Fishing in Orlando Florida

As a family holiday destination, Orlando must be one of the most popular in the world – but have you ever considered fishing there? As well as Disney world, great food and alligators, Orlando has some fantastic fishing opportunities, both fresh and saltwater.

Fishing in Orlando - just off international drive

Fishing in Orlando – just off international drive.

Water World

When you look at Orlando on google maps, or whilst landing at the airport, the first thing you will notice are the lakes. They are literally everywhere – ranging from puddle sized drainage ponds, canals and mid sized waters, all the way up to huge inland seas of many thousands of acres. These lakes look incredibly fishy – because they are. They are literally full of largemouth bass, and their smaller cousins the sunfish. These species are very keen to hit artificial lures and flies.

Lakes in the Orlando area tend to be clear, with prolific weed growth. Many of the larger lakes in the area need to be fished by boat – this is where a guide comes in handy. There are plenty of guides available, including Captain Dean Puller of Gator bass, who can take you on the world famous Lake Toho and supply all the gear you will need.

Orlando is dotted with lakes and canals full of fish

Orlando is dotted with lakes and canals full of fish.

For a budget option, or if your time is limited, numerous small urban lakes and canals can be easily fished from the shore. Generally, as long as there is access from a bridge crossing or a road you are able to fish with the state license (look out for private property signs!). This license is available for a non-resident at just $30 for 7 days; and is easily available online or at a fishing shop such as Bass Pro. Google maps is the best way to scope out likely looking fishing spots near to where you are staying.

Become a Bass Pro

Largemouth bass are predators that like to patrol marginal areas, weed-lines and drop offs in search of any food item they can fit into their cavernous mouths. They will eat anything – from small fish to ducks, mice and frogs. The bass is a hard fighting sportfish known for leaping clear of the water when hooked and can grow to double figures in weight, with Orlando being home to fish of this caliber in some of it’s lakes. Generally though, fish of a pound or two are what you are likely to encounter, with the odd bigger specimen thrown into the mix.

A good sized Florida bass

A good sized Florida largemouth bass, caught in a urban canal.

Bass really like to hit surface lures if they are in the mood – floating plugs and lures can draw fierce, exciting strikes. The surface lures from Savage Gear, such as the 3D rat and 3D suicide duck make for perfect topwater bass fishing lures.

If fly fishing, large deer hair bass bug flies will work well. It is also worth getting hold of some weedless popper patterns. As well as the big bass flies, UK stillwater trout fishing lures can be deadly, especially if the bass have seen it all. For example Minky boobies fished on the surface proved to be a winner on a heavily fished lake.

Bass on a surface fly

Bass caught on a surface fly – a minky booby from Fulling Mill!

The key to surface fishing for bass is to hit the edge of thick cover, then twitch your lure violently to entice the bass out of hiding. Then it pays to pause the retrieve, sometimes for a minute or two – bass will often hit while the lure is stationary.

Sinking your lure or fly is the way to fish if the bass are not interested in breaking the surface. Woolly buggers and Clouser minnows are great flies to fish on a floating fly line, whilst rubber ‘Senko worms‘ rigged ‘wacky style‘ can be lethal on a spinning outfit. Allow these to sink to the bottom and twitch them back – the action can be irresistible to bass.

Bass captured with a senko worm.

Bass captured with a senko worm.

Sunfish are fun if the bass ain’t biting…

Sunfish can be found in almost any body of water in Florida. There are numerous species, including bluegill, longear, redbreast, warmouth and crappie. What they lack in size they make up for in character, colour and willingness to take lures and flies – provided they are small enough. For example, a size 12 Hares ear nymph or a size 16 jig head/worm combo would be perfect. Allow your lure to sink near structure and you will usually find them eager to bite.

Florida Sunfish caught on fly fishing gear

Florida Sunfish caught on fly fishing gear.

What about Saltwater?

Orlando is just under an hours drive from same fantastic saltwater flats fishing – the world famous Indian river and Mosqito lagoon are well known for their tarpon, redfish, snook and sea-trout fishing. Here you can fish in the shadow of NASA off cape Canaveral using flies or lures, with abundant bird life, dolphins and manatees to keep you company. The services of a guide are essential, and many offer a pick up service from Orlando, such as the extremely knowledgeable Capt. Dustin Link of Xtreme Sight Fishing Charters.

A baby Goliath grouper from Mosquito lagoon

A baby Goliath grouper from Mosquito lagoon, Florida.

Watch the wildlife and the weather

The summer weather in Florida is very hot and humid, making daytime fishing very tough. The fishing is always better at dawn and dusk, so as well as being more pleasant to be out in, the chances of you catching are very much improved. This also ties in nicely if you are on a family holiday, allowing you to grab a few hours on the water before the day gets underway.

Dawn on vista cay lake - great fishing, with public access.

Dawn on Vista Cay lake – great fishing, with public access.

Wherever you are fishing, it pays to look out for dangerous wildlife. Alligators are present in most lakes and inshore areas of Florida. Generally they are harmless, but take care not to fish near them, or disturb them. Look at for furrows in the weed and banks where they crawl out of the water. While you fish, stand a bit higher up on the bank than usual – so you get a good view of what is in there. Mosquito’s and no-see-ums (midge) are a constant menace so make sure you pack some repellent. Finally avoid walking through high brush and grass – where snakes and ticks like to hang out.

Orlando Alliagtor

Orlando Alligator – this one lived right outside a holiday apartment block.

What tackle to bring?

For fly fishing, a multi section 9 foot 7 weight should have you covered for both fresh and saltwater action; a fly line such as Airflo’s bass/muskie taper or bonefish tropical will work best in the heat, and for turning over large and heavy flies.

Fly fishing for bass with a 7 weight rod.

Fly fishing for bass with a 7 weight rod.

For lure fishing a lightweight multi section or telescopic rod (e.g Saveggear Finesse) with a fixed spool or baitcasting reel fitted with 15 or 20lb braid will do the job well. Rubber worms and bass specific surface lures can be purchased in Bass Pro Orlando, or in supermarkets such as Walmart, at very reasonable prices.

In the video above, Fishtec’s Tim Hughes catches a largemouth bass in an Orlando lake using a light baitcasting outfit.

Have fun!

Above all Orlando is a great place to catch fish. Wherever you wet a line, action is sure to come. So next time you are on a family holiday, sneak in a rod.

6 Summer River Fly Fishing Tips

At this time of year fly fishing rivers becomes increasingly difficult; with low water conditions and increased daytime temperatures mainly to blame. Throw in high angler pressure throughout the spring months, and you have some truly challenging fishing by mid summer.

With that said, it is still possible to make some decent catches even when the river fishing is rock hard. The following river tips should help you keep on catching all summer…..

Stealth will bring you results....

Stealth will bring you results….

1. Stealth. A common sense tip, but often overlooked. Trout are wary creatures at best and with a river lacking in flow they are even more attuned to the presence of predators. A clumsy slip of the wader boot on a slimy rock will often spook a whole pool. So really take your time when approaching the water and if possible avoid unnecessary wading.

2. Walk the river. It really pays to go looking for fish when the going is tough. Walk the banks quietly and look for signs of fish rather than charge straight it. When river temperatures are warm in summer fish tend to be much more clustered together in refuse areas that offer extra cover. A tell tale rise or splash can give a tightly packed pod of fish away, saving you wasting time fishing empty water.

Walk the river to find fish

Walk the river to find fish – a trout that gave itself away with a splashy rise

3. Fish the faster water. In low summer flows fast water offers fish cover and oxygen, as well as helping mask the sound and vibration emitted by the angler. So It can pay to solely concentrate your efforts in rapids, pocket water and necks of pools when the river is fishing poorly during hot weather. Such areas can be fished effectively with a french leader, a method very much suited to spooky fish.

Look for fast, oxygenated water

Look for fast, oxygenated water when temperatures are high

4. Minimise your false casting. I often see too many anglers making false casts that they simply don’t need to. Less false casts equal less shadows and line flash that will alert spooky low water trout. A short head weight forward fly line such as the Airflo Super Dri Xceed is designed for quick rod loading, and will help reduce false casting. Also try and make your false casts lower down, at a side angle where your cast will intrude less into the cone of the trouts vision.

5. Use a long leader and scale down. The lower the water the longer the leader. Don’t be afraid to fish a 20 foot leader length on a low river. The further away from your fly line the fly is, the better! A clear floating Airflo light trout polyleader combined with a supple, thin diameter co-polymer such as the superb Airflo tactical allows you to achieve great turnover and subtle presentation at range.

6. Make the switch to low light conditions. Early or late can be the answer during heatwave conditions. From Mid Summer onwards trout in warm water tend to switch to surface feeding at last knockings and through into the night, when water temperatures fall and food sources are more abundant. Likewise crack of dawn fishing can produce good fishing, especially on nymphs, where trout remain in the faster shallows briefly before the sun rises.

A fish captured at last knockings...

A fish captured at last knockings…

Perch On The Fly

Over the winter fly fishing opportunities for trout can be a bit limited, so why not try for perch on the fly? Perch are eager takers, and once you find them you can have some great fun with your fly rod. So why not give them a go!

Perch on the fly

Perch on the fly.

Where to find

Perch are abundant in the UK, and can be found in pretty much any lake, canal or coarse fishery – where the price of a ticket is often just a few pounds. Both large and small stillwater trout fisheries also hold specimen perch in big numbers, making for a pleasant diversion when trouting is slow.

Perch like to shoal up and hug close to structure, especially where there is a deep drop off. Perfect places to look for them would be near to jetties, piers, sunken timber, boat landings, harbors and channels.

Perch fly gear

A fly rod from 6 to 9 weight, 9 to 10 feet in length will be just fine for perch on the fly. Perch prefer to sit in mid-water, so pack your sinking lines! The Airflo forty plus range of sinkers are ideal lines to use, especially the Di5 and Di7.

Don’t worry about having a reel filled with backing – perch are not known for long runs, just dogged head shakes and dives.

For leader, use strong fluorocarbon from 10 to 15lb breaking strain. Airflo G3 or Fulling Mill flouro are both very tough stuff and withstand serious abuse.

Perch flies and leader material

Perch flies and leader material.

Perch flies

Perch are predatory creatures, and the bigger they are the more protein they crave.

Larger trout fry patterns, minkies, boobie zonkers and snakes will all work well. The Fulling Mill fry pattern set is a great place to start for a collection of effective perch patterns.

When perching it pays to have at least two flies on your leader at once – you then have a great chance of getting a ‘double header’ – believe me it’s great fun!

Fish two flies and a perch 'double header' is on the cards!

Fish two flies and a perch ‘double header’ is on the cards!

How to fish

Perch like to huddle together in a pack. They often don’t like to move that far from the safety of the shoal to intercept a fly, so it is vital you get amongst them. This is where a fast sinking line comes into play.

Once your line is well down in the water, get the flies moving in aggressive strips. Perch like to ‘zone in’ on a moving fly on a horizontal plane, and a steady retrieve will often get them to attack.

When you feel a tap, never lift the rod in a knee jerk reaction. Strip-strike by pulling the fly line hard until everything locks up.

Once you find a few, keep on hammering the same area – you can often catch most of the shoal in quick succession.

The reward - a fine perch on the fly

The reward – a fine perch on the fly.

10 Stillwater Pike Bank Fishing Tips

As the autumn begins and temperatures drop, many anglers turn their attention to pike fishing, particularity on stillwaters. This blog post by Ceri Thomas reveals 10 essential stillwater pike fishing tips that will help you catch more pike off the bank this winter.

To catch a true specimen sized pike, you often have to fish a decent sized water to find them – places such as Chew valley lake, Llandegfedd, Pitsford, Blithfield etc and of course numerous glacial waters in The Lake District, Wales, Ireland and Scotland.

Pike fishing can be superb at this time of year on such large sheets of water but also extremely challenging, especially if you have to fish from the bank. To help improve your pike catch rates over the autumn and winter period, follow these 10 stillwater pike bank fishing tips to enhance your success.

Pike bank fishing on a large stillwater

Pike bank fishing on a large stillwater.

1. Keep mobile. It’s a catch 22 – do you stay put, or move if no runs are forthcoming? Sit it out or find fish? Personally I take the latter option every time. The more water you cover, the more chances of a feeding pike seeing your bait. If you have had no runs in an hour, up sticks. Carry your gear a few hundred yards down the bank and recast. Repeat every hour until you find action.

Being mobile can really pay off - a change of swim can produce instant results

Being mobile can really pay off – a change of swim can produce instant results.
(Image: Leighton Ryan)

2. Don’t ignore the margins. We become so obsessed with casting the baits out to the maximum range possible and bait boating to hundreds of yards that we forget about what is going on under our noses. Always try a bait in the margin, just off the first drop off. Pike are not always found at range, even on vast sheets of water. By all means, fish one rod at range, but keep your other bait closer in to start off – you might be surprised!

3. Make an extra effort to fish at dawn and dusk. Pike like both periods due to the cover it gives them. Turing up early can really be the difference between success and failure, the crack of dawn is a prime feeding period, as is sunset. On some pressured venues pike feed in the dark on discards when most anglers have gone home, so it pays to stay on into darkness a few hours if fishery rules permit.

Worth getting up early for - a 30lb pike at the crack of dawn!

Worth getting up early for – a 30lb pike at the crack of dawn!

4. Use fresh bait. Bait can be expensive, but if you could catch a 20lb plus fish each session I bet you wouldn’t mind paying just a few pounds more each trip! Look to change your bait every hour. Re-casting and exposure to the water quickly leaches out the oils and flavour that attract pike. Washed out baits simply aren’t as appealing. Resist the temptation to re-freeze baits and then use them multiple times. Old freezer burned bait lacks flavour, scent, and texture – these bad re-frozen baits simply don’t help you catch fish. From experience a fresh blast frozen bait will always outfish a re-used one. The bottom line is don’t skimp on bait, and you will be rewarded.

5. Don’t be afraid to try a lure. Off the bank deadbaiting is a very popular option, but don’t neglect the lures. It’s always worth running a lure through your swim a few times before you set your dead’s out. Firstly this could result in an instant fish, but if it doesn’t it can have the effect of ‘waking up’ any pike nearby through the disturbance and vibration caused by the lure. Those fish may then decide to take your deadbait.

6. Move your bait. This tactic isn’t used as much as it should be. Works best with a popped up bait. Cast out at a comfortable range, let the bait settle for 5 minutes then wind in a few yards. Repeat a few times with pauses of 5 – 10 minutes until you re-cast. Pike have a habit of simply sitting there watching a bait, and the movement can make them react. Expect runs just as the bait stops moving.

7. Don’t ignore small baits. I am talking really small – sprats, small sandeel, cut down macky tails, little joeys and smelt just a few inches long. On some waters these baits outfish bigger baits because the pike are so used to seeing massive herring, mackerel, whole blueys etc. thrown at them all day. They also work well when pike are visibly feeding on fry – it makes sense to ‘match the hatch’ and scale down your bait to the size on which the pike are feeding. Cast into the commotion and hang on!

8. Don’t follow the herd. You heard on the grapevine, social media, an online report or a mate that a certain area is fishing well and a big fish has been caught. Naturally you think that’s the place to head for. Chances are, If you heard about it then everyone else has heard this as well, and will have hammered the area already. I say find your own fish. Don’t follow the herd. Think outside the box and try a fresh area where people don’t fish very often. And when you do catch a decent fish, keep it to yourself.

A result of 'finding your own fish'.

A result of ‘finding your own fish’. (Image: Leighton Ryan)

9. Bring your fishing waders. Make sure you pack them – a set of sturdy boot foot cleated neoprene waders will do the job. As well as keeping you warm and dry in even the heaviest rain, these provide numerous advantages, especially on reservoirs with gently shelving banks; giving you access to much deeper water and the ability to wade beyond or through thick weed beds before you make your cast.

10. Release the flavour in your bait. Prick your bait with a knife to release juice and blood into the area. Also dip or inject your bait with flavoured fish based oil every time you re-cast, to ensure a slick leaks out to draw fish to your swim. Cod liver oil pills are also a good trick – stuff one down the throat of your deadbait. The coating will dissolve and leave a nice little slick of flavour around your dead.

Fishing Wisconsin’s Brule River – The River of Presidents

This autumn Fishtec’s Ceri Thomas had the opportunity to fish the Bois Brule river in America’s upper Midwest. Read on to find out how he fared on the river of presidents, deep in the northwoods.

The Brule River Wisconsin

The Brule River Wisconsin.

Northern Wisconsin’s Brule river is a unique waterway that flows north into the vastness of Lake Superior. Passing through pristine ‘northwoods’ boreal forest, consisting of poplar, alder, cedar, birch and conifers, the Brule is quite special as it is spring fed in it’s upper reaches, therefore having a constant cool temperature and good flow. This makes it extremely hospitable to salmonid fish species; In fact brook trout (the native fish) brown, rainbow, steelhead, coho and chinook salmon all thrive and breed here.

A river of two halves

The Brule river can be divided in two distinct fisheries – the upper part of the river meanders slowly through pine forest and swamp, where it sometimes expands into shallow lakes where eagles soar overhead, deer swim and wild turkey roam the bankside undergrowth. Log jams, fallen trees, and undercut swampy banks all provide abundant habit for three species of trout – brown, brook and rainbow. Large migratory browns from Lake Superior also like to hole up in this part of the river. The upper river and lakes can be accessed from several road bridges and waded in a few areas, but is perhaps best fished from a canoe.

The upper Brule river.

The upper Brule river.

Half way along it’s forty nine mile course the Brule abruptly changes character and becomes a brawling, fast flowing river with a strong deep flow, much more like a freestoner. Here the quarry switches to lake run steelhead and salmon, suitable for wade fishing only with fly and spinning techniques.

The river of presidents

The Brule is sometimes referred to as the ”river of presidents.” It was on the banks of the upper river that several United States presidents essentially relocated the White house and spent their summers fly fishing. The Brule’s fishing presidents were Grant, Cleveland, Calvin Coolidge, Herbert Hoover, Harry Trueman and Dwight Eisenhower. They stayed in secluded log cabins in the midst of the woods at the private estates built by lumber barons, including the grand Cedar Island Estate. Here they fished by canoe in the main river and also in large spring ponds, safe from prying eyes. Back in those days, the fishing for brook trout was simply incredible – the now extinct ‘coaster strain’ were lake run brookies that averaged 3lb and ran to 14lb.

US President Calvin Coolidge fishing the Brule.

US President Calvin Coolidge fishing the Brule.

Fishing the Brule

During my five days on the Brule, I did plenty of wade fishing – including two tough morning sessions for steelhead in the lower reaches, where I landed small browns and rainbows in abundance, but not my intended targets.

Steelhead fishing the lower Brule river

Steelhead fishing the lower Brule river.

On the upper river I spent some time fishing the famous ‘big lake’, the largest lake in the Brule system, and also at spots above the Winnebojou bridge and Highway 2. I caught a lot of fish each time – numerous eager native brookies, small rainbows (most are juvenile steelhead) and a good number of browns to 12 inches all came to hand, using a selection of dries and streamers.

A Brule river brook trout

A Brule river brook trout.

Early morning on Big Lake, Brule River.

Early morning on Big Lake, Brule River.

What I noticed was Brule fish especially loved big dry flies, and were eager to strike at them. A large klinkhammer special proved a winner, especially when cast tight to cover.

Brule river trout love dry flies

Brule river trout love dry flies.

I also encountered coho salmon on big lake, and landed a fresh, silver brace using a black woolly bugger. These diminutive salmon fought like demons for their size. Some big Chinooks in excess of 20lb were also spotted, many in full spawning mode.

A brace of Brule river Coho salmon

A brace of Brule river Coho salmon.

I spent one afternoon in a canoe on big lake, where gusty winds and bright sun made it hard to fish – despite this plenty of brook trout, small browns and rainbows took klinkhammer specials and streamers with gusto, fished close to cover.

A beer stop on big lake

A beer stop on big lake.

You could say there are game fish for every discipline here – the species selection of naturally reproducing salmonids on the Brule is simply incredible; it was hard to say what you might hook into next. At times I caught brook, brown and rainbow all in consecutive casts – you cannot do that in many rivers in the world!

Brule river grand slam - brown, brook and rainbow.

Brule river grand slam – brown, brook and rainbow.

Night fishing

Brule river guides and local anglers have a tradition of night fishing for brown trout on the calmer waters of the upper river – resident and lake run browns behave much like our sea trout do in the UK.

In summer and autumn the bigger browns on the Brule become almost exclusively night feeders, preferring to slurp down hapless rodents swimming past in the dark. See the image below for proof of this!

Evidence Trout eat mice - a Brule night feeder

Evidence Trout eat mice – a Brule night feeder.

Large surface lure patterns fished on 7 weighs are the order of the day. Fishing out of a canoe is the best way to do this, but you can also wade in some areas such as the south west shore of big lake.

My experience of night fishing this trip was on the Brule’s famous night fishing spot, ‘big lake’ with my uncle, local fishing guide Tom Heffernan. The early evening was spent casting dries and soft hackle wets tight to overhanging cedar trees, log jams and weed edges. I landed around a dozen small but beautiful brook trout and a 12 inch brown using my 9′ #5 Sage fly rod to start things off.

A brook trout that fell for a soft hackle on Big lake.

A brook trout that fell for a soft hackle on Big lake.

Before we began night fishing proper, we joined some of the local guides for a traditional northwoods dinner in a shelter on the lake shore – a delicious feast of bacon, fried potatoes and chicken were cooked up in the cold evening air, all washed down with beer and vodka.

A tradition Brule river guides supper

A traditional Brule river guides supper.

The 7 weight rods were then rigged up with various floating abominations, including the Hanks creation – a local night fishing special tied by Steve Therrien. (For more info, check out this blog post by Steve).

The hanks creation surface lure

The hanks creation surface lure.

I choose to rig up with a Jambo, a wake fly that works great on Welsh Sea trout. The Jambo’s small flying trebles ensure a better ratio of hookups, something surface lures are notoriously bad at – big single hooks can let you down. Combine with low stretch Airflo fly lines and you have a combination that will result in far more conversions… that was the theory anyway.

After our campfire feast the night was fully dark and we headed out into the lake. It turned out Tom knew every stone, log and channel by heart – it was remarkable; not a wrong turn or harsh bump on a rock was to be felt, a mean feat in what was a pitch black night.

Following Toms directions I worked the Jambo in several prime spots – resulting in 5 fierce takes, with 4 fish landed, 2 of 14 inches, one of 15 and a plump 17 incher that felt as if it had a few mice in its fat belly. After an hour of good fishing we found the other end of the lake crowded, and with a cold mist descending we left the lake – but not before hearing a lure angler on the shore tussling with what sounded like a true behemoth of a fish in the darkness.

Night feeding Brule river browns.

Night feeding Brule river browns.

The Brule didn’t give up it’s biggest fish for me this trip, but what they lacked in size they certainly made up for in numbers. The fishing here is really all about the experience – on the Brule there is a calming remoteness and feeling of pure escapism from civilization.

The Brule river – the ultimate northwoods experience.

The Brule river – the ultimate northwoods experience.

Afloat or wading you can easily imagine yourself back in time at the days of the first pioneers, with nothing but the sound of eagles, woodpeckers, flowing water and wind in the pines to keep you company. It’s little wonder presidents wanted to fish here, to get away from it all. For a true northwoods wilderness experience, this is one for your bucket list.

10 Pike Boat Fishing tips

When faced with a large sheet of water catching Pike from a boat can be a daunting prospect – where to start? If you follow these 10 Pike boat fishing tips the next time you are afloat on a lake or reservoir, your pike catches should increase dramatically.

Pike boat fishing success - a 35lb plus pike! Captor: Leighton Ryan

Pike boat fishing success – a 35lb plus pike! Captor: Leighton Ryan

1. Bring a fish finder. An essential bit of fishing gear for boat fishing, it’s like an extra pair of underwater eyes. It’s a huge advantage to invest in one. There are many to choose from, but Fishin Buddy and Deeper are our favourites.

Don't forget your fishfinder!

Don’t forget your fishfinder!

2. Bring a second anchor or mudweight. When fishing deadbaits an unstable moving boat means bad presentation. Bad presentation = no runs. Ensure you pack a mudweight, as most fisheries do not supply them. Anchor your boat at both ends, with the prow facing into the wind for safety reasons.

3. Drift with lures. Drifting and casting lures covering water will always outfish anchoring up and working a small area. The more water you cover with lures, the more fish will see them and the more you will catch! A drogue is an essential bit of kit, it will slow your drift to just the right speed on a windy day.

4. Cast your deadbaits far away from the boat.  I often see pike anglers  fishing with their floats way too close to the boat. Pike can be spooked from boat noise and vibration, especially during a prolonged period of pressure. From experience a good cast of 30 – 40 yards away from where you are anchored will get you more runs.

5. Find the contours, find the fish. Drop offs are where pike sit or patrol, and underwater spits and plateaus can literally be fish magnets. If you do not have a fishfinder check out the lie of the surrounding land and try and work out where submerged features may be found. If you can, get hold of a depth contour map of the venue, it will be invaluable.

A fishery contour map is invaluable.

A fishery contour map is invaluable.

6. Don’t follow the crowd. It can be very tempting to pull up and fish near to somebody who just pulled out a 30! Or if you see a cluster of boats in a bay fishing away, you might think there is a reason they are here – and decide to join in. It’s best to go looking for fresh, unfished areas where fish have been undisturbed. Find your own fish, don’t be a sheep!

7. Be mobile. This is the main advantage of a boat – you can go wherever you want! It amazes me when people anchor up and stay static all day in exactly the same spot, with often little to show for it. I like to pick a decent spot, anchor up and fish it for an hour max. I have lost count of the amount of runs that have come within the first 10 minutes. If they are there, have seen your bait and are feeding you wont be hanging around for ages waiting for action. No runs in an hour, up anchor and try somewhere else.

A Chew pike - result of a mobile approach, an instant run in a new spot.

A Chew pike – result of a mobile approach, an instant run in a new spot.

8. Stick it out. Where fishery rules permit try and stay on the water as long as possible. The last hour of fishing into dusk is often the best, a last knockings fish can save your day.

9. Run the lures through the area first. When deabaiting it pays to throw the lure around the boat for a few casts before you cast out your deads. You might pick up an instant fish, and even if you don’t the vibration and disturbance can ”wake up” pike nearby or draw them closer. They may then take your dead with gusto.

10. Be organised. A lot of success is down organising your pike fishing tackle. Ensure you set your gear out in the boat so clutter and mess is at a minimum. Get the net and unhooking matt ready for action before you begin fishing. Attach your drogue and assemble your rods prior to heading out from the jetty. Efficient organisation equals more free time, better concentration on the job in hand and ultimately results.

Pike fishing success in an organised boat

Pike fishing success in an organised boat.

Fly Fishing Ireland – River Fishing in County Wexford

It was that time of year again for a family holiday. My destination this summer was the Republic of Ireland, a thatched cottage near Ballyedmond in rural County Wexford to be precise. Naturally I had to scope out the fishing opportunities in the area!

I began researching the region online. It turned out County Wexford has no Loughs or stillwater’s of any note, so the options would have to be river angling. As it happens it looked like we were practically on the banks of a tributary of the Ounavarragh (or Owenavorragh) river, an 18 mile long trout, salmon and sea trout fishery flowing through verdant Irish country side. There was scant information available online about this river, but I did manage to locate a blog style website for the local fishing club, detailing where to get permits.

The Owenavorragh County Wexford

The Owenavorragh County Wexford.

Next thing was to ensure the trout fishing river gear was organised and packed. A tip for doing this is to create a ‘favourites’ fly box and really strip down your tackle. I managed to compact everything into a TF Gear F8 chest pack. My chosen rod was a 7’6 #3/4 weight Streamtec rod, in 4 sections so easily stowable.

Once in Ireland (after the obligatory first pint of Guinness!) The mission to find a permit began. The ice cream parlor was closed, I went to the wrong Jewellers store, but eventually the right place was located, only to find the usual mild confusion when requesting a ticket. All was sorted when Pascal, the proprietor at Whitmores Jewellers emerged at the counter. A lovely chap, he gave me a few tips on where to head. For just 25 Euro for the week I was all set.

Unfortunately you don’t get a map with your ticket, so it was a case of working it out yourself by doing a bit of driving about and looking over bridges for likely spots – all part of the fun.

After enjoying a nice family day out, I was set to hit the river for the first time, snatching a few hours in the late afternoon on quite a warm day. The spot I found was near where we were staying on the upper reaches of the river. It wasn’t really a river here, more a brook to be fair. Slow to moderate flow, weedbeds and nice undercut banks all looked very fishy.

Rising Trout on the first bend

Rising Trout on the first bend.

Ducking under a bridge, I spotted a riser on the first bend which came to hand on a  dry ant pattern. A small jewel like fish, pretty as a picture. Working upriver, overhead trees and undergrowth made for challenging fishing, but it’s what I am used to on the Wye and Usk streams at home. A few more beautiful little trout came to hand – mainly on dries and the duo, even streamers worked in some very slow still segments.

Small but perfectly formed - victim of the duo

Small but perfectly formed – victim of the duo.

What stuck me immediately was the sheer quantity of fish – each and every pool was literally swarming with them. Now this isn’t usually a problem (quite the opposite for most places!) but in this case I have to say there are almost too many fish in this river! This created an issue, because as soon as I moved into a new pool numerous ‘sentries’ at the tail end bolted upriver, altering every fish in the area. Once this happened, the small gin clear pools were literally churned up with dozens of stampeding spooked brownies; many were small 6 – 8 inch fish but with a few bigger ones thrown into the mix. Most of my fish therefore came to longer range casts than normal for a small stream.

Meadow stretch of the Owenavorragh river

Meadow stretch of the Owenavorragh river.

Next outing I tried a few miles further down river. Here the river was a little bigger, with nice meadow pools going into a wooded section above a bridge. The issue remained with the sheer numbers of small spooky fish, making it tough. Still, I winkled out quite a few; beauties each one – small but perfectly formed. The duo method worked best, casting into any pool head or crease, closer to the bank the better.  Some of the sections were deepish slow water with little flow making the duo hard to fish. A solution was to pitch a streamer upriver, into the edges on a longer line. A sink and draw retrieve got me plenty of hits, and lured a few better fish from under bankside cover.

Streamers can be very effective on small streams

Streamers can be surprising effective on small rivers.

As holiday time is precious, particularly with the weather being exceptionally good I took to visiting the Owenavorragh early mornings, for just a few hours before breakfast. 6.30 am starts are worth it – stunning sunrises, misty banks and jewel like trout were the reward. I also observed a large shoal of sea trout in one crystal clear pool, quite a sight.

Irish stream trout - worth getting up early for

Stunning Irish stream trout – worth getting up early for!

My favourite part of the fishing (and the holiday overall) was taking my two girls aged 5 and 7 fishing on the small tributary just a minutes walk down the road from our cottage. This was just a tiny brook, but with one big pool which was teeming with trout. Fishing one at a time, part of the adventure was us clambering down to the water, wading ankle deep under a bridge and then creeping up on the trout through thick undergrowth.

I attached a Fulling Mill  mini pimp indicator to the leader with a small nymph and instructed the girls to watch it – any movement and we would strike! As it happened, we had over a dozen fine Irish trout from that spot, plus spotted an eel and other stream-life. The girls were thrilled to be involved and carefully returned all the fish to the water after taking a look at them – hopefully giving them the angling bug for life. I’m proud to say It was their highlight of the holiday as well as mine.

Successful stream angling in Ireland

Successful stream angling in Ireland.

The River Owenavorragh isn’t a ‘big fish’ river, but it is one of the prettiest I have ever fished, with wild trout to match. A lovely location and well worth wetting a line in if you are in that part of Ireland.

10 Spinner Fall Fishing Tips and Tactics

Airflo and Fishtec online marketing manager Ceri Thomas looks at how to make the most of the blue winged olive spinner fall, an important summer time hatch on UK rivers.
Spinner feeding trout
Mid and late summer mark some of the best late evening fishing of the year, when after hatching blue winged olive’s return to the water and lay their eggs. Spent and dying after this reproductive process, the ‘spinner’ stage of this insect becomes trapped in the surface film making them easy prey for river trout.

Imitating this hatch when the fish are ‘locked in’ requires a very specific type of fly, with the correct wing profile and silhouette. Your flies must sit flat in the surface film, or they will be ignored or refused. Get it right though, and the dry fly sport can be spectacular.

The best spinner fly imitations are very simple in design, and tend to have splayed wings at right angles to the body, therefore allowing the flies to sit ‘just right’ in surface film, perfectly imitating the spent insect.

A typical spinner pattern for the BWO fall.

A typical spinner pattern for the BWO fall.

These flies are fairly small, so size 16 to 18 are the best hook sizes. I tend to make them using the excellent Fulling Mill down eye dry fly hooks. Poly yarn, deer hair and CDC can all be used to make buoyant spinner wings.  Patterns such as the rusty spinner, sherry spinner and KJ red spinner will all work very well as spinner imitations. You can see a video on how to make the KJ red spinner on the Fishtec blog here.

With the correct flies in your box, you will stand a far better chance of some great sport; however it’s not always a simple case of just turning up and fishing. For your late evening dry fly spinner fishing to be truly effective you need to think about tactics – so I have put together 10 top tips and tactics for fishing the BWO spinner fall productively.

Spinner fall fishing tips & tactics:

1. Pick a long flat pool – Not a turbulent boulder strewn stretch, or very fast riffle water. The ideal ‘spinner water’ is flat and fairly still, with a slow to moderate flow. Here spinners get trapped in the surface film, and it is much easier for trout to spot them and pick them off at their leisure. This sort of water can be rock hard in the day time, but will come to life in the evening. Wading will also tend to be easier in such locations.

2. Know your stretch
– Make sure you know your way in, and crucially out of the stretch of river you intend to fish. This is extremely important, as stumbling over a rocky river bed in the dark can be dangerous. You can also plan how much time you should spend working your way upriver to the exit point.

3. Choose a pool where you know there is a good head of fish – The evening rise is short and frantic, so if you hit the wrong section of river you may end up struggling. You won’t have time to move spot. So do your research in advance.

4. Hit the river late – Do not make the mistake of entering the river too early. You could end up spooking your target fish, and putting them down before the rise begins. I tend to begin fishing an hour before sunset. In July/August that is around 8.00 pm.

5. Do not leave the river too early – Fish on as late as you can. Biggest mistake is to pack up as it is getting dark. The height of the rise is almost always as the light finally dies. It is at this point where fish can have a ‘stupid half hour’ and will lose caution – make sure you don’t miss it! You can carry on fishing into the night by making a mental note of where rising fish were in relation to your position, and by simply blind casting at whatever you can hear rising.

A nice brown trout - caught well into darkeness on a spinner pattern.

A nicely marked brown trout – caught well into darkness on a rusty spinner pattern.

6. Pack a head torch – Essential for changing flies, and exiting the river in one piece. Make sure you don’t forget this piece of fishing gear, its vital! The head torch I am using at the moment is the TF Gear night spark from Fishtec, it’s a cracking bit of kit, very bright and fully waterproof.

Evening spinner fishing essentails.

Evening spinner fishing essentials.

7. Use a long leader – The flat nature of ‘spinner water’ means a long leader is essential. I like to use as long a leader as I can, usually this is two rod lengths (18-20 foot). I make these by adding an armspan length of tippet (normally 4 -5 foot) to a 15 foot long Airflo tapered mono leader. This means turnover is perfect, with very little chance of spooking the fish with the end of my fly line. The extra leader length also adds more range to your casts.

8. Make accurate casts – Might be an obvious thing to say, but it really matters! Unlike some other hatches, spinner feeding trout will very rarely move far to intercept a fly. They tend to hover just sub surface, with a very small window of often just a few inches across. This means your fly need to land within this window, right on the nose. Sometimes you may think a refusal is down to a fussy fish, but it could be it simply hasn’t seen your fly… So practice your accuracy.

9. Creep up on your fish – As it gets dark you can get much closer to a consistently rising fish. It is better to have that precious ‘one shot’ at close to medium range, rather than a long distance effort where you have a worse chance of a decent hookset, and risk spooking the fish with an imperfect cast. Make every effort to be quiet in the water – a gentle approach with frequent pauses in your movement can really pay off, and allow you to get close enough for a perfect cast.

10. Take care with your tippet diameter – Don’t go too fine! The wing design of spinner fly patterns means they can twist your leader up easily, especially if your tippet is overly thin. This can ruin presentation and cause tangles. Bear in mind that a thicker diameter won’t bother the trout in low light conditions, especially if you de-grease the leader every few casts. For spinner sizes 14 – 18 I tend to use 5X Airflo co-polymer (Typically about 4.0lb BS) this helps combat tippet twist, with added confidence for bullying big fish to the net.

A pretty spinner feeding brown - worth staying on the river late for!

A pretty spinner feeding brown – worth staying on the river late for!

 

 

Fishing in the Hills – Tackle & Tactics for Wild Brown Trout

As an alternative to your usual stocked fishery why not get away from it all?
Here Ceri Thomas talks us through the best fly fishing tackle and techniques for wild brown trout from natural lakes.

Llyn Hir & Egnant - typical upland natural lakes.

Llyn Hir & Llyn Egnant in Mid Wales – typical upland natural lakes.

The highland areas of Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the North of England are full of natural lakes and upland reservoirs that offer fantastic sport in beautiful, isolated surroundings. Many are available to fish for a very small fee, and are well worth the leg work needed to reach them, if breathtaking scenery and getting away from the crowds are your thing.

Don’t expect big fish, but do expect beautiful wild fish in surroundings that match the awe inspiring views.

A typical high lake brownie - from the Teifi pools.

A typical high lake brownie – from the Teifi pools, Mid Wales.

Tackling them however is a completely different story to your conventional stocked lowland fisheries.

Why? Brown trout behave in a totally different way to stocked rainbows, so understanding this is the key to catching them.

In a lake brown trout will occupy a small territory, and will usually stick too it. They do not cruise around the lake in shoals like the pelagic rainbow trout. Brownies typically lurk just above the bottom and not far out from the bank, most often on the drop off into deeper water or near structure such as a weed-beds, or breaks in the shoreline. Large rocks, inlets, corners of bays will all potentially hold fish. There, they lay in ambush; when food comes into their cone of vision they move vertically to intercept, making a lightning quick ‘snatch and grab’ assault to the surface.

So, the crux of it is unlike rainbows they will not come to you…. You must go and look for the fish.

Walk and Cast

You must cover a lot of water when fishing upland lakes – it’s a numbers game – the more fish see your fly, the more you catch. No brainer. But it needs to be done right.

I like to pick a bank with the wind blowing over my left shoulder simply for ease of casting. Stealth is important – approach the bank with care; quietly and keeping a low profile. Don’t wade out right away, stay on the bank and cast out just a few yards of fly line to begin with.
It’s amazing how many fish I have caught like this, without the need to get your boots wet!

Should wading be necessary keep a low profile when entering the water, and try not to dislodge rocks or crunch the bottom substrate loudly with your wading boots.

Walk and cast fishing on a mountain lake.

Walk and cast fishing on a mountain lake.

Once your initial short line casts are made, work out a bit more fly line and fan cast the area – make a cast straight out, at 45 degrees and then tight ALONG the bank. When your cast hits the water let the flies settle for 10 seconds or so – expecting a hit on the drop. Then start your retrieve. I like a jerky figure of eight interspersed by short pulls. Always make sure you lift and hang the flies for a few seconds right at the end – again expect a take at this point in the retrieve. Side step 2 meter’s downwind and repeat the process.

Never make more than 3/4 casts in one spot unless you see a persistently rising fish – Most of the time if there is a receptive fish that has seen your flies it will attack, as long as it isn’t spooked. So move on rapidly if nothing happens. By moving down a bank you can cover a lot of water very quickly. In this way I often fish around the circumference of an entire lake in a session, and so maximise my chances.

I seldom cast more than around 15 yards – there is simply no need – these fish are where the food is, and that is usually in the margins. Struggling to cast further with back-cast restricting steep and rocky banks behind you will only hinder your casting and presentation. Good turnover is vital – it is far better to achieve perfect turnover every cast than struggle for an extra few yards.

The Flies

The old adage ”small and black” does hold true. Classic wet flies such as Black pennell, Zulu, Bibio, Connemara black, Black & peacock spider, Kate Mclaren, Red tag and so on all work well, I tend to use them in size 12 and 14. More modern Black cormorants, crunchers and diawl bachs in the same sizes also work well.

A victim of a 'red tag' wet fly.

A victim of a ‘red tag’ wet fly.

A little known fact is ”big and black” can also work a treat – something like a black tadpole or woolly bugger on a size 10 hook, with a total length of about 1.5 inches. For some reason a fly like this can trigger very aggressive takes; perhaps the fish take them for leeches which can be found in highland waters. Who knows, but they certainly trigger a reaction especially on rough overcast days and in the evenings.

A black woolley bugger fished on the point can be deadly.

A black woolly bugger fished on the point can be deadly.

I like to fish a team of flies to cover my bases – using traditional wet flies on the droppers, and a larger black lure on the point. The theory is the big fly draws fish up from deep or entices a follow, and then the fish goes on to take the dropper if it finds the point fly too much of a mouthful.

Dry flies

Don’t forget dries. More than 50% of upland trout’s diet comes from terrestrial insects during the season.  If you are lucky enough to come across a fall of ants, bibio heather flies, coch-y-bonddu beetle, daddy long legs or sedges then they will be the first line of attack.  You cannot go wrong with a team of black hoppers, bibio hoppers, black bob’s bits, black CDC shipmans and the like. Remember dries can be very effective at any time, even when just a few fish are moving. Wild fish are always looking up for a meal!

Dry flies can be very productive in the right conditions.

Dry flies can be very productive in the right conditions.

Target areas with wind behind you, and cast to the ripple edge where terrestrials tend to blow onto the water. Also look for points with little slack areas out of the wind – food will be blown into these wind traps and the fish will be not far behind. Cover the water with your team of dries – cast, let them sit there for just a minute, then step down the bank and repeat. Takes tend to be pretty instant, so no need to linger in one area if nothing happens.

The tackle:

A mid-tip action fly rod of between 9 to 10 foot in a 6 weight is the ideal weapon – a 6 weight still has the punch to cast into the teeth of the wind if you need it, and the power to turnover a team of flies in a stiff breeze. A 7 or 5 weight can of course be used, but a 7 is overkill for small fish and impedes delicate presentation, and a 5 can be really limiting in the often strong winds. I like to use the Airflo Streamtec 10′ #5/6, it’s the perfect rod for this sort of fishing, with just the right forgiving action.

Fly line: Only a floater is required! The Airflo range of floaters such as the Xceed and Elite are ideal. They have a low stretch core so help connect with the lightening fast takes you will encounter from wild lake trout.

Leader material: These fish are not overly leader shy. I use 6lb G3 fluorocarbon to aid good turnover, and for keeping droppers tangle free in the wind. As a leader butt to further aid turnover I use a 5 foot intermediate Airflo polyleader, to make a total leader length of 18 – 20 foot.

Places to fish

Practically anywhere in Scotland – the highlands and Islands especially are full of loch’s and Lochans holding abundant wild trout. Plenty of useful ”Where to fish” info can be found online, including the excellent where to fish in Scotland.

In Wales Snowdonia and the expanse of the Cambrian mountains in Mid-Wales are spotted with numerous Llyn’s (Welsh for lake). Many of these can be booked with the Wye and Usk foundation.

In England the Lake district, Pennines, Yorkshire dales and Peak district are all great areas for upland fishing, with plenty of tarns and corrie lakes to be found in the high fells.

Upland lakes are truly magical places to fish.

Upland lakes are truly magical places to fish.

Wychwood RS – Fly Rod Review

In this tackle test we take a look at the all-new Wychwood RS fly fishing rods – now available from Fishtec!

Recently, whilst walking through the Fishtec tackle warehouse a cool looking rod tube caught my eye… on closer inspection, this brand new addition to our rod storage racking revealed itself to be the Wychwood RS fly rods, that had (at the time of writing) literally just arrived into stock.

I always like to try out any new fly rod that comes into the Fishtec tackle store, so I decided to grab one off the shelf and give it a go there and then! This mini-review is based on my initial impressions of a Wychwood RS fly rod, with a test session on the casting pool outside the Fishtec shop.

The Wychwood RS fly rod range.

The Wychwood RS fly rod range.

The range:

The RS are a totally new range of rods from Wychwood Game Angling and compete in the very crowded ‘mid price’ sector – with prices ranging from £169.99 to £199.99.

Firstly, I took a quick look at the models available in order to pick one out to test. The RS range appears to be geared for the stillwater anglers, with 6 models available, with rods made to cover very small stocked fisheries right through to vast reservoirs – from a lightweight 9′ #5 to a heavyweight 10′ #8 boat weapon, there is a trout rod here for pretty much any UK stillwater situation.

As a regular visitor to large upland stillwaters holding wild trout and grown on rainbows, I am always on the look out for a dedicated 9’6 #6, my favourite configuration for bank fishing on such venues. Conveniently Wychwood have included this fairly rare configuration in their range, so I grabbed hold of an Airflo Super-dri G-shock floater in a 6 weight and headed out to the Fishtec casting pool for a quick cast or three in the sunshine!

First impressions:

The tube is very impressive – and is what basically caught my eye as I walked past it! Seemingly made of carbon fiber, it’s very lightweight and looks strong. It’s certainly a lot nicer than tubes of similar rods around this price point.

A particulary nice rod case is included with the rod.

A particularly nice rod case is included with the rod.

Even the tube cap is nice and classy.

Even the tube cap is nice and classy.

Upon taking the rod out of the nice case I found it had a toned down matt carbon finish, with neat whippings and fittings throughout. I prefer a finish like this, as there is less chance of spooking a fish through line flash. In my eyes it also looks better cosmetically. The black aluminum reel winch and carbon effect spacer in particular were impressive, and quality wise certainly on a parr with rods of a much higher specification.

A nice touch on the rod butt.

A nice touch on the rod butt.

The slim 4 section blank was fitted together with ease due to the aligner dots on each piece – and, unlike some other brands I have come across they actually aligned perfectly, rather than being dotted on at random in the rod factory by a person with defective eyesight!

Reel fittings were first class.

Reel fittings were first class.

Standard black anodised snakes and two unusal stripping rings mark this out from the other rods in this price bracket.

Standard black anodised snakes and two unusual stripping rings mark this out from the other rods in this price bracket.

The first preliminary wobble of the rod revealed it was quite stiff – oh no, not another poker I thought! However, the first cast alleviated the worry – the rod was indeed a fast action, but line loading was easy, and the blank loaded in a nice progressive way. I would use the term ‘medium fast’ to describe the action.

I tried a variety of casts – single haul, double haul, side and roll casting, and found the rod was lightweight, responsive and capable of serious distance casts without troubling it too much. Loops were crisp and easy to control, with no wobble or fuss from the blank at all.

Roll casting on the Fishtec casting pool

Roll casting on the Fishtec casting pool.

This model had a half wells handle that I found transmitted a nice feel through to the hand – often fly rod handles are way too thick and really hamper the feel of your casting, and therefore the enjoyment of your fishing. The quality of the cork was also excellent, with little if any filler evident.

The 9’6 #6 weighs in at just 3.45 oz, making it lighter than most competitor rods of the same spec – In fact for comparison purposes the whole range comes in at slightly lighter than the equivalent model of Greys GR70; these are properly light rods!

All in all it was a nice experience to use, with plenty of feel and a noticeable reserve of power, which I could tell would be very handy for bullying a big fish into the net, or punching a line out into a strong head wind.

Long line lift off was crisp and effortless due to the reserve of power.

Long line lift off was crisp and effortless due to the reserve of power in the butt.

I tried to find bad points with the rod, but really struggled to find anything to complain about to be honest! Aside from maybe the addition of a fighting butt on a rod of this length, I really couldn’t think of anything else they could have done to improve it.

So, to conclude I would have to say it’s a great effort by Wychwood, and deservedly worth the £185 price tag – I don’t think I would be dissapointed to own or use this rod long term myself, it certainly pushed all the buttons for me and does everything you ask of it extremely well.

The Wychwood RS range of fly fishing rods are available here.