Theo Pike

About Theo Pike

Theo Pike is a freelance environmental, fishing and marketing writer. He’s 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, has recently been re-published in ebook format. Theo now also works with the Wild Trout Trust as their Trout in the Town Officer (South) helping to boost the impact of this programme across the south of England and Wales.

Top Tips for Fry Feeders

For many fly-fishers, the arrival of autumn means grayling, salmon, or even hanging up their rods until spring. But, according to Theo Pike, there’s an alternative, and those in the know claim it’s some of the most electrifying sport of the year…

Imagine the scene: you’re walking the banks of your favourite stillwater in the crisp sunlight of a late October day. The sky is blue, and a brisk little breeze sends showers of golden leaves flurrying out over the water. It’s as pretty as a picture. But under that rippled, leaf-strewn surface, you know there’s a savage drama of life and death in progress.

A perfect October day for targeting fry feeders!!
Image: Ceri Thomas

All summer long, juvenile perch and roach have been growing from tiny see-through pin fry to miniature fish, maybe half the length of your finger at most. While the buzzer and caddis hatches were at their height, the predators haven’t bothered with them.

But now, winter is coming, and it’s time to pack on the protein. Big trout herd the fry into shallow areas, or pin them up against the surface, before slicing into the bait-balls with carnivorous urgency. With shocking suddenness, right in front of you, the water’s meniscus explodes as hundreds of fry take to the air, desperately trying to escape from the carnage below.

So how can you take full advantage of this seasonal feeding frenzy? Here are four tips for targeting fry feeders..

1. Search for the structure

Search for structures that offer fish fry safe haven
Image source: Ceri Thomas

Coarse fish fry clearly see the benefit of safety in numbers, but they also feel more secure near structure of some kind. Dam walls, bridge pilings, drowned trees, reed beds and even gradually shallowing water can all feel like home to nervous shoals of pin fry.Even the edges of boat pontoons can be worth a careful look. I still remember my first introduction to this kind of fishing on Barnsfold – detecting a very subtle disturbance in the water beside a row of boats, dropping a fly over the edge, and hanging on desperately as the biggest trout of the day smashed my little streamer on the surface!

Then again, some of the best fish-holding structures may not be so obvious. By late autumn, the luxuriant summer weedbeds will have died back below the surface, but what’s left of the weeds should still attract fry in good numbers. Sharp drop-offs, where shallow water deepens suddenly, also provide habitat for prey and predators alike, in close proximity to one another.

It’s worth remembering that many of our reservoirs were formed by flooding farmland, so sunken lanes can provide good examples of this kind of structure – along with old walls and fences. In short, time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted, and visiting your favourite fisheries in super low water can reveal lots of useful secrets for successful future campaigns.

  1. Shake up your tactics

Unlike some other stillwater strategies, trout feeding on fry, minnows or sticklebacks can require different methods every day, and the situation isn’t always as obvious as the frenzy I’ve described at the start of this article. Simply chucking-and-chancing it rarely works, and it pays to stay alert.

A juvenile roach – a perfect meal for a fry feeder!
Image: Ceri Thomas

First of all, don’t stay in one place for too long if you’re not seeing significant action. Be observant, and prepared to move to alternative locations. Wind direction can concentrate shoals of fry into definite areas of a reservoir, or even individual inlets, and gulls will sometimes betray the presence of vulnerable prey.

When you’ve found the fry, floating or intermediate lines are favoured by most anglers, with a weight-forward profile to help propel wind-resistant flies. Although the periods of obvious activity can seem worryingly brief and intense, don’t be afraid to experiment with different kinds of retrieve until you find the one that really works.

Dedicated lure fishers will know that it’s often the pause, hang or change of direction that finally triggers a positive attack after a non-committal follow, and you can accentuate these moments, especially as your fly comes up to meet you in the shallower margins, by twitching your rod tip up and down, or from side to side. It’s hair-raising stuff, especially if you can see it all playing out in front of you in low, clear water.

Having said all this, my personal favourite approach is probably still the fry-hunter’s equivalent of the dry fly: a foam or suspender-style imitation, hanging half-submerged in the surface film, quietly waiting to ambush marauding trout that are mopping up stunned or injured fry after the mayhem of the main assault.

  1. Tie for flash and movement

Deadly flies like these snakes have lots of movement to entice aggressive strikes.

Deadly flies like these snakes have lots of movement to entice aggressive strikes.
Featured product: Caledonia Company Rabbit Snake Lure from Fishtec

Tying your own flies isn’t essential (in fact, with more and more well-tied barbless and ‘tactical’ competition-derived patterns now on the market) it’s arguably less necessary than even two or three years ago. But being able to concoct your own dressings means that you can customise your flies to the individual demands of the waters you fish.

As ever, knowing your local patch is important, because fry can vary significantly in size and colours as the season develops, even within dominant prey species like roach and perch. Using a fine-meshed net to trap some samples for detailed examination can be a good idea.

Once you’re back at your vice, tying for subtle movement and translucency (or at least the impression of it) are the important points to remember. By comparison to modern creations like Popper Minkies and pale-coloured Cormorants, old-school Mylar, foam and even spun deer hair Muddler Minnow patterns can seem quite wooden and dead – so it makes sense to exploit the subtle, natural impression of fluttering life that marabou, rabbit strips and a touch of UV flash can convey.

Snake flies take this theory to the extreme, and it’s clear that they’ve proved very successful in many situations over the past couple of seasons. But don’t assume bigger and bulkier is always better… smaller flies are easier to cast, and may even look like a more vulnerable target for trout on the prowl.

A fry feeder captured on a snake pattern
Image: Matt Russell

  1. Tackle up for the job

Even if you’d normally fish a modern 10-foot 4-weight rod on your favourite stillwaters (like me or Brian Harris), fry-bashing season is probably the time to think about arming yourself with a heavier rig.

For the purposes of relative subtlety, I still try to go no heavier than a 5 or 6-weight rod, though many others would choose 7 or 8 as their optimum for propelling big, wind-resistant flies and taking the fight to aggressive, fired-up fish.

Long rods are traditional for loch-style fishing, and I’m equally addicted to them for bank work, helping me to control and manipulate my flies in enticing ways right into the shallows. Under these circumstances, I always feel safest with one fly rather than two or more, dangerously waving around on droppers to snag on obstacles or even draw other fish into the fight, but boat anglers can safely give the fish more of a choice of patterns.

Especially if you fish rivers as much as stillwaters, this may be one of the few times of the year when you’ll risk seeing your backing, so a reel with a decent brake will come into its own (and checking the knot between backing and floating or intermediate fly line won’t hurt either). Eight-pound tippet feels about right, but I’d have no hesitation in going heavier on truly huge-fish waters like Grantham, where the power of the grown-on beasts you’ll encounter might suddenly make you think you’ve been transported to the shores of the legendary Lago Strobel.

Yes… hunting large fry-feeding trout really is one of the biggest thrills of the fly-fishing year, and a very good reason not to hang up your rod too early this autumn and winter!

Dry or die! Floating flies for September trout

After one of the longest, hottest summers in living memory, fly fishers all over Britain are breathing a sigh of relief as more autumnal weather arrives. Theo Pike reveals his thoughts about how to make the most of what’s left of this year’s trout season…

End of season dry fly trout

End of season dry fly trout
Image source: Fishtec

As I wrote this time last year, September can be a month of mixed emotions for fly fishers – especially those of us who love stalking wild trout with dry flies.

Suddenly the best of the season seems to have been compressed into four precious weeks, and there’s hardly time to fit in last-minute trips to venues we’ve prevaricated over when midsummer conditions have been less than ideal.

So how do we make the most of this end-of-season bonanza? Here’s my own mental checklist for making the back-end of trout time a little less frantic and a lot more fulfilling…

1. Dry fly forever

Even if hurricane season on the other side of the Atlantic brings significant weather fronts barrelling over into British and Irish airspace, average river levels are likely to remain relatively low. This brings bottom-hugging fish closer to the surface in relative terms, making it easier for them to focus on prey that’s floating or trapped in the meniscus.

Better still, as the days turn shorter, cooler and wetter, mayflies and other aquatic insects will start cycling back to daytime schedules that are much more family-friendly than the pre-dawn hatches and late-night spinner falls of high summer.

It’s a perfect storm of circumstances if you’re a dedicated dry fly fisher. At this time of year, you could almost go as far as leaving your nymph box at home (or at least in the very deepest recesses of your backpack), secure in the knowledge that you’re sure to find rising fish somewhere on the stretch of water you’re fishing.

2. Behind the mask

A blue winged olive is a good choice.

A blue winged olive is a good choice.
Image source: Fishtec

Often it’s not the most visible flies that end-of-season fish are feeding on. Just like mayfly time, when you’re quite likely to find trout ignoring the masking hatch of big juicy Danicas while mopping up hordes of small stuff that’s virtually invisible to the human eye, September trout may be focused on less-than-obvious fare.

You’ll sometimes see big, aggressive slashes at the last of the summer caddis so juicy mouthfuls like green sedges and Welshmen’s Buttons are always worth a cast. But inconspicuous trickles of tiny pale wateries, blue-winged olives, or even the autumn’s first LDO’s, are much more likely to be the reason for regular, sipping rises.

3. Go large…

Big daddies blundering over the water are rightly famous for getting some of the season’s heaviest trout looking to the surface for an easy meal – on rivers and stillwaters alike.

You may need to beef up your tackle to fish craneflies successfully, but if the rules of your water allow, you can save time by carrying two rods – one rigged with a heavier line and leader to propel a wind-resistant daddy-long-legs without helicoptering a super-fine tippet, and the other dedicated to the minutiae at the other end of the seasonal spectrum.

4. …or very, very tiny

A tiny Griffiths Gnat is a secret weapon for September trout fishing.

A tiny Griffiths Gnat is a secret weapon for September trout fishing.
Image source: Fishtec

After a long, hot, rainless summer, many trees may start to shed their leaves early. When they do, you’ll find them depositing huge numbers of aphids on the surface. Trout can become absolutely fixated on them, a phenomenon I’d never twigged until the legendary Stuart Crofts let me into this secret with his customised miniature bug-sampling net on his beloved River Don.

At times like these, I’ve found very small palmered Griffiths Gnats and bibio-style patterns exceptionally useful for splitting the difference between clusters of aphids, river midges and even (I think) tiny willow flies.

5. Get your sneak on

Fishing the smallest flies is easiest with the lightest rods and lines you can handle. For me, this means scaling right down to an ultralight 10-foot 2-weight setup, minimising the impact of the line as it lands on the water, and creeping as close as possible to cut drag to a minimum.

According to Jeremy Lucas, most successfully-landed river trout are risen and hooked within 20 feet of your casting hand, and while there are occasions when this clearly can’t work, I’ve been surprised how often it does pay off.

Wear dark or neutral-coloured clothing, and invest in a pair of military-spec knee and shin pads to make crawling around in the rocks and mud less painful for your joints as well as your waders!

Stay low, avoid repeated false casting if you can, and resist the temptation to recast if your first delivery isn’t right on target. Trout will often roam around pools in low water, so fish out your drift, and you may be surprised by how many fish will actually swim over to eat a very slowly moving floating fly…

6. Slow is smooth

Speaking of military options, the US special forces have a motto: ‘Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast’. Low water levels mean taking your time to scan the water for fish hiding in plain sight, before planning a smoothly glacially-paced approach.

If you can, try to stay out of the water. When levels are low, even the stealthiest stalk can send alarming pressure waves radiating out around you, rippling the mirrored surface and warning even the doziest fish in the pool that something’s not quite right.

7. And finally… don’t despair!

Urban fly fishing on the River Don in Sheffield

Urban fly fishing on the River Don in Sheffield
Image source: The River Beat

Even when trout season feels like it’s rushing to its end, you can still look forward to targeting grayling, when most of the tactics I’ve mentioned will continue to pay dividends as late as November or even December.

And don’t miss out on flyfishing for coarse fish, either. On some town and city rivers, or where sewage treatment works raise the ambient temperature of the water and keep the food web active, you can continue catching chub and dace on midge patterns all the way into the New Year – a very valid excuse for keeping your favourite dry fly rod strung up well past the end of trout season!

How You Can Support The Wild Trout Trust

Monitoring our rivers is a vital part of the Wild Trout Trust’s work Image source

Monitoring our rivers is a vital part of the Wild Trout Trust’s work
Image source: Ceri Thomas

There must have been something in the air (or the water) during the mid-late 1990s. Maybe it was an altruistic reaction to the pure me-first consumerism of the 1980s, or a slow-burn realisation that if we wanted good things to happen, we’d have to get together and do them ourselves, but the last years of the 20th century saw a quiet revolution in many people’s attitude to looking after our rivers.

In Wales, Devon and Cornwall, small groups of locals founded the first rivers trusts: the Wye and Usk Foundation, and the West Country Rivers Trust. In south London, the same thing started happening on the Wandle. And, somewhere in the western chalk streams, a few far-sighted trout fishermen decided they’d form the Wild Trout Society, which soon became the Wild Trout Trust. Theo Pike takes a closer look at the Wild Trout Trust (WTT), explaining what they do and how you can support them.

What is The Wild Trout Trust?

The health of trout in a river is a good indication of the health of the whole river

The health of trout in a river is a good indication of the health of the whole river
Image source: Ceri Thomas

Today, the rivers trust movement covers every river catchment in the country from source to sea, and the Wild Trout Trust is a well-established conservation charity that can’t have escaped the notice of anyone who fishes and cares for trout in the UK and beyond.

Put simply, if you’re interested in the health of a river or natural lake anywhere in Britain or Ireland, the WTT is here for you. The charity’s tight-knit group of 13 full and part-time members of staff (with more than 150 years of river-mending experience between them) delivers practical advice and hands-on habitat projects that may start with trout, but can often stretch way beyond this iconic indicator species to the health of the whole river or lake, and even its wider catchment.

How does The Wild Trout Trust help?

WTT-advisory

A WTT advisory visit highlighted this obstruction. “The prolonged burst swimming speeds required to pass make this structure an issue for fish passage.”
Image source: The Wild Trout Trust Advisory Visit – River Esk (North Yorkshire)

As you might expect, there’s a tried and tested formula for providing advice. First, there’s the advisory visit, when WTT conservation officers walk a stretch of river with all the interested parties, making notes, discussing options, and providing a written report with recommendations and sometimes project costings.

There are more than 600 AV reports available for download from the WTT website, and I’ve always thought that one of the Trust’s greatest gifts is providing ordinary people with knowledge and confidence to speak truth to power.

An advisory visit report, or a more detailed project proposal written up by a WTT officer to support a permit application, will often give you all the ammunition you need to approach the Environment Agency and say, “Look, here’s what we want to do for our river. Can we make it happen, please?

Practical help

river-conservation

Conservation work in progress on the Little Dart River, Devon
Image source: Shutterstock

This may actually be enough to get things going, but if you want to take your project further with the WTT, the next stage is the River Habitat Workshop, when the Trust’s officers will come back with tools and equipment to teach you and the other members of your group the techniques you need to improve your river yourselves.

It’s all about sharing solidly science-based knowledge for everyone’s benefit, and the Trust has published a comprehensive Wild Trout Survival Guide (now on its fourth edition) with detailed supplementary CDs covering chalkstreams, upland rivers and urban river restoration guidelines. There’s also an annual Get-Together, with locations rotating around the UK, and periodic Trout in the Town conclaves, when urban river groups can meet and share their experiences.

How you can help – the Wild Trout Trust’s auction

WTTauction

Place your bids in this year’s auction to help the Wild Trout Trust raise funds
Source: The Wild Trout Trust auction

Last year alone, the WTT delivered 196 advisory visits and 81 practical events, and helped to improve 365km of river with 3,600 volunteers. Some of this was funded as part of other projects with landowners, fishing clubs, rivers trusts and government agencies, especially the Environment Agency in England, and the WTT’s overheads are kept to an absolute minimum – for instance, all staff work from home. But every charity needs to find other sources of income too, and that’s where the Trust’s famous annual auction comes in.

In 2017, the auction raised an amazing £98,000 – by far the WTT’s most important single fundraising event of the year, allowing the charity to unlock as much as £490,000 in match and other project funding on a massive 5:1 ratio, as Kris Kent explains in this article for Eat Sleep Fish. The funds also help to keep the WTT’s team of officers on the road and in the river, paying for tools and equipment like chainsaws and waders for them and the volunteers they’re teaching.

This year, as usual, the benefits of the auction will flow both ways, not just helping the Trust to deliver vastly more than would otherwise be possible – but also providing bidders with rare and exciting opportunities to fish in many different places, sometimes with people they’d never otherwise get to meet, or even to buy rare books and other pieces of memorabilia. (I’m still kicking myself for missing out on that set of flies tied by Emma Watson – who knows what kinds of magic I could have worked with those?)

From years of personal experience, too, I know it’s just as satisfying to donate one or more lots to the auction, showing your water to someone new, and knowing you’re part of a virtuous circle that’s making our rivers better for everyone.

So, whether you’d like to expand your fishing horizons this year, or you’re simply motivated to help one of the UK’s most hands-on charities make even more of a difference to all our rivers, keep an eye out for the Wild Trout Trust charity auction from Friday 9th to Sunday 18th March, and please bid generously. The next wild trout you catch will thank you for it!

10 things you might not know about wild trout

The Wild brown trout is an ancient creature

The wild brown trout is an ancient creature
Image source: Ceri Thomas

  1. Wild brown trout have been present in north-west Europe for more than 700,000 years, throughout several major glaciations. Their natural range extends from Ireland in the west, to the Ural Mountains and the Caspian Sea in the east, and from Iceland in the north to Africa’s Atlas mountains in the south.
  1. Trout need very different kinds of habitat through their life stages – from silt-free gravel as eggs and alevins, to deeper and faster water with lots of marginal cover as older juveniles, to even deeper pools with more habitat diversity as adults.
  1. Brown trout can live as long as 20 years.
  1. The British record rod caught wild brown trout is 31lbs 12oz (14.4kg) caught on Loch Awe by Brian Rutland in 2002.
  1. Evolution means every river holds wild trout that are very slightly different – they’ve become adapted to the special conditions of the habitat where they live.
  1. By contrast, many strains of farmed trout have been kept in captivity for more than 30 generations, becoming adapted to life in artificial tanks and raceways. This makes them much less likely to survive in the wild, but their behaviour may disrupt wild trout in the meantime.
  1. The easiest way to tell a wild trout from a stocked trout is to look at the condition of their fins. Many stocked fish suffer from damage to their pectoral and dorsal fins (often healed, leaving them kinked or rounded). However, wild fish can also suffer from abraded fins and tails after spawning.
  1. Trout often become noticeably spottier as spawning time approaches, due to redistribution of pigmentation. Some of these spots may fade away again, but others stay to ‘fill in’ gaps between previous spots as the fish gets bigger.
  1. Trout and salmon can sometimes interbreed. Studies on the River Tweed have shown that up to 4-5% of juvenile salmonids can actually be trout/salmon hybrids.
  1. Even ‘resident’ brown trout migrate surprising distances within river systems. On the River Deveron, one 55cm female trout swam from the Blackwater to Montcoffer, a distance of 84km, within a month of being caught, tagged and released, before turning around and coming all the way back again!

 

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

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.

River Pollution: How Anglers Can Help

There are lots of ways anglers can help, including reporting anything suspicious Image source: Steffan Jones

There are lots of ways anglers can help, including reporting anything suspicious
Image source: Steffan Jones

All anglers understand instinctively that good water quality underpins every aspect of our rivers’ health. That’s why, a couple of weeks ago, renowned international competition fly-fisher (and regular Fishtec customer) Terry Bromwell took matters into his own hands…

He’d heard reports that a sewage works in south Wales was pumping out slugs of raw sewage into the River Rhondda, and he wanted to investigate these rumours for himself.

Arriving at the waterside, he was disgusted to see the river below the treatment works running milky white with toilet paper and other sanitary products. Lack of recent rain meant that the river’s natural level was low, and he filmed the effluent pumping forcefully out of the treatment works for many minutes before the flow finally abated.

According to his sources, this was happening several times every day, with thousands of gallons pouring into the unfortunate little river each time.

At the time of writing, the official response to Terry’s viral video is still uncertain, but watching something like this is horrifying even if you haven’t spent much of your angling life in the shadow of a notorious sewage treatment works (like I have).

UPDATE: Welsh Water finally took notice of Terry’s video and investigated the pollution. They are now working to fix the issue.

Back to the bad old days?

The River Usk

A tributary of The River Usk was badly affected by pollution in 2016.
Image source: Shutterstock

Of course, this begs the question: after years of improvement thanks to privatisation of the water industry and European water quality directives, is the water quality in our rivers actually getting worse again?

Frustratingly, the answer to that question rather depends who you ask, how ‘worse’ is measured, and even which set of statistics you’re looking at. For instance, the recent drop from 29 per cent of England’s rivers enjoying good health in 2014, to just 17 per cent in 2015, and 14 per cent in 2016, can be explained by a new, tighter ‘one out, all out’ measurement regime.

But if you measure water quality in dead fish and bugs, then yes, it seems clear that many rivers are suffering. And it’s also clear that Terry’s home country of Wales has been hit by more than its fair share of aquatic catastrophes in recent months:

  • In March 2016, a pollution incident on the Llynfi Dulas (a tributary of the Usk) killed at least 2,000 fish over 5km of river.
  • In December 2016, a slurry leak near Tregaron led to the deaths of 1,000 fish on the upper Teifi.
  • A few weeks later, another slurry spill was reported from a tributary of the Towy near Carmarthen.
  • In June 2017 it was the Teifi’s turn again, when a slug of liquid waste escaped from an anaerobic digester at Lampeter.

A nationwide problem

The River Eden

The River Eden is a Special Site of Scientific Interest
Image source: ATGImages

Yet this uplift in agricultural pollution isn’t just a Welsh problem: Wye & Usk Foundation Director Simon Evans has told me that he’s deeply worried by high-nutrient runoff from free-range chicken farms in the Lugg and Arrow catchments.

Meanwhile, having been sounding the alarm about intensive dairy units in the Eden valley for years, England fly-fishing team coach Jeremy Lucas recently captured unmistakeable photo evidence of a slurry trailer dragging away from the River Eden after discharging unknown quantities of waste into the waters of this Special Site of Scientific Interest.

And it wasn’t long ago that environmental campaigner George Monbiot discovered, completely by chance, a constant stream of liquid manure running into the little River Culm in Devon.

To be fair, for every farmer or utility company employee who doesn’t care or can’t afford to implement best-practice pollution management, there are probably a dozen who are passionate about protecting the environment.

But this new report from WWF, which reveals that more than half of the sewage overflow sites in England and Wales are discharging into our rivers at least once a month (and 14% once a week!) gives us a real sense of the scale of the problem.

Time for us to act

Foam pollutants

Foam pollutants swirling across a river
Image source: Shutterstock

Now, at a time when the impacts of the Brexit referendum make wide-ranging deregulation look likely, it’s time for all anglers to follow the example of the watchful fishermen I’ve mentioned above, and become even more vigilant in our role as guardians of our rivers.

We’re out there in all weathers, we know when something’s not quite right, and as Terry has recently shown us, we’ve got all the power of social media right here at our fingertips if the proper authorities don’t seem to be taking problems seriously enough.

Recent evidence suggests that the courts are now prepared to fine offenders much more heavily – for example, Thames Water was recently handed a record £20 million penalty for repeatedly polluting the Thames.

Better still, recent changes mean that compensation money can now be channelled into repairing environmental damage, via enforcement undertakings, instead of sending it straight to the coffers of the Treasury. And even when long court cases aren’t successful, public pressure can force polluters to invest in improvements like Welsh Water’s new sewage treatment improvements at Llyn Padarn.

How can we help?

Sewage works polluting river

Effluent from sewage works flowing into a UK river
Image source: Silent Corners

So how can we all get personally involved in spotting – and stopping – pollution problems? Here’s a list of ideas I’ve been developing…

Support angling passport schemes

It’s obvious once you know about it, but one of the reasons for setting up these schemes was to incentivise farmers to look after the vital headwaters of many major rivers. If landowners see how much we value these small streams, they’ll look after them better, which benefits everybody in the long term… and of course we can help them to spot potential problems too.

Go fishing in the rain

River restoration professionals always jump at the chance to explore their catchments in the most horrible conditions – taking so-called ‘wet weather walks’ to see where the water really goes when it falls out of the sky, and what it looks like when it reaches the river. With runoff from roads, farmyards, badly-ploughed fields and more, this can sometimes be a real eye-opener.

Follow your nose

If something doesn’t smell right, it’s probably wrong, and you’ll often sniff out pollution before you see it. Another sign of water quality problems is ‘sewage fungus’ – a grey, gelatinous or feathery mass of bacteria which grows in the presence of very high nutrient levels like those provided by slurry or sewage.

Look out for misconnections

On streams and rivers everywhere, many insidious pollution problems are caused by toilets, sinks and washing machines being wrongly plumbed into rainwater pipes instead of foul sewers. If there’s a nasty smell, or if you can see milky discharges, toilet paper or sanitary products in your river, chances are there’s a misconnection somewhere nearby. But on the upside, the local water company should be keen to get it fixed (and it’s illegal for homeowners to refuse).

Get trained as a riverfly monitor

Once a month, a 3-minute kick sample can tell you almost everything you need to know about the health of your local river. Different species of aquatic invertebrates are differently sensitive to pollution, and repeated sampling can locate the source and even provide evidence for a prosecution. Find out more from the Riverfly Partnership website.

Join a local pollution monitoring programme

As well as riverfly monitoring, more and more rivers trusts are setting up networks of local volunteers to spot pollution and help to deal with incidents. Some water companies are recognising the benefits of citizen science too: for example, Thames Water is working in partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) to run ‘outfall safaris’ and identify problem areas for their surface outfall remediation programme. They’ve also launched a rapid response unit which aims to get to the site of any reported pollutions within an hour.

Make that call!

Wherever you live and fish, keep one or both of these pollution hotline numbers in your phone, and don’t think twice about calling if you spot a pollution problem:

England, Scotland and Northern Ireland: 0800 80 70 60

Wales: 0300 065 3000

It’s far better to be safe than sorry, and every report helps to build up a picture of what’s going on. Your vigilance really can make a difference.

And if all else fails… be like Terry, and put the power of social media to work for you too.

Pacific Salmon: The Pink Peril

pink salmon

Pink salmon are being caught all over the UK
Image source: Shutterstock

If there’s one thing that’s guaranteed to make most conservation-minded anglers’ blood run cold, it’s the idea of yet another invasive non-native species coming to join the Himalayan balsam, floating pennywort, American signal crayfish, Ponto-Caspian shrimp, and other unwelcome visitors which are already wreaking havoc on our rivers and lakes.

Yet that’s exactly what we’ve been seeing here in the British Isles this summer – with alien Pacific pink (or humpback) salmon showing up in unprecedented numbers in rivers around our coastline.

So why has this happened? And is there anything we do about it?

Far from home

spawning phase

An Alaskan pink salmon in its freshwater spawning phase.
By Bering Land Bridge National Preserve – Pink Salmon, CC BY 2.0

As their name suggests, Pacific pink salmon (Oncorhynchus gorbusca) evolved in the rivers and seas of the northern Pacific rim, from Oregon all the way up to Alaska, and down the coast of Russia to the Korean peninsula.

Like the four other species of Pacific salmon – chum (dog), coho (silver), king (chinook) and sockeye (red) – they’re genetically programmed to thrive in hostile Arctic conditions without the beneficial warmth of the Gulf Stream.

Mature adult fish run into rivers in mid to late summer, spawn quickly, and die almost at once, boosting the rivers’ ecology with all the remaining marine nutrients in their bodies. The fry hatch within 80 days, and migrate to sea at a young age (unlike juvenile Atlantic salmon, which live in their rivers of birth for much longer).

Year classes are strongly defined in two-year cycles, and don’t mix at all – a characteristic which has led to some runs of Pacific salmon being completely obliterated by natural or man-made disasters. Maybe to make up for this, pinks are happy to stray some distance from their own rivers to colonise new water. But like so many other alien invaders, they’ve now moved far beyond their native range as a result of human intervention…

Starting in the 1960s, and continuing for about 40 years, it’s believed that Russian scientists started stocking them into the Barents and White seas with the intention of creating a commercial net fishery and canning industry.

From here, pink salmon started spreading to Finland and Norway (where breeding populations have become established) and then to Iceland, Denmark and Germany. Occasional two- to five-pounders have appeared in Scottish, Irish and English east coast rivers since the earliest years, but it’s the scale of this summer’s invasion which has started to cause concern.

What’s the problem?

crowded pink salmon

Pink salmon crowded in Alaska
Image source: Shutterstock

Hundreds of pink salmon, from around two to five pounds, have been caught in more than 40 rivers around the British Isles in 2017 – from the Helmsdale and Ness to the Tyne, and even the Cong and Galway fisheries on Ireland’s River Corrib.

In England, they’ve turned up in Yorkshire’s Driffield West Beck, too, where David Southall was surprised to catch a hard-fighting 3lb specimen in August on a streamer intended for chalkstream trout.

Native Atlantic salmon are already under serious threat in most British rivers, and many anglers fear that a major influx of Pacific salmon could put them under even more pressure – either from competition, or via the introduction of pathogens and diseases still unknown.

Others argue that the earlier timing of pink salmon runs means that the adults will be long dead by the time our native salmon start trying to spawn, and any remaining redds are likely to be overcut. Juvenile pinks will migrate to sea much sooner, and at a far smaller size, than Atlantic salmon smolts, so it’s not so likely that significant competition will occur at this life stage either. Dying Pacific salmon could even contribute valuable nutrients to oligotrophic Scottish and Scandinavian catchments, making more food for Atlantic salmon parr.

Yet having said all this, if invasion ecology teaches us one thing, it’s that the potential for unintended consequences is almost limitless. So the wisest course is probably the precautionary approach.

More information is certainly needed, and fisheries scientists have already started researching the viability of pink salmon eggs in UK waters, by excavating redds in the River Ness and moving the eggs to incubation chambers for further observation. Empty egg shells were also recovered, suggesting that some alevins might already have hatched.

What else can we do?

In smaller rivers, controlling pink salmon by disturbing their very obvious redds might be an option, but in huge rivers like the Tay, this simply wouldn’t be possible, even in low summer water.

More than anything else, the UK’s fisheries authorities need information about this year’s pink salmon run, so they can prepare to deal with the next one (possibly even more numerous) in two years’ time (2019).

With their prominent hump, male pink salmon are very obvious, but some of the other differences from Atlantic salmon are more subtle. If you catch a small salmon at the back end of this season, and you suspect it might be a pink, here’s what to look out for:

 

Atlantic salmon

 

Pacific pink salmon

 

No spots on tail

 

Large black oval spots on tail

 

Pale mouth and tongue

 

Very dark mouth and tongue

 

Usually larger (up to 110cm in length)

 

Usually much smaller (40 – 60cm in length)

 

One or two spots on the gill cover, plus spots on the back above the lateral line

 

Steel-blue to blue-green back, silver flanks and white belly

 

Thicker base of tail than Pacific salmon

Breeding males have a distinctive humped back

If you think you’ve caught a pink salmon, here’s what to do:

Don’t return it to the water, but dispatch it humanely and report it to the relevant authorities (listed below) to arrange for inspection. If this isn’t possible, please retain some scale samples for further analysis.

England and Wales: Phone the Environment Agency on 0800 80 70 60.

Northern Ireland: Tag the fish and phone the Loughs Agency on +44 (0)28 71342100: replacement tags will be issued.

Scotland: Contact your local district fishery board and fishery trust: information will be collated by Fisheries Management Scotland and Marine Scotland Science.

Ireland: Phone Inland Fisheries Ireland on 1890 347 424.

Who’s the daddy? Fly-fishing crane flies for end-of-season trout

September is always a poignant time of the fly-fishing year. As the days grow noticeably shorter, the trout are the fattest and healthiest you’ll find them all season, but they often seem to be fixated on the very smallest and most technical food forms – like midges and pale wateries, presented totally drag-free, on gossamer-fine tippets.

Author, fisherman and environmentalist, Theo Pike discusses the exception to this rule and the secret weapon that shouldn’t be too far from your fly-box this September. It’s the daddy-long-legs. Here’s 6 top tips for landing yourself an end-of-season specimen.

crane fly

A crane fly, commonly known as the daddy long legs.
Image source: Shutterstock

Also known as crane flies (Tipulidae), these big insects will have spent the year as leatherjacket grubs, burrowing invisibly in the roots of the grasses and meadow flowers along our river banks. Now, as the air cools a little and turns humid after the long hot summer, they start to emerge and search for mates, to start their mostly-hidden life-cycle all over again.

For reasons best known to expert entomologists, some years are more prolific than others. Yet it’s no exaggeration to say that even in a sparse year, this can be the daddy of all seasonal hatches – at least as significant as the grannom or mayfly for the observant fly-fisher.

With cigar-shaped bodies, rambling legs that stick out in all directions, and wings that don’t seem nearly big enough to keep them airborne, daddy-long-legs look like Heath Robinson contraptions that fly badly, when they fly at all. The slightest puff of wind is usually enough to dump a few of them onto the nearest body of water, where they’ll struggle haplessly in the surface film, attracting attention from fish for yards around.

There’s no delicate sipping when these big mouthfuls are splashing down: trout and chub in particular will hit drowning daddies with real intent, sometimes even leaping out of the water, flattening them with a belly-flop, and circling back again to mop up the doomed insects.

If you think this sounds like some of the least technical fishing of the year, you may be right. But there are still a few useful things to remember if you really want to make the most of the early-autumn daddy-long-legs bonanza…

1 – Beef up your tackle

Daddy-feeding fish don’t tend to be too tippet shy, and the takes can be vicious, so this isn’t the time to take your tippet diameter much below 5lbs. Stiffer monofilament will help you avoid corkscrewed tippet when you’re turning over big, air-resistant flies into a headwind, and you may find a slightly heavier rod helpful, too.

2 – Match the hatch

daddy flies

Daddy long legs flies
Image source: Fishtec

Entomologists say there are around 300 species of crane flies in the UK, and while it’s hardly worth lugging around enough flies to match all of these, there are definitely times when the fish will respond better to one pattern than another. Carry a good selection wherever you’re fishing at this time of year, and stay alert for opportunities to try the nearest possible imitation.

3 – Chop and change

box of daddy long legs lures

A selection box of lures for variety
Featured product: Fulling Mill Daddies at Fishtec

Most of us aren’t lucky enough to be able to fish when the weather is perfect, so having a tactical selection of patterns in your box will let you pick the best option for the conditions you’re facing. For example, a fully-hackled fly flutters lightly over a wave, while choosing a low-riding pattern, with hackles clipped off the underside, will help your imitation sit enticingly low in a flat calm.

4 – Give it a twitch

After ditching in the drink, most daddies will fuss and struggle as though they’re trying to signal for help. Follow their lead by adding a little twitch to your presentation now and again, instead of focusing on a perfect dead drift, or just letting the fly float static. If the fish you’re targeting hasn’t been convinced so far, this may help to seal the deal.

5 – Go trophy hunting

The crane fly fall will often get the biggest fish in the river looking up for the first time since the mayfly hatch, so now’s your opportunity to target the really big beasts. Don’t be afraid to use the heft of these flies (and of course your heavier tippet) to fire them into places you’d normally assume are far too tight. After all, this is where the trophy trout, chub and even carp will be lurking.

6 – Don’t strike too soon

As mentioned above, some predators will deliberately swamp a struggling daddy, then come back and take it confidently under the surface. If you don’t feel the fish, try to ignore the impulse to pick up for another cast – just leave your fly in place. It sounds counterintuitive, but it often works.

large trout

September is the ideal time to land a large trophy trout
Image source: Shutterstock

Like Kieron in this article on how to fish daddy-long-legs, I do tie most of my own flies, but I tend to make an exception for daddy-long-legs and mayflies.

These are two hatches when having a flexible choice of different patterns is more important than having a whole row of clones in your fly-box, and it’s fun to let the designers show their paces with all the latest innovations. Grab yourself a generous handful of daddies from your favourite supplier – Fishtec stocks Fulling Mill, Iain Barr and Caledonia – and get out there to make the most of this end-of-season bonanza!