If you’re a purist, look away now (grayling article and video, entry 278)

If you’re a purist, look away now

I’m not a morning person. Whilst I very rarely hit the pillow before midnight and have no problem staying up till the early hours, the prospect of getting up before 8.00am does not excite me in the slightest. I used to travel overseas a lot and this invariably involved a 3.30am rise in order to catch an early plane from Birmingham airport to mainland Europe, where I would then take a flight to some far flung destination. It was never the jet lag that I had to cope with over the first couple of days but the early start. And with the days now being short and a grayling fishing session on the cards, I knew that I had to be on my way at a time that would give me sufficient hours on the bank. So with the alarm waking me at the absolutely ungodly time of 6.30am, after much deliberation and inner struggle, I finally rose and started to load the car.

Winter weather in autumn

What had prompted me to target grayling was a sudden and dramatic change in the weather. With conditions that were more familiar to January and February, a bitterly cold wind from the Arctic brought with it snow and ice. I run a midweek football league and whilst we have weather issues in the previously mentioned months, we have never had a pitch inspection in October before due to snow.

And with the cold snap extending into November, I had no hesitation at all in switching to the lady of the stream, as the grayling is affectionately known. I don’t have grayling water on the doorstep, but the River Dove isn’t that far away and so that’s where I headed. I’m usually driving there with a car full of barbel gear, so it made a change to have no boilies or bait runners loaded with 15lb line on board. However, my tackle was far from what you would describe as traditional grayling gear.


A decent grayling from the Dove

If you’re a purist, look away now

When people think of grayling fishing it is usually in terms of flies or trotting a float, not cage feeders and quiver tip rods. Yes, you read that correctly. However let me point out that my approach has nothing to do with wanting to upset the purists, far from it. As I often write, as long as we are within rules, other anglers are not being affected and the welfare of the fish is not at stake, then I have no issues with alternative ways of pursuing our quarry.

If you like casting a fly or nymph to grayling or you think that the joy of running a float through a swim cannot be bettered, then I won’t raise a single objection. I am firmly in the ‘live and let live’ camp as far as angling is concerned. I do my thing and others can do theirs. Whatever floats your boat and all that stuff.




Tip of the week

Match the species to the weather.

And providing they are within distance, when it gets really cold then target grayling.

They’ll never let you down, even in minus temperatures, when everything else pretty much stops feeding.

Arriving at the river I chose to set up in a nice looking swim on a bend. With fast water along the far bank, I aimed to cast to the merging of that and the slower nearside flow, anticipating that fish wouldn’t be that far away as food being swept in the main current would find its way into the gentler water where the fish would hopefully be congregating. Our analyses don’t always work out but I’m happy to say in this case mine was absolutely spot on. From the first cast to the last, and with no real lull in between, it was action all the way. In fact the only quiet times came were when I moved swims to test the potential elsewhere. And apart from one solitary grayling, the numerous fish I caught were on the ‘big bend’ swim.


No fish is a nuisance

Grayling are superb fighters and from the initial bite right through to trying to hold them still before the camera, they never let up for a second. I feel it’s a tragedy that they are seen by some game anglers as ‘nuisance’ fish, because in my book no fish deserves that title, not even the three minnows I caught.

I fished 4lb reel line to 2lb 8oz hook length, presenting two red maggots on a size 16 hook. Whether it be on fly, float or leger, the grayling certainly announces its presence by the way it takes the bait and I had some pretty savage takes, particularly from the bigger fish. Some of the smaller ones I was able to lift from the water but I’m pleased to say that I needed the net on numerous occasions. Whether it be a gigantic carp, a double-figure barbel or the smaller grayling, there is something very satisfying about lifting the net into a fish. Like other anglers I enjoy the fight but there’s a definite sense of relief when a fish is finally yours.


A male stonechat in the area



Another good fish on an enjoyable day

Although my eyes were on the rod tip a lot more than if I were fishing for barbel with bite alarms for example, I still managed to spot a few birds in the vicinity. The best sighting was a male stonechat that was around all day long, as well as a pair of grey wagtails that were very regular visitors to the swim. Not in huge flocks, rather lots of smaller groups, but nevertheless there were large numbers of fieldfare passing through, occasionally dropping into an ash tree behind me before taking off again. I thought I may have seen goosanders but none passed my way. But as far as the fishing was concerned I thoroughly enjoyed it and although I take a float rod that remained unused, who knows, next time I may use it. On the other hand…




Click on the icon for this week’s video clip


The week ahead

I fancy doing some roach fishing on the local canal network over the next week. With short ‘afternoon into evening’ sessions I will be able to manage three outings. It’s unlikely the venues I intend to fish will yield any monsters but I am looking forward to catching some roach – and angling first and foremost is not about the size of the fish you catch but the pleasure you get from it.

(Originally posted November 2008)


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