Posts Tagged ‘Grayling fishing in Wales’

Wow, this year just seems to have flown by.  It didn’t seem that long ago that I was in Wales in those Arctic conditions back in February, battling snow in the south east and incredible sub zero conditions in Wales.

This time around we wasn’t so lucky.  I wish it had of been -8c again but instead it was the wet stuff that proved to be our downfall.  On arrival at the river on our first day in Wales, conditions looked pretty good.  The river was in good sorts with a nice level and colour.  The fishing was a little slow for me but I managed a few nice fish to about 1lb 8oz.  We hadn’t been there very long when the rain started.  It wasn’t particularly heavy, more of an irritation really and quite windy.

I was having one of those very impatient days and this really is one of my biggest faults.  There are days where if I don’t catch within 10 or 15 minutes or at least get a few bites, I start to loose interest.  I find it hard to settle into a swim and find myself quite restless.  This often proves detrimental to my fishing, rarely giving the swim a chance to produce.  This was borne out by my poor performance in one swim, only for Geoff to go in 30 minutes latter and take a shed load of grayling.  I think where grayling are concerned a good 30 – 45 minute attack on a swim is about right.  If there are grayling resident or at least in close proximity of your swim, you should be catching within that time frame.  Ten to fifteen minutes really isn’t enough!

As the rain set in we all agreed enough was enough and we called it a day and headed off to the cottage.  As usual we were greeted by our hosts and I can’t thank them enough for their hospitality and generous help with fishing venues.  Their local knowledge and contacts have proved invaluable.

The following day we headed to a new river, another tributary of the Wye.  It was a beautiful, narrow and intimate river.  It wasn’t particularly deep but had a nice flow and plenty of   features.  There appeared to be a deep run in the margins and the river shallowed towards the opposite bank, a feature that seemed to extend to most of the section that Kevin and I fished.  Geoff and Danny had decided to try another short section a little further upstream.

My initial attack failed to produce a bite after about 40 minutes and so I decided to wander downstream.  I found Kevin in a lovely looking spot on a deepish bend.  He hadn’t had a bite but shortly after I dropped in some way below him, he lost a very big grayling at the net.  At least we knew there were fish here and obviously of a good stamp.

It wasn’t long before Kevin was into another decent grayling and he called me up to photograph his capture; a pristine fish going 2lb 2oz.  The colours were absolutely stunning and the fish was in perfect, mint condition.  Just a magnificent grayling.  Kevin needed to walk back to our starting position to grab our bags and get his camera.  I decided to make the most of this opportunity (with Kevin’s permission of course) and run a float through his swim whilst keeping a watchful eye on his prize.  Second trot through and wallop, fish on.  After a very exciting fight I finally managed to subdue the fish sufficiently to do a ‘John Wilson’ and pick the fish by hand from the water, having left my nets up the bank somewhere and not daring to chance landing the fish with Kev’s net and risk loosing his fish.

2lb 2oz

2lb 2oz

On Kev’s return there were two beautiful grayling in the net, like peas in a pod.  Mine proved to be the smaller of the two at 1lb 12oz but was equally as stunning.  Photo shoot over and it was back to my swim.  It wasn’t long before Kevin was in again and I had to return to his swim for another photo.  This time the fish went 2lb 7oz and was again totally stunning.  This was proving to be some river and Kevin ended up with 7 nice grayling.  My efforts proved less successful but I did manage another grayling of 1lb 12oz and lost another of a similar size at the net.  Other than a couple of trout and a dace that was it for me.  The rain had set in and the river was rising and colouring up quite quickly.  Both Kevin and I felt it was now pretty pointless carrying on.  Neither of us were getting any bites at this point and so it was time to call it a day.

2lb 7oz

2lb 7oz

We managed to get Geoff on the radio and it seemed they had struggled.  Despite fishing some really mouthwatering spots they had only managed a trout each.  Dan had become stranded on the opposite bank as the river rose quite quickly and Geoff managed to wade across but felt it was too dangerous to attempt a return crossing.  They were both wet and pretty fed up and were quite happy to pack up early.  It was quite disconcerting how quickly the river rose and by the next morning, after a night of heavy rain, the rivers were a torrent of foaming stewed tea.  More rain followed and the river Wye and it’s tributaries were at bursting point.  That was an end to the fishing and we were all understandably disappointed.

We made the most of the next day to explore fishing possibilities.  However an opportunity arose to watch the Red Kites being fed, which although some distance away, was something I was keen to witness.  On arrival there were already dozens of magnificent red kites circling overhead.  We made our way to the hides and watched the spectacle unfold around us.  We watched dozens and dozens of Kites swooping down to grab the beef offerings laid out by the local farmer.  Mixed into this spectacular were buzzards, ravens, rooks and crows.  It was really incredible to watch such magnificent birds up so close, a real treat.  Sadly none of us had brought a camera and with only my mobile phone to hand had to make do with some rather poor quality photos.

Red Kites

Red Kites

We made use of our time here to also visit the magnificent Elan Valley Dam and drive through the rugged countryside that surrounds this stunning region.  As you stand there looking up at the incredible wall of water cascading down into the river below, you feel very humble.  The Elan valley has five lakes; Caban Coch, Garreg-Ddu, Pen-y-Garreg, Craig-Goch and Claerwen reservoir and are all formed by the rivers Elan and Maytag.  The waters here provide sustainable drinking water for Birmingham and are supplied by  gravity alone, no pumps.  Quite amazing.

As the weather forecast was for worse to come and with the rivers now almost un-fishable, we took the decision to cut the trip short and return on Thursday after a hearty Welsh breakfast.  Hopefully when we return in February the weather will be a little kinder to us.


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Having managed to escape work for a few days it seemed appropriate, with the onset of winter, to head back to Wales for some early season grayling fishing.  We left Kent and the M25 corridor in thick fog.  It appeared it was going to take some time to get to Wales in these conditions and after a sustenance stop at the Swindon services, it’s generally a good 5 hour trip anyway.  However we were lucky.  Once we reached the M4 and progressed on past Reading, the fog lifted and it was plain sailing all the way.

We had decided to fish the Wye on our first morning.  We were keen to get started. As we looked across the Wye Valley, the hills were shrouded in low clouds.  It looked amazing.  It really lifts the spirits to fish in such incredible surroundings.  We couldn’t wait to get going and I headed downstream with Kevin, He headed to his favourite swim and I decided to explore a bit more, something I love doing.  It doesn’t always pay off but if I’ve gone all that way I want to explore every nook and cranny.

Kevin started as he meant to go on and caught from the off.  I dabbled here and there and never really got into any big numbers of fish.  With frequent ‘little and often’ baiting tactics you can keep quite a good shoal of grayling interested for some time, especially on a river the size of the Wye.  This generally means you can put together quite a big bag of grayling before they spook too much.  On a small river you would really need to rest the swim or keep moving.

As always the crease of the river seems to produce the goods.  Often that means wading out to mid river and fishing that distinct line that marks the edge of the main flow and that of the slightly slower flow on the inside.  With a regular trickle of bait and allowing the float to manoeuvre down this line, sometimes holding back quite hard, you should soon be picking up bites and fish.  Every now and again you’ll hit into an obviously bigger fish, although sometimes at distance.  With grayling being such feisty fighters it can be quite frustrating trying to keep them on.  They love to twist and turn, shaking their heads and utilising that huge sail like dorsal fin to full effect in the powerful flow of the upper Wye.  Often they launch themselves out of the water, thrashing their heads from side to side in a desperate attempt to shed the hook.  Often they succeed too unfortunately and of course it’s always the big fish that you lose!!

In terms of tackle I like to keep it quite simple really, especially here on the Wye as they don’t get fished for too much by coarse anglers (and they don’t come much coarser than me!). I’ll fish a stick float with around 3-6bb which I’ll bulk around 18 inches from the hook.  I will then use a dropper shot of around a number 6 or 4 around 6 inches from the hook which is generally a Kamasan B983 hook with the barb pinched down and in size 14 or 16.   Bait depends on the time of the year and what is allowed but it would mainly be maggots (red seem to be best) or small red worms.  Corn can occasionally produce a bite but nowhere near as many as the previously mentioned baits.  It’s that simple really.  In terms of float control you need to vary the presentation.  Let it runs through unhindered a few times, trying holding back occasionally, which allows the bait to flutter up enticingly in the flow.  You can even hold it back hard and quite literally inch it through the swim.  All can be deadly and you need to keep ringing the changes to see what’s the most effective.

Anyway, back to the day in question.  Despite the mildness of the day I had a distinct chill in the bones and it seemed to get worse as the day wore on.  Neither Geoff nor Kevin could really understand why I was so cold.  Eventually I worked it out.  My waders had a leak in the right leg and I was soaked from the upper thigh down.  As this wasn’t due to incontinence it had to be a hole in the waders.  Luckily it was quite late in the day when I discovered this, so I stopped fishing for the last hour.  Besides which Kevin had emptied the river and I was feeling decidedly inadequate.

We headed off to Richard and Jane’s to settle in to the cottage.  As always they were tremendously welcoming and we booked ourselves in for a full breakfast the next morning.  We were all cream crackered and so after a decent hot meal we decided to call it an early night and I slept like a log 🙂

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As I sit here eating my porridge, I am just about thawed out from the sub zero conditions of my last grayling trip to Wales. We had temperatures down to -10. I believe the term is brass monkeys.

The heavy snow that fell in Kent Saturday night was a bit of a shocker. I was driving back from a day on the Itchen and was caught in the ensuing blizzard. Most of the trip back was in heavy snow and it was becoming apparent the snow was laying quite quickly. By the time I arrived at Reigate, the motorway was covered. Luckily on reaching the Sevenoaks area, I had managed to get ahead of the snow and arrived home safely.

With a trip planned to Wales for 5 days on the Monday, things were looking a little tricky. On awakening Sunday morning, I found we had had maybe 4-6 inches of the white stuff. Lots of phone calls ensued. It seemed my roads were pretty good. The gritters and ploughs were out in force and the roads from about Swindon onwards looked clear. By the end of the day on Sunday, we had decided to go for it.

We headed over the Severn Bridge and cut across the Brecon Beacons. The Black Mountains were covered in snow but the roads were good and eventually we arrived at our destination. We managed to find a cafe in a small village and stuffed our faces with the local health food. You know the sort of stuff; eggs, bacon, sausages etc etc. Low cholesterol and fat free.

A big grayling

We arrived at the river and hoped it would be in good sorts. It was actually quite coloured and up about a foot from our last visit. Despite this it still looked fishable but it was bitterly cold, however at least snow free. We decided to give it a go and explore the section as best we could. I headed up stream with Dan, whilst Geoff and Kevin opted to go downstream.

It was a tough start. I started out fishing a deep pool. I lost a fish almost first cast and then despite numerous moves, I couldn’t muster a bite. I decided to leave Dan to it and move downstream. Bit by bit I worked my way down to the other two guys and ended up fishing in between them. Kevin had found a few fish and was doing reasonably well, considering the conditions. The area was just off of a bend and was smooth water with a reasonable depth. I think in really cold conditions you will struggle to find grayling in very deep water, they seem to prefer the shallower parts. This area was about 3 foot deep.

Dan does it again

I watched as Kevin landed a few fish but sadly lost several big fish. We couldn’t be certain what they were but he felt confident that they were big grayling. I fished the inside line and trickled in a constant supply of maggots. After a couple of runs through the float buried and I hooked into what felt like a bit of a zoo creature. It quite literally towed me all over the river. It was heavy and very powerful. I decided it must be a decent chub and this stretch does produce some clonkers. The fish broke surface and I caught a quick glimpse of it and it looked like a grayling but I couldn’t be sure. After another spell, again the fish broke surface and I saw that long, sail like dorsal rise out of the water.

It was indeed a big grayling and is why we come to this region. Eventually, after a touch of jelly legs syndrome, I managed to net the fish. It looked huge and as I called for the guys, I was convinced it would be close to 3lbs. I was a little ambitious and on the scales it went 2lb 11oz and 3/4. It was weighed in a small plastic bag and so I settled for 2lb 11oz. It equaled my PB and was a magnificent specimen. I was over the moon. It’s been a long time since I landed a grayling of these proportions and was worth the wait.

2lb 11oz Grayling

We carried on fishing. Kevin ended up with a good tally of fish but sadly lost several very big fish, one close to the net. He estimated the fish to be over 2 1/2 pounds and having seen mine, it’s likely to have been so.

The three of us ended up catching a few but not many, whilst Kevin made double figures I think. It was a tough start. Still we headed off to the cottage for a nice cuppa and some food. Our hosts Jane and Richard were there to welcome us and we booked in for a breakfast with them on the Wednesday morning. They are wonderful hosts and make our stay here all the more special.

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We settled in for our farewell breakfast on the last morning.  I looked a little bit like a bloated pig,  infact quite a lot like a bloated pig.  We bid farewell to Richard and Jane and headed off to the Wye for our final day’s fishing.  Despite some overnight rain, the river looked in good sorts.  However overnight we had winds up to almost gale force and it was nothing to do with the beans from dinner.  The wind on Friday was very, very breezy and this would make float fishing difficult.

Danny Collins in Action

Still we wanted to make the most of our final day.  Having seen that magnificent grayling come out on that first day, we all had high hopes that this stretch could hold some very big grayling.  So we all made our way down to the river full of excitement and expectation.  I dropped into a lovely slow glide.  Fishing a small red worm, I trotted down the run, heading to some sunken bushes.  The swim was about 4 feet deep and ran over gravel.  As the float approached the trees, the tip disappeared.  The strike met with a solid resistance and then a couple of thumps.  This felt like a very good fish.  I struggles to budge the fish but eventually it started to move.  A couple of quick thumps indicated to me this was a big grayling.  I nervously applied a little pressure to start to guide the fish upstream.  Again a couple of head shakes and this time the hook hold failed.  I was gutted.  That was a good fish.


The problem with grayling is their delicacy at biting sometimes.  They also gyrate whilst being played and this results in a lot of lost fish.  I’ve tried both barbed and barbless and I’m not convinced there is a great deal of difference between them.  Still after losing two more good fish I opted to swap the barbless for a barbed.  This helped and I landed a couple of much smaller grayling.  The wind had picked up and we also ended up with a couple of very heavy showers.  Still we persevered.  I think Kev had the best day taking about 15 or 16 grayling and again he took the biggest fish, which weighed in at 2lb 2oz I think.  The rest of all caught a few with some nice size fish, but nothing exceptional.

A decent grayling

It was finally time to set off for home.  It’s about a 5 hour trip so would involve a stop or two.  Dan opted for the first part of the trip down to Ross.  Of course it’s all country lanes at this point of the trip.  Dan was doing his impression of Sterling Moss.  After 3 near death experiences I was grateful to take over, despite my nerves being shot to pieces! Mind you we had a good laugh, although I think hysteria had set in.

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