As all good grayling days should Sunday started with me scraping a thick layer of ice off my windscreen whilst doubting my own sanity for wanting to spend the day bollock deep in ice cold water. My gear was packed and the moment I could see out of the windscreen I was off down the A34 to my favourite spot on the Avon, well a little carrier of the Avon anyway. I was absolutely adamant that today would be a sight fishing day, I wanted to see the takes, after all this was the reason for fishing a chalk stream.
When I arrived at the beat I was greeted by the usual dog walkers and joggers and tackled up for the main river. I was expecting to see a river back to her normal level but she was running at least half a foot shallower than would have been ideal. On the upside the water was absolutely gin clear and my love affair with the Avon was restored.
As the sheep parted for me I crept slowly up the bank trying in vain to spot a flick of a tail or movement of a shadow against the gravel. I saw nothing. With a half intuitive guess I decided to spend a bit of time meticulously fishing a pool I knew to be a few feet deeper than most and was rewarded almost straight away with a cracking bar of silver. Unfortunately to release her I had to slip into the water and managed to put down the rest of the shoal, I would make this decision every single time if I could rather than subjecting the fish to the net.
With the first fish came that sense of relief and I could now settle down and fish properly. Moving up through the pools I managed another half a dozen or so nice grayling. There was absolutely no interest on the glides between the pools which, when the water is higher, are extremely productive areas.
As much fun as the main river was the fish were holding in some very deep pools and I could not see them reacting to the flies. A change was needed and I knew just the place. Halfway up the beat a tiny, miniscule little carrier comes off starting in a raging torrent of a weir pool. I made my way back through the sheep (who looked entirely displeased at being forced to stand again) and made my way to the bridge at the downstream limit of my little carrier.
I have no idea why but every other fisherman I have ever seen on this beat (except my mate Steve) ignores the little carrier completely. It is only about 6’ wide in most parts with savage bank-side vegetation and fly-eating, overhanging trees but Hell is it beautiful. If you are quiet and slow and careful not to break the horizon the carrier swarms with small trout and grayling.
The little stream was even lower than the main river and the riffle I slipped in on was only ankle deep. This area normally holds a few fish but today I hedged my bets and moved up to narrower deeper channels, nothing spooked on my way.
This little spot is where I started the serious fishing, painstakingly slow upstream steps allowed me to get close to my quarry and present my duo of weighted nymphs. Every decent cast would see a fish turn for the nymphs and then turn away. I am not always slow and soon realised that the tiny stream with its micro-currents was causing the team of nymphs to move very unnaturally, off came the dropper (very easy when you use leader rings) and a few casts later and the first lady of the stream was mine.
The majority of the fish in this stream are juveniles, my biggest all season was a half pound trout and I had caught no sizeable grayling. This has never bothered me, in fact the opposite is true, the fact that so many small fish survive here shows just how strong the wild populations are in this stretch of the Avon. A good few more small grayling came to hand in very quick succession, with a few “nuisance” trout thrown in.
I had a fairly sizeable shoal in front of me and at the tail end of it I could see a large grayling. This fish would disappear under the bank side weeds every time one of his companions were hooked and then slide back out to feed after a couple of minutes. I had decided he was to be mine. An uncharacteristically good cast saw the size 19 nymph touch bottom a foot or so in front of the fish and a gentle raise of the rod tip saw him lunge and engulf the fly. The induced take was something I had been trying all season and to see it work a few feet in front of you is extraordinarily exciting. I lifted into the fish and the small rod hooped over. If I said the fight was exciting I would be lying, it was heavy and slow. The result on the other hand had me shaking, this was by far the biggest grayling I have had from this carrier and still has me smiling now.
I continued to fish the shoal until they dispersed and I continued my slow walk upstream. On small streams I prefer to stay out of the water when at all possible and made my way up the bank for the next hundred yards or so before the next shoal was spotted. Once these fish were located catching them was fairly simple. Sneak into position without being seen or felt, get as low as possible preferably with something between you and the skyline and then start at the back of the shoal and work your way forward. Beaded nymphs accounted for a good number of grayling and a few more trout before I reached the fallen tree.
This spot has been a bit of a heartbreaker for me this season where clumsy casts and broken tippets always seem to lose good fish but today would be different. There is an extremely deep scour hole created behind this obstruction, deeper than my 6’ can wade through and there are normally a few fish there including my P.B. half pounder. Sunday I was in awe. There was a small shoal of GOOD grayling there; they probably averaged half a pound and a few trout in amongst them. I managed three of the grayling from the tail of the shoal which were a good stamp. To reach the head of the shoal I had to leave the water and fish across the flow from the nettle beds along the river. Fishing this way means bite detection is almost non-existent and you rely solely on seeing the take (which with a size 19 brown nymph against a brown bottom is no mean feat).
Then something extraordinary happened, I followed the path of my fly down the hole but obviously misjudged its route as a trout leapt clear of the water above me and the line tightened. I got the fish in as quickly as possible but due to bank side growth I could not reach the water so it had to be netted. I estimated its weight at about a pound and a few weeks ago I would have been ecstatic with it. Out of season though I feel odd catching trout, even though I was not aiming to catch it I feel I should have been able to leave it to spawn in peace. Either way it was a beautiful fish.
The day ended with half a dozen out of season trout and perhaps twenty beautiful ladies the bigger of which I would never have expected to catch from this carrier. The memory of seeing these special fish lunge at my nymph will stay with me forever. So with blue feet, receding testicles and a smile on my face I left my favourite river and head home.