The Grayling - the most wonderful of game fish, well that's my thoughts on them. I love fishing for Grayling and really look forward to the close season for Brown Trout and the anticipation of hunting for Grayling in the colder weather. So where do we start with this? Let's start by a little description of the fish itself, then we can go on to the habitats and then to techniques for catching them.
Grayling (Thymallus thymallus)
Here's as good a description of Grayling as you will find (courtesy of Mr Wikipedia): "The grayling (Thymallus thymallus) is a species of freshwater fish in the salmon family Salmonidae. It is the only species of the genus Thymallus (the graylings) native to Europe, where it is widespread from the United Kingdom and France to the Ural Mountains in Russia, but does not occur in the southern parts of the continent.". Grayling are noted for a couple of things:
1. They are generally a shoal fish
2. The beautiful markings of their dorsal fins
Autumn Grayling Fishing Tips
Where to fish for Grayling
- Before the winter frosts Grayling will not be shoaled up, therefore its important to fish where the grayling are (I know it sounds obvious!). Therefore the likely spots are exactly where you would find trout:
- Gravel bottoms
- In the seam of two currents
- In the foam line – Remember “foam is your home”
- Just off and around weed beds
- Grayling have an underslung mouth, they are bottom feeders. If you cannot see them rising, you need to present your flies on the river bed.
- Look for deeper, slower water. Grayling do not like structure, so look for uniform flows of water.
- Look for creases, especially slow water which is just off a faster crease.
- Grayling are a long, thin delicate fish, they do not like to sit in the river flow, due to the energy expended. The grayling has a thin wrist which means they do not have lots of power in their tail to fight against the flow.
- Grayling are very tolerant of anglers, they do not spook as easily as trout. I’ve even had grayling take insects off my waders whilst stood in the river fishing!
- Grayling are a shoal fish in the main. Once you’ve caught one - stand still and cast again – you’re more than likely to catch another.
How To Fish for Grayling
- Longer lighter rods are the norm when fishing for Grayling. They give you the ability to control the line better and are more comfortable to use when “high-sticking” all day. Generally go for something which is 10ft long and between a 2 and 4 weight. Another advantage of these lighter longer rods is they offer better tippet protection, allowing you to fish with thinner tippet.
- Use a level leader (we don’t need to turn flies over, so no need for a tapered leader). If there are lots of underwater snags (tree roots etc), use either 4x or 5x tippet – that way you at least stand a chance of retrieving your flies if they snag.
- A standard leader for grayling is 9 to 10ft long, with two or three weighted flies spaced at 18 inch intervals from the point. Generally the heaviest fly is on the point and then the lighter flies on droppers (each dropper should be around 6 inches long – short droppers reduce tangles).
- Cast or lob (using the water to tension your leader) your leader into the likely looking pools/run and track the flies downstream, always keeping your rod tip slightly ahead of the flies, this allows you to keep in contact with the flies at all times.
- If you notice any odd movements or the leader stops, then strike by lifting the rod tip. If there’s nothing there, then just lower the rod tip and continue to track the flies downstream.
- I always section the river up into lanes about 2ft wide, and then fish each lane in turn. Don’t just wade out to any likely looking spots, always fish your way out there. You will be surprised where the Grayling are!
Playing a Grayling
- When playing a grayling, keep the rod tip low, this keeps the fish deep (where they’re happy).
- Play the fish until it is upstream of you, then as the river brings the fish towards you, raise it in the water column and direct it into the net.
- Once a Grayling is near the surface it will start to thrash about, this is where most fish are lost.