Fishing Methods - Grayling and keepnets
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I was grayling fishing when this chap came along the far bank and shouted at me... Why? Because I was putting the fish I caught into a keepnet.
"Every one knows," he shouted, clearly implying everyone except me, "that grayling die in keepnets. It ought to be banned." He went on and on about it and had there been a bridge closer than a couple of miles away I reckon he might even have come over to give me closer attention.
Is it true? If so why do I put grayling in keepnets?
What not to do
If you hang a keepnet containing grayling straight down in deep water or even allow it to lie downstream in a couple of feet of water then you may well find some of them dead when you retrieve the net at the end of the session.
The usual advice is to return the grayling as you catch them, holding them head upstream in the shallows until they are strong enough to swim from your hand. In some waters when flyfishing this is probably the best method. The trouble is that when you do release them they are quite likely to dash back through the shoal and scare the rest. Worse, a few will still turn belly up after a while — after you have moved on and probably after they have been swept a good way downstream. I've seen gulls attacking fish at the surface that must have been half a mile or more below the anglers who had returned them.
So late in the season, when trotting into a shoal with maggots is the better method, I use a keepnet — but I use it with care.
Pegging out the net
Find a shallow margin with a gentle but definite flow. Use a spare bankstick to peg the net out. The bottom of the net must be directly upstream of the entrance and the whole length of the net must break surface, ideally there will be a couple of inches of net exposed. (If you submerge the net fish may damage their dorsal fins in the mesh.) With the net pegged out in such shallow water the fish will be scared by every shadow — so pull a couple of handsful of long grass or rushes and scatter them on top of the net to turn it into a shady refuge.
Now when you introduce a fish to the net it will dash the short distance up into the shade and rest there. If, as sometimes happens, it turns belly up and ceases to swim it will be swept back towards the entrance of the net but as it gets there before it's entirely incapable it will be held in the curve of he net where the open end rises above the water and it will lie with its head upstream into the current. This is exactly the position you are usually advised to hold it in order for it to recover. If you find one in this position gently turn it over and it will move up into the shade again.
Since I began using this method I can't remember any grayling dying in the net and if you release them by lowering the open end into the water and lifting the the net out from the closed end they slip out in a compact shoal and move away slowly. The other fish most likely to be found in a mixed shoal with grayling also lie quietly in a net pegged out this way.
Unless stated otherwise: Everything in this site refers to fishing in the British Isles and similar northern European waters.