Fishing Dry Flies for Grayling on the River San
October has to be one of my favourite times to fly-fish for Grayling, it just so happens that it’s also one of the best months of the year to fly-fish for them on the River San in Poland.
The first time I fished the mighty River San was around 5 years ago now, over the years the San has taught me things that no local river has.. or even could in many ways. Catching Grayling on dry flies for me is one of my absolute favourite ways of fishing because it is so demanding and definitely tests your skills as a fly-fisher. I also believe it challenges some parts of your personality. Sometimes the fishing can be so frustrating, your presentation can be absolutely perfect, de-greased leader, the perfect fly (or so you think)… and still nothing.
When it gets like that so many fly-fishers do give up and just say, ‘they’re not feeding’, or ‘let’s try a different spot’, when you fully commit to working out what aspect of your fly-fishing set-up is wrong and persist with it, I believe this is when you learn the most. Plus the rewards can be more substantial than you could ever imagine.
On a recent trip to the San I was reminded just how challenging the fishing can be. With Grayling rising in front, to either side and behind, and still not getting any interest or refusals! it’s like working out the pieces of a jigsaw and putting them together in a way. You know technically that you’re presenting your selected fly correctly, its bang on the money but nothing. What do you need to change, the fly, angle of presentation, or just persist? Target a different fish? Wait longer before presenting your fly?
One thing I found on this trip more than ever was the urge to resist casting to a fish as soon as it had risen. Even just watching some of the Grayling rise, they would just feed almost in a synchronised way. Coming up every minute or so, some would feed harder, others less…so even timing casts came into play. When it came together as a collective, the perfect presentation of the fly, absolutely 100% on the right line, and with the water being so clear you could even see the Grayling almost move with excitement as they came up to take.
After all of that hard work to present the right fly, the anticipation and intense concentration, there are still many variables in the process to consider. Is the Grayling going to take is slowly or will it snatch at it? Then there is the issue of distance between you and the fish… they can easily get snagged up in weed so that’s another thing to watch out for.
One thing I love about seeing Grayling track back downstream with the fly is that their nose is literally touching the hook, you know it’s your fly, what is really only split seconds feels like a minute, you’re absolutely willing it to take before the fly starts to drag, and when it takes and you make the connection you can breathe again. When they refuse, or the fly just starts to drag and they sense something isn’t quite right you see them slowly sink back down to the riverbed – a heart-breaking moment! But you carry on, searching for the next target with time you get into your own rhythm. You forget about everything else, like work and lunch, how everybody else is fishing, you just zone in and have one on one time, experiencing and learning as fast as the river will let you.
Dry fly fishing for Grayling can be exceptional, it’s definitely my preferred method for Grayling and trout of that matter. These small quill dries tied on Size 20 Fulling Mill Ultimate Dry Fly Hooks, for big grayling in flowing water a strong hook is needed, but also an ultra-light wire aids the drift and float-ability of the fly.