5 April – Sussex

My modelling career took another step forwards with a photo shoot on location in deepest Sussex. The exact location was a secret to foil the paparazzi. We met at the bridge and wound our way along the narrow country lanes to the river. It was quiet except for a tractor, bigger than Mr. Clarkson’s Lamborghini, workmen from the EA arguing about some river monitoring wizardry and a fleet of multi-coloured transit vans.

Clouds, mainly grey, flew along the shallow valley on the warm westerly wind. The breeze and overcast were perfect for fishing but the light was flat and boring for photography. We walked to the riffle that we had identified as a good location during our last visit and set up our respective gear. I had a pocketful of stuff. The cameras and lenses required luggage.

Cascading alder trees

The plan was simple, I would fish down and across towards the distant long-lens. I would catch a monster trout for posterity. The cloud cover started to break up as I worked my way slowly down the riffle and the occasional patches of blue sky were welcome. Alder and grannom settled on my jacket but the fish were not rising. After a few minutes I had a splashy take but it took me by surprise and my reaction was amateurish. I rested the water and chose another fly pattern. The GRHE never fails to deliver a trout. I worked my way down to the middle of the riffle where the river is deeper and had a tentative take but I failed to connect. I suspect it was the same small wild fish that had dropped downstream.

Magic trees

Further upstream, much casting and posing failed to get a reaction and we embarked upon Plan B. I had foolishly guaranteed to catch a fish from the secret lake in the woods. The beech trees along the sides of the deep narrow valley kept the wind off the water, most of which was calm. The wind was roaring through the treetops well above our heads. The slight ripple along the east bank coaxed debris across the lake and under the overhanging bushes to my left. The trout were not rising but I was confident that I would keep my promise. The scene was set and the long handled landing net was waiting close to hand.

After a few exploratory casts in the margins, I flicked the black neoprene buzzer further out and let the fly line arc round. The gentle tug on the line made an old man very happy. I was relieved but cautioned against any celebrations until the fish was in the net. Much electronic clicking accompanied the splashes. It was about two pounds and dashed away from the net after having its portrait taken. The disturbance put the fish down and despite exploring the margins further along the bank, I couldn’t make it a brace. We walked to the other lake where the trout were occasionally rising for emerging buzzers. The heavy fly line and strong tippet were not ideal and we departed without troubling the fish further.

It had been an interesting trip. I concentrated on fishing and the camera had not been a distraction. I had started in Devon mode and messed up the early contacts but the Sussex muscle memory had come good in the end.

PS. A couple of days later, after collecting my diaries from Otter Bookbinding in Midhurst, I returned to the river but the blustery 50mph wind chased me away without wetting a line. Much concentration failed to extract a trout from the lakes in the wood.