The Grayling is a hugely sporting species that provides fantastic fishing in Wales in the spring, autumn and through the winter months. They spawn in the summer, with the closed season being mid-march to mid-June. Outside of these times the rivers that they frequent provide year-round sport, as most will also have trout that can be fished for in these closed months. Grayling are a beautiful fish and probably the prettiest of all game fish you can target in Wales. Indeed, they have been appropriately nicknamed the lady of the stream.
Grayling are usually very obliging fish and are easier to target than trout as a rule, being more approachable and also easier to catch when they are found in numbers. They will feed on the surface even in the coldest of winter days and when they erect their huge dorsal fins will give the angler a fight to remember.
Venues and Locations:
Grayling are present and found in numerous rivers across Wales in varying abundancy. The Welsh Dee is a very famous river for grayling, providing fantastic sport around the fishing stations of Corwen and Bala. The Dee has a good density of grayling but also a great average size, with fish of over 50cm (the magical 3 lbs marker) being caught each and every season. The Severn is another river that produces big grayling and areas around Caersws should be targeted on this river. The River Wye is a very famous river for grayling, along with its tributaries such as the Monnow and the Irfon. It does have decent sized fish, but more well known for its numbers – a beautiful river system to fish. Other rivers in Wales with grayling present include the Ewenny in South Wales, the Taff from Pontypridd to Cardiff and then the Rhymney in the Caerphilly area.
For a challenge, you may like to try the Teifi in West Wales, which has a small population present.
Tips, tricks and techniques:
By design grayling are bottom feeders; they have an overshot jaw, much like a barbel, that makes grubbing around on the bottom much easier. Indeed, this can present challenges to fish when they choose to feed on the surface and you will often see them rising vertically to do so. Sub-surface fishing presents no such obstacle for the fish and they will readily take and intercept a well presented nymph.
For the dry fly you will often have more luck dead-drifting your offering back to a grayling on a slack line than covering it from below in a classical manner – probably because of the mouth formation. A 9ft #4 rod will be perfect for most rivers. Carry tapered leaders from 9-12ft long and then tippet material to run thereafter. You should carry tippet material in 3-6 lbs with fluorocarbon being preferred. Make sure to also carry some floatant, line degreaser and a fly dryer.
If nothing is moving and/or you are unfamiliar with the water then the New Zealand or ‘klink’n’dink’ method should be adopted to search likely looking water. This is simply a nymph fished underneath a dry fly, covering and presenting both options to the fish. This can be particularly effective for grayling as they are very opportunist feeders and will often rise to the surface for a big, juicy dry fly even when there is nothing hatching and on the coldest of winter days. A large klinkhammer serves this purpose well and will usually keep buoyant even with a weighted nymph underneath.
If no hatches are present then nymphs should be deployed. These may be fished in a traditional manner i.e down and across. However, they will be more successful when fished on either a Czech nymph or French leader approach, which presents the nymphs upstream and on a drag free, natural drift. For this a 10ft rod is often best with either a #3 or #4 line, but the dry fly rod will also double fine for these techniques should you wish to just stick to one. Nymphing is particularly effective for grayling and a good number can be caught in a very small area after the first fish has been found.
This is especially true in winter months when the fish will often shoal.
Make sure to carry nymphs in varying weights and have some heavy enough to make sure you trundle the bottom even if the water is high – this may involve 4-5mm tungsten beads. Grayling also have a soft spot for pink, so make sure you always have a few pink nymphs in your armoury.