“Fancy a day  trotting for grayling on the Frome in Dorset ?” Asked my good friend Bruce.

Sounds good I replied and booked up the adjacent beat on the estate hidden away between Dorchester and Wareham. Weather looked good, dry and cold.

            A week later on the eve of our trip; severe weather warnings in place. Sleet ,heavy snow and strong North East winds. We were to be right on the border of the severe weather with potential heavy rain instead of snow!

            The call of the river  is strong and at 6.30am I was on my way to meet Bruce at Honiton; a convenient half way meeting point on the journey. As I drove over Exmoor trees coated in heavy snow and roads slippery with slush and heavy snow falling I questioned our sanity.

            After a short delay in Honiton as we arrived at different car parks we eventually converged and I loaded my grayling gear into Bruce’s capacious van.

            The higher ground was snow covered  but as we got closer to the river the snow turned to rain.

            Arriving at the river bank we were relieved that the rain had eased and the temperature had climbed to a balmy 3 degrees!

            There was a bit of colour in the water but it looked Ok and running a little fast. The prospect of a good grayling had us both buzzing with excitement as we threaded line through the rings setting up with crimson topped floats, size 14 hooks and 3lb hook lengths.

            Bruce walked the Upper beat with me showing me some promising swims where he had enjoyed success on previous visits.


Wrapped up warm I set off for the river. No such thing as bad weather I was dressed for the occasion.


      I set the depth to allow the maggot or corn hook baits to trip over the gravel bottom. The fishery has produced grayling to over 3lb with 2lb fish highly likely.

After half an hour of trotting I hooked a powerful fish that fought hard in the strong current. I was disappointed when the flanks of a two pound plus out of season brown trout appeared. I netted the fish and slipped it back. This was followed ten minutes or so later by an almost identical trout. It might even have been the same fish.

            I fished various swims as I fished slowly down river trotting baits through likely looking runs. It was good to be beside the river despite the damp gloomy conditions. I noticed the wrens flitting to and fro amongst the bank side reeds. Flocks of long tailed tits flew about in the adjacent trees.

            The float dipped from time to time as the baits caught on the bottom but grayling were proving elusive. In a promising run the float dipped and I was delighted to feel a satisfying resistance and glimpse the dorsal fin of a good sized grayling. At 1lb 14oz it was a pleasing result.

            By now it was gone 1.00pm and I was almost back at the van. I dropped Bruce a message and we met up for lunch in the back of the van. Comparing notes, it was obvious  that the grayling were not in a cooperative mood. Bruce had tempted two grayling one of over 1lb the other a little smaller. He had also caught a brace of trout.

            After the short break we set back out onto the river. I returned to the swim I had caught the grayling in before dinner. After a couple of trots the float dipped and a second grayling of around 1lb 8oz was brought to the net.

            I spent the next couple of hours searching the beat with a couple of brief hook ups and another out of season brown trout. As the light faded my expectations waned and I headed down to see how Bruce was getting on.

            Bruce was trotting his float expertly through a fast run and had just lost a good fish. The light was fading fast, as I watched the float shot under and Bruce was into a good grayling of around 1lb 12oz. I had packed away my rod and enjoyed watching Bruce fish until the float was barely visible.

A pleasing grayling for Bruce of around 1lb 12oz in the fading light of the day

            It had been a good day’s fishing. Hard going in cold gloomy conditions with the grayling hard to tempt. The strong east wind forecast had not arrived and the heavy rain held off. We will be back next winter for sure.

            We drove home through heavy rain  with sleet on the high ground. I arrived at Tiverton to find the link road closed resulting in an unwelcome diversion over the snowy moors. I arrived home at close to 10.00pm a long but enjoyable day at the water’s edge.


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  http://www.chalkstreamflyfishing.co.uk/chalkstream-fly-fishing/the-home-beat/

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 https://www.northdevonanglingnews.co.uk/2020/10/31/an-autumn-grayling/ 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. https://www.barbless-flies.co.uk

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….





In these troubled times time with the rod is so precious bringing a sense of stability to life that is in the shadow of ongoing uncertainty. To the East of Dorchester there are a number of small quintessential English villages nestled in the Upper Frome valley that exude that reassuring essence of continuity we perhaps need during these unprecedented times.

The River Frome is a chalk stream that rises in the Dorset downs passing through Dorchester and numerous villages before converging with the tide at Wareham before entering Poole Harbour.

For an angler the Frome has a rich and varied variety of fish to pursue with the upper reaches dominated by game fish and the lower reaches more suited to coarse fish that grow to specimen sizes. Salmon and sea trout also migrate throughout the river their dwindling numbers of concern as they are throughout the land.

The autumn and winter months are grayling season on the Upper River with the spring and summer trout season. John Aplin is custodian of several stretches of the Frome and carefully nurtures the river to provide a thriving habitat where wild trout and grayling reside within the crystal clear flowing water between swaying fronds of ranunculas.

Pauline and I were staying at the Dairy House West Stafford a well-furnished and comfortable Self catering http://www.chalkstreamflyfishing.co.uk/accommodation/

The accommodation is situated just a short walk away from an exclusive beat of the River Frome that has a reputation for producing huge grayling. It was these grayling that I was hoping to connect with and a day fishing had been booked to coincide with our stay.

The Autumn weather preceding our trip had been unsettled with weather fronts rushing across South West England from the Atlantic. I hoped that the rain had not rendered the river out of sorts as had happened on my previous two visits to the river in search of grayling.

We arrived mid-week and walked the river in late afternoon as the light began to ebb from the day. The river had a tinge of colour but was at a good height and certainly fishable. A herd of Sika deer were grazing in the meadow a large stag in attendance with his harem of fertile females. In the river a pair of swans searched for food gliding gracefully upon the water. Rooks swirled above the trees and leaves fluttered to the ground as the mild westerly gale swept the valley.

Rain pattered upon the windows overnight driven by the westerly wind. I slept fitfully through the night my mind full of weighted nymphs, running water and grayling.

After breakfast I assembled the tackle and chatted with John who told me that the river had dropped slightly and should be in good order despite the overnight rain.

I headed eagerly for the bottom of the beat the path winding its way through dense woodland. The river was slightly clearer than the previous day and at a good height. I was using a 10ft 3 weight nymphing rod, and  two weighted nymphs on a 4lb fluorocarbon leader.

Whilst with polaroid’s I could glimpse into the river spotting fish would not be easy. My tactics were to wade carefully upstream searching likely lies trundling the nymphs over the gravelly runs and probing the deeper darker lies. Reading the water is a skill that is learned over many trips to the river though it is fair to say that  all rivers share many characteristics and the language of the chalk-stream I waded now was not that different to the River Umber I explored as a child angler many decades ago.

Searching the water is a wonderfully cathartic experience requiring total concentration as the bright tip of the line traces the progress of the nymphs bouncing the gravelly runs. Each flicker of the line as the hook catches weed required a tightening of the line in case it is a fish that has been deceived. The wind conspires to send each cast astray, tree branches reach down to ensnare and tangle the nymphs that I have collected after succumbing to tempting emails and posts from https://www.barbless-flies.co.uk  I hoped the grayling would be equally impressed!

After half an hour of searching I lifted the rod to flick out another cast but there came a pleasing living resistance. For a moment I was almost spellbound in disbelief as the rod plunged over, the line moving purposely upstream. The fish hung powerfully in the strong current then used the flow to gain a few yards of line heading down river. I caught sight of a silver flank and the distinctive sail like dorsal fin. Tense moments followed before the fish was safe within the folds of the net. The tiny pink nymph fell from the fishes underslung mouth, I gazed in wonder at the lady of the stream, put a number to it weighing in quickly in the net

(2lb 12oz) and took its portrait before holding the fish in the current relishing the sight of the fish swimming strongly away into the stream of memory.

I sent a picture to Pauline who was relaxing back in the Annexe. I fished on up through the beat immersed in the contentment of success. An hour later I broke away from the river for a late morning coffee.

Shortly after midday I was back in the river Pauline close at hand to take a few pictures of the river as I flicked my offerings into the stream ever expectant now having had my confidence boosted by success. One more grayling succumbed in early afternoon a feisty fish of perhaps 12oz. I caught a glimpse of a couple more grayling that had undoubtedly seen me before I had focussed upon them in the ever running stream.

The day passed away far too quickly as most days beside the water do and I packed away the rods and waders as the light faded. I will return to the river again in search of grayling and maybe even in the height of summer when the water meadows will be lush and green, the river running crystal clear and wild browns will be supping mayfly as the river meanders quietly on.

The following day we headed for home two more anglers were on the River undoubtedly spurred on by news of my grayling. The grayling of the Frome grow to record proportions with fish caught in the past to over four pounds. This autumn has seen at least three fish of over three pounds tempted but these are not prolific fish. Such a grayling is hard won and I look back upon my success contemplating how small the margin is between catching the dream  or not. There are many hundreds of casts in a day on the river and with these rare and precious fish there is often only one cast that will connect with the top prize.