6 June – Beat A

I stopped by the side of the road near Fittleworth to admire the view across the fields. The wheels of the tractors had cut neat pathways through the crops while delivering pesticides and weed killer. The fields were a uniform shade of olive green, no wild flowers were allowed. I thought about having lunch at Duncton Hanger, the cloudscape and patchwork of fields would be spectacular. I found a lone poppy by the side of the lane. Just after I knelt and took its portrait, a gust of wind stripped the petals off leaving just the seed head. Very poignant on the 75th Anniversary of D-Day.

Rather than detour through Duncton, I had lunch at Little Bognor watching the Trout. It was cold and blustery beside the lake. The shade and south-westerly wind were not ideal. During the drive South I’d considered fishing the top of the river. Jungle fishing at its best. Nobody had fished that beat since the start of the season, if I could find a Trout it would be uneducated.


I parked the Defender under a small Oak at the top of the old railway line and set up my Hardy. Thrashing about in the bushes required a modern rod, not an irreplaceable split cane treasure. While signing the Beat book I had a moment to reconsider my plans, particularly as a Trout rose just below the bridge. I crept through the long grass and sat quietly waiting for the fish to rise again. Unaware of my presence a Moorhen paddled, head jerking, close by. It saw me, turned and fled downstream, its alarm call and splashing trashed the entire pool. I tried a couple of casts but the Trout had long gone. I marked it down for later and walked upstream.

The big pool at Ladymead had been changed by the Winter floods. A large sandbank filled half the pool which made access easier but there was no cover. Kneeling on the warm sand was comfortable but I was in full view of the fish. There were a few Olives hatching but no Mayfly and as I walked further upstream, the water became more coloured. I passed a side stream and the water cleared, I was above the run off. The shallow water and young streamer weed beds didn’t provide much cover for the Trout. They would be concentrated under the trees and bushes along the shaded bank opposite. At every fish holding feature I stopped and watched the river, looking for shadows on the sand or the swirl from a rising Trout. At about 4:00pm the wind dropped and the Mayfly started to hatch. The tree cover along the river provided immediate shelter and most of the Duns would survive the night.


I came to the pool by the last gate where I had hooked and lost a good fish last season. As I waited for a sign I saw a dimple near the far bank in the shade of a tree. It looked like a Dace or small Chub. I squeezed the water out of my fly in a fold of my trousers, fluffed it up and checked for wind knots in the tippet. I waited for the fish to show again. I knew I would only get one chance, prospecting with a dry fly rarely produces a fish.

There was a good rise, five yards downstream immediately below a clump of Cow Parsley. My first cast hooked a flower head but miraculously came free without disturbance. Similarly, the second cast was wayward. I calmed down and presented the fly amongst the buzzing midge cloud, exactly where I had intended. The Trout rose confidently, was hooked, did two somersaults and unhooked itself. I was not too bothered. The presentation of the fly in a tricky position and deception of the Trout with a realistic imitation of a Mayfly was sufficient.


I walked to the top of the Beat searching for another rise but found nothing. As I walked back to the bridge Spinners started to form small clouds in the lee of the bigger trees. I had a few casts in the Cow Drink on Beat B. The Trout in the pool below Taylor’s Bridge didn’t respond to my last cast. There would probably be an evening rise but I’d had enough. Besides, I had a pie left over from lunch.


I had used only one fly all afternoon which must be some sort of record in the jungle. The raffia in the detached body Mayfly soaks up water but having to pause after several casts and dry the fly is no hardship. It gives me time to gather my thoughts and regroup.

There was one stretch on the Beat that I liked in particular. The river divides around a small island. The shallow threads of water and the overhanging bushes reminded me of the upper Brede at Sedlescombe where I caught my first Trout, crawling through the undergrowth. I will return to Beat A in a few weeks and fish in the evening when the Trout might venture out from under the trees.