Thursday, 18 February 2016

I've been Itchen for a Grayling!


Under ordinary circumstances, my morning alarm is not a welcome sound. Its terrifying timbre signifying the beginning of another working day and, whilst I enjoy my job, I commit to involuntary avoidance behaviour, akin to Pavlov's dog's salivation, and hitting snooze at the first ringing of the bell. 
But not today. In spite of an excitement induced lack of sleep I was up like a shot when first it chimed at 4am because today was the day I had been looking forward to: my first outing to the River Itchen in pursuit of grayling.

My friend Matthew was soon at the door, helping me load my tackle in his car and after I had woke the whole neighbourhood by setting off his vehicles burglar alarm by trying to open the door before it was unlocked, we commenced the long drive from Kent to Hampshire. 

Good conversation and good coffee helped the journey pass quickly and before long I was following my guide for the day down the path of this idilic rivers beautiful banks.



Today was all about new experiences. Whilst I grew up fishing in a relatively traditional style on the Longleat Estate lakes and River Wylye, these skills have been superseded, not necessarily for the better, by modern carp fishing and specimen angling. So Matthew, and later Colin who came to join us, had brought lovely cane float rods for me to test drive. I'm not sure if there was an evangelical agenda going on but I was happy to let them try and convert me! I had however brought my own carbon avon rod as a comfort blanket having fished with cane as a teen and not got on particularly well with it. Today I learned that this childhood disagreement may have been the result of the limitations of my pocket-money! Both rods I tried were a pleasure to fish with and following a little coaching on the finer points of trotting I experienced my first 'lady of the river' on traditional tackle. Double maggots seemed at first to be the winning combination, fished slightly over depth however following the capture of several small salmon parr and a few wild brownies a change to worm and slight change of depth secured grayling number two.



Meanwhile, Colin had arrived and setup a little way upstream with a 'cunning plan' for catching a bigger specimen! Whilst to the purist it might not be cricket or produce as many fish as the float, ledgering for grayling increases chances of a larger one. Colin touch-ledgered with a small maggot feeder and had a several good fish of which this was the first. 



Once Matthew commenced fishing he was quickly amongst the grayling and caught consistently throughout the day. He tells me that today was slow but I lost count of how many fish we caught so goodness only knows what this river is like when they are feeding hard! 
Unfortunately, with so much going right something had to go wrong... I must confess to having a funny five minutes when I allowed the centrepin to overspin and created a terrible tangle. It wasn't too much trouble to resolve this but I feared that in doing so I may have damaged the line in places and didn't want to risk continuing to fish and losing one as a consequence of a break. This is where my contingency plan came into play and whilst my carbon comfort zone now seemed to lack soul by comparison, I did feel more at home with it and certainly had more control with my own centrepin with which I was better acquainted.






After wading through several more salmonidae I finally caught my third and final grayling of the day.


Soon after, it was time to leave. A swift beverage in the pub at the foot of the stretch marked the end of a fantastic day and a chance to recollect some of the highlights of the session. The early start and 300 mile round trip was no bother in light of the majesty of this mile of river we had the privilege of fishing. I must thank Matthew and Colin for looking after me and giving me this experience which is quite far removed from my day to day angling. Now I look forward to the coming weekend where I shall be celebrating my dad's 60th with him on a charter boat from Dover on Saturday and then he will join me on the water again on Sunday to celebrate my 35th as we take a punt to the 'jungle' in search of predators at Old Bury Hill. Perhaps if we are successful I may be writing to you again very soon...