The outstanding grayling fishing on all of the Border Rivers has been a long kept secret with the fish often being regarded as vermin until relatively recently. Thankfully we now live in more enlightened times and the grayling is quite rightly regarded as a worthy game fish that either adds variety to a trout anglers day or more often these days is actively fished for. On the Annan this fishery has been recognised for many years now and most of the proprietors sell day, weekly or season tickets to people wanting to pursue this delightful fish.
In the depths of winter, on the coldest of days, fish can often be found rising to midges and dark olives and are eminently catchable when all the other game fish are busy spawning and in poor condition. The Annan is gaining a reputation for extremely large fish with fish over 3.75lb recorded in recent years with fish over 2lb relatively common on some beats.
The grayling anglers season probably starts around June when the fish have recovered from their spawning and are back in condition. At this time of year the shoals of smaller fish (up to 1.5lb) are very free rising and will take all manner of dry flies with relish. Imitations of olives and sedges are particularly good along with Klinkhammers. Many of these flies will need to be tied pretty small to elicit takes with #18s & #20s often being required. Sometimes a much larger pattern can be very effective, particularly when the fish appear to be locked onto microscopic things like reed smuts. The larger fish will come to the surface less frequently and success with these will probably be more likely with deeply fished nymphs tied to imitate things like caddis and shrimps.
As the season goes on the fish become fitter and fitter with October, November and early December being the peak months for the fly anglers. The surface fishing will remain good (and the flies fortunately will be a lot larger) but as water temperatures drop deeply fished nymphs will out fish dries.
3lb 8oz grayling from the middle reaches of the Annan
As the depths of winter approach the fish will start forming very tight shoals and fish will require a bit of searching to be located. When these shoals are finally found they numbers of fish that are caught can be very high indeed with catches of fish numbered in the dozens not uncommon. It as this time of year that the art of long trotting comes into its own. Tracking floats up to 70yards down the river searching out likely places is a skill just as demanding as fly-fishing and it has the advantage that a huge amount of water can be covered in a relatively short period of time.
As winter wears on the fish will continue to feed hard whenever conditions are settled but by the end of March they will be readying themselves for spawning in mid to late April. At this time of year it is probably best to leave them alone and instead concentrate on the brown trout which will have just come into season.