Monday, 15 August 2016

A New Home

I picked up a fly rod for the first time in just over half a year this past weekend and it occurred to me that the same amount of time has passed between Aston Villa's last two wins! Perhaps for the sake of my Villa team I should go fishing more often? I would never have dreamed it would be the case, but after fly fishing pretty much every week for the fourteen months of my recent travels, I felt like I needed a little break from the pursuit of trout. Hence the blog silence this year. That and having other things to focus on, like finding a new job, accommodation and all the things that are a part and parcel of delving back into the ‘real world’.

From one ‘trout desert’ to another it seems... after living and working in Birmingham for almost a decade and having to travel some way to find trout in rivers, I have landed on my feet in West Sussex, about an hour south of London. There’s not much in the way of river trout fishing in these parts either. The famous English chalkstreams are a two hour drive to the west but they come at a steep price and can be no more than an infrequent treat I suppose. Some research and a few enquiries later, my ears pricked up at the mention of a little stream not far away from me which apparently has trout. I went on a reconnaissance mission several weeks ago and lo and behold I spotted a few trout in between shoals of chub. It’s a tiny urban stream, hidden from houses and allotments by trees and nettles for the most part, with the sounds of trains, planes and traffic never far away. But the trout were there and I started to make plans...

And so Laszlo and I visited the stream this past weekend and we spent our time in equal portions exploring and fishing. We initially targeted a section of the stream which meanders though a park, which meant the usually clear water was prone to discolour whenever a dog went for a swim upstream, which was often. It didn’t affect the fishing though and the chub were eager to have a go at the dry fly. Laszlo also caught a brown trout within half an hour. We weren’t the only fishermen and competed for space with two fishing with stick floats and baited hooks.

Eager to find some quieter water we followed the river downstream where it leaves the park and enters the trees. After some way we came upon several people living in tents next to the river and at one point a man emerged from the trees and, without seeing me, emptied the contents of a cooking pot into the river. Not wanting to go any further we turned and fished our way back upstream. Evidence of fishing activity was all around and I reckon a good deal of subsistence fishing happens here.

At one stage the river flows through a tunnel of about 40m under a motorway and on our way back through the tunnel I had a couple of casts to several fish rising in the dark, and caught one of them! In the darkness I had to largely guess when to strike (more miss than hit) and the little chub I caught must be one of the more unusual fishing moments I have experienced, no different to what I imagine fishing in a dark cave must be like.

I still hadn’t caught a trout by this stage, but in virtually the last stretch of stream before we returned to the car park, possibly the most ‘trouty’ looking riffle we had seen all day, complete with weeds and gravel, I managed to tempt a trout to dart out from under the weeds to a well placed flick of the dry fly. After so long, it was good to be back in the business of catching trout, and it was made all the better for being so close to my new home too. It’s good to have a fly fishing escape so near to me, even if it's a highly urbanised stream environment and all that comes with it: artificially straightened banks, waste and rubbish, fishing pressure, dogs in the river and transients living on the stream’s banks. Just the knowledge of trout being so close to me and apparently thriving despite the challenges lifts me. As does knowing I now have somewhere to snatch a couple of hours of pure escapism, to immerse myself in a little green slip of nature within an urban sprawl, to watch the fish rise and take my mind off everything which fills it midweek.

My first trout of the UK season

This riffle and weed had trout written all over it, and so it proved to be

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