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Itching For A Grayling

The skills behind switching codes from saltwater mullet to winter grayling

Happy ending. Thanks to the Czech Nymph.
Happy ending. Thanks to the Czech Nymph.

You will often find me at the mouth of a river where it runs in to the sea, stalking mullet as they feed in the food rich current. That is where I feel very much at home, with nothing more complicated than a simple dead drift to deposit the flies in the danger zone.

A recent visit to the magnificent river Itchen saw me very much removed from my comfort zone and transported many miles upstream, at the invitation of Andy Ford. Andy, bless him, thought it would be interesting to see how a saltwater fly fisher might fare in the crystal waters of a bubbling chalkstream and to record the event for BT Sport's 'On the Bank'.

With talk of duos, French nymphing, Czech nymphing and upstream dries swirling in my head we approached the water, armed with two- and three-weight rods in an array of lengths. The next few hours passed in a blur of swaying Ranunculus as I tried – and generally failed – to master the quartet of wand-like rods and varying approaches attached to each new piece of water.

An arctic wind whistled downstream, chilling the hands and adding difficulty to the casting of unfamiliar rods and leader set-ups. The main challenge, however, was convincing my mind to work in reverse whenever a grayling showed interest in a fly by lifting the rod rather than the customary strip-striking! Where mullet are concerned it is a case of strip-strike or lose the fish. But now I was simply pulling the fly from the mouths of hungry grayling.

A low-hung sun peeped through the trees, bringing little in discernible warmth but temperate enough to encourage a short lived hatch of olives. The French Nymphing rod was removed from my grasp to be replaced with a dry fly set-up, which soon produced a dramatic boil but no end product.

Daylight was fading rapidly and just a few minutes were left on the meter when an obliging 'lady' pounced on a passing Disco Shrimp, fished Czech Nymph style. The fight was surprisingly energetic, no doubt courtesy of that gorgeous dorsal fin harnessing the fast flow. The cameraman breathed a sigh of relief. A happy ending to a quite wonderful day.

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