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Trailing the Grayling

My idea of Winter Fishing is a lot like Summer Fishing really, but a lot colder. Some of our members use the opportunity to Coarse fish, which is always an interesting exercise to see what else is in the river, apart from Trout and Grayling, and there's no doubt that it's a far more effective way of catching fish. For some reason, worms, maggots, luncheon meat, sweetcorn etc etc are more attractive than artificial flies or nymphs. But it's not fly-fishing, and perhaps not quite as sporting?

That's why I spend the Winter months fly-fishing for Grayling, and the best way of doing that, in terms of satisfaction and excitement, for me, is using dry flies. Luckily, the Grayling is one of the most obliging fish in our river in terms of rising, though it's usually impossible to see what they're actually rising for; maybe it's just to tantalise us. It's probably more effective to use nymphs if you want to catch the larger Grayling, or Coarse methods, as witnessed by this nice specimen caught by John a few weeks ago in the Landslip Pool on 3B.


If you're on the trail of the Grayling, it's sometimes worth starting in the glide below the Tractor Bridge on 3C, though since the deflector work, it's less of a glide now, but they have been plentiful there in the past. Further upstream, the narrow section above the big pool on the bend above the Tractor Bridge can also be good, and there are certainly Dace there which will take a dry. Anywhere up the rest of that beat is also possible, up to Harpers Footbridge.

At the bottom of Beat 3B, immediately above the Footbridge can be good, if a little challenging to get down to (and certainly to get back up from), but you can sometimes wade across to the steps on the near bank (the side nearest the Parking), and the top of that pool has also been good in the past. Above that, the wide glide up to the Landslip Pool is probably more likely to yield Dace, but I have spotted one or two Grayling there this year, though I've not caught them.

Some members love the relatively new 'rapids' above the Landslip Pool, created last year by a series of deflectors, and certainly Grayling like that section too, but nymphing is probably easiest there. Then you reach the wide shallow pool at the bottom of Grayling Alley, where you will usually see some very small ones rising, but they're a good challenge. There's now a nice log seat there where you can sit and plan your attack, and scale down your tackle to fine tippets and tiny flies. The very narrow stretch up from there has been a treasure chest of Grayling in previous years (hence the name), though less so last year and indeed this Winter, but there are certainly some there.

If you wade up and cross the river below the big pipe from the Water Treatment Works, they can be found at the head of the small pool, or anywhere up that wide glide, especially near the top. After that, if you cross back to the near bank, you are in the Grayling hotspot at the lower end of the Outfall Pool. Not the most pleasant, scenic, or aromatic spot on the river, but the Grayling definitely love it there, and if they're rising anywhere, it'll be there.

They are often very small, in fact ridiculously small in many cases, but on a good day they will rise repeatedly, especially when there is a line of bubbles flowing from the outfall. They can be incredibly frustrating to try and catch, as the surface currents can play havoc with your drift, and spotting your own fly can be tricky amongst the bubbles. Having tried week after week, I am now firmly convinced that you need really tiny dries here - not even 18s, but 20s or smaller. The Double Badger is still probably my favourite, but others like the Griffiths Gnat, or anything that will float well can do the business. It's likely that the movement and general form of the fly is far more important to a Grayling that trying to match a specific insect. I have a suspicion that the chemicals in the outflow may interfere with the surface tension on the water, making it harder to keep dries afloat, which is one reason I prefer very bushy flies; that's pure speculation however.

I mentioned a while ago that I was experimenting with Tenkara to try and catch these elusive specimens, and after two attempts, I did actually hook and land one on my Tenkara rod. I confess I wasn't using the tradational Tenkara flies (Kebari) at the time, though I had tried the famous 'upside down umbrella' style Sakasa Kebari, but they only seem to come in large sizes (12, 14). Instead I used a size 20 DB, and the Tenkara technique did help control the drag which is crucial there. Sadly on my last visit it was extremely windy, so Tenkara was never going to work, so back to a 7x tippet and 1 wt line, and an awful lot of mending, with good results eventually.

You can also find Grayling at various spots up Beat 3A, below the very big bend, and below the very rapid narrow stretch downstream of the Locked Gate. They can also be plentiful in the wide glide below the Weir Pool, but above the Weir they are very scarce. A few have definitely been caught on Beat 2 in the past but that is not fished in the Winter, and the Trout are the main focus in season. Beat 5 and 6 have also yielded some, but they are not often fished at all, so it's hard to know how many are there.

Wherever you go, think small, and take some powerful magnification specs with you, concentrate on a natural drift, and you can have great sport fishing for Grayling.

Tight Lines

PeterB


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