Fly Fishing Lessons:
A day with the Lady of the stream -
Fly Fishing for Grayling.

The Grayling (Thymallus Thymallus) is truly a graceful creature of our rivers and has been the quarry of the coarse angler for many years. It is perhaps only within the last fifteen years that this salmonid has become the quarry of many keen fly fishers, myself included. Because they spawn in Spring, grayling can be fished for throughout the winter months, if one chooses to brave the elements, and I have spent many hours up to my thighs in ice cold water in pursuit of this superb specie. The closed season for grayling is March 15 th to June 16 th . I am privileged to have one of the best grayling rivers in England and Wales, The Welsh Dee, right on my doorstep, and Andy Nicholson's comment when filming “The Lady of the Stream”, wall to wall grayling, on some stretches is not an exaggeration.

The River

During the spring and summer when the water temperature warms up grayling can be found in the shallower rippled water toward the head of the pool, as well as in the long shallow glides at the tail of the pools. When fish are rising to the dry fly then accurate and delicate presentation is essential. Once the colder weather arrives and there have been a couple of crisp frosts, then the grayling start shoaling up in the deeper pools (although this is not always the case with the Dee - why, I don't know). This is when upstream nymphing comes into its own, and the Czech nymphing technique can pay real dividends. A lot of my better fish have fallen to this technique in winter.


When dry fly fishing, and depending on the size of river, the length of rod to use should be between 8'6” to 9' with a Mid Flex action rated for a 4 or 5-weight floating line. A tapered leader of 9' and a fine tippet of no more than 5X is essential. Whether you choose a weight forward (WF) or double taper (DT) fly line is personal preference, depending on how you like to cast. Double taper lines tend to make roll casting easier.

When nymphing, my choice of rod length would be 9' to 10', surrounding environment permitting, rated for a 5 or 6-weight line. A longer length rod helps to cover the water, especially with a heavy nymph, and keeps you in contact with the submerged line.

Czech Nymphing

I think the upstream dry fly and traditional upstream nymphing techniques are well known by most, so I will try to explain the less well known Czech nymphing technique.

First, the set up for the terminal tackle: most of my fishing is done in 2 to 5 feet of water so a 9 foot leader will be sufficient. If you need more, then lengthen the leader with Super Strong tippet material of 4X or 5X strength. You will want see when the fish takes, so use either a coloured (orange) loop connector or a small bite indicator attached to the end of your fly line. You will need to switch between fishing a single nymph and teams of nymphs together at the end of your leader – the Orvis Dropper Rig Fly Box is excellent for holding pre-tied teams of nymphs.

Second, the fly patterns which I have had most success with are the Peeping Caddis, Orange and green, GRHE gold heads and the Czech nymphs. In shallower, slower water gold head Hares Ears fish well and these can be fished in teams if you wish with the heavier nymphs. Don't be afraid to try different combinations of flies together:

•  I often fish with a single peeping Caddis and if the water is quite heavy then I will put a dropper on, about 18 inches above the point, or add a lead free shot about an inch up from the point fly.

•  If you want to be adventurous, try a team of three Czech nymphs, if you use different weighted ones, make sure the heaviest goes on the top dropper ending up with the lightest on the point. This will keep the three nymphs fishing along the bottom. Remember the objective is to get those nymphs down on the bottom as quick as possible and keep them there.

Before I start fishing I usually walk the beat and pick out three or four pools where I feel I would have most success and rotate between them so they all get rested a fair while.

Third, the presentation: with no more than five or six feet of fly line out of the rod tip, make a short “lobbed” cast upstream, and let the flies sink quickly to the bottom. Keeping the rod tip up so you have straight line contact with the connecting loop or indicator at the water's surface. As the line and indicator drift towards you, follow it with the tip of the rod (keeping the tip high). Don't let any slack line build up – this can be done by raising the rod tip further as the indicator comes closer to you. Any movement the indicator makes against the flow of water, then smartly lift into it…sometimes it will be the flies catching the bottom and there's nothing there…but other times you quickly realise there is a grayling on the end. When the drift is level with your shoulder finish with a sharp lift back and “lob” the same length of line back up stream to cover as much water as you can off both shoulders whilst slowly moving up the pool.

Should you need any further advice on the subject feel free to call or visit me in our Tarporley store, or one of my colleagues in our other stores across the UK – we all like to talk fishing! Until then I hope you have as many happy hours as I do fishing for this beautiful sporting species.

Jeff Clark