If I’m totally honest, I really don’t like fly fishing for grayling in winter. Standing waist deep in frigid flows for hours at a time dragging heavy bugs along the bottom is dour, torturous work. Besides, I’m not awfully good at it either, so while a more gifted or perceptive angler may fill his boots on the right day, for me it’s rarely worth the pain for the scant rewards I tend to get. This is why I usually swap over to my trotting tackle by mid to late November when the last of the hatches and surface activity grind to a halt. Still, once or twice every year, common sense is drowned out by mindless optimism and I head out with a box of nymphs and a head full of wild ideas.
Yesterday was one of these silly misadventures, and after ten minutes in the river I was already seriously regretting talking myself into it as I stumbled clumsily upstream on numb legs. I picked my way slowly through a number of pools, searching the water as comprehensively as I could, without an offer. Despite the lack of action, I was impressed by the jig-head nymphs I was using which, designed as they are to swim upside down, skittered along the bottom without any of the constant snagging one often experiences with traditional grayling bugs. I started out on a plausible looking, drab pattern, but with nothing forthcoming switched to a shocking pink monstrosity – why grayling are so fond of such an unnatural colour I will never know, but if something works I tend not to argue. That said, its mysterious powers didn’t seem to be casting a spell on anything today, and when my indicator came loose and ran down the line for the umpteenth time (Loon putty doesn’t cure so well in cold weather) I swung my leader to hand ready to pull it off and tackle down.
The fly was trailing in the water a couple of feet behind me as my frozen fingers fumbled with the indicator, when I felt a sharp yank on my right hand. Instinctively I pulled back, and to my disbelief, there at my feet a grayling was twisting and writhing in the current! It made a dive and I let go of the leader, regaining control with the rod, and after a short close-quarters struggle coaxed him over the net – a handsome cock fish maybe a little over a pound. Biggest fluke of my fishing career? It can’t be far off, and definitely one of the oddest captures I’ve ever made!