Grayling fishing, on a day ticket, on the Derbyshire Derwent
First of all, I can’t believe I’ve now been writing for Anglers Today for a year already; and what a year it’s been! Thankfully the fish have been quite co-operative, giving me some material to write about and allowing me to notch up no less than nine new Personal Bests along the way.
In the week leading up to Christmas I managed to fit in two fishing sessions on very different natures. I decided to fish for pike one day and, in the interests of diversity, grayling on the other.
In Derbyshire and the surrounding counties, we are quite lucky to have various rivers offering the chance of quality grayling fishing on a day ticket. Many venues are fly only but some are mixed fisheries, recognising bait fishing as a valid method for catching ‘Lady of the Stream’.
It’s almost two years since I fished for grayling, but it is a species I shall always long to catch. Firstly, to catch one you must fish clean, fast rivers. Once you hook a grayling, you are then treated to a terrific, spirited fight; where the fish will use all of its years practice battling the current to put your angling skills to the test. Then, should you win the battle and land a grayling – the reward is magnificent. A stunning bar of silver with scales running in defined lines along the length of the body. An under-slung mouth designed perfectly for feeding around pebbles on the riverbed. The unique, almond-shaped pupil which dominates the eye. Then best of all, you have the huge, sail-like dorsal fin; glistening with all colours between magenta and maroon, with a scattering of dark spots. Oh yes, the grayling is quite a fish!
I decided to fish one of my favourite methods – trotting. I set up with a 12 foot float rod and small fixed-spool reel, loaded with 5lb line. The reason I use such heavy line is that there is always the chance of hooking a large trout in any grayling swim. If I hooked one, I would much rather land it than be snapped and have to rig up again. Plus, in my limited experience, grayling don’t seem to be particularly tackle-shy. I chose a wire-stemmed stick float, rated at 4 x no. 7, which I shotted with a bulk of two no. 1 and a number 6 shot, just above a micro swivel attached to my 3.2lb hooklength, which went down to a size 18 barbless hook.
Despite the weather being mild, it was still late December so, I expected the fish would be in deeper water, resting somewhere near the bottom. I opted for a bulk-shotting pattern to get my bait quickly towards the bottom and keep it there. I chose a swim with a steady run along the near margin, which had quite an even bottom, at around four feet deep. Before starting to trot my hookbait through I baited with three or four maggots every couple of minutes, for about 15 minutes. I would continue to bait with three or four maggots every couple of casts for the rest of the session.
The hook was baited with a single red maggot and on my fourth trot through the float dibbed, then buried, and I struck into the first fish of the day. I was delighted to see it was a grayling; albeit a small one. Next cast I had a bite almost immediately and as I struck the rod tip bent round promisingly, before the fish kited across the current. The tell-tale head shaking and flash of silver told me I was into a respectable grayling. I had never landed one of over 1lb before and as I slid the fish over the net, I was sure this one would be my first. I decided to weigh the fish, which confirmed I had a new PB of 1lb 1oz. Not a bad start at all…
I was delighted as my next half a dozen fish were all grayling, but it was inevitable that a greedy trout or two would turn up. Pretty soon it did. A good-sized, super-fast, trout picked up my maggot and proceeded to hurl itself from the water (in December?!!). The tactic worked, as it soon shook free of my tiny barbless hook. However, it wouldn’t be the last trout I would hook. As the grayling seemed to disappear from my swim for a while, I proceeded to land 12 wild brown trout of between 9 ounces and a pound. As the day drew on, I managed several more grayling, taking my tally to 14, including three fish around the pound mark. Then, as dusk approached, I connected to a heavy fish which I really hoped would be a grayling. After quite a battle, it turned out to be an out-of-season (and out of condition) rainbow trout which weighed exactly two pounds. This fish was also a new PB for me.
I left the river having bagged a total of 27 fish during a truly enjoyable, action-packed day. I always return these wild fish, whether they are caught in season or not. I believe that in order to maintain this quality of fishing, all coarse anglers should do the same. If you want to eat trout, you can buy perfect pan-sized fish from any fishmonger, or pit your wits against the many stocked fly fishing lakes around the country. For me, the chance of returning to the river for another fish-filled day is worth much more than taking one home ‘for the pot’.
More about the grayling
Where to fish for grayling in Derbyshire on a day ticket
Derbyshire has some fantastic grayling fishing available – on rivers such as the Derwent, the Dove and even the Goyt – but sadly, for the day ticket coarse angler, many of the stretches are controlled by angling clubs who do not sell day tickets or clubs which only allow fly fishing for grayling. Since I wrote this article, Matlock Angling Club have ceased to offer any day ticket fishing on their waters, so the stretch I fished at Matlock Bath is no longer available to fish on a day ticket. However, there are still a few good grayling stretches which can be fished on day ticket, in & around Derbyshire. If you know of any more I’ve missed, please email me and I will include them here:
Belper & District Angling Club
BDAC control several miles of quality fishing on the Derbyshire Derwent, between Ambergate and Milford, most of which is available to fish on a day ticket. Their stretch is in what I’d class as the “transitional zone”, between the upper Derwent where grayling and trout are the predominant species, and the lower Derwent where coarse species dominate. Therefore there is a good mixture of species, with many areas offering quality grayling fishing plus the chance of catching chub, roach and dace. Further information on the Belper stretch of the Derwent, along with how and where to purchase day tickets (which must be obtained prior to fishing) can be found on their website here: www.belperanglingclub.uk and on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/BelperAC.
The Family Tree at Whatstandwell
There is a short stretch of the Derwent available to fish on a day ticket, between the weir and road bridge, at Whatstandwell. This is a noted grayling venue and also offers the chance of trout & chub, however, this stretch is limited to the Eastern bank only and there are only a small number of pegs. Fishing here is controlled by The Family Tree – a pub/restaurant located by the bridge at DE4 5HG – and tickets must be purchased from here before fishing. You can park very close to the pegs at this venue. Contact information can be found on their website here: www.thefamilytreederbyshire.co.uk and on Facebook here: https://www.facebook.com/The-Family-Tree-Whatstandwell-618330848202323/.
The Earl of Harrington’s Angling Club
Further downstream, beginning at Darley Abbey, through Derby and as far downstream as Borrowash, The Earl Of Harrington’s water is fishable on day ticket. This would be classed as the lower River Derwent, but grayling are increasingly showing on the lower river, even as far downstream as Derbyshire County AC and The Pride of Derby (which are NOT available on day ticket!) waters. The numbers of barbel, chub and perch increase significantly on the lower Derwent but targeting grayling here is still a realistic – and under-exploited – prospect. For more information on the Earl’s stretch of the Derwent see here: http://www.theearlofharringtonsac.co.uk/river-derwent.html and you can find our how and where to purchase day tickets here: http://www.theearlofharringtonsac.co.uk/day-tickets–rules.html.