Tuesday 12 November 2013


The journey provoked further pessimism.  I left Sussex just after the rush hour on Friday with a very light drizzle. By the time I got to Hampshire there was flash flooding and no signs of it improving. Wouldn't you just know it.
The classical music did its it best to ignore the out of sync tempo of the wipers. But it would be okay, it was my time. I'd surely suffered enough, hadn't I?
Rachmaninoff and co did their best to calm and soothe as I crossed over fabulous southern waterways.
The Itchen, the Test, the Avon and the Stour. A niggling voice of reason that I was passing by rivers with some fantastic fishing repute. Ignoring the doubt, I focused on my quest.

I arrived in the afternoon and walked the southern bank of the beat. The weather had eased a little but being below trees the drops continued to 'pop' like caps on my hood.
The feeder streams spewed their foul muddy sediment into the river, tainting its clarity. Maybe the extra colour might prove to be an advantage. Notice optimism putting in an appearance.
I walked to the bridge and gazed down into the water briefly before scanning the meandering river upstream. I spotted the rise of a sea trout and it did nothing but whet my appetite for the forthcoming adventure.

Facing the setting sun I watched the flickering silhouette of a lone kestrel scouring the hedgerow for that last meal of the day, making the most of the fast failing light.
An abundance of pheasants were  making their way to the wood to roost whilst rabbits emerged to take their places on the headlands like the changing of the guard. A pipistrelle bat flittered and danced beneath the canopy of the trees above me as I reached the car. The night shift were here.

I checked in at the guest house, unpacking and settled in an armchair with a book. I didn't fancy getting changed and making my way out to the pub for a meal so I relaxed  and decided to try an early night.
Notice I said try.
I drifted in and out of sleep. My mind awash with leaping Sea trout and iridescent dorsal fins kiting up shimmering riffles in my reverie. The digital display of the bedside clock appeared to entrap time which caused me to compare it with my phone on several occasions, lest I were party to some bizarre deceit.
I was so comfortable but it might as well been a bed of nails for the rest I got. Tossing and turning in it like a small boat on a raging sea. At 4am I couldn't stand it no longer and staggered my way scratching and farting to the en suite shower.
I thought I'd get a large breakfast  about seven to set me up for the long day but I wasn't fooling myself or anyone else in disguising my eagerness for nonchalance. I slurped a big mouthful of fresh coffee and made short work of two thick slices of toast smeared with bittersweet marmalade before picking up my flask and packed lunch and hightailing it from the door to the car.
The slight drizzle was so fine that would take all day to get you wet but the time I got my waders and suitably attired a heavy downpour had me sheltering beneath a tree whilst I awaited Grahams arrival.
It gave me chance to take in the spectacular autumnal colours around me and ignore the gloom of inclement weather.

Exchanging greetings and tackling up together we discussed the prospects like eager children and made our way upstream to enter and begin our assault with fly rods and czech nymphs.

A while later Graham hooked into a good grayling that gave a good account of itself after realising it was hooked. I made my way up to him unclipping the net from my back as I went. As akin to my vision, the fish hoisted its dorsal in the shallow riffle and surged downstream twisting and turning. In trying to gain control and turn the fish Graham sadly parted company with it.

We both were disappointed  but at this early stage we could at least seek solace in the fact the fish were there, feeding and our tactics worked.

I fished for the morning and well after lunch before taking my first fish. A Grayling of about four inches long.
I felt guilty that I felt no elation. There was no shouting for joy, no whoops and squeals of delight. A real anti climax really. I guess seeing how big Grahams lost fish was so close up, it did nothing but increase my enthusiasm for better results.
After we had sandwich back at the car I decided to change to trotting with a float. I'd wrestled with a nagging voice all morning as I waded upstream. It scolded and criticized me about all the idyllic swims I was wading through and disturbing that were as perfect to trot a float through downstream as you'd be pushed to find anywhere in the country.

On making my way upstream again I made for the swim Graham had lost the good fish in and trotted a light wire stem stick float along the edge of crease and deep glide. I was soon rewarded with a much better tussle and eased it toward my net. This was better, much. A good fish, a very good fish. Here was euphoria and elation. Now came relief, joy and a sense of success. A grin adorned my face which set and no amount of despondent thoughts or inclemency could wash away. I could relax now, I'd done it. Tension dissipated like tears in the rain.

I enjoyed several more fish during the weekend including a beautiful wild trout and I'm pleased that Graham was rewarded with another good fish to placate the annoyance of his lost fish that first day.

With a mix of modern and traditional tackle I had my fill and enjoyed every minute of it. I will be returning for sure.

Monday 11 November 2013



It's been an ambition. No scrub that. It has been a crusade, a passion, a destiny and even a reverie to encounter my first Grayling.
At first my vision was hazy, fuzzy, distant and romantic. It would be special, of that I was certain. I would study and research my quarry. I would be thorough and meticulous in my quest. Much to my wife's dismay it would inevitably involve new much needed equipment. Many more packages in the post, more dilemmas and much, much more frustration and patience. 

Though no fault of my own, my journey would encounter adversity in it's many forms. Bad weather, ill health both my own and my good lady, family members old and new and work secondments. All would play a part in not just frustrating but also driving an unknown quality in me. Patience.
And as with most of us with a piscatorial passion, frustration and patience are inevitable. They are both valuable lessons in our many tireless crusades to pit our wits against our quarry. Frustration being the earliest and easiest in our angling education. And of patience? Well that takes somewhat longer to learn and is much more difficult to master.
I can hardly proclaim to be anything but a learned scholar in that lesson, the proverbial Job I am not.
But I have found the answer to patience, a holy grail if you will. Something to ensure patience an easier and less tiresome teaching. But more about that another time!
As the short prayer goes, "Lord, grant me patience... but hurry!"


At first I romanticized that my first encounter would occur on a befitting somewhat regal and elegant location. A southern chalk stream like the River Test or the Itchen perhaps. 
I made some inquiries, looked at dates in my diary and investigated accommodation, specific fisheries and beats. Even to go as far as reading catch reports. Then I looked at the cost. Then after sharing my findings with my wife, I was 'told' to keep looking or perhaps sell my organs for medical research and she would assist me with the operation 'gratis'. Love knows no bounds. I kept looking.

Almost a year later I spent a fruitless few hours on the River Wye trying to tempt an early summer Grayling with maggot and feeder one afternoon. After procuring my first few Barbel that very morning it might be a tall order but hey, you never know. In it to win it! I achieved what I set out for so I was hardly despondent. And with a different stretch in a different season it may yet be an unwritten encounter.

A well researched and meticulously planned family holiday some eleven months later, saw my next crusade trying to draw my quarry from the River Eden in Cumbria. The cottage by the river was spectacular and my first experience of actually fishing in the water itself was to open an exciting chapter in my angling. Catching small wild browns was fun and being water borne put me somehow closer still to all that angling offers.
The Grayling though, whether it was my own ineptitude or perhaps a little too early for them, proved elusive yet again. Although I did foul hook a Grayling fry in the shallows whilst untangling the mother of all line tangles when my reel parted company with my rod. Inspecting that inch long fry did nothing but add fuel to my already burning desire.

An invite to fish a southern chalk stream for Grayling eighteen months ago was too good an opportunity to pass up. The wait for the winter was spent gathering information and selecting yet more tools in my armoury.
And then it started raining in biblical proportions. The river burst its banks. And it kept on raining. The chance was lost and the season went. Always next year...


I've waited and I've waited.
 The thing I've noticed about waiting a year to catch a Grayling is, the first six months are the worst. After that things go into a bit of a decline.
Sure the menial tasks still fill the void, the grass still needs mowing through the summer. Work and family commitments help to focus on more current intentions. Bills are persistent in dropping on the ironically monogrammed 'welcome' mat from the aluminum portal of doom.
The other thing I've noticed is time slows towards the last few weeks to a painstaking crawl, nerves are on edge fretting about the weather forecasts, organizing gear, pinpointing a weekend and booking accommodation. Emails and phone calls whizzing to and fro. It will have been worth it tho. Wouldn't it? 
My weapons were loaded into the chariot and off I went, following the setting sun... 

To be continued.