Sunday 24 December 2017

A Seasonal Post. Kind of...

Well, it's approaching that time of year when conscientious bloggers traditionally review highlights of the previous year. And if I was one of them I'd probably do likewise. But I'm not. I am instead one of the sporadic kind. Bad. Worse still, I couldn't even stick to a consistent theme for twelve months. Once upon a time NQS was a birding blog. Who knows what it is now...

Anyway, tomorrow is a Bank Holiday. Excellent! For many it is a joyous time of family get-togethers, of eating and drinking and cheesy old movies, of tinsel and snowmen and crackling log fires. If that's you, great. My own view of the so-called festive season is far less rosy, but that doesn't mean I cannot enjoy some aspects of it. Like, for example, the fact that not many anglers will be granted licence to be out tomorrow, so the riverbanks will be nice and quiet. Yep, Rob and I are going fishing. Mrs NQS will curl up with a good book and a glass of fizz, while the Haig men don their wellies and waterproofs.

And it will be a proper riverbank too. Not a canal. A local club has winter access to the River Frome, a Dorset chalk-stream famous for its grayling fishing. Grayling are not a big fish - a two-pounder is a specimen - but they are very pretty. They are also relatively scarce. In many years fishing I've caught just a handful, from the rivers Kennet and Hampshire Avon, and only tiddlers of a few ounces. On the Frome though, they are quite numerous, and the 4lb 4oz British record came from the river in 2009. A two-pounder is very possible, and even a massive three-pounder not unrealistic.

Rob, though, has never caught a grayling at all...

So, moved by paternal generosity, I have visited a couple of times already to suss out some good swims for him!

This is a grayling...

A 1lb 4oz bar of slippery solid silver

So far I've caught a dozen, and they've been like peas in a pod, between a pound and a pound and a quarter. These are decent-sized fish. It's fair to think of grayling in terms of roach, where a two-pounder is likewise a specimen. I'd be delighted with a dozen pound-plus roach! The photo above doesn't do the fish justice though. In its element it is transformed...

Look at the size of that dorsal fin! And the exquisite markings on it and the pelvic fins.

To be frank, I am smitten. I've been a bit spoiled by the pike, where although the fishing has been slow numbers-wise I have nevertheless jammed a couple of real whoppers. This grayling fishing is something else. For a start, it's like the fishing I remember and loved as a boy. A winding waterway of rippling shallows and smooth deeps, curling eddies and wafting beds of streamer weed. The techniques are simple too: a straightforward blockend feeder, or trotting with a chunky, orange-tipped float. Simple, yes, but there is plenty of room for skill too. Watercraft is vital. And trotting a float is something I haven't done in anger for many years. What a joy to catch fish this way! Finally, I thankfully haven't fluked an early biggie. So in this new venture there is a satisfying sense of gentle progress along the learning curve being rewarded appropriately.

That said, if I catch a massively undeserved three-pounder tomorrow I will not be disappointed!

In between grayling there are other fishy distractions...

A pristine little trout.
And this, believe it or not, is a salmon! These beautifully marked youngsters are called salmon parr.

So, whatever you're up to tomorrow, take a moment to think of me and Rob, out there on the riverbank, probably getting a bit wet if the forecast is accurate, but also very definitely getting away from it all...

Cheers, all.


  1. However you spend the day, I hope it's enjoyable. Take care and tight lines - Dyl

  2. Enjoy your Fishymas bank holiday Gav!

  3. Never seen a Grayling nor attempted to catch one. Criminal really considering how beautiful they are. They are supposed to be on the Exe at Brampford Speke so I shall have a look when the river is clear.

    1. They're in Exe at Tiverton, Andrew. Not sure how accessible though. I'm pleased I made the effort to get acquainted with them on purpose - they really are gorgeous. Also I worked out that my earlier incidental captures whilst trotting maggots on the Kennet and Hampshire Avon were in the mid-70s! As you say, such neglect is criminal! 😊

  4. Beautiful photo of the grayling in the water - never seen a pic showing off those fins so well. David Miller a fantastic fish artist is great at capturing fish sp in their eliment but your grayling looks even more stunning!

    1. Thanks Mike, your comment prompted me to check out David Miller's artwork. Found a lovely painting of autumn grayling, but you're right, the fish in the photo above is better marked. Back in the early 70s the Angling Times featured a weekly fish painting by an illustrator called Keith Linsell. My bedroom wall was covered in them. In my defence I was very young...

  5. Gav, your post has many parallels with my own experiences surrounding this fish. Like you I hadn't caught Graying for decades. However, earlier this year I was taken to the Lower Itchen fishery, and caught a number of these lovely fish. No pound plus fish though, those were the Brown Trout of which I had many.
    Keith Linsell fish paintings! I remember them well. I have a number of books from the 'Catch More' series featuring his work on the covers.
    Good luck for 2018 with the fishing, running, cycling, birding...:)

    1. Thanks Ric. The trout are pretty numerous on the Frome too, and will even take sweetcorn. Then they hurtle about all over the place and wreck your grayling swim! 😊