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Late season grayling

October 11, 2016 3 min read

Some of my earliest fly fishing in the late 1960s was for the grayling of the Yorkshire Rivers. Their beauty, wildness & unpredictability make them my favourite fish. Whilst much of my grayling fishing is done on small becks & my local chalk stream, I do occasionally fish bigger rivers in the UK & Europe.

David Southal Driftfield Beck

Winter Grayling

In winter conditions I often opt for French / Euro / Czech nymphing with a 2 or 3 weight rod from 10 to 12’ long teamed up with a micro-nymph line to which is attached 12’ from the butt of a French leader tapering from 0.5mm to 0.3mm, then 18” of bicoloured copolymer indicator (0.3mm) that has been run between thumb nail & forefinger to give it an open twist (not as tight as a Curly Whirly indicator). The final bit is a tippet of 0.13mm, 1.5 to 2x the water’s depth. I often fish a single weighted nymph/bug where club rules only allow a single fly.

However, where possible I fish 2 flies with a heavy point fly & a smaller lighter fly on a dropper about 18” above. It’s amazing how often a size 18 or 20 nymph on the dropper out fishes the point fly making me wonder is it the size or the increased mobility that appeals to the fish? On my local chalk stream there have been many instances when I’ve watched big grayling studiously ignore big flies only to succumb to a size 20 to 24 nymph or midge pupa.

David Southal Driftfield Beck


Tenkara is my preferred technique in waters where I can wade close enough to the fish & where high flows & big fish do not risk breakages. My Tenkara set up involves a Hi-vis Orange, 0.285mm Fluorocarbon line 5’ shorter than the rod to which is attached about 5’ of tippet. If light conditions are poor I’ll sometimes attach a small cylinder of bright yellow or pink indicator foam to the junction between fluorocarbon & tippet.

With both set ups I cast upstream at about 45 degrees & as I track the rod, keeping light tension on the line I hold the line & indicator off the water to minimise drag from the faster surface water, watching the line end or indicator for any slight sign of a take. Once the flies are well downstream, allowing them to finally lift with the current, I flick them back upstream on a slightly different line.

Many fish are caught during the lower half of the drift, particularly as the flies start to lift. Fly-weight is critical as the fish are usually close to the riverbed & I constantly change flies if I’m not occasionally tapping bottom.

David Southal Driftfield Beck

Both the above set ups give me the option to quickly change to a dry fly if the opportunity arises such as a brief February or early March hatch of Large Dark Olives. It only takes seconds to remove the nymphs/bugs & attach a size 18 CdC IOBO Humpy or Shuttlecock. Alternatively sometimes at dusk, even on a cold day, tiny Midges return to the water to egg-lay & a size 24 CdC Midge can tempt a riser or two.

At one time I only fished 3 or 4 subsurface grayling patterns, believing that presentation was 99% of the game but sight-fishing for chalk stream grayling has taught me that there are times when the fish can be very fussy about fly choice. I now carry a range of flies, my favourites being Shrimps (mainly pinkish & orange), Bead-head Partridge & Hare’s Ear Spiders, Utah Killer Bugs (orange & pink), Squirmy Worms (red & pink) & size 18 or 20 Bead-head Nymphs (black & pink beads).

David Southal Driftfield Beck

This video is 1 of 94 casting tutorials explaining everything from basic set ups to master level casts

Fundamentals | Starting to Fly Cast

The basics of tackle
Language of casting
Sensory awareness


Fundamentals | Understanding Fly Tackle

Fly line weights, lengths & tapers
Rod lengths & weights
Leaders & tippet
Tackle to practise with


Fundamentals | Overhead Casting

How to hold a fly rod
Circles 8's & straights
Remove all slack
Plane of the Cast
Triangle Method
Overhead Cast
Stop & Drop
Retrieving the Line
High Back Cast
Breaking The Wrist
Shooting the line
Loop Shape
Slipping the Line
Stroke Length
The Forward Delivery
The Shelf
Drift Versus Breaking the Wrist
Backslash Forwardslash
Speed Ramp
Body Movement


Fundamentals | Double Haul

Intro to the Double Haul
Tackle for the Double Haul
Single Haul
Double Haul
Double Haul Fast Track
Cast Trajectory
Late Haul
Hauling Grip
Double Haul for Accuracy
Line Trays
Offset Alignment Guides


Fundamentals | Taking it to the Water

The Lift
Pick Up & Lay Down Cast
Roll cast
Energy of a Roll Cast


Advanced | Spey Casts

Intro to Spey Casting
Switch Cast
45 Degree Single Spey
Backhanded Cast
90 Degree Single Spey
90 Degree Snake Roll
45 Degree Snake Roll
90 Degree Double Spey
The Running Mouse
The Silent Spey
45 Degree Double Spey
45 Degree Snap T
90 Degree Snap T
45 Degree Circle Spey
90 Degree Circle Spey
Body Movement
Spey Cast Hauling
Beating Obstructions Spey


Advanced | Beating the Wind

Tail Wind
Head Wind
Side Wind


Master | Mends

Upstream Downstream Mends
Curve Mends
Reach Mends


Master | Pick Ups

Corkscrew Pick Up
Snap Pick Up
Roll Cast Pick Up
Double Spiral Pick Up
Snap Pick Up Variation
Aerial Spey
Cast Stringing


Master | Accessory Casts

Casting Big Flies
Feed Cast
Free Snag Cast
Snap Cast