Death bombs and the end times

It seems the weather here in the UK is throwing a tantrum at the thought of leaving another year behind. Driving wind, pouring rain, all things that are terrific for getting the grayling going. I’ve been staying with family for the past week or so, and have finally got into tying up some flies. Actually, that’s possibly stetching it a little, because these fellas are serious bomb bugs. When grayling bugging I quite often use a very heavy ‘nymph’ on the middle dropper which acts like an anchor, taking the whole cast down quickly. These things don’t resemble any kind of traditional fly fishing creation. They’re big and nasty, and are likely to cause mild concussion if your casting’s a bit off.



Other flies have been hare’s ear nymphs with tungsten heads, in various sizes and with a range of extra leading. This winter I’m going for a fairly simple approach to my grayling fishing. One heavy fly, one hare’s ear fly, one pink fly. The pink flies were made up on the spot. Nothing special, just pink floss and a hare’s ear thorax. But I’m going to name the pattern anyway: “mik’s pinky”. It’s got a nice sound to it.



There’ll be other flies of course. My old woven polish nymphs and some Czech style bugs, but the more fishing I do the simpler I like things to be. I reckon if a grayling is going to take a bug, he’ll take a nice hare’s ear as readily as anything. If he sees a pink fly first, he might dive straight at that instead. And if all that fails (surely not), the bomb fly will probably knock him clean out. Done, sorted, no problem.


Except for the egg flies. Been meaning to try these for a while now, and finally tied some up yesterday. They look remarkably like boobies, but of course they’re highly imitative and designed to arouse the attention of grayling gorging themselves on salmon eggs. I know of at least one (very good) angler who has had success with these in recent times. I also know another angler who hates pink flies and says you’ve got to be desparate to use them. That’s just about fine with me.


In other news, tonight is new year’s eve. I mentioned recently that I used to live in the Far East. New year in the Philippines puts the tame efforts of the UK to shame. Several years spent there have almost certainly pre-disposed me to lung cancer from excessive inhalation of firework fumes. I can’t really describe what it’s like. War zone, end of the world, total annhialation come pretty close.

Today I’ve been thinking back over the last year, remembering the good times. There were quite a few, almost all of which involved a fly rod. My Northern trip was probably the finest couple of weeks, with some truly memorable evenings spent fishing dry sedges to gulping loch brownies. One of my trips down to a favourite bit of river also stands out. I can remember the tiny dimples the trout made as they sucked down the BWO spinners.

Wherever and whatever this new year brings, I hope we all have good health and some lovely fishing. Happy new year!


  1. Ed.’s avatar

    Mike, you mention the heavy nymph on the ‘middle dropper.’ You’re using three flies at once? Can you describe your entire rig, how you tie it together and how far apart everything is? Thanks!

  2. Mike’s avatar

    Hi Ed. For most winter grayling fishing/bugging a three fly setup is used. I tend to put a very heavy bug on the middle dropper and two lighter bugs on point and top dropper. Often the point fly is a size 14/16 tungsten head hare’s ear, with a similar sized pink fly on the top dropper. Doesn’t matter really, whatever you fancy. Someone I know uses the Ammonite nymph ( in various colours and it’s very good as well.

    The total ‘leader’ length is 9-10′ of straight through mono. Tapering the cast is pointless because you can’t cast this setup in any kind of traditional manner. It’s an upstream chuck with only a foot or two of fly line past the rod tip, then the leader. It can help to incorporate some kind of take detection system between the fly line and leader, such as a little piece of wool. I’m currently working on another method which I will post about if it works out successful.

    The general rule is probably 20″ between all flies. If the water is very deep and turbulent, then squeeze them together a bit, maybe even down to 15″ or less between flies. Everything about this method is geared to getting the flies deep deep deep, and quickly as possible. I’m going to experiment a bit with split shot this winter, which may prove to be useful in place of the heavy middle fly. But the advantage with the current method is you sometimes take fish on that bomb. Any more questions, fire away, will do my best. Otherwise try: which is a useful website with several articles relating to this kind of fishing.

  3. Mike’s avatar

    Meant to say, use mono of something like 5lb breaking strain, depending on water conditions. I like Stroft which I know is also very popular with the European anglers that originated this general method. It’s supple and pretty fine for its strength.

  4. Ed.’s avatar

    Thanks much, I appreciate it. I am not fishing for grayling, but sometimes do fish where I need to get the fly very deep (salmon, steelhead, even smallmouth in colder water) and I think it just helps to learn and understand how other people do things. You never know when something will end up being the perfect formula.

    For instance, when salmon fishing, most people I’ve seen who are successful at it use about 6 feet of leader to a swivel, then a lighter tippet of about four feet. But they leave the tag end long when tying the tippet to the swivel, and put the weight on that tag end. So when you (inevitably) get the weight snagged, often times you end up pulling the weights off the tag, and never lose a fly.

    Where you typically fish this kind of set up you describe, what is the bottom of the river like? Do you get snagged a lot?

    thanks again.

  5. Mike’s avatar

    No problem Ed, nice to have you drop by. I generally use a curved grub hook when tying my grayling flies, including for the bomb. This means when it’s in the water it tends to fish upside down with the hook point upermost. This certainly reduces the number of snags as the fly tends to glide over rocks. But of course there are snags sometimes, and it’s potluck as to how much of your leader you’ll lose. If I was really clever about it then using different strength mono for the different leader sections might be a good way to control this and reduce how often you loose everything. But to be honest life’s too short.

    The rivers I fish vary quite a lot. The best habitat for grayling seems to be a nice gravely bottom, and this certainly reduces the number of snags. On some rivers there are bigger rocks though which can be a real pain. In general you want to be careful about how you choose to weight your leader, matching the bomb size to the depth and speed of current. But there’s not a lot that will help you to avoid the odd lurking rock.

  6. opax’s avatar

    Excellent post and nice discussion Mike and Ed!

    Two comments:
    About the Pink. I once discussed about this matter with a competition fly fisher. He said that the pink fly is attractor that draws fish from a way from its feeding lane but the fish might actually prefer other – more natural flies. So the pink fly might do it’s work even when you don’t get strikes on it.

    Snags. In some river bottoms, the snags with these kinds of rigs can be really painful. There are at least two ways to reduce snag effects:
    – Use thicker leader (I usually switch from 4X to 2X).
    – Put the weight (in form of large splitshot) on the end of the leader.

  7. Mike’s avatar

    Hi opax, I’ve often wondered about using much stronger mono. Maybe something like 6 or 8lb stroft would work well.

  8. opax’s avatar

    I don’t think that graylings are too picky. And Stroft is my choice as well.

  9. Ed.’s avatar

    (Disclaimer: I don’t know what I’m talking about.)

    You could put the heavy bomb on the end using slightly thinner leader, so if you snagged that one, in theory, it would break off and leave the other two flies (although I guess it could bend the hook of the penultimate fly if that’s how you’re going fly to fly).

    All I know is I want to travel around the world and fish with you guys!

  10. Mike’s avatar

    Actually Ed that’s what some folks do. Different anglers argue that the heaviest fly should be placed either on the middle or point. The advantage with the middle position is I think it tends to help both the point fly and top dropper to fish deeper than if the heavy fly is on the point.

    Who knows..?!

  11. Alex’s avatar

    Bailliff: “Hi Mike, how’d you get on today?”

    Mike: “I’ve had some stonking grayling.”

    Bailiff: “Good man! What’s your tactic?”

    Mike: “The Bomb!”

  12. Mike’s avatar


    …though that of course assumes the rivers will ever be fishable again which seems unlikely right now..

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