What red blooded angler would?! Gin clear water, stunning scenery … specimen Grayling caught to over 4lbs! I had been counting down the days. Arriving early on Thursday morning I was greeted by a hot cup of coffee and when Henry turned up this was followed by a cooked breakfast, which was good because I had awoken so early that I had not bothered to eat. This is the kind of service you can expect from John and his wife Andrea who manage the fishery. Arriving on the water, we were not disappointed and yet John explained that we were seeing the Frome at its worst. The dry spring had taken its toll and we were fishing over very low water, which had rendered some very tasty runs unfishable. First stop was a deep pool although the low morning sun made it hard to spot fish.
We moved upstream and found a pool teeming with life. I had expected to see big Grayling but suddenly was faced with a 2lb Trout. This may not sound big by Trout standards but this is no stocked chalk stream. This was a Wild Trout, which was also very skittish, especially after my less than graceful leap over a barbed wire fence. 10’ #3 Greys Streamflex + at the ready I aimed a catapult cast in amongst a swathe of branches and hoped that the fish would return. It didn’t but a few decent Browns up to 1 ½ lbs did. In plopped a Quill Bead head and a Grayling of no more than half a pound appeared from nowhere and nailed it! Not the intended fish and certainly not the specimen Grayling we were after, but great fun all the same.
Next stop was a mouth watering pool. More Trout were spotted to over 2 ½ lb (John has seen them to over 3 ½!) and remember these are wild fish. I worked those fish over but they were just not on the feed. But what about the Grayling? Well they were there too and I reckon the best went 2 ½ lbs, big enough but not by Frome standards. In the hope of seeing the kind of fish this venue can produce John walked us to the top of the beat but in the low conditions the fish all spooked and shot off upstream. Even so my eyes were on stalks, the bow waves were enormous. I had to see one of these fish up close … pleeease!
We went back to our previous pool and I began working one of the Grayling hard, it didn’t really seem to be feeding but every now and again it cast various offerings a sideways glance. This is one of the things I love about the species, they will let you throw all sorts at them and basically ignore it and then all of a sudden … you are hooked up! At last something for Henrys camera and nearing 2lbs a superb fish, it was hard to believe that somewhere not far from us was a fish twice the size. As usual Henry could be heard cooing from behind the camera, the conditions were superb for pictures and Grayling are just so elegant.
Our morning was complete and lunch beckoned. Once again the full Aplin hospitality service was bestowed upon us as a lovely ploughman’s lunch was served up complete with particularly fine homemade chutney. These guys also have some very reasonably priced self catering accommodation and nearby there is a great deal of excellent sea fishing, including Bass. I had begun conjuring up trips!
John was desperate for us to have a crack at one of the Frome’s monster Grayling and so after lunch we were taken to a deep pool, covered by a canopy of branches. Do not expect manicured, that is not what this place is all about although Johns enormous experience spanning some 25 years managing rivers can be seen throughout. The venue is extremely fishable, but testing; just the way I like it. The deep pool did show up one fish that I would have put at around 3lbs, although in the shade it was difficult to say. It was also in the company of a few other fish and so in true Hart style I managed to extract the smallest, using the tip section of my rod! More pictures followed but time was running out.
We headed back to the original pool; the light conditions were better. But concentrated fishing takes its toll, especially after several back to back days of guiding and a very late night spent at the cinema … oh and not being able to sleep through being too excited! Why did the big fish appear now?! Sat under a low branch, right up against the opposite bank I could see a decent looking specimen which I bombarded with everything. That was when I actually landed a fly in the water because on several occasions I hit the branch, or snagged the opposite bank. Controlling 2 bugs at range on a long leader is not easy, especially when knackered!
Eventually even Henry decided it was time to throw in the towel and packed up his cameras. Yes we all know he is not famous for his patience but actually when out taking pictures I marvel at how long he will wait for the shots he needs. Sure I am a guide and watch people fishing every day, but I am very involved. Sitting behind a lens all day, waiting for a fish, that takes dedication. I could hear him still in conversation with John so in one last ditch attempt to fool this fish I waded out carefully to try and get a better look and enable control of my heavy weighted bugs.
I cannot publish the expletives that followed. Clearly unsettled by my presence the big Grayling … no let me rephrase that … massive Grayling took a little wander around the pool. “HENRY” I bellowed “you have to look at this”. Both John and Henry joined me to see what all the fuss was about. More expletives! I think Henry said “Herman” and “Holy Cow” a few times. Meanwhile I continued to fish like an idiot much to my companion’s amusement although if I am brutally honest and without trying to make excuses I was shaking like a leaf! I attempted to compose myself, shortened the leader a little and tied on a plain and simple Billy.
A few casts went in, I played tennis with either bank for a moment and at one point turned away to get out of the water and go home … beaten. No, just one last cast! The Billy sank; I lifted the rod and noticed the Grayling slightly alter its position. It seemed as if we were suspended in time for a moment as I struck and then the fish slowly turned on its side. It was hooked!!! Then there was chaos as Henry charged out of the river to unpack his cameras while John urged me to take care and not lose this fish now careering all around the pool. The hook held and suddenly our aim had been achieved, the biggest Grayling I have ever seen in my life was in the net. Measurements put this fish at around 3lb 12oz, it could have been smaller or possibly even bigger but the exact weight of a fish has never really bothered me.
What more can I say … true elation, a massive angling high and even better you guys can do this for yourself without breaking the bank. Please go and take a look at Johns website, Casterbridge Fisheries here … you won’t be disappointed.