John Bailey

March Highlights by John Bailey

Grayling Fishing

Grayling Fishing

I've been noticing a huge interest in big Grayling on the specialist coarse side of the sport recently. A lot of my friends that pursue serious fish, both with bait and with fly, are turning increasingly towards Grayling for their winter kicks. They are obviously really good clients for Trout fishery owners during the hard times of winter. Two pounders are the goal for these guys and three pounders are the dream.

Most of the time they'll want to be trotting for their Grayling and very often do this with the Hardy Supero 13' and 14' Float Rods - you watch them controlling the float with all the skill of a fly angler - which many of them are as well. These are very good anglers and really caring ones too, so they're an asset to any fishery. And, dear fishery owner, don't be afraid of charging. I know guys who will pay twenty, thirty or even more pounds for the right water where there is a bit of exclusivity and the chance of a good fish.

David Miller

The celebrated fish artist, David Miller spent the weekend with me recently. Check him out at and you will see examples of his work and realise why he's just so highly revered. He was with me to get references for his upcoming work and exhibitions and you would just not guess how dedicated he is - painting exactly how fish are in the wild. I honestly think David spends as much time underwater as the fish he actually paints. What you see in a David Miller painting is not guesswork - it is the most fabulously reconstructed representation of nature itself. David is not only a fabulous artist, he's a meticulously accurate one as well.

David lives and works down in Wales and he was telling me about the glories of the Usk wild Brown Trout fishing. Though he's not picked one up himself, he tells me there are five pounders and larger in many stretches. Last season, David himself recorded several fish in excess of three pounds which for wild, fly-caught fish is extraordinary. The conversation fired me up to do this style of fishing myself this coming year. I'll be contacting the Wye and Usk Foundation for sure. What a great job they do in giving us an almost New Zealand experience without days in the air and monumental expense. For me, life is about wild fish and if they live in a river as beautiful as the Usk, the experience is complete.

Greenland Trip

Talking wild, I really must get back to all those people who have contacted me regarding the potential Greenland trip followng my November Fin & Fly article. I apologise for being so tardy over this and I still would love to put together a Hardy-inspired expedition. I'll be honest. It's really not been easy to get the rivers I've known and want to take you to. You'd think in the internet age, information would be easy to come by but not so in Greenland. This is one of the last of the really isolated fish destinations left in the world.

And fishing there remains very hard. If I get the logistics sorted, the guys who have shown interest must realise this is a tough trip with no home comforts. There are no lodges, no fine wines and no comfy beds to retire to. It's a case of if it were easy, then we'd all be doing it.

The rewards, though, are fantastic. It's so long ago since I visited this fantastic country that I actually have no digital photographs of the journeys. All I've got is aging trannies which still take my breath away. If the editor wishes, perhaps we can put a few of these on Fin & Fly in the coming months.

Fishing for Shad

My great friend, Dave Lambert recently showed me a Shad, caught off the south coast which died and he froze. He wanted to know whether it were an Allis Shad. No, sadly, it was a Twaite. Again, we're talking about wild fish that live on the edge of fly fishing consciousness. It's always been one of my dreams to witness, finally, an Allis Shad, preferably alive and well and fresh-run up a river like the Wye which used to host them in numbers.

This site is a two-way street. I've burned to see an Allis Shad for thirty years. Have they departed our shores, or do you, yourself, know of an opportunity where I could witness one of my own life's dreams?

A beauty

Early Spring Fishing

This exceptionally mild March weather has had me out and about looking at my local Norfolk Rainbow Trout fisheries. Just yesterday evening, I was on one of my favourite eight-acre lakes as the sun was beginning to set. It was a gorgeous evening. Two Barn Owls were about and Geese were flying overhead in constant skeins. A Fox trod the lane at the head of the lake and, by dusk, I knew I might see an Otter if I hung on long enough.

But best of all, in a calm, secluded bay some superb over-wintered Rainbow Trout were quietly head and shouldering, porpoising after buzzers. I watched them agog for half an hour or more. These were beautifully conditioned fish. Obviously, they had made it through the winter in fine, fighting fettle and I'll be looking forward to fishing on evenings like this in just a couple of weeks or so when the fishery opens again. A fish like one of these on my favourite five-weight Hardy and I go home with a smile like a Cheshire Cat.

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