Game Fishing


Our brief, plain speaking guide to herb smelling grayling.

Grayling aren’t the biggest fish, and will commonly be around the 3-5lb weight, but can get quite hefty and reach up to over 10lb in weight. They can be easily identified by looks, and, unusually, smell: they smell strongly of the herb thyme, hence the Latin description(Thymallus Thymallus). Grayling have small scales, and the body is flat-sided and moderately deep with a small head and a pointed mouth.
The dorsal fin is high, and longer in males and also highly colourful, with spots of red, orange, purple, or green. The body too is colourful: the dorsal surface is a dark purplish to bluish black or grey, grading to dark blue or silver grey on the flanks and grey or white on the belly. The body is further decorated with a smattering of small dark spots, which are much more numerous in juveniles.
Find them
Grayling prefer clean, cold, and well-oxygenated water, and are found mostly in rivers and less frequently in some natural lakes. Their small liver means they don’t tolerate unclean water as well as some others, so grayling in the swim means the water is usually very clean. It is fairly widespread in Scotland and north England, southern England, and Welsh rivers. Despite being widespread throughout Europe, they are very rare in Ireland – if you find one, make sure you take a picture before setting it loose!
Food and bait
Grayling are about as picky as a hungry student after a night on the tiles: vegetables, bottom-living insect larvae, crustaceans, molluscs, insects, and other animals that fall into the water are all on its menu. Fish eggs too are on its list of treats, which being mostly yellow means sweetcorn, maggots, and fly tackle all work well.
Grayling spawn in spring on gravelly shallows. The colouration of the male grayling is brighter at spawning time and there is some display as the males dorsal is wrapped over females back. The fry grow quickly, and they far outpace trout and salmon in first-year growth.
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