I was determined to catch a Trout from the river and set off for Petworth just after the school run. I’d fitted a new leader and tippet and made a picnic lunch before I left. I parked at Keepers Bridge and checked the signing in book, the Beats hadn’t been fished for a couple of days. I put a good selection of nymphs in my waistcoat pockets and walked down the farm track to check on the condition of the river. The level had dropped slightly and I could see the subtle changes in colour where the sandy bottom caught the sun. I started fishing the pool by the broken gate, full of confidence that I would get a take. Nothing. I moved upstream fishing all the usual fish-holding places. I expected a fish to grab the fly in the fast shallow stretch by the gap in the trees but there was no response. I concentrated and fished hard under the trees and bushes on both sides of the river but I couldn’t entice a Trout. I didn’t see any signs of fish. It was very odd, the river seemed empty.
The New Riffle was calling me. I retraced my steps to Keepers Bridge and continued downstream. The areas of scrub below the bridge had been cleared giving more room for a backcast. I spent an hour at the riffle and the run below it, but had no takes. I thought that had been my best chance of a fish and trudged wearily back to the Land Rover to consider Plan B. The midday sun was bright and the wind was downstream, not ideal conditions. I decided to have lunch at the lakes and to return to the river in the evening when the Trout might be feeding.
I had a good lunch and spent a long time chatting. The sun dropped behind the trees and the breeze created a nice ripple on the surface of Little Springs. A few fish were rising and everything looked positive. I knelt on the wet grass on the sunny side of the lake and cast across the ripple so that the nymph would cover a wide area at an even depth. A variety of flies produced only one take which I missed. I switched to a dry fly and had a take from a Roach which was a sign I was on the right track. Then things went quiet, the fish disappeared. I returned to the clubhouse, had a cup of tea and another long chat.
At 5:30pm I thought about returning to the river but I was too tired and decided to spend an hour at the lakes instead. There were no fish rising at Great Springs but while I was wandering around, I noticed a couple of fish rising under the trees at the shallow end of Little Springs. I shuffled towards the water on my knees and was careful not to cast a shadow, I stayed well back from the edge of the lake. The fish were taking something very small so I tied on a 2lb tippet and a size 14 dry fly with a palmered ginger hackle and a tag of foam to keep it afloat.
I sat and waited for a fish to show itself but despite my patience the surface of the water remained unbroken. There were no flies hatching which made a rise unlikely. I thought I might induce a take by drifting the fly under the trees. I cast so that only the leader and tippet floated on the water, the fly line rested on the grass. A Roach nudged the fly. I placed the fly to my right so that the breeze from behind me would swing it around infront of me. As I was about to reposition the fly again a Trout swirled, I lifted into the fish and battle commenced. It was a long time before I could ease the fish into the landing net, I couldn’t bully it with only a 2lb tippet. It weighed 1lb 12oz and was in perfect condition. Walking for hours in the sun had left me tired and dehydrated, I drove away anticipating a glass of wine at the end of my journey.