Part two – Catching those bigger fish.
So you’ve had your first taste of grayling and now have your sights set at landing that elusive specimen but simply can’t get through the smaller fish, what do you have to do? The first area that you will have to address is line control from rod tip to float and sadly this only comes with time, however a few simple tweaks or observations can make all the difference. The first and most common mistake is allowing the mainline to override the float, dragging it off line and downstream faster than the current. Mending the line, and by this I mean simply lifting the line off the water so it straightens it from rod tip to float, will solve the problem. I would much prefer to mend the line a few times if needed than seeing the float pulled off line, so next time you watch the float head off downstream pay attention to that line and if it’s in front of the float or not in a straight line behind, then a quick flick of the wrist will see that line straighten out. Some anglers feel that by laying the line on the water and keeping the rod tip close to the water will help, which it will do on a windy day but I like to keep as much line out of the water as possible, something that’s only possible on days of no or little wind. Obviously keeping in control is far easier on days of no or little wind so another great tip is keep your eye on the weather and head to the river on one of those days when the skies are blue and cloudless, and the air still. You will know when you have it right as when the float disappears you will often feel the bite through the rod.
Another area that will greatly improve line control is float choice. Grayling are bold biters so forget those delicate sticks and go big, as a heavy float will not only get the centerpin turning better, create far better control on windy days, ride those turbulent swims better as well as being more visual which will allow you to trot a swim further. I started out using Drennan Loafer floats that served me well for years and caught plenty of big grayling but longer floats do offer allot more stability. Once again Dave Harrell floats are difficult to beat as mentioned in Part 1.
Reel choice is very personal but I found that I lost too many fish when using fixed spool reel. Not only did this make my finger ache come the end of the day, but having to pull line of the reel by sweeping the rod backwards always created a trot that was slightly interrupted and not as smooth as a closed face reel or centrepin offered. I would go as far as saying that a fixed spool reel probably cost me one out of three fish hooked, many when the bail arm was engaged. Changing to a centrepin instantly showed its advantages but to land nine out of ten grayling hooked is an art, however persist and learn the craft and that’s exactly what you will achieve. The disadvantage of a pin is in windy conditions they become problematic more with tangles around the reel. A pin with a line guard will reduce this problem but I found that for all the tangles they stopped they produced others, so simply now revert to the best of both worlds on breezy days and that’s a closed face reel. Once again for every problem solved another is created and with closed face reels it comes down to the clutch and on the old Daiwa 125m or Abu reels these were somewhat useless. I recently hooked and landed an 8lb 2oz brown trout using an old Daiwa 125m closed face reel and to say it was a bit touch and go is an understatement! If I were to recommend a centrepin then it would have to be an Okuma Aventa, brilliant, smooth and affordable. And a word of warning when loading line on a pin, only put around 50 yards on as anymore will see the line bedding in and failing to fall of the pin smoothly.
So you’re happy with the tackle you are using and have paid attention to line control and now want to catch bigger fish? Well big grayling can just turn up in a swim full off smaller samples but in my experience swims that seem to be full of smallish fish often don’t contain any or many big ones. Using maggot in a swim with lots of small fish and maybe just one big fish will stack the odds against you, as for every small fish caught will see the bigger, wiser fish spook and become reluctant to take a bait, however well its presented. It doesn’t matter how good a swim is or how many fish are present, as soon as one is hooked and landed you are on a time bomb to just how long it will last, and usually it’s not very long! From the first trot down, grayling seem to be the most stupid of all fish, yet catch a dozen from a swim and the rest become the cutest!
One important point to mention is hooks or more importantly the sharpness of your hook. I like Kamasan B525, size 14 micro-barbed (if allowed) as these are light due to being of a fine gauge. They are also sharp, however like all hooks they do blunt after a few fish or the point can turn over so if you lose a fish check the hook point. If you lose two on the trot, change the hook even if it looks OK!
Another tactic that will keep the swim producing for longer is to feed whilst playing a fish as this will see the grayling in the swim ignoring the hooked fish and chasing the loose feed. It might only catch you a couple extra fish but a couple more could mean that fish of a lifetime. If you do have the luxury of fishing a beat with no one else around then it might be worth taking just a few fish from a swim and then returning again a few times over the course of the day. Rotating swims like this was a brilliant tactic I employed on the Itchen a few years ago. The only way to feed effectively and consistently is to wear a bait apron as bending down to pick up a few maggots from a bait box before flicking them into the river, will just get too much and make you lazy.
One point to mention and it comes back to location, is not to ignore any swim, however shallow. I remember fishing the Itchen which had a hut set in the middle of the stretch. At lunch time I would meet up with a mate who had been covering the river either upstream or downstream depending on who won the toss at dawn. In front of the hut the river was shallow, maybe a foot deep where you could make out the gravel but not with any distinction due to the speed of flow. We had ignored this area forages when on this occasion Steve cast out a feeder. What then happened was just amazing as he proceeded to take no less than seven two pound plus grayling from it. He even had a friend turn up who had never caught a grayling before and knock out one weighing 2lb 10oz. It was a lesson learnt and one I will never forget. Why
under a bridge, a small depression, slack on the inside of a bend to fast shallow water, but one thing is for sure, swims with loads of fish rarely contain a monster.
To catch a real specimen, one over 3lb you will need to be on a very special piece of river. Day ticket and club stretches, well clubs that have open membership, unfortunately nowadays rarely produce these. Although I’ve caught hundreds of two’s and would feel confident in guiding an angler to such a fish, a three-pounder has only graced my net once and this was on a private salmon beat that I managed to get access to many years ago. If you want such a fish then you have to be either very lucky, know someone that has access to a stretch of the beaten track or be prepared to join a game stretch that allows coarse fishing however this will come at a cost.
Duncan Charman is sponsored by Nash Tackle and Bait and has his own website www.duncancharman.co.uk He regularly contributes to top weekly, Anglers Mail magazine and is their very own ‘Where to fish’ expert for the South East.
He is also an angling guide and can be booked on a daily basis for most species including carp, pike, perch, zander, chub, catfish, barbel, bream, grass carp, crucians, roach, rudd, grayling, tench even golden orfe. Guiding vouchers are also available which make great birthday and Christmas presents for the angler with everything. For more information and prices email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or give him a call 07928 617006 / 01252 315271.
He’s also written a book called Evolution of an Angler which can be obtained at the stupid price of just £10.99 plus P&P. Again email him for more details.
Timsbury – 07759 331385
Lower Itchen Fishery – 07477 790210
Purbeck Angling – 01929 550770
Dave Harrell – www.daveharrellangling.com
1 – If you want a big grayling you will have to go off the beaten track.
3 – Centre pin, 15ft rod and a good sized float all helps in line control.
4 – If I were on a size 18 barbless hook then the chances of landing this massive trout would have been unlikely.
5 – There are many ways to keep the eyes from freezing up, Glycerine is one.
6 – -5 on the Test but the fish are still feeding.
7 – Plenty of grayling in this swim, but is there a two?
8 – Coloured corn, does it give you an edge?
9 – You just can’t feed without a bait apron.
10 – Ignore the shallows at your peril.
11 – Find a big grayling and you might find more.
12 – If you want a massive grayling then the Frome is a good river to head too.