Halliford Mere Trout Fishery

In this blog smallwater specialist Stuart Smitham visits Halliford Mere trout fishery, situated on the outskirts of West London. Read on to find out more about this interesting venue and how the fishing was.

Where it all started for us. I was posted to Hounslow in or around 1998 for public duties and by chance had heard of a small fishery, offering trout fishing on a Catch & Release ticket. Situated near Heathrow Airport and near the bustling M25 and M3 motorways, this venue was a gravel pit. It’s stones and gravel no doubt used to build the surrounding road ways, that are now a familiar feature in our day to day lives.

Halliford mere fishery

Halliford mere fishery

Some months ago, I was chatting with my good friend Michael Valler, when he mentioned he wanted to try another trout fishery, so I put Halliford Mere forward as a choice of destination for a future day trip. I phoned the fishery on the 25th April and spoke to the owner/ manager Bill who runs the fishery with his brother Gerry. They also run the very successful restaurant which won a Les Routiers award for Venue of the Year 2017. With a full a’la Carte menu and Seafood, you could be spoiled for choice.

With around 15 acres of fishing and utilising four lakes, this fishery has a lot to offer, for a slim £20 C&R ticket. Three of the lakes offering up and Perch & Trout fishing and Lake 4 is a predator lake with some very large Pike lurking the depths. One thing is for sure, we’ll have to work hard to get a fish to the net today, as the sun starts burning the low cloud away and the all too familiar sound of jets streaking to sunnier climes. Having gleaned some info from Bill on the previous Tuesday, we arrive on Saturday having travelled the short journey from Michael’s house.

Mrs Valler isn’t keen on us losing weight today, so she has put a snack bag together to feed a small Army. We have lots of flies to try, so as we drive in the fishery we park up and go to meet Gerry in the restaurant and pay for our day tickets. There’s a chap on the main lake, trying to tempt fish that are on the fin, in the lake centre and they’re having none of it. Some of these look like lumps, plus there are brown buzzer coming off, right now?

Gerry gives us the run down on the lakes and some idea on depths we can expect, stating the main lake is around 22 feet, so I get some idea leader length? We get to the car with fumbling fingers and hasty tackle ups. Some of the better casting points on the main lake are already being used, so we opt to wander off to Lake 2 for a sniff around. There’s a regular here who feeds us some info on what he fishes, then tells us about the 30lb Pike he lost on the main lake the other week. Now a pike is one thing, but a 30lb pike is quite something else. We start a wander, to find feeding fish and end up walking past the houses that back onto the main lake and lake 2.

Ending up directly opposite the chap we just spoke to, Mick has the Airflo Super Dri Bandit, 10 feet of 7lb G3 tippet and a single black buzzer with a gold rib and red tag. He’s also using and airlock indictor, which float really well and can be adjusted up or down the leader, without affecting the leaders strength. Me, I opt for Super Dri Mend, which is a great line for supporting heavy flies, being slightly thicker and is Hi Vis in the sharp sunlight. I have 14 ft of 7lb G3 and I put a dropper on, around 5 feet from the fly line tip. A #14 Black Mirage Cormie on the dropper and a Pearly green buzzer on point.

From our area on a spit, we can see fish moving and smashing buzzers coming off on a wind ruffled segment in the middle of this water. Try as we might, we get nothing so opt for some fun. There are fish moving with a rod length of us, so Mick now puts on a green beaded shammie and I have a red beaded one to try to get a reaction. Mick makes a cast and starts moving his lure in toward us. I leave mine static. Mick makes re-cast and starts talking to me, when he misses a hard pull and starts cursing! I then miss a take too. Serves us both right for not watching eh?

Missed take!

Missed take!

We continue this for a while and see more fish starting to rise to buzzer. We make a bold move up to Church Bay on Lake 3, after getting some hot info from our friend, but when we get there, there’s a lot weed and the banks side fringes are choked with weed, so we wander back to the main lake. After a few tentative casts into some very dark deep holes, we can hear our bellies talking, so a brew and some scotch eggs are very welcome. Re-energised we start a cast and peek around the bottom of the main lake near the road in.

Mick now has an Olive Damsel knotted on with a silver Tungsten head and silli legs trailing off it. I have changed to 17ft of tippet and a single tanksie lure, in black and green with a black 4mm brass bead at the head. I can hear this whistling past me as I cast, so I check the position of my glasses before starting the retrieve. I am fan casting in short and medium length shoots and spot a faint shadow on right heading for me. I stop retrieving and regret it straight away! A brown of around six pounds just sidles by as I’m left pulling line in, to make a re-cast in front of this beast. Nothing?? We move to the opposite side of the Lodge and restaurant and some other chaps are trying to tempt the trout in the lake centre. These fish have seen a line or two before and are out of my range, because we have restricted back cast room with hedges and trees.

Moving up a peg, I can get a line out and miss what I think was a fish. Then bring back some weed about three-foot long. With weed choked lake fringes at the top end of the main lake, we wander again. As we walk into what looks like a secluded section on lake 3, Mick heads for a point and I make for some tree covered bank, that offers an opportunity for challenging casting. I now have about 18 feet of tippet and a Yellow hot body with a white tail. This little gold head works well and has a fluttering action in the tail. Second cast to the far bank and I lock up, the see a small brown around 2.5lb spit the hook and give me the fin. Gutted yet ready again, I make another cast to the same spot. I watch the fly come back then see the flash, Instead of waiting to feel the hit, I line strike straight down chopping my line hand away. That’s when the rod tip comes to life.

Winning combo. Hot body and G3

Winning combo. Hot body and G3.

That was some take, so I ask Mick to pop a few picks off while I play the sprightly Halliford Bow. After a few snaps it streaks back down into the dark water. I lengthen my cast and shoot about 40 feet of line under the trees. Success straight off and Mick comes over to see the hustle and bustle, as a hard-scrapping bow sparkles the water surface with a splashy head thrash.

Into a fish...

Into a fish…

Mick moves ahead of me and starts small casts into the margins. Most of my fish are deep but just visible in the gloomy water. Mick misses a take and so do I. This little hot bed area is pretty cool with lots of activity. I miss several takes because I’m watching Mick then glancing back and catching the pluck on the my fly.

We move to a point which is a great area for casting a long line. I start joking with Mick about getting a smiley pick with a fish, when he locks up! He is well chuffed and fights this fish hard. Rod bent and smiling like a Cheshire cat, he just releases the pressure on the hook hold slightly. Just enough for the feisty bow to slip the hook as Mick is ready to net it. Supremely gutted, Mick checks is rig then changes his leader to about 12 feet long and casts out. I make a long cast with the hauling zone outside the tip ring. That’s over 60 feet of line out, then thump thump and my rod tip starts dancing. What a hit that is! I start gaining line then lose it again? I’m now thinking big fish, so play it safe and gain line slowly. The fish is coming in, so I reel in the line on the deck and gain the upper hand. My line banding is shooting in and out of the water as we both try attempt the battles wits. Then it pops the water surface in a splashy scrap and I slide the net under. What a tussle and this fish is around 2.5lb so nothing massive, but a nice tail explains the fights all to clearly.

A fine Halliford mere bow'

A fine Halliford mere bow’

I rest on the peg as my toes are killing me! Before anyone says anything, I don’t have feet like a hobbit. Because the points of the lakes are slanted, you end up pushing your feet into the front of your boots. Hence me taking a rest Lol. I encourage Mick to watch his line, he is fishing one of our fave flies, the techno cat. A Cats whisker with a red bead head. Mick is using the FTA method and makes a long pull, after some plucks and stops, then just brings the fly back to the surface and misses a splashy follow and take.

I tell Mick to make a long cast near the reeded far bank. He is about to start a retrieve when I stop him. I tell him we don’t know the depth there, so let it sink few seconds more, then make a pull. As soon as he starts the pull, he gets hit and the fish spits the fly at the surface! Unbelievable or what? He makes another cast just to the right of his last cast and the banded starts juddering? Mick strikes and he is in!!! Keeping up pressure with no let up, I give Mick my net as I’m shooting pics off like mad. He leans down and pushes the net out and this bow pops the hook!! You couldn’t write this could you?? Don’t answer that.

One that didn't get away

One that didn’t get away

As the afternoon starts ebbing away, we both realise that time is not on our side. We have to negotiate the M25 and M3 again, but this time when everyone else is driving on it? We have the last, last casts and walk toward the lodge at 4pm. Catching Gerry at the lodge and Bill who looks very dapper in readiness for an evening in the restaurant. We tell them about the Brown at the bottom of the main lake, then find out that they haven’t stocked Brownies for a few years, yet we’ve seen two??

A good day and one Mick will remember as the day that could have been? I would have loved to see Mick with a fish in his hands, but that was not to be. From my perspective, a nice fishery with £20 for a C&R ticket. Dark water bright fly worked a charm for us. It did take a while to cotton onto the ideal method, but it was good fun trying different approaches and tactics.

Super Dri Mend came through again for me. It just floats like a cork and shoots really well, even with heavy flies. G3 came up trumps! Zero breakages, even on the hard pulls and lunges. Impressive

So, if your ever in London and stuck for a place to wet a line, give Bill & Gerry a buzz. Take the Mrs and enjoy the evening stroll after your meal. Whatever you think of Halliford Mere, all I can do is give you a flavour of what we enjoyed on our day. Lets hope yours is, as enjoyable as ours.

Best regards

Stuart

Waterproof Fishing Clothing Review – Airflo Airtex Bib & Brace

According to the weather forecast it said inclement for the morning, with light sporadic rain showers. It didn’t say driving rain and hail for 27 February 2017!

Yet here I am standing on the bank of Meadow Lake at Ellerdine Lakes facing up the downpour. There is a hill in the distance from Ellerdine, which has a saying attached to it. “if you can see the Wrekin, it’s going to rain. If you can’t see it, it’s raining”. Whatever the weather, we all just want to be able to keep on fishing. Through low air temperatures that freeze the fly line in the rod rings and chilled stiff fingers, that need the close attention of the lodge log burner. Having gear that matches up to your fishing ambitions, is something that we all want. Without breaking the bank too. I’ve used Airflo’s Airtex waterproof fishing clothing in the form of a wading jacket since July 2014 and as yet, touch wood not had a wetting.

Stuart wearing the Airflo Airtex clothing on Ellerdine lakes

Stuart wearing the Airflo Airtex clothing on Ellerdine lakes.

I knew that my old bib and brace were seeing their last few months out, so went ahead and bought the Airflo Airtex Bib & Brace for £99 from Fishtec. I’m 5ft 10” so opted for a large size. There is a sizing chart on the Fishtec website for more info.

These are olive and black with a full front zip and Velcro closure and zip legs again with Velcro touch pads for the all important weather resistant seal. Padded shoulder straps and bayonet clips offer great support at the shoulder.

Here’s the hype on the Airtex Bib & Brace:

The Airflo Airtex clothing ranges are designed for fly fishermen by fly fishermen. Made of durable fully waterproof tear resistant material in Airtex green with black reinforcement panels; these are fully breathable and extremely comfortable fishing garments cut for ease of casting and walking. The Airflo Airtex Bib ‘n’ Brace features wide, comfortable, elasticised braces that clip neatly and securely to the front of the bib, with the crossing point at the back forming a large, cushioned area for even greater comfort. Down at the ankles you’ll discover a gusseted zip for easy foot or boot passage and Velcro adjustment tabs to ease the way into your wellies. For your convenience, the Airtex Bib ‘n’ Brace also features a high quality full length waterproof zip.

  • Fashioned from high grade, tear-resistant materials
  • Wide braces with cushioned cross-over at the back
  • Gusseted zip at ankles for easy foot and boot passage
  • Light, warm and very comfortable
  • Low profile clips to the front
  • Reinforced stress points
  • Velcro gusset adjusters for smooth entry
  • Breathability 3000g/24hr.sm
  • Sizes: M-XXXL

From a fishing perspective they are super comfortable and offer up breathability that means your not sweating your head off. The knee and seat areas have extra protection for kneeling in the mud and don’t leech water up the material, when you’re stood in it releasing fish etc. I like the crossover shoulder straps, which stop the straps falling down and a full length chest zip for access to your inner clothing.

Simple, functional and breathable and they add a serious level of protection, for just when you need it most. Look at Airflofishing.com or search through Fishtec’s fly fishing section for more on breathable clothing and Airtex.

Bosnia – The Grayling Dreamscape

Having served in Bosnia in 1999, I never thought that I’d swap a rifle for a fly rod and actually return to fish some of its rivers. I love my small stillwater fishing, so this trip would be something new – a group fishing expedition in search of wild trout and grayling from Bosnia’s world famous Ribnik and Pliva rivers.

So what can you expect in terms of the fishing, hospitality and fun?  Read on to find out!

Fly fishing in Bosnia

Fly fishing in Bosnia.

You just know you’ve made a great decision, when Alex Jardine of Aardvark McLeod, asks if you’re interested in joining a hosted fishing trip to Bosnia? How can you not say yes? The first thing I asked was if my fishing buddy Michael Valler could come too?

Once we arranged the trip, Amy Pople of Aardvark McLeod sent us our code and link to a travel app called Vamoos. This app is just great, as it details maps, weather, travel docs and much needed advice on gear we needed for the trip. Then as you get closer to your departure date, e-flight tickets and confirmation info come through, which is all very exciting stuff.

On the day of trip, we traveled from Heathrow Terminal 5 and flew British Airways to Zagreb. Meeting our fellow party members Alex Jardine, Lewis Hendrie and Tim Wood in the departure lounge, we were also to liaise with Florian Bauman from Germany and Christopher Rownes of Guideline Fly Fishing. Plus already in Ribnik with a two day head start were Toby Merigan of Funky Fly Tying, Glen Wiesner and Chris Hartley.

Flying out on BA was great, with some cracking views of the mountains en-route in. We were met at Zagreb by Milan Bukara from Zepter Passport Travel Company. It is this company that provides guides to fish the Ribnik and Pliva rivers. For our trip we were also lucky to have Milenko Mita Balaban and Renato Opancar as our guides. Both have fished at International level for Bosnia and know the rivers like the backs of their hands.

After a drive through the stunning Bosnain country side, we eventually rocked up at the Ribnik HQ. Here we were taken down to the lodges and shown our rooms which accommodated two anglers. These lodges sit right on the Ribnik river edge and I mean right on it. Set on stilts and concrete stanchions, these Scandinavian type lodges are filled with all the amenities you need to make your stay comfortable. All rooms have TV, WiFi, bags of hot water and comfortable beds. Each hut has steps down to ground level, so you can go fishing, whenever you want – with the river on one side and a small brook on the other you can pitch a fly to the Trout and Grayling at any time.

The accommodation on the Ribnik

The accommodation on the Ribnik.

You can see the allure of this place right off the bat, as you trundle your baggage on the boardwalk over to the accommodation. When I say you’ll love the food, you’ll just have to take my word for it. The meals are all just delicious and with homemade bread at every sitting, which you can get seriously addicted to it. Milan was telling us, that you could put on between 4 and 15 lbs with the food here. So now you have an idea on how we got here and what sort of things to expect. So what about the rivers we fished?

 Ribnik River – first three days

The River Ribnik is a Karst (spring fed limestone) river, 5.6 km long, with an average width of 20-30 m and depth of 1 m. Riverside is covered with willows and other trees. Plentiful types of insects swarm on Ribnik including many types of Baetida throughout the year, numerous types of Trichoptera and of course May fly (Ephemera). This abundant insect world allows fishermen to fish with a dry fly during the entire season long.

Michael fishing the Ribnik

Michael fishing the Ribnik.

On the first morning Michael and I have a brief cast or two on the river, outside the accommodation, then meet outside the restaurant and fishing office at 8am to load up our fishing tackle and other gear for the short journey to the river. Our guides Mita and Renato are waiting in the mini buses and after a short five minute drive, we arrive at the café, where we’ll have lunch. It’s here that there is a very nice chap, who ties some really neat small flies that we need. He ties 18’s and 20’s in small beaded nymphs and CDC dries, which look just brilliant. They’re a lot smaller than we’d brought with us, so we buy more, in readiness to wet a line.

Extra small CDC dries are very effective on Bosnian rivers.

Size 18 & 20 CDC dries are very effective on Bosnian rivers.

This stretch of the Ribnik river looks just wonderful, with crystal clear water. There’s a lot of weed here with pockets of clear pebbly patches, which we spot fish in. Once you get accustomed to viewing the bottom, you begin to see fish in the pockets and on the weed, with the odd fish in the weed overhangs.

On the first morning there are lots of Grayling and Trout moving, but we are struggling to make contact with some fish. At the moment there is nothing hatching off, but Renato says there will be some surface activity soon. Renato goes on to explains about the fish feeding on different types of olives, stonefly and mayfly. Then says that you can fish dry fly most of the time, but normally first thing is a micro Nymph as the fly of choice then as the sun warms the water, a switch to dries is a good approach.

We try a few casts and Renato demo’s a quick cast on fishing tiny nymphs. Renato shows us the size of the shrimp patterns he fishes here and they are only about 12 to 14mm long. My imitations look massive by comparison. So with my new found knowledge, I make a cast that covers a small pebble patch. The line stops with Renato saying “fish” and I miss my first take, so re-cast to the same spot. A quick mend on the line and I watch the line tip, slink toward me. Spotting the slightest twitch on the line tip, I lift the rod and feel the rod tip bounce!  This is what we traveled for and I am well chuffed. A small grayling of about 5oz, but very welcome on a new method.

Whilst watching Michael fishing away I notice a grayling behind me about 2 ft away in the turbulent water that I’m creating by standing in the current. Amazingly, they’re feeding on the debris that’s being dislodged by my wading boots, in between the small pebbles.

The fish eventually start responding to a hatch, so delving into one of his fly boxes Renato plucks out a small size 18 dry for me – it is brown bodied with a small CDC wing. He peels off about 2ft of fluorocarbon and knots this to my leader. I make a short cast slightly upstream and see a small rise to the right of my fly, so I let the fly drift down and out of the main current seam. A quick splashy rise sparkles the water surface and I lift onto a fish!

I am well chuffed and look toward Michael who is also in. A double up and both of us, on different methods too. This river is quite something else!

a small grayling in silver armour

A small grayling in silver armour.

In the Ribnik’s crystal clear water you can watch as Grayling sidle up right at your side. I found this activity just mesmerizing and it’s great to watch, as you get to see how the bigger residents move about. Once they occupy a point in a clear patch, another grayling of similar size will move in too. If a bigger fish comes over, the small ones move sideways, but not out of the feeding zone – a bit like a family group, but these groups can get big!  Before I know it, there are 20 or 30 fish of varying size, fining away at pace with the current and their food.

We found that first day just fabulous, where we were missing takes and cursing our slow reactions, then laughing as a rod tip starts dancing away. Funny as hell and also quite relaxing too, as you’re trying to concentrate on fishing, then glance up to a mountainside view, that looks just stunning.

One day melts into the other

With the alarm on my phone buzzing away at 6am, we’re getting sorted for the second days fishing. On the short trip to the Ribnik, we make a quick visit to the fly shack and also pick up some thinner tippet for the dries later. Hopefully this will change our fortunes for the better.

On this morning’s foray, we make for the run below the Aquarium Pool again. Roving the fast water, I spot a small rise just off the main current between two current seams that is pushing water toward some logs and branches.  I make a short cast into the upstream eddie with a micro nymph and watch my line tip stop – and lift into a fish. Piling the pressure on, I’ve just seen this beast and what I initially thought it was small, is much bigger. At about 2lb, this is a nice looking fish. These larger Ribnik grayling have red flourishes near their vent, adding a little more colour to these already beautiful fish.

A nice 2lb Ribnik grayling

A nice 2lb Ribnik grayling.

During the fight, Lewis Hendrie shouted over from the other side of the river, that he has just caught a 3lb Grayling! Mita is on hand with him, to take a picture before he releases it.

Lewis Hendrie with a 3lb+ grayling.

Lewis Hendrie with a 3lb+ grayling.

After a cracking days fishing, that evening we discover a few of our party have caught some serious specimen fish. As dinner is served and the beer starts flowing, everyone is chatting about the fishing, the flies and the rainbows being caught by ‘’Rainbow Man’’ aka Glenn Wiesner. To quote Glenn ‘’I’ve traveled 2000 miles from America to catch rainbows!’’ We all burst out laughing. Funny as hell.

The next morning sees us walking down in the woods below the café, then after lunch we spend our day, back at our favorite run. Here, there are fish all over the place –  I take around eight fish which were stacked up on a long weed fringe. Picking them off the tail of the pod as they hit a small #18 olive goldhead nymph.

A Ribnik grayling - taken on a size 18 olive nymph

A Ribnik grayling – taken on a size 18 olive nymph.

Nearby Michael latches into a neat a neat looking brownie, which gives him the run around on the goldhead nymph. Soon after, he then connects with something solid, which he has on for while, and then pops the hook. Very unlucky indeed.

Michael with a Ribnik brownie

Michael with a Ribnik brownie.

There are lots of rises surrounding us, so we switch onto fishing the dries for the afternoon, until we realise that time has caught us up and it’s time to leave the Ribnik. I am a little gutted as this, as the Ribnik river has really kept me entertained.

The Pliva – a bigger water

The 33km spring fed river Pilva is famous for it’s clean water, which comes from cold Karst springs in the fertile limestone rocks, making this Bosnian river unique and full of trout and grayling.

River Pilva in Stunning Bosnian countryside

River Pilva in Stunning Bosnian countryside.

An hour and a half drive saw us travel from the Ribnik fishing centre to Pedja’s bar at Radoja on the Pilva river.  As we arrive Mita crosses the road bridge and pulls in for us to take a look – we see several of our party casting at rising fish, as darkness descends.

The Radoja set up is brilliant. Split into two houses and a bar/restaurant on site, we arrive to find ex policeman Pedja and his wife have a hog roast going, with Šljivovica (plum brandy) and shot glasses at the ready. When Pedja walks over to meet us, he is passing round shots for an initial toast. Now that we all have a drink the laughs begin and this night is a long one! Thank you Pedja.

The following morning with groggy heads after numerous shots of Šljivovica we head for the restaurant. With coffee and caffeine hitting the right spot, we can begin the day. Then Pedja comes around with shot glasses which I just can’t face today….

We make a short drive past the Pliva river, which now looks massive in daylight. It is at least twice as wide as the Ribnik, but also a whole lot deeper and tougher to wade. We take a first look from a bridge and spot some massive browns in the clear pebbly patches, but these are well out of my casting range with a four weight rod.

River Pilva - massive browns fin below

River Pilva – massive browns fin below.

Renato takes us to the river to get ready and we all split up. Starting with a small #18 CDC dry and around 12ft of 7x tippet I make a short cast, watching the drift in the current. There are fish everywhere, not just in the patches but on the weed too and in the big holes.

It is not long and I lift into my first Pliva grayling. Small, but still nice to feel the rod tip bounce.  A quick glance to admire it then he’s away. Renato comes over and suggests a change to nymphs. Michael is already rigged with one and has caught  too. So we’re off the mark and very happy fishing here.

Pillva river grayling

Pillva river grayling.

Later on, I make a few casts on a deep pool, with some fast water running at pace through it. Using a Czech nymph which Renato has given me, I try bugging with my fly line clear of the water, just watching the leader.  Because of the sheer weight of the fly, this isn’t a cast but more of an upstream lob. Watching the leader which isn’t being affected by drag on the fly line, I just catch the leader stop and tighten my line hand and feel the rod tip bounce. I have never tried this method, but what a reaction on a take!!  A little brownie pops up with the nymph in his top lip. After a quick tussle in the current, I slip the fly out and watch the fish bolt for the cover of the fast current and safety.

With lunch looming we make our way back downstream to the first hut we saw.  We are spoiled rotten with some monster burgers and cold beer and coke to wash it down. After last night’s activities the drinks are very much appreciated very welcome on what is a hot afternoon.

Post lunch Mikey and I head upstream and agree with everyone to meet at the top bridge for pick up tonight. We both tie on new leader in 7X about 12 ft long.  Michael has opted for the goldhead size #18 and I’m using a small CDC dry. I hook up a small brownie and after a little tussle move to Michael, as we start a cast and move leapfrog upstream. Working through fast runs, we take plenty of small grayling in the tail water, that are sipping duns.

A Pilva brownie

A Pilva brownie.

As the light starts to fade, so the others roll in and we all end up near the bridge and café, where there’s always a beer to be had. So with the day finally over we head back to Pedja’s and get ready for dinner.

Back to the Ribnik

We agree that in the morning that we’d like to go back to the Ribnik for the last days, so Mita does the arranging and we have a beer.

Next day after breakfast, we mount the mini bus for the journey back to Gornji Ribnik. We park up downstream of the pub and the Aquarium Pool. We split and head off to the river, with Michael and me opting for a close session where we have parked. We begin short casting with small pods of fish all over this long glide. Then a group of Italians drop into the river below us, forcing out of the pool in search of another tasty spot.  We move down and end up at our favourite spot, with fish showing everywhere. Spotting a few fish near the trailing weed in the centre run, I make a short cast and hook up on a feisty little brown. Then another and another.  In total about a dozen or more come to hand in a fast and furious session zapping the fly as it hits the current seam.

Casting upstream directly ahead of me and a splashy rise hits my fly, I connect for a brief second and feel the hook hold, and then we part company. Cursing my luck, I recast to the same spot. I see a tiny rise form and my fly is gone!  A tough, dogged fight ensures – my rod is hooped over and I have very little control, so I opt to wade downstream and get the fish above me, so I can eventually scoop it into the net. Now we can take a look at this beaut of a fish, with just amazing colour and the Ribnik signature blush.

My biggest grayling

My biggest grayling.

Lunch is calling so we head up to the mini bus for a catch up and our last lunch at the Ribnik café. Beers ordered and lunch on the way, I begin to think back to that last fish.  What a beast and I’m rightly chuffed too to land it!  After lunch Michael and I walk the path back upstream to the pool above the café. There are lots of brownies here, some small and some larger grayling too. We’re trying CDC dries and we both hook up in the riffle water, which is great.  I take four or five more small fish and ping another good one. The afternoon is spent engaging with the smaller residents, but nothing large. Absorbed in the action before we know it we heading back down to meet the other lads and transport back to Pedja’s.

With our last day looming, we head to the bar and dinner. Pedja has the shot glasses ready so we all take a hit, then get a beer or two. Reminiscing over the last week, we’ve caught some good fish and for Michael and me, the Ribnik has been our out and out favourite water. We talk over flies and share pics on our latest catches, which is very cool.

The following morning Michael, Florian, Tim and I opt to walk over to the other side and start fishing a shallow run above a bar. There are loads of fish here and they’re spooky as hell. Renato tells us the fish are taking the nymph which he can see by their reactions in the water. He spots for me as I make a slightly longer 20ft cast. The line settles on the water surface and I make an upstream mend. Watching the line Renato says, “Fish” and I push my tip downstream to make a quicker connection. With a pulse at the rod tip, I am very happy with the hit, albeit a small grayling. Renato moves to Michael to change flies and offer his advice on fishing this run.

Renato comes back over to me and offers a Czech nymph. Working down toward Michael, I hear a holler and Renato has caught a fab looking brownie.  Butter yellow belly with ash black spots looking gorgeous in this sun.  He squeezes off some pics, then releases it for someone else.

Renato's brown trout

Renato’s brown trout.

After more productive morning fishing, lunch arrives and we all clink bottles on our last bankside feed before flying tomorrow. This all seems surreal now, with the week having flown by. As we settle back, we watch a local chap in action, who looks like someone who has done this before. He exits the water after hooking up on several fish. Later he comes over to us with a bottle of Šljivovica and shows us the flies he uses. Tiny CDC’s in #20 and #22’s then he gives me four of them. Absolutely mint ties and super small. Then, as quickly as our days starts, after some great afternoon fishing it comes to a nice conclusion with Lewis chatting with the local angler, comparing fish catches. Ace.

We wake the following morning at 6am to get to Zagreb Airport. We pack the minibus and say our farewells to Pedja and his family. What a feeling of mixed emotions. Sadness at leaving this wonderful country, with the knowing that tonight, we’ll be sleeping in our own beds and no driving to the fishing in the morning.

Thanks

After a wonderful trip, I must say a massive thanks to Alex Jardine and Aardvark McLeod, for putting this adventure together. Also Zepter Passport with Milan Bukara for setting us up with fabulous fishing and lending us their top guides in Milenko Mita Balaban and Renato Opancar. Both very capable chaps who have a wealth of knowledge and make great company for us. Personally I’d like to thank Renato, for showing us a level of patience that a saint would he proud of. Plus putting us in front of some great fish. Last but by no means least to everyone who made us feel truly welcome.

For more information about fishing in Bosnia please contact Aardvark McLeod here.

Alex Jardine of Aardvark McLeod

Trip host Alex Jardine of Aardvark McLeod.

 

Small Stream Trouting (In Two Minutes)

Over the years we have had many superb writers contribute to the Fishtec blog, but few come as close to capturing the excitement and enthusiasm of the moment as Airflo tackle nut Stuart Smitham does. In this write up Stuart shares his latest passion – the charms of small brook fishing!

With an ever growing number taking up small stream fishing, I am one of those that has recently felt the draw of the tumbling Brook. It is a feeling like nothing else for me right now. Casting short but more accurate distances for free rising fish. That pulse of the rod tip as a good fish decides to go for gold and do a Usain Bolt on you. Sheer bliss.

Fishing a small shropshire brook.

Fishing a small Shropshire brook.

Replacing the 10 ft #7 rod with one that is 7ft 9”and a #3 line is something else and is light as a feather in comparison. Matching the rod with an Airflo Xceed reel and Super Dri Xceed fly line, I have a very good outfit that is well up to the job. Since the extension of the Sightfree tippet range to include the Tactical tippet, this has been a fantastic addition to my small stream kit.

Fishing here is Shropshire, we are quite spoiled for choice, as there are numerous small streams to choose from that thread their way through some gorgeous countryside.

When I say small stream I mean small, with brook widths of my rod length or less, but there is always the possibility of catching a really beaut of a trout, from possibly one of the smallest of rise forms. The free risers often feed more avidly just before dark or early morning. Through the day they’ll often sulk away in some way out scrub or bush tangle, that offers comfort in the current and out of the sun. Don’t get me wrong here, these fish ain’t going to ignore the flies coming past them. They’re hiding often in plain sight, right under a bush or branch and often with a bolt hole, should they need it?

A lot can happen in two minutes……

(Start the clock) One such day I was casting a small size 14 Iron Blue Dun variant on what was it’s first trial. This fly is tied with a fluorescent red butt and fluorescent red head to match. Casting and wading between long tangles of weed and casting between reed and nettle fringed banks, the wind picks up and I make a bad delivery with my fly just catching a reed stem.

(10 seconds) Making a small quick anti clockwise spin on the rod tip, the fly plucks clear and lands on a floating frond of weed. I let the stream current draw on the fly line and fly just slips into the current eddie.

(20 seconds) There are small rise forms in the next pool up, so I’m expectant, poised and nervous too, all in the same moment. The fly moves slowly down toward me as the stream current creates drag on the water surface to catch at my fly and leader. Then the fly just stops momentarily in the current with a shadow below it – with the smallest of rises the fly gets sucked down and I don’t see the shadow anymore? I lift my rod up and grip my fly line, to take up the slack line and strike!

(35 seconds) This is the point when a man with more control would sit back and just soak up the moment. I’m not built that way, so start wondering how I’m going to handle this fish, which by the way is now tearing off upstream!

(50 seconds) Bringing the reel into life I realise I have slack line around legs and weed. Tangle the line here and it’s game over. So I reel in the slack and pray the hook maintains it’s hold. This fish is not pleased about being connected to me and for good reason too. It’s a wild Brownie and I’ve just seen it’s head with some lovely looking spots on it’s flanks. It turns downstream and comes straight at me. Holding the rod tip up, this is now a very dangerous moment! Slack line or snag the line and I’m a broken man. .

(1.20) The fish then does an out of the water flip and falls on weed, which it spins on and drags my leader through it , making a bold decision I plunge the rod tip under and the Brownie pops up with it’s tail pounding away. The little fly rod is bouncing away at the rod tip and I know I have to be really careful now. With the fish tiring and starting to come toward me, I have a chance of landing this beast. I undo the French clip on my net and get ready…

(2.00) Pushing the rod tip upward I try to draw to fish toward me. He wants none of it and smashes his tail at the surface water. I make a lot ditch attempt to net this fish and lean down with the rod up and drag the Brownie of the wait net rim

In those brief moments you feel every emotion don’t you? Thrilled, paralysed in space and time. Rushes of adrenaline and your trying to keep calm. Shaking on the thrill ride that you don’t want to come off. Then praying you don’t lose the fish, which you’ve just seen and it makes it worse. Then, as quickly as the thrill starts, it ebbs away as you gaze at what is one of nature’s true marvels. A beautiful brown trout, resplendent in black ash spots with red spots intermingled. The magenta tinges on the gill plates are just sheer gorgeousness (is that a word?)

The reward - as fine a river trout as you will find anywhere...

The reward – as fine a river trout as you will find anywhere…

With the trout in the net, I am truly a happy chap. Thrilled and relieved that I landed it. So a few pics for posterity and release it to fight another day. Then onto the next pool?

Big thanks to Ceri Thomas at Airflo for encouraging me to look into other lies and areas on the stream. It was he who said to me, “there are bigger ones in there”. How right he was!!!

Airflo Sightfree G4 Fluorocarbon Tippet

Small stillwater specialist Stuart Smitham looks at the new G4 fluorocarbon from Airflo.

I’m always skeptical about new fishing tackle. Having tried several brands of leader tippet in past and been let down, via a breakage mid leader. I started asking questions with a certain manufacturer and was told, it could be bad knotting. With no knot in the area of the break and no further answers or explanations on why this happened. I formed my own conclusions and was on the hunt for a better performer.

That was when I found Airflo’s G3 and from that point onward, I loved how this tippet worked it’s magic on me. It boosted my confidence levels when I was on the water, making me perform as better angler. Your leader is your invisible link to your fly and the fish. Why spend 100’s of pounds on great gear, then go out and buy cheap tippet??

Just over two years ago, I was asked to try what is now G4 Fluorocarbon. Airflo like to thoroughly field test their products to ensure they will never let you down. I was given a big spool for a bit of feedback, just to see how G4 fares against some of those big Ellerdine Lakes fish that Ed & Jayne Upton are famous for stocking at the fishery.

An 11lb Ellerdine trout taken with the help of G4 Fluorocarbon

An 11lb Ellerdine trout taken with the help of G4 Fluorocarbon

I like having strength in my chosen tippet and this new material has bags of it. It is also thinner in diameter than G3 for it’s given strength, and is much more supple but not overly limp. Abrasion resistance is superb, and good at enough to handle the shock hits and drives that a big fast fish can produce. Especially on those Ellerdine upwind feeders, that cruise just below the surface.  These fish hit your fly hard and continue going on track and at pace.

I like fishing with confidence and G4 has improved my performance, because I can fish worry free. Especially when you get to those nail biting stages in a scrap, when a trout shows it’s true tenacity, by shaking it’s head to free the hook hold. Or when you’ve just cast out and straightened your leader, then get one of those truly violent hits, that rips the line from your fingers.  If you can stay in contact after one of those takes, then you have a tippet worth it’s weight in gold.

I construct my leaders in most cases with two droppers, or on a windy day with just one.  I always use a three turn water knot for these and G4 knots very well.  Especially when your closing the knot tight. I nearly always wet the tippet before drawing closed and my knots look small, which is important for those close up feeders.

Because G4 is more supple that G3, it turns over well and sinks with ease through the water surface. Through the odd bad cast, I discovered that G4 copes well with my inevitable casting knot too, but err on the side of safety when you have the chance of a “Fish of a lifetime” right out in front. Check your leader every few casts for wind knots and you’ll fish more confidently.

Looking at the spools on this new tippet. They all feature the same build components. Colour coded spool labels, and the spools lock together too. An elastic spool tender prevents your line from uncoiling in your bag or rig. Plus there’s a nifty little viewing port on the spool front, so you can see just how much is left.

The new Airflo tippet material has interlocking spools and colour coded elastic tenders.

The new Airflo tippet material has interlocking spools and colour coded elastic tenders.

With more choices of tippet on offer in the new range, from Saltwater, G5 Premium, Tactical and of course good old G3. The Sightfree range of tippets is a ‘go to’ tippet system that offers lots of scope for the all round angler.

For more information on buying the new Sightfree range, go to www.fishtec.co.uk or www.airflofishing.com

Airflo G-Shock Fly Line Review

Small stillwater expert Stuart Smitham gives a new fly line a very thorough work out on his local Ellerdine lakes trout fishery. Find out what he makes of the new Airflo G-Shock floating line, and if he manages to successfully land any fish with it.

For a fly fishing line manufacturer like Airflo, to introduce a line that has an increased level of stretch, is something I thought I would never see? Being a low stretch addict for so long, you know that there is nothing like hooking up at distance and feel is everything for me. Though I think there’s always scope to add another dimension to the mix!

The new Airflo G-shock fly line

The new Airflo G-shock fly line.

For years Airflo have been hitting the sounding boards with lower stretch lines. We’ve seen stretch points taken down to a very remarkable 6%. These fly lines offering a radical perception on take detection‎, right down their line length, no matter how much line you have out.  The take and that first run, feeling like a pulse coursing up the fly line and bucking the rod tip.‎ With this characteristic, Airflo have gained a worldwide following, with nothing to match it.

New for 2015 are Super Dri G Shock. The latest addition, to the massive Airflo fly line range. G Shock have a controlled stretch of around 15%, compared to the 20 – 25% on offer with some competitor manufacturers lines. There really is something to be said in looking for the “HolyGrail”, in fly line technology. So how could this line be a game changer for you? Especially if your an Airflo line addict like me, and now have the chance to experience twice the level of stretch that you’re used to?

Well for a start, many anglers now use lighter, thinner tippet diameters in lower strengths. Realising that these finer leaders, can often out perform others,when pitched against a thicker material.  There is also a trend for stiffer faster action fly rods, designed for purely distance casting, which of course have less shock absorption capability. You need something to balance this out or suffer a break off from some very violent takes. Having something that offers a little more in protecting these light tippets is always a bonus for me.

Let’s face it, some of us have been there, when a hard hit can bend a hook out of shape, or worse break off a leader. When a true water horse, has just powered away on the take and left you wondering, what’s gone on? I went through a phase of this last year, at Ellerdine Lakes. Hits from large stocked rainbow trout in the 5-7lb range were just mind blowingly hard. Upwind runners that were‎ looking for food in the upper layers and they’d rush onto the flies and continue on track. Sometimes pulling the line, out of your hand on the take, Just an amazing show of raw power in a fish!

Talking this over with Gareth Jones at Airflo, in the Autumn of 2014, I found I wasn’t alone. Others had been treated to the same “trout abuse” on UK stillwaters.  Fishing with lower stretch lines and using finer tippet with a fast action fly fishing rod, you will always come to a decision point, where you have to take a closer look at your rig make up. My answer to this, was having a little buffer that acted like a shock absorber, I custom made one of these out of pole Elastic and micro poly backing and this worked a treat. Positioning this about 4ft from the line tip, I could maintain contact with these hard runners, but the absorber pulled the leader length under too quickly.

A little shock absorber - made from pole elastic

A little shock absorber – made from pole elastic.

Gareth who designed this line, had this to add, on why G Shock came into being. “Having stayed out of the stretchy line arena for many years, we decided to offer SUPER DRI technology to those that actually prefer a stretchy type line. Most PVC lines have a core that elongates over 20%, but keeping the line to a stretch level of around 15% actually gave a nice balance and will help on those days, when fish are feeding quickly on the move and are ripping the line out of your hand on the take”‎

Constructed on the Super Dri Elite taper. This already has a huge following, as a great ”all round” taper for both distance and presentation.  Making long controlled casts a breeze.‎ It’s probably the most widely used line of the Super Dri range. Also remember as with all the Super Dri lines, the G-shock is UV, DEET and Sunscreen resistant. So you can apply whatever you want to your hands, knowing it won’t affect the lines performance.

DIY fly line spooling

DIY fly line spooling.

Opening the box on the fly line, the spooled line needs very little attention, apart from a piercing in the centre of the spool with a pencil or screwdriver. Once I’ve attached the backing to the “Reel end”, all I need do now is take a pew and place the spool between my knees‎. Just a case of reeling in and watching the line fill the spool. Always consider your backing requirements when spooling up. Floating lines need less backing, because of their bulk. Sinkers need more because they tend to be thinner in diameter. The specification on your spools, are available from your reel manufacturer.

Pay close attention to your fly reel backing knot too. Over the last few months several fishers here have had all their fly line pulled on the water. Then the inevitable happens and the backing parts company with the fly line. Not the best of outcomes on the fish of a lifetime, but it happens!  Factory welded loops are standard ‎on G Shock so in the case of attaching backing a simple tucked blood knot gives you an ultra secure join. If your not a big fan, then simply snip the loop off and seal the end of the line with a dab of superglue. You can then fit a braided loop if you prefer.  With two colour choices in Hot Coral or Peach on this line. I’ve chosen the Hi-Vis element, for a better focus point when marked up. I personally add black bands with a permanent marker on this colour line, offers me much more scope in spotting those subtle takes‎.

Into a fish on the G-shock line

Into a fish on the G-shock line.

Peeling off the first 30ft I get to see the grey ”hauling zone” which is a good contrast point, for a great visual at distance. The plastic polymer is also slightly stiffer in the zone, like all Super dri lines. This low compression compound is in the part of the line exposed to the most stress, and ensures the line doesn’t stick to the rod guides when hauling and shooting.  What also strikes me is the line is totally free of any memory, and feels extremely supple and ultra smooth in the hand. From the line tip to the 30ft point is this shocking Hot Coral colour, which certainly stands out. I’ve peeled this and all the 20ft hauling zone out off the reel. For the moment, I just want to get a feel for the this line, so fishing is secondary. I’ve about 10ft on line on the surface, so a quickly lift and I  just want to do some small casts. I want to feel this line load the rod tip. It’s on the backcast, that I can feel more of increased stretch in the line, which although is  quite fractional, does indeed make a difference. Another thing I notice is the welded tip of the fly line is extremely buoyant, in fact it floats like a cork!

Extending my line length with 30ft of line out, my rod reacts a little more, to the added line weight on the rod tip. As I introduce more line, I can use the hauling zone‎ as intended. Being a harder compound than the rest of the line, this is where you can really build up some line speed. You just have to remember, to slow your casting stroke, so that you allow for the line to extend out normally.  Even though this is fractionally slower, when you get it right the line just flies.

This is a 30yd line, so getting all this out is do able, but I don’t need to. I’m just finding as I cast more with G Shock, I like the way it handles. You can create neat loops and the line reacts well to speed changes. Roll casting is really nice with this taper too. It just lends itself to so much more‎. If you want to punch this out, beyond the running line, then build up your speed slowly. Use the hauling zone for this. It’s what it’s intended for and works extremely well.

Skinny buzzers - ideal for fishing on a G-Shock line

Skinny buzzers – ideal for fishing on a G-Shock line.

I’ve attached just two skinny buzzer, that are a firm favourite of mine now. I’ve got 12ft of G3 fluorocarbon on, and this is more than enough for the 5 – 7lb  ”boomers”, that Ellerdine Lakes is famous for. Wth a steady retrieve, bunched as a figure of eight into my palm I once again notice that there is zero line memory- I can honestly say this must be one of the straightest fly lines I have ever used right out of the packet! The first hit on this line, feels a little strange. I saw a boil and just caught the line banding jag forward. When I chopped my line hand down, I just felt the slightest of pulls on the line. So drawing the rod sideways, was when I really felt ‎the pressure on the take and then the ”thud thud”. Having used low stretch, then changing to double what I’m used to is something that I can get the hang of. Moving from Marsh to Meadow, there are some big fish running here. I’m soon feeling a boomer hit the fly, slamming sideways then a hard run for about 20ft. It’s this initial hard run, that was breaking me before and it’s why G Shock works so well.  You feel the head shakes and the lunges yes, but the stretch absorbs so many hard pulls and turns. It makes staying connected to one of these bruisers so much fun!

The end result - one of 15 nice trout.

The end result – one of 15 nice trout.

To cut this short, finishing on 15 fish and landing all of them is just a superb plus for me. True I did miss several fast hits, but those that were hooked stayed attached and that’s what this test was all about. No more hand made shock absorbers and worrying about break offs! When you try the line, you’ll understand everything about hard hits and remaining connected after it. That’s why G Shock now has a permanent spot in my fishing tackle‎. Because it works!

Now if Gareth would make me a Mini tip with G Shock, then that would be enough for me…..  Thanks for taking the time to read this.

Best regards, Stuart

 

 

5 Top Tips For Small Stillwater Trout Fishing

We all want to make the most of the limited time,we have on the water. It’s why we’re there and we  just want to catch a fish? I think I’d be right in stating that. Though in some cases, just catching one would be great, but just sometimes doesn’t happen.  Here are a few of my tips that may help‎ you to wet a net. They work for me and if you feel they could help you, then give one of them a try out.

1. Always work the margins. Watching a stranger walk up to a small lake, anywhere in UK and you’ll see the same thing everytime. Peel about 30yds of line off the fly fishing reel, drop the flies on the deck, then cast to the other side. We all see this approach and it doesn’t often work. In most cases lining fish feeding on top or just sub surface, with a very evident bow wave on the surface.‎ Then just to top it off, they cast at the bow wave, hoping to hook up? The better approach that pays for me, is to peel a few yards of line off‎, some way from the banks and work the fringes or margins. These areas hold a vast amounts of easy pickings for the trout. That’s why, when your lost in your little world,  a trout rises right under  your feet and scares the pants off you. Easy feeding for very little effort. If your careful with a lower silouhette, these fish will sidle up and you’ll get a chance to offer your flies to them. Sometimes with fantastic results!

This nice trout was feeding right in the margins off a reed bed.

This nice trout was feeding right in the margins off a reed bed.

2. Trout love obstruction. Anything that breaks the flow of water, creating a seam that brings in food to the fish, is a place worth a cast or two. This flow can carry small bugs or bigger items like drowning daddies, hawthorns and even empty buzzer shucks, which the trout can become preoccupied on.  So whether it’s a tree branch, jetty post or a weed bed. These areas house food items, that shelter out of harms way. No need to swim across the lake and risk swimming into open water. Most organisms in your lake, be they Buzzers, Damsels, Corixa, Shrimp etc all live sheltered lives, away from predation. Offering your flies into these areas, can reap you great rewards, often on the very first cast too.

A lake with lots of marginal structures - approach quietly, and fish the features!

A lake with lots of marginal structures – approach quietly, and fish the features!

3. Mix up your retrieve. I was trying to explain this approach, to my  angling buddy Michael Valler, earlier this year. He was casting out, then making a pull, pull retrieve that offered very little in the way of realism or a take trigger.  Ask most Competition Anglers what they do and they’ll tell you. Keep changing your retrieve to fool the fish around. They get bored too, watching the same flies, being pulled at the same speed, with nothing to offer‎ or entice them to take. Fish have no fingers, so the only option they have to test things out for themselves and satisfy their curiosity, is with their mouths. Short fast plucks mixed with longer pulls and stops, work a treat. Mix it up and try the FTA method. Fool them around, is what it stands for and it works. Try it and see if you can get a reaction?

Mark the end of your fly line.

Mark the end of your fly line.

4. Mark‎ your fly line. When you cast out and straighten up your leader. How do you recognise a take?‎ Most wait to feel the bump, bump on the rod tip. Watching your line can pay big dividends in reacting earlier to a take. How do you detect a take on a fly line? Well you need a contrast point. Something that makes your fly line stand out, even at distance. I’ve been marking my fly lines, for some years now. Using a permanent black marker on my floating and Mini Tip lines. Plus silver and gold pens like you see at Christmas, on my sinking lines. I mark bands on the line and at about 10ft, add two very large bands that are visible at distance. Using these bands, I can spot the line stopping. Any jags or plucks are instantly visible and I can react quickly to  these, with a line strike. Simply by chopping my line hand downwards. If I get a thud on the line, I can then sweep the rod up or sideways and tighten in. If there’s no reaction on the line, I can carry on fishing and I’ve only moved my line a few feet.  Quite simple really?

Don't follow the crowds - not another angler in sight!

Don’t follow the crowds – not another angler in sight!

5. Don’t follow the crowd. It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking the easy option. You arrive on the water and everyone is fishing a floating line. They’re catching too, but not with consistency.‎ What you don’t know is, the depth the fish are at. The fly that’s doing the business and the speed of their retrieve. Add into this long leaders and it’s easy to get confused and lose the plot. Watch the water when you arrive. Even two or three minutes spent looking at and into the water, is time well spent‎. Look at what’s present on the surface. Learn to recognise different rise forms and watch for sub surface activity. On a rippled surface this is easy to spot, in the form of a smooth spot on the otherwise rippled surface. Having some of this information, may give you some idea, as to a way forward. When you can make an informed decision,  on your line type to start fishing.  ‎Whether to utilise a Mini Tip, a floating set up or get deep with a sinker.

The end result - a fish on the bank

The end result – a fish on the bank.

Above all else, remember your there to enjoy yourself and have fun. Just like everyone else around you. Fish with confidence and handle your fish gently if at all. I’ll leave it up to you to make some great memories‎. There’s always a “Fish of a lifetime” out there.  You’ve just got to be there to catch it. Tight lines and wet nets. You just gotta get a trout to decorate your net now.

Tightlines,

Stuart Smitham

 

Bank Holliday at Ellerdine Lakes Trout Fishery

Successful small water enthusiast Staurt Smitham takes a visit to his No. 1 venue, Ellerdine lakes. But forgets to set his alarm clock! Take a read to find out exactly how he tackles a highly pressured small trout fishery such as this- It will be sure to improve your stillwater trout fishing!

The tranquill setting of Ellerdine lakes fishery

The tranquil setting of Ellerdine lakes fishery

I arrive late on a Bank Holiday and I know I’ve gotta play catch up,  both on the finding the taking method and the depth of the fish.  Parking up at 11 o’clock, the regulars are already tucking into a full English, whilst I’m getting dressed? They’ve all caught, so they’ve already sussed the taking method and flies. After getting dressed and paying up, I’m off to quickly get the fly fishing gear rigged up.

 

Stuart with a fine Ellerdine rainbo

Stuart with a fine Ellerdine rainbow

This morning I’m setting up two rods. One with a Super Dri Lake Pro floater and the other is a sinking rig, with my trusty Sixth Sense DI3‎. Both lines perform again and again in difficult situations and have helped me land countless fish. There’s a lot to be said for feeling the hit, right down the line length. Both these lines have power cores, so hooking up at distance is no problem. Keeping them on, is quite another thing?

I’m using G3 flouro for my leader.  In 10lb breaking strain, the chance is reduced in being broken, by one of the larger residents, that are  always there.  Having a piece of fishing tackle like this, gives me a confidence boost. Especially, when I can just ramp up the pressure on the rod, with a hard running fish!

With the floater I’m opting for an 18ft leader with two  droppers. On the top dropper is a Red ribbed Diawl Bach, Middle has a Black Diawl and the point is a blood red buzzer with Peacock herl thorax. The sinker has just 6ft of leader and a skinny Olive Damsel.‎ This short set up prevents the fly buoying up, which is more evident, with a longer leader. This Damsel pattern works just great, both here and and at Frensham in Surrey, where a friend of mine uses it, with equal success.

Whilst getting dressed, I’m watching Lakemoor out of the back windows of the Lodge. With slashing rises in the margins, the fish are on the fin and willing to chase their food. Hence the Damsel set up,as my first choice to start the day. Walking up the tree lined bank, I know I have deep water, less than a rod length away. Plus the fish will rush up the inclined lake bed to hit a fly!

Starting out on short casts along the bank line, I can see the odd mirror like flash, deep down in the water. These are active fish looking for fodder and on the fin? Offering a single fly, reduces the chance of a double hook up on super active feeders. Feeling nothing on two casts, I opt for a longer cast of about 40 ft and have the rear taper marker, outside the tip ring.

Plucking the Damsel back in a spurting pull, makes the marabou and flashabou tail pulse and shimmer‎. A trigger that just works and I get the response I was hoping for! As the 10ft hang marker just comes to the water surface, the line hesitates and pulls away. I lift and the water surface explodes,  as a bright silver Rainbow, feels the resistance and goes for broke, hitting the accelerator! It sends a big ‘”V” wake out behind it, with it’s tail pounding away, on an energized run. That adrenaline rush just highlights the sheer power, and a thrilling turn of pace that these fast fish can turn onto in a split second. It’s why I fish!

Clamping the line against the rod handle, I quickly horse the Rainbow into my net.  A  pic for twitter and the rainbow is away, back to depth and sanctuary. Checking my fly and leader, the damsel is ragged out. I’ve had over 20 fish to this very fly, including today and it needs to be changed and disposed of.

One in the net on a damsel

One in the net on a damsel

A fresh looking damsel‎ occupies the point and I send it straight out, to search the far margin near a tree. Pulling with my line hand down, to straighten the leader, I then let the line drop through the water. Counting to 10, I start plucking the line back and get the 20ft hang marker into the tip ring and just stop. This does a few things? It makes a following fish, think about the prey it’s watching and could it  take the fly out aggression. Also my line drops back down in the water, so I can search more of the small area I’m covering to my front? Mixing up the retrieve with long pulls, short plucks and stops, keeps you thinking and adds triggers to a following fish. Pace changes are always good to practice, until you find one that works consistently. You can see the results of your retrieve on the hang markers, as they come in. Erratic plucks always work and I’m in again.

Fast fish this one! Instead of hitting the surface it goes for depth and changes it’s mind, then comes right back at me? I wasn’t expecting that, so I’m pulling line in like a demon to keep pace. After a few head shaking exchanges and gaining the upper hand, I slide the net rim under this bull of a Rainbow. He isn’t too happy in the net either and goes nuts. With the fly in the net, I photograph the fish and let it slide to the Lakemoor deeps.

I’m in the mood for a change of scenery, so hop over to Meadow. The biggest lake of the four and with rises in Spring Bay which you see, as you drive in. I set up and drop the net. Peeling line off the reel, I make a cast over the reed beds on my right, the pull the leader and line straight. Almost immediately I’m locked up as my line banding slides away, making the visual battle all the more exciting. This is a great looking Rainbow of around 5lb, that is just hitting the gas and what a run! I’m in “trout heaven”. After an exhilarating series of runs, I power glide the fish over the net rim and I’m shaking. Wow, what fight and with a tail that’s just superb, you begin to understand why these fish are hard chargers! The Black Diawl takes another victim.

A beast of a rainbow falls victim to a black diawl

A beast of a rainbow falls victim to a black diawl

Untangling my leader, I recast to the same spot, as the fish are hogging the easy surface feed, being carried by the surface tow. My line banding darts forward and I feel the line pulse, as the fish dives away! This is on the top dropper and the Red Diawl works it’s magic. I’m losing line fast here, so adding more pressure by locking the line against the rod. This Rainbow hits the surface with a slash and slams away from me! Hard thumps highlight the Rainbows power and energy. Thrill ride stuff this for sure.

This is top of the water angling at its best I think. I take six more fish like this, Including one that hit the buzzer on the hang. Just amazing fishing at Ellerdine Lakes. As a last cast option and yes we all have one! I move to Marsh Lake for a cheeky cast at some risers, ear the Fir Trees adjacent to Meadow. This area hold some great fish, so pushing out the hauling zone, I have just 50ft of line on the water. The weeping willow in the corner is a holding point for some truly big fish. I’m just keeping the flies moving and see the banding stop, so line strike with my line hand. A shorter but plumper Rainbow thuds away from me, toward the reed bed. Dropping the rod tip and horsing the fish back toward me, I get the upper hand and now glide the fish across the surface, to the net.

I’m running low on time and need to pack up for the day. What a result though. Damsel sport on the sinking rig, but the floater was the definite winner today. Top of water sport at one the UK’s top small stillwater trout fisheries! It was Good Friday, but it also a great Friday too.