15 September – Keepers Bridge

It was a perfect Autumn morning. Blue sky, a cool wind and fluffy white clouds. I loaded my tackle into the Defender, stopped for diesel and essential supplies before heading towards Petworth. It was a lovely drive with only occasional knocks and bangs from the suspension and a slightly bent trackrod.

Lunch beside the lake at Little Bognor was peaceful, the trout were feeding and the Beech trees were starting to show signs of the shorter days. I was spoilt for choice about where to fish. I felt drawn to Luffs which looked tranquil but I would not be able to release any fish. I had conquered Little Bognor and needed a change. The river was calling. Again.

I saw the big fish below the Fish Pass but I think it saw me first. It buried itself deep in a rotting clump of streamer weed and wouldn’t come out. I stood on the bridge at Rotherbridge, the river looked great but there were no signs of Trout. I visited Taylors Bridge and decided to leave it to another member. I tackled up at Keepers Bridge and chose the Hardy Duchess. The short Cortland 444 would be ideal around the bushes below the bridge. The wind was strong and the extra weight in the tip, over the Rio, would help on most of the pools.

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I started just below the bridge with a heavily weighted black and silver spider. Within fifteen minutes a fish rose up behind the fly and gulped it down. I lifted the fly back out of it’s mouth. Not a good start but I was confident that I would have other opportunities. The plan was to walk to the New Riffle and fish the pools on the way back when the sun was lower. The pool on the bend with the big Alder tree was a distraction, I couldn’t walk past without a look under the branches. As I got to the bend in the river a fish swirled below the tree.

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I looked over the edge of the bank and saw a fish close to the tree roots. It was a couple of feet down, just a shadow. I chose a dry sedge which had been successful two days earlier. It was difficult to get the fly above the fish, the wind kept blowing it to my right. Eventually the fish rose, inspected the fly and took. It went on a reel screeching run upstream through the trailing branches but I was in control and encouraged it back downstream well below the bush. While landing and returning the fish, which was about a pound and a half, I saw another fish under the bush. I marked it for my return journey.

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I walked down to the tree tunnel and heard a fish rise. I normally ignore any fish along that stretch because the trees are so dense. A lot of the brambles and balsam had withered and I could see a good fish in midstream. I thought I would have a go. The fish was deep so I tied on a weighted silver and black spider. The fish swirled around the fly first cast and grabbed the fly on the second. The Trout sprinted upstream and across to the far bank. Luckily the bank stopped it going further. The thick wire hook was secure and knowing I couldn’t move along the bank, I pressured the fish. The telescopic handled net was just long enough to secure the fish at the second attempt. It was about two pounds and recovered quickly.

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The New Riffle was not how I remembered. The water was shallow and there were clumps of streamer weed across most of it. I tried the big pool with the sandy cattle drink and the bend above it but couldn’t find a Trout. I went back to the first bush and saw a fish under the trailing branches. The wind was very strong, it was difficult to push the fly out. Ironically that worked in my favour. I cast and the wind blew the leader into the bush. The sedge was left dangling in the water, the leader and tippet were hanging in the branches. The wind blew the branches which animated the fly, it looked very lifelike. The Trout inspected the fly very carefully but was not convinced. I twitched the fly causing micro vibrations on the surface. The fish quickly returned and checked the fly but would not take. I swapped to a nymph and repeated the trick for about twenty minutes but the fish was not interested. I swapped to a spider and had a swirl in midstream first cast but nothing after that. The Trout are very well educated.

The wind and sun were tiring and I was dehydrated. It had been great fun trying out minor tactics, usually reserved for Carp fishing, even if the trick hadn’t quite worked. I will try again when conditions are suitable.

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