GET HOOKED: The much-maligned grayling is our Cinderella fish
AS I write, it is Sunday afternoon, and the wind is getting up. A big storm is predicted tonight and, by the time this goes to press, we will all know whether the hysteria in the media was justified or not. But I am not thinking of storms, of Michael Fish, or of frenzied comparisons to 1987.
No, I am picturing cold, still winter mornings when every breath produces a cloud of freezing air and the trample underfoot elicits a discernible crunch. I’m picturing grayling mornings.
At the risk of wholly unscientific anthropomorphism, grayling are the Cinderella species among the game fishes. Less popular than the varieties of trout, disregarded by many, denigrated by others but, to those who look closely, possessed of uncommon beauty.
Poor thymallus thymallus has an image problem. She thrives in waters reserved for the fanciest kinds of trout fishing and is all too often caught accidentally by men seeking stocked (and expensive) spotties. During the trout season she is often in poor shape and fights with little vigour. But in winter – oh, she is very different.
Most fishermen will tell you two things about grayling. Firstly, she is blessed with a huge, arcing dorsal fin. Secondly she is rumoured to smell of thyme.
The first of these is unquestionably true and, though I have rarely had more than a cursory sniff, the second one is not without foundation, either. There is something earthy and herby about grayling.
There is something outrageously colourful, too – blues and silvers, jet blacks and iridescent purples. If the much-maligned grayling is our Cinderella fish, she is attending The Ball in a distinctly psychedelic little number.
Proper grayling addicts will tell you that the best of the fishing is found in Yorkshire, Dorset and Wales.
I’m sure they are right, but here in the Cotswolds there is good sport to be had, too. The Coln, in particular, can be a tremendous river to fish in the colder months. The Avon around and above Malmesbury is well worth a cast as well.
Much of it is fly only, which is fine, but where it is permitted, long-trotting maggots can be very effective too.
Have a chat with the staff at D and J Sports, or behind the bar at the Bull Hotel in Fairford, and you won’t go far wrong.
I’ll see you at The Ball.
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