There had been a hard frost a few days ago, my car had been white until quite late in the morning. With the equinox the season had changed, Autumn was in full swing. The morning was foggy, a clear sky overnight and the warm damp ground combined to produce a dense fog. It was late to clear. As I approached Wisborough Green I could see a bank of fog over the low lying ground. It looked like a stubble fire. There was no wind and I could also see a trace of fog in the Rother valley from Riverhill.
I toured the lakes and cleared the outflows to get rid of the floating leaves and twigs. By lunchtime the sun had burnt the air clean and it was warm. The absence of clouds and wind made it feel like July. The bright sun would make it difficult to tempt a Trout. I drove up the old railway track towards Taylors Bridge but an Oak had fallen blocking my way. The badger’s set in the sandy soil around the base of the tree had undermined the roots and on a windless morning, the old tree had slowly tipped over. I’m never confident when passing under the third railway bridge, it looks as if it is about to collapse. The old trees didn’t seem to pose a threat but the aluminium Defender would have been crushed like foil.
I parked in the shade of the bushes at Keepers Bridge and had lunch while filling my pockets with essential bits of tackle. I decided to use a Cortland line, tricky casting under the trees would be easier with a peach coloured line. Although the river was about a hundred yards away I heard a couple of splashes. The still air transmitted the sound which echoed through the woods. I tied on a small sedge in the hope of finding a rising fish. I stood beside the river and waited for a rise but the water was undisturbed. It might have been a Sea Trout jumping, several had been caught.
I walked upstream to the Old Riffle and sat on the newly cut grass. All of the bankside cover had been mown away. The banks looked neat and tidy but it was impossible to approach the pools undetected. I also had the sun behind me. A couple of fish were feeding under the far bank and a fish jumped at the top of the pool. Despite three fly changes and a thorough search of the pool, the Trout would not respond. The fish melted away and needed a rest. I had a few casts in the pools immediately below Perryfields but it was impossible to hide from the Trout.
I crossed the bridge and walked downstream with the sun in my face and better cover. I focused on the lies under trees and worked them methodically with a nymph. I expected the line to draw tight any second. When I got to the Old Riffle I stood beside the fast flowing water and flicked a weighted nymph upstream. A good fish swirled at the fly three times but would not take. I tried a dry fly but the current was too strong and it skated towards me, dragging a wake behind it. After a fruitless hour I reached Keepers Bridge. In the shade of the trees the temperature dropped significantly and I was glad of my waistcoat. It was 6:00pm and the light was failing. A few fish were moving and I decide to return to the south bank of the Old Riffle. The sun had gone down and I was sure the fish would be active again.
There were several Trout rising. One fish was near the lip of the riffle, close to the bank on my side. Another rose slightly upstream and a third was rising under the trees along the far bank. I had a choice. I cast a copper and black nymph upstream and connected with a good fish. It fought hard and swam strongly away when released from the landing net. I had bullied it upstream to avoid disturbing the other Trout.
I couldn’t reach the fish in the fast water from above the tree so I moved down and presented the same fly upstream. A good fish swirled at the end of the cast but missed the fly. I cast across the lip of the riffle and a big fish grabbed the fly but the hook bounced out. I had lifted too soon. The fish all went down and the brief spell of activity was over. I had walked much further than I’d planned and was happy to arrive home and sit down with fruit cake and a cup of tea.