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Fishing for Autumn Grayling

Published: 5th October 2020 | Author: Kieron Jenkins

As we push through October, it’s time to start fishing for autumn grayling. Our weather systems start to bring in stronger winds and rain, the leaves change into their autumn colors and the river trout season ends the last day of September. My focus now turns to the lady of the stream.

Right on queue, the first week of October is a write-off with chocolate-brown swollen rivers. Not what I intended for my first look solely for the grayling, but time on the vice is always time well spent, so I have been stocking up on my favorite Autumn grayling flies in earnest.

Targeting grayling can be exceptional fun, they love to move (they have actually been tagged and tracked on the river Wye to move upstream 3 miles per day in some instances!) and locating them is one of the biggest challenges. As the temperatures drop, they often start to shoal up, leaving some pools void of fish, but others stuffed to the brim.

To help you prepare for grayling season, check out this piece by Phillippa Hake.

Locating Grayling

  1. Grayling love a medium pace flow with a gravel or pebble bottom. Gravel is a great habitat for aquatic insects such as Caddis. As a predominantly bottom dwelling fish with their over slung mouth, grayling seem to feed freely on such areas. Rocky areas do not tend to hold great numbers of grayling, though often they can be found behind larger rocks where gravel has built up in the floods.
  2. Look for water no deeper than 4ft. When targeting grayling I look for depths between 2-4ft – knee to waist high is ideal. This type of water seems to hold more fish than others, so focusing your efforts on these depths should put you in the right areas.
Kieron with a fine Autumn grayling.

Want to read more about grayling? Phil Ratcliffe offers some tips on catching the big ones.

Methods for Targeting Grayling

  1. My favourite method for targeting autumn/winter grayling is the French Leader. A two or three fly cast is perfect, with the heaviest fly being alternated between the point and middle dropper depending on the depth and flow of the water. I use the heaviest fly on the point and two smaller flies on the droppers in deep and slow water and switch it with the middle dropper fly in shallow, fast water. This ensures you keep all your flies ‘fishing’ through the water column rather than positioning them in ‘non-taking’ areas.
  2. Pack the indicators. Quite often grayling can be found in slow water and continuing to fish with the French leader may stick the bottom. There’s nothing more annoying than loosing unnecessary flies! A simple 9ft 4x Tapered Leader teamed with a stick-on-indicator and a single or double nymph rig below can be deadly. I like to secure the indicator at the end of the tapered leader, above a tippet ring, with a 3ft tippet and 2x grub/caddis patterns. Simply cast upstream and watch the indicator as it drifts back towards you.
  3. Do not ignore dry flies. October can throw up some unexpectedly high air temperatures which can force a hatch of up-wings. grayling will often drop into shallow water – often at the end of the pools – to feed on brief hatches of olives.

Flies to Try for Grayling

KJ Chewing Gum Caddis

This ‘soft-touch’ chewing gum caddis has been a super effective point/middle dropper for me over the last four years. The heavy tungsten bead is perfect for plummeting to the bottom and holding your flies deep in the flow. Do not be afraid to use the heaviest beads you can find, the 5.5mm Size 8 has accounted for some excellent fish in fast flowing water.

Pink Bead Red Tag

Grayling are extremely fond of tag type patterns, whether it’s pink, red, orange or green, they tend focus in on these bright colours and incorporating such patterns into your nymphing rig will almost always put more fish in your net. I’ve been a huge fan of the red-tag since literally forever, and the new Metallic Pink Tungsten Beads from Fulling Mill simply set this fly off altogether. Granted it is bright, but it certainly pulls the ladies… It’s also a great early season trout fly!

Tied on the new Jig Force SHORT hook. Best fished on the point or top dropper.

During trout season, this fly also does exceptionally well.

Jardine Pink Shrimp

This pattern is also a great ‘attractor’ for grayling. Best fished in gin-clear water on crisp cold days, the Jardine Pink Shrimp can be seriously effective, especially for the younger year-classes of grayling 6 – 12”. Best fished on the point/middle dropper.

KJ Olive Grub

As grayling tend to hug the bottom when feeding, they simply love caddis imitations. This ‘caseless-caddis’ style grub can be devastating on fast flowing rivers. The case-less caddis will be torn from the bottom in fast/high water and tumble along in the current before finding another resting place. During their drift, they often succumb to hungry grayling. This fly has been one of my most effective top dropper patterns for a falling river.

For an extensive range of exceptional barbless flies that you can use fishing for Autumn grayling, take a look at Fulling Mill’s Tactical Range.

To read more from Kieron, check out his other pieces on the blog!

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