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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


06/01/2015 - Go Chase the Ladies

the author fishing for lunch in Lapland during a dog sledding trip

I’ve been fortunate to catch some very big grayling of both species during my lifetime, the European grayling (Thymallus thymallus) is found in both the UK, Europe and Scandinavia, Finland, Sweden and Norway, are where some of the best grayling fishing can be found. In Swedish Lapland its’ also found in still waters where grayling 6 and 7lbs have been taken bigger ones exist. One of the best grayling anglers I met in Swedish Lapland was Sven Perman, Captain of the Swedish Fly Fishing Team, I’ve been fortunate to spend a lot of time over several years fishing with Sven and his friends who also taught me a lot about grayling fishing, while I was able to help them with their knowledge of fly fishing for pike.

Another species is the Arctic Grayling (Thymallus signoifer tricolor), a highly prized game fish, the dorsal fin compared with the European species is huge. I have caught these fish in Northern Saskatchewan, Manitoba and North West Territories many 4lb plus fish with my best as 5lb 2 ounces caught on a small Mepp’s, the colour of these grayling can best described as stunning, its covered in purple bluish spots ringed with green, it’s silver along the flanks with a purple flush, as in the UK they are a shoal fish find one and you can catch a dozen or more. I well remember fishing a Saskatchewan river, I told the guide I was going to use a dropper saying “Sometimes we catch two fish at the same time” he looked at me in a strange way equally puzzled when I attached a Bloody Butcher to the dropper, within ten minutes I had my first brace, during the next thirty minutes I had several other double hook ups as the cameraman filmed the action. During shore lunch my guide said “Martin has been catching two fish on the same hook” Watching the programme later we all had a good laugh, of course he should have said I’d caught two fish at the same time using a dropper which was also new to these northern anglers.

Most of my fishing could only be reached by flying into the location in a 2 or 4 person aircraft, even float planes were used in some places, the men and woman pilots often 16 17 year old youths were very good at no time did I feel uncomfortable with these young pilots. On many occasions I would take the controls having had my first experience of flying small aircraft in South America. It was in the North West Territories where I first used small Mepp's spinners which proved very successful for a better than average size fish.

I feel we in the UK are not willing to try new methods especially spinning and the use of minnows, back in the early 1950’s Dutch anglers Frans Domhof and Jan Roelfs used spinners for roach usually fly spoons but also much larger pale gold spoons 1.5 inches long and .75 inches wide, their best roach weighed 5lb 1 ounce caught by Jan Roelfs on a small feathered spoon. There is a picture of this fish in Still Water Angling by the late Richard Walker 1953. I’ve had grayling on spinners or fly spoons from the Rivers Ribble, Ure, Kennet, Avon, Wharfe, Swale, Frome Welsh Dee also the River Earn in Scotland where I often fished for grayling, after geese hunting session at dawn while the other guns would get some sleep. Suggested tackle a light 7/8foot soft action rod, small fixed spool reel with 3lb bs line plus a selection of Mepp’s an similar spinners and don’t forget some swivels, if you don’t catch grayling you might get a big perch, why not give it a try?

                                                        Today The Grayling Is Rated A Fine Sporting fish

This has not always been so, for far too long the grayling was treated as vermin along with chub, especially on the Southern Chalk stream, when I was young I witnessed thousands of grayling being netted and destroyed, thankfully this attitude has changed over the past twenty odd years, I feel a lot of the credit must be given to the Grayling Society, I would encourage all readers who spend a lot of time fishing for this species to consider being a member of the Society. When fishing for grayling in the UK it’s imperative to find your fish, I advise my fly fishing syndicate members who want to catch the fish on a nymph or dry fly to start of float fishing with sweet corn then once they have found the fish then switch to fly fishing. A book I can recommend is Grayling by R V Righyni the Richard Walker Angling Library published 1968, there is some excellent stuff on float making and bait fishing for grayling and well worth reading.

                                                                     Float Fishing and Gentles

One fish that certainly feed in very low water temperatures is without doubt the grayling, over the past few days the water temperature on my local River Ribble had dropped from 44 degrees F down to 36 degrees F in just three days, in fact the day before this latest fishing trip I was on the River with my friend Kevin until 2200 hrs. the air temperature went down to minus 4 degrees F our tackle and clothing were white with frost when we packed up the gate lock was frozen solid, thankfully the car was on the other side of the gate. I arrived on the river at 0900hrs my target fish was the grayling. An hour later the sun started to burn off the fog, checking the water temperature I got a reading of 36 degrees F. Having put the kettle on for a brew, I put together my Lone Angler 13 foot float rod which I can certainly recommend if you’re looking for a good all round float fishing rod that will cover roach to barbel I doubt if you will find a better rod today, though I might be a bit biased but then I want the best. I matched the rod with a 4 inch wide solid drum centre pin with about 40 yards of 3lb bs line choosing a wire stemmed Avon taking 6 BB shot I attaching it to the line top and bottom with double rubbers, having made a loop in the bottom of the reel line I attached with a loop to loop a Drennan size 16 hook of 2lb bs line. The reason for using the fine wire Drennan hooks to nylons and not my usual Pallatrax hooks are the latter hooks are in my opinion to heavy being too thick n the wire when fishing gentles.

My shotting pattern would be decided when I have chosen the swim I plan to fish, after I’ve used a plummet for ten minutes so I can get a good picture in my mind of the depth which was an inch over 5 feet, contour of the river bed showing it shelves up about a foot ten yards down the swim, the composition was a mix of soft silt and gravel with a bed of water crow foot on the far side of the swim about six feet in length, certainly an area to concentrate on as he fish would no doubt be using it for cover also this lovely plant holds lots of aquatic life including snails and shrimps that fish would feed on. Shotting the cast as follows 6 inches from the hook I fixed a number 8 egg shaped shot, another 15 inches I had 2 number 4’s another 2 feet I had 2BB’s then under the float I had a AAA after casting out I allowed the tackle to move through the swim checking for any obstructions, finding a rock about halfway down the swim making a mental note to hold the float back hard in the area allowed the float to travel until the river bed shelves up at the end of the swim. After some slight adjustment of depth no more than 4 inches I added another size 1 shot hallway between the size 4 and BB shots, having made a few more casts I felt happy with the final result. For about fifteen minutes I proceeded to feed half a dozen gentles every two or three minutes hopefully drawing fish into the swim also giving them some confidence in feeding.

Having fished for about an hour, on every cast I fed half a dozen gentles followed by laying the tackle gently on the water before working the bait down the swim, holding it back by the mentioned rock, at the end of the swim I would the float back allowing the bait to lift and waver, but not a touch. I made a slight change by moving the bottom size 8 shot up the line to join the size 4 shot giving a longer lift of the bait. Ten minutes after the change I had a bite, making a mental note where the bite occurred, a grayling about 10 ounces, rebaiting I eased the float down the stream as it reached the area where the first bite happened I had a sharp dip of the float connecting with a better fish a grayling about a pound. Throwing in half a dozen gentles I made another cast, remember its most important to keep the feed going in on every cast, for about twenty minutes nothing I then caught three more grayling averaging about a pound n weight. All from the same spot an area of water about a foot square some six yards down the swim that’s how tightly they were shoaled which is very typical of grayling. After another quiet spell I then two missed bites I didn’t see those bites but the gentles were sucked so they had been inside the mouth of a fish, I call that bad angling but I suppose you do that sometimes. I then had a fast and furious session taking 8 good grayling averaging a pound plus in thirty teen casts. After a brew I had another thirty or more minutes before making my way upstream to the car park feeling very satisfied with my float fishing session. If you haven’t been float fishing for some time why not give it a try I’m sure you will find it satisfying as I did. Remember it’s never too cold for grayling see pic the author fishing for lunch in Lapland during a dog sledding trip.




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Martin James Fishing
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