9 July – Keepers Bridge

Dungeness had demanded maximum relaxation. The wind and the waves rattling the shingle had hypnotised me. The wine and hot sun had helped. I had been amused by the antics of the sea anglers, trudging over the gravel ridges built up by long shore drift, carrying mountains of equipment, tripods, tents and heavy rods. I watched the mis-casts, the carefully hooked bait flying everywhere and the lines festooned with weed. Many hundreds of man-fishing-hours had only produced a few small mackerel. One of which had been stolen by a wayward black Labrador called Frank. I’m sure that’s what his owner called him.


I watched the container ships and yachts passing Cap Gris Nez and Calais, all thoughts of fly fishing were lost in the blue haze. One calm evening on the top deck I had a brief vision of an Appetizer, twitched through the shoals of brit in the shallows but quickly dismissed the thought and refilled my glass.

The holiday had ended. The high humidity and gentle southerly breeze were a stark contrast to the weather at the coast. The Defender started on the first turn of the key and followed the well rehearsed route to Petworth, windows wound down. The river level had been steady for several days and a few Mayfly had hatched. I had high hopes for a couple of Trout in the evening. I took the Hardy, for the serious stuff and both Southwells for messing about if the fish were rising well.


The Fish Pass and Rotherbridge had not been fished but I felt my chances were better at Keepers Bridge where I would have the choice of two Beats. The intense sunlight pierced through the skimpy clouds. The countryside stood still, it was too hot and sticky, all the creatures were resting. I walked upstream where the Alder trees cast large shadows across the river. I saw a fish rise in the middle of the first pool. I sat behind the fringe of marginal plants and worked a nymph around the pool for thirty minutes without response. I heard several splashes in the pool above and moved to the shade of the next Alder tree. Half way down that pool I had a tug at the nymph but missed.


The heat was unbearable and I sought the shade of the line of trees below the Old Riffle. Despite some magic casts there was no response but a fish rose twice in the next pool upstream. The nip at my nymph and the upstream splashes reminded me of a Sea Trout I chased up the same pools two seasons ago.


I walked up to Perryfields and found another fish rising under the far bank amongst the bushes. I crossed the bridge and targeted the Trout with a Mayfly but couldn’t entice it to rise again. The heat finally got to me and I walked back to the Defender to rehydrate.

It had been hard work, I should have arrived much later and fished at dusk. The humidity and still air had drained me, I missed the fresh onshore wind and clean salty air. Perhaps I should take up mackerel fishing.