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!

Fly Fishing Tackle New Gear – Airflo Super Stik II Rod Review

If you are looking for a mid-level fly rod that is ‘just right’ in terms of action, feel, cosmetics and performance then the Airflo Super Stik II’s could be a safe bet. Here Robbie Winram of Trout Fisherman magazine gives the range a comprehensive review – read on to find out more.

The Airflo Super Stik II fly rod

The Airflo Super Stik II fly rod

Airflo Super Stik II rods from £139.99

AIRFLO have relaunched their Super Stik rods in two ranges – the standard range consists of seven dual rated three-piece models, and the competition specials are four piece 10ft rods in 6wt, 7wt and 8wt.

The standard Super Stik II’s are: 9ft 5/6wt and 9ft 6/7wt at £139.99; 9ft 6in 6/7wt and 9ft 6in 7/8wt at £149.99; and 10ft 6/7wt, 10ft 6/7wt and 10ft 6in 7/8 at £159.99.

While the old Super Stik’s featured bright red blanks, the new ones are a subtle olive-green colour. The other difference is in the cork handle which now has a ‘flexible’ 1.5-inch section of composite and natural cork rings, aimed at reducing wear in this high-pressure area.

I had the 9ft 6in 6/7wt rod on test which I set up with a 6wt floating line. Even with a relatively short length of line on the water the rod loaded smoothly, all the flex coming from the top quarter. I was able to generate some good line speeds and nice tight loops. As I started to get a feel for the rod, working longer head lengths outside the tip, the blank flexed a little deeper, almost to the midway section, living up to its rating as a middle-to-tip action rod. But it handled these longer lengths competently.

My casting stroke was quite long and I found it a very relaxed affair with the rod doing the majority of the work. With overhead and double hauling taken care of I moved onto continuous motion casts such as the roll and switch. Here, the softer flex in the blank really paid dividends with some nice casts going out onto the water.

Fishing and casting with midge-tips through to fast intermediate lines also saw good results and nice turnover. Only when I tried out some medium to fast sinkers did I feel the rod working a good deal harder to perform at the same level. I just had to shorten the head lengths and watch my timings for those distance casts.

VERDICT:

A great all-round rod for floating and sinking line work. The dual 6/7 rating means this rod will also take a 7wt line so I spent a good bit of time with the heavier floating and sinking density lines as well. The 6wt balanced the rod just right for my casting style but what the7wt gives you is a little bit more help with loading the rod, a real bonus if your casting isn’t quite up to scratch.

Airflo Super Stik II competition special rods £169.99

THE 10ft Super Stik II competition specials are available in 6wt, 7wt and 8wt, and are all four piece models so are easier to travel with and store out of the way in the boat.

Airflo say the rods have slightly more ‘steel’ in the butt section than the standard models, which not only helps to knock fish over so you can get them into the boat quickly, but also helps when striving for those distance casts to cover fish at range. This slightly different action really makes light work of sinking lines.

The 10ft 6wt that I tried out was also proficient with floating and intermediate lines, giving good turnover and presentation. When it came to roll and switch casts it was nowhere near as smooth as the standard 9ft 6in 6/7wt, but with overhead and double hauling it had a beautiful feel and I could aerialise very long casts with little effort.

Airflo Super Stik II Comp special

Airflo Super Stik II Comp special

VERDICT:

This is not a difficult rod to cast so will find favour with anglers of all abilities. It does have a bit more steel than the standard Super Stik II model so is very good at pulling fish quickly to the boat and also fishing a range of dense sinking lines.

Airflo Super Stik II fly rods – ‘Tackle testers choice’

Fly Tying Gear – Hardwear Fly Tying Tool Range

With the winter months on the horizon many anglers now begin fly tying over the cold, dark months so their fly boxes are well stocked in time for the start of next season.

If you are thinking of starting, or need a budget conscious set of quality tying tools then the Hardwear range could be the answer. Here, Trout Fisherman magazine talk us through the range.

Fly-tying gear: Robbie Winram brings you news and reviews of the latest materials and tools to hit the market.

Tools to get you started

These ‘entry level’ Hardwear tools will get your fly-tying journey off to a good start without breaking the bank.

1 Rotary hackle pliers £3.49
The revolving feature of these pliers ensures the hackle doesn’t twist out of line when you wrap it around the hook shank. The sprung-metal jaws holds materials firmly and the knurled aluminium handle ensures a comfortable and reliable grip.

2 Dubbing brush £3.49
The wire brush is fairly stiff so when you are picking out dubbing and other fibres just tread carefully. It is set into a knurled aluminium handle which makes it easy to grip and comfortable to use.

3 Deluxe whip finish tool £2.99
While it is possible to create a whip finish with your fingers, if you’re not that nimble fingered or have rough skin you might find a whip finish tool an easier solution. Once you get used to how it works it is very easy to use and produces a neat and secure head (visit www.troutfisherman.co.uk and search for ‘the whip finish’ for a demonstration).

4 Hackle pliers £2.50
These traditional English-style spring-loaded hackle pliers have a set of long jaws and two finger pads to depress for opening and closing. The inside face of the jaws are not ridged or raised so I would add a little bit of silicone rubber tubing on one jaw to give extra grip on slippery materials.

5 Bobbin holder £2.99
A traditional spring-arm design with a stainless steel tube and brass feet. It will take a range of small and large bobbins. While the thread tube is very smooth it is not ceramic lined so don’t overwork your thread in one place or you could weaken it.

6 Four-inch scissors £3.99
These have 1.25-inch blades and are non-serrated, giving a clean cut on a range of
materials.

7 Arrowpoint spring scissors £4.99
These are five inches long and being spring loaded are ideal for repetitive cutting strokes. Just depress the handles between thumb and forefinger to cut, then release the pressure to open the blades. The scissors have three quarter-inch long blades with extra fine points, ideal for close in, accurate cutting.

8 Fly-tying scissors £3.99
The same size as the four-inch scissors, but these have extra-large open finger loops. They would be a good choice if you have chunky fingers, but my personal preference is for the standard loops as I find them more comfortable. The fine point blades are super sharp for an excellent close cut.

Hardwear fly tying tools are available here.

 

New Tricks for an Old Dog By Rene’ Harrop October, 2018

It is no secret that I am a man of rivers. Drawn to their mysteries at a very young age, my identity has been forged on moving water where a fly rod has been a constant companion for more than sixty years.

Stillwater action On Sheridan lake

With dry fly fishing as the primary focus, my profession as a fly tyer hinges upon understanding trout and the organisms that draw them into view as they feed on a fluid surface. Knowledge and skill are the primary components of finding big trout and then overcoming their resistance to an artificial fly. Over the decades, my comfort on the water has evolved in proportion to the confidence gained from a near obsession that demands a solution to every problem encountered. In recent years, however, a growing distraction has pulled me toward a dimension of fly fishing that forces a level of humility that I sometimes struggle to accept.

Henry’s Lake Prize

The mental exercise of probing the depths of still water has become a stimulating factor that now accounts for perhaps fifteen or twenty percent of my attention. The steep learning curve installed by such a late start in an already long life might have compelled an early withdrawal were it not for a mentor several decades younger than I.

Gareth Jones with Sheridan’s best

Gareth Jones is a still water master of international acclaim, and we fished together again just last week. Every visit from this friend of more than a dozen years has been an opportunity to learn, and his latest was no exception.

Fishing two distinctly different lakes over the four day visit, Gareth again proved an uncommon ability to quickly ascertain the requirements of getting fish in constantly changing weather conditions varying from near disastrous to ideal.

It mattered little to Gareth that cold, strong wind and discolored water wreaked havoc on Henry’s Lake, a splendid public fishery of notable reputation. He had a solution for the problems that drove nearly everyone else from the water, and the day ended with more than a dozen respectable trout.

Another Big One

On privately owned Sheridan Lake, Gareth’s still water prowess kicked into high gear in fall weather that could not have been more pleasant. For an observer, it was like watching Houdini perform magic tricks as fish after fish succumbed to his mastery.

Through each impressive demonstration, Gareth provided detailed explanation of technique along with generous access to his impressive fly boxes. At days end my brain was swimming with new information that will keep me busy on the water and at the tying bench for at least a year. I know too that the learning will continue on Gareth’s next visit, which I hope is soon.

A Good Ride

 

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

The Hare’s Ear fly

The Hare’s Ear fly
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

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

Tying your own flies

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

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

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

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

Scruffy does it

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

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

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

What you need to tie the Hare’s Ear

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s what you need:

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

Tying the Hare’s Ear, step by step

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Hare’s Ear tips and variations

Variations and twists on the Hare’s Ear fly.

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

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

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

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

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

Read more from Dom Garnett

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

The Sunray Shadow; versatility and simplicity personified

The sunray shadow is an immensely useful and versatile fly, often provoking a reaction when nothing else will. It can work throughout the season and under almost all river levels and conditions.

They work well for salmon, of course, but also work extremely well for sea trout, becoming a ‘must-have’ pattern on the likes of the Rio Grande in Argentina but also on rivers closer to home. Brown trout will often attack them too, provoking a cannibalistic reaction from fish of all sizes.

The Sunray Shadow fly

The Sunray Shadow fly – useful and versatile!

They are, as a rule, easy to dress. Indeed, in the most simplistic form they can literally be a stack of black fur over white fur! However, as a rule we are content with something a little more aesthetically pleasing, which is often when and why patterns evolve from their original state.

A myriad of different dressings exist for the pattern and no doubt it has ‘evolved’ over the years to suit certain situations, different imaginations or even access to materials. The following is my interpretation and has served me well when dressing smaller sizes and, in particular, when dressing onto hooks rather than tubes.

For salmon, sea trout and even brown trout the Sunray Shadow is an effective fly

For salmon, sea trout and even brown trout the Sunray Shadow is an effective fly

TYING INGREDIENTS

Hook: Partridge Patriot up eye double – sizes 6-14

Body: Silver holographic flat braid tinsel. Place some superglue on the thread base before wrapping over the braid. This will help protect the body from unravelling.

False Hackle: White arctic runner – loose/fine underfur removed

Wing 1: White arctic runner – loose/fine underfur removed. To stop the wing wrapping around the hook, you may also support this finer fur with a few white bucktail fibres if you wish.

Wing 2: Silver holographic lite brite

Wing 3: Black arctic fox – loose/fine underfur removed. Or, my personal favourite, especially for smaller sunrays, is American opossum. Draw out some tips before tying in, which will help taper the wing.

Wing 4: 3-4 peacock herl tips

Cheeks: Jungle cock – optional

Do dress them in different lengths, and vary the one being fished according to colour and water temperature. Don’t be afraid to fish them from 1 inch long through to 8-10 inches on tube versions. Do also make some with a gold body and gold lite brite underwing, then replace the white arctic runner with yellow or chartreuse, this can be a great pattern, especially in coloured/peat-stained water.

A sea trout that fell for the charms of the Sunray Shadow

A sea trout that fell for the charms of the Sunray Shadow

Steffan Jones has fished for sea trout all over the world, but the Teifi and Towy Rivers in West-Wales are his home waters and where he honed his skills. These rivers became his laboratories on which to test theories and fine-tune fly patterns. He has guided people onto sea trout for over twenty years and recently released a book on sea trout fishing – for more information please contact book@sea-trout.co.uk

Back End Boat Fishing on Reservoirs – What Lines and Flies are best?

Autumn must be one of the best times of the season to get out and fish! Here Kieron Jenkins of Fulling Mill takes a closer look at ‘back end’ fishing on our reservoirs and reveals how you can make the most of this brilliant time of year whilst afloat.

When it comes to reservoir fishing the end of the season is one of my absolute favourite times to fish. The fish are high in the water and extremely active, the winds are often strong and rejuvenate depleted oxygen levels from the summer, giving the fish a new lease of life. As the temperatures drop to a more comfortable 15-18 degrees insect life increases with daddies and sedges appearing in abundance, along with daphnia blooms flourishing.

The end of the season is one of my absolute favourite times to fish!!

The end of the season is one of my absolute favourite times to fish!!

Fishing wise, you very rarely have to go below 3ft in depth to find the fish, and keeping your flies high in the water is key to getting more takes. Airflo’s range of ‘tip lines’ are tremendous for presenting your flies in the feeding zone for longer – and keeping them there – as opposed to the straight sinkers of any densities which continue to fall through the water column, however slow they sink.

What method to use?

One style of fishing which has taken the reservoir scene by storm is the washing line method. In short, the washing line features a buoyant fly on the point of a three or four fly cast, which holds your leader up on the far end, while the flies on the droppers and your sink tip line gently falls and holds through the taking zone. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most effective ways to fish a reservoir.

A victim of the deadly washing line method

A victim of the deadly washing line method

The washing line is particularly good for fishing imitative patterns such as nymphs and buzzers, allowing them to effectively ‘hang’ in the surface at a mostly uniform depth. The buoyant fly on the point either consists of a FAB or a Booby depending on the amount of buoyancy needed – If you’d prefer your flies to gently fall, a FAB is great because of the minimal amount of foam in the fly, but if you’d prefer your flies to skate across the surface creating a wake for attraction, a booby is second to none.

What Fly Lines do I need and how do they work?

The trick behind fishing the washing line effectively is using the correct fly lines, and the Airflo tip lines are without doubt the best on the market. With a range of 5 different lengths and densities -with another being added to the range watch this space – every eventuality is covered.

Airflo Super-Dri tip fly lines ready for action

Airflo Super-Dri tip fly lines ready for action

Airflo 3ft Mini Tip

The 3ft mini tip is the ideal fly line for anchoring your flies below the surface, and quickly. It features a fast intermediate tip which sinks at 1.5 inches per second, this allows you to fish extremely slow and keep them at the exact depth almost all the way through your cast. This line is more suited to straight line nymph or buzzer fishing, but can be super effective when fishing the washing line if the fish are within the top 2 ft. Personally, I prefer this line for fishing in near flat calm conditions.

Click here to check out the 3ft Mini tip fly lines

Airflo 6ft Slow Tip

The 6ft slow tip is THE best line on the market for fishing sub surface, the slow intermediate tip sinks at a rate of 0.5 inches per second and gently falls allowing you to present your flies perfectly to around 1ft in depth. Being just 6ft long the tip doesn’t hinge when sinking, keeping you in full control and in contact with your flies – if anything, it fishes more like your old floater that gets dragged down at the end. I like this like particularly for fishing sub surface and minimising any wake off the flies, a deadly line on Llyn Brenig and Llandegfedd reservoir.

Airflo 6ft Fast Tip

The 6ft fast tip is an exceptionally good line when the fish are around 2-3ft deep. The fast tip which sinks at 1.5 inches per second beds in quickly and is perfect for hanging your flies at a constant depth, it’s one of my all-time favourite fly lines for fishing the washing line as it’s so versatile. A four fly cast with two small boobies will create enough disturbance to grab the attention of any fish in the area, but quickly drop and present the flies in the feeding zone, it can also be brought back up quickly with a few good pulls. It’s a perfect alternative to the costly Rio Midge Tip.

Click here to check out the 6ft Mini tip fly lines

Airflo 12ft Slow Tip

In my opinion, the 12ft slow tip is a must have line for fishing washing line style. The tip sinks at just 0.5 inches per second and keeps you in direct control of your flies. It allows you to fish anywhere from 6 inches to 2ft in depth with ease depending on the speed of your retrieve. As much as it’s a great line for fishing the washing line, it’s all extremely effective for pulling wet flies for wild brown trout, allowing you to fish your flies just below the surface and keeping the wake to a minimum not to spook weary nearby fish.

Airflo 12ft Fast Tip

The 12ft fast tip lets you fish much deeper than the other mini tip lines in the range, the length of the tip which sinks at 1.5 inches per second allows you to really drop your flies down if you fish slow. It’s a great line for early summer fishing when trout tend to drop. Earlier on in the year I done extremely well fishing a team of 4 buzzers on this line at Rutland water, the water was as clear as I’ve ever seen it and the fish were hard on the buzzer 20ft down. The only line I could present my flies at this depth was with this 12ft fast tip, once the flies hit the depth it was a case of holding on for the take.

Click here to check out the 12ft Mini tip fly lines                

One thing that sets these lines off against any other on the market is the use of Super-Dri technology in the floating section. It’s extremely buoyant and doesn’t get dragged down by the weight of the tips and sits super high on the surface, allowing you to fish in exactly the same depth as the previous cast, as well as keeping you in as much control as possible. When the fish are high in the water you often see fish rise or bulge in the ripple, the SD technology also allows you to peal your line off the water quickly to cover them with ease, simply covering more fish = more takes.

This nice autumn trout took a liking to a FAB

This nice autumn trout took a liking to a FAB

Recommended Fly Patterns

Fishing at the end of the season means one thing, you must keep your flies high in the water, and there are 3 styles of fly which allow you to fish the washing line effectively. The FAB, Blob booby and a Mini Booby – each give different ways of fishing the method and present your flies slightly different.

The FAB allows your flies to cut through the wave quickly and settle at a pretty uniform depth throughout – My favourite has to be the Biscuit FAB as it offers a subtle, but attractive colour combination which will work for recently stocked and resident fish alike.

The Mini Cat Booby is particularly effective when it comes to nymphing on the washing line. It gives off a lot of movement with the marabou tail and straggle fritz body – but still maintaining the slim profile that may imitate anything from a small clump of daphnia, fry or a damsel nymph if tied in appropriate colours.

When there are an abundance of stockies around you simply cannot beat the Tequila Booby – If this is the case, a four fly cast with two nymphs or cormorants on the middle droppers, and two tequila boobies on the point and top dropper can be deadly. The two blob type boobies are irresistible to stocked fish.

For the dropper flies, I tend to vary them depending on how deep I want to fish. I usually have a selection of Diawl Bachs, Cormorants and Hoppers. Here’s a quick insight into fishing what flies and when.

  • Nymphs – Use them when the trout are educated and feeding naturally – They also sink quickly so great for fishing in windy conditions.
  • Cormorants – Ideal for stocked fish because of the movement. Great middle dropper patterns when fish may chase boobies or blobs and turn away last minute. These smaller more mobile patterns often result in takes when the fish have gone off the colour.
  • Hoppers – Most effective when the fish are extremely high in the surface, they imitate emerging buzzers or corixa and allow you to keep everything fishing high in the water without dropping too quickly.

    Back end fly fishing success on Chew valley lake

    Back end fly fishing success on Chew valley lake

Sea Trout Surface Lures; Striking the Perfect Balance

When it comes to sea trout flies the ones I tend to adapt and experiment with the most are undoubtedly surface lures. The reason why is simple; they are the hardest ones to get right, but, more importantly, the ones that need to be right in order to maximise their effectiveness and hooking efficiency.

The ultimate sea trout surface lure?

The ultimate sea trout surface lure?

Surface lures are deadly. If you enjoy night-time fishing for sea trout then chances are you already have a handful within your arsenal. If you do not, then that is something you really need to rectify as soon as possible as they can often get a reaction or save a blank night when nothing else provokes a reaction. They can work throughout the year and are worth trying no matter what the conditions. However, as a rule, they do work better when the water has warmed up and also tend to work better later in the season.

Without getting too technical, the most important attribute of a surface lure beyond creating a wake is to fish ‘in’ rather than ‘on’ the surface. This may sound simple, but it is actually difficult to achieve this critical balance. However, achieving it can mean the difference between a reaction to the fly and a secure hook-up. For those looking to cover the science of the surface lure more in-depth then please do refer to the surface lure chapter within my book, which was released in February 2018 (Sea Trout Tips, Tricks & Tribulations).

Material choice is paramount. Different properties will achieve different results. Too buoyant and the sea trout will push the surface lure away when attempting to intercept, too heavy and the fly will sink, negating its purpose and application. For me, to achieve this perfect balance you need to use a combination of materials, some being more buoyant than others, securing the equilibrium.

Hook placement is also worthy of careful consideration. Ideally the hook/s ride under the water’s surface, which helps anchor the overall fly in the surface film whilst also making them easy for the sea trout to intercept. Also on the hook front; have confidence in single hooks. I firmly believe they give the best hook-hold of all, but also make for easier release of the fish with minimal damage – they are too precious to be caught just once, especially given their multi-spawning nature.

After much trial and error I believe the following pattern is as close to perfect as I will achieve. It rides well in the surface, the hooks are placed strategically from a hooking perspective and the overall dressing still has a nice thick, fussy profile but remains relatively aerodynamic as there is minimal bulk. The use of shrink tubing for the mount ensures the best chance of landing the fish once hooked, as it moves with the fish rather than hinging, yet is not too malleable that it doubles back on itself.

Deer hair is used partly for its buoyancy, but more for its messy profile and silhouette. It is cut flat on the top and bottom, retaining the length on both sides – the part that will cast the silhouette. Clipping the deer hair closely on the bottom helps the fly ride low in the surface but also allows clear access to the hook point for the fish. The main buoyancy comes from black plastazote foam. However, this buoyancy is stacked high on the fly, keeping the hooks and main dressing low; either in or below the surface film. This is perfect, as you get the main wake from the deer hair, but the major buoyancy from the foam – best of both worlds. Also, the positioning of the foam accentuates the fishing angle, forcing the body and tail of the fly to break the surface film. This, again, helps create a perfect presentation; easily intercepted and engulfed by the sea trout.

Dress them in different lengths. Some nights a smaller surface lure will be required and will be taken far more confidently than a larger one, which may only be splashed at. If the water is cooler or if there is a lot of mist on the water where very little seems to be provoking a reaction then much larger surface lures need to be deployed for a reaction – an overall dressing of three inches would certainly not be excessive.

Sea trout surface lures - tied to catch more fish!

Sea trout surface lures – tied to catch more fish!

TYING INGREDIENTS

Front hook: Wide gape, mid shank – Partridge Attitude Extra is a good option; size

Trailing hook: Partridge Nordic Tube Single; size 6-8

Link:
30lb+ braid with 2.4mm black shrink tubing over – make sure not to damage the braid when heating the shrink tubing.

Body:
Holographic silver flat braid

Wing 1: Black bucktail

Wing 2: Pearl crystal hair

Head 1: Black deer hair

Head 2: 4-6mm black plastazote foam sheet

As an optional extra; you may place a dab of superglue on top of the black foam then dip this part into glow-in-the-dark powder, which is charged by torchlight. Place this on the back section rather than the front lip. You will be able to see the surface lure track across the pool, which is very exciting. You see the glow, but the fish just see the silhouette.

Steffan Jones has fished for sea trout all over the world, but the Teifi and Towy Rivers in West-Wales are his home waters and where he honed his skills. These rivers became his laboratories on which to test theories and fine-tune fly patterns. He has guided people onto sea trout for over twenty years and recently released a book on sea trout fishing – for more information please contact book@sea-trout.co.uk

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!

A Time of Plenty By Rene’ Harrop September, 2018

The departure of summer in the high country is a process that begins well before the Autumn Equinox. It may be something as small as adding an extra blanket on the bed in late August or a morning layer of thin ice on the dog’s water bowl at about the same time. At the fly shops, river guides may linger with clients for an extra hour while waiting for temperature that may not be sufficiently comfortable until well past eight a.m.

Breaking The Calm

Breaking The Calm

Early September brings a change for many residents of the Henry’s Fork community as shotguns and bows join fly rods as tools for a season that adds hunting to the list of opportunities for outdoor activity. With these changes comes an alteration in the rhythm of daily life as noticeably shorter days prompt a sense of urgency for mountain dwellers.

Air Under A Rainbow

Air Under A Rainbow

With signs of a colder season blending with the remnants of summer the pulse of all creatures seems elevated into heightened awareness that time is short before the arrival of winter. It is a rare September that does not feature a substantial snowstorm which, though always a temporary disruption, is a stark reminder that preparations must be made for the six months or so when that form of precipitation becomes standard.

As with all wildlife, trout are instinctively alert to a behavioral necessity that will determine the ability to survive during the lean months when food becomes scarce and existence is largely reliant upon fat stored prior to that precarious period.

Free & Proud

Free & Proud

In autumn, trout become opportunistic in a constant search for food and at times can appear almost indifferent to its identity or timing of availability. This is a time of plenty for a fly fisherman as virtually all local waters are at their best in terms of condition and productivity. Always severely tested in this regard, personal discipline for responsibility nearly evaporates during the thirty days that span my favorite month of the year.

With so much happening on the rivers and lakes of Yellowstone country, the biggest challenge in September is making a decision on where to fish on any given day. But is that such a bad problem to have?

Henry's Lake Monster

Henry’s Lake Monster