River Master - Grayling - Part 4


We hope you are enjoying the series of articles so far, in this article we are going to look at the basic setup and methods used to target Grayling. Before I start this, i'm no expert (more of an enthusiastic amateur!) and what follows below is just what I have learnt over the years and have found works.

A Bit of Background Information

Before the winter frosts Grayling will not be shoaled up, therefore it’s 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 under-slung mouth, they are bottom feeders. If you cannot see them rising, you need to present your flies on the river bed. Remember, if you’re not catching the bottom with your flies, your not fishing deep enough (try using a heavier point fly).

Here’s the ideal places to target:

  • Look for deeper, slower water - Grayling do not like structure, so look for uniform flows
  • Look for creases, especially slow water which is just off a faster current
  • Grayling are a long, thin delicate fish, they do not like to sit in the river flow, due to the amount of energy they need to expend just to stay still. They have 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 don’t spook as easily as trout. I’ve even had grayling take insects off my waders whilst stood in the river fishing!

REMEMBER: 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.

Terminal Tackle Selection

I know it’s a minefield, but when it comes down to terminal tackle it’s a very personal choice, here’s what I use:

Tippet Material

Tippet choice is very personal, in essence it’s always better to go with what you have confidence in, especially when tying your own dropper rigs. In general there are only two options Fluorocarbon and Mono. I generally make my tippet decision as follows:

  • Coloured Water – When the water I am fishing is coloured (or stained - like here in North Yorkshire) I use Maxima Chameleon monofilament in 3lb all the way through. I find this has a great knot strength is very durable (as you will be snagging up quite a bit) and is quite cost effective (at around £8 for 230 meters – more than enough for the whole Grayling season).

  • Clear Water – When I am fishing a river which is very clear and has a high angling pressure (like the chalk streams of Hampshire & Wiltshire), then I opt for Fluorocarbon, and go as thin as I can possibly get away with, something like Stroft FC2 (in 2.2lb which is 0.09mm in diameter). If however, there has not been that many anglers on the water, then I will always go with Preston Innovations Reflo Power (which is incredibly strong for its diameter 2lb 10oz is only 0.10mm) and its great value for money at around £6 for 100 meters.


Generally when Grayling fishing, your flies will get heavier the colder the weather! Our next article will concentrate on the flies and their different properties. For this article, just bear in mind the following:

  • The faster and deeper the river, the heavier the fly
  • Don’t be without small dry flies in October and November – Grayling love feeding on Aphids during these months and can often be seen rising. Try a size 24 IOBO Humpy if all else dry fails to tempt them.
  • Where allowed, it’s better to fish a team of flies in autumn, heaviest fly on the point.


There are loads of indicators around (and we sell quite a selection of them). All have their uses and are great in specific conditions.  Here’s the best of the bunch (in my opinion):

  • Coloured Mono – My ‘go to’ indicator is a short piece of bi-coloured mono. These are fantastic when short-line nymphing, as you can easily see them against the water and against bank-side vegetation.

  • Spiral Indicator – These are the most sensitive (and visual) indications I have ever used. They are great when nymphing at short to medium range and the river is a fairly level depth. They can easily sink if the river bed varies in depth substantially. Great on the chalk streams.

  • Yarn Indicator – These are a godsend when fishing on a river with a ‘single fly’ rule and you want to have a visual indication of a take (we’re not all gods when it comes to nymphing and sensing takes – these make it much easier, especially when your hands are cold!). The beauty of this type of indicator is the ability to cast them and trim the indicator to the size you require.

  • Wax Colouring – Pretty new to the market and a cross over from Tenkara fishing, these wax ‘lipstick’ indicators are applied directly to either your tippet (or even to you fly line – take a look at our Brilliant White nymphing lines). They come in a number of colours and can be combined to make an indicator you can see in all light levels. The beauty about these is the wax rubs off very easily.

Fly Lines

Really you can use any fly line you wish (as generally you are not using the weight of the fly line to cast), but it does make significantly easier to nymph with a specialist thin fly line (or a French Leader). These type of lines are generally really thin (0.55mm) and are very easy to manage, they also don't fall down the rod rings every time you lift up the rod (which can be very annoying when using a standard fly line).

Not to blow our own trumpet, so to speak, we do a fantastic nymphing fly line, which is brilliant white so can easily be seen and also takes coloured wax (so you can make any coloured indicator you please). You can find it here.

Autumn Fishing For Grayling

Autumn is all about searching for the fish as they will be spread around the river and generally living in very small groups – use a searching method. During Autumn, you will either be fishing very small dry flies or nymphs. I will not explain the dry fly method, as there are numerous other posts on the subject, but I will discuss a few of the basic nymphing method for Grayling.

Nymphing Methods

It’s important to note that when nymphing, you have to be quite methodical and logical when fishing the river. I’ve always found the best way to do it is to imagine the river is split up into a number of lanes (just like a motorway):

  • Always fish the lane closest to you first from the bank before wading into the river (you’ll be amazed at how many fish you catch that you would have just waded through!).
  • Once you have fished that lane, step into the river and fish the next lane out.
  • Then repeat (assuming it’s safe to wade into the middle of the river).
  • Once you have fished the width of the river as best you can, carefully wade back to your starting point and take a step up stream and repeat the whole process again.

It’s always better to cast into each lane quite a few times and let the nymph(s) do their work, generally though if there’s a fish around it will take the nymph within the first couple of drifts.

Searching Rigs (Dry Droppers & Duo)

The best searching rig is the Dry Dropper (it’s called a few different things – New Zealand, Duo etc). It is essentially a bushy dry fly (or yarn indicator) with a nymph suspended underneath it. You’re using the fly/yarn indicator to detect when a fish takes the nymph. This methods is great in pocket water (i.e. behind large rocks and through riffles). When fishing this method, I find it best to have the distance between the nymph and the fly/yarn indicator about 1.5 times the depth of the water you are fishing. This way you know you will be somewhere near the bottom. Again the golden rule is “if you’re not getting snagged on the bottom every once in a while, then you’re not fishing deep enough!.

Single Nymph Rig

I always find it very difficult to detect takes when fishing a single nymph at longer ranges (which is why I seldom do it), but I always fish a single nymph at short range using a tight-line method. To fish this you need to use the downstream water load cast, it's an easy way to send your flies back upstream for another drift without making a back cast.

How to perform the downstream water load cast:

  • Cast your rig out as normal
  • At the end of the run, let your nymph drift all the way past you so it hangs in the current (and the fly line and leader tensions up).
  • In one smooth motion, lift your rod up and use the built-in tension to flip your nymph back upstream.

This simple cast is really efficient (especially in competitions) and ideally suited for short-line nymphing techniques. With the downstream water load, your flies spend more time in the water.

Tight-line nymphing is one of the best methods for Grayling. Here’s how it’s done:

  • Cast your nymph upstream, then
  • As the nymph comes back towards you keeping the rod tip just ahead of the nymph and lead it back towards you keeping the line tight (this where you will detect your takes either by feel or by watching your in-line indicator for any abnormal movement).
  • Stop the rod tip just in front of you and let the flies drift downstream, feeling for takes all the time.
  • As the nymph drifts past you and downstream, it will start to rise in the water column, this is where lots of Grayling will be caught (known as the induced take).
  • Then use the downstream water load cast to make your next cast and repeat the process,

Dual Nymph Rig

The Dual-Nymph rig is exactly the same as fishing a single nymph, but you tie in a dropper around 12” to 18” above the point fly.

  • From your indicator tie a length of tippet roughly equivalent to the depth of the water you will be fishing.
  • To this add a short section (about 12" long) tied with a 3-turn water knot, use this to create a 6" dropper (shorter droppers don't tangle as much).
  • To the point, tie in one of your heavier nymphs, and to the dropper use a lighter nymph.
  • Cast/Lob the flies upstream and track them back to you, keeping the rod tip just ahead of the flies.
  • Stop the rod tip just in front of you and let the flies drift downstream, feeling for takes all the time.

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.

Catch & Release Principles

Follow beat Catch & Release principles (check them out here: Keepemwet), where possible always keep the fish in the water. If you’re using barbless flies (which I hope you are 😊) the fly should easily be removed once the fish is in the net.



  • Mike Horscroft

    Your tungsten graying flies arrived yesterday (love the note) caught some nice grayling and out of season trout excellent flies nice to see the eyes are clear when you go to tie them on.
    Great articles on grayling.
    I shall be back for more flies

  • Richard Fieldhouse

    Hi Kevin,

    That fly is called a Javi. You can see them here:


  • Kevin Francis

    Richard, What is the name of the heavy nymph that is shown in the Grayling article in the “Flies” section? I am keen to obtain some and would welcome your advice on their availability. Best Regards Kev

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published