Finding grayling in the coldest water temperatures is a hard obstacle to overcome. In warmer water, grayling can spread out but once the temperature drops in deep winter they tend to shoal up, which makes finding them difficult. The best approach is to fish quickly but methodically. Don’t linger in one place. This does not mean fishing less carefully or without stealth. If the grayling are in the mood you should pick them up fairly swiftly. Once you do, it is time to slow down and fish through that area with a fine-tooth comb. If there’s one grayling, there are likely to be more.



The ideal winter grayling pool will have a good push of water in its neck. Always look for bumpy runs where the river’s surface is broken rather than calm. A pebbled bottom is a good sign because grayling love to grub about among the stones. Where neck water slows to a medium pace as it reaches a deeper area is often a sweetspot. In fact, wherever faster water slackens and a drop in depth combine is usually a likely grayling lie. Try below bridges and on the inside of bends, as long as there is decent depth and the current isn’t too strong. Look for deeper channels, seams and always drop-offs. Generally, in good bugging water you can expect to be wading knee- to waste-deep and covering water even deeper than that, with a good flow to work the flies. Fish slowly and carefully.


Although grayling are known to like bright colours, such as pink, orange, red and purple, We’ve found that fishing imitative nymphs, such as Hare’s Ears, Pheasant-tails variants, and caddis, can be deadly. Without doubt on some days the brighter colours can do no wrong and often in the bitterest conditions, however the biggest specimens we’ve caught over the years have fallen to more imitative patterns. For more information on grayling flies, check out our “Best Winter Grayling Flies” article.


With nymphs If you’re fishing an unknown stretch, the quickest way to learn its features is to fish with nymphs and a form of indicator (coloured section of line, wool or foam). To fish deeply enough, use a point fly sufficiently heavy to trip along the bottom using the “walking the dog” technique of leading the nymphs downstream. You will be able to judge depth much like a coarse-fishermen plumbing the depths with a float. Unless there are grayling rising in a hatch of fly, by far the most effective method is to employ modern nymphing techniques (Czech and French) to get your flies on to or near the riverbed where the grayling predominately feed. By holding the butt of a sensitive long French leader in your fingertips you should be able to feel every bump of the flies on the bottom or, better, a take. Experiment with the weight of the point fly, fishing it as lightly as possible but always ensuring it is heavy enough to trip along bottom.


A little colour in the water is usually very welcome. If river levels are dropping and clearing after a rise the fish can be keen to feed on any extra food passing their way and will take a fly more confidently because they are less likely to feel spooked than in low, clear water. If there has been a big rise in level, the fish can often take a little time to settle, in which case the second day of a more stable river level can be a great time to get among them.


When fishing with a team of heavy nymphs, keep tension on the leader at all times and lift at the slightest hint of a take. It’s surprising how many takes are missed by anglers unused to this method.

Hooked grayling

Keep tension on the leader at all times and lift at the slightest hint of a take.

HOPE FOR THE DRY FLY (it can happen)

If the water isn’t suitable for bugging, or the temperature is warmer, then fishing the duo (nymph tethered below a dry-fly) or a floating indicator may be the way to go. It is possible to catch grayling on the dry-fly, or high in the water, in sub-zero air temperatures and very cold water. Seeing the tell-tale splashy rise of a grayling can happen at any time of the year and with the much warmer and drier autumns (and winters) of the last three years surface tactics should never be discounted. In low, clear water when it is difficult to get close to fish without spooking them, fishing nymphs under a dry-fly or indicator at longer range can pay dividends. Indicator fishing can be very useful in high water, too, when wading becomes difficult or dangerous. If fishing a nymph below a dry-fly or indicator, make sure the nymph is heavy enough to get as close to the bottom as possible.


Fishing New Zealand style with a floating indicator such as a klink and dink is an effective method.


It’s best to use a soft-actioned rod when fishing with a team of heavy nymphs. Grayling are soft-mouthed and if you use a rod with a fast (stiff) action or play a fish too hard you risk “bumping” them off. A 10 ft-11 ft rod for a 3 wt-4 wt line is ideal. With this set-up we opt for a long tapered French leader (20 ft-25 ft) ending in a two-colour in-line indicator, usually orange and green. To this we attach a 10 ft tippet of 0.14 mm Stroft (finer in very low water conditions) with two droppers (that’s three flies including the point position) with usually 18 in to 2 ft between the flies.


Just because you’ve fished through a likely bit of water and failed to pick up a fish does not mean grayling aren’t there. It’s amazing what a change of flies can do sometimes, so make a change and go through the water again, or mark the spot and come back to it later. If you’ve got one grayling but have failed to connect with a second fish, don’t give up on the area. Grayling can be as hard to winkle out as any other wild fish and blanking at known hotspots is not uncommon, particularly where bigger specimens are concerned. Revisit the pool later, but change your wading line slightly and make sure you cover every square metre with your flies.

If you require any further information regarding Grayling fishing, please feel free to contact the Angling Active team. We are happy to help.

This article was brought to you in association with Trout & Salmon.