40 years ago you could find Mark Wright and myself fly fishing for wild brown trout in the Tillingham as far up stream as Beckley. The little trout with his shiny brown back all covered in red and yellow spots, his tummy a pure white the most handsome inhabitant of this fast sparkling clear running water as it raced to swell the lower reaches below Tibbs Farm. There it slowed to wend its way to Rye. Armed with our 6 foot split cane rods we fished with three pound line and a dry or wet fly. Seldom did we come home empty handed. A fish of ten ounces was a good prize from this little stream my best-weighed one pound two ounces. Oh happy days. Along with the trout we caught many fine roach up to a pound, they seemed to like the deep water in midstream whereas the trout lurked under the banks ready to dart out and grab any passing morsel. In places the banks were like little cliffs and one had to use real skill to approach any likely looking place that your quarry lay under. It was the challenge of hooking and playing him rather than anything else that gave most pleasure. The season started in April and then the East wind could whip up the valley and chill you to the bone, at times like this we resorted to using a large Lob worm mounted on a number eight hook, casting it up steam you allowed the currant to bring the bait back to you, as the water swirled it around into all the eddies you had to be in contact all the time for the fish did not hang around as finding a line attached he made for the first snag. His take was swift and savage and on three pound line and a light rod gave one the most marvellous fight. One evening in June as the light was leaving the sky and Mark and I were thinking of packing up, that a shout from a man fishing further down stream where the little stream broadened out into a much wider stretch of water and ran under the wires from a hop garden our attention was drawn to the local vet whom every one knew as Mr Ron Ogail. He stood with his rod bent double and by all accounts in trouble, running over we witnessed he had a large fish that he could not control from were he stood, the only answer was for him to wade out and down stream after it.
Twenty minuets later we all stood to admire a fine fresh run Sea trout of Four and a half pounds, the best fish I heard from the waters. That was Forty years ago now and today I was passing over the little stone bridge down Hundred house lane in wonderful sunshine and could not stop myself from stopping to look and day dream. The calendar told me it was the middle of October yet the sight that met my eyes made my heart drop. Gone was the broad sweeps of water, in there place was grass and rubbish, through this trickled a small amount of water still running down the valley, in places the water vanishes completely.
Gone are those deep runs in there place are still pools only a few inches deep, where once they were deep, now you can see the silt below the shallow water that covers the fine gravel of yesteryears, many places you can step across the brook, for that is now what the little river has become. Nothing moved, not even a bug, I wonderer if there is any life left hiding in what pools there are. A long time ago now the local fishing club in Rye made weirs to hold a good head of water through the whole length today it needs more than a little dam it needs rain and an awful lot to scour all the sediment out and return the river to what Mark and I knew and loved.
From “Rye’s Own “ November 2005
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