Bank Holiday Monday is not a good day to fish, the roads are crowded and the weather is usually bad. Last year the weather was hot and humid with thunderstorms. This year there were weather warnings for lightning and rain. After two months of spurious readings the EA had finally realised that the gauge on the river wasn’t working correctly. I didn’t know how the heavy rain on Thursday had affected the level or colour of the river.
I visited the lakes and collected the catch returns which gave me an opportunity to assess where I should fish. One option was to sit in the shade of an old Beech tree beside the lower lake at Little Bognor and ambush the passing Trout. The spring fed lakes were cool, only 15 degrees in the shallows and the fish were active. The pink Beech stipules which coated the lake earlier in the month, had either been washed down the outflow or had sunk. Luffs was another option. There was a breeze, a ripple and feeding fish.
I collected the catch returns for every Beat on the river and took the opportunity to look for signs of fish. I could see the ripples in the sand under the bridge at Rotherbridge but no Trout. There were no fish rising on any of the Beats. I decided to fish downstream from Taylors Bridge on the south bank. I would have good access to the river right down to Perryfields and would not have to keep an eye on the Sussex heifers.
I used a black spider with a red hackle and fished all the usual places, without a take, until I got to the Shallow Pool which always contains a fish. Two heifers wandered away from the cattle drink and I assumed they had scared the Trout. As I turned to walk downstream a fish rose for a Mayfly very close under my bank. I lowered a parachute emerger onto the water and it was immediately grabbed by the Trout. It was a wild fish about 12ozs and I released it from the landing net without touching it. The sky was dark, the thunder rumbled around and there were a few welcome drops of rain.
I moved down to the long bend leading to Perryfields Barn, all the time looking for rising fish. A very tiny movement under a tree caught my eye. Every few minutes the surface beside a clump of weed was dimpled. It looked insignificant, I couldn’t see what was causing the disturbance. Then a Trout slashed at a Mayfly. I sat behind the bankside plants and estimated the distance to the tree line. The fish continued to rise and swirled at my fly twice but didn’t take.
I changed my fly. I tied on an imitation of a Mayfly spinner, it looked convincing to me. To avoid drag I had to cast a loose line upstream of the overhanging branches, the fly had to travel about two yards before the Trout could see it. It took the Mayfly confidently and I bullied it away from the weeds while it was off balance. It took about twenty yards of line downstream into the trees but I pulled it out. It passed me on another long run upstream into a weed bed. The line was grating on the weed and I thought I would lose the fish. After a struggle I got it in the landing net, it was a nicely coloured fish about 2lbs. It gave me an angry look from behind the netting.
I walked down to the bridge at Perryfields and was in two minds about continuing, the heat and humidity were unbearable. I looked at a pool near the cow drink and found a fish rising under a tree on my side. After several amateurish casts I positioned the fly on the correct line and watch it drift under the tree. A trout rose but I lifted too soon. As I was cursing at my stupidity, the fly drifted down a little further and another fish took it. The very unlucky fish was about 1lb 8ozs.
I assumed the pool was ruined but to my amazement the original Trout rose to take another Mayfly. I covered it again, it rose and I missed. A fish rose in a pool above me so I switched my attention there. I hooked the Trout on a rubber band Mayfly imitation but it wriggled off the hook as I was preparing the landing net. Nevermind.
I was exhausted, hungry and dehydrated. I struggled back to the Land Rover and had a late lunch. I didn’t have the energy to fish into the dusk.