14 April – River

The early morning was a white-out with pale watery sunshine. It looked as if the fog would burn away and leave a sunny day. The fog became denser as I drove South. At Little Bognor the air was chill and the fog hung in the Silver Birches. The water was flat calm and a few Trout were rising. A couple of members were fishing on the bottom lake so I ambled up the slope to the top lake and checked that all was in order. In that short time the sun had strengthened and the fog had evaporated.

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I went to Rotherbridge to check the height of the river and to see if the two Trout I found feeding in the margins last Saturday were still there. To my surprise they were in exactly the same place. Feeding on shrimps in very shallow water. Both fish shot back into deep water when they saw me. I planned to return to Rotherbridge after visiting the other beats and lakes. I drove up the old railway line to Taylor’s Bridge and walked downstream on the North bank. The gauge said the river height was 0.143m, down from 0.155m on Friday, but it was quite coloured with run-off from the lettuce fields. The Shallow Pool looked inviting, the streamer weed was waving around in the current, bright green fronds in the caramel coloured water.

I walked back to the Land Rover and drove through Petworth to Great Springs. The water in the lake had cleared a bit and I saw two Trout close to the bank. They weren’t feeding, they looked distressed but I couldn’t see any Cormorant marks. There were a few fish rising at Luffs and Lower Figgs. At Upper Figgs there were about twenty fish cruising, swirling and snatching debris off the surface. It looked like a shoal of newly stocked Trout.

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I returned to Rotherbridge, keen to cast a fly to the two shrimping fish. There was a constant hum from the bees in the Hawthorn and Willow trees and a lone Gorse bush was surrounded by Hawthorn flies. The bushes below the bridge didn’t give me much cover so I knelt down well away from the edge. It needed restraint, careless casting would spook the fish. I gently put a short line out and allowed the tip of the fly line to hang on a weed stem so that the leader would swing in towards the bank. I repeated the cast, twitching the line to give the fly movement. Every few casts I extended the line a little, changing the path along which the fly worked. After thirty minutes I moved down the bank a couple of paces and put the fly line over a weedbed. A good sized Trout dashed out of the weeds into midstream. Perhaps the rod flashed in the sunlight or I had lined the fish. While I was cursing my luck the other fish, which was about a yard further down the bank, departed in a puff of silt. I didn’t abandon hope, I thought the fish would be on the bottom in the deeper water. They were not. I covered the pool expecting a thump on the rod at any moment but it never came. Nevermind, the Shallow Pool would produce a fish.

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As I walked downstream from Taylor’s Bridge the hot sun, the smell of the newly cut grass and the bright green buds on the bushes confirmed the arrival of Spring. There were very few birds about but lots of insects; midges, Hawthorn flies and Bumble bees. The main current in the Shallow Pool was along the far bank. The width of the pool caused the flow to lose momentum and there was a long slack on my side. I spent an hour working the fly down and across, exploring the edge of the weed beds along my bank. As I reached the end of the pool I realised that it was not going to provide my first river Trout of the season. I had a few casts at Ladymead but although I could see the sandbank, the current was far too strong and the turbulent water too coloured. The water level should have dropped by Monday.

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