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Dee Grayling #3.jpg

Fishing for

on the

Welsh Dee

Our secretary Ian is
hooked on trotting!

The River Dee

The Welsh Dee, Afon Dyfrdwy, is one of the finest grayling rivers in Europe. It has hosted many international competitions, including the World Championships, and is the venue for the annual Hanak Grayling Festival. In addition to grayling it also contains salmon, sea trout and brown trout, and a host of coarse fish such as pike, perch, chub and many other species.


The source of the Dee is on the borders of Snowdonia, and is constrained by a dam at Llyn Tegid, Bala Lake. Three other lakes feed into the Dee which in turn supplies drinking water to England and Wales, the intake for this being at Huntington near the city of Chester. This scheme for the supply of drinking water is called The Dee Regulation Scheme and is managed by Natural Resources Wales (NRW). One of the regulations for this scheme is that it must maintain a minimum flow of water. In the summer time water can be released under control from these lakes into the Dee. Which means good news for anglers because when other rivers in Wales are in drought conditions and are unfishable, you can always find somewhere to fish on the Dee. This is why our Association obtained a reciprocal agreement with Llangollen Maelor Angling (LMA), which has approximately 10 miles of game and coarse fishing, which includes salmon, sea trout, brown trout and grayling and other coarse fish. Please remember that this agreement allows two of our members per day to fish free of charge on their waters, as per LMAs rules and NRW rules. All bookings must be made via Foxons Tackle shop.


The grayling (Thymallus Thymallus) is a freshwater fish, it is technically not a game fish although it possesses an adipose fin like trout and salmon. It is classified as a coarse fish and spawns at roughly the same time as coarse fish generally between March and May. The grayling is acknowledged by anglers as an outstanding sporting species. Not only is it one of the most beautiful looking of our freshwater fish, it is also a hard fighting fish. Grayling are typically similar in size to wild brown trout with the average size weighing in at around a pound and a half, and larger sizes weighing in at about three to four pounds. The most striking feature of the grayling is its long tall dorsal fin, coloured purple with lateral red markings and regularly arranged black spots.


The fact that the grayling is a coarse fish means that when the season for fishing the migratory fish, salmon and sea trout, comes to and end we can fish for grayling throughout late autumn and the winter into the following year until the coarse fishing season comes to an end. The coarse fishing season runs from 16th June to 14th March on the Welsh Dee.

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The rules and where to fish for grayling fishing on the Llangollen Maelor Angling Waters

Obviously, the best way to go about this is to go onto the link given in our Association website which takes you the LMA website, You can then navigate on this site to find their excellent main beat map, and full list of fishing rules.


Basically, on LMA waters you can use two methods of fishing for grayling, fly fishing or bait fishing.


Bait fishing consists of either using worms or maggots. However, the rules state that no maggots are allowed on the Llangollen beats, and on the Maelor beats maggots are allowed for grayling fish on the Bathers beat only.


Worm fishing for grayling is allowed downstream of the Chain Bridge Hotel except the golf course section which is fly only, worm fishing is allowed on the Ddol Isaf beat, maggots are allowed on the Bathers beat from 16th June – 1st March. Juniors up to the age of 12 are allowed to worm fish all waters downstream of the Chain Bridge Hotel to the Tip Pool and the Bathers beat. Fly fishing is permitted on all beats.


For the next section of this article I want to concentrate on bait fishing, however at a later date

I will talk about fly fishing for grayling, meanwhile if you require further information, I would recommend that you go to Andrew Overend’s web site,


The tackle and tactics that I use for trotting are listed below. Please bear in mind that this is what I use, of course you can choose to use what tackle is best for you and what tactics work best for you. All I can say is that I am fairly new to grayling fishing and last season was my first attempt, and I caught many grayling using this tackle and these tactics.


If you are not sure or are undecided on any of this, Shaun in Foxons Tackle shop in St Asaph was a great help to me. He is an experienced angler and will give you help and guidance. Also, Daniel Williams, Angling Development Officer for the Angling Trust, and Andrew Overend who are both experienced anglers, and who regularly fish the Welsh river Dee were also very helpful to me.



Shakespeare 3- piece Sigma Supra 13ft carbon match rod.



TF Gear (Total Fishing Gear) classic centre pin reel.


When I bought the reel from Foxons Tackle shop, Shaun attached a main reel line of 100 yds of Maxima ultra- green 4lb nylon to the reel.


The reason why I bought this reel is because it has excellent friction free rotation, which is very important when you are trotting bait down a river. When you cast the bait out, the bait lands in the water and the current pulls the line off the freely rotating drum. You control the speed of the rotating drum by carefully placing a thumb on the side of the reel drum. I will give you further information later on, when I describe trotting techniques.



I would advise you to buy a packet of Drennan barbless carp maggot hooks size 14 which come with a 25cm length of 4lb nylon cast, one end is attached to the hook and the other end has a tied-in small loop.


I use a Drennan 3.6g- loafer stick float, rated at 4 ½ AA.


Packet of Drennan mixed float caps.

Packet of size 18 micro Drennan barrel swivels

A spool of 3lb Maxima ultra- green nylon cast

A small plastic box containing a set of Dinsmores super soft shot, sizes AAA, BB, 1, 4, and 6 shot.

A tub of red/blood worms bought from Geoff’s Tackle Shop, Wellington Road in Rhyl. These very small worms are far better than the ordinary brandling worms you can find in your garden. I prefer not to fish with maggots.


I make up a number of casts at home and wind them onto a piece of cardboard which is about 5ins long. It is far easier to do this at home than on the river bank. First, cut a short length of 3lb Maxima ultra-green nylon cast about 3ft in length, and attach the micro barrel swivel to one end of the cast. Then make a small loop at the other end of the cast. You then attach the hook with the 25cm of nylon by a loop to loop attachment to the 3lb cast.



When attaching by a loop to loop connection, make a loop in the reel line (you make the loop by using a figure of eight knot) and pass this through the loop in the hook length. Then pass the hook back through the reel line loop. This forms a secure knot which lies straight and also allows the twin loops to be pushed back apart.


The next stage is to attach the shot weights to the cast. The idea is to attach just enough shot weights to the cast to allow the tip of the float to be seen above the water. You must not forget to take into account the weight of the bait, and what the rating is on the side of the loafer stick float.

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Setting up the cast and float:

I use the loafer stick float rated at 3.6g 4 ½ AA, and I use the following selection of shots. You should try not put more than a total of 6 separate shots equally spaced out along the length of the cast. Starting at the top of the cast near to the barrel swivel, with the heaviest weighted shot AAA (my box of Dinsmores shot does not come with AA), then further down, one BB, then a No 1 shot, then another No 1 shot, then a No 6 shot, then finally another No 6 shot. The last shot should be about 4 or 5 inches near to the hook as this gives you a better fish bite indication (see diagram for detail).

I believe this method of attaching the shot weights is called the ‘shirt button method’. The reason for using the ‘shirt button’ method is that it gives weight to the whole length of the cast to allow the bait to hang down very close or on the river bed in running water without a belly in the cast. A belly in the cast makes it difficult to detect a bite. Also having the whole of the cast weighted makes it easier to cast, and prevents the baited hook snagging back around the main line and float.

When you arrive at the river you should assemble your rod and attach the reel, and thread the line through the rod rings. You should thread two float caps onto your main line, then trap the float between the two caps. You should then remove a ready-made cast, with barrel swivel, shots, and hook attached, from your cardboard cast retainer, and tie the main line to the swivel on the cast. Take one small red worm from the bait tub and impale the worm to the hook leaving the hook point exposed.


You are now ready to fish!


You now hope you are in the right location on the river bank to catch a grayling. Try and find a spot with a fairly slow water flow, usually on the inside of bends. In high water the fish will be close to the bank where the water current is not so fast. Steady glides can be good, but not in deep water. Fishing in the seam i.e between the fast-flowing water and the slow water can also be good, as well as just below an island.


Grayling are renowned for shoaling up in the late autumn and winter, and sometimes can remain in the same location for many days. They call a shoal of grayling a pod, so it is worthwhile talking to other anglers and doing your homework before you venture out.


Don’t wade out into the river immediately as grayling can be quite close by as they are not as shy as trout. You need to estimate the depth of the water before casting out, you can do this by using the tip of the rod as a depth gauge. You should then set the float to the estimated depth. With your baited hook cast the bait out across the river (using a centre pin reel) using what is known as the Nottingham cast. This is completed by holding the rod in one hand and pulling out an arm’s length of the main line, using two fingers on your other hand, with each finger hooking around the line on either side of the rod ring closest to the rod handle. As you cast out, release the line from the two fingers. You should be able to obtain a good distance with some practice.


With the line and float now in the water let the current take the float downriver. You should keep in touch with the float by controlling the amount of line being pulled off the reel by using your thumb on the side of the reel drum as it rotates. The idea is that the bait should be just trotting off the bed of the river, if the bait snags the river bed the float will be pulled under the water, you should then lift up the tip of the rod to release the bait from the river bed. The skill is to detect a bite, as you have to be quick to hook the fish. Sometimes you feel the obvious pull of the fish so strike quickly. Or sometimes the float just disappears as it is caught on the river bed.


As the float goes down river there comes a point where you are going to lose sight of it, so you slow the line down and let the float swing in towards the river bank. Don’t reel in immediately as quite often this will be the time when the fish takes the bait. As I reel the line back on to the reel, I bring the float back up river at about 3 feet at a time and then drop the tip of the rod back down to let the bait touch bottom again, and carry on like this retrieving another 3 feet of line and so on until the bait is close by, ready for casting out again.


When you catch a grayling please ensure that you carry a disgorger with you, grayling will often swallow the bait hook right down into the back of the throat, they don’t have the same open space as trout.


If you are in luck and have located a pod of grayling you may catch many fish without having to move too far. If not, you will have to carry on searching for them.


The list below is some of the beats and pools for trotting for grayling on the Llangollen Maelor Angling Waters, that have been recommended to me by experienced anglers. To locate these beats, you will have to go onto the website and navigate your way to their beat map.

Llangollen – Middle Beat - Pipe Pool and Sycamore Pool

Llangollen – Lower Beat - Jenny Jones Pool and the Lingo Pool

Ddol Isaf Beat - Cottage Pool and Mill Run Pool

Bathers Beat - Long Meadow Pool

Well I hope that for members who have never fished for the ’Silver Lady’, the grayling, I have stirred up some interest for you to have a go. Please remember that the information that I have given is from my own personal experiences. You don’t necessarily have to have the tackle that I have suggested above. For example, you can use a fixed spool reel and not a centre pin as I have suggested.

Tight Lines

Ian Macdonald

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River Dee Grayling

Dol Issa beat of Llangollen Maelor AC. December 1st 2020
Ian and Chris spent a pleasant three hours trotting tiny red worms for grayling. A good few grayling caught and safely released. This was the best caught by Ian in the Cottage Pool. Met LMAC member Tim who was also catching using small dry flies on a three weight rod. 

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