Had the privilege of a trip to Andy's part of the Kennet on Sunday where a group of us gathered to tackle the grayling. This is the exact stretch of river that started my obsession with grayling fly fishing almost exactly a year ago. It was the first time I had ever fly fished a river and under Andy's advice and guidance I managed to catch my first ever grayling (well my first 3 actually). So an entire year of fishing regularly on the rivers of South England and Wales had passed and I was keen to get back to where it all started and see if I had improved.
The day started in the perfect fashion with chat and tea, whilst setting the rods up. We were soon on the carriers though and with such a lot of water available we spread out so as not to interfere with each others fishing. I started at a hatch pool and the first cast of the day resulted in the first fish. He took a size 19 olive PT with a 2mm tungsten bead fished as a dropper with a 3mm beaded fly on the point. The heavy beads helped achieve the depth in the very short drifts of the hatch pool.
Small but perfectly formed, most of the grayling seen on Sunday were young fish but fighting fit.
Two more fish followed from the hatch pool before I managed to use all my stealth and grace to spook the shoal by almost falling in returning the last fish. All were roughly the same size but it was really nice to be able to hit the delicate bites that stalled the leader on its passage through the faster water. All three of the fish were taken after the leader stopped for a fraction of a second as it moved downstream, I still strike at every little twitch as I do not yet have the experience to easily distinguish debris from fish and would rather false strike and recast than miss a bite.
After the success in the first pool I was relaxed, hadnt blanked and already equalled my tally from my first trip here. Atleast my fishing has not got worse over the last year! The water was pretty low and very clear so I slowly approached any darker/deeper water and worked my nymphs through.
The darker water along the far bank held the shoal with only the odd straggler or trout to be found on the glides between pools.
Halfway down the stretch I landed the largest grayling of the day for me, by no means a monster but he bent the rod nicely and gave a fair account of himself.
Lunchtime bought Andy's famous BBQ Steak sandwich with red wine (resulting in a few more lost flies) and yet more tea. It was good to put faces to names from flyforums.co.uk as I think most of the guys there today were from the forums.
The afternoon was fairly similar to the morning, under Andy's advice i switched to a duo rig with a tiny beaded nymph 3' below a klinkhammer, the bites were much more visual but not as satisfying to connect with as watching the subtle movements of the leader. One trout gave me a bit of excitement though as it demolished the dryfly.
All in all it was a very enjoyable day, I left feeling confident that I have made significant progress over the year and having met a few good guys who I will hopefully fish with again.