For the eager fisherman who cannot wait until the following season, grayling fishing might just be the answer. And so it was, on an unseasonably mild day in December, our 'grayling team' – comprising the Turner Twins, Patrick Tillard (photographs), Tom Gladdle, and three lovely Zambuni girls; Kelly Double, Laura Bott and Kate Fensterstock – set off in convoy from Avis in South Kensington in search of our fishing fix.
After less than two hours on the road we arrived at our destination, the Orvis Kimbridge beat on the River Test, where we were greeted by our hosts Richard Banbury and Rachael Hay who had organised the kit and, unbeknown to us, a glorious lunch.
We were all complete beginners in the grayling department – indeed, I had only ever seen photographs of these magnificent fish online – and so it was without hesitation that we jumped into our waders, eager to explore the beautiful river disappearing into the distance.
The Turner Twins wandered upstream to the faster-flowing water beneath a quaint bridge. They'd been gone just 10 minutes when we heard a shout from Hugo: “Fish on!”. It was a swimmingly successful start – a silvery rainbow trout retired towards him as he slid his net into the shallows.
It was my turn next. Soon after Hugo's fish had been safely returned, and as I was retrieving my line through my fingers, almost ready to cast again, I felt a slight resistance. Fish on! The gentle take had me wondering how big (or rather, how small) the fish was. After a short and steady fight, I saw the tell-tale gliding dorsal fin rising through the surface. This was no trout, but my first Lady of the Stream (a commonly used name for this freshwater species). I had lost my grayling virginity. I quietly crept into the water, scooped the fish into my hands and held her proudly, admiring the mixture of metallic greens, pinky-reds and yellows that coloured her flanks. She did not smell like a trout; she smelt pleasant, almost herby.*
The afternoon brought yet more fun, and I had an eventful time fishing the Ginger Beer Pool. The fish seemed to lie up against the rapids where there was a generous amount of oxygenated water. Using a weighted Czech-nymph on the point and a small, quill-bodied, tungsten-headed jig with a pinch of light pink dubbing behind the bead on the dropper, I was able to reach their usual haunts. Unfortunately, either the grayling were not at home or the hungry, predatory trout were swarming my flies and barging the ladies out of the way – the latter being most likely. As a result, despite targeting the big grayling, we could not help but accidentally catch the odd out-of-season trout – quickly released thanks to our barbless hooks.
*Later that evening a quick bit of research revealed that the grayling's Latin name (Thymallus thymallus) actually means ‘thyme smell'. Perhaps if I stuck to grayling fishing, my friends would embrace me and my new 'been fishing' scent with open arms when I returned to London?
I would like to thank Orvis, Patrick Tillard and Zambuni PR for organising the day – what a treat it was to spend my Saturday fishing with fellow enthusiastic and passionate fishermen. If you would like to book a day's trout/grayling fishing on the Kimbridge beat, please visit Orvis: http://bit.ly/1mfr9hy
For more of Marina's tales, visit: www.marinagibsonfishing.com