Leconfield Weekend

6 May

I had been looking forward to the Coronation weekend. The fish would be rising for mayfly and the lakes would be deserted. The drive south to Petworth was relaxing, the overnight rain had rinsed the countryside and there was very little traffic. The South Downs were obscured by rain clouds but I was determined not to let the wet weather interfere with my plans.

Mayfly were hatching in the margins and small birds sheltered in the trees surrounding the lakes waiting for the tasty morsels to appear. Not many of the mayfly survived for more than a few seconds. My plan was simple. Ignore the rain, catch a couple of trout using a dry fly and have a leisurely lunch. There was no Plan B.

I stood well back from the waters edge and flicked a series of mayflies to rising fish. The trout were surprisingly close to the bank, cruising beside the marginal weeds, looking for emerging nymphs. I retreated to the hut for a cup of tea and to examine my fly box for a realistic nymph imitation. My hands were cold and wet which made changing flies a bit of a challenge.

For twenty minutes I stood in the rain, casting at shadows and rising fish. A couple of trout swirled behind the nymph. I eventually hooked a good fish but it shook itself free after a brief struggle. Heavy rain forced me to retreat to the hut for another cup of tea. As I looked down at my fly box the water fell from the puddle in the crown of my hat. My jacket sleeves stuck to my arms and my hands were blue. More tea.

When I returned to the lake the fish were rising everywhere, some taking flies, others checking the windblown tree debris. The southwesterly wind funneled the mayfly, petals and trout into a bay on my left. I had a couple of good takes, which I missed, before hooking and landing a hard fighting rainbow. I celebrated with another visit to the hut.

The rain continued to soak through my jacket, saturating my shirt and trousers. I had plans for the following day which did not include hypothermia or pneumonia. On the way home I set hot air to blast from the dashboard. The weather forecast for the following day was good. I probably wouldn’t have the lakes to myself but at least I would be dry.

7 May

I retrieved my jacket from the airing cupboard and set off for Petworth. The roads were crowded. Weekend-only-supercars streamed north towards London, Ferrari and McLaren drivers frustrated by elderly lycra-maniacs wobbling about between pot holes.

There were several cars at the lakes but the early birds left soon after I had tackled up. The weather was perfect, a light breeze from the north, warm and overcast.

The trout were rising all over the lake and it was easier to see cruising fish without the constant rain dimpling the surface. I started with a mayfly nymph and adopted the same tactics as yesterday. Keep well back and cast to cruising or rising fish in the margins. The bright overcast gradually gave way to blue skies and weak sunshine but that did not put the fish off, they continued to take emerging nymphs. The tell-tale rolling swirl of the trout as the nymph was picked off just below the surface. Not the aggressive splashy rise of a fish rising for the adult fly.

I dropped the nymph in the vortex left by a trout on my right, it took without hesitation and I managed to land it despite some amateurish juggling with the net. The un-weighted long shank nymph was a reasonable imitation of an emerging mayfly, it hung vertically just below the surface like the natural insect. I waited for another cruising fish to pass and landed the nymph perfectly in it’s path. Trout number two was released from the landing net without being touched and swam off strongly.

I adjourned to the hut for a cup of tea and a chat. On returning to the water’s edge I chose to use the Pezon et Michel. It deserved an outing and the unhurried manner of it’s flexing suited the occasion. It would force me to present a nymph with delicacy and grace, it would not be hurried into rapid fire.

The mayfly hatch had been enhanced by alder and hawthorn flies but the trout were locked onto emerging mayfly nymphs. I dropped the nymph ahead of a good fish which surged towards the fly and grabbed it. It came off as I reached for the landing net. Nevermind, it’s the take that counts.

The sunlight intensified and in the dust free atmosphere, burnt down on the feeding trout. They retired to deeper water and the rise petered out. It had been two days of contrasting weather that seemed to have little impact on the trout. They fed well during both days of the Coronation weekend.

The Rother had been bank high and coloured since the start of the season. With rain forecast for most of next week, it would be at least two weeks before I could explore my favourite pools. Next time, big brownies at Little Bognor.