A good south-westerly breeze, overcast and temperatures in the low sixties would give me no excuses. No rain was forecast but remembering the last trip, I took a Barbour with me. One with a hood.
The work on the new riffle would have coloured the water on the Rotherbridge Beat and the weir pool so I went straight to Keeper’s Bridge. After signing the book, I filled my pockets with tackle and walked down the slope to the river. The river looked high but not coloured. Strange. Fish were rising and I thought I would be successful. I tied a Black Spider on and crept towards a rising fish. I flicked the fly out but just as it landed the fish rose again upstream. I lifted off and cast into the rings of the rise, the fish took immediately and fought hard. As I was netting it I heard a Land Rover stop in the parking area. Then a second Land Rover arrived, they have a distinctive sound. I nursed the fish in the landing net and eventually it swam off into the streamer weed. Andrew the Keeper arrived and after a brief chat, he drove downstream to supervise the digger driver. Then Mike arrived and while we were chatting, several fish rose along the stretch by the bridge. Mike went upstream and I made my way downstream towards the construction site. I fished a few pools but the sun had popped out from behind the clouds and the fish had gone down.
When I got to the pool where the work was in progress I was amazed by the size of the digger and the speed of the current. Seven hundred tons of gravel had been landscaped into the river bed.
Seven hundred tons!
The water was about two inches deep where it flowed over the crest of the new gravel ridge. The pool above the riffle shelved upstream steeply to a depth of about six feet. A new spawning bed and a deep holding pool had been created, a great improvement. The water flowing over the gravel was very clear. Below the riffle it was the colour of milky tea, the suspended mud and salt will probably persist for a few days.
Andrew explained that the banks had been lowered around the sides of the riffle to allow the winter floods to lose strength at that point and not wash the gravel away. The water level upstream of the gravel bar had risen by nearly a foot.
I fished a few pools with a nymph on the way back to the bridge but there were no takes. As I walked around the corner below Keeper’s Bridge I saw a fish rise under the Alder trees. I positioned myself below the rise and cast up and across. No response. Just as I was about to recast another fish rose opposite me. I changed the direction of the cast and the fly landed perfectly. The fish took the nymph after a few seconds. It was a small wild fish and I returned it immediately. Trout were starting to rise along the entire stretch.
There was a good fish rising in the Cow Drink pool below the bridge. I crouched behind a bit of cover and cast, the fish took and fought for ages. Just as I was trying to net the Trout it tore off across the pool and I nearly lost it. The Trout had strange markings, it was very pale and had hardly any coloured spots on it’s flanks. I thought it might be a Sea Trout but the dorsal fin was slightly deformed.
I joined Mike and we wandered slowly back but we were interrupted by a fish rising under an Alder tree. We watched the rise for a few minutes and Mike put a small Hopper over it. Absolutely no interest. The Trout must have seen the fly but was not fooled.
I was 20p short of a pint but celebrated with a glass of Shiraz at home.