26 April – Keepers Bridge

I made breakfast and did the school run. Not by car, we walked with the other children from the village. Therefore, at 9:15am I was wide awake, at a loose end and half way to Petworth. A visit to the river was the obvious solution. I had my gear in the car and planned to catch a few Trout before the weekend. I was also keen to see the bluebells and to find the first Mayfly of the year.

The BBC weather forecast was useless, but it ruled out snow and a heat wave. The river had only risen 1mm as a result of the recent showers and would be in perfect condition.


The forestry plantation along the old railway embankment was covered in bluebells and as I walked down the footpath towards the river, I crushed wild garlic leaves underfoot. It was a weird combination of smells, the sweet perfumed scent of the bluebells clashed with the harsh cooking smell of the garlic. I sat in the wood for a while watching the light change. The south-westerly wind was pushing storm clouds across the valley throwing pools of light on the spring flowers.

The river looked good and I started with a weighted Black Spider. It was not heavy enough and I soon changed to a Black Spider with a body of bright red wire. I worked the pool below the bridge and the straight but there were no signs of fish. A bright blue kingfisher whizzed upstream, I wondered why it flew so low over the water. I walked downstream to the New Riffle, the water had a nice green tint and I could just see the new shoots of the streamer weed. I was confident of a Trout. As a cast swung into the near bank, a fish flashed behind the fly and after several attempts, managed to grab hold. It fought hard. It was a wild fish about 12ozs which looked hungry and a bit scruffy.


I fished the rest of the pool and some of the hotspots down towards Rotherbridge. A few Dace were flipping about on the surface near the bridge. I worked the fly down between the beds of weed expecting a thump on the rod. Nothing happened and the return journey to Keepers Bridge was uneventful.

I was puzzled. The water height and colour were perfect. Hawthorn flies were hatching everywhere and the river had been stocked. Where were the Trout hiding ?