River expert Simon Robinson talks us through his top 7 Grayling Flies for autumn fishing…
The autumn months are among the best to fish for grayling in the UK, the days are still reasonably long and conditions usually mild enough to fish comfortably in breathable waders. Also, as winter has not yet arrived the fish are usually active in the upper layers as there is still plenty of fly life around. In many ways, the fishing begins to mirror that of early-season with sporadic lunchtime hatches.
Unlike early season when anglers rely largely on up wing hatches, autumn means there are plenty of other food items on the graylings menu. Midge and aphids are prolific through autumn as the leaves begin to fall from the trees. It is not unusual to be casting to moving grayling throughout the day, particularly in the slower stretches of the river.
This does not mean that nymph fishing is not effective, in fact quite the opposite! The grayling will be feeding hard in the riffles and runs and carefully presented nymph can also produce spectacular results on either the French leader or duo/trio setup.
Here are 7 grayling flies that I count on every time I hit the river at this time of year.
During the autumn, olives can hatch at any time however, the hatches do tend to revert back to the lunchtime. By this time of year the grayling are now used to these hatches and are often quick to respond. A dry CDC olive in size 16’s and 18’s should match any of the species you will find at this time of year. Dry olive patterns tend to work best in rifled water as this is where the naturals will be hatching. A well-presented pattern on 6x tippet will almost always result in a positive take.
The Klinkhammer is a great fly to pull grayling up to the surface, even if they are not rising. The various Klinkhammer patterns available all have one thing in common, where the bulk of the body is below the surface creating a big target for the grayling. This is often enough to pull even large fish to take from the surface. It is well worth trying an olive or brown Klinkhammer in an area you have fished with nymphs, as it can often produce fish which have refused a nymph previously. Finally, the Klinkhammer is also a great duo dry fly so you can attach a length of leader to the bend or leader ring (if using a specific duo Klinkhammer) and fish a small nymph under the dry.
Grayling like to feed on small surface items, particularly the small midges which can be in abundance during the autumn. Grayling tend to feed on midges in the slow water, this type of feeding is usually signalled by regular small rises. It is also not uncommon to see shoals of good sized grayling rising like a shoal of very small roach or dace. If you see this type of surface feeding you can be almost certain they are feeding on midge. To imitate midge I usually opt for a small F Fly or shuttlecock midge pattern in size 18’s and 20’s. Fish these midges on long fine tippets with a tapered leader to ensure accuracy as grayling will not move far for very small items. It is worth carrying small patterns in black and green as aphids can also be on the menu at this time.
The red tag is a classic grayling fly, although it must be said the versions now in use bear next to no resemblance to the original! The bead-head red tag is a great fly at any time of year, however it does excel when there is a touch of colour in the water. Fish this pattern on the point position of a French leader set up for best results, particularly in deeper water.
By now, everyone knows grayling love Pink! However, many anglers go overboard and reach for a bright pink shrimp as soon as their phone tells them it’s the 1st of October! There is no doubt that bright pink bugs work well, especially on very cold days, but, during the milder autumn days, a small amount of pink is often all that is needed. One of my favourite 7 grayling flies is the pink beaded Mary which I fish either on the duo or as a dropper on French leader. This particular pattern can be exceptionally effective when fishing for small grayling between 20 – 25cm.
Olive nymphs are still active in the autumn months and before the hatches begin, grayling will often be feeding hard on the nymphs as they become active on the bottom. For this reason, I rarely fish without an olive pattern on my leader at this time of year. When olive nymphs are active, entomology tells us there is an air bubble in there so a gold or silver bead is actually very imitative. Fish this pattern on the duo or top dropper when using a French leader – don’t be afraid to jig the fly to add an enticing movement with the rod tip!
The pheasant tail is another classic and as many of these classic fly patterns, it has many variations! A pheasant tail can be varied extensively, and this is why it’s made the pick into my top 7 grayling flies. This is great, all round pattern keeps a nice profile when wet, and adds a slight touch of colour. Grayling are often suckers for a touch of orange or red in a nymph! This pattern is an excellent fly to use on the point of a light french leader or trio set up with an olive pattern on the dropper, particularly if the grayling are not responding to larger or brighter patterns. 7 grayling flies.