Early Season Tackle and Fishing Tips for UK Reservoirs

Chris Ogborne looks at early season tackle and fishing tips to make your early spring sport that little bit better!

Early season on the reservoirs is one of those paradox times. We’ve been longing for it all winter and getting all excited  about opening day, but the fickle British weather has a way of making it all something of an anti-climax.  Frosty mornings, chilly winds and the inevitable showers can make even the most enthusiastic angler wonder if he’s chosen the right sport!

Early Season on Blagdon lake

Early Season on Blagdon lake. Source BW Fisheries.

But when the sun does shine, the birds sing and the countryside is poised on the very cusp of Spring, that’s when we know we’ve made the right choice.  On a bright crisp day there’s no finer place than the banks of your favourite lake and certainly no better way to dispel those winter blues.

I have my own recipe for making the most of these early days out, but wherever you’re fishing steps may take you I can guarantee that you’ll enjoy it more if you get your tackle  and tactics right.  Here are my guidelines for making sure that the first days on the water are among the best

Floating line: Make the floater your first choice, rather than automatically reaching for sinking lines.

The one benefit of his really mild, wet winter is that water temperatures are universally better than they should be in March, with many reservoirs recording temperatures two or three degrees above normal.  This in turn means that the fish are less lethargic and more inclined to take an imitative fly rather than one that simply provokes an aggressive reaction.

And apart from everything else, you’ll feel a far greater sense of achievement if your first fish of the year is taken on a floater! Fishing is, and always should be, about  the feel-good factor!

Fluorcarbon: I’m increasingly finding that I’m choosing fluoro on the lakes these days, with less and less need for copolymer. The latter still has a place of course, and there is always going to be a strong case for it on the river or in the ocean, but the simple fact is that there’s very little you can’t do with fluorocarbon.

I absolutely love the new Sightfree G5 fluoro from Airflo.  It’s has exactly the right mix of suppleness and knot strength, with minimal memory and shine. Above all its totally dependable and consistent, unlike many other materials I could mention.  In the overall scheme of things it’s not at all expensive and it’s one of those key factors that go to make you into a more effective angler – confidence. You can be sure that it won’t let you down.

The new G5 Airflo fluorocarbon

The new G5 Airflo fluorocarbon.

Nymphs: Whilst it may not be entirely realistic to expect to fish dries this early in the year, it most definitely IS reasonable to expect the Nymphs to work.  This can be particularly true when fishing banks where you can access deeper water. Early midge activity can often bring the fish up to the surface layers and they can respond readily to a nymph. Even if they persist in staying deep, they can more inclined to take a nymph rather than to waste energy chasing lures and streamers – remember that in the deeper, colder water layers the fish are more likely to be a bit dour.

Multi fly leaders: I’ll always tie up multi-fly leaders at this time of year with a minimum of two flies and most often with three.

It still surprises me that a lot of bank anglers think that multi-fly leaders are strictly the province of boat anglers, whereas the truth is that they’re every bit as effective on the bank

Line brand choice: This is something that a lot of anglers overlook.  It’s actually a fact of life that some line formats will suit some anglers, whilst some will not.

This is plainly true even within our PRO TEAM at Airflo. My own favourite floating line has for some years now been the Ridge clear.  It suits my casting style and I love the supple feel of the line when I’m employing an expanded figure-of-eight retrieve. On the other hand, Gareth Jones is rarely parted from his Forty Plus floater as it fully compliments his superb casting.

So don’t be afraid to experiment this year, and try different lines. Obviously you still need to look at the spec of the line to ensure that its relevant to your fishing, but beyond that there’s still room for a bit of old fashioned personal choice. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that there WILL be one that’s exactly right for you.

A nice fish taken using an Airflo floating fly line.

A nice fish taken using an Airflo floating fly line.

Distance casting: This will sound like heresy to some, but my best advice on distance casting is NOT to have permanent casting competition with yourself!  We all need to accept the fact that it’s FAR better to present a fly properly at a range of twenty yards, rather than present it badly at twenty five.

Obviously there will be occasions when you need to achieve long range, but generally speaking it’s best to accept what your ‘comfort’ range is, and stick with it, rather than always trying to out-do yourself.

The facts of life  are that we can’t all present a fly perfectly at long range like the superstars can.  Cast within your capabilities and you’ll be a better – and a happier – angler

Avoid the crowds: My final tip is the simplest one, and it applies not just to early season but for the whole year through.  On any form of lake fishing, whether small Stillwater or massive reservoir, I will ALWAYS avoid fishing in the crowd.

A walk away from teh crowds can give rewards - a fine BW Barrows tank bow'

A walk far away from the crowds can give rewards – a fine BW Barrows tank bow’

Whether it’s human nature or the thinking (often wrongly) that crowds of people mean the best spots,  long and bitter experience has taught me that fish will quickly react negatively to angler pressure.  It’s largely for this reason that it’s also good to keep moving from spot to spot, rather than anchor yourself in just one place Keep moving, keep thinking, and you’ll find the fish that the crowds of anglers have scared away!

Tightlines, Chris.

Chris Ogborne’s Pre-Season Tackle Preparation Tips

It’s March at last and we’re on the very cusp of Spring. The new Trout fishing year is just around the corner, so Chris Ogborne gives us his top tips on how to make sure that you, AND your gear are fully ready for the season!

I absolutely love this time of year! The wet, grey and overly long winter is almost behind us and all thoughts now are for the new fishing season, in whatever form that takes for the individual angler.

It matters not whether you’ll be heading for the lakes, the rivers or the coast. What DOES matter is that we have that wonderful feeling that the whole season stretches away in front of us, with over six months of great fishing to look forward to. Very soon now we’ll be out there with the sun on our backs and hopefully a decent bend in the rod as the first fish takes hold!

But to make sure that you enjoy it to the full, it pays to have a quick check through ahead of time, to make sure that all your fly fishing tackle is in perfect working order. For me it’s a fun job and one of the real pleasures of Spring. I usually do it on a Sunday morning, laying all the gear out on the patio and spending a few happy hours oiling reels, checking lines, wiping down rod handles and giving the fishing bag a good shake to clear all the debris.

OK hands up, I’m guilty of the following: Like most anglers, I’m lazy in Autumn and just chuck everything on the corner of the garage to be forgotten for the winter months. Our gear that gives us so much pleasure deserves better treatment, so here’s my detailed recipe for a spring clean:

Leader material: It’s absolutely crazy and false economy to make do with old leader material. Be ruthless and throw those old part-used spools away. In the overall scheme of things it’s the least expensive element of our gear, and you SO don’t want to lose the first fish of the year because the old material had de-graded. Spools get knocked about in jacket pockets, they get wet and shrink, or they get bashed about against harder objects so give yourself peace of mind and buy new. Whether it’s co-polymer or fluorocarbon, do it now. It’s a great investment!

Invest in new leader material at the start of your season!

Invest in new leader material at the start of your season!

Fly lines: of equal importance to the leader material is the fly line. There is a strong argument that the single most important item in the tackle box is the fly line, yet we seem to expect them to last for five years or more without any care at all. In most cases, a fly line costs less than a day out on the boat on your local reservoir, so it just isn’t reasonable to expect them to last forever. Unless you treat them regularly they will stiffen, become less supple, and the edge will be taken off their performance. Even the very best lines will degrade slightly in time so go on, treat yourself to new lines this year! Nothing quite compares to having the feel of a brand new fly line on opening day on the reservoir – the feel-good factor is well worth the cost!

Nothing beats the 'feel good' factor of a new fly line.

Nothing beats the ‘feel good’ factor of a new fly line.

Reels: check your reels BEFORE opening day! Modern reels are marvels of engineering but even the very best need a little TLC every now and again. Just check them over and even if it’s nothing more than a clean up you’ll feel better for it! The debris that inevitably collects can be washed away in warm water (top tip is to use an old toothbrush) and this applies to all reels, even the modern ones with inter-changeable spools. The more traditional alloy reels with spindle will benefit from a light grease (use top grade fine oil or grease) as well. As another top tip, I always like to take all the lines and backing off and then re-wind neatly.

Butt rig: If you don’t use a permanent butt rig system on your lines then this is something to consider. I use an Airflo polyleader on ALL my lines in the appropriate density as this provides the all-important clean turnover when casting, which in turn gives better presentation. These leader rigs are inexpensive and WILL make a difference to your fishing.

Rods: Modern rods are pretty bomb proof in design, but if you do little else apart from a wipe down with a damp cloth then there is one thing you really MUST do: check the rings for wear! Grooved rod rings will play havoc with your new fly lines and in the worst cases they can seriously damage them beyond reclaim. A quick check one will save a lot of frustration on the bankside in April. For more tips on fly rod care, click here.

Clothing:
It’s been said before but is worth saying again – a warm, dry and comfortable angler is a MUCH more effective angler. Early season can be pretty cold so make sure that you’re prepared for the elements. More importantly, make sure that the extra layers don’t impair your casting, as too much bulk in clothing can have nightmare restrictions on your movement. The Airflo clothing range includes no end of great layers, from lightweight and breathable through to sub-Arctic survival and it’s all made from the latest high-tech materials designed for anglers. My personal favourite item of clothing from their range has to be the Airflo Thermolite hoody.

Fly boxes: this is my absolute top tip. PLEASE check your fly boxes for any sign of rusty or damaged hooks! Modern fly boxes are designed to prevent rust but even the best will be susceptible to being stored in damp conditions. In recent years I’ve been using the Airflo Slim Jim boxes which are nothing short of brilliant – easy to see the contents at a glance, quick fly selection, and sure grips that won’t leave you with loose flies everywhere. The bonus is that they fit into a shirt pocket so they’re great if you like to travel light

Make sure you check your waders and boots

Make sure you check your waders and boots!

Waders: make sure you check your waders and boots NOW! This vital element of tackle is another one we tend to take for granted, expecting them to last forever. After three seasons of faithful use, especially if you’re a regular angler fishing once or twice a week, I’d reasonably expect to look to replace them. Far better to do this ahead of time as leaks on opening day can be VERY cold!

Enjoy your opening day, Chris.

Tackle Up for Destination Fishing – Chris Ogborne.

One of the most rapidly growing sectors in the angling market is destination fishing. Here experienced guide and tackle consultant Chris Ogborne takes a look at what’s available and how to get the best out of it.

Destination fishing is having a massive upsurge in popularity

Destination fishing is having a massive upsurge in popularity.

Destination fishing – or fishing holidays to you and me – is enjoying a massive upsurge in popularity at the moment. It’s hardly surprising when you consider the vagaries of the British climate, plus of course we’re all feeling more confident as the recession fades into memory and there’s a degree of optimism about.

But I think it goes beyond this, as more and more anglers realise that destinations considered ‘too expensive’ a few years ago are actually well within our reach. Coupled with the poor results on many fabled UK salmon rivers, and the fact that more and more anglers are looking for something that’s more of a challenge, and you can see why travel is a definite option.

It’s also true that the whole concept of destination fishing has a certain cachet to it, an appeal that exceeds the expectations we have of fishing in our home waters. It’s actually quite cool now to bore your friends with tales of huge brown trout from Iceland, GT’s from warmer waters, or fisheries where you can expect rather more than the miserable returns on over-priced Scottish rivers or Hampshire chalk streams.

he whole appeal of going away for a fishing holiday or break is that you escape the confines of our small island and visit somewhere remote and wild.

The whole appeal of going away for a fishing holiday or break is that you escape the confines of our small island and visit somewhere remote and wild.

For me the key word always has been and always will be ‘wild’. Like it or not, fishing in British waters is becoming just a bit predictable – some would say domesticated – and pressure on fisheries in our small islands is huge. The whole appeal of going away for a fishing holiday or break is that you escape the confines of our small island and visit somewhere remote and wild. With no people around, a wilderness setting and just the local wildlife for company, it’s absolutely possible to get back to nature. If the fishing’s good as well then it’s almost a bonus.

There are now a load of specialist companies to help you plan your trip. Whilst it’s arguably unfair to select names from the list, I wouldn’t be able to write this article without at least giving a few pointers and I have to say that the following are amongst the very best. I’ve travelled with all of them and their service is simply amazing:

www.aardvarkmcleod.com Saltwater, salmon, char and all fishing in between, these guys do it all. Aardvark McLeod is a company managed by anglers for anglers, and it shows.

www.frontierstravel.com Frontiers are one of the longest established companies and still at the very top of their trade From Argentina to Alaska their trips are the stuff of legend. Immaculate admin and stunning locations.

www.gofishingworldwide .co.uk Great locations, great guides and great attention to detail.

Equally, there’s nothing to stop you saving a few quid and doing it all yourself although I can fully understand why so many anglers prefer to let companies like this do it for you. Travelling with an established destination company gives you security and confidence, and whilst you could arrange it yourself with an evening on the internet, it’s arguably much safer to travel with the experts.

It’s arguably much safer to travel with the experts.

It’s arguably much safer to travel with the experts.

The choice of destination is a personal one, and such is the variety on offer that I simply can’t list all the options here. Have a quick look at any of the websites above to see what I mean. In the end, it will come down to what floats your particular boat, although for many it will be a combination of other things besides the actual fishing. For me, the scenery and the wildlife is just as important, whilst for others it will be the quality and skills of the guides, or maybe the luxury of the accommodation, or even the food and ‘apres fish’ activities. Whether it’s wading in warm water for bonefish, hunting specimen brown trout in Iceland, trophy salmon in Alaska, or huge Grayling in Lapland – for me it’s the wilderness, the remoteness, and the feeling of being unavailable to the rest of the world that really matters! That old phrase ‘far from the madding crowd’ is very relevant!

Alphonse Island - Far from the maddening crowd.

Alphonse Island – Far from the madding crowd.

 

However, whatever your choice and wherever your destination I do have a some personal tips to offer, borne of long experience and from fishing trips all over the World. Hopefully these will help a little:

Destination: What, EXACTLY what do you want from the trip? If it’s wilderness you seek then maybe a camping trip or a remote lodge is the key. If you want luxury as well as great fishing then consider a decent hotel or lodge as part of the package. If you want variety then choose a destination with multiple fishing options, whereas if you want to target a specimen GT then make sure your chosen venue has that capability. By far the best advice here is to TALK to your trip provider – most of them are anglers themselves and they understand fisherfolk. By doing this you can be sure that your dreams are brought to potential reality – it’s just the bit about catching the fish that’s down to you!

travel light - an organised selection of fly fishing gear

Travel light – an organised selection of fly fishing gear.

Travel light: I never understand why anglers feel the need to clutter themselves with too much gear, and I know many who aren’t happy unless they can take the kitchen sink with them. My advice is to go light. Take minimum gear but still ensure that you’ve got enough to cover ALL the fishing available at your chosen venue. You may be after Salmon, but do you REALLY want to miss out on those specimen Grayling and Trout as well?

Luggage: Custom fishing luggage is not a luxury, it’s an essential. Airflo produce some of the finest in the form of their Fly Dri range. A combination of the roll top back pack and the 90 litre duffel will give enough capacity for most trips, and the smaller carryall will double as a carry-on for the flight. If you need a huge capacity with the ability to fit in literally everything (and the kitchen sink!) then the 150 litre Fly Dri cargo wheelie bag is the one. This cleverly designed bag is super tough, with more than enough room to accommodate several fly rods, in addition to a huge mountain of fishing gear. All Airflo Fly Dri luggage is made of super tough nylon coated PVC tarpaulin, which is 100% waterproof as well as being rip proof –  ensuring they are remain safe from even the most careless airline luggage handler.

Airflo's custom designed Fly dri wheelie bag

Airflo’s custom designed 150 litre Fly dri wheelie bag.

Safety: This is my top tip – ALWAYS take your fly boxes and favourite reels as carry-on when flying. It’s a fact of life that luggage sometimes goes astray and whilst you can almost always buy a new rod, your fly boxes are near-irreplaceable. With this in mind and if the worst happens, you can still borrow a rod and go fishing whilst the airline finds your bags!

Rod Tubes: Very few airlines these days will allow you to take rods on board, even the short multi section ones, so sadly you need to consign them to hold luggage. So buy yourself a decent rod case. Amongst the best and most practical is the Multi rod tube. It’s strong enough to withstand the worst that baggage handlers can throw at it, yet it’s still light and very portable.

Clothing: Obviously this will depend on where you travel – you don’t need too many fleeces in the Caribbean. However, whatever the venue you’ll ALWAYS need a fishing vest, so that you’ve got all your favourite accessories to hand. It’s all too easy to think you can manage without it but take it from me, you cant! My Airflo Mesh vest goes with me, everywhere, every trip.

Rods: The most regular question I get asked at shows and Game Fairs is about rods. Is there one rod for all seasons? Probably not, but there IS one rod that comes close – the Nine Foot 5 weight. There is VERY little you cant catch with this and I have my Airflo Elite kit in the boot of my car every single day of my life. If I get an unexpected invite to fish, then I can do so with this kit, irrespective of the where, when and how! It’s very close to the holy grail of ‘all things to all fish in all waters’.

Airflo's essentail fly dri luggage!

Destination luggage safe and sound after a successful international transit. Next stop the river!

Tightlines

Chris Ogborne.

Kayak Fishing – By Chris Ogborne

Kayak fishing is one of the fastest growing branches of the sport. Here angling expert Chris Ogborne gives us a unique insight, along with details of a brilliant offer to help you get started.

Kayak fishing is great fun

Kayak fishing is great fun!

Fishing is all about fun, we know that. Its rewarding, relaxing, and a therapy. It’s about excitement as well, and occasionally when it all goes right it can be downright exhilarating. On rare occasions it can also be a true adventure, and that’s the essence of kayak fishing – the very heart and soul of this amazing branch of our sport is ‘adventure’.

I’ve been kayak fishing around the UK shoreline for more than thirty years now and because my home base is in the far south west it’s inevitable that most of my trips are focussed on the stunning coast of Devon and Cornwall. The fishing’s great, the scenery even better, and for most of the time we get better weather than anywhere else in England. All of which makes for ideal kayak conditions.

It’s hard to fully explain the appeal without indulging in too many superlatives. For me it’s more fun than any other branch of fishing, more involving and occasionally more demanding. I suppose the very crux of the matter is that you’re down there at water surface level, right in the aquatic environment, and almost at eye level with your quarry. There’s no noisy outboard motor to disturb the peace or the fish, no pollution, and no real intrusion into the natural world. It’s just the slow rhythm of the paddle, the gentle sluice of water under the hull, and the genuine feel that you’re doing the ‘hunter – gatherer’ bit in the 21st century.

If all that sounds a bit poetic just believe me when I say that it’s only half the story. Once you get into kayak fishing you’ll see what I mean. It’s relaxing, it’s healthy and it’s arguably one of the ultimate challenges left in our sport.

kayak 1To further explain the appeal, let me show you briefly how easy it is to get started:

Choose the right Kayak It goes without saying that the boat is the most important factor, so choose one that’s designed for the purpose. There are literally hundreds of kayaks out there, but when you start to look at fishing kayaks the list gets shorter. Basically it’s all about three things:

Stability: You need to be confident and secure when you’re fishing
Speed: You don’t want to take forever to get to your chosen spot, and
Tracking: You don’t want a kayak that swings all over the place every time you take a stroke with the paddle

With this in mind you can discount any kayak under ten feet in length when it comes to fishing, as it just wont work. Ideal length is between 10 and 15 feet, depending on your build, fitness levels, and where you’re going to fish. For rivers, inland waters and estuaries then a smaller boat is fine, but if you’re going to sea then a more substantial craft is called for.

Choose the right accessories: This is a bit like ordering a BMW from a main dealer – it’s much too easy to tick all the option boxes! The truth is that you can fish very effectively with a minimum of accessories, but there are a few that are vital. These include:

Carbon paddle: These are SO much lighter and easier to use
Buoyancy aid: or life jacket – an absolute essential
Rod holders: You simply can’t go fishing without at least two, preferably three
Decent seat: This will seem like a VERY good investment after a full day afloat!

You can add the rest depending on your budget and your fishing, but as long as you’ve got these essentials sorted you’ll have a good (and safe) day out.

Get some training: As in any branch of fishing, it pays to seek help when you’re getting started. There are loads of BCU (British Canoe Union) trained experts all over the country and an hour with a good trainer will save you days of experimentation and mistakes
Another great tip is to start off fishing in calm and shallow waters – far better to make any early mistakes here than out at sea.

Sort the right gear: Airflo make some great kit for kayak fishing and I always like to cover as many bases as possible when I’m out for a day. The Elite kit 9 foot 5 weight is a great all rounder for fly, but I also like to have spin and drop shot options as well for saltwater fishing – the TF Gear Blue Strike fishing rods and reels are perfect for both. With these brilliant all-round rods you can also troll if you like – they really are great tools with multiple options.

I would also advise a decent bag as well such as the fully waterproof Airflo Fly Dri carryall to hold tackle, a spare fleece or jacket as well as food and drink. This will sit behind the seat for ease of access and can be held in place by the bungee netting over the kayak’s storage area.

You can also add in lanyards to hold a landing net, priest, GPS or any number of extras Bungee lanyards are among those ‘almost essential’ options that you really should consider.

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Channel Kayaks. October 2014. Photographer Freia Turland e:info@ftphotography.co.uk m:07875514528

Channel Kayaks.

For the last two years I’ve been involved with an exciting new kayak company called Channel Kayaks. Unlike most manufacturers, they sell direct to the public so they are able to offer a top quality product at a hugely competitive price.

As well as making brilliant kayaks they also specialise in what they call ‘Adventure paddles’ which is basically a series of days out around the coast where you can sample all the delights of kayaking at first hand, and under expert guidance. These days are run in conjunction with the RNLI so you’re guaranteed great water safety advice as well.

For the purposes of this blog, Channel Kayaks have also come out with a very special pre-season price for you, as follows:

PRO kayak Normally £749 but NOW £520 (Perfect all-water kayak)
BASS kayak RRP £399 NOW £265 (Great for inshore and estuary)
TANDEM kayak RRP £579 NOW £395 (Two seater)

In all cases, this price includes the kayak, the seat, the paddle AND delivery within the UK, and as such it’s an amazing deal.

Just visit their website for all the contact details, or talk to them direct as there will always be staff to answer your queries or to help with free advice.

Channel Kayaks www.channelkayaks.uk
Or email byron@channelkayaks.uk
Phone: 01275 852736 or 07710745211

Kayak 2

Winter Grayling Fishing – Chris Ogborne’s Top Ten Tips.

As part of his occasional series of seasonal blogs, Chris Ogborne takes a look at winter Grayling fishing with some great tips on how to get the best out of this fascinating branch of the sport.

Winter Wye grayling

Grayling can provide sport of the very highest calibre against all the odds of winter weather.

It wasn’t so very long ago that Grayling were regarded as little more than a pest on some British chalk streams, but in the last twenty years they have thoroughly established themselves as a truly great sporting fish in their own right. They are stunningly beautiful, genuinely wild, and they belong in our rivers. Above all they present the thinking angler with a unique challenge, never more so than in the cold months of January and February when they can provide sport of the very highest calibre against all the odds of winter weather.

Far from being confined to the fabled streams of Wiltshire and Hampshire, Grayling can be found pretty much right across the UK. We even have them down here in Cornwall where they are slowly becoming a part of the river fishing scene. Whilst they thrive in good numbers in clear water, they are also surprisingly tolerant of varying water conditions and this, coupled with the natural cunning of the species, means that they are generally flourishing.

I’ve been lucky enough to fish for Grayling all over the world and some of my most memorable catches are inevitably linked to World Championships. I’ve caught specimens in Norway, Swedish Lapland, in rivers large and small but probably some of the classic moments in the memory are linked to the river Dee in North Wales. One particularly notable fish was a 51cm beauty, made all the more special because I fished the beat immediately after a member of the Polish team, and we all know how good THEY are on Grayling!

Above all, Grayling are fickle. Some days you can ignore leader diameter, presentation, fly choice and everything else as well – they can be almost suicidal! Yet on other days they are the most demanding , fussy, spooky and downright frustrating fish that swim!   I guess that’s what makes them such a challenge!

So here are my top ten tips on how to catch them in winter, based on thirty years and several continents of experience. I hope you find them useful!

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Fly choice – the top consideration: Hatches are mostly sparse at this time of year and whilst the fish are generally quick to react to them it will often pay to exaggerate, rather than try to match the hatch. Grayling are tolerant of this and will often respond to a fly that bears little or no resemblance to anything in the river, let alone anything hatching.

Suspended nymph: Probably my favourite winter method. Use a viable dry fly both as an indicator and almost as a control float, varying the depth you fish by the length of leader down to the suspended nymph. This is particularly effective in fast riffles and the dry fly acts as a strike indicator, shaving off a good deal of reaction time.

Try Dry!  Winter fishing is emphatically NOT all about nymphing! Grayling will rise to even the sparsest hatch and are notorious for coming up to investigate something as unlikely as a falling snowflake!  So whilst the first line of attach is normally nymph, especially in very cold conditions, don’t be afraid to try dry fly. It’s even worth prospecting with a general suggestive dry when nothing is showing on the surface as the fish can, and often will, respond.

Leader choice: don’t be tempted to go too fine in winter. Deep holes can hold some very large Grayling and water conditions at this time of year normally have a degree of colour, so fine leaders just aren’t necessary. 5X fluorocarbon is plenty for dry fly, but I generally settle on 4X for nymphs, unless the fish are being really fussy.

Weighted nymph: You simply cannot consider going out in colder weather without some heavy nymphs in the box, and often you’ll need some VERY heavy ones. Remember that in faster water you’ll need some weight just to get the fly to a fishable depth, whilst in the really deep pools you’ll need a lot of lead in the underbody. When you’re searching out the deeps, a slim tightly-tied fly will get down far quicker that a fluffy pattern with the same weight in it – the air gets trapped in the fibre of the fly and adds too much buoyancy.

Deeper pools:  Deep pools mean big fish. If you’re specimen hunting then this is the place to look. Grayling operate a ‘pecking order’ in most swims, with the bigger fish at the front where they can monopolise the best of the feeding. In deeper water this isn’t so obvious, although you’ll often have the luxury of being able to peer into the depths to assess your fishing options.

Changing conditions: Be ready to respond to the slightest change in conditions as the fish can and will react to them. We anglers might feel that near zero temperatures and horizontal rain are impossible, but the Grayling don’t seem to mind at all! I’ve been out when hail and sleet were lashing the water, and STILL saw fish rising in the midst of it all!

Catch one, catch another! Grayling like to live in shoals so chances are that if you catch one in a spot you’re likely to catch another.  Unlike trout, where you’d tend to move on to the next spot, it’s better to fish through the shoal. Unless you’ve really spooked them you’ve got a good chance of one or even several more.

Grayling like to live in shoals - catch one, catch another!

Grayling like to live in shoals – catch one, catch another!

Short casting: You don’t have to be supremely confident in the art of Czech nymph or Polish style to enjoy short casting. The truth is that Grayling are surprisingly tolerant of anglers and you can, on occasions, catch them literally under your feet.  The most important part of this cast (indeed any nymphing cast) is the end part, where the fly is given that attractive trajectory as you lift the rod for the next cast.  Always try to imagine the fly lifting enticingly from near the stream bed – that’s the moment when the takes will come. To make your short line nymphing even easier Airflo have recently released a special line – The SLN Euro nymph. It’s a ‘Must have’ for this technique!

Go barbless: Yes, PLEASE go barbless! In over twenty years of fishing at International level I reckon I can count the number of fish lost due to barbless hooks on the fingers of one hand. However, if you’re barbless it WILL make the release process so much quicker and easier. Grayling have an ‘under slung’ mouth and like to take a nymph just as it swims upwards at the end of a drift, all of which means that most will be well hooked.

Grayling fishing tackle check list:

  • Breathable waders.
  • Thermal underwear suit.
  • Wading boots with felt soles and studs.
  • Warm head and neck wear.
  • Slower action fly rod e.g Airflo Streamtec nano 10 #3/4
  • Fly reel to balance rod.
  • Line suitable for short line nymphing – e.g French leader, SLN Euro, or shooting head running line.
  • Standard fly line on spare spool for dry fly/duo.
  • Selection of nymphs tied with various tungsten bead heads & leaded under-body.
  • Strong enough tippet material for winter flows and snags.
  • Hook sharpener.
  • Set of strike indicators. e.g Air-lok
  • Split shot.
  • Waterproof phone case.

As luck would have it river levels are finally looking fishable thanks to the recent cold snap – so get out there and enjoy while you can!

Tightlines
Chris Ogborne

Winter 2016

Chris Ogborne’s Top Tips for Small Stillwater’s in Winter

A small stillwater in winter.

A small stillwater in winter.

Now that winter has officially arrived – even if global warming means that temperatures sometimes feel more like September – it’s the time of year when a lot of anglers think about a well earned break from our sport. A lot, but not all. Those of us who simply cannot bear to be parted from the game for more than a few days at a time are looking at winter fishing and the options, particularly on small STILLWATERS, are many.

Unless conditions are truly vile, there’s very little that compares with a crisp winters day on the water. Provided you take all the reasonable precautions and use sensible clothing then winter fishing can be every bit as challenging, enjoyable and rewarding as anything we do in high summer. On occasion, it can even be more fun and you’ll always have the certainty that you’re fishing with fellow anglers who are even bit as committed – some might even say eccentric – as you are!

I also have to put a quick word in here for the owners of small STILLWATERS. They, arguably more than any other style of fishery have a real commitment in offering us anglers year-round fishing, and it follows that we should return that by supporting them through these tougher months. Last summer was hardly a vintage one and whilst for us it simply meant that we didn’t have the greatest fishing ever, for the fishery owners it translated directly into reduced revenue So an extra day or two right now WILL make a difference to them and they’ll be more than a little pleased to see us.

Support your local stillwater - get out there for a few ours in the pale winter sun.

Support your local stillwater – get out there for a few hours in the pale winter sun.

So let’s imagine for a moment that Christmas is a fading memory, that we have a free Saturday with nothing in the diary, and that the pale sunshine is tempting us out of doors. The fishery welcome mat is out and we’re heading for the water. Here are my top tips for getting the most out of the day.

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Layers: you’ve heard it before but it still amazes me that most people’s idea of fishing clothing is little more than a jacket and maybe a waistcoat. The key to staying comfortable at this (and indeed ANY) time of year is LAYERS. Airflo offer some superb lightweight layers to keep you warm and importantly to keep you flexible. Avoid layers that simply add bulk and think instead about layers that allow you freedom of movement. Thermal underwear may not be a fashion statement but they are massively valuable, as is a light outer layer such as the Airflo thermolite Jacket. Remember that a dry and comfortable angler is always a more EFFECTIVE angler.

Weatherproof: and by this I don’t just mean waterproof, I mean proof against all weathers. Conditions at this time of year change rapidly and if you’re hiking around the lake or you’re more than five minutes from the car then you’ll need to think wind and waterproof as well as warm and dry. Nothing cuts a day short like having a cold run of water down the back of your neck! My Airtex jacket kept me dry this year in the worst that an Icelandic storm could throw at me, and I stayed fishing long after others had left for the hotel.

Food items: think about what the trout might, should, and could be eating. Yes, it’s true that some aquatic insect life tends to shut down for winter but this is by no means universal. I’ve seen good midge hatches in January and February, and in lakes where Spring fed water keeps temperatures up you can be really surprised at the level of activity. There’s a strong case to match the hatch as cold weather sport is emphatically NOT all about gaudy streamers and attractors.

Look for any sort of water inflow.

Look for any sort of water inflow.

Water inflow: it goes without saying that you should always try to read the water, but the real banker in cold weather is any kind of water inflow. It might be little more than a trickle, but any kind of flow will attract fish to a greater or lesser degree. Dissolved oxygen levels are always a key factor in finding areas where fish will hold.

Water depth: this is probably the second most crucial factor to influence where you choose to fish. In cold conditions the fish will inevitably look for deeper water and the deeper it is then the more chance there is of thermoclines. Sometimes the natural lay of the land will show you how the contours work, but on man-made lakes your best bet is simply to ask the owner or manager where the deeper areas are. Look for a VARIETY of depth if at all possible, as fish will move in and out of the deeper areas at different times of day.

A fish caught off a bank side feature - a large tree stump.

A fish caught off a bankside feature – a large tree stump.

Bankside features: It might sound absurdly obvious, but I ALWAYS look for bankside features both to hide me from view AND to provide underwater structure. Yes the willow tree on the bank provides shade and helps with watercraft, but less obvious is that the same willow will have a substantial root structure beneath the water surface. This in turn will hold food items for the fish, as well as providing them with cover and a retreat.

Keep moving: Wide open spaces along the bank may make for nice easy casting, but unless you’re extremely careful with your profile then you’ll very quickly have a fish exclusion zone in front of you. Even when you’re using the bankside cover its still a good idea to keep moving and changing your spot. Unless there’s a VERY good reason, I never spend more than 20 minutes without moving.

Speed of retrieve: in very general terms, the slower the retrieve the better at this time of year. The fish tend to get lethargic in very cold water and will be less inclined to chase a fly, so give them plenty of time to make up their minds. We’ve all seen those fish that seem to follow and turn away at the last moment – the reality is that they’ve probably been following for ages and we’re simply retrieving too fast.

Line choice: This goes hand-in-hand with retrieve speed. For my money, there’s very little that cannot be achieved with either a floating line or a slow intermediate. The Airflo ‘slow glass’ intermediate is probably the default choice for winter fishing as it allows so much flexibility, yet at the same time enables you to explore most if not all of the depths.

A result of the right fly choice being made.

A result of the right fly choice being made.

Fly choice: The ‘life’ factor: with slower retrieves it follows that flies with more natural ‘life’ in them will work better. Keep the streamlined and sparse flies for summer and choose patterns with soft feather or hackles. Nymphs and attractors tied too tight will look ‘wooden’ and lifeless whilst those with soft dubbings, mobile body materials, softer hackles and even rubber legs will look SO much better.

Timing: the middle hours of the day are almost always the best. Early morning is rarely my favourite time, particularly after an overnight frost. In similar vein, the last hour of the day rarely produces good sport as the fish are thinking about heading for deeper water to cope with the long winter nights. Even a little midday sunshine can work wonders for aquatic life, as well as giving us anglers a little extra vigour with a touch of warmth on our backs!

Last but by no means least is the packed lunch! I always include not one but TWO thermos flasks in winter, one for coffee and the other for a good thick soup. After a ten minute break with what my Dad used to call a ‘good rib sticker’ soup then I’m always ready for more fishing!

Tightlines, Chris Ogborne.

Autumn Salmon – Ups and Downs

The game fishing season is pretty much over for the vast majority of us, unless you are lucky enough happen to live in the south West of England. Game fishing expert, instructor and fishing tackle consultant Chris Ogborne explores the ups and downs of autumnal salmon fishing in his latest blog post.

Late season fishing in Cornwall

Late season fishing in Cornwall


As many friends and clients keep reminding me, I’m a very lucky man! Not just because I live in Cornwall, one of the loveliest counties in England, but also because I have top quality fishing available to me in pretty much every month of the year.

Sea fishing is almost year-round, brown trout on rivers and moorland lakes enjoys a long season, and our salmon fishing doesn’t end until a week before Christmas. My home River Camel closes on 15th December so in the next few weeks I’m going to be enjoying some late sport in glorious surroundings and amongst the stunning autumn colours.

Of course there are compromises to be made at this time of year. You need to accept that conditions are not the same as high summer so you need to adjust your thinking and make some sensible provisions. Here are the key tips in enjoying autumnal sport:

Clothing: as always, the key to staying comfortable is layers. I’ll be using my Airtex jacket but varying the under-layers to suit conditions. The trick is to stay warm and dry but also to avoid bulk, which impairs movement   Remember that a comfortable angler is always a more effective angler.

Clothing is the key - the Airtex jacket in action.

Clothing is the key – the Airtex jacket in action.

Be prepared:  I like to travel light when I can, but at this time of year you need to have a flask of something warm with you. My Airflo FlyDri ruck sack is a brilliant companion as it easily swallows lunch, flasks, and gear, as well as the vital extra clothing layers

Hooks:  I’m increasingly using single hooks on spinners and baits as this has many advantages. It makes it easier to release the occasional ( and inevitable) brown trout, but it’s also easier to avoid the leaves and debris that can dog autumn fishing. Single hooks are a lot kinder on the fish than trebles and it turns the catch and release process into a doddle.

A single hook meant this late season salmon went back quickly and easily

A single hook meant this late season salmon went back quickly and easily

Timing: much has been written over the years about Salmon taking times and the consensus is that there is simply no golden rule! Salmon are fickle fish in so many ways and can take a bait at any time of day but for me there’s a clear preference for mid morning in autumn   If there’s fresh water in the river I like to make sure I’m on the water between 10am and midday. It’s proved effective on too many occasions to ignore!

Fly or spin?

Fly or spin?

Fly or Spin? The eternal quandary and there’s no fixed advice. My river Camel is smaller than most and there are only a few places where fly is practical, or even possible For that reason I generally use spin as the default choice, with the bonus that it allows me to fish so much more water. On larger rivers you may have the luxury of more space so break out the fly fishing tackle when you can.

Watch the weather - a storm is brewing!

Watch the weather – a storm is brewing!

Watch the weather! For autumn fishing, weather holds the key. Fish languishing out in the estuary mouth will eagerly run in even a little fresh water, but the up- side of an autumn storm is that it will almost certainly bring some fish into the system. The river Camel is often like a cross between a spate and a free stone and the fish run long and fast. We’ve caught sea-liced fish 20 miles from the sea and given the restricted life of these parasites in fresh water this confirms that the salmon can and will run the whole river in very quick time.

Know when to stop! I love my fishing as much as anyone, but usually come mid afternoon I’ve had enough and I reckon the fish have too! Unlike summer fishing when I’ll happily fish into the gloom, at this time of year I’m generally heading home by 4pm for the early bath. Of course there could be an element of catch 22 in this advice, but I rarely hear tales from fellow anglers about success after this time.

Above all, enjoy the sport at this amazing time of year. This autumn is giving us some truly spectacular colours and surely there is no finer place to be when the sun is shining!

Tightlines, Chris Ogborne

Back End Stillwater Trout Fly Fishing Tips

Mornings are later, evenings are shorter and there’s already a distinct chill in the air – Autumn is upon us! But that doesn’t mean that our sport has to end. There is still plenty of great back end fly fishing to be enjoyed in late season. Guide and fishing tackle consultant Chris Ogborne has put together some useful trout fishing tips to help you get the best out of this magical time.

A magnificent 9lb 10oz back end Rainbow from Rutland.

A magnificent 9lb 10oz back end Rainbow from Rutland.

1. Get your timing right! There’s little or no point in arriving too early in the morning as the water needs to ‘come to life’ at this time of year. Terrestrials like daddies are at their most active from mid morning and generally it’s the middle hours of the day that will be most productive.

A late season reservoir brown.

A late season reservoir brown.

2. Use Imitative and suggestive patterns. These type of flies are always good at this time of year. The fish are all feeding up ahead of the coming winter and they will respond readily to even a sparse hatch of naturals.

3. Intermediate lines are tops.
The fish are generally found in mid water and the Airflo sixth sense Fast Glass is the line to start with. It’s a great compromise option that allows you to fish with control at varying depths.

 4. Time for a specimen! Not so many stockies about in late season and you have a very real chance of a grown on stillwater specimen. Its great to seek out the residential fish and all the more rewarding when you get one.

A back end specimen Rutland bow' for ex footballer Chris Guthrie. Source: Rutland Water Fishing Lodge Facebook.

A back end specimen Rutland bow’ Source: Rutland Water Fishing Lodge Facebook.

5. Take care when wading. You should always wade with caution, and never more so than at this time of year. The residential fish will be spooky and close in often feeding on fry so there is often no need to plough right in, but careful wading on the big reservoirs is also advisable because normally unseen snags and holes are accessible as levels drop to their seasonal lows.

6. Focus on the afternoon, rather than the evening rise. Temperatures can drop sharply in the evening and whilst this can occasionally result in the bonus of a fall of fly to the water, more often than not the chill of evening will send the fish to the bottom and out of casting range.

 7. Be comfortable! A warm and dry angler is a much more effective angler – you never fish well when your chilled and shivering! Add an extra layer such as the Airflo Thermolite Hoodie and you will fish better. You’ll also enjoy it more – remember there’s a long old winter ahead of us!

Tightlines, Chris Ogborne.

Top Stillwater Trout Tips for Top Temperatures

The weather is making headlines at the moment but as with so many things there are downsides to all this amazing sunshine and record high temperatures.

Expert guide and fly fishing tackle consultant Chris Ogborne gives his top tips for maintaining sport on stillwaters in hot weather, even when the thermometer goes through the roof!

A blazing hot day on a stillwater trout fishery - Garnffrwdd in West Wales.

A blazing hot day on a stillwater trout fishery – Garnffrwdd in West Wales.

Fish in general and game fish in particular don’t like it too hot. Anything above 22 degrees and trout will pretty much stop feeding and become lethargic and very reluctant to take a fly. Prolonged high temperatures can actually be dangerous and this is especially relevant on shallow lakes or smaller stillwaters where the fish cant retreat to cooler depths. But there are ways around this. Here are the top tips for dealing with these conditions and still enjoying our sport:

Seek deep water off the dam wall in hot weather.

Seek deep water off the dam wall in hot weather.

Look for deeper water! It sounds obvious but its still the top tip. Boat and bank anglers will head for the dam wall area, submerged river beds or any area of known deep water The depths are cooler and more hospitable to the fish.

Small stillwaters: The top tip here is to look for inflow, whether from springs or inlets. Most smaller waters don’t have deep areas where fish can retreat to and instead they will look for cooler spring water, or better oxygenated inflow water. Just ask the fishery manager where the springs are – he’ll be impressed that you’ve asked!

A late evening trip to the water is a great time to fish in hot weather.

A late evening trip to the water is a great time to fish in hot weather.

Evenings and Early mornings are by far the best times to fish when the weather gets hot. Forget those sweltering afternoons and wait for the cool of evening when the fish will normally come on the feed to some degree. Or make a very early start and enjoy the freshness of those productive morning hours.

A hot orange blob might trigger a reaction.

A hot orange blob might trigger a reaction.

Trigger a reaction: When fish are in a dour mood with warm water, you can often trigger a reaction with a brighter fly. If all else fails, offer them something outrageous and it might just work.

Thermoclines and oxygenated water:
Most big reservoirs these days have oxygenating pumps working These are effectively anti-stratification pumps which help to keep the water in good condition and keep algae levels down They’re also a magnet for the fish – ignore the bubbles at your peril!

Look out for aerators aka boils on big reservoirs.

Look out for aerators aka boils on big reservoirs.

Imitative flies can also often hold the key to avoiding a blank. The fish may be dour but they still need to feed and something that looks ‘just right’ presented in deeper, cooler water might just save the day.

Shade
on waters big or small, look for some shade or areas where the trees overhang the water Even in shallow water, the fish will often hide in shady patches and with careful wading you can often reach them.

And if all else fails, head to the pub! Remember that you can always use the excuse that we anglers need re-hydration in this weather, and what better way than with a pint of the good stuff and a chat about the fish, even if you cannot catch them!

If all else fails head for the pub!

If all else fails head for the pub!

 

 

Top 10 Bass Fishing Tips- By Chris Ogborne

Ahead of the new saltwater season, Chris Ogborne looks at the vital statistics of Sea Bass fishing and gives you his shortlist of things to look out for! Invaluable bass fishing tips, whether you throw a fly, cast a lure or launch a bait out into the surf- these tips are sure to help you land more and bigger fish.

Chris Ogborne's beautifull local bass mark

Chris Ogborne’s beautiful local bass mark.

1. Specimen hunting.   If you want a big bass then you’ve got to target them, ignoring all the tempting smaller fish.  I stalk mine, late evening on the beach, just after the sun goes below the horizon.  Short rod, tight fly presentation and very careful watercraft are the key ingredients.

2. Wet wading.   This gives you a huge ‘edge’ over people in waders.  With shorts and bare legs you feel the temperature changes and when you find these, you find fish!   It’s also a lot safer in the marine environment and a lot more comfortable in high summer

3.Lighter rods.   Don’t be drawn into the old school thinking that you need heavy tackle, whether on fly, spin or lure.  Lighter rods give you precision, minimum disturbance and better presentation.  There’s very little you can’t do with a 9foot 6 weight fly fishing rod.

4.LRF.  If you haven’t tried it, you should!   Light Rock Fishing is all about an approach to fishing that is absolutely more fun, and more rewarding.  And it catches lots of fish!  It brings delicacy and subtlety to saltwater fishing.

Boat or shore?

Boat or shore?

5. Boat or shore?   Shore and beach fishing is great, and essentially it’s free. Find yourself a good drop-off, fish the blue water channels, or prospect around the rocks.  Remember that weed covered rocks are best, as they provide cover for the things Bass feed on. But occasionally you will need a boat, either to each those impossible marks or simply because of the weather.   Top tip is to pick the best skipper – they will make or break a day out!  Ask the local fishing tackle shops and they’ll tell you who the local stars are! And always ALWAYS look out for feeding birds – that’s where the bait fish will be.

6. Soft Baits.  Bass are clever fish.  They ‘feel’ a hard metal bait in their mouths and will reject it if they can.   But soft baits seem to feel good to Bass – they take them more confidently and hold on to them.  You miss a lot less fish with soft baits, like the sidewinder bass fishing lures.

7. Leaders and rigs.  Don’t go only light with leader strength.   Bass fight hard and you don’t want to lose a big fish on a breakage.  For flyfishing leader I rarely go under 7lb and for soft baits I normally start at 10lb, unless I’m on really fussy fish.

A bass about to go back in after a quick photo snap

A bass about to go back in after a quick photo snap.

8.Catch and Release.  Bass are beautiful fish and deserve respect.   They are very slow growing so a 5lb fish can be upwards of 6 years old.  As the Bass stocks around our coast are under huge pressure, think long and hard before you kill one.  Maybe it’s better to have the pleasure of watching it swim away?

9. Late summer.  September is my favourite month.   The tourists have gone home and I get the beaches to myself again.  Treat yourself to a long week end in Cornwall in September, enjoy the softness of the climate, and put yourself in with a real chance of a big fish before the season ends.

A stunning bass beach in september - not a soul in sight!

A stunning bass beach in September – not a soul in sight!

10. And finally……… Don’t ignore the schoolies!   Smaller bass are have fun on light tackle and they can often fight better than fish twice their size   Out on the sand bars they can give tremendous sport and massive fun.