An Enduring obsession to catch a huge grayling came to a successful conclusion for Neill Stephen when he slipped his net under a giant of a fish just 1oz short of the British record.
The 43-year-old caught the stunning 4lb 3oz specimen on sight fishing tactics from a southern chalk stream after spotting it sitting at the tail-end of a pool. It fell to an imitation nymph tied by his best friend Dave Lambert, presented on a size 14 hook and a 3lb fluoro tippet.
Neill, who over the past decade has compiled an astonishing list of coarse fish personal bests – including record-equalling chub and perch of 9lb 5oz and 6lb 3oz respectively – revealed how his desire to catch a huge grayling had gradually developed into something of a fixation during recent seasons.
He told Angling Times: “I’ve become obsessed with grayling over the past seven years and have spent much of my summers, autumns and winters fishing for them. I’ve loved the challenge offered by the low-stock, fly-only waters, where you can cover miles in a day looking for fish.”
“It’s never been easy, and it got to a point where I was searching in well over 15 miles of river for what seemed like a tiny handful of fish. I lost one at the back end of the previous season from a different carrier stream which could have been over 4lb, and I was just thinking my chances of a fish like that had gone when I stumbled across a huge dark male fish sitting at the back of a pool.”
“For once everything went right from start to finish, even after it took me 50 yards downstream and I fell in off a high bank! Seeing the scales go well over 4lb was an extraordinary moment in what has been one of the best fishing adventures of my life. I’ve learned a lot, made some great friends and loved every second of it!”
The impressive fish measured just over 21 inches long, with a girth of almost 14 inches, and beat Neill’s previous best for the species by 7oz.