Fly Fishing Shropshire Brooks

Fishtec blogger Stuart Smitham fishes a brook in Shropshire with a new fly line.

My wife phoned me and said, why don’t you come and get the car from me at work and go to the river for a few hours? I don’t get too many chances like that, so having the car means time to tangle with some brook fish. We are quite spoilt in Shropshire as these little waterways are pretty much everywhere, so this afternoon I’m off to my favourite haunt – a small brook deep in the local countryside.

A Shropshire brook

A Shropshire brook.

Tackle and clothing for the day

With zero options on wet wading, because of nettles, I am wearing breathable Airweld waders and boots and a small chest pack, for my fly boxes and other accessories with a Streamtec net on a leash and magnetic clip. As for my rod it’s a 7ft 9in Atomsix Celestial rod and superb little Atomsix fly reel blended with Airflo’s New Forge #3 fly line, ready for it’s first outing.

My approach

I am a dry fly addict on the brooks, so I’ll  usually walk down stream and start at the lower end of the boundary. As with most streams here about, the width of pools vary from just a few feet to around 12 feet. Depth is something different, with some pools about a foot deep then dropping to around waist height.

Most of the bankside foliage is tall nettles and brambles, with reeds and tree branches on pool edges. Where a pool is confined by undergrowth, the tail end can often open out behind the cover offering some great looking spots. Drop-offs on the banks are the norm, so you have to watch your footing and take nothing for granted. I’ve done this a few times now and ended up trying to grasp the vegetation around me to halt my fall, only to find me grabbing nettles and getting stung to hell.

Overgrown banks can be a challenge!

Overgrown banks can be a challenge!

Always watch when entering a pool and make sure you look into the pool first before stepping in. The time when you haven’t checked, is when you’ll see a bow wave heading upstream. Very uncool and probably a fish that could have graced your net. Most of the species you’ll encounter in Shropshire brooks are dace, chub, grayling and native brown trout.

Into the action

As I reach the head of the first pool I can see a long weed waving in the current. Then I spot a fish. A butter yellow brownie about a pound and a half hanging back about 3-4 inches from the weed end. It’s feeding confidently, sticking his head out and taking something with a sipping rise.Then an olive crawls down the weed and just sits there, right on the end. Amazing when you see fly life like this emerging in the sun. It dries it wings and makes a flutter, that’s when the brownie moves in. Talk about ringing the dinner bell.

Moving back into the current I make a short cast and gauge where my fly is and what it looks like. I tie on a quill dun with orange polish quill in the abdomen and a cdc wing with brown hackle. Ginking him up and decreasing the leader I pull off about 15 feet of fly line. Making the initial cast I am way too far right and no where near the brownie. I don’t want to spook it, so taking the time to lengthen the line out my second cast looks like it landed a foot or so right again. I start to gather line and must have moved the fly and my rod tip bounces. I lift and watch this class brownie come at me and go under the weed. Pulling line in like crazy and the fish is gone, leaving me attached to weed. Talk about gutted.

Moving on quietly, I head to another spot that has been productive in the past. With long weed at my feet, I make short casts of around 8-10 feet. The quill dun looks great in the current. I see a flash and just lift into a small grayling, that heads for the far bank and the weed. After a quick fight he is safely in the net. It must be said grayling are truly gorgeous looking fish, I could catch them all day long.

Grayling in the net!

Grayling in the net!

Walking up and skipping a pool due to fallen trees in the water, I peek over the nettles on a bend and spot a rise. I am around 5 feet above the surface and still in deep cover. The olives are gone, but there are still some iron blues coming off. Where the brook runs round the bend, there’s a clump of weed in the run. Deep water on the left and shallower water on the right. This fish is right on the seam between both. Changing flies to a iron blue with a red butt, I gink it up and degrease, ready to cast.

As the fly drifts the current seam, I just catch a glimpse of something moving. More out of instinct than anything else I line strike and lift the little rod up. The rod tip goes over hard, that’s when I see the yellow belly and the unmistakable markings of a very nice trout. With thoughts on how the hell I’m going to land this? I know I cannot reach down and get it into my hand net. Taking up all the slack and getting to the bank edge, I make the leap of faith! As I land, the fish is trying to head upstream, and I still have it on. The little reel is singing and the fly line is tight – it’s a proper adrenaline filled battle alright! I drop the net under and finally draw the fish into it….

The prize - a wild Shropshire trout

The prize – a wild Shropshire trout.

Looking at this fish in the net and what a cracking brownie. Wild as they come and just beautifully marked. Blood red spots haloed by white and black charcoal spots everywhere.

Time to move on to the big boy, that’s been hounding my mind for some eight weeks now. Pricked it’s big mouth twice and cursed my stupidity both times. As I battle through the five foot nettles, I just emerge onto the silver topped pool. A rise ring forms on the bend and I know it’s him? Bold and brass and no doubt waiting for me to fluff it again? Well let’s see eh?

Fishing with the Forge

Well, what did I think of my new 3 weight fly line? The Airflo Forge is a grand fly line for short accurate casts under the trees and though small gaps. There’s a nice compact head on this line for quick loading, plus it has a super small factory welded micro loop at the tip, which is extremely buoyant. With a subtle olive front taper and yellow running line, it sums up what I need for brook fishing. It floats high, with minimal memory, and today I managed to land quite a few nice fish using it.

A lovely little brownie captured with the WF3 Forge line

A lovely little brownie captured with the WF3 Forge line.

For a line that’s under £30 with all the Super-Dri trimmings thrown in, bargain is the word that springs to mind. Above all Airflo’s polyurethane construction means this line will be tough enough to withstand the worst abuse that these overgrown streams can throw at it, season after season.

Huge thanks to Ceri and Gareth at Airflo, for some great words of wisdom on tippet advice, when I was feeling down. Help like that is just encouraging.

Best regards

Stuart

6 Summer River Fly Fishing Tips

At this time of year fly fishing rivers becomes increasingly difficult; with low water conditions and increased daytime temperatures mainly to blame. Throw in high angler pressure throughout the spring months, and you have some truly challenging fishing by mid summer.

With that said, it is still possible to make some decent catches even when the river fishing is rock hard. The following river tips should help you keep on catching all summer…..

Stealth will bring you results....

Stealth will bring you results….

1. Stealth. A common sense tip, but often overlooked. Trout are wary creatures at best and with a river lacking in flow they are even more attuned to the presence of predators. A clumsy slip of the wader boot on a slimy rock will often spook a whole pool. So really take your time when approaching the water and if possible avoid unnecessary wading.

2. Walk the river. It really pays to go looking for fish when the going is tough. Walk the banks quietly and look for signs of fish rather than charge straight it. When river temperatures are warm in summer fish tend to be much more clustered together in refuse areas that offer extra cover. A tell tale rise or splash can give a tightly packed pod of fish away, saving you wasting time fishing empty water.

Walk the river to find fish

Walk the river to find fish – a trout that gave itself away with a splashy rise

3. Fish the faster water. In low summer flows fast water offers fish cover and oxygen, as well as helping mask the sound and vibration emitted by the angler. So It can pay to solely concentrate your efforts in rapids, pocket water and necks of pools when the river is fishing poorly during hot weather. Such areas can be fished effectively with a french leader, a method very much suited to spooky fish.

Look for fast, oxygenated water

Look for fast, oxygenated water when temperatures are high

4. Minimise your false casting. I often see too many anglers making false casts that they simply don’t need to. Less false casts equal less shadows and line flash that will alert spooky low water trout. A short head weight forward fly line such as the Airflo Super Dri Xceed is designed for quick rod loading, and will help reduce false casting. Also try and make your false casts lower down, at a side angle where your cast will intrude less into the cone of the trouts vision.

5. Use a long leader and scale down. The lower the water the longer the leader. Don’t be afraid to fish a 20 foot leader length on a low river. The further away from your fly line the fly is, the better! A clear floating Airflo light trout polyleader combined with a supple, thin diameter co-polymer such as the superb Airflo tactical allows you to achieve great turnover and subtle presentation at range.

6. Make the switch to low light conditions. Early or late can be the answer during heatwave conditions. From Mid Summer onwards trout in warm water tend to switch to surface feeding at last knockings and through into the night, when water temperatures fall and food sources are more abundant. Likewise crack of dawn fishing can produce good fishing, especially on nymphs, where trout remain in the faster shallows briefly before the sun rises.

A fish captured at last knockings...

A fish captured at last knockings…

An Emerger For All Seasons – by Steffan Jones

Large Brook Duns are a big meal and one that any self-respecting trout would reluctantly refuse, as each morsel provides substantial sustenance.

The Large brook dun

The Large brook dun.

As a rule, they do not hatch in the middle of the river and you are more likely to find them in greater numbers closer to the bank or in back eddys. Should you have a current deflection from a stone however, then this will often push the duns out into the stream and towards the trout. The trout will often locate themselves around such deflections, becoming known as likely ambush points and strong feeding lanes. The brook duns will also bring up the wiliest of trout that often hide underneath banks or bankside vegetation, as the trickle of duns may be strongest and most concentrated in such areas; always pay attention for small, unenergetic rises as they are often the largest fish.

The duns often try and scurry across the water’s surface towards the bank after hatching, often climbing up onto rocks after doing so. As such, the adults themselves can be a problematic food source to hone onto for the trout, as they escape before interception. This makes the emergers or cripples a securer meal and a better food source, often favoured as a result.

Signs of Brook dun emergance

Signs of Brook dun emergence.

No need to get complicated with a pattern to cover such eventualities. Indeed, the same pattern dressed in different sizes will cover a myriad of different olives and will see you right throughout most of the season. The important of the pattern to me is that is signals to the trout ‘eat me; I’m not going anywhere’. If they invest energy into intercepting an object they want to be rewarded as a result, so don’t make them question the investment in the first place in order to maximise your chances of interception.

No need to get complicated

No need to get complicated.

For this, I prefer to fish my emergers with the buoyancy placed out the front of the fly; fished over and beyond the eye, rather than up and over the body. This allows more of the fly to be fished in and under the surface, with only part of the thorax and ‘wing’ fished on and over the surface. I understand and appreciate that this does not follow the natural, as the wings to not emerge first nor do they protrude forward. However, outside of this observation I have not found the trout to question this unorthodox style and I believe the benefits outweigh such semantics.

An emerger for all seasons

An emerger for all seasons.

Tying instructions/ingredients

Hook: Partridge K12ST for the large patterns as it’s a longer hook, then Partridge K14A for the smaller patterns

Thread: Veevus olive (C12) in 12/0

Tail: Coq de leon; don’t go crazy, 6-8 fibres will be ample. Take the thread behind the tail once to help prop and elevate it slightly, preventing the tail from getting wrapped and hindered on the hook bend.

Body: Stripped peacock quill; colour to suit. Golden olive here. Or, try the Magic Quills, which are transparent, adjusting the colour of the base thread accordingly. UV resin over to help protect the fragile quill.

Body2: Between the quill and the thorax place two turns of oval mirage tinsel. UV resin over this too, to protect the tinsel from the trout’s teeth. I believe this tinsel provides a little strike point, but also emulates the air pocket created during the emerging sequence of the natural. It is worth, however, dressing a few without this, just in case you find  some particularly picky fish.

Thorax: Fox squirrel; this can be thick to dub. Chop the fibres a couple of times to shorten the fibre length then dub onto the thread after adding some tacky wax to aid the process.

Wing: x3 plumes of natural CDC (adjust amount and plume size according to hook size). Pulled over the thorax and tied shuttlecock style. Make sure to dress a thread base between the eye and the plumes at the head, to help prop and elevate the plumes somewhat, which, in turn, helps counterbalance the fly and force the body subsurface. Also, when drawing the cdc over the thorax do so by drawing from the tips; this will allow a few loose fibres to escape and trail back over the body of the fly.

A victim of the Steffan Jones emerger

A victim of the Steffan Jones emerger.

Steffan has been guiding at home and abroad for well over twenty seasons now. If you would like to arrange a guided trip please visit www.anglingworldwide.com for more details.

CHALK – A Fly Fishing Film Project

The producers of a new fly fishing film “CHALK” have launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund their project. The feature-length documentary will be a hymn to the chalkstreams of southern England, examining how an accident of geography helped to shape not only the landscape, but the sport of fly fishing.

The team behind the project have a strong pedigree, consisting as it does of fishingbreaks.co.uk owner and author of The Life of a Chalkstream, Simon Cooper, young filmmakers Chris Cooper and Leo Cinicolo, collectively known as Chalkstream Fly, and the Video on Demand platform FishingTV. The combination of Simon’s huge knowledge and connections, Chris and Leo’s skill behind the camera and in the editing suite, and FishingTV’s experience of making and marketing high quality fishing programmes should make this the definitive film about the chalkstreams, something that will stand the test of time.

Chris Cooper

Chris Cooper

The project arose from an idea that Ed Burgass, FishingTV’s Commercial director, had been thinking about for some time. “The chalkstreams are talked about all over the world in hushed tones, but very few people actually realise just how special they are, why they are, or the important role that they played in the development of fly fishing,” he said. “I thought it incredible that no one has made a film like this before, really explaining all this about Halford and Skues and the importance of the chalk for the water quality and all that.”

However he also explained that he had always felt that if it were going to be made it needed to be done just so: “It had to be really carefully planned, filmed on the right locations, well-funded. Using a crowdfunding model allows us to have total creative control.” Another appeal, according to Burgass, was the chance to engage with the audience.

Chalk Stream trout

Chalk Stream trout.

“Fly fishing, especially on chalkstreams, has a very elitist image, and we want to try to dispel that myth through this film. We want to reflect that anti-elitist message in the way we make this film, which is why we have some really cool rewards for anyone who chooses to contribute, with the chance to actually be in the film – fishing – or to see early edits and give feedback during the editing process.”

The rewards start from just £3 so anyone can contribute, but for those with deeper pockets there are also some fantastic fishing opportunities up for grabs, including a day of salmon fishing on the Hampshire Avon with FishingTV star Rae Borras, on his private beat, and a day of trout fishing with Orvis Ambassador Marina Gibson. These rewards are limited in number, so anyone keen to take advantage should act quickly.

To find out more about the project, please check out the Kickstarter page.

Wade Safe – Tips for better Wading

With spring rapidly approaching, the new trout and salmon fishing season is just round the corner. Early season river fly fishing naturally involves wading, but before you charge waist deep into the flow you should take a read of our essential river wading tips.

Wade safe - in deep but not in trouble.

Wade safe – in deep but not in trouble.

Think before you get in – Think about how you are going to get in AND out of the water. Visually survey the stretch before you climb into the river. If you have no safe exit point, you could be in for rough time.

Cross in the right way  – When crossing the river angle yourself so you move diagonally down stream, with the current helping you rather than fighting against it. Move slowly side on if possible, so the water force is pushing against a smaller surface area. Remember to slightly lean into the current as you cross. As you go use your arms to help you balance.

Take short steps – Slide and shuffle your way across the river. Don’t stride or lift your feet high as you step or the current could push your balance out. The key is don’t rush – take your time and be safe.

Pack your wading belt – Using a wading belt will help should you end up in the drink.  Flooded waders will make you struggle to get back up and out of the river safely.  Also rather than your fishing day be over instantly, you wont ship as much water and hopefully remain fairly comfortable. Another benefit is they can offer a great lumbar support – for example the Airflo or Simms wading belts.

Check your wading boots – A set of good boots are vital. Over the previous season your wader studs may have worn down so its well worth replacing these at the start. This could save you an early season dunking!

Consider a wading staff – For early season, the rivers are often swollen with rain. A staff is a god-send and well worth the investment, especially if you are not so strong on your feet. A wading staff can also be used to probe the depths and look for ledges and drop offs in coloured up water.

IF you fall in – Turn over onto your back, an get your feet facing downriver as soon as you can. Float downstream and paddle to the nearest bank ASAP.  An inflatable fly fishing vest is a safe option for peace of mind, especially if your river is particularly large or dangerous.

Keep to your limits – If you feel like the current is too much, and the wading is uncomfortable for you simply don’t do it. Why take the risk?

Winter Grayling Fishing – 5 Tips for keeping warm on the river bank

Cold winter weather can herald some of the best river fishing of the year – Grayling time! Grayling feed willingly on the coldest of days, even with thick snow on the ground and ice in the rod rings.

Fishing in these conditions requires you, the angler, to be comfortable and prepared for a full day in the outdoors. Paying close attention to your clothing and layering choices allows you to do this.

Winter grayling fishing in sub-zero conditions

Winter grayling fishing in sub-zero conditions.

These winter grayling fishing tips cover how to keep yourself comfortable, and therefore fishing productively for grayling in even the coldest extremes.

1. Invest in cold weather headgear. Your normal baseball cap simply wont cut it. A beanie or woolen piece of headgear is what you need. Something like the Simms chunky beanie is ideal and worth every penny. The neck is also a much neglected area. A polar buff makes a stylish wind blocker and helps keep the warmth from your torso escaping through your neckline.

2. Use a fleece undersuit. When worn as part of a layering system an undersuit is probably the most important garment you need for grayling fishing. The thermolite body suit by Airflo is a great example of what you need. Remember to wear an undersuit on top of everything else.

3. Eat and drink to keep warm. Yes, calories keep you warm! Hit the greasy spoon before you head out to the river. A good breakfast and coffee definitely allow you to keep grayling fishing for longer. Bring a thermos flask with a hot drink. A warm cup of tea can revive even the coldest angler.

4. Keep your hands warm. Numb cold hands affect a lot of anglers. By learning to fish with gloves you can help avoid this problem. A lot of grayling fishing is short line nymphing, requiring a simple flick of the rod, so fishing with gloves does not hinder you. Another tip is to put your free hand into a hand warmer pocket each time you track your bugs round, and switch hands occasionally.

5. Feet are important. You loose a lot of heat through the feet. A double pair of socks will help, but make sure they are not too tight or blood flow could be restricted; negating the benefit. Nothing compares to adding another layer of neoprene round the foot – the Ron Thompson Neo Tough socks take some beating. But make sure your wading boots have enough room to accommodate them.

The reward - a grayling in the cold.

The reward – a grayling on a freezing cold day.

Fly Fishing for Grayling – Tackle and Tactics

The trout river season is now over, but for fly anglers looking to extend their sport on flowing water then grayling fishing really comes into it’s own at this time of year!

This Fishtec blog article explores the fly fishing tackle and tactics you need to pursue graying on the fly this autumn and winter.

Winter graylingHow grayling behave

Catching grayling can be a fairly straightforward process, provided you fish in the correct way and understand their behavior. Grayling, unlike trout are much less skittish and you can often get quite near to them whilst wading, provided you are fairly stealthy. They also have a tendency to shoal up tightly, especially in colder water temperatures. So if you catch one grayling, keep on fishing in the same spot, there are sure to be more there. Grayling love to hug the bottom tightly, something to consider when presenting your flies.

A Welsh river grayling     A plump Welsh river grayling.

A Welsh river grayling.

Location, location, location..

It pays to look for grayling in riffles, runs, pool heads and tail outs, with a depth of typically 1 to 4 feet. Grayling seem to prefer areas like these. They are seldom found in really deep water, and often in surprising shallow spots that can be easily passed by. Basically look for where water is broken and not that deep – it is in seams and creases you are most likely to find them.

You can sometimes find grayling in deeper pool bodies and slack water, but usually this is much more common in the warmer months and early autumn, where the fish tend to be far more spread out than mid-Winter.

Autumn really is a special time of year to spend a few hours in search of grayling

Autumn really is a special time of year to spend a few hours in search of grayling.

Short Line Nymphing

The principle winter method used for targeting graying is short line nymphing. This method allows heavy nymphs to be presented on or near the river bed, in the graylings preferred taking zone.

When using this method no real fly casting is actually employed – in fact the weight of the flies help the ‘cast’ go out and turnover. The technique is to flick a team of heavily weighted nymphs across and slightly upstream, often not more than a rod length or two away.

A standard fly line can be used, however it wont be as anywhere near effective as using a monofilament French leader, or the purpose designed Airflo SLN euro line. These are both more sensitive and easier to use cast with ultra heavy flies; being much thinner in diameter, drag is reduced and line control improved immensely.

Once a ‘cast’ is made (typically from 2 to 6 meters) the flies are allowed to settle to the river bed and then the drift is tracked through in a nice arc with the rod held high, followed by a lift at the final position almost directly down stream.

The short line nymphing technique in action.

The short line nymphing technique in action.

Line control and a drag free drift are key, so ensure you track through and keep in contact with the flies. Takes can come at any time, but more so on the final lift. The indicator or junction between the tippet material and leader is watched closely for any hesitation or movement.

In the case of the Airflo SLN line the orange tip and non-stretch core really help you spot and connect to hesitant strikes in an instant. You can make an indicator out of a 6 inch piece of coloured mono easily enough for use with a French leader.

A grayling caught short line nymphing

A grayling caught short line nymphing.

Rod choice

To facilitate short line nymphing a long soft actioned fly fishing rod is ideal – for example the 10 foot #3 weight Greys Streamflex GR70, or the Airflo Streamtec 10′ #3/4. Reel choice is not so important, but look to balance the length of your rod in order to reduce arm fatigue  – you may be making hundreds of short flicks each session!

Although not essential, an Airflo castaid is a handy addition when grayling fishing – it not only helps combat arm tiredness and prevents your wrist aching the day after, it also improves accuracy and power of your delivery significantly by stopping your wrist breaking.

Tippet material

For your leader don’t make the mistake of going too light. When fishing heavy weight nymphs in winter it’s better to have abrasion resistance so you don’t loose your flies on the bottom. Our choice is the Airflo G5 fluorcarbon in 5.5lb or G3 in 6lb. Both are supple enough to give your flies natural movement but also have a low diameter and reliable knot strength.

If you are not hooking and bumping the bottom occasionally then you are simply not fishing deep enough; for this reason carry a hook sharpener with you, as a blunted fly is useless.

Grayling flies

In regards to the flies fishing a team of two or three works best – usually a heavier jig pattern with a tungsten bead on the point, and a lighter more imitative pattern on the dropper. We stock some ideal smaller more imitative grayling fly patterns from Fulling mill, which are simply ideal for your droppers.

For real bottom dredging flies, it is often better to tie these yourself, to ensure they have enough weigh to get down in strong flows. The Fulling Mill barbless jig and czech nymph hooks combined with funky fly tying tungsten beads are a great match. Wrap the fly body in glister dubbing and finish with a wire rib and you will have a fly will catch grayling all year long.

Some grayling fly tying essentials

Some grayling fly tying essentials.

Experiment with bead size and colour combinations – generally pink, red and peacock black are the most lethal colours for grayling. Don’t forget to add red tags to some of your bugs, as this can sometimes make all the difference.

A well stocked fly box full of grayling patterns for different flows

An Airflo slim jim fly box with grayling patterns.

Make sure your fly box is well stocked with nymphs with varying bead heads for different flow regimes. In regards to fly weight here’s a tip which many anglers over look – take some coarse fishing split shots with you. You can then quickly adjust your weight, depth, and presentation by simply pinching a shot on your line.

Fishing with strike Indicators

Another grayling nymphing method is using a strike indicator, with your flies suspended beneath. Attach an indicator above your flies, at a position approximately the depth of the water you are fishing. Cast slightly upstream and dead drift down and past you – throwing some slack into the line to avoid drag. You can carry the drift on downstream if necessary with a shake of the rod to let line out.

This method is most effective on deep gutters, long glides, flats and deeper pools. With an indicator we usually fish a two fly rig, with a heavy bug to act as an anchor with a dropper a foot above. Any dip or hesitation on your drift strike!

A bung like the Air-Lok is simply perfect for long line drifting – it’s ease of attachment and adjustment on the leader make it a winner. It’s also ultra buoyant so it will suspend the heaviest of bugs without going under. The Fulling Mill  fish pimp indicator is another one to try.

The video below shows the use of an Airlock Strike indicator, notice how quick and easy it is to attach. In this case it is simply added onto a french leader.

In this second video on a far larger river an indicator was attached to an Airflo SLN line and drifted across and down at range. Some of the takes were coming at over 25 yards downriver, in water to deep to wade.

The Dry Fly and Duo

The third method is the dry fly/duo combination – a great option for searching water, especially with milder weather or with surface insect activity. It’s not usually a first line approach, but it’s well worth taking suitable flies with you a you may come across some brief winter surface activity in the mid-day slot.

Copper johns - an ideal grayling fly for fishing the duo

Copper johns – an ideal grayling fly for fishing the duo.

Simply use a Kilnkhammer special or similar buoyant dry fly with a trailing nymph tied to the hook bend – a copper john is our favourite trailing fly, but any reasonably small nymph will do. Tippet length from hook bend to nymph is typically 18 to 24 inches depending on river depth. For the leader material use a tapered leader and co-polymer, rather than fluorocarbon.

A lovely autumn grayling.

A scale perfect autumn grayling taken on the duo.

Sometimes the grayling can switch onto an upwing fly hatch, so you can snip off the trailing nymph and fish just the dry fly. Surface action doesn’t happen a lot, but when it does, it’s probably the best graying fishing experience out there – nothing beats a grayling nailing a dry fly in the middle of a freezing cold January day.

Fishtec’s Grayling fishing tackle check list:

  • Breathable waders.
  • Thermal underwear suit.
  • Wading boots with felt soles and studs.
  • Warm head and neck wear.
  • Long, Slower action fly rod e.g 10 #3/4
  • Fly reel to balance rod.
  • Line suitable for short line nymphing – e.g French leader, SLN Euro, or shooting head running line.
  • Standard fly line on spare spool for dry fly/duo.
  • Selection of nymphs tied with various tungsten bead heads.
  • Strong enough tippet material for winter flows and snags.
  • Hook sharpener.
  • Set of strike indicators – Airlock or Fish pimps.
  • Split shot.
  • Waterproof phone case.

    Two grayling tackle 'must haves' wader studs and thermal suit.

    Two grayling tackle ‘must haves’ wader studs and thermal suit.

 

Small Stream Trouting (In Two Minutes)

Over the years we have had many superb writers contribute to the Fishtec blog, but few come as close to capturing the excitement and enthusiasm of the moment as Airflo tackle nut Stuart Smitham does. In this write up Stuart shares his latest passion – the charms of small brook fishing!

With an ever growing number taking up small stream fishing, I am one of those that has recently felt the draw of the tumbling Brook. It is a feeling like nothing else for me right now. Casting short but more accurate distances for free rising fish. That pulse of the rod tip as a good fish decides to go for gold and do a Usain Bolt on you. Sheer bliss.

Fishing a small shropshire brook.

Fishing a small Shropshire brook.

Replacing the 10 ft #7 rod with one that is 7ft 9”and a #3 line is something else and is light as a feather in comparison. Matching the rod with an Airflo Xceed reel and Super Dri Xceed fly line, I have a very good outfit that is well up to the job. Since the extension of the Sightfree tippet range to include the Tactical tippet, this has been a fantastic addition to my small stream kit.

Fishing here is Shropshire, we are quite spoiled for choice, as there are numerous small streams to choose from that thread their way through some gorgeous countryside.

When I say small stream I mean small, with brook widths of my rod length or less, but there is always the possibility of catching a really beaut of a trout, from possibly one of the smallest of rise forms. The free risers often feed more avidly just before dark or early morning. Through the day they’ll often sulk away in some way out scrub or bush tangle, that offers comfort in the current and out of the sun. Don’t get me wrong here, these fish ain’t going to ignore the flies coming past them. They’re hiding often in plain sight, right under a bush or branch and often with a bolt hole, should they need it?

A lot can happen in two minutes……

(Start the clock) One such day I was casting a small size 14 Iron Blue Dun variant on what was it’s first trial. This fly is tied with a fluorescent red butt and fluorescent red head to match. Casting and wading between long tangles of weed and casting between reed and nettle fringed banks, the wind picks up and I make a bad delivery with my fly just catching a reed stem.

(10 seconds) Making a small quick anti clockwise spin on the rod tip, the fly plucks clear and lands on a floating frond of weed. I let the stream current draw on the fly line and fly just slips into the current eddie.

(20 seconds) There are small rise forms in the next pool up, so I’m expectant, poised and nervous too, all in the same moment. The fly moves slowly down toward me as the stream current creates drag on the water surface to catch at my fly and leader. Then the fly just stops momentarily in the current with a shadow below it – with the smallest of rises the fly gets sucked down and I don’t see the shadow anymore? I lift my rod up and grip my fly line, to take up the slack line and strike!

(35 seconds) This is the point when a man with more control would sit back and just soak up the moment. I’m not built that way, so start wondering how I’m going to handle this fish, which by the way is now tearing off upstream!

(50 seconds) Bringing the reel into life I realise I have slack line around legs and weed. Tangle the line here and it’s game over. So I reel in the slack and pray the hook maintains it’s hold. This fish is not pleased about being connected to me and for good reason too. It’s a wild Brownie and I’ve just seen it’s head with some lovely looking spots on it’s flanks. It turns downstream and comes straight at me. Holding the rod tip up, this is now a very dangerous moment! Slack line or snag the line and I’m a broken man. .

(1.20) The fish then does an out of the water flip and falls on weed, which it spins on and drags my leader through it , making a bold decision I plunge the rod tip under and the Brownie pops up with it’s tail pounding away. The little fly rod is bouncing away at the rod tip and I know I have to be really careful now. With the fish tiring and starting to come toward me, I have a chance of landing this beast. I undo the French clip on my net and get ready…

(2.00) Pushing the rod tip upward I try to draw to fish toward me. He wants none of it and smashes his tail at the surface water. I make a lot ditch attempt to net this fish and lean down with the rod up and drag the Brownie of the wait net rim

In those brief moments you feel every emotion don’t you? Thrilled, paralysed in space and time. Rushes of adrenaline and your trying to keep calm. Shaking on the thrill ride that you don’t want to come off. Then praying you don’t lose the fish, which you’ve just seen and it makes it worse. Then, as quickly as the thrill starts, it ebbs away as you gaze at what is one of nature’s true marvels. A beautiful brown trout, resplendent in black ash spots with red spots intermingled. The magenta tinges on the gill plates are just sheer gorgeousness (is that a word?)

The reward - as fine a river trout as you will find anywhere...

The reward – as fine a river trout as you will find anywhere…

With the trout in the net, I am truly a happy chap. Thrilled and relieved that I landed it. So a few pics for posterity and release it to fight another day. Then onto the next pool?

Big thanks to Ceri Thomas at Airflo for encouraging me to look into other lies and areas on the stream. It was he who said to me, “there are bigger ones in there”. How right he was!!!

Fly Fishing Ireland – River Fishing in County Wexford

It was that time of year again for a family holiday. My destination this summer was the Republic of Ireland, a thatched cottage near Ballyedmond in rural County Wexford to be precise. Naturally I had to scope out the fishing opportunities in the area!

I began researching the region online. It turned out County Wexford has no Loughs or stillwater’s of any note, so the options would have to be river angling. As it happens it looked like we were practically on the banks of a tributary of the Ounavarragh (or Owenavorragh) river, an 18 mile long trout, salmon and sea trout fishery flowing through verdant Irish country side. There was scant information available online about this river, but I did manage to locate a blog style website for the local fishing club, detailing where to get permits.

The Owenavorragh County Wexford

The Owenavorragh County Wexford.

Next thing was to ensure the trout fishing river gear was organised and packed. A tip for doing this is to create a ‘favourites’ fly box and really strip down your tackle. I managed to compact everything into a TF Gear F8 chest pack. My chosen rod was a 7’6 #3/4 weight Streamtec rod, in 4 sections so easily stowable.

Once in Ireland (after the obligatory first pint of Guinness!) The mission to find a permit began. The ice cream parlor was closed, I went to the wrong Jewellers store, but eventually the right place was located, only to find the usual mild confusion when requesting a ticket. All was sorted when Pascal, the proprietor at Whitmores Jewellers emerged at the counter. A lovely chap, he gave me a few tips on where to head. For just 25 Euro for the week I was all set.

Unfortunately you don’t get a map with your ticket, so it was a case of working it out yourself by doing a bit of driving about and looking over bridges for likely spots – all part of the fun.

After enjoying a nice family day out, I was set to hit the river for the first time, snatching a few hours in the late afternoon on quite a warm day. The spot I found was near where we were staying on the upper reaches of the river. It wasn’t really a river here, more a brook to be fair. Slow to moderate flow, weedbeds and nice undercut banks all looked very fishy.

Rising Trout on the first bend

Rising Trout on the first bend.

Ducking under a bridge, I spotted a riser on the first bend which came to hand on a  dry ant pattern. A small jewel like fish, pretty as a picture. Working upriver, overhead trees and undergrowth made for challenging fishing, but it’s what I am used to on the Wye and Usk streams at home. A few more beautiful little trout came to hand – mainly on dries and the duo, even streamers worked in some very slow still segments.

Small but perfectly formed - victim of the duo

Small but perfectly formed – victim of the duo.

What stuck me immediately was the sheer quantity of fish – each and every pool was literally swarming with them. Now this isn’t usually a problem (quite the opposite for most places!) but in this case I have to say there are almost too many fish in this river! This created an issue, because as soon as I moved into a new pool numerous ‘sentries’ at the tail end bolted upriver, altering every fish in the area. Once this happened, the small gin clear pools were literally churned up with dozens of stampeding spooked brownies; many were small 6 – 8 inch fish but with a few bigger ones thrown into the mix. Most of my fish therefore came to longer range casts than normal for a small stream.

Meadow stretch of the Owenavorragh river

Meadow stretch of the Owenavorragh river.

Next outing I tried a few miles further down river. Here the river was a little bigger, with nice meadow pools going into a wooded section above a bridge. The issue remained with the sheer numbers of small spooky fish, making it tough. Still, I winkled out quite a few; beauties each one – small but perfectly formed. The duo method worked best, casting into any pool head or crease, closer to the bank the better.  Some of the sections were deepish slow water with little flow making the duo hard to fish. A solution was to pitch a streamer upriver, into the edges on a longer line. A sink and draw retrieve got me plenty of hits, and lured a few better fish from under bankside cover.

Streamers can be very effective on small streams

Streamers can be surprising effective on small rivers.

As holiday time is precious, particularly with the weather being exceptionally good I took to visiting the Owenavorragh early mornings, for just a few hours before breakfast. 6.30 am starts are worth it – stunning sunrises, misty banks and jewel like trout were the reward. I also observed a large shoal of sea trout in one crystal clear pool, quite a sight.

Irish stream trout - worth getting up early for

Stunning Irish stream trout – worth getting up early for!

My favourite part of the fishing (and the holiday overall) was taking my two girls aged 5 and 7 fishing on the small tributary just a minutes walk down the road from our cottage. This was just a tiny brook, but with one big pool which was teeming with trout. Fishing one at a time, part of the adventure was us clambering down to the water, wading ankle deep under a bridge and then creeping up on the trout through thick undergrowth.

I attached a Fulling Mill  mini pimp indicator to the leader with a small nymph and instructed the girls to watch it – any movement and we would strike! As it happened, we had over a dozen fine Irish trout from that spot, plus spotted an eel and other stream-life. The girls were thrilled to be involved and carefully returned all the fish to the water after taking a look at them – hopefully giving them the angling bug for life. I’m proud to say It was their highlight of the holiday as well as mine.

Successful stream angling in Ireland

Successful stream angling in Ireland.

The River Owenavorragh isn’t a ‘big fish’ river, but it is one of the prettiest I have ever fished, with wild trout to match. A lovely location and well worth wetting a line in if you are in that part of Ireland.

10 Spinner Fall Fishing Tips and Tactics

Airflo and Fishtec online marketing manager Ceri Thomas looks at how to make the most of the blue winged olive spinner fall, an important summer time hatch on UK rivers.
Spinner feeding trout
Mid and late summer mark some of the best late evening fishing of the year, when after hatching blue winged olive’s return to the water and lay their eggs. Spent and dying after this reproductive process, the ‘spinner’ stage of this insect becomes trapped in the surface film making them easy prey for river trout.

Imitating this hatch when the fish are ‘locked in’ requires a very specific type of fly, with the correct wing profile and silhouette. Your flies must sit flat in the surface film, or they will be ignored or refused. Get it right though, and the dry fly sport can be spectacular.

The best spinner fly imitations are very simple in design, and tend to have splayed wings at right angles to the body, therefore allowing the flies to sit ‘just right’ in surface film, perfectly imitating the spent insect.

A typical spinner pattern for the BWO fall.

A typical spinner pattern for the BWO fall.

These flies are fairly small, so size 16 to 18 are the best hook sizes. I tend to make them using the excellent Fulling Mill down eye dry fly hooks. Poly yarn, deer hair and CDC can all be used to make buoyant spinner wings.  Patterns such as the rusty spinner, sherry spinner and KJ red spinner will all work very well as spinner imitations. You can see a video on how to make the KJ red spinner on the Fishtec blog here.

With the correct flies in your box, you will stand a far better chance of some great sport; however it’s not always a simple case of just turning up and fishing. For your late evening dry fly spinner fishing to be truly effective you need to think about tactics – so I have put together 10 top tips and tactics for fishing the BWO spinner fall productively.

Spinner fall fishing tips & tactics:

1. Pick a long flat pool – Not a turbulent boulder strewn stretch, or very fast riffle water. The ideal ‘spinner water’ is flat and fairly still, with a slow to moderate flow. Here spinners get trapped in the surface film, and it is much easier for trout to spot them and pick them off at their leisure. This sort of water can be rock hard in the day time, but will come to life in the evening. Wading will also tend to be easier in such locations.

2. Know your stretch
– Make sure you know your way in, and crucially out of the stretch of river you intend to fish. This is extremely important, as stumbling over a rocky river bed in the dark can be dangerous. You can also plan how much time you should spend working your way upriver to the exit point.

3. Choose a pool where you know there is a good head of fish – The evening rise is short and frantic, so if you hit the wrong section of river you may end up struggling. You won’t have time to move spot. So do your research in advance.

4. Hit the river late – Do not make the mistake of entering the river too early. You could end up spooking your target fish, and putting them down before the rise begins. I tend to begin fishing an hour before sunset. In July/August that is around 8.00 pm.

5. Do not leave the river too early – Fish on as late as you can. Biggest mistake is to pack up as it is getting dark. The height of the rise is almost always as the light finally dies. It is at this point where fish can have a ‘stupid half hour’ and will lose caution – make sure you don’t miss it! You can carry on fishing into the night by making a mental note of where rising fish were in relation to your position, and by simply blind casting at whatever you can hear rising.

A nice brown trout - caught well into darkeness on a spinner pattern.

A nicely marked brown trout – caught well into darkness on a rusty spinner pattern.

6. Pack a head torch – Essential for changing flies, and exiting the river in one piece. Make sure you don’t forget this piece of fishing gear, its vital! The head torch I am using at the moment is the TF Gear night spark from Fishtec, it’s a cracking bit of kit, very bright and fully waterproof.

Evening spinner fishing essentails.

Evening spinner fishing essentials.

7. Use a long leader – The flat nature of ‘spinner water’ means a long leader is essential. I like to use as long a leader as I can, usually this is two rod lengths (18-20 foot). I make these by adding an armspan length of tippet (normally 4 -5 foot) to a 15 foot long Airflo tapered mono leader. This means turnover is perfect, with very little chance of spooking the fish with the end of my fly line. The extra leader length also adds more range to your casts.

8. Make accurate casts – Might be an obvious thing to say, but it really matters! Unlike some other hatches, spinner feeding trout will very rarely move far to intercept a fly. They tend to hover just sub surface, with a very small window of often just a few inches across. This means your fly need to land within this window, right on the nose. Sometimes you may think a refusal is down to a fussy fish, but it could be it simply hasn’t seen your fly… So practice your accuracy.

9. Creep up on your fish – As it gets dark you can get much closer to a consistently rising fish. It is better to have that precious ‘one shot’ at close to medium range, rather than a long distance effort where you have a worse chance of a decent hookset, and risk spooking the fish with an imperfect cast. Make every effort to be quiet in the water – a gentle approach with frequent pauses in your movement can really pay off, and allow you to get close enough for a perfect cast.

10. Take care with your tippet diameter – Don’t go too fine! The wing design of spinner fly patterns means they can twist your leader up easily, especially if your tippet is overly thin. This can ruin presentation and cause tangles. Bear in mind that a thicker diameter won’t bother the trout in low light conditions, especially if you de-grease the leader every few casts. For spinner sizes 14 – 18 I tend to use 5X Airflo co-polymer (Typically about 4.0lb BS) this helps combat tippet twist, with added confidence for bullying big fish to the net.

A pretty spinner feeding brown - worth staying on the river late for!

A pretty spinner feeding brown – worth staying on the river late for!