19 September – Autumn

It was a perfect Autumn day, overcast and cool with a gentle breeze from the north west.  The leaves were turning brown at the edges and a few were dropping onto the roads. I had to go fishing, to remain at home was unthinkable.

The river level had dropped after the torrential rain at the weekend and I hoped the river would be deserted. There were two fish I had marked down last week and I had an appointment with each of them.

As I arrived at the river it started to rain. I told myself it was a only a shower and took a short cut across the stubble to the shelter of the trees. I tackled up near the bridge. The Beat had not been fished since my last visit and the fish had not been disturbed.

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I  had seen one fish in the shadow of a big Alder tree just above Taylor’s Bridge. It had risen for the midges that swarm under the trees.  It had been impossible to present the fly from upstream as the line  of Alder trees blocked the cast. Approaching the fish from downstream was difficult, my first cast had ‘lined’ the Trout and it had disappeared. I had seen the other fish under a bush below the bridge. A side cast, down and across, allowed the fly to drift under the leaves and I had caught one of the brace.

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I stood on the bridge for a while, watching the water. Minnows were flipping about on the shallows and eventually the Trout rose in exactly the same place as last week. There must be a stone or some weed to give it shelter as the water there is quite shallow. I chose a black Neoprene Spider with a soft Partridge hackle and crept around the bed of stinging nettles into position. The first cast was short, I didn’t want to line the fish again. The next cast was perfect and I expected the fish to rise. Nothing. I changed the fly and tried again, no response. I thought I would rest the fish and go downstream for my next appointment.

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The plan was to cast upstream of the overhanging bushes on the far bank and let the fly drift underneath. I put the fly down just past the rushes and let it swing round. The current was a little stronger than last week and the fly skated just as it reached the critical point. I flicked the fly out again, aiming to get a little closer to the far bank. It was too close and I snagged the fly on the bush. After tying on a new tippet and fly, I had a toffee to calm down.

I rested the fish and walked down to the Monster Pool, avoiding the Wasps’ nest. The rain made it difficult to see fish rising so I swapped to a nymph. I spent a while exploring the Monster Pool and the Long Pool but the fish were not interested. I wandered back to the Monster Pool and cast across under the big Oak tree. Just after the nymph had landed a Trout rose, inspected the fly and rolled away to safety. It clearly did not like the fly. I worked my way through the nymph box, convinced it was just a matter of time before I found something to it’s liking but the fish had seen enough.

I tried the two pools that I had rested but with no success. The rain was persistent, I was wet and cold. I had one last cast immediately below the bridge and caught a small Chub. I had an excellent Fish Casserole at The Badgers with a pint of Blonde, an excellent way to end the day.

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15 September – Bullocks

Record temperatures this summer have made Trout fishing difficult. During the day the fish hide under the Alder and Oak trees,  deep in the roots. They don’t venture out of their shelters until late evening. This week has seen regular midday temperatures over 86 Fahrenheit, boosted by hot southerly winds straight from the Mediterranean. Much too hot for fishing. On the plus side, sundown is 7:15pm,  a civilised time for a few last casts and a pint.

The river had been busier than normal as members avoid the luke warm lakes and stressed Rainbows. I had seen a few fish at the top of the Rotherbridge Beat on a previous trip and planned to visit that stretch. However, as I pulled into the Rotherbridge car park I saw another car. Then Tony arrived in his Land Rover, followed by David. I decided to go elsewhere but when I got to Keeper’s Bridge two members were tackling up in the parking area. I wished them well and drove on to the Top Beat. Thankfully I had that stretch of river to myself.  I wandered across the field to the river. The remnants of last year’s potato crop were shooting amongst the stubble Pheasant poults were everywhere,  feasting on the spilt wheat grains.

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Above the Monster Pool

The signing-in book was blank, nobody had fished the Beat for at least 3 days. As I crossed the bridge a good Trout spooked, swam downstream under the bridge and took shelter among the tree roots. I marked the fish down for the end of the session. I walked downstream about a hundred yards and sat on the soft grass while I set up my rod. A small fish rose opposite me in shallow water. It rose again several times making it’s way down the pool.  I tied on a Neoprene Spider and waited.  The fish rose and I flicked the fly just upstream of it. The fish came up, inspected the fly and disappeared.  The small wild fish are well educated, they have seen too many flies. I changed the fly to a Neoprene Buzzer and chopped the hackle short.  As I was about to cast a much bigger fish rose just above a Willow tree. I crept above the Willow and flicked the buzzer into the main current. The Trout rose in slow motion, looked carefully at the fly and took it confidently.  I lifted gently and the fish dashed across the river under an Alder tree.  The fight was long and hard but I eventually slipped the hook out of it’s throat and released the fish from the landing net. It swum off strongly.  I had only been there thirty minutes, things looked positive.

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The Long Pool

As I walked down to the Monster Pool I saw another member walking upstream wearing a white shirt and ‘sky-lining’ the entire stretch. He’ll probably complain about the lack of Trout in the river.

I fished the Long Pool and Monster Pool with little hope of a take and then walked back upstream to the fish I had marked down earlier.  Before I got to the bridge I saw a swirl under a low hanging Alder tree, then another swirl.  A good fish was feeding greedily on midges. I peered under the branches and saw two fish competing for the hatching flies. I tied on a Neoprene Spider and put it under the tree with a neat side cast. A fish flashed at the fly but was put off by the leader which had curled downstream. The presentation would have to be improved.

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Above the Monster Pool – Wasps Nest

I rested the fish which had moved down a couple of yards. They were soon back, swirling under the branches. I cast above the fish, let the bow in the leader drag round then released the fly line to drift down under the leaves. I saw both fish swirl and lifted into the biggest. Hurrah, it had all gone to plan. The Trout reacted strangely, it swam leisurely towards me just under the surface, wagging it’s tail. I immediately thought it was the fish I had caught an hour earlier so I turned and  reached for the net. That was premature. The fish woke up and dashed upstream, ‘pointing’ me and nearly breaking free as a loop of fly line caught around the reel handle. I eventually unhooked the Trout and nursed it in the landing net for about ten minutes.

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After it had swum off I turned to climb the bank and saw a bullock standing over my rod. It’s front feet were perilously close to the expensive carbon fibre. My heart sank, the stupid animal was going to ruin my evening.  I crept along the grass on all fours towards the butt of the rod and slowly the curious beast backed away. Thank heaven, I nearly went home with a seven piece rod. Note to self: do not lay my rod in the grass.

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I was happy with my brace of Trout and decided to pack up. As I got to the bridge the fish I had seen earlier jumped clear of the water in a two-fingered gesture.  It was unfinished business, I’ll meet him next time.

The pub was crowded, David arrived with a prospective new member who had caught a Trout in the weir pool.  It was raining heavily as I drove home and the temperature had dropped about 10 degrees. A cold front had moved in from the West. We need the rain.

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8 September – The Riffle

With a West wind and over 70 Fahrenheit it would be a waste of time fishing in the afternoon.  I’d tied a few flies while I was waiting for the sun to drop below the top of the hedge. I used size 18 barbless fine wire hooks which are suitable for both dry flies and nymphs. The fish had been taking small flies just under the surface so I tied some emergers. The flies are semi-buoyant,  they will float if presented gently on a nylon tippet but sink slowly with fluorocarbon. Everybody raves about CDC emergers but I can’t see the point of a fly that is useless when wet. I tied mine with Partridge hackles or a blob of white foam.

When the tippet sinks it is less obvious, the surface film is not disrupted.  No shadows are produced.  Fluorocarbon is slightly thicker than pre-stretched nylon but it’s refractive index is close to that of water. That makes it almost invisible under water.

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I arrived about 4:00pm to find a hint of Autumn along the river. Some of the Alder leaves were yellowing and falling into the water, drifting slowly downstream.  The Balsam was starting to topple over and seed pods were popping as they knocked together in the wind. I’d planned to walk down to the site of the new riffle as I had seen several fish there during my last visit. As I was setting up my rod, a fish rose just upstream of Keeper’s Bridge.  I tied a black spider on a 2.7lb tippet and cast gently. About thirty minutes later another fish rose close to me. At least I hadn’t scared them away. A dry fly skated around and twisted badly. A weighted black spider fished down and across, alongside the streamer weed, was followed but the fish veered away as I lifted off.

I peered into the water where the fish had swirled, it was still there. It was in about two feet of water just under the rod tip, holding it’s position near a small clump of weed. I flicked the fly under the bridge so that it would have time to sink before I twitched it back past the Trout. As soon as the fly landed it was grabbed by another fish. I lifted gently and after a long tussle the Trout was in the landing net. As I lifted it out of the water I saw a group of about five fish near the net. They had remained in a shoal since being stocked. I released the fish below the bridge and had a toffee to celebrate.

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Keeper’s Bridge

I thought I would rest the fish and walk up to the riffle above the Sandy Pool. The grass had been cut and there were hundreds of young Pheasants  poking about in the stubble.  Many more than last season. The improved riffle looked good. At the tail end of the riffle a small tree had been pushed over to cover the gravel. That would provide shelter for young fish. A croy had been built on the North bank and a deep channel dug to increase the flow. The bank had been graded and fenced.  The biggest improvement was immediately above the ripple.  A tree had been removed and the entire pool opened up. As I was watching a fish rose in the middle of the pool. I searched the pool with a nymph but the Trout was indifferent.

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As I strolled back to the bridge I saw a deer jumping about in the field occasionally browsing the grass.  Very odd behaviour.  I crept towards it, when it lifted it’s head I stood still. I got quite close but it saw me and bounded away into the tree line.

When I got back to the bridge I put a weighted Amber Nymph on and cast under the rushes on the far bank. The take came immediately but the fish made a long run down under the bridge and broke the tippet on the streamer weed. I fished below the bridge to a rising Trout,  it swirled angrily at the nymph but I couldn’t entice it.

The wind was getting stronger and I needed a pint. The Badgers was very busy with people from the Goodwood Revival.

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5 September – Tropical Weather

The weather looked good for an evening session.  The light rain had cleared and left behind a muggy, overcast afternoon with a warm southerly breeze. It was over 70 degrees when I left home and the humidity was 100%. As I drove over the bridge at Billingshurst I was pleased to see that the North River was neither high nor coloured.  The Rother would be fine.  I parked the Land Rover under the Hazel tree at Keeper’s Bridge and checked the Beat record book. Not much had been caught over the weekend.  I wandered down to the river and checked the water temperature with my newly acquired thermometer.  It was 62 degrees Fahrenheit. I don’t like the Centigrade scale, it’s too clumsy.  The water was up a few inches and had a green tint but I could still see the ribbons of weed in mid-river.  A fish rose gently and sipped in something so small I couldn’t see it, probably a buzzer.

I chose a leaded black spider and crushed the barb with artery forceps, it makes unhooking a fish so much easier. I had a new leader and a tippet of 4.4lb breaking strain Frog Fluorocarbon. I’d been to Albury Game Angling over the weekend and bought some goodies but I handed back the Hardy Duchess 3″ reel that Peter had tried to sell me.  Next season perhaps.

I crept along the bank to a rising fish and carefully worked the cast downstream.  After about thirty minutes of delicate casting a fish took the fly just under the far bank. It was on for a few seconds and then the line fell slack. It looked like quite a nice fish. I thought the fly had pulled free but on checking the hook I saw the point had snapped off.  Another lesson learnt; don’t crush barbs – buy barbless hooks.

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I was confident that I would get a fish or two and I decided to go further downstream to my favourite Alder tree just below the bridge. The pool looked good and a fish rose as I tied on a new fly. I used a lightly weighted black spider with a bushy hackle. The fish rose again, it had taken up station in mid-stream intercepting flies as the current delivered them. After a few casts the fish took the spider just under the surface. It fought hard, I nearly messed things up when the fly line caught on the reel handle. The new tippet material was a success. It is not as brittle as the Orvis fluorocarbon and a third of the price. I returned the fish and it shot off after I poked it with the landing net. A small pan shaped net made it a lot easier to release the fish but I need a longer net handle.

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I made my way down to the bend but just as I was preparing to cast,  Andrew the Keeper arrived in his Land Rover. He said the riffle above the Sandy Pool had been improved and a new riffle would be built near the water pump above Rotherbridge.  The digger was in place and after modifying the banks, 500 tons of gravel would be spread across the river bed.  That is a lot of gravel.

I walked downstream to the site of the new riffle and started working the pool down and across.   Three fish rose repeatedly in the same stretch of water. One Trout followed my fly but sheered away at the last moment.  There were a couple of nips at the fly but I couldn’t connect with the Trout. I walked slowly back upstream casting to several rising fish but they went down as soon as I presented the fly. I need to approach the fish more carefully and measure the first cast accurately. I often overdo it and ‘line’ the fish.

I was hot and tired, the tropical weather had taken its toll on me. A cool pint awaited me at The Badgers. September had started well.

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1 September – A Perfect Evening

This month should be excellent for Trout fishing. The weather is kinder to the fish and the evenings are drawing in which means I can get to the pub at a decent time.

After Tuesdays session I came to the conclusion that I should use a smaller fly. A small fly with a sparse hackle and a lighter tippet. I tied some size 20 dry flies this morning and chopped the hackles off the underside. It saves messing about during the frantic evening rise. The weed beds are not too dense this year and I will try a 2.7lb bs tippet. I must remember to gently lift into the fish. The lopsided fly should reduce leader twist. I hope.

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I arrived at Keeper’s Bridge at about 4:00pm and tackled up under the trees.  It was warm with a south-west breeze, perfect conditions.  I sat on the grass and had a few practice casts with a small dry fly. It was fine, the leader didn’t twist and the fly sat in the surface film nicely. I saw a fish rise just downstream of where I was sitting. I crept down the bank and flicked the fly across the current above the rise. The Trout took first time but the hook hold failed and it wriggled away into the weeds.  Another lesson learnt, a size 20 fine wire hook will not hold a 2lb Trout.

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Plan B. I swapped to a size 16 dry fly but after thirty minutes I hadn’t had a take. Fish were rising but the size of the fly was putting them off. I put on a 4lb leader and tied on a nymph. First cast to a rising fish and I had a savage take from a good fish. It jumped a few times and looked about 3lb. It fought hard and I couldn’t revive it. It was exhausted and I decided to keep it, the first Trout I have taken from the river this season.

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I walked downstream to the Alder tree and flicked the nymph under the branches. The leader drew away but when I lifted the rod there was no response.  The same thing happened next cast. On the third cast I saw a fish follow but turn away at the last moment.  I swapped the fly for a Neoprene Buzzer and after a few casts, the fish took confidently.  The tippet had sunk and the semi-buoyant fly was a few inches under the surface. As I was taking a photograph of the fish, another Trout took a fly from the surface.

I returned the fish and walked slowly back to the Land Rover. I gave the big Trout to the Landlady at The Badgers,  she seemed genuinely pleased with it. I had a pint of Blonde on the house.

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