The Dorset Frome at West Stafford near Dorchester holds some fabulous grayling that I have been fortunate to target on a couple of occasions over recent years. We stayed at

Evening Light as we arrive for our three day break

The Dairy Annexe is a perfect escape from the troubles of the modern world where we always receive a warm welcome from John and Andrea Aplin.

Whilst the short break was to celebrate Pauline’s birthday I had also booked a day’s fishing hoping to connect with one of the grayling for which the river is renowned. My last visit in October 2019 had produced a personal best grayling of 2lb 12oz.

As often seems to be the case our trip coincided with stormy conditions the river slightly up and coloured following the fallout from storm Dudley. Fortunately, when it came to my day on the river the colour was starting to drop out. It wasn’t going to be easy but if I fished hard I would be in with a chance.

It was a mild day with a strong blustery wind blowing downstream from the west and casting was not easy. I was using a 10ft nymphing rod with a large weighted nymph on the point and a small nymph on a dropper 12” above.

I decided to start my search on the Upper section of the beat after chatting with John who was keen to assist as always. I walked the bank carefully peering into the clearing water that was frequently ruffled by the strong wind. Whilst I hoped to spot fish it was obvious that searching the water methodically was my best chance. I dropped the heavy nymph into gravelly runs and deeper channels watching the bright line indicator intently. Where possible I fished from the bank wading only when beneficial.

After searching for close to an hour. I glimpsed the movement of a fish; just a momentary blur. I dropped my nymph above and as the flies drifted I saw a flank turn and lifted the rod to connect. The grayling came up in the water its dorsal fin standing proud in the current. The rod bent over as the fish used the strong current to its advantage surging downriver towards the sanctuary of a mass of tree branches. I held the grayling hard and persuaded it back into mid river. The silvery sides and crimson red dorsal fin a splendid sight. A tense couple of minutes passed before I eventually coaxed the prize into the net. A splendid grayling that was undoubtedly well over 2lb.

I took a couple of quick pictures to capture a memory. Slipping the lady of the stream back into the cool water. Delighting as the fish disappeared with a flick of its tail.

I searched on for a while before returning to the warmth of the Annexe for a hot coffee and a snack.

I returned to the river with Pauline searching the lower stretch of the beat carefully. The gusty wind made fishing tricky and my fishing rhythm seemed to have temporarily deserted me as my nymphs seemed to find overhanging branches and tangle frequently. It was also slightly annoying to feel the slow ingress of cold water into a leaky wader! I persisted and eventually started to fish with my previous confidence with only occasional minor tangles.

Tangled lines (:

Birdsong reverberated from the nearby trees. A couple of mink appeared beside the river appearing rather bold despite my presence. The search of the water was enthralling as I became lost in concentration and expectation as I surveyed the ever flowing water.

Searching the River

I lifted the rod to each flicker of the bright tippet indicator. A brief connection with a grayling brought renewed hope the electrifying jolt of life and the glimpse of a silver flank. I spotted a couple of grayling elusive shadows in the stream.

The fading light of the day.

The hours passed by all too soon and the light levels started to drop. I had numerous last casts before conceding my day was done. Walking slowly back through the trees I caught sight of a few Sika deer and enjoyed a brief encounter; stood just a few yards from a deer we stared into each other’s eyes in the fading light.

The following day Pauline and I called into Lyme Regis on our way home. It was surprisingly mild and sunny as tourists strolled around the sea front. Talk was all about the coming Storm named Eunice. Within the delightfully untidy shelves of the second-hand bookshop, I discovered a small booklet; The Fish of Exmoor, by H.B. Maund. More of that in a separate feature….