I was very fortunate to be given the opportunity to fish with John Ball for Grayling on the Avon. John had kindly arranged a guest ticket for the Salisbury and District Angling Club. This is a well-established club being founded in 1941. Their website describes the beat
“River Avon, West Amesbury.
Just over one mile of single ‘true right bank’ fishing and three-quarter of a mile of ‘true left bank’ fishing situated 7 miles north of Salisbury in the Avon Valley. Stocked throughout the season and offering the added attraction of fly fishing for Grayling during late Autumn and Winter.”
John and I arrived at a children’s play park a short walk from the river, there were some stretches that permitted wading and somewhere fishing from the bank was the only option. As we arrived at the bank side I could immediately see a number of Grayling lying over prominent gravel banks. Keen to get going I opted to plant my feet and try and catch them, John moved down the bank out of my sight. I had set up my newish Orvis Helios 9’ for #3 this would be the first real outing for the rod. I had set the rod up with a duo rig with a balloon caddis as my dry fly, and about 3’ down a small Mary nymph tied on a Tiemco SPBL size 16. I had several casts at fish that I could see to no avail. I tried a change of pattern to a pink shrimp for nothing. I came to the conclusion that they were just not interested in my offerings. I moved up the bank and passed several fish in their lies sometimes giving them a look at my flies and sometimes retrieving my flies from the trees behind. I eventually spotted a couple of fish close to the bank and decided to have a concentrated effort at them. My first pass with the pink shrimp and a fish moved to look and just as quick rejected the offering. I switched back to the Mary nymph and my second cast saw the caddis disappear below the surface. As I struck a small Grayling shot from the water into the air attached to my line, how it did not end up in the trees and bushes behind I have no idea. I safely returned the very small fish and carried on up the bank. A few moments later another was landed a little bigger but not much. A half hour or so had passed and I decided to catch up with John, I thought I had done OK with a couple to the net. John had netted twelve, oh well not quite got this yet we ambled up the bank chatting about the benefits of membership of the club until we reached the part where wading is permitted. There is something very satisfying about
being in the river rather than on the bank and as I moved into what was pristine Grayling water I already felt more confident. John being an excellent host allowed me first up the river and it was not long before every other cast was producing good grayling between 25-30cm. The odd brown trout did succumb to the flies but they were few and far between. We fished up to a mill where we had reached the end of the first beat enjoying outstanding sport all the way up.