The Grayling is a European fish and was probably introduced by man into England. Not all rivers are to its liking for it prefers fast running water, well supplied with oxygen, little pollution and a prolific weed growth. The Wear satisfies three of these requirements but is limited in the presence of weed beds, hence there are not large numbers of Grayling but there are sufficient to make angling for them worthwhile.
They are nomadic fish, especially in Winter, and hence the angler should be mobile and go in search of them. In Summer they tend to be found in shallower, streamy water, lying just off the main flow, whereas in Winter they tend to move to deeper pools where they can often be found in significant numbers. They are omnivorous feeders, eating weed as well as the full range of aquatic invertebrates. During the winter months Witton Park down, Escomb Flats Farm and Vinovium beats are noted for grayling.
Grayling can be caught by both fly and bait. The bulk of the Grayling's diet consists of Gammarus, snails, midge larvae and Ephemeropteran nymphs, all being bottom dwelling forms. Hence, any flies used to target Grayling should be weighted imitations on these. For many years English anglers used the typical wet fly approach, casting across and down with flies such as the Red Tag and Treacle Parkin, together with standard trout wet fly patterns. Nowadays there is a greater tendency to 'Czech nymph', using heavily weighted patterns of shrimps and caddis larvae.
In the Winter, long trotting with a natural bait such as redworms is probably the best way to locate the fish in the deeper pools. Do, though, check local rules to ascertain which natural baits are allowed. Some Clubs ban the use of maggots and do not allow groundbaiting or loose feeding. Once located, they can be fished for with flies, if that is the anglers preferred method.
Grayling do take hatching flies, even in the middle of Winter, so carry a few floating patterns such as dark Klinkhammers and CDCs. However, if no fish are rising there is little chance of 'bringing them up'. The fish, if present, will probably be pre-occupied with feeding on the bottom.
Finally, as Grayling in the Wear are not numerous, it is unwritten policy to return all fish caught so that stocks can be maintained.