After receiving the all clear from my girlfriend I set about organising a fishing weekend that I was really looking forward to. Saturday was to be spent on the Little River Avon (LRA) in search of Grayling and the icing on the cake was Sunday where I had been invited down to fish the hallowed waters of the Test. I would be trotting the main river (the last time I fished one of the carriers - see 09/09/2010) in the hope of some of the large Grayling that this stretch (and indeed the whole river) is renowned for.
Saturday’s trip was slightly delayed after a few too many drinks on Friday evening and a sore head the next day! However, I was determined to get out especially as I hadn’t even wet a line for over a month. As soon as I left it was obvious from the gale force winds that despite the mild weather, the fishing was going to be especially difficult. Fly fishing in even a moderate wind is challenging but it seemed that the weather gods had handed me a cruel twist of fate spoiling the lovely mild weather with a relentless gale. Unperturbed I set up and short nymphed my way upstream avoiding the occasional branch falling overhead. After a fishless and frustrating initial 2 hours I was all but ready to give up but decided instead to move upstream to a popular section that I generally avoid – the rationale being that the inclement conditions had probably allowed it to have a rest. It turned out to be a wise choice – soon after wading in to the river I was bringing my first Grayling of the day to hand. Nothing big but thankfully I had at least caught something! In contrast to the first 2 hours, the next 2 were actually quite fruitful. I’m not sure whether it was that the grayling suddenly switched on for a short feeding spell as is often the case at this time of year, or that I had simply found the fish. Probably a bit of both. In the end I managed about 6/7 Grayling and a nice out of season WBT. I went home pleased that I had stuck with it and felt that it was a good result given the conditions.
Sunday dawned very early, 5am to be precise! I don’t get many chances to fish the Test and when I do I make sure that I make the most of the day. Thankfully it seemed that the wind had died down (a little) and I embarked on the long drive down south eager and excited about the days fishing ahead of me. After driving down the long windy estate road I finally crossed the river and as all fisherman have a longing to do, got out of the car and peered down into the clear water. In the early morning light it was hard to see much but it looked perfect, slightly higher than the last time I was here and carrying a tinge of colour as was expected at this time of year. In my experience the morning is usually the least successful time of the day when it comes to winter Grayling so by showing a great deal of self restraint I resisted the urge to set up straight away and decided the time would be better spend wondering the banks and exploring. As the saying goes, time spent in reconnaissance is seldom time wasted and I as made my downstream I was noting good spots to visit later. I was also treated to the lovely sight of a Barn Owl flying low to the fields and crossing the river right in front of me.
After setting up and fishing a likely run I noticed a fish rising repeatedly in a slack on the opposite bank opposite me. Thinking that at this time of year it could only be a Grayling I made my way to the other bank and slowly crept up on the fish which by now had stopped rising. It didn’t take long for the float to dip but unfortunately the culprit was not a large Grayling as I was hoping but a very large BT! Thankfully it was not in a energetic mood and thumped around heavily on the end of the line for a few minutes before I managed to net it. I don’t like catching BT out of season and try to return this as quickly as possible but I had to spend a second admiring this beauty – he was in superb condition and must have been 4lb+. It was a start of sorts!
Moving back around to the other bank I made my way further downstream and fished a nice deep run close into the bank. First cast and the float just dipped. A quick strike brought my first Grayling to the net. Unfortunately the hook pulled at the last second but I was pleased to have hooked one and not too fussed that he got off seeing as it was quite a small fish. After a chat and a tip off from the chap who runs the fishing I made my way to a superb swim that had Grayling written all over it. It was downstream of a large Island and the flow around the Island had concentrated to form a deep pool with a fast tongue of water and a very large slack on the far side. I decided to initially fish a small slack behind a groyne on my bank and after letting the float mooch around for a bit a very subtle bite resulted in a nice Chub of a couple of pounds:
By now the wind had picked up and although braid was helping to minimise the effects, I was still struggling to control the float. Despite trotting the inviting main tongue of water numerous times, I hadn’t had a bite. After chatting with the keeper who was out walking his dogs I decided to readdress the situation and switch over to a much heavier float. It turned out to be a good move; first cast was slightly upstream and the float was obviously anchored better in the strong flow. Surprisingly almost straight away I had an obvious bite that was clearly a good fish. After a spirited fight I netted a large Grayling which after being quickly weighed in the net went 2lb exactly – my first 2lb Grayling!
Very pleased and slightly relieved that I had caught a nice Grayling I continued to trot that pool catching a few other good sized but smaller Grayling. The wind which had been a menace previously was now blowing upstream quite steadily and I discovered it was possible to use it to my advantage with some unorthodox trotting which has a lot in common with upstream nymphing. My method was to cast up and across the current and immediately lift the rod high allowing the wind to blow the line in an arc above the float like a sail. This slowed the float right down and by retrieving line with the pin I was able to keep in constant contact. Once the float drifted past me I could continue to trot downstream normally. The method proved to be very effective. As I lifted the rod the first time I tried it, the wind bowed the line and the float slowed right down to a speed that just felt right and I felt certain that a bite was surely imminent. In a wonderfully prescient moment, the float almost immediately pulled under and I was into a good fish. Keeping downstream of the fish I managed to coax him up towards the net. However, it took a number of aborted netting attempts before I eventually netted him much to my relief! This fish was clearly my largest and once weighed went 2lb06oz, I was over the moon!
The rest of the day was spent exploring the rest of the venue catching a few more Grayling and Chub in lots of different swims.
My penultimate fish really capped the day off. As the light was fading I decided to head back and have another go at the special pool that had resulted in my two largest Grayling. This time I crossed a bridge and fished it from the far bank along a very inviting crease. After a couple of small Grayling my float slightly dipped once again and I struck only to meet a solid resistance. Thinking that I had snagged the bottom I pulled harder with the rod in order to free it. However, it was met by an obvious heavy thump at the end of the line. My heart was racing, this was obviously significantly bigger than any of the fish I had hooked in the day. Thankfully I could play the fish out of the main current as there was a large slack bay directly in front of me. After a nerve wrecking fight where the fish mainly stayed deep I managed to coax it to the surface to see the brassy flank of a very large Chub. He was quite obliging and instead of snagging me in the near bank vegetation, slipped over my net at the first time of asking. At 5lb2oz it was by far the biggest Chub that I have caught trotting and certainly the one I am most proud of. A fitting end to a magical days fishing.
Final tally was 12-14 Grayling (largest 3 - 1lb14oz,2lb,2lb06oz), 2 BT, 3 Chub to 5lb02oz and a few Parr and Minnows.