18 May – Rotherbridge

A cool breeze, baby blue sky and thin wispy clouds produced a light as intense as St Ives or St Tropez. Not ideal for trout fishing although it might encourage the Mayfly to hatch. I am usually so keen to get to the river that I am exhausted before the evening rise starts. To pass the afternoon away I messed about with an old telescopic landing net handle that I had found in a junk shop. I’d bought it for pennies because it was identical to the Efgeeco handle that I used as a boy. It was bent, not as telescopic as it used to be.

I arrived at Rotherbridge at 5:30pm and was immediately struck by the lack of any wildlife. It was quiet, no birds or insects and no rising fish. I ambled upstream, keeping well back from the river, looking for any signs. The river looked very tidy. The winter floods had washed the debris out of the low hanging branches and had scoured the margins. The water had a dark green tint and looked sterile.


A flow deflector had been built in the New Riffle and a couple of members were fishing from the opposite bank so I moved upstream, pausing on the bends to observe the longer stretches of water. The fields to the north of the river had been wrapped in countryside-cling-film and the irrigation machines were spurting water on multi coloured salad crops. Madness.

I paid particular attention to my favourite fish holding places, the familiar Alder trees and back eddies where the sandy bank had collapsed. I stood beside the Overhanging Tree where I had always managed to winkle out a fish. After a few minutes a fish rose in the usual place, in the fast water along the far bank, under the lowest branch. It rose a couple of times, small splashy rises, it looked like a wild fish taking duns. My first couple of side casts were amateurish, I fired the detached body Mayfly low and hard and it landed heavily. Not a good start. I rested the fish then flicked the fly across the pool, close to the far bank. The fish rose, I lifted too quickly and cursed. My first take of the season botched.


I walked back downstream and sat on the sand opposite another Alder at the head of a long pool. I had forgotten the toffees. As I was resting a spinner fell and perched on the electric fence behind me. While I was taking its portrait a fish rose at the end of a trailing branch. It took three Mayflies in quick succession and looked like a good prospect. I took much too long tying on a small spinner imitation and by the time I presented the fly the fish had stopped rising.

I waited patiently, occasionally drying the fly on my trousers, drifting it down the far bank but either the fish had swapped lies or I had put it down. I walked back to the bridge very slowly expecting to find a rising fish under the trees but the sun was low and the evening rise had finished. The evening had shown me that I needed to up my game for my first visit to the Itchen on Thursday. Basic errors would not be tolerated by the shy chalk stream brownies.