Grayling see red in urban river.

October 13, 2015 at 9:38 pm

A cold morning clearing the garden ready for winter, was giving way to warm autumn sunshine and I decided to investigate a friend’s report of grayling being caught from a river running through the factories and houses of a large town 30 miles away. Lunch over, I collected up my flyfishing gear and headed off into the sun, parking up in a shady lay-by spotted on Google. Pulling on my waders, I realised that in my haste, I’d left my landing net behind, which would only be a problem of course, when and if I caught anything. Dodging between cars on the main road, I crossed to enter the footpath skirting the river, which seemed as busy as the road, passing office workers, pram pushers and dog walkers, while stepping aside for cyclists. In contrast the river, only yards away, was a place of tranquility, a kingfisher darting upstream, as I stood looking at the crystal clear water.

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Not local to the area, I would have passed over the road bridge without a second look, unaware that much work had been done by the developers of the land to create a perfect environment for fish, groins having been placed at strategic points to speed up the flow, while trees have been left in place to provide cover. There were plenty of riffles, slacks and eddies, it looking very fishy, but the proof of the pudding, would be in the eating, as they say.

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My 7 ft rod was still set up in the van from the last outing, complete with a Flashback Gold Head Hares Ear nymph, which I thought would do for a start and entered the river, wading up toward a groin, where I cast up along the crease into the faster water. It seemed too shallow to hold fish and was not suprised, when the leader sank ahead of me and I lifted into the bottom. The line gave a slow bounce and I was into my first fish, which was obviously a grayling, the slow rolling fight, exploding into a powerful run upstream. Having caught many grayling in the past, I was aware of how easy it is to pull out of the soft mouth, giving line, but staying in contact, allowing the fish to make all the running, watching it twist and turn in the current. A good size, the grayling was at least a pound and with no net, needed to plan ahead to land it, wading across to a gravel beach, as the fish ran downstream past me, using it’s sail like dorsal fin to collect the full force of the current. More slow rolls and it came back to me on it’s side, scooping the still strong grayling out with my hand behind the pectoral fins.

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What a beauty, the scales shining with iridescent colours in the autumn light, a quick measurement with my tape rule reading 14 inches from nose to fork of the tail. With no net, I’d had to play this grayling to a standstill and took time to hold it’s head upstream in the flow, until the gills were working hard, watching it finally sail across the stream, noting how cold the water was on my hand.

Back in the river, on my first cast, the line sank again at the same spot, lifting in disbelief into another battling grayling, this time slightly smaller and easier to bring to hand, seeing that it had damage to it’s tail, probably from a small jack pike.

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That pool had given up enough of it’s fish and I continued to wade, finding pockets of smaller grayling, fighting like dace, their takes as rapid. Walking further up, a groin sent the flow close to bushes on the far side and in my effort to get the perfect cast, snagged a willow behind me, too high to reach, having to pull for a break, losing tippet and fly. Mid stream I tied on another length of  4 lb line, then looked in the fly box for a gold head. Staring at me was a home tied red nymph, that had been deadly for grayling on the Avon in the past. Worth a try, I tied it on, making a long cast among the swirling eddies. The leader stopped and I struck, the line arcing round, as another good grayling kicked away upstream, holding the rod high to absorb the strain. More pressure and it turned down and across to be lifted out. I was getting the hang of this.

grayling 013Once again those colours of the rainbow, the Lady of the Stream in her full finery, the red nymph, be it a bloodworm, or a red maggot imitation, selecting a better fish, a layer of copper beneath the wool giving it just enough weight to sink toward the bottom.

Whether I hit it right on the day, I don’t know, but caught at least one grayling from every pool I tried, losing count as I worked my way upstream, missing a few of the takes, which I put down to the smaller 6 to 10 inch fish, although I still had plenty of them.

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This was a red letter day in more ways than one, the weather ideal; warm, without a hint of breeze, the autumn sun giving a golden hue to the sky, the river clear of the leaves, that will fall in the following weeks. Even the kingfisher passed up and down at regular intervals, giving it’s metallic shriek of warning.

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Approaching a footbridge, I fished my last pool of the afternoon, yielding another pound grayling, my sixth of the afternoon, being watched from the bridge by two young uniformed school boys, who came down to see me land the fish.

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Having returned all my fish, I can only hope that others do also, being a free, open to the public water, which is fished by maggot drowners and lure fishermen, having watched a plug fisher land a pound jack on my way back.

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Stepping out to the roadside again, it was already rush hour, or should I say slow hour, looking at the rows of stationary cars with over heating engines and drivers. Soon I was among them too.