The tail of a hurricane was forecast to arrive for the Autumn equinox. Wet and windy weather would colour the water and make it impossible to fish the river. The landscape in the north of the Estate was complemented by a spectacular cloudscape and I paused at Stag Park to admire the scenery. Two Red Kites were messing about in the thermals, their flight was erratic and unbalanced by the wind. The fields had been shorn by the combine and as the shafts of sunlight moved across the slopes, the fields looked like camel coloured corduroy.
I visited the lakes and took the water temperature which had stabilised at 17 degrees, quite warm for late September. I drove to Rotherbridge and spent a while peering into the water upstream of the bridge. I couldn’t see much until the sun broke through the clouds and cast fishy shadows on the sandy bottom. A shoal of fish hung in the current below clumps of streamer weed. I studied them for a few minutes, undecided whether they were Chub or Trout. Eventually one of the fish rolled over and confirmed its identity. They were Trout. Their position was tricky, below the weeds and close to the overhanging branches of an Alder. Accurate casting would be essential.
The group of fish would react to my fly either by competing for it or by bolting downstream en masse. I used a long tippet and a size 12 parachute Pheasant Tail. The fly landed softly just upstream of the shoal and within seconds, a good Trout smashed into it and dived into a weed bed. I bent the rod to the butt and forced the fish into midstream. It dashed upstream through several weed beds and fought the rod and a big clump of weed, at my feet. I dragged the fish and the weed into my landing net. Success on the first cast.
I rested the fish while I changed the fly and took stock. I assumed the shoal had dispersed and was about to move to the New Riffle when a Trout rose further downstream. I floated the fly over the fish which swirled but refused. I recalled the reaction of the Itchen fish and knew I would need to change the pattern. I chose a Quality Street sedge which produced a violent reaction from a Trout but I lifted too soon.
I changed to a size 14 parachute Adams and launched it between the clumps of weed, as far as I could, wind assisted. It floated under the bridge and was taken confidently. I put a lot of pressure on the fish and the small hook pulled out.
Dark clouds gathered over the South Downs and the wind increased. I went to the New Riffle and tried an Adams and a Daddy but I withdrew as the rain made its way up the valley towards Petworth. I sat in the Defender and energised myself with a Red Bull, I wondered if the wipers would work all the way home.