Borders Grayling - James Champkin

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Borders Grayling - James Champkin

My fishing over the last couple of winters has revolved largely around the pursuit of a giant grayling. Being based in St Andrews on the eastern coast of Scotland, I was closer to specimen grayling that I had ever been before, and while still at university in Fife I was determined to catch one; one of over 3lbs, ideally.

Last winter I managed some decent fish, including a couple of over 2lbs, but my desire to catch a huge grayling still remained unsatisfied. Most of the rivers of the Scottish Borders boast healthy runs of Atlantic salmon, and therefore fishing with bait is largely prohibited until December 1st, occasionally earlier on some beats. Being a fairly incompetent fly angler, it was therefore not until the end of the 2014 salmon season that my pursuit for a massive ‘Lady of the Stream’ resumed.


After several relatively fruitless trips to a river in the western Scottish Borders and only a few small grayling to show for my efforts, I decided on a change of venue for a further trip in early February this year. I hadn’t even looked at this particular river for over twelve months, and every time I had visited before it had been high and coloured and looked very unappealing indeed. However, now it was running low and clear and looked simply perfect. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the only grayling angler who thought so, and there were a few other people kicking around on the stretch. Still, there was plenty of water to go at and conditions looked spot on.

The sight of some red maggots obviously dropped by an angler the previous day and now frozen solid by the morning frost did little to fill me with confidence. I fished a couple of very nice looking steady, deep glides for the first couple of hours but without so much as a bite. On other rivers it was hard to avoid the large wild brown trout that inhabit the upper reaches, but this river was different: here it was a challenge to get a bite from anything. However, undeterred I approached a new glide that ran along some nearside snags, dropping away to several feet of steady flow. It simply looked perfect, and after some difficult wading my small loafer float was trotting steadily down the run.


Feeding pinches of maggots and corn and fishing a single maggot on the hook, on my first trot through I received a positive bite as the float neared the trailing branches, and a strike was met with solid resistance. It took me several minutes (at least it felt like minutes) to bring that fish upstream, and every time it neared the net it would power off again on another run downriver, several times nearing the danger of the sunken tree. Fortunately, I eventually managed to get it upstream of my standing position and slip the net under it, and straight away I could see it was a personal best. At 2lb 15oz, it wasn’t quite my hoped-for ‘3’, but it was painfully close. I added fish of 2lb 11oz, 2lb 7oz, and 1lb 10oz on the next few trots through. It was certainly a session to remember.


The Tackle Box Drennan 3lb Supplex Mainline Drennan Loafer Float Drennan Specimen Hooks - Size 18 Drennan Polemaster Olivettes Chest Waders

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