My head told me to wait and only fish the two hours before dusk. As usual, I was too impatient and arrived at the river just after lunch. I passed through a cloud burst on the way which washed the dust off the car and cleared the air. I paused at Rotherbridge to check the water clarity, I could see the little dimples in the sand where the dace and small chub had been feeding.
Looking downstream I saw a chub about 3lbs trying to hide under a couple of strands of streamer weed. I had a loaf in the back of the car, left over from the previous days carp fishing, which crumbled and sank nicely. I soon had a shoal of big chub in a feeding frenzy. Strangely, they would not rise for the crusts. Fussy fish.
I moved upstream and watched the river at Keepers Bridge, it was dead. The hazy sunshine and the warm upstream breeze were far from ideal. I planned to stroll further upstream to Perryfields Barn, where few people bother to go, fishing the north bank on my return journey. Light rain was forecast so I wore a lightweight Barbour jacket and loaded the pockets with fly boxes. Big mistake. When I arrived at the barn I was hot and exhausted. The humidity and flies didn’t help.
A kestrel and a young buzzard engaged in aerial combat, one shedding a feather for my fly tying box. The buzzard departed and the smaller bird sat on a wire, puffed up, looking victorious, seeking my applause. While resting, I heard a fish rise under the bridge in an impossible position.
I tied on a parachute Adams and crept down the bank behind a wall of rushes. A slanting cast with a flick of the rod tip resulted in a couple of lost flies and a rise in blood pressure. The fish didn’t rise. I left the pool and went further upstream. Drifting a nymph under the trees along the far bank was unproductive. On my return an hour later, I cast a nymph under the bridge from well upstream but couldn’t induce a take. I consoled myself that it might have been a sea trout.
I explored a few pools on the walk back to Keepers Bridge but it wasn’t until I crossed the bridge back to the south bank that I saw a fish rise. Where I had watched the river four hours earlier !
I tried a dry fly but the fish ignored my offering. A change to a weighted silver and black fly bought an immediate response. I lifted as the leader drew away, a small fish wriggled for a second or two and then came off. Size 14 hooks don’t hold well.
At the end of my journey back to Devon I stopped to pick up my picture which had been entitled “Portrait of a Gent” by the young lady who mounted and framed the photo. Stuart Mack had created the image during a photo shoot at Petworth earlier in the year. The texture and colours convey the tradition of many field sports. It records the selection of a GRHE nymph, my favourite fly.