28 May – Little Bognor

It hadn’t rained for 24 hours and the forecast for the bank holiday was good. The river was still coloured and wouldn’t be fishable until after I returned to Devon. I was drawn to Little Bognor where the springs run clear and the trees provide shelter. I listened to Elgar’s cello concerto during the journey, it was relaxing and reminded me of the magic trees and the gnomes. I wondered if Rex Vicat Cole’s Spanish Chestnut tree had been toppled by the recent gales. I was saddened to see that Edward gnome had been buried under a concrete and steel apron where the stream ran under the road. VC’s long dead chestnut tree had shed a few branches but was still embedded in the top of the ancient wall.

I stretched the Rio line and renewed the 5lb tippet before settling down on the mossy bank. The ferns were too short to hide me from the Trout cruising the margins but I sat still and soon fish were patrolling within a yard of my rod tip. Midges were skittering all over the lake surface and a black Neoprene buzzer was the obvious choice. I lowered the buzzer into the water and watched the tippet. The fly sunk slowly but several casts later I’d had no response. A fish rose to my left under a branch and I quickly flicked the buzzer into the widening ripples. It had only been in the water a couple of seconds when the leader tightened and the Trout was hooked.

It was an immaculate, fin-perfect wild Trout about a pound in weight which I unhooked in the landing net and released in the shallows. The buzzer was a bit chewed but it was the only one in my box, I must tie some more. I flicked the buzzer under the branches and watched the tippet as it sunk, inch-by-inch, through the surface film. Fish started to rise all over the lake, taking midges and sedges amongst the leaf debris. I swapped to a parachute Pheasant Tail and that was gulped down as soon as it settled gently on the surface. It was a bigger fish which I also released in the shallows.

The Trout moved down the lake, sheltering under the overhanging branches and continued to take surface flies in the margin. I crept quietly along the bank, using the tree trunks to avoid being sky-lined. I crawled onto the mossy hump and with a ‘bow and arrow’ cast dropped the dry fly no more than a yard from the waters edge. A good fish swirled on my left and I risked a quick overhead flick, avoiding the top of a holly bush, to land the fly a rod length away. Again, as the fly settled on the surface, it was confidently taken. The Trout went on a long run into the centre of the lake and then doubled back seeking refuge in the tree roots. I was confident of the tippet and hook hold. The rod bent into a frightening arc as I forced the fish out into deeper water. A four pounder rolled into the landing net, was gently unhooked, rested and released without fuss. Not my biggest brownie from the lake but a close second.

I thought my final fish would be hooked under the centuries old chestnut tree. I sat behind a tree trunk some ten feet above the water level and watched the fish patrol, occasionally swirling at buzzers. After casting into most of the bushes both behind and infront of me, I decided to explore more open water.

I sat behind a clump of rushes and observed a group of small fish greedily feeding on buzzers, they were so close I could have poked them with my rod tip. Better fish were taking sedges under the trees and I decided to focus on them. The cast was tricky. The branches slanted at various angles and different heights. The stiff hackles on the fly would help it bounce off the leaves and the wind was favourable, from over my left shoulder. I dropped the fly within a yard of a feeding fish which took and dashed out into the lake away from danger. After returning my fourth fish I decided to pack up but the ‘one more cast’ syndrome kicked in.

Trout were slashing at adult midges and I couldn’t resist the opportunity, it would be at least a couple of weeks before I could return. The first cast with a parachute midge connected with another spirited brownie which I bullied into the net and released.

It had been apparent all afternoon that accurately presenting a fly to a rising fish, gave little time for the Trout to examine the fly and tippet. The heavy tippet was visible in the dusty surface film but the ultra shy brownies were triggered to respond by the flies landing so close to them. As I drove home I thought about Elgar Day on 15 June and hoped that the fishing would be as good.