For a fly fisher, surviving winter at high elevation is usually an arduous and inconsistent process. Snow and bitter cold temperatures can dominate the weather for months at a time and a visit to the river is often times only to watch through the months of December, January, and February.
With ice and cold winds as limiting factors, finding a window of opportunity for even a few hours of deep water nymphing or streamer fishing can be rare if human comfort assumes a role in determining whether to fish or stay indoors. Gradually, however, the daytime hours lengthen and subzero temperatures eventually become a casualty of the calendar. And as an ice bound river begins to regain its flowing character, there comes a glimmer of expectation for the first true sign of an eventual spring.
Although the timing of conditions suitable for dry fly fishing can vary from year to year, the sight of the first rise of a new season is always something to savor. And while the source of surface interest among trout in late winter is invariably of a size that dictates keen refinement in all aspects of fishing tackle and skill, nothing in the entire year is more welcome than the humble midge.
While chironomids on local still waters and elsewhere can be realistically imitated on a hook as large as size 12, the term midge is an appropriate description when they are found on moving water. Seldom larger than size 20, midges are available to trout in the Henry’s Fork and most other streams throughout the year. However, they are never more important than in cold weather conditions and are often the only hatch to be found during the longest season of the trout states of Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming.
Because of a craving for dry fly fishing after a long absence, I watch for conditions that promote surface availability of the tiny insects. Air temperatures that exceed the freezing point by 6 to 8 degrees will usually stimulate late winter and early spring emergence, and overcast skies are often a positive factor in tempting wary trout to the surface. Temperatures below 50ᵒ seem to hold the adults on the surface, and this increases the potential for finding rising trout.
Trout feed more efficiently in slower currents when floating midges are the target, but gently riffled water should not be ignored. Seeing the miniature dry flies is completely dependent upon fishing as close to a surface feeder as possible, regardless of the water type. A cast beyond 30 feet will likely put a size 22 out of view, at which time you will be required to set the hook when a rise appears in the area where you think the fly is located.
By necessity, midge patterns must be of relatively simple design, as is the case with all exceptionally small imitations. Because of its unique flotational properties, CDC works well for midge patterns that must be supported on the surface with a minimal amount of material. My favorite floating patterns also incorporate a sparse application of hackle, and stripped goose biots are a regular feature as well.
While my midge box contains an extensive assortment of patterns representing all phases of the life cycle, three distinct floating imitations have demonstrated reliable productivity on waters as distant as Japan. And I fear little shame in admitting that their favored status is also based on the relative ease in which they can be seen on the water.
CDC Biot Midge Adult
This pattern rides fairly high on the water and parallel to the surface in a manner that represents a fully emerged midge adult.
Hook: TMC 100 BL size 18-24
Thread: Gray 8/0
Abdomen: Canada Goose Biot or Stripped Peacock Herl
Wing: Sparse Lt. Dun CDC
Thorax: Gray Dubbing
Hackle: 1-3 turns of Grizzly
CDC Hanging Midge
This easy to see midge pattern rides partially submerged with only the wing and hackle showing above the surface.
Hook: TMC 100 BL size 18-24
Thread: Gray 8/0
Body: Canada Goose Biot or Peacock Herl
Thorax: Gray Dubbing
Wing: White CDC
Hackle: 1-3 turns of Grizzly
CDC Cluster Midge
In a way, this pattern allows a bit of cheating on the usually very small midge patterns by imitating a cluster of mating insects that often swarm together on the surface.
Hook: TMC 100 BL size 14-20
Thread: Gray 8/0
Body: Peacock Herl
Hackle: Grizzly palmered
Wing: Sparse White CDC
There is no time when the experience of losing a special trout carries anything but a sense of disappointment. However, the emotional pain of watching an exceptional adversary swim free when only a successful application of the landing net at the end of a spirited battle stands between the exhilaration of complete victory and total deflation is nearly indescribable.
You learn early on the Henry’s Fork that many things can go wrong when the hook is small, the tippet is fine, and the trout are often very large. Developing skills dedicated to preserving a precarious connection to a big fish is only marginally secondary to perfecting the ability to present a fly in a manner that will allow the battle to begin.
In both instances, much depends on the quality of the fishing equipment being used but mental and physical components also apply to the process of hooking and successfully bringing a meaningful trout to hand. Most who desire advancement in fly fishing understand the need for learning that comes only with experience and practice, and this is where the problem lies in gaining the ability to close the deal when finish line is clearly in sight.
From my own experience and also while watching others, it has become clear that the true drama lies at the very end of a battle between angler and trout. This means that it is not weathering a 100 yard run into the backing or surviving a series of tail walking leaps across the surface. Instead, the most intense pressure occurs when the trout is near surrender and the angler prepares to put the net into action.
Gaining the opportunity to practice netting skills is entirely dependent upon having everything go right prior to the time when the prospect of actually landing the fish becomes real. With an average tippet size of 6X and a fly usually size 16 or smaller, landing a trout in the 20 inch class is seldom greater than a 50-50 proposition. This means that even on a good day when 3 or 4 fish in this category are hooked, there may only be one or two times when the net will actually come into play.
The tendency to become almost uncontrollably excited is a difficult reaction to overcome when it becomes evident that the strength of the fish has begun to wane. In moving water, this generally occurs when it grows weary of revisiting both pressure from the rod and the force of the current.
When possible, leading the fish to shallower water of lower current velocity is preferable to allowing the fish to maintain the advantage of depth and water force. At this point, it is a mistake to allow a false sense of urgency to cancel the practicality of creating a condition that improves the likelihood for a favorable outcome. And while complete calm is seldom possible, applying patience and mental discipline are key in resisting the temptation to rush the netting process.
For a wading angler, the typical landing net features a short handle, a 20-22 inch bow, and a deep mesh bag. And while a net of these dimensions may be rejected by some as being too small, correctly applied landing techniques will usually accommodate a trout of 2 feet and even slightly longer. Carrying a larger net with the notion that its size will cancel poor decisions of technique is, in my opinion, erroneous behavior.
Through trial and error over many years of hunting big trout on the Henry’s Fork and other waters of the western U.S., I have developed preferred tactics that apply when fishing wadeable water. When organized into a systematic process, these principles incorporate proven ways to minimize disappointment at the end of an otherwise successful encounter with a hard earned trophy.
Identification of the best area to control the fish in preparation for landing should be made well before the thought of reaching for the net enters the mind. Often times, simply leading the fish close to the bank and away from the main current will create the advantage needed to overcome its ability to resist capture. Other situations may require moving some distance downstream to access water of less depth and current speed than where the main fight takes place. Trout will use leverage provided by depth and current against the resistance of the rod in an effort to become free from the restraint. This effort intensifies when the angler comes into view, and the close presence of the net can evoke a violent reaction of panic.
A tired trout in slow, shallow water can be more easily held in position while the angler closes the distance between them. Given a choice, I will always position myself upstream from the fish in preparation for landing. Reeling while moving toward the fish is often preferable to trying to bring it upstream, especially if significant distance is involved. Firm pressure with the fishing rod along with slow and careful movement work together in helping to keep the fish calm as final approach is made. Always important in any phase of playing a big trout, concentration is especially critical in the ability to react quickly to any sudden movement that can bring last minute freedom to the prize.
In general, I consider 1½ times the rod length to be the right amount of line and leader separating the rod tip from the fish, and I will not touch the net until this finishing point in the approach is reached. As resistance from the fish becomes noticeably weakened, I will begin to apply upward pressure with the rod while holding the line between the index finger and the handle. With superior control, I can begin to bring the fish into netting position by stripping the line rather than trying to use the reel. As the distance is shortened, lifting the head above the surface with the rod tip will help to negate the trout’s ability to use the current against you because it cannot swim in this condition.
With the trout within an arm’s length and aligned with the current, I will free the net from its magnetic holder and position it directly upstream from the exposed head. The body of the trout should be parallel with the surface of the water before the net is lowered to allow the front rim of the bow to pass beneath the head. With the ventral fins as a guide, I will lift the net when the heaviest portion of the fish is directly over the center of the bow, and the rear half will follow into the mesh.
Attempting to chase the fish with the net fully submerged is a surrender of control needed to manage its capture. Excessive disturbance near the fish is assured to cause a forceful reaction as will careless contact with the net. Its instinct is to escape and, sadly, this is what usually happens when a trout is given the opportunity to break free.
No method of net application is guaranteed to result in a successful capture—-there are simply too many things that cannot be fully controlled. However, utilizing proper landing techniques will help to minimize crushing disappointment when complete victory over a special trout becomes the ultimate desire, and the moment of truth is at hand.
These days, it is the rare individual who does not bring a lasting ambition to cast a long line when he first picks up a fly rod. As a tool designed specifically for this purpose, a weight forward line is generally the first choice of a beginner, and many will never try anything different.
Like anyone else, I appreciate the ease in which a weight forward taper can be applied in situations where a long, straight line cast is the foremost objective. This especially applies to still water fishing where a floating line is not subject to the same factors found on moving water.
With a lifelong fondness for fishing dry flies on the predominantly larger rivers of the Rocky Mountain west, my preference lies in a much different line configuration when compared to the popular weight forward taper.
On moving water, inducing a natural presentation of an artificial is often almost equally dependent upon casting and mending. With maximum control both in the air and on the water as requirements more important than easily attained distance, my choice is a double taper floating line.
Even on big waters, I try to wade within 30 feet of a feeding trout. At this range and anything less, the performance of a weight forward and double taper line are essentially equal. It is beyond this distance that I begin to struggle with line control when fishing a weight forward taper.
Unlike a weight forward, there is no hinge point with a double taper because the weight of the line is distributed throughout its length rather than being concentrated in the first 30 feet. With consistent flex and contact with the rod tip, a double taper permits superior line control while also making it easier to regulate the velocity of fly delivery. And while there are exceptions, shooting slack line into the cast is not something I generally apply when presenting a dry fly. Additionally, I find it difficult if not impossible to make certain casts that rely on controlled line speed or consistent response to the rod tip when fishing a weight forward beyond 30 feet. Curve casting, aerial mending, and a long reach cast are much more easily accomplished with a double taper.
Precise mending techniques are vital to managing the drift once the fly is on the water. With the thinner running line in the guides, it is virtually impossible to reposition the heavier front portion of a weight forward taper as a means of overcoming problematic currents that can disrupt a natural drift by causing the fly to drag.
Refined nymphing methods involving submerged flies in moving water can require precise casting and deft mending techniques that are quite similar to fishing a floating imitation. Whether maintaining a natural drift or inducing controlled action to the fly, it is not unusual to experience some difficulty when fishing beyond 30 feet with a weight forward line. For the same reasons that apply to dry fly fishing, I generally prefer a double taper when presenting a subsurface pattern to a big, nymphing trout in moving water.
In keeping with the example of old time steel-headers prior to the popularity of two handed fly casting, I rely on a double taper floating line for spring and fall streamer fishing for trout when the water is low and often quite cold.
Swimming the fly mostly with the current or on a slow, pulsating swing often involves long, looping mends that may require some serious roll casting to execute correctly. And while a long cast on big water may require significantly more effort, I find 60-70 feet to be a reasonable distance for a 6 or 7 wt. double taper. Again, as in other situations discussed herein, I value line control above ease in gaining distance for low water streamer fishing where presenting the fly means considerably more than simply stripping it quickly through the water.
I have many highly accomplished friends and acquaintances who will stick with a weight forward line for virtually all of their trout fishing, and many will disagree with my comments and personal opinion regarding a double taper. This I accept without argument because fly tackle performance is an entirely individual matter, and I would never try to convince anyone that my way is best.
In general, I believe a double taper to be a specialized line best suited for refined presentation of dry flies on moving water. But failing to understand its versatility is a common oversight by many who might benefit by simply giving it a try.
Fancy your chances of winning a £2,000 cash prize? Enter the
2014 Airflo World Bank Masters!
The Airflo Bank Masters is now in it’s third year running, and with a first prize fund of £2000, it’s easy to understand why this comp is such a success!
With over 25 heats across the UK at recognised fisheries and still waters, and the opportunity to enter more than one heat to increase your chances of qualifying, why not enter the Airflo Bank Masters and try your hand at the fantastic cash and fly fishing tackle prizes?
The entry fee is just £27, with a free goody bag for your first entry, then any additional entries are charged at £23 with no addition goody bag.
Your free goody bag includes, an Airflo fly line and a pack of Iain Barr flies! (Worth over £50 RRP)
Where can you fish? Check out : Airflo Bank Master Championship Heats
The Final will be fished on the 13th of April 2014 at Elinor Trout Fishery
*Download your entry form here:
Airflo World Bank Masters Open Championships – Entry Form 2014
Have you ever come across something whilst out fishing that was too close for comfort?
Even though documentaries are very informative, they can sometimes put the heebeegeebees into anglers! TV programs such as David Attenborough’s Life of Mammals and River Monsters can give us anglers a great insight into whats really out there or beneath the surface but here are a few ‘fishermens tails’ which you couldn’t tame with your fishing rod!
We’ve all heard some sort of big cat story, the beast of Bodmin Moore is one that particularly sticks in my mind, but the black panther is an elusive and feared creature and is occasionally spotted whilst anglers wander the river banks.
James Anderson said “A large cat, size of German shepherd, black, long thin tail, it just stood and watched me as I walked past it just 10 yards away towards my favourite pool. It was safe to say I didn’t hang around long!”
Fallen trees are always a hazard – Motorists, public and fisherman can severely effected by fallen trees. Here are two fallen tree/angling related accidents, one with a lucky escape, the other, unfortunately not so lucky.
Stephen Gale said “About 4 weeks ago me and my friend Tim were fishing the river for grayling and he wanted to try some fast shallow water. I didn’t fancy that bit of water for some reason. Good job we went to a deeper stretch as a big tree up rooted in the water 50 yards behind us. The tree went with a right bang and we were so glad we went further up stream. I am still a bit nervous of windy days on the river“
Anthony Evans said “At 2am one morning I made out the shape of another angler on the bank, we said “Hello” and he asked me what the wading was like where I was out in the river. I told him it was level gravel. He shared with me that he no longer waded… not since his brother had been taken by a fallen tree and drowned! I left the river shortly after“
As friendly and adorable as they look, we all know the problems they cause on fish stocks. But when one jumps from the bank in the middle of the night, right behind where you’re peacefully swinging your flies for sea trout, they can certainly scare the living daylights out of you!
Alex Jones said “I was fishing the river wear at dusk in September and heard an almighty splash. After a little confusion and nothing in site I put it down to the eroding bank falling in or possibly a salmon leaping from the water. So I waded back in and heard breathing in front of me but couldn’t see as the light had almost gone then saw a huge otter snarling in front of me I ran out of the water and back to the car, scary buggers“
Probably the scariest of them all, a wooden, bow front landing net.
Peter hendrix said “Walking back to the car last summer when it was nearly dark I absolutely **** myself when I heard something creeping up behind me. It was my landing net which had come off the magnetic clip and was dragging across the floor!“
The worst thing is when you are out in the dark and the creeps suddenly get into your head – no matter what you do they wont go away. What you should try and tell yourself is that most animals are more afraid of you, than you are of them and that you are probably safer in the middle of a river than most city centers at kicking out time.
I mean, there’s not too many axe murderers stalking the rivers at night looking for victims – Right?
For the second time in just a few months, another giant sea creature has been found on the coast of California. This time a Giant squid measuring over 150 feet from head to tip of the tentacle has been washed ashore on the beach of the west-coast of the United States.
Judging by reports, experts in ‘radioactive gigantism’ believe these enlarged animals are coming from the waters near the Fukushima Dai-ichi Nuclear Power Plant in the Futaba District of Japan. Just three years ago the Nuclear Power Plant suffered badly from the Tsunami triggered by the Tōhoku earthquake back in 2011. The plant released an estimated 10-30% of radioactive material of that recorded at the Chernobyl disaster 1986 – the second (first – Chernobyl) to be recorded a level 7 on the International Nuclear Event Scale. An unknown number of sea creatures suffered genetic mutations that triggered uncontrolled growth – or “radioactive gigantism” due to the incident.
The problem is, say officials in Santa Monica, CA, “These giant sea creatures seem to be drifting towards the US from Japan” They intend to remove the beast in pieces to Scripps Research Institute so they can study it in detail.
This may well be a hoax, but could you imagine a 30ft long eel swimming up your local river, or maybe a giant mackerel following your 20lb cod hooked on your favourite fishing tackle from the bottom of the ocean? This is the possibility of radioactive gigantism!
More genetically modified fish:
Oarfish have been reported to grow up to 15 meters in length, but the longest recorded and verified is 9 meters long. Rare fish such as these are almost impossible to catch as they can dive up to more than 3,000 feet (914 meters) in depth.
Could you imagine hooking into something like this on your carp fishing rod? A giant Goldfish? After a ten minute battle, this thirty pound goldie was returned to fight another day. But with the lack of corroborating evidence, there have been many claims that the photo is nothing more than a clever hoax.
Another classic case of fish mutation would be Blinky the Three-Eyed Fish (or Blinky) – a three-eyed orange fish species, found in the ponds and lakes outside Springfield Nuclear Power Plant. The Nuclear Power Plant caused the mutations.
All the above look real enough, there is some suspicion to them all, but who are we to cast judgement. What do you think?
Does your partner, parent or friend think all fishing rods are just the same? One of the best replies we’ve heard is, “If they were all the same, why would there be so many on the market?”
As with most hobbies, fishing has become increasingly specialised, with specific types of tackle to suit every possible fishing scenario.
Some anglers are firmly set in their choice of rod, it determines what fish they will catch, what method they will use and presumably how big their catch will be! Using a fishing rod which is specifically designed to target your intended quarry can result in a better overall user experience.
Choosing a carp fishing rod must be one of the most confusing situations for any angler whatever their level of experience. With so many brands to choose from, selecting the ideal length and test curve for your fishing can become confusing.
Watch how to choose the right rod
Dave Lane and Marc Coulson explains everything you need to know about choosing a carp fishing rod in the video below.
Understanding test curves
The test curve of a carp fishing rod usually indicates how powerful it is. The higher the test curve the more powerful the rod is. For example, a rod in the 2lb test curve bracket can cast around 100 yards, a test curve of 3lb or higher are highly specialised rods, designed for anglers casting large leads and baits well over 140 yards.
A 2.5 – 2.75lb test has a very forgiving blank, allowing fish to run and lunge under the rod tip without hook pulls, these rods also make the whole experience of playing a fish more pleasurable. The higher the test curve the more brutal they are in their fish playing abilities, expect hook pulls at close range if the fish are lightly hooked.
What length rod for carp?
Most standard length carp rods are 12′ to 13′. Generally a 12′ rod will suit most carp anglers, giving sufficient length for good casting and perfect control when playing a fish. 13ft rods are more of a specialist tool, again the longer rods help achieve greater distances but the added length can become a hindrance when fishing in tight swims and battling over hanging trees.
Cosmetic VS Performance
We all know anglers are partial to a great looking fishing rod, the term ‘tackle tart’ instantly springs to mind but experience has shown us that as nice as it is to own something pretty, it’s not always the best or most practical option when it comes to looking for a carp rod. We know not everyone can make it in store to try a rod before they buy, so make sure to check online fishing tackle reviews and magazine articles to get a feel for what’s available.
What could be better than fishing your way into the new year? Follow Dave Lane in his first carp fishing video diary of 2014! In the two part diary, Dave describes (again) the advantages of moving pegs when things aren’t really going your way.
There’s some great tips in both of these carp diaries, including how to choose the correct carp setup and also how to detect if the fish are high in the water.
Check out the unbelievable underwater footage from Dave’s new GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition!
Fly fishing tackle brand, Airflo, appoint Chris Ogborne as Senior Consultant!
Chris is considered as one of the top fly fishing anglers in the UK, having captained and represented England for over 20 years, gaining a record number of caps for England. Representing his country at International, European and World level,winning almost every award in the sport.
He won the English National twice, was individual European Champion and was a part of England’s multi-gold medal winning squad on three occasions.
Chris currently runs his own pro-guide business in the South West of England where he specialises in the real challenge of wild fish in wild surroundings. His guided trips range from Sea Bass and saltwater fly fishing on the coast and beaches of Cornwall, through to wild Brown Trout and Salmon on remote moorland rivers. As well as this he is also pioneering his famous ‘light line philosophy’ in sea fishing, with a totally new slant on ultra light spin and predator fishing. He teams up with some of the best skippers in Britain to offer the ultimate boat charter days.
BVG Managing Director Rob Williams commented: ‘We are really looking forward to working with Chris on many projects, including product development and filming. He brings with him a wealth of experience and ability and anglers can look forward to hearing tips and advice from him on a regular basis in our DVD and media programmes’
An exciting new fly-fishing competition with Scierra as the main sponsor, starts Spring 2014
Scierra Pairs is very different from other fly-fishing competitions.
*Pairs of Anglers enter and fish together in the same boat.
*Rules, including fly sizes, are more relaxed.
*Junior participants are encouraged with discounted entry fees.
*Every Angler receives a value pack with relevant and valuable products, worth more than the joint entry fee.
*Heats on all fisheries with sufficient demand.
*Hidden prizes in a proportion of value packs, and prizes awarded at every heat.
*Cash prize fund of £3750 at the Grand Final, with cash down to fourth place.
The organiser of the competition is England’s top competition angler, Phil Dixon.
Phil says of the Scierra Pairs ” Scierra Pairs is a great concept. Allowing each pair to fish together and relaxing fly sizes and other rules will encourage more people into the sport. As a former junior international, I hope that the lads/daughters and Dads discount will attract many young anglers. The support of Scierra and our other sponsors, means that we give value to each and every angler, as well as a great prize fund”.