13 November – Little Bognor

The day started with a cold, dry north wind and a baby blue sky. Only seven degrees Centigrade, it was definitely a big coat day. On the drive to Petworth the sky clouded over but when I arrived the influence of the sea and the South Downs had cleared away most of the clouds. It was a bright Autumn day again.

I could only fish at Springs or Little Bognor, the other lakes were closed. I visited Little Bognor and looked in the feeder stream for the Trout I had annoyed during my last visit. It was still there, occasionally swirling in the shallow water. I would return later, the fish would be more likely to take a fly at dusk.

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I drove to Lower Figgs to see what progress had been made on restoring the lake. Two monster diggers were gulping silt and clay, removing the weed beds and sculpting the banks. It looked very impressive.

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As I drove along the Estate road the sheep were relaxing on the tarmac. On top of the hill the track temperature was a lot higher than seven degrees. I had coffee and chocolate biscuits at Great Springs. Both lakes looked lifeless and the cold wind channeled straight down the valley. It was too cold to fish there. I returned to the shelter of Little Bognor and set up my rod with a Cortland line I had customised. I had devised a ‘long tip nymphing special’ from the back end of a Weight Forward line incorporating a bit of running line. Just like my Rio line but a nice peach colour. It was a ‘Weight Backward’. I used a ten foot leader, a three foot tippet and a small black spider with a crimson hackle. I stood well back from the waters edge and covered all the margins and the inlet stream without a response. A fish swirled on my right but it ignored the fly. I swapped the fly for a size 14 GRHE and it ignored that as well. The  4lb bs tippet was probably a bit heavy but I decided to keep it because the lake held some big brownies and it would be a shame to lose a good fish.

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Trout were moving along the south bank so I crept round the lake and watched. They were cruising along the marginal band of floating leaves taking something small. I stood at the back of the grassy slope and cast so that only the leader dropped into the water, the fly line rested on the leaves. Several Trout were patrolling and I was confident that I would catch one.

As I stood watching and waiting for a fish to rise I could feel the frost creeping along my shoulders. The top of my head was getting cold. A fish rose infront of me and I dropped the fly into the ripples. I waited a few seconds and lifted the rod. The Trout swirled at the fly but did not take. Dusk arrived early in the woods. As I got colder the pain in my right hand and arm was a distraction. I drove away with the Land Rover’s heater on full. It didn’t work. The sunset was spectacular but by the time I reached my favourite gateway at Riverhill, the sun had just disappeared below the hills. I should have left ten minutes earlier.

My Weight Backward line was a revelation. I had given it a couple of extreme stretches to remove the memory and the cold water made it stiff but it was excellent at short range. It will be interesting to see how it compares with the Rio on the river next season.

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