For eager fishermen who get itchy feet during the close season, grayling certainly provide the fix; the perfect tonic to the fishing blues. With the weather a mild 15 degrees in mid-December, we set off in convoy from Avis in South Kensington with our shiny new Land Rover Discovery Sport and mini-me rouge Nissan Micra! The grayling team included The Turner Twins, Patrick Tillard (hugely talented photographer for the day) from The Gentleman’s Journal, Tom Gladdle and three lovely Zambuni girls, Kelly Double, Laura Bott and Kate Fensterstock. Parking at the headwaters of the Orvis Kimbridge beat we were greeted by our hosts, Richard Banbury and Rachael Hay, who had organsied the array of kit and, unbeknownst to us, caterers who provided a glorious lunch.
Without hesitation we jumped into waders and had our first glimpse of the beautiful river disappearing into the distance. We were all complete beginners in the grayling department – I had only seen sightings of these magnificent fish, also known as the ‘Lady of the Stream’, on social media pages and filling the pages of glossy magazines.
The Turner Twins wondered upstream to the fast-flowing rapids underneath a narrow bridge called the Ginger Beer Pool. After just 10 minutes, Hugo shouted “FISH ON” – we were off to a swimmingly successful start! As he retracted his steps into the shallows, a silver rainbow trout retired into his net. Soon after this commotion, as I was retrieving my line while fishing upstream into deep, riffled pockets, almost ready to cast again, my line went tight… FISH ON!
My mind instantly turned to the size of the fish, given the nature of the surprisingly dainty take. As the fish began to surrender I caught my first glimpse as the colourful dorsal fin cut through the surface. This was no trout – it was in fact my first gilded lady. I carefully inched into the water, scooped the fish into my baring hands and held her proudly. The fin was a riot of greens, pink-reds and yellows, with distinct lines stretching to a metallic finish on the flanks. What I did notice about this pretty, not so grey lady is that she did not smell like a brownie or rainbow trout. Post trip, I found out that their Latin name, Thymallus, means ‘thyme smell’, a name derived from the fragrance of wild thyme. Perhaps this is why they have been named the Lady of the Stream. (Maybe if I stick to grayling fishing from now on my friends will embrace me with open arms when I return to London?)
In the afternoon I enjoyed fast and furious action in the Ginger Beer Pool, targeting the fish which were lying up against the rapids where there was a generous amount of oxygenated water. Using a weighted Czech-nymph on the point and a small, quill-bodied, tungsten-headed jig with a pinch of pink dubbing behind the bead on the dropper, I worked every inch of the stream. Unfortunately, either the grayling were not at home or the hungry predatory trout were swarming my flies and barging the ladies out of the way – the latter being the most likely – as although we were targeting the big grayling, we could not help but accidentally catch the odd out-of-season trout, which were quickly released.
I would like to thank Orvis, The Gentleman’s Journal and the Zambuni team for organising the day – what a treat it was to spend a Saturday in winter fishing with enthusiastic, passionate fishermen.
If you fancy a days trout/ grayling fishing on the Kimbridge beat please check out my available days on ‘Marina & Fly’.
Photography by Patrick Tillard www.patricktillard.com and Richard Banbury (Orvis)