9 August – Keepers Bridge

The weather had changed to a grey sky, drizzle and no wind. It was the sort of weather that fooled me into thinking that I didn’t need a coat. I took a lightweight jacket. The river had not risen according to the gauge and I was keen to fish the evening rise.

On my last visit I had marked down a couple of good Trout at Taylors Bridge and I was curious to see if they were still there. I expected to have the upstream Beats to myself all evening. As I parked and switched off the Land Rover, the sun broke through and brightened up the landscape. I paused in the middle of the bridge and looked for the resident Trout. Either it had found another pool or my approach, with the sun behind me, had scared it deep into the tree roots.

The pool by the cricket bat willows looked good. A week ago I had hooked and lost a big fish close to the north bank. A big bed of streamer weed had been hidden by the high, coloured water. The fish must have been hiding among the fronds and risen up from between them to take my fly. It was no longer in residence, the big, fat black Cormorant had probably eaten it. I shouldered my landing net handle and swung it across the birds path, it was not impressed by my improvised shotgun. The Cormorant was in easy range of a 12 bore and 30g of lead would have resolved the matter.


I was annoyed and hot. The air had been cleansed by the rain and the early evening sun was powerful. I returned to the Land Rover, took off my jacket and suddenly had the urge to fish elsewhere. I had lost confidence in the top Beats. I drove to Keepers Bridge and was relieved to see that no other members had arrived. I planned to walk downstream to the New Riffle and fish the evening rise on my return journey. I got as far as the first bend. There was something about the current, the colour of the water and the overhanging Alder tree that made me pause and watch the pool. I was convinced that a Trout was hiding under the branches. Where else would a fish wait for darkness ?

Earlier that morning I had tied a fresh batch of black spiders, ribbed with copper wire. I had used heavier hooks, unable to get any fine wire Tiemco 103bl hooks because of a problem at the factory. The fly sunk slowly and curved across the current. While I watched the leader a Trout appeared and hung just under the surface. The leader hadn’t moved but I guessed the fish had taken the fly and lifted the rod. I was correct. It dashed a long way downstream and I was glad that I had chosen a full length fly line and replaced the tippet. The fish paused and then ran further downstream, around the bend. Despite wrapping the fly line around a small bunch of streamer weed I managed to bully the fish back upstream and into the landing net. It was about 3lbs and had an enormous tail. I was relieved to have broken my long series of lost Trout. If I hadn’t been wearing polaroids I would not have seen the Trout in the glare of the low evening sun.


I was happy, all thoughts of Cormorants and lost fish had disappeared. As I sat on the damp grass and checked my tippet I looked back upstream at another Alder on the far bank. Nothing had risen as I had wandered downstream but the tree was calling to me. I crept back along the bank and sat directly opposite the Alder. I used a side cast to curl the fly under the branches. The second cast was perfect and the fly landed just short of the far bank, above the sunken tree roots. The leader tightened and my second Trout of the evening was hooked. I released the fish from the net and it dived into the current none the worse for it’s brief visit to the bank.


The weather changed, a rain cloud appeared over Midhurst and the wind strengthened. I continued my journey, stopping at all the usual places for a few casts. A lot of the rafts of rubbish had been washed away by the winter floods. The downstream wind prevented me from exploring one of the pools, it was too strong for my light rod and line. I had a fish swirl twice but it wouldn’t take despite several changes of fly. When I arrived at the New Riffle a couple of small fish were rising in the slack water and a good fish swirled and bow waved downstream into deeper water. I was confident of a fish but after a couple of casts it was evident that I had put them down. My approach had been careless and the fish in that pool were very spooky.


Dark rain clouds gathered as I walked back towards Keepers Bridge and I could see the rain falling a couple of miles away. The wind got stronger and it was impossible to cast. The tops of the trees were crashing about and bits of straw were swirling around me. As I had forsaken my jacket I decided to return to the Land Rover. Catching two fish was sufficient. I drove home in heavy rain, most of the storm missed Coultershaw.