Easy flies = more time on the water by Steffan Jones

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Welsh river maestro Steffan Jones shares his love for the simplistic side of fly tying – meet the deadly Perdigon nymph!

I love dressing flies as much as the next person. However, it is very much a means to and end for me and I would much rather be putting the creations to good use rather than amassing a huge armoury for no particular end game.

Most of the fishing flies I make and fish tend to be extremely simplistic. I’m sure this has something to do with my prowess (or lack of) at the vice, but also it’s about getting something that will work knocked up quickly and applied to the fish. A few components is usually all that’s needed to create something that will fool even the wiliest of trout and over fussy patterns are often just a labour of love rather than something that will unlock a secret formula.

Take the pheasant tail, for example. Hardly time consuming yet has accounted for countless fish across the world over the years. It has very little movement but has all the key elements and profile that will fool a fish. To me the Perdigon or Spanish nymphs tick the same boxes. No, they don’t have lots of movement, but neither does the pheasant tail nymph. However, yet again, their profile is great; they look like a food item and best of all they are really easy to make and can be created in several different colour combinations with ease. A good selection can be tied in a matter of hours, enabling you to spend days on the river rather than at the vice.

The Perdigon/Spanish nymph

The Perdigon/Spanish nymph.

Perdigon/Spanish nymph

Hook: Partridge SUD2 or SLD2 in 14-18s
Thread/Body: The thread is often your body with no need to swap between the two. You may either use different shades of thread or I prefer to use Funky Nymph-It or Veevus Body Quill. They come in a range of colours and leave a fantastic effect. Thread is often used, however, to create a bright thorax segment. For this 14/0 veevus thread in flu.orange or flu.yellow/chartreuse is perfect.
Tail: A few strands of Coq-de-Leon; 3-4 will suffice on the smaller sizes
Bead: Oversized beads are often used, which enable you to create a very streamlined and fast sinking fly. Vary the size and colour according to the hook size chosen.
Overbody: The overbody is UV resin and is applied in two coats. The first coat is a fairly thin layer, but thick enough to cover all the body material. After curing, you then apply a permanent marker over the top of the thorax and slightly onto the top of the bead. A second coat of resin is then applied over this marker once dried and cured once more.

An army of nymphs ready for action in a fulling mill silicone fly box!

An army of nymphs ready for action in a Fulling mill silicone fly box!

Show Us Your Flies Photo Competition

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Show us your flies! The ones that you’ve tied yourself, of course!

Over 60% of fly fishermen that took part in our Big Fishing Survey told us that they tie their own flies – so we want to see the fruits of your labour.

To enter, simply send us a photo of your favourite homemade fly – the closing date is Friday 27th May at 5pm. Our judges will create a shortlist of the best fly photos, and publish a gallery where readers can vote from Thursday 2nd June. We’ll inform all shortlisted entrants on that date. We can’t wait to see what you’ve tied!

The winner is the photo with the highest vote rating at the end of the competition.

You can win this brilliant Airflo mesh vest worth £54.99!

airflo mesh vest

Airflo mesh vest

Send us your fly photos now! The closing date for entries is Friday 27th May (at 5pm), and we’ll open the gallery for voting on Thursday 2nd June. If you’re in the shortlist, we’ll let you know so that you can get your friends, family and network to vote for your fly!

The winner will be announced on Tuesday 7th June.

If you’re not a fly tyer but are interested in learning, check out the Fishtec Beginners guide to fly tying – get going quickly, and you can enter, too!

If you’re using Android to upload your picture, you’ll likely see a screen like this:

android upload form

Tap on the ‘Documents’ link to get to your pictures

Just tap on ‘Documents’ and you’ll be taken to your photos to choose your entry. Alternatively, please email your photos to us at fishtecblog@gmail.com and we’ll take care of everything for you!

Show/Hide Terms & Conditions

Terms and conditions In the event that any entrant does not, or is unable to, comply with and meet these Terms and Conditions and the competition information, Fishtec shall be entitled at its sole discretion to disqualify such entrant, without any further liability to such entrant.

To enter this competition you must be: (a) a UK resident; and (b) 18 years old or over at the time of entry.

This competition is free to enter and no purchase is necessary.

Fishtec reserves the right to cancel or amend the contest or the terms at any time without prior notice. Any changes will be posted on blog.fishtec.co.uk.

Entry requirements
1. Submitted images should be no larger than 5mb in file size.

2. Submitted images should be no larger than 1,000 x 1,000 pixels.

3. Do not submit any photographs that are obscene, vulgar, pornographic, hateful, threatening, racist, sexist, discriminatory, or which otherwise violate any local or international laws.

4. Entrants must be 18 or over to enter.

5. You must be the copyright owner of any works submitted and you also confirm you have the necessary permission from people who may appear in the photo.

6. Each entrant is invited to submit one entry. In the event of multiple entries being submitted, the moderators will select one of the images to be included in the competition.

7. The photographer must be the sole author and owner of the copyright of photos entered in to the competition. Fishtec respects photographers rights and does not claim copyright for images you submit to this competition, you will retain full copyright in each entry. Whenever your image is published by Fishtec you will be credited. Failure to publish a credit due to error or oversight shall not be deemed a breach of this condition.

Image Usage
8. By entering this competition you agree that any winning image or shortlisted images you submit may be used by Fishtec for purposes related to the Classic Catch Competition.

9. You hereby grant Fishtec a non-exclusive, irrevocable licence in each entry for the uses described in 7. above for 1 year following the date of announcement of the winner, thereafter the image may be used for archival purposes by Fishtec.

10. You acknowledge your responsibility for protecting your entry against image misuse by third parties, by for example, but not limited to, the insertion of a watermark, retaining exif data. Fishtec can assume no responsibility and are not liable for any image misuse.

11. Should any image uses beyond those needed for the competition arise we will endeavour to contact you.

12. Images will be voted on by the public. The image with the higheset votes by the closing date, will be the winner. Only the winner will receive a prize unless otherwise stated, the shortlisted entries will gain free exposure on blog.fishtec.com.

13. Once voting has closed the winners will be notified within 30 days.

14. The judges decision is final and they do not enter in to communication relating to entries.

15. Only one vote per person per image is permitted.

16. Any votes registered after the voting close time, which will be stated online, will not be included in final count.

17. Fishtec reserves the right to disqualify votes or entries, or suspend voting if it has reasonable grounds to suspect that fraudulent voting has occurred, or if it considers there has been any attempt to unfairly influence the voting. Fishtec has the right to substitute an alternative selection method at its absolute discretion.

18. If, for any reason, the online voting system fails, the vote may be suspended or a contingency plan may be actioned.

19. Fishtec reserves the right to change, cancel or suspend this event at any time.

20. Fishtec does accept any responsibility whatsoever for any technical failure or malfunction or any other problem with any on-line system, server, provider or otherwise which may result in any vote being lost or not properly registered or recorded.

21. In the event of a large amount of entries (as determined by the judges), a shortlist will be produced, to include highest voted entries and (in the event of multiple entries from a single person) the best (as determined by the judges) of an individual’s entries.

22. The prize for this competition is a Airflo mesh vest as shown above and on the page linked to here.

23. No alternative products, credit or cash equivalents will be offered.

24. Prize details will be sent to the winner via email within 30 days of the winner being announced.

Feeding habits; watch for the signs… by Steffan Jones

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Welsh river expert Steffan Jones shares a fly that has fooled many a selective trout… watch closely and you will learn!

Fish like an easy meal. The harder they have to work for a meal the more energy they expend, which, in turn, can negate the energy they receive from the food source they are intercepting. As such, they are looking for a guaranteed food source, not something that’s likely to flutter away as they begin to intercept. As a result, emergers and flies stuck in the surface film are often taken more readily and more confidently than the full adults that sit firmly on the surface film. Indeed, you can often watch a trout leave countless adults drift past yet intentionally and systematically intercept every emerger. As is often the case with fishing; a little time spent watching the habits of a feeding trout will often pay dividends. It is all too easy to just ‘match the hatch’ because you see countless adults drifting past, but make sure you are representing the stage of the hatch that the fish are feeding confidently on.

A selective surface feeder from the Taff

A selective surface feeder from the Taff.

I had a similar encounter recently when fishing down on the Taff in South Wales. There was an amazing hatch of large dark olives, along with a few brook duns. I could see three trout feeding confidently in a run. I crouched and watched them for a while. A small backwater held countless adults, but these were being ignored by all three trout in favour of the emergers and those stuck in the surface film – part emerged or cripples. The following fly did the trick and has done on several occasions. Certainly not complicated, but does the trick and fools the fish.

The Steffan Jones olive emerger.

The Steffan Jones olive emerger.

Olive emerger

Thread: Veevus 14/0 in dark brown
Hook: Partridge K4AY in size 14
Body: Peacock quill in golden olive; superglue the thread base before winding on
Thorax 1: Opal mirage tinsel in medium; stretched and two overlying turns. Make some without these too; change to the non-mirage version if fish refuse the mirage version.
Thorax 2: Pine squirrel; loosely dubbed then picked out
Wing: x 3 cdc plumes

An army of SJ olive emergers ready for river action!

An army of SJ olive emergers ready for river action!

Expert guide Steffan Jones has over 20 years fishing experience and can cater to your every need – be it sea trout, salmon or trout angling. Steff also has vast experience of overseas holiday destinations.  For more details visit Angling World Wide.

UK anglers’ public enemies are ravaging the rivers

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peaceful river

Image source: shutterstock
Beautiful fishing spot – but what danger lurks around here for fish?

Marauders are ravaging our rivers! Fish stocks are depleted, and river ecosystems are suffering. Quite simply, there are too many mouths to feed and not enough fish.

But who is devouring all the fish? Where did they come from and what is being done to minimise their impact? We take a look at six of the most infamous predators and the problems they’re causing for anglers.



Image source: Steve Waterhouse
Cormorants are out of control

Cormorants may only eat what they need to survive, but survival means a significant diet! They feed on at least a pound of fish a day, which they catch with their long, hook-tipped bills while swimming underwater.

Historically, cormorants have been controlled through pesticide pollution and persecution, but that changed after Denmark and Holland introduced protective legislation in the 1960s. The British Trust for Ornithology explains how:

‘The European population increased rapidly and continental birds started to extend their wintering range into Britain & Ireland.’

Before 1981, you would have found cormorants breeding mainly on the British coast. But when one tree nesting colony established itself at a reservoir in Essex, others followed. By 2012, they were breeding at 89 inland sites in England! Numbers have risen ever since, and it’s estimated that 30,000 birds come to the UK every winter.

Why does this increase in population matter? Because cormorants are a real threat to fish stocks. A survey by Swansea university found that they are causing a problem for most fisheries. In fact they’re considered to be more of a threat than mink or otters.

Cormorants favour medium sized fish and often leave damaged victims on the bank if they can’t swallow them. Martin Harper for the RSPB paints a vivid picture:

“To a cormorant, an angling lake stocked full of fish is much like a bird table to a blue tit – a feast to be harvested.”

There’s no easy solution either. Cormorants are protected under the Wildlife and countryside act 1981. However, thanks to three years of campaigning by the Angling Trust, it’s now to simpler to apply for a license to shoot cormorants that are causing major problems.



Image source: shutterstock
This sawbill duck loves salmon

This streamlined swimmer originally came from Nordic countries to over winter in Scotland, but since the 1970s, they’ve spread throughout England and Wales.

Goosanders are medium sized members of the sawbill group of ducks, so-called because they have long narrow bills with saw like teeth, good for gripping fish. Their preferred diet is salmon and trout.

Upland river fisheries in particular, see goosanders as a problem. Not a surprise when you realise a young goosander needs 33 kg of fish to reach adulthood! Blogger Nick Hart witnessed them doing their stuff on the Deveron last Autumn:

Their synchronization was incredible, several birds corral the fish while others dive below the surface.  Then they swap…  …there were pods of these saw-bills guzzling fish amounting to in excess of 100 birds!  The fish did not have a chance.’

These predatory ducks can be shot under license, and the government have now extended the control season to May at times of low flow, when salmon and sea trout smolt migrations are particularly vulnerable.


otter goldfish

Image source: Hugh Miles
Otters are turning to ornamental fish

Hungry cormorants and goosanders are also causing problems for other river predators. Tim Paisley of the Predation Action Group, believes the increase in cormorant predation has created a chronic shortage of otters’ natural prey:

‘…otters, to an increasing extent, to seek their prey in what would not normally be their natural hunting grounds; still-waters, carp waters, fish farms, and even garden ponds… have all become part of the new hunting grounds

In the 1970s, otters were extinct across much of UK. That all changed in the 80s and 90s when Philip Wayre, founder of the Otter Trust, released 117 otters into an ecosystem that couldn’t support them.  Ron Key of The Angling Times explains why this was a bad move:

‘Unfortunately the reintroduction of otters coincided with predation from other species such as the cormorant, signal crayfish and goosander, and the negative impact they were having on our waters. Predation is not just about otters. In recent years the otters’ main food, the eel has also reduced drastically, increasing the need for them to look at alternative food sources.’

It’s bad enough that otters now have extra competition for food. Add in the fact that they’re at the top of the food chain, and it’s no surprise that they’ve became a problem. Champion angler  Bob Roberts comments:

‘The otter has no predators. It is the apex predator of the waterways. It did not exist everywhere in the past and certainly shouldn’t do today.’

It doesn’t help matters that otters fish for fun as well as food!. Shaun Harrison blogger for Angling lines describes them in action:

‘The problem with otters is that they work like cats and kill for fun as well as food… and then seem to delight in a couple of mouthfuls, and then leave the carp to a slow and agonising (I would guess) death.’

Anglers can’t do much to change the situation, as otters are a protected species, You’re breaking the law if you harm, them capture them, or destroy their breeding place.



Image source: Canal and River Trust
Is the problem with mink of our own making?

As with otters, it could be argued that the problem with mink was also caused by human mistakes.  American mink arrived in Britain in 1929. Suddenly in demand due to the popularity of commercial fur farms, they were reported to be breeding wild in the UK in 1956, due to escapees and deliberate release.

In 1998, animal activists released 8000 mink from a fur farm in North Staffordshire. A lot of the animals were trapped but the rest have populated vast areas of Staffordshire, Shropshire and Cheshire.

Smaller and slimmer than otters, with a deep brown coat, minks are more confident than otters and are spotted more often in daylight hours. They’re from the same family as stoats, badgers, weasels. According to the Canal and River Trust:

‘Mink are opportunistic predators who will happily eat a variety of fish, small mammals, birds and invertebrates.’

Like otters, they hunt for fun as well as sustenance, and often leave fish remains on the bank. They’re a particular threat to salmon and trout fisheries.  As well as devouring fish, these creatures eat rare birds, and are having such a huge impact on water voles, that they may soon be extinct throughout much of Britain.

Volunteers with the Lochaber mink project are making a concerted effort to catch mink troublemakers. The process involves ascertaining exactly where the mink are coming to feed. To do this they use a mink raft.

‘Mink rafts have a tunnel over a clay pad; as mink go through the tunnel (they are naturally inquisitive) they leave tracks on the clay. Rafts can be checked every one to two weeks and so are less labour-intensive than trapping.’

Mink are then trapped on the rafts or by traps dug into the river bank.


grey seal

Image source: shutterstock
Salmon-loving seals are being shot

Seal populations are extremely healthy around the UK coastline, and numbers have grown rapidly in recent years. While they enjoy salmon, these appealing creatures aren’t overly fussy about the fish they consume. Pike, bream and carp have all been victims. However, seals are fussy about which parts of a fish they’ll eat. They leave plenty of leftovers!

As seals are a protected species, non-lethal deterrents have to be the first port of call. Seal scarers that emit a high pitched noise can deter them. However, sometimes they become such a problem that fishery managers apply for a license to kill. They are regularly shot in Scotland under licence to protect salmon and sea trout stocks in estuaries. In 2013 alone, 200 seals were shot.

Even the RSPCA recognizes that the issue of seal control is far from simple. They say that there is significant evidence that fish can feel pain. They point out that farmers are also under legal obligation to protect their fish.

Seals hit the headlines in 2013, when a female dubbed Keith turned up in the River Severn following flooding. Convinced that Keith was depriving them of catches, anglers tried to bring in a hitman to get rid of the seal for good.

Blogger Carl over at Fishing Adventures wasn’t impressed:

‘Can you imagine what the anti anglers would say about that? It would be in all the papers, ‘Anglers shoot seal!’ Now that would do angling’s image a whole load of good… NOT! The other option is to find a humane way of removing it from the river, namely transporting it back to the sea.’

A tricky problem to solve, indeed. But the problems aren’t all about birds and mammals…

Killer Shrimp

killer shrimp

Image source: S. Giesen
Beware this destroyer of native shrimps!

D. villosis (aka the killer shrimp) is an aggressive predator which spread to the UK from Eastern Europe. This tiny terror kills and feeds on native freshwater shrimps, young fish and insect larvae.

Why do the shrimp’s feeding habits matter so much? According to Woodlands blogger Chris:

‘Where it invades, it tends to dominate the habitat often resulting in the local extinction of native freshwater species.  This alien invader can be as small as 3 mm BUT can grow to be three centimeters in length – much larger than our native freshwater shrimps.’

Over the last few years, DEFRA has been running a campaign to raise public awareness of this killer. The key words of the campaign for all anglers are CHECK, CLEAN and DRY. All it takes to destroy any clingy shrimps is fifteen minutes submerged in hand-hot water! But if you don’t follow this advice, the shrimps can survive in your wet fishing gear for up to 15 days.

Worried that your other half isn’t going to be best pleased to find your fishing gear soaking in the bath? Angling coach Roger Patrick  has come up with an inventive idea:

‘I bought a large plastic storage box and use that. It takes my boots, waders, landing net and reels… Easy really and it leads to greater harmony in the home.’

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 prohibits releasing non-native species into the wild, but no one has been prosecuted under the law. However, some MPs are pressuring the government to allow environment officers to enter any land where they suspect invasive species are creating a problem.

Get back to basics

Image source: Angling Times

Image source: Angling Times
Your licence helps restore rivers

Anglers are agreed. When it comes to predators, we need to learn from our past mistakes. Blogger Hugh Miles, writes:

“There should be a law in place that allows Natural England to insist on an Environmental Impact Assessment before any release to protect the balance of nature. Releasing an apex predator into the wild should require a license.”

The Angling Trust believes that the situation will only change if the government focuses on restoring healthy fisheries. How this can happen?

‘Through controlling pollution, reducing abstraction and restoring habitats. This will make fish populations more resilient to otters, cormorants and other predators.’

So anglers, it’s time to take action! You can support the Angling Trust’s plan by doing one simple thing. Pay for a rod license (you probably do this already, right?). The Angling Trust currently uses rod license fees to employ three fisheries management advisors. These advisors coordinate the efforts of local fisheries to manage cormorant predation.  They also help erect fencing to exclude otters, as well as placing submerged fish refuges in fisheries.

Have you had any close encounters of the predatory kind? Head over to our Facebook page and share your stories. We look forward to reading them!

Angling – the newest Olympic event?

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olympic rings

lazyllama / Shutterstock.com
High hopes for future Games

Could you be a fishing Olympian? The Rio Games are fast approaching and while angling isn’t an Olympic event, the sport is still growing in popularity with more and more international competitions.

This does raise the question: can one of the world’s best-loved sports be an event at future Games?  Put down your fishing tackle for a second, and consider this…

It’s already an International competitive sport

international fishing tournament

Image source: blog.suteraharbour.com
Poster for the International Fishing Tournament in Malaysia

Fishing is already a major international competitive sport. The 1900 Olympic Games in Paris included angling as a demonstration event. It attracted around 600 participants from six different countries, who competed over a series of four events.

Angling’s come a long way since then, and is a growing event on the international sporting calendar. The biggest event is undoubtedly the World Championships. The WFFC (World Fly Fishing Championship) hosts teams from England, Belgium, Finland, Japan, New Zealand and the Netherlands amongst others – so there is easily a large enough pool of competitors to make Olympic Angling an interesting event.

Added to the WWFC there’s the Adventure Fishing World Championship – a challenging kayak-based catch-photo-release fishing competition. A six to nine-hour event, it’s described as a competition of “extreme difficulty“, so any nay-sayers to Olympic angling on the grounds of athleticism can be quickly silenced with this hardcore event.

Fancy trying for a European trophy? Try the FIPSed Coarse Angling European Championship in July. They’re held in the Netherlands this year. If you’re interested in taking part, details and registration forms are right here. Think of it as Olympic training…

Big business

fishing competition

Image source: phichet chaiyabin / Shutterstock.com
Many, many, many people around the world are into fishing!

Angling is widely considered one of the most popular participatory sports in the world. As anglingresearch.co.uk tells us, almost 10% of the British population are into fishing.  And in the US, there are around 50 million anglers, according to statista.com. Fishing’s clearly a very popular sport.

Fishing’s also a major economic contributor. The Angling Trust tells us that the sport adds around £3.5 billion to the UK economy. It’s a huge contribution – and with the benefit of an Olympic-scale boost to publicity, that would only grow.

With such popularity and economic clout, fishing merits respect as a competitive sport. It’s possible that the Olympic Committee is starting to take notice, though. A well-deserved nod was given when Former World Shore Fishing Champion Chris Clark was chosen to carry the Olympic torch for the London 2012 Games.

More popular than synchronised swimming…


Image source: Mitch Gunn / Shutterstock.com
Solo synchronised swimmers, are you feeling silly yet?

The Olympic Games has seen some strange inclusions over the years. Solo synchronised swimming debuted as an event 1984, but was discontinued in 1992 due to lack of interest.  Tug-o-war was a significant Olympic event between 1900 and 1920, but was dropped when its popularity waned. It doesn’t seem such a small stretch for an increasingly popular sport like angling to be included!

There are also some current Olympic sports which are clearly less popular than angling. Race walking started in 1904 and is now a major televised event. Surely if walking can be considered an Olympic-calibre, broadcast-worthy sport, fishing can be?

One thing’s for sure, angling demands more athleticism than some Olympic sports. Shooting, for example, largely consists of lying still and breathing slowly.

A major draw for tourists

countryside fishing

Image source: shutterstock
A fishing event is an ideal way for a country to showcase its beauty!

One of the big reasons countries choose to host the Games is to show off their nation to the world, and stimulate tourism. Olympic inclusion is a sure-fire way for a country to showcase its most beautiful destinations to the world.

What better advert for any country’s more rural areas than idyllic images of fishermen sitting in the sunshine by pristine rivers and lakes, surrounded by natural beauty? And for hooking in prospective urban tourists, city river and canal events could be arranged!

One step closer

ice fishing

Image source: wikimedia commons
Olympic-level dedication to fishing!

From time to time, ice fishing comes up for light debate as a potential Winter Olympic event. With thousands of ice fishermen across North America, Northern Europe, Scandinavia and even Asia, the sport is more popular than other winter events such as luge.

According to Rick Spilman from Old Salt Blog: “Ice fishing is angling for a spot in future Winter Olympics”. Perhaps a little prematurely, drugs tests were recently introduced to the World Ice Fishing Championships in a bid to meet Olympic anti-doping standards.

Let the Games begin

prize catch

Image source: shutterstock
An Olympic-winning catch?

If angling were to become an Olympic event, what would it look like? What about a three-day coarse fishing event, with each day targeting different species? Or a ‘fly triathlon’ to test a range of skills: distance casting, speed rigging, and of course, a catch count!

With four years to go until the 2020 Tokyo Games, do you want to get angling included as the newest Olympic event? Share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Beginners guide to carp rigs

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simple carp rig

Image source: shutterstock
A simple carp rig – you can make this!

Every carper will have his own opinion on rigs, and the topic can get quite complicated. It’s important, though, to avoid getting caught up in the potential minefield that rigs can be.

It’s much better to keep things simple at the early stage of your carping career, and in this article we’ll outline a couple of very basic carp rigs which will get you started and catching carp in very little time.

What is a hair rig?

The hair rig is the simplest form of rig used today. It was designed by the late Lenny Middleton, who was trying to gain better hook holds from the straight onto the hook. In the carp fishing boom of the 1980s anglers became aware that carp can very easily single out hookbaits. It was clear that there was a need for a rig which helped overcome the poor hookholds which the traditional methods offered.

How to make a hair rig

It’s very easy to make a simple hair rig. The material used to make the hair can be made from a number of different products. Some anglers prefer to use line, whilst others use braided material. Each will have their own advantages, and with a bit of experience and experimentation you’ll doubtless make your own mind up as to which you prefer. For now though, we’ll run you through what is known as the knotless knot hair rig, which combines the hooklink material into the hair.

The knotless knot hair rig is one of the most widely used methods of attaching your hooklink to the hook. All you need to make it is your favourite hooklink material, a hook and some scissors. Here’s how you tie it up, in pictures:

cut hooklink

1: Cut a 15-inch length of hooklink

thread hooklink onto hook

2: Take one end of the hooklink and thread three inches of it through the rear side of the hook eye.

rest hooklink beside hook

3: Rest the three inches of hooklink (known as the hair) along one side of the hook. This is the part which will form the hair.

start to wrap around the hook

4: Holding the hair in place, wrap the longer length of hooklink around the shank just below the hook eye ensuring that it is kept tight.

continue to wrap around the hook

5: Continue to wrap the hooklink around the hook in the same way as in step 4, working your way down the shank.

give at least ten wraps round the hook

6: It needs to be wrapped around the hook at least ten times for it to hold firm. Ten wraps normally ends up finishing opposite the point of the hook. This is a good position for the hinge of the hair.

loop through the back of the hook eye

7: Keeping the wraps in position, loop the long hooklink end through the back of the hook eye and pull through.

tighten gently to bed the knot down

8: Bed the knot down by tightening gently. The knotless knot has now been tied.

now put a loop in the end of the hair

9: All that is needed to complete the rig is to tie a loop in the end of the hair, to which you can now attach your hookbait. Many anglers make the hair long enough so the top of the bait just touches the bottom of the hook bend.

slide bait onto a needle, then onto the hair

10: Slide a bait onto a needle and then onto the hair. Secure the bait in position with a hair stop.

When the hair rig was designed it produced some amazing captures. Indeed, it still works today. If you take this simple example to your local day ticket pond, I guarantee if you fish well, it will catch you plenty of carp.

Next steps – the line aligner

Thinking anglers are always looking at ways to improve success, and one of the most widely used advancements of the hair rig is the line aligner. This incorporates a piece of silicon tubing onto the rig, which is pushed over the eye of the hook to protect the knot. It also helps the hook twist when inside the mouth of the fish, increasing your chances of hooking.

The line aligner can be used with almost all carp rigs. To avoid confusion, in this example we’ll simply add it to the knotless knot hair rig which we made earlier. Scientific tests have shown it to be 15% more successful at hooking when compared to the standard knotless knot hair rig.

How to make a line aligner

To make an effective line aligner, you need a pair of scissors, a fine baiting needle, some 0.5 silicon tubing and a finished knotless knot hair rig. Here’s how you set one up.

Cut a small length of 0.5mm tubing

1: Cut a small length of 0.5mm tubing (this will be pushed over the eye of the hook so must be of the soft or shrink type). A good length is one which just fits over the eye of the hook (approximately 0.8cm).

push the baiting needle through the side and into the central cavity

2: Approximately ¼ of the way down the tubing push the baiting needle through the side and into the central cavity until it exits the end.

attach the hooklink to the needle latch

3: Attach the hooklink to the baiting needle latch and pull it through the tubing cavity so that it exits through the side wall.

Thread the tubing down the hooklink

4: Thread the tubing down the hooklink towards the eye of the hook.

push the tubing over the eye

5: Now push the tubing over the eye. Be careful not to split the side when doing this or you may have to start again. A good tip is to work the tubing through your fingers for a minute or two to make it warm and more manageable.

align the tubing properly with the hook

6: Make sure the face of the tubing where the hooklink comes through is in line with the point of the hook. The line aligner is now complete.

Is it worth the effort?

Scientific tests have shown that the line aligner will hook 18 times out of twenty, when compared to 16 out of twenty with the knotless knot only set-up (as documented in Strategic Carp Fishing). It is without a doubt the most advanced hooking arrangement of the modern day carp scene. If you still have reservations, here’s some proof of the effectiveness right here!

simon crow and carp

The author, Simon Crow with a recently caught 30lb common on a simple line aligner hair rig

Happy carping!

You can read more from Simon Crow at simoncrowcarpfishing.co.uk or follow him on Twitter, where he appears as CarpmanCrow.




All images courtesy of Simon Crow unless otherwise stated

Dolgellau Angling Association

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Rivers Mawddach salmon river

Dolgellau Angling Association have 13 miles of prime sea trout and salmon fishing on the Rivers Mawddach and Wnion in the stunning Snowdonia National Park area of Wales.

Website: www.dolgellauanglingassociation.co.uk
Contact: Gavin Jones
Email: daa.secretary@btinternet.com
Telephone number:
Day ticket available:
Yes, From £15
Season permit available: Yes
Region: North West Wales
Social Media: N/A

In addition to the wonderful migratory fish angling offered by the club, Dolgellau Angling association also has a Welsh upland lake fishery – Llyn Cynwch. Regularly stocked with rainbow and brown trout it can be fished with either bait or fly. Great access and disabled platforms make it an easy place to fish in beautiful surroundings.

Llyn Cynwych

Llyn Cynwych.

Beginner’s Guide to Canal Fishing

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canal fisherman on boat with child

Image source: Philip Bird LRPS CPAGB / Shutterstock.com
Canal fishing is for everyone

Canals are accessible, cheap as chips and found all over the UK. Better still, our canals are full of fish and great venues for anglers of all tastes, tells Dominic Garnett, towpath fanatic and author of the book Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide.

For many anglers, canals are their first childhood fishing venues. However, these classic locales are so commonplace they’re sometimes overlooked.

For many anglers, canals form a continual part of their angling life, from childhood onwards.They’re classic venues to explore, and yet so commonplace we sometimes overlook them. In fact, over half of us in the UK live within five miles of a canal.

They’re highly accessible for anglers too. Some canals offer free fishing, but most require a local angling club (or Waterway Wanderers) pass.These are as cheap as chips, though, with some at around £30 for a whole calendar year. Want a day ticket? You probably won’t have to spend much more than a fiver.

Don’t be fooled by their modest appearances and cheap prices however. These are amongst the most consistent and productive fisheries out there, whether you enjoy pole fishing or drop shotting. And while they can be challenging, Britain’s canals are endlessly fascinating and always capable of surprising us.

Canal Basics and Watercraft

colourful canal

Canals offer value and variety to anglers of all kinds

So, you live or travel near to a canal and are thinking of fishing it.But where should you start? There might be miles of water to go at.If it is a rustic canal, it could be pretty and feature filled; but if it is a busy, urban canal it could just as easily all look the same.

Your first job on any canal therefore doesn’t involve a rod and reel, but your feet, eyes and ears. Look at a map, and ask questions at the local tackle shop, fishing club and forums:

  • Where are the popular areas to fish?
  • Where are the match stretches – and which pegs produce winning nets of fish? (regularly fished areas can concentrate fish because of the bait going in over time)
  • Where is fishing going well at the moment (or tends to fish well in this season)?

Better still, get out there and walk the towpath for yourself with a pair of polarizing glasses. Do this early or late in the day and you may well see fish such as roach and rudd rising, or larger fish rolling or bubbling.

Even the most uniform looking canal will have features to discover. Wide bays will hold fish like bream and tench.The areas close to locks, walls, bridges and other structures will shelter small fish and the predators that hunt them.

Bends, overhanging bushes, barges and other features will all draw fish seeking safety and food. It’s important to get out and explore – the peg next to the car park will rarely be the best to catch from.

The “Typical” Canal

canal anatomy diagram

Anatomy of a canal

While all canals have similarities, each is unique and different. Some are very deep and clear, others shallow and muddy. All have distinct areas in common to think about when you fish them, however. Above is a cross section of a typical canal, and here’s an explanation of its features:

  1. The near margin and shelf: Don’t assume that you have to reach the far bank to catch fish on a canal.The bottom of the “shelf” on the near bank, just where the water starts to deepen, is a great place to start fishing, where you’ll find roach, skimmers and other fish. Even the shallow water very near the bank may also hold fish such as gudgeon, rudd and pike, especially if there is cover close in.
  1. The central “track” is the deepest part of the canal. Boat traffic tends to keep it clear and weed free. This can be a good place to find bream and other bottom feeders all year, but especially in colder months, when many fish retreat to the safety and warmer water of the depths. On neglected, heavily silted canals, the only water deep enough to hold many fish might be the deeper central track.
  1. The bottom of the far shelf is a key area for bigger “bonus” fish of all kinds including tench and carp. As with the slope on the nearside “shelf”, natural food as well as the bait you introduce tends to gather here. Plumb the depth carefully to find exactly where the slope ends – this is always a good place to fish.
  1. The far margin can hold surprising numbers of fish, and sometimes big ones, especially when the water is coloured or there are “features” to offer them safety and food. Species such as perch, chub and carp particularly love lurking here.

Canal fishing methods

pole fishing canal

The pole is a brilliant canal method

What is the best way to fish from your local towpath? The lovely thing about canals is that just about any method can work. However, as a starting point you cannot beat simple, old school methods such as pole and waggler fishing.

The pole is especially good for canal fishing because it lets you fish quite fine tackle accurately.Even if you have only just started angling, a short pole or “whip” fished line to hand is a cheap, fun way to get bites. A pint of maggots and a simple float rig are all you’ll often need to catch.

For the more advanced angler, the long pole is a brilliant method, allowing you to fish accurately at any distance and present your bait with complete precision, tight to the features.

If you don’t own a pole, the waggler will also work on just about any canal. Avoid starting out with thick lines and large floats howeve. Try light line and a hook length of 2-3lbs to start with, using small hooks (typically sizes 16-20). With this tackle you’ll be able to catch plenty of fish such as roach, perch and small bream.

Canals are versatile waters.Some canal anglers target specimen carp, and some will even cast a fly. But perhaps the biggest recent revival in canal fishing has been with lure fishing. With only short casts usually involved and predators from small perch to giant pike all catchable, you can have an absolute blast with anything from traditional plugs to dropshot gear, covering a lot of water.

Typical Canal Species: My Top 5

canal caught roach

Roach are beautiful and widespread on virtually all canals

There are stacks of species you’ll find in canals; one of the joys of these waters is that each is a genuine “lucky dip” and almost anything can show up. That said, some species crop up again and again, and offer reliable sport just about everywhere. Here are five to catch all year round:

  1. Roach: Common as muck, but always easy on the eye and great to catch. The small ones are easy but the big ones are a genuine challenge. If your canal is clear, bread is a brilliant bait to try; if it’s coloured, pinkies and groundbait are a great combo.
  2. Bream: From just about any canal, bream give you the chance of catching a real net-filler, or even several! Try the deeper water in the main track with worms or casters.
  3. Perch: While you’ll find various predators on UK canals, the one that seem to do well everywhere, from clear rural canals to city stretches, is the humble perch. A whole worm over chopped pieces is a great method to catch them – or you can try small jigs or drop shot tactics.
  4. Carp:  Many UK canals now have carp to a good size. Finding them is half the battle. If you only have eyes for a big carp, larger baits such as tiger nuts and boilies are useful to dissuade the smaller fish.
  5. Tench: Canal tench are beautiful and hard-fighting fish well worth any angler’s attention.Try an early morning session with baits like casters and sweetcorn.

Top Canal Fishing Tips

canal caught bream

Canals are not just about tiddlers. Specimens such as this bream are there to be caught, once you suss them out.

Use your eyes and feet to locate the fish on your canal. Time spent walking, asking other anglers or studying Google Earth are all worthwhile. Be prepared to walk and you can find spots that are rarely fished.

  • You don’t need loads of bait to fish a canal, as you might on a heavily-stocked water. Try introducing just a little pinch on a regular basis and you won’t go far wrong.
  • Do keep tidy on the towpath. Avoid leaving items of tackle sticking out that could be walked or cycled over. Pole anglers can try shipping back sideways along the bank rather than directly behind, or breaking down into sections rather than unshipping all in one go.
  • If you are struggling to get bites on the canal, try finer tackle and smaller hooks. They’re often a good idea for fish such as roach and skimmers.
  • Don’t be alarmed by boats; most of the time they don’t spoil the fishing. That said, you should always be aware and watch your lines. If they really do your head in, try fishing early and avoiding busy times.
  • For bigger fish such as carp and tench, you could try pre-baiting on your local canal. Try cheap baits such as stewed hempseed and frozen sweetcorn, or boilies for carp.

Further Reading and information:

The Canal & Rivers Trust are currently the main body for canal fishing in the UK.They run a great value ticket called The Waterway Wanderers Scheme, offering many miles of canal fishing nationwide for just £20 (or £10 for Angling Trust members).

Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide by Dominic Garnett (Merlin Unwin Books, £18.00)
canal fishing coverPacked with useful tips and stunning photography, Dom’s book is a great read on tackling these classic waters whichever style of fishing you enjoy. Covering all the major species, with methods from old school to modern, it is also has a huge amount of handy information, with history, local hotspots and specimen fish records from virtually every canal across Britain. Available on Amazon, or try the author’s site dgfishing.co.uk for signed copies, and Dom’s regular blog.



All images courtesy of Dominic Garnett unless otherwise stated

First Caddis – Field Report From Rene’ Harrop

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The first showing of caddis tells me it is finally spring here in the mountains of Idaho.

This event happened last week, along with a big spike in the water level of the Henry’s Fork. And now, with the world greening around me, I am fully engaged with a changed behavior of trout as it applies to feeding on or near the surface.

Caddis reward

Caddis reward!


Along with increased depth, reduced water clarity has weakened the demand for intense precision as the rainbows and browns feed almost recklessly on the first sizable insects of the year.

Generally speaking, the fish are holding within a few feet of the bank, which means battling heavy currents toward mid-stream is not required.

Caddis on the edge.

Caddis on the edge.

Often casting from the bank, I will fish a floating caddis adult or emerging pattern when working upstream.

Fishing a slightly submerged pupal pattern with a twitching action on a tight line is a good method when working downstream.

In either instance, I will focus my attention on the 6 to 8 feet of water closest to the bank unless a rise appears further out.

Trout looking for caddis and concentrated close to the edge by high water are also a perfect setup for fishing from a drift boat.

Working the bank

Working the bank – from a drifting boat.

The size 14 caddis that appear at this time of year are not considered large until they are compared to the insects that precede them. A size 18 Baetis mayfly is on the upper end of the scale, and most are smaller. And it is rare to get away with fishing a midge larger than size 22.

From this point forward until mid to late September caddis flies will be a staple on the Henry’s Fork and most other streams in the Rocky Mountain west. At no time, however, are they more appreciated than at the end of a long winter when the season truly begins for the fly fisherman.

High water hook up.

High water hook up.

Beginners guide to float fishing – waggler floats

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bream caught on waggler

A nice small water bream to a very simple waggler rig.

The sight of a dipping float is something that sums up the excitement of coarse fishing. Learn to fish the waggler, and you’ll have a method that will work on countless waters for all manner of species, and bring you that excitement wherever you fish.

Fishing For Dummies and Canal Fishing author Dominic Garnett provides an easy-to-follow guide to waggler float fishing.

What is a waggler?

There are various types of float used in coarse fishing, but the waggler is perhaps the most popular these days. They’re easy to set up, and allow for a stable, relatively tangle-free presentation that works with all kinds of baits on all kinds of fisheries. So what exactly is a waggler?

In simple terms, wagglers are floats that are attached by the bottom end only. This makes them easy to rig, because you can simply pinch them in place on your main line with split shot. This type of float also gives good stability, with the angler able to sink the line into the water, beating surface tow and debris.

Which waggler to choose?

types of waggler

There’s a wide selection of wagglers

Walk into any tackle shop and you’ll see various waggler floats to cater for different fishing scenarios. It’s well worth buying a variety of wagglers to suit various uses. You might be fishing right at your feet one session and casting well out into a stiff wind the next, with each scenario requiring quite a different float. There are several kinds of waggler to look out for:

canal wagglers

Canal and mini wagglers

A: Canal & Mini Wagglers are for fishing sensitively, usually at close range. They are often tapered and have a fairly fine tip. These are great for fishing on natural stillwaters and canals, where species such as roach, skimmers and crucians can be shy biting. Short versions like those shown also make sense for shallow water, where you don’t want a long or heavy float crashing down each cast.

insert wagglers

Insert wagglers

B: Insert Wagglers: Come in many sizes, but have a noticeably finer tip section or “insert”. This aids sensitivity for spotting gentle bites, although larger models can still be cast quite a distance.

Straight wagglers

Straight wagglers

C: Straight Wagglers: As the name sounds, these floats are straight, and have a thicker tip than insert models. These are sensible floats to use when you need extra stability; for example, when wind or tow will pull a skinny tip under and give false bites. The longer, larger floats can handle blustery conditions and be cast a fair distance. Some also have little “bodies” or thicker sections to offer even more casting weight and stability.

loaded and pellet wagglers

Loaded and pellet wagglers

D: Loaded and Pellet Wagglers: Some wagglers are weighted or “loaded” at the bottom, or come in much chunkier dimensions to allow longer casts made. These are excellent for aiming at distant features such as islands, and are often used for carp with slow sinking baits.

Typical Waggler Fishing Tackle

pellett waggler

Image source: UK Match Angler
A pellett waggler, hard at work!

The best rods for waggler fishing are float or match rods, although you will also get away with a light spinning rod for fishing close to the bank. However, ideally a float rod will be 12 or 13 feet long and suited to use with lines of 4-8lb breaking strain.

Many quite powerful “Carp match” or “power match” rods exist these days, and are ideal for commercial fisheries stocked with hard-fighting carp. Lighter rods that are ideal for natural venues and species such as roach and rudd are less commonly available, but a lighter rod is a lovely tool to use on canals and rivers.

It’s best to combine the rod with a small to mid sized reel, loaded with quality line (avoid cheap mono at all costs!). 5-6lbs main line would be typical where species such as carp and tench are the staple, or 3-4 lbs strength for silver fish and bream, where the odd bonus might show up.

Last but not least, it is always worth using a hook length (a foot or so of finer, more sensitive line to which the hook is tied). Not only will this give you better presentation (fish are less able to detect thinner line), but means that should you snag up, you will only lose a hook, not your whole rig. You can tie these yourself, but they also come ready-tied for convenience.

Tackle and typical waggler rigs

fishing tackle


Setting up a waggler rig isn’t rocket science, but the way you do this can be crucial to success. While not essential, it’s very helpful to use a float adaptor. This is a little silicone sleeve which accepts any waggler float.

The adaptor allows you to change your float at a moment’s notice without starting all over again. For example, you might decide to switch to a larger float to combat wind, or to make longer casts.

First, attach your waggler by trapping it onto your main reel line with split shot. Most floats will tell you how many shot are required by the numbers and letters written on the side (for example “3BB” or “5AA”).

A good general rule is to trap the float in place with at least two thirds of the required shot. This is because having most of the weight in one place helps with casting; lots of shot scattered down the line tend to cause tangles.

Attach your shot snugly to the line, but avoid squeezing them on so tightly that they’re fixed. You should be able to move them along the line to adjust the depth.

waggler on line

A balanced waggler outfit, ready for action


With your float secured in place, you will also need to attach some shot down the line, to help sink the bait and indicate bites. A few smaller weights (typically sizes 4, 6 and 8) will be much better for this than one or two larger samples. If you want the bait to get down quickly, try a little “bulk” of shot clustered together a foot to eighteen inches from the hook.

If you want a slower sinking bait, for example when you can see fish such as rudd or roach swimming higher in the water, try spacing the shot out evenly (see drawn illustration below).

Last but not least, you’ll also notice that we always set up with a final, small shot just 2-3 inches from the hook (usually a size 8,9 or 10 shot). It might be the least visible, but this little shot (often called the “tell tale shot”) is so, so important.

Why, exactly? Because when a fish takes the bait, this little shot also moves and gives you an early indication that you have a bite; without it, you will spot bites late, leading to more missed and deep-hooked fish.

waggler rigs plumbing depth

Try a “bulk” of shot to get down quickly; or space evenly for a slower fall of the bait.

Basic Waggler fishing skills

Many new and inexperienced anglers just want to cast their float as far as possible. However, the best advice on most popular day ticket lakes would be to start much closer in, because there will often be many more fish right by the bank and close to marginal features.

Sometimes you might fish off the bottom when fish are cruising in midwater, or even fish “overdepth” with a little line on the bottom if it is too windy to keep the bait still. Most of the time, however, it is best to start with the bait just about touching the bottom. This ensures that any bites you get will quickly be transmitted to the float tip.

Plumbing the depths

Sussing out the depth of your chosen spot is a vital skill. Too many anglers either don’t bother, rush the job, or get it wrong. Do take your time, because there is a huge difference between having the depth spot on and “about right.”

The easiest way to test the depth with a waggler is to carefully pinch a larger shot, such as an AA, onto the final inch of line right next to the hook before casting out and observing what happens. If the float plunges down and out of sight, you are set too shallow and should move the float away from the hook.

If the opposite happens,and the float sits up too high or even lies flat, you have too much line between float and hook and must narrow the gap. Adjust this length carefully, until just the very tip of the float shows and you have the right depth.

Be warned though, you must give a little slack line when testing the depth. This avoids creating a diagonal angle between hook and float and getting an inaccurate reading.

You’ll find it much easier to get the exact depth closer in – and it’s also worth spending a few minutes trying different spots around your swim and seeing how the depth changes. This can give you some handy answers to important questions. How deep is the water right by the bank? How deep is it two or three rod lengths out? Does the depth drop away suddenly or gradually? Answer these kinds of questions, and you will be able to catch more fish!

Where to begin

A good starting point for your waggler fishing session is often to try just down the “shelf”, where the margin drops away into slightly deeper water, often between one and two rod lengths out. In warm weather, fish like carp might come right under your feet; in the winter, you may fare better by fishing deeper water.

Once you’re happy with where you want to fish, it’s time to add some bait. Start with a small handful of samples, but be prepared to keep adding a small amount to this at regular intervals.

Spotting Bites and Striking

action on the waggler

The author plays a good fish on the waggler; in this case a tench, hooked in deep water with a long bodied float

Bites can vary a lot between different fish species. The classic movement will be the float just pulling straight under – for fish like carp and tench it’s best to ignore the tiny movements, and wait for this to happen before striking.

Other bites can be cagier, however, with the float “taking a walk” but not submerging. Sometimes the float can even lift slightly. Experience and practise will tell you when to strike, but with shy-biting fish like roach and skimmers, you might have to hit these indications early!

Above all, pay close attention to that float, observing how it settles as the bait and shot fall through the water. If the float stops or behaves suspiciously, this can quite often be a fish taking “on the drop” as the bait falls. Strike!

Waggler Fishing Tips

waggler caught tench

A margin caught tench, caught on the waggler

    • One of the best tips for all float fishing is to hold the rod at all times. Don’t be lazy and put the rod down in a rest! Much of the time you will have missed the fish by the time you pick the rod up. Instead, be ready to strike with a nice positive lift.
    • As with the casting and feeding, the strike takes practice. It should be decisive but not violent – find a happy medium! Strike too softly and you won’t set the hook Strike brutally and you’ll “bump” fish off, or risk breaking the line on a big one.
    • One of the most common mistakes when fishing the waggler is to have too much float showing above the water. If you give the fish too much tip to pull under, many of them will simply get suspicious and drop the bait. Aim to have just the brightly coloured tip showing – or just the final 2-3mm if conditions are calm.
    • For most waggler fishing, a floating reel line is sensible. However, in windy conditions, you can also sink the line to avoid tow. Do this by dipping the rod tip under the water and giving a couple of pulls after casting out.
    • As with most types of general float fishing, you will usually catch a lot more by loose feeding. Try doing this “little and often” by throwing or catapulting in just a few samples of bait every three or so minutes. If you keep casting to the exact same spot and keep your feed accurate, this will help concentrate the fish.
    • Try Stotz rather than dust shot for your smaller weights. They tend to stay on the line much better than tiny traditional shot in sizes 8,9 and 10.
    • Don’t just sit there when you waggler fish. Quite often the fish will bite just as the float settles, because they have spotted the bait sinking to the bottom. Try recasting to get extra bites – or search different areas of your swim. For example, if you’re catching a lot of fish in your main feed area, you might find that the fish start to back off or go a little further out.

Further Info:

You can find more of Dominic’s fishing tips, tales and photography at www.dgfishing.co.uk

His book “Fishing For Dummies” is excellent for beginners and those returning to the sport, while Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide provides the lowdown on a wide range of methods, species and locations across the UK.


All images courtesy of Dominic Garnett unless otherwise stated