John Tyzack makes hay before the end of the river trout season, there’s a few grayling top be caught too!
With the trout season about to end, and with a distinct absence of guiding work on the books it seemed like a good idea to have a final crack at them myself and cover a few different rivers in the process.
I was formulating a few ideas when the call came in. Never ignore a man bearing gifts. In this case the man in question was my mate Andy and the gift he was offering was information. The week before he had managed to get a few hours fishing in and found (in his own words) “some beautiful trout up to about a pound and three quarters, and the lower beat is riddled with grayling”… Did I fancy joining him next time? Mmmmm?
The river in question is little more than a small stream flowing through one of our major industrial cities here in the north. I love the upper reaches where the wild brownies are numerous and always hungry, but the lower beat has the biggest fish and the bonus of good shoals of grayling. Heavy rains had swelled the river up to just about its maximum fishable height, but it was running clear enough so confidence levels were well up there! Rigging up the French leader with shrimp and flashback combo, I took a small grayling on the shrimp with my first chuck, so it looked like we’d be into them big style. And so it proved. Alternating the angler after every fish capture – or a dozen fishless casts - we must have taken some 15 fish from the first pool alone. This was a typical sized fish:
Moving round the corner and the water changed characteristics. It became faster and shallower and very bouldery. Just the right sort of habitat for a decent… TROUT! Whallop! An altogether different scrap from this one!
Fish – both brownies and grayling - continued to come all the way up the river and as we neared the pool which was ‘home’ to Andy’s monster, the water started getting slower and deeper once more. Here, in two consecutive pools, it was almost a fish a chuck. Grayling after grayling succumbed to the charms of either the shrimp or the flashback… Most of Andy’s were on the point, whereas most of mine were hitting the shrimp on the dropper.
Finally we were in ‘Biggun Pool’ but Andy confessed the high water had messed up the really obvious lie it had held the week before. No matter, we’ll just work our way up and see what happens… What happened, as it happens, was that we caught another shedload of fish, both species now coming thick and fast. We decided for the last few minutes to fish both rods and it was then double hook-ups galore. Here’s the result of the final cast of the day - one of each appropriately enough!.
Cracking session and set me up nicely for the following day!!!
After a day like that with incredibly big numbers of fish, what I generally need is a day after a number of incredibly big fish. And so, I headed off to the River Dove and was looking over the bridge into the water by mid-morning. And I was not looking into the crystal clear water I’d normally expect. It was well up and well coloured too, carrying quite a lot of suspended sediment. Not really conducive to the quest for a big grayling, but hey, I was there so I was going to give it a go at least. Once again, I set up the French leader but this time went for a double flashback attack. I wanted to be sure they’d see the flies in that coloured water, and it looked like a pretty damn good decision when after only a few casts my indicator ticked away and I was into this chap:
What a start!” Not one of the real monsters, but a step up in size from the presious day. My smugness gradually dwindled away however as I fished on for another hour without so much as a take! The colour in the water was getting worse and it was, without doubt, time for a move. Now luckily for me, I have to drive past the River Wye on my way home from the Dove… It would have been rude not to drop by and say hello. The new quest was one of the Wye’s stunning wild rainbows. In years gone by the rainbow season extended well into November and these fish are in their absolute prime at the end of September…
The colour in the Wye was less obvious than in the Dove, but it wasn’t running clear and it was also way too high for its own good. Many of my favourite pools were unfishable and I had to go searching for likely places to hold fish in the heavier than usual flow. Finding one such place on the inside of a bend I flicked out the same rig as before but armed with a pair of sedge pupae this time and had immediate success with a little wild brownie. Several further browns came from that pool, but my WRT eluded me.
Rain began to fall fairly heavily. It was at this point I realised my coat was in the car and the car was about a mile away. It was going to get soggy… But I wasn’t going anywhere without my prize. After several more pools, with nothing but brownies to show for my efforts, I came across a lovely looking piece of river with a huge boulder in the middle. Two fierce torrents of water pushed left and right leaving an inviting looking slack behind. This had to be WRT country…surely? It was a tricky cast due to a complete canopy of overhead trees and a bow and arrow cast was the only way to get flies in behind that boulder. But once in the slack, I had a really vicious take and a lovely rainbow went airborn straight away. The fish spent more time out of the water than in it, and my rod tip was more in the trees than free, but fortunately, the hook held and I finally netted this.
Mission accomplished, I walked back to the car - soaked but satisfied.
And so from the sublime to the ridiculous. A few days later I found myself at Westlow Mere helping my mate Bernie practice for the Greys Bank competition due to be held at the weekend. Not a regular stamping ground of mine, but maybe I could help by trying different methods to his and comparing notes at the end… There were fish milling about near the surface so I kicked off with dries, but whatever patterns I put on, all I could get was minor interest and swirls below the fly. So I switched to a pair of nymphs, and had a similar response from the fish. They would follow but not take. It was doing my head in! I lost focus and started thinking about lunch and just then had a savage take which was most unexpected to say the least! In a shallow weedy area of the lake, the fish did exactly what it should have done and buried itself deep in the weed! I was stuck fast. Steady pressure just bent the rod more and more, so I tried a longshot. I took all the pressure off the fish and let the line go dead slack…and bugger me if the fish didn’t swim stright out of the weed, still nicely hooked and now in open water! That hardly EVER happens to me! Something else that’s a huge rarity for me when nymphing on small stillwaters is getting attached to two fish at once – and yet that’s exactly what was going on. I had a rather poorly looking fish on the dropper and something quite a bit more ‘chunky’ on the point. To be honest the dropper fish wasn’t exerting much pressure on the system so I could concentrate on the other one alone and eventually, I managed to get both fish in the net.
Despite continuing to try my best, chopping and changing flies, lines and methods, while walking around the shore, I never had another offer until lunch. Bernie had had one and lost one. Hardly just rewards for our efforts, so we went to the pub for a sandwich and a pint. Suitably refreshed we set off again, this time heading for the shallower section of the lake and Bernie was straight into a fish on a tiny nymph. My dries were being completely ignored on one side so I walked all the way round to the far shore and tried again. Here the light was different and I could see through the water to the cuising fish a couple of feet down. What about a shuttlecock? Popped one on and cast out at the nearest fish. It swam purposefully over and engulfed it confidently. A couple of casts later, and another fish did exactly the same. Go figure! Hours of nothing, then action, then nothing again… I definitely prefer rivers to this crap and I was very pleased NOT to be fishing the comp!
And so to my weekend… While Bernie was flogging himself to death on Westlow, I was heading off to the Welsh Dee with a couple of mates.
What a glorious morning! One of those glad-to-be-alive mornings. Blue sky, sunshine, but cold and crisp – perfect grayling weather. What was NOT quite so perfect was the state of the river. I called the automated height guage and it was running at 1126 – higher than I’ve ever fished it before, but what the hell? Tickets purchased we headed upstream. The river was way up but had obviously been up high for a while because it was running clear.
As is so often the case in high water, it was simply a case of finding slightly slack water and you’re usually well rewarded. To cut a long story (very) short, we were handsomely rewarded with a final tally of about 40 fish between us – with which, given the conditions, I was highly delighted! Unfortunately, my waterproof camera bit the dust (a watery grave I’m afraid) before I could upload all the photos from the weekend, so the one of my really big grayling is missing ;-(
By the following morning, the river had dropped to under 1000 on the guage and we headed downstream this time to a large pool we’d all fit into simultaneously. It was unbelieveable fishing. Dry fly scored well with fish hitting stoneflies and several different species of olive, but the old French leader armed with a variety of shrimps, beadheads and flashbacks did the most damage. We finished the day with over 100 fish between us and that dear readers just has to go down as one serious final flourish!
Now it’s time to concentrate solely on the grayling. A bientot!