22 July – Keepers Bridge

Monday was the start of a heatwave. The BBC had announced that temperatures would increase steadily throughout the week. I visited Rotherbridge at lunchtime and watched the water for twenty minutes, the fish were hiding. A few Spurwing were hatching amongst the buzzers. The water was coloured a mahogany brown but I thought that might be an advantage in the bright sunlight, natures Raybans.

The river at Keepers Bridge looked beautiful but lifeless. The balsam, cow parsley and ragwort added splashes of colour along the margins. The only flying insects were the biting or stinging varieties. I went to The Badgers for a pint and for an hour, watched a buzzard perched on the top branch of a long dead tree. Like a vulture surveying the desert. It flew an occasional circuit over the dusty stubble and finally retired to the shade of the woods. At 3:30pm I returned to Keepers Bridge and decided to walk downstream for a few hours before an early evening halftime break. I took a few GRHE nymphs and a small box of dry flies. The sky was heavy with dark grey clouds and it was very humid, thunderstorm conditions. The warm breeze was downstream but I was grateful for every puff of wind, the temperature was about 30 degrees in the shade.


I practiced casting through a narrow gap in the Alder trees, firing the nymph low and holding the line back to turn over the leader. My target was the tangle of tree roots under the far bank. I heard a small splash and saw the ripples radiating out from under the trailing branches of the last Alder in the row. It sounded and looked like a catkin had fallen into the water so I ignored it. Five minutes later it happened again. Not a catkin, a fish had risen. I crept along the bank and watched from well below the rise. Nothing happened and I spent fives minutes deciding whether to use a dry fly or a nymph.


I chose a parachute Pheasant Tail with a Neoprene tag. I lengthened the line along the grass, measuring the amount I would need, then flicked the fly up and across. It landed a little short but the fly was immediately taken and I lifted into a wild fish. It was in perfect condition with a big tail and swam away strongly when I released it from the landing net. That boosted my confidence and took the pressure off the rest of the afternoon.

The grey clouds dispersed, the breeze died away and the temperature increased. It was too hot to sit in the sun and I confined my fishing to the pools with shade for both myself and the Trout. The last Alder before the tree tunnel looked inviting, I had caught many good fish from its roots. The current deflected under the branches and it was a straightforward cast to the far bank. I let the line drift downstream and wrap around a small clump of streamer weed then lifted slowly and wiggled the rod to give the nymph life. The induced take worked and the rod was thumped by an angry fish. It was about 1lb 8ozs and looked angrily at me as I released it. A fish with attitude, probably annoyed at being deceived.

It was 5:30pm and I needed a break to rehydrate. Just before I reached the Defender, in the First Pool, I saw a good fish snatch at a couple of damsel flies flitting about close to the surface. It was attempting to grab the flies out of the air as they visited the fronds of streamer weed to deposit their eggs. I positioned a nymph near the far bank so that it would swing across in the current to where the Trout had risen. Within seconds there was a golden flash as the fish seized the fly and then turned away. It took a long time to quieten the Trout and guide it along the weed beds into the net. Three fish by half time was a great result.


After a luxurious late afternoon tea of pork pie and Red Bull, I walked upstream to Perryfields. I saw no fish. There were no rises. Although it was 8:30pm it was too bright, the setting sun threw my shadow across the river and I stood no chance of surprising a Trout. The mist rose from the warm grass in the water meadows, completely hiding the herd of Sussex cattle. As I walked up the slope away from the river I turned and watched the sunset. On the river, nothing moved.