Earlier in the year I took Martin after Catfish, where he duly caught his first “moggy”, the up side of this was he was going to teach me how to catch “The Lady of the Stream”.
He kindly allowed me to take my best mate Rob, who also fancied learning a bit about Grayling, so we set off from our respective areas, I live in Canvey in Essex, Rob’s in Brighton and Martin is in Berkshire, to meet up at Winchester Services for breakfast and sort out what we were going to do.
Coffee was soon drunk and we made our way to Winchester to meet Martin. We got to the car park to see his car already there. We walked in and we were met with a face that said “why did I get up this morning”. He looked awful and really should have been in bed, but being the trooper he is, and not wanting to let us down after our 130 mile trip, was ready to take us to the Lower Itchen.
We got to this fantastic piece of river to be confronted with thick frost and temperatures very close to zero but Martin assured us this was good Grayling weather and we should do ok. We got ourselves set up, Martin provided Rob with a 15″ float rod and a centrepin while I was using a 13″ float rod with a pin I picked up a couple of days earlier on Martin’s advice.
Terminal rigs were 4 Swan Chubber floats to 4lb line with size 16 crystal bend hooks on 3lb4oz hooklengths.
Martin took me to a platform on the inside of a corner, opposite were some trees hanging in the water providing a raft of protection for the fish, there were shallows and deeper pools with lots of weed still showing or the time of year. Martin showed me how to use the pin properly and how to cast with it, he also pointed out that I needed to look for the faster water as this is where we would find the Grayling.
I fed some maggots slightly upstream then took my first cast, it landed just short of the far bank and started to drift down, holding back slightly to avoid some branches in the water, then letting it run on, the float vanished and I was into a fish within 40 seconds!
Not a big fish, probably weighing 4 or 5oz, but what a stunning looking fish. No one had warned me how hard these things are to hold! They are like a well greased bar of soap! All in Grayling wrestling and I was losing badly! A photo was eventually taken and the fish carefully returned.
Grayling fight very hard and they need a lot of care, they can take quite a while to recover from a fight so they need to be held face up in the flow to get the oxygen flowing back through them before releasing.
I kept feeding the swim and started trotting the float down again only for it to slide under again! Easy this Grayling fishing isn’t it!
Over the next hour I had 4 Grayling and 4 Gudgeon, the biggest Gudgeon I have ever seen, on either maggots or on corn, but I lost another 4 fish including what felt like a much larger fish and missed several bites.
Time for a coffee break and find out how Rob was getting on.
Martin made the teas and coffees and by now he was looking like death not even warmed up, he looked terrible.
Rob had had a Grayling of a 1lb on his first trot then had a wild Brown Trout, he followed this with a few more smaller fish and a few lost fish and several missed bites.
Martin hadn’t fished much as he felt so ill and was trying to look after us, but he had managed a Grayling and a lovely wild Brown Trout.
I moved further up the river looking for a fresh spot to fish, a lot of the water was rather shallow and weedy. Martin walked me along the river looking for likely spots, but everytime we found a good swim there was someone in it already.
There’s a wooden bridge at the far end of the fishery marking the boundary and Martin said it could be good near there, so I sat on the bridge and started feeding corn and maggots into the fast flowing water. I dropped in my float and it started running down the river to almost instantly vanish from a vicious take. This was a much better Grayling and in the fast flowing water put up a fantasic scrap, bending my rod into a graceful arc. After what seemed like ages Martin slid the net under my best fish so far, it was only a pound in weight but what a magnificent fish. Over the next hour I had Grayling of 2lb, 2lb5oz and 3 more of around a 1lb, I also got “done” by several more Grayling and got bitten off by a Trout that flattened the rod out.
I was about to pack up when the float dipped under again and I struck into a very solid fish that doubled the rod over. This was a very good fish and in the flow was very difficult to play, running into weedbeds and using the current to its advantage. I played it for several minutes and then I saw it, it was huge, much bigger than the 2lbers I had caught, and probably nearer 3lb. This was a fish of a lifetime and it was just off the end of my net, another few seconds and it was mine! NO IT WASN’T! The hooklink had taken a battering from all the fish I had caught and the weed is quite abrasive, so it chose this moment to snap!
A couple of well chosen expletives were used to mark my displeasure at this happening at such an inappropriate time. Time to pack up me thinks!
I walked back to see the others and see how they had got on, a quick cuppa and then we all got packed away ready for the long journey home.
A fantastic day in great company and beautiful surroundings with some of the best Grayling fishing available in the UK.
This is not a cheap venue to fish at £21 a day but I will certainly be back for another go at the elusive 3lbers that lurk in the fast flowing water of the Lower Itchen.
A big thank you to Martin for his help and advice on the day, debt well and truly repaid.