GRAYLING Thvmallus thymallus

Waters: Fast-flowing rivers and streams.

Baits: Worms, maggots, freshwater shrimps and very small fish: occasionally an artificial minnow. Techniques: Float fishing, free-lining and flyfishing.

The grayling is a member of the salmon family, recognised by the small fleshy adipose fin near the tail, but it is classed as a coarse fish and has the same close season.

It is an attractive fish, easily recognised by its large and colourful sail-like dorsal (in. It is grey-green along the back, with irridescent or silvery flanks. There are black spots on the back and sides and a few dark zig-zag markings along the Hanks.

Specimens of 3Ib( 1.36kg) or over are rare, the average size being below 1 lb (0.45kg). It is popular with coarse anglers who regard it as a winter quarry, because it feeds at low temperatures and when other species are lying quiet.

A river fish, the grayling prefers gravelly runs through weeds and is usually found in the same waters as trout, sharing the same food. This means that some trout fisheries object to the grayling because it competes with the trout for the available food supply. It will also rise to the trout anglers’ artificial Hies.

The diet of the grayling is small worms, freshwater shrimps, caddis grubs, snails, insect larvae and very small fish. Like trout, they usually face upstream, lying in wail for food items that come down with the current. The bait should, therefore, be presented in this way, with the How and as naturally as possible.

Float fishing is the most effective method, trolling small baits on light tackle. The best baits are maggots and worms. Fish the maggots two at a time-on a size 14 or 16 hook. The bait has to move naturally in the current, so use a self-cocking float, with just enough shot to get the offering down, but not set too near the float. Grayling are a shoaling species, and feed in midwater, so set the float so that the bait lies clear of the bottom where it is more likely to be taken.

Use a smooth cast to place the tackle slightly upstream of the swim, tossing in a few maggots at the same time. If there are grayling there they will soon begin to feed.

Hold the float back a little so that the bait precedes it. This allows a more direct strike when the bait is taken, resulting in a dip or some unnatural movement of the float. It may jerk sideways if the fish lakes but does not dive immediately. The sirike must be made in a sweep in the opposite direetion to the float, to be sure of hooking the fish well.

Location of the shoal may lake a while. Move slowly downstream, tossing in a few maggots at a time and watching for the splash and swirl as they are taken. Once located, hold the fish there with just a few maggots at a time while your hookbait goes to work.

Fast rivers with shallows and weedy channels suit grayling. Use light tackle so that the bait swims naturally with the current.

The grayling has a long yet stout body and a relatively small head for its body size. It enjoys a well-oxygenated swim.

EEL: Anguilla anguilla

Waters: All waters, running and still.

Baits: Worms, maggots, live and dead fish.

Techniques: I.egering, floal-leger, sink-and-draw.

The eel is unlikely to be mistaken for any other fish. Only the lamprey is similar, but this has a round, sucker-like mouth whereas the eel has proper jaws. It has a snake-like body, long and slippery, with a single pair of pectoral fins just behind the head.

Eels breed in the area of the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic. After hatching, the young fish take some three months to reach European waters, where they enter the rivers. At this stage they are known as elvers, and are about 2’/>-31 Vm. (6-9cm) long. Elvers make useful live or dead bait for other coarse fish.

As they become adult they can grow to a considerable size. Eish of over 10 lb (4.5kg) have been caught on rod and line. When mature they are dark greenish-brown on the back, shading to yellow underneath. This alters as the eel migrates back to the sea to breed – the yellow becomes silvery and complex internal changes lake place to enable it to live in salt water.

In rivers, eels prefer the slow-llowing reaches, staying among the roots of weedbeds. Where they live in lakes they become more plentiful and larger, and often remain for long periods buried in the mud.

Eels feed on almost every kind of aquatic creature, including fish, so any of the ordinary baits can be used. An average-sized eel can be caught on a big worm such as a lob, or a bunch of smaller worms such as brandlings. For big eels the best bait is a dead fish such as a dace or a gudgeon – although a sprat has been the downfall of eels of 6-9Ib(2.7-4kg). For long-casting, the deadbait is mounted on a large hook, single or treble, by using a baiting needle to thread the trace through the body of the fish from tail to mouth.

Having cast out, use rod rests and attach bite indicators. Then wait patiently for a take. Eels feed at any time of day or night, and legering is the most effective method of seeking them out deliberately.

Big eels are powerful fish, and it is wise to have a few traces prepared ready for use. At the top of the line, fit a link-swivel for easy attachment to the trace. When a large, writhing eel is caught the trace can be detached at once and a fresh bait and trace connected for recasting. The old trace and hook can be removed from the eel later-even at home, it the fish is taken back to be eaten.

Although the eel has scales, it exudes a thick covering of slimy mucus which disguises the scales when it is picked up. This slime makes it very difficult to hold the fish while the hook is removed. A sure way to keep the writhing eel still is to lay it on a sheet of newspaper, where it will lie quietly, probably because the sticky adhesive effeel of the mucus discourages movement.

A fully grown eel is a powerful fish. Widely distributed, eels are found in all types of waters, and will even undertake short overland journeys if necessary to reach a favoured stretch of landlocked water.

PIKE: Esox lucius

Waters: Reservoirs, lakes, ponds, gravel pits, canals, rivers and streams. Baits: Live and dead fish, crayfish, lobworms, spinners and plugs. Techniques: Float fishing, legering, paternoster, sink and draw, spinning.

One of the commonest coarse fishes, the pike is a vicious predator, with a huge mouth equipped with sharp, backward-pointing teeth. It can grow very big, and specimens of 40-50 lb (18-23kg)areon record; many weighing 20 lb (9kg) and over are taken every season.

The pike has a large head which accounts for about a quarter of its total body length. Its snout is shaped like a duck’s bill, the lower jaw projecting. It has a long, slim body with rounded anal and dorsal fins situated close to the lailfin; its pelvic fins are about halfway along the body, and its pectorals are close to the head. It is dark greenish-brown along the back. And pale green on the sides with creamy white blotches forming curved patterns. The underside is a creamy yellow.

It is difficult to confuse the pike with any other species, the only fish having any resemblance to it being the zander. There is no direct relationship between them, however, even though the zander has been given the name of pike-perch. The zander is a distinct species quite unrelated to either the pike or the perch.

Although pike are essentially fish eaters, predating on any small fish -including the young of their own species – they will also feed on various other creatures that swim on, or fall into the water. They have been known to lake animals as large as ducks from the surface.

Like perch, pike can be located by the sudden scattering of small fish on the surface. Anglers fishing for roach and dace regularly have their hooked fish snatched off the line by a marauding pike.

During recent years pike have become increasingly popular with anglers, one of the main reasons being their availability. Practically every coarse fisherman lives within easy travelling range of a good pike fishery. Many kinds of water, even farm ponds, have a head of pike present, and some of these fish may grow to an exceptional size if they have lived there for some years and there are plenty of small food-fish present. Liven half-acre sand pits have produced fish weighing nearly 30 lb (13.6kg), sometimes to the astonishment of the angler.

The principal bait for pike is fish. Dead or alive. On rivers and canals. Livebaits work better than deadbaits. A common technique with a large livcbait is to suspend it from a big spherical float known as a bung. A sliding pilot float is threaded on to the line above the bung: when a pike runs with the bait and drags the bung under, the pilot float slides up the line and stays on the surface to give the angler an indication of the pikc’s movements. Some anglers prefer to keep the livebait small and fish it on a float-paternoster rig, using a streamlined slider float to support the bait as it swims around.

For the increasing number of anglers who do not like the idea of using a live fish as bait. Spinning is an attractive and often productive alternative. Lures of all kinds can also be used. Plugs of the slow-sinking variety are very popular, as are copper-coloured spoons – copper for some reason being a highly attractive colour to a feeding pike. Spinning is the one method that can be used to good effect on all types of pike water, but it must be stressed that artificial lures tend to catch only small to medium-sized pike.

On stillwaters, deadbait fishing is without doubt the most efficient technique. Deadbaits have many advantages. They are easy to obtain, simple to keep and use, and they save a great deal of valuable fishing time. They also tend to lure large pike more consistently than any of the other common pike baits.

The choice of fish for deadbait is endless. A visit to the local fishmonger will yield a plentiful supply of sprats, sardines, herrings, mackerel and even smelt. Of these, sardine and mackerel have caught more large pike than the others. A sardine is oily and attracts pike both by smell and by the Hash of its silvery body. Mackerel is also oily, and its streamlined shape and weight allows it to be cast further than most deadbaits. On heavily fished waters where pike lend to shun the banks, mackerel hookbait can be fished outside the normal casting range, where it is often most effective.

Where to fish for pike varies from water to water. In rivers, the fish tend to seek out the slack areas. Once they start feeding, however, pike will vacate the slacks and eddies and move out into the faster, shallower water in search of prey fish.

Spinning allows the angler to search a wider area, casting into all the likely places. Give the rod a little flick occasionally to make the lure dart like a small fish.

In stillwaters, pike can usually be found on drop-offs – places where the bottom falls away steeply into deep water. Surface and sunken weedbeds can also be productive, as can the points of an island or submerged gravel bars.

The selection of tackle for pike fishing is never easy. For livebaiting or deadbaiting,an 1 l-12ftf 3.3-3.7m rod is best. For spinning, the general preference is for a 10ft (3m) rod. Rods for casting baits should have a test-curve of over 2 lb (0.9kg), depending on the size of bait to be cast, whereas a test-curve of 1½lb (0.7kg) is ample for a spinning rod.

Most pike anglers use fixed-spool reels. Make sure, however, that the spool is large enough to hold at least

While the pike’s body is supported in the net, two fingers hooked in the gill covers immobilise the fish while the hook is removed using artery forceps. 150yd (137m) of 12-15 lb (5.4-6.8kg) b.s. Line. The spool should also be-wide and shallow enough to make long casting easy.

Pike tackle need not be expensive. For liveordeadbait fishing there is little point in purchasing the expensive carbon or boron rods. Fibreglass is perfectly adequate since the rods spend most of their time sitting on the rod rests and weight therefore is of little consideration. Lightweight spinning rods are to be preferred, however, because they are held all the time.

These days, most pike anglers use barbless hooks. They have many advantages over the old trebles with their huge barbs. A fish hooked on a barbless hook is easy to free, allowing it to be weighed, photographed and released to the water quickly, almost unharmed. Anglers are now actively conserving pike and the barbless treble has become an essential part of the pike angler’s equipment.

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