Fly Fishing For Pike On Canals And Small Waters

From pint-sized rivers and drains to classic narrowboat canals, smaller waters offer some cracking pike fishing on the fly. Canal Fishing author Dom Garnett shares a wealth of tips and tricks to getting the best from these delightful fisheries.

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The biggest waters might steal the headlines, but smaller venues offer cheap and accessible sport for pike.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

With so many British anglers living within a few miles of a canal, these waters could very well be described as “bread and butter” fishing. However, I don’t want to do them a disservice because the sport on offer can be truly excellent. Admittedly, most canals contain few really large predators, but they often have good numbers of fit, aggressive pike to provide year round sport, along with the odd surprise.

Canals, in particular, have a special place in my heart. In fact, I may never have got into pike fishing without the local “cut.” Virtually every time I went to catch a netful of small roach and perch, one of these predators would crash the party, stealing a fish on the way in or even attacking the keep net. Inevitably, I eventually decided I wanted to get even and land one.

Although I grew up as a bait or lure fisherman on these waters, it was the fly that was to become my absolute favourite method. On so many levels, it seemed the ideal way to fish the canal. You don’t need silly heavy tackle for one thing; an eight-weight rod suffices. Nor do you need to cast miles – and in fact some of my best fish came from right under the bank.

So where should you start when it comes to canal fishing for pike? Here are some tips  that also apply to fishing for pike on drains, fens and smaller rivers.

Which fly rod is best for pike on smaller waters?

On so many smaller waters, the pike are modest sized and you don’t need a ten or eleven weight rod. Much of the time, I use a nine or eight weight, which is fine provided you don’t use huge flies. In some ways the weight class is just a number – so do go for a rod with some backbone (a pike or saltwater model is ideal and currently I’m using the Airflo Bluetooth 8/9 for my small water fishing which so far seems a pretty decent rod without a silly price tag).

Fly lines, leaders and traces for pike

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A nice fish from the towpath. Typically, canal pike will be in the 1-5lbs stamp, while a “double” should be regarded as an excellent catch.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

In terms of fly lines, go for a dedicated pike model if you can afford one. You want quite a meaty taper to turn over the flies. However, if you’re just starting out and only have a trout fly line, you’ll still manage with smaller pike flies. 90% of the time a floating line is all you need for smaller waters; in fact I’ve only ever switched to a fast intermediate on the biggest ship canals that are over ten feet deep.

Leaders must be robust because there’s always the potential for a surprise monster. There’s no advantage at all in using lighter leaders, so go for minimum 20lbs fluorocarbon. I tend to use about seven or so feet of this, attached to a wire trace. My traces are Authanic wire, or another knotable wire, but I don’t use big clips and swivels: a small, neat leader ring connects leader to trace, while a small but tough snaplink connects to the fly.

How long should a wire trace be for pike? Mine are always 18” minimum, because otherwise a good fish could wrap around and find leader to cut. I also find the ends of the trace tend to kink first, so if I start long I can retie once or twice, without ending up with a riskily short trace.

Best pike flies for smaller waters

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I choose smaller than average pike flies for fishing canals. Here are some of my designs.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

So many of the pike flies for sale are massive great things. Fine for big waters and ten weight rods, but a pig to cast on lighter gear. So my advice would be to scale down to hook sizes from say 2-1/0 and flies from 3”-5”. Don’t think for a minute you need to use big flies to catch good pike!

I carry a few different sizes and colours. Natural hues are a good starting point, in roach or perch colouration. If the water is a bit dirty though, orange or pink are excellent high-vis colours. Last but not least, I think black is the all time most underrated colour for pike. Few anglers use it but it has saved me a blank several times.

Where to find pike

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Pike can be anywhere on weedy, feature rich waters. However, the “shelf” on each side of the canal, along with any pieces of cover, are ideal starting points.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Canals can vary quite a lot, but the golden rule to finding pike is to keep moving and searching until you locate them! It’s no use fishing just one or two spots. All kinds of features will attract them, from overhanging bushes to bends, wides and deeper areas.

On rural canals, you might find the fish right by bankside reeds and undergrowth. On just about any water, the “drop off” on each side (i.e. just as the margins fall away to the central “track”) is also a key ambush point. That said, in the dead of winter you may find pike right in the deep centre of the canal too.

Concentrations of prey fish are also worth looking out for, of course, although you may well find the pike a few yards, or even a few swims away, because unless it’s feeding time they will seldom be right in amongst the shoal. But explore everything, because quite often a seemingly featureless spot produces pike too.

Fly retrieves for pike

Perhaps the commonest mistake for beginner pike fly anglers to make is lashing their flies in ultra fast. If the fish are up for it, or you can see prey panicking, this can work. But most of the time, a slower retrieve is called for – and I like my fly to be “busy” and erratic but not too fast. A “picky” figure of eight retrieve is quite often effective.

Do experiment, however, because pike have definite “moods”. Sometimes it’s as if they are excitable and want to chase; other days they are temperamental and need more time to lash out.

Follows, takes and hook ups

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Canal pike tend to be small on average- unless you’re lucky, like The General.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Do pike always follow a fly out of hunger? I don’t think so. A lot of the time, they’re just being curious, territorial or perhaps even irritated. This could explain why quite a few fish will follow but not take. Even so, you can increase the odds by doing two things.

The first is to speed up if you see a pike following. The opposite response seems natural, but you are trying to get a reaction, not invite the pike to study the thing. Another trick is never to rush the end of the retrieve. Count to five before you lift out – and always give a few final twitches and a nice lift. Often this final burst of movement will convince a pike to lash out before dinner gets away.

Some takes will be savage and impossible to miss. Others can be more subtle and need striking. I’ve heard anglers make the case for doing this with the line or the rod. I like to do both! It sounds OTT, but pike have very bony mouths and we’re using heavy tackle so it’s safe to be bold. Pull the line firmly and shift the rod low to one side – striking upwards will often just pull the fly straight out of the mouth, rather than burying it in the “scissors” of the jaw.

Casting in tight spots

Of course, one of the challenges of canals and bushy small waters can be the lack of casting space. You’ll rarely need to cast more than ten to fifteen metres, but even that might be tricky. Side and steeple casts (where you throw the line high above an obstruction behind you) are often important. You can also work diagonally to win more space.

If you’re really struggling though, don’t panic. If there’s cover close-in you can often win a take or two by literally just flicking the fly around the margins, which is a good area. Too many of us are so busy trying to hit the far bank it’s easy to forget this.

Talking of close-in fishing, do approach each swim slowly and carefully. I usually start a step or three back from the bank and my first cast will be right into the near margin. I’ve learned to do this after spooking many pike in the near margin over the years – don’t believe anyone who tells you pike don’t spook!

Notes on pike conservation

As well as these tips on catching pike, I also wanted to include some notes on releasing them safely here. The vast majority of fishing waters will insist on a large landing net and unhooking mat, which you should always carry. It’s inexcusable to risk scratching or dropping a fish on the bank because you couldn’t be bothered to bring a mat!

You’ll also need minimum foot-long pliers or forceps to remove hooks from pike, and I recommend going and learning the ropes with an experienced angler if you’re just starting out.

Pike can fight hard and can be deceptively fragile creatures, so do play the fish quickly rather than exhausting them. The same goes for release; don’t handle or keep them out of water any longer than you need to (my recent guide to fishcare skills is a handy read on this subject).

Fantastic sport!

Dom-Garnett-pike

A well-proportioned fish, from a modest day ticket water.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

What can you expect with a typical canal? Well, they vary a great deal. The best canals for pike tend to be weedy, with fairly clear water. Those with lots of prey and cover can be prolific, and a dozen pike in a day is possible. As a general rule, I find overcast days best on clear canals and drains, while the first hour of daylight is the best time of all (lie-in addicts take note!).

Other canals and drains can be more coloured and difficult, but you may still get some joy. Indeed, you’d be surprised how well a pike can find your fly in poor clarity. Where visibility is low, you might want to go a bit bigger and brighter though.

Of course, some canals simply don’t have a huge head of pike and you may have to do some homework to seek out the specific areas they like, or rely on trial and error. Others may be dominated by other predators such as perch, or zander on the muddy, busy canals. These are another challenge altogether – but that’s another story!

A summary of top tips for fly fishing for pike

What tackle and equipment do you need to fish for pike on the fly in canals and smaller waters?

  • You don’t need heavy tackle – and eight or nine-weight rod will suffice (a pike or saltwater model is ideal).
  • In terms of fly lines, go for a dedicated pike model if you can afford one.
  • If you only have a trout fly line, use smaller pike flies.
  • Leaders must be robust – go for minimum 20lbs fluorocarbon. Dom uses about seven feet attached to a wire trace.
  • Don’t use big clips and swivels. On Dom’s set up, a small, neat leader ring connects leader to trace, while a small but tough snaplink connects to the fly.
  • For pike, use a minimum 18” wire trace.
  • You don’t need big flies to catch good pike! Scale down to hook sizes from 2-1/0 and flies from 3”-5”.
  • Use natural coloured flies for clearer water, and try orange or pink in poor visibility. Black is the most underrated fly colour for pike. Try it and see!
  • Be ready with the right equipment for safe catch and release – a large landing net, unhooking mat and foot-long pliers are essential.

What techniques help when fly fishing for pike on a canal?

  • Keep moving to find pike – try underneath overhanging bushes, bends, wides and deeper areas.
  • There’s no need to cast miles – great fish are often found right under the bank.
  • Don’t retrieve too quickly – most of the time, a slower retrieve is called for. Dom likes his fly to be “busy” and erratic but not too fast.
  • A “picky” figure of eight retrieve is often effective.
  • Lots of follows but no takes? Try speeding up to invite an attack response.
  • Don’t rush the end of your retrieve. Count to 5 before you lift out and give a few final twitches before you lift out.
  • Strike low and hard to one side, rather than upwards.
  • Don’t believe anyone who tells you pike don’t spook!

Read more from the author…

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Find out more about catching these fish – grab a copy of Flyfishing For Coarse Fish, available in both hardback and digital editions.

If you’re interested in exploring Britain’s fantastic variety of canals, or indeed tackling coarse fish on the fly, Dom’s books represent a wealth of inspiration and advice! Find both Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide and Flyfishing for Coarse Fish available in signed hardback at www.dgfishing.co.uk or as digital editions from Amazon UK. If you live in South West England, Dom also offers guided fly fishing days for pike and other species.

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Airflo Fly Dri Rucksack Review

Kieron Jenkins of Fulling Mill needed a portable fishing bag that was tough, reliable and totally waterproof for his fishing gear and camera. Here, he reviews the solution to his problem – the FlyDri back pack from Airflo.

The Fly Dri Rucksack from Airflo

The Fly Dri Rucksack from Airflo.

If you’re like me and fish a myriad of venues from small-waters to rivers with the occasional saltwater trip, you need a back pack which is not only big enough to take the necessities for the day, but tough enough to take anything the elements can throw at it. After much research and trawling the web, the obvious choice was the Airflo Flydri 30lt roll top back pack.

For me, one of the major factors in choosing this particular back pack was the price. The Flydri back pack incorporates features that are on par with other fishing brands, as well as being better than half the price…

100% Waterproof

The weather here in the U.K can be temperamental and getting caught in heavy downpours is a regular thing, and as a regular article contributor for various blogs and magazines I often carry a fair amount of camera equipment, it’s essential that the equipment stays dry. The Flydri back pack features a high frequency weld, boasting a unique seamless construction and a 2-way roll top sealing system which is 100% waterproof. This allows the pack to be submerged for a considerable amount of time without any leaks, perfect for those anglers prone to falling in! The roll top construction also ensures a fully air-tight seal, great for keeping out dust, sand and dirt, but also allowing the bag to float if accidentally dropped overboard.

The Airflo fly Dri back pack in action

The Airflo Fly Dri back pack in action

30lt Capacity with additional storage

The Airflo Flydri back pack has a 30lt capacity, which is more than enough to take a flask, waterproof jacket, a box of spare flies and a sandwich box. The back pack also features three exterior mesh pockets, one zip mesh pocket that features a bungee webbing (perfect for holding a fleece or buff that may be needed quickly). Adding to the functionality, a further interior pocket is ideal for storing car keys, cash or fishing permits.

Comfort, Safety and Support

To make your days on the water more comfortable, the Flydri back pack features padded shoulder straps with lumbar support, giving as much comfort as possible when carrying heavy loads. For extra support the waist and sternum straps are fully adjustable, I find these extremely useful when lugging lots of fishing tackle considerable distances. The back pack also features two reflective strips on the front and both shoulder straps, perfect for safety at night.

Additional features

When fishing from the shore on small-waters or along the coast, I tend to move frequently to new locations. The Flydri bag has multiple D-rings along the top and front panel that are perfect for attaching items such as net magnets, forceps or additional carabiner clips.

For those of you who may be in the market for a new back pack for fishing, I fully recommend taking a serious look at the Airflo Flydri 30lt Back Pack. Compared with other ‘fishing brand’ waterproof back packs that are more than double in price, the Flydri should certainly be top of your considerations.

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Airflo Defender Clothing Review By Robbie Winram

Well known independent fly fishing tackle expert and Anglian Water employee Robbie Winram reviews the Defender waterproof clothing from Airflo – a range designed to combat the worst possible weather conditions.

There are three main elements to the new Defender clothing range: a wading jacket, three-quarter jacket and trousers, all at £69.99 each. They are made from a two-layer durable Taslan nylon shell fabric with reinforced ripstop nylon on the high wear areas such as the seat and knees of the trousers and across the shoulders, tops of the arms and the hoods on the jackets.

The fabric also has a DWR finish so water just beads off the outside, and all the garments are windproof, waterproof and breathable. The jackets have a polyester mesh lining except for the sleeves, which are lined with a smooth polyester fabric. The trousers have a polyester mesh lining from the waist to the knees and then the smooth fabric down to the ankles.

Wading jacket

The wading jacket has a single full-length zip with a double stormflap: one has a rain gutter and the other folds over the top and secures with four Velcro closures and a metal popper stud both top and bottom. The zip tucks into a neat fleece-lined chinguard to prevent chafing.

The nice high collar is fleece-lined and the fixed hood can be rolled up and held in place with a large tab and Velcro closure. The hood has a stiffened wired peak and an elasticated cord and toggle lock adjustment around the face and on the back of the head to give a really good fit.

The sleeves have an articulated shape for ease of movement when casting and end in a simple, lightly elasticated cuff with a Velcro closure. There are two pockets on the chest with large stormflaps and Velcro closures. These pockets are elasticated at the top and expand generously to take a good-sized fly box. There is also a fabric tab and D-ring under each stormflap for tool and accessory attachment. On the front of these pockets are small flat accessory pockets with water-resistant zips. Behind each cargo pocket is a handwarmer pocket, lined one side with micro fleece, and there is also a single zipped security pocket.

On the back of the jacket is a full-width zipped cargo pocket with protective stormflap. Additional features include a large D-ring on the back of the neck and an elasticated cord and toggle lock adjuster around the bottom hem.

The three-quarter jacket has the same design features as the
wading version, but is longer and has a different pocket configuration and an extra waist drawcord.

The Defender clothing combo

The Defender clothing combo.

Comfortable trousers

The trousers have a nice high back for extra protection from the elements, and partly-elasticated sections each side of the waist for comfort.

They also have belt loops and an elasticated and adjustable webbing belt with a quick release bayonet fitting. There is a simple zip fly opening with a protective stormflap, and a metal popper stud at the top.

The legs have a slightly articulated cut for good range of movement and expandable gusseted ankle cuffs with side zips and Velcro tabs and fasteners.

Two hip pocket feature a water-resistant zip, while the two thigh pockets have stormflaps and Velcro fasteners.

VERDICT:

The Defender jackets and trousers will keep out the wind and rain, and offer good breathability considering they have that extra polyester mesh lining. This lining also provides a bit of extra warmth on colder days. I liked the well-fitting hood and nice warm fleece collar. Excellent value for money, especially if you take advantage of Airflo’s special offer – buy any jacket and trousers for £119.99 and get the Airflo Defender fleece free.

Originally published in the December 2017 issue of Trout Fisherman Magazine, we have re-produced this review with their kind permission.

You can check out the Airflo Defender range of fly fishing clothing here.

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Fishing Snake Flies On Small Stillwater

If you haven’t tried snake flies yet, then you may be missing out on some brilliant sport! In this piece Fishtec blogger Stuart Smitham reveals how he fishes snake flies on small stillwater fisheries to deadly effect. Read on to discover how to fish these controversial lures to their potential.

An Ellerdine salmon captured on a snake fly

An Ellerdine salmon captured on a snake fly.

Ask most people how they fish a snake or leech pattern and they say, on a sinking line??  The reason for this, is because it was considered the norm and adopted by most. I’m fine with that philosophy, but when someone then tells me, it’s the only way to fish them, I’ll prove them wrong. I’m no doubting Thomas, but there are always advantages to be derived from other set ups and different presentations. In this blog post I take a closer look at how to fish snakes effectively on a small stillwater fishery.

For the most part, Leeches or constructed on a single hook, similar to zonkers. Snakes are usually a two hook construction, with the front hook chopped off at the bend. Some good tiers use braid instead of a front hook, which also works well.  If you tie your own, then you’re at a distinct advantage over those who shop buy.  Having tied mine in various guises, I like to think I have my colour combinations down to pat, but I also like to try other colours which can sometimes be fantastic.

For me the following work well. First colour is the rabbit or mink strip then the tail colour. Black/olive, black/pink, black/yellow, black/orange, black/red, black/chartreuse. Then grey/red, grey/green, grey/yellow, grey/chartreuse, grey/orange. Most have tungsten beads at the head so they can be fished on other fly lines. More on that later.

Ready for battle....

Snake flies ready for battle….

The best tip I can give on fly choices is, clear water use light colours like grey or white. Murky water makes dark colours like black stand out like the dogs breakfast. I’ve used this method for some time now and it works. You’ll get lots of follows when you get it wrong, because the fish will still come and investigate the fly, but the proof is in the eating and when you get it just right, the line just hammers away!

Get your tackle right I’ve seen people get into a right state when fishing Leeches and Snakes. Where they’re fishing too light a leader and get smashed big style. It’s all too easy to fish a thin tippet, because it offers up better presentation, but the sacrifice outweighs the reward. Losing a fish is bad enough, but snapping off and leaving a fly in a fish is far worse.  Most fisheries have a tackle stand or a small amount of tackle, where tippet/leader is available. Ellerdine Lakes insist on a minimum breaking strain of 6lb and rightly so, considering their stocking policy.  Ed and Jayne Upton have a great reputation for stocking some of the best fish and rightly deserve their UK No1 Small Stillwater Award.

I use 10ft 7 weight fly rods for fishing snakes. You need a strong and capable rod for firing out long lines, into the wind and to cast big flies with no problem. My reels are the Classic Cassette from Airflo which are cartridge type reel and take some abuse from me, no end. Tippet choice is down to personal preference and I use three types. G3 Fluorocarbon which is a good standard leader. G4 which is a slightly thinner diameter than G3, or G5, which is just outstanding and a premium leader but a little more pricey. Buy cheap leader at your peril. After all, it’s the invisible link between your fly and the fish.

A rainbow that took a white and green snake

A rainbow that took a white and green snake.

Fly line marking Unless you’ve seen it for yourself, you would never believe a fish could inhale your fly and reject without you feeling it?  I’ve seen this and had to find a way to help combat it. Since those early days, I started marking my fly lines. This radically changed my take detection, giving me more time to react to a take. You may not feel the take, but you can see the reaction to a take on your fly line. I use a black permanent marker and start at the line tip with small dots. In groups of five, I gradually increase the size of the bands in each set to the nine foot point. Then at ten foot I put two big marks about eight or nine inches each. These bands offer contrast points that you can concentrate your focus on during the retrieve. The two big bands are focus points at distance and yes you can see these. Having this contrast point you pick up the little tugs and small plucks, you’d otherwise miss. A simple concept and it just works well for me. Try it for yourselves and see what you’ve been missing?

I use floating lines, intermediates and sinkers, but my favourite at the moment is the mini tip. Airflo’s Super Dri mini tips are just outstanding. Because they use Super Dri Technology, they recover back to the surface quickly after sinking. I primarily start out with the 6ft slow sink mini tip and don’t shy too far away from it. Mini tips have all the great characteristics of a floating line but with a sinking section that does two things. It anchors the end of the fly line, to slow its movement, where the water surface is moving quickly with the wind and aids me in fishing my flies at a more controlled depth.  I normally have 12ft of leader and 10ft to my two big markers, which equals 22ft of line on the water plus whatever I’m casting. So you can cover a lot of water with little effort and you don’t realise it either.

Fishing leeches/snakes when I arrive at the waters edge, I drop my fly in and give it a squeeze to absorb water and help it break the water surface when I cast it out. Then once I’m happy I’ll pick up fly and move to my chosen fishing spot. Casting to the left and right margins first, can sometimes pay off, where feeding trout will cruise in for a small morsel.  Because they’re inquisitive they can be provoked into a take. Make short casts and straighten your line out, then slowly retrieve your fly. Little figure of eights with stops work. As does a short pull, wait then make a longer pull. The way this works is, the fish moves in the short pull and in most cases takes the fly, then as you make the long pull, your tightening into the fish. If you get a hit like this, drop your rod sideways and continue the retrieve until it all locks up. I don’t fish droppers with leeches.  It’s hard enough to control one strong fish. Having two on at the same time is scope for disaster. Fish one fly and fish it with confidence.

Use the line banding after you’ve cast out. Let your fly settle and drop through the water column. I don’t countdown for the first few casts, as I sometimes get plucks at the surface or just below. As your retrieving and make stops, you’ll notice the fly line looks limp? Make a short pull, then watch the line.  If the line stops, goes straight or plucks, line strike!  Chop your line hand down hard and drop the rod sideways. If you have a fish on, the rod tip will come to life and you’ll feel the tugging on the fly line. If there’s nothing then you’ve only moved the line a short distance and not pulled out of the taking zones depth. Watching the line banding is the key to success. Let your concentration drop and you’ll miss hits and plucks. Fish hard for 15 minutes then stop and check your fly and leader. This acts as a distraction and helps you break your concentration briefly. If you’ve not had a pluck then consider changing flies?

Sinkers and Intermediate lines When fishing sinkers or Intermediates the visual aspect only comes into play on the hang, unless you have hang markers incorporated into the fly line, like the Sixth Sense range. These have a 10ft, 20ft and rear taper marker or 30ft point marker. These are good for stops on your retrieve because they are highly visible and offer a great contrast point to watch for hits. Sixth Sense lines have superb cores which transmit takes, right down the line length, regardless of the length of line outside the tip ring. Just brilliant

Floating Lines I mentioned using beaded flies. They offer a great advantage with a floating line over fishing an unweighted fly, in that they sink quicker, so they can be dropped into most places with ease. Because they drop through the water quickly, you can concentrate on watching the banding and maintain close contact with the fly, feeling the hits as the fly is pulled away. What you’ll also notice is, when a weighted fly had been taken, the tension you have on the line changes, with a distinct momentary second or two, where the line feels weightless. Striking at this point will pay dividends. Also when the wind changes you can put a mend in the line, to maintain contact with the fly. Watching the line banding is a must to spot the takes though. The floating lines I use are Super Dri Lake Pro, Mend and Bandit. The first two I mark myself, the last one is factory marked and coloured Olive and Brown. When you view Bandit in the surface, it looks like a series of dashes which highlight line movement. Mend is a thicker bodied line used for fishing  bigger lures and is ridged, so the ink from your permanent marker ink tends to last longer as it drops into the grooves between ridges. A neat side effect of Ridge technology and I can’t knock it. Lake Pro is an out and out beast of a line. Great performance and being a mint blue shade is easy to spot on the surface and again ridged.

Here`s an idea on what can happen Ellerdine Lakes on the 13th December was a chilly day. Just three degrees on the temperature and as I drive in, a third of Meadow Lake is frozen. Of the four lakes at the fishery, Marsh is totally frozen over, The other two lakes I’ve not seen yet are fishable but have ice on the surface. Starting on Meadow initially I put on a white and green leech. Making  some casts into the margins on the reeded bank. No plucks or pulls sees me dip into the fly box and pull out a black and pink fly. I search the margins again, then cast at the ice edge.  Straightening the leader and watching the banding, when the line tightens up. The two large bands had been pulled under, meaning the line was tight and I’d got a take. Dropping the rod sideways I could see the line being pulled away. I haven’t seen the fish at all, so have no idea what it is?? All the line that was on the deck was already gone, so I’m watching for a direction change on the fish. It then comes back at me and I realise I’m walking on my line, that I’m now hand balling in quickly.

Salmo Salar taking a liking to snake flies.

Salmo Salar taking a liking to snake flies.

First fish and it’s a salmon! Then a grey ghost appears and it is the first time we’d seen each other. He doesn’t like me and shot off again. After a few minutes and signs of the fish tiring, I manage to scoop it into the net.  Talk about elated. Chuffed to beans Mr Salmon get in!  With a few more plucks and no further interest, a quick chat and brew with Martin Cooper and I’m off to Crannymoor. With small bows plucking the leech, I changed colours to a grey and red leech and make for the middle of Lakemoor and cast near the reed fringes.

As I’m hanging the fly, a brown trout shoots out of nowhere and nails it at the surface.  After a short feisty scrap, a beautiful Brown trout slipped into the net. After some great pics  back he went. What a cracking fish. I move into the corner and make another quick fly change to black and orange, then a short cast to the margin produces a hard hit. I saw the pluck on the banding, but wasn’t prepared for the run. Hard and running up the lake edge right near the weed. A snag here and I’m done for, so as the fish moves toward the weed, I change tack and apply pressure from the opposite direction, which works! This fish goes back down the bank edge it just swam up.

Another victim of a black and orange snake.

Another victim of a black and orange snake.

Several tense moments and concerns about snags are coming to an end, but my problem now is getting it into my net, plus keep control of this beast. A friend named Lorina is on hand and uses her bigger net, to put paid to this run around.  A couple of pics and back it goes. The rainbows are going crazy for black and orange!  I think I finished on seven, but what a session. The bows are coming in and just nailing the leech hard, which is great fun.

Does fishing a snake fly sound like something you want to do? Why not give it a try and see what you can catch.  Remember, above all else enjoy your day. Now get marking those lines!

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The Green Menace – Invasive Plants

Giant-hogweed-warning

Invasive non-native plant species can quickly take over and spoil local fishing spots
Image source: Lance Sagar

If you haven’t settled on a New Year’s Resolution yet, why not make 2018 the year you start your very own fightback against alien plants like Himalayan Balsam, Giant Hogweed, Floating Pennywort and Japanese Knotweed?

Invasive non-native plants like these can cause real problems for your favourite stream, river or lake – and even spoil your fishing season completely. And while some of their worst effects don’t become visible until the spring and summer months, it’s never too early to start planning your campaign against them…

Himalayan Balsam

Himalayan-Balsam

Himalayan Balsam can destroy bank-side structure causing erosion
Image source: Shutterstock

Also known as Policeman’s Helmet or Poor Man’s Orchid, Himalayan Balsam is probably one of the most widespread invasive plants in the UK. But the good news is that it’s also one of the easiest to tackle.

It’s very shallow-rooted, which is why it’s so damaging when it dies back in the winter (after shading out all the native plants and killing their root systems) and lets seasonal spates dump all the bankside soil into our rivers as silt.

However, it’s easy to pull up or strim from May onwards. Just make sure that each stem has been snapped below the first node, then pile up the plants somewhere dry and shady to desiccate. Start as far upstream in your river’s catchment as you can, to stop seeds floating down to recolonise areas you’ve already cleared.

For best results, you should plan to revisit each infested area once a month until around October, to pick off later-germinating plants which will otherwise produce up to 800 seeds each, causing even more problems next year. Monnow Rivers Association volunteers have successfully applied this approach for a number of years, even asking visiting anglers to pull up 50 plants as part of their day on the water.

For more information about Himalayan Balsam, visit the GBNNSS website.

Giant Hogweed

Giant-Hogweed

Removing Giant Hogweed requires careful handling and protective eyewear
Image source: Shutterstock

Once made famous by Genesis in their song ‘The Return of the Giant Hogweed’, this highly dangerous plant is steadily rampaging along the banks of urban jungle rivers like Manchester’s Irwell.

During the 70s, 80s and 90s in Northern Ireland, it turned whole rivers into no-go zones every summer. Each hair on its towering, purple-blotched stems holds a bead of phyto-phototoxic sap, and if you get this on your skin, any exposure to sunlight will produce blisters and third-degree burns which can keep coming back for years.

In the past couple of years, volunteers from the Mersey Rivers Trust have started spraying young giant hogweed plants from around March onwards. If you don’t want to use chemicals (not least because you’ll need permission from the EA to use them near water) you can stop older plants from seeding by cutting off seed heads into a bin bag and incinerating them carefully. You can also dig out young plants by cutting their thick tap roots at least 15cm below ground level with a sharp spade.

Always wear full personal protective equipment when you’re working on Giant Hogweed, including eye protection to stop squirting sap and prevent permanent damage to your eyes.

For more information about Giant Hogweed, visit the GBNNSS website.

Floating Pennywort

Floating-Pennywort

Floating Pennywort can completely choke waters in a very short space of time
Image source: Crown copyright, GBNNSS

First found in the wild in the UK as recently as 1990, Floating Pennywort spreads over still or slow-flowing water a rate of 20cm a day, so it’s a particular problem on canals and impounded areas behind old mill weirs.

At first, in some of these straight-sided brick and concrete areas, it can even look like a welcome addition of soft green structure. But it soon makes fishing and boating impossible, shades out native plants, and increases the risk of serious flooding.

Treating fully-established infestations in deep water can cost thousands of pounds, but if the water is shallow enough to wade safely, it’s perfectly possible to clear smaller areas by hand. Gently follow the fleshy stems back to where they’re growing out of the bank, and pull them up by the roots, leaving all the foliage safely on the bank to compost down. Best practice also includes setting nets all around your working area to stop small pieces of stem and leaf from floating off and starting new colonies of their own.

To start dealing with the other plants in this article, you’ll need to wait a few months until spring or summer. However, if you’ve noticed Pennywort on your patch, winter is a good time to tackle it, when growth is slow, frost has driven the leaves below the surface of the water, and the plant’s total biomass is lowest.

For more information about Floating Pennywort, visit the GBNNSS website.

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese-knotweed

Japanese Knotweed has heart-shaped leaves, bamboo-like stems and white flowers
Image source: MdE (page at dewiki | page at commons) – own photo, CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Once loved by Victorian gardeners for its bamboo-like stems and pretty, lacy flowers, Japanese Knotweed is one invasive species that’s best left for the experts to handle.

Having evolved to grow through hardened lava on the slopes of volcanoes like Mount Fuji, it makes short work of tarmac and concrete, and can destroy dams, paths and boat ramps – even fishing huts if it sprouts up through the floor. New plants can regenerate from thumbnail-sized pieces of stem or root, so even the smallest fragment is classified as controlled waste.

As a result, it’s best not to touch Japanese Knotweed yourself at all – instead, you can make a real difference by noting its location and telling your local council or rivers trust. They’ll send a specialist to treat it with glyphosate in late summer or autumn, when the plant is drawing nutrients (and thus any pesticide) back down into its deep root system. The Wye & Usk Foundation has already scored some notable successes in clearing Japanese Knotweed from the Afon Lwyd in this way.

For more information about Japanese Knotweed, visit the GBNNSS website.

Other tips for fighting invasive, non-native plant species

  • Download the PlantTracker app, and start submitting geolocated photos whenever you see one of these invasive non-native plants.
  • Find out if your fishing club or local Rivers Trust runs an invasive non-native species programme – if not, volunteer to help them start one.
  • Get to know the Check, Clean, Dry protocols – these will help to stop you accidentally spreading alien plants as well as invasive shrimps and other invertebrates.
  • Always try to get the landowner’s permission before starting to tackle Invasive Non-Native Species of any kind. If you plan to use pesticides like glyphosate anywhere near water, you’ll also need consent from the Environment Agency or SEPA.

Author Profile

Theo Pike is a freelance environmental, fishing and marketing writer. He’s also Chair of Trustees of the South East Rivers Trust, and founding editor of urbantrout.net, a website and eco-brand dedicated to the urban fly fishing and river restoration movements. His first book, Trout in Dirty Places, was published by Merlin Unwin Books in 2012, and his manual on controlling invasive non-native species, The Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing appeared in 2014.

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Reflecting On 2017 By Rene’ Harrop – January, 2018

American based Airflo fly line and tackle consultant Rene Harrop shares his latest field report from the wild west fishing mecca that is Yellowstone country.

For the 64th time in my life, I am looking back on another year of fishing in Yellowstone country.

Adding the experiences of 2017 to an ever extending bank of memories is a reenactment of ritual that occurs at the beginning of each New Year and, as usual, there are highs and lows to be remembered.

2017 Memory

2017 Memory

Last year began on a relatively positive note with a winter that brought vastly improved water conditions to my homeland. While somewhat late in receiving the benefits of abundant snowfall, the lakes and rivers in and near Yellowstone Park experienced a level of stability that had been absent through much of the past three years.

Low point for the Henry’s Fork came in late winter when flows lower than ideal kept the water cold and the insect life in a state of dormancy. The result was a later than usual start to the dry fly fishing that usually begins with midges in February and then intensifies when Baetis begin to appear in early March.

Snow On The Peaks

Snow On The Peaks

By April, however, milder temperatures and a gradual improvement in water levels seemed to kick start a sustained stretch of dry fly fishing that did not end until early December.

Hatches subdued by unfavorable water conditions in recent years seemed almost miraculously revived in 2017, especially through the months of July and August.

While their numbers were noticeably reduced during the drought years, trout in the Henry’s Fork and other regional rivers appeared healthier and with good numbers of young adult fish. Positive winter flows should assure the availability of larger targets along with the hatches needed to keep them looking up.

Calm On Hebgen

Calm On Hebgen

Local still waters, which continue to receive my growing attention, were generally reliable through most of the time they were ice free. On the downside, however, was a troubling occurrence of algae bloom during the warmer period of July through early September.  Although Hebgen lake in Montana was spared from this disruptive nuisance and fished consistently well through the season, just across the border in Idaho, Henry’s and Sheridan Lakes were not as fortunate. However, by October, both had recovered and were again producing the typically impressive fish for which they are known.

Most encouraging looking forward is the current state of lakes and reservoirs in this region. With only minor exception, local still water fisheries average more than eighty percent of capacity. What this indicates is the likelihood of a much greater winter survival rate for trout in the lakes and connected rivers of Yellowstone country.

Henry's Lake Prize

Henry’s Lake Prize

With these positives in mind and a winter forecast that indicates continuation of favorable water conditions, twenty eighteen is looking good for fly fishermen.

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REVEALED – The best places in Scotland to chase early season silver!

If you are looking forward to the salmon season starting there is no better place to begin your campaign than Scotland! This guest blog post by Salmon Fishing Holidays Scotland explores the best spring salmon rivers north of the border.

A beautiful River Tay spring salmon

A beautiful River Tay spring salmon

As a salmon angler, the highlight of any season has to be if you are lucky enough to catch an early season spring salmon on the fly.

These magnificent fish are highly prized among the salmon fishing fraternity and rightly so. The salmon caught at this time of year are usually large in size and put up a terrific fight.

As our salmon fishing season in Scotland starts in mid- January, you could probably classify early season spring fishing as being from January through to the end of March.

So, is it all about luck at this time of year, or are there some ways in which you can tilt the odds of catching an early springer in your favour?

As with any salmon fishing, a lot does have to do with luck, but by making some informed decisions, and choosing your fishing locations carefully, you certainly stand a better chance.

It is a bit of a misnomer to refer to salmon fishing in Scotland as “spring fishing” from January through to March. Often, at this time of year, river levels are high, and the water is cold.

As anglers we are regularly dodging bitterly cold winds and snow showers. So, conditions are far from spring like and regularly more akin to winter. In such testing conditions, you want to maximise your chances, as often because of the weather and the limited hours of daylight, you have a short window of opportunity through the course of the day in which to fish.

When you are considering salmon fishing locations so early in the season, you need to take a few factors into account. Firstly, fresh spring salmon can be quite aggressive and can often readily take a fly. So, the difficult part is trying to locate the fish. This is much easier to do on a smaller river. In the Scottish Highlands, many of the rivers are much smaller compared to their central and southern counterparts, and with the season opening early in this region of Scotland, there are some excellent opportunities to bag some early season silver.

The Thurso river opens on the 11th of January. Over the years, the Thurso has consistently produced decent numbers of fish during the early part of the season. Each year is different, and much can depend on water heights and temperature but usually the first fresh fish is caught from the river towards the end January or at the beginning of February. From mid-February onwards, a steady stream of fish are caught and catches build through March. With the Thurso being a relatively small river, it can be easily covered with a fly rod. So as an angler, you can be reasonably confident that if there is a fresh fish in the pool, it will most likely see your fly. This can be such an advantage when the fish are few and far between.

Chasing springers in the Scottish Highlands

Chasing springers in the Scottish Highlands

Another river in the Highlands that has an excellent pedigree for producing early fish is the Helmsdale. The Helmsdale river in recent years has produced fresh fish on a number of occasions in mid-January. The Helmsdale is slightly bigger in size compared to the Thurso but most of the pools are still easily covered with a fly rod. Each year, the Helmsdale River Board offers locals and visitors the chance to fish the river free of charge from opening day onwards for a few days. This is a fantastic opportunity for hardy fishers to wet a line on one of Scotland’s most famous salmon rivers, and also to have a realistic chance of catching an early fresh fish.

The River Morrsiton makes up part of the Ness system. It flows into Loch Ness at Fort Augustus. It is another river in the Scottish Highlands which has a good reputation for producing early season salmon. The river opens its banks to anglers in mid-January and fresh fish can be caught from opening week onwards. The River Morriston is similar in size to the Thurso, making it a perfect location to ambush a springer. Catches on the river improve through February and into March, and given adequate water this is one Highland river well worth considering.

Over the past two seasons, anglers on the River Spey have enjoyed some terrific early season sport. Indeed, last year there were decent numbers of fish caught from the river in February and March. The Spey opens in early February and much depends on the water temperature and height, as to where the best sport is likely to be had. If both the water temperature and height is low, then the beats between Craigellachie and Fochabers are likely to produce the best sport. However, as we move into March and the water gets warmer, the fish tend to run upstream in greater numbers, and anywhere between Grantown and Aberlour can be well worth a cast. The Spey is such a magnificent river, that for most anglers, it does not matter if they are catching fish, as it is such a joy just to wet a line on.

Spring fishing on the River Spey

Spring fishing on the River Spey

For many years, the River Dee has been one of the most prolific early season salmon rivers in Scotland. The river opens in early February and consistently produces fish from opening day onwards. In recent years, the early spring fishing has not been quite as good, but last year there were still some lovely fish caught in February In March. Most of the pools on the river can be quite comfortably covered and some of the water is just made for fly fishing. Just like the Spey the best places to fish on the River Dee are dictated by water temperature. Usually in February, it is the beats below Banchory that seem to perform the most consistently. As we move into March, anywhere from Aboyne Bridge downstream can be well worth a cast. If it has been an especially mild early spring, then even beats further upstream can be quite productive.

Spring on the River Dee

Spring on the River Dee

Finally, we come to the mighty River Tay, which opens on the 15th of January. The Tay produces fresh fish from opening day onwards. Usually, at this time of year the majority of the fish caught are heading for Loch Tay and the headwaters of this vast river system. However, as we move through February and into March, fish destined for the River Tummel (one of the rivers main tributaries) start entering the system. This usually coincides with an increase in catches especially for the beats located on the middle river. As well all know, the River Tay is anything but small, so it can make finding that early spring salmon a little more difficult. However, if the water is at a reasonable height, the Tay can also produce some good numbers of salmon early in the season. In January and February, if the water temperature is low it is often the beats on the lower river which can perform the best. There are a couple of temperature barriers in this area of the river like the famous Linn Pool and Catholes Weir which the fish have to negotiate prior to heading further upstream. As water temperatures rise, the beats on the middle river usually come into their own. At this time of year, the Tay has some excellent salmon fishing opportunities to offer, at a very reasonable cost.

There is no denying the fact that fishing early in the season can be tough, with fresh fish often being few and far between. The Scottish weather can be inclement, and river levels unpredictable. If, however, you carefully consider your options and make informed decisions about where you are going to fish, you can certainly improve your chances of making contact with some early season silver!

About the author: Salmon Fishing Holidays Scotland (SFHS) are a bespoke holiday tour operator offering the most immersive, inspiring fly fishing holidays in Scotland. So if you need a perfect start to your season then get in touch with SFHS here.

Should you need further inspiration, be sure to give them a follow on Facebook, or check out the free SSFS ezine, which is simply jam packed with fantastic salmon fishing imagery, stories and tactical tips.

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Dom Garnett’s Top 6 Winter Flies

Top_6_Winter_Flies_Satanic_Buzzer_Catch - 1

A trout hooked on a ‘Satanic Buzzer fly’, so called because of the red flexible ‘horns’
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

As the days get shorter, some of us fish a good deal less. A shame, reckons Dom Garnett, because there’s excellent and varied sport to be had for those willing to brave the winter chill. Here are six of his favourite winter fly patterns to keep catching in the cold.

When it comes to the whole fishing year, you could probably separate most of us into two camps. There are those, like my father, who tend to stop when it’s cold. Some folks just don’t relish frosts or alternative targets. But then there are also those of us who truly love the winter and get genuinely excited by pike and grayling on the fly.

Of course, the arsenal of patterns can change quite drastically with winter fly fishing. Here are six of my most successful winter flies:

1. Micro Beaded Pink Shrimp (grayling, roach & dace)

TOP_6_MicroPinkShrimp

A Micro Beaded Pink Shrimp
Image courtesy of Dom Barnett

Hook: Turrall Barbless Grub (size 16-18)
Bead: Brass 2mm-3mm
Thread: Pink 8/0
Tail: Partridge fibres/ hint of flash material
Rib: Clear Mono
Shellback: Clear nymph skin or cut polythene strip
Body: Pink sparkle dubbing
Legs: Partridge fibres

This is a grayling classic, but also a fly I like to use for river roach and dace in smaller sizes. Don’t feel like you need to tie it big and OTT for grayling though. When rivers are clear and icy cold, a smaller fly can be more effective than a larger version – and will certainly spook fewer fish.

Tip: Rather than upping the size of your weighted bugs, try tungsten beads to achieve the sink rate you want. In clear or pressured waters, smaller flies can be vital.

2. Quill Buzzer

TOP_6_Quill_Buzzer

A Quill Buzzer
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Hook: Turrall Grub Hook (size 10-14)
Thread: Black
Body: Stripped peacock herl
Cheeks: Yellow goose biots
Cover: Strand of UV Multiflash

Buzzers will hatch even in the winter across our smaller fisheries, and this one is always a convincing little pattern. However, I’m also including this on my list because it’s such a nice pattern to tie. If you buy it stripped, peacock quill is so easy to use and gives a cracking effect. Add a pinch of CDC to the head and use a lighter hook, and it’s also easy to make this fly into an emerger.

Tip: Learn to tie this fly on the Turrall Flies blog.

3. Satanic Buzzer (rainbow trout)

TOP_6_Satanic_Buzzer

A Satanic Buzzer
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Hook: Buzzer or grub (size 10-16)
Thread: Black, with red for head and butt section
Rib: Fine silver wire (or UV tinsel)
Butt: Red thread
Body: Black thread
Horns: Two strands of red flexi-floss

This brilliant little pattern was shown to me by Scottish fly tyer Leon Guthrie, a fiendishly creative tyer of some truly wild patterns. This one is practical and deadly, crossing the best bits of a standard buzzer with those flexible bloodworm “horns” (hence the devilish name). It’s a real get-out-of-jail-free fly for rainbow trout on small waters.

For anyone curious about Leon, he was the subject of my “Fly Life on Mars” article, that features in my book Crooked Lines. Anything but conventional, he ties everything from tiny garden birds through to miniature aeroplanes, fried eggs and even a tiny Dyson vacuum cleaner (no kidding, it even has a little plug!).

Tip: For smaller flies, try using a fine pair of scissors to separate your flexifloss into finer strands. This fly is also terrific in a size 16 or even smaller if the fish are fussy.

4. Marabou Montana (rainbow trout)

TOP_6_Montana

A Marabou Montana
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Hook: Longshank nymph, size 10-12
Bead: Brass 3mm
Thread: Black 6/0
Tail: Black marabou
Rib: Fine wire
Body: Black chenille
Thorax: Chartreuse fritz
Hackle: Black cock

The original Montana may have been a nymph, but this is more like a mini lure. I find a marabou tail is much more effective than the stiffer original. A gold bead also makes it much more practical to fish on a standard floating line.

Tip: Try retrieving this one a little slower with a picky figure of eight retrieve, rather than always stripping.

5. Kennick Killer (rainbow trout)

TOP_6_Kennick_killer

A Kennick Killer
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Hook: Longshank lure (size 10)
Bead: 2.5mm brass bead
Thread: Red 6/0
Tail: Olive and Sunburst marabou, with hint of Krystal Flash
Body: Trimmed down UV Killer Fritz (olive)
Head: Tapered thread, well varnished

This is such a brilliant pattern – often the one I will give a complete beginner to fish – it’s that reliable. It originated on Kennick Reservoir, near my home in Devon, but is equally deadly on smaller winter waters. You can creep it or strip it; in fact it’s quite hard to fish wrong! Whether the key is in the two tone body or the addition of UV reflective materials I can’t say, but it’s a brilliant fly.

Tip: If you see a fish following your lure, don’t slow down or stop. By speeding up you are usually more likely to provoke a reaction!

6. Savage’s Baitfish (pike)

TOP_6_Savages_Baitfish

A Savage’s Baitfish
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Hook: Turrall Pike (2/0 – 4/0)
Thread: Kevlar
Body: Savage Hair in at least 2 colours, with UV tinsel mixed in
Cheeks: Jungle cock or pinch of hot orange synthetic fibres (optional)
Eyes: 8-12mm 3D eyes, held with epoxy resin or UV cure glue

I tie and fish with stacks of different pike flies through the cooler months. This is probably still my go-to design though, just because it’s so versatile and hassle free. You can tie these in any hue you like, but I always think two colours are better than one and I’m never without a good pinch of UV tinsel.

The original is the work of Rutland warden Nigel Savage, who has also caught zander on these using fast sinking lines. Tying the head part-way down the shank (third to half way down) helps avoid the body fibres tangling round the hook bend on the cast.

My favourite colour combos for this fly include yellow and white, pink and white and black and silver. The version pictured is a perch though, using white, yellow and green hair, and given some stripes with a Sharpie marker or laundry pen.

Tip: Never be too quick to lift a pike fly out of the water at the end of the cast. Count to three slowly at the end of each retrieve, just to make sure there isn’t a pike following.

TOP_6_WINTER_FLIES - 1

An icy day on Simpson Valley, one of my favourite winter fly fisheries in Devon

Further Tips and Fishing Tales from our blogger…

Dominic Garnett is a West Country based fishing guide and author of several books including Amazon bestseller Flyfishing for Coarse Fish and the acclaimed collection of fishing tales Crooked Lines. He also designs flies for Devon based company Turrall. You can read more from him at www.dgfishing.co.uk and http://www.turrall.com/blog

Last but not least, if you enjoy fly fishing through the whole year, you might also enjoy Dom’s YouTube film featuring action from Bratton Water, North Devon: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9KJPi8CYIM4

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How to Dress for Winter Sea Fishing

The coldest months are the best time to target species such as cod, but dress carefully to stay safe and warm. Image source: Alan Yates

The coldest months are the best time to target species such as cod, but dress carefully to stay safe and warm.
Image source: Alan Yates

Winter can be one of the most productive times for shore fishing. The largest cod – those well into double figures – are caught during the winter months, while species such as whiting, flounder, dab and coalfish can all provide action for anglers who are waiting for big cod to bite.

The best winter fishing usually coincides with strong winds and rough seas. While these may be the best conditions for catching large fish, they’re some of the most challenging for anglers. Chris Middleton tells us how to stay safe and keep warm when the cold bites.

Why it’s important to keep warm

ice-fishing

Anglers fishing in the coldest conditions – such as Iceland – rely on thermal suits.
Image source: Shutterstock

In winter the temperature can drop well below zero, with cold winds, rain or sea spray making conditions even worse for anglers. Failing to wear suitable clothing makes for uncomfortable fishing, and in extreme cases can put an angler’s health, and even life, at risk. A two degree drop in body temperature is all it takes for you to suffer hypothermia. A mild case will result in irritability, confusion and unconsciousness. Ultimately it can end in death.

The good news is that the right clothing can make winter sea fishing one of the most exciting sports you can imagine. Advances in materials and fabrics mean that modern thermal suits, flotation suits, jackets, hats and gloves will keep you safe, dry and toasty warm while fishing in any type of weather.

Thermal suits

Fishtec-thermal-suit

Some anglers find one piece suits warmer, but two-piece are more versatile.
Featured product: Imax 2-piece Thermo suit from Fishtec

If you’re serious about fishing in winter, a thermal suit is an essential investment. Today, two piece suits which offer a separate jacket and trousers/braces bottom are the most popular option, although one piece suits are also available.

As thermal suits are very effective, anglers don’t have to wear too many layers underneath them. Many find that a T-shirt and sweater along with jogging bottoms is sufficient, but those looking for extra warmth could always add additional layers.

All good thermal suits feature a heavy-duty outer shell and a warm thermal lining – a combination with keeps the wind and rain out and allows anglers to remain warm. Other features include a detachable hood, thermal-lined exterior pockets, Velcro adjustable cuffs and an interior pocket with a zip (ideal for keeping a mobile phone, car keys or other valuables.) The Imax Thermo Suit from Fishtec provides all of this for just £89.99. Alternatively, the Imax ARX-20 Ice Thermo Suit allows anglers to fish comfortably at temperatures as low as -20 degrees.

Flotation suits

Fishtec-flotation-suit

Not a replacement for a life jacket – but it could help save your life.
Featured product: Daiwa Sas MK7 2 Piece Flotation Suit from Fishtec

Flotation suits offer the same warmth and protection from wind and rain as thermal suits, but with the added advantage of buoyancy for anyone unlucky enough to fall into the sea while fishing. These suits offer a higher level of security for anglers who fish from rock marks or other exposed fishing marks.

These suits typically offer 50 Newtons of lift (less than a life jacket which is designed to be used in tidal waters) so they’re not designed to be used in place of a regular life jacket. But they will help keep you afloat if you fall in – potentially saving your life. There are two choices of flotation suit – a one piece style, or a two piece that consists of a jacket and separate trousers with shoulder straps. Most people find the two-piece version more versatile as you can wear the jacket alone when it’s not cold enough to warrant the whole thing. The Daiwa Sas MK7 2 Piece Flotation Suit from Fishtec is a high quality option from a well-known manufacturer – a good investment at £114.99.

Jackets

Fishtec-sea-fishing-jacket

Fishing jackets have corrosion-resistant zips, ideal in wet, salty conditions.
Featured product: TF Gear Force 8 Waterproof Jacket from Fishtec

Of course not all fishing takes place in the coldest or most extreme weather! Mild winter night fishing for cod, or an autumn evening lure fishing for bass will require a warm jacket rather than a full flotation suit.

Modern jackets constructed from breathable materials don’t restrict movement and allow you to cast to your heart’s content. However, they are very warm and waterproof, meaning that you’ll be protected if the temperature suddenly plummets or there’s a flash downpour. The TF Gear Force 8 Waterproof Jacket is an ideal example – totally wind and waterproof with polar fleece lining, comfortable elasticated cuffs and a lined hood with draw cord.

Hats and gloves

Fishtec-gloves

A quality pair of fishing gloves make long winter sessions much more comfortable.
Featured product: Imax Oceanic Gloves from Fishtec

It’s important to invest in high-quality, effective hats and gloves. Indeed, insufficiently warm gloves could allow your hands to get so cold you’ll be unable to carry out basic sea fishing actions such as tying knots, reeling in or unclipping terminal tackle. In serious cases gloves that don’t protect the hands properly have led to anglers getting frostbite. A pair of high quality thermal gloves – such as the Imax Oceanic Glove – are an essential item of clothing for winter anglers.

And don’t forget your head. While most thermal and flotation suits come with a thermal lined hood, many people also wear an additional woolly hat as extra protection from cold winds. Peaked, fleece lined hats which cover the ears are popular with some anglers when the sun is setting. Polarised sunglasses are also useful. The anti-glare properties help anglers spot fish such as mullet feeding just below the surface of the water. These Bolle polarised fishing sunglasses are a popular choice and a lanyard is probably a good idea!

Footwear

Fishtec-thermal-boot

Standard wellington boots may keep feet dry, but they won’t keep feet warm enough during winter fishing trips.
Featured product: TF Gear Thermo Boots from Fishtec

During a winter fishing session your feet can become very cold, especially if there’s snow on the ground or in frosty conditions. Invest in boots with a heat-retaining thermal lining that are specifically designed for harsh winter weather.

Indeed, many anglers have learned the hard way that normal walking boots or wellingtons are simply not warm enough on cold winter nights, even when worn with thermal socks. The TF Gear Thermo boots are an ideal example of this type of footwear and will keep feet warm down to temperatures of -10 degrees.

What should I wear for winter sea fishing?

Don’t get so caught up in decisions about rigs, venue and bait when planning a sea fishing trip that the correct clothing becomes an afterthought. Inadequate clothing will not only spoil your enjoyment, but could even threaten your health. Here’s a quick summary of the essential clothes you’ll need for winter sea fishing:

  • A good quality thermal or flotation suit
  • A wind and waterproof, thermal lined fishing jacket
  • High quality, thermal gloves, purpose designed
  • A warm, woolly hat, with peak if sunny
  • Thermal boots
  • Polarised sunglasses
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Fly Fishing Stocking Fillers – Gift Ideas For Christmas

For the fly angler who has it all there is always room for just one more item of tackle….. right?

In this blog post we take a look at ten popular fly fishing tackle stocking fillers – perfect gifts for Christmas!

1) Airflo EVA fly box – £12.99

A nifty little pocket box that can accommodate 264 flies in both slotted and slitted foam inserts. The box uses secure magnetic corners to keep it closed; it also floats and is crush proof – what more do you need in a fly box?

A fly fishing box for all occasions

2) Dr Slick XBC Series forceps – £15.99

Good quality forceps from Doctor Slick – robust, useful and made of the best surgical alloy, coated in an attractive coloured gloss finish in your choice of blue or red. Dr Slick are our preferred fly fishing unhooking tools by a long margin!

Dr Slick accessories

Dr Slick XBC Accessories

3) Streamtec Wading staff – £44.99

Whether you fish a river or a reservoir, a wading staff is an extremely handy bit of gear. For crossing raging rivers to testing for soft spots in the lake-bed, a staff ensures you can fish in safety. Collapsible and supplied in its own sheath, this staff is a great gift for any fly angler who does a lot of wade fishing.

The Airflo Streamtec Staff

The Airflo Streamtec Staff

4) Mustad Filleting Knife – £6.99

A knife is a handy bit of kit for any angler – for cleaning fish or just general usefulness whilst out and about on the bank. This offering from Mustad also includes a sharpening block, representing superb value.

A knife is a handy thing!

A knife is a handy thing!

5) C & F Design 3 in 1 Clippers – £14.00

Not all nippers are created equal – these C & F design clippers are the Rolls Royce of the tippet severing world! Razor sharp, they feature a fly eye cleaner for stubborn varnish and also two sizes of fly threader, making attaching even tiny flies to your leader a complete doddle.

The best fly fishing nipper on the market?

The best fly fishing nipper on the market?

6) Tools and Vice Set – £29.99

A great little portable tyers kit including a vice and all the tools you will ever need, encapsulated within a solid wooden storage box. A perfect gift for a budding fly tyer or for somebody needing a travel fly tying kit.

Vice and tools set

Vice and tools set – a perfect gift for a fledgling fly tyer

7) Overboard Phone case – £18.99

The ever present danger of slipping into the water whilst fishing is a genuine peril that happens to even the best of us. This quality waterproof phone case will ensure your communication device remains in full working order – even if you are forced to retreat home from a dunking. An essential that no fly fisherman should be without!

Overboard phone cases

Overboard phone cases – protection guaranteed

8) 1080P HD Action Camera – £34.99

For capturing your fishing moments for eternity this superb value action camera is hard to beat. Fully waterproof and submersible, it has options for still images, as well as 720p and 1080p wide angle video capture. In addition, this camera also has WiFi connectivity, allowing you to stream recordings to your phone or activate it remotely.

Action Camera - now with WiFi!

HD Action Camera – now with WiFi!

9) Airflo Pro Priest – £13.99

Dispatching the catch is a necessary thing, should you wish to retain a fish for the table. As well as being weighted for efficient stockie slaying, these aluminum priests are ergonomically designed for easy gripping. Three colours to choose from – silver, blue and red.

The Airflo Pro Priest -red

The Airflo Pro Priest -red

10) Fishtec Gift Vouchers

If in doubt, a gift voucher is a sure-fire festive gift. Available in online or physical formats, Fishtec gift vouchers are sold in £10 blocks and can be ordered right up to (and through!) the Christmas period for delivery to the recipients inbox.

Fishtec Gift vouchers

Fishtec Gift vouchers

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