Winter Grayling in the Austrian Alps
Winter in the Czech Republic
As being stuck due to covid restrictions as most Europeans, I kept dreaming about my trips over the past few years. The winter is the part of the year when most of the salmonid rivers in Europe are closed, and often covered by ice. The trout and grayling rivers in the Czech Republic (where I live) are closed until the 16th of April, but I live near the border with Austria. If you are looking for a one day trip out of Czech, in my opinion, there’s not a better option than Austria. I went with my friend Vebjorn and Jan (who is local guide there) to cut the long winter time and fish for winter grayling under Austrian alps.
An Early Start
We got on the road early—around 4 A.M.—to drive approximately 3.5 hours to reach the Goiserer Traun, which flows near the famous town of Hallstatt. The river is crystal clear, and runs under the mountain peaks and the scenery. It’s like a fairytale. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much snow around because the air temperature was quite high and sun was shining in between some fluffy clouds. While not as pretty, they were perfect conditions for fishing! During the winter, when the temperature drops down dramatically, fish feeding activity is reduced as well.
We prepared our 10 foot 3 wt and 4 wt rods with french nymphing leaders, which is ideal for targeting winter grayling. You probably heard a lot about this successful competition method. French nymphing is a relatively new method that was introduced in 2000 by the French national team during the World Fly Fishing Championship. It, and other European nymphing methods, have become extremely popular in recent years.
This technique will give you the best chances to catch technical fish in many different situations. The main difference compared to regular upstream fishing with a fly line or floating indicator is the use of a French leader and the lack of a traditional fly line. The french leader consists of a very long tapered monofilament leader and ends with a shorter colorful indicator monofilament. You always cast upstream into the current, few meters above where you potentionaly expect fish. When you cast, lift your arm with the rod and keep leader and indicator above the surface. Let your flies drift drag-free towards you and watch the indicator for any takes. Strike the rod every time you see any movement on your indicator. It’s nothing more complicated then that!
If I have to pick one method for using weighted nymphs – French Nymphing is it. On our day to the alps, I decided not to fish anything bigger than size 16 because the fish were sluggish.
One of my favorite winter grayling nymphs is the Cdc Red Tag Jig Barbless. It works well almost everywhere. It doesn’t matter if you fish the waters of the Czech Republic, England, South Africa, Iceland or United States. You will never go wrong with that fly. It’s a simple, efficient fly with CDC legs, which give that fly specific movement in the water. I used a size 16 red tag as a bottom fly, and a Red Neck (TBH) Barbless in size 18 for the dropper, which I thought graylings might prefer for its size. We combined these flies with 3lb World class fluorocarbon. It is less visible and an incredible strength.
Some of our fish were caught on a Red Neck in size 18, but the most effective fly was the unbeatable KJ GRAYLING PINKY BARBLESS in size 16 as a bottom fly. Graylings just love pink! I do not know the exact reason why, but they do for certain ! It is just another mystery in fly fishing….
Even though the day was pretty cold, the grayling started to show up during midday. We fished mainly the deepest parts of the river with slow currents. We caught couple of grayling in a morning session, and another few in the afternoon. They ranged between 38-45 cm in size.All fish during the winter will move into these parts, where they do not need to use that much energy while fighting rough currents and they can easily hide from predators like otters and cormorants. Both of these animals are are starting to be serious treat for population of grayling in Austrian rivers.
There are a few patterns which should always be in your Grayling fly box. These are the Red nNeck barbless, The Cdc Red Tag Jig, KJ Grayling Pinky barbless, the Pink Hot spot barbless, Tup pool Bug and for very special occasions when nothing is really working, you should have a couple Wiggly Worms. Some people don´t like to use squirmmies for different reasons but the truth is, this pattern can sometimes save your day on the water !