14 September – Keepers Bridge

There was a full moon last night and a clear sky. The lawn still glistened with moisture at lunch time and in the early afternoon, the temperature climbed into the seventies. The river level gauge  registered 0.041m at Halfway Bridge but I didn’t believe the technology. I visited Rotherbridge to check for myself. The river looked good.

The Rother always fishes well at the end of the season and the conditions were perfect. I planned an afternoon stroll along the river with a favourite rod and a pocket full of toffees. I sat outside The Badgers with a pint and watched the traffic heading to Goodwood for the Revival.

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We started fishing at 2:30pm, the sky was bright and the river looked lifeless. Nothing stirred. I sat opposite the line of Alders and mulled over a plan. It was too hot for walking and my plan involved a lot of sitting and waiting. I practiced my casting. I explored the tightest gaps in the trees with a GRHE nymph. Everything went well, the fly landed gently, close to the far bank and drifted under the branches. I didn’t lose any flies and I felt confident that I could winkle out a fish or two when they eventually revealed themselves.

A good Trout rose under the last tree in the row, a big powerful, splashy rise. Not the gentle sip of a wild fish. I floated a series of different dry flies towards the Trout which appeared to ignore my offerings. I couldn’t see the reaction of the fish, it was too far downstream. I tied on a Daddy-Long-Legs pattern and flicked it upstream of the Trout which grabbed the fly without hesitation. The fish went on a long run downstream through several beds of streamer weed before the hook pulled. There were two scales impaled on the hook point. The hook hold had failed a caught the side of the fish as it dashed through the weeds.

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I wandered slowly downstream to the seat on the bend but it was uncomfortable in the full glare of the sun and I made my way back upstream, keeping close to the edge of the wood where there was shade. I heard a rise and found a couple of fish near the bushes by the broken gate. I sat behind some cover and hooked a fish on a Quality Street sedge. I released the Trout while watching a rise, upstream under another Alder tree. The fish went down as two people wandered along the far bank on the skyline.

It was a long, tricky cast with a bend to finish under the branches. Occasionally the line drooped over a branch but although the Trout rose a few times, it was not for my fly. Eventually a couple of fish splashed at an Adams but the short, stiff hackle obscured the hook point and I missed both. I moved upstream where I could reach into the fast water along the far bank. A fish took the parachute Pheasant Tail with a bang and despite a well bent rod, dived into the tree roots.

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Sedge patterns were getting a response but there were no naturals hatching. Adult midges were buzzing about under the trees, skittering close to the surface of the water. The evening rise developed as the sun dipped below the horizon. The air cooled and the river came to life. I persisted with small sedge patterns. Small, stiff hackled dry flies were not the answer. If I managed to hook a trout, the tiny hooks would not hold the fish.

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I walked back down to the bend below the bridge and witnessed the capture of a Trout. We resolved to celebrate our success with a pint at The Badgers but I was distracted by a cheeky fish rising in mid-stream right under our feet. It had not been frightened away by the capture and release of it’s companion. One-Last-Cast syndrome took charge. I dropped a parachute Pheasant Tail over the fish and in the fading light, saw the tippet twitch. I lifted into the Trout and bullied it away from the marginal plants. It was in excellent condition but had a slightly deformed tail, a recently introduced fish.

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It had been a very pleasant evening and to celebrate, we sat outside the pub with a cool pint amongst a collection of vintage cars returning from Goodwood. There was a slight chill in the air as I drove back, the full moon glowed orange in the south-eastern sky.

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