on buzzers under the trees. There were a lot of damsel flies around the margins of the top lake but I couldn’t find anything in the surface film except buzzer shucks. At Rotherbridge there were several Trout feeding both above and below the bridge, I decided to return there after I had visited the other lakes and had lunch.

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The water temperature at the lakes was high, 23 degrees and the fish were distressed. The pond life was thriving, a few days of rain and the water temperature would drop. In the meantime it was a relaxing place to have lunch and watch the buzzards. On the way out of the estate I stopped on the crest of the hill and looked back over the Rother valley towards Midhurst. The view over the stubble was enhanced by the clouds welling up over the high ground.

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I parked at Rotherbridge and decided to fish below the bridge on the North bank. I had seen a few Trout under the bushes and it would be a challenge to extract a fish from the tangle of Willow and Alder. This was not the time for my slow action split cane rod, I needed a rod that could fire a nymph under the branches and up the tree tunnel on my right. I stood behind the shoulder high stinging nettles and balsam, being careful not to spook the fish. I started with a few gentle casts into mid stream and gradually extended the fly line to cover a wider area across the river and downstream to my left. I used the Cortland 444 line so that I could clearly see the extent of the cast before it touched down. I lost a couple of black spiders in the bushes opposite. After knotting a new fly to the tippet, I flicked the line into the water and prepared to lift off for a longer cast. I saw the line tighten and lifted into a Trout. It came off after a few seconds. I persevered but although I saw a good fish swim past, I didn’t have another take. I lost several more flies in the tree tunnel where the Trout were feeding, too far upstream, way out of reach.

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I crossed the bridge and worked a small shrimp imitation down the side of the streamer weeds and across the sandy patches. There were hundreds of Dace on the sand but they were not interested in my fly. I saw a Carp about 12lb cruising downstream and put the shrimp infront of it but it continued on its way without a glance. That was probably a good thing. I stood on the bridge and watched the Carp swim back upstream, occasionally dipping down to disturb the silt. It was a fully scaled common, not the mirror I had seen last year.

It had been a relaxing day and although I had not caught anything, I was content.

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