I’m starting to love the Sussex Ouse. It’s a very unpretentious river. It’s fairly darkly coloured, slow moving where not tidal, and I’m not sure I’ve seen the bottom of it yet.
It’s my first season, and for many reasons I’ve only made 3 visits so far. I didn’t know what to make of it at first. The tidal parts appear to be a little canal like. Canoeists and sometimes swimmers come and play where you don’t want them. You fish it and wonder why you are bothering, with no evidence of any lies hidden beneath the Cadbury brown water.
But then this happens. You are staring at the brown slab wondering when it is appropriate to go home and then a huge tail breaks the surface quietly, exasperatingly close to your lure. Then it’s gone back into the deep.
Consider this. The river is no more than thirty foot wide in most of its tidal reach, and the average size of sea trout is over 5lbs. There aren’t many fish, but there is one of over 12 or 13lbs caught most years. Then ponder what was behind your lure.
This season has been very different in fishing terms on most rivers; considerable rainfall and big rivers in the South, and thin, dried out burns in the Highlands. I imagine had the conditions been different for the migratory fish I would have seen more on the Ouse. But I have seen enough to be addicted.
Last Sunday I took a guest to the mill pool. This is the only bit you can book, and it’s restricted to two rods only. It was looking like a scorchio day, so we got to the river fairly early. After showing Ant round quickly, I put him in the spot I’d seen the fish last time I’d been there and settled myself in twenty yards upriver.
Minutes later I heard an almighty splash and turned to see a flustered Mr Field with a big curve in his brand new spinning rod.
I ran over with the net and watched in awe (and jealousy). He coaxed the fish to the surface, and I saw him clearly. A beautiful, fresh cock fish, torpedo shaped with a tail like a spade. I’d bet my Thomas and Thomas that he was over 5lbs. The mepps was embedded in the scissors of his kype.
Off he went again, causing the reel to sing. Then he jumped. Those who have seen sea trout jump when hooked will know that they shake their head, hard, unlike salmon which tend to make a strong, rigid form as they leave the water. And he jumped for a second time three rod lengths from my guest. I think I was getting a bit vocal by then.
That second jump he shook the hook. Silence followed, quickly superseded by a cacophony of four letter words. The less said the better.
He did nothing wrong. It happens to all of us. But I’d eyeballed a Sussex sea trout, and I want more.
So I’ve been thinking what I’m going to do differently. One of the assistant bailiffs showed me some new water that is easily fly fishable. I’m going to start fishing the tide in and out further towards the tidal bar. I’m going to dig out my switch rod and start fly-fishing for them, with short shooting heads, stripping a lure fast. I am going to catch an Ouse sea trout. Watch this space…