For such a quaint and pastoral past time angling seems to have it’s fair share of contentious issues. Be it illegal poaching, natural (or rewilded) predation, the price of a license or even the ethics of the method you choose to fool your fish there are plenty of talking points for the 21st century piscator. One of the hottest topics of the last few years has been the closed season. As much as I’d like to open that can of worms right now (and I could worm for chub, barbel and salmon – but not trout….) I’m going to avoid rising to my own fly this time. I’m far more interested in the season from the fishes point of view, particularly after my last few outings.
We’re supposed to be lurching inexorably in to the grayling season – all the guide books told me so. When good mate Rich Chapman asked me to go through some Grayling fishing techniques with him we both had visions of large healthy grayling in the prime feeding lies while the trout were preoccupied with restocking their gene pool. We’d be nymphing for them of course as the bitterly cold evenings of the last week or so would have put to bed any chance of a consistent hatch of anything.
The chill of the morning that greeted us down by the river had the feel of a grayling day and as our breath froze in the air I considered leaving the dry fly rod behind and focusing all of our efforts on the riffles and glides. Unrigged and in pieces, I pulled it from the car boot more out of habit than expectation but within a hundred yards of the walk upstream I was hurriedly slotting sections together – the hatch was on. The metronomicaly effective JL Mole Cul in sz21 was the instinctive choice for these regular smutting risers and Rich soon set about the pool casting to what we assumed were sipping grayling. They weren’t, so after a masterclass in catching the wrong fish for fifteen minutes we decided to leave these trout to their “spawning” and find some Grayling gravel.
This gave us a chance to refine Rich’s technique with the French leader, as we found the most productive grayling areas were gravel riffles of no more than 18″ and fishing them effectively required smaller and lighter flies than he had previously thrown on the Frenchie. Rigged up with a sz16 Fulling Mill Quill Jig on the dropper and my own sz16 Dzigi Dzigi in purple (very similar to Craig Macdonald’s awesome Duracell Jig – but a little different) he soon began picking up the fairer fish. The Dzigi Dzigi in particular was very very effective and accounted for the larger fish but we still couldn’t get away from the brownies – even in water that was really pushing through.
Having found trout in the slow “sippers” pools, and then found trout in the shallow gravel riffles we decided to try to avoid them by fishing long and steady glides of between 3′ and 5′ with the same rig as it gave Rich chance to extend his leader lobbing skills a little. Again he was soon picking up grayling consistently and settled on an area of a few yards square which produced half a dozen grayling in a few minutes before again the brown spotty menace moved in and trout after trout hung themselves on the little beaded nymphs.
For the last hour or so Rich and I pitched up on the run from which he landed his first fly caught 2 lb grayling a few years back. He fished it very well indeed, making all the casts off the wrong shoulder and hitting “some bites that I’m seeing and some that I’m not”. In my eyes an angler who can hit bites they aren’t even aware of is a piscator of some repute… The trout pattern continued in this pool too, and it had become plain to both of us that accidentally catching some of the most epic brownies of the season was actually quite welcome collateral during what was otherwise nothing more than an OK days grayling fishing.
In hindsight far from being some unwanted menace the trout fishing today was some of the best I have seen on the river all season and I think the reflects where I am with the closed season debate. If the weather, the flies and the fish all say that it’s a good time to catch trout then it’s hard to argue and even the most grayling focused flies can’t avoid the mouth of a voracious late season brownie. The landscape may be awash with autumnal gold but there’s certainly no sign of any spawning redds just yet.