Here comes the rain again
Falling on my head like a memory
Falling on my head like a new emotion
The brilliant Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart came up with those words and that’s all I could think of over the last couple of days! As I arose on Wednesday morning, all I could hear was the rain thundering on the roof and window panes. It was torrential and I was heading off to the West Country with Geoff for our first grayling session of the winter season. We desperately hoped that the further west we headed, the less the precipitation!
It was raining pretty much all the way to our destination but it lacked the ferocity of the rain storms back home, thank goodness. Eventually we arrived at the car park and there were just a couple of other vehicles there. The fields looked pretty boggy, so there had obviously been some heavy overnight or early morning rain. We were a little nervous about the river condition; would it be high and coloured? If it was, it could spell disaster. Grayling can be tricky at the best of times but with a high and coloured river you’re chances are greatly reduced, in fact almost to zilch.
We were rather fortunate it seemed; the river was a good level and although fairly coloured, it looked good enough to catch a few fish. Sadly the skies were dark and foreboding, with rain clouds piling up and looking fit to burst. Apparently the forecast was for things to improve as the morning wore on, so we kept our fingers crossed and carried on regardless. It rained on and off for a couple of hours but not quite enough to dampen our spirits, although it came close. :-)
This is a beautiful, small and intimate river. It twists and turns through the beautiful countryside and offers the winter angler a chance of some really big grayling. It’s easy to fish too, with the levels being just a foot down from the bank and so fishing is comfortable and challenge free. It has a lovely pace and there are loads of bends, gravel runs, pools and shallows to target. There seems to be an abundance of smooth glides to fish and where the water shallows up at the end of the run, a plentiful supply of fish. Sometimes those fish are not grayling though. There are plenty of trout and an occasional salmon present just to test your angling skills and the quality of your tackle!
My set-up for this sort of fishing is fairly simple; 14 or 15ft trotting rod, centrepin reel (or a closed face, depending on river and swim choice), 4lb mainline and floats and hooks to suit bait and presentation. I like big stick floats, Avon’s or Bolo’s. The size simply depends on river conditions. You need to control the float, not the other way round, so use a float you think is big enough to get the job done. I would say that from October through to December or even early January, you almost can’t use a float too big. However as the grayling start to shoal up and get ready to spawn through January to the end of February, they can be very finicky and delicate and you will need to scale down to get the best results.
Bait to day was going to be red maggot, sweetcorn or red worms. As the water was a bit coloured, sweetcorn could prove to be the winning bait but time would tell. I like to target smooth glides in the main. Slacks can be good and at times fast shallows produce well. I would never discount ant type of swim but do find myself fishing the glides a lot, especially if they happen to run along reeds and shallow up at the end of the run. They can often produce multiple catches of grayling.
On this first day I opted to start at the lower end of the beat and then to steadily work my way up. The river was not overly high or fast and a 10 x No 4 stick float looked about right. I worked the bait along the nearside margin and then further out in the middle of the river. The only thing at home seemed to be the trout and after landing a few I opted to move upstream. I found a lovely smooth and even paced glide. I guided the float down the crease with a nice bright piece of sweetcorn attached. The float vanished with a sharp dart under the water and the strike hit something pretty solid. This fish hugged the bottom of the river and thumped away on the end of the line. The 14ft Ultralight was bent furiously as the fight progressed. I always leave my landing net about halfway down the intended trot, so if I do hook a big fish I’m not putting it under any undue pressure by trying to haul it upstream. It does help. Soon the fish was on the surface but I already knew what it was, having seen the dark edging to the tail. It was a big grayling and the fight is always a heart stopping one. They can come off so easily and it is devastating when you loose what is obviously a big fish.
Luckily the fish was soon scooped up in the net and laying there was a lovely big, dark grayling. It’s sail like dorsal fin looked stunning, with hues of red and purple. A quick weigh confirmed a weight of 2lb 6oz and a couple of self takes and the fish was rested carefully before releasing. I have to say that grayling are really magnificent when they get big and I love fishing for them. By now I’d had about 7 trout as well, so decided it was time to move. Geoff had already caught a number of nice grayling to 1lb 14oz and was beginning to get plenty of action.
Despite trying a number of very good looking swims, I couldn’t muster a bite. I stopped at Geoff’s swim for a chat and whilst he was having a cup of tea I managed to poach a small grayling from his swim. I then headed off again. By the end of the day I’d had another nice grayling that was just under the 2lb mark and a couple more trout. However I was put to shame by Geoff who had 10 grayling and 8 or 9 trout but had lost almost as many grayling as he’d caught. Sadly he didn’t manage to tempt any of the bigger specimens that reside here but nevertheless had a very successful day in less than favorable conditions.
We were due to fish the following day but the forecast was pretty horrific, with heavy rain and winds sweeping right across the region from mid morning. After breakfast we headed off to the river to at least take a look and the rain had already started. We both agreed that fishing is supposed to be enjoyable and these conditions were dire and so we steered the car towards Kent and headed home.