Powdermills has the reputation of being the toughest of the Albury Estate’s four day-ticket waters. Being the only one I hadn’t tried, I was keen to experience this venue myself. A small chance of a wild brown trout in the River Tillingbourne running alongside the lake would be a bonus. For tackle, I was sticking with my new 4wt Hardy Jet rod, with a floating line, which covers me for both stream and smaller stillwaters.

I had a new piece of kit to try out today. I’d ordered some prescription polarising lenses from Optilabs. They seem to give sharper results than my regular contact-lens and polarising sunglasses combo. And of course, I can lift up the glasses to give me better close-range vision for knotting-on the smallest flies.

Next to the car park, the river widens into a large pool crossed by a footbridge.  One angler was already trying her luck for the wild fish. I said “Hello” and left the pool to her, threading my way through hissing geese to look at the rest of the shallow stream. The occasional trout held position with minimum effort in the coloured water. They either lay in a spot to which I couldn’t cast, or they disappeared as the leader hit the water.

My attention turned to the clear waters of the 4-acre main lake. A few other fishermen were already in situ on their favoured promontories. One or two of them were catching.

I tried a few places around the lake with little success – one follow and rejection, one break-off – before I found the ‘honeypot’. The sun came out, the wind dropped and the smooth surface now revealed a dozen or so trout swimming in lazy circles a few feet down. The largest fish of the group held court in the centre of the shoal. I cast out among the trout. I had a lot of follows of a Blue Flash Damsel, but mostly the fish would reject the lure at the last second. With so many fish in casting range, it was only going to be a matter of time before one connected. Eventually, one rainbow trout took the offering with confidence.

Rainbow Trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss approx 2 1/4 lb

This provoked a cry of envy from a young lad, watching his father fish nearby. I couldn’t make out his words through all the crying, but I distinctly heard “blue flash damsel”.

I cast again into the same spot, hoping for more of the same. The other fish were uninterested in my lure. I switched to a red stalking-bug to see if it made a difference. Spoiler alert: It didn’t. Fish would follow, as with the BFD, but turn away last second. Something smaller and more natural looking seemed a solution. I tied on a Fulling Mill Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear (weighted version) in size 14.

Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear, weighted. #14

The fish were now much more interested. I took another rainbow of a similar size to the previous catch, yet the largest fish resisted me all afternoon. It lay just on the edge of my casting range, indifferent to any offering.

I started to wonder how I might get on at the Vale End fishery, a short drive away…

Vale End

My plan was to concentrate on the river beat at this fishery, but my new polarising glasses helped me spot an aggregation of fish on one of the lakes. If you’re like me, you can never walk past a fish without wanting to flick a cast towards it. The Hardy nine-footer put the GRHE nymph out into the shoal and immediately got the fishes’ attention. I mistimed a few strikes, but soon hooked into a nice 1 ½ lb-ish brown trout. I’d earlier ditched my telescopic net in favour of a more portable Orvis scoop net, so the fish had to be well beaten before I could drag it into arm’s reach. This is the first brown I’ve caught from any of Albury Estate’s fisheries. I delivered the coup de grâce as Tony the Albury bailiff rolled up in his pickup. The trout, neatly framed by the net, on a background of wood chippings looked like a nice photo opportunity. Tony hopped out and took a snap.

Brown Trout, Salmo Trutta taken on GRHE #14

I moved onto the River Tillingbourne which, here too, was disappointingly coloured. Nevertheless, I stalked the entire length of the beat looking for wild fish.

River Tillingbourne at Vale End

I found two or three good sized fish tucked in under an undercut bank, and dropped my nymph among them. It was immediately taken. Not the wild brown trout I was hoping for but a Rainbow which had swum up from the lake below. It fought as best it could in a stream narrower than my rod, but was soon on the bank.

Ignoring the brown-coloured Belmont lake, I returned to Mill Lake, where I cast again amongst the near-surface trout. The fading light was now making the fish trickier to spot. I thought I’d see if I could get one to rise to a foam beetle. No interest at all, so the GRHE went back on the leader. It was definitely what the fish wanted today. Another Rainbow was soon interested. On the first attempt, either I mistimed the stripping or the fish mistimed its bite. The rainbow wanted it badly; he turned in his own body-length and nailed the nymph. The GRHE is shaping up to be my go-to fly for sub-surface fishing.

My fish were weighed, the catch returns were completed; I was ready to head home. However, I noticed that a large pool of the river – created by overspill from Mill Lake – was now free, having been occupied by one angler for most of the afternoon. I resolved to make a ‘last cast’ into the river. I put the GRHE into the seam at the edge of the flowing water. Frequently, tired arms making a ‘last cast’, results in nothing more than a lost fly, but an immediate savage rattling bite was the result this time. A 7-inch wild brown trout took the nymph.

7″ wild Brown Trout, Salmo trutta

A perfect ending to the day.


Total Catch:

  • 4 Rainbow Trout (Blue Flash Damsel x 1, Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear x 3)
  • 2 Brown Trout (Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear)