I guess this is mainly because most angling writers who discuss grayling fishing only fish for them occasionally, and then when conditions are far from favourable. You see, a trap that I have been just as guilty of falling into in the past as other anglers, is to believe that grayling fishing is at its best when conditions are so cold that little else is likely to be caught. In reality, little could be further from the truth. Whilst grayling can be caught in all but the most dire conditions, that is not to say that this is the best time to fish for them. Give me a mild late Autumn day and I will catch you far more grayling than I ever will when the ground is as hard as iron in the depths of mid-Winter.

Another great misconception is that the best method for catching grayling is trotting. Whilst there is no doubting that this is a most enjoyable way to spend a winter's day, it is also true that you will catch more big grayling by ledgering, particularly in conjunction with a swimfeeder. I know this goes against all you have ever read about traditional grayling fishing, but if we take a look at the natural behaviour of the grayling you will see why I have come to this conclusion.

If you look at the head of a grayling, the first thing that strikes you is that, unlike other salmonids, these fish have a distinctly under-slung mouth. Grayling are designed to catch prey that are on, or very close to the river bed. Although they can take prey higher in the water column this is much more difficult for them, and they must undergo all sorts of acrobatics to get their mouth in a position to catch prey that are above their lies. Small grayling appear to be much more amenable to feeding in mid-water than larger fish, probably because there is more competition for food in the large shoals of small fish.

Living close to the river bed gives grayling a major advantage. As water approaches a surface, like the river bed, friction slows it down. Close to the river bed, water is flowing much slower than it is closer to the surface. Go very close to the river bed and the water is hardly flowing at all. Grayling are very adept at searching out slight depressions in the river bed where the flow is still further reduced and so for most of the time they will be lying in wait in almost still conditions.

When float fishing, unless you hold back really hard, the float will pull the bait through the water at about the same speed as the surface is moving. This is the worst possible presentation for a fish living close to the river bed. If you let the bait trip bottom and go through at the pace of the surface it will be moving at least twice as fast as is natural. Holding back hard will slow the bait down, but will also tend to lift it up away from the river bed where the larger grayling can be found.

Overcoming the laws of physics that apply to a float travelling down a river is incredibly difficult. Yet even the most unskilled angler can ledger a bait nailed to the river bed. Even such a crude method is likely to catch grayling, but a more thoughtful approach will catch you more fish. What is more, by using a block end feeder to deliver a trickle of maggots close to the river bed you are ensuring that your free-offerings are going where they are intended, something that is difficult even when using a bait dropper.

Complicated rigs are not required either. A five pound main line is used in conjunction with the softest feeder rod that you can get away with. A small Kamasan black cap feeder loaded with between 15 to 45 grams is used on a six inch paternoster tail. The 4lb hook trace is anything from twelve to thirty inches in length, although around eighteen inches normally does the trick. On the end of this is a size sixteen Kamasan B983 baited with two or three maggots.

Where possible, I prefer to ledger across the river with the feeder coming to rest slightly upstream of my position. This is not always possible, but by doing this it is possible to tighten up the quiver tip until the ledger only just holds bottom. When a grayling takes the bait the quiver tip will straighten, giving a fantastic bite as the fish drops downstream. Often though you will be forced to fish downstream, although by using a soft tip and paying out a few feet of line, grayling will take quite confidently. To avoid missing too many bites it pays to hold the rod at all times, perhaps using a front rest to steady the tip when fishing for prolonged periods.

Like all things, there is a knack to catching grayling on the feeder, but is not a difficult method to grasp and will enable you to present a hook bait far more efficiently than is ever possible with a float. Next time you spend a freezing day on the bank, why not give the feeder a try. Or better still, get out before the worst of the frosts and experience the very best that grayling sport can offer.