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Travelling light-ish

The Damp Angler revamps his 3-weight rod and gives some great tips for grayling fishing.

From a still pool: This grayling took a gnat that was drifted across a dead calm pool while I kept pace with it walking along th
From a still pool: This grayling took a gnat that was drifted across a dead calm pool while I kept pace with it walking along th

The rehabilitation of my three-weight fly rod is now complete. A late night internet bargain, until this week it would cast with the wind or not at all (without a breeze to carry the line, leader and tippet collapsed in a heap).

I was beginning to fear that someone had sold me a stick.

But with the addition of a good quality fly line and a lightweight polyleader, everything has changed and that includes the fishing. On both the Tees and the Swale the number of takes has risen dramatically. Also the grayling seem livelier; fighting harder and swimming away more vigorously. The fish no longer have to be nursed back to health upon release – they race away like shoplifters, which leads me to wonder if the new, lighter approach is the only factor at work and whether the sudden improvement in the fishing isn’t entirely down to the grayling getting stronger and bolder at this time of year. Who can know these things for sure?

Matter of taste: Of all the flies put before them, the grayling on the Tees and Swale still seem to prefer a dry gnat. Clockwise from the top: Clayton, Gold Bead Pheasant Tailed Nymph, Griffith’s Gnat, Rolt’s Witch and Gold Bead Hare’s Ear.

Every fly is having the occasional purple patch, but nothing is quite as prolific or consistent as the Griffith’s Gnat. Even where there are no fish rising, it is drawing grayling up from the depths and on both rivers the best catches have come from casting into the trails of foam that flow downstream behind dipping branches.

In front of the bridge: There are always fish in front of the bridge at Great Langton, but getting close enough to cast without spooking them is a challenge.

Dead calm pools have also produced good results. One such spot is in front of the narrow bridge at Great Langton, on the Swale. On sunny, summer days, people line up on the bridge to watch the fish, but on overcast October afternoons, their presence has to be taken on faith. Getting near them is a challenge though, calling for an agonisingly slow shuffle through the shallows. But it is worth the effort. On Saturday afternoon, each cast drew a response, with fish swirling beneath the fly the instant it landed. Rather than strike at these movements, I got into the habit of giving the line a gentle tug – just enough to hook the fish if it was still there, but not enough to pull the fly under and disturb the water if it was not. Allowing the fly to drift on until there was a more aggressive take produced three good grayling in quick succession.

But as the third fish slipped back into the water, I noticed ripples spreading across the bay, breaking up the surface. All of my painstaking stealth was being undone.

Back you go: The grayling seem far stronger now than only a few weeks ago, no longer floating belly up and having to be nursed back to health upon release.

Studying the far bank for ducks or perhaps a water rat, I finally tracked the disturbance back to its source. Even cheaper than the three-weight rod, my patched-up nylon waders provide little in the way of insulation. The steady flow of ripples was being generated by my legs, which were shivering violently.

Fishing light seems a sensible way to proceed, but as the weather turns colder I may need to go a little heavier in the sock department.

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