Wednesday, 01 November 2017 11:10

Autumn Grayling

Many of us wait for the first frosts to start our grayling fishing. Ben Bangham feels that late autumn is the time to make the most of some quality sport.

We are coming to the time of year where the trout season is coming to an end and our minds start to wander onto the silvery, jinking, darting, twisting red and blue tinged silver bars that are residing in rivers across most of the UK, the grayling. 

You don’t have to wait for the cold frosty mornings of winter to enjoy the fantastic sport that grayling can offer you. There is some phenomenal sport to be had at this time of year as well. 

The added advantage of targeting grayling now is that they can easily be caught on a dry as well as a nymph, and I do love catching them on a dry fly. 


Light Approach

Most grayling are pretty small in stature so I target them with light tackle. The only time that I use ‘bigger’ rods is when I am on the bigger rivers. However, this is a rarity, so 2-wts are my preferred rod of choice. 

With the 2-wts I use I am able to use super-fine tippets without too much risk of snapping on the take. I can feel the fight of even a small fish and enjoy the results of my hard work. Presentation of very small dries is easy with a lighter rod, plus if I hook into a bigger fish then I can still tame it fairly quickly without tiring it out too much so I can return it safely. 

IMG 0887

A regular application of Hy-Flote dust will keep your CDC patterns afloat.


I use Sage rods with matching RIO lines for most of my fishing now. The nymph rod I use is the 10ft Sage ESN 2-wt with a RIO FIPS Euro Nymph line and one of the Euro Nymph leaders that is perfectly made up for river fishing. Short of putting some tippet on I’m ready to go. This balances the rod perfectly and is a joy to fish with. The thing I like about the ESN is that it does have some backbone in reserve, so if I were to hook into something big then I have the power there to tame the fish. As well as this, it means that I can fish in fast water without the worry that the rod might buckle when I hook something decent.

My dry rod is the Sage Little One, 8ft 2in, 2-wt. This is a little gem and probably the best dry-fly rod I have ever cast. I team this up with a 2-wt RIO Intouch LT in a double taper, it just sits on the rod beautifully and means I can get pinpoint accurate presentation without spooking fish. It is light and responsive and again I can bend it down to the butt without a care in the world if I have to force a fish in. I have 4-wts and other rods that normally come in the car but I rarely get them out when targeting grayling. 

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For small rivers Ben’s preferred rod is a 2-wt. This allows him to fish fine without fear of losing fish.


Leaders And Tippets 

I lean towards light leaders with grayling. Due to this I fish with either RIO Suppleflex or Stroft for the really light work. Diameter-wise, it is normally a 0.10mm that I use when on the nymphs and a 0.08mm or even 0.06mm for the dry-fly work. I normally fish the 0.08mm tippet and only really drop to the 0.06mm when I absolutely have to. It does get you more takes but you have to be super-careful with it because even with a 2-wt you can snap it with ease. 


Nymph Leader 

As I said before, I use the RIO Euro Nymph leader because it is already set up for me to the specifications that I fish to in competitions. From the end of this I have a length of leader that is about four feet to the top fly and then three feet between the flies whether I am using just two or three. For this I use either the RIO Suppleflex or Stroft in a 0.10mm. It is rare that I go lighter than this.

On the Little One I use a 9ft tapered leader down to about 0.12mm where I attach a small rig ring and then three feet of 0.08mm Stroft onto the fly. This is a simple setup but it is all that you need to catch a grayling. 


Nymphs For Autumn Grayling

So what do I take with me to the river to tempt some of the silvery ladies? Below are the three nymphs and three dries that I use a lot at this time of year. Let’s look at the nymphs first. 

PTN Meebee PTag

PTN Variant 

A more modern and up to date Pheasant Tail Nymph. The key to this fly is not to overdress it. The collar should be small and understated, which gives this fly a sleek look to it. This in turn means that it cuts through the water and sinks well. 

Hook: Hanak 450BL, size 14/16 

Bead: Metallic dark blue tungsten 2-4mm 

Thread: Purple 8/0 

Body: Pheasant tail 

Thorax: Hends No17 

Rib: Fine copper wire 

Tail: Coq de Leon 



This is essentially an Orange Tag. Orange is a great colour to have in a fly and this one has caught me a lot of fish over the years. The tag contrasts nicely with the dark body and the CDC gives it great movement. I normally fish it with a silver bead because this seems to be the most effective colour. 

Hook: Hanak 450BL, size 14/16 

Bead: Silver tungsten 2-4mm 

Thread: Black 8/0 

Body: Black dubbing and UV blue mix 75/25 

Rib: Fine copper wire 

Thorax: CDC  

Tail: Orange fibres  


Purple Tag 

A lovely underrated fly. This is a dull fly that is a go-to pattern in very clear water when the bright colours can scare some fish. Again it has a bit of extra movement from the inclusion of the CDC as a collar. The overall dark look of the fly with the subtle sparkle that runs throughout it is a deadly combination. 

Hook: Hanak 450BL, size 14/16 

Bead: Metallic pink tungsten 2-4mm 

Thread: Black 8/0 

Body: Hends No45 

Rib: Fine copper wire 

Thorax: CDC

Tail: Hends No17 



Dry Flies 

Many grayling anglers tend to reach straight for the nymph box at this time of year. However, this can be the best time of year for some serious dry-fly action. Here are my top three for this time of year.

Grey Duster Red Tag Quillham

Grey Duster 

Probably the most underrated and underused dry out there. A real classic pattern that should have a place in everybody's fly box, especially when after grayling. It’s older than God’s dog and worth tying a few up for the autumn.

Hook: Hanak 130BL, size 14-16 

Thread: Light grey 8/0 

Body: Mole 

Hackle: Badger hackle 


Red Tag F-Fly 

A lovely F-Fly to use, the little Red Tag gives a bit of colour to bring the grayling off the bottom to the dry. A great fly fished blind because the little tag is just too much for them to resist. Couple this with how an F-Fly sits and fishes and you have a very effective dry fly indeed. 

Hook: Hanak 130BL, size 14-18 

Thread: Black 8/0 

Body: Mole 

Tag: Glo-Brite No3 

Wing: Natural CDC 



This is an amazing fly that is based on the Klinkhamer and tied in the same way, with the only difference being the body of the fly is stripped quill instead of dubbing. It is a nice, visible fly due to the Aerowing post and works when targeting feeding fish as well as prospecting. You can tie it in a host of colours to suit the situation. 

Hook: Hanak Klinkhamer, size 10-14 

Thread: To match quill 

Thorax: Hare’s ear dubbing 

Post: Tiemco Aerowing  

Hackle: Match the body 


Autumn Grayling 

I had a chance to get out and give my favourite dries and nymphs a swim on a recent trip to my local river, where the grayling were more than happy to feed. I like to target the faster riffled water at this time of year because it seems to be where the grayling like to hold, with the extra oxygen.  

I tend to stay clear of the deeper runs at this time of year because they are normally full of brownies. I will fish these spots if I see the telltale rises of grayling, but other than that I tend to push on past. 

On the day the conditions were better suited to chucking around a small dry fly than a nymph so that is what I concentrated on, with fairly good success. I did try a nymph but only when I saw a nice grayling that I could individually target. This worked and I managed a few nice fish on a single nymph, the Purple Tag being the pick, as well as some fish on dries. 

It was a great way to spend the afternoon; remember that it isn't always about the size of the fish. So now you have an idea of the flies and equipment to use, get out there before it gets cold and too dark and getting out of bed becomes more difficult! The grayling fishing now can be excellent; use the lightest rod that you have so you can enjoy the fight of those autumn grayling.

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Expect big bags on autumn days on the river as the grayling make the most of the abundant food sources around at this time of year.


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