One of the most challenging times of the fishing year is when the trout start to turn their attention to pin fry. These tiny, see through little wisps of not very much at all, when shoaled together provide a hefty and easy meal for the fish! And yet, even though the trout are actively feeding, I often see people give up, beaten by creatures with brains the size of a pea! Why?
RECOGNISING THE SIGNS
I remember the first time I saw this feeding frenzy, as a ‘wet behind the ears’ youngster visiting an upland hill loch. An over cast day in July saw fish boiling the water to a foam in places. No matter what I threw at them, I thought they were feeding on sedges, I had no concept of pinfry then, and not surprisingly I couldn’t get a take.
Since then I’ve seen it often enough, each year pretty much, as I have been visiting the large reservoirs down in the Midlands for 25 years (Christ, that’s a sobering thought!). So I now know more about this time of year!
Down here the pinfry can appear as early as the end of May but it’s usually June into July when we get the majority.
I get proper hyped up for it too, gauging the weather, broken cloud is best, with sunny spells being interspersed with cloud cover. Cloud cover means fish battering the pinfry shoals. This gives away the trout’s location and this is where you can capitalise, but only if you fish in the correct manner!
Be sure that you’re in the right areas, don’t go looking in the weedbeds, deeper water is best, off the end of points into deep water can be good, and anywhere near dam walls seem to be great too, more so if the wind is blowing onto them. These tiny fry are at the mercy of the currents which the wind creates, so be mindful of this.
I often work the boat along a dam or drifting onto points or promontories. But go by the venue, Draycote for instance used to have some awesome pinfry feeding action around the deeper water around the shoals. Location may vary but local knowledge will help with this, so ask someone that knows.
But, like I said, when you get the right conditions the trout give themselves away.
I see most anglers go to some default setting, as soon as pinfry feeders appear. Let me highlight them, at the same time telling you that yes they can work, but with moderate success, I’ll explain why.
Dry Fly…. They’ll see it? (Yes they will, but they are NOT feeding on dries) To be fair, fishing dries is possibly the best of a bad bunch.
Washing Line… It feels right, keeping it ‘in the zone’.
More often that not the flies are below the feeding fish and are:
A) Still sinking
B) Being retrieved too fast and looking nothing like the food source.
Pulling a Blob or Booby…. At least I’m getting follows!! Ahahahahaha, Cracks me up this one. I don’t want follows, I want fish in the net, simple.
CATCHING THE TROUT
Having fished for these pinfry feeding fish for a number of years, actively seeking them out, as I know I can usually catch better fish. I have a couple of methods that seem to really work, so let me share them.
First, find the fish, I outlined that above, then make sure your boat s well upwind of their feeding position so you can drift into the area without fuss.
THE method that I have found to work better than any other is to fish New Zealand style a nymph suspended under a buoyant fly. But don’t just go for any old set up, THINK!
I use flies that look like pinfry or at least suggest with a profile and outline. My buoyant fly is my Popper Fry, and the pattern under it, that LOOKS like the real thing, trust me this fly works is my little pinfry!
To fish effectively, keep your flies well away for your fly line, use a floater by the way. I use a 12ft tapered leader ending in 10lb, (copolymer) and then 8ft of 8.5 fluoro to the buoyant fly, then a short section – normally a foot if pleasure fishing but around 2ft if competition fishing and I use 5lb Fulling Mill. I use it as it’s stiff, so pings the nymph over well and it’s strong.
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It’s then a case of short casts, same as dry fly, no more than 5 to ten yards of fly line (just enough to load the rod). Cast it out and do NOTHING! The Plop of the buoyant fly hitting the water will draw the fish in but it’s often the nymph that they home in on.
It is that simple, oh and be patient, the fish move around a lot but they are in shoals, herding the pinfry, stay in the area and you’ll catch them soon enough!
NOTE: Sometimes, if I need the nymph to stay higher for longer, I use a Cruncher under the fry. I tie it with gold and pearl flash behind the hackle and on a size 12, a little lighter in weight. I can treat this with a little Mucilin, it clogs the fibres but it stops it sinking too fast.
Another method is the CDC pinfry, this one comes out on flat calm days, so as to minimise water disturbance. Same massively long leader (grease the first 12ft taper) but the end section, tippet, is 4.4lb Frog Hair, super light, thin and strong!
To fish this set up well, it’s a case of casting into the feeding area and leaving well alone. However, if a fish moves nearby, pull the line, the fly will pop under the water and ping right back up again. This is LETHAL, that tiny bit movement as the CDC pulls the fly back up is something the trout find hard to resist!
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I feel that this fly can often excel over the original for the most part of the fishing year. The inclusion of the green just adds another dimension, this lime green is so good for stocked rainbows and indeed brown trout, try it, I’m sure that you won’t be disappointed!
Do you want to be the angler that succeeds on small Stillwater venues then these top tip can help!
When you’re fishing early on in the season proper, it’s always a good idea to get as much information on the water as possible. Getting to know a water is a major benefit. You’ll notice time and again that it’s usually just one or two anglers who catch most of the fish. These are the people that know the water. Where are the weedbeds, the drop offs the fish-holding areas basically, they have it sussed. By getting to know a venue and these areas can pay off big time.
In the real world most of us can’t fish a place all the time, or would even want to for that matter, it can get a bit ‘samey’. But watercraft and some knowledge of fish location can help you concentrate your efforts on specific areas wherever you fish. At the same time you will know that there’s some parts of the venue you should avoid, fishless zones where you’ll know there’s no point in even wetting a line.
It can be pretty easy to get an idea of what’s going on under the surface when you’re concentrating your efforts at clear water venues. Fishing on these venues allows you to actually see weedbeds, shelves and other holding areas. You’ll also see where trout patrol and how they patrol. They have patrolling routes you know and if you can establish these routes then you can pick off trout as they move, if you get your tactics correct of course. These clear water venues will give you a good idea of what’s going on at most venues, trout are trout, right!
It doesn’t matter what you fish for or how you go about catching them, underwater shelves, areas where the bottom drops away into deeper water, are a bit of haven for all types of fish species.
They have the safety of deep water nearby and this seems to make them happy. On the shallow side of the shelf, where the sun penetrates first and heats things up, life is more prolific and so If there are things to eat then the trout won’t be too far away.
Weeded areas are a heaven for all manner of aquatic beasties which the trout feed on. All those damsels, shrimp, bloodworm, hoglouse and the like love weeded section of the lakebed. Stickleback and juvenile coarse fish tend to migrate to them too. It’s a rich feeding ground for all the parties involved.
From a tactical point of view this can help you get close to your quarry too, something some anglers often neglect to realise. It offers you cover close the water’s edge, quite often, early on in the year, trout can be found right in the margins. By keeping a low profile and being hidden behind the bankside cover, you’ll often be able to lower your fly into the path of a cruising trout.
These weeds later on in the year, are also a great place for Damsels to leave their watery homes and trout are well aware of this. Pay special attention.
Points and Promontories
If you are lucky enough to be first on the water, then if you can get yourself positioned on a promontory then you’re onto a winner. These headlands allows you to have deeper water at either side of your fishing positions. They are also good places to target because trout have to pass these point to get into the bays and creeks where the food is often prolific.
Under Water Structure
Any kind of underwater structure, like a dam, inlet or even fallen trees will tend to harbour food. These places offer shelter and safety for tiny creatures and fish.
If your local water produces some big brown trout every now and again, the chances are that they tend to hang around this kind of structure. Sunken logs, tree roots under water boulders are perfect locations for big, old brown trout to hang around.
When targeting any kind of structure make that sure your leader’s up to it. A hooked fish will head straight for any kind of safety, and that means any nearby structure, strong tippet will allow you to put some pressure on without fear of snapping!
Sounds like cheating I know but it can help if you know. Fish, more so rainbows will often hang about in the vicinity they are stocked. Also stocking points are often the areas that offers easy access to the fishery owners and at times of low food levels, hard winters and warm summers, they will often sneakily keep the fish topped up with pellets, Like I mentioned at the very start, know the water! : )
Keep popping back, I’ll have more on fish location and holding areas on various venues where I’ll go into even more analytical detail in order for you to ‘up your catch rate’.
This fly is designed for Rutland Water but will work its magic on most waters that have vast weedbeds.
The original fly – and how to dress it – was shown to me by Dave Docherty, AKA Curly, a man that lived on the water for years and was thought of as the main man on that amazing venue.
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!
Banish those winter blues and get off to a flying start this year!
Buy A Rod License
You can’t go fishing in England and Wales without a Rod license, well, you can if you’re under twelve, so you make sure you have one.
These can be purchased online or from your local Post Office, some fisheries even sell them. There are a few ticket options available to suit most anglers needs!
Bank Fish A Reservoir
The fishing at this time of the year can be out of this world.
All the recently introduced stock fish will be holed up in the bays and creeks where they were stocked, so make the most of it by fishing from the bank.
These trout can be easy to catch and they fight incredibly well, they really do provide the angler with a bit of a bonanza, you’d be mad to miss out.
Reservoirs can become hectic in April, everyone is competing to get to the known early season hotspots, so you need to get yourself there early doors.
The Dam Wall
The great thing about the dam wall is that it often offers anglers access to deep water without them having to cast to the horizon. The fish are often close in and they will move up and down the dam wall throughout the day, so if you stay in one spot they are likely to head your way sooner or later.
It’s a popular area though, so see suggestion number 3!
Try A Bung
When it comes to early season deadly fishing methods, then the Bung is right up there. Not only will some nice shiny Superglue Buzzers suspended mid water tempt those – I’m not stupid enough to take a lure – stockies, they have the added advantaged of picking up the better, over wintered fish.
A bung enables you to fish your impressionistic flies at various specific depths in the water column so that you can search out where the fish are more effectively.
Black and Green
If there’s one colour combination that you must try at this time of the year it has to be the lethal black and green. There’s something very special about these two colours for cold water. Look to try flies like, Concrete Bowl, Viva and Black Cats.
Bank On Boobies
There’s something about Boobies that trout just can’t seem to resist.
On large waters, use a fast sinking line and a leader of around 12ft with one or two Boobies spaced an equal distant apart, one on dropper around 6ft from the end of your sinking line with another on the point. This will allow you to cover the depths and find where the fish are in the water column.
ALWAYS keep in touch with your flies.
Try Fishing A River
To many of us are quite happy to sit it out on small waters or reservoirs and we don’t make the effort to cast a fly in running water. This is a real shame as some of the best fishing you’ll ever experience will be on a river. There’s nothing quite like it.
It takes a lot more time and patience to get results but once you get into the why wherefores of river fishing, you’ll become hooked.
Spot A Riser
This is the best when it comes to river fishing, searching the water for signs of feeding fish, or a riser! Nothing gets the heart pumping faster than a big early season trout coming up for Olives!
Try That Dry Fly
On rivers a dry fly is often the best line of attack when the trout are up. Keep it simple with pattern choice as they won’t be too fussy just now. Focus on size and colour and you shouldn’t go far wrong. The key is making sure it behaves naturally, so no drag.
Okay, let’s start at the beginning, this is for guys and girls that fish ‘loch style’ in other words cast out of the front of a drifting boat in order to target trout!
This style of fishing is a pretty big deal here in the UK BUT it’s growing in popularity and as a result more and more anglers from all over the world want to know more about this extremely effective technique.
It’s a complex form of fishing, however the whys and the wherefores of doing it right are for another day!
With this little article I want EVERYONE to know the 5 Essential Fly Lines for Boat Fishing which you must-have here in the UK, and dare I say it the world if you want to stand a decent chance of catching fish the whole year through!
I’m not going to get overly technical, no point, once you get into it you’ll figure it all out yourself!
And also, I can do another article highlighting the other lines you need at some point, right!
Currently, I carry 36ish fly lines when I boat fish, so there’s some food for thought!
When you get a touch more serious then the line count goes up, dramatically!
So, let us work from the top of the water down shall we? After all the trout’s eyes are on the top of their head, not on the bottom!
Now remember, BASICS! Oh, before I forget, don’t muck about with presentation tapers go weight forward every time, loads the rod quicker and you’ll cast further, should you need to!
1. Floating Line
This is the best-selling fly line in the world and no wonder as it lets you do an awful lot! This is our go-to choice when it comes to dry flies, wet flies, and slowly fished nymphs and buzzers/midge.
It allows you to keep the flies fishing high in the water, they can be fished slowly too, which is great for a natural presentation.
It is the ideal line for presentation fishing, unless it’s windy and then your line control goes out the window!
2. The Midge-Tip
Okay this may well have other names but the premise is the same, a floating line with the sinking front section – 1 to 2 inches per second and normally 3-feet. This front section sinks like an intermediate line and this allows the angler to bed their flies in under the waters’ surface.
It’s a line which offers a little more depth, it’s surprising just how much depth, as well as control when nymph / buzzer fishing. For this reason it’s one that seen threaded though an awful of UK rods from April through to June when we have the cream of our nymph fishing.
It’s also a great choice for wet fly fishing for wild brown trout!
3. Slime Line
Rather than just highlight an ‘intermediate’ line, I thought I’d pick out this one. ‘Slime line’ is generic now, and a few companies make them, it’s basically a clear intermediate line. It has gained a massive foot-hold in our fly line armoury duo in part to it’s clarity, it has no colour.
It sinks around 1.25 to 2 inches a second and it’s good choice for fishing a foot to three-foot down, it’s great for lures, wet flies again – of course in a big wind, the Irish anglers love it!
It’s not as in your face and as visible as a lot of other intermediate lines which can come in various colours and sinking densities and this makes the slime line an essential fly line for boat fishing!
4. The Di5 Sweep Line
Yes, I’m being very specific, like I said I’m looking at essentials here!
For pulling lures, this line takes some beating
Obviously, this will sink faster than it’s Di3 counterpart and for me therefore I choose the five over the three!
Sweep lines, allow you to cover more water as the belly is heavier than the tip, so this means that your flies are fished in a very enticing, fishing finding arc!
I use this line often for finding the trout’s feeding depth, and either stick with it or move up or down in the water column with other lines to capitalise.
5. 40+ Di7 Extreme Line
This particular line has a short head and so loads the rod quicker and it also features a skinny running line, so that when you cast, if you’re any good, the line goes miles!
It’s this distance that will see me pick this line over other fast sinkers.
If I’m in a boat and paired up with someone, as is usually the case in competitions, I want to cover water before they do, in order to do that I have to cast further!
This is crucial early season when drifting onto banks, get your flies in the area first and you get the fish first, simple!
I hope that you found this article interesting, it’s basic but it really does highlight the MUST-HAVES if you want to do any good while fishing from a drifting boat.
If you want to learn more about fly lines or indeed how to use the ones highlighted here more effectively then please…
Competition Fly Fishing has seen many fly patterns come and go but one style of fly which has really made an impact (and they seem to only be getting even more of a Worldwide following) are Blobs.
Love them or hate them, Blobs are damned effective at harvesting fish from our stillwaters!
This simple fly, no more than Fritz wrapped on a hook has taken the fly fishing world by storm. Rightly so, it’s effectiveness for ‘speed fishing’ is unparalleled, nothing comes close to its fish catching abilities, nothing!
Okay, it can be argued that it’s more effective on the more curious rainbow trout, but Blobs, less in your face ones, will catch brown trout also.
Blobs can be fished fast with a pacey retrieve or indeed slowly, just let the flies fish ‘on the drop’! Either way is going to catch you trout, but you need to ring the changes to see what is most productive on the day!
Here are the top 5 Blobs ( in no particular order ) that you are going to need if you’re looking to compete in most Loch Style Competitions.
1. The Orange Blob, the original and still one of the best
2. The Black Blob, one for when the bright colours seem to scare fish
3. The Tequila Blob, two tone and deadly all the way through the summer
4. The Biscuit Blob, a more washed out affair that will work its magic on pressured fish
5. The Olive Blob, again one that does well when the trout have switched off from gaudier colours, a good choice in Autumn.
Best Blob double team combo -in my opinion – Orange on the dropper Black on the point!!!
If you would like any of these Blobs or more information on how to get the most from them, then please..