Memorable Grayling tales from two of Alba’s oldest and experienced guides, Bill and Stew.
Bill Drew – Fishing Guide for Alba and Founder of Best Fishing Scotland
Firstly, apologies if this sounds like a fish counter/ competition angler story but numbers do matter in this tale.
Bill’s Memorable Grayling Story Number One
3 weeks of high water and no chance to fish. I think I said I would pick something up from Tesco but somehow created a three hours fishing “ window” including driving time.
We are truly blessed living in the River Tweed system area.
Not long after, and moving about 12 feet I hooked and landed ( missed a few and lost a couple) 12 grayling and not one under 30 cm.
The fact that I have blanked there on other days made it all the sweeter.
Sadly I did not get to Tesco.
Memorable Grayling story number two (Bill)
Fishing in freezing conditions when I was shouted to from the bank by that well know and much loved phenomenon, the non fisher with a dog, who knows more about fishing than you do.
“ You are wasting your time, I walk here every day and no one catches there mate”
I heard him, but just smiled inanely in reply.
Half an hour later, I was into a fish which was 51 cm in the net. Chummy was walking back with his dog. Believing in education for all, I called him over to see what I had..obviously a fish hologram. I loved it.
Furious, he told me that when he was a lad they used to net pools for grayling and leave them to die on the bank as that was all they were good for.
I waved him a cheery farewell. His dog had the good grace to look embarrassed.
Memorable Grayling experience Number Three (Bill)
With good intention, I invited Stewart from Alba to a favourite private section where I fish regularly.
We blanked all day. Stewart became somewhat disparaging of “ my bit”.
Having put him on all my prime locations I was a bit hacked off and said I would leave him to it and try a place where I had never caught.
Impossible wading, and masses of fly grabbing rocks and weed added to the attraction of the spot. Immediately I was snagged. I could not get into the river so set down my rod and started to try and retrieve the fly by hand pulling the line.
Nothing happened and I resolved to lose the fly. With two hands and all my might it started to budge. Obviously a branch.
Two minutes later I was staring into the somewhat bewildered eyes of the biggest grayling I have ever seen. A contemptuous flick and it was gone.
Helpful hint here, rods are useful when playing a fish. You will probably read this tip in the fishing press next year. You saw it here first
Stew Collingswood – my favourite Grayling from the River Teviot
Stew Grayling Story Number one – Scotland the Best
It was the summer of 2021. Bill and I were down fishing the Tees with Rog and James and to be honest, not enjoying it too much. The water was coloured so difficult to see where you were putting your feet. We were stumbling around like a couple of drunks trying to get a foot hold.
The fishing was poor and after a few attempts to fill waders with the River Tees, I’d had enough. The consensus between the Captain and I was to drive North and fish the Teviot. We jumped in the car and made haste.
Later and by mid morning we arrived at the Teviot in bright sunshine. By comparison, it was quiet, the river was gin clear, the anticipation was running high.
A pool we know fishes well in low water was the target, and it didn’t disappoint. Bill in prime spot had Grayling after grayling. There were numerous double hook ups and we fished pretty close to gather so shared the euphoria.
I then decided to go deep in a run but sticking on a 1gram on the point and going light and imitative on the two droppers. Almost instantly I was into a huge Grayling and after an almighty scrap a fish of about 48cm lay in the net.
As you can see from the video below, the fish was released safely and the memory of that fish lives on. More so because it was a great day with Bill, and a reminder that we truly are blessed up here with great Grayling rivers.
Grayling story number 2 – 51cm fish under the rod tip(stew)
In winter of 2021, during the whole horrid Covid affair, my only form of escape was a day a week fishing on the Teviot. I used that period in my life to fish the entire river and explore every good, bad and ugly stretch of that river.
It wasn’t that I caught a lot of fish there, but the fish I did get were usually nomadic and big. Each day on the River Teviot allowed me to clock up 10,000 to 12,500 steps on the watch. It was better than the gym, spiritually healing and mentally nourishing.
Precarious wading – Kamikaze tactics
I waded downstream through a section of water that allowed me to cross to the opposite bank for the first time. It was a bit of a risk, I was an inch off the top of the waders, but I made it.
In fact, this allowed me to fish a well known pool from the left bank. This pool was lumpy, and a known graveyard for flies. Naturally, I knew the pool well. Also for the first time, enjoyed being able to fish the hot spot right under the rod tip, rather than stretching from the opposite shore. I started with a short cast, directly under the tip of my 10ft rod and Boom, was in to a very big fish.
I’d be lying if I said it was a good fight, but truth be told, I think I tricked this fish into the net before it truly woke up. It measured 51cm and was the first time I’d had a post 50cm fish. I was trembling with excitement and after releasing I called Bill. Sadly he was child minding, but fear not , I didnt make him feel bad about that 🙂
However, I did feel bad a few years later, when I realised the the pool I fished in was in the wrong beat. I’d crept over the boundary line.
Grayling story number three – the fish Cuillin didn’t want
I was fishing with Cuillin in a pool we fished a lot and it was nearing the end of a tough day. We’d both had a few small fish, but the cold was setting in. You know those days, when you find it hard to stop shivering. You can do nothing to raise your core temperature.
The river was also rising and changing colour. Cuillin had fished through a pool and I went in after him and hooked a fish that took off like a rocket. As is tradition, I shouted over to Cuillin, “you didn’t want that one then?” (It’s what we do)
I did tell him to stop fishing get his arse downstream. Because this fish got into a rapid and was now 100 yards downstream. He ran down, positioned himself below the fish and netted it for me. It tipped the scales at 3lb 2oz. Thanks Big Man!
The lesson here is that even if you’ve fished through a pool a few times, you should consider if a different tactic might start to produce fish.
Written by Bill Drew and Stew Collingswood – Alba Guides 5th December 2023