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The Grayling (Salmo thymallus)

The Autumn Grayling.
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There is in woods a solemn sound
Of hollow warnings whispered round.
Shuddering Autumn stops to list,
And breathes his fear a sudden sighs.
With clouded lace, and hazel eyes
That quench themselves and hide in mist.
Yes, Summer's gone like pageant bright,
Its glorious days of golden light
Are gone - the mimic suns that quiver,
Then melt in Time's dark flowing river (Hood)

One of the nicest traits we know about grayling is that they require purer water than trout. Where drainage and dye works are reduced to a minimum, as in the hill streams of Derbyshire or Yorkshire, or the old world alluvial pasturages of Hants, one finds the grayling in full vigour.

In the Hampshire waters especially they lie in open pools, where they can be detected like pale mauve green shadows against the mauve, grey chalk deposit. Often they consort together in some dozens, so that were they elephants they could be grouped into herds rather than shoals.

When water has run low owing to a mill stream diversion or the opening of flooding hatches on a Sunday in September, really magnificent grayling are occasionally seen - a Cabinet Council as it were, all of two and three pounders; eight or ten lying sulkily within a few yards of each other in a pool the size of a board-room. Needless to say, they will no more rise on such an occasion than a politician challenged by the opposite party. The water is not to their liking in current or volume; and they either avoid weed cover, or are in reality sifting some form of food off the chalky mud. If watched through opera glasses they appear to have a constant swaying motion, or parallax, within a foot circle while keeping station like a fleet of battleships at anchor.

Walk up to another part of the same river and there, in a sparkling run or a swiftly- moving shallow, small fish - maiden grayling - of from seven to ten ounces will be found rising freely; so much so that, as a species of pretty practice, one can keep on throwing for them with the left hard for an hour at a time, rising dozens and perhaps only hooking three or four.

There is this difference between trout and grayling in the matter of surface food - that a trout far more means business as a rule. Iiis rise is either hunger or savageness. lie is the dog with the bone. The grayling is the kitten with the cork.

Then again, the trout appreciates the old fashioned solid imitations of the natural fly. They are to him as the pabulum of beer and whisky to the average man. The grayling is the girl at the restaurant. She is to be tempted with sauterne or constantia pink noyeau or green chartreuse. The trout is the man attracted by tweed in the roll: the grayling the debutante whose head is turned - very literally - by the tinsel and feathers of the hat shop.

Trout will rise or sulk; and if really well put down, as by the constant thrashing of the water above them by a persistent duffer, are no more likely to come to his fly than they are to creep into his creel. Grayling on the other hand are capricious, and it is always worth remembering that if once a fish has risen to you you may find it successful to make another fifty casts, or to change your fly five times.

A grayling which has once done you the favour of rising to your fly is more likely to do so again than other untried ones you may see lying in the deeps or shallows.

Usually their annoying plan is to pay no attention to really well presented flies; small duns or olives coming down the water like gossamer, indeed almost preening their dry wings as they are wafted along. These, the grayling will let go by, and will continue to shoot up to the surface and pretend to take something else that is not there, and that she knows is not there. After you have exhausted your niceties and compliments, have risen from your knees, and have executed a clumsy cast that made a can whip ripple through your own shadow, she will come and take that fly on the drag as though it had been previously invisible, will hook herself without a strike on a semi- slack line, will come through or over the weeds like a girl after an actor, and literally throw herself at your feet.

Of grayling taken out of season I have nothing to say. It is done persistently, and those to whom it appeals as sport must continue to practise it. The reputation of the grayling has suffered immensely by its being hooked played and landed during the may-fly season. That is when so many of the two and three pounders are ' captured.' A dusk June evening - a large spent gnat - and tackle strong enough to cut weeds with.

We will not insult the sex by repeating judgments given in May and June, any more than one would gauge a season's beauties by their appearance when approaching their bathing machines after a long swim attired in hired dresses. A person publishing a snap shot made, on such an occasion deserves to have his pleasures curtailed. It brings its own punishment in loss of appreciation for what is sporting and beautiful.

Let grayling fishing be reckoned with partridge shooting and its real pleasures, actual and sentimental, are doubled immediately.

For my own part, September has been the only month - indeed in Hampshire only the first fortnight of September - when trout and grayling are in together. Even on August evenings, when sedge-fly fishing becomes so attractive, it is far better to keep to trout: to make no cast at any rise which you know to be a grayling's. By thus giving her the very fairest play she will give you the very fairest sport. She will jump out of water for you when struck, in a manner utterly beyond her power in April or May, when taken by accident on trout tackle. Grayling fishing par excellence dates from the time when trout is finally barred - after 30th September.

Anglers who honestly cannot afford, cannot get access to, or cannot get away early enough in the year to take up or keep up trout fishing, may look forward keenly to their opening day in October, when they first visit a river on which they have acquired the right to fish. As schoolmasters know, the weather in October is sometimes perfect; and during every day there is a full hour as a rule during which grayling are taking surface food in a thoroughly meaning manner. Therefore it is necessary to keep on the water from ic a.m. to 6 p.m., if one wants to miss nothing. I have generally had my best baskets after an early tea: that is to say I have found the deadest part of the day to be between half past two and four, so have acted in accordance.

Excepting with the dry fly, my practical experience is nil. The wet fly lure may be far more successful.

On this of course one can only come to the material comparison of results, and think how a dry fly catch on a bright October day has shown up, or paled, beside that of another angler who has taken them down stream. I have had a blank on the Dove and Manifold in a heavy water, when others have taken perhaps two brace; but on the other hand have been fortunate in Dovedale in attracting a few specimen fish when the wet fly had only been swallowed by quarter pounders. In Hants I have never seen downstream fishing practised.

On a good day the dry fly method is valuable enough to take more grayling than any fair sized creel will hold.

It will sometimes enable you to drop a twenty ouncer into a tussock of grass or dock leaves every half hour, or quarter of a mile, during one's way up stream; to be picked up in the dusk on the way home, or even the next morning. An entry on the back of a last year's trout license gives Trafalgar Dav». nine grayling: fifteen and a half pounds. That coo had never counted a full dozen of small fish, either put back or given to similar sized urchins on the banks - whales to be placed head foremost into their pickle bottles, which they or their parents had for supper. Nor did

That was a typical grayling day - almost too good - when every condition was favourable; when knowledge of the water at that particular season aided one immensely, and when a series of lucky incidents was experienced from start to finish.

For actual fishing for grayling I will try and treat in the next chapter.

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