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.
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.
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.
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”.