Boxing Day start for grayling fishing on the River Esk

Grayling fishing on the River Esk controlled by the River Esk MDAA, starts on Boxing Day, December 26, and permits are now available online at the Fishing Around the Forth website.

Hawick-raised Steve Cullen, a marketing content specialist at Guide Flyfishing and a well-known national angling writer, says the basics are simple. You have a length of line, usually dictated to by the length of the rod, an indicator, your tippet length, and flies.

A key element in the leader’s construction, he said, is the indicator or sighter which is usually an in-your-face material which provides visual cues for any takes as the flies are drifted in the current. Cullen suggests picking a HI-VIZ indicator, one that will stick out against most backgrounds, and he said: "Flat light and dull days will see this bright material work it’s magic the best.

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"It sticks out like a sore thumb in these conditions. For winter fishing, and for use on dull days, this would be my choice,” he said. “I’d also highlight this one when I’m ‘high sticking’, and my line has the backdrop of the far bank, a dark background makes the bright indicator really visible."

Steve Cullen with a grayling. Contributed

Casts are upriver or up and across and he added: "It pays to think about what you’re using and why the small things make the difference."

And his indicator tips? Leave one-inch tag ends where the indicator attaches to both leader and tippet, this aids visibility, don’t use an excessive length. You only need to see two colours. He also suggests that an indicator needs to be held off the water for most fishing situations. The longer the length, the more difficult it becomes to hold up.

For fishing with a lightweight single fly in slow-moving water, he recommends applying grease to the indicator and to use it as a suspension device. Another suggestion is to curl the indicator around a straw or pen and hold it over a steaming kettle so it retains its memory. Again, this acts as a floating strike indicator, and it also allows for more elasticity to cushion strikes on light tippet.

Grayling fishing on the Esk controlled buy the MDAA is six days a week, no fishing on a Tuesday, and it is on a catch and release basis and by fly only and no spinning or spinning reels are allowed. Fishing is restricted to one rod per person which must be hand-held and single hook flies only and hooks should be barbless. Permits are £15 and the boundaries are a sign at the end of the estate wall downstream of the A1 flyover to beyond the mouth of the Forth estuary, including both banks but you are advised to consult the permit for full details.

River Esk at Musselburgh.

Meanwhile, Jack Frost had hit fishing in the local area, with many fisheries iced over including Allandale Tarn near West Calder. They hope to re-open before Christmas and then they will be shut to mid-March. Bowden Springs near Linlithgow has also been frozen over as has Drumtassie near Blackridge, but fishery bosses hope to be back open as soon as possible.

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Anglers braved the cold snap at the Lake of Menteith earlier this week as there was surprisingly not too much ice on the water, but a sharp frost in mid-week saw the fishery closed until further notice.

Priority bookings for next season are now in and so the Lake's online booking system for the public for next year is now open. The weather men predict better weather next week and fishery owners suggest looking at individual sites for availability.

On to sea fishing now and a reminder that the St Serfs Xmas Open is on Sunday (December 18) with a top prize of £1,250, believed to be the biggest in Scotland, and anglers register on the day at Anstruther Golf Club from 9am to 11.30am with fishing from noon to 6pm. Deals on Reels from Cowdenbeath will be on-site with tackle and bait and the weigh-in is back at Anstruther Golf Club from 6pm to 7pm.

Two-tone indicator recommended for grayling fishing by Steve Cullen. Picture: Guide Flyfishing
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George Harris, one of the organisers, confirmed this is a record prize for the popular event now in its 24th year and top anglers from Northumberland and North-West England, plus those from all over Scotland, are expected to attend. Sonik Sports from Northumberland are among the sponsors and Sean Baxter, owner of Cowdenbeath-based Deals on Reels, will be there with a tackle and bait stand just in case entrant forget something. Angling is from St Monans to St Andrews and entrants pick their own mark and Harris said that this is traditionally the prime time to fish the Fife coastline.

The Edinburgh Winter Shore League, sponsored by Edinburgh Angling Centre and Fishing Megastore, saw 23 anglers contest the fourth round on Portobello Beach. Organiser Ian Campbell said it was hard-going for most on a flat calm, freezing cold evening. Stephen Barrett topped the list with eight fish with David Cooper second with seven fish and Dave McKervail third with four fish. He also had a longest fish, a 28cm flounder. Leg five was scheduled for Friday, December 16, along Marine Esplanade at Seafield. Registration was between 6pm and 6.30pm on Marine Esplanade EH6 7LU.

Members of The Bass Rock Shore Angling League have also been out and their North Berwick Rover was fished in perfect sea conditions but with a bitterly cold North-West wind. Sadly, not a lot of fish showed. Jimmy Green from Musselburgh was first with two fish for 1lb 13oz with Scottish international Chris Empson (Dunbar) second with one fish of 1lb 8oz with Shaun Gardner (North Berwick) third with two fish for 1lb 1oz with Steve Biskup (North Berwick) fourth with one fish weighing 9oz.

Empson bagged the heaviest fish of 1lb 8oz and the next match is on December 21. It is the Christmas Hamper match. To qualify for the match anglers must be fully paid-up members and fished in at least two matches. Full details will be on the club's Facebook page over the weekend.

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On to trade now and Daiwa are promoting the N'Zon Ext feeder rod range which are extendable for ease of packing and come in 10ft, 11ft, 12ft and 13ft with an RRP of £59.99. They all come with two carbon quiver tips, armlock handles and titanium oxide guides and are said to be ideal for silvers or carp. The company are also marketing EVA pole end caps which are designed to replace traditional hard plastic ones and are said to provide secure protection while angling and travelling, RRP £5.99 each.

Finally, really enjoying a book tagged The Angler's Bible for Catching big river pike by Bill Winship which is on sale from Maple Publishers and called River Pike in Northern England. It is claimed to be the first book written about Northern river pike and don't be put off by the reference to Norther England. I've learned a lot so far which I can use North of the Border to catch pike and the advice comes from a man who has hooked into well over 50 pike over 20lbs. Full review later.