Lady Of The Stream - Oliver Harper

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Lady Of The Stream - Oliver Harper

For many years now, a really big grayling had been high on my list of target fish. Despite the desire to catch large grayling, opportunities in Norfolk are at best, impossible! The River Wensum, being the perfect chalk-stream, once held graying, especially at Costessey and Attlebridge, but today’s grayling population, now much like it’s barbel population, are very thin on the ground, and I wonder if any grayling now exist in the Wensum at all...

Such is the curse of the specimen angler that travelling for better fishing, and locations that hold your desired species, is now a very common occurrence. So after a few likely rivers and locations had been highlighted, Josh Fisher and I soon moved on to sorting out the required gear. Lightweight float rods, loaded with 2 lb mainline, and combined with Andrew’s Wire Stem Stick Floats, would be perfect for gradually working the bait down-river and occasionally holding back in the flow.

With autumn quickly upon us, float-fishing would also allow us to avoid the fallen leaves and small pieces of dying weed that always floats down-river at this time of year, and hinders bites. It’s also the perfect way to present a single red maggot on a size 16 worked slowly through a swim before moving on. Fishing slightly over depth and keeping the bulk shot around two feet away from the size 16, created the most natural presentation and worked instantly. This lightweight approach helped us stay super mobile and held our interest throughout the day. I get totally immersed in this type of fishing, as I stare in anticipation, willing the moving, red-tipped stick float to slide under.


Our first trip of 2015 was a huge success, spending the whole day wandering the banks, fishing any likely-looking glides right up until last-knockings. We only expected two or three bites each but by mid-morning we had actually lost count! Numerous grayling came to net, with an average weight of over 1.5 lbs, and I was thoroughly enjoying this new-found fishing. Waders donned with protruding maggot pouches, Josh and I worked each swim until the bites slowed, occasionally pausing the float downstream and allowing it to continue at a snail’s pace would often extract a few more fish before it was time to move on.

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We both hoped it would only be a matter of time before that elusive 2-pounder or even a mythical ‘three’ would show, but as the day wore on, we couldn’t find the better fish. However we had managed to up our best grayling of the day to 1 lb 13 ozs - still a most impressive fish - but hopes began to fade, along with the light. But we couldn’t help ourselves and decided to move down river just one more time before packing away and starting the long drive home.

Rambling through the trees and brambles once more, we approached a lovely looking run. With bushes on either side, it caused the flow to slow, and snake past a deeper hole, which was also over-looked by over-hanging branches. Both baits were trotted simultaneously and bites quickly followed! Unfortunately Josh’s fish managed to shed the hook, but mine was giving a very aggressive account of itself... For the first time that day I was aware that my clutch was a little too tight and I swiftly adjusted it before the fish could clear the water and make for the marginal branches.

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The fight was on and the chance we’d both been waiting for had finally materialised after all. I quickly went into the ‘please don’t-drop-off' mode, crouching lower and allowing the fish to take line but at the same time, trying to keep things under control. Keeping the rod tip high, away from the over-hanging branches and with Josh poised with the net, I managed to gently bully the fish, as it drifted calmly toward the waiting net.

Peering down, Josh confirmed it was a good 2-pounder, so we let her rest while we readied the cameras and zeroed the lightweight sling. On the scales she went 2 lbs 4 ozs and my new grayling PB was secure. In the water she looked enormous and once the oxygen was back in her gills, that magnificent sail fin bristled upright into life as she pushed and swirled away to the depths.

What a way to sign-off a great day's fishing, however, looking back, even if that 2-pounder hadn’t come our way, I had thoroughly enjoyed this hands-on style of fishing, with the added bonus of using one of the purist forms of the angling arts - the trotted float.

Oliver Harper

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