1. Never believe everything that you are told
Car park talk is often very misleading! You’ve a lot of people wanting to do better than you, so take most of the ‘hero chat’ with a pinch of salt.
“Yeah, I had 25 today, I reckon and I’ll be done by lunch time come match day!” Silly buggers!
I see this a lot and most of these HEROS are still scratching their heads come the late afternoon!
2. Check an area or a method but don’t get blinkered into thinking either is crucial
Saying the above, it’s always worth checking good solid info, there are some good guys out there, an area or a method may need looking at.
It can or can’t work but until you check it out, you’ll never know, so a little time spent scouting can help.
3. Move about and cover some water
You really can’t afford to stay put in an area for too long on practice days.
Use your time wisely and move about. This is anther common mistake I see anglers make. Sitting on top of fish catching one after another is never going to last.
A couple of trout or indeed takes in an area is enough for me, I don’t need to fill the boat!
4. It’s often important to find out where there’s NO fish than it is finding loads of them
Don’t be too worried if you’re not finding any action, you’re not over fish. This is good, you know that these areas are not worth targeting come match day! It’s not time wasted when you know where ‘NOT’ to fish!
5. Watch for takes
This can be done with any line from floaters to fast sinkers. I don’t want to give too much away with the sinking lines but with floaters, watch the loop that you create between the rod tip and the water, if it moves it’s a fish, hit it.
Don’t wait for the take at your hand, you can miss it or worse, strike to hard and snap.
6. Don’t be hasty in lifting your flies clear of the water to recast
The Hang is often talked about, it’s basically stalling your flies during the lift on sinking lines, it’s lethal at times.
But hanging means hanging, each fly left for a time before lifting clear of the water, 3 to 10 seconds, not 1, lift, 2, lift, three lift and cast!
I also like to move the rod tip as I do the hang, the fly quivers and it’s often enough to illicit a response.
7. Spoon your catch
Most of us don’t bother, the boys that know what they’re doing do. They know that often it’s imperative to know what the fish are eating. Not only to copy it, but at least to use flies that suggest it, to get an idea of size and colour of the food items being targeted.
And also to see how they should be fishing, presenting their flies to mimic the food source the trout are after!
8. Target better trout
I do this ‘A LOT’ and it can be feast or famine, but if you know how to target these special fish then you’ll have a HUGE marginal gain on your boat partner!
It may mean less takes and often fishing in quieter areas, something most anglers appear scared of, but it’s worth it.
On the first 2 day National on Rutland, 2016?? I’d bagged stockies superfast on day 1, but on day 2, I’d only managed 1 stockie by 1pm, worrying to say the least!
I had to get the okay from my boat partner. Martin Griffiths (he’d had a bad day the 1st day, his boat partner took him to some strange places) to head away to quiet water and go hunting big fish, and after giving him the fly, my little Popper Fry, Steve Cullen’s Popperfry he agreed.
I landed another 2 fish (and lost more) but these fish were both over 5lb. my three fish on day 2 were beating other bags of 6 stockies!
9. Check your hooks
We neglect this far too often, I have done it and it has cost me dearly. You get a take, miss it, then another, but you just keep fishing, DON’T! Check the hook!
It’s only to easy for a fish to turn the hook point over on a hard take. You need to be on top of things! I carry a hook sharpener a good one that cost decent money, it’s a great investment!
10. Keep your own council
If you nail it in practise, why tell the world? By all means talk about the day, a method or an area, be sociable, after all that’s what’s all about for some, but if you want to be better than others, don’t give the game away, loose lips etc!
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..
The still water fishing that we can expect here in the UK in the late summer can be nothing short of depressing, high temperatures puts paid to any sport during the day.
I’d go further, the whole day! There were times when the fishing would be worth a shot ‘early doors’ or again later on in the evening, sadly, I feel this has changed too, I feel that the lack of insects is the major factor…. Anyway, I digress.
Although the still waters are not producing there are other options, yes carp and other coarse fish can be targeted on the fly, but having done it, I can’t get overly excited. Salt? Yes, the fishing is epic in most coastal areas but then you have to live nearby to benefit!
Rivers are where it’s at!
The river ( I’m talking freestone rivers, chalkstreams are different due to the relatively consistent water temperature) will fish all the way through the summer months, but you need to fish it in a certain manner in order to succeed on running water.
I’m lucky enough to have access to a few good rivers and others which I can drive to in a couple of hours (something you’d be loath to do in order to fish a stillwater) at this time of year. But you don’t need to know a river intimately to catch well in the summer, not at all. What follows is an outline of knowledge gathered over decades of river fishing from all over the world, not just my own knowledge but also the information gathered from some the best anglers I know, and I know a lot of them!
When the water temperature rises the trout seek out cooler, oxygen rich water and for us this is usually shallow, fast moving water. As the water temperature climbs, the trout and grayling become more active, their metabolic rate kicks in big style, so they need to eat and this is the type of water where they like to find food!
If you’ve not read it, then please try and get a copy of Tactical Fly fishing by Devin Olsen, page 17, ‘Water Temperature’ he covers water temperature in great depth and detail and what ‘it’ actually means to the trout and how they feed.
In brief, water temperature…
30 – 40F, I’m just not fussy.
40 – 50F, Kind of looking to eat now, but I’m not going to waste any energy.
50 – 60F. Literately mad for it, if it moves anywhere near me, it’s mine!
65 – 70F. Too hot, I can’t eat.
Luckily for us our rivers here in the UK rarely get to those giddy 70 Fahrenheit temperatures, but they do get to the optimum ‘I’m eating anything in sight’ temperature!
As most insect activity happens around the faster shallower water, we as anglers need to be looking at riffles and pocket water. Trust me, it doesn’t matter how fast it is or shallow, there will be fish there.
Look for water which is anything from 6-inches to 2ft deep!
6-inches, actually 3 inches is enough, if you pardon the pun!
How often have you put a foot in ankle deep water at the side of the river only to spook a fish, seeing it bow wave out into the main flow?!! We’ve all done it!
Let me highlight two scenarios that will make you think twice about fast, shallow water..
A few years ago I fished in a competition over two days, the river was below summer low and there were 10 of us fishing five sections, short 150 to 200 yard sections, it was high summer and around 27 degrees in the sun!
Four of these sections produced fish, small trout, most around 20cm which was the measure for that comp.
Section 1 – three fish
Section 2 & 3 – none!!!
Section 4 – four fish.
Section 5 – nine fish, most to one angler that was lucky enough to draw it first.
On the two ‘death’ sections, I moved a fish, a small one on section 2, stupidly shallow water, and a size 20 CDC and Elk caddis, nymphs were a no-go.
However, in section 3, I hooked an absolute brute of around a pound and half in similar water but interestingly, nothing had been seen in this section, never mind hooked!
I hooked it in shallow water with stones protruding all over the place, but the flow (which was off the main current) was, ‘just enough’ to create some movement. Most anglers had focused on the faster water, and most with nymphs, ignoring the softer water on the far side as too shallow to fish, a great example of how we in the UK tend to pick the ‘easy’ water.
Anyway, the monster fish was lost! Once hooked, it took off back to the current, bow-waving as it did so with my leader getting snagged on one of those protruding rocks. The air went blue after that, that one fish would have meant so much in such a tight competition, when so many had blanked… oh well.
But it highlighted to me that trout, more so than grayling, will sit in ridiculously shallow water, the kind of stuff we in the UK ignore.
A similar scenario happened when I was over in Tasmania. Our practise waters, rivers, were not great due to low flows, scary low flows, but we did find some water. On the first little river, the manager Howard Croston who later went on to win it, fair play, a good guy and the best all round angler we have, now WORLD CHAMPION showed me my first practise section. It was the worst looking water ever and on a tiny river in the middle of a campsite – think paddling dogs, kids and overall heatwave carnage- I looked at him, as if to say ‘are you serious?!’
I had one decent run at the top of my 50-meter section, maybe a foot to two foot deep ( a favoured spot for kids to zoom down on their inflatable toys ), the rest, 40 meters worth, you could walk through without getting the top of your ankle socks wet!
It was open too, wide open with no cover, you could see every stone on the bottom, it was also sunny, and hot, I literally despaired.
The plan in my head was to not spook anything, so I set up with light French Leader, straight mono, with a little stretch, and one very lightweight small nymph on 0.10mm tippet. I’d change this when I got to the good water at the top, dry dropper, I was thinking.
Anyway, on my hands and knees I covered this, in my eyes, barren water. And to my utter shock, five yards in, my leader kicked and I struck into a brown trout which was quickly netted. I’d caught one. I was dumbfounded, I cannot emphasise how crap this little bit of river looked and yet I caught one. I took a photo, first trout in Taz, so I had too.
Well, I only went and caught another two from it, three fish from the ‘no fish water’! I only had two from the run at the head, both on the dry, it appeared that the fish were favouring the faster, shallower water, the stuff most of us ignore!!
I was more than a little pleased with myself. I’m sure the boys t didn’t believe me when I told them how I’d gotten on, as they’d had it tough on their sections too, but I had photos!
It’s also worth noting that this, along with knowledge garnered as a team, put me in great stead for my river sessions where I actively targeted fast shallow ( six inches pretty much ) water. I managed a 2nd place on the Meander, but more impressive was my three fish from the ‘section of doom’ on the Mersey, I was last on it, fifth session. It was by far the worst performing section of the both rivers…
Session 1. Two fish
Session 2. One fish
Session 3. Two fish
Session 4. BLANK
Session 5. Me, Three fish landed and I lost one! All by fishing very fast, shallow water.
All of the above highlight the fact that trout love fast shallow parts of the river (when the water temperature is right).
So don’t be scared of it, the fish, it seems, thrive here when the water temperature is up, so you should actively target it.
Tackling The Shallows..
For me the best way to target this type of water is with a dry fly. You don’t need to be overly specific, below is my favourite fly…
However, saying that anything with buoyancy is going to work. Don’t be using a cutesy little olive, you’re casting all the time the fly needs to FLOAT!
Anything deer hair, elk hair, foam, and Polyprop is what you’re after.
Use a tapered leader, again, not fancy, 9ft tapering to 4lb, tippet ring then 3ft of tippet of your choosing, and cover the water like a madman, constant casting, grid the water and make sure you cover the lot.
Constant Movement Scenario…..
In a Rivers International on the Ebbw in Wales a few years ago, I saw Kieron Jenkins, a gifted laddie if ever there was one, literally speed walking up shallow water casting a dry fly or Duo, although I only saw him briefly, I thought to myself, what on earth is he doing, he’ll scare everything!
Turns out he was catching and catching in areas where others had struggled, his results spoke for themselves. He knew the river and what he could get away with. Practically running through shallow, fast water and casting dries was doable. Where most anglers had walked past or indeed only fished a small section before moving on as it was taking too long, he had blitzed the water like a whirlwind, no caution, just all out speed fishing.
‘EURO Nymphing’ God, I hate that catchall
Of course the other way to target this water is with the Euro Nymphing approach, long leader, long, light rod and an indicator section of nylon and use one or two lightweight flies. Keep them well apart, a meter I’d say.
As the water is shallow I tend to favour scruffier flies, ones that wont sink fast, hairy flies. I have a few that I like. Most have very little or no hotspots or flash at all, they don’t need them. The reactions of the fish in these areas are quick, in this type of water they don’t need colour to draw them in from a few feet away.
Again, as with dry fly, grid the water and cover everything, but pay particular attention behind stones or little scoops in the river bed, any change in the surroundings basically. Simple fishing indeed but you need to committed to it, they will be there!
Lightning Fast Reactions.
Be mindful when fishing such shallow water, the fish hit fast, really fast, so be ready, best have the net in your hand, you’re casting short, so it should be a case of cast, hook a fish and bounce it into the net. You lift the fish in mid-air into an outstretched net. The fish can’t do very much in the shallow water and getting a net UNDER them is tricky, so lift them in, your soft rod an leader can cope with this quite easily. Sounds daft, but it works and it’s vert efficient, you’ll lose less fish doing this than you will trying to play them.
However, I have to stress this can only be done with smaller trout, fish up to pound are manageable.
So, in high summer, look for the shallows, because that’s where the fish are!
Do you want to know more or would like day out to see the above in practice..
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.
As you sit down to read this fisheries, rivers and streams are now open and fishing is well and truly underway.
Across the country ( not every country, granted, all the big and small waters will have opened their doors to the fly fishing public, the flora along the riverbanks are in bloom and there are flies coming off the water, it’s enough to make an angler burst into song!
We are very, very lucky in this country and yet we really don’t realise it. There are so many fly fishing opportunities out there we just need to be willing to go out there and find them, now more than ever you should realise that!
There’s a near limitless supply of hill lochs and tarns that hardly see an angler from one season to the next, all of which are literally teaming with little, and sometimes not so little, brown trout.
Rivers abound, and before anyone says anything, not all of them are private syndicate waters. If you want good river fishing it’s usually available, just do little bit of homework, all manner of fishing can be found on the web.
It’s all too easy to become stuck in rut as an angler but now, after being cooped up for nearly two months, you may realise just what you have out there and feel the need to expand your horizons!
Fishing at the same still water every weekend will give you the chance to learn it’s moods and how it fishes throughout the year. This is all very well if you want to be the best angler on the water, and some do, but could you enjoy the same success on another water?
Realistically, if you want to grow and increase your knowledge, you need to spread your wings a bit.
I urge you to make the most of what we’ve got in this country and while you’re at it, why not take a youngster along with you. Hopefully, they’ll appreciate what it has to offer too, the sport ceratinly needs newcomers, any new comers will do!