I was invited by the Chairman of the Soldier Palmers to have a day on the Avon and after my trip earlier in the year I jumped at the opportunity. Unfortunately, Richard was unable to come to the river until after lunch, so we arranged to meet up when he was able. I was armed with a map of the river from Richard and identified the area I had caught some outstanding Grayling on my previous trip and made my way there. I set up my 8’ 6” for a 3# coupled with a Balloon Cadis and a small Mary fished New Zealand style, off course all this with the thought of the sport I had earlier in the year. The weather was very pleasant and I was able to fish in just a shirt, there was, however, a stiff downstream breeze that may have caused some problems.
As it was the wind was the least of my problems, as I approached the river I could see it was much lower than my trip at the start of June. There was much more weed that sat on the water waiting to ensnare any fly fished beneath the surface. One particular run where I took a number of good fish was now completely unfishable. There was hope though in between the weeds I could make out some channels that I would be able to fish. I eased myself into the water and made a couple of speculative casts. The river was quite shielded from the wind so it seemed to be going OK, as I made my third cast it occurred to me that if I caught a fish how was I going to get it to the net through all this weed. The thought had to wait as the Cadis dipped I lifted the rod and I was into a good size Grayling. At the same time as I lifted the rod my spool fell from my reel into the water through the weed, I silently cursed my poor preparation and played the fish to the net. I do despair of myself at times talk about not yet competent! A quick photo and the fish safely released I went about recovering my spool, as I did so praying that I had attached the backing to the spool correctly. As luck would have it I managed to get that right, the spool retrieved I locked it into position and gave it a little shake to ensure it was engaged properly. After sorting myself out and giving myself a good talking to I moved up the river a little. There were Grayling in nearly every pocket that I could get my fly into some came to the net many more came off or disappeared into the weed. The Brown Trout was a little conspicuous by their absence, not that I was bothered I am happy catching any fish of any size. After the previous day at Grafham, this was like Christmas.
I moved up the river into a weed clear section which was good but the flipside was the water was only a foot deep at best. I had seen a number of small fish rising so it was off with the Duo rig and on with a size eighteen Parachute Adams. I got on my knees and shuffled up the edge of the river staying close to the nearside bank and made my first cast into the area of rises I had seen. Success was instant and a small Grayling had eaten my offering. After releasing the fish I recovered the fly and shuffled up another few feet and made another cast, another offer but a missed opportunity. I moved up this short section slowly and took a good number of fish they were all very small though. As I left the shallow water I met a group of swans working their way downstream, as they passed me I continued with the dry making a cast into a channel between two large patches of weed. Within seconds my fly was devoured by the first
Brown Trout of the day, it had taken the fly confidently and went straight to the weed bed. With more luck than skill, I managed to get it to the net, not the biggest trout but nice markings. I fished up a ways taking the odd fish here and there before deciding to get out and see a bit more of the river from the bank. I had not walked fifty meters when I passed a section that was too inviting to be ignored, it was a deep gravelly hole that was weed free and I could just about make out the bottom. I had removed the Adams and replaced it with my favored Duo rig, the flies had barely touched the water before being engulfed by a hungry trout. It was not to be however and fish and fly soon parted company. The next cast saw my flies drift right over the hole and the disappearance of the Cadis confirmed my suspicion of a good fish holding area. A cracking Grayling of around 40cm came safely to the net, I was well pleased. The hole produced another three fish of a good stamp. Time was marching on though so I decided to continue my walk-up stream. There was certainly plenty of water to catch the eye, I arrived at one of the tank crossing bridges and decided it was time to walk back and have a bite to eat, what a great mornings sport.
I drove from the village of Haxton to Figheldean where I was to meet Richard and his son Alexander. Richard began to set up his kit and I regaled the tale of the morning's sport, Alexander had yet to catch a fish from the Avon despite a number of attempts I was determined to change that today. I decided that we would share my rod and let Richard fish on his own while Alexander was to accompany me. There were some local families out by a large weir enjoying the late August sunshine paddling in the water, this would not bother us though as I intended to fish further upstream. The path
I remembered from June was much more overgrown and almost engulfed Alexander, but once we got to the river the going was a lot easier. I spotted a likely spot to start Richard off and walked a bit further up the river. I was looking for a bit of river that Alexander would be able to wade safely and have little admin with trees and other obstructions. I explained how we were going to fish and the theory behind the method. I went on to demonstrate explaining the importance of extending the fly with every cast, I was busy explaining when the cadis dipped away. I was too slow however and struck into nothing, at least there were fish here. My very next cast brought the same reaction from the fly and a quicker reaction from myself and a nice grayling slipped into the net. I handed the rod to Alexander and was very impressed with his casting, he listened to what I was telling him and was getting lots of action. Nothing was sticking however and I began to think he may be getting weed takes. I took the rod back and two casts later a healthy Brown Trout was well hooked. We moved up the river through huge shoals of Grayling having six casts each Alexander was very unlucky not to land a fish. Richard had joined us with a fantastic looking Grayling that he was going to eat and there was plenty of eating on it, a lovely fish of around 45cm. Richard moved ahead of us while Alexander and I persevered. It was not long after this that Alexander was playing his first fish on the Avon! I moved into position to net the Grayling and the smile on Alexander’s face said it all. It was near four o’clock and time for me to call it a day. We caught up with Richard and I expressed my thanks for the invitation and said my goodbyes. I suspect it won’t be long until I return!