It was a horrible morning. Cold, wet and very windy. The blustery wind was from the east but the weather forecast was for sunshine and moderate winds later in the day. I had a meeting… More
It was a glorious spring morning, a bright blue sky with a gentle breeze from the north. It was a day made for trout fishing. When I arrived at the fishing hut I made a cup of tea and went for a walk around Great Springs. There were no signs of any trout, the water was flat and lifeless. I took my tea to Little Springs and slowly walked towards the end of the lake where I had seen the big brownie. A few fish were moving and a breeze ruffled the surface. It looked inviting. Another member was fishing at that end of the lake, I would return later. I went to Luffs for a look around. A heron jumped up from the rushes and flew to the other side of the lake. It had been feasting on the frogs and toads spawning in the shallow water.
There were no trout rising at Luffs so I went across the moor to Upper Figgs. The lake looked lovely but I walked on to Lower Figgs. Another member was fishing from the south bank, he had hooked and lost a trout. I chatted a while and then returned to the fishing hut for another cup of tea. I eventually set up my rod and crept along the bank of Little Springs looking for dark shadows in the water.
I started with a Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear but in the coloured water it was not a good choice. After thirty minutes without a take I swapped to a Black Spider. I fished from the point next to the south end of the lake and cast into the deep water. I let the fly sink about eight feet and had a few plucks. Then a positive take which I missed. Half way through a cast I saw a monster fish on the surface. Unfortunately it was on the other side of the lake. I continued working the deep water. Two trout came to the net in quick succession. The sun was burning and I decided to celebrate with lunch, a banana and another cup of tea.
Later in the afternoon the trout went mad, taking buzzers off the surface. I watched another member take a fish just under the surface but decided to limit myself to a brace. The monster trout, an over-wintered brownie from 2014, will probably be there next time, they are quite territorial.
I woke to a bright but overcast sky. It was a foggy whiteness with no blue bits. It looked a bit chilly outside. The river season doesn’t start until April and I therefore planned to wander around the lakes and take some photos. As I drove to Petworth the sun came out. The hedgerows were lined with daffodils and primroses and the trees were just beginning to show a green haze of buds. When I got to Great Springs the southerly breeze was gently rippling the water, perfect fishing conditions.
I made a cup of tea and wandered around looking for fish. I saw a few orange buzzers hatching but no trout. I was in no hurry to start fishing and I chatted to the other members as they arrived. Eventually, I set off around the lake with my rod looking for features that might hold a few fish. I found a small clump of weed about ten yards from the bank. The breeze moved my line gently across the water, the nymph occasionally dragged on the bottom weed. I was distracted by a noisy pair of buzzards riding the thermals above the fir trees. I missed a good take because I was looking at them and not the tip of my fly line. I persevered and after a few missed takes, I caught a roach. It was quite a good size.
I wandered back to the club house and had another cup of tea. I met three new members, one of whom had joined the club to fish the river. We discussed rods, leaders, flies and a myriad of other details. The conversation turned to strike indicators and we adjourned to the lake for a demonstration. I had a lot of gentle takes and caught another roach, much to the amusement of the other members. It was bigger than the first fish. We all agreed that strike indicators are open to abuse. I do not intend to use an indicator this season.
At the end of the afternoon, after the members had left, the fish in Little Springs started to rise. I saw a big overwintered brownie there ten days ago. I’ll probably fish that lake next Monday. It was a beautiful day. Everyone was happy. It had been a great start to the season.
I was curious about the effect of recent heavy rain on the river. I decided to go and have a look. The North River at Billingshurst was very high, it was over the banks and into the surrounding fields. The fields on both sides of the bridge looked like fifty acre lakes. The water was coloured by the mixture of clay and greensand it flows through. A milky-caramel colour, not very attractive. As I drove towards Petworth the heavy rain turned to sleet.
I stopped at Rotherbridge where the river had remained within it’s banks. Between 1791 and 1794 eleven miles of the river between Midhurst and Stopham were made navigable. Barges brought coal for the iron works and took local stone away. Consequently, the river there is deeper and straighter than nature intended.
The Rother is an old, lowland river with a wide floodplain and extensive water meadows. The entire river valley has been designated as a Site of Nature Conservation Importance (SNCI). The winter floods warm the soil and deposit silt which enriches the pastures. That improves the summer grazing and the biodiversity of the fields. However, the floods also wash ammonium nitrate fertilizer and silt into the river.
I stood on the bridge wondering how the trout had faired during the mild and dry winter. There should be a few sheltering in the roots of the Willow and Alder trees beside the bridge. I made a mental note to start my season on the river at Rotherbridge.
I went downstream beyond Kilsham Farm and looked across the fields towards The Badgers. The water meadows were flooded but I could clearly see the course of the river. There was no danger of the pub flooding, unlike December 2013 when the top of the bar was underwater.
Unfortunately, I had to attend a meeting in Petworth and a visit to The Badgers was out of the question. I consoled myself with a nice bottle of Fleurie from the wine merchants in the town.
It’s snowing and I’m looking out into the garden, wishing the time away. The start of the trout season, in early March, doesn’t seem to be getting any closer. I’ve cleaned my reel several times and tied a few flies to replace those mangled by trout and lost in the trees. One essential task is to renew the leader on my fly line. I use a nine foot tapered leader that is 6lb breaking strain at the business end. There is a lot of rubbish talked about leaders. Forty years ago a length of heavy nylon was nail knotted to the end of a fly line and terminated in a suitably fine tippet. It was simple and it worked well. Not today. It has to be French, Czec, Euro, braided, sinking, floating, loop-to-loop, with a micro ring etc. I don’t relate to any of that tackle-trade techno jargon. Simple is best. I glue the end of my leader into the fly line and attach a 4lb breaking strain tippet with a four turn overhand knot. I use Leeda tapered leaders and Stroft GTM for tippets. That combination works well for both nymph and dry fly.
I dip the end of my Cortland 444 peach classic into nail varnish remover for about a minute. That softens the plastic coating which can be stripped off with a thumb nail to reveal the braided core of the fly line. I dry the braided core with a tissue to remove the excess solvent. I remove the enormous, badly tied knot from the thick end of the leader. Why Leeda bother with this knot is a mystery. Either the knot or the loop are guaranteed to jam in the rod rings.
I twiddle the butt of the leader inside the braid until the end of the leader is next to the plastic coating of the fly line. A small drop of superglue is drawn up the braid by capillary action, inside the plastic coating. After the glue has dried I paint the joint with a permanent flourescent yellow marker pen. Another coating of superglue finishes the joint.
It takes about ten minutes, mostly waiting for the superglue to set. It’s simple, waterproof and tough. The joint runs through the rod rings and has never let me down. The yellow marker pen highlights the tip of the fly line when I’m fishing deep with a nymph or buzzer. I put Gink on the leader if I want it to float and run it through a lump of mud if I want it to sink.
No clunky braided loops to get caught in the rod eyes or drag the tip of the fly line under water. No leader knots or micro-rings. Simple.
Except for an invitation to fish the River Wey, my trout fishing in 2016 was solely on club waters. I had nine lakes and over three miles of river to choose from. I didn’t want to fish anywhere else. The club only has about a hundred members, it’s small and friendly.
Leconfield Estates own much of Petworth and the surrounding area. In fact, 14,000 acres of the surrounding area. Part of Petworth House and deer park are owned by the National Trust. The NT don’t approve of fishing or hunting or shooting. Thankfully, the Manor of Petworth and the Leconfield Estates have been held by Lord Egremont and his ancestors since 1150.
The lakes and river are lightly fished and it’s rare for me to meet another member, particularly during mid-week. The river runs through traditional farmland and is sensitively maintained. It rises on a mixture of greensand and chalk, then flows through the South Downs National Park. The river is a designated Site of Nature Conservation Importance because of its value to wildlife. I feel privileged to be able to explore the river and visit the lakes which are in parts of the estate to which the public have no access.
The lakes open in March, it’s a long time to wait. While waiting, I designed and built a new website for the club. Everyone is happy with the design.
This link is the club’s home page https://leconfieldflyfishingclub.com/