Count down to opening day: UK reservoir fisheries dates 2018

The count down to the season has started! Image source: Fishtec

The count down to the season has started! Image source: Llyn Clywedog fishery

With the days becoming longer and lighter, it’s hard to ignore the excitement of a new trout fishing season just around the corner.

To help you get your plans for 2018 off to a flying start, here’s the Fishtec pick of our top 10 UK reservoir fisheries as the new season begins, including those all-important opening dates for your diary.

So, whether you’re an expert stillwater trout hunter, or completely new to this aspect of the sport, why not try exploring somewhere different this year?

• Stocks Reservoir (Forest of Bowland, Lancashire)

Stocks sits 600 feet above sea level in the hills at the top of the Hodder Valley, so you’ll need to wrap up warm to begin your season here. But all those extra layers will be worth it – Stocks is widely regarded as ‘the best reservoir fishery in the north’. To start your season at Stocks, try imitative buzzers, or black and white, green or orange lures, fished from the bank on a slow-sinking line in the clear, slightly peaty water.
Season opens: 24 February 2018
More information: www.stocksreservoir.com/

• Rutland Water (near Oakham, Rutland)

Seeming to float above the surface of Rutland Water when levels are high in early season, Normanton Church makes one of the greatest backdrops of British stillwater fly-fishing. A session close to this iconic building should be on every angler’s early-season bucket list. Trout grow to 15lbs in Rutland’s rich waters, and the U-shaped reservoir’s sinuous points and bays will provide you with miles and miles of bank to explore. If you’re looking for a midge hatch, the shallow South Arm is reputed to be one of the best and biggest buzzer fishing spots in the country.
Season opens: 9 March 2018
More information: http://www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/rutland/fishing/

• Draycote (near Rugby, Warwickshire)

Surrounded by rolling countryside, yet within easy distance of several motorways, Draycote boasts the finest buzzer fishing in the Midlands – a very good reason to mark your diary for early season. You’ll need to hire a boat to drift the hotspots over Draycote’s famous shallow island ‘shoals’, but all the natural banks offer superb fishing too, and browns and rainbows grow on to sizes of 10lbs or more.
Season opens: 2 March 2018
More information: www.flyfishdraycote.co.uk/

• Grafham Water (near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire)

With its internationally-famous stocks of overwintered brown and rainbow trout, Grafham Water is one of Britain’s premier early-season fisheries. Loch-style fishing from boats for these turbo-charged fish is always popular, but taking a roving approach on foot can also be very productive, and even better access to the banks is planned in 2018. (Don’t forget, Grafham has become a stronghold for invasive ‘killer shrimp’ in recent years, so it’s vital to take careful biosecurity precautions when you’re fishing here).
Season opens: 2 March 2018
More information: http://www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/grafham/fishing/

• Llyn Brenig (Denbigh Moors, north Wales)

If you’re craving top-of-the-water sport at the end of a long winter, the fourth largest lake in Wales may be your chance to catch a buzzer hatch. At a height of 1,200 feet in the Welsh mountains, booking a boat is often the best option to help you cover the water and take advantage of the prevailing wind. Llyn Brenig rainbows are famous for their fierce fighting qualities, and good early season flies include buzzers, cats’ whiskers, cormorants, blobs and boobies.
Season opens: 10 March 2018
More information: www.llyn-brenig.co.uk/fishing

• Llyn Clywedog (near Llanidloes, mid Wales)

Many reservoir fisheries are operated by water companies, so it’s refreshing to find one that’s run by a local fishing club for members and visitors. Llanidloes and District AA puts all its proceeds straight back into the fishery: the club stocks around 35,000 rainbow trout each season, and provides 29 boats including a wheelie boat. For 2018, they’ve also added 4hp petrol motors to all the boats. Local anglers put most of their faith in black buzzers, up to a size 12, for the months of March to May.
Season opens: 8 March 2018
More information: www.clywedogtroutfishing.co.uk

• Llandegfedd (near Pontypool, south Wales)

Easily accessible from Newport, Cwmbran and Pontypool, this is a Welsh fishery that’s run by Welsh Water. Llandegfedd is generously stocked with rainbow trout, but it also holds browns, as well as perch, roach-bream hybrids and big pike. Early season tactics are split between traditional floating lines and weighted nymphs, or fast sinkers with short lures or boobies. On their day, both can catch just as many fish! Llandegfedd has recently been threatened with closure, so please show your support for the fishery in 2018.
Season opens: 1 March (rainbow trout), 20 March (brown trout)
More information: www.llandegfedd.co.uk/fishing-llandegfedd

• Chew Valley Lake (Mendip Hills, near Bristol)

After hitting the headlines last year (when Bristol Water threatened to wind it down as a fishery) it’s testament to Chew Valley’s popularity that anglers’ protests persuaded them to rethink. The fishery has now won a reprieve, but it’s in all our interests to continue fishing it enthusiastically for grown-on browns up to 22lbs and rainbows up to 14lbs. Early season can produce epic midge hatches from the lake’s shallow waters, and a stealthy approach with imitative nymphs, emergers and dry flies on floating lines comes recommended by regular bank and boat fishermen alike.
Season opens: 6 March (season tickets), 8 March (non-season tickets)
More information: www.bristolwaterfisheries.co.uk/lakes/chew-valley-lake/

• Blagdon Lake (Mendip Hills, near Bristol)

Nestling at the foot of the scenic Mendip Hills, Blagdon has a legendary reputation for the varied sport it provides with its deep basins, shallow bays, and long narrow shape that makes it ideal for both bank and boat fishing. Five rowing boats and 15 petrol-driven boats (with low power output to reduce disturbance and wash) are available to book. Very much like nearby Chew, imitative tactics with small flies, especially black buzzers, are popular from the start of the season.
Season opens: 13 March (season tickets), 15 March (non-season tickets)
More information: www.bristolwaterfisheries.co.uk/lakes/blagdon-lake/

• Hawkridge (near Bridgewater, Somerset)

Wessex Water also runs other fly fisheries at Clatworthy and Sutton Bingham, but sharp-eyed social media buffs may already have noticed something new at Hawkridge in addition to the usual rainbows, browns, char, tiger, golden and blue trout this season: ‘sparctic’ trout, a cross between brook trout and Arctic char. Stocked at up to about 5lbs, with full fins and large pale spots on silver-grey sides, they’re stunningly beautiful fish. We can’t think of a better way to spice up your Facebook, Twitter or Instagram feed this spring!
Season opens: 28 February 2018
More information: www.wessexwater.co.uk/fishing/

 

Countdown to open season: at a glance

Fishery

Open season

More information

Stocks Reservoir

(Forest of Bowland, Lancs)

24 February 2018 www.stocksreservoir.com/
Rutland Water

(Oakham, Rutland)

9 March 2018 http://www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/rutland/fishing/
Draycote

(Rugby, Warwickshire)

2 March 2018 www.flyfishdraycote.co.uk/
Grafham Water

(Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire)

2 March 2018 http://www.anglianwater.co.uk/leisure/water-parks/grafham/fishing/
Llyn Brenig

(Denbigh Moors, north Wales)

10 March 2018 www.llyn-brenig.co.uk/fishing
Llyn Clywedog

(Llanidloes, mid Wales)

8 March 2018 www.clywedogtroutfishing.co.uk
Llandegfedd

(Pontypool, south Wales)

1 March (rainbow trout),

20 March (brown trout)

www.llandegfedd.co.uk/fishing-llandegfedd
Chew Valley Lake

(Mendip Hills, near Bristol)

6 March (season tickets),

8 March (non-season tickets)

www.bristolwaterfisheries.co.uk/lakes/chew-valley-lake/
Blagdon Lake

(Mendip Hills, near Bristol)

13 March (season tickets),

15 March (non-season tickets)

www.bristolwaterfisheries.co.uk/lakes/blagdon-lake/
Hawkridge

(Bridgewater, Somerset)

28 February 2018 www.wessexwater.co.uk/fishing/

 

UK Stillwater fly fisheries opening 2018

Click to download your free handy guide

More about the author…

Theo Pike is a freelance environmental, fishing and marketing writer. He’s also Chair of Trustees of the South East Rivers Trust, and founding editor of urbantrout.net, a website and eco-brand dedicated to the urban fly fishing and river restoration movements. His first book, Trout in Dirty Places, was published by Merlin Unwin Books in 2012, and his manual on controlling invasive non-native species, The Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing appeared in 2014.

Introducing the TF Gear Airbomb – The Future of Baiting!

We are excited to announce a brand new product from TF Gear! It’s called the Airbomb and it’s a mid-air bait distribution product that we feel is going to be a game changer.


How does it work?

Unlike a Spomb or the Fox equivalent, Total Fishing Gear’s Airbomb does not open upon impacting the water. Instead it opens in mid air, spraying the bait out in a wider pattern that is perfect for creating a nice bed of bait. It works by hitting the reel clip on the cast. This triggers a pin that opens Airbomb. The force of the cast disperses the bait in a forward arc, several yards beyond the cast. Should you not hit the clip (or choose not to) the Airbomb will land in the water and remain shut. You can trigger it to open anytime you wish by yanking your rod tip sharply.

The Airbomb from TF Gear

The Airbomb from TF Gear.


What are the advantages over other baiting products
?

There are multiple advantages, but the main one would be you can create a uniform spread of bait that you can build up quickly. Carp find this extremely attractive, and importantly will feed confidently. Other baiting rockets and baitboats cannot spread the bait as widely when they release their payloads, making the Airbomb unique.

Airbomb creates a unique spread of bait

Airbomb creates a unique spread of bait.

What can it do?

Quite a lot. And there are probably a lot more things that haven’t been thought of yet!

  • Airbomb releases payload in mid-air, creating a shotgun effect bait spread
  • Stealthy no spook baiting operation – Airbomb falls well away from baited area
  • Aerodynamic design maximises casting range
  • Total accuracy every cast
  • Massive load capacity
  • Easy and quick to fill
  • Create vast beds of bait with speed and efficiently
  • Precision bait by drawing over weed gaps and localised feeding spots then jerking rod tip to open
  • No spillage or wasted bait
  • Suitable for all carp fishing baits including boilies, particles and floaters
  • Buoyant and effortless to retrieve
  • Heavy-duty and robust construction – will withstand extreme casting
  • Spreads bait forward in a scattered pattern well beyond the reach of your cast
  • Bait up far margins, snags or islands with no risk of losing Airbomb
  • Confuses nuisance birds and bait eating pests
  • Perfect for floater fishing – release floating baits with no risk of spooking carp

Check out the official video:

When can I buy one?

Airbombs are available to pre-order now, although physical stock will not be here until late March. You will be able to order here. Please note, the first batch is a limited stock delivery, so demand will be extremely high. Therefore we cannot guarantee your back order will be fulfilled from the first stock delivery.

Airbomb can be used with any carp fishing bait

Airbomb can be used with any carp fishing bait.

Operation Leviathan – Fisheries Enforcement with the Angling Trust

Is your fishery under pressure from illegal angling? Is poaching rife and are people taking fish from the water? Is your club stretch being vandalized and litter being left indiscriminately? If so, there is hope. Introducing Operation Leviathan.

Prominent anglers Gareth Johns, Iain Barr and Medi Treharne showing their support for operation leviathan

Prominent anglers Gareth Jones, Iain Barr and Medi Treharne showing their support for Operation Leviathan at the BFFI show.

What is Operation Leviathan?

‘Operation Leviathan’ is the name of the multi-agency partnership including the Environment Agency (England), Natural Resources Wales, Police forces across the west of England and Wales, The National Wildlife Crime Unit (NWCU), Angling Trust and angling clubs to work together against fisheries crime, fish theft and illegal fishing. In the East of England, there is an identical project that goes under the name of ‘Operation Traverse’.

The main purpose of the operation is to increase confidence amongst anglers to report incidents of  illegal fishing to the EA or NRW on the national hotline 0800 807060 and/or the police as appropriate.

The lack of information coming into the authorities has been identified as a major weakness in dealing with widespread ‘poaching’ on rivers, lakes and canals across the country and consequently, the problem is not recognised in many areas.

This has led to anglers becoming frustrated when they see fish being illegally removed from the water, fixed lines being set to catch fish illegally and irresponsible or anti-social fishing taking place on their waters, making them feel unsafe.

All of these things led to the formation of the Voluntary Bailiff Service (VBS) in England, managed by the Angling Trust to provide more ‘eyes and ears’ out on our waterways.  It’s a bit like ‘Neighbourhood Watch’ for fishing!

In England The VBS work closely with the EA and our volunteers are often invited to join them on patrols.

In Wales, the representative body for anglers is Angling Cymru, who do not have an equivalent VBS. Therefore, in Wales, anglers are solely dependant on the NRW to address issues directly without the support of a volunteer force. The Angling Trust are supportive of a Welsh VBS to work alongside the current organisation in England.

VBS is developing and in the South East of England there is currently a pilot project, in which carefully selected Voluntary Bailiffs are empowered to demand rod licences and deal with certain fisheries offences . This is called ‘Phase 2 VBS’ where volunteers are embedded in Environment Agency (EA) teams, with whom they work and directly support.  They are supervised by EA team leaders and are subject to the EA Codes of Conduct. This pilot is currently being evaluated by the EA pending their decision as to whether the initiative will be rolled-out nationally.

Interested in joining the VBS service? Find out more here.

The main message of Operation Leviathan is for all anglers across the UK to phone the emergency hotline number 0800 807060 to report illegal fishing incidents.

This gives you options to speak with the fisheries authorities covering different parts of the country.  It is crucial anglers report incidents and information about illegal fishing so that the EA (England), NRW (Wales), Loughs Agency (N. Ireland) etc.. can take the necessary action! Without this, the authorities won’t know there is a problem and no action will be taken.

A quick guide to the law

For information regarding Operation Leviathan and fisheries enforcement, please get in touch with Kevin Pearson. Mob. 07495 433620 Email. Kevin.Pearson@Anglingtrust.net

Women who cast

More and more women are getting into angling, which is great news for the sport. And as they do, ladies are beginning to make an impact in the professional and commercial sides of the sport too. Here’s a run-down of just some of the female angling stars from across the internet.

Marina Gibson

Marina-gibson1

Marina caught the fishing bug from her mum.

“The fin was a riot of greens, pink-reds and yellows, with distinct lines stretching to a metallic finish on the flanks.” Can you guess what fish Marina Gibson caught when she headed for the headwaters of the Orvis Kimbridge beat during the offseason? Her first Grayling of course. Read all about her experience as she targets the “Lady of the Stream”.

A lady herself, Marina is woman on a mission to change the image of angling and, having given up her career in the City to move to Yorkshire, she now fishes, blogs and guides – ever accompanied by her Romanian rescue dog, Sedge.

To follow Marina, check out her website or Facebook page.

Anne Woodcock

anne-woodcock-new

Fancy a spot of angling ladies? Anne will help you get started.

“I thought my line had got stuck! It was the start of 10 minutes of salmon heaven” writes salmon angler, blogger, business woman and guide, Anne Woodcock, of her fishing adventures on the Dee. If you’re a lady who’d love nothing better than to catch her own tasty salmon, then Anne will help you achieve your goal. The driving force behind Ladiesfishing, she runs not-for-profit fishing days for ladies in both England and Scotland.

A strong voice in women’s angling, Anne is marketing director of Fishpal, the award winning online fishing leads service, and she also contributes to community radio station CVFM’s angling programme, “Gone Fishing”.

To follow Anne, check out her website or Facebook page.

Beverley Clifford

bevclifford

Here’s one I caught earlier.

Determined to do something about the lack of angling instruction events solely for women, angler Bev Clifford set up the Ladies Carp Academy which runs at Pool Bridge Farm Fishery near York. It’s a great opportunity for women to “meet and learn from one another in a social, fun and relaxed environment”, says Bev.

The daughter of a specimen angler, it’s no surprise that Bev grew up to become one of the UK’s top female anglers. She says she “grew up in a house with fishing magazines, books, pictures, stuffed fish everywhere”. A truly inspirational lady, she’s also a team angler for DNA Baits, a member of the England Ladies carp team and works in advertising and marketing for angling magazine, Carp Talk.

To follow Bev, check out her website, instagram or Facebook page.

Bex Nelson

Bex-Nelson

All I want for Christmas is…

Another female angler on the up, Bex Nelson was introduced to angling several years ago by her boyfriend. She says “I’ve really grown with skill and knowledge in the last year or so. I’ve fished for all manner of species but the carp bug has taken hold.” Her best catch so far, 29lb George – an “old warrior”, as Bex puts it, she was hoping to break the 30lb barrier before the end of 2017 – better hurry Bex! Check out her Facebook page to find out if she managed to beat that PB.

To follow Bex, check out her instagram or Facebook page.

Katie Griffiths

Katie-Griffiths

Katie loves her carp.

A designer at Total Carp Magazine, Katie Griffiths has also achieved the honour of gracing the magazine’s coveted front page spot. Pictured with title boss, Dan, she shows exactly what she thinks of his catch! She says: “You know you love carp fishing when you see someone catch their target.”

When she’s not working at the magazine, Katie loves nothing better than to wet a line – something she’s been doing quite a lot since she was first introduced to the sport two years ago. Check out some of the photos on her instagram account and you’ll see that her hobby has grown to become a passion – she says angling always “makes me smile”.

To follow Katie, check out the Total Carp Magazine blog or her instagram account.

Lucy Bowden

Lucy-Bowden

Why not let Lucy help you realise your dream of learning to fly fish?

Always dreamed of learning the art of fly fishing? What are you waiting for? Whatever your age, race, gender or ability, Lucy Bowden will teach you to fish. Dedicated to encouraging girls and women in particular into the sport, since she set up Fishing for Everyone in 2005, Level 2 UKCC Game Angling Coach Lucy has inspired many women to give the sport a try.

From “learning how to set up your fishing tackle, performing basic casts, retrieval techniques, to hooking, playing and safely landing fish,” Lucy aims to help everyone acquire the skills and confidence they need to get the most from fishing.

To follow Lucy, check out her website or Facebook page.

Casting for recovery

Ladies kicking in wellies

Casting for Recovery offers fly fishing retreats for women who’re suffering, or have suffered from breast cancer.

“It was the first time since my diagnosis that I had time to myself to realise the impact of my illness on me, and also to be greatly inspired by everyone there who has survived and recovered.” This is just one of the comments from women who’ve experienced the joy of learning to cast at Casting for Recovery, the charity that teaches fly fishing to women with breast cancer.

If you’d like to find out more about Casting for Recovery’s all-expenses-paid fly fishing retreats, or if you’d like to lend a hand helping to raise funds, just get in touch using the online contact form. The full list of retreats for 2018 can be found here.

To follow Casting For Recovery, check out their website or Facebook page.

Do you know a female angling fanatic who you’d like us to tell the world about? To let us know, just drop us a line on our Facebook page.

10 Reasons You Need To Join The Angling Trust

Are you a member of angling’s most important organisation? If not, there’s no time like the present to join Angling Trust & Fish Legal, says Dom Garnett. With more threats than ever to the fish and fisheries we depend on, there’s never been a greater need to support the future of the sport you love. Here are ten excellent reasons to get involved, from protecting fish stocks to superb member benefits.

1. Because we’re stronger together

Angling_Trust_Blog - 1

Game and coarse anglers meet on the bank. Angling is stronger when the different branches unite!
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Does it sometimes feel like fishing has too little say as a sport, given how many of us are out there? In the past, we tended to split up into many different groups, fighting our own little corners. The Angling Trust is the only body to bring everyone together, from sea anglers to carp fishers. The result? A more powerful voice and real progress for us all.

2. To inspire the next generation of anglers

Angling_Trust_Blog - 2

Angling Trust coaches have inspired thousands of youngsters to go fishing.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Perhaps the most important reason of all to join the Trust is to inspire and encourage the anglers of tomorrow. By giving quality, affordable training to coaches in sea, coarse and fly fishing right across the UK, we can bring in the new blood that fishing depends on. You might even want to get involved yourself.

3. To get discounts on tackle, day tickets, bait and more…

If you thought that joining the Trust was all about supporting fishing and doing the right thing… well, you’d be correct, but it’s also more than that. Members also get some cracking discounts, whether that means tackle, bait or the latest fishing books for less.

4. To help fund projects and bring angling into the community

Even in times of austerity, there are funds available to strengthen the vital work done by fishing clubs and organisations. The Angling Trust works hand in hand with a range of brilliant projects to bring the positives of fishing to communities right across the UK.

5. To fight polluters and restore fisheries

Angling_Trust_Blog - 3

Without Fish Legal, many cases of criminal pollution would go unpunished, with no compensation to restore damaged waters.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Have you ever wondered who puts things right when waters are polluted or damaged? In so many cases, it’s Fish Legal, which you support by joining the Angling Trust. With Environment Agency success rates for prosecuting offenders and getting compensation as low as 3%, Fish Legal is not just important – it’s vital!

6. To make sure angling isn’t ignored by the politicians

Even if you consider current politics as dirty and divided, it’s absolutely vital that fishing is brought to the attention of decision makers. The Angling Trust works tirelessly to communicate and lobby key figures at local and national levels, effecting real change. Never mind Facebook rants, the Trust takes coordinated action on the issues that matter to you.

7. For healthier seas, rivers, lakes and ponds

With threats like pollution, over-abstraction, hydropower, overfishing and habitat destruction, it’s crucial that angling is represented in discussions about the future of our waters. We can’t win every battle, but without an organised body to represent thousands of anglers, who will fight for change and sustainability?

From protecting marine fish populations, to working directly with policy makers and groups like WWF, the Angling Trust makes sure we are heard. Find out more about some of the Trust’s current campaigns.

8. To educate European anglers and reduce poaching

Building_Bridges.asp

Image courtesy of the Angling Trust.

With more European anglers than ever living in the UK, it’s crucial that those from other cultures are made aware of British laws and the importance of catch and release fishing. Along with better information and signage, the Building Bridges project has been a huge success, bringing anglers together to create better understanding and create a clear message.

9. To put more bailiffs on the bank and protect fisheries

Whether it’s the theft of carp, pike or threatened populations of salmon, our fisheries need protection. As important as the police and Environment Agency are in this, they need information to target their scarce resources. Set up directly with Angling Trust, the Voluntary Bailiff Scheme (VBS) has been an innovative and effective answer to provide really valuable intelligence and help the police tackle waterside crime. Nearly 500 volunteers have been recruited and they are making a big difference.

10. To combat predation and invasive species

Cormorant_Watch.asp

Image courtesy of the Angling Trust.

With populations of creatures, including cormorants and goosanders, rising to alarming levels in some areas, there has never been a greater need to campaign for sensible measures to protect fisheries and, where necessary, reduce numbers of predators. The Angling Trust is one of the only major organisations that campaigns for this on a national scale, using an evidence-based approach with projects such as Cormorant Watch.

Don’t delay, join the Angling Trust today!

At just £29 a year (or less for OAPs and young anglers), membership doesn’t cost a fortune and makes a huge difference to the sport you love. In fact, for the sake of all the great work the Angling Trust and Fish Legal do, it’s an absolute bargain! It’s easy to get onboard too; all you need is five minutes to join online or call directly on 0343 5077006.

Fly Fishing For Pike On Canals And Small Waters

From pint-sized rivers and drains to classic narrowboat canals, smaller waters offer some cracking pike fishing on the fly. Canal Fishing author Dom Garnett shares a wealth of tips and tricks to getting the best from these delightful fisheries.

Canal_Pike_on_Fly_001

The biggest waters might steal the headlines, but smaller venues offer cheap and accessible sport for pike.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

With so many British anglers living within a few miles of a canal, these waters could very well be described as “bread and butter” fishing. However, I don’t want to do them a disservice because the sport on offer can be truly excellent. Admittedly, most canals contain few really large predators, but they often have good numbers of fit, aggressive pike to provide year round sport, along with the odd surprise.

Canals, in particular, have a special place in my heart. In fact, I may never have got into pike fishing without the local “cut.” Virtually every time I went to catch a netful of small roach and perch, one of these predators would crash the party, stealing a fish on the way in or even attacking the keep net. Inevitably, I eventually decided I wanted to get even and land one.

Although I grew up as a bait or lure fisherman on these waters, it was the fly that was to become my absolute favourite method. On so many levels, it seemed the ideal way to fish the canal. You don’t need silly heavy tackle for one thing; an eight-weight rod suffices. Nor do you need to cast miles – and in fact some of my best fish came from right under the bank.

So where should you start when it comes to canal fishing for pike? Here are some tips  that also apply to fishing for pike on drains, fens and smaller rivers.

Which fly rod is best for pike on smaller waters?

On so many smaller waters, the pike are modest sized and you don’t need a ten or eleven weight rod. Much of the time, I use a nine or eight weight, which is fine provided you don’t use huge flies. In some ways the weight class is just a number – so do go for a rod with some backbone (a pike or saltwater model is ideal and currently I’m using the Airflo Bluetooth 8/9 for my small water fishing which so far seems a pretty decent rod without a silly price tag).

Fly lines, leaders and traces for pike

Canal_Pike_on_Fly_002

A nice fish from the towpath. Typically, canal pike will be in the 1-5lbs stamp, while a “double” should be regarded as an excellent catch.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

In terms of fly lines, go for a dedicated pike model if you can afford one. You want quite a meaty taper to turn over the flies. However, if you’re just starting out and only have a trout fly line, you’ll still manage with smaller pike flies. 90% of the time a floating line is all you need for smaller waters; in fact I’ve only ever switched to a fast intermediate on the biggest ship canals that are over ten feet deep.

Leaders must be robust because there’s always the potential for a surprise monster. There’s no advantage at all in using lighter leaders, so go for minimum 20lbs fluorocarbon. I tend to use about seven or so feet of this, attached to a wire trace. My traces are Authanic wire, or another knotable wire, but I don’t use big clips and swivels: a small, neat leader ring connects leader to trace, while a small but tough snaplink connects to the fly.

How long should a wire trace be for pike? Mine are always 18” minimum, because otherwise a good fish could wrap around and find leader to cut. I also find the ends of the trace tend to kink first, so if I start long I can retie once or twice, without ending up with a riskily short trace.

Best pike flies for smaller waters

Canal_Pike_on_Fly_003A

I choose smaller than average pike flies for fishing canals. Here are some of my designs.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

So many of the pike flies for sale are massive great things. Fine for big waters and ten weight rods, but a pig to cast on lighter gear. So my advice would be to scale down to hook sizes from say 2-1/0 and flies from 3”-5”. Don’t think for a minute you need to use big flies to catch good pike!

I carry a few different sizes and colours. Natural hues are a good starting point, in roach or perch colouration. If the water is a bit dirty though, orange or pink are excellent high-vis colours. Last but not least, I think black is the all time most underrated colour for pike. Few anglers use it but it has saved me a blank several times.

Where to find pike

Canal_Pike_on_Fly_005A

Pike can be anywhere on weedy, feature rich waters. However, the “shelf” on each side of the canal, along with any pieces of cover, are ideal starting points.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Canals can vary quite a lot, but the golden rule to finding pike is to keep moving and searching until you locate them! It’s no use fishing just one or two spots. All kinds of features will attract them, from overhanging bushes to bends, wides and deeper areas.

On rural canals, you might find the fish right by bankside reeds and undergrowth. On just about any water, the “drop off” on each side (i.e. just as the margins fall away to the central “track”) is also a key ambush point. That said, in the dead of winter you may find pike right in the deep centre of the canal too.

Concentrations of prey fish are also worth looking out for, of course, although you may well find the pike a few yards, or even a few swims away, because unless it’s feeding time they will seldom be right in amongst the shoal. But explore everything, because quite often a seemingly featureless spot produces pike too.

Fly retrieves for pike

Perhaps the commonest mistake for beginner pike fly anglers to make is lashing their flies in ultra fast. If the fish are up for it, or you can see prey panicking, this can work. But most of the time, a slower retrieve is called for – and I like my fly to be “busy” and erratic but not too fast. A “picky” figure of eight retrieve is quite often effective.

Do experiment, however, because pike have definite “moods”. Sometimes it’s as if they are excitable and want to chase; other days they are temperamental and need more time to lash out.

Follows, takes and hook ups

Canal_Pike_on_Fly_006

Canal pike tend to be small on average- unless you’re lucky, like The General.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Do pike always follow a fly out of hunger? I don’t think so. A lot of the time, they’re just being curious, territorial or perhaps even irritated. This could explain why quite a few fish will follow but not take. Even so, you can increase the odds by doing two things.

The first is to speed up if you see a pike following. The opposite response seems natural, but you are trying to get a reaction, not invite the pike to study the thing. Another trick is never to rush the end of the retrieve. Count to five before you lift out – and always give a few final twitches and a nice lift. Often this final burst of movement will convince a pike to lash out before dinner gets away.

Some takes will be savage and impossible to miss. Others can be more subtle and need striking. I’ve heard anglers make the case for doing this with the line or the rod. I like to do both! It sounds OTT, but pike have very bony mouths and we’re using heavy tackle so it’s safe to be bold. Pull the line firmly and shift the rod low to one side – striking upwards will often just pull the fly straight out of the mouth, rather than burying it in the “scissors” of the jaw.

Casting in tight spots

Of course, one of the challenges of canals and bushy small waters can be the lack of casting space. You’ll rarely need to cast more than ten to fifteen metres, but even that might be tricky. Side and steeple casts (where you throw the line high above an obstruction behind you) are often important. You can also work diagonally to win more space.

If you’re really struggling though, don’t panic. If there’s cover close-in you can often win a take or two by literally just flicking the fly around the margins, which is a good area. Too many of us are so busy trying to hit the far bank it’s easy to forget this.

Talking of close-in fishing, do approach each swim slowly and carefully. I usually start a step or three back from the bank and my first cast will be right into the near margin. I’ve learned to do this after spooking many pike in the near margin over the years – don’t believe anyone who tells you pike don’t spook!

Notes on pike conservation

As well as these tips on catching pike, I also wanted to include some notes on releasing them safely here. The vast majority of fishing waters will insist on a large landing net and unhooking mat, which you should always carry. It’s inexcusable to risk scratching or dropping a fish on the bank because you couldn’t be bothered to bring a mat!

You’ll also need minimum foot-long pliers or forceps to remove hooks from pike, and I recommend going and learning the ropes with an experienced angler if you’re just starting out.

Pike can fight hard and can be deceptively fragile creatures, so do play the fish quickly rather than exhausting them. The same goes for release; don’t handle or keep them out of water any longer than you need to (my recent guide to fishcare skills is a handy read on this subject).

Fantastic sport!

Dom-Garnett-pike

A well-proportioned fish, from a modest day ticket water.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

What can you expect with a typical canal? Well, they vary a great deal. The best canals for pike tend to be weedy, with fairly clear water. Those with lots of prey and cover can be prolific, and a dozen pike in a day is possible. As a general rule, I find overcast days best on clear canals and drains, while the first hour of daylight is the best time of all (lie-in addicts take note!).

Other canals and drains can be more coloured and difficult, but you may still get some joy. Indeed, you’d be surprised how well a pike can find your fly in poor clarity. Where visibility is low, you might want to go a bit bigger and brighter though.

Of course, some canals simply don’t have a huge head of pike and you may have to do some homework to seek out the specific areas they like, or rely on trial and error. Others may be dominated by other predators such as perch, or zander on the muddy, busy canals. These are another challenge altogether – but that’s another story!

A summary of top tips for fly fishing for pike

What tackle and equipment do you need to fish for pike on the fly in canals and smaller waters?

  • You don’t need heavy tackle – and eight or nine-weight rod will suffice (a pike or saltwater model is ideal).
  • In terms of fly lines, go for a dedicated pike model if you can afford one.
  • If you only have a trout fly line, use smaller pike flies.
  • Leaders must be robust – go for minimum 20lbs fluorocarbon. Dom uses about seven feet attached to a wire trace.
  • Don’t use big clips and swivels. On Dom’s set up, a small, neat leader ring connects leader to trace, while a small but tough snaplink connects to the fly.
  • For pike, use a minimum 18” wire trace.
  • You don’t need big flies to catch good pike! Scale down to hook sizes from 2-1/0 and flies from 3”-5”.
  • Use natural coloured flies for clearer water, and try orange or pink in poor visibility. Black is the most underrated fly colour for pike. Try it and see!
  • Be ready with the right equipment for safe catch and release – a large landing net, unhooking mat and foot-long pliers are essential.

What techniques help when fly fishing for pike on a canal?

  • Keep moving to find pike – try underneath overhanging bushes, bends, wides and deeper areas.
  • There’s no need to cast miles – great fish are often found right under the bank.
  • Don’t retrieve too quickly – most of the time, a slower retrieve is called for. Dom likes his fly to be “busy” and erratic but not too fast.
  • A “picky” figure of eight retrieve is often effective.
  • Lots of follows but no takes? Try speeding up to invite an attack response.
  • Don’t rush the end of your retrieve. Count to 5 before you lift out and give a few final twitches before you lift out.
  • Strike low and hard to one side, rather than upwards.
  • Don’t believe anyone who tells you pike don’t spook!

Read more from the author…

Canal_Pike_on_Fly_009_COVERS

Find out more about catching these fish – grab a copy of Flyfishing For Coarse Fish, available in both hardback and digital editions.

If you’re interested in exploring Britain’s fantastic variety of canals, or indeed tackling coarse fish on the fly, Dom’s books represent a wealth of inspiration and advice! Find both Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide and Flyfishing for Coarse Fish available in signed hardback at www.dgfishing.co.uk or as digital editions from Amazon UK. If you live in South West England, Dom also offers guided fly fishing days for pike and other species.

Airflo Defender Clothing Review By Robbie Winram

Well known independent fly fishing tackle expert and Anglian Water employee Robbie Winram reviews the Defender waterproof clothing from Airflo – a range designed to combat the worst possible weather conditions.

There are three main elements to the new Defender clothing range: a wading jacket, three-quarter jacket and trousers, all at £69.99 each. They are made from a two-layer durable Taslan nylon shell fabric with reinforced ripstop nylon on the high wear areas such as the seat and knees of the trousers and across the shoulders, tops of the arms and the hoods on the jackets.

The fabric also has a DWR finish so water just beads off the outside, and all the garments are windproof, waterproof and breathable. The jackets have a polyester mesh lining except for the sleeves, which are lined with a smooth polyester fabric. The trousers have a polyester mesh lining from the waist to the knees and then the smooth fabric down to the ankles.

Wading jacket

The wading jacket has a single full-length zip with a double stormflap: one has a rain gutter and the other folds over the top and secures with four Velcro closures and a metal popper stud both top and bottom. The zip tucks into a neat fleece-lined chinguard to prevent chafing.

The nice high collar is fleece-lined and the fixed hood can be rolled up and held in place with a large tab and Velcro closure. The hood has a stiffened wired peak and an elasticated cord and toggle lock adjustment around the face and on the back of the head to give a really good fit.

The sleeves have an articulated shape for ease of movement when casting and end in a simple, lightly elasticated cuff with a Velcro closure. There are two pockets on the chest with large stormflaps and Velcro closures. These pockets are elasticated at the top and expand generously to take a good-sized fly box. There is also a fabric tab and D-ring under each stormflap for tool and accessory attachment. On the front of these pockets are small flat accessory pockets with water-resistant zips. Behind each cargo pocket is a handwarmer pocket, lined one side with micro fleece, and there is also a single zipped security pocket.

On the back of the jacket is a full-width zipped cargo pocket with protective stormflap. Additional features include a large D-ring on the back of the neck and an elasticated cord and toggle lock adjuster around the bottom hem.

The three-quarter jacket has the same design features as the
wading version, but is longer and has a different pocket configuration and an extra waist drawcord.

The Defender clothing combo

The Defender clothing combo.

Comfortable trousers

The trousers have a nice high back for extra protection from the elements, and partly-elasticated sections each side of the waist for comfort.

They also have belt loops and an elasticated and adjustable webbing belt with a quick release bayonet fitting. There is a simple zip fly opening with a protective stormflap, and a metal popper stud at the top.

The legs have a slightly articulated cut for good range of movement and expandable gusseted ankle cuffs with side zips and Velcro tabs and fasteners.

Two hip pocket feature a water-resistant zip, while the two thigh pockets have stormflaps and Velcro fasteners.

VERDICT:

The Defender jackets and trousers will keep out the wind and rain, and offer good breathability considering they have that extra polyester mesh lining. This lining also provides a bit of extra warmth on colder days. I liked the well-fitting hood and nice warm fleece collar. Excellent value for money, especially if you take advantage of Airflo’s special offer – buy any jacket and trousers for £119.99 and get the Airflo Defender fleece free.

Originally published in the December 2017 issue of Trout Fisherman Magazine, we have re-produced this review with their kind permission.

You can check out the Airflo Defender range of fly fishing clothing here.

The Green Menace – Invasive Plants

Giant-hogweed-warning

Invasive non-native plant species can quickly take over and spoil local fishing spots
Image source: Lance Sagar

If you haven’t settled on a New Year’s Resolution yet, why not make 2018 the year you start your very own fightback against alien plants like Himalayan Balsam, Giant Hogweed, Floating Pennywort and Japanese Knotweed?

Invasive non-native plants like these can cause real problems for your favourite stream, river or lake – and even spoil your fishing season completely. And while some of their worst effects don’t become visible until the spring and summer months, it’s never too early to start planning your campaign against them…

Himalayan Balsam

Himalayan-Balsam

Himalayan Balsam can destroy bank-side structure causing erosion
Image source: Shutterstock

Also known as Policeman’s Helmet or Poor Man’s Orchid, Himalayan Balsam is probably one of the most widespread invasive plants in the UK. But the good news is that it’s also one of the easiest to tackle.

It’s very shallow-rooted, which is why it’s so damaging when it dies back in the winter (after shading out all the native plants and killing their root systems) and lets seasonal spates dump all the bankside soil into our rivers as silt.

However, it’s easy to pull up or strim from May onwards. Just make sure that each stem has been snapped below the first node, then pile up the plants somewhere dry and shady to desiccate. Start as far upstream in your river’s catchment as you can, to stop seeds floating down to recolonise areas you’ve already cleared.

For best results, you should plan to revisit each infested area once a month until around October, to pick off later-germinating plants which will otherwise produce up to 800 seeds each, causing even more problems next year. Monnow Rivers Association volunteers have successfully applied this approach for a number of years, even asking visiting anglers to pull up 50 plants as part of their day on the water.

For more information about Himalayan Balsam, visit the GBNNSS website.

Giant Hogweed

Giant-Hogweed

Removing Giant Hogweed requires careful handling and protective eyewear
Image source: Shutterstock

Once made famous by Genesis in their song ‘The Return of the Giant Hogweed’, this highly dangerous plant is steadily rampaging along the banks of urban jungle rivers like Manchester’s Irwell.

During the 70s, 80s and 90s in Northern Ireland, it turned whole rivers into no-go zones every summer. Each hair on its towering, purple-blotched stems holds a bead of phyto-phototoxic sap, and if you get this on your skin, any exposure to sunlight will produce blisters and third-degree burns which can keep coming back for years.

In the past couple of years, volunteers from the Mersey Rivers Trust have started spraying young giant hogweed plants from around March onwards. If you don’t want to use chemicals (not least because you’ll need permission from the EA to use them near water) you can stop older plants from seeding by cutting off seed heads into a bin bag and incinerating them carefully. You can also dig out young plants by cutting their thick tap roots at least 15cm below ground level with a sharp spade.

Always wear full personal protective equipment when you’re working on Giant Hogweed, including eye protection to stop squirting sap and prevent permanent damage to your eyes.

For more information about Giant Hogweed, visit the GBNNSS website.

Floating Pennywort

Floating-Pennywort

Floating Pennywort can completely choke waters in a very short space of time
Image source: Crown copyright, GBNNSS

First found in the wild in the UK as recently as 1990, Floating Pennywort spreads over still or slow-flowing water a rate of 20cm a day, so it’s a particular problem on canals and impounded areas behind old mill weirs.

At first, in some of these straight-sided brick and concrete areas, it can even look like a welcome addition of soft green structure. But it soon makes fishing and boating impossible, shades out native plants, and increases the risk of serious flooding.

Treating fully-established infestations in deep water can cost thousands of pounds, but if the water is shallow enough to wade safely, it’s perfectly possible to clear smaller areas by hand. Gently follow the fleshy stems back to where they’re growing out of the bank, and pull them up by the roots, leaving all the foliage safely on the bank to compost down. Best practice also includes setting nets all around your working area to stop small pieces of stem and leaf from floating off and starting new colonies of their own.

To start dealing with the other plants in this article, you’ll need to wait a few months until spring or summer. However, if you’ve noticed Pennywort on your patch, winter is a good time to tackle it, when growth is slow, frost has driven the leaves below the surface of the water, and the plant’s total biomass is lowest.

For more information about Floating Pennywort, visit the GBNNSS website.

Japanese Knotweed

Japanese-knotweed

Japanese Knotweed has heart-shaped leaves, bamboo-like stems and white flowers
Image source: MdE (page at dewiki | page at commons) – own photo, CC BY-SA 3.0 de

Once loved by Victorian gardeners for its bamboo-like stems and pretty, lacy flowers, Japanese Knotweed is one invasive species that’s best left for the experts to handle.

Having evolved to grow through hardened lava on the slopes of volcanoes like Mount Fuji, it makes short work of tarmac and concrete, and can destroy dams, paths and boat ramps – even fishing huts if it sprouts up through the floor. New plants can regenerate from thumbnail-sized pieces of stem or root, so even the smallest fragment is classified as controlled waste.

As a result, it’s best not to touch Japanese Knotweed yourself at all – instead, you can make a real difference by noting its location and telling your local council or rivers trust. They’ll send a specialist to treat it with glyphosate in late summer or autumn, when the plant is drawing nutrients (and thus any pesticide) back down into its deep root system. The Wye & Usk Foundation has already scored some notable successes in clearing Japanese Knotweed from the Afon Lwyd in this way.

For more information about Japanese Knotweed, visit the GBNNSS website.

Other tips for fighting invasive, non-native plant species

  • Download the PlantTracker app, and start submitting geolocated photos whenever you see one of these invasive non-native plants.
  • Find out if your fishing club or local Rivers Trust runs an invasive non-native species programme – if not, volunteer to help them start one.
  • Get to know the Check, Clean, Dry protocols – these will help to stop you accidentally spreading alien plants as well as invasive shrimps and other invertebrates.
  • Always try to get the landowner’s permission before starting to tackle Invasive Non-Native Species of any kind. If you plan to use pesticides like glyphosate anywhere near water, you’ll also need consent from the Environment Agency or SEPA.

Author Profile

Theo Pike is a freelance environmental, fishing and marketing writer. He’s also Chair of Trustees of the South East Rivers Trust, and founding editor of urbantrout.net, a website and eco-brand dedicated to the urban fly fishing and river restoration movements. His first book, Trout in Dirty Places, was published by Merlin Unwin Books in 2012, and his manual on controlling invasive non-native species, The Pocket Guide to Balsam Bashing appeared in 2014.

Reflecting On 2017 By Rene’ Harrop – January, 2018

American based Airflo fly line and tackle consultant Rene Harrop shares his latest field report from the wild west fishing mecca that is Yellowstone country.

For the 64th time in my life, I am looking back on another year of fishing in Yellowstone country.

Adding the experiences of 2017 to an ever extending bank of memories is a reenactment of ritual that occurs at the beginning of each New Year and, as usual, there are highs and lows to be remembered.

2017 Memory

2017 Memory

Last year began on a relatively positive note with a winter that brought vastly improved water conditions to my homeland. While somewhat late in receiving the benefits of abundant snowfall, the lakes and rivers in and near Yellowstone Park experienced a level of stability that had been absent through much of the past three years.

Low point for the Henry’s Fork came in late winter when flows lower than ideal kept the water cold and the insect life in a state of dormancy. The result was a later than usual start to the dry fly fishing that usually begins with midges in February and then intensifies when Baetis begin to appear in early March.

Snow On The Peaks

Snow On The Peaks

By April, however, milder temperatures and a gradual improvement in water levels seemed to kick start a sustained stretch of dry fly fishing that did not end until early December.

Hatches subdued by unfavorable water conditions in recent years seemed almost miraculously revived in 2017, especially through the months of July and August.

While their numbers were noticeably reduced during the drought years, trout in the Henry’s Fork and other regional rivers appeared healthier and with good numbers of young adult fish. Positive winter flows should assure the availability of larger targets along with the hatches needed to keep them looking up.

Calm On Hebgen

Calm On Hebgen

Local still waters, which continue to receive my growing attention, were generally reliable through most of the time they were ice free. On the downside, however, was a troubling occurrence of algae bloom during the warmer period of July through early September.  Although Hebgen lake in Montana was spared from this disruptive nuisance and fished consistently well through the season, just across the border in Idaho, Henry’s and Sheridan Lakes were not as fortunate. However, by October, both had recovered and were again producing the typically impressive fish for which they are known.

Most encouraging looking forward is the current state of lakes and reservoirs in this region. With only minor exception, local still water fisheries average more than eighty percent of capacity. What this indicates is the likelihood of a much greater winter survival rate for trout in the lakes and connected rivers of Yellowstone country.

Henry's Lake Prize

Henry’s Lake Prize

With these positives in mind and a winter forecast that indicates continuation of favorable water conditions, twenty eighteen is looking good for fly fishermen.

REVEALED – The best places in Scotland to chase early season silver!

If you are looking forward to the salmon season starting there is no better place to begin your campaign than Scotland! This guest blog post by Salmon Fishing Holidays Scotland explores the best spring salmon rivers north of the border.

A beautiful River Tay spring salmon

A beautiful River Tay spring salmon

As a salmon angler, the highlight of any season has to be if you are lucky enough to catch an early season spring salmon on the fly.

These magnificent fish are highly prized among the salmon fishing fraternity and rightly so. The salmon caught at this time of year are usually large in size and put up a terrific fight.

As our salmon fishing season in Scotland starts in mid- January, you could probably classify early season spring fishing as being from January through to the end of March.

So, is it all about luck at this time of year, or are there some ways in which you can tilt the odds of catching an early springer in your favour?

As with any salmon fishing, a lot does have to do with luck, but by making some informed decisions, and choosing your fishing locations carefully, you certainly stand a better chance.

It is a bit of a misnomer to refer to salmon fishing in Scotland as “spring fishing” from January through to March. Often, at this time of year, river levels are high, and the water is cold.

As anglers we are regularly dodging bitterly cold winds and snow showers. So, conditions are far from spring like and regularly more akin to winter. In such testing conditions, you want to maximise your chances, as often because of the weather and the limited hours of daylight, you have a short window of opportunity through the course of the day in which to fish.

When you are considering salmon fishing locations so early in the season, you need to take a few factors into account. Firstly, fresh spring salmon can be quite aggressive and can often readily take a fly. So, the difficult part is trying to locate the fish. This is much easier to do on a smaller river. In the Scottish Highlands, many of the rivers are much smaller compared to their central and southern counterparts, and with the season opening early in this region of Scotland, there are some excellent opportunities to bag some early season silver.

The Thurso river opens on the 11th of January. Over the years, the Thurso has consistently produced decent numbers of fish during the early part of the season. Each year is different, and much can depend on water heights and temperature but usually the first fresh fish is caught from the river towards the end January or at the beginning of February. From mid-February onwards, a steady stream of fish are caught and catches build through March. With the Thurso being a relatively small river, it can be easily covered with a fly rod. So as an angler, you can be reasonably confident that if there is a fresh fish in the pool, it will most likely see your fly. This can be such an advantage when the fish are few and far between.

Chasing springers in the Scottish Highlands

Chasing springers in the Scottish Highlands

Another river in the Highlands that has an excellent pedigree for producing early fish is the Helmsdale. The Helmsdale river in recent years has produced fresh fish on a number of occasions in mid-January. The Helmsdale is slightly bigger in size compared to the Thurso but most of the pools are still easily covered with a fly rod. Each year, the Helmsdale River Board offers locals and visitors the chance to fish the river free of charge from opening day onwards for a few days. This is a fantastic opportunity for hardy fishers to wet a line on one of Scotland’s most famous salmon rivers, and also to have a realistic chance of catching an early fresh fish.

The River Morrsiton makes up part of the Ness system. It flows into Loch Ness at Fort Augustus. It is another river in the Scottish Highlands which has a good reputation for producing early season salmon. The river opens its banks to anglers in mid-January and fresh fish can be caught from opening week onwards. The River Morriston is similar in size to the Thurso, making it a perfect location to ambush a springer. Catches on the river improve through February and into March, and given adequate water this is one Highland river well worth considering.

Over the past two seasons, anglers on the River Spey have enjoyed some terrific early season sport. Indeed, last year there were decent numbers of fish caught from the river in February and March. The Spey opens in early February and much depends on the water temperature and height, as to where the best sport is likely to be had. If both the water temperature and height is low, then the beats between Craigellachie and Fochabers are likely to produce the best sport. However, as we move into March and the water gets warmer, the fish tend to run upstream in greater numbers, and anywhere between Grantown and Aberlour can be well worth a cast. The Spey is such a magnificent river, that for most anglers, it does not matter if they are catching fish, as it is such a joy just to wet a line on.

Spring fishing on the River Spey

Spring fishing on the River Spey

For many years, the River Dee has been one of the most prolific early season salmon rivers in Scotland. The river opens in early February and consistently produces fish from opening day onwards. In recent years, the early spring fishing has not been quite as good, but last year there were still some lovely fish caught in February In March. Most of the pools on the river can be quite comfortably covered and some of the water is just made for fly fishing. Just like the Spey the best places to fish on the River Dee are dictated by water temperature. Usually in February, it is the beats below Banchory that seem to perform the most consistently. As we move into March, anywhere from Aboyne Bridge downstream can be well worth a cast. If it has been an especially mild early spring, then even beats further upstream can be quite productive.

Spring on the River Dee

Spring on the River Dee

Finally, we come to the mighty River Tay, which opens on the 15th of January. The Tay produces fresh fish from opening day onwards. Usually, at this time of year the majority of the fish caught are heading for Loch Tay and the headwaters of this vast river system. However, as we move through February and into March, fish destined for the River Tummel (one of the rivers main tributaries) start entering the system. This usually coincides with an increase in catches especially for the beats located on the middle river. As well all know, the River Tay is anything but small, so it can make finding that early spring salmon a little more difficult. However, if the water is at a reasonable height, the Tay can also produce some good numbers of salmon early in the season. In January and February, if the water temperature is low it is often the beats on the lower river which can perform the best. There are a couple of temperature barriers in this area of the river like the famous Linn Pool and Catholes Weir which the fish have to negotiate prior to heading further upstream. As water temperatures rise, the beats on the middle river usually come into their own. At this time of year, the Tay has some excellent salmon fishing opportunities to offer, at a very reasonable cost.

There is no denying the fact that fishing early in the season can be tough, with fresh fish often being few and far between. The Scottish weather can be inclement, and river levels unpredictable. If, however, you carefully consider your options and make informed decisions about where you are going to fish, you can certainly improve your chances of making contact with some early season silver!

About the author: Salmon Fishing Holidays Scotland (SFHS) are a bespoke holiday tour operator offering the most immersive, inspiring fly fishing holidays in Scotland. So if you need a perfect start to your season then get in touch with SFHS here.

Should you need further inspiration, be sure to give them a follow on Facebook, or check out the free SSFS ezine, which is simply jam packed with fantastic salmon fishing imagery, stories and tactical tips.