Spring in Winter.
We are blessed in the River Tweed in the presence of grayling. The majority of traditionalists will spin on their shooting sticks and tear their Harris jackets in a tantrum at the audacity of this statement. To them, and actually many of them are the salt of the earth, grayling are vermin. If grey squirrels can be called tree rats, and seagulls, rats with wings, then for many British anglers, grayling are rats with fins. As for me I love the silver scaled devils. Certainly they have their own distinctive aroma , but pound for pound they give my old chum the brown trout a fighting run for their money. In addition they appear to have been designed to leap into the fray whenever the brownie is best left alone or has turned towards carnal matters and is off the idea of food.
For two consecutive Saturdays I have had the pleasure of fishing the Tweed from the lawns of Yair House. Willie Thyne is a gentleman, the genuine article, but he has no truck with grayling. Generously he allows me to pursue the "Lady of the Stream" when the autumn salmon fishing stops. The explosion of territorial salmon on the surface as I stalk grayling sets my heart racing. The sensation of unleashed savage power as salmon smash the water as part of the mating game makes me ponder if next year I should move up a league to the big fish . We will see.
Each day has been similar in results but unique as an experience. The first Saturday was cold, thick frost, frozen rod rings and a sudden blinding low winter sun. Not a touch from a fish. Not a pull, a tweak or a nibble. Then bang, a flash of white belly and a bruising tug of war begins. They seem to wait in some holding pen until they have reached 1 1/4 to 1 3/4 lbs before they grace the Yair beat. Some have been seen up to twice that size. At first I tried to run them like a trout . They usually chose not to run. Instead they waited, digging that dorsal sail into the current and let the water do the work. The first decent fish sat in the current shaking his head like a terrier, spat out the nymph, splashed the surface to wave farewell and was off. I smiled and saluted his effort. Aye that will be right !!!
As a duffer I have however been blessed those last two days. I have grassed and killed ( part of the requirements for access ) one first class grayling per visit . Caught on my own dressed flies and at a time when most are forced to turn to fishing magazines of all types as a temporary fix until the real thing returns I have been blessed indeed.
I still long for the spring and the imminent arrival of balmy May and June nights, a steady hatch and the plop of a juicy rise as the bats skim past . The trout will be back and God will be in his heaven.
Remind me then to remember my old winter friend and give thanks for the grayling. Two fish and it isn't even March yet --- I must get a grip and remember that I am a duffer and be grateful for a fish a visit and the generosity of my host at Yair.
© Bill Drew 1999
This article has also been published in the UK Flyfishing Magazine: FISH AND FLY: www.fishandfly.co.uk
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