River Master - Grayling - Part 3

We hope you are enjoying the series of articles so far, in this article we are going to look at the tackle used to target Grayling (everything except the fly and leader setups – we’re covering those in more depth in future articles).


The first thing I would like to point out is that if you do not have any of the equipment discussed below, it doesn’t matter, you can quite easily target Grayling with standard dry fly gear – you just may have to adapt slightly. Just get out there and enjoy it.

The Rod

There has already been lots written about specialist nymphing rods, and to some degree, if you’re going to do lots of nymph fishing then I would invest in one, but generally so long as you have a rod which is 9ft+ then you are good to go.

So, what makes these rods so specialist? Well, they are generally longer rods (in the 10’ to 12’ range), they have a fast action, but with a soft tip. This allows you to lob flies (as you will not be casting any fly line) but still have the strength in the lower sections of the rod to play a fish. Having a softer tip allows them to protect the tippet. The rods are also very lightweight, often in the 2wt to 4wt range (my preferred rod is a Maxia MX 10’ 2wt – they best rod I have ever fished with, they will have to bury me with it).

As with all rods, it’s all about personal preference, have a go with a friend’s rod and see what you think, all of the big brands now have nymph rods available – one of the very best currently is the Vision Nymphmaniac (without the ‘o’ – careful when you're googling it).

The Reel

Generally, the fly reel is just thought of to hold the line. But when short-line nymphing there is another aspect to think of, its weight.

When using the short-line nymphing technique, you will be spending most of your time with your arm outstretched, tracking your flies down the river. You will often hear people talk of a balanced outfit, where the balance point of the rod (when the reel is attached) is around where you grip the handle, for dry fly fishing this is exactly the case. However, when nymphing you really need the reel to unbalance the rod, i.e. the rod should be heavier at the reel end. The reason for this is it puts much less pressure on your outstretched arm when fishing (sounds odd I know but try it!).

If you have an old heavy reel lying about feeling all unloved, then it’s an ideal candidate for your nymphing setup. I use a 5wt reel on my 2wt rod. If you want to get all aesthetic about it and use a reel which is matched to the rod, try adding some lead core backing to the spool before putting your nymph line on.

The Fly Line

When nymph fishing for Grayling the most often used technique is the short line method (Euro-Nymphing). Here we will look at just a few of the fly lines/long leaders you can use to help you with this method:

  • Mono – One of the best (and most cost-effective) ways to start short-line nymphing is to use a mono line (to which you attach your indicator and then your tippet). Mono line is still very sensitive (at least more so than using a conventional fly line) and if you use a 0.20mm line (or larger) you can still feel the line through your fingers (and smaller diameter line and it gets very difficult to feel). Having an 8m mono leader allows you to only have mono through the rod rings and some on the spool should you need to give a fish some line.
  • Braid – Extremely sensitive (you can feel the fly on the river bed – you can even tell if your fly is on sand or gravel – or weed). However, braid does have its drawbacks – it is very difficult to cast and can get you in a tangle very quickly. But once you have mastered the art of using braid, you will never turn back.
  • Specialist Nymph Lines – These are all the rage at the moment and are really a cross over between a conventional fly line and a braid leader. Generally, these lines look exactly like a normal fly line (and they float, so can also be used as an indicator), but they are extremely thin (usually >= 0.55mm to conform to competition rules). These types of lines offer you the best of both worlds when nymphing, which is one reason why we will shortly be bringing our own take on these to the market.
  • Standard Fly Lines – Any standard fly line can also be used as a part of a nymphing setup, but there are a few drawbacks. They are often quite thick and heavy, which makes them sag and very difficult to keep the whole line out of the water when fishing at distances past the rod tip. Often when you lift your rod in the air, the fly line will disappear down the rings of your rod due to its weight. Not too much of a problem as such, but when you compare using it against one of the specialist lines, you will quickly realise what you’ve been missing.


When fishing for Grayling it is usually in the Autumn and Winter, not the warmest of seasons. To prolong the amount of time you have in the water it is essential that you dress for the occasion. Here’s a quick rundown of what I have found useful over the years:

Merino base layers - Merino wool is the finest and softest wool on the planet. It is both hard-wearing and durable especially when worn directly in contact with your skin (it also does not scratch like other materials can). Merino wool is best used when the body is not moving around too much (i.e. when you’re fishing) the insulating, wicking, and cooling properties of merino make it just the right fibre for the job. Keep an eye on the weekly offers which Lidl/Aldi have, they sometimes have great deals on Merino wool base layers.

Wear warm socks – To help you fish for longer in the colder weather, it is essential that you keep warm, especially your feet. Warm feet will also make sure your wading is not compromised and may just save you from a dunking. I’ve tried numerous different types of socks, but I always return to the wader socks which Orvis sell, in my opinion, they cannot be beaten (although they are quite expensive).

Neck warmer – I find that keeping both the front and back of my neck warm always helps me concentrate for longer and helps to prolong my time in the river. Neck warmers can be bought from nearly every outdoors shop and can be picked up for less than £10 (a bargain when you can get extra hours on the water).

Hand warmers – I usually pick up a few of the disposable hand warmers whenever I see them (you know the sort that looks like a giant tea bag). I find they are great to put in your wader pocket, as well as keeping your hands warm, they also do a good job of keeping your chest warm! I’ve used the Zippo handwarmer on quite a few occasions but have found it very difficult to light and get going, but when it does it’s fantastic.


As always there are a number of accessories you will need when fishing, here's a quick run-through (in no particular order):

Landing/Scoop Net - Your standard net is fine when grayling fishing. Although, where possible, it’s better to release the fish without taking it out of the water.

Polarised Glasses - In most cases, you will not be spotting grayling from either the bank or whilst wading (they will generally be in the deeper holes), glasses are the most essential part of the Grayling fishers’ outfit. We are generally throwing heavy tungsten beaded flies around and eye protection is the most important element.

Strike Indicators - Strike indicators are a routine part of my nymph fishing equipment. For the average angler (like me) you will detect 10x more strikes and catch many more fish when using one. There are dozens of different types available, and we will discuss those in a future article (they deserve to be covered in much more detail). As a general guide place the indicator about twice the depth of the water away from your flies.

Tippet Rings - What a fantastic invention these are, use a 2mm tippet ring to connect your tippet to your indicator, that way your indicator will always stay intact.

Tippet selection - Tippet material is probably one of the most important items you need to consider when nymphing for Grayling. There are 2 schools of thought, either use Fluorocarbon or Mono:

  • Fluorocarbon: sinks quicker, provides you with good abrasion resistance (as your flies will be in contact with the bottom of the river) and has fantastic knot strength when wet. It can be expensive (at around £12 for the average spool) but when you consider the cost of the tungsten flies you’re using, having a high-quality tippet can be the difference between keeping and losing the fly on the riverbed!
  • Mono: Has great abrasion resistance, is relatively inexpensive and has great knot strength. It will also come in several different shades (my local rivers all run off peat moors and are can be stained ‘tea’ colour), if the water is coloured where you are you cannot go wrong with Maxima Chameleon.

Mud - Fluorocarbon can be shiny, use some mud to take away the shine (it also makes the line sink easier when using finer diameters).

Split-Shot - Can also be used to get your fly (or team of flies down deep, there are numerous rigs you can use which incorporate split-shot, so having a small selection will always come in handy when targeting those deep holes in fast-flowing rivers.

Wading Staff - Generally fishing in the colder months means the rivers are higher and flowing faster than normal, I usually take a wading staff with me and decide once I get to the bank side if to use it or not. Sometimes (especially on a new river) they are essential. Always err on the side of caution and even if you know the river well if it’s up and flowing it’s better to be safe than take a dunking!

Life Jacket - Some angler will always wear a life jacket when fishing fast flowing/deep rivers - It makes perfect sense to. Life jackets are now available which are very slim in unobtrusive and inflate automatically. Please take care when wading rivers in Winter, it's always better to stay safe than risk it.