29 April – Two Beats

I drove through the lanes via Loxwood in the early morning sun, the countryside looked lovely and the weather was perfect. Everything was set for a relaxing day by the river. I checked the river at the Fish Pass and Rotherbridge before deciding where to fish. There were no signs of fish but the sight and sound of rushing water tipped the balance in favour of the weir pool. The plan was to fish upstream, break for lunch and move to another Beat for the afternoon.

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I started at the downstream end of the weir pool and fished intently, gradually extending the cast and covering every square foot of water. There were quite a few Alder flies hatching and midges scurried about on the surface of the pool. I had a nip on a small nymph close to the sill of the fish pass, it felt like a small fish. A few casts later I hooked a tiny Dace and moved up the pool a few yards to avoid the shoal of tiddlers. I found that every time I changed fly I had a tentative take and then nothing, the fish were very fussy. I put on a smaller nymph and had a wild Trout follow the fly to the surface, rejecting it at the last moment.

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There is always a fish just below the clump of rushes at the end of the bay on the far bank. Never fails. A sunken log gives shelter from predators and the current. A fish rose close to the far bank and then swirled in midstream. I tied on a Black Spider with a red wire body and launched a cast, dropping the fly just upstream of the snag. The fly sunk quickly, I drew in the line slowly and there was a satisfying thump on the rod. A big fish ran upstream along the far bank and then down the middle of the pool towards the sill of the fish pass. It shook its head several times and the hook hold failed.

I fished above the weir, around the bend and up to the first tree but I wasn’t concentrating, just going through the motions of casting and retrieving. Time for lunch. We adjourned to the car park at Rotherbridge and sat on the grass for an hour, gathering our thoughts.

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I wanted to explore the river around Perryfields where the bank access had been improved and a few trees removed. My favourite blackberry bush was intact, the downstream pool had been opened up. I stood on the bridge like Pooh Bear waiting for something to happen but I didn’t throw any sticks in the water. The pool was shallow, had a level sandy bottom and several clumps of streamer weed just upstream of a fallen tree.

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While I was inspecting the pool a pale fish about 3lbs drifted slowly from under the bridge, across the sand and into the weeds. It was followed by a much larger fish, it looked about 5-6lbs. My polaroids enabled me to follow its journey, it disappeared into the weeds near a bush. They were not Chub, they looked like over-wintered Trout.

I crept down the open bank but with no cover and the sun behind me, it was tricky to position myself without throwing shadows. I tested the distance with the first few casts and when I was happy, flicked a heavily weighted green and ginger nymph into the run between the weeds. The smaller fish appeared and swam downstream, past the fly and under the sunken tree. I’m not sure if it was scared or sheered away from the fly at the last moment. It didn’t return. I’ll go back to that pool one evening after the sun has gone down.

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I sat beside the Old Riffle for a while to break the long walk back to the Defender. The pool looked great but a few casts upstream didn’t produce a take. I was hot and tired. We adjourned to The Badgers for a pint and Cheesy Chips. A perfect way to end a relaxing but exhausting day. The river was starting to come alive at last.

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