Grayling are not native to Scotland. The first were introduced to the Clyde from Derbyshire in 1855, and in subsequent years to the Annan, Ayr, Earn, Nith, Tay, Teviot and Tweed, where they thrived and spread to some of their tributaries.
More recently some were put into certain rivers of the Forth catchment. There are no reports of them ever being introduced north of the Tummel.
Despite being itself a salmonid, the grayling was for many years persecuted throughout the UK as it was thought to compete unfavourably with trout and salmon. The Grayling Society was formed to overturn this false assumption and at last the species is becoming widely valued as a sporting game fish. Though some Scottish rivers still have abundant stocks, a few seem less well endowed than in former years. The reason for this is unclear. Grayling tend to be prone to population fluxes, especially when abnormal Spring spates wash away their ova, but there is a need for some research to establish what, if anything, is wrong. They are wild fish and, unlike trout, rivers have never been subject to stocking with hatchery raised fish, so it is good to see many anglers practising catch and release with a view to conserving stocks. Barbless hooks are advised when fish are to be returned to the river.
How to catch them
They can be caught in the summer months on dry fly, though wet fly and deep nymph tactics are more suited as the year progresses. Float fishing comes into its own in the winter, when wee red worms, maggots and sweetcorn are popular baits. Salmon and trout spawn during the winter so wading must be done with care so as not to disturb their redds.
Fish of a pound or so are common, and even two pounders are not unusual. A three pounder is a specimen and it is a lucky angler who manages to land one. Fish of four pounds and over are rare. Very big fish between 50 and 60cms are caught from time to time, though their weight is rarely ascertained for they are usually returned to the river. Estimating the weight of big grayling is difficult, as they tend to weigh lighter than they look, so tales of grayling up to 5 or 6 pounds should be treated with extreme caution if not downright scepticism.
Grayling fishing is available on a day ticket basis on some rivers throughout the year, there being no closed season for grayling in Scotland (though this may change), but on others fishing is restricted to certain times and places. Tackle restrictions are also common and can vary between even adjacent beats, so it is important for anglers to check out local regulations when prospecting where to fish.
Finally, grayling are good to eat, but anglers should restrict the number they kill to help ensure viable populations. Those that they return should be treated with care so that other anglers, now and in the future, can enjoy pursuing the delightful 'Lady of the Stream'.