21 April – Little Bognor

The hot sunny weather had persisted. The combination of Spring shoots, birdsong, flowers and the hot Summer sun felt strange. The context was wrong. I wandered around the lower lake at Little Bognor. The sun slanting down through the Beech trees was magical and I paused to admire the grand old trees. Beech are my favourite trees after Oak, perhaps it’s because the two woods are so hard and beautifully marked. I sat on the moss which was crunchy with Beech mast and watched the fish, they were very close to the bank. The top lake looks like a scene from a postcard but it is more open and doesn’t have the same mysterious atmosphere as its companion. Perhaps that’s why Sir Edward Elgar was attracted to the little lake under the trees.


I made my way through the centre of Petworth to Great Springs. The mustard plants were patchy but the bright yellow was in stark contrast to the very heavy blue haze that obscured the South Downs. The air was thick and sultry, it felt thundery. As I drove along the Estate road a Kestrel whizzed across the front of the Land Rover and dived into the grass verge. There was a bit of a scuffle and the bird emerged without anything in its talons. A bit further along the road a Skylark rose from the edge of the field and fluttered into the air. Do Kestrels eat Skylarks ?

I made a cup of tea and walked around Little Springs. There was nothing much to see, the Trout were not very active. However, I had a surprise while wandering along the top end of Great Springs. A massive shoal of Roach fry were sunning themselves. They must have been washed into the lake from the silt trap. They were being harried by several fast swimming Trout. I went to Lower Figgs and found another surprise. A sprig of Canadian Pondweed, Elodea Canadensis, which had floated down the feeder stream. Within a few weeks of the lakes being dredged and refilled, fish and plant species were re-colonizing the water. Alder flies were hatching and crawling over everything. The fish were rising and the lake looked lovely. The restoration had been a great success.


Later, at the Keepers cottage, I had a coffee and biscuits over a chat about fish, the environment and licences. Two EA bailiffs were not surprised to learn that in nearly 60 years of fishing I had never been asked to produce my licence. I had hoped to fish the river and after coffee, I visited every Beat. I found the river low but coloured. I decided that a relaxing afternoon at Little Bognor was preferable to a hot fishless session on the river. I returned to the cool, peaceful woods and had a proper lunch. Beer and an ‘All Day Breakfast’ sandwich. Excellent.



As usual I had a cunning plan. I had tied a size 20 Adams with a 2lb bs tippet incorporated in the dressing. This removed the need for a hook knot and could not fail to impress a fussy Trout. What could possibly go wrong ? A wind knot developed in the tippet, just above the fly, before I had a chance to cast. On the first cast I lost the fly in a tree behind me.

Plan B was a size 14 Neoprene Black Buzzer. I lost several in various trees. Eventually a fish rose close to me, I flicked a buzzer at it and the first Trout was hooked. The rises stopped and I rested the fish. Sitting in a convenient mossy hollow was very relaxing. For the next episode I chose a size 20 hatching midge imitation. I had three good takes but missed them all. The short stiff hackle shielded the hook.



The fish were searching the bankside debris for food. I sat and waited until a fish came within range. It took a buzzer without hesitation and Trout number two was netted and returned to the lake. It had a mark on its nose which looked like a scar from a tippet. It had been caught before. I cast a buzzer to a couple of fish rising close to the South bank. One of the fish swirled at the buzzer but I failed to connect. While walking back around the lake towards the Land Rover I studied the fish feeding in the weeds. I realized that they were taking water skaters not buzzers. I must tie some imitations.

It had been a great day, more walking and chatting than fishing, but very enjoyable.