Since the introduction of the French Leader, which, granted, is a devastatingly effective method for both trout and grayling (see how to fish it here), I’ve noticed a considerable amount of anglers simply sticking to this method and fishing all the likely looking ‘french nymphing’ water and ignoring the slow glides. Throughout the winter, slow water can quite often be THE place to fish as it can hold large shoals of grayling. So I pose the question, fishing slow water for grayling, are you ignoring it?
Fishing slow water may seem daunting, you’re often faced with a substantial amount of water and knowing where to go and what method to use may cause headaches. But, understanding the characteristics of the river and looking for obvious fish holding features (if any), then fishing them effectively can open your eyes to what is actually lurking in the slower parts of the river…
Two things to look for; depth and pace.
From my experience, I am a firm believer that grayling simply don’t like deep water. Others may have other ideas on this, but for many years I’ve fished deep holes and gullies hoping to find a shoal of grayling, it seems they just don’t tend to hold in numbers in water over 5 feet deep. The slow water on most rivers tends to be the deeper section of the pool, especially on larger rivers such as the Wye, Dee, and Taff in South Wales.
So where do you start fishing slow water for grayling? I tend to enter the pool at the back end of the riffled water, where the water just starts to flatten out. This is a prime area for grayling as they’re not using too much energy and can pop into the fast water to feed if needs be.
My favourite technique fishing slow water for grayling is the bung or indicator method. A buoyant indicator such as the Fulling Mill Foam Bung can hold up a fairly substantial amount of weight and is extremely visible. Another great bung would be the slide on Fish Pimp Indicators, ideal for those who may want to swap between nymphing and indicator fishing. If you’re not a fan of the bung, we suggest you take a look at fishing the Duo or Trio with large dry flies, as described here by Simon Robinson…
I tend to fish the indicator directly on the end of an Airflo poly-leader, with tippet and flies beyond. The poly-leader aids turnover when casting heavy bugs and the air-resistant bung. To fish this method correctly I find a long rod essential, as mending and manoeuvring your fly line to get a purely dead drift is key. A 10 or even 11ft long, 4# rod will suffice, although what I have noticed is the lighter the line weight, the harder you have to work to get a good cast.
A two fly cast with a spacing of around 18 inches from the point to the dropper is usually enough to fish most glides, but quite often in fast water you can get away with three, depending on the buoyancy of your indicator.
When fishing slow water for grayling you may find that the fish are concentrated in very specific depths, quite recently we were fishing on the River Wye and everything we caught was just beyond waist depth, around 2.5 – 3ft, where the deeper water that always produces seemed to be void. It’s always good to keep an eye on this so you can target certain depths throughout the day.
Favourite Fly Patterns
When it comes to cold water and Grayling, pink is often favoured. A range of colourful patterns as well as drab flies will produce fish, quiet often a shoal of grayling will become weary of the brighter patterns so a selection of both is definitely advised.
A particularly good pattern the first run through a pool. Fresh fish will always have an eye for bright colours, so take advantage of this before they become accustomed to the bright stuff.
This olive grub pattern fishes best in the smaller sizes on the dropper. If you’re fishing through a pool and find a pod of grayling that may not be responding to the bright stuff, this pattern usually produces takes.
An extremely good pattern for rocky rivers where caddis will be in abundance. Fish this fly on the point of an indicator set up as close to the bottom as you dare. The fly will ride ‘hook up’ hopefully snagging the bottom less.
Although, when the water is high the Fulling Mill Squirmy worm can also be extremely effective, especially around any incoming water like road run offs or a junction pool…