The branches and twigs were cloaked in ermine and the mercury couldn't pull itself above the zero. Lakes were covered in glassy wafers, pathways encased the marks of foot and wheel as if sculpted. In my many dreams of grayling, this was the perfect day. I knew that at the end of the journey lay a gin clear stream, gliding, steaming,
I didn't need to deliberate over the invite. I've had a longstanding desire to catch 'The lady of the stream' for many years. Today was to be my first ever attempt at meeting her acquaintance.
At first glance, this small stream seemed unassuming, reluctant to snitch on it's contents, rather like a chap that might say, "You aint seen me, right ?"..The veil was lifted and those contents were easily betrayed though by the addition of a handful of maggots. There, right in front of me, I saw my first grayling, then another ghosting in from the main flow to devour the scarlet grubs.
The invite for this day had come from friend James, and as I watched those gorgeous fish effortlessly gliding over the pebbled river bed, it was he I turned to, "I am actually a little bit excited" I exclaimed, with not a little understatement."They're getting confident" he said,"Have a cast".
Having assembled my now beloved, Lucky Strike and Speedia combination with a loafer style float, bulk shotted to size 18 hook, I gave an underarm flick. We both watched the little float with eager anticipation, alas no bite. The float was batted back home and after a few maggots, another trot.....and it was gone, strike, resistance. I was connected to my first ever grayling, a fish that didn't have any desire to be auspicious and promply shed the hook to groans of despondency.
After a period of brief analysis, the float went out again. Almost immediately it jagged under and I struck into a small hard fighting fish that soon came to net.
Now, I can describe this capture with an aire of nonchalance, but it would be disguising one of the most satifying moments of my angling life. These beautiful fish do not prevail near my home, the nearest being an hour and a halfs drive away in the Windrush, but even there they are not abundant. Every year I mean to try one of the better known rivers, every year something scuppers the plan. I had waited long for this, and I was elated. It would be fair to say that had I gone home that instance I would still have had a great day. The smile says it all....
|My first ever grayling.|
The rod once again living up to it's name, what joy it has brought to me since I fully restored it. My pb chub, my first redmire gudgeon and now my first grayling.
We moved upstream, James and I continuing to catch fish, more grayling and the odd small brownie, such wonderful colours, along with the azure flash of the 'fisher contrasting against the frosty surround.
James disclosed that he had caught well from this area on a previous visit, so with confidence I primed the glide with maggots and watched a shoal of shadows dart around competitively for them. One fish was bigger than the rest, and though my first trot produced a grayling, as did my second, then my third a trout, fourth another grayling...the bigger fish evaded me.
I remembered the sweetcorn in my bag and having baited and hooked a grain, chanced another cast, right into the messy upstream area. The float disappeared iimmediately and I struck, swiftly setting the hook, the fish shot downstream with the flow. The old Lucky Strike performed superbly and the bigger fish was soon in the net.
I was so pleased to catch this beautiful creature, I had targetted it and made the change of bait that enticed it, it's nice when things come together in such a fantastic way. There was only one way to celebrate....Eccles cakes, they seemed to me to go quite divinely with a cracking grayling. Strangely, James didn't quite see it that way and politely declined, swiftly followed by a change of heart when he came to his senses.
IP rating *****
James suggested that we head further upstream, the air was still crystalline and the rings of the rod regularly became entombed in miniature ice cubes. Whenever this occurs I always think of a quote by, I think, John Bickerdyke..."If you have no grease with you, and your rings are full of ice, do not cut out the ice with a pen-knife, but get your man to put the rings one by one in his mouth, and so thaw the ice." Always makes me smile.
Taking time to watch the flow beneath us, we pondered the day so far. We'd caught many fish already, but James just thought he might know of a nice long trot a little further upstream.
He was right, it looked ideal for a very long trot.
Once again, I baited with red maggot and dunked the float out in front of me. Far from trotting a long way, it went under almost immediately!
I soon landed another small grayling. Having unkooked and released her, I proceeded to spend another five minutes or so (not for the first time today) trying to untangle my end tackle.
At this point, James, who had steadily been catching fish all day, hooked into something a bit special and had a rather impressive curve in his carbon rod. However, the excitement turned to exasperation when the fish was lost at the net. I felt truly gutted for him.
Having rested my swim a while, the next cast produced a right little scrapper, probably the best looking fish I caught all day.
The hours were marching on and it was that time to slowly make our way back downstream, catching a few as we went until we reached the very first swim.
We had to have 'one last cast'......It was decided that we would stand upstream of the area I'd caught my first fish and trot down to it.
On the upstream side was a mid-stream feature with a slack area beneath it. I thought there may be fish holding-up there so cast directly at it.
The float bobbed around, almost static, before trundling a short way and vanishing, I struck. The float shot out of the water and landed back upstream near the feature, whereupon the bait was taken by a larger fish, as yet unseen, tanking off into the main flow.
Having gained some control we both yelled 'Trout'.. a beautiful coloured brownie which soon after shed the hook.
James was convinced that a recast would re-snare it. Not for the first time today, he was right. It took the recast instantly and after a small tussle was netted to howls of delight.
Released to fight another day, it was a great end to a day that will live long in the memory.
What a magical time. I didn't feel the cold at all. I'm so indebted to James for generously sharing this day with me. He was so unselfish, putting me on the best spots first and sharing the joy of that special first fish...Cheers mate.