One of the beauties of the Ewenny is that it offers year-round sport. The river holds an excellent head of grayling, and whilst they can be caught all year, they come into their own in the winter months when trout are off the menu.
A fine Ewenny Grayling sitting in gin-clear water in early spring
The approach is broadly the same, but club rules mean winter wading restrictions limit access to the water to safe entry and exit points; enter the river, fish the pool, then exit where you got in. Wading upstream for any distance is not allowed as this risks damaging the spawning gravels. In a wild, un-stocked river like the Ewenny, future fishing depends entirely on the successful breeding of the wild population and that should be born in mind all the time when entering the water in the spawning season. Trout spawning beds are called Redds, and if you know what to look for, are fairly easily identified and avoided when the water is clear. The club is happy to provide training in what to look for so inadvertent damage to Redds can be avoided.
Rod choice remains the same, with a 6-9ft tapered leader terminating in an additional 2ft of 3lb tippet.
When nymphing, the leader length is partly determined by the depth and flow of the river. Given that winter fishing often means fishing in higher, faster water, nymph fishing especially requires the leader length to be adapted to suit – in faster and/or deeper the water, a slightly longer leader needs to be to used ensure the nymph drops to the bottom where the fish are. In combination with different weights of nymph, a little experimentation can give you the optimum set-up, which you’ll know is right because the nymph should just be bumping along the bottom, showing as tell-tale jolts on your indicator.
Most grayling will be found hard on the bottom during winter. When the water temperature drops and the first frosts encrust the banks, Grayling will start to shoal-up, moving together to form tight groups in pools and steady runs. Grayling fishing is therefore a game of hide and seek – if you can find the shoals, the chances are good of you connecting to many fish and enjoying great sport. But you have to get the weight and pattern of your nymph right to ensure that.
Bitterly cold it may be, but a winter Grayling always raises a smile
Lightly weighted nymph patterns on hook sizes 14-18 will suffice in the shallower pools but heavier lead-wired and tungsten headed patterns will be needed to reach fish in the deeper, faster pools. Natural, scruffy patterns work well year round. Experiment with different coloured bead heads and patterns with a touch of flash on them. Quill bodied patterns also work well. Nymphs with an orange 'hot-spot' will attract fish in more coloured water, and scud/shrimp patterns are always a good bet in the winter when the spawing shrimp are a natural target. These are all reliable patterns:
Pheasant Tail Nymph
Fish them in the same way as the rest of the year; once you find the Grayling they should oblige…most of the time!
Another variant on the nymph fishing that works well on certain parts of the river (Fords in particular) is the French Nymphing style approach.
A 9ft or 10ft 3-4wt rod sporting a leader of 9-12ft (although full-on French Nymphing leaders can be twice that) is ideal. The set-up differs from the short-rod nymphing in that the leader is in sections. Attached directly to the flyline is 6-8 ft of supple 10-15lb b/s line. This in turn is attached to a hi-vis coloured braid section (this can be made by tying two braided loops together – two different colours is good – so that the double length piece has a loop at each end). Apply a good smear of Mucilin to this to help it stay highly buoyant. To the lower loop, attach a short tapered leader and tippet, or a length of even breaking-strain line, terminating in 3lb b/s. Attach your chosen fly.
French Nymphing being used to good effect on the Ewenny after heavy rain - the river still fishes well even when high and coloured
The method is to roll or cast the fly a short distance upstream, but to keep the flyline off the water surface as much as possible. The long monofilament leader is less visible to the fish and the braided indicator is the only thing passing over them, the theory being that this allows for a more natural drift of the nymph through less drag from the line, and less chance of scaring your target. Bite detection is extremely sensitive using this method and it is well suited to conditions where fish are easily spooked. It does take a little getting used to but is worth experimenting with.
Something that is largely overlooked during the winter Grayling season is the effectiveness of dry flies.
On milder days, it is well worth trying patterns like the Griffiths Gnat, Black Gnat or Sturdy’s Fancy (as well as some of the familiar summer patterns). If the conditions are right, Grayling will rise to a dry fly, and it’s nice to ring the changes!
Lastly, one highly recommended piece of equipment from PADAC members who spent many hours on the river in winter time…a Kelly Kettle for a well earned cuppa after fishing!
Grayling fishing on the Ewenny can be excellent; find a fish and the odds are that you will find a shoal – keep at it when you get one as they are rarely alone. Keep warm, keep safe and have a go.
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