The day dragged. Endless chores distracted me from the most important task, preparing for an evening at the river. My new silk line required attention before its next adventure. It had become waterlogged after a few hours during my last trip. I’d taken the line off the reel and left it to dry for several days. I wiped it sparingly with Red Mucilin. I knew the 40 year old tin of gunk would have a use one day. The line was polished, not sticky, but it felt odd. Rough to the touch unlike modern plastic lines.
I left home late in the afternoon and had to resort to arm signals for turning much to the amusement of modern motorists. One of the Defender’s relays had retired. I parked on the slope at Keepers Bridge and checked that the headlights were still working as I planned to stay until dusk.
The river looked lovely. The water level was up a few inches and the green tint just failed to hide the fronds of streamer weed. Swirling eddies carried midges and small sedge flies under the trees. I was drawn to the deep water below the first Alder, it looked perfect. I fished a heavily weighted Black Spider down and across and after a few casts the line drew tight and a fish thumped deep under the weeds near the bank. The fish stayed deep and fought sluggishly, then became airborne several times. The silk line transmitted the thumps and somersaults directly to the rod unlike stretchy plastic. The fish was about 2lbs and had old scars from a Cormorant which had healed. I released it from the landing net back into the weeds. I was surprised to have caught a fish so soon after arriving. While gathering my thoughts I saw a head and tail rise downstream, just above the Willow bush. I presented a Walkers Sedge carefully, occasionally resting the fish. I persevered but after thirty minutes I had the feeing that the Trout had checked out my fly and rejected it.
I walked upstream to the Gaps, confident that I would find a fish. While I was admiring the view across the fields towards Perryfields Barn, a fish rose several times in the usual place under the trees. It moved further upstream each time it rose. I tried to cast under the branches with a little flick to curl the line but only succeeded in crashing the rod into the trees and getting tangled. I could have reached that fish with a modern line, the silk tip was not heavy enough. I moved upstream to the next gap. The new growth on the Alders had narrowed the casting slot. I chose a trajectory and fired a cast almost to the far bank wiggling the line as it landed. There was no drag, a good fish turned over on the fly and was hooked. The hook pinged out just as I was reaching for the landing net.
I sat and watched the pool above the Old Riffle. Another member presented a dry fly to several fish but without success. We passed each other and I walked directly to the Cow Drink where I had an appointment with the resident Trout. I had made a mess of things at our last meeting and I resolved to do better this time. The fish rose several times and I launched a positive cast to position the fly under the tree. The cast was too positive. It was too long and I lined the Trout which didn’t rise again. Nevermind, I’ll meet him again next week.
During my walk back to Keepers Bridge I stopped frequently to gaze at the sunset. The sun was sinking towards the horizon over Midhurst. The subtle pastels and the delicate cloudscape formed a perfect backdrop to the water meadows where a mist was starting to rise. While I waited for the sun to touch the tree line a fish rose in the eddy at the end of the Sandy Pool. I crept back to the pool and hid behind the rushes. A perfect drag free drift resulted in a rise. The hooked fish screamed off towards the log at the end of the pool. The line whistling through the rings blended with the scream of the ratchet and I immediately thought ‘sea trout’. I put pressure on the rim of the reel and bent the rod into a hoop. I extracted the fish from the streamer weed, it was a feisty wild fish about 1lb. If it had reached the snag and escaped, I would have guessed it to be much bigger.
On the way back I saw a badger cub, no bigger than a rabbit, ambling along the track. He looked quite cute and had probably come from the set beside the old railway line.
The silk line has advantages over plastic. I can cast accurately and present a fly perfectly but I am not convinced about the front taper. It is too light, I may have to cut it back. I have found the perfect line drier, the bed posts are six feet apart.