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The weather outside is frightful

Hurricane Abigail brings about some of the worst fishing weather Mark Bowler has ever experienced.


The perfect November grayling venue…until Storm Abigail arrived.
The perfect November grayling venue…until Storm Abigail arrived.

I’ve fished in some pretty awful conditions.

The skiff in the Bahamas visibly filling up with rain whilst we endured the downpour of all downpours. It was like fishing in a power-shower with the plug in the shower tray. I thought we might sink.

Then there was the gale on Lough Conn. As we ran home, the breakers were three feet above the transom, engine roaring as the boat surfed on the wave. My boatman tried to reassure me, saying he’d “had a good life…”

The icy, early season easterly blast I endured on the Leicestershire bank of Eyebrook when I was a beginner and full of youthful enthusiasm, and had Bob Church’s words “fish into the wind” ringing in my ears. I was casting into water churned up so much it looked like mulligatawny soup, and – unsurprisingly – had the whole of the bank to myself…with about 1,000 other anglers dotted along the far, sheltered bank.

Another opening day, I hooked a salmon kelt, but my line had frozen solidly into the upper rings of the rod. I had to play and land the fish on a ‘fixed line’ by walking to and from the river bank. When the fish was beached, I was in a wood 25 yards away.

However, my last trip, a Sunday spent grayling fishing on the Annan, took the biscuit. The earlier part of the week had been mild, and I’d pin-pointed a few spots where grayling – good ones – had been delicately sipping olives from a shrinking, warm river. It was the perfect November grayling venue…until Storm Abigail arrived.

I got out of the car and struggled into my waterproofs and waders before I got damp in the heavy rain. My dry flies were put away when I saw the river – high and rising fast. Now I’d be looking to search out slacker water with a heavy nymph. The wind was whipping a confetti of leaves around us. Abigail was doing her best to strip Dumfries-shire’s trees in one, autumnal blow…and dump them in the Annan. I have never seen so many leaves in a river. I have never caught so many leaves.

I tried to get in behind a high bank, to get out of the wind, but here it swirled and gusted with venom. Twice I was nearly blown off my feet. Whilst wading.

It was almost impossible to cast. And when I did, if I mended line, the wind caught it and blew my line and flies out of the water, depositing them directly downstream. Did I tell you it was raining? Heavily. Driving. Incessantly.

It’s not often I pack up early, but the lure of tea, cake and a warm kitchen kicked in after approximately an hour.

As I sat steaming gently by the Aga, I contemplated my day’s sport, and decided that rowing across the Atlantic might be more fun.

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