7 June – Perryfields

Presentation was everything, it was a very exacting day on the river. I signed in at Keepers Bridge and walked upstream, past a lot of pools that normally produce a fish. The pools looked lifeless under the oppressive grey sky. It felt as if a thunder storm was about to unload torrential rain. I was heading for Perryfields but I couldn’t resist the temptation to explore the gaps in the trees just below the old riffle. The water looked a bit murky so I started with a Black Spider. No response. I felt sure that the Trout were hiding under the bushes but nothing moved. I walked upstream to the flat water above the riffle. There is usually a fish under the trees just above the fast water. I persevered with the black fly and after twenty minutes the water surged and swirled just as I was lifting off to recast. I had found a feeding fish. I worked the pool down and across then stood in the riffle and cast up under the trees. I wondered if I had put the fish down but just as I was turning to leave the water,  the fish rose for a Mayfly under the tree branch.

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I returned to my original position at the top of the pool and tied on a Mayfly spinner. I let the fly drift down in midstream. It was inspected by the fish, it was a very detailed inspection. The fly was rejected. I swapped the fly for another spinner with a dense black hen hackle wing. That was also rejected. I was amused by the Trout’s reaction to the flies. I chose a white Neoprene bodied pattern, that didn’t even get a glance. Finally, I selected a size 14 badger wing and hackle pattern. That was taken immediately. The fish was about 1lb 12ozs and in lovely condition.

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I moved upstream towards Perryfields Barn and found a fish feeding in a pool that, on a previous visit, was full of rising Trout. As I arrived a fish rose in midstream just under an Alder tree. I slid down the grass and sat behind the fringe of weeds. The first couple of casts were hopeless. Tangles, rod wraps and hooked weeds. I calmed down, took aim and flicked the fly out. It landed perfectly, the tippet curled upstream and the fly was seized by the fish which looked like a wild brownie about 1lb. The photos later revealed a damaged pelvic fin. The tell tale mark of a stock fish.

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I crossed the bridge to the north bank and walked downstream to the muddy cattle drink. As I crept towards the pool a good fish rose for a Mayfly. It kept rising. I dried the fly, replaced the tippet and made sure the fly line was not tangled on the reel. Everything was ready. I couldn’t reach the fish from the bank, the fly dragged before it got to the Trout. I inched forwards into the cattle drink and crouched on the firm mud near the edge. A sideways cast under a tree branch, a short drift and then a take. I connected but it was not my target fish. It was a small wild brownie which I released from the landing net.

The big fish kept rising but further downstream around a bend.  I could only cover the fish from the south bank so I walked back to the bridge and retraced my steps. The fish was below the bend in midstream and the cast looked quite easy. I checked everything except the fly which I had removed from the wild fish with forceps. On the third or fourth attempt the fly sailed down the current, under the bush and into the Trout’s mouth. I lifted the rod and felt no resistance. I thought I had missed the fish but on checking the tippet the fly had gone. I must have nicked the tippet with the forceps. Sloppy, I should have checked everything.

I was hot and tired. Three fish in an afternoon was sufficient but it should have been four. I was glad of a cold drink and a toffee before I drove home.

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4 June – Little Bognor

It was roasting hot over the weekend but by Monday morning the temperature had plummeted and the wind was from the north. Very odd indeed. I woke early and was keen to get to Petworth. I arrived at Little Bognor at 9:30am and it looked lovely. There was nobody there, I wandered around munching on my breakfast pork pie and watching the fish rise. I decided to return later in the day.

After visiting the lakes and river I had my second breakfast, a yummy egg and bacon sandwich, at Great Springs and collated the catch returns. I returned to Little Bognor at 2:00pm, the fish were still rising and I had both lakes to myself.

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I started on the lower lake with a palmered, ginger dry fly and had a take near the outflow. I was impatient and lifted the rod too soon. I sat on the grass well back from the water and flicked the fly about twenty feet from the bank. A Trout found the fly and took it confidently. I waited for the leader to move but nothing happened so I lifted the rod anyway. The fish was hooked. Briefly. The palmered hackle masked the hook, not a satisfactory design.

I moved down the bank and repeated the process. The next fish stayed on the hook a little longer but wriggled free as I was sorting out the landing net. I consoled myself with the thought that I had intended to release the Trout. I changed the fly to a conventional pattern and I landed the next fish without any problems. The conventional dry fly, a size 16 pale ginger, floated well and didn’t helicopter on the cast. It took another fish in the corner of the lake.

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The fish in the lower lake stopped rising after all the splashing about. My best efforts to entice a fish from under the trees resulted in several lost flies. I walked up the slope to the top lake and found fish rising around the Willow tree.

I sat behind a clump of ferns and decorated the trees behind me with a few flies, my arm was beginning to ache and I was losing concentration. I flicked a fly under the overhanging Chestnut tree and let it float near the lily pads. I intended to rest but a Trout rose and moved away with the fly. I hooked the fish but it got off. I moved up the bank, to the other side of the Willow tree and quickly found another feeding fish. It took the fly greedily and when I looked in it’s mouth the fly was well back in it’s throat. I nursed the fish in the net and released it when it was ready.

Thunder rolled around the valley and I decided to leave. I had caught sufficient, one more fish wasn’t worth a soaking.

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2 June – Little Springs

It was a glorious morning and my journey along the lanes towards Petworth was uplifting, particularly as there were no cyclists about. I stopped at Riverhill and looked over the gate. The air was clear and the clouds were building as the prevailing south westerly wind climbed the slopes of the South Downs. There was complete silence at Little Bognor. The fish were rising but cautiously, examining the pond life with care before sipping it into their mouths. There was no breeze and the temperature was oppressive, I wasn’t tempted to fish there.

I heard the river roaring through the fish pass long before I saw the murky water. It looked clear as it passed over the lip of the weir but then became muddy as it swirled off towards the sea. The water was far too coloured to fish, even the shallow stretches would be opaque. I went to Rotherbridge and walked upstream to the New Riffle. About half way there I saw a fish swirl, it might have been a Sea Trout making the most of the high water. If the level drops over the weekend the evenings should produce a fish or two.

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The river valley around Keepers Bridge looked lovely but only the Sussex cattle were moving, the fish were huddled under the tree roots waiting for the water to clear. I returned to the Land Rover and drove to Great Springs. The edges of the fields were lined with wild flowers and I stopped for a few minutes to look at the view up the Rother valley.

When I got to Great Springs I had a cup of tea and two chocolate biscuits while admiring the scenery. The wind was ruffling the surface of the lower lake and the surroundings had been manicured. I felt privileged to be allowed access to the Estate and stood by the lodge for a few minutes soaking up the atmosphere. A few fish were moving under the trees at the shallow end of Little Springs and I knew I would be able to catch one.

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I wandered around taking photos for nearly two hours but the temptation finally got the better of me and I crept towards the little seat between the Alder trees. The grass was wet but I didn’t mind, my trousers would dry quickly in the hot sun. I sat quietly for longer than usual, the fly I had chosen wouldn’t accept the 2lb bs tippet. The eye of the hook was blocked. I gave up the struggle and chose another fly, a parachute emerger.

Several fish were within range but two clumsy casts frightened them away. While waiting for a Trout to appear I flicked the fly into the margins and promptly caught a very small Roach. I was reassured that it had been fooled by my choice of fly. I saw a Trout cruising on the edge of the ripple and presented the fly, the fish moved away at speed. I changed to a size 14 ginger, palmered-hackle dry fly with a tag of Neoprene foam to keep it afloat. I dropped the fly on the edge of the ripple and a couple of minutes later a Trout rose and was hooked. It quickly became airborne and I saw that it was a small fish. It weighed 1lb 4ozs, not enough for a Trout supper but, as a member remarked, sufficient for a sandwich.

When the river level drops the Trout will be hungry and in the absence of Mayfly, should give some good evening sport.

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28 May – Taylors Bridge

Bank Holiday Monday is not a good day to fish, the roads are crowded and the weather is usually bad. Last year the weather was hot and humid with thunderstorms. This year there were weather warnings for lightning and rain. After two months of spurious readings the EA had finally realised that the gauge on the river wasn’t working correctly. I didn’t know how the heavy rain on Thursday had affected the level or colour of the river.

I visited the lakes and collected the catch returns which gave me an opportunity to assess where I should fish. One option was to sit in the shade of an old Beech tree beside the lower lake at Little Bognor and ambush the passing Trout. The spring fed lakes were cool, only 15 degrees in the shallows and the fish were active. The pink Beech stipules which coated the lake earlier in the month, had either been washed down the outflow or had sunk. Luffs was another option. There was a breeze, a ripple and feeding fish.

I collected the catch returns for every Beat on the river and took the opportunity to look for signs of fish. I could see the ripples in the sand under the bridge at Rotherbridge but no Trout. There were no fish rising on any of the Beats. I decided to fish downstream from Taylors Bridge on the south bank. I would have good access to the river right down to Perryfields and would not have to keep an eye on the Sussex heifers.

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I used a black spider with a red hackle and fished all the usual places, without a take, until I got to the Shallow Pool which always contains a fish. Two heifers wandered away from the cattle drink and I assumed they had scared the Trout. As I turned to walk downstream a fish rose for a Mayfly very close under my bank. I lowered a parachute emerger onto the water and it was immediately grabbed by the Trout. It was a wild fish about 12ozs and I released it from the landing net without touching it. The sky was dark, the thunder rumbled around and there were a few welcome drops of rain.

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I moved down to the long bend leading to Perryfields Barn, all the time looking for rising fish. A very tiny movement under a tree caught my eye. Every few minutes the surface beside a clump of weed was dimpled. It looked insignificant, I couldn’t see what was causing the disturbance. Then a Trout slashed at a Mayfly. I sat behind the bankside plants and estimated the distance to the tree line. The fish continued to rise and swirled at my fly twice but didn’t take.

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I changed my fly. I tied on an imitation of a Mayfly spinner, it looked convincing to me. To avoid drag I had to cast a loose line upstream of the overhanging branches, the fly had to travel about two yards before the Trout could see it. It took the Mayfly confidently and I bullied it away from the weeds while it was off balance. It took about twenty yards of line downstream into the trees but I pulled it out. It passed me on another long run upstream into a weed bed. The line was grating on the weed and I thought I would lose the fish. After a struggle I got it in the landing net, it was a nicely coloured fish about 2lbs. It gave me an angry look from behind the netting.

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I walked down to the bridge at Perryfields and was in two minds about continuing, the heat and humidity were unbearable. I looked at a pool near the cow drink and found a fish rising under a tree on my side. After several amateurish casts I positioned the fly on the correct line and watch it drift under the tree. A trout rose but I lifted too soon. As I was cursing at my stupidity, the fly drifted down a little further and another fish took it. The very unlucky fish was about 1lb 8ozs.

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I assumed the pool was ruined but to my amazement the original Trout rose to take another Mayfly. I covered it again, it rose and I missed. A fish rose in a pool above me so I switched my attention there. I hooked the Trout on a rubber band Mayfly imitation but it wriggled off the hook as I was preparing the landing net. Nevermind.

I was exhausted, hungry and dehydrated. I struggled back to the Land Rover and had a late lunch. I didn’t have the energy to fish into the dusk.

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24 May – Heavy Rain

I thought about taking two coats but decided against it, the BBC always exaggerate the weather forecast. As I drove towards Petworth the air was moist and there was a chilly north east breeze but the roads were completely dry.

I visited the lakes and chatted to a new member at Great Springs. I suggested that he fish under the trees and keep a low profile. I advised him to wait until a feeding Trout came close to the bank before he cast. I made a cup of tea in the clubhouse and when I emerged he was into a Trout. His first ever fish. On a dry mayfly. As I drove away he was targeting another Trout. An excellent start to the day for both of us.

I walked upstream from the Fish Pass looking for any signs of Trout. Nobody had fished the Beat for over a week. The scenery looked lovely but the river was grey and lifeless. I spent a few minutes looking through the bars on the bridge at Rotherbridge but I couldn’t see anything moving, it didn’t inspire me. I decided to start at Keeper’s Bridge, fish had been caught on both Beats and that encouraged me.

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As I walked slowly upstream a light drizzle fell, hardly enough to warrant a coat. As I was creeping past the straight stretch, just below the sandy pool, a good Trout leapt out of the water and crashed back. It was a stock fish, not a Sea Trout. It’s jump was not that of a feeding fish but as it was the only sign of life, I decided to try for it. I moved slightly upstream and worked a nymph down and across for about twenty minutes. The rain got heavier and it was difficult to see where the fly was landing. Mayfly continued to hatch, the rain knocked a few into the water but they didn’t entice the fish to rise. I used a nymph that I had tied with a blend of seals fur, it was lighter in colour than a GRHE nymph and was a better imitation of a Mayfly nymph.

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I gave up on the jumping Trout and walked on, exploring the usual places on my way to Perryfields. The rain poured down the sleeves of my Barbour, I should have worn a longer coat to keep my legs dry. I sheltered under an Alder tree and when the rain eased off, walked slowly upstream looking and listening for rises.

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The rain and debris falling from the trees made it impossible to detect a rise. I had been walking for two hours. I was cold and wet, there was no point continuing to fish, I wasn’t enjoying myself. I turned and walked downstream looking forward to a sandwich and a drink at the Land Rover. I had a few casts in the pool with the jumping Trout but the river was rising and the fish would be seeking refuge in the tree roots anticipating another flood.

I turned the heater up to ‘max’ on the drive home, I should have taken two coats. The river will be high and coloured for a few days. The small spate should trigger the Sea Trout to run upstream.

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