Sussex Season End

The rain in Devon is welcomed. The moorland spate rivers rise quickly which  encourages the Salmon and Sea Trout to run. The bedrock has been sand blasted clean and the floodwater remains clear. Not so in Sussex. The heavy rain washes the sandy top soil off the fields and the slow rising lowland rivers deposit the sediment across the inundated water meadows. The water level drops slowly and the Trout go off the feed as the fine silt clogs their gills.

I had returned to Sussex for the last two weeks of the river season. The rain followed me. The North river at Billingshurst had topped the river banks and covered the fields, it would be a long time before the muddy water subsided. I drove to the lakes at Stag Park and had a cup of tea while wandering around in the autumn sunshine. The cold north wind chilled the tea, ruffled the surface of the lakes and ushered me back to the warmth of the car.

The Rother at Coultershaw Bridge was a raging torrent, the pool looked like the wash from an enormous outboard motor. The flood water extended from the embankment of the old railway line across the fields to the road. The tops of the fence posts marked the river’s normal course but although the thunder of the water in the Fish Pass summoned me, it was far too dangerous to risk wading across the field. It would be many days before the river became fishable, well past the end of the season.

Little Bognor had that Autumn magic. A carpet of sweet chestnuts, twigs and assorted leaves covered the track. The lakes were calm, sheltered from the wind by the tall Beech trees. A few fish were rising for buzzers on the bottom lake and another member cast at continually rising fish on the top lake. The slow, deliberate head-and-tail rise was typical of trout feeding on emerging buzzers.

I started on the lower lake under the Beech trees with my favourite black Neoprene Buzzer and was confident that I would soon get a take. Minutes ticked by, my leader drifted past unmolested and my confidence ebbed. A Red Buzzer also failed to deliver. I wandered up to the top lake and stalked margin feeding fish but as usual, after a few casts they disappeared. Very spooky fish.

I hid behind a clump of ferns in the corner of the bottom lake near the stone quarry.  Fish were feeding under the Chestnut trees, occasionally venturing out into open water. The fish seemed to tolerate the falling chestnuts but not my buzzer. I swapped to a drowned dry fly which I thought imitated an emerging buzzer and eventually, a golden jaw appeared, rising vertically but then sheering away. Tippet shy. The light was going and I was cold, time for wine.

It had been a frustrating season in Sussex. The weather was extreme, global warming is going to make life difficult during this decade.