Back On The Sea Trout

Shooting season is over and the guns are cleaned, oiled and put away, time to turn my attentions back to the fly fishing.

The next few weeks is going to be a busy one at the vice for me, replenishing the fly boxes for the new season ahead, not only on topping up my salt water patterns but, on starting a fresh on a new batch of sea trout (sewin) flies.

Sea trout flies

Busy on the vice – Plenty of sea trout flies.

There was once a time I was addicted to sea trout fishing and I spent the best part of twenty years of my life solely targeting these magnificent creatures, with a number of productive rivers right on my doorstep most nights of the week I would be found sitting bankside waiting for the lights to go out.

A magnificent double figure sea trout

A magnificent double figure sea trout – fruit of an addiction.

When I say “Most nights of the week” I mean at least four or five and for a great part of it seven, I really can’t put in to words the effect these fish had on me, obsessed would be a understatement. Holding down a full time job and sea trout fishing is not ideal when you have such a obsession, I would try my hardest to limit my weekday sessions to around 1am but, of course, if the fish were on, my limit would go out the window, many a time I’ve found myself walking off the river and driving straight to work.

As I referred to in a past blog, I achieved about as much as I wanted to on the sea trout, targets were set and broken and I just felt the time was right to move on. After so many years at the game I did start to lose the enthusiasm for it, I was not getting that buzz I once was , It was time for a change and a new challenge. I dabbled with saltwater fly fishing for many years but, the past six years has seen all my efforts directed towards the sport and it’s been a blast!, the enthusiasm I was lacking and the buzz I was missing rekindle……So why the return to sea trout fishing?

A great reason to return to sea trout fishing!

A great reason to return to sea trout fishing…

Salt water fly fishing is so weather dependent around the South Wales coast that many times through a season I get blown off the water, for days, sometimes weeks with a persistent south westerly wind. Although I get plenty of time at the vice to tie flies during these periods my need/urge to be close to water waving a fly rod around, chucking a lure at something fishy is what I crave….I need that fix!

The other reason for my return to sea trout fishing was while fly fishing for mullet in a local estuary last season, the size of some of the sea trout that swam past me at this mark sure got the heart racing a little faster and rekindled some fond memories. They past with in feet of me in no more than eighteen inches of water, I could make out every beautiful detail of them, those spots, that shape, streamlined power, wow! That’s when I decided what I was going to do this year when conditions dictate I can’t hit the surf.

Worth staying up late for....

Worth staying up late for….

I won’t be going at them with the same conviction I showed all those years ago and most of my fishing will be concentrated around daytime/evening sessions, with night time forays limited to the weekends. I say that now but, who knows? With me, when it comes to fishing, anything can happen. Having been out of it for so long I’m really not sure what to expect? All I’ve had the past few seasons from the guys still at it is doom and gloom reports, there’s no doubt about it that sea trout are in decline and numbers have been steadily dwindling for many years despite the great efforts of a select few to turn things around. Anyway, enough of that, could be a future blog.

The water I’m going to be fishing (fishing most) is new to me, not new in the fact I don’t know of it, just that I have never sent a line across it. Why,I really don’t know it’s no more than a stone’s throw from the house. It’s a very intimate little river, boulder strewn with many a twists and turns, weirs, and some deep gorges. As well as the salmon and sea trout that run it there is also a healthy population of wild brown which will provide me with some sport. I’m quite sure it’s going to be a tough nut to crack and honestly don’t think it’s going to give up its inhabitants to me with ease, I’ve so much to learn about it, I could take a short cut and fish the rivers I know so well but, I’m really up for the challenge of this one.

Airflo Airlite v2 rod

Airflo Airlite v2 rod – on test.

I’m also really excited this year to be putting the new Airflo Airlite V2 fly rods to the test. I honestly think Airflo are on to a winner with this new range, which brings back the original blank from 9 years ago with re-tweaked and improved actions for 2017. I simply cannot wait to try them out on some hard fighting Welsh sea trout – watch this space!

Tight lines

Daz

The Seethrough Bait Fish

Welsh saltwater fly fishing ace Darren Jackson heads to the coast to fish for Pollock and unleashes a truly devastating fly pattern – the Seethrough baitfish!

As much as I would like to take credit for this pattern I can’t, and I don’t know who the credit should go to for this superb fly! Whoever did was a very creative, forward thinking fly tier and angler indeed.

The Seethrough baitfish

The Seethrough baitfish.

From the little I know I believe the pattern was originally designed for Seatrout in the salt by a Danish fly fisherman ( I could be wrong ?) I can’t find, or source, much info on it. I was instantly taken by the pattern and it’s use to me as a Bass/Pollock/Mackerel  lure. I could just imagine it being a extremely effective pattern for when they are smashing small bait fish and so it proved to be on a outing a couple of weeks back on the Pollock.

A chartreuse colour variant of the seethrough baitfish.

A chartreuse colour variant of the seethrough baitfish.

I turned up at the mark at midday with every intention of targeting Bass but, faced with a sea of glass, clear skies and a blazing sun beating down I was not confident of many Bass being around. I’ve caught many a Bass in such conditions but I much prefer it overcast with a little chop on the water to give them some form of cover. It’s also been a tough start to my Bass season and they have been thin on the ground, with a couple of blank sessions under my belt already I don’t think they are here in any sort of numbers yet, certainly not where I’m fishing anyway. I was out to get a bend in the rod so decided to tackle down and setup for the Pollock; off with the intermediate and on with the Airflo Di5 40+ extreme fly line with a couple of feet of T14 on the end. The T14 sinking tip is a great addition and advantage at this venue, not only does it get my flies down quick but it sinks my line at just the right angle.

I’m fishing off huge boulders which slope away in to the depths at around 45 degrees, through experience and countless sessions at the mark I can count my flies down and bring them back right up the face with out to many losses. I’ve tried many a line and method but, this would seem to be the best, level sinking lines just pull my flies straight into the snags.

Fishing off steep boulders with the T14 tip - and two at a time almost every cast!

Fishing off huge, steep boulders with the T14 tip – and two at a time!

I set up a two fly cast with the new 20.2lb Airflo G4 Fluorocarbon; the fish at this venue for whatever reason don’t run to big sizes and a 5lb fish would be a good one. I’ve heard tales of big doubles but never seen one to date or anything close to that size, I don’t see any reason why it wouldn’t or, couldn’t, throw out fish of such size,it’s a perfect location for them, deep water, cover and massive amounts of sandeel, baitfish, shrimp etc!. If I was expecting larger fish I certainly wouldn’t  be fishing two flies for these power house fish. There really is no need to go any lighter than 20lbs, the fish are not leader shy and it has enough beef to take the knocks and bumps of being pulled over barnacle covered boulders. The first dive of a Pollock takes some stopping and if you don’t want them to run you in you gotta hold on, the 20lbs fluro gives me the confidence to give them nothing.

An olive Seethrough baitfish fly

An olive Seethrough baitfish fly.

I put a small’ish olive bait fish pattern on the point and a seethrough bait fish pattern on the dropper. Almost from the word go it was a fish a cast and although I caught fish on both patterns it was quickly evident that the seethrough bait fish was out fishing my point fly by a massive margin, they just loved it. Just in case it was the position of the fly on my cast I swapped them around to see if it would make any difference , It didn’t. I eventually put two seethrough bait fish patterns on and for almost two hours it was just double shot after double shot of Pollock .I couldn’t even guess how many fish I caught ?, all I can say, it was lots, nothing of great size, the biggest would have maybe nudged 4lb with a average of around 2lbs but, it was incredibly good fun.

Pollock rewards.

Pollock rewards.

The Pollock love the seethrough baitfish!

The Pollock love the seethrough baitfish!

The seethrough bait fish is a fairly simple pattern to tie and I’m so pleased I stumbled upon it, I’ve really enjoyed playing around with different variations. I’ve used different materials to what the original uses and you can do the same if you chose to give them a go. As well as being a extremely effective saltwater pattern I think it could be killer for you trout boys on backend fry feeders.

A white variant - could be ideal for fry feeding trout!

A white variant – could be ideal for fry feeding trout!

There is a YouTube vid out there for tying instructions, check it out here: https://youtu.be/eGFx7w9xOtY

Tight lines

Daz.

Fly Fishing For Mullet

Ever dreamed of catching a bonefish on the fly but simply never had the chance? Then why not try and catch the next best thing – the humble UK mullet. Hook up with one and you are guaranteed a serious bend in your fly rod! Mullet can be found in great quantities all over the British coast and they are not quite as difficult to catch as they are reputed to be.  South Wales saltwater ace Darren Jackson has been landing Mullet on the fly regularly this summer, read on to find out how on his latest blog post.

The next best thing to a bonefish in UK waters!

The next best thing to a bonefish in UK waters!

It’s been one of (if not) the worst summers I can ever remember and it’s totally destroyed my bass fishing for the most part of the year. The problem for me being that a great deal of my angling is concentrated in and around the Bristol channel. A moderate south westerly can and will turn the coastal water to soup for days, even weeks, not ideal when the only method you use is fly fishing! I know bass can be caught in dirty/coloured water and I have done that, however success has been limited and clear water for me is a must. With this being the case I’ve paid more attention than ever to my next favourite finned friend…. the Mullet!

The ultimate reward - a fly caught mullet

The ultimate reward – a fly caught mullet

Mullet offer tremendous sport to the fly fisher and pound for pound they are as strong has any fish that swim our shores. As most of us now know, the once thought uncatchable fish with mouths softer than a gone off banana is total rubbish! They take a fly with gusto (not all the time, I may add) and with lips tougher than one of my wife’s steaks they are certainly worth targeting. All three species (the thicklip, thinlip, and golden grey) can be caught with a bit of stealth and a well presented fly.

All three can also be the most frustrating fish in the world to catch and will have you pulling your hair out at times. I can’t stress enough how important it is to find “feeding fish” if you want to give yourself any chance of hooking up with one, and to be fair, this can be most difficult if your just starting out!

Finding feeding fish is the key

Finding feeding fish is the key.

There may be literally hundreds of fish in front of you and you could throw the lot at them, if they are not on the feed, you will “not” catch them. They are miles apart from other predatory fish who can be tempted in to having a snap at our offerings even when stuffed to the brim with food. Experience and time spent on the water studying these fish tells me when to walk on past or to throw a  fly at them! Fish cruising around looking uninterested usually are. Look for tell tale signs that they are switched on- tailing fish or surface feeding fish are the obvious signs, you have to spend a little time watching fish holding mid water, look for a flaring of the gills, any sudden movements to the left or right almost like a trout intercepting a passing nymph. Anything looking out of the norm is  well worth a cast.

Location: Thick and thin lipped mullet can be found in a variety of locations from sandy open coast beaches to many miles up a river system in fresh water, one of the few fish that can tolerate this. For the most part, golden grey mullet are generally found on open clean sandy beaches .

Tackle: A 5 or 6 weight fly fishing rod is ideal and more than capable of taming the biggest of mullet. I personally use an Airflo fly rod in 9ft 6 weight for 99% of my mullet fishing. Teamed up with the superb Airflo Super- Dri Xceed fly line it really is a sweet little outfit. A selection of fluorocarbon leader material between 5 and 8lb will cover most if not all situations. A tapered leader or polyleader is also of great benefit to aid turn over and presentation but not essential.

A 6 weight is all you need.

A 6 weight fly rod is all you need.

I’m also a opportunist and if I’m out after bass and a shoal of feeding mullet turn up I will quite happily throw the 8 weight at them, even on this fairly heavy outfit they put up an awesome scrap! So I always carry my mullet flies on me, just in case.

A mullet landed on a flexi worm.

A mullet landed on a flexi worm.

Flies: 3 of the most consistent flies I use are the spectra shrimp, Ray’s mullet fly, and the flexi worm. I wouldn’t go anywhere without a few of each in my box. There are a number of others that will take fish, hares ear nymph, pheasant tail, red tag, I could go on but, put simply, small shrimp patterns tied on hooks of between 16# and size 12# will get you results.

Small shrimp type patterns will get you results.

Small shrimp type patterns will get you results.

Tactics for estuary and river fish: You are certainly going to have some flow and this is to our advantage. Once the fish have been located (hopefully feeding fish) creep quietly in to position to make the cast, cast well ahead of the shoal just allowing the flies to dead drift over them. If the fish are lying a little deeper in the water then throw the flies up a little higher or, as far has you think is enough so when your flies reach the fish they are fishing at the desired depth and right in the zone.

An ideal beach for mullet fishing - three cliffs bay in the Gower.

An ideal estuary for mullet fishing.

The mullet will move quite a way to intercept our offerings at times but by putting them right in their face helps. The dead drift takes a great deal of my fish and is by far my most successful method , they also respond well at times to a moved fly, a steady figure eight, short strips, try the lot to induce a take. If they are lying in quite a depth of water or hard on the bottom the same methods can be employed we just need to had some weight to our flies with bead heads and lead wire under bodies.

When the fish are feeding right off the top then a ‘washing line’ setup can work a treat- i.e a buoyant fly on the point, with another pattern on the dropper. Takes can be very gentle so concentrate and pay close attention to the end of your fly line for any indication that a fish has taken your fly, set the hook with a controlled strip strike. Take a little care when using this method, an over aggressive strip and light leaders don’t go well with each other (as I have learnt!) and you will soon find yourself and the fish have parted company rather quickly.

Some cracking shore caught mullet.

Some cracking beach caught mullet.

Tactics for shore and beach fish: This what I enjoy most and the closet thing you will get to in this country of walking a Cuban flat for bones, it’s very much alike. The best plan of attack here is to wade out in to the surf 20 to 30 yards out if possible, in order to put yourself between the fish and the shoreline. Walk slowly parallel to the waters edge scanning well ahead for signs of fish, they are usually quite easy to spot because of the fact they are feeding in inches of water, water so shallow their backs are out. As the surge of the water from a breaking wave rolls up the beach the fish follow looking for any morsels which may have been dislodged, as the water starts to flow back this is when they are most visible, they almost strand themselves in the thin water, with tails working overtime. They always seem to make it back though, I’ve yet to see one not make it.

So, once the fish have been located slow down, take your time, wade out a little more if possible and come back in quietly behind the fish. Big casts are very rarely needed and a 20 yard throw is a long one. Make the cast, sometimes you will be dropping your flies on to the sand and as the water covers them the fish will be following and with a bit of luck pick them up. They could also pick them up when the water is receding and your flies are tumbling back down the beach toward you, you’ll need to try and keep in contact with your flies with a steady figure of eight or strip to set the hook , to much slack could result in a missed chance.

Amazing sport can be found on a beach near you!

Amazing sport can be found on a beach near you!

If the fish are feeding and holding in slightly deeper water just off the shoreline, drop your flies in the middle of them and try to keep them there as long has you possibly can before tide movement and wave action takes them out of the game. Some beaches can be quite funny to read at times, one minute it will be running right to left and then 30 yards up the beach left to right. Faced with this situation and once you work out which is which (a few casts will tell you quick enough ) make a cast up tide and swing the flies through the fish- I’ve found this to be a very productive method. You can of course fish off the beach and sometimes it’s the only way because of conditions, if you have to resort to this even more stealth is needed.

Mullet are incredibly spooky when walking the shore line and seem to be able to see you from a long way off. Walk very slowly, pause for a minute or two scanning as far ahead has you possibly can for signs of fish. Once located don’t try and walk straight up on the fish, more often than not you will just send the scurrying for deep water, keep low, even getting down on your hands and knees for the last crucial yards. Make your casts from the kneeling position.

I can guarantee you won’t be disappointed if you connect with a mullet on your fly rod – so why not give it a go! But also prepare yourself for a little disappointment and make sure you leave the swear box in the house!

Tightlines, Daz

Fly Fishing for Bass – What flies?

With the new season upon us for 2014, it’s time to dust off the fly fishing gear and hit the fly tying bench in readiness for some hectic sessions on the beach.

What happened in 2013? Well, my season was certainly one to remember, not only for my benefit but for a few friends too. Although I was unlucky on a few occasions with the larger sized fish a couple of mates did better and managed to set themselves new personal bests with the best going 10 1/2lbs. A fish of a lifetime on any method but made that little more special when its caught on a fly! There were also a number of other great fish taken between 7 1/2 and 9lbs.

My personal best day however, resulted in over 50+ Bass, “Nothing to shout about you may say” and yes, you could probably do this every other day with schools of fish in the estuaries of a pound or so in weight but, these fish were a few classes above and with an average weight of between 3 and 4lbs. I will quite happily shout about it from the roof tops! It was a insane session, it was a fish a chuck, two fish a chuck at one point when I was fishing a dropper fly. Although I manged to get the first couple of double shots to the net I thought better of it and cut one fly off as 3lb+ fish pulling against each other is asking for trouble and a snap off was on the cards. If the fish had been slightly larger I am sure a breakage would have been a certainty. Thankfully I always use a stout leader, 15lbs breaking strain is the lightest I would go and for the most part I use 20lb. Personally, I have never found Bass to be leader shy so it doesn’t pay to go light on your tippet…  To date, it will certainly go down as my most memorable day SWFF!

I have everything crossed that this season will be as good has the last and with a bit of luck, that 10lb fish which as eluded me so far will turn up.

What do I use?

My favourite fly pattern for Bass is this Silver Baitfish pattern.

Saltwater bass flies

This pattern worked extremely well for me last year. During the months of September and October there’s usually an influx of small mullet on the beaches which range in sizes between 3 – 6″ in length, these make for easy pickings for any marauding Bass so it only makes sense to offer them something which resembles what they are feeding on. It’s a great fly that’s relatively easy to tie and very rarely, if ever, fouls on the cast. The rear part of the fly ( the tail ) consists of extra select craft fur, the front portion is Veniard’s Streamer wing .The streamer wing is what makes this fly almost foul proof, it’s fairly stiff but has a decent amount of mobility, the best part about it is the profile it keeps in the water, it’s excellent. The craft fur gives the pattern all the mobility it requires.

Hook – You preferred pattern of choice and size.
Extra select craft fur.
Veniards streamer wing.
Silver angle hair.
Stick on eyes
Veniard Bug Bond Resin ( Or your preferred UV resin )

This pattern doesn’t only work in the later months. Tied in different sizes it works from the start of the season right until the end.

Tight lines

Daz

 

Bass Fishing in Early September

Daz on the Bass

Daz returning a bass of a couple of pounds

Tuesday 3rd.Sept 2013.

This turned out to be a very frustrating session indeed. I briefly made contact with one fish right off the the bat but we soon parted company. With numerous follows after this not one would commit to take the fly. The usual change of tactics, methods and flies which would more often than not produce a few fish under such circumstances proved fruitless. I have had many follows and rejections over the years (Yes, off fish!) on both fly and plugs but never from so many fish in one single session. I really don’t know what went on that day and why the fish were coming short, or what else I could have done to induce a take, it’s something which I have never experienced before. The conditions were good and many thoughts run through my mind as to why they were acting like they were, such as; “Have they already fed and stuffed themselves on the millions of bait fish which were present”. The truth is I don’t know, what I do know is; It was not the typical behavior of the bass I know.

Wednesday 4th.Sept 2013.

I headed for the same mark in the hope that the Bass were in a better mood, but unfortunately I had no luck. Except for one small fish which I watched engulf my fly and reject it before I even thought about lifting the rod! I was not too disappointed by the missed chance although it could have saved another blank!

Saturday 7th.Sept 2013.

Hoping that a change of venue would bring a change of luck, plans were made over the phone on the Friday with my good mate and fishing buddy, Mark Hearn. The plan was to attack a low water mark a little further west, with low water at 2:00am arrangements were made to meet at 11:30pm in the car park. Kitted up and our fishing rods loaded with the new Super-Dri fly lines from Airflo, our choice of flies were clouser type patterns. We made the short walk to the water. I love this mark, not only for the ease of fishing it offers but also for the quality of fish it can give up. It’s got a bit of everything you look for when Bass fishing, mud, sand, rock, weed and a variety of food items that the fish can gorge themselves on, a real Bass haven. With a average depth of around 3ft, our  floating lines are all that is needed.

Conditions were perfect and with good water clarity I was feeling confident. Things started off very slow and it wasn’t until low water that the first fish slammed the fly, a spirited little fellow of around 2 1/2lbs which felt twice the size when I first got stuck in to him, the new 6wt Airflo switch I was using took on a nice little bend. The rod was a real joy to use, bit more on this when it’s had a fair testing. The night did not turn out as I had hoped and unfortunately for Mark he drew a blank. Myself; I managed a few fish to a couple of pounds or more but the better specimens failed to show up!

Daz