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The Peaks Fly Fishing Diaries - Hot Soup and Grayling

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A Knight’s banner of a fin waving tartan red in the stream... A Knight’s banner of a fin waving tartan red in the stream...

Autumn has arrived and David Johnson has hot soup grayling on his mind…








Well, autumn has arrived with all of the subtlety of a pantomime dame…

As the wind rips the leaves off the trees outside my office window, so it blew away the chance to finish the trout season with a bit of warm autumn sunshine.

Like many anglers, my attention is now firmly focused on grayling. The riverbank has already changed, the vegetation is starting to recede and the bed of the stream is littered with leaves.

The rain over the past couple of weeks has given the rivers a good drink and our grayling season has got off to a flying start.

With guiding and coaching taking up much of my spring and summer, much of my fishing these days is for grayling. As long as it’s still and dry, even the crisp, coldest days can be productive and hot soup on the river bank watching the winter world pass by for a few hours is wonderful.

You cannot approach grayling fishing in the same way as trout fishing in spring if you want to be successful. During the winter months this can be a difficult change of mindset for seasoned fly anglers looking to tackle grayling for the first time.

Whilst you may take a few grayling on dries in the autumn as winter takes hold you need to prepared to fish heavy bugs in order to get down to the stream bed.

On my river you can literally fish all day without so much as a pull on your string using dries and wets but a Czech nymph fished close to the stream bed will often result in a few grayling - sometimes lots.

Lobbing heavy flies round your feet can be off putting for some, gone is the graceful fly cast and the delicate wisp of the line shooting out in front. The subtly of Czech nymphing comes in different ways. You need to be able to imagine very accurately the behaviour of the flies as they move down the stream bed, working them through the deeper channels and round rocks and deadwood. Keeping line off the water is important to reduce the drag that will move the flies unnaturally.

The take itself can be super delicate, and you need to react without thinking with a solid strike. Hooking a fish at such close range can be frantic, with only a few feet of line outside the tip of the rod the fight can be tremendous in the swollen winter river. Then there is the prize and there can be few fish that inhabit our rivers prettier than the grayling.

I’ll leave you with this:

A Knight’s banner of a fin waving tartan red in the stream, and a chainmail coat of iridescent greens and purples make the grayling our most beautiful game fish.”
Trevor Housby



About the author

Dave Johnson lives near Sheffield on the edge of the Peak District, where he has been fly fishing since childhood.

He is manager of Peaks Fly Fishing and helps run the Birchinlee Fly Fishing Club. Dave is also brand director for Harkers Fishing and a keen fly fishing writer, contributing to various print and online publications.

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