Eyes Down for Grayling

Written by: Paul Procter

Generally speaking, October and November can provide us with memorable days when it comes to grayling. As the sun sinks ever lower each day, Large dark olives and Pale watery duns have their last fling before winter takes hold. In turn, emerging flies of both species summon grayling to the surface, treating us to top drawer dry fly sport. That is unless raging floods or icy cold weather buggers the job!


Given favourable conditions, Large dark olives can be present right through to the end of November.
Photo by Paul Procter

According to tradition, November sees the start of winter proper and true to form this can be a fickle month. In my neck of the woods, icy northerly winds often stop play as they knock back fly hatches. With little stirring at the surface, we now need to revise tactics. Forgetting any notion of dry fly fishing, instead, nymphs will form the cornerstone of our approach.


Nymphs are often the go to patterns for those pursuing grayling during winter.
Photo by Paul Procter

Blessed with clear water, like that found on chalk and limestone based streams, we have a distinct advantage of locating fish by sight. Often likened to hunting, in many respects this form of sight nymphing can be just as exciting as casting a dry fly to a dimpling rise form. After all, our quarry is visible, allowing us to plot their downfall. Equally, as our nymphs near their target, a sense of anticipation sweeps over us as we studiously watch grayling for any signs of acceptance.

Given clear water, naturally we’re just as obvious to shoaling grayling as they are to us, so “caution” should be our byword now. Bedraggled bankside vegetation offers little in the way if cover, so we should ideally progress upstream by keeping well back from the margins. Equally, once grayling are discovered, it’s perhaps best to drop to your knees before delivering a cast, as such a low profile goes a long way to remaining undetected.


Kneeling lowers your profile considerably when little in the way of bankside vegetation exists.
Photo by Paul Procter

Remember too that the sun barely claws its way above the horizon to ultimately throw long shadows. If wandering upstream with the sun on your back (behind you), any shadows are likely to be cast across the water, warning grayling of our presence long before we unlatch a fly. Obviously, winter too tends to see less suspended solids in the water column and faced with the clarity you’d expect to see in a bottle of London’s finest gin, tippet diameters need tweaking.

It’s unlikely that fish physically see monofilament though the finer you go the more natural your nymphs tend to behave. I’m happiest in the realms of 0.13mm (6x/3.5lb breaking strain), which has the required strength to cope with lively fish, yet is fine enough to give any imitation a free rein.

As for nymphs, well top of the pile for me has to be a shrimp of sorts, as after all this crustacean is widespread and always available to fish. My “go to” pattern will be one of a more subdued shade, not dissimilar to the natural. However, if grayling turn their noses up then I’ll reach for something that bit more gaudy like a pink shrimp for example. Whilst this might not resemble any living creature, at times grayling have an eye for more outlandish flies!


Drab shrimp patterns should always be your first port of call.
Photo by Paul Procter


About Paul: Life long Orvis supporter, AAPGAI Master Instructor, Orvis Endorsed Guide and Wild Trout Trust vice president, Paul Procter is a dedicated flyfisher with over 40 years experience under his belt. Aside from being a regular on the Orvis Blog, Paul is a leading contributor to Trout & Salmon, Trout Fishermen and the Fieldsports Magazine. Travelling extensively throughout the UK, Europe and Southern Hemisphere, Paul has gained extensive knowledge in both fresh and saltwater disciplines. His abiding love though is to target large wild brown trout using dry fly techniques.

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