The weather had cooled slightly after last nights thunderstorms. The wind had a slight chill and the air was clean. Everything looked set for a great day in deepest Sussex.
After a bit of a delay I eased the Land Rover through the gates at Little Bognor and looked through the trees to see if anyone was fishing. It was deserted, no trout were rising and the surface of the lake was covered with the orange debris from the Beech tree buds. I lifted the metal grid on the outflow and thousands of tiny leaves were drawn from the margins, down the outflow stream. The surface of the top lake was clear and a couple of fish rose as I was wandering around. It was quiet and had a relaxing atmosphere.
I visited all the Beats on the river and all the lakes, to collect the catch returns. It had been a good week. Two over-wintered fish had been caught at Rotherbridge. I was tempted to fish at Lower Figgs where there were no trees to snag my flies. On balance I thought a peaceful afternoon on the top lake at Little Bognor was a better option. I remembered from my last visit that the Trout were feeding on Pond Skaters in the margins. There were lots of the fast moving creatures by the outflow stream. I chose a size 14 black Neoprene Spider with Partridge hackles. It looked similar to the skaters and would float indefinitely.
I sat on a large lump of stone in the corner of the lake and worked the fly close to the bank. As usual several fish were rising close to the weeping Willow tree. I covered the water towards the feeding fish without response. A fish rose close to a lily pad and I put the fly in the ring of ripples at the first attempt. The Trout took the fly immediately and got hung up on the lily pad. The only lily pad in the entire lake ! I had a 4lb bs tippet as I’d run out of lighter nylon, so I bullied the fish into open water. I netted the fish which looked pristine, possibly a wild trout. It flicked its tail and darted out of the net none the worse for being caught.
That corner of the lake was trashed so I crept around to the other side of the Willow tree and sat on the grass about fifteen feet back from the water. I curled a cast around the tree but the fly was ignored. Several times. I tied on a small dry fly with a pale ginger palmered hackle and a tag of white Neoprene. That was also ignored. I trimmed the tag and recast. The fly sat lower in the surface film. A Trout took the fly and shot into the trailing Willow fronds. It wriggled off the hook, leaving it stuck in a branch. I netted the branch and trimmed it to avoid a repeat performance. I cast to several rising fish on my left but they were put off by the heavy tippet. I moved to the overflow and cast to a rising fish which took confidently. It dived into the lily pad but I dragged it out. Then it came off !
The big Chestnut tree kept the sun off me and I was getting cold. I walked to the bottom lake and sat in the sun among the Beech trees. I had approached carefully and the fish were only a rod length away. They were taking Pond Skaters so I switched back to a black Neoprene spider. I cast sideways and managed to position the fly under the branches, close to the bank, without snagging the leader. Consistently. A fish followed the spider along the margin and swirled but didn’t connect. It might have seen me. The wind was kind, it blew the debris away from the bank leaving a stretch of clear water for me to explore. Trout were rising under my rod tip but they were leader shy and I had no takes. I replaced the metal screen on the outflow and left the lakes. I need some lighter leader material and a more convincing imitation of Pond Skaters. It was a great day, very relaxing.