23 May – Keepers Bridge

The warm, humid and overcast weather was perfect for the mayfly and therefore fishing on the Rother. The mayfly hatch at the lakes appeared to have ended. The warm breeze from the south west would be downstream at Keepers Bridge and a slight ripple would help the emerging mayfly escape the surface tension.

Prototype mayfly

I parked under the trees and walked down the slope, the river looked beautiful and was deserted. I stood on the outside of the first bend looking upstream towards the willow bush and downstream to beyond the bridge. I could see about two hundred yards of river, lined with alder trees and overhanging bushes.

I was confident that I would see a few fish rise and I didn’t have long to wait. A trout splashed at a mayfly just upstream of the bridge. A couple of minutes later another trout rose closer to me. A good fish rose continually among the debris hanging from a tree branch. I recalled a fish that rose there on 10 May and wondered if it would be a repeat capture. I stood watching the river for about an hour and satisfied that I had marked sufficient targets, returned to the car to get my rod and net.

I acted as ghillie for a couple of hours, pointing out rising fish and giving tips on presentation. We walked downstream, watching the water and only casting to rising fish. A tractor the size of a small house arrived to mow the grass and we switched our attention to the upstream pools. Several fish were rising along the Sandy Pool. I cast to a rising fish which promptly rose again, a yard above my mayfly ! I lifted off and flicked the fly further upstream. A few seconds later it was gulped down and a strong fish about 2lbs eventually slid into the landing net.

We tempted another trout from under the far bank at the top of the pool. An accurate cast was essential as there were large numbers of duns floating down the bubble line and the fish didn’t have to move far to find a tasty mayfly snack.

The resident trout under the tree branch had recovered from the tractor earthquake and was rising every minute to intercept duns funneled into midstream by the willow bush and flood debris. There was a gap in the alder branches less than a yard wide and the drift was only a couple of feet. Throwing caution to the wind, I kept the rod from deviating off its arc and set the mayfly down perfectly. Several times. Without hooking the tree. I rested the fish for a few minutes while I dried the fly, it took on the next cast. I bent the Hardy into a loop, dragged the fish out of danger and played it under the near bank. It was my friend from two weeks ago, easily identified by a slightly deformed jaw.

The prototype mayfly had been a success, it floated on the organza wings much longer than a conventional pattern and didn’t twist the tippet during the cast. I must tie some more.