Scientific Name: Thymallus thymallus
Maximum Weight: 4lb 3oz 0dr (1kg 899g)
Average Weight: 6oz–1lb (0.15/0.5kg)
Average Length: 7-12 inches (17.5cm–30cm)
Life Span: 6 – 14 Years

The Grayling is a member of the Salmon family. They are widespread across northern Europe, from the British Isles to Russia, preferring cold, clean, running waters. They are omnivorous and feed on plants, fish eggs (including those of Salmon and Trout!), crustaceans, insects and their larvae, small mollusc’s and even small fish.

Grayling are a beautiful fish, fairly flat-sided with a small head in comparison to the rest of its body and a very large dorsal fin. They have quite large eyes and their top lip overhangs their bottom lips, both of which are quite fleshy.

Young Grayling are a light silvery green with bluish spots on their sides, whilst mature fish develop a greyish green back with silver/grey flanks with black spots of the front half of the body and a white belly. The top and rear half of the dorsal fin is coloured red and the red continues as spots between the rays of the fin. The rest of the fins tend to be red to orange. A yellowish tinge can sometimes be seen on the bottom of the gill covers and can also be seen on their flanks on individual rows of scales.

Although Grayling are commonly known as the ‘The Lady of the Stream’, perhaps because of their graceful appearance, they were and still can be persecuted by trout anglers. This is due to their ability to out compete Trout, colonising stretches of both rivers and streams through their natural shoaling tendency that naturally leads to them to out-compete the non- shoaling Trout.

Whilst the generic name Thymallus derives from the smell that freshly caught Grayling often have, being similar to the scent of wild thyme, their common name (Gray-ling), owes its origins to its silver-grey colouration.

Habitat & Location

Grayling favour spots such as hollows in the riverbed, scoured out by the water current flowing around boulders and under overhanging trees and bushes.

Grayling spawn at water temperatures between 8 to 14°C in the shallows of rivers where there is fine gravel and a moderate current speed in the spring. Healthy females produce up to 5,000 eggs/kg of bodyweight. The eggs, which measure about 3 mm in diameter, hatch after two to three weeks and when the fry emerge from the gravel they are 12-18mm in length and can sometimes be seen to swim in shoals near the surface in quieter water created by the sides of the river.

Grayling can grow quickly and can reach 30-40 cm by the time they are three years old, after which their growth rate slows, with a maximum length of 35 and 45 cm being attained.

Tackle and Tactics

Rods and reels should be either 12 – 15’ flat rod in conjunction with preferably a centre pin or close faced reel that allow better presentation whilst trotting. Use a mainline of 3lb with a 2lb hook link and size 16-18, fine gauge spade end hooks.

Before starting, ensure that you plumb the depth. Trotting with a stick float with ‘shirt button’ style shotting pattern (ie. with the larger shot nearest the float and the smallest shot evenly spaced with smallest shot at the bottom and biggest nearest the float), and a tell tale No 10 shot 6” from the hook fished so that the bait runs through the swim at just off bottom. Holding the stick float back against the current occasionally, just momentary or up to a few seconds, will allow the bait to gently rise in the current and encourage bites.

Consider a leger when you are getting bites on the float but cannot hit them. Shorten the hooklink to 6” so that the fish cannot spit out the hook before feeling the lead, hence the shorter link. This method will usually result in the fish hooking themselves. Use 2- 4+ swanshots directly on the line, which are an advantage over leger weights, in that they can be moved easily to change the distance to the hook.


Single or double red maggots or small brandlings or red worms, with light loose fed maggots to keep competition in a shoal. Grayling, like Dace, tend not to feed well in coloured water conditions following heavy rainfall.


Fly fishing for Grayling can be productive and very exciting. The best time of year to fly fish for them is from September to December, when they are at their most active and often feed throughout the day. In early autumn Grayling rise to greenfly and dry fly fishing can be very good, try the Grayling Witch and Red Tag patterns, but rises are quick and to overcome the frustration of missed takes requires practice. In December with the colder weather, as Grayling tend to feed more on the river bottom, it is time to use sinking lines and Czech Nymphs, also referred to as ‘bugging’.

Grayling are hard fighters for their size and before being released, should be held in the current until fully recovered and able to swim away from your open hand.

Where can I catch them?

The only Farnham Angling Society waters that hold them are the River Wey sections, as they will have been removed from the River Loddon where they would naturally occur, due to the trout fisheries sections that are found locally on these rivers. 

Record Fish

National Record

lbs:ozs:drms kilo.grms Date Captor Location
4:03:00 1.899 1989 S R Lanigan River Frome, Dorset
Farnham Angling Society Record
lbs:ozs:drms kilo.grms Date Captor Location
Applications Over 2lbs (0.9kg) Invited.