Not the best conditions for grayling (Entry 22)

I have been determined to get out on the river after some grayling for a few weeks now, but with the water levels rising and dropping so much, I’ve not had the best conditions. Well the weather didn’t help this weeks plan either but I decided to give it a go regardless. Two nights before the session we had a lot of cold rain fall, and to make matters worse, the air temperature went from being fairly mild to having us a harsh overnight frost which resulted in a very bright, but cold, day. On arriving at the river there was still a lot of colour in the water, not dense colour, but I felt it was enough to make fishing difficult. The river had levelled out, no longer rising at least, but not yet fining off.

Pictured above is a typical swim I fished today. I was trotting a shouldered stickfloat using white maggot as bait. The river itself is only a maybe 16-20 metres wide and I usually fish it with a centrepin, but today I had brought with me my trusty Abu 501 closed face reel, primarily because there was strongish winds forecast and I felt I would tangle less using it instead of the ‘pin. I’ve only recently acquired a ‘pin and I must say, apart from when its very windy, it is a joy to use and offers amazing presentation if used correctly. I am sure I will write more on it in the future as my skill with it improves but today the Abu 501 was the reel of choice. Rig wise I used a 6 no.4 float, a little heavier than I usually use due the extra water and pace, and knowing the bigger grayling like to hug the bottom and wait for food times to pass, I wanted enough weight down the line to be sure the bait was in the vicinity of the bottom. I used a 4lb mainline and a 0.09mm bottom which breaks at roughly 2lb. To this was tied a size 18 Drennan Maggot hook which would hold a single white maggot. The shotting was simply bulked at the swivel, which incidentally, I use to attach the hooklength to the mainline to stop any line twist on the retrieve. A very simple rig but one thats very good for grayling on fast, shallow rivers.

After a few trots through the first swim it was clear it was going to be a tough day. In the hour I had been walking the river sussing out some swims I had not seen a single fish top and underfoot the ground was solid. If theres one fish thats going to feed in dire cold conditions it would be the grayling. It wasn’t this cold that bothered me though, it was the coloured water. Ive never really had good results in coloured water but I was here now and I was determined to catch a grayling before I left. Its still important to feed after every trot through the swim to attract any fish. The key is to feed as little as you can. Today I was feeding just three maggots. After around an hour I had my first bite. A tiny little dip of the float was the only indication I had but it just looked a little to ‘fishy’ to be the hook catching an debris. A jagged, little fight ensued, the fish darting lively around the swim. I felt sure it was a tiny trout. It was in fact a tiny grayling! Although small I was very happy I had caught it. This little fish had given my confidence a real bost. The tactics were working I know felt that as long as I found a few fish, and fished the right area of the swim, I might get a few more before the day was out. Encouragingly I also noticed that the water visibility was getting better. The colour was definitely dropping out a little. So with some purpose I trudged through the weakened beds of nettles to the next pool with renewed optimism.

The next swim looked as good as the last. I decided to stick with my tactics but I upped the amount of feed a little. Five maggots at the end of every trot through. Retrieve the float, check the bait, side cast the rig out and trot through, holding the rig back, and running it through at the speed of the current. After ten minutes a positive bite resulted in my second grayling. A lovely, brightly coloured fish weighing exactly 1lb.

After returning the fish I put the float through on a similar line which resulted in another bite,  which I bumped off on the strike. For an hour after that I had not a single sign or bite. I cut the feed down. I even stopped feeding for a while. I decided to stop for a cup of coffee and decide wether to stick it out here or move onward to the next swim. It was now around noon and I decided to move the the last swim I would fish today. After finishing my coffee naturally. It gave to me a perfect opportunity to admire the beautiful countryside I was in. Absolutely tranquil, wagtails visiting the gravel banks looking for food, shrews scurrying in the long grass. Frost covering everything still not fortunate enough to be warmed in the suns rays.

I arrived at the last swim and proceeded to fish it as I had done the previous few swims. The fish were obviously being very finicky. I fished this swim in the deepest water I could find which was tight against the far bank where the current was strongest. It took three trots though to get a bite. The strike met with solid resistance. It must be a chub I thought. No head shaking though instead the fish just kept deep and then energetically darted in every direction possible. I caught sight of the fish flash and was sure it was a grayling, a decent one too, surely over a pound. I was relieved when the fish was in the net. I rested the fish in the margins to recover whilst I readied the scales. It turned out to be a new PB for me at 1lb 4oz, beating my old one by 4oz. I was made up on such a difficult day it was the perfect way to end the session.

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Until next time,



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