Sunday, 10 November 2013

Collecting New Grayling Rivers - The River Wylye

The majority of the southern English chalkstreams are almost impossible to get to fish unless you are either well connected, very rich, or both! My friend Chris has access to some pretty exclusive chalkstream fishing, so I don't know whether he is well connected or very rich? Regardless, luckily for me he had arranged a couple of guest tickets. He is well aware and very supportive of my desire to add to my Grayling River Collection and offered to take me to a river that would be a new addition to my growing list - the River Wylye in Wiltshire. Obviously I accepted and we agreed to meet outside my hotel in Stockbridge..

...The day dawned very wet and quite cold so we dashed over the road to catch up over coffee in a very expensive bistro/coffee shop, waiting for an improvement in the weather. It was the first time we'd seen each other face to face in a year. Somewhere down the second cup it did indeed brighten up so with wallets severely lightened we set off westwards in search of another new grayling river for yours truly.

Chris fishing on the River Wylye
Chris fishing on the River Wylye
I knew nothing of the Wylye; I didn't know how big it was, where it was, what to expect, or anything. But for some reason it was a river that I have long wanted to fish. I've probably read favourable stories about it many times and the name is fondly etched somewhere at the back of my memory. The rain had followed us westwards and it was again miserable while we tackle up and made our way to the river. I was surprised how small the river was. I didn't expect anything big but I was expecting something slightly bigger than what I saw. Chris had advised on an 8' rod which was spot on. As we walked to the bottom limit to fish upstream we noticed the river was carrying some colour. With having little chalkstream experience this surprised me a little, but Chris explained that even chalk rivers are subject to some runoff. Obvious when you think about it!

We met the riverkeeper on our way downstream. He was doing some bankside reinforcement work but broke off to chat with us. We had a very interesting chat with him about the river, his work, his views on stocking, nymph v's dry debate, etc., and he gave us some very good advice on where we should look for our quarry. The first bit of such advice gave me my new grayling river. Just above where he was working was a deep bend with good flow. He said I should fish it and I'd probably get a few with the chance of a 2lb fish. It was a difficult pool to get the presentation right. The accelerating water at the pool tail caused drag at the business end and it took me a while to get some casts that I was happy with. Eventually the line stabbed forward and I hooked a sizeable grayling on my Rusty Brown Jig Nymph. It fought well in the fast water at the tail that had caused presentation problems, but I eventually netted it and it weighed 1lb 10oz. Grayling always look much heavier than they actually are and so at 1lb 10oz this was a bit of a lump and I was well chuffed. The pool didn't give up anything else despite fishing it quite hard so I thanked the riverkeeper for his fruitful advice and moved off upstream.

Autumn sunshine River Wylye
Autumn sunshine
River Wylye
The weather improved throughout the afternoon with sunny spells turning into continuous sunshine. The low sun illuminated the remaining leaves on the bankside trees, revealing a multitude of fantastic autumnal colours. Chris had also had some success downstream of me and we continued to catch fish quite regularly, fishing within talking distance of each other as we moved upstream. The sun brought about a small hatch of upwings causing a few rises, but thinking these were most likely out of season trout we left them alone and stuck with the nymph. There were grayling in any bits of water that had good flow and depth, the deeper the pool the bigger the grayling it seemed. We mostly had to fish blind because of the coloured water and we felt we'd have caught far more with clear water, which would have enabled us to cast to individual fish and pods of fish. The River Wylye was a delightful river, even in not such good conditions. It was 'my kind of river', my favourite chalkstream to date and one I hope to see in better conditions next time!

Eventually we reached to top of the beat and turned back downstream for the cars and a return to Stockbridge for a pint and dinner. I was more than content that I'd now added two new grayling rivers to my collection in two days fishing. But it wasn't to be three out of three, tomorrow we'd be fishing the River Itchen and, given time, the River Test, both rivers already in my collection.