28 March – Farlows Christening

I’d completed the restoration of the Farlows ‘Holdfast’ months ago but it had not been Christened. The long, lithe loch rod was designed for roll casting before a drifting boat not double-hauling from the bank of a large lake. I planned to fish the moorland lakes and make the most of the Spring sunshine, flicking a nymph into the deep margins would suit the rod.

I left the Defender at Great Springs and wandered through the woods. A woodpecker was rattling a tree and a couple of buzzards were mewing from just under the cloud base. I sat on the newly mown grass and chose a lightly weighted black nymph. The water was slightly cloudy and black seemed a good choice. Roach fry attacked the nymph but moved away when they discovered the deceit. I used the Rio WF line and slowed my action down, the rod would not be hurried.


I moved around the lake exploring the margins and the shade under the trees. I expected the line to tighten at any moment but it remained slack. I saw a fish rise close to the bank on Lower Figgs and crept across the bracken carefully avoiding clumps of primroses. The water was clearer so I tied on a weighted green nymph and worked it across the breeze. It wasn’t until I reached the bay downwind of the Willow bush that I had a take. Just as I was lifting off. Nevermind.

Several small Trout swirled around the fly as it rose in the water at the end of the casts. Eventually a Trout took hold but came adrift after a few seconds. I rolled the fly downwind parallel to the bank and there was a solid thump on the rod. I kept a shallow bend in the rod and gave line freely. Every twist and lunge of the fish was transmitted up the rod. I released the fish without handling it and walked slowly back to the hut for a celebratory cup of tea.


My arm ached but I had a few casts at Luffs. The sun was bright and only the Roach fry moved. They dimpled the surface in shoals down the centre of the lake. After a chat, tea and biscuits I felt refreshed and decided to explore Luffs properly. I swapped rods and retrieved the landing net from the roof of the Defender, forgotten during the short drive from the hut.


As the sun went down the Trout started chasing the fry. Big swirls and waves revealed fast moving fish all over the lake. Showers of tiny fish boiled at the surface as Trout circled around. The tatty green nymph had a long tail and looked like a very small roach. A fish took the fly close to the brickwork and came to the net without much of a struggle. It had Cormorant scars behind its dorsal fin but swam off strongly.

I saw a large bow-wave to my left and dropped the nymph along the cruising line, a couple of yards ahead of the fish. There was a savage yank on the rod and a Trout between four and five pounds became airborne. Three times it leapt. I held on tight during the first reel screeching run. I tightened down on the rim of the reel as the monster tore up the lake. A member at the other end of the lake heard the reel scream and may have heard me curse as the fish escaped.

I moved along the bank to the centre channel and saw a pod of fish. I cast ahead of a Trout, hooked it and after a long scrap, realized I had caught the Cormorant marked fish again. The marks were very distinctive. Having been pecked and caught twice, the fish was not in good shape so I kept it for my dinner. Better me than a Cormorant. I caught another small fish and decided to stop fishing, I’d had sufficient.


After putting my rod away and while checking the days photos, an earth shaking roar got louder. A Eurofighter screamed overhead, along the line of the National Grid pylons, only a few hundred feet up. As I was recovering from the shock another pilot broke all the rules and roared up the valley along the same line. It was a fitting salute on which to end a great day.


As I drove away I paused at Stag Park and watched the sun dip down behind a line of clouds over the South Downs. It had been an eventful day.