No. 10 – Fishing Tips

2 OCTOBER 2015 | Paul Procter

The Tail Gives Them Away
A recent jaunt to the fabled Lambourn, Kennnet, and Test provided sight fishing second to none. Blessed with the clarity you’d expect from a bottle of Gordon’s, one never tires of observing fish and their response to your efforts. Due to tannin, or a hint of suspended solids, my spate rivers back home rarely allow such a privileged glimpse into the trout’s world.

Understandably, those new to sight fishing can often mistake a sunken stick, elongated stone, or various shadows for fish. Often they’ll cast at these phantom shapes, hoping their fly will be snapped up any moment now! Don’t beat yourself up here, as I’ve fallen foul of this act several times, too. Afraid to approach for fear of spooking our quarry, we spend an age chucking at these likely shapes before finally twigging on (no pun intended) they’re not actually fish.

Be it trout or grayling, fish that are feeding hard or on the fin instantly betray themselves by fidgeting as they traverse a current lane. Though, where food is scarce, fish tend to wait more patiently in a feeding lie. To conserve energy, they assume a more static attitude. That said, even to hold station behind a boulder, a fish’s tail will gently wag from side to side.

On noticing a fishy profile, then, our focus should instantly shift to the tail end for signs of movement. Furthermore, where light conditions remain favourable, we’re able to establish whether our quarry is a trout or grayling. Some anglers maintain the huge dorsal fin on grayling is a decent-enough clue. Yet this is often collapsed back, so grayling remain streamlined, especially where flows quicken. 

Brown trout have a near-square tail edge (photo 1), whereas grayling exhibit a V-shaped tail (photo 2). Whilst starkly obvious in these close-up images, photo 3 shows a grayling and trout side-by-side in a more typical scenario, which we anglers are likely to encounter.

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Brownies possess a near-square, spade-like edge to their tail.

Grayling exhibit a very obvious V- shaped caudal fin.

In a proper fishing situation, the tail profile of fish can be difficult to distinguish; yet if you look closely, the evidence is there (grayling uppermost).