Fishing for Grayling: Flies and Tackle

The grayling (Thymallus thymallus) is a beautiful fish. Its skin is shot with colours like a piece of oiled silk and its streamlining is flawless, even though the big dorsal does appear a bit ungainly when one is used to the trim lines of trout. The grayling is, of course a member of the salmon family and has the adipose fin of that fish as proof. Just to be contrary, however, it spawns at the same time as coarse fish.

Grayling tend to run small when compared with trout, and in some waters they are very small indeed. Fish of 2.5 kg (5 lb) and over are uncommon in most rivers; a 1 kg (2 lb) grayling is a good fish.

The variable distribution of grayling has been a matter for discussion over the years. There is some evidence that grayling may have been introduced into Scotland and northern England by monks, and certainly the spread of this fish south and west is patchy and localized. In Wales, the main pockets of grayling would seem to be importations.

The grayling is not usually classed among the bottom-feeders, but the river bottom is clearly where most of its food is obtained. The shape of its mouth certainly argues a predilection for river-bed foraging.

It does, however, feed on insect fare and in suitable conditions will rise to surface fly with alacrity. On the whole, grayling may be considered for fishing purposes as wet-fly fish or, in other words, mid-water feeders, but on chalk-streams, where floating duns can be exhibited under ideal conditions, the dry fly too will take its quota. All of which suggests that the grayling should be studied in relation to the water in which it is found.

Grayling, unlike salmon and trout, spawn in early summer and are at their best in autumn and early winter. Grayling fishing, in trout waters, thus permits a useful and pleasant extension of the fishing season. Many trout anglers fish grayling until Christmas.



In Britain, grayling don’t seem to be very discriminating about flies. Most of the grayling I have caught and those I have seen captured by other anglers took flies which are best described as `generalized impressions’.

The fancy patterns are popular, especially those with a yellow or red wool body. Even more effective — because more conspicuous in dull light — would be flies dressed with a tag of fluorescent floss. Red is a good colour for dusk, but yellow shows up best in discoloured water.

Flies in sizes 10, 12, and 14 (Redditch Scale) should be adequate for most conditions that permit of fly-fishing. In heavy water or falling water after spates more grayling will be caught by trotted baits.

Again, I don’t think one need lose a night’s sleep over patterns. If grayling are rising to particular flies they should be offered the appropriate dry trout fly. Red Tag has earned some fame as a grayling fly, but almost any wet fly with a trace of tinsel and colour will catch grayling feeding in mid-water.


The best general rod is probably the familiar 2.7 m (9 ft) trout rod. With this goes a line of suitable weight and a 7.5 cm (3 ins) reel. The line can be either dressed silk or self-floating. For fly-feeding fish weighing probably no more than 350 g (3/4 lb) there is a good case for fishing as light as possible.

18. July 2011 by admin
Categories: Fish, Game Fishing, Grayling | Tags: | Comments Off on Fishing for Grayling: Flies and Tackle


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