What better way to get back on the river bank than to have a couple of days trotting chalk streams for grayling? I was joined for the two day stint by that miscreant of t' north Tony Rocca who I knew would appreciate a bit of angling culture. He nearly didn't get there, the road closure above Newbury tested his patience and found it lacking somewhat. Guided only by the setting sun he took to the 'pretty route' and seriously contemplated looking for the North Star and heading home. When he arrived after seven long hours of teeth grinding and frustration it would have been reassuring for Tony to have a sympathetic ear in which to release the tension of the day but all he had was me and I just laughed!
Next morning and it was all just a bad memory, the day was mild and dry and the river, when we arrived at Dave's place, looked absolutely perfect. But there was no rush to begin, first we had a chat with my old mate Dave Steuart who lives right next to this most illustrious river and owns the beat on which we were to spend the day.
For those who do not know Dave, he is a genuine angling legend. There aren't many that can carry that title but Dave has been at the forefront all his angling life and I grew up reading his thought provoking exploits be they about salmon, carp, roach, pike or any one of a hundred fish from foreign waters. He and his late wife Kay are universally respected. He's a lovely bloke but he could talk all four legs off a donkey :-)
We went through the first job of feeding the trout in the 'out of bounds Pets Pool' a spectacular sight as fish to about 8lb + snatch bread from the surface.
At my first swim I hit into a shoal of good sized grayling the average size being over a pound, those and a couple of small roach started the day off well. We then moved about the fishery catching freely at every spot. The fishing is not exactly difficult on Dave's stretch, however, there are always targets you can set and ours was to find some of the big roach and at 'Kay's' swim I lost one at the net, it looked close if not over the magical 2lb mark and I had to have a little walk around to calm my shattered nerves.
I went on to take loads of nice grayling and a bunch of nuisance trout that insisted on beating the surface to a foam, I did however, lose the biggest I hooked that was over 6lbs. We didn't see any of the big browns during our trip, they do move up and down the river and were possibly up in the shallows. I didn't mind, I was hardly kitted out to play 15lbs of thrashing fury on my light float rod and they are out of season anyway, give me a roach any day.
Tony fluked a couple of decent roach at the sluice but decided to operate an early release policy on several more, that or he was using a rubber hook. He claimed his best was a 'two' but declined the offer of scales so I reckon it was no more than 1.14, not that it matters you understand (much) You'll have to check out Tony's blog for pictures and draw your own conclusion :-) He also landed a big 'un but Dave and his mate Richard were on hand to declare it a hybrid (Tony Two Species) so it didn't count.
I poached the opposite side of the pool that Tony was in and took several roach but none over 12oz, there were a few perch there too. It was reminiscent of my childhood, fishing the worried waters of a weir, the roar of the water and the bold bites that can come from anywhere along the trot, of course, as a kid I never caught fish of this quality but the essence of the fishing was the same and I was totally sated at the end of the day.
Friday was even warmer and sunnier and, as we walked across the field to the Wylye with good friend Mike Perry, the birds were in full Spring song calling for mates and warding off rivals. I even found my first Lesser Celandine of the year, this little yellow flower is one of the first indicators that Spring is upon us.
Tony seemed quite taken by the lovely little carrier stream we fished and soon had a few fish from a tiny weir pool. But no swim needs to be fished for long as there were miles to explore and we searched for likely spots as we headed upstream. I had my first fish from a 'deeper' (about three and a half feet) pool and landed a grayling which is as big as any I've had. I didn't weigh it, just took a quick picture and slipped it back.
It was one of those days when I didn't really feel the need to fish much, just being there was more than enough. Mike cooked us some steak sandwiches at lunchtime and there was no rush to get back to the river. Mike had saved his special pool for last and, having warmed it up by catching a few, I made way for Tony to settle in and enjoy its delights. He had switched over to a cane rod and soon had it trembling in his hand as yet another pound plus grayling twisted in the current. I grabbed the rod as soon as his back was turned and had a couple on it, the soft, forgiving action again brought back memories of my youth and those fish gave me tremendous pleasure. Its strange but from such a relaxed day I came up with a possible solution to the number of lost fish when grayling fishing. We all know that their strange twisting action can throw hooks when they are being played and to minimise the number lost I have, for some time, used the excellent Guru QM1 circle hook when targeting grayling. However, there are still a few losses but, with the traditional soft action of the cane rod at one end and the ultra modern hook at the other, I don't think that Tony dropped any. Ancient and modern, there's a place for it all on a river bank.