Archive for February 2nd, 2012

No, that’s not a reference to Middle Earth and Bilbo Baggins but very much one of England’s fine chalk streams in the Shires.  Geoff, Kevin and I ventured to a new river to try our hand at the stocks of grayling.  It was a bitterly cold day, with a keen wind that could cut through granite.  The temperatures remained sub zero pretty much all day, with a wind chill factor well into the minuses.

We arrived at our venue mid morning and walked the length of the stretch.  It was a lovely, narrow chalk stream.  There was an abundance of cover from the trees and bushes and plenty of features in the river itself.  Riffles, deep gravel runs, groins and depressions all looked likely to offer some exciting fishing prospects.

Must be mad

Fortunately we had all worn chest waders and without these we couldn’t have accessed some of the best spots.  Anyway we started at the top and worked our way back down the stretch.  I must say chalk streams often look remarkably shallow, that is until you decide to go in all ‘John Wayne’ style and find yourself in over 3 feet of icy cold water.  Not only does it make you shiver, it makes you ‘shrink’ pretty damn quick too!  Gin clear water and gravel are very deceptive.  What appears to be a foot or two is often much deeper.

So after that shock I tried the swim for about 15 minutes without a bite.  I decided it was a little too deep for the grayling so moved downstream.  After a short distance I found an area that narrowed up quite considerably, creating a really nice flow over clean gravel and then it dropped into a deep run under a weeping willow.  It looked perfect.  Set-up was the usual affair: 2.6lb mainline, 16 barbless hook and a 5bb stick.  Bait was double maggot either red, bronze or a combination of both.

A few trots through sorted out the depth and I eased the baited float through by holding back fairly hard.  I missed a couple of bites and bumped a fish off but then as the float dipped out of sight I stuck into a much better fish.  After a hair-raising fight (well OK not on my head but there are other places……) I finally managed to net the culprit. It was a fine grayling that weighed 1lb 7oz and was just stunning to look at.  The colours on these fish were quite exceptional.  I took a few more fish from here including several more over a pound.

1lb 7oz

This continued on and off all day in all of the swims that I tried.  Some swims produced better than others but always with the best ones being with a good flow over clean gravel, even in fairly shallow water.  Kevin was having a similar day, although he didn’t seem to get in amongst the bigger fish.  Saying that, he still had a good few over the pound mark.  Geoff, as ever, was having a field day.  He moved into one particular swim that gave him about two dozen grayling and each subsequent move produced a few more for him.

Geoff ended the days proceedings with 48 grayling with approximately 15 or 16 over a pound and up to around 1lb 8oz.  I ended on the same number as Kevin, which was 34.  I had around 12-14 over the pound mark with numerous of those between 1lb 4oz and about 1lb 8oz.  All the fish were pretty much taken on maggot, with the exception of maybe one or two to corn.  They were also in mint condition and perhaps the nicest coloured grayling we have seen.

Considering it was our first effort here, we were delighted at the results.  Another visit should see an improvement in those catch statistics.  One thing that surprised me was how much the grayling seem to totally ignore you in the water.  This is something I have encountered before but I walked upstream through a couple of reasonably deep runs too and then trotted back down through them, catching good fish almost immediately.  It just shows that once you are in their home, they seem a lot less bothered by the angler, than they would if they spotted you on the bank.

So even in such Arctic conditions we ended up having a really good day and look forward to a return visit before the end of the season, time permitting.

A good grayling

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