You would think that with several Sussex rivers famed for their run of sea trout (the June 2010 edition of ‘Trout & Salmon’ carries a reminiscence of 50 years of fishing the River Ouse by Gordon Vindell) that these also must have a head of browns. Most have but they seem scarce. The Barcombe beats on the Ouse have some, but the AC allows fishing only for sea trout after April 30th. Andrew Woolley (Ouse APS) was more than helpful and directed me to the Sussex Ouse Conservation Society website, which in turn led me to Paul Sharman, and then to Dave Champness, who is Hon. Sec. of the Balcombe Fly Fishers, who wrote, and with an invitation to be his guest for an afternoon –
“The river is narrow and cutting through clay, has high banks. The fishing therefore is by wading only, and using 7ft rods. You would be lucky to cast 20ft, so you will need to be stealthy, cautious and accurate with your casting, as there are numerous trees, bushes and bankside veg to get hung up on. The river is a few miles north of Cuckfield, and just south of Balcombe. We are a little upstream of the famous Ouse viaduct.”
June 2010 – the Ouse
Wow! Was he right? At his beat the river is 10–15 ft wide and flows through a channel of steeply sided, clay sticky banks covered in nettle and is accessed by sliding precariously downward, at the odd location via ladder, or by abseiling holding onto knotted ropes ! Exiting is by one of the latter two, or by scrambling.
The fishing club stocks the river with 100 or so fish of up to 1lb., a couple of times a year and there are wild fish in the headwaters of the club’s one mile long beat, where only some of the bankside vegetation has been cleared and where access is limited. Stocked or not, the fish are very easily spooked!
On our arrival there were fish rising either side of the bridge, but to what? There was little fly life, just the very odd mayfly and a couple of dark olives, and we concluded they were taking emergers and just sub-surface. Dave and I walked upstream, stopping and slithering down into fishable runs but to avail. Until returning to the bridge pool where after many changes of fly, a good trout was lost at the net but another netted soon after fishing a paradun emerger. We walked to the end of the beat, and in spite of seeing several fish rising to Mays, none were tempted ! So, only one fish for four hours of trying…but…
mission accomplished, and in most trying circumstances !
Dave Champness is a nice man. He is recovering from a nasty bout of cancer to the throat, and has had many months in hospital whilst being treated, and ours was only his second visit to ‘his’ river in four years. A finance man who sadly, and I would say, unfairly, lost his job whilst unwell, he was once with Oddbins and retains a keen interest in drink products (he is passionate about wines and malt whisky, or Scottish tea as he calls it) and I am trying to connect him to the Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) for whom I am sure he would be a very capable ambassador.