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Mist again

There's heavy fog. No insects are hatching. The grayling are off their gnats. What now? The Damp Angler has some top tips for grayling that gave him a very successful afternoon on the bank!

Big fish on a small fly: The bigger grayling are going for the size 18 version – which is essentially a red tag with a tail of m
Big fish on a small fly: The bigger grayling are going for the size 18 version – which is essentially a red tag with a tail of m

The weekend was a washout, with both the Swale and Tees in flood. Yet according to the graphs on The Environment Agency (EA) website, the rivers were within their “typical range”. Those chaps at the EA clearly don’t fish.

Catching leaves: Sycamore leaves have put up the best fight so far, though I’m looking forward to hooking a few horse chestnuts later in the season.

By midweek the flooding had fallen off to be replaced by thick fog. With no insects hatching, the grayling were off their gnats. The fancy fly lottery that followed was won by a size 14 Terry’s Terror fished dry – using wet flies in autumn can seem like a very inefficient method of collecting leaves. Eventually, after an untold number of nuisance rises and staccato tugs there was a more solid take from one of the smallest grayling I have seen. Concluding that only small fish were feeding, I tied on a size 18 version of the same fly, reasoning that if there were indeed only small fish in front of me then a smaller fly would improve the hook-ups and reduce the number of nuisance bites. No one sets out to catch small fish, but if that’s all there is…

Small fish on a big fly: The little fish were going for a size 14 Terry’s Terror.

Now, the size 18 Terror is significantly different to the size 14. For starters, it fishes drier – if there is such an expression – sitting higher in the water. Also, there is no copper tinsel rib – there isn’t room for it on a size 18 hook, which leaves us with what is essentially a very small cross between a Red Tag and a Treacle Parkin.

Beginning with a short cast no more than a rod length away, the fly disappeared beneath the surface as if it had sunk under its own weight which, given the earlier comment about it sitting higher in the water, struck me as odd. But a glimpse of silver as the fly went under made me raise the rod – just in case – and it immediately became apparent that this was not one of the small fish that had been tormenting me. Nor were the half dozen that quickly followed. And is if to hammer home the message that there is no rhyme or reason to fishing, the biggest grayling of the day took the fly at the end of its run after it had sunk in rough water while I was watching a dog splashing about upriver (which is often the way of it – the less I have to do with the fishing the greater the chances of success). So the biggest fish were going for the smallest fly, while the smallest fish were attacking the biggest. And the biggest fish of all took the smallest fly that was fishing wet like a big fly. Just another afternoon on the river.

Grayling camouflage at work: In the water, grayling reflect their surroundings and are near enough invisible.

Back home, feeling elated and at the same time just a little annoyed that it had taken me so long to discover it, I took a closer look at Terry’s Terror. Hidden away on page 193 of his excellent Dictionary of Trout Flies, John Roberts writes: “In its smaller sizes I rate it almost second to none as a grayling fly. I wouldn’t wish to be without one when grayling fishing.”

Put that in the introduction of the next edition John. It would save us all a lot of time…

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