The second day of Autumn started with a beautiful sunny morning, high wispy clouds and still air. I’d caught no Trout during August, just four big Tench. I felt that I’d lost the plot, I needed to up my game before fishing the Itchen later in the week.
Deciding where to fish is part of the adventure. Dragging memories from a fuddled brain, imagining river conditions and gut feelings all play a part. I visited Great Springs, the water temperature was 20 degrees and there was no sign of any Trout. By the time I arrived at Keepers Bridge the wind had shifted to north-west and would be against me all afternoon. I was glad of the breeze, it replaced the hot and humid weather of the last few days. I sat on the grass near the bend above the bridge so that I could watch the river upstream and down. I was comfortable on the short grass and sandy soil.
The dark clouds gathered over Petworth and the bright Autumnal light, made the landscape along the river valley even more memorable. After twenty minutes of waiting a fish rose in the usual place under the big Alder tree. I slid down the bank on my backside and sat behind a convenient clump of rushes. I chose my go-to dry fly, a parachute Pheasant Tail. While knotting on the fly and checking the tippet, I was confused by several rises in random lies across the entire pool. I waited until I could be sure of the Trouts position and put the fly about a yard above the fish. The headwind was a great help, it put a nice upstream bend in the tippet. The Trout came up, swirled under the fly and disappeared. I was surprised, the presentation was good and the fly a proven pattern. I swapped the fly for a size smaller but there was no reaction.
I rested the fish while browsing through my fly box. I chose a small Adams-ish looking fly and waited for the Trout to show itself. There was a rise directly opposite me, then another in mid-stream below me and finally, in the previous lie under the branches. I assumed that the fish was dashing around picking off emerging buzzers. My target rose directly under the fly, examined it carefully and quietly sipped it down. I played the fish gently but it released itself a few moments before entering the landing net. I was happy to have deceived the Trout and to have seen its golden flanks.
I was about to leave the pool and walk upstream to the Old Riffle but as I was organising my pockets, I was surprised to see another Trout rise a few yards further downstream. I sat and waited, undecided what to do. The fish rose again and I put a black dry fly over it. The fish examined the fly several times but was not convinced. A slow sinking black buzzer with a chopped hackle was more successful. The tippet twitched and I lifted into a very spirited fish that I bullied around a clump of midstream weed and into the net.
I was content with one fish. An hours concentration and attention to detail had paid off. Once again, as I was about to move upstream, a fish rose and I resumed my seat. I saw the fish clearly, it was not either of the two I had hooked. It flashed under a GRHE nymph then ignored it but grabbed a size 14 black spider. I released the second fish and decided to leave the river. My bones were aching from having sat still on damp grass for ninety minutes. A very large fish launched itself clear of the water and crashed back into the centre of the pool. It was a pale fish but not silvery like a Sea Trout. I could hardly leave after such an invitation. I drifted the black spider to the end of the pool and as I twitched it prior to lifting off, there was a solid take but the fish immediately came adrift.
It was difficult getting to my feet and walking back to the Defender. Two caught, two lost. This was not a shoal of newly stocked fish, the river had not been stocked for 3 weeks. The Trout were feeding in the shelter of the Alders and I happened to be at the right place at the right time. Or was it memories and gut feeling ?