24 August – Keepers Bridge

Storm Francis approached from the Atlantic and threatened to spoil the fishing for a few days. I’d planned to take a guest to the Rother and visit the Itchen but both trips looked unlikely. The Rother was a bit high but I made a last minute decision to spend a couple of hours there, a quiet walk in the Sussex countryside before the storm.

I parked on the edge of the wood, the cool damp tunnel of trees was dark and a couple of Wood Pigeons called to each other. The new released, tatty Pheasant poults wandered around the track and the margins of the river puzzled by their new found freedom and lack of food. As I emerged from the wood a male Sparrow Hawk left its perch high in one of the Alder trees and settled in a big Oak further downstream. A large Buzzard was using the blustery wind to explore the field across the river, young Pheasants are easy pickings.

The contrast between the mellow lowland river and the frantic, young Dartmoor streams was marked. The grass was soft and easy to kneel upon but the fish-holding lies were not so obvious. The Beat below Keepers Bridge looked good, there were plenty of Alder trees and clumps of streamer weed to provide shelter for the Trout. I took time to practice my casting which was unusually accurate. The sun was bright and I knew that I had to get the fly close to the tree roots and weedbeds, fishing in open water would be a waste of time.

The gusty wind helped curl the leader into places that would normally be out of bounds but the fish were not impressed with the trick shots. I worked the fly around the weeds on the shallow sandy stretch above the bridge where a wild fish lives. I heard a rise and saw the ripples close to the far bank under the rushes. I dropped the fly upstream of the rise and the line tightened as the fish took. It fought like a four pounder but shrunk to about two pounds in the net. I was a little surprised to catch a fish so soon but I was happy with the result.

I moved downstream to a deep pool below an Alder tree where, after a couple of casts, the leader hesitated and slowly the line drew taught. Two slow takes, two hooked fish and two successfully landed. That was well above my average.

I walked downstream to the New Riffle but the water was too shallow and weedy to hold fish. The wind got up and dark clouds billowed over the Downs. I decided to leave while still dry. I hadn’t expected to catch much and two good fish were a bonus.