18/01/2017 - Grey day grayling.
One of the redeeming features of my job is that I work flexi-time and get to exchange my extra hours for 13 flexi days a year. Most of these get taken up with family holidays, but a few always get squirrelled away for when I need to relieve the pressure with a day out on the bike or on the bank. The plan today was for the latter, but it didn't look that promising on two fronts. Firstly, according to the level graph, the river had still some way to go before it was at "normal" level.
Secondly, the weather was looking distinctly miserable - cold, grey, overcast and with a fine drizzle. Oh well, nothing ventured, nothing gained! Headed west in the gloom with my fingers crossed. Arrived to find nobody in the car park, so togged up and squelched my way across the field for my first look at the river. As suspected, it was quite a bit higher than on my last visit but, most importantly, it was clear!
Walked upstream to the upper limit of the fishery, the flood debris on the trees and standing water in the fields an indication of high the river had been just a couple of days ago. Whilst the river was now only a few centimetres above normal level, the extra flow was enough to turn my usual first swim into a pacey, boiling, turbulent mess. However, I knew from previous experience that, under these conditions, the fish would be sitting in quiet pockets and gentle eddies off the main flow.
Rather than conventionally trotting through, it was just a question of dropping the float into these pockets and letting it wander about. Had ten grayling from the first spot doing this before moving on downstream to the next swim. Again, I let the float search out the quieter margins, picking off a few more grayling in the process. Next swim down the extra water had created a fishable run over what was normally a very shallow, gravelly riffle. Still had to hold the float back quite hard, but first trot down the float shot away, accompanied by a clonk on the rod tip as the fish hooked itself.
Carried on in this vein, picking up fish a few at a time out of each likely-looking spot, until I came to another fast run upstream of a sharp left-hand bend. Let the float trundle down to the bottom of the swim, where it promptly disappeared. Hit a heavy fish that immediately tried to head off downstream around the corner. Managed to stop it twice before entering into a bit of a stalemate with it hanging in the flow on the end of a taut line. Eventually it got moving and slowly plodded past me. Dropped the net in behind it and lifted the rod to get it up onto the surface and.....the hook pulled out under the pressure! Briefly saw a big, dark tail that could have been anything - chub, grayling or trout - disappear out of sight. Had a cup of coffee to calm the nerves then carried on. A couple more grayling and decent brownie went some way to getting over the disappointment of that lost fish before I moved on again.
A bit further downstream a tree had fallen in the river since my last visit on what was normally a straight, shallow run. Wading past it I found that the flow had already scoured out a knee deep depression alongside it, with a similar looking hole immediately downstream. Dropped the float in, held it back and was rewarded immediately with a fish! Not only that, the next four casts produced fish as well - all out of a spot as big as my bath. Up to this point the light had been pretty ropey all day. However, once past about 3 o'clock it soon started to deteriorate. Had a couple more grayling from another new swim right at the downstream end of the section before calling it a day.
Squelched back to the car again and finished off the coffee, reflecting on a pretty decent day given the circumstances. Ended up with 36 grayling to just over a pound and that solitary brownie. However, I'll be back for that lost "monster"!