River Master - Grayling - Part 5

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.