Grayling - a surprise bonus!
I think most people join the Teise club for the excellent Trout fishing, but then they probably discover the unsung pleasures of Grayling too. Sneakily rising to a dry fly intended for unseen Trout, they’ll quickly reject it and you’ll think you’ve missed yet another Trout; I know I did. As well as the occasional Dace and Chub, you’ll eventually catch Grayling in the summer on a dry fly, but don’t dismiss the Grayling as another coarse fish. It’s actually a member of the same family as Trout (Rainbow, Brown, Sea) and Salmon (and Char) – the Salmonids, so technically it is a game fish. In other respects (including licensing) it’s regarded as a coarse fish, because it spawns in March to May, (possibly to avoid the winter deluges washing away its eggs, as they’re laid much shallower than trout’s). That’s a huge bonus on the Teise, because it means you can carry on fishing for Grayling right through until 14th March during the Trout closed season, but do think twice about wading across any fine gravel beds in April and May where Grayling may have spawned.
Grayling are known to occasionally rise to a dry fly (possibly a green olive) in the Winter, but they’re more likely to be down deep, so try a well-weighted nymph (e.g. olives again, shrimps, or the famous pink or red grayling nymphs). They are quite likely to be in a shoal so you could have a bonanza with the right nymph in the right spot, but don’t expect big Grayling in the Teise. They are only likely to reach 3 or 4 years old here, and if you get a 2lb Grayling, buy yourself a drink (and take a photo please).
You’ll know a Grayling when you catch it because of its huge dorsal fin, often beautifully coloured, and the clean lines of fine scales along its side. They also have down-turned mouths, as they do a lot of their feeding on the bottom. Because they’re the same family as trout, you can eat them, and their scientific name (thymalus thymalus) is based on their apparent scent of thyme. However, it is a national byelaw that you can only take Grayling if they’re between 30-38cm (12 -15” in old money), and only 2 per day. Mostly they will be smaller than that here anyway, and most anglers return them after congratulating themselves on their luck/skill. That has helped us build and maintain a very healthy stock of Grayling in the Teise, which is a rare thing in this part of the world. It also proves that we have a very clean river ecosystem, as Grayling are less tolerant of pollution (or high temperatures) than Trout, possibly because they possess smaller livers. On the Teise sadly, they’re not found above the weir at Stonebridge, which is a great shame, and the possible benefit of installing a fish pass there is being investigated. Grayling are much more fussy than Trout about using fish passes however, so it would need to be very carefully designed if we’re going to see them spreading up to Trottenden.
The particular skills and pleasures of Grayling fishing are increasingly popular, not least due to the efforts of the Grayling Society and Grayling Research Trust, and they are a great asset to our club. I recommend that you read the Grayling Angling Code at https://www.graylingsociety.net/angling and both organisations are a marvellous source of information on all things Grayling.
One day we may find that Grayling are more sought after than Trout and they’ve certainly given me a lot of challenges (and the occasional pleasure) throughout the Winter while I practice for the next Trout season. I may even go back to focusing on Grayling again after 15th June, when the coarse season starts again; in the meantime, come April, I’ll be practising on the Trout.