Busy. That’s the one word I’d use to describe Vale End today. There was a real end-of-the-season feeling in the air. Brown and yellow leaves were mottling the river sections.

A combination of fine autumn weather, the last weeked of the trout river season, and the closure of some other Albury Estate fisheries had concentrated the anglers into this venue. I had three fish-tokens to use up, and this was likely to be my last visit of the season.

My favourite river pool where I’d caught wild brown trout before was occupied, so I stalked the rest of the diminutive River Tillingbourne. I didn’t see any wild brown trout, but plenty of rainbows had taken up residency in the river.

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River Tillingbourne

At the top end of Belmount Lake, I saw an aggregation of rainbow trout swimming in relatively shallow water. I’d already tied on a barbless hare’s ear tungsten-beaded nymph for the wild fish; I kept this on and cast towards the rainbows.

My casting wasn’t the best. The fly always seemed to fall to the left of the floating line end; it wouldn’t turn over at all. The distance was disappointing too. The reason for this didn’t become apparent until much later.

Nevertheless, with so many fish at this end of the lake, it would only be a matter of time before one obliged. It gave good sport on my Hardy 4-wt rod.

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It weighed in at over 3 lb.

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rainbow trout, Oncorhynchus mykiss. 3lb 6oz

I returned to my favoured pool. I could see what I can only describe as a ‘gang’ of rainbow trout holding position in the current. They would have bullied any wild brown trout out of the way. People had been casting over these fish all day with little result. “They’ve seen everything” remarked one angler. When a space came free I took up position and cast towards the fish. I tried most flies in my box without a response. A small tungsten-beaded GRHE made a connection – which could have been a foul-hooking for all I know. The fish responded with an angry run, burning my finger and snapping the fine tippet. I came back to this pool time and time again throughout the afternoon, but those fish just weren’t having any of it today.

My poor casting was hampering my efforts at distance casting. I still hadn’t worked out what was wrong. I assumed I was rusty.

I moved onto Mill Lake. It was looking a bit muddier and weedier than on previous visits. For a change, I tied on a black sunk daddy longlegs pattern.  A nice-sized stocked brown trout liked the offering. Two tokens used.

Late in the day, whilst sorting out a tangle at the tip of the rod, I found the reason for my poor casting. Somehow, when threading the line through the guides,  I’d managed to wrap the line around the rod between guides. Schoolboy error. I don’t know how I couldn’t have noticed this. It was a miracle I was able to cast at all.

The light was starting to fade. My 4×4 was the last vehicle in the car park. A less stubborn man would have given up at this point. I re-threaded the line (correctly this time), and retied the black daddy pattern. Normal service was resumed. My casting was back in form. Within a couple of casts a 3.5lb Rainbow was on and after a few long runs testing the reel’s drag, it was in the net. Best fish of the day.

With all three tokens accounted for I was happy to leave. I’m not sure if I’ll be back much next year. I think I’ll concentrate on longer trips to the rivers in the Wye & Usk Foundation fishing passport scheme, and maybe a catch-and-release venue nearer home.


Total Catch:

  • 2 Rainbow Trout (Hare’s Ear Black Barbless, Dunking Daddy Flexi Black)
  • 1 Brown Trout (Dunking Daddy Flexi Black)