The alarm sounded at 4.00am and I did not try to negotiate any extra minutes in bed. After a quick wash I put on my clothes which were laid out on the spare bed the previous night.
Downstairs, I put the kettle on and then read the note that I had left for myself. It said simply ‘sausages’ and this was my reminder to take the sausages from the fridge and put them in my creel alongside the baps.
It has become customary for us to take the cooking equipment to Nursling, on the Test, whenever we fish for grayling there and it was my turn to provide the sausages.
After loading the car I set off to Gary ‘s house in Hemel Hempsted, hoping that the M1 would be reasonably clear at 4.30 in the morning. It was, and I arrived ten minutes early at 5.20. Gary was ready (as usual) and we were on the road to Southampton by 5.30
We had arranged to meet our friend Bob, who was travelling from Bristol, at 6.45 in the services at Rownham. It is only a short drive from there on to Nursling.
Most of the journey down was filled with discussion about the prospects for the day and what the final weather forecast had been from the previous evening. We had been keeping an eye on Metcheck for over a week and each day the forecast had improved over the previous day. We became concerned when the rain and wind worsened the nearer we got to Southampton.
We met Bob as arranged and arrived at Nursling Mill at just before 7.00am in the pitch dark. I was walking up to have a look over the bridge when Wendy came cycling over the bridge to feed her horses. Unfortunately she didn’t have any lights on her bike and she very nearly mowed me down. Luckily she just missed me and we both were a bit shaken but unharmed.
We unloaded the cars and walked across the top of the weir to the salmon hut. Gary put the kettle on whilst Bob and I tried to ascertain river level and clarity. The level looked good but clarity could not be established until it became lighter. The tea was very welcome and as it became lighter, the wind dropped and the rain ceased. Things were looking quite good.
Unfortunately, by the time we had set up the rods, the weather took a distinct turn for the worse. Heavy rain and strong winds were back again and they persisted for much of the morning.
Bob and Gary decided to fish the pool below the weir and I chose to start in the ‘roach’ swim. Liquidised bread laced with crushed hemp was introduced into each swim along with a handful or two of corn. We reckoned that two hours would be sufficient before it was time for another cup of tea.
Geoff, Neil and Pete had fished the pool the previous week and suffered a seriously slow day. We were achieving around the same level of success with Gary catching one average grayling, me just one average brownie and Bob not having any bites at all in the usually productive ‘Dave’s’ swim.
Gary again put the kettle on so we took stock of the situation and pondered what changes were necessary to turn a bad day around. Bob decided to stay put for at least another hour, Gary went wandering upstream to, for us, uncharted territory. I decided to fish the ‘sheep swim’ again above the weir, where I had caught grayling to over two pounds previously.
I decided to start with bread, which, for me, has usually produced better grayling than sweetcorn on the Test. An hour later and I was still waiting for my first grayling. Bob was faring no better and was still awaiting his first bite of the day. We hadn’t heard from Gary so we assumed that he hadn’t managed to find the grayling upstream. The weather was still abysmal and we were all soaked as the heavy rain, driven by strong winds, seeped through our waterproofs.
I introduced some sweetcorn into my swim and sent the float down again on its journey towards the weir. About halfway down the float buried and I felt the familiar twists and turns of an obviously substantial grayling and all was good in the world again. Unfortunately, it wasn’t good for very long as the largest grayling I have ever hooked managed to shed the hook right at the net. It looked over three pounds and on a hard day the loss was quite depressing. I went and told Bob about it then went back to have another few trots before our scheduled soup break.
Luckily I didn’t have long to wait before the float once again disappeared beneath the hallowed water. This time I managed to net the grayling and was pleased that the scales registered two pounds and three ounces.
Not long after, Gary rang to say that he had caught six more grayling, including a new personal best of two pounds six ounces. It was suddenly turning into a very good day. Gary kept the grayling in the net so that digital images could be taken.
Spurred on by this event I went around to tell Bob – who advised me that he was still biteless – and then returned to the ‘sheep’ for a few trots before walking up to do the honours with the camera. I hand fed a dozen grains of corn and followed it down with the float. The hand crafted red topped Avon float had barely travelled five yards when once again it sunk beneath the surface of the cold water. I was apprehensive with regards to the outcome and lowered the tip of the rod in an effort to keep the grayling close to the river bed. After a long and tenacious fight I managed to ease the grayling into the net and on the bank. It looked very close to three pounds and I was delighted when the scales settled at two pounds fourteen ounces, a new personal best by a few ounces. Bob did the honours with the camera and I then walked up to tell Gary and take some pics for him.
We had a break then, with some much needed soup and tea in the salmon hut, along with some respite from the wind and rain.
I decided on a longer break than Gary and Bob so I suggested that Bob should move to the ‘sheep’ swim whilst I reflected on the capture of such a beautiful grayling. As it turned out, Bob decided to practice on half a dozen brownies before allowing his sweetcorn bait to be sucked in by a grayling. He alerted me to the fact that my services with the camera might be required soon and I crossed the river to net a very nice grayling for him. I knew straight away that this was a lot bigger than his personal best of one pound nine ounces and was delighted for him when the scales settled on two pounds six ounces.
Gary decided that we would celebrate with sausage baps and promptly delivered perfectly cooked Pork with Bramley, Pork with Honey and Mustard sausages, and mugs of piping hot tea. They were delicious and a new facial expression was adopted by all three anglers. We called it ‘the grayling grin’