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Grayling in the Winter Sun

November 24, 2012

Not many of us normal mortals can afford or justify a days fishing on arguably the worlds finest chalkstreams, however come the end of the trout season there’s still plenty of fine sport to be had with a fly chasing big Grayling for a fraction of the cost. For those that don’t know the larger than life character that is Hugh O’Reilly, arranges days on a beautiful stretch of the Test near Wherwell and included in the price (£50) is a full on cooked breakfast and lunch to boot! More information can be found here:

Anyway on with the show.

The two Tewin fluff chuckers making the trip this time were the two Steves (Mac & myself), a kind of sarcastic odd couple who believe that fishing is all about looking like you know what you’re doing rather than containing any actual knowledge and believing that the fish will see the difference between a well presented fly fisher and a scruffy oik and give themselves up in a suitable fashion.

Beautiful location and weather to match.

An uneventful journey (only missing one turning due to too much yacking) meant an arrival at a cold and misty venue ready for an industrial strength cup of tea and one of Hugh’s fine fry ups. The usual banter and welcomes are exchanged amongst the assembled throng with fellow Tewin regulars Derek and Pauline also making the trip south. With stomachs full we change and head off to the river. Hugh kindly drives us off to one of his favourite beats as no-one else had decided to head in this direction. This is quintessential  England. Thatched cottages alongside crystal clear fast running water and gentle green/gold autumn colours with only the occasional passing car to interrupt the sound of bird song. OK a slight fib there, we could hear the locals kicking lumps out of each other whilst indulging in what I presume was a Sunday League football match but I’m trying to paint a picture here so work with me.

We fish in tandem, leapfrogging upstream and taking a crack at pods of fish when see them. Small nymphs and bugs are the order of the day with commando approaches to avoid spooking the fish with your shadow from the low watery winter sun. The river itself is absolutely chocked full of fish. Huge Brown trout hold the prime spots, the odd one still occasionally rising to a fly. Now we’re here to catch Grayling, the trout being out of season but no-one seems to have told the trout that although it has to be said some people were unashamedly fishing for them – the barefaced cheek! What’s even more annoying is they were actually catching the odd one, now that’s just not cricket and they (you know who you are) were informed in no uncertain terms they don’t count towards the days tally (still a bit of fun though).

The Mac battles a nice brownie.

Fishing well all morning lead to several Grayling apiece with a few trees, fences and birds nests dealt with. No Grayling of great size but on a small river with a light rod even a small one will provide a spirited scrap. One of the big browns when hooked will lead you a merry dance! Soon it was time for lunch so we headed back to the hut for sausages and mash, eaten al-fresco beside the small lake and most pleasant it was too in the sunshine.

In the bag.

Once more our various sized bellies were filled and so with energy reserves replenished we headed back down the carrier to where we’d called lunchtime an hour or so earlier. Mr Mac headed straight for a delicious looking bend with an overhanging tree and deep glide where he’d earlier seen a significant mixed shoal of fish. I headed off to search some deep dark eddies and runs tight up against the far bank further down. The fishing proved tricky. These fish are no mugs and see a lot of flies but presented correctly they’ll fall non-the-less. A couple of small Grayling later and finally one to to put a decent bend in the rod. A cast hard up against some reeds in a deeper run produced a confident take and solid resistance. The typical deep jagging of a nice Grayling is a lovely feeling and a short fight later a beautifully coloured male fish of about 1½lb was in the net, shining like a bar of silver in the later winter sun. Cracking stuff.

A fine Grayling.

All too soon the sun was heading below the horizon and the light fading so it was time to head back and face the motorway for the journey home. We’d been blessed with good weather again and a relatively pain free journey and whilst we hadn’t contacted with the size of fish we’d hoped for I really can’t think of a finer way to spend a winters day. There are spaces available all through the winter so give Hugh a call and get in on the action. You won’t be disappointed.


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