This time last year it was cold, wet and very windy. The early morning sky was bright but grey. The West wind was warmish and I noticed a few midges hatching under the Bay tree in the garden. A bumble bee buzzed the window and things looked decidedly Spring like. I enjoyed the drive to Fittleworth but the working dead driving towards London looked miserable. The deep, muddy Sussex lanes were lined with neatly trimmed hedges. Silver Birches had fallen among the Oak and Beech like giant drinking straws, soon to be covered by bracken. It was quiet at Little Bognor. Except for a Woodpecker, its hammering echoed around the valley. The colourful landscape was in stark contrast to the monochrome of my last visit. I walked around both lakes and departed for a cup of tea at Great Springs. I checked all the lakes in the North of the Estate, everything was in order.
I had reversed the line on my new Hardy reel and fitted a new leader to replace the one I’d left hanging high up in a tree at Little Bognor. I needed to practice casting without the distraction of fish, Great Springs was the obvious place. The South bank was treeless, the lake had been drained and refilled but not stocked. Moreover, I would be wind assisted. Perfect. Casting at an empty lake didn’t feel right so I drove back to Little Bognor.
The bottom lake was sheltered and the sun struggled through the occasional gap in the clouds. I set up my rod and stood close to the big old Yew tree. With the tree on my right I would be forced to cast left-handed. I concentrated and consistently flicked the line out. The loops were a bit open and I waved my arm too much but it was progress. I felt unbalanced looking over my left shoulder and I couldn’t grip the corks comfortably. The right-hand-wind reel felt awkward. I swapped it for my old Marquis with a Cortland 444. Strangely, batting the edge of the spool with my right hand felt familiar.
Flushed with success I moved around to the left bank, the trees behind me and along the bank focused my casting. I lost a fly in the tree. Nevermind, I frequently do that right-handed. Short line, straight cast, line twitched and I was connected to a fish. I landed my first completely left-handed Trout. Hurrah! The next cast was longer and straight. The next fish felt much bigger and it was a long time before I could net and return it. The Trout was about 2lb 8ozs. My casting improved and several more Trout were landed and released. I didn’t handle any of the fish and they all swam away strongly. I was pushing my luck with casting and needed to limit my catch. I put the rod away and wandered around in the warm afternoon sun taking photos.
I left Little Bognor and drove to Otter Bookbinding at Midhurst to pick up my 2017 diary. The fields along the Rother valley were being wrapped in white plastic. Lettuces need protecting from the frost but the landscape looked alien. Black plastic bales, polytunnels, white plastic sheets and acres of solar panels are disfiguring parts of the countryside.
I drove home smiling; my diary had been professionally bound and I had caught my first left-handed Trout. I stopped on the way home and bought a bottle of wine to celebrate.