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Grayling: bringing people together

Grayling brings people closer together through the Grayling Society.
Grayling brings people closer together through the Grayling Society.

Let me start with the fishing. Early in the month the rivers were low; a continuation of the dry September. Then came the rain and water and a lift in rivers levels. Salmon ran. On the Ribble system reports were not too bad; my son Pete had fish and lost fish, and reported that on the Hodder he had beats to himself which, a few years ago, would have been busy with salmon rods. “Fish were running through, and I was the only one there!” he said. “In the 1980s and early 1990s, each Hodder beat would have had its six rods from dawn to dusk.”

Lune and Cumberland Derwent have had a poor run, and on the latter we think that the tremendous flood of 2009 was chiefly responsible for the 2014 flop. That flood resulted in the loss of redds and of parr being washed on land far from where the river normally flows. One salmon was even found dead in a pub car park! But again it is noticeable how few rods are out trying to catch fish.

Salmon are not caught by anglers staying at home and moaning! I will say more of this, and of the need to get more younger people, who can fish the very long hours I did 20, 30 and more years ago, doing so in my next blog.

In contrast the grayling fishing has been pretty good. We have had, on the Ribble and Hodder, some nice afternoon hatches of pale wateries and falls of tiny black gnats. These have brought he fish up, and not only grayling but also out-of-season brown and sea trout, which have keenly risen to the dry fly. All too often we don’t appreciate the back-end pleasure of fishing for old Thymallus!

However, the highlight of October 2014 for me was the Grayling Society weekend and conference, held near Derby. I have not been to a Society grayling weekend for a few years and I didn’t realise how much I missed it. The whole event was a pick-me-up, where a lot of mad fly-fishers yattered with great enthusiasm about fishing for the Lady of the Stream (and for trout and salmon as well).  On the Friday evening we had a sociable dinner with Paul Morgan and wife, and talked about fishing to beyond midnight (lubricated by more than one bottle of wine with the food and an excellent bar).  On the Saturday we had some great talks: I particularly enjoyed Tim Jacklin describing what the fishing was like on the Derwent in the 19th century, from some quite remarkable diaries. And Steve Cooper’s hilarious description of the behaviour of some of his customers (Steve is the proprietor of Cookshill, the real fur-and-feather company) was very special.  I enjoyed talking about grayling fishing around Europe, but whether the audience enjoyed it you must ask them!

Saturday evening is the Society Annual Dinner. No great formality. We just wash and put on clean undies! Great food, more great nattering. After the dinner we all put our watches back (at 1am that night the clocks of Europe went back one hour). Then Pat from Fly-Tek conducted our auction. I bought a book on the Soca River, and a sea-fishing reel for a grandson, and a bag of bits and pieces. That was thirsty work so back to the bar. I was talking with Ross Gardiner (of the Freshwater Fisheries Lab at Pitlochry) when, with glass refilled, I glanced at my water: 1am. On previous evenings that would have been 2am! Past my bedtime!

Sunday is a day’s fishing and Yvonne and I were hosted by the great fishing club at Cromford on the Derbyshire Derwent.  As we had to get back early I had only an hour or so with my dry fly, but two lovely grayling obligingly took my dry Sturdy’s Fancy and, as we departed, we heard that the other guests were catching lots of fish in this great stream.

Next year the Grayling Society’s Annual Shindig is at Lockerbie, with Sunday fishing on the Annan. See you there? You’ll enjoy it!

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