Airflo Stories River Adventure – Fly Fishing with Iain Barr on the Itchen

In this installment of ‘Airflo stories’ we join former world champion Iain Barr on the banks of the famous river Itchen, where he re-discovers his love of fly fishing with light tackle for trout and grayling.

Iain also reveals many useful tricks and tips for river fishing, including those that helped him become WFFC champion in 2009.

Wild Trout Trust Auction 2019

BID FOR A NEW SEASON OF FISHING ADVENTURES

IN THE WILD TROUT TRUST CHARITY AUCTION: 8th – 17th MARCH 2019

The Wild Trout Trust’s annual charity Auction is an exciting opportunity for anglers to start bidding for a new season of fishing adventures across England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and even further afield.

Wild Trout Trust

The Wild Trout Trust are a conservation charity that focuses on practical work to improve habitat for trout across the UK and Ireland.

From an expedition to a secret salmon river in Argyll, or a wild trout safari on three Norfolk chalk streams with Nick Zoll, to a choice of fishing on exclusive private beats of the Test, Itchen and Avon, the River Usk with Airflo’s Gareth Jones or gritty urban river adventures with guides like Phillippa Hake and Damon Valentine, the Auction is full of exciting experiences for everyone.

And, with around 300 lots, there are prices to suit every pocket, with a huge number of very affordable adventures starting from just £20.

Other inspiring lots include artwork by Sam MacDonald, hand-crafted fibreglass rods, special sets of flies from tyers like Lee Evans, Nick Steedman and Dave Southall, and books signed by their authors (including ‘Silver Shoals’ by the Trust’s former president, Charles Rangeley-Wilson).

A new section of the Auction also contains a selection of once-in-a-lifetime destination trips, whose donors have kindly pledged a percentage of each one sold to the Wild Trout Trust.

Some fishermen even bid for a range of different lots, and use the Auction as their way of setting up a whole season of new discoveries. It’s a brilliant way to broaden your horizons, and spend time exploring places which you might never normally get to visit, since many of the lots have been privately donated by the Wild Trout Trust’s generous supporters.

Best of all, every successful bid will help anyone in Britain or Ireland who’s interested in making a better world for our rivers, lakes and their wildlife, including our native trout.

The Wild Trout Trust Auction is the charity’s single most important annual fundraising event, which makes it possible for the Trust’s expert Conservation Officers to provide practical advice, deliver hands-on habitat improvement projects, and bring in even more match funding from other sources. The Trust has low overheads, a small staff and an ever-growing group of volunteers, so the money raised in the Auction makes a real and direct difference to our rivers.

The Wild Trout Trust Auction will run on eBay and by post from 8th to 17th March 2019.

To find the lots from 8th March 2019, visit www.wildtrout.org and click on the link, or follow #WTTseasonofadventures on Twitter

For a copy of the Wild Trout Trust Auction catalogue, visit www.wildtrout.org, email office@wildtrout.org or call 023 9257 0985.

The images below are just a taster of some of the places you might find in the WTT auction this year:

Exclusive upper Test beats

Exclusive upper Test beats

High Pyrenees waters

High Pyrenees waters

Tyne River Hill

Tyne River Hill

WTT Auction Bonefish trip

WTT Auction Bonefish trip

Dry or die! Floating flies for September trout

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

End of season dry fly trout

End of season dry fly trout
Image source: Fishtec

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

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

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

1. Dry fly forever

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

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

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

2. Behind the mask

A blue winged olive is a good choice.

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

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

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

3. Go large…

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

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

4. …or very, very tiny

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

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

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

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

5. Get your sneak on

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

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

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

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

6. Slow is smooth

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

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

7. And finally… don’t despair!

Urban fly fishing on the River Don in Sheffield

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

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

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

How to Fit Wading Boot Studs

The addition of studs to the soles of your wading boots can make a huge difference to grip and traction on slippery surfaces.

In this blog post we look at how best to fit and install wading boot studs to felt sole wade boots.

Pick your studs

There are various wading boot studs on the market, including Simms, Greys and Kold Kutters. All work in the same principal way – you screw them into your boot sole. However, this seemingly simple process needs to be done with a bit of care and consideration.

We are going to use Kold Kutter studs in this guide. Kold Kutters are a DIY stud option that are massively popular in the USA. They were originally designed for tyres of vehicles used in ice racing and they provide brilliant grip in snow and ice. They also make perfect wading boot studs, being made of hardened steel with a 3/8 inch diameter thread.

How many studs per boot?

Adding too many studs is a bad idea because you still need flat areas to make contact with the river bed – or you could end up skating precariously on the tips of the studs. 10 studs per boot sole will be about right. This allows you to spread the studs out nicely. Our preferred pattern is 4 in the heel and 6 in the toe area, with the studs near the outside of the sole for best traction.

What do I need?

A packet of 20 studs, Stormsure or Aquasure glue, permanent pen.

Everything you need to fit studs to a wading boot

Everything you need to fit studs to a wading boot

Step 1. Mark your holes

Using a permanent marker, mark the soles of your wading boot with the pattern shown below.

Mark your soles with a permanent pen

Mark your soles with a permanent pen

Step 2. Apply glue

The addition of a small dab of wader glue (such as Aquasure or Stormsure)  this helps the stud lock into place and remain secure.

Add some glue to your wader stud

Add some glue to your wader stud

Step 3. Screw the studs in

No special tools are required!! You can use a standard flat head or socket screwdriver to install the stud. Ensure the stud goes into the sole perfectly straight, not at an angle. Do not over tighten the stud.

No special tools are required to fit Kold Kutter studs

No special tools are required to fit Kold Kutter wading boot studs

Screw your studs in nice and straight

Screw your studs in nice and straight

Step 5. Ready to fish!

When wading you need to be sure footed and safe – you have gone a long way to achieving this!

Wading boot studs fitted and ready for action

Wading boot studs fitted and ready for action

Kold Kutter wading boot studs are just £3.99 for a pack of 20. Available here.

For tips and hints on better wading practice and safety, check out our ‘Wade safe’ blog here: https://blog.fishtec.co.uk/wade-safe-tips-for-better-wading

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.

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?

Mayflies_002

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

Mayflies_005

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.

Dom_Garnett_Fishing_Books - 1

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

River Specials – 5 Early Season Fly Patterns For Flowing water

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

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

Essential early season river flies

Essential early season river flies.

1. Klink and Dink Special -Size 12

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

2. Gold Bead Hares ear – Size 14

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

3. Hot Spot PTN jig -Size 12

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

4. March Brown Upright – Size 12

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

5. Parachute Large Dark Olive – Size 14

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

Early season trout

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

How You Can Support The Wild Trout Trust

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

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

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

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

What is The Wild Trout Trust?

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

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

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

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

How does The Wild Trout Trust help?

WTT-advisory

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

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

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

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

Practical help

river-conservation

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

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

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

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

WTTauction

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 things you might not know about wild trout

The Wild brown trout is an ancient creature

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

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

 

Reflecting On 2017 By Rene’ Harrop – January, 2018

American based Airflo fly line and tackle consultant Rene Harrop shares his latest field report from the wild west fishing mecca that is Yellowstone country.

For the 64th time in my life, I am looking back on another year of fishing in Yellowstone country.

Adding the experiences of 2017 to an ever extending bank of memories is a reenactment of ritual that occurs at the beginning of each New Year and, as usual, there are highs and lows to be remembered.

2017 Memory

2017 Memory

Last year began on a relatively positive note with a winter that brought vastly improved water conditions to my homeland. While somewhat late in receiving the benefits of abundant snowfall, the lakes and rivers in and near Yellowstone Park experienced a level of stability that had been absent through much of the past three years.

Low point for the Henry’s Fork came in late winter when flows lower than ideal kept the water cold and the insect life in a state of dormancy. The result was a later than usual start to the dry fly fishing that usually begins with midges in February and then intensifies when Baetis begin to appear in early March.

Snow On The Peaks

Snow On The Peaks

By April, however, milder temperatures and a gradual improvement in water levels seemed to kick start a sustained stretch of dry fly fishing that did not end until early December.

Hatches subdued by unfavorable water conditions in recent years seemed almost miraculously revived in 2017, especially through the months of July and August.

While their numbers were noticeably reduced during the drought years, trout in the Henry’s Fork and other regional rivers appeared healthier and with good numbers of young adult fish. Positive winter flows should assure the availability of larger targets along with the hatches needed to keep them looking up.

Calm On Hebgen

Calm On Hebgen

Local still waters, which continue to receive my growing attention, were generally reliable through most of the time they were ice free. On the downside, however, was a troubling occurrence of algae bloom during the warmer period of July through early September.  Although Hebgen lake in Montana was spared from this disruptive nuisance and fished consistently well through the season, just across the border in Idaho, Henry’s and Sheridan Lakes were not as fortunate. However, by October, both had recovered and were again producing the typically impressive fish for which they are known.

Most encouraging looking forward is the current state of lakes and reservoirs in this region. With only minor exception, local still water fisheries average more than eighty percent of capacity. What this indicates is the likelihood of a much greater winter survival rate for trout in the lakes and connected rivers of Yellowstone country.

Henry's Lake Prize

Henry’s Lake Prize

With these positives in mind and a winter forecast that indicates continuation of favorable water conditions, twenty eighteen is looking good for fly fishermen.

REVEALED – The best places in Scotland to chase early season silver!

If you are looking forward to the salmon season starting there is no better place to begin your campaign than Scotland! This guest blog post by Salmon Fishing Holidays Scotland explores the best spring salmon rivers north of the border.

A beautiful River Tay spring salmon

A beautiful River Tay spring salmon

As a salmon angler, the highlight of any season has to be if you are lucky enough to catch an early season spring salmon on the fly.

These magnificent fish are highly prized among the salmon fishing fraternity and rightly so. The salmon caught at this time of year are usually large in size and put up a terrific fight.

As our salmon fishing season in Scotland starts in mid- January, you could probably classify early season spring fishing as being from January through to the end of March.

So, is it all about luck at this time of year, or are there some ways in which you can tilt the odds of catching an early springer in your favour?

As with any salmon fishing, a lot does have to do with luck, but by making some informed decisions, and choosing your fishing locations carefully, you certainly stand a better chance.

It is a bit of a misnomer to refer to salmon fishing in Scotland as “spring fishing” from January through to March. Often, at this time of year, river levels are high, and the water is cold.

As anglers we are regularly dodging bitterly cold winds and snow showers. So, conditions are far from spring like and regularly more akin to winter. In such testing conditions, you want to maximise your chances, as often because of the weather and the limited hours of daylight, you have a short window of opportunity through the course of the day in which to fish.

When you are considering salmon fishing locations so early in the season, you need to take a few factors into account. Firstly, fresh spring salmon can be quite aggressive and can often readily take a fly. So, the difficult part is trying to locate the fish. This is much easier to do on a smaller river. In the Scottish Highlands, many of the rivers are much smaller compared to their central and southern counterparts, and with the season opening early in this region of Scotland, there are some excellent opportunities to bag some early season silver.

The Thurso river opens on the 11th of January. Over the years, the Thurso has consistently produced decent numbers of fish during the early part of the season. Each year is different, and much can depend on water heights and temperature but usually the first fresh fish is caught from the river towards the end January or at the beginning of February. From mid-February onwards, a steady stream of fish are caught and catches build through March. With the Thurso being a relatively small river, it can be easily covered with a fly rod. So as an angler, you can be reasonably confident that if there is a fresh fish in the pool, it will most likely see your fly. This can be such an advantage when the fish are few and far between.

Chasing springers in the Scottish Highlands

Chasing springers in the Scottish Highlands

Another river in the Highlands that has an excellent pedigree for producing early fish is the Helmsdale. The Helmsdale river in recent years has produced fresh fish on a number of occasions in mid-January. The Helmsdale is slightly bigger in size compared to the Thurso but most of the pools are still easily covered with a fly rod. Each year, the Helmsdale River Board offers locals and visitors the chance to fish the river free of charge from opening day onwards for a few days. This is a fantastic opportunity for hardy fishers to wet a line on one of Scotland’s most famous salmon rivers, and also to have a realistic chance of catching an early fresh fish.

The River Morrsiton makes up part of the Ness system. It flows into Loch Ness at Fort Augustus. It is another river in the Scottish Highlands which has a good reputation for producing early season salmon. The river opens its banks to anglers in mid-January and fresh fish can be caught from opening week onwards. The River Morriston is similar in size to the Thurso, making it a perfect location to ambush a springer. Catches on the river improve through February and into March, and given adequate water this is one Highland river well worth considering.

Over the past two seasons, anglers on the River Spey have enjoyed some terrific early season sport. Indeed, last year there were decent numbers of fish caught from the river in February and March. The Spey opens in early February and much depends on the water temperature and height, as to where the best sport is likely to be had. If both the water temperature and height is low, then the beats between Craigellachie and Fochabers are likely to produce the best sport. However, as we move into March and the water gets warmer, the fish tend to run upstream in greater numbers, and anywhere between Grantown and Aberlour can be well worth a cast. The Spey is such a magnificent river, that for most anglers, it does not matter if they are catching fish, as it is such a joy just to wet a line on.

Spring fishing on the River Spey

Spring fishing on the River Spey

For many years, the River Dee has been one of the most prolific early season salmon rivers in Scotland. The river opens in early February and consistently produces fish from opening day onwards. In recent years, the early spring fishing has not been quite as good, but last year there were still some lovely fish caught in February In March. Most of the pools on the river can be quite comfortably covered and some of the water is just made for fly fishing. Just like the Spey the best places to fish on the River Dee are dictated by water temperature. Usually in February, it is the beats below Banchory that seem to perform the most consistently. As we move into March, anywhere from Aboyne Bridge downstream can be well worth a cast. If it has been an especially mild early spring, then even beats further upstream can be quite productive.

Spring on the River Dee

Spring on the River Dee

Finally, we come to the mighty River Tay, which opens on the 15th of January. The Tay produces fresh fish from opening day onwards. Usually, at this time of year the majority of the fish caught are heading for Loch Tay and the headwaters of this vast river system. However, as we move through February and into March, fish destined for the River Tummel (one of the rivers main tributaries) start entering the system. This usually coincides with an increase in catches especially for the beats located on the middle river. As well all know, the River Tay is anything but small, so it can make finding that early spring salmon a little more difficult. However, if the water is at a reasonable height, the Tay can also produce some good numbers of salmon early in the season. In January and February, if the water temperature is low it is often the beats on the lower river which can perform the best. There are a couple of temperature barriers in this area of the river like the famous Linn Pool and Catholes Weir which the fish have to negotiate prior to heading further upstream. As water temperatures rise, the beats on the middle river usually come into their own. At this time of year, the Tay has some excellent salmon fishing opportunities to offer, at a very reasonable cost.

There is no denying the fact that fishing early in the season can be tough, with fresh fish often being few and far between. The Scottish weather can be inclement, and river levels unpredictable. If, however, you carefully consider your options and make informed decisions about where you are going to fish, you can certainly improve your chances of making contact with some early season silver!

About the author: Salmon Fishing Holidays Scotland (SFHS) are a bespoke holiday tour operator offering the most immersive, inspiring fly fishing holidays in Scotland. So if you need a perfect start to your season then get in touch with SFHS here.

Should you need further inspiration, be sure to give them a follow on Facebook, or check out the free SSFS ezine, which is simply jam packed with fantastic salmon fishing imagery, stories and tactical tips.