Return to Still Water By Rene’ Harrop

For a trout fisherman, it would be difficult to picture a region with more choices of water than Yellowstone country. Flowing from its hub, which is the National park, are the Yellowstone, Snake, and Madison, and the Henry’s Fork lies just outside its boundaries. Smaller but no less attractive are the Fire Hole, Gallatin, and a host of diminutive spring creeks.

Hauling On Henry's

Hauling On Henry’s lake

Through the decades I have left boot prints on some of the world’s finest trout streams and my professional identity has been shaped mostly by moving water. But in recent years a different type of fishing has begun to challenge a dedication to the rivers and streams that have historically dominated my attention.

Because of elevation that rises well over a mile above sea level, the lakes and reservoirs that lie within convenient distance can remain ice-covered well into May. With most rivers open and spring hatches well underway, I do not suffer for lack of fishing opportunity but I confess to a sense of anticipation as the time draws near for a return to still water.

Sheridan Kamloops

Sheridan lake Kamloops trout

I’m not sure if the influence of my friend, Gareth Jones is a curse or a blessing, but it is certain that he is largely responsible for the distraction represented by Henry’s, Hebgen, and Sheridan Lakes. From this point forward, at least thirty percent of my fishing days will be occupied by the mysteries of still water, and this will end only when the lakes are again frozen over in late fall.

Following a master’s lead to considerable extent, a sizable portion of the flies tied in winter for my personal use are still water patterns, and I am excited to test the new ideas that come during the season of contemplation.

Why Still Water?

Why Still Water?

Though the mind state of fishing still water is in contrast to the more familiar mental requirement of fishing a river, it is no less satisfying or rewarding. I view my time on the lakes as a companion rather than competition to my loyalty to moving water and my life as a fisherman is made richer by having such a wide diversity of choice. How lucky can a man be?

Coarse Fishing Tips For The New River Season – 16 June

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Sunny weather and hungry fish; what’s not to love about early season river fishing?
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

After a three-month break, river coarse anglers will be raring to get out and fish from 16 June. But what’s the best way to get in on the action in the early part of the season? Dom Garnett shares some handy tips to get you off on the right foot…

When is the start of open season for river coarse fishing?

16 June 2018 marks the start of the open season for coarse fishing on rivers. When was the last time you fished a river for coarse fish? Although there are plenty of stillwaters open all year round, there is still a certain magic about returning to running water. For the keen angler, it brings a real tingle of anticipation, to put it mildly!

When the new season opens, will you return to a favourite haunt or try somewhere completely new? Will you simply fish for bites, or go for a net-filler? After a long break and the rigours of spawning, the fish are likely to be hungry, too, and sport can be excellent. Here are my top tips and four ideal species to kick off your river campaign.

Roach

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Roach are a fantastic species to give plenty of bites.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

These days they are not the most fashionable species, but for bite-a-chuck fishing the humble roach is a great way to return to the rivers. You’ll find these fish in steadily running water. Look for flows of walking pace and pay special attention to any “crease” where faster and slower water meets.

Tackle and tactics: Try trotting with a light stick float set up, with 3lb line and hook sizes from 14-18. Keep feeding for best results. Maggots are excellent, but if you can get them, casters are superb for picking out the better fish. Failing that, or where longer casts are needed, try an open-end feeder and bread.

Chub

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Chub can be caught on all kinds of methods, but float fishing is especially good fun.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

These fish reach a good size even on quite small rivers and are active and hungry right now. They love spots with cover, such as weed rafts and overhanging trees. That said, when it’s scorching hot you’ll also find them in shallow, well-oxygenated water. They can be spooky, so approach with care.

Tackle and tactics: Perhaps the best thing about chub is that they respond to so many methods. Trotting or legering with bigger baits is a good tactic. Loose feed regularly and they will come well off the bottom, too. Waggler fished maggot is excellent, but they also love the splash of the pellets you might usually use for carp fishing! Lines of 4-8lbs are typical, with hooks from 12-18 depending on the method, size of fish and snags present.

Last but not least, if you can get close to them, a free-lined piece of bread or a worm is fun – or you could try my favourite method – fly fishing. Amazing fun in clear water!

Barbel

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Barbel are among the most exciting fish to battle on running water.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

For those after a real net-filler, these powerful fish are what summer fishing is all about. Some anglers automatically look for deep holes and slacks, but this is often a mistake as they are very tolerant of even quite strong currents, especially early in the season. Look for water with a decent flow and depth, preferably with with cover not too far away. Rather than guessing, don a pair of polarised glasses and take a walk – you may see them rolling and flashing as they graze the bottom if the water is clear.

Tackle and tactics: For many anglers, legering gear is easiest. Try a heavy swim feeder and a hair rigged bait on a hooklength of just 10-12” for a bolt rig effect. Meat, double 10mm boilie and pre-drilled pellets all make great hook baits. They are not desperately line shy, so tackle up tough with at least 10lb breaking strain.

However, the most fun way to catch them early on is trotting. In the early season they are active and more inclined to be in shallow to mid depth swims, too. Fish as you would for chub and roach, throwing in bait regularly, but step up to stronger line and hooks!

Bream

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A river bream from an urban weirpool. Find the shoal and you’ll have a busy session.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

It’s a shame more of us don’t target these fish. Many larger rivers have a healthy population and those you find in running water fight a lot harder than their stillwater cousins. Look for them in deep, slow areas, such as wide river bends and the less turbulent parts of weirpools.

Tackle and tactics: It has to be the quiver tip, with a large feeder and baits such as corn, caster and bread. Lines tend to be 4-6lbs and obviously lighter gear will give you better sport than specimen tackle. Take plenty of bait and feed generously too, because these fish can eat for fun when you find them in large numbers.

Top tips for coarse fishing in the early river season

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Check your licence.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

    • Check your gear if it has been a while since you fished. You might want to respool with fresh line, in particular. The time to ponder if you needed a refresh is definitely not when you’re playing a big fish!
    • Renew your licence! If you haven’t fished for a few months, be sure to buy your new licence. These days, they run for a year from the day you buy them, offering better value for returning anglers.
    • Get up early if you can. You’re more likely to get your favourite spot and if it’s hot, you may well find that the best fishing is before the sun gets too high in the sky.
    • Prebait if you live close to the water to get the fish lined up for you. They won’t have seen bait for many weeks, so it’s good to get them used to your chosen offerings again.
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Get the fish used to your bait.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

  • Go with the flow in the early season and try trotted, moving baits, even for the likes of barbel. The fish are sure to be active now and they like steady flows because these areas have more oxygen on a hot day. Maggots are hard to beat, or try something bigger if minnows are a pest.
  • Handle your catch with care on hot days. In warm water fish fight harder and get stressed quicker. Always handle with wet hands and keep them in the water as much as possible. Use that keep net for shorter periods only, or better still leave it at home.
  • Wade in! I’m often surprised at how few coarse anglers own waders. These are brilliant for summer fishing, allowing you better access to the water. They’re also good for your catch, as you won’t even need to take it onto the bank to unhook and release it.

Find further inspiration for the new river season…

Last but not least, do also keep an eye on the Angling Trust’s “Lines on the Water” blog, where I will be asking star anglers from John Bailey to Sam Edmonds for their favourite rivers and tactics to try in June. In the meantime, tight lines to you all and here’s to a glorious June 16th!

Read more from Dom Garnett every week in the Angling Times and at www.dgfishing.co.uk

Carp In The Park 2018

What is Carp In The Park?

The ultimate carp social. Two days of chilling, socialising and learning from the biggest names in carp fishing. Giant screen and slide shows from Dave Lane and Alan Blair, plus many more. Demos and displays from Avid, Chub, Nash, JRC, TF Gear, Shimano, Sonik and a host of other great brands. Live music, outside bar and a chance to bivvy up and socialise with the stars of carping. This is a carp event like no other and you’ll want to be able to say “I was there”!!

Carp in the park

Carp in the park

Dave Lane and the TF Gear team will be on hand to discuss and demonstrate selected products, Including the Airflo Inflatable bivvy, the Airbomb bait distribution device and the unique FishSpy underwater camera.

Carp In The Park: June 30th & July 1st, Billing Aquadrome, North Northamptonshire.

See you there!!!

For more information and ticketing visit www.carpinthepark.co.uk

Dave Lane on using the TF Gear Airbomb for floater fishing

As soon as I saw the very first Airbomb prototype all those long months ago, the first thing that came to my mind was floater fishing.

Apart from all the other obvious advantages of being able to present a spread of bait, regardless of the depth or range, floating bait presentation was the one I really wanted to try out.

Apart from close range catapult baiting or relying on the wind to drift floaters out into the ‘zone’ we had always had to suffer the ill effects of a huge great splash as our spod type devices crashed into the surface right where the carp were feeding. Obviously, this was always a major disadvantage, particularly if the fish were a bit cagy and it was always a gamble as to whether they would return and continue to feed afterwards.

Dave Lane casting the TF Gear Airbomb

Dave Lane casting the TF Gear Airbomb

With the Airbomb you can stop it in flight well short of the ‘feeding zone’ and the baits will continue their flight, landing with the minimum of disturbance right where you want them to.

Recently, on an impromptu trip to the Water Park for a breakfast with the family I had the perfect opportunity to try it out.

The fish were all cruising about behind the café on the main lake and I had all the floater kit in the back of the truck.

I simply fed the swim with the Airbomb before ordering my breakfast and let them get confident while I filled my own face with eggs and bacon. Once I had finished and the fish had cleared up most of the free offerings I was able to keep feeding floaters right on top of them and they just kept on eating them, which was the perfect scenario.

Using a heavy controller to cast way beyond the carp, I then teased it back into position and was soon hooked into a lively mirror of around twenty pounds.

That fish fought like crazy and it was a good five minutes before I got him anywhere near the net, during which time most of the feed had been demolished and the fish were starting to drift off, so I asked Dee, the wife, to have a go at Air-bombing some more out there for me while I was trying to net the fish.

Floater fishing success with the TF Gear Airbomb

Floater fishing success with the TF Gear Airbomb

Despite never having cast one before she had mastered it by the second cast and I just knew there would be another chance in the offing if I was quick.

With the mirror dealt with and the fish still having it out in the lake it didn’t take too long to get a second bite at the cherry and I added a lovely common carp of a similar size before heading for home.

It was every bit as effective as I knew it should be and I can’t wait for the next opportunity to give it a go.

Dave Lane

 

The Great Salmon Fishing Debate: Should Angling Be 100% Catch And Release?

A River Wye silver salmon

A silver fresh run salmon. Image: Tim Hughes

Wild salmon are precious creatures these days. Indeed, new legislation in Wales and much of England is set to make catch and release compulsory. But is it still ok to take them where rules permit? And when releasing salmon, how can we do so correctly to ensure each fish the best chance of full recovery? This month, the Fishtec team takes a look at the ins and outs of the current salmon debate.

An emotive debate…

It used to be the most normal thing in the world for the successful game angler to take a salmon home. Indeed, as crazy as it sounds, these fish were once so plentiful they were staple food for the poor. How times change!

Whether you lay the blame on climate change, environmental mismanagement, commercial salmon farming or a toxic mixture of these and other factors, salmon numbers are well down. But is it fair to ask anglers to release every fish, as new rules could dictate in Wales and most of England? And regardless of our reason for releasing salmon, how can we give each fish the best chance of survival?

Regarded by many as the king of freshwater fish for many anglers, it’s not surprising that salmon conservation is an emotive subject. Indeed, you will seldom find anyone indifferent to this iconic species.

Whilst we all have strong and differing opinions, we’re likely to agree on one thing: more needs to be done to ensure that our children and grandchildren still have salmon to fish for in the future. So will new laws help? Are they fair? Or could they cause more harm than good?

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An Atlantic salmon jumping over a weir on the River Severn in Shropshire.
Image source: Kevin Wells Photography

Can I keep salmon?

Firstly, we should point out that there are no consistent rules that apply to all of England and Wales at the present time (late May 2018). The list of regional byelaws on the Environment Agency site is the first place to check if you’re in any doubt about your local fishing. With stocks continuing to decline, many fishing clubs and areas already insist on catch and release fishing. Never assume you can keep salmon and do always check before you fish.

New rules proposed by the Environment Agency for 2019 could well take the decision out of anglers’ hands entirely. As of next year, it could potentially become a crime to take a salmon from any Welsh river and many of those in England.

Indeed, while anglers have welcomed new restrictions on commercial practices such as drift netting, many are angry that their traditional right to keep fish will be taken away. To put it mildly, this is a complex debate.

Different opinions within the angling community

The whole catch and release debate has polarised the angling community. Different regions and generations of anglers have very different opinions. The Angling Trust’s response to the proposed regulations was highly critical of the Welsh proposals, following a major survey that revealed 83% of respondents were against a complete ban on catch and keep angling.

In particular, it was felt that the new laws could represent a dangerous breakdown in trust between authorities and the anglers who are so often the “eyes and ears” of the waterways concerning illegal fishing.

The knock-on effects for the sport, and rural businesses in general, could also be stark. Plenty of life-long anglers feel it is their right to take a salmon or two every season. Many of these regulars could easily hang up their rods if we’re not careful; a scenario that could reduce precious resources even further. After all, anglers’ money goes towards costs such as habitat improvement, fisheries enforcement and other vital work.

However, anglers who already practise catch and release regardless of the law point out that we now live in a different era. Their argument is that salmon only enter freshwater to spawn and are too precious to kill. While it’s easy to say “just one or two” won’t matter, the removal of even one large female salmon from a threatened river could mean a lot fewer juvenile fish further down the line.

Sense and sustainability

Surely, whatever our personal views, the watchword for all salmon fishing needs to be sustainability. In this respect, it’s very difficult to dictate laws that could apply to all waters. After all, a smaller river with a steep decline in population is a very different prospect to a major waterway with prolific fish stocks.

So is it too much to ask that anglers make a decision using their own discretion? It should be pointed out that most anglers do this anyway. Even where catch and kill is allowed, statistics show that the majority of fish are released. The days of “keep everything” are long gone.

Perhaps the best system would be one of compromise and sensitivity that takes into account the nature of each individual river. Some clubs across Britain have already adopted such an approach. For example, some clubs allow season ticket anglers to keep one or two salmon, where runs are still healthy.

How to help salmon survive capture

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It’s sensible to keep salmon in the water as much as possible to reduce stress.
Image: Fishtec

How to release salmon is a separate question that requires care and thought. The good news is that virtually all salmon will survive capture and go on to spawn; provided the angler takes care and uses the best catch and release practice!

Here are just some of the things you can do to make sure every salmon you catch swims off and spawns successfully in the future:

  • Use strong tackle to help play and land fish quickly. A fish played to complete exhaustion is less likely to survive.
  • Always crush barbs on your hooks to reduce damage on removal. A “bumped” hook is an ideal compromise, in other words a hook where the profile of the barb has been reduced.
  • Use single hooks only to further reduce damage. Lures can easily be converted by swapping the trebles.
  • Avoid bait fishing. Statistics show that survival rates are much lower for bait fishing, as worms and other offerings are often swallowed. If you must use bait, try a circle hook.
  • Be prepared and have all your tools, camera and essentials to hand. Faffing about looking for these things means extra stress for fish.
  • Keep your fish wet. You don’t need to take salmon onto the bank. Keeping the fish in the water and handling with wet hands reduces stress. In fact, even short periods out of the water are proven to reduce survival rates, so if you need to retain the fish for a short period, do so by keeping it submerged in a generous-sized landing net.
  • Avoid crude nets. Talking of nets, stringy, harsh models have no place in angling these days. Modern, soft mesh is much kinder.
  • Measure, don’t weigh. The best way to record that special fish is to measure. This can be done while the fish is still in the water. There are various length to weight charts if you want to estimate the poundage.
  • Be quick and handle with care if you want a picture. If you want a snap, do so quickly and hold the fish in the water. Support it with wet hands and cradle, don’t squeeze!
  • Assist recovery by keeping the fish upright, facing into the flow. If it has fought hard, it may need a few moments to get its breath back. You’ll know it’s ready when you feel it try to swim away.

Another great resource is “The Gift”, a YouTube video made by the Atlantic Salmon Trust to illustrate correct tackle and good practice.

Think of the bigger picture

Last but not least, in any discussion of the battle to save salmon, we should also mention those working hard for the future of the species. Organisations like the Angling Trust and Salmon and Trout Conservation fight tirelessly to protect rivers, prevent illegal fishing and force key decision makers to protect salmon. Joining either of these groups is inexpensive and a great way to offer your support.

Airflo Modern Stillwater Tactics 2018 – Full Length DVD

Airflo sales director Gareth Jones and Fishtec blogger Iain Barr are two of the countries most successful stillwater fly fishermen. Together they co-operated with Trout Fisherman Magazine to bring us their latest fly fishing feature film.

In this new DVD titled ‘Airflo Modern Stillwater Tactics 2018’ they visit a variety of UK waters in search of trout. Their secret methods, fly lines, flies and tackle are all revealed, along with essential tips on how to catch more fish. If you fly fish lakes or reservoirs, then this is a ‘must watch’!

Want to see more of the Airflo Stillwater Tactics series? You can check out Volume 3 here.

For the others, head to our YouTube Channel!!

Buzzer Bonanza

Well known stillwater match angler Iain Barr shares his thoughts on spring buzzer fishing tactics. If you want to improve your buzzer fishing skills, read on!

May and June see prolific buzzer hatches across our lakes and reservoirs. Its buzzer bonanza time and what a time it is! That tightening of the line to the fingertips takes some explaining but it’s a buzz, an excitement, an exhilarating feeling.

7lb 12 Rutland Brown taken on a IB red butt black buzzer

7lb 12 Rutland Brown taken on a IB red butt black buzzer

For the best control with buzzers, a floating line or sink tip line is needed. In calm conditions I prefer to use a full floating line. I tend to add mucilin to the final 2-3 feet of fly line so this sits high. This is my indicator and my eyes are glued to it. Often you will get an arm wrenching pull but it’s those subtle takes that can be missed if not closely watching the line move. If a steady wind, I will opt for a tip line which ‘bites’ in the wave allowing better hook ups.

Some fish are still lying deep due to a harsh cold winter, these tend to be the bigger fish. Fish are also beginning to rise through the water columns as days become warmer so it’s a very exciting time of the season. It’s important to maximise your catch rate by taking advantage of both layers of fish. You can fish deep by using a heavy Reservoir Buzzer on the point and lighter buzzers up the line with a nymph on the top dropper. This ensures you are fishing all layers and it’s key to note which flies the fish are taking.

Early in the day you may note that the fish are taking the deep buzzer but often the fish will then start taking the buzzers up the line and the top dropper nymph. As the day warms and the buzzer pupae ascend through the layers the fish will follow them. The heavy buzzer then becomes redundant so try switching this to a Booby or Fab to hold the remaining flies higher in the water column. The more your flies are in the fish feeding ‘window’ the more you will catch, so depth control is critical when buzzer and nymph fishing.

One way to control the depth to perfection is by using a strike indicator or ‘bung’ . This is usually a piece of foam tied to a hook or a fly artificially enlarged to be visible as an indicator. This allows the flies to be suspended at the set depths and more importantly to be absolutely static. This is key to the most successful buzzer fishing. By retrieving your buzzers you are bringing them against any current which is totally unnatural. The best fish will often ignore these as they identify this as abnormal. I am not the biggest fan of the bung but I have no doubt it is lethal on its day. What you miss with this method is that exhilarating tightening in your fingertips.

Rutland water

Rutland water

At the moment, Rutland Water is at the clearest I have even seen it in 40 years. You can watch the fish swimming under the boat at 15-20 feet down! Tippet choice is crucial in such clear water. I am a huge fan of the Airflo G5 fluorocarbon. Its supple, fine diameter for its strength and very strong. With any colour in the water I use the 11.2lb for buzzers and in the crystal clear water I’ll drop down to 8.4lb. It has some ‘stretch’ in it and absorbs the aggressive takes you can get on buzzers. If the takes are very subtle I switch to Airflo G3. This is very strong and has less stretch allowing you detect the subtle takes more easily.

My choice of rod is the impressive Airflo Airlite V2 10’ #8. It’s soft enough to hit the aggressive buzzer takes hard and powerful enough to cope with the biggest of fish. I also use this rod for my sinking line work so acts as the perfect all round rod.

The rod position is critical for the hanging of your buzzers. As you approach the end of your cast whether on the boat or bank, always hang your flies. Raise your rod to about 10 o’clock position and stop everything. Ensure your top dropper is about 2-3 down below the surface and watch this for any movement. This is where the V2 plays it’s part. Too soft and the fish will pull and the hook may not set, too stiff and the fish will hit and will often ‘bounce’ off.

Enjoy this special time in the season. Our lakes and Reservoirs are now in full swing buzzer time. See Fishtec for a full range of Iain Barr World Champions Choice fly packs including Reservoir Buzzers, Stealth Buzzers and Black/Olive Buzzers.

Tight lines

Iain

Clothing Review – Hodgman Aesis Shell Jacket

Looking for a new jacket? Then you might find some inspiration here. In this review Ceri Thomas takes a look at the Aesis Shell fly fishing jacket from American tackle firm Hodgman.

I’ve been on the lookout for a decent breathable jacket for a while now. Mobility is key when I fish, so comfort is a must, as are decent pockets for accessories and fly boxes. When we started stocking the Hodgman range of fly fishing gear, I really liked the look of the Aesis shell jacket, which ticked all of the boxes for me. So after a bit of deliberation over the winter I decided to pick one up for the new season ahead.

I often think in order to write a ‘proper’ review you need to give something a real test on the water; not just a few hours. So after a full month of pretty hard usage, I feel I have now gotten to know this piece of outwear inside out. So here are my thoughts.

The Aesis shell jacket on the bank

The Aesis shell jacket on the bank


Wearing it

The cut of the jacket is good – it’s clearly been designed by a fisherman, with fly fishing in mind. The arms are generous and articulate well, allowing for easy casting. The sleeve design is practical, with velco adjustable cuffs that help keep the water out. The inner cuffs are also nice and soft. I found the sizing to be pretty generous though, and opted for a Large, rather than my usual XL.

When trying it on in the house, the wife remarked ”Do you have to wear that for fishing?? It’s quite nice!” And it is a genuinely good looking jacket. You could get away with wearing it pretty much anywhere, as well as the river bank. It has a clean, modern look and is a nice carbon/grey, a neutral colour, so you wont stand out like a sore thumb, in the pub for example.

Initially it was obvious that the jacket was very light indeed, but still retained a durable feel. When wearing it you don’t feel weighed down or constricted in any way. It almost has the feel of a packable 2 layer. It’s actually a 3 layer, so reliability in heavy rain is assured. You can tell from the material that it’s not going to let you down. I’ve been out in some extremely foul conditions this spring, and every time the water has just beaded off, literally like water off a ducks back. So full marks for waterproof ability.

Regarding breathability, I have done quite a lot of mountain lake fishing this year, which involves a fair bit of rock hopping and scrambling up steep hill sides. I have also been doing a lot of urban angling on the South Wales rivers; which again can be quite physical and requires a lot of effort to get in and out of the water. Compared to other jackets I have worn (including premium GoreTex) the breathability is right up there. You can break into a heavy sweat and still feel comfortable in the Aesis shell.

Urban angling with superb breathability!

Urban angling with superb breathability!


Is it a wading jacket or a 3/4??

It’s kind of both. It’s not overly short, so provides decent cover for your back area. Neither is it too long and flappy. I guess it was designed for American anglers fishing from drift boats, who sometimes need to get out and wade. You can use it for river, bank fishing on the fishery or drifting across the loch in the boat; it is genuinely multi purpose.

The Hodgman Aesis shell jacket is multi purpose

The Hodgman Aesis shell jacket is multi purpose

For extreme deep wading its actually designed to be tucked inside your waders if required. There is a ‘belt catch’ loop that helps you do this. I haven’t used it like that as I seldom need to wade that deep, but there are drain holes in the lower hand pockets that actually worked.

Neat little touches

The hood is well designed and easily adjustable. Even when fully up your field of vision is still clear. The chest pockets, whilst not enormous, are generous enough for most standard fly boxes, several accessories and spools of tippet. Two of them have waterproof seals, so are a good place to keep your car keys or a small point and shoot camera.

The flap of each breast pocket has a velcro fly patch built in, and interestingly a small magnet with the Hodgman logo on it. Great for holding a fly while you change your leader. There is also a small inner security pocket for valuables.

Back of the Aesis shell jacket

Back of the Aesis shell jacket

There are built in reflective strips on the back of the hood and around the shoulders. These are not obvious but show up in low light; quite handy I guess if fishing with a buddy on a dark night or if crossing a road at dusk. They also look pretty cool.

There is a rear D ring and also one in a breast pocket. One slight issue is the net D ring is quite low on the back – so it can be a slight pain to get you net back onto it without twisting your arm a little. But that’s about the only negative I can think of.

Verdict

After a solid month I am starting to think this is one of the best jackets I have ever owned. It’s functional, comfortable and a pleasure to fish in. It’s now a permanent occupier of my car boot, ready for action at any time.

Moving onwards, I’m looking forward to using it right through the warmer months, and maybe through the winter with thermals underneath. Its going to get a hammering but I am confident its going to last me a good few seasons.

At £239.99 it’s starting to enter the premium price bracket, but I feel the outlay is worth it. You pay your dollar, you get the goods! Great effort by Hodgman – keep it up the good work guys.

Hodgman Aesis Shell Jackets are available here.

Want to know more about the Hodgman brand?? Check out our blog post here.

Light at the End of the Tunnel – Rene’ Harrop

Airflo blogger Rene’ Harrop muses on the spring fishing that lies ahead….

Through much of a winter that seems to stretch endlessly in some years, May can exist like a distant light at the end of a tunnel.

Twenty eighteen has been one of those years when temperatures have remained consistently below normal through the months of March and April. As a result, precipitation has arrived in the form of snow at least as often as the rain that typically separates the storms of spring from the season just passed.

There are many reasons to look forward with great anticipation to the arrival of May and most if not all are related to weather conditions. Beyond Baetis and midges, spring hatches on the Henry’s Fork are dependent upon stable water and air temperatures that are consistently above freezing. This includes nearly every aquatic insect above size sixteen and there is no exception to this hard rule.

Fortunately, the lower Fork has finally moved passed the time when snow is not an impediment to accessing the water and bundling against the cold is no longer a constant requirement. It is a different story in the high country, however.

Early May is the traditional time to change my residence from five thousand feet elevation to a location nearly two thousand feet higher. In most years I have succeeded in meeting that long awaited target but this year that may not be the case.

Soon To Be Occupied

Soon To Be Occupied

As recent as late April nearly three feet of snow surrounded our summer cabin and nighttime temperatures were still dropping into the low double digits. Comparing this to the green lawn and early blooming flowers in our yard at St. Anthony is a description of two different worlds that lie less than fifty miles apart.

Trading caddis and March Brown hatches in sixty degree weather for a return to conditions left more than a month behind is tough to consider as the calendar turns to the fifth month of the year.

Early Rainbow

Early Rainbow

Right now I am thinking it will be at least two weeks until our annual move back to Island Park can be justified. In the interim, my fishing at Last Chance will continue to be a one hour commute, although recently it has been well worth the drive.

And while I stand in the river with snow still lining the banks and fishing a size twenty Baetis rather than a caddis two sizes larger, I am compelled to remember that this will change at some near point.

Spring Brown

May has arrived and before month’s end an extra-long winter will become only a memory as it is replaced by another new season that holds no bounds for a fly fisherman.

And I plan to be there for it all.

Madness of Mayfly Season: Top Fly Fishing Tips & Tactics

For many fly fishers, the mayfly season is the main event of the entire year. So how and when can you profit best from hatches of this iconic insect? Dominic Garnett has some handy tips and fly patterns for every stage of the hatch.

A Mayfly

The mayfly, or Ephemera danica, has three tails and is a pale yellow-green colour.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

After a strange cocktail of spring weather, there’s already a hint of expectancy in the air as we approach mayfly season. With good reason, too, because so-called “duffer’s fortnight” can be a ridiculously exciting time to be fly fishing.

So when can we expect the heaviest hatches? And what can the angler do to make the most of this productive yet short-lived period? Here are some hints and observations that should stand you in good stead.

What do anglers actually mean by “mayfly” ?

Without wishing to be pedantic, we should establish what most fly anglers mean when they talk about the mayfly. Let’s be clear: by “mayfly” they mean the bold and unmistakable Ephemera danica, characterised by its three tails, large size and pale yellow to greenish colouration.

This can be a little confusing, because a whole stack of smaller mayflies also exist. It’s just that we usually refer to these as olives, upwings and other names. If in doubt, check out our UK Upwing Flies infographic for a more thorough breakdown.

What are “classic” mayflies and why do trout go nuts for them?

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The sandy, muddy banks of the River Culm in Devon; an ideal mayfly medium.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Ephemera danica, the textbook mayfly, is a creature with a rather tragic lifecycle – a sort of natural ballet, followed by a car crash ending. Indeed, it spends a whole year on the riverbed, before living, breeding and dying in just a single day.

Unlike many of the smaller mayflies, whose larvae thrive in stony, fast water, these bigger mays are found in sandy and muddy territory where they make little burrows. Suffice to say, not all rivers are equal in terms of hatches, although most will have a show at some point.

The nymphs of Ephemera Danica are well concealed and hard to get at for most of the year, until late spring and early summer. Hatching in huge numbers might seem a recipe for carnage, but it ensures that enough will manage to breed while a whole range of animals, from frogs to wagtails, take their fill.

Unsurprisingly, trout go bonkers over this easy food source too. Like guests at a crazy drunken party, they go a bit over the top and do stupid things that they wouldn’t normally do. Like getting giddy and falling for a great big artificial fly on a thick line. Not that I’m saying every session in mayfly season will be as easy as lobbing out a big fly!

When do mayflies hatch?

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Early summer: a wonderful time to be on the water.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Mayflies hatch in May, right? Not necessarily. It depends on the conditions, but mayflies tend to hatch in late May or June. This year, I’d expect the cold, late spring to throw things back a bit. If I was a betting man and could find some decent odds, I’d wager good money that this year’s magic period will be mid-June or even later.

The trick to timing it right is to keep having a sneaky look at your local river for signs. Just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, one mayfly doesn’t make a hatch. The odd one will arrive early, while other loners will emerge as late as August and September! But it’s when they start to appear by the dozen that the fish will really nab them best. In fact, trout can initially appear quite suspicious of these big insects until they begin to emerge in force.

Tackling up for mayfly hatch

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Mayfly imitations are not small and trout are not shy of them, so don’t fish too fine.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Due to the large size of the natural flies, the good news in mayfly season is that you can go a bit heavier with tackle. Something like a four to five weight rod would be my choice on the river, or a bit heavier on stillwaters, say a six weight.

As for leaders and tippets, mayfly imitations tend to be large and will quickly kink the lightest lines. Therefore, start with a tippet of 4-5lbs. Check your knots with care and retie if there are any kinks or weak points in the line too, because mayflies seem to tempt even the biggest, wiliest, most tackle-crunching trout to feed.

Different mayfly fly patterns and stages of the hatch

So you have your eye on a suitable stretch of river or lake. How should you start fishing? Which mayfly pattern should you use? This depends on the stage of the hatch. Here’s a rough guide:

Early Hatch:

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Richard Walker’s Mayfly Nymph is a cracking fly.
Image source: Fishtec

Before the main carnival begins, you’ll start to see occasional big flies hatching. The trout will soon recognise these as tasty food, but won’t be gung-ho for a while yet.

We tend to associate mayfly season with classic dry flies, but they’ll often go for the nymphs rather than adults in the early hatch. Richard Walker’s Mayfly Nymph is a cracking fly, or you could try an Emerging Mayfly to give them an easy meal at the surface. Bide your time though, because good things do come to those who wait.

Mid Hatch:

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The darker colours of the Grey Wulff do well mid hatch.
Image source: Fishtec

Now the fun really begins! Depending on the richness of the habitat, this period can last for a day or two, or a whole fortnight, producing veritable hordes of mayflies. The trout start to gorge and, if your timing is right, any suitable pattern will be taken.

There are many patterns to try, but a classic Hackled Dry Mayfly is as good a place as any to start. Another I like a lot is the Grey Wulf. Why this should work is odd, because it seems the wrong colour. Perhaps when there are lots of yellowish naturals, the darker fly stands out better?

My favourite of the mayfly patterns in a really busy hatch, however, is my own ultra-durable fly called the ‘Brawler’. I tie these using a specially produced floating tail, or a short section of old fly line in pale yellow. A deer hair wing completes a very tough fly. For a step by step tying guide see the Turrall Flies Blog. Unlike more delicate patterns, this one is durable enough to keep coming back for more, making it perfect for those days when the trout provide more hits than the Beatles.

Late Hatch:

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The Spent Mayfly often tempts sated trout to ‘just one more’…
Image source: Fishtec

If it’s been a particularly busy year, the latter stages of the mayfly season can be trickier than you might expect. The trout are stuffed, but like many wild animals, they’ll want to make the most of any period of abundance and will carry on eating. It’s just that they slow down and become more picky.

An emerger or Spent Mayfly is ideal, because they take less effort for a well-fattened trout to intercept. “Oh, go on then… just one more!” If that doesn’t work, you could also go for the lively route. In fact, I’ve spoken to river keepers who swear that when the trout are too well fed, the best results come from provoking them with a well-hackled pattern, walked a little at the surface if necessary.

Further thoughts on mayfly fishing…

Above all else, mayfly time is a period of opportunism. I know anglers who plan months ahead to have time off and travel. For the rest of us, keeping an eye out on our local rivers is the best we can do. And having some good excuses ready for when we want to sneak off at short notice!

Wherever you fish, ‘duffer’s fortnight’ is an amazing phenomenon. Most anglers in England and Wales think of rivers and brown trout when the word mayfly is mentioned; but Scottish and Irish anglers use bushy, loch style mayflies to great effect.

Nor are brown trout the only quarry for this exciting period. Quite a few of our smaller stillwater fisheries also have a good hatch, especially those where a feeder stream has them in abundance. This is a fantastic time to introduce a friend to dry fly fishing for rainbow trout, besides wild browns. In fact, and you can deliberately target the best fish in the lake if you time it right!

Nor does it end there, because I’ve caught some nice rudd or chub on mayflies, the latter even in July, well past the main hatch. Carp will home in on them in more natural lakes too. In fact, I was once on a lake in Norfolk carp fishing when mayflies suddenly appeared everywhere. I cursed the fact I only had bait fishing tackle, because I suspect an artificial fly might have tempted an absolute monster. Perhaps another day?

Wherever you find yourself this mayfly season, be sure to keep your eyes peeled, your car loaded up and your excuses prepared for a quick trip to the water! Like the trout, I wish you rich pickings and hope you catch your fill.

Read more …

For more of our blogger Dominic Garnett’s stories and articles, his website has books, blog posts and more to enjoy. Crooked Lines (£9.99), his collection of fishing tales, makes especially enjoyable summer reading. Or, discover the flies and innovative tactics used to catch a wide range of freshwater fish in his highly acclaimed Amazon Bestseller Flyfishing for Coarse Fish.

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Excellent gifts to add to your Father’s Day wishlist!