This year past I haven’t spent as much time on running water as I would normally. The main reason is that my river fishing competition stuff was curtailed as the rules, in the heat I wanted to fish in, changed. I was not comfortable with the new ones, so I pulled out.
This meant a lot less time on running water than I’d enjoyed during the previous few years. I’ve spent far too much time on the bigger waters, putting in plenty of hard shifts up and down the country so I could get used to fishing different waters. Brown trout and rainbow venues were visited at various times to see how each fished through the season, all great fun, but I missed the call of running water.
Having been brought up next to rivers, I fished them from a very early age. Running water / river fishing is by far the best form of fishing there is in my eyes, in fact the best by a country mile. Don’t get me wrong I had plenty of river fishing trips this year, but none in which I totally immersed myself in, which is what I would usually do.
Last week I was offered an amazing trip on a stretch of river that I have never fished before. I don’t often get too excited when I’m looking forward to a trip or even when I’m fishing, others would disagree with me, at the least little bit of interest to my flies, I squeal like a girl! This trip had me excited though as I knew that this little stretch of little river held big grayling, with 2lb fish not too uncommon and with bigger ones also putting in an appearance. BUT, they were few and far between, and take a modicum of skill to fool, right up my street. Unlike some of the so-called river fishing techniques I’ve witnessed, these grayling need to be approached with caution and with a great deal of river fishing ‘know how’. There’s no place for bungs and multiple droppers in which to harvest juvenile, uneducated fish here. This is proper, a bit of tact is called for.
I met my host, Glen, a great guy, and full of patter who’s super, mad-keen on fly fishing, any fly fishing. He was all excited about these new flies he’d created and wanted me to see for myself how good they were.
As we chatted over a lovely breakfast, a free one, as the hotel manager and Glen were good friends, he told me stories of his last trip to the river only the week before when the river was higher than normal, due to some heavy rain in which he managed five stonking grayling all of which were over 2lb!
I’m not too sure where Glen hails from but his voice sounds… STOKIST.
“Sereeoos Brootha, them grrrrayling are Huyooj Man.”
After brekky we jumped into Glen’s work van, full of sparky gear and soaking wet waders and a stinking wee landing net, his neoprenes were kicking out a right pong too. Driving through a series of farm gates, we finally, after about 15-minutes get to the ‘secret location’. We park up and get the geared sorted out, the plan is Glen is gong to fish his normal way, two of his light shrimpy patterns and one slightly heavier one on the point. He’s fishing French Nymph style with a coloured indicator between leader and tippet as a register of any takes. I on the other hand, being a big river man, go with one bomb and two size 12 little grub type things, which I catch shedloads of river fish on.
I think that I may have made the right choice, when we saw the river it still had a little tinge of colour in it, it was largest than I’d expected too. The plan was to go fish for a fish, or swim for a swim, whatever came first.
Glen entered the river at the bottom of a stunning looking run, the river here came through a narrower stretch pushing the current toward our bank with a lovely fast seemy flow pushing down our side. Working from the bottom up he covered the water toward the best part the faster moving water at the head, the water comes over bedrock and drops into a hole, from two feet o five foot in a blink of an eye, ideal grayling habitat. They were not playing ball, he had one take that was it, no fish!
A familiar voice called out behind us…”What are you two doing here?” I think he thought he’d have it to himself through the week. Another mate, and another river fisher John Tyzack appeared. Glen and I got out of the water and had a blether with him, he wanted to try the pool, so we headed downstream to another.
This time a small confluence had been created by a small island and Glen was sure he’d get fish from where the water joined. Typically, his first cast and sweep through and the indicator shot forward before burying under water as an unseen fish dived deep. Seconds later it was in the net, a wee grayling, all 12 inches of it. What on earth was that doing in there? This was not in the script. Glen fished the pool out and it then, finally, it was my turn.
He laughed when he heard the splash my big bomb made when it hit the water, can’t blame him, it was like sparkplug hitting the water. Halve way down we heard a cry from up river, JT was in. I gave Glen the camera, but as he headed up the bank to get a photo of JT’s fish, I made a point of asking for his net, just as well that I did! I had made my way down to the tail of the pool, the inside track where I was wading was treacherous, bed rock and slippy at that, but the main push was over a nice gravely bottom, ideal grayling feeding area. I had delicately LOBBED, my three flies up stream, into the fast push and allowed the current to sweep them down the inside line over the riverbed…
My Set Up: Big bomb, two 4mm Tungy beads on a size 8 shrimp hook, leaded body and covered in Nymph Skin, point; one of my grubby things, with small copper bead, dropper; and a pink / Disco Shrimp on the top dropper. This is all on 3lb G3 Fluoro, only 6ft long, two foot dropper, two foot dropper two foot point. I normally use 0.10 Stroft ABR for most river fishing, BUT not ‘Bugging’, it’s just not up to it. The less length of line you have the more sensitive the feel. I use an indicator in the form of s six inch section of two tone coloured braid, The main line, if you want to give it it’s technical tern, is straight-through braid, 20ft of thin 18lb stuff, you’ll feel everything. I never bother with magic marker stuff anymore, preferring instead to have the braided indicator as my take detector.
…As I led the flies down and into the streamy edge, I could feel the bumps and jolts transferred through the braid as my ‘big bomb’ trundled the dropper flies perfectly just up off bottom. As the flies came towards, me leading the flies, a little faster than the current – pick a bubble floating down and move your flies ahead of it – the soft bumping turned into solid pressure, like hitting a snag, before I felt the thump and pull of a good grayling.
I started shouting, “Glen, Glen, Glen!” Followed by whistle, whistle, whistle until I heard him call back. “I’ve got one, and it’s a good one!” I shouted into the wind and rain.
The fast current meant playing the fish was a slow yet careful affair, but finally I had him over the rim of the net before I walked it over to the shallows to wait on Glen.
“You got one then? John’s just had a nice one!” Yeah I’ve got one, is it as good as John’s? I held it up in the net. “Nice fish, about the same size mate”, he told me.
It had taken the middle dropper, the wee buggy thing with the copper bead, like I knew it would! We had a few photos and then slipped it back.
It’s amazing how you become immersed in what you’re doing, believe it or not that was nearly two hours away! We all decided to retire to the cars, for a brew, which ended up turning into a can of Stella each, cheers John. We talked of the fishing here, well they regaled me with tales of monster fish. By the time we finished I was feeling rather giddy! Stella for dinner what was I thinking, still the patter with the boys was good. We went upstream to, one of the river’s hotspots. Again this was shallowish neck running into a deep slow pool, given the colour of the water we couldn’t see the bottom. Glen pitched in and John worked his way across to fish it from the other bank.
Glen worked upstream while john worked down the other side. Within a fee minutes of starting Glen was in, and like John’s previous fish, and mine this too was a good one!
Glen played the thing for ages, milking it I’m sure for both John and I. “ I just can’t do anything with it boys , it’s too big and powerful, the speed of the water isn’t helping either, I just can’t do owts!” Well, he could, it wasn’t to long before he had it in the net.
We’d all had good fish, albeit one each BUT like I said this is proper fishing hunting big grayling that are few and far between, hence they get big. I took photos as the boys worked their way downstream, after an hour or so, I got the shout, “Steve why don’t you have a go with your mackerel rig?”
Nice one boys, let me in.
Now let me explain this so that we have it right, the boys had been through the water, one with the French leader, up the way, the other with the same leader down the way, BUT they both fished the deep water that was pushing into the bank at the other side of the river. I thought I’d try the shallow water that they had just walked through.
It was tricky as I was fishing the heavy point fly, so I had to fish my flies fast to avoid hitting the bottom, I still did, but it wasn’t too bad. Glen was watching me, he’d never really seen anyone fishing in this manner before, he’s far more used to fishing smaller rivers, ones that have not got the massive deep, fast runs that I’m used to fishing.
I took a grayling on my third cast, a small one another 12- incher.
“I’ll get another one of these Glen if they are in here” and I did, the very next cast. John came back up and watched me. Just in time too, as I reached the lip where the shallow water gathered pace as it sped towards the next set of rapids before going into the downstream pool, I hit into something far more substantial.
In the shallow water I saw the silver flash of the grayling as it took my fly and tried to get back to it’s lie, only this it had my middle dropper in it’s mouth, so it struggled a bit. Given the fast, shallow water it took it’s time coming in but eventually, I had it. It wouldn’t quite go 2lb but still it was another cracking fish from a tough stretch of water, again on the same fly.
John, at this point- it was after all about 3pm- said… “PINTS?”
We all retired to the hotel bar.
A class day in which not a lot of fish were caught, the patter and company was brilliant, and for once, in nearly ten months, I was in to it! Guess where I’m going this weekend?!