Coarse Fishing for Welsh Grayling

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They’re big, they’re angry and they’re bloody wild those Welsh Ladies. Well who can blame them?  They hardly get fished for in the areas of Wales that we fish and we turn up and disturb their peace.  Most of the rivers barely see another angler.  That’s the beauty of travelling to Powys to fish for these stunning grayling. We arrived on our first day to find the hills shrouded in mist and low cloud.  We could have just as easily been in the Himalayas.  Later that day the sun eventually broke through the gloom and the hills and surrounding countryside were lit up in a blaze of colour. We have found in the past that late February can be a tricky time to fish for grayling.  They tend to shoal up and become a little more delicate and finicky. Large areas appear to be devoid of fish, even places that have proved very productive previously.

One option is to fish a little more delicately with lighter mainlines, hook lengths and floats, the other is to keep moving and find the fish. Eventually on that first day I located some grayling.  I lost a couple of nice fish and then eventually landed a small one of about a pound.  I did have a bonus chub though of around 3lbs.  My angling companions; Geoff, Kevin and Dan were also struggling.  That afternoon we only managed just a few fish, including one other small grayling.  So it had been a tough start but not unexpected.  Both Geoff and Kevin at least got to try out their new purchases.  They had both acquired a TFG Classic Centrepin after me raving about them for ages and were keen to put them through their paces.  They were delighted with the reels and I’m not surprised.  With a glut of cheap and poorly made centrepins flooding the market recently, this reel puts them to shame.  But there again it’s not a cheap pin, it’s a great quality pin at an exceptionally low price.

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On day two we headed to a Wye tributary, the Ithon to do some trotting.  We had several miles to explore.  The Ithon is more of a lowland river, but a beautiful river to practice coarse fishing.  It winds it way through woodland and meadows where the riverbed is a mixture of gravel and silt.  There are still lots of lovely gravel runs, glides and deep pools to go at, despite the abundance of silt and mud.  It’s a truly wild and unkempt river.  Thick foliage and trees choke the banks and make access difficult in places.

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This river showed no signs of human interference or for that matter any signs of being fished.  I’m not surprised though really, it was a tricky place to wade or to fish from the banks.  Still we found some cracking little spots and were confident of a few fish.  We were wrong on that count.  We never had a bite, despite covering a couple of miles of river and even resorting to driving further downstream for a look.  However we did see 5 otters together in one spot and 2 more a little way downstream.  So maybe this spooked the fish and they were hidden up under the snags. So the following day we headed to a private stretch of the Irfon.

We arrived in the morning and it was a bitterly cold day but at times bright and cheery.  This was a delightful stretch, once again very wild, remote and unkempt.  The riverbed here was mainly bedrock but with quite a few gravel runs.  Wading was difficult but manageable with care.  A word of warning when wading on bedrock, don’t be complacent.  It’s very dangerous to get over confident.  The rock is slippery as hell and very uneven.  It’s easy to get a foot stuck and then slip.

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We worked our way upstream, frog leaping each other as we did so.  By early afternoon we were biteless.  We stopped for lunch and discussed the situation.  We had fished so many cracking swims but failed to so much as illicit a bite.  We decided that despite the beauty of the beat we should move to the town section of the Wye, where we knew fish holed up in the winter. The move paid off.  Geoff and Kevin fished the main area, whilst Dan and I tried down near the town bridge.  I managed several nice upper 1lb+ grayling and Geoff and Kevin really got stuck in.  They ended up with 17 or 18 grayling apiece, nothing huge but certainly to the 1lb 12oz range.  However it was incredibly cold with a vicious easterly wind and we could take no more.  The warmth of the fire back at the cottage beckoned and a warm meal was needed to keep the chill at bay.

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The next two days saw us return to the town section.  Dan and I fished the main swims this time Kevin and Geoff explored the Irfon and the Wye.  To be honest they both struggled.  They did manage a few fish each.  Dan and I both did well.  By using a bait dropper we managed to keep the fish interested and in close.  By running a float along a near bank crease, which then travelled out to mid-river, we kept bites coming all day long. Double red maggot seemed to be the bait.  I think Dan and I were both using relatively heavy floats to deal with the wind and hold the line that we wanted to fish.  Mine was a 10BB Avon, shotted down low.  As usual the bulk of the shot was located around 12-18inches from the hook with a small dropper shot 4-6 inches from the hook.  I prefer to use Kamasan B983s for this sort of fishing.  They provide an excellent hold and even with the barb crushed (makes unhooking fish easier whilst wading) I seem to land a high percentage of fish.

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We ended the day with me on about 23/23 grayling and Dan on 17 or 18 both taking fish to just shy of 2lbs.  Dan also had a lovely bonus chub of 4lbs too.  The next day saw our final fling on the Wye with a rather unusual and interesting finale. Kevin dropped into a perfect swim. The river straightened after a bend and then the shallow water dropped into a deep run, where a crease created a lovely smooth glide.  First run through and Kevin stuck into a very nice fish.  It fought well and evaded capture for a while before I finally slipped the net under a fine grayling.  It had big thick set shoulders and a lovely bright dorsal fin and weighed 2lb 3oz.  There was a small v shaped scar just below its dorsal fin where a cormorant or some other predator had grabbed it at some point and a single scar on the other side.

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After sorting his camera out and re-baiting the hook, Kevin dropped the float in to the same spot again.  His reel tangled whilst his float sat almost motionless in the swim.  The float then seemed to drag under and I informed Kevin that his float had disappeared.  He lifted the rod tip to dislodge the float from what appeared to be the riverbed, when he found another good grayling attached!  Incredibly, despite the lack of a strike, the fish stayed on.  It fought for a while but soon gave up and I could see it was another ’2′.  As the fish slipped into the waiting landing net I saw a familiar scar!  Er it was the same fish again.

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The scar matched and so did the weight.  Well who would have believed it, the same fish in two casts.  That was nothing, believe me. The next trot through got the exact same result and the same fish.  So that was three times on the bounce. I had a go in the swim whilst Kevin watched and incredibly managed to capture the same fish again, on the first trot through the swim. Four casts and four times it appeared.  This seemed remarkable.  The fish was returned again and as with the previous 3 occasions rested for a short while before gliding off silently into the bright waters of the Wye.

 

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About Nathan Walter

Nathan has been angling since the age of eight and is now based in Kent, and continues to pursue his first love of fishing in flowing water. An expert coarse fisher and river angler, he pursues all sorts of fish from barbel to grayling and travels to explore new waters and countryside. Nathan has sponsorship with the Lone Angler. As well as contributing to the Fishtec blog, Nathan has written about angling for Freshwater Informer, Coarse Angling Today, and Riffle magazine. Keep up with his fishing diary over on The River Angler.