Our chalkstreams guide Colin Alexander reports:

‘I have guided Jeremy and his son, Nick, up until now for four separate days and always on the Test in the trout season. Back in the summer I suggested they have a grayling day and maybe try the River Itchen. Jeremy took up the offer and as Nick wasn’t available came on his own this time.

We had a lovely wading beat on the Itchen that I guide on regularly and I think that wading always adds to the day. Clients are often amazed how close they can get to fish by wading carefully and being part of the river in that way just makes you look at the scenery differently.

Casting whilst wading also adds some technical difficulties and gives an opportunity to learn new skills. To be honest I just love teaching those skills because in the main they are obvious once shown and it is like unlocking the secret to a client of how to cast better and present the fly more delicately and naturally.

I started Jeremy over some shallow gravels where I know grayling generally rise first on this beat of the river. Sure enough a few rises showed and we started with a dry fly. I chose a size 16 Elk hair Sedge as they are highly visible, difficult to sink and generally present an opportunist meal to tempt a grayling or two.

Jeremy caught grayling quite quickly but was hooking up maybe three fish for every ten takes. He also identified himself that at times the fly line was not shooting out properly and asked me if I could help with his casting during the day. The key here as a client is always to ask the guide yourself for any casting help. I tend to carefully offer to help my clients in this way and make subtle adjustments to casting during the day but I have to remember the client is there to fish and not all are seeking a casting lesson as well. It just helps all round if you let your guide know what you want to achieve from the day and don’t be afraid to ask for that help because that is what I am there for and as I say I really enjoy that aspect.

River Itchen Grayling

Whilst wading, of course as line is retrieved back to keep up with the fly if it is left to lie on the surface of the river the current drags it behind the angler downstream and creates a problem in the next cast. Basically all that line has to be lifted back up and incorporated into the next cast and it creates an increase in false casts and disturbance that is highly likely to scare fish.

The easy answer is to coil the line in your left hand against the rod butt as it comes back and then simply lift and shoot your next cast. I would say if you have more than 5 big loops then you are casting too far for chalk streams generally. You should also find that a false cast…just one..is now enough to load the rod and present your next cast.

On a river the angler is working quite hard in terms of casting and recasting so any increase in time the fly is fishing on the surface without drag is important. An upstream mend is generally one of the techniques I show clients pretty early in the day. Many anglers are used to mending line on the surface to prevent drag but with small dry flies that often imparts its self down the line to the fly and quite simply drags it under. It also can disturb the water and scare fish at short range. The answer is to put that mend into the line on the forward cast so it all happens in the air. An upstream mend is quite simple by pushing your casting arm upstream at that forward cast point and that buys you extra fishing time without drag and no disturbance.

An experienced angler will tell you there is a lot more to it than that, which there is if other currents are between you and the fly etc but basic mends will lead to you progressing to where you can fish a river competently without hardly thinking about it. It just makes the sport more enjoyable and as long as there is always something new to learn then you will be captivated with it.