22 September – Fish Pass

The still, crystal clear morning suggested a hot Summer’s day but the BBC weather forecast said otherwise. Cloudy with a brisk south-westerly wind. The river level had dropped to 0.39m and everything looked set for a lovely day wandering along the river.

I had tied some delicate nymphs with Partridge hackles. They would be something different for the educated Trout that are the legacy of catch and release. I drove to Petworth with an open mind about where I would fish. The catch returns at the Fish Pass told me the Beat hadn’t been fished for three days probably because the river level was high. I crept around the Fish Pass and saw a few small Chub and a Trout. The Chub melted away into the remnants of the streamer weed. Swallows were swooping down across the weir pool snapping at small flies. I decided to start there and move to another Beat if I couldn’t find any Trout.


The water in the weir pool was a little cloudy so I started with a Black Nymph, the dense colour of the fly is easier for the fish to see. I worked the fly slowly through the deep water under my bank. After a few casts a fish rose in the middle of the pool and I quickly dropped the nymph slightly upstream of the ripples. I watched the tip of the line and saw it start to sink. It sunk very slowly as if the fly had caught a weed frond. I lifted the rod, the line continued sinking so I tightened and the fish was hooked. It kept very deep and moved slowly like a Chub. The odd take and lazy struggle convinced me it was a Chub so I was surprised and pleased, to see a wild Trout of about 1lb come to the surface. The fish was fin perfect and had no marks in it’s mouth. It dived into the weeds when I lowered the net to release it. My biggest wild trout this season.


Catching a Trout in the weir pool removed the pressure to avoid a blank and I took my time exploring the narrow stretch below the first bend. I was sure that I would get a take but nothing happened. The wind was strong and ruffled the surface. If the Trout were following the fly I couldn’t see them. I reached the junction with the stream that flows under Coultershaw Bridge. The wide shallow stretch always produces a fish. I changed to an unweighted fly and flicked it out into midstream. As I drew the fly up over the dying rushes a large Trout grabbed it and dived into the weeds. I knew it was a good fish and I wasn’t in a hurry. I eased it out of the weeds and encouraged it to move into midstream. After a long, arm aching struggle I netted it on the first attempt. A beautiful clean fish with an enormous tail. It weighed about 2lb 8ozs, possibly a bit more. It recovered quickly and went back into the weeds.


I fished hard for another hour and although a Sea Trout jumped for the camera, I couldn’t get another take. I tried my new Partridge nymph but in the slightly coloured water it was almost invisible. I’ll try it again when the water is clearer. A large Buzzard circled over the field across the river. The young Pheasants were well hidden in the Himalayan Balsam and stinging nettles.


I returned to the Land Rover and drove back via Pulborough to avoid the roadworks at Billingshurst. I was tempted to visit Bury Hill as the clouds and sunlight were spectacular but I was too tired, next time perhaps.