The Airflo Rocket Fly Rod – UK Angler Feedback

The Airflo Rocket fly rod was released last year to critical acclaim. Beautifully finished, with unbeatable performance it’s proven itself to be a best seller and anglers favourite. We can honestly say that this fly rod range has thoroughly pleased every fisherman who has ever used, reviewed or purchased one. Read on to find out why top UK anglers love their Rocket rods so much!

Gareth Jones, the Airflo sales director is one of the UK’s leading competition fly anglers. Gareth has been using the 10′ #8 ”competition special” on numerous UK reservoir fisheries. This model is purpose deigned for the UK reservoir angler needing the ability to handle all densities of sinking fly lines with ease.

‘This 4 piece rod oozes power and loads smoothly to launch some of my sinking lines over 50 yards when fishing from the shore. Whilst it has incredible power, it is not overly aggressive and does not pull the hook hold when you get fish close to the net, making it perfect for early season competition and bank fishing.”

During the intensive field testing of this rod prior to release early last year, Gareth caught some lovely Farmoor trout using the new Airflo Forty Plus ‘Booby fly line’ for a Trout Fisherman magazine article – see image below.

Farmoor rainbow - tamed on teh 10' #8 competion special.

Gareth with Farmoor rainbow – tamed on the 10′ #8 competition special.

The 10 #8 competition special model went on to the win the prestigious Trout Fisherman magazine’s ”tackle testers choice” award in November 2015. This is what tester Robbie Winram thought of the 10′ #8:

‘If you are in a boat rocking and rolling in the wind and rain, this rod can work tirelessly, punching out sunk lines all day long.”

Robbie Winram was very impressed with the Airflo rocket fly rods.

Robbie Winram was seriously impressed with the Airflo rocket fly rods.

Chris Ogborne made use of his 10′ #6/7 rocket rod in many stillwater fly fishing locations, both at home and abroad. Here’s what Chris had to say:

”If ever there was the ultimate all-round ten footer, then this is it.  Amazing on Blagdon, superb on Corrib, and out of this world for sea bass fishing on the beach down here in Cornwall. The combination of sensitivity and feel is matched by arguably the best balance I’ve felt, not just at this length but at any.  A very special fishing tool.”

Our online marketing manager Ceri Thomas field tested the 9 foot #6/7 model for nearly a year. It rapidly became his favourite rod for stillwater angling.

”This rod is ideal for the small stillwater angler. Light with a crisp and responsive mid-tip action it’s simply lovely to cast and use. I have also enjoyed catching wild brown trout in the Welsh hill lakes using this rod – the four section design comes in handy when getting off the beaten track!”

Ceri with a wild brown in the net.

Ceri with a wild brown in the net.

Fishtec blogger Rene Alleyne spent many late nights last summer on the river Towy in search of sea trout. Rene simply loved using his rocket 10′ #7/8 weight:

This rod was an absolute joy to fish with. It does everything I need it to and cast’s very smoothly, whether using small flies or big surface lures. It will cast two heavy tubes at distance no problem at all. I’m looking forward to getting back out at night with this rod already for next season

Towy Sea Trout

Rene’ with just some of the Towy sea trout he caught using his Airflo Rocket 10′ 7/8 fly rod.

Fishtec’s marketing director Tim Hughes traveled up to Clywedog reservoir in Mid Wales and used his 10′ #6/7 to catch hard fighting rainbows off the top on the drift.

”The 10 #6/7 has everything you need for floating line action. Forgiving and feather light, with a nice fish playing action. It also has the backbone to handle the full range of sinkers and intermediates.”

Tim Hughes into a fish on the dries.

Tim Hughes putting a bend into his 10′ 6/7 rocket.

Young Callum Russell got a new fly rod for Christmas! His father, competition angler Matt got him a 9’6 #6/7 rocket fly rod as an upgrade from his trusty Super-stik.

”My 9’6′ #6/7 rocket is amazing! The colour is great and it casts like a dream, it helps me get an extra 3 or 4 yards which great when the fish move out due to my father’s bad casting.”

Here he is with the fish that christened his brand new rocket on Ellerdine lakes!  And yes, he out fished dad (again!) that day… To say Callum is thrilled with the rod is a big understatement.

Callum Russell with an Ellerdine lake double figure bow'

Callum Russell with an Ellerdine lake double figure bow’

So, if you are looking for a new fly fishing rod to help kick off your 2016 trout fishing look no further – the Rocket might be just what you’re looking for!

For full details of the Airflo Rocket fly rod range click here.

11 Top Tips For Looking After Your Fly Rod

Here at Fishtec we have seen many times over that an improperly cared for fly rod can let you down. Caring for your fly fishing rod in the correct way will make it perform better, be 100% reliable and help make it last you a lifetime. Read on to find out how fly rods should be treated.

Look after your fly rod- and it will look after you! (Image

Look after your fly rod- and it will look after you! (Image

Follow our 11 top tips for taking care of your precious fly rod:

1. Take the cellophane off the handle: We see cellophane left on rod handles far too often in social media pics, when talking to anglers on the bank and in returns. You should always remove the cellophane from a cork rod handle before using it. It’s only there to keep dirt off in the warehouse/showroom. If you don’t, moisture will get underneath and will rot the cork and crumble the filler out. Naked cork also offers a far better grip and feel!

2. Never pack away a soaking wet rod: We have had several customer returns where this has clearly been done, with the rod stowed in a soaking wet bag and then zipped up in a tube. The strong musty smell of mildew is very apparent, as is mold and lifted white discoloured varnish. This is a sure-fire way to ruin your rod – cork will go spongy, glue will go soft, whippings will soak up water and it can spoil the varnished finish.

This rod bag was stained and rotten from being repeatedly stowed wet. The rod inside was in a poor condition.

This rod bag was stained and rotten from being repeatedly stowed wet. The rod inside was in a poor condition.

This fly rod has been repeatedly stored soaking wet - and the finish has started to bubble as a result.

This fly rod has been repeatedly stored soaking wet – and the finish has started to bubble as a result.

3. Give your rod a wash: Occasionally your rod deserves a clean up! Not every session, but once in a while. Most anglers never do this, but it will help enhance performance, particularly if the eyes are dirty. Use a sponge, luke-warm water and fairy liquid. An old toothbrush will help you get in the eyes and crevasses in the reel seat and spacer. If you use your rod exclusively in saltwater, then this is essential after every use. At the same time take the opportunity to check rings for wear and damage.

Use a toothbrush to clean up your eyes once in a while.

Use a toothbrush to clean up your eyes once in a while.

4. Clean your cork: Your cork handle can get dirty, discoloured and even muoldy. The best way to deep clean is to use isopropyl alchohol and a rag (same stuff used to repair Simms waders). This stuff is also available as the Airflo Bloc-IT leak detector. Lighter fluid can also be used to give your cork a good cleanse.

5. Clean the ferrules: Take care to ensure your ferrules are clean. Grit, dirt etc. can and will get trapped in them. If dirty when you push together you risk them getting stuck, or causing damage to varnish and ferrules. This in turn then contributes to sections slipping, or getting stuck.

A ferrule damaged by grit and dirt trapped at the joint.

A ferrule damaged by grit and dirt trapped at the joint.

6.Check your ferrules during fishing: Even the best designed fly rods will experience some twisting at the section joints. One angler will get slippage but a friend picking up and casting same rod may not! It all depends on the individual caster’s ability, casting style, fly line used, even wind direction – the way you cast and fish has a huge impact on this.  Every angler should check the connections and push back together (if necessary) as an automatic reflex at least several times each session. Loose sections are a major cause of broken rods.

7. Use candle wax on a loose section: Over time due to improper care of ferrules (see tips 5. & 6) sections can be more prone to twist if they have worked loose or have had grit in them. Use of candle wax rubbed on male part of ferrule will help slippage greatly.

8. Pack your rod way carefully: A major cause of breakage is a rod just carelessly thrown in the car boot, garage corner etc. The wife, kids or dog knock them over yet the rod makers get the blame when an inch missing off the tip or crack is discovered on the water side. Once your rod is dry use the rod sleeve and hard case it was originally supplied with. If you have lost yours, these Airflo multi rod cases are perfect for keeping several fly rods out of harms way.

9. Rod sections stuck together: Stuck sections are most often caused by lack of cleaning ( see tip 5.) If this happens try using two people each side and pull straight. If that fails cool down, or freeze the stuck section then pour warm water over the female section only, then pull hard. Getting hold of non slip rubber patches (used in drawers) or using a tea towel for a better grip can be a great help.

10. Store the sections in the correct way: Stow with the cork handle up with the tip end also facing upwards next to it. This minimises any chance of the tip getting damaged when being pushed down, and the handle acts to protect the tip and give something to grip when pulling out of the case.

11. Clean your reel seat and thread: Prevent your locking rings from jamming and cross threading by cleaning regulatory with an old toothbrush. If you fail to do this you could ruin your reel seat – many rod makers charge extra to replace butt sections!

Grit has been trapped in the locking rings - and has damaged the thread.

Grit has been trapped in the locking rings – this has damaged the thread.



Clever Tips For Catching Cod



Image source: Vlada Z/Shutterstock
The beauty that is cod

Know your quarry. If cod’s your bag, this guide is for you. To help you in your quest for the ultimate catch, we’ve trawled the net for the best cod fishing tips from anglers and bloggers around the country.

  • Target species: Cod
  • British record (shore): 44lb 8oz (1966)
  • Average catch size: 5 – 15lbs
  • Spawns: Late winter to early spring
  • Habitat: Shoals in deep cold water
  • Preferred bait: Voracious feeder, scours the seabed. Also hunts dab, sandeels and pouting

Read on to find out how to make sure it’s fresh fish and chips for tea!

1. Be at the right place at the right time

Cod on the rocks

Image source: Fishing Tails
The Marsden area of South Shields

Local knowledge
Study your local area and speak to other fishermen before you decide where to set up. As Simon Parsons tells us on Facebook:

“You could have the best bait, the best rigs and the sharpest hooks in the world. If you’re not there at the right time for that particular place neither will the fish.”

Stormy seas

After a storm is the best time to catch a cod. Fishing Tails’ writer, Sean McSeveny, and a number of other anglers who posted on our Facebook page agree that churned up water means cod are likely to come inshore to feed on the abundant food churned up from the seabed by the waves. It’s a small time window though, so make sure you’re always ready to fish.

Cold catch

Ceri  Owen also mentions that cod like cold water, so storm-chasing after a frost or during a cold snap could improve your chances of a good catch. Study the weather forecast, and know when to make your move.


Most fish feel safer under cover of darkness, and many of you believe cod will come closer to shore at night. But they may also come into the shallows when there’s an offshore wind.
Christopher Middleton of British Sea Fishing tells us that whatever the time of day, you’ll always have a chance of catching cod in deeper water:

“Piers and deep water rock marks can be good choices for anglers looking to catch big cod due to the easy access to deep water they offer.”

2. Top tackle

Beach casting tackle

Beach casting tackle – strong and straightforward

Strong and simple

Keep your tackle strong and simple. Casting into rough water or around rocks means it’s important to minimise the chance of breakage. And remember you’re looking for big fish in deep water, so your tackle needs to be up to the challenge. Heavy lines, hooks and weights are a must.

Cod might not be strong fighters like pollack or bass, they can still be a struggle to reel in. Christopher’s advice for shore anglers:

“Use a 12ft beachcaster which is capable of casting at least 6oz, along with a powerful multiplier or large fixed spool reel.”

Rigs and hooks

Going after bigger fish means bigger hooks – at least size 3/0 to 4/0, or even up to 6/0. Large hooks also prevent bait stealing by smaller fish.

Try using a circle hook for the top hook of a pennell rig, says Fishtec’s Ceri Owen. Cod are known to swallow baits right down, and these can be difficult to unhook, causing unwanted fatalities. Ceri continues:

“The circle hooks tend to hook in the corner of the cod’s mouth. I realise that they can still swallow the one Pennell hook; however getting one hook deep down is better than 2 hooks, which results in more fish being returned.”

Want to know what a pennel rig is? Check out the images below. A clipped down pennell rig (left) is a good rig for fishing for cod from sandy beaches. For fishing for cod from mixed or rough ground, try the popular pennell pulley rig (right).

Cod rigs

Image source: British Sea Fishing
Clipped down pennell rig (left) and pennell pulley rig (right)

3. Best baits


Image source: Go Fishing – Sea Angler
Lugworms at their squirmy best!

Greedy cod

Cod are greedy fish that will eat almost anything including smaller fish. That’s great for anglers because it means you have a wide choice of baits with which to entice them. On the down side, cod can be unpredictable feeders; what works well one day may not work the next.

Live bait is best but it can be difficult to get hold of all year round. Sean bagged over 300 codling last season. His advice is to go prepared with a variety of baits:

“One day all they wanted was Crab, the next it had to be Black Lugworm and at the start of the season, when the Squid were about, it was Squid. If you have a selection of fresh and frozen baits with you, your chance of having what they want is increased.”

Sean often uses frozen bait, keeping in an insulated bag until he needs it. That way it stays frozen meaning he can take the leftovers home to use another day.

Decent portions

Don’t skimp on bait. As Ceri reminds us, two worms tipped with a squid or crab can easily be swallowed by a 1.5lb codling. Imagine what a 5lb+ cod can wolf down!
But while it’s important to use large baits, do keep them streamlined. Sean suggests using bait elastic to make your baits compact, and always clip them down.
Neil Wilson shared a handy bit of insight on our Facebook post. He says:

“Everyone rushes to get the squid & cuttle big baits out. I have found at the start of the cod season a live whiting or pout catch the big girls for some reason. Then when it’s REALLY cold the big smelly bait come into their own!”

4. Stay Safe

Shore fishing

Staying safe keeps fishing a relaxing sport

Do take safety seriously writes Fishtec’s resident sea angler, Ceri Owen. If the weather’s really bad wait until the end of the storm, before you go fishing. There were 381 accidental drownings in 2013, according to ROSPA. Don’t become a statistic

  • Wear appropriate clothing – dress for the weather!
  • Make sure you’re visible to other anglers, especially around rougher waters.
  • Carry a phone and make sure it is fully charged.
  • Take a torch.
  • Tell someone where you are going and when you will be back.
  • Check the tide times – don’t get stranded!
  • Be aware of your environment and prevailing weather conditions – for example, don’t fish from a cliff or exposed area when there’s a big swell!

Tight lines!

So there you have it – some tips and tricks to help you catch one of the nation’s favourite fish. With a little work you’re sure to improve your chances of catching one of these beautiful fish, either for the thrill of the chase, or for your own table.

Your fishing rod can save the planet

Cork fishing rod

Got a cork rod? You’re helping the environment!

Did you know the manufacture of your fishing rod provides a lifeline to one of the oldest industries in the world?

That’s because if, like many fly fishermen, you go for the tried and tested feel of an old-school cork handle, not only are you keeping an age old tradition alive you’re also safeguarding the cork oak forests of Southern Europe and North Africa.

Think we’re over exaggerating? The cork business really needs your help…

The wonderful world of cork

Cork groves in Portugal

Image source: Charles Fenno Jacobs
A cork grove in Portugal.

The cork oak forests of Portugal, Spain, Italy and North Africa are one of the most ecologically diverse habitats on the planet. And the cork industry which harvests the bark, is highly sustainable, in fact it’s argued that ongoing stewardship of the forests is a vital part of the maintenance of the ecosystem. Cork bark is harvested by hand using short handled axes, and as long as it’s done correctly, the trees can be harvested every nine or ten years and will still live to be over 200 years old.

Cork is an incredible product. As any self respecting fisherman will know, one of the advantages of a cork handled fishing rod is that it repels water. It’s a rot resistant material that is not only elastic, and therefore comfortable to use, it also stays dry and therefore light, an important consideration in maintaining the balance of the rod. The magic ingredient is a substance called Suberin; it’s what gives cork its waxy rubbery feel and its natural function in the cork tree is to prevent moisture loss in the hot dry climates in which it grows.

Screwing up the cork trade

Cork trees

Image source: inacio pires
Cork is good for the environment.

Wine has been stoppered with corks as far back as anyone can remember, even the wine ampules uncovered at Pompeii were sealed with cork bungs. But modern manufacturing now threatens an end to the age old tradition; we’re talking plastic corks and screw cap wine bottles. To put it bluntly, they’re screwing the cork trade.

Until plastic and metal corks and caps entered the market, the New York Times reports that around 75% of the world’s cork went for wine bottle corks, but in the last decade experts estimate the cork industry has lost a fifth of its market share to screw caps. That shortfall in orders is a hard blow for an industry that supports rural communities in some of the poorest parts of Europe, and in the cork forests, all is not well.

As farmers begin to neglect the cork trees, there’s a knock-on effect that goes beyond economic to threaten rare habitats.  That’s why it’s so important for anglers to continue to support the trade through their choice of fishing rod, and tipple.

It’s not just your fishing rod and wine…

Cork flooring

Image source: Olha Vysochynska
Could you be tempted with cork flooring?

Why stop at an elegant champagne cork handle for your rod? Cork is a highly versatile product that’s used for everything from notice boards, to parts of the heat shield of space shuttles. Naturally fire retardant, it makes a fantastic flooring alternative to lino or laminates that’s hard wearing, a natural sound insulator, easy  to clean and looks fantastic.

And for fly fishing enthusiasts, what better excuse for shelling out on that lovely new fly rod than protecting the planet? Tempted? here are a few of ours favourites.


Spring Trouting on the River Usk

March the 3rd was the fishing opening day on the Welsh rivers for trout. Unfortunately for Fishtec employees this was during the week, so for us the fly fishing season could not start until the weekend!

The fly fishing gear was eagerly dusted off and we hit the local river Usk for a few hours. Marketing director Tim Hughes chose a river Usk beat near Brecon, and landed 9 nice wild trout, all on deeply fished nymphs tied on jig hooks. Check out his cool video using a GoPro here-

Tim captured his fish on an Airflo Streamtec nano rod, 10 foot rated 3/4 which is ideal for short line nymphing.

10 miles further upstream near Sennybridge, Ceri Thomas battled a brutal head on wind which made casting and line control extremely difficult, but still managed to land a nicely marked 15 inch brown trout on a deeply fished nymph, presented under an airlock strike indicator.

River Usk brown trout

River Usk brown trout

The conditions were still very cold and blustery, with few flies hatching in the upstream reaches to bring the fish near the surface. As the conditions warm up the fly hatches the river Usk is famed for will kick into life – and should provide some world class dry fly sport.

River Usk early spring

River Usk in early spring

For those looking to book an early season river fishing trip in Wales we recommend the Wye and Usk foundations booking office.  Their superb online system makes selecting and then paying for your chosen stretch extremely easy, with up to date river level information and anglers reports readily on hand.




TF Gear Compact Rods

Dave-Lane Carp Fishing

Looking for a new rod to kick start your spring campaign? Look no further than the TF gear compact range of coarse fishing rods, ideal for those starting out in the sport and the seasoned veteran alike.

What are the compact rods you ask? Well the concept is these coarse fishing rods are shorter in length than the traditional fishing rods on the market. This confers many advantages to the fisherman.

  • Easy maneuvering – in tightly spaced commercial fishery swims, or on the river bank when you have to clamber through heavy bank side foliage.
  • Greatly reduced weight – These fishing rods are also significantly lighter in the hand making your fishing more pleasurable.
  • Easy transportation – these rods are guaranteed to fit in your car!
  • Better casting accuracy – with less leverage to deal with and a quicker recovery time accurate casting becomes much easier.
  • Improved control when playing a fish – its much easier to put the pressure on a decent fish and change angle of play quickly with a shorter rod.
  • Reduced cost – shorter length equals less carbon used. This cost saving has been passed on, so higher quality blanks and components are used in manufacture. You get a better quality product for less money.
  • Fish playing fun – feel everything, and put the thrill back into a fight! While at the same time there is enough power to quickly tame large specimen fish.

TF Gear produce a compact rod for every fishing scenario you will ever encounter. There are two ranges – The original compact rods, which and have a classic brown ground matt carbon finish, and feature smooth mid-tip progressive actions. These rods are great value, but no compromise has been made on quality or finish.  Secondly the lighter weight and higher modulus carbon nantec range, which feature slimmer blanks and a slightly faster action. In addition most of the nantec rods come with a free TF gear Airlite reel, making them an incredibly competitive package.

The TF Gear nantec compact allrounder

The TF gear compact allrounders must be the best seller best in the range. These highly versatile rods offer you numerous options, you can go from a 8 to 10 foot length with a two foot extension piece. They are also supplied with 3 x push in feeder quiver tips and an avon top, allowing you to fish multiple methods – float, feeder, touch ledgering, surface fishing or even spinning.

The TF Gear compact commercial feeder rod


The TF Gear Compact commercial float and feeder rods are available in either 8 foot or 10 foot configurations. The feeder rods come complete with 3 push in quivers. They are ideal for small fishery work, from roach and rudd to tench and bream, these rods handle them all. The 8 footers in particular are ideal for really crowded swims, and also make superb rods for youngsters to easily use.

TF Gear Compact carp rods are 10 foot in length with a 2.5 test curve. These fantastic rods are not just ideal for carp, they can be used for barbel, large specimen tench, chub or even pike and zander fishing using a float and deadbait presentation.

Alex Bones, expert carp and match angler talk us through the nantec compact carp rod.

Alan Yates Sea Fishing Diary Feb 2015


The early spring sunshine brings lots of false dawns at this time of year with spring seemingly about to arrive daily, especially around the south of the Country. But extremely low temperatures, snow melt water and icy winds lay in wait to dampen enthusiasm for many shore anglers and the only true pointer to springs arrival are the extending daylight hours.

Lots of anglers may believe that temperature plays the biggest part in the arrival of spring and the start of the improvements in fishing it brings, but it’s the daylight hours that count the most. Look on the land to see why – sunshine hours are steady, regularly improving each day, tangible proof to life that spring is coming. The light does raise ground temperature, but it’s the extending length of each day that sets nature on its spring journey! On the shore the sunny side of the groyne sees the sand and mud warm in readiness for the crabs to moult, whilst shallow water calms and clears allowing the water temperature to increase.

It’s a great time of year with the change in the fishing tangible – The pin whiting so long a winter pest, start to thin out with small pouting amongst the arrivals. They are good news for the match anglers and bass food so don’t knock them! In recent years it’s a time for the rays to show along with returning dogfish and whilst the rays may be spasmodic in terms of which species and location they, especially the thornback, have become a major spring species in many southern regions.

This year with the codling fairly prolific throughout the winter, they too will show in spring and this year should be the first proper spring codling run for several years. Too small to spawn they did not leave to the deeper water at the end of the winter and will linger and fatten around many coasts to take advantage of the peeling crabs before then heading to deep water and an all fish diet.

Other spring species include the plaice and they too have enjoyed an upsurge in local populations in some regions – said to be because of a plaice quota reduction on the commercials. Whatever, it’s nice to see these very slow growing flatties making a comeback, although in the early weeks of spring fresh from spawning they really are lean and not worth eating so return if you can.

Chris Clark of Lymington with a big undulate ray – was it late winter or early spring?

Chris Clark of Lymington with a big undulate ray – was it late winter or early spring?


Time to get the sea fishing rods out if you haven’t already – I’m particularly looking forward to the extended evenings, which make a late afternoon beach or pier session once again worthwhile. Night fishing is great in the winter, but daylight fishing is so much more enjoyable!

The debate about bass preservation rumbles on with EU proposals to raise the bass minimum size limit much talked about and generally supported by anglers. Whatever the limit set it will never be high enough and the commercial lobby will oppose it and angling has a fight on its hand if the commercials think they can have a legal limit lower than anglers! Catch limits are also essential and I as I have said before would also like to see a bass upper size limit. The Angling Trust is doing its best to fight the sea angler’s corner and all power to them – you can help by joining them as a member, a small price to pay for a voice!

On the tackle front the year brings, amongst a few new developments in the TF Range, a new fixed spool reel. I had to switch to fixed spool reels because of a ruined shoulder caused by years of dogfish and weed hauling and must say lightening down in general has helped make much of my shore fishing prove far more fun when the going gets tough. I have tried braid line, 10lb mono, 4oz leads, lighter rigs, tapered leaders and all in all I must say it’s been an experience. But one major factor was that I got fussier about reel performance and found some of the cheaper fixed spool models less effective than I required. And so we are introducing a new lighter model with a more sophisticated line lay for increased performance both in terms of casting and feel – I hope you enjoy it.

TF Gear Sea Fishing Reel

New TF Gear Sea Fishing Reel

Finally, have you noticed that suddenly mono line quality has improved dramatically with the arrival of more lines containing co polymers? A tougher outer shell, higher knock resistance and overall improved strength are now something you can take for granted and I urge anglers who think they are using the best line to look again, because some of the new kids on the block are awesome and they are in the Fishtec catalogue!

Tight lines,

Alan Yates

Progress – Fly Fishing in the high country

Rene Harrop Fishtec Airflo

Beginning with winter solstice, the journey to spring in my part of the world is measured in pitifully small increments of advancement in temperature and daylight. While the improvements can seem barely noticeable through December and January, hope begins to appear with the arrival of February when average daily highs hover around the freezing mark and more than an hour of fishing light has begun since the shortest day of the year.

A fishing day for me is anytime I am not fighting ice encrusted guides or the risk of frostbitten fingers. And while winter conditions remain a constant throughout the month, a reduction of subzero nights and a northerly migrating sun bring a progressive increase to the number of hours I am willing to spend pursuing trout on the Henry’s Fork when winter’s worst lies in the rearview mirror.

Rene Harrop Airflo


Although the arrival of February brings a fairly significant increase in opportunity for casting to rising midge feeders, most who fish above the 5,000 foot level will spend more time probing the depths of deeper runs and pools for the larger residents who will remain disinterested in the exertion of surface feeding until emerging insects are larger and the water warms to above 40ᵒ F.

Whether fishing nymphs or streamers; deep and slow are the bywords for fishing water only a few degrees above freezing. And unlike juvenile trout which will occupy the shallow edges, adults are prone to the comfort and security of depth in their selection of winter habitat. With metabolism slowed by cold temperature, big trout do not seem to require a high volume of food nor are they often willing to expend energy or fat stores in pursuit of fast moving prey or food drifting outside a distinct comfort zone.

Rene Harrop Airflo

In cold water, mature trout seem inclined to hug the stream bottom where the water is generally warmer and most food sources are concentrated. Upward or lateral movement of more than a foot or two is the exception rather than the rule for winterized fish which feed opportunistically on organisms drifting close by rather than chasing down a meal.

Aside from midge larvae, which are about the only aquatic insects to be truly active in mid-winter, trout will not generally see a consistent food image during times when cold water dormancy limits the activity and availability of aquatic organisms. Therefore, acute selective feeding behavior associated with trout isolating their attention on a single insect species or other source of nutrition is seldom a problem through most of the winter months.

Since the opportunity to feed during this period is usually based on a random selection of nymphs, larvae, and other fish, I do not usually concern myself with precise imitation when selecting a fly pattern. A typical nymphing rig might include a heavy, black or brown stonefly pattern in size 6 or 8 and a smaller Pheasant Tail or Hare’s Ear nymph in size 14 or 16. The flies are tied to move naturally with the current by utilizing thin rubber legs or soft, flexible materials like marabou and Partridge hackle.

My winter streamers in size 6 and 8 are relatively small in comparison to what I would normally tie on in other seasons, but they seem to work just fine and represent much less work when fishing with chilled hands and a lighter fly rod. And like the nymphs, I want my streamers to display action without excessive manipulation with the rod or line. At times, I will also fish a nymph and streamer in tandem.

A 9 foot 6 weight rod allows me to switch back and forth between nymphs, streamers, and dries with relative ease, which is particularly helpful when changing rods can mean a considerable hike through knee deep snow.

My line is a double taper floater, which allows me to manage the drift with mending techniques that keep the fly moving slowly and close to the bottom. And I try to maintain a dead drift whether fishing nymphs or streamers when temperatures are at their lowest.

Rene Harrop Airflo elite-lichen

A 10 to 12 foot leader allows the fly to sink quickly to the proper depth, and I will add a small split shot or two in deeper or quicker currents. In the interest of controlling fly drift and detecting the always subtle take, I try to limit my cast to 30 feet or less.

In the high country, the rewards of winter fishing are not always defined by the size or number of the catch, especially on those welcome days in February when calm winds and a climbing sun can mask the reality that true spring weather can lay two or more months into the future. And at times like this when progress finally becomes noticeable, simply being outdoors and fishing can be reward enough.

6 Seafaring tattoos & their meanings

Ever considered having a harpoon tattooed across your chest? No? As an avid angler, perhaps you should consider it.

Traditional tattoos are imbued with deep meanings and as an enthusiastic hefter of a fishing rod and reel – the inking of a harpoon on your skin indicates you’re a member of the fishing fleet!

Read on to discover the significance of seafarers’ tats – nautical ink for salty sea dogs!

1. Hold fast

Hold Fast Tattoo

Image source: Thor
A very literal tattoo for some!

Never mind knuckles of “Love” and “Hate” – for sailors on the main, there was little time for bare knuckle boxing; far more important was to keep a firm hold of the rigging. Back in the golden age of sail there were no safety lines, no deck lights and no life jackets. One slip while working aloft  and you either thudded into the deck, leaving a nasty mess for your shipmates to clean up, or you plopped into the brine and sank to the “Odd Place” – Davey Jones’ locker.

No wonder sailors had the words “Hold” and “Fast” tattooed to their knuckles – it was an ever present reminder to cling on tight!

2. Compass rose

Compass Rose Tattoo

Image source: Lady Dragonfly CC
Never get lost again.

Such were the rigours of life at sea that many an able seaman perished by cannon ball, man-overboard, tropical miasma, gruesome discipline, falling spars, swinging blocks…the list of ways to die was long. No wonder sailors are such a superstitious bunch.

Chief among the concerns of seafaring men was getting back home. The inking of a compass rose on your skin was for luck in finding the way to your loved ones. And the nautical star? That represents the pole star – with one of those tattooed on your body, you need never be lost.

3. Swallow


Image source: Tony Atler
One swallow = 5000 miles of sea travel.

One way to tell a seafarer who’d proved worth his salt was to see how many nautical miles he’d covered. But in the days before logbooks and RYA qualifications, sailors made a tally of distances logged directly on their skin.

Swallows, famed for their long distance migrations, were proof positive of distance travelled. Each bird flying across a man’s skin represented 5000 miles of passage making. A flock of birds made you a true salt.

4. Ship

Ship Tattoo

Image source: Sarah-Rose
Made it through Cape Horn? Better get a ship tat stat.

Anglers are a competitive bunch. Let’s face it, if you’d caught a monster carp like Two Tone (RIP) chances are you might think about inking your achievement on a shoulder or arm – a permanent reminder of a day never to forget.

The same goes for the seafarers of yesteryear. There are certain experiences that make a man a man, and in the days of sailing ships, the toughest challenge of all was facing the “grey beards”, the terrifying, tumultuous waves of Cape Horn. And if you made it through that narrow, shallow bottleneck where the monstrous swells of the Southern Ocean squeeze between the Tip of South America and Antarctica – you’d want to celebrate your survival. A tattoo of a full rigged ship will do it!

5. Turtle

Turtle Tattoo

Image source: Tony Atler
A cute tattoo with horrid connotations.

“Hazing” was the name given to the ritualised humiliation of sailors who had not crossed the Equator. It was a once in a lifetime experience to be remembered with a shudder. You could be stripped, beaten, painted, dunked overboard – and all under the very noses of the officers who were supposed to maintain discipline aboard a man o’ war.

Your crime? You’d crossed the equator and entered Neptune’s realm. Once the torments were over – you were declared a “shell back”, and were permitted to have inked on your body the symbol of a true seaman – a turtle.

6. Anchor

Anchor Tattoo

Image source: Ettore Bechis
An anchor to keep you grounded.

Life on the open ocean was harsh and always dangerous, and sailors were away from home for months and often years at a time. It was a life of hardship, mishap and boredom – interspersed with moments of high drama, and terrible danger. Sailors were a breed apart, but like most men separated from friends and family – they dreamed of home.

No wonder that floating far from hearth and home, and separated from kith and kin, seafarers yearned for the stability of dry land, and familiar faces. They needed something to keep them grounded – an anchor tattoo with the names of their loved ones inscribed beneath. Mum!

7 Surprising carp facts

How well do you know your carp?

Here are some fun carp facts to help you become a font of carp wisdom.

1. Carp originate from the Black, Aral and Caspian Seas

Middle east map

Image source: CIA
The carp is now endangered in their native waters.

The common carp has its origins in the Black, Aral and Caspian Sea basins. From there the species spread east into Siberia and China, and west into the Danube. The Romans were the first Europeans to farm carp, a practice that probably developed earlier and separately in China and Japan. The later spread of the fish throughout Europe, Asia and America is purely a product of human activity.

In the US, the Asian carp is a menace, devastating native fish populations, in Japan, the Koi carp is revered as an ornamental fish. Here in the UK, we love our carp and always put them back, travel to Eastern Europe and you’ll find them on the menu. Carp are plentiful everywhere, except their native waters, where they are now endangered.

2. They arrived in Britain in the 15th century

Image of Treatsye of fysshynge wyth an angle

Image source: Budden Brooks
“He is an evil fish to take.”

It wasn’t the Romans who brought carp to Britain. In fact, the fish hasn’t been here nearly as long as some might think. The first reference to the fish appears in the, “Treatyse of Fysshynge with an Angle.” There carp is described as:

“He is an evil fish to take. For he is so strongly armoured in the mouth that no light tackle may hold him.”

There is some debate as to when the manuscript of the Treatyse was first written – the text is late 1400s, but the introduction is almost certainly a copy of a 12th century manuscript – but the fact that Chaucer makes no mention of the fish in his 14th century works makes it likely that carp came onto the menu sometime in the 15th century.

3. Carp are part of the minnow family

minnow fish

Image source: Lisa Williams
Who’d have thought the mighty carp was related to a minnow!

Carp can grow to monstrous proportions, but the fish we love to catch is actually, a minnow. The biggest carp ever caught (Guinness book of records) was a 94 lb common carp hooked by Martin Locke at Lac de Curton, France on 11th January 2010. He nicknamed the fish, Lockey’s Lump.

The reason why carp grow so big may be an evolutionary one. Carp don’t have a true stomach, instead, their intestine digests food as it travels its length. As a result, carp are constantly foraging for food. Eating a lot promotes growth, and growing quickly helps young fish avoid becoming prey. The result: a quick growing fish that eats a lot – potentially 30 –  40% of its body weight a day.

4. Carp caviar is popular in Europe and the US

carp caviar

Europe and the US can’t get enough carp caviar.
Source: Seabamirum

Carp was originally introduced to America in the 19th century as a cheap food source.  Overfishing of native species from rivers and lakes, as well as the appetites of European settlers encouraged the US department of fisheries to begin a concerted campaign to breed carp in 1877.

To begin with, carp were prized for the table, but over time, as they escaped into North American river systems, the fish became an invasive menace, out eating its native rivals and destroying fragile ecosystems. Carp are now hated, but nevertheless, like in Europe the US market for carp caviar is booming – proof that if you can’t beat it – you may as well eat it!

5. It’s tricky to know their gender (unless it’s mating season)

carp gender

“Hey Carl!”, “It’s Carly!”
Source: Phil’s 1stPix

Sexing your catch isn’t easy, especially outside of the mating season, but there are some clues about whether your prize specimen is a boy or a girl. First off, males tend (though not always) to be a little slimmer than females, and their genital opening is concave and less noticeable than that of the female, which is larger and may even protrude slightly.

During mating season, it’s a whole lot easier to tell male from female. Females’ abdomens swell with eggs and their genital enlarges to resemble a small fleshy tube. Males, meanwhile develop “tubercles”, small bony lumps around the head and gills, and they lose their mucus coating, becoming rough to the touch.

6. Carp are considered a good omen

Kwan-yin statue over carp lake

Image source: Yunnan Adventure
A statue of Kwan-yin overlooking a natural water fish lake.

Some love nothing better than to set off for the pond, carp fishing rods in hand, others wouldn’t dream of catching their favorite koi. But whether you’re a European who loves to catch carp, or an Asian who rears them to look at, what we share is our love of carp and an ancient belief in the good fortune they bring.

The Christian tradition of eating fish on a Friday originates in the pagan mythology of the Norse and Germanic peoples of Europe. The day’s name comes from Freyja or perhaps Frigg, both goddesses, and possibly originally the same deity. Freyja was the goddess of fertility – and her symbol is the fish.

Travel east to China and you’ll find carp associated with the “Great Mother”, Kwan-yin. Associated with, among other things, rebirth and fertility, Kwan-yin is often depicted in the form of a fish.

7. Koi carp can fetch over a million dollars

Koi carp

Koi carp can fetch insane prices.
Source: sophietica

Japanese Koi carp are among the most expensive fish on the planet. A symbol of prosperity and status, it’s impossible to say exactly how much the most expensive fish are sold for since negotiations usually happen in private.

It’s thought that at the peak of the Koi “boom” in 1980s Japan, the most highly prized specimens could fetch as much as $1,000,000 – or around $2,800,000 in today’s money. The buyers were rich corporations who displayed their “catch” in ornamental tanks in office atria.