The Airflo Airlite V2 Switch Rod – 11 Foot 8 Weight

With a new season of chasing creatures of the salt in mind, our sea fly fishing guru Darren Jackson takes a new rod out for a spin with a selection of fly lines.

I’ve done a fair bit with switch rods and light double handers over the years and they really are just a joy to use; they make things so effortlessly easy.

I recently got my hands on a new Airlite V2 Switch 11ft 8wt to play around with and took along some standard Airflo Forty plus and Sniper lines, with densities ranging from floating down to a Di3 to have a good chuck.

Airlite V2 11ft 8 weight on test

Airlite V2 11ft 8 weight on test

Each line performed brilliantly well, but the Snipers are definitely the stars of the show on this rod (for me personally!) Simple/relaxed over head thumps were throwing my fly respectable distances, as they were with both line types; it was just a little more effortless for the Sniper with its short (30ft) aggressive head.

This line really drags big heavy patterns out there without to much fuss; I’d best describe it like “a three year old taking an out of control Rottweiler for a walk!”. The Sniper is never going to win gold for presentation, but for what I do (bass fishing on the coast) it’s a issue that’s not even worth taking a second to think about.

Single hand casts with a double haul thrown in sent the fly incredible distances and my backing to running line connection was making a regular appearance. That extra one foot of rod length allowed me to get considerably more of the head and running line out through the eyes with extra control, and with no signs of it collapsing/hinging than what I can comfortably manage with my 10 foot rods which, in turn, equates to longer casts.

The Sniper fly line from Airflo

The Sniper fly line from Airflo

For the record, I find the Forty Plus Sniper line performs so much better with longer leaders and a good stiff butt section. Basically extending the head a little which in turn allows more flight time and gives the line/head/loop more time to turn over before things catch up on their self. Take your time with the Sniper and it performs,try powering it out there with a short leader,combined with the short head,and it just wont work and dumps in.

I’m no casting instructor and those who are more technically advanced with the whole casting thing will get where I’m coming from (I hope). For those out there who are using the Sniper line,try it and see how you get on.

As it stands, I’m still relatively young and fit and found it no issue what so ever performing single handed casts with this rod,as time goes on and I grow older and weaker I’m not sure I’d like to be doing it all day. Saying all this, it’s not really what the rod was designed for in my eyes. Yes, overhead casts can be performed with relative ease but,technically,it’s a light double hander and should be used as one. All manner of speys, skagit, roll casts etc.are a doodle with this rod and if I was to fish small to medium sized rivers again for salmon and sea trout I’m not sure if I’d reach for anything else.

Airlite V2 ready for action

Airlite V2 ready for action

Things are really starting to move now, water temp is climbing everyday and I just can’t wait to hit the shores and give this rod a dam good thrashing. It’s no secret that I am a massive fan of the Airlite range of rods, I’ve used and abused them for over ten years and they have taken the worst I can throw at them with out issue. If the new V2 can take half the punishment I’ve given the older models we’ll get along just fine.

Tightlines, Daz

River Fly Fishing for Beginners: 10 Top Tips

river-trout

There are few fish more beautiful than a wild trout.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Ever fancied fishing your local river for trout? Whether your usual diet is stillwater angling, or you’re a coarse fisher looking to try something new, you’re in for a treat. In fact, contrary to what you might think, there’s a heck of a lot of water available these days. Much of it is also cheap and lightly fished.

So where do you begin? While it’s a different game to stillwater trout fishing, it’s not rocket science to get started on a stream. Here are Dom Garnett’s ten tips on essential tackle and wild trout technique, before you wade in:

1. Where can I find affordable fly fishing near me?

urban-trout-fishing

Urban fly fishing is sometimes free of charge!
Image: Frazer McBain

Don’t assume all river fishing is exclusive or expensive. Chalkstream fishing can cost a bomb; but much of the rest is cheap as chips. Smaller local clubs are one excellent source. Various token and passport schemes are another, including the Westcountry Angling Passport, Wye and Usk Passport and Go Wild in Eden.

If you don’t mind a bit of accidental company, there are also some fantastic urban locations with free fly fishing on your EA license. Fishtec blogger Theo Pike’s book Trout in Dirty Places is well worth a look for ideas.

2. Which fly rods are best for river fishing?

feather-light-fly-fishing-gear

Feather-light kit is a joy to use; but start with simple, affordable gear.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

So let’s cut straight to the basics and look at simple tackle for river fishing. For small to mid sized rivers, I would go for a short (7ft – 8ft) light trout rod with a weight rating of 3 – 4. This length is ideal for small stream with lots of tree cover or slightly cramped conditions.

You needn’t spend a fortune. In fact, the Shakespeare Agility range is awesome for the money, starting at less than £60. Alternatively, Airflo’s River and Stream Starter Kit has all you need for just £69.99.

For larger rivers, a longer rod has advantages. If it’s relatively open, with bigger glides of water and more space, a 10ft rod in a 4oz weight is what I tend to use. It just gives me that little bit extra reach and control.

3. Reels, fly lines and leaders?

Leeda Profil Tapered Leader

Stock up with a few tapered leaders. Costing less than £3, they’ll help your casting and presentation.
Featured: Leeda tapered leaders from Fishtec.

A reel with bling is not terribly important, so I’d suggest you choose something that’s good value for money and functional. Cash you save here should be invested in a decent fly line instead. Go for a floating, weight forward fly line to match your rod. Airflo Velocity Lines are among the most competitive, from only £19.99. If you have a bit more to spend, or you’re looking for ideas to add to your birthday or Christmas wish list, Cortland lines such as the Classic 444 are excellent.

Next, you need some leaders. The “leader” is the length of mono that goes between fly line and fly. Tapered leaders (3-4lbs strength) are best for ease of use – designed to help turn the fly over and make your cast land neatly. These tend to come in 9ft lengths, which is ideal to start with. You can use much longer leaders for shy fish and open water, or indeed a bit shorter for bushy streams, but 9ft is a good start.

You could also get some finer line (say 3lbs or so) to use as “tippet” material. In simple terms, the “tippet” is a couple of feet or so of lighter line that goes between your leader and the fly. Not only is a final section of finer line harder for the trout to spot, it also means that if you get snagged you only lose a little bit of line.

4. Other essentials for river trout fishing

trout scoop net

A trout scoop net has ultra fine mesh to protect delicate fins.
Featured: Airflo’s Streamtec Pan Net (above) is a good choice for just £12.99.

There are a handful of other things I wouldn’t be without for river fishing. One is a pair of waders – a must if you want to reach the best spots. A simple, functional pair will do just fine.

Another must is a pair of polarising sunglasses, which protect your eyes and make fish spotting easier. Again, you don’t need to spend a bomb (I usually spend about £20 because I’m great at losing and breaking them).

I’d also take two simple products to help your lines and flies float or sink: a tub of LedaSink and a tub of Muclin.

Finally, I like to use a wading vest to store odds and ends, because typical fishing bags are a pain when wading and I like to keep my arms as free as possible! You might also grab a portable scoop net to clip to your back.

5. Suss out your river

trout fishing in strong current

Don’t fear the flow: trout love current and oxygen.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

It’s tempting just to find a river and start casting. A better plan is to watch the water for a while and enjoy slowly immersing yourself in the little world that is a trout stream. To start with, smaller rivers and streams are easier than the bigger waters. The fish here can be spooky at close quarters, but it’s much easier to find them and suss out the best places to fish.

See if you can spot rises, fish and anything that’s hatching, along with any features you think might hold fish. Beginners quite often like to fish where the water is slow or even slack, because it’s easier fishing. However, trout prefer the flow. It brings their food to them and provides oxygen rich water. So while they like obstructions like boulders, submerged bushes and other little sheltering spots, they also like to be near the current, where insects that hatch or fall in are carried towards them.

One tip I often share when guiding is to watch bubbles and little bits of debris on the surface of a river. These will take a particular path, like a mini conveyor belt, indicating exactly where the current tends to carry the things trout feed on.

6. Be stealthy

quiet trout fishing

Keep a low profile whenever possible.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Whether or not your first attempts are successful, river trout will quickly teach you the need for stealth and caution. They tend to be shyer than stocked fish, and the lower and clearer the water the more this is the case. As a rather tall and sometimes clumsy human being, I’ve learned this the hard way!

Always wade slowly and carefully, avoiding sudden movements that send out too many ripples. It’s a balance between getting close enough to catch the fish, but not so close they bolt for it.

Beyond obvious things, like not casting a big shadow or stomping about, try wading and casting upstream. Trout will naturally face into the current (upstream), so if you approach them from behind, or from “downstream”, you’ll get closer to them without spooking them.

7. Make your casts count

You’ve found a nice looking spot and perhaps even seen a fish. Now comes the moment of truth. If there’s space, you might manage a standard, overhead cast. If it’s cramped, a roll or side cast might be needed. Side casts are especially useful to get your fly line under trees and make the most of limited space.

Another golden rule is to make your cast land as gently as possible. If everything splats down on the water, the trout are likely to spook. Aim as if you were casting just above the water.

Perhaps the most common beginner’s mistake is to have too many casts. Rather than thrashing the water, it’s much better to watch carefully and make just one or two careful deliveries at a time. There’s no rush, and one good cast is worth ten poor shots.

8. Get a handle on local hatches

insects to inspire flies

Start to learn what insects hatch on your favourite rivers and streams.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Identifying fly life is something that can scare or baffle newcomers to fly fishing. Indeed, read some of the more obsessive articles and you might think you need a doctorate in bug life to catch fish. It isn’t true. In fact a lot of the time, you’ll catch on “general fit” fly patterns if you present them naturally.

Of course, it’s always going to be helpful to get a rough idea of what’s hatching. It’s fun too – and you can do it at your own pace, one or two species at a time. Latin names and pedantic amounts of detail don’t matter – but do try and get a rough idea of the size and colour of what hatches. The Pocket Guide to Matching the Hatch (Lapsley and Bennett) is a lovely pocket sized guidebook for under a tenner that will get you off on the right foot.

9. Stock up with some proven river flies

River fly patterns can quickly get confusing, so keep it simple to begin with. If you’re used to stillwater fishing, you’ll find the flies a lot smaller and more realistic (typically sizes 14 to 18 are best to start with). I would take a simple Klinkhammer Emerger in a few colours (an excellent and easy to spot floating fly), along with the F-Fly and perhaps a few little Caddis. As for nymphs, you cannot go far wrong with a beaded Hare’s Ear and a Pheasant Tail Nymph.

10. Simple tactics to catch a fish

a day on a trout stream

Time well spent: little beats a day on the trout stream.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

If you can see fish rising now and again, you could start with a dry fly. Watch carefully and try to see where the fish is coming up from (the rings at the surface or “rise forms” will travel with the flow, so the actual trout could be another few feet away). Do the rises keep occurring in the same place?

Much of the art of successful river fishing is sussing how to make your fly look natural. Hence much of the time, the angler will aim for “dead drift” (i.e. letting the fly moving at the exact same speed as the current, just like a real one that was hatching or had fallen in). To get this just right takes practice. You’ll need to watch the current carefully and keep picking up the slack fly line after you’ve cast, so you don’t have yards of the stuff dancing about on the water.

If nothing is rising, or you are struggling to get the fish to take a dry fly, then a sinking nymph is the best way to catch. The easiest way to do this is to use the so-called “New Zealand dropper”. All this means is taking a buoyant dry fly like a Klinkhammer or Caddis, and using this to suspend a sinking fly. All you do is tie a little light mono (say 40cm or so of 3lbs line) to the bend of the dry fly hook, and then attach your nymph to the other end. When the trout takes the sunk fly, the dry fly will pull under. Time to strike!

Hopefully, that first river trout will be a magical experience to make your rod bend and your heart race. It might be a fish that leads to a slightly lighter wallet and a lot of happily lost hours on running water; but you really can’t put a price on something as delightful as a day on a trout stream.

Tackle up for river fly fishing: quick checklist

Further reading and more from our blogger….

We hope these tips help you to approach your local river with confidence and catch that first wild trout. Obviously there’s a lot to learn, so do take it steady and move at your own pace. Books, articles and lots of practice are sure to help- it’s also well worth keeping an eye on the Fishtec Blog, and the Turrall Flies blog, which Dom also contributes to.

For a real head start in fly fishing on rivers, another excellent step is to book a guide. With a qualified instructor you could learn more in a day than you might in many months on your own. Dom offers guided river trout fly fishing in Devon and Somerset, along with sessions for coarse fish right through the year. Find further details, along with his books, further articles and more at www.dgfishing.co.uk

Airflo Super Tuff Wader Review

In this tackle review Fishtec’s Ceri Thomas shares his thoughts on a fly fishing wader he has been using over the past few weeks – the Airflo Super-Tuff.

I’ve always been a bit dubious about using non-breathable bootfoot chest waders, especially for river work. However, since the start of the season (March the 3rd) I have been testing the Super Tuff waders from Airflo on both river and stillwater, and guess what? They have been pretty good so far.

Airflo Super-Tuff Waders

Airflo Super-Tuff Waders

It started as a convenience thing – bootfoot’s are extremely quick and easy to take on and off, ideal for short lunch time sessions where time is at a premium. Another factor has been the brutally cold spring. With snow on the banks and sub zero temperatures, the last thing I wanted to do was lace up wading boots and go through the tedious process of taking them off again when wet, with even colder, numb hands. So a set of bootfoot’s was the simple answer.

Super Tuff are made of a thick, heavy duty PVC material. A bit like the old ocean waders that were once renowned for their reliability. What struck me was their suppleness – they are not heavy to wear and slip on and off like a glove. The wader appears to be very well put together, with comfortable and easily adjustable shoulder straps. There is an inner pocket and a drawstring should you wish to close the top up.

Superior knee protection

Superior knee protection

The waders have extra thick knee pad reinforcements, which I have found ideal for scrambling out of the river in tight spaces without putting holes in them. In terms of accidental damage, they have been pretty bomb proof, almost like a suit of armour. They have been perfect for tramping though bramble thickets, knotwood groves and sliding across steep urban river banks riddled with broken glass and rusty beer tins – terrain that can make mincemeat of a lightweight wader in a short space of time.

A worry was that the grip on treacherous river stones would be inadequate. Thankfully, the Super-Tuff boots are fitted with pre-installed tungsten studs and a heavily cleated tread, which makes a huge difference. In fact the grip was nearly as good as felt boots fitted with studs and I was able to wade in confidence over some really nasty bottom types. Walking the banks was easy and I haven’t slipped on wet grassy banks once.

Non slip tread with studs for safe wading

Non slip tread with studs for safe wading

One thing bootfoot waders don’t offer is much support for the ankle or protection from uneven, sharp rocks around your toes. I got round this to some extent by wearing a set of neoprene socks which really improved the comfort level. The waders are quite roomy in the foot, which allows you to fit a pair of these in, or you could wear an extra pair of woolen socks.

I found the Super-Tuff were really handy for keeping on ‘stand by’ in the car- I’m one for quickly throwing anything into the boot, and being PVC these don’t retain any excess water meaning my car doesn’t smell of damp after a day. There is no risk of the wader developing mildew and they are essentially maintenance free.

Having done a lot of walking in them I haven’t found the lack of breathability to be an issue, although it’s been a bit on the chilly side weather wise. They are not as warm as neoprene and are therefore less likely to make you break into a sweat. Compared to breathable’s they definitely provide more of a barrier against cold water, making you feel less chilled whilst in the river. Overall they have been utterly reliable so far, so I’m going to continue using them until the really warm weather kicks in. Which being Wales, could be another few months.

Priced at £79.99, Airflo Super-Tuff waders are available here.

River Specials – 5 Early Season Fly Patterns For Flowing water

The river trout season is now underway across the majority of the UK! It’s been a tough start, with fluctuating river levels and snow.

However with Easter approaching things are looking much better- but the question is which flies to use? Here we pick our top five proven essential river patterns from Caledonia fly.

Essential early season river flies

Essential early season river flies.

1. Klink and Dink Special -Size 12

The ‘klink & dink’ method is extremely effective in spring. By adding a trailing nymph you can cover the best of both worlds; sub surface nymphing and dry fly. This special Klinkhammer from Caledonia fly has a built in ring for you to easily attach your tippet. It also helps improve hook up rates when fish strike at the dry fly; there is less chance of your line slipping down and masking the point.

2. Gold Bead Hares ear – Size 14

A classic fly pattern that is hard to beat. Imitates almost anything, including cased caddis, upwing fly nymphs and even tiny fish fry. The glint of the gold bead and rib will entice even the most lethargic of trout, while the scruffy hares ear body suggests something ‘buggy’ and edible. In a smaller size it works perfectly with the fly above as the ‘dink’.

3. Hot Spot PTN jig -Size 12

This jig fly is designed to fish point up, bounced hard across the bottom. The red thorax offers a hot spot that can trigger a strike, whilst the peacock herl gives an impression of life. This dark fly stands out well in slightly coloured water, making it perfect for early season when the rivers are on the high side. A heavy fly, It is best fished on a French leader or drifted under a strike indicator.

4. March Brown Upright – Size 12

The March brown and the Brook dun are two important spring upwing fly hatches that you will run into on the river at some point. This imitation from Caladonia fly can be used for both. It sits flush to the surface and is super buoyant. In addition it’s deer hair wing casts a nice silhouette that appeals to dun feeding fish. A real winner that has produced many fish for us.

5. Parachute Large Dark Olive – Size 14

The ‘bread and butter’ spring fly hatch, the large dark olive is a fly pattern you should never be without during the spring months. This parachute version sits nicely in the surface film and inspires confident rises. It is also a brilliant generalisitic ‘searching’ pattern that will bring trout up that are opportunistically looking for a surface meal.

Early season trout

Early season trout – a victim of the hot spot PTN nymph.

5 Top Early Season Trout Flies

Spring is finally here – or is it winter? The fishing at the moment on stillwater fisheries and our trout reservoirs has been difficult, to say the least.

When it comes to fly choice, the right patterns can make all the difference in challenging early season conditions. Here we have picked our 5 top attractor flies to help you beat the spring chill, with a few tips on how to fish them.

A selection of early season trout fishing flies

A selection of early season trout fishing flies

1. Orange Booby – Size 10

What early season fly box would be complete without the booby? Orange is a dead cert colour that will attract freshly stocked fish. This version by Caledonia fly has a lot of extra movement in the marabou wing and straggle fritz body. Fish on a Di7 sinking fly line for best results either singularly or part of a team. A slow and twitchy figure of eight retrieve will often bring best success.

2. Silver Humongous – Size 10 Long Shank

A deadly early season lure pattern that will trigger the aggressive interest of the most lethargic fish, even in extreme cold water temperatures. As well as stocked trout, It also appeals to resident and overwintered fish, especially fry eating browns. Use on a Di3 or Di5 sinker with long strips and regular pauses. Expect arm wrenching takes!

3. Pink Diver Nymph – Size 10

A deadly ‘nymph’ that is perfect for fishing static under a strike indicator (Check out our guide). For cold water set the fly at a good depth to start, and simply let the wind do the work. The wind and wave action will make the rubber legs twitch enticingly, making the fly hard to refuse.

4. Marabou Montana – Size 10

Black and green is a lethal combination for the early part of the season. This take on the classic Montana nymph adds a heavy bead and some marabou to create a winning blend. Fish on a floating line with a very long leader (15 to 20 foot) let it sink right to the bottom and then literally crawl it back with a slow figure of eight.

5. Hotty Dancer – Size 10

Yellow and white has been proven as a brilliant choice for coloured, cold water – for example snow melt conditions. The addition of a hot head bead enhances the patterns appeal and works as a trigger point. Fish on a fast intermediate fly line and retrieve with a slow, but steady strip after allowing the fly to sink a few feet down.

An ealry season prize on the orange booby

An early season prize on the orange booby!

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!

About the author

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

From April 2018, Theo will be working 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.

First Look At The Airflo Super Stik MK2 Fly Rod

Fishtec team member Gareth Wilson has been testing a new rod on several stillwater trout fisheries this winter. Read on to find out how he fared with the new Airflo Super Stik MK2 fly rod.

Late in 2017 I was handed a rod to test. It was the follow on for the original Super Stik and one I was keen to put through its paces. Immediately I was impressed with the great cosmetics and the high standards that the MKII has been built to. The addition of a composite/cork handle has increased grip and the olive finish creates a great looking rod at an even better price.

The all new Airflo Super Stik Mk2 fly rod

The all new Airflo Super Stik Mk2 fly rod

However, a good-looking rod is of little use if it cannot perform on the water. For our first test we took the rod to Lechlade Trout Fisheries. With the goal of seeing how the rod would handle double figure fish. We set up as usual with the Airflo Super-Dri 6ft Mini Tip in a weight forward 7 and single fly. Lures would be the choice for a chilly day in December and some of my home tied flies would prove deadly.

I started off with a Chartreuse Hot Head Tadpole and started fan casting on the top end of the lake casting to rising fish. As I cast into the wind and to a rise close to the island I gave a few quick strips to get in contact with the fly and entice any fish feeding in the area to follow before returning to a slow figure eight. Half way through the retrieve I paused before quickly speeding up the retrieve and bang, fish on! The fight was incredible taking me back and forth along the bank. I had never felt a stocked fish fight this hard and the bend in the rod reminded me of a wild welsh sewin, doing what he wanted and refusing to turn in the direction I wanted. After an incredible fight we finally landed the beast.

A nice double put a serious bend in the rod!

A nice Lechlade double put a serious bend in the rod!

This was the start of a good day. We switched to the incredible cat (my own cat’s whisker variant) and cast out. After a few aborted follows I slowed the retrieve right down, just keeping in touch with the fly. This retrieve bought on a savage take from a smaller fish of about 6lb. After a short aerial performance in which the rod absorbed every jump and lunge the fish came to the net. We finished the day with our 6 fish and the rod handled extremely well especially considering the average size of fish was 10lb.

Another one bites the dust.

Another one bites the dust.

First impressions of the rod where great. With it’s smooth progressive mid-tip  action and responsive feel it looked like a great rod for buzzer and nymph fishing. With this in mind, a trip to Ellerdine was arranged. The goal of today would be to test out a team of buzzers and bloodworms and we how the rod would cope with multiple small flies and a slightly smaller but more energetic size of fish. I set up with an 18ft G3 Fluorocarbon leader and a team of 3 flies with 6 ft separating each from the other. The goal when fishing this kind of approach is to let the wind do the work for you barely moving the flies, only retrieving to keep in touch with them.

It wasn’t long before we had our first fish. A lovely 2lbs Ellerdine rainbow. This was followed by another 2 trout in quick succession. I then switched to my Black Mamba V2 lure. This fly is fitted with a Guideline salmon disc, which imparts a wobble but also hinders casting aerodynamics. The rod coped with this fly extremely well, with superior presentation.

The black mamba V2 fly

The black mamba V2 fly

First cast along the bank and a few tail nips later I decided to speed up the retrieve. I cast beside an overhanging tree and began to strip and almost instantly had a take from a beautiful brown trout. This fish, although small, was a nice addition and was very silver for a brown. I finished the day with another 6 fish and the rod had shown no signs of weakness.

As a third and final test I decided to use the rod while boat fishing. With all the usual big reservoirs closed, my attention turned to the smaller Gludy Lake. A stunning fishery set in the Brecon countryside with catch and release being the only form of fishing on offer. This leads to some truly stunning fully finned fish that put up an incredible fight. Its clear waters meant that a stealthy approach would have to be taken and the electric boats on site are perfect for this.

The Airflo Super Stik mk2 on test

The Airflo Super Stik mk2 on test on Gludy lake.

On the day we were met with a stubborn easterly wind and temperatures that rarely got above freezing. After assessing the situation, the Airflo Forty Plus Fast Intermediate was the correct choice for the conditions as getting your flies to the cruising level of the fish is incredibly important early season.

The fly that seemed to be getting all the interested was a Shaggy Damsel. Within 30 minutes of putting the fly on I had many takes and pulls and landed 2 silver rainbows, both around the 2lb mark.

We drifted in front of the house situated on the lake and cast into the weed. Suddenly, I had a ferocious take. It bored deep. I thought it may have been one of the brownies that grow on and become incredibly difficult to tempt. The fish started towing the boat taking us out into the deeper water. As he surfaced and turned to go on another run the blue flanks were clear to see, the brown was in fact a big blue trout. After seeing the size of the fish, I gave it respect and if it wanted to go on another run, I let it. After landing the special fish, I was happy with a new PB blue trout of 4.3lbs and with full fins and a perfect tail. This bright blue fish will be one I will remember for some time.

A nice gludy blue

A nice Gludy blue.

To sum it up, the Airflo Super Stik Mk 2 is a cosmetically pleasing upgrade from it’s predecessor and is more than capable of handling fish of all sizes whilst casting extremely well. The progressive action is user friendly and provides brilliant presentation of a variety of fly sizes and types. The perfect stillwater trout fishing rod in my opinion.

Gareth tested the 10′ #6/7 model. Airflo Super Stik Mk2 fly rods are available April 2018. Each rod is supplied with a quality cordura case and a FREE Airflo Super-Dri fly line. For more info click here.

Count down to opening day: UK reservoir fisheries dates 2018

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

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

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

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

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

• Stocks Reservoir (Forest of Bowland, Lancashire)

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

• Rutland Water (near Oakham, Rutland)

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

• Draycote (near Rugby, Warwickshire)

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

• Grafham Water (near Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire)

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

• Llyn Brenig (Denbigh Moors, north Wales)

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

• Llyn Clywedog (near Llanidloes, mid Wales)

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

• Llandegfedd (near Pontypool, south Wales)

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

• Chew Valley Lake (Mendip Hills, near Bristol)

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

• Blagdon Lake (Mendip Hills, near Bristol)

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

• Hawkridge (near Bridgewater, Somerset)

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

 

Countdown to open season: at a glance

Fishery

Open season

More information

Stocks Reservoir

(Forest of Bowland, Lancs)

24 February 2018 www.stocksreservoir.com/
Rutland Water

(Oakham, Rutland)

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

(Rugby, Warwickshire)

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

(Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire)

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

(Denbigh Moors, north Wales)

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

(Llanidloes, mid Wales)

8 March 2018 www.clywedogtroutfishing.co.uk
Llandegfedd

(Pontypool, south Wales)

1 March (rainbow trout),

20 March (brown trout)

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

(Mendip Hills, near Bristol)

6 March (season tickets),

8 March (non-season tickets)

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

(Mendip Hills, near Bristol)

13 March (season tickets),

15 March (non-season tickets)

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

(Bridgewater, Somerset)

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

 

UK Stillwater fly fisheries opening 2018

Click to download your free handy guide

More about the author…

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

Urgings of a Short Month By Rene’ Harrop

The latest musings from respected American fly fishing author Rene’ Harrop.

The days of deep winter in Henry’s Fork country do not necessarily end with January. But while February can feature equally cold temperatures and even more snowfall, the notion of a coming spring can begin to accelerate with its arrival.

February On The Fork

February On The Fork

With daylight hours noticeably longer and the potential for ice free water an increasing likelihood, the state of progress on winter projects can become a source of discomfort if distractions cause me to fall behind.

For me, few things are more stressful than losing a day of prime fishing to an indoor task that must be completed before spring. This was not a problem during the big winter last year, but 2018 is shaping up to be somewhat different.

Rene’ in action on the fork!

The severely cold temperatures, deep snow, and low winter flows of 2017 have yet to materialize and much of the river is ice free as of this writing. With more water flowing in the Henry’s Fork than I have seen in recent times, I am anticipating some of the best late winter and early spring fishing we have experienced in several years.

In the absence of extreme winter hardship, past experience has shown a healthier and more active trout population and aquatic insect life has displayed similar effect as well. If I am correct and the weather pattern we have seen thus far continues, there is no question that my personal discipline will be severely tested in the weeks that lie ahead.

March looms just beyond a month that carries only twenty eight days of relatively distraction free opportunity to finish restocking depleted fly boxes in advance of a new season and to complete household chores assigned at the beginning of winter. If neglected, some of those chores can carry a penalty administered by a stern enforcer.

While a mild winter and early spring cannot be assured at this point, there are signs that could indicate the arrival of Baetis hatches as early as the end of the month and strong midge action could arrive considerably earlier. But this leaves me with a dilemma.

February Distraction

February Distraction….

It is almost unnatural for a fisherman to hope for weather that would discourage time on the water with a fly rod, but that is what I am facing right now. Reviewing a checklist, I am finding enough unfinished projects to bring urgency into the need for more time.

Being forced to remain indoors by blizzard conditions or subzero temperatures is something I have never particularly enjoyed, but I also know my weakness in resisting a pleasant February day that holds the potential for rising trout. Shirking my responsibilities at home for the sake of fishing is a character-flaw my wife has accepted for more than fifty years. The resumption of real winter weather is probably all that could prevent further testing of her patience, but I am not getting carried away in this regard. I’m ready for spring.

Rene’ Harrop is a big fan of the Airflo Super Dri Elite fly line – his ‘go to’ all purpose taper line for the Henry’s Fork and many other venues. Check them out here.

Women who cast

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

Marina Gibson

Marina-gibson1

Marina caught the fishing bug from her mum.

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

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

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

Anne Woodcock

anne-woodcock-new

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

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

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

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

Beverley Clifford

bevclifford

Here’s one I caught earlier.

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

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

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

Bex Nelson

Bex-Nelson

All I want for Christmas is…

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

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

Katie Griffiths

Katie-Griffiths

Katie loves her carp.

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

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

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

Lucy Bowden

Lucy-Bowden

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

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

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

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

Casting for recovery

Ladies kicking in wellies

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

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

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

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

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