Grayling – The Stream Dweller
On a long river stretch with many rapids, you will find grayling from the areas of more peacefully
flowing water. Grayling don’t usually thrive in very turbulent, whitewater rapids. Different species
mainly inhabit quite different waters, but often a good grayling spot is also an excellent site to catch whitefish. As both species are hunted with similar equipment and often also with the same lures, the fisherman can expect to catch both species from the same area.
In spring, when the flood still washes the riverbanks, grayling are found in deep, slowly flowing
runs. When the water level drops, they move to shallower, harder-flowing rapids.
In July, when the waters are low and warm, small grayling still thrive in rapids. Larger individuals
head for deep quiet water stretches below rapids.
In autumn the grayling move around very much. Then the best fishing spots are found at
peacefully flowing rapids, runs above and below rapids, and at fast-flowing stretches. Especially
runs where there are deep pits nearby are worth fishing.
In winter, ice fishing for grayling is permitted only at lakes. Grayling is usually a pleasant surprise
which you get while ice fishing for whitefish.
Grayling is a splendid sport fish
Grayling is common almost everywhere in Finland. In the Kuusamo waters the wild populations
are reasonably strong, and waters are also stocked with grayling in many places. However, the populations vary greatly, and grayling is not found in every creek or rapid. There can be significant differences between the runs in one river alone. The number of fishers also has an effect on grayling populations. In most popular areas the average size of the fish tends to be diminished due to heavy fishing. Regulations concerning the minimum size of the catch are extremely important, especially as far as the wild grayling population is concerned. You may catch a proper handsome beast also from a small river, but usually the average size of the small river grayling is relatively small.
Slowly flowing runs between two lakes are places where grayling are surprisingly often found. The
fish travel between lakes and streams, always in search of favourable eating grounds.
The fly fisherman’s catch
The grayling feed on different insects. Their diet follows seasonal variations, and includes
stoneflies, caddisflies, true flies, and many other insect species in all their stages. Due to the feeding pattern, the grayling are excellent fish to catch with a fly. Sometimes the grayling can be choosy about food, and these situations present a great challenge to the fisherman. Recognizing the insects that the fish go for and creating flies which imitate these insects is what makes fly fishing so interesting. However, to catch grayling the fisherman doesn’t have to be an expert either in insects or in fly tying – the grayling are often easy fish to catch. Still, it is good to master a few basics when you head out to grayling waters.
The most important fact to know is that the grayling feed in many different ways. Sometimes they stay near the surface and hunt for floating insects, and at other times they go for larvae at the bottom of the river. This means that the fisherman has to be prepared to cast both dry and wet flies. Equipped with two rods, one with a floating line and one with a sinking line, the fisherman can easily handle the switch between the two fishing methods. Another, although somewhat slower way to prepare for the changing circumstances is to bring only one rod with you, and have a spare reel in your backpack.
Your fly box should contain different dry flies, a few traditional wet flies and light pupae, and
a handful of weighted nymphs. It is good to add also some muddlers and streamers in the box
especially in early summer and again in autumn, for testing.
Choosing the right fly is easy for the inexperienced fly fisherman: good flies for the Kuusamo waters are the Black Zulu with black body and red tail, the Silver Zulu with silver body and red tail, the Red Tag with green body and red tail, the Royal Coachman with red-green body and white wings, the Goddard Caddis with grey deer hair, and the white latex nymph. Other good flies are Alder, Winnie the Pooh, Coachman, Black Gnat, TT Sedge, Hare’s Ear Nymph, and Montana.
Casting for grayling
It is also possible to catch grayling by casting. Due to the small size of the fish, it is best to use light casting tackle. You will have most fun with a small ultralight rod and reel. A suitable line strength is 0.15-0.25 mm. Small spinners are the most useful lures. With the right-size tackle even a small spinner will fly far enough, and you will get a good feel of the fish.
Suitable spinners for the Kuusamo waters are Mepps Black Fury and Mepps Aglia, Kuusamo Loimu, Kuusamo Kuf, Droppen, Myran Mira, and Mini. The spinner size should be quite small.
You should have many spinners in different colours, as the colour preferences of the fish vary a lot during the summer. Larger grayling take easily to small wobblers. Today, there are many 3-5 cm long mini wobblers on the market. Wobblers worth a try are Nils Master Invisible (50 mm), Rapala Mini Fat Rap (30 mm), and Wise (50 mm).
The spin fisherman can also fish with a fly. You just tie a float or a sinker to your line, and attach
one or two flies above it with side casts. A 5-10 cm length taken from the lower rope of a fishing
net makes an excellent sinker. The length is simply tied to the end of the fishing line. The flexible
and slippery length doesn’t easily cling to the riverbed. If the fish feel lazy, you can try to motivate them by tying a fly with a side cast a couple of dozens of centimetres above the spinner or wobbler. With ultralight equipment it is possible to fish with tackle which differs from the traditional equipment. Fleas, small balance jigs and leeches are well-suited for fishing in rapids. Bold moves and trying different tackle are often rewarded by the riverside.