I signed in at Keepers Bridge just before 3:00pm on a breezy Autumn day. The plan was to fish the North bank. For two reasons. One, I wanted a clear shot at the fussy Trout in the Impossible Pool. Two, from the North bank the breeze would assist my casting. The day was much like Saturday. The high wispy clouds, blue sky and clean air were uplifting and I had been delayed on my journey around the Estate by several photo opportunities. In the shade of the trees the wind was uncomfortably cold, nearly cold enough for a jacket. In the sunshine I felt relaxed and in no hurry to catch a Trout. The Sussex heifers were browsing the water meadows in the far distance. They are a docile breed but a distraction. They didn’t see me cross the bridge.
Before I crossed the bridge I’d had a couple of casts at a fish rising below an Alder tree but the headwind was too strong for good presentation. Having crossed to the North bank I crept on all fours up to the tree and peered over the edge of the high bank. There was a fish close to the tree roots and about a foot below the surface. With the wind behind me it was easy to flick the Walker’s Sedge under the branches.
The Trout rose vertically and in slow motion, gently gulped the fly down. I paused and then lifted the rod. The fish was hooked, taken by surprise. It was a very bright fish which recovered quickly and dived back into the tree roots over the edge of the landing net. I’d only been fishing for thirty minutes and was happy with such a good start.
I walked around the bend and stood opposite the Tree Tunnel well back from the river while identifying the gaps in the bushes along the far bank. The forked trunks of a big Alder helped me hide from the Trout. I leant back against the warm wood and watched three fish feeding in midstream. They were very active, patrolling in a group, occasionally gliding up to the surface and taking an insect amongst the leaf debris. I was confident enough to wait for the biggest fish to appear, a lull in the wind and the absence of floating debris.
After half an hour of waiting patiently, everything looked positive and I side-cast the dry fly through a letter box of overhanging branches. It landed perfectly just upstream of the Trout. The fish ignored the fly and melted away. Just like a shoal of spooky Chub, the shadows faded and didn’t return. I was surprised how sensitive the fish were. Two farm dogs had passed me by without a glance in my direction, I was well hidden. I planned to return another evening after sunset when the fish might be less cautious.
I retraced my steps while mulling over my stealthy approach, my choice of fly and presentation. There were no obvious errors. I turned my thoughts to the fish I had marked down on my last visit. As I approached another big Alder on my side of the river, a fish rose in midstream just below the tree. I sat on the short grass and covered the rise with a series of gentle casts, gradually working downstream. As I was about to rest the fish and continue on my walk, the fish rose above me. It was just clear of the overhanging branches and took the sedge fly immediately. The big Trout went on a long run down the river, turned and dashed past me through the submerged branches on my right. I was in contact with the fish but the fly line was snarled up. The fish relaxed and surfaced within reach but when I dipped the landing net in the water it shot off downstream again. I was left with the fly line going upstream from the rod tip and the fish downstream ! It ended badly as I knew it would. The barbless hook dropped out and the fish escaped. It was about 3lbs. I got the fly back.
I walked upstream, crossed back to the South bank and went to the Long Straight where I’d had an encounter with an educated Trout. As I arrived at the pool the fish rose where I had seen it on Saturday, it hadn’t moved in two days. I approached very quietly from downstream. I checked everything then presented the dry fly accurately. After a dozen casts I rested the fish, I planned to have another attempt later.
By 6:00pm the pool above the Old Riffle was calm. The wind had dropped. A fish rose between the clumps of rushes, another was active under the tree to my right and there was a good rise in the narrow stretch at the top of the pool. I had a choice. First, I tried the top fish with a trimmed Adams. Next, I cast the same fly to the fish between the rushes. Then, from the riffle, I cast upstream to the fish near my bank. The light was fading fast, the mackerel sky was turning pink and as I turned to leave the riffle, I saw a rise in the fast water just above the gravel bar. I fired the fly across the pool and just as the Adams was about to cascade into the rip, the Trout grabbed the fly and became airborne. Then it dived into a weedbed and my hopes faded as I contemplated another loss. I bullied it out of the streamer weeds and guided it into the landing net. I released it into the fast water below the riffle.
I walked back to the Defender, turning occasionally to look at the sunset. The air was cold and there were no fish rising. I’d caught two Trout but it should have been four or five. I would remember their position and return later in the week.