15 September – Riffle and Luffs

The bright Autumn morning and chilly breeze promised a perfect day by the river. The weather forecast was good and the river level had dropped. Had it dropped enough ? I stood in the middle of the bridge at Rotherbridge and looked down into the water. I couldn’t see the sandy bottom, the river was still too coloured. I went to Keeper’s Bridge, it draws me like a magnet. The variety of pools and ever changing currents ensure that no two days are alike. The shallow runs and the riffle would be fishable. There were three cars already there so I drove up the old railway line to the top beats. Another car. I returned to Rotherbridge and explored the shallow water immediately above the bridge. There was no response so I walked up to the New Riffle and spent thirty minutes working the water down and across.

I was just about to leave the riffle when a group of children from Coldwaltham school arrived on the far bank. They sat for a while, watched me fish and asked lots of questions. The children left and I walked back to Rotherbridge. I saw a Trout rise below the bridge but I couldn’t cast the fly far enough under the bushes. Another fish jumped but it was not interested in my nymph. Either it couldn’t see the fly in the coloured water or it was irritated by lice and not feeding. I decided to have lunch at Great Springs and then fish Luffs.


The view across the Rother valley was spectacular. The air was clear and rain clouds welled up over the Downs before drifting north. The moving clouds threw shadows and highlights over the hills. Everything looked bright and clean, even the sheep. The hedgerows were heavy with berries and the Chestnut trees were unloading conkers which hit the ground with a solid thump.


I had a sandwich and a bottle of beer while sitting on the wooden bench at Great Springs. I disturbed a Buzzard in the big pine tree, it spiraled up near the cloud base and mewed at me until I left. I set up my rod under the big Oak tree at Luffs and walked around the top end of the lake to the south side.


My previous visits to Luffs were both from the same script, I was adamant that the afternoon would be different. The water was clear and calm with only occasional ripples as the wind strengthened. I quietly covered the margin at the shallow end with a weighted GRHE nymph. I gradually extended my casts and covered a wide area. A fish rose in the centre of the lake and I dropped the fly about a yard short. A few seconds later the fly line slid away and I was into a Trout. Briefly. It threw the hook. I couldn’t believe  it, ‘The Luffs Trilogy’. I moved down into the gap in the trees where I had previously caught a Roach. I caught a Roach. From the centre of the lake. I laughed out loud. The next scene included catching a Trout. I saw a feeding fish rise on my left in the centre of the lake. I dropped the nymph close to the rise and as scripted, the line began to tighten. I lifted the rod, confident that I would hook the Trout. The fish swirled and dashed towards me so quickly I had trouble stripping the line and keeping contact. The fish calmed down and I wound the loose line back onto the reel. That was a mistake. The Trout tore away from me in a big arc towards the middle of the lake. The reel couldn’t release line quickly enough and the fish pointed me, snapping the line at the hook. I cursed.


I’d scared the Trout along the south bank so I moved towards the road end to see if there were any feeding fish down the centre channel. The wind was behind me and I thought a static nymph would produce a take. As I was preparing to cast, I flicked the line into the water and pulled line off the reel. The leader dipped and I was into another Trout. The fish went on a very fast run up the lake but I was able to feed it the loose line. The main belly of the line disappeared and the fish kept going. It ran about twenty yards. I was determined to land the fish and I treated it gently. I was surprised to see that it only weighed about 1lb 8ozs, it fought like a three pounder.


The batch of size 12 GRHE nymphs that I tied a few weeks ago have been very successful. The copper wire ribbing and the guard hair hackle imitate the legs and segmented body of an olive nymph or buzzer. I will have to tie some more.