We fly fishers, are quickly falling into the numbers game. It’s inherent in most of us, we are hoarders, collectors, and boastful of things, not all, but most.
Let’s start with the important bit, rods! It used to be, back ‘in the day’ that we owned one rod. This sturdy bit of cane, carbon fibre, or whatever was used in the pursuit of EVERYTHING, a one size fits all job.
Look at us now, a single rod is never going to be enough, even if you only ever fished for trout on the Trout fishing on a small stream and definitely on big rivers requires us to have in our possession various rods, some with stiff and some not so stiff actions. The same goes for the salmon angler, he’ll have his favourites. When it comes to reservoirs and small water outfits we will often carry two and sometimes three of one particular size, 10-ft 7-wts if you please, the more the merrier!
If you are ‘stillwater’ angler then the amount of fly lines that you own will indeed beggar belief! I know of many competition anglers that will only go out on the water with minimum of 20 lines, ones for the top of the water and ones that will fish their flies all the way down to the lakebed, they have got it covered!
Then we have flies… WOW!
I have seen boxes upon boxes of serried rows of immaculately tied flies, each one seemingly there to do a job for a specific time on a specific venue, it’s mind-boggling.
Is it all just good marketing that see’s us gather all this gear, yes, we are consumers, we consume!
The real worry, when it comes to numbers though, is the amount of trout that stillwater anglers feel that they have the god-given right to catch in order for them to say that they’ve had a good day.
It’s been said many times that the numbers game doesn’t belong in fly fishing yet the ‘bag up mentality’ has become even more prevalent in the last decade or so and no matter what anyone says, competition fly fishing has to take the blame.
It’s a sorry state of affairs when anglers are writing out their catch returns and claiming to have caught X when actually they only landed Y. Now, this kind of thing may sound far-fetched but it does happen, for whatever reason anglers don’t want to be seen to be catching two fish when the rod average has been five.
A friend of mine ( remaining nameless) told me an amazing tale recently; he had fished the whole day at small stillwater and in the afternoon another angler, younger, took up station on the next available peg along from him. They struck up a conversation and whiled away the rest of the day
When they’d both finished, they went back to the lodge. The other gentleman, his new mate, had completed his catch return first and then he said his goodbyes. My mate went to fill his returns in and saw the numbers….
Surprisingly, the chap had claimed that he’d caught and returned six fish, all taken on “slow-fished buzzers”.
My mate, who’d been standing next to him the whole time saw him land two!
Heading out to the car park he saw the boy and asked him about it, done in friendly banter you understand.
“I land two yes but I hooked another four and they came off, you saw them,” He said.
It appears to me that these days we have lost our fascination with large, overweight rainbows, these things were classed the fish of a lifetime, why? I can assure you they were not. Let’s be honest we have witnessed some really ugly rainbows and browns in many fly fishing magazines and social media pages in the past, but now, with modern fish farming methods, trout are normally in a pretty pristine condition.
For me, and I’d guess the majority of the UK fly fishing fraternity, a large, grown-on or wild fish is what it’s all about these days. It doesn’t have to be huge just ‘proper’!
Many of our large reservoirs and even a fair few of our medium-sized small waters will see a sharp increase in the size and the quality of the trout being caught now and through the winter. Right now the water is cooling, following some of the silly and at times prolonged temperatures we saw through the summer and the fish are back on the feed, thank god! They are looking to pack on weight for the winter ahead and as they do they become a little less wary in their need to survive.
Trout that have been at large for a time are on the prowl and are imminently more catchable. It’s these beauties that we, as anglers, want to catch more than anything. Trophy trout now are the fin-perfect, streamlined, muscle-packed variety, not the heavy hitters of the late 80’s early 2000’s!
Unless you’re stalking there is – and this is strictly MY opinion – no skill to catching, massive, recently stocked trout from any water, it’s utter luck! You can’t see what’s going on, you cast out, with whatever fly, pull it back in whatever way you see fit, and if one of the lunkers manages to see it they’ll have it, it’s a total and utter chance!
The page three pin-ups of the trout world, however, take some skill in order to be fooled.
As with most things in life, timing and patience are the key to getting amongst the better trout. You’ll need to offer them something that they are feeding on, first of all, you can’t get this wrong, if you do you’re not catching.
I recently fished a very difficult and moody Pitsford Water, if you listened to the hoards there were only a few stockies playing ball but the big resident trout both the browns and rainbows were there to be caught. They were bloody tough mind, but if you stuck it out in the right area, you had a few chances. Nymphs were the majority’s line of attack, Crunchers and Diawl Bachs and Nemos fished on long leaders using a floating line was the best bet in or around the dying weed beds.
I and a few others went with little fry patterns, not the huge articulated deer hair stuff, no, smaller stickleback size patterns, Popper fry, and tiny Minkies, just seemed to be more effective in the shallows. We also set up some sunk line for the fishing over the drop-offs, Humungus and Minkies were used here, they are better at getting a reaction. I and a few others had good fish, but moved or saw bigger, scary, freak-sized fish, so they are there!
Although anglers that brave the tough conditions that we see at this time of year, although they may not catch many trout the standard of the ones that will be caught are second to none, four, five, six, seven, and even double figure trout are there to be targeted and caught each and every trip! If you wish to experience this awesome fishing, get out on the water now, go imitative and you never know, your next trout may well be that fish of a lifetime!
Is it me or are our Blobs & FABs getting way smaller?
I think that we are these days, and there are number of reasons for that. The main one being ( in my eyes ) angling pressure, something our waters see a lot of now, in fact post Covid I’ve never seen them so busy. And when it comes to pressured trout, then they are far more likely to take a smaller, less obtrusive Blob or FAB ( I think that may be a contradiction in terms, Thoughts?) on our heavily pressured waters. I think that’s also why we’ve seen a rise in the use of more muted colours on these fly styles flies. Washed out colours, Biscuit, Olive & Candy, that don’t scare the trout seem to be finding more favour. These less in your face flies really come into their own especially fished through the summer months and on into Autumn.
In the case of FABS the smaller fly, uses less foam and so is less buoyant allowing the user to present their fly through more of the water column, a free-fall technique that works very well with the now ubiquitous washing line technique. The old ones were constructed with a lot of foam, and they sat up high, like Boobies, but with less foam they can allow your cast of flies to crawl down through the water.
Large Blobs and FABS are ‘pulling’ flies and they are designed to get the trout to chase, and so they need bulk. The smaller ones we utilise are fishing more slowly, and covering more water too. Combine smaller Blobs and FABS with Nymphs and you have the ideal searching method up near the surface of the water.
For me, I arm myself with these flies in various sizes and colours, as I tie each to do a particular job, so it’s best that you’re prepared for all eventualities!
The oldies but goldies are still employed at times of coloured water, cold water and of course when the fish have been recently stocked.
The bigger, bulkier versions of this style of pattern definitely reign supreme early on in the reservoir year.
When you get to your chosen venue make sure you quiz the fishery staff as to what’s been happening. You need to know, flies, tactics, and how deep/shallow to fish the flies, but most important, are the areas. Check out other anglers, are they catching? If they are, ask them what they’re doing and how they’re doing it. The more you know the better your day will be on the water.
2. To Wade Or Not To Wade
It’s far better to try and catch trout from the margins first before you think about wading out. It’s often early on in the day when you will find that the trout are close in looking for food; if you wade, then you’ll only spook them. You’re far better to target the water’s edge first, just in case. When wading be sure to go easy, try not to stir up the bottom too much. If you do and it’s windy you’ll just end up with a big slick of dirty water nearby and the fish don’t like that!
3. Bring Out The Boobies
These incredibly buoyant flies are great for finding feeding trout. If they are ‘on it’, and taking the Booby then sport can be manic. But you don’t always need to catch on them for Boobies to be useful. Trout may not always take it, but by pulling a Booby across the surface, even early season on small waters, you’ll soon find out if they are in the area. It seems that can’t help but chase and as they do they create large bow waves behind the fly, great stuff and a total giveaway. Now you know that trout are in the area, you can tailor your approach to be successful, changing lines, flies, or retrieves, tailoring the approach to find the key.
There is no excuse for using inferior hooks these days, if you do use flies tied on inferior hooks, you’re going to come a cropper. You need strong, reliable hook’s even more so at this time of year when visiting larger waters, the fish are resident, powerful, and with hard mouths. The last thing you want is to hook one of these beauties only for your hook to bend out or worse snap. I’d also advise that you take a hook sharpener with you when you go fishing. Often you can catch the hook point o something on the backcast or when your fishing deep, the lakebed stones, a sharpener will allow you to put that right straight away with minimum fuss.
5. Step Up Your Leader
I tend to err on the side of caution preferring a stronger leader, fluorocarbon, in the 8 to 12lb range is what you’re after if you’re pulling and don’t go below 6lb when looking to fish a more natural approach. If you go on dries, then only the would I go below 6lb! You may also want to consider tapered leaders, short 9ft ones. It can be windy at times here in the UK and most trout will be on the downwind shore so casting weighted flies can be a problem. A powerful tapered leader will help massively. The taper will allow you to punch that fly hard and low into the wind cutting through it far better than a length of single strength leader.
6. Hang Out The Washing
If you’ve never tried the Washing line method, then you’ve missed out. Rather than fishing a weighted fly on a team of three flies, use a buoyant one. The idea is to keep the flies in a level plain. The washing line can be fished on various lines but a floater or sink tip is often the best. The buoyant fly acts as a kind of controller for the other flies on the cast, keeping them in the taking zone for that little while longer, crucial on tough days. Another bonus with this style of fishing is that the buoyant fly acts as an indicator. If a trout takes one of the droppers the point fly will pull below the surface. It’s a great way of fishing on small stillwaters, don’t think this is just for the reservoirs!
7. Stalk Your Prey
Stalking seems to be synonymous with the warmer summer months but it can be even better at this time of year. A series of frosts and crisp, cold mornings tend to coincide with crystal clear water, even on many of our ‘nonstalking’ venues. Fish will be seen in and around the margins – the great thing here is you can pick your target rather than fishing blind. By using weighted flies, nymphs, or lures, you can get down to them fast. Keep your eyes glued on the fish rather than the fly. You’ll notice a change in its behavior as it becomes aware of the fly. If the trout move towards your offering, watch for the white of the inside of its mouths as it inhales your offering, when you see that white, strike!
8. Slowly, Slowly Catches Fishy
The first, and often most effective, line of attack for many stillwater anglers is to start off with weighted lures, usually on some kind of sinking line. This can work at the start of the day as the fish are not yet used to angling pressure. They soon will be though and a change of tact is often called for. You could go over to nymphs and go down the natural approach but lures are often still the most effective method when it’s cold. Use unweighted ones, lures that utilize a lot of man-made materials like Fritz or Straggles, they are very light and water repellant, so they can be fished far, far slower than you’d think. A slow retrieve or even no retrieve at all – just let the fly fall enticingly through the water column – can keep the fish coming.
9. Don’t Discount Dry Flies
Many of us still associate dry fly fishing with late summer evenings and large hatches of flies, but they will often catch fish year-round. Midge especially will hatch in even the harshest of conditions. On most winter days the temperature rises significantly for these little flies to take their chances. Be mindful of the fact that they are small though, there is no need for large fly patterns, the 10’s and 12’s can stay firmly in the box. Look to fish slimline, CDC’s patterns, either shuttlecock or F-Fly type. The best colour to tie up would be black and look to have them tied in 16’s down to ’20s! When fishing such small patterns, use a good copolymer in light breaking strain, 5lb and lower. It need to be thin and limp to allow the fly to behave properly. A ‘softish’ rod will help when striking and playing fish on such light tippets.
10.Brave The Wind
The wind can be rather cold, it’s often an easterly throughout the winter, and this means it can be rather chilly. We find it far more comfortable to fish on the bank where the wind is at your back, it’s more tolerable. However, if you’re brave enough to fish into the wind you can double your catch rate. Trout tend to gather on the downwind shore on small stillwaters, there’s more food to be found there, due to the undertow. It’s the angler who braves the cold that will often catch most fish. Use lures on sinking lines as they will help cut through the wind, although saying that it’s often the case that you don’t have to cast too far, the trout are normally close in. Make sure you are wearing glasses – you should be anyway – as casing into a headwind can be rather tricky. If lures are not working an indicator with a heavyweight nymph or two can work wonders.
When the trout are up in the water, keep those flies just under the surface.In this Blog I share my favourite patterns and why I favour them for this style of fishing.
In the past, November and December would be the ideal time to get out the fast-sinking lines and some weighted lures. The lovely warm weather which we had experienced during the summer months would have given way to cold easterly winds, along with, sleet and even snow. As a result of the change in temperature the water would have cooled somewhat dramatically and the fish, as a result of this temperature change, would be down in the depths.
The cold fronts we experienced would result in a long line of anglers, huddled in their coziest clobber, punching out long casts, using fast-sink lines, rather gaudy lures, and then slowly them bringing back, with a jerky retrieve, in the vain hope that something would pull back.
Not so much these days though..
Things have changed. Even as we come to the end of November the top of the water is where the majority of the feeding is, so, I guess that’s where the trout want to be! When they are up in the water and feeding properly in this manner it allows us to refine our approach and target fish that are actively feeding.
This is what fly-fishing is all about isn’t it, fooling a feeding fish!
I have a team of three flies which I rely on quite heavily when the fish are up at the water’s surface. This team has taken over the usual and much-talked-about ‘Washing line’ which featured that go-to point fly, the Booby!
Going back a while, a decade or so, the FAB, Foam Ass Blob, came to light. It was The Change Flyfishers that made this fly work so well in their favour all those years ago, but soon everyone knew of its fish-catching properties.
Now, the world of competitions fly fishing can be a bit of a cut-throat one, some anglers would sell their own grandmother to get one up on other anglers. As a consequence, there are an awful lot of secret flies, ones in which certain anglers and indeed teams have great faith in. However, like everything in fly fishing soon enough everything becomes public knowledge. Once the FAB was public knowledge then everyone was all over it!
I have been using this versatile (this is the key, it’s versatility) little fly for a very long time now, and I, like everyone else, have caught an awful lot of trout on it. But in my opinion, it’s when the trout are in the top few feet of water, that accurately utilizing this fly, really makes the magic happen. Not only will it hold up the other flies, placed on the droppers – I’ll get to these next – but it catches its fair share of trout too!
For me, the FAB has over taken the Booby as THE point fly when I’m fishing the ‘washing line’ but only when I’m up in the surface layers.
For sunk line work the Booby still rules the roost as it allows the flies to fish in a more aggressive arc, which I like. Maybe I can look into that a little more another time…..
The one FAB pattern which I tend to fish to the exclusion of all others is a Sunburst one, for me it’s better than everything else. I think that the reason that I favour Sunburst, by the way, it has to be a certain shade as I’m fussy, is because it just seems to stands out so well fished up at the surface where there’s more light. It’s a great colour for clear water too, which is usually what we are fishing in during the colder months?
When it comes to tying my FABs, I use a (static) hook, a hook that suits a fly fished slowly, for me, it’s a Tiemco 2499. I make a point of tying in lots of foam at the rear too, and there’s a reason for this. If I start with a lot then I can trim away as I see fit. This allows me to control the descent of the team of flies that I’m fishing. Far better to take away some foam than trying to add buoyancy right? More foam, more buoyancy, and vice versa. I can control where in the water column the flies are presented and I can do all this with a floating line, as long as it’s not too windy of course. I also have the option of varying leader length too, again to allow me to control the depth at which I fish my flies.
On my droppers, I’m very specific, it’s a Diawl Bach on the top dropper and then a Hare’s Ear middle, nearest the FAB.
On the old DB, you can use whatever variant that you wish but I like one with UV. I’m fishing high up after all and this is where UV comes into its own. I will sometimes chop and change between orange, red, or black thread heads, but the rest of the fly doesn’t change. A plain Diawl Bach but with a UV rib. This style of fly certainly seems to work when it comes to stillwater rainbows!
The Hare’s Ear too is one that has been tied so that it performs well high up in the water. As a fly tyer you need to think about these things when you’re creating flies. Where you’re looking to fish the fly can help when it comes to form and function. As it’s going to be high in the water I like some bling, a little addition that will help it catch the light and hopefully the trout! I also like an orange head, this covers the bases and means that it can be taken as a Corixa as well as all the other goodies that can be found up high in the water.
It is a very simple pattern but at the same time complex, Somber, kind of, apart from the triggers which really seems to appeal to feeding trout, it certainly grabs their attention.
Both my dropper flies share a common theme, they are tied in a manner and with materials that mean they are slow-sinking, keeping them up in the trout’s field of vision. I see it often, anglers targeting the surface layers with the washing line, but using hard-bodies buzzers, flies that will sink below the feeding trout! Don’t do it guys, slow sinking patterns are what you’re after, put some thought into it.
It’s also worth highlighting that I like to tie the dropper flies on size 12 and sometimes 14 and even 16 hooks, a little smaller than the standard size 10’s. Most food at this time of year is small, not big and bulky as is often the case in the summer months.
To keep things simple, fish a straight through leader, if you’re less experienced, go for 4ft to first dropper, 4 to the next and 4 to the point. For the anglers that are a little more into things, increase that to 6ft between flies. As with most things, simple is often more effective!
If you’re looking to target the ‘Lady Of The Stream’ then you need these proven patterns in your fly box!
When it comes to fishing for grayling it really isn’t that difficult, however arming yourself with the correct flies makes catching them a whole lot easier!
I have been fishing for grayling for over three decades, I started as a teenager on the River Teviot in Scotland. But really it’s been since the year 2000 that these things have pretty much taken up all of my winter fishing time. I love them and I get a real thrill catching these stunning creatures. You will too, grayling fishing is addictive and fishing in the winter months is often the best time to catch them.
There’s been a lot of things written about how to ‘target’ these fish so I won’t go into that just now. I want to look more closely at some of the my own popular patterns which I use to catch them. These are the flies that I keep on coming back to time and again year after year, in other words ‘favourites’.
Now, in no particular order I’m going to go through them giving credit where credit is due and explaining why each one is particularly effective.
If there is one fly that is synonymous with grayling fishing through the winter months then it has to be the Pink Shrimp.
The original fly, I am led to believe, came from Welshman Tim Hughes. Tim, he’s a friend of mine and an exceptional fishermen, not just fly fishing you understand but all kinds of angling, he loves it. It’s an old pattern now, well over 20 years old and yet we still keep coming back to this simple little fly. Looking in any Grayling angler’s fly box and Pink Shrimps will be there. Grayling LOVE pink!#
We will all have our own particular time but the one I favour is tied with pink and UV Straggle String.
Tied on a grub hook in sizes 8 down to 14 with lead wraps underneath Straggle String up the body and then a shellback of your choice I prefer clear, then a clear mono rib, it’s an easy tie.
You can see that it’s a simple fly but one it is one I wouldn’t be without.
The Pixie is a fly that’s been made famous by the Dixons these three anglers, Martin, Mike & Phil seem to make this fly work for them time and again on the Welsh Dee. They are all very handy anglers which also helps!
It’s basically a Hare’s Ear but with a few twist which make it even more attractive to grayling.
I tie my version on a Tiemco 2499, as I fish it with the bung, this hooks lends itself to this style of fishing.
The body is hare’s ear fur, the back is a thin strip of gold or chartreuse holographic tinsel on the rib is Glo Brite no.8, at least that’s the one I use.
The original was tied with the gold bead but I also tie this one with the fire orange bead, it pays to have options.
The Disco Shrimp
And so to another shrimp pattern, The Disco Shrimp.
This fly was invented by my friend Ben Bangham and I remember when I was editing the magazine, Ben and I did a feature on the River Test and it was there he showed me how effective this fly could be.
After I had shot the feature we shared his rod and we worked our way up a run and we managed to land over a dozen ‘big’ Grayling. I was sold on that particular fly from that day onwards.
But and I have to emphasise, this this is not only a chalkstream fly, not at all. This fly seems to work everywhere when it comes to catching grayling! I urge you to tie some. It’s tied on a grub hook, I prefer gold, a lead underbody. The dubbing is Hareline Ice Dub UV Shrimp & Orange Calibaetis mixed 70/30. The back is the dull side of original Nymph Skin and the rib is a medium green wire.
I’m pretty much happy to fish this fly the whole year through!
This is actually my own fly, but it was based on a fly shown to me by my good friend Tom McLeish up on the River Tweed. Tom’s pattern was tied using squirrel fur, basically a Fox Squirrel tied on a grub hook.
I never had ‘fox squirrel’ but I did have olive seal’s fur and so I used that instead. This simple little bug has worked for me all over the world not just for grayling but also for trout. it pretty much looks like a pupa, it’s pretty generic although it does bear an uncanny resemblance to the Ryach.
Again, with this fly I like to use a gold grub hook, I also incorporate a gold bead at the head. The body as mentioned is a golden olive seal’s fur, on the thorax area use any black dubbing. The rib is a medium gold wire with plenty of turns to secure the fur and make sure you pull the dubbing out with a good brush so it looks extra buggy.
Death Mix Shrimp
The history behind this particular fly is mixed it but I believe it was first conceived by Alex Jardine, Although I may be wrong it depends on who you talk to.
My one, is a little different, I think?
This fly when it is in the water is so bright it is bound to attract attention. Stick a UV torch onto the materials and you’ll see what I mean, this thing glows!
The tying is a simple affair, again, a grub hook and a clear shellback and vinyl rib. I use a pink floss, I find Glo Brite no.2 best to finish the head, and a dab black varnish for eyes.
The body mix is essential to get right, for me anyway!
I use 50 /50 of Dave Downie’s Pimp Pink and Semperfli SYN0950, Sky Blue. Put these two colours together and BOOM, Death mix!
All of these flies work for me, and have done for some time, and like I said I keep coming back to them.
I hope that these flies work for you too!
If you would like a guided day on the river, targeting these awesome fish, or some of the flies highlighted above, then please get in touch..
Me and my boy are pretty tight, I’m sure this is the same for lots of father and son relationships.
Sadly, I never had this growing up ( long story ) and so I’ve been determined that Ben, my son, and I would have this close bond and to get this bond boys need time with their dad, simple.
A friend of mine, let’s call him Tim, and I used to go salmon fishing each year. His dad would tag along with us, he’d include his dad in a lot of his leisure time, an amazing thing to me considering my upbringing, and together, the three of us, would have a great time, great food and drink, mediocre fishing, but amazing company, both guys a being a real pleasure to be around.
One day, his dad took me aside, I had a little girl at this time Poppy and my wife was pregnant, we were hopeful for a boy.
Tim’s dad, let’s call him John, explained to me that if we did have a little boy that boys are far more different and at times more complex than girls when it comes to their relationship with their dad.
“Once they hit seven years old, you must spend time with your son. There’s whole new world of testosterone and other hormones running through them and from seven years old onwards they need ‘man time’!
John had a few sons, and he was adamant that he’d go out with them for ‘man time’ at least once a week.
“By doing this now Steven, spending this time with them, you’ll build a solid relationship, one that’s so strong you can manoeuvre them as they get older, they don’t resent you, they look up to you!
You’ll be able to have them wanting to spend their time with you rather than doing daft stuff!” By daft stuff he highlighted teenage boy nonsense, like being an idiot and getting into trouble pretty much.
Looking at his sons, every one is a gent, it was hard to argue with his formula! Wise words…..
My boy is sport daft, in no particular order here are his hobbies and the clubs that he’s involved with..
All of these he loves but I cannot get involved. I go to Rugby each week and swimming and I also take him BMXing, but I can’t get involved.
Fishing though, his new thing, I certainly can, what’s more I can nurture and encourage it.
We started off a few years ago, a spot of crabbing on the beach, then it was coarse fishing, this was fun, I loved it as much as he did, there’s something about the electric jolt of the float bobbing under!
But he always wanted to ‘go fishing with dad’ which meant fly fishing.
So, we started fly casting in the garden, talk about frustration, jees, but he kind of got to grips with it. We moved on, trying to get the fluff on the end of his line into different hoops placed around the garden. He loved that, it’s a game then, boys love to compete, even if it’s just against themselves!
Finally, a few weeks ago, I booked an evening boat on Draycote Water, ‘same family fishing’ during these times. I’d timed it so that we could flick dry flies and perhaps catch a fish!
The team there are awesome, it’s a great example of well run fishery, clean, tidy, friendly and knowledgeable staff – and they took the time to make by boy feel very welcome!
For Ben, I’d made the fishing simple..
Roll the line, straighten it then cast, single fly, easy peasy really!
Well, what a blast we had.
He had the excitement of being in a boat, in a large body of water, being with his dad, and casting a fly rod, his own one! He was buzzing, and so was I!
It was a stunning evening, the occasional fish moving, he loved seeing them and got far too over excited trying to cast at them, which led to some impressive tangles even with the one fly!
It was perfect.
I’d catch one and pass the rod to him, and he’d be in his element, fighting the large, resident trout like Hemingway playing a 1000lb marlin. The rod going this way and that, pumping and winding, the fish pulling the rod around this way and that as he struggled to contain it’s powerful lunges. He often yelped in pain and surprise as the reel handle whacked him on the back of the knuckles as the fish powered off.
However, the highlight of the evening for both of us, was when I saw a fish coming upwind, I knew if he could roll his fly anywhere near it, that this trout would take.
“Ben roll straight out in front, there’s a fish!”
“I can’t see one dad, where?”
“Just roll it baby, now, quickly!!”
He did his fly – a possum emerger, the only thing I had that wouldn’t sink after the maniac casting style, alighted on the water like thistledown I kid you not!
It disappeared in a swirl.
“LIFT THE ROD!” I shouted!
He did and the little 3-wt hooped over as the fish went crazy and went deep away from the boat!
I was stunned, Ben was stunned, we were stunned, both of us drinking in the moment of shared elation!
After the first run and he’d gained some control it went under the boat, not once but twice and nearly taking Ben with it as he held on, leaning over the boat trying to follow it!
After what seemed an age it came up near the boat and I launched at it with the net, I wanted this fish sooooo bad, I got lucky, it went in first time of asking!
Ben: “I did it, I did it dad, I caught one, I caught one on my own, it’s huge!”
Well, I can’t tell you how good it made me feel, I was as chuffed as he was, probably more so, my little boy’s first trout, from a drifting boat and on a dry fly too, get in!
The excitement never ended there though, what’s more exciting than catching a big trout on a dry fly from a drifting boat?
Well, for a seven-year-old it’s driving the boat back to the harbour, even if your feet don’t touch the floor!
If you have a little boy, try and get him involved, nothing heavy, just see of they like it. Girls too, I used to take my daughter but she is bored of it now, so there’s no point in pushing it.
I guess what I’m getting at is this, spend time with your kids, it’s a simple message. I’m lucky that my boy is into the same things as me.
He’s also, like me in many ways, for one he’s competitive. His last comment as we came onto the harbour was this..
“Dad, I think my fish was bigger than yours.”
That’s my boy!
PS: My daughter, Poppy, said that she wanted a mention as she saw me write this, so here it is..
Poppy, you’re beautiful, crazy clever, stylish, full of empathy and compassion for others too, in a nutshell, just like your mum.
See what I did there….
If you’d like to get out on Draycote Water or indeed, Thornton or Eyebrook, all of which are run by Ifor Jones and his team, then tickets can be booked through the website:
More and more of us are trying to expand our horizons when it comes to fishing. Rather than sticking to the bank, on small waters, many of us are turning our attentions to larger waters and that means taking to the boats.
At this time of year there’s so much going on, in or near the surface, that we should really pay close attention to this shallow band of water.
On a day with a slight breeze you’ll often see ‘oily’ patches, areas of calm in an otherwise ‘ripply or riplled’ surface. These are often referred to as wind lanes or slicks. Basically, the tension in the water’s surface, in this type of water, is a lot stronger than the rippled water around it and this means that it traps and holds insects. As a result these slicks become a haven for feeding trout.
If you find this type of water when you’re out in a boat, you must give it a try!
It’s often the larger resident trout that capitalise on the easy pickings this type of water offers.
You don’t need to use sinking lines to target fish in this type of water; all you’ll need is a floater, as the trout tend to be no more than two feet below the surface.
They will be taking ascending midge pupa as they try to emerge at the surface.
At this stage the buzzers will have distinct orange wing buds so make sure that your patterns have them too. It’s a trigger point that the trout tend to home in on.
There will be trout taking the actual emerging fly too. As the buzzer is trying to emerge through the surface film it is at its most vulnerable. As it struggles to escape it becomes very easy picking for a hungry trout.
It’s not just buzzers that the trout will be looking to exploit, there’s the whole gamut of terrestrials insects that fall onto the water too.
These can be things like daddy longlegs, flying ants – if you get a fall of these things on the water then be prepared for some explosive action – beetles and dung flies. In fact anything that belongs on land but ends up on the water’s surface can attract the trout’s attention.
So make sure you have enough patterns in your fly box to cover all eventualities.
DRY FLY is KING but you need accuracy
If you can see trout feeding on the surface, the tell tale head-and-tail rise will give them away. Then your casts need to be accurate. If the trout are just sipping at the surface then they are high in the water and this means that they’re window of vision is very small indeed.
A tapered leader will help you greatly when it comes to presentation, try fishing a single fly too as this will allow you to drop your fly on the trout’s nose.
The Washing Line
If there were was one technique that offers more success when fishing in slicks than the dry fly it would have to be the ‘washing line’.
The use of a buoyant fly on the point position, such as a Booby or Muddler, to support two or even three initiative patterns on your droppers, is a deadly way in which to target fish that are near the surface layers.
When fished on a full floater it gives the leader that ‘parallel with the surface plane’ during the retrieve. The length of your droppers will determine how deep your flies fish, The Booby or more recently the FAB on the point creates an enticing wake that will often see trout single it out.
I love to get away fishing on my own, it’s an age thing.
Long gone are the days of carrying on with a like-minded squad down the local Stillwater. I still partake occasionally, but instead, for me now, the solitude of ‘hunting’ fish as an individual appeals more.
Occasionally, I share a rod with friend who has the same (track a trout down and then try and catch it’ mentality as me. But, sadly, those guys are few and far between.
What with Covid and all it brings my hunt for larger reservoir fish has and sill is a no go. The days of spending £50 for a day’s fishing allude me anyway, so this year, as well as last year, I have been spending more and more time on running water.
The solitude, the quiet and the fact that you’re out there and ‘doing it’ when others are not makes me feel like I’m outside the day-today bubble of life, true escapism.
I like all manner of fishing and feel that with all my years of experience they’ve led me to a level of proficiency so that I’m now comfortable no matter what style of fishing it is that I’m doing.
BUT, and like Kim Kardashian’s, it’s a big BUTT, I seem to turn more and more to the dry fly.
It’s no better and no worse than any other method for catching fish, to be fair there are far more efficient ways of catching both on still and running water but dries just do it for me.
This last week or so, I have done over 350 miles and 6 hours in the car, over two evenings in search of a large river trout on dry fly. You need to put the effort in if you want to succeed here, time on the water is crucial.
I have mates that have been doing the same, some have spent eight consecutive evenings on the water, just walking, up to 5 miles, and watching, looking for that BIG fish worthy of a cast.
Last year I saw a fish which I honesty believe would have been double figures, the same evening I saw three other trout which would have easily have been over 5lb, but all were in positions where a cast was impossible. The one fish I did manage to cast at that night, I caught, it was a little one, 3lb 12oz!
Never before have I seen anything like it in the UK and I have fished all the big trout rivers, to say I was shocked would be an understatement.
It’s no ordinary river, it’s terrible for fly fishing, unlike in Scotland and Wales, the rivers that hold the huge fish in England ( forget stockies on chalkstreams) are to be found in coarse fish rivers, deep and terribly slow, often coloured and full of silt, but the silt is the key. Where there is silt there are MAYFLY and where there’s mayfly you’ll get the spinner. It’s the spinner and ONLY the spinners that bring these huge fish up from their deep, dark homes.
Huge pools, with back eddies the size of a tennis court are what you’re after, dead water in the main, water where the spinners get trapped and provide a procession of ‘sip down’ mouthfulls. But with vast expanses of water there’s drag, no matter how slow the current, as long as there’s flow there’s drag. If you can get drag casting 5 yards of fly line imagine the drag on a 20 yard cast. You also need to factor in the flies, I’m using spinner patterns that are the size of my palm! With time on the water, my friends and I have found that the bigger the fly the better seems to be the case, especially with these huge trout.Bigger fly even more drag.
I’ve sat on a high bank, one where I’d cast at from the other side of the river the night before, and I was dumbfounded by what I saw. Water that from the opposite bank looked to be flowing left to right was traveling in completely the wrong direction, and not just a for a yard or so, it was circling for over 20 or 30 yards before pulling back into the main flow.
The width of the river in places means you just can’t tell what’s going on at the point where your target fish is rising.
This year I have been concentrating on smaller sections, not only so that I can see what the water’s doing but also to get off the paths well trodden. The same ethos applies here though, first find the fish. I now use Google maps to plot out areas of interest, long slow bends are ideal, as is tree cover, so both in close proximity is a great starting point….
Having marked up my areas, dropping a pin here and there, I then walk the water, rod dismantled, and cover some land walking between areas, each section gets 20 minutes viewing time. I feel that 20 minutes is enough time for a monster to give away it’s location. These things don’t behave like normal trout, that are up and on it.
These big ones rise a handful of times, if you’re really lucky, but once they’ve rose, experience tells me that if I cover them, it’s a big IF, then they’ll come up to my fly. They may not take it, but I should get a response, if it’s positive then I’m laughing, if not then it’s logged on the map for another trip.
This year, the falls of spent fly have been poor and the monster trout very few and far between, actually, no one has had one, the big floods may well have had something to do with this?
I did hook one though, I played it hard on 12lb leader and a very strong size 8 hook, twice it tried to take me under a tree root on the far bank, and I managed to steer it out, then, after a minute or so, it came off, simple. I put that fish over 5lb easily over that weight actually, but not the size of the things I saw last year.
I did manage a few nice fish though and for me that’s all it takes, I had two trips and caught two decent fish, both over 2lb, and some others but they don’t really get a mention, they were, (getting my eye in) fish. That’s been it tis year, two evenings where it was (nearly) right. Shame, but there it is, fishing is like that at times.
For me it was abut the getting out there and doing it, on my own, hunting, proper hunting and with a dry fly too.
Facebook, AKA, ‘a place where everyone can bitch and moan at everyone else?’
It’s an easy to use sounding board brought to us by the wonders of modern technology, has a secure foothold today.
It offers others, who are – nine times out of ten – into the same hobby, past time, sport or religion as you are to come together to ‘discuss and enlighten’. Or in some cases to show what they have cooked for dinner…… that’s another story.
Yet, as with most drugs, and that’s what it is, it’s addictive, lots of us just can’t leave it alone, sadly, it seems that certain users can become a little corrupt and aggressive after prolonged usage. don’t get me wrong, I’ve no issue with people taking the mick, it’s parr for the course, you can handle that, well most of us can anyway. BUT nasty is nasty, simple…
It seems that those who have an opinion to voice will do so no matter what the consequences are.
Making things worse, FB has Messenger, a private messaging facility, surely to goodness these; ne’er-do-wells have the brain capacity to contact others this way rather than spouting off for all unsundry to read on FB proper?
The best of it is that you can guarantee that many ‘armchair anglers’!
I love FB, who doesn’t, but I often get my cage rattled by someone or another and that rattling usually prompts me to reply. I shouldn’t. But sometimes the red mist comes down and before I know it, I’ve opened my mouth!! However, within minutes of posting, I normally edit my riposte.
What I’m trying to say here, in my own little way, is that we should use these site properly, to gain knowledge and also to share knowledge (not a photo of beans on toast) or for giving someone a hard time because they’ve tied a fly and it’s not quite perfect or fished the wrong one ( in your opinion). Isn’t a shame that there is always someone ready to criticize and put others down? It’s these put down that sow the seed of doubt in new people to the sport. Think before you post, or you could end up putting people off and that’s the last thing we want in our sport.
The information that’s to be found on FB can help you grow and flourish as an angler and often as a person.
To all those sensible posters, keep up the great work.
A fly is a fly..
A fish is fish..
To the rest, come on let’s not abuse one another, we can use it responsibly and try and behave like adults.