Saturday was the first River Annan Trust Grayling open day. I like these events, you turn up and can ask for or are allocated a beat often one you wouldn’t normally try or maybe have access to. There wasn’t a big crowd but that makes for room for all across the allocated fishing space. Anglers are asked to provide catch returns of grayling caught, their approximate sizes and any over 40cm to take a scale sample for analysis and recording.
I think on any river its easy to take the safe option and fish where you know but I enjoy exploring new locations and asked therefor not to be allocated Applegarth ( I know it pretty well ) and wasn’t fussed for doing Hoddom either ( both are good beats but have been before ) Hoddom already had about 5 angler allocated so myself and fishing partner for the day, John, were offered Cleuchhead, near Brydekirk. I didn’t know it at all but John though not familiar with the name ( that transpired to be senility setting in) recognised the directions from when he was a boy and was made to run errands there and back from Glasgow, in his bare feet, for thruppence ha’penny, and only gruel for breakfast….. or maybe he fished there once last season.
With a couple of hot chocolates an a hot roll in me, and John having had a plateful of Statin repellent we were off in sub zero temperatures but a fine sunrise to find our fishing. Nick from RAFTS and John from his last trip both had identified stretches where we should target, I am always a bit slow getting all set up, waders on etc, I like to make sure I am fully prepared and haven’t forgotten anything, but John was ready to fish well before me so wandered into the water near the car. Pretty much first cast he had a small Grayling – a good omen? No blanks for him then!
We made our way along the bankside path in bright sunshine, it was a fine cold winters day. The river was still pretty high looking, not being familiar with this stretch it wasn’t so obvious to me anyway, but the water was clear enough. At the chosen spot we both entered the water about 30 yards apart. It was Ok where I was but John nearly ended up over his waders right off the bank! He is pretty used to taking a swim in Scottish rivers, is John, in fact the firms that make recharge kits for flotation aids might be bust weren’t it for him keeping them in business, his jacket has activated so often! The water was clearly higher than usual! I started fishing and waded out, trying a couple of steps and a few casts to cover water. I had made it about 16 feet out from the bank and noticed the water was pushing along much harder than it looked on the surface. In fact turning to get back into the bank was a somewhat perilous affair…. and despite my preparations I had still managed to leave my wading stick at the car. It was no good I wouldn’t enjoy the day without it. So I decided to head back, leaving John to fish. When I was at the car and had recovered my wading stick I decided to have a few casts in front of the car where John had been earlier. It was deep here and silty but if you negotiated this you were soon over a shingly bottom and a few casts I had two small Grayling myself, one on a small flashback nymph the other on a red tag jig. ( Tied with the proper number 4 Glo Brite).
I was off the mark though and headed back to the area where I left John, though was keeping an eye out for him coming floating past in his flotation vest as I walked back. Surprisingly he was still boot side down and I think he had lost a couple of fish and caught a couple more smaller fish. He too had detected that the water was pushing pretty hard if you stepped any distance away from the bank. We fished on and having reacted to the shouting of John as he caught his first “decent” fish of the day, nothing giant but not one of the small “this years fish” of earlier, I felt it necessary to reciprocate for his attention when I too finally hooked into a decent fish. This was a mistake, or maybe it was a carefully crafted ruse to ensure my attention was distracted long enough to ensure I lost as many fish as possible while he bagged up!
After shouting three times I had made the foolish mistake of allowing the fish to get directly downstream of me, you really don’t want to have Grayling on in a straight line with an upright rod, it was enough for the fish to get on the surface and thrash a bit, and alas get free. Bugger!
John had moved further up stream and I carried on to the foot of the section I was at before moving up too. I caught my third, another small, though very long for its body depth, grayling. I had had a change of flies too as nothing seemed to be setting the heather on fire, and this had caught me the third fish on the middle dropper a red butt size 16 nymph. John was using a bug very much like the red tag jig but he had tied the tail with some pink floss stuff that looked redder to me. Whatever, it wasn’t number 4 Glo-brite so was summarily dismissed!
To add insult to injury though he came to see how I was doing and invited himself into my “swim” a few yards down from me and proceeded to catch “my” fish. I then, in a moment of “bluster” managed to hook and lose another fish!
We stopped for lunch and headed back to the car while discussing etiquette and sportsmanship.
We had a few casts down here after some hot tea and soup, but the river was pretty deep and access to fish properly was difficult so for the latter part of the afternoon we headed back further upstream. I think its fair to say there were no true hotspots, but the fish in general were all taken fairly close in near the back, arguably you could fish from the bank itself, though took the risk of getting flies stuck in trees and through the course of the afternoon. John was steadily taking the odd fish all the way down the bank, I had a few and they were getting bigger as the day wore on. But I was spectacularly out fished and the scores on the doors at the end of the day were 6 caught and 6 lost for me, and John caught 18 and lost maybe 4 or 5. I had 2 of mine on the small red butt nymphs and three on the red tag jig, John had most on his variant of it tied with the wrong stuff….. it wasn’t number 4.
When we met up at the hotel in Lockerbie it seemed the catches had all been of modest sized fish, no big ones over 40cm had been caught, and indeed there were blanks in there too. Our beat seemed to have fished best and John was top rod by a country mile, so well done there.