Small is beautiful: Why it’s time to hit your local trout fishery

They provide accessible sport in all weathers for young and old. Many of us will catch our first and our last fish at one of Britain’s many small fly fisheries. So why are these venues struggling? Across so many of our intimate, smaller trout waters, the message is “use it or lose it” says Dominic Garnett.

Autumn leaves or spring frost, your local day ticket trout fishery provides consistent sport.

Autumn leaves or spring frost, your local day ticket trout fishery provides consistent sport.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Like many fly anglers, my first ever catch was at a small stillwater trout fishery. As a youngster, it represented a very different experience to the local coarse fisheries. The water was beautifully clear, for one thing. Spotting the fish and attempting to ambush them with what seemed a pathetically tiny fly was intoxicating stuff.

The casting was an uphill battle, but thankfully there was plenty of space to practise. Somehow or other I convinced a trout to grab my Hare’s Ear. The way the rod came alive was thrilling. I was a fly fisher from that day onwards – and the money I’ve spent on day tickets, fly fishing tackle and the rest since would reach well into the thousands of pounds (or hundreds, possibly, if my wife is reading this).

Sadly, the venue in question, Watercress Farm, has long since closed down. Like so many others across the UK, the owners called it a day. But this is nothing new; in fact, it’s happening right across the UK.

Small water survival

Action at Devon’s Bellbrook Valley, a typically intimate small fishery.

Action at Devon’s Bellbrook Valley, a typically intimate small fishery.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

If the fishing at small waters is incredibly consistent, the same cannot be said for the visiting anglers, or indeed the economy as a whole. Cost can be prohibitive for some, but obviously fisheries have to charge enough to maintain themselves. Many venues have closed as they’re simply not sustainable. Others went the way of the carp bug, the owners realising there was more money to be made with coarse fish.

Some anglers can be sniffy about fishing smaller stocked waters, too. This seems a little unfair, because many of them are special, intimate places that deliver reliable fishing through thick and thin. When the rivers are flooded, the season is over, or friends and family want a day out, these places are a godsend.

The best small waters aren’t crude fish factories – they balance natural habitat with fishing needs. With rich fly life and trickle stocking to allow fish to acclimatise, they can also provide more natural sport. From buzzer and sedge hatches, to margins heaving with sticklebacks and hog lice, there are lots of possibilities.

Coming into their own

Some fisheries offer limited catch and release, if you prefer not to have a fridge full of trout.

Some fisheries offer limited catch and release, if you prefer not to have a fridge full of trout.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

It’s right now, in the autumn and winter, that small waters are at their very best. This fact often seems lost on the summer crowds, who try their luck in the toughest, brightest conditions. Once the days are cooler, the trout are much more comfortable and hungry. You might be in a farmer’s back yard in Hampshire or Cornwall, but remember that the rainbow trout is a fish of northerly climes and countries like Canada and America. It can hardly get too cold to catch them here in the UK!

It’s as the weather cools that the venues need your support most, too. £20 might seem a fair pinch for a typical day of fishing, but it’s good value when you consider you could easily take home five kilos of fresh trout, or more. Even if you don’t eat them all (one fish is usually enough to feed me and the wife), nothing endears you more to neighbours and workmates than a fresh trout…

For the all round angler, perhaps the idea of bopping a trout on the head is too strange to contemplate. In which case, you might find catch and release options at some fisheries. The clever ones have managed to mix a limited amount of this alongside put and take, although trout can be brittle and not everyone is a fan.

Treat yourself this autumn and winter…

A typical “stockie”. While not wild, they’re certainly beautiful and quickly adapt to natural food.

A typical “stockie”. While not wild, they’re certainly beautiful and quickly adapt to natural food.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Granted, we’ve never had it better in terms of variety in our fly fishing. I’ll spend this winter targeting everything from grayling to pike. But I’m not one to turn my nose up at a bit of day ticket trout fishing. On the contrary, when conditions are hard, or I simply fancy a straightforward day out with plenty of takes, a local stillwater is the place.

There’s nothing to say you have to fish it with lures or try and hit a limit in a couple of hours. The level of challenge is up to you. Quality, not quantity, is a good attitude to take here, whether that means trying small, natural flies, or stalking fish where clarity permits.

If it’s been a while since you went to your local trout fishery, now’s the time to make a return. You’re almost guaranteed some good sport. Chances are you can also try your favourite tactic, whether that means picking them off with emergers or pulling lures.

Last but not least, these fisheries are the perfect place to take friends and family, which is the single best thing you can do to help the sport you love. My father is a classic example. He doesn’t really do wading or tight swims these days. Which is fair enough, because he’s not as nimble as he once was. In fact, without small waters to cast a fly, his fishing season would be a lot more limited, full stop.

So, if you don’t want to lose these waters, the message is perfectly simple – support them! Get out there and have a great day. Better still, share it with a friend and please celebrate your local fishery, because like a favourite local pub, we always miss them when they close down.

Top tips for fly-fishing on small waters this winter:

Keeping active and locating hotspots is key to cold water fishing. At Simpson Valley (above) the fish were in the deep water around the stone “monk”.

Keeping active and locating hotspots is key to cold water fishing. At Simpson Valley (above) the fish were in the deep water around the stone “monk”.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

  1. Use light, balanced tackle. With typical small water trout averaging a couple of pounds, you don’t need to go crazy with tackle. A five weight fly rod is perfect for getting plenty of drama with “fun sized” trout. Leaders of less than 6lbs are not usually necessary, unless you want to try fishing dry flies.
  1. Go natural: Lures might bring quick results, but for more involved fishing, do take a look at what’s hatching. You’ll find creatures like buzzers, midges and corixa in just about any pond or lake.
  1. Watch closely: As most small waters are spring fed and colder nights help to clear the water, sight fishing can be capital. Rather than simply setting up and casting, have a sneak about and see what you can spot. With practice, this is also a great way to single out the bigger trout.
  1. Stay mobile: Just because the spot by the car park is available, it doesn’t hurt to have a wander. In fact, the only time to loiter in one place is if you’re regularly getting bites.
  1. Find the hotspots and follow the breeze: Even on man-made waters, there will be good spots and leaner spots. Look for springs and inlets, deeper dam areas and any corner the wind is blowing into. Trout will often follow the breeze.
  1. Two’s company: The best way to fish a small stillwater is with a mate. Whether it’s some friendly competition or a case of comparing notes, these venues are great for a social day out. You win bonus points for taking a complete beginner or someone who hasn’t been fishing in ages!

12 FANTASTIC DAY TICKET TROUT FISHERIES TO TRY

Young Welsh international fly angler Medi Treharne plays a lively fish at Garnffrwd Fishery.

Young Welsh international fly angler Medi Treharne plays a lively fish at Garnffrwd Fishery.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

We couldn’t hope to cover all the best day ticket fly fishing in this short blog, but here’s a dozen fantastic small waters to try over the coming months.

SOUTH & SOUTH WEST

Bellbrook Valley Trout Fishery (Near Tiverton, Devon)

For those who like intimate fishing, this series of cute lakes provide a lovely setting to stalk fish at close quarters. The lakes have a nice natural feel, too, with flies like damsels and corixa working well.

Simpson Valley (North Devon)

There’s a great choice of tickets at this pleasant Devon fishery. These include catch and release options in the cooler months. The £10 two fish ticket on Skylark Lake is the best value you can get to take a beginner fly fishing!

Manningford Trout Fishery (Wiltshire)

Within a short drive of Swindon, Chippenham and Andover, Manningford is one of the best run fly fisheries I have ever visited, period. Two lakes offer quality fishing for prime rainbow and brown trout, whatever the weather. Also a great place for tuition, or to try river fishing on the Upper Avon, which the fishery also offers.

Duncton Mill Fishery (West Sussex)

Four sparkling, spring fed lakes make for superb fly fishing here on the South Downs. An onsite tackle shop and club room make this a civilised day out regardless of the season! It’s also an events venue at times, so do check the website before setting out.

WALES & MIDLANDS

Garnffrwd Fly Fishery (Near Llanelli)

You’d hesitate to call this a “small” stillwater. It’s a good size, with stacks of fishy features to explore. The size and quality of trout, along with an excellent and friendly onsite shop, make it one of the best day ticket trout fisheries in Wales.

Ringstead Grange Trout Fishery

Family run and open right into December, Ringstead offers lots of space and superb value (just £16 for three fish currently). At 36 acres, it’s a venue suited to the slightly more experienced angler perhaps, and an ideal place to try boat fishing. It also has good disabled access.

Woolaston Court Trout Lakes (Gloucestershire)

A great location within easy reach of Gloucester and South Wales, Woolaston has three lakes and trout that run well into double figures. Open every day except Tuesdays all winter.

EAST

Black Dyke Fishery (Norfolk)

Excellent fly fishing in the Norfolk countryside, with prices starting at just £18 for a 2 fish plus catch and release ticket.

Chigborough Farm (Maldon, nr Colchester)

Three trout lakes of differing sizes offer a suitable challenge from beginner to expert. There are also options for catch and release, too, once you’ve caught a fish or two.

NORTH

Mere Beck (Lancashire)

Situated near Southport, but also within half an hour of Wigan and Preston, this attractive site offers productive year round fly fishing in Lancashire. With some flow to it, it’s also rather unique as a not-quite-stillwater! Cracking rainbow, brown and blue trout are all here to catch, with a good choice of tickets.

Roxholme Trout Fishery (Nottinghamshire)

Within easy reach of South Yorkshire, this family run fishery has rainbow, brown and blue trout in peaceful surroundings. Ideal whether you want that first bend in a beginner’s rod, or a shot at a real brute of a trout (they have been caught over 20lbs here!)

Danebridge Fisheries (Cheshire)

Fed by the River Dane, this venue’s rich fly hatches make it a favourite for the purist in need of a winter fly fix. The fish are superbly fit, too, thanks to the quality of the water. A special junior ticket at £6 per hour is also a useful addition for families.

If you’ve got a great small water fishery in your area that we haven’t mentioned, please give it a shout over on our Facebook page.

More from our blogger…
You can read more from Dom Garnett every week on the Angling Trust’s “Lines on the Water” blog, as well as his Angling Times column and various books, which include Flyfishing for Coarse Fish and Crooked Lines. See www.dgfishing.co.uk

Fly Tying for Beginners Part 3: The Beaded Hare’s Ear

The Hare’s Ear fly

The Hare’s Ear fly
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Scruffy, weighty and darned useful for river and stillwater fly fishing alike, the Hare’s Ear is one of the truly indispensable patterns in any angler’s box. It’s also an absolute piece of cake to tie, even if you’re all thumbs at the vice. In fact, you could argue that the scruffier the finish, the better the fly. In his new series of step-by-step fly-tying guides, Dom Garnett shows you how to tie the Beaded Hare’s Ear.

Tying your own flies

The Hare’s Ear will bring bites all year round, on still and running waters alike.

The Hare’s Ear will bring bites all year round, on still and running waters alike.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

So far in this series, we’ve shown you a dead simple dry fly, along with an equally straightforward hackled wet fly. As we move into autumn, though, our next fly is going to be a slightly weightier affair. Quite literally, with the addition of a small brass bead.

The practice of adding small metallic beads to flies seems to have been going on since Izaak Walton was in nappies, but to this day it remains a really simple way of adding extra mass and attraction to all sorts of different flies. Few are more universally effective than the Hare’s Ear.

Scruffy does it

Like all the flies in this series, the Hare’s Ear (sometimes abbreviated to GRHE –“Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear) is not an incredibly realistic creation. It’s suggestive or “general fit”. It’s not origami or master craftsmanship – it just looks seriously edible in the water. Don’t be fooled into thinking its rough simplicity makes this fly inferior to the amazing little works of art you see in glossy magazines and tying shows. Does it resemble a shrimp? Or perhaps a caddis larva? The fish seem to care even less than we do, because more often than not they’ll try to eat it.

In fact, my older brother and I experimented over many seasons comparing different flies. He got the tying bug bad, making Rhyacophila, Heptagenids and the rest (typical scientist, he gets off on this stuff). But the more we fished, certainly on our wild streams at home, the more apparent it seemed that a scruffy fly, finished in five minutes flat, would routinely outfish some incredibly accurate little work of art. And when you cast that scruffy five-minute fly into a tree, there’s less wailing and gnashing of teeth.

What am I driving at here, then? Well, I don’t want to denigrate realistic fly tying. It’s beautiful, creative and clever. It’s like painting a wonderful portrait, rather than just quickly taking a selfie. If you fish on rivers where the fish are very selective or see a lot of angling pressure, it can be useful, too. But for most of your fly fishing, the Hare’s Ear is a simple, brilliant pattern you just have to have!

What you need to tie the Hare’s Ear

A very simple recipe: hooks, beads, fur, wire and thread… and that’s it.

A very simple recipe: hooks, beads, fur, wire and thread… and that’s it.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

There are loads of variations on the classic Hare’s Ear fly. You can mess about with different dubbings, beads and the rest. You can add fancy tails or a thorax. Once you’ve sussed it, go ahead and knock yourself out. For now though, we’re going to make this most basic of fly patterns seriously easy to tie with a few basic tools and ingredients.

One notable main material is the namesake “hare’s ear” dubbing. Yes, you can substitute this for modern dubbings, but do try it with the real hare’s fur first. Nothing is quite so beautifully spiky and full of life. Buy yourself a full, natural “mask”. Yes, it’s a bit grim. If you live with any vegetarians, you might want to hide it so they don’t freak out.

Take a look at the material though, and marvel at it for yourself. There are lighter and darker coloured bits of fur. There are softer and spikier parts too. All of this can be used- if you pinch firmly with thumb and forefinger and tear out in little pinches. Less is always more with dubbing!

Here’s what you need:

Hook: Nymph or grub hook, size 12-18
Head: Brass or coloured bead, to suit (typically 2mm-3.5mm)
Thread: Tan or Brown
Rib: Silver or gold wire
Body: Dubbed hare’s mask, natural

Tying the Hare’s Ear, step by step

Pass a suitable sized bead onto the hook. run some thread onto the hook just behind in close turns. Pinch in place at first, before overlapping until it catches tight.

STEP 1: Pass a suitable sized bead onto the hook. If you catch the hook in the vice at a slight slope it should stay put. Now run some thread onto the hook just behind in close turns. Pinch in place at first, before overlapping until it catches tight.

STEP 2: As you proceed down the hook shank in tight, touching turns, bind in a length of gold or silver wire as you go. This will form your “rib” (which gives the fly a segmented look and also helps keep the body neatly secured so you don’t end up with a dog’s breakfast when a few trout have savaged the thing). Stop just above the barb of the hook, or just beyond the point on a barbless hook.

STEP 2: As you proceed down the hook shank in tight, touching turns, bind in a length of gold or silver wire as you go. This will form your “rib” (which gives the fly a segmented look and also helps keep the body neatly secured so you don’t end up with a dog’s breakfast when a few trout have savaged the thing). Stop just above the barb of the hook, or just beyond the point on a barbless hook.

STEP 3: Prepare your dubbing. Pinch and tear off a few fibres as shown. You can pick light or dark as you please. I try to get a mix of soft and spiky bits, to give the fly suitable “bugginess” (if that’s even a word). Don’t go too bonkers, as you only need a little to make a single fly.

STEP 3: Prepare your dubbing. Pinch and tear off a few fibres as shown. You can pick light or dark as you please. I try to get a mix of soft and spiky bits, to give the fly suitable “bugginess” (if that’s even a word). Don’t go too bonkers, as you only need a little to make a single fly.

STEP 4: Add the dubbing to your thread – you might need to have the bobbin a bit lower under the hook to give room. Do this by spreading out the dubbing material between your thumb and index finger and “roll” on the thread, as above. It can take practice to get perfect, so keep at it. If you resolutely fail to get the dubbing to stick to the thread, treat the thread with a touch of hair gel. We won’t tell anyone. You may end up with not enough or too much dubbing on the thread. This is quite normal! You can always pinch off a little or roll a tad more as you go.

STEP 4: Add the dubbing to your thread – you might need to have the bobbin a bit lower under the hook to give room. Do this by spreading out the dubbing material between your thumb and index finger and “roll” on the thread, as above. It can take practice to get perfect, so keep at it. If you resolutely fail to get the dubbing to stick to the thread, treat the thread with a touch of hair gel. We won’t tell anyone. You may end up with not enough or too much dubbing on the thread. This is quite normal! You can always pinch off a little or roll a tad more as you go.

STEP 5: Once you have the dubbing on the thread, apply it to the body in nice even turns so that you get a tidy profile. That said, we want plenty of those wiry fibres sticking out, so don’t panic if there’s a bit of mess.

STEP 5: Once you have the dubbing on the thread, apply it to the body in nice even turns so that you get a tidy profile. That said, we want plenty of those wiry fibres sticking out, so don’t panic if there’s a bit of mess.

STEP 6: Now for the rib. Bring the wire from back to front, in nice even turns, trapping the dubbing in place. It’s easiest to do this by changing hands as you go up the hook. When you reach just behind the head, trap the wire with a few tight turns of tying thread. Notice I’ve left a little gap behind the bead.

STEP 6: Now for the rib. Bring the wire from back to front, in nice even turns, trapping the dubbing in place. It’s easiest to do this by changing hands as you go up the hook. When you reach just behind the head, trap the wire with a few tight turns of tying thread. Notice I’ve left a little gap behind the bead.

STEP 7: Now, if you wiggle the wire back and forward, it will neatly break clean off. Much better than knackering your scissors trying to trim wire!

STEP 7: If you wiggle the wire back and forward, it will neatly break clean off. Much better than knackering your scissors trying to trim wire!

STEP 8: Now take another, smaller pinch of dubbing, and apply to the thread. Use some of the darker fibres from the hare’s mask, to create a bit of contrast. You could also go for a touch of bright colour such as red or orange though.

STEP 8: Take another, smaller pinch of dubbing, and apply to the thread. Use some of the darker fibres from the hare’s mask, to create a bit of contrast. You could also go for a touch of bright colour such as red or orange though.

STEP 9: Build up just enough dubbing to finish the fly, before whip finishing just behind the bead

STEP 9: Build up just enough dubbing to finish the fly, before whip finishing just behind the bead (this is easier watched than described, so take a peek at Peter Gathercole’s online tutorial).

TOP TIP: Your fly is ready to fish. However, many fly tyers like to liven it up a bit by picking out the fibres with a bit of velcro. This isn’t a pretty, faultless fly – those straggly bits all help to add life! Whether the fish take them for legs, feelers or little breathers, they move in the water and suggest life.

TOP TIP: Your fly is ready to fish. However, many fly-tyers like to liven it up a bit by picking out the fibres with a bit of velcro. This isn’t a pretty, faultless fly – those straggly bits all help to add life! Whether the fish take them for legs, feelers or little breathers, they move in the water and suggest something edible.

Further Hare’s Ear tips and variations

Variations and twists on the Hare’s Ear fly.

Variations and twists on the Hare’s Ear fly.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

If you fished little other than the fly I’ve just shown you, you could catch plenty of fish from streams and small stillwaters alike. In fact, the trout won’t begrudge your lack of artistry one bit. Keep your flies nice and scruffy and fish them where the trout expect to find things like shrimp and hog lice (i.e. the weedy margins of a small lake, or the bed of the stream) and you won’t go far wrong. On rivers, this tends to mean trundling along with the speed of the current, whereas on small stillwaters I like a picky figure of eight retrieve.

The simplest of Hare’s Ears will catch plenty of fish. That said, it’s fun and useful to add some extra touches to your Hare’s Ear flies. My favourite twists are:

  • Use a different type of bead. Try hot orange for dirty water, for example, or tungsten for extra weight.
  • Hackles and tails aren’t strictly necessary, but can add extra attraction. Partridge fibres or Coq de Leon make lovely tails and legs. Or add a CDC hackle for extra, wispy movement when wet.
  • Dubbings are also wide open for experimentation. Original hare’s mask is excellent, but you can get sparkly substitutes that are easier to dub. You could even add some brighter colour, such as red or orange, just behind the bead as a bit of a “hot spot”.
  • Of course, different hooks will also give different effects to your fly. You can tie a Hare’s Ear on any straight nymph hook, but a curved shrimp hook gives a lovely effect too.
  • But perhaps the biggest change for many anglers has been the switch to “jig hooks” (like the right-hand fly in the shot above). This design of hook will make the fly fish “point up” and seems to reduce snagging the bottom on rivers, while many believe it also leads to more hook-ups when fish bite.
  • Don’t forget to tie your flies in a good spread of sizes, too. I find a size 12 ideal for rainbows, especially for trying the edges of smaller, weedy lakes. Meanwhile, a size 16 with a smaller bead is ideal for most small to mid sized trout and grayling fishing on the river. That said, weeny little Hare’s Ears in sizes right down to a 20 can be superb for roach and dace.

Wherever you fish, you’d be hard pressed to find a more useful all-round fly pattern than the good old Hare’s Ear. Happy tying and fishing!

Read more from Dom Garnett

Regular Fishtec blogger Dom Garnett can also be caught every week in the Angling Times, while you can also find more on his site www.dgfishing.co.uk and the Angling Trust’s Lines on the Water blog.

Fly-tying For Beginners Part 2: The F-Fly

Classic, traditional dry flies can give even experienced fly-tyers nightmares. However, the good news is that one of the deadliest of all modern floating flies is an absolute cinch to tie, even for beginners. In this new mini series of step-by-step fly-tying guides, fishing author Dom Garnett shows you how to tie the F-Fly.

Tying your own flies

The F-Fly is easy to tie, even for beginners

The F-Fly
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

For anyone who has inspected beautifully tied trout flies, it can be both an inspiring and deflating experience. All those perfect little wings and legs, insanely accurate proportions and elegant touches.

As a lump of a man with hands as delicate as garden shovels, I’m living proof that even the less dextrous among us can create neat, effective flies with the right equipment. When you’re just beginning, things like realistic wings can wait. Lovely though they are, you don’t need such details to catch fish. In fact, you could happily catch more than your fair share with just a small number of very basic flies. The F-Fly is definitely one on my shortlist.

The simplest of dry flies ever!

The F-Fly will work on just about any river with trout and grayling.

The F-Fly will work on just about any river with trout and grayling.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

So how basic are we talking? Well, clever old stick Marjan Fratnik must have got very few ooohs and ahhhhs when he first hit upon his excellent dry pattern, the F-Fly. In fact, the more likely response was probably “um… is that it?” or “have you been getting your five-year-old nephew to tie your flies again, Marjan?”

The F-Fly is a simple combination of thread or dubbing body, with a really basic wing made of CDC feathers. It’s the latter that are the real secret. Not only do the natural oils and structure of the feathers from a duck’s backside float beautifully, they also look lovely and move well.

Of course, being less complicated than a Eurovision song contest entry also has its advantages. With such a simple blueprint, you can tailor the sizes and colours really easily. And you can tie them so quickly you’ll have loads of spares and can spend even more time fishing. Complete win!

Here’s what you need:

Hook: Dry fly size 12-22
Thread: Black or colour of your choice
Dubbing: Fine dry fly dubbing
Wing: Natural CDC

How to tie the F-Fly: step-by-step

The F-Fly is a very versatile pattern indeed. It works in many sizes and colours. Perhaps the most useful sizes are 14 to 18. Practising your first efforts with a hook no larger than a 14 makes sense though, as you can always get finer as you get the hang of it.

As for the ingredients, you don’t need to stock up on many materials. You can by Cul-de-canard feathers in various colours, but you could do just fine with standard, natural CDC (a greyish beige colour). The only other colour I usually bother with is white. As for body colours, you could use any fine dubbing. Stripped quill also looks lovely – or you could simply use thread for smaller flies. I’ve chosen natural CDC, with a black body, because “smallish and black” is such a universally useful blueprint on both rivers and stillwaters.

STEP 1: Run some thread onto the hook, overlapping a few turns until it catches tight.

STEP 1: Run some thread onto the hook, overlapping a few turns until it catches tight. Trim off the loose end to keep things tidy.

STEP 2: Run the thread along the hook shank in tidy, touching turns, until you reach a point just above the hook point or barb.

STEP 2: Run the thread along the hook shank in tidy, touching turns, until you reach a point just above the hook point or barb.

STEP 3: Take a tiny pinch of dubbing and pull it apart between your fingers. Between thumb and forefinger, rub it evenly along the thread. With practice, you should be able to get it fairly even. Again, less is more with most flies!

STEP 3: Take a tiny pinch of dubbing and pull it apart between your fingers. Between thumb and forefinger, rub it evenly along the thread. With practice, you should be able to get it fairly even. Again, less is more with most flies!

STEP 4: Run the dubbing-laden thread back towards the eye in even turns, keeping the body as even as you can. Stop just before the eye, leaving a little gap so there’s space for the wing. You might need to carefully pinch or pull off a little excess dubbing at this point.

STEP 4: Run the dubbing-laden thread back towards the eye in even turns, keeping the body as even as you can. Stop just before the eye, leaving a little gap so there’s space for the wing. You might need to carefully pinch or pull off a little excess dubbing at this point.

STEP 5: Pick out some CDC. For a small fly (size 16-20), two feathers will often be enough. For a larger fly, you might use three or four feathers of roughly the same length. Pinch them together so that the tips are level.

STEP 5: Pick out some CDC. For a small fly (size 16-20), two feathers will often be enough. For a larger fly, you might use three or four feathers of roughly the same length. Pinch them together so that the tips are level.

STEP 6: Now pinch the feathers in place above the hook and secure with 3-4 turns of thread. Make a slightly lighter turn first, followed by a tighter wrap or two is best. Don’t worry if you get it wrong, just undo and try again – no harm done. The right proportion of wing is subject to taste, but just beyond the end of the hook looks about right.

STEP 6: Now pinch the feathers in place above the hook and secure with 3-4 turns of thread. Make a slightly lighter turn first, followed by a tighter wrap or two is best. Don’t worry if you get it wrong, just undo and try again – no harm done. The right proportion of wing is subject to taste, but just beyond the end of the hook looks about right.

STEP 7: Take a sharp, fine-tipped pair of scissors and trim off the CDC as tight as you can. This is where good quality scissors will serve you well – treat yourself to a decent pair!

STEP 7: Take a sharp, fine-tipped pair of scissors and trim off the CDC as tight as you can. This is where good quality scissors will serve you well – treat yourself to a decent pair!

STEP 8: Once you’ve trimmed off the CDC, cover the leftover stumps with a few tight, tidy wraps of thread and form a neat “head”.

STEP 8: Once you’ve trimmed off the CDC, cover the leftover stumps with a few tight, tidy wraps of thread and form a neat “head”.

STEP 9: Now all that remains is to finish the fly. A whip finish tool gives the best result (take a peek at an online tutorial such as this one by Peter Gathercole). Failing that you could just add a spot of varnish and trim when the head’s dry. You’ll find a dubbing needle handy to apply varnish. Once the varnish dries, the fly is ready to fish! With practice you can easily tie one in just 5 minutes.

STEP 9: Now all that remains is to finish the fly. A whip finish tool gives the best result (take a peek at an online tutorial such as this one by Peter Gathercole). Failing that you could just add a spot of varnish and trim when the head’s dry. You’ll find a dubbing needle handy to apply varnish. Once the varnish dries, the fly is ready to fish! With practice you can easily tie one in just 5 minutes.

Further F-Fly tips and variations

Variations are simple, whether it’s a larger, livelier sedge fly imitation, or right down to a size 20 for days when the fish are feeding on the tiny stuff.

Variations are simple, whether it’s a larger, livelier sedge fly imitation, or right down to a size 20 for days when the fish are feeding on the tiny stuff.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

This fly is so universally useful, it’s hard not to love it. Just keep it simple and tidy, and you can’t go wrong. That said, it can be tied in various sizes and colours for different scenarios. It’s a belter for trout and salmon, but in smaller sizes I also love this fly for dace and other small-mouthed coarse fish. The materials are so soft that even delicate feeders will suck it in with ease!

My favourite twists are:

  • Step up to a size 12 or even a 10 and use rougher dubbing (such as hare’s ear) and you have a lovely, simple but lively caddis fly.
  • Or, for low, clear water or where you find tiny insects, the F-Fly is simple enough to dress a 20-24 hook! Dark colours are great for gnats, while a tiny green-bodied fly is superb as a greenfly.

Happy tying and fishing!

Read more from Dom Garnett

Regular Fishtec blogger Dom Garnett can also be caught every week in the Angling Times, while you can also find more on his site www.dgfishing.co.uk and the Angling Trust’s Lines on the Water blog.

Fly-tying for beginners part 1: The Black & Peacock Spider

If you’ve just started learning to tie flies, take heart, you needn’t be an expert to create really effective fish catchers! In this new mini series of step-by-step fly-tying guides, fishing author Dom Garnett shows us a handful of his favourite “simple but deadly” flies.

Tying your own flies

Easy_Flies_Black_&_Peacock_FINISHED_FLY

The black & peacock spider.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

The world of fly-tying can seem a pretty bewildering place these days. From the starting point of a hook and thread, the possibilities and sheer range of materials are vast. Some anglers can tie incredible works of art or amazingly detailed insect replicas. But there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple.

If you’re after fly-tying tips for beginners, the patterns in this series should prove nice and easy to tie. That said, there’s no harm in more experienced tyers getting back to basics. I’ll also show you how, with just a little tweak here and there, some really simple, quick flies can be incredibly versatile – and well worth a second look!

What is a spider fly?

Easy_Flies_Black_&_Peacock - 2

The simple ingredients: you just need a hook, thread, peacock herl and hen feather.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

For those new to fly-tying, spiders are simple, soft-hackled flies with a rich tradition in the UK. They’re not perfect insect replicas (and in spite of the name, they don’t copy actual spiders), but suggestive creations, often with just a thread body and “legs” fashioned from feather fibres. Perhaps this is why they’re so useful?

The Black and Peacock Spider has to be one of the most classic, versatile flies of all time. No other fly has caught me such a huge variety of fish, from wild brown trout to rudd, roach and carp. It’s also lovely and simple to tie. With a bit of practice you can turn one out in less than five minutes. Just as well, because I get through dozens every season.

Here’s what you need:

Hook: Wide gape nymph, grub or buzzer, size 12-16
Thread: Black
Tag (optional): Contrasting tinsel or wool of your choice
Body: Peacock Herl
Hackle: Black hen

How to make the black & peacock spider: step-by-step

making a black and peacock spider fly - Run some black thread onto the hook, leaving a little gap behind the eye. Pinch in place, until a few turns of thread catch in securely.

STEP 1: Run some black thread onto the hook, leaving a little gap behind the eye. Pinch in place, until a few turns of thread catch in securely. Trim the loose end if necessary.

making a black and peacock spider fly - Run the black thread in neat, touching turns down the hook shank. If you want to add a “butt” or “tag” of brighter colour at the rear, now is the time to catch it in. I’ve used red UV tinsel here.

STEP 2: Now run the black thread in neat, touching turns down the hook shank. If you want to add a “butt” or “tag” of brighter colour at the rear, now is the time to catch it in. To keep the body even, use a long strip of material and trap all the way down the back. I’ve used red UV tinsel here.

making a black and peacock spider fly - Pick out a couple of strands of peacock herl. Pick finer pieces for a tiny fly, or go thicker for a bigger, bushier number. Stroke the fibres back with your fingers so they fluff out

STEP 3: Pick out a couple of strands of peacock herl. Pick finer pieces for a tiny fly, or go thicker for a bigger, bushier number. Stroke the fibres back with your fingers so they fluff out, as above.

making a black and peacock spider fly - tie in the peacock herl, clamping down right the way down the back of the hook shank to keep things nice and even.

STEP 4: Now tie in the peacock herl, clamping down right the way down the back of the hook shank to keep things nice and even. If you tie just by the “tips” you get an uneven less secure body, so go right down the hook and bring the thread back to the rear of the fly.

making a black and peacock spider fly - wrap the thread around the peacock strands to trap the peacock in place and make it secure.

STEP 5: Next, we wrap the thread around the peacock strands. You don’t absolutely have to do this, but doing so traps the peacock in place better and makes for a much more secure fly, that won’t unravel after a fish or two.

making a black and peacock spider fly - wrap the thread and peacock from back to front in even turns. Once you’re a short distance from the eye, trap the peacock in place tightly with 2-3 turns of the black thread as shown. Leave a little gap here and don't crowd the head of the fly

STEP 6: Wrap the thread and peacock from back to front in even turns, like this. Once you’re a short distance from the eye, trap the peacock in place tightly with 2-3 turns of the black thread as shown. It’s important to leave a little gap here, because we don’t want to crowd the head of the fly (or it will be difficult to tie onto our leader).

making a black and peacock spider fly- trim off the peacock as tight as you can.

STEP 7: Trim off the peacock as tight as you can. If you’re new to fly-tying I can’t over-emphasise the need for a quality, sharp pair of scissors here! Don’t be a skinflint, because fine-tipped scissors are a fly-tyer’s best friend and make the job much easier.

making a black and peacock spider fly - Now take a black hen feather. Fibres that are 2-3 times the width of the hook gape look about right. Gently tease out the feather fibres and strip a little at the front with your thumb nail, so it’s easy to tie in

STEP 8: Now take a black hen feather. A small pack of feathers should tie several flies without breaking the bank. Choose a feather where the fibres or “spikes” are in proportion to the hook size. Fibres that are 2-3 times the width of the hook gape (the gap between the hook point and the shank above) look about right. Prepare it by gently teasing out the feather fibres and stripping a little at the front with your thumb nail, so it’s easy to tie in, as above.

making a black and peacock spider fly- tie in place as shown , with two or three nice tight turns of thread, just behind the eye.

STEP 9: Tie in place as shown, with two or three nice tight turns of thread, just behind the eye.

making a black and peacock spider fly - Holding the end of the feather, wrap it around in two neat, tight turns, so that the feather fibres splay out like the spokes of an umbrella. Hackle pliers make the job easier. Just make two wraps and trap the feather in place with another 2-3 turns of thread. Trim off the excess.

STEP 10: Now for the slightly trickier part. Holding the end of the feather, wrap it around in two neat, tight turns, so that the feather fibres splay out like the spokes of an umbrella. Hackle pliers (a tool which keep the feather pinched in place) can make the job easier if you’re struggling.
It’s tempting to make loads of wraps, but just make two before carefully trapping the feather in place with another 2-3 turns of thread! So often in fly tying, less is more because sparser materials move better and won’t crowd the fly. Once you’re happy, you can trim off the excess.

Easy_Flies_Black_&_Peacock_FINISHED_FLY

STEP 11: All that’s left to do is finish the fly. A whip finish tool is the tidiest way to do this – it’s not easily explained in words, so take a look at one an online tutorial, such as this one by Peter Gathercole. If you’re struggling, or don’t have the right tool, you could always just varnish, leave to dry and then carefully trim off with scissors (the fish won’t mind and we won’t tell anyone).

There we have it, job done! One of the easiest flies to tie for beginners, but also one that experienced anglers still swear by.

Further ideas and useful variations

black and peacock spider fly

Three useful variations.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

So, hopefully with a bit of practice, you’ll be tying these simple flies quickly and your efforts will get tidier. Don’t worry if your first few attempts are a bit messy – the fish don’t mind a great deal as this isn’t a super “fussy” or accurate fly. Whether you fish it gently, just letting it swing round in the breeze, or pull it like a loch style fly, it’s a great pattern.

Once you’ve cracked the basic tying, you might like to experiment with some simple variations. Try different models and sizes of hook. Small, fine hooks and sparse dressings can be useful for low, clear water and finicky feeders. Bigger brutes, on the other hand, are great for blustery days and aggressive fish. Of course, different weights and sizes of hook will also give you very different sink rates.

My favourite twists are:

  • Add a small bead (above left) for a faster sinking fly.
  • Tie a little sparser with a red tinsel rib and lighter hook (above middle), which works excellently for trout feeding in the upper layers.
  • Tie more boldly, with a red tag and perhaps a thicker body (above right) which is great for loch style fishing.

Above all, have fun and, I repeat, don’t worry if your early efforts are a bit unkempt. I guarantee you’ll still catch fish! Happy tying and keep an eye out for more patterns this summer. Next time, I’ll show you a simple but brilliant dry fly to tie yourself.

Read more from Dom Garnett

Regular Fishtec blogger Dom Garnett can also be caught every week in the Angling Times, while you can also find more on his site www.dgfishing.co.uk and the Angling Trust’s Lines on the Water blog.

Fishtec Blogger Joins The Angling Trust

Keen all-rounder and author Dom Garnett is writing a new chapter for the Angling Trust

Keen all-rounder and author Dom Garnett is writing a new chapter for the Angling Trust, in search of untold stories and unsung heroes. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Regular readers will already know our blogger Dom Garnett is as passionate about conservation and inspiring the next generation as he is about his own fishing. In his new role at the Angling Trust, he’ll be travelling the country to cover the stories and issues that matter. Here’s a flavour of what to expect, in his own words…

Dom’s mission

Are we living in the best or worst of times for fishing? I guess you could say it’s a bit of both at the moment. We’ve never had better value tackle or more choice of places to fish. Then again, the sport is faced with more hurdles than ever, from environmental threats to a lack of young recruits.

Fishing is so much more than just a hobby for me. When a new role in blogging and digital media came up with the Angling Trust, I had to go for it. Little did I know the huge amount of stories to cover and good work going on behind the scenes – and that’s just after the first couple of months!

Is angling in a good place in 2018?

Social media isn’t always healthy for angling.

Social media isn’t always healthy for angling. The sport needs togetherness and positive action, rather than yet more keyboard warriors!
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Catch a typical pub or Facebook conversation and you might think fishing is going to hell in an illegal keepnet. All the big fish have been eaten. The rivers and canals are empty. By 2050, there will only be crayfish and cormorants left. I could go on, but you’ve probably heard it before and, I hope, realised that much of it is way over the top or pure nonsense.

Of course, there are still serious challenges, but these won’t be solved by keyboard warfare. In fact, the biggest problem angling faces is not otters or immigrants but good old-fashioned apathy. That’s why it can feel that, in spite of being a sport with a giant following, we punch like a toddler. So, if I can highlight some of the positive things going on and rally more anglers to do their bit, that in itself would be a result. So where do we start?

Rewriting the story of fishing

A lot of the good work in fishing is not very visible. In spite of claims to the contrary, there are more volunteers, projects and campaigns than most of us are aware of. Sadly, the real heroes of fishing tend to get on quietly and determinedly, while those who contribute little more than spleen feel the need to make an awful lot of noise.

My first aim is to show anglers what really goes on behind the scenes – whether it’s the many ways their EA fishing licence money is spent, or the great projects and people out there making a difference.

Sometimes this needs a fresh angle, and so I’ve aimed to make my blog posts for the Angling Trust’s “Lines on the Water” unashamedly entertaining. It can be hard to catch readers in this digital age, so I’m keen to uncover the eye-opening truths and human interest stories behind the serious stuff. Here are just a few recent examples:

Police, thieves and fishy goings on…

From firearms to stolen carp, fisheries enforcement staff see it all!

From firearms to stolen carp, fisheries enforcement staff see it all! But the picture is changing, thanks to joined-up thinking and better practice.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

One of the greatest positive changes in fishing for decades has been the vast improvement in the way fisheries crime is tackled. The Angling Trust’s enforcement team has been instrumental in making this happen – from closer working with police and the EA, to creating a nationwide army of 500 Voluntary Bailiffs. This is a massive step in the right direction!

Of course, we can all help by reporting crimes and incidents. You never know what you might uncover and would not believe some of the cases that have come up in recent years! Actually, take a look for yourself in my recent post about Amazing Fisheries Enforcement Wins. Did you hear the one about the wanted murderer, or the bathtub of stolen barbel? I kid you not!

Random rubbish and bizarre finds

Not what you’d hoped to catch; but litter is no laughing matter!

Not what you’d hoped to catch; but litter is no laughing matter!
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

The media have been going nuts about litter and plastic pollution lately. About blinking time, too, because it is atrocious and so unnecessary! The moment you start to lecture people about tidying up, they tend to switch off.

So, instead of dishing out a sermon, I decided to do some homework and ask all my angling pals about their most bizarre catches. The results were strange to say the least, from body parts to erotic toys! You can see the worst and weirdest of them here. Better still – do your bit and join our “Take 5” campaign.

Turning the “problem” of immigration into a positive

Polish kids learn to fish with the Building Bridges scheme

Polish kids learn to fish with the Building Bridges scheme – an excellent Angling Trust project supported by Environment Agency rod licence money.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

You only need to mention the word Brexit these days to conjure up fierce debate on immigration. But could our neighbours from the continent be a positive for fishing in the longer term? Granted, there are still a few bad apples; but thanks to efforts from the Angling Trust and others, the tide is now turning.

Not only is the Daily Mail style “immigrants have nicked all the fish” line getting pretty tired, the statistics no longer back it up. Non-British anglers carry out only a small proportion of fisheries crimes; and I don’t hear many calls to have middle aged Englishmen hung, drawn and quartered.

Part of this is down to much better education, from multi-lingual signs to special events and wider enforcement. The Angling Trust’s Building Bridges project has been crucial here, too. In fact, there’s growing evidence that immigration can be hugely positive.

I recently attended a fantastic event with Wellingborough Nene and District Angling Club where dozens of Polish kids and their families came together with local coaches to learn fishing skills and laws. It was one of the most uplifting experiences of my fishing year. The result of more events like this could be huge. Migrant anglers now provide a substantial boost to the tackle trade, while the fishing clubs get much needed junior members. Make no mistake; if we can work together, we can create long term, positive change here.

How you can help

Together, we can protect our fisheries and build a brighter future for angling.

Together, we can protect our fisheries and build a brighter future for angling.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

In a sport that has a huge number of participants, it’s a crying shame that such a small percentage play their part and join the Angling Trust. As you might have seen from my previous Fishtec blog post on why it’s so important to get involved, there are simply too many positive reasons not to do just that!

There are far too many great things going on for one blog post, it’s fair to say. We haven’t even touched on Fish Legal, and its huge wins against polluters. Not to mention the Angling Improvement Fund, injecting many thousands of pounds of rod licence money into helping angling clubs and freshwater fisheries. Nor have we mentioned the huge number of coaches and free fishing events every summer with the “Get Fishing” organisation.

I’m well aware that doing your bit is not as sexy as talking about huge fish or the latest tackle; but the future of angling depends on all of us to show that we care. I’ll say it again: apathy is by far the biggest threat to angling. We won’t win the longer battle overnight, but joining the Angling Trust is a bloody good start! Signing up today costs less than £30 and brings a whole host of discounts and other benefits too.

In the meantime, do follow your regional Angling Trust Facebook page and keep an eye on the “Lines on the Water” blog for current goings on and inspirational stories. It’s only together that we can beat apathy and build a better future for fishing. What do you say?

Read more…

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

Summer Coarse Fishing Tips: How To Beat The Heat

Summer_Heatwave_Fishing - 2

A beautiful, baking hot day; but is it still worth going fishing?
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

While blue skies and sunny waters bring out fair weather anglers in droves, high summer can be a tough time to fish. Dom Garnett has some timely advice to help you stay cool, keep catching and be kind to the fish…

The weather forecasters are grinning; the mercury is rising and the shops are making a killing on barbeques and beer. “What a lovely time of year to go fishing” says just about everyone who doesn’t know much about angling!

Ask most regular anglers, and you’ll get a lukewarm response: high summer can be a challenging time of low returns. Fish, after all, are not always comfortable in the heat. Like us, they find their energy and appetite dulled.

With clear skies and low water levels, the fish also feel quite vulnerable and will either hang around motionless or go missing in the brightest hours of the day. Unlike you or I, they have no eyelids, let alone a pair of shades to lessen the blinding glare!

Should I still go fishing in a heatwave?

Summer_Heatwave_Fishing - 3

Drought conditions can follow a heatwave. It can be a time of stress and difficulty for nature- and fish become more vulnerable. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

When it’s extremely hot, fishing can be a tricky business. That’s not to say you won’t catch, but you might need to switch times, locations or species. Early mornings or evenings are going to be better than the middle of the day, for one thing.

As for species of fish, some respond to heat better than others. Fragile, coldwater species like pike and grayling should be avoided altogether, such is the risk. Carp are perhaps the most notable exception; tough as old boots, they might slow down but can still be caught on the surface or in the margins. Tench and crucian carp are also tough cookies that can tolerate higher temperatures and lower oxygen levels.

Is it worth the risk?

Summer_Heatwave_Fishing - 6

Carp are hardy fish that can still be tempted on bright days. However, on’t expect them to be on the bottom. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

With other species, it’s a case of discretion. After all, just because you can legally target them, it doesn’t mean you should. Barbel are a point in case presently, because as tough as they look, these fish can easily die following a hard fight and a less than careful release. It can take up to 20 minutes of supporting a fish on release, if it is to recover properly.

Is it worth the risk in the first place? Only you can make that call, but when it’s silly hot remember that we have the whole year to fish. If you must go, there are some common sense rules, too. These include using strong tackle to play fish quickly, not to mention supporting them with patience to recover fully before swimming off. Our Beginner’s Guide to Fish Care has lots of great advice to help if you’re unsure.

Summer fishing and catch and release tips in hot weather

Summer_Heatwave_Fishing - 5

This barbel perished after capture in hot weather. River fish demand extra care and patience on release. Image courtesy of Alfie Naylor.

  • It’s your call if the weather is scorching hot. But if the river is extremely low or you think the fish are vulnerable, why not wait a bit or try something else, like carp fishing or sea fishing?
  • Early or late sessions are often better than the middle of the afternoon, so set that alarm clock or see if you can sneak out after work! Remember though, that even when the air temperature cools, the water will still be hot right around the clock and fish can be vulnerable.
  • Pick shady spots and faster flows for the best chance of action. Fish like shade as much as we do, while shallow, faster flowing water is cooler and more oxygenated than the slacks. Hot weather can change the rulebook, so don’t always expect your quarry to be in the usual spots.
Summer_Heatwave_Fishing - 8

Make the most of natural shade where you can – fish appreciate some protection from the sun. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

  • Try fishing up in the water when it’s warm. Whether it’s a floating bait for carp, or trickling in casters for roach, summer fish often like their food well off the bottom.
  • Take extra care of the fish if it’s hot. Exhausted fish are particularly at risk, so use strong tackle and play them quickly. Keep them in the water as much as possible and support them patiently while they recover.
  • Avoid keep nets. Keep nets should be avoided, or used only very sparingly for short periods, in mid-summer.
  • Don’t fish for fragile species. Some types of fish, like pike, deserve a complete break; they are extra fragile in the summer and even if you know your craft, you could easily kill one. If it’s crazy hot, you might also avoid species such as grayling and barbel. Again, this might depend on the venue, but for the longer term it’s best that we put the needs of the fish before our own.
  • Target tougher fish. Carp, tench and crucians are all species that don’t mind hot weather and can tolerate lower oxygen levels than their stream cousins. A switch from river to lake might be more productive, not to mention kinder, if the weather is hotter than a vat of vindaloo. Of course, you should still be extra careful with your catch on the bank, because even these fish will be less resilient than usual.
Summer_Heatwave_Fishing - 1

Fish such as carp, tench (above) and crucians are more comfortable in warm water than the likes of barbel and grayling. Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

  • Pack sun block and extra water! Yes, we’ve all done it. Remembered kilos of bait but not taken care of ourselves. The result is a splitting headache or sunburn. Oh, and do treat yourself to a decent fishing hat! A broad-rimmed hat could literally “save your neck”!
  • Try night fishing for carp. If it’s a big carp you’re after, this is a wonderful time of year to go night fishing. Balmy recent conditions have seen temperatures in the high teens, even in the wee small hours! Very comfortable for sleeping out- and the fish will be a lot less wary after dark.

Read more from Dom Garnett

Regular Fishtec blogger Dom Garnett can also be caught every week in the Angling Times, while you can also find more on his site www.dgfishing.co.uk and the Angling Trust’s Lines on the Water blog.

A Beginner’s Guide To Float Fishing

Float fishing is one of the most popular methods of angling. Sheringham’s comment that the float is “pleasing in appearance, and even more pleasing in disappearance”, still rings true today, whether you cast a delicate stick float or a pike bung.

Perhaps the biggest challenge in float fishing is making the right tackle choices. But with such a bewildering variety of floats and tackle, where do you start? Dom Garnett steers you in the right direction and shares some of the joy that comes from successful float fishing.

Why use a float?

Chub caught with waggler float

A simple waggler float and slow sinking bait fooled this chub.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Apart from the obvious pleasure of seeing the thing dip, why opt for a float in the first place? The broadest answer is that the float achieves things other presentations don’t. If the fish you want to catch prefer bait in the current, or mid water as it falls, a float is the answer. But for bottom fishing too, the float will often provide greater sensitivity than rod tips or bobbins.

Basic float types 

Fishtec's float fishing guide - floats

The main types of float. Image source: Fishtec

Waggler

Fishtec-Wagglers

A straight waggler, insert waggler and loaded float.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Attached bottom end only, this is a great all-rounder, especially on stillwaters such as lakes and canals. For more information, see our Beginner’s Guide to Waggler Fishing.

Stick float

Fishtec-stick floats

A traditional stick float, modern metal stemmed float and a chubber, for big baits and boiling currents.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Attached by three “float rubbers” this is first choice for running water. The size and design of float will depend on the depth and strength of the current.

Pole float

Fishtec - pole floats

A slim pole float, plumper pole float and small “dibber”
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

With no need to cast far, pole floats are delicate and highly sensitive. They are held on the line with tiny rubber sleeves, like stick floats. Above, we have a slimmer pole float for slow falling baits (top), followed by a plumper bodied float for bottom fishing and last, a small “dibber” ideal for shallow margins. For close range fishing these floats also work a treat with rod and reel setups!

Sliding float

Fishtec - slider float

Sliding floats
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Some species of fish demand a bigger, meatier float to support larger baits and cast further out. Pike and sea fish are good examples – ideal for casting into a wind or perhaps suspending a whole fish as bait.

What tackle do you need for float fishing?

There are many rods marketed for various float fishing tasks these days, but what should you use? Start by thinking about what you’d like to catch.

For general float fishing on rivers, canals and smaller stillwaters, a 12 or 13ft match rod will do nicely. A small reel, loaded with 3-6lb line should match this perfectly (lighter line for roach, dace and bits, or heavier for chub, tench or small carp).

For regular tench and carp fishing, a “power” float rod that will handle reel lines of 6-8lbs is better still. Again, at least 12 foot is preferable.

If you’re wondering why such long rods, the extra length helps in several ways. Most of all, it gives you better control, whether this means reaching out across the current or picking up all the slack line when striking into a fish at distance.

Here’s the thing though – you don’t always need to use a dedicated float or match rod to float fish. For young anglers, or those who find themselves in cramped swims, a shorter rod is often more practical. A light to medium lure of 9-10ft will work fine for a little float fishing.

For a spot of sea or pike fishing, a slightly heavier lure rod, or perhaps a stalking or carp rod is ideal. I like slightly lighter tackle than the big ugly blanks and heavy reels generally shoved onto rod rests, which are a bit bulky to hold for hours. A sensible sized reel loaded with heavy mono or 20-30lb braid will stop most sea fish and pike.

Typical Float Rigs 

There are many, many ways to float fish, but these three basic rigs will stand you in good stead for most situations. As a good general rule, the deeper the water and the more powerful the wind and currents, the larger the float you will require.

Stick float rig with “shirt button” shotting

Stick float rig with “shirt button” shotting

Image source: Fishtec

This is a typical rig for trotting a river. The evenly spaced shot give a gradual, even fall of the hookbait. The same principle often works with stillwater rigs – with a string of evenly spaced shot allowing a slow, natural fall of the bait that looks very convincing to the fish.

Bulk shot rig

Bulk shot rig

Image source: Fishtec

If you want to get down to the bottom quicker – because it’s deep, or you want to prevent tiddlers from pinching your bait on the way down – a bulk of shot is the answer. Notice how most of the weights are bunched together, just 18” from the hook. This is a pole rig, but the same is true of all float rigs – and if you begin with a string of evenly spaced shot (as in example one), you can always slide them down the line to form a bulk weight if conditions change on the day.

Sliding float rig

Sliding float rig

Image source: Fishtec

For deeper waters and bigger fish, a sliding float is a great idea. As the name suggests, this setup allows the float to slide up the line (unlike a “fixed” float). This means you can fish depths longer than the rod much more easily without casting problems.

We’ve shown a large float for sea fishing here, but the same principle works for very deep venues where you want to catch roach, tench, bream and other fish. You simply use a bulk of split shot rather than the bullet – and a giant waggler float rather than a bung.

Finer points of float fishing 

Fishtec - pike caught on sliding float

A pike on the sliding float. Don’t assume that float fishing is just for the small stuff!
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

When float fishing, it always pays to pay attention to the little details! Here are three key things you can do to instantly improve your float fishing:

1. Dip that tip!

Fish are not always prepared to pull inches of float underwater. In fact, many will let go if they detect too much resistance. Dot your tip down as low as is practically possible (as little as 2-3mm!) for best performance.

2. Include a tell tale shot

The “tell tale” shot is a tiny weight, usually positioned six inches or less from the hook. This tiny shot is crucial because when a fish takes the bait, the weight also moves and gives you immediate bite indication. Keep your ‘tell tale’ tiny (size 8-12) and close to the hook!

3. Avoid losing weight

Shot can easily ping off while you’re fishing and will need replacing. Cylindrical weights called “styls”, often sold as “Stotz” come off the line less easily and can be a better choice than traditional shot.

Further float fishing tips

  • Float fishing is an excellent way to test the depth. This is a vital skill to suss out where to fish on any water. Doing this properly makes a huge difference – you want your float set so that the bait is just touching the bottom at first, or just off if you’re trotting a river.
  • It’s usually cheaper to buy floats in bulk when you’re starting out. Mine tend to be bought in twos or threes so I always have spares, but bulk deals are often the best value. Fishtec sells sets of Middy Wagglers for under a tenner.
  • Use a float adapter (above) when waggler fishing and you can change floats in an instant should conditions change.
  • Always hold the rod when float fishing for faster biting fish. If you put the rod down, you’re not in a position to react instantly.
  • Bites don’t always mean the float sinking out of sight. If the float lifts, or “takes a walk” sideways, you may well have a bite too, so strike! You will sometimes get line bites from fish like carp though – where the float behaves peculiarly – and you’ll need to wait for a “proper” bite.
  • As a general rule, it’s often best to use a float that is slightly heavier than needed. This way, you needn’t strain to cast far enough. Rather than casting onto the heads of the fish, it’s often better to cast a bit “too far” and bring the float back carefully.
  • Always stay alert and fish positively. Feed bait and cast often to get more bites and explore your swim fully. An Airbomb mid-air baiting device won’t spook the fish.

A beginner’s guide to float fishing infographic

Read more from Dom Garnett

You can catch more from our blogger every week in the Angling Times, or at his site www.dgfishing.co.uk where you’ll find his blog and various books, including Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide and his cracking collection of fishing tales Crooked Lines.

Coarse Fishing Tips For The New River Season – 16 June

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

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

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

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

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

Roach

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

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

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

Chub

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

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

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

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

Barbel

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

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

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

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

Bream

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

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

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

Top tips for coarse fishing in the early river season

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Check your licence.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

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

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

Find further inspiration for the new river season…

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

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

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

A River Wye silver salmon

A silver fresh run salmon. Image: Tim Hughes

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

An emotive debate…

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

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

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

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

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

Can I keep salmon?

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

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

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

Different opinions within the angling community

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

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

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

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

Sense and sustainability

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

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

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

How to help salmon survive capture

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

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

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

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

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

Think of the bigger picture

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

Madness of Mayfly Season: Top Fly Fishing Tips & Tactics

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

A Mayfly

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

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

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

What do anglers actually mean by “mayfly” ?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When do mayflies hatch?

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

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

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

Tackling up for mayfly hatch

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

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

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

Different mayfly fly patterns and stages of the hatch

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

Early Hatch:

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

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

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

Mid Hatch:

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

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

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

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

Late Hatch:

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

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

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

Further thoughts on mayfly fishing…

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

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

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

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

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

Read more …

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

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