TRADITIONALLY the Sussex Ouse has always been associated with sea trout and to this day the river still has a good run, largely thanks to the Sussex Ouse Conservation Society (SOCS) who monitor the river regularly, making sure the gravel spawning beds are kept clean.
The sea trout taken from the Ouse are some of the largest in the area and can run into double figures.
However, the Ouse is not just a sea trout water, as the four miles of river from Barcombe Mills downstream to Lewes, along with its tributaries, controlled by the Society, also holds a wide variety of coarse fish.
There is also half a mile upstream of the Mills that is also under the control of the club and that includes the Andrews Stream, Bevern Stream and The Cut.
The river holds some huge pike, up to 30lb, which are sometimes caught by accident by sea trout anglers spinning, but specialist pike anglers targeting them with sea fish deadbaits have taken many fish.
There is a small hamlet on the river, halfway between Lewes and Barcombe, called Hamsey. This is a popular spot with the pike anglers and it is this stretch that produced the biggest recorded fish, to Eastbourne angler Robin Wilkinson, weighing more than 30lb.
There are also plenty of chub in the river, but they are rarely caught over 4lb, although the angler who roves the river, fishing lots of different swims, tends to fair better than the stationary angler.
Big lumps of cheese, luncheon meat and breadflake are some of the favourite baits for these species. The river is tidal from below the weir at Barcombe Mills and the best fishing, especially for the chub, is when it is flowing out.
Best for barbel
The Andrews Stream, which enters the main river just below the weir, is a real chub and barbel hotspot and very popular with anglers after the two popular species.
The barbel were first stocked into the river in the 1960s, but there were so few fish that anglers rarely fished for them. Since that time there have been more fish stocked and more and more of them are starting to show. The original barbel reached double figures, but these haven’t shown for sometime and may even have died out.
However, the new stock are being caught at weights reaching 8lb and fish of 3lb to 5lb are regularly taken from swims at Hamsey, the Andrews Stream and the Anchor Inn weir above Barcombe Mills.
|It may not look much but the Sussex Ouse holds some tremendosu fish.|
Most fish are caught on meat fished over hemp, or on maggots using swimfeeder tactics.
At one time the Ouse was also known for its big roach, but few fish over 1lb are caught these days. Even so, fish over 2lb are still present and have been taken by anglers float fishing the river at Lewes.
Carp are everywhere these days, and the Ouse is no exception, with many fish having now reached double figures regularly showing throughout the club’s stretch of water.
These fish have been caught on breadflake, sweetcorn, and luncheon meat, many by accident, but some anglers deliberately target them with boilies and floating crust.
The biggest known fish weighed more than 20lb, but there are likely to be larger fish that have yet to be caught.
Making a comeback
In the deep water above Barcombe Mills, the bream shoals tend to live under the overhanging trees and bushes and the entrance to the Bevern Stream is a good place to find them.
Worms work well when fished over groundbait for fish 3lb to 6lb, along with the chance of an even bigger specimen.
A worm will also pick up one of the many perch, which are making a comeback on the venue, like they have on so many of the region’s waters.
The possibility of a 2lb fish is on the cards, or perhaps even bigger, although, at present, the average size is nearer to 12oz.
Also making a comeback are the dace and curiously they are being caught under the trees in the deeper water and not the faster stretches, where you would expect to find them.
Anglers have been picking them up on waggler-fished maggots among the roach and rudd.
Tench have also been caught in the same stretch on sweetcorn and worms, where the ‘cut’ between Andrews Stream and the main river can be good for the species.
Almost anything can turn up in the main weir pool. It is reserved for sea trout anglers during the season, but after the season ends, at the end of October, it can be fished for coarse fish.
A swimfeeder with maggots or casters is worth fishing in the pool to find out what is on the feed. It could be bream to 5lb, the odd carp, or chub, but some anglers like to fish it for the pike with either legered, or float-fished deadbaits.
The river can throw up a few surprises, as thin-lipped mullet run up as far as Hamsey and shad have been spotted in the Andrews Stream.
Much to the annoyance of the Environment Agency, the non-indigenous pumpkinseed is also present in the water.
These escaped from a lake upstream in the late 1980s when it burst its banks after a massive flood. However, they do not appear to have caused any problems and anglers see them as a novelty rather than a species to target.
The river at Barcombe Mills has something for everybody and is probably one of the most attractive stretches of water in the country and is visited by as many sightseers as anglers.
“The river is recovering steadily after a pollution a few years ago and offers many different types angler quiet, peaceful and interesting fishing.” Jim Smith, Sussex Ouse bailiff for 38 years.
Venue Fact File
Sussex Ouse, Barcombe Mill, East Sussex
Contact: For more information on the venue, call Jim Smith, bailiff on 01825 750366 or John Goodrick, the secretary, on 01273 400380
Day tickets: There are permits available for limited stretches of the river. An adult ticket costs £7 and a junior ticket £3. These can be purchased in advance from the Post Office at Barcombe, the Anchor Inn and at tackle shops in Brighton, Percy’s in Lewes and Uckfield Angling Centre
Annual OAPS membership: An adult season ticket (17 to 59 years old costs) £60 per year, a senior citizen’s (aged 60 plus) permit costs £33 per year and a junior (12 to 16 years) costs £11 per year. Winter permits, that run from November 1st to March 14th, are available for adult and senior citizens and cost £32.
Restrictions: No night fishing allowed. No fishing in weir pool until November 1st. No dogs and no swimming. Please close all gates
Facilities: Car parking and some swims suitable for disabled. There is a locked car park at Hamsey
Nearby tackle shop: Uckfield Angling Centre, tel. 01825 760300
How to get there: Leave the M23 at Junction 10 and head east on the A264 to East Grinstead. Pick up the A22 and head south past Uckfield until the junction for the A26. Turn right and head towards Lewes and after about four miles turn right in Barcombe Mills Road. The river and car park is about a mile up this road, just past Upper Wellingham