Return to Still Water By Rene’ Harrop

For a trout fisherman, it would be difficult to picture a region with more choices of water than Yellowstone country. Flowing from its hub, which is the National park, are the Yellowstone, Snake, and Madison, and the Henry’s Fork lies just outside its boundaries. Smaller but no less attractive are the Fire Hole, Gallatin, and a host of diminutive spring creeks.

Hauling On Henry's

Hauling On Henry’s lake

Through the decades I have left boot prints on some of the world’s finest trout streams and my professional identity has been shaped mostly by moving water. But in recent years a different type of fishing has begun to challenge a dedication to the rivers and streams that have historically dominated my attention.

Because of elevation that rises well over a mile above sea level, the lakes and reservoirs that lie within convenient distance can remain ice-covered well into May. With most rivers open and spring hatches well underway, I do not suffer for lack of fishing opportunity but I confess to a sense of anticipation as the time draws near for a return to still water.

Sheridan Kamloops

Sheridan lake Kamloops trout

I’m not sure if the influence of my friend, Gareth Jones is a curse or a blessing, but it is certain that he is largely responsible for the distraction represented by Henry’s, Hebgen, and Sheridan Lakes. From this point forward, at least thirty percent of my fishing days will be occupied by the mysteries of still water, and this will end only when the lakes are again frozen over in late fall.

Following a master’s lead to considerable extent, a sizable portion of the flies tied in winter for my personal use are still water patterns, and I am excited to test the new ideas that come during the season of contemplation.

Why Still Water?

Why Still Water?

Though the mind state of fishing still water is in contrast to the more familiar mental requirement of fishing a river, it is no less satisfying or rewarding. I view my time on the lakes as a companion rather than competition to my loyalty to moving water and my life as a fisherman is made richer by having such a wide diversity of choice. How lucky can a man be?

The Great Salmon Fishing Debate: Should Angling Be 100% Catch And Release?

A River Wye silver salmon

A silver fresh run salmon. Image: Tim Hughes

Wild salmon are precious creatures these days. Indeed, new legislation in Wales and much of England is set to make catch and release compulsory. But is it still ok to take them where rules permit? And when releasing salmon, how can we do so correctly to ensure each fish the best chance of full recovery? This month, the Fishtec team takes a look at the ins and outs of the current salmon debate.

An emotive debate…

It used to be the most normal thing in the world for the successful game angler to take a salmon home. Indeed, as crazy as it sounds, these fish were once so plentiful they were staple food for the poor. How times change!

Whether you lay the blame on climate change, environmental mismanagement, commercial salmon farming or a toxic mixture of these and other factors, salmon numbers are well down. But is it fair to ask anglers to release every fish, as new rules could dictate in Wales and most of England? And regardless of our reason for releasing salmon, how can we give each fish the best chance of survival?

Regarded by many as the king of freshwater fish for many anglers, it’s not surprising that salmon conservation is an emotive subject. Indeed, you will seldom find anyone indifferent to this iconic species.

Whilst we all have strong and differing opinions, we’re likely to agree on one thing: more needs to be done to ensure that our children and grandchildren still have salmon to fish for in the future. So will new laws help? Are they fair? Or could they cause more harm than good?

Fishtec-Atlantic-Salmon-debate

An Atlantic salmon jumping over a weir on the River Severn in Shropshire.
Image source: Kevin Wells Photography

Can I keep salmon?

Firstly, we should point out that there are no consistent rules that apply to all of England and Wales at the present time (late May 2018). The list of regional byelaws on the Environment Agency site is the first place to check if you’re in any doubt about your local fishing. With stocks continuing to decline, many fishing clubs and areas already insist on catch and release fishing. Never assume you can keep salmon and do always check before you fish.

New rules proposed by the Environment Agency for 2019 could well take the decision out of anglers’ hands entirely. As of next year, it could potentially become a crime to take a salmon from any Welsh river and many of those in England.

Indeed, while anglers have welcomed new restrictions on commercial practices such as drift netting, many are angry that their traditional right to keep fish will be taken away. To put it mildly, this is a complex debate.

Different opinions within the angling community

The whole catch and release debate has polarised the angling community. Different regions and generations of anglers have very different opinions. The Angling Trust’s response to the proposed regulations was highly critical of the Welsh proposals, following a major survey that revealed 83% of respondents were against a complete ban on catch and keep angling.

In particular, it was felt that the new laws could represent a dangerous breakdown in trust between authorities and the anglers who are so often the “eyes and ears” of the waterways concerning illegal fishing.

The knock-on effects for the sport, and rural businesses in general, could also be stark. Plenty of life-long anglers feel it is their right to take a salmon or two every season. Many of these regulars could easily hang up their rods if we’re not careful; a scenario that could reduce precious resources even further. After all, anglers’ money goes towards costs such as habitat improvement, fisheries enforcement and other vital work.

However, anglers who already practise catch and release regardless of the law point out that we now live in a different era. Their argument is that salmon only enter freshwater to spawn and are too precious to kill. While it’s easy to say “just one or two” won’t matter, the removal of even one large female salmon from a threatened river could mean a lot fewer juvenile fish further down the line.

Sense and sustainability

Surely, whatever our personal views, the watchword for all salmon fishing needs to be sustainability. In this respect, it’s very difficult to dictate laws that could apply to all waters. After all, a smaller river with a steep decline in population is a very different prospect to a major waterway with prolific fish stocks.

So is it too much to ask that anglers make a decision using their own discretion? It should be pointed out that most anglers do this anyway. Even where catch and kill is allowed, statistics show that the majority of fish are released. The days of “keep everything” are long gone.

Perhaps the best system would be one of compromise and sensitivity that takes into account the nature of each individual river. Some clubs across Britain have already adopted such an approach. For example, some clubs allow season ticket anglers to keep one or two salmon, where runs are still healthy.

How to help salmon survive capture

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It’s sensible to keep salmon in the water as much as possible to reduce stress.
Image: Fishtec

How to release salmon is a separate question that requires care and thought. The good news is that virtually all salmon will survive capture and go on to spawn; provided the angler takes care and uses the best catch and release practice!

Here are just some of the things you can do to make sure every salmon you catch swims off and spawns successfully in the future:

  • Use strong tackle to help play and land fish quickly. A fish played to complete exhaustion is less likely to survive.
  • Always crush barbs on your hooks to reduce damage on removal. A “bumped” hook is an ideal compromise, in other words a hook where the profile of the barb has been reduced.
  • Use single hooks only to further reduce damage. Lures can easily be converted by swapping the trebles.
  • Avoid bait fishing. Statistics show that survival rates are much lower for bait fishing, as worms and other offerings are often swallowed. If you must use bait, try a circle hook.
  • Be prepared and have all your tools, camera and essentials to hand. Faffing about looking for these things means extra stress for fish.
  • Keep your fish wet. You don’t need to take salmon onto the bank. Keeping the fish in the water and handling with wet hands reduces stress. In fact, even short periods out of the water are proven to reduce survival rates, so if you need to retain the fish for a short period, do so by keeping it submerged in a generous-sized landing net.
  • Avoid crude nets. Talking of nets, stringy, harsh models have no place in angling these days. Modern, soft mesh is much kinder.
  • Measure, don’t weigh. The best way to record that special fish is to measure. This can be done while the fish is still in the water. There are various length to weight charts if you want to estimate the poundage.
  • Be quick and handle with care if you want a picture. If you want a snap, do so quickly and hold the fish in the water. Support it with wet hands and cradle, don’t squeeze!
  • Assist recovery by keeping the fish upright, facing into the flow. If it has fought hard, it may need a few moments to get its breath back. You’ll know it’s ready when you feel it try to swim away.

Another great resource is “The Gift”, a YouTube video made by the Atlantic Salmon Trust to illustrate correct tackle and good practice.

Think of the bigger picture

Last but not least, in any discussion of the battle to save salmon, we should also mention those working hard for the future of the species. Organisations like the Angling Trust and Salmon and Trout Conservation fight tirelessly to protect rivers, prevent illegal fishing and force key decision makers to protect salmon. Joining either of these groups is inexpensive and a great way to offer your support.

Airflo Modern Stillwater Tactics 2018 – Full Length DVD

Airflo sales director Gareth Jones and Fishtec blogger Iain Barr are two of the countries most successful stillwater fly fishermen. Together they co-operated with Trout Fisherman Magazine to bring us their latest fly fishing feature film.

In this new DVD titled ‘Airflo Modern Stillwater Tactics 2018’ they visit a variety of UK waters in search of trout. Their secret methods, fly lines, flies and tackle are all revealed, along with essential tips on how to catch more fish. If you fly fish lakes or reservoirs, then this is a ‘must watch’!

Want to see more of the Airflo Stillwater Tactics series? You can check out Volume 3 here.

For the others, head to our YouTube Channel!!

Buzzer Bonanza

Well known stillwater match angler Iain Barr shares his thoughts on spring buzzer fishing tactics. If you want to improve your buzzer fishing skills, read on!

May and June see prolific buzzer hatches across our lakes and reservoirs. Its buzzer bonanza time and what a time it is! That tightening of the line to the fingertips takes some explaining but it’s a buzz, an excitement, an exhilarating feeling.

7lb 12 Rutland Brown taken on a IB red butt black buzzer

7lb 12 Rutland Brown taken on a IB red butt black buzzer

For the best control with buzzers, a floating line or sink tip line is needed. In calm conditions I prefer to use a full floating line. I tend to add mucilin to the final 2-3 feet of fly line so this sits high. This is my indicator and my eyes are glued to it. Often you will get an arm wrenching pull but it’s those subtle takes that can be missed if not closely watching the line move. If a steady wind, I will opt for a tip line which ‘bites’ in the wave allowing better hook ups.

Some fish are still lying deep due to a harsh cold winter, these tend to be the bigger fish. Fish are also beginning to rise through the water columns as days become warmer so it’s a very exciting time of the season. It’s important to maximise your catch rate by taking advantage of both layers of fish. You can fish deep by using a heavy Reservoir Buzzer on the point and lighter buzzers up the line with a nymph on the top dropper. This ensures you are fishing all layers and it’s key to note which flies the fish are taking.

Early in the day you may note that the fish are taking the deep buzzer but often the fish will then start taking the buzzers up the line and the top dropper nymph. As the day warms and the buzzer pupae ascend through the layers the fish will follow them. The heavy buzzer then becomes redundant so try switching this to a Booby or Fab to hold the remaining flies higher in the water column. The more your flies are in the fish feeding ‘window’ the more you will catch, so depth control is critical when buzzer and nymph fishing.

One way to control the depth to perfection is by using a strike indicator or ‘bung’ . This is usually a piece of foam tied to a hook or a fly artificially enlarged to be visible as an indicator. This allows the flies to be suspended at the set depths and more importantly to be absolutely static. This is key to the most successful buzzer fishing. By retrieving your buzzers you are bringing them against any current which is totally unnatural. The best fish will often ignore these as they identify this as abnormal. I am not the biggest fan of the bung but I have no doubt it is lethal on its day. What you miss with this method is that exhilarating tightening in your fingertips.

Rutland water

Rutland water

At the moment, Rutland Water is at the clearest I have even seen it in 40 years. You can watch the fish swimming under the boat at 15-20 feet down! Tippet choice is crucial in such clear water. I am a huge fan of the Airflo G5 fluorocarbon. Its supple, fine diameter for its strength and very strong. With any colour in the water I use the 11.2lb for buzzers and in the crystal clear water I’ll drop down to 8.4lb. It has some ‘stretch’ in it and absorbs the aggressive takes you can get on buzzers. If the takes are very subtle I switch to Airflo G3. This is very strong and has less stretch allowing you detect the subtle takes more easily.

My choice of rod is the impressive Airflo Airlite V2 10’ #8. It’s soft enough to hit the aggressive buzzer takes hard and powerful enough to cope with the biggest of fish. I also use this rod for my sinking line work so acts as the perfect all round rod.

The rod position is critical for the hanging of your buzzers. As you approach the end of your cast whether on the boat or bank, always hang your flies. Raise your rod to about 10 o’clock position and stop everything. Ensure your top dropper is about 2-3 down below the surface and watch this for any movement. This is where the V2 plays it’s part. Too soft and the fish will pull and the hook may not set, too stiff and the fish will hit and will often ‘bounce’ off.

Enjoy this special time in the season. Our lakes and Reservoirs are now in full swing buzzer time. See Fishtec for a full range of Iain Barr World Champions Choice fly packs including Reservoir Buzzers, Stealth Buzzers and Black/Olive Buzzers.

Tight lines

Iain

Clothing Review – Hodgman Aesis Shell Jacket

Looking for a new jacket? Then you might find some inspiration here. In this review Ceri Thomas takes a look at the Aesis Shell fly fishing jacket from American tackle firm Hodgman.

I’ve been on the lookout for a decent breathable jacket for a while now. Mobility is key when I fish, so comfort is a must, as are decent pockets for accessories and fly boxes. When we started stocking the Hodgman range of fly fishing gear, I really liked the look of the Aesis shell jacket, which ticked all of the boxes for me. So after a bit of deliberation over the winter I decided to pick one up for the new season ahead.

I often think in order to write a ‘proper’ review you need to give something a real test on the water; not just a few hours. So after a full month of pretty hard usage, I feel I have now gotten to know this piece of outwear inside out. So here are my thoughts.

The Aesis shell jacket on the bank

The Aesis shell jacket on the bank


Wearing it

The cut of the jacket is good – it’s clearly been designed by a fisherman, with fly fishing in mind. The arms are generous and articulate well, allowing for easy casting. The sleeve design is practical, with velco adjustable cuffs that help keep the water out. The inner cuffs are also nice and soft. I found the sizing to be pretty generous though, and opted for a Large, rather than my usual XL.

When trying it on in the house, the wife remarked ”Do you have to wear that for fishing?? It’s quite nice!” And it is a genuinely good looking jacket. You could get away with wearing it pretty much anywhere, as well as the river bank. It has a clean, modern look and is a nice carbon/grey, a neutral colour, so you wont stand out like a sore thumb, in the pub for example.

Initially it was obvious that the jacket was very light indeed, but still retained a durable feel. When wearing it you don’t feel weighed down or constricted in any way. It almost has the feel of a packable 2 layer. It’s actually a 3 layer, so reliability in heavy rain is assured. You can tell from the material that it’s not going to let you down. I’ve been out in some extremely foul conditions this spring, and every time the water has just beaded off, literally like water off a ducks back. So full marks for waterproof ability.

Regarding breathability, I have done quite a lot of mountain lake fishing this year, which involves a fair bit of rock hopping and scrambling up steep hill sides. I have also been doing a lot of urban angling on the South Wales rivers; which again can be quite physical and requires a lot of effort to get in and out of the water. Compared to other jackets I have worn (including premium GoreTex) the breathability is right up there. You can break into a heavy sweat and still feel comfortable in the Aesis shell.

Urban angling with superb breathability!

Urban angling with superb breathability!


Is it a wading jacket or a 3/4??

It’s kind of both. It’s not overly short, so provides decent cover for your back area. Neither is it too long and flappy. I guess it was designed for American anglers fishing from drift boats, who sometimes need to get out and wade. You can use it for river, bank fishing on the fishery or drifting across the loch in the boat; it is genuinely multi purpose.

The Hodgman Aesis shell jacket is multi purpose

The Hodgman Aesis shell jacket is multi purpose

For extreme deep wading its actually designed to be tucked inside your waders if required. There is a ‘belt catch’ loop that helps you do this. I haven’t used it like that as I seldom need to wade that deep, but there are drain holes in the lower hand pockets that actually worked.

Neat little touches

The hood is well designed and easily adjustable. Even when fully up your field of vision is still clear. The chest pockets, whilst not enormous, are generous enough for most standard fly boxes, several accessories and spools of tippet. Two of them have waterproof seals, so are a good place to keep your car keys or a small point and shoot camera.

The flap of each breast pocket has a velcro fly patch built in, and interestingly a small magnet with the Hodgman logo on it. Great for holding a fly while you change your leader. There is also a small inner security pocket for valuables.

Back of the Aesis shell jacket

Back of the Aesis shell jacket

There are built in reflective strips on the back of the hood and around the shoulders. These are not obvious but show up in low light; quite handy I guess if fishing with a buddy on a dark night or if crossing a road at dusk. They also look pretty cool.

There is a rear D ring and also one in a breast pocket. One slight issue is the net D ring is quite low on the back – so it can be a slight pain to get you net back onto it without twisting your arm a little. But that’s about the only negative I can think of.

Verdict

After a solid month I am starting to think this is one of the best jackets I have ever owned. It’s functional, comfortable and a pleasure to fish in. It’s now a permanent occupier of my car boot, ready for action at any time.

Moving onwards, I’m looking forward to using it right through the warmer months, and maybe through the winter with thermals underneath. Its going to get a hammering but I am confident its going to last me a good few seasons.

At £239.99 it’s starting to enter the premium price bracket, but I feel the outlay is worth it. You pay your dollar, you get the goods! Great effort by Hodgman – keep it up the good work guys.

Hodgman Aesis Shell Jackets are available here.

Want to know more about the Hodgman brand?? Check out our blog post here.

Light at the End of the Tunnel – Rene’ Harrop

Airflo blogger Rene’ Harrop muses on the spring fishing that lies ahead….

Through much of a winter that seems to stretch endlessly in some years, May can exist like a distant light at the end of a tunnel.

Twenty eighteen has been one of those years when temperatures have remained consistently below normal through the months of March and April. As a result, precipitation has arrived in the form of snow at least as often as the rain that typically separates the storms of spring from the season just passed.

There are many reasons to look forward with great anticipation to the arrival of May and most if not all are related to weather conditions. Beyond Baetis and midges, spring hatches on the Henry’s Fork are dependent upon stable water and air temperatures that are consistently above freezing. This includes nearly every aquatic insect above size sixteen and there is no exception to this hard rule.

Fortunately, the lower Fork has finally moved passed the time when snow is not an impediment to accessing the water and bundling against the cold is no longer a constant requirement. It is a different story in the high country, however.

Early May is the traditional time to change my residence from five thousand feet elevation to a location nearly two thousand feet higher. In most years I have succeeded in meeting that long awaited target but this year that may not be the case.

Soon To Be Occupied

Soon To Be Occupied

As recent as late April nearly three feet of snow surrounded our summer cabin and nighttime temperatures were still dropping into the low double digits. Comparing this to the green lawn and early blooming flowers in our yard at St. Anthony is a description of two different worlds that lie less than fifty miles apart.

Trading caddis and March Brown hatches in sixty degree weather for a return to conditions left more than a month behind is tough to consider as the calendar turns to the fifth month of the year.

Early Rainbow

Early Rainbow

Right now I am thinking it will be at least two weeks until our annual move back to Island Park can be justified. In the interim, my fishing at Last Chance will continue to be a one hour commute, although recently it has been well worth the drive.

And while I stand in the river with snow still lining the banks and fishing a size twenty Baetis rather than a caddis two sizes larger, I am compelled to remember that this will change at some near point.

Spring Brown

May has arrived and before month’s end an extra-long winter will become only a memory as it is replaced by another new season that holds no bounds for a fly fisherman.

And I plan to be there for it all.

Madness of Mayfly Season: Top Fly Fishing Tips & Tactics

For many fly fishers, the mayfly season is the main event of the entire year. So how and when can you profit best from hatches of this iconic insect? Dominic Garnett has some handy tips and fly patterns for every stage of the hatch.

A Mayfly

The mayfly, or Ephemera danica, has three tails and is a pale yellow-green colour.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

After a strange cocktail of spring weather, there’s already a hint of expectancy in the air as we approach mayfly season. With good reason, too, because so-called “duffer’s fortnight” can be a ridiculously exciting time to be fly fishing.

So when can we expect the heaviest hatches? And what can the angler do to make the most of this productive yet short-lived period? Here are some hints and observations that should stand you in good stead.

What do anglers actually mean by “mayfly” ?

Without wishing to be pedantic, we should establish what most fly anglers mean when they talk about the mayfly. Let’s be clear: by “mayfly” they mean the bold and unmistakable Ephemera danica, characterised by its three tails, large size and pale yellow to greenish colouration.

This can be a little confusing, because a whole stack of smaller mayflies also exist. It’s just that we usually refer to these as olives, upwings and other names. If in doubt, check out our UK Upwing Flies infographic for a more thorough breakdown.

What are “classic” mayflies and why do trout go nuts for them?

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The sandy, muddy banks of the River Culm in Devon; an ideal mayfly medium.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Ephemera danica, the textbook mayfly, is a creature with a rather tragic lifecycle – a sort of natural ballet, followed by a car crash ending. Indeed, it spends a whole year on the riverbed, before living, breeding and dying in just a single day.

Unlike many of the smaller mayflies, whose larvae thrive in stony, fast water, these bigger mays are found in sandy and muddy territory where they make little burrows. Suffice to say, not all rivers are equal in terms of hatches, although most will have a show at some point.

The nymphs of Ephemera Danica are well concealed and hard to get at for most of the year, until late spring and early summer. Hatching in huge numbers might seem a recipe for carnage, but it ensures that enough will manage to breed while a whole range of animals, from frogs to wagtails, take their fill.

Unsurprisingly, trout go bonkers over this easy food source too. Like guests at a crazy drunken party, they go a bit over the top and do stupid things that they wouldn’t normally do. Like getting giddy and falling for a great big artificial fly on a thick line. Not that I’m saying every session in mayfly season will be as easy as lobbing out a big fly!

When do mayflies hatch?

Mayflies_003

Early summer: a wonderful time to be on the water.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Mayflies hatch in May, right? Not necessarily. It depends on the conditions, but mayflies tend to hatch in late May or June. This year, I’d expect the cold, late spring to throw things back a bit. If I was a betting man and could find some decent odds, I’d wager good money that this year’s magic period will be mid-June or even later.

The trick to timing it right is to keep having a sneaky look at your local river for signs. Just as one swallow doesn’t make a summer, one mayfly doesn’t make a hatch. The odd one will arrive early, while other loners will emerge as late as August and September! But it’s when they start to appear by the dozen that the fish will really nab them best. In fact, trout can initially appear quite suspicious of these big insects until they begin to emerge in force.

Tackling up for mayfly hatch

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Mayfly imitations are not small and trout are not shy of them, so don’t fish too fine.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett.

Due to the large size of the natural flies, the good news in mayfly season is that you can go a bit heavier with tackle. Something like a four to five weight rod would be my choice on the river, or a bit heavier on stillwaters, say a six weight.

As for leaders and tippets, mayfly imitations tend to be large and will quickly kink the lightest lines. Therefore, start with a tippet of 4-5lbs. Check your knots with care and retie if there are any kinks or weak points in the line too, because mayflies seem to tempt even the biggest, wiliest, most tackle-crunching trout to feed.

Different mayfly fly patterns and stages of the hatch

So you have your eye on a suitable stretch of river or lake. How should you start fishing? Which mayfly pattern should you use? This depends on the stage of the hatch. Here’s a rough guide:

Early Hatch:

Richard_Walker_Mayfly

Richard Walker’s Mayfly Nymph is a cracking fly.
Image source: Fishtec

Before the main carnival begins, you’ll start to see occasional big flies hatching. The trout will soon recognise these as tasty food, but won’t be gung-ho for a while yet.

We tend to associate mayfly season with classic dry flies, but they’ll often go for the nymphs rather than adults in the early hatch. Richard Walker’s Mayfly Nymph is a cracking fly, or you could try an Emerging Mayfly to give them an easy meal at the surface. Bide your time though, because good things do come to those who wait.

Mid Hatch:

Grey_Wulff

The darker colours of the Grey Wulff do well mid hatch.
Image source: Fishtec

Now the fun really begins! Depending on the richness of the habitat, this period can last for a day or two, or a whole fortnight, producing veritable hordes of mayflies. The trout start to gorge and, if your timing is right, any suitable pattern will be taken.

There are many patterns to try, but a classic Hackled Dry Mayfly is as good a place as any to start. Another I like a lot is the Grey Wulf. Why this should work is odd, because it seems the wrong colour. Perhaps when there are lots of yellowish naturals, the darker fly stands out better?

My favourite of the mayfly patterns in a really busy hatch, however, is my own ultra-durable fly called the ‘Brawler’. I tie these using a specially produced floating tail, or a short section of old fly line in pale yellow. A deer hair wing completes a very tough fly. For a step by step tying guide see the Turrall Flies Blog. Unlike more delicate patterns, this one is durable enough to keep coming back for more, making it perfect for those days when the trout provide more hits than the Beatles.

Late Hatch:

Spent_Mayfly

The Spent Mayfly often tempts sated trout to ‘just one more’…
Image source: Fishtec

If it’s been a particularly busy year, the latter stages of the mayfly season can be trickier than you might expect. The trout are stuffed, but like many wild animals, they’ll want to make the most of any period of abundance and will carry on eating. It’s just that they slow down and become more picky.

An emerger or Spent Mayfly is ideal, because they take less effort for a well-fattened trout to intercept. “Oh, go on then… just one more!” If that doesn’t work, you could also go for the lively route. In fact, I’ve spoken to river keepers who swear that when the trout are too well fed, the best results come from provoking them with a well-hackled pattern, walked a little at the surface if necessary.

Further thoughts on mayfly fishing…

Above all else, mayfly time is a period of opportunism. I know anglers who plan months ahead to have time off and travel. For the rest of us, keeping an eye out on our local rivers is the best we can do. And having some good excuses ready for when we want to sneak off at short notice!

Wherever you fish, ‘duffer’s fortnight’ is an amazing phenomenon. Most anglers in England and Wales think of rivers and brown trout when the word mayfly is mentioned; but Scottish and Irish anglers use bushy, loch style mayflies to great effect.

Nor are brown trout the only quarry for this exciting period. Quite a few of our smaller stillwater fisheries also have a good hatch, especially those where a feeder stream has them in abundance. This is a fantastic time to introduce a friend to dry fly fishing for rainbow trout, besides wild browns. In fact, and you can deliberately target the best fish in the lake if you time it right!

Nor does it end there, because I’ve caught some nice rudd or chub on mayflies, the latter even in July, well past the main hatch. Carp will home in on them in more natural lakes too. In fact, I was once on a lake in Norfolk carp fishing when mayflies suddenly appeared everywhere. I cursed the fact I only had bait fishing tackle, because I suspect an artificial fly might have tempted an absolute monster. Perhaps another day?

Wherever you find yourself this mayfly season, be sure to keep your eyes peeled, your car loaded up and your excuses prepared for a quick trip to the water! Like the trout, I wish you rich pickings and hope you catch your fill.

Read more …

For more of our blogger Dominic Garnett’s stories and articles, his website has books, blog posts and more to enjoy. Crooked Lines (£9.99), his collection of fishing tales, makes especially enjoyable summer reading. Or, discover the flies and innovative tactics used to catch a wide range of freshwater fish in his highly acclaimed Amazon Bestseller Flyfishing for Coarse Fish.

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Excellent gifts to add to your Father’s Day wishlist!

Fly Fishing Slovenia by Alps Fly Fish

Soča valley in Slovenia is considered one of the most spectacular destinations in the world for fly fishing. In its emerald waters live the mysterious Marble Trout. ALPS FLY FISH invites you to know it!

Slovenia is known to many of us by Ernest Hemingway’s famous book “A Farewell to Arms” or for being the home country of Melania Trump, the wife of the current president of the United States. But what not all fishermen know is that this small country in Europe is one of the best destinations in the world for the practice of fly fishing.

Despite the small size of this country located on the sunny side of the Alps, there are thousands of kilometers of rivers for fishing. In a radius less than two hours we can fish on alpine streams, lakes or clear chalkstream.

Some of the most beautiful are:

The Soča: Emerald waters of Soča River.

Sava Bohinjka: One of the most beautiful rivers situated next to the famed Bled Castle.

Radovna River: A wild river that goes through the Triglav National Park.

Idrijca River: Excellent river for trophy Marble Trout.

Lepena River: Pretty alpine stream of turquoise waters.

The fisherman who visits Slovenia can enjoy fishing for different species such as:

Marble trout: It is a unique salmonid in the world that is located in countries of the Adriatic Sea basin such as Croatia, Italy, Slovenia … It is characterized by its great aggressiveness.

Rainbow trout: It is an allochthonous trout that comes from hatchery. The waters of many rivers in Slovenia are repopulated continuously by these fish existing excellent populations already naturalized.

Adriatic Grayling: Are a kind of Grayling whose populations are extraordinary in some lowland rivers like Unec. Grayling fishing is spectacular in the months when there are May fly hatches.

Also is possible to fish for Brown trout and Taimen.

The Taímen is fished from November to March and the trout fishing season begins in March and ends in October. The variety of rivers to fish in Slovenia is very large so it is very difficult to determine which are the best months of the year.

Bovec town is located in the upper part of the Soča River Valley, is considered the capital of fishing in Slovenia and one of the points used for a lot of anglers as a center of operations on his fishing holiday in Slovenia.

If you want a more information about the destination you can visit the ALPS FLY FISH Facebook page or email alpsflyfish@gmail.com

Should you need some guidance on tackle for destination fishing, make sure you check out this blog post by experienced global angler Chris Ogborne!

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 4 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