Iain Barr New Fly Set Selections

I’m proud to announce a new selection of fly sets available at Fishtec. My aim has always been to supply all my latest innovative patterns to the fishing world. Almost 40 years of experience from around the globe goes into every fly with experience to the highest level going into the designs.

Precise detail goes into every fly ensuring you have the best flies available to you from record breaking double world champion Iain Barr. Here at Iain Barr Fly Fishing World Champions Choice we live, sleep and breathe fishing and our dedication and commitment goes into our products ensuring you have the best chance of catching more fish.

Success for Iain Barr fishing flies!!

Success for Iain Barr fishing flies

New packs, new edges!!

The first new pack now available is aimed at the small water angler – The Indicator Selection. A great way to get into fly fishing is starting with an ‘indicator’ with flies suspended below it. It’s also used by the very best anglers in the country too to great effect. It contains 3 different coloured indicators for different light conditions with 9 natural nymphs/buzzers which you tit to suspend static below it. Simply cast them out and watch the indicator shoot away! Fish static for best results but occasionally do a short twitch of the line to make the suspended flies move. Typically you should suspend your flies at 3 foot and 6 foot. 9 foot if you fish a team of 3 flies below the indicator.

Iain Barr indicator fly set

Iain Barr indicator fly set

Next is my new Natural Booby nymph selection – This great pack consists of all the natural nymphs but tied with booby eyes. It allows you to fish them on the surface or on sinking lines. They come into their own when fishing over weed beds and are commonly used in the washing line method where you fish a natural booby on the point with nymphs up the line. The pack consists of Midas Boobies, Hopper Boobies and nymphs such as Cruncher Boobies. Ideal for fishing as dries as no gink is needed!

Iain Barr natural boobies

Iain Barr natural boobies

Buzzers form 90% of a trout’s staple diet and many of these are micro buzzers, especially through the middle and end of the year. We have now increased our buzzer selections to include size 14’s in my favourite 6 buzzers. Dropping to a smaller size can bring huge dividends especially if you’re getting aggressive ‘intrigued’ takes from the fish as opposed to a ‘slide away’ take. On all small waters, especially where catch and release is practiced, I always fish size 14 buzzers. Very rarely do I fish a team of these without a Candy Blob or Candy FAB on the point. SSSSHHHHHH, this is a deadly method, try it! Or try with a natural booby on the point to suspend them. ALWAYS FISH BUZZERS STATIC FOR BEST RESULTS.

Iain Barr Micro Buzzers

Iain Barr Micro Buzzers

A revelation in recent years is the very popular CDC Owls. We have included all the favourite colours in our new CDC Owl Selection including the very popular yellow owl. Quality CDC with sufficient feathers ensure these sit right in the film, often where the fish want them most. If the fish are not breaking the surface but you see a flattening spot or the slightest of tiny rises it’s time for the owls! They are a must for buzzer feeders but also excel when fishing for Snail and Corixa feeders. They are available in size 12 and 14.

Iain Barr Rutland CDC owls

Iain Barr Rutland CDC owls

Crunchers are my all time favourite nymphs and I have created a new Rutland Cruncher Set. All my favourite Rutland Crunchers in one pack. Tied with small cheeks, these are great for buzzer and corixa feeders. When the fish are feeding high in the water or fish are in the shallows and epoxy buzzers would just fish too deep this is your answer. Great for fishing Rutland South and North arm around the shallows and weed beds. Available in natural brown, black and olive you have all colours required.  Fish static for best results or try with our natural booby set or between two Boobies or blobs when pulling but don’t forget to hang your flies! Available in size 10/12.

Iain Barr New Crunchers

Iain Barr New Crunchers

Our Rutland Muskin Buzzer selection is a must have for the avid buzzer angler. It’s an exciting time of year when the line is ripped from your fingers and these are very effective! Designed to imitate the pupae in the higher layers of the water these should be used when the fish are higher in the water column or feeding in the shallows.  Deadly on Rutland Water but in my armoury for every venue and all small waters! The UV Thorax Muskins are also used for corixa feeders and should be twitched accordingly other wise fish static for best results. Available in size 10/12

Iain Barr Rutland Muskins Buzzers

Iain Barr Rutland Muskins Buzzers

The North Arm Dry Fly selection is all you need for fishing Rutland’s North Arm. It has all the essentials to catch some of the large fish that cruise up here in the shallows. It includes my all time favourite dry fly, the Big Red along with CDC Owls, Hoppers and the deadly Midas! Larger fish will always come to dry flies and fish static for best results. Avoid casting long lines when fishing dries and aim to cast no more than 7-8 yards at most!

Iain Barr Rutland North Arm Dries

Iain Barr Rutland North Arm Dries

The Midas Magic pack consists of this very popular dry fly in several colours. This over dressed dry fly just sucks the fish up to take it. The takes can be from a gentle sip to an aggressive explosion. They are very effective for the Grafham Shrimp Feeders to Reservoir Buzzer feeders. Many people still think fish have to be rising to use a dry fly, this is simply not true. If conditions are right, preferably mild with cloud and a gentle breeze, cast out a Midas, you will be surprised. If a gentle ripple, gink the top of the fly and top of the hackle so it sits lower in the surface. In a big wind I smother the fly so it rides high in the wave! Fish freely over open water or across the shallows. Fish static for best results. Available in size 10/12

Iain Barr Midas Magic

Iain Barr Midas Magic

For the small water angler and winter bank angler we have come up with our Winter Bank Selection. It consists of all the favourites in white and green, back and green and the trigger orange! Fish with varied retrieves from a slow figure of 8 to a long fast pulls. Keep changing the colours regularly to keep the fish coming and enjoy the excitement as they nip the tails before grabbing hold!

Iain Barr Winter Banker Selection

Iain Barr Winter Banker Selection

FNF Jelly Fritz has taken the market by storm and our new Rutland Jelly Blobs are taken the UK by storm too! All the bight colours and new combinations of colours tried and tested by Iain Barr. The pack includes the Iain Barr original Candy Blob and is a favourite fished static with nymphs. Although many believe these flies should be pulled at break neck speed, and at times they should, I catch more fish with these fished static with nymphs or buzzers up the line.

Iain Barr Rutland Jelly Blobs

Iain Barr Rutland Jelly Blobs

Our new Jelly FAB pack is also among our favourites. These are ideal for fishing the washing line with nymphs or buzzers up the line. They are Blobs with a small piece of foam tied in the rear to help suspend them near the surface. With a team of nymphs or buzzers, they help slow the descent to drop through the water layers slower. They can be ripped on floating to sinking lines but do try static with buzzers and nymphs on floating or tip lines.

Iain Barr Jelly Magic Fab

Iain Barr Jelly Magic Fab’s

Unique to Iain Barr, these Milky ‘Barr’ Jellies are ties using the FNF Milk Fritz with an array of bright colours in the middle. This pack offers Blobs, Fabs and Boobies in one and are proven on all Midlands Reservoirs. Rip them, twitch them or fish them static with nymphs for explosive action! These are perfect for daphnia feeders covering the array of daphnia colours that exist in our waters. On small waters fish one of these on the point with Micro Buzzers on the droppers but static.

Iain Barr Milky Barr Jellies

Iain Barr Milky Barr Jellies

The full selection of Iain Barr fly sets can be found here.

Small is beautiful: Why it’s time to hit your local trout fishery

They provide accessible sport in all weathers for young and old. Many of us will catch our first and our last fish at one of Britain’s many small fly fisheries. So why are these venues struggling? Across so many of our intimate, smaller trout waters, the message is “use it or lose it” says Dominic Garnett.

Autumn leaves or spring frost, your local day ticket trout fishery provides consistent sport.

Autumn leaves or spring frost, your local day ticket trout fishery provides consistent sport.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Like many fly anglers, my first ever catch was at a small stillwater trout fishery. As a youngster, it represented a very different experience to the local coarse fisheries. The water was beautifully clear, for one thing. Spotting the fish and attempting to ambush them with what seemed a pathetically tiny fly was intoxicating stuff.

The casting was an uphill battle, but thankfully there was plenty of space to practise. Somehow or other I convinced a trout to grab my Hare’s Ear. The way the rod came alive was thrilling. I was a fly fisher from that day onwards – and the money I’ve spent on day tickets, fly fishing tackle and the rest since would reach well into the thousands of pounds (or hundreds, possibly, if my wife is reading this).

Sadly, the venue in question, Watercress Farm, has long since closed down. Like so many others across the UK, the owners called it a day. But this is nothing new; in fact, it’s happening right across the UK.

Small water survival

Action at Devon’s Bellbrook Valley, a typically intimate small fishery.

Action at Devon’s Bellbrook Valley, a typically intimate small fishery.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

If the fishing at small waters is incredibly consistent, the same cannot be said for the visiting anglers, or indeed the economy as a whole. Cost can be prohibitive for some, but obviously fisheries have to charge enough to maintain themselves. Many venues have closed as they’re simply not sustainable. Others went the way of the carp bug, the owners realising there was more money to be made with coarse fish.

Some anglers can be sniffy about fishing smaller stocked waters, too. This seems a little unfair, because many of them are special, intimate places that deliver reliable fishing through thick and thin. When the rivers are flooded, the season is over, or friends and family want a day out, these places are a godsend.

The best small waters aren’t crude fish factories – they balance natural habitat with fishing needs. With rich fly life and trickle stocking to allow fish to acclimatise, they can also provide more natural sport. From buzzer and sedge hatches, to margins heaving with sticklebacks and hog lice, there are lots of possibilities.

Coming into their own

Some fisheries offer limited catch and release, if you prefer not to have a fridge full of trout.

Some fisheries offer limited catch and release, if you prefer not to have a fridge full of trout.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

It’s right now, in the autumn and winter, that small waters are at their very best. This fact often seems lost on the summer crowds, who try their luck in the toughest, brightest conditions. Once the days are cooler, the trout are much more comfortable and hungry. You might be in a farmer’s back yard in Hampshire or Cornwall, but remember that the rainbow trout is a fish of northerly climes and countries like Canada and America. It can hardly get too cold to catch them here in the UK!

It’s as the weather cools that the venues need your support most, too. £20 might seem a fair pinch for a typical day of fishing, but it’s good value when you consider you could easily take home five kilos of fresh trout, or more. Even if you don’t eat them all (one fish is usually enough to feed me and the wife), nothing endears you more to neighbours and workmates than a fresh trout…

For the all round angler, perhaps the idea of bopping a trout on the head is too strange to contemplate. In which case, you might find catch and release options at some fisheries. The clever ones have managed to mix a limited amount of this alongside put and take, although trout can be brittle and not everyone is a fan.

Treat yourself this autumn and winter…

A typical “stockie”. While not wild, they’re certainly beautiful and quickly adapt to natural food.

A typical “stockie”. While not wild, they’re certainly beautiful and quickly adapt to natural food.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Granted, we’ve never had it better in terms of variety in our fly fishing. I’ll spend this winter targeting everything from grayling to pike. But I’m not one to turn my nose up at a bit of day ticket trout fishing. On the contrary, when conditions are hard, or I simply fancy a straightforward day out with plenty of takes, a local stillwater is the place.

There’s nothing to say you have to fish it with lures or try and hit a limit in a couple of hours. The level of challenge is up to you. Quality, not quantity, is a good attitude to take here, whether that means trying small, natural flies, or stalking fish where clarity permits.

If it’s been a while since you went to your local trout fishery, now’s the time to make a return. You’re almost guaranteed some good sport. Chances are you can also try your favourite tactic, whether that means picking them off with emergers or pulling lures.

Last but not least, these fisheries are the perfect place to take friends and family, which is the single best thing you can do to help the sport you love. My father is a classic example. He doesn’t really do wading or tight swims these days. Which is fair enough, because he’s not as nimble as he once was. In fact, without small waters to cast a fly, his fishing season would be a lot more limited, full stop.

So, if you don’t want to lose these waters, the message is perfectly simple – support them! Get out there and have a great day. Better still, share it with a friend and please celebrate your local fishery, because like a favourite local pub, we always miss them when they close down.

Top tips for fly-fishing on small waters this winter:

Keeping active and locating hotspots is key to cold water fishing. At Simpson Valley (above) the fish were in the deep water around the stone “monk”.

Keeping active and locating hotspots is key to cold water fishing. At Simpson Valley (above) the fish were in the deep water around the stone “monk”.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

  1. Use light, balanced tackle. With typical small water trout averaging a couple of pounds, you don’t need to go crazy with tackle. A five weight fly rod is perfect for getting plenty of drama with “fun sized” trout. Leaders of less than 6lbs are not usually necessary, unless you want to try fishing dry flies.
  1. Go natural: Lures might bring quick results, but for more involved fishing, do take a look at what’s hatching. You’ll find creatures like buzzers, midges and corixa in just about any pond or lake.
  1. Watch closely: As most small waters are spring fed and colder nights help to clear the water, sight fishing can be capital. Rather than simply setting up and casting, have a sneak about and see what you can spot. With practice, this is also a great way to single out the bigger trout.
  1. Stay mobile: Just because the spot by the car park is available, it doesn’t hurt to have a wander. In fact, the only time to loiter in one place is if you’re regularly getting bites.
  1. Find the hotspots and follow the breeze: Even on man-made waters, there will be good spots and leaner spots. Look for springs and inlets, deeper dam areas and any corner the wind is blowing into. Trout will often follow the breeze.
  1. Two’s company: The best way to fish a small stillwater is with a mate. Whether it’s some friendly competition or a case of comparing notes, these venues are great for a social day out. You win bonus points for taking a complete beginner or someone who hasn’t been fishing in ages!

12 FANTASTIC DAY TICKET TROUT FISHERIES TO TRY

Young Welsh international fly angler Medi Treharne plays a lively fish at Garnffrwd Fishery.

Young Welsh international fly angler Medi Treharne plays a lively fish at Garnffrwd Fishery.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

We couldn’t hope to cover all the best day ticket fly fishing in this short blog, but here’s a dozen fantastic small waters to try over the coming months.

SOUTH & SOUTH WEST

Bellbrook Valley Trout Fishery (Near Tiverton, Devon)

For those who like intimate fishing, this series of cute lakes provide a lovely setting to stalk fish at close quarters. The lakes have a nice natural feel, too, with flies like damsels and corixa working well.

Simpson Valley (North Devon)

There’s a great choice of tickets at this pleasant Devon fishery. These include catch and release options in the cooler months. The £10 two fish ticket on Skylark Lake is the best value you can get to take a beginner fly fishing!

Manningford Trout Fishery (Wiltshire)

Within a short drive of Swindon, Chippenham and Andover, Manningford is one of the best run fly fisheries I have ever visited, period. Two lakes offer quality fishing for prime rainbow and brown trout, whatever the weather. Also a great place for tuition, or to try river fishing on the Upper Avon, which the fishery also offers.

Duncton Mill Fishery (West Sussex)

Four sparkling, spring fed lakes make for superb fly fishing here on the South Downs. An onsite tackle shop and club room make this a civilised day out regardless of the season! It’s also an events venue at times, so do check the website before setting out.

WALES & MIDLANDS

Garnffrwd Fly Fishery (Near Llanelli)

You’d hesitate to call this a “small” stillwater. It’s a good size, with stacks of fishy features to explore. The size and quality of trout, along with an excellent and friendly onsite shop, make it one of the best day ticket trout fisheries in Wales.

Ringstead Grange Trout Fishery

Family run and open right into December, Ringstead offers lots of space and superb value (just £16 for three fish currently). At 36 acres, it’s a venue suited to the slightly more experienced angler perhaps, and an ideal place to try boat fishing. It also has good disabled access.

Woolaston Court Trout Lakes (Gloucestershire)

A great location within easy reach of Gloucester and South Wales, Woolaston has three lakes and trout that run well into double figures. Open every day except Tuesdays all winter.

EAST

Black Dyke Fishery (Norfolk)

Excellent fly fishing in the Norfolk countryside, with prices starting at just £18 for a 2 fish plus catch and release ticket.

Chigborough Farm (Maldon, nr Colchester)

Three trout lakes of differing sizes offer a suitable challenge from beginner to expert. There are also options for catch and release, too, once you’ve caught a fish or two.

NORTH

Mere Beck (Lancashire)

Situated near Southport, but also within half an hour of Wigan and Preston, this attractive site offers productive year round fly fishing in Lancashire. With some flow to it, it’s also rather unique as a not-quite-stillwater! Cracking rainbow, brown and blue trout are all here to catch, with a good choice of tickets.

Roxholme Trout Fishery (Nottinghamshire)

Within easy reach of South Yorkshire, this family run fishery has rainbow, brown and blue trout in peaceful surroundings. Ideal whether you want that first bend in a beginner’s rod, or a shot at a real brute of a trout (they have been caught over 20lbs here!)

Danebridge Fisheries (Cheshire)

Fed by the River Dane, this venue’s rich fly hatches make it a favourite for the purist in need of a winter fly fix. The fish are superbly fit, too, thanks to the quality of the water. A special junior ticket at £6 per hour is also a useful addition for families.

If you’ve got a great small water fishery in your area that we haven’t mentioned, please give it a shout over on our Facebook page.

More from our blogger…
You can read more from Dom Garnett every week on the Angling Trust’s “Lines on the Water” blog, as well as his Angling Times column and various books, which include Flyfishing for Coarse Fish and Crooked Lines. See www.dgfishing.co.uk

Top Tips for Fry Feeders

For many fly-fishers, the arrival of autumn means grayling, salmon, or even hanging up their rods until spring. But, according to Theo Pike, there’s an alternative, and those in the know claim it’s some of the most electrifying sport of the year…

Imagine the scene: you’re walking the banks of your favourite stillwater in the crisp sunlight of a late October day. The sky is blue, and a brisk little breeze sends showers of golden leaves flurrying out over the water. It’s as pretty as a picture. But under that rippled, leaf-strewn surface, you know there’s a savage drama of life and death in progress.

A perfect October day for targeting fry feeders!!
Image: Ceri Thomas

All summer long, juvenile perch and roach have been growing from tiny see-through pin fry to miniature fish, maybe half the length of your finger at most. While the buzzer and caddis hatches were at their height, the predators haven’t bothered with them.

But now, winter is coming, and it’s time to pack on the protein. Big trout herd the fry into shallow areas, or pin them up against the surface, before slicing into the bait-balls with carnivorous urgency. With shocking suddenness, right in front of you, the water’s meniscus explodes as hundreds of fry take to the air, desperately trying to escape from the carnage below.

So how can you take full advantage of this seasonal feeding frenzy? Here are four tips for targeting fry feeders..

1. Search for the structure

Search for structures that offer fish fry safe haven
Image source: Ceri Thomas

Coarse fish fry clearly see the benefit of safety in numbers, but they also feel more secure near structure of some kind. Dam walls, bridge pilings, drowned trees, reed beds and even gradually shallowing water can all feel like home to nervous shoals of pin fry.Even the edges of boat pontoons can be worth a careful look. I still remember my first introduction to this kind of fishing on Barnsfold – detecting a very subtle disturbance in the water beside a row of boats, dropping a fly over the edge, and hanging on desperately as the biggest trout of the day smashed my little streamer on the surface!

Then again, some of the best fish-holding structures may not be so obvious. By late autumn, the luxuriant summer weedbeds will have died back below the surface, but what’s left of the weeds should still attract fry in good numbers. Sharp drop-offs, where shallow water deepens suddenly, also provide habitat for prey and predators alike, in close proximity to one another.

It’s worth remembering that many of our reservoirs were formed by flooding farmland, so sunken lanes can provide good examples of this kind of structure – along with old walls and fences. In short, time spent in reconnaissance is never wasted, and visiting your favourite fisheries in super low water can reveal lots of useful secrets for successful future campaigns.

  1. Shake up your tactics

Unlike some other stillwater strategies, trout feeding on fry, minnows or sticklebacks can require different methods every day, and the situation isn’t always as obvious as the frenzy I’ve described at the start of this article. Simply chucking-and-chancing it rarely works, and it pays to stay alert.

A juvenile roach – a perfect meal for a fry feeder!
Image: Ceri Thomas

First of all, don’t stay in one place for too long if you’re not seeing significant action. Be observant, and prepared to move to alternative locations. Wind direction can concentrate shoals of fry into definite areas of a reservoir, or even individual inlets, and gulls will sometimes betray the presence of vulnerable prey.

When you’ve found the fry, floating or intermediate lines are favoured by most anglers, with a weight-forward profile to help propel wind-resistant flies. Although the periods of obvious activity can seem worryingly brief and intense, don’t be afraid to experiment with different kinds of retrieve until you find the one that really works.

Dedicated lure fishers will know that it’s often the pause, hang or change of direction that finally triggers a positive attack after a non-committal follow, and you can accentuate these moments, especially as your fly comes up to meet you in the shallower margins, by twitching your rod tip up and down, or from side to side. It’s hair-raising stuff, especially if you can see it all playing out in front of you in low, clear water.

Having said all this, my personal favourite approach is probably still the fry-hunter’s equivalent of the dry fly: a foam or suspender-style imitation, hanging half-submerged in the surface film, quietly waiting to ambush marauding trout that are mopping up stunned or injured fry after the mayhem of the main assault.

  1. Tie for flash and movement

Deadly flies like these snakes have lots of movement to entice aggressive strikes.

Deadly flies like these snakes have lots of movement to entice aggressive strikes.
Featured product: Caledonia Company Rabbit Snake Lure from Fishtec

Tying your own flies isn’t essential (in fact, with more and more well-tied barbless and ‘tactical’ competition-derived patterns now on the market) it’s arguably less necessary than even two or three years ago. But being able to concoct your own dressings means that you can customise your flies to the individual demands of the waters you fish.

As ever, knowing your local patch is important, because fry can vary significantly in size and colours as the season develops, even within dominant prey species like roach and perch. Using a fine-meshed net to trap some samples for detailed examination can be a good idea.

Once you’re back at your vice, tying for subtle movement and translucency (or at least the impression of it) are the important points to remember. By comparison to modern creations like Popper Minkies and pale-coloured Cormorants, old-school Mylar, foam and even spun deer hair Muddler Minnow patterns can seem quite wooden and dead – so it makes sense to exploit the subtle, natural impression of fluttering life that marabou, rabbit strips and a touch of UV flash can convey.

Snake flies take this theory to the extreme, and it’s clear that they’ve proved very successful in many situations over the past couple of seasons. But don’t assume bigger and bulkier is always better… smaller flies are easier to cast, and may even look like a more vulnerable target for trout on the prowl.

A fry feeder captured on a snake pattern
Image: Matt Russell

  1. Tackle up for the job

Even if you’d normally fish a modern 10-foot 4-weight rod on your favourite stillwaters (like me or Brian Harris), fry-bashing season is probably the time to think about arming yourself with a heavier rig.

For the purposes of relative subtlety, I still try to go no heavier than a 5 or 6-weight rod, though many others would choose 7 or 8 as their optimum for propelling big, wind-resistant flies and taking the fight to aggressive, fired-up fish.

Long rods are traditional for loch-style fishing, and I’m equally addicted to them for bank work, helping me to control and manipulate my flies in enticing ways right into the shallows. Under these circumstances, I always feel safest with one fly rather than two or more, dangerously waving around on droppers to snag on obstacles or even draw other fish into the fight, but boat anglers can safely give the fish more of a choice of patterns.

Especially if you fish rivers as much as stillwaters, this may be one of the few times of the year when you’ll risk seeing your backing, so a reel with a decent brake will come into its own (and checking the knot between backing and floating or intermediate fly line won’t hurt either). Eight-pound tippet feels about right, but I’d have no hesitation in going heavier on truly huge-fish waters like Grantham, where the power of the grown-on beasts you’ll encounter might suddenly make you think you’ve been transported to the shores of the legendary Lago Strobel.

Yes… hunting large fry-feeding trout really is one of the biggest thrills of the fly-fishing year, and a very good reason not to hang up your rod too early this autumn and winter!

Airflo Modern Stillwater Tactics 2018 – Full Length DVD

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

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

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

For the others, head to our YouTube Channel!!

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!

5 Top Early Season Trout Flies

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

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

A selection of early season trout fishing flies

A selection of early season trout fishing flies

1. Orange Booby – Size 10

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

2. Silver Humongous – Size 10 Long Shank

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

3. Pink Diver Nymph – Size 10

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

4. Marabou Montana – Size 10

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

5. Hotty Dancer – Size 10

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

An ealry season prize on the orange booby

An early season prize on the orange booby!

Boat or Float Tube – Fishing on Gludy Lake

Ceri Thomas and Tim Hughes tackle Welsh small water Gludy lake with two different methods afloat. Which one comes out on top?

Afloat on Gludy lake

Afloat on Gludy lake

Gludy lake is a truly magical place. Situated just outside the market town of Brecon, the naturalised stillwater has been on the map for over 150 years. In a wooded hollow, a small earth dam holds back just over 7 acres of rich, fertile water that is full of invertebrate life. Couple this with abundant coarse fish fry and it’s easy to see why the stocked trout rapidly turn into fully finned backing stripping machines.

Managed as a trout fishery for the past 17 years, Gludy has always been run on a purely catch and release basis – so any stocked fish get the chance to mature and grow into fine specimens indeed. The lake holds rainbows, blues, browns and even the odd tiger. Variety is key and Chris Burgess, the fishery manager for the past decade is currently enlarging a holding pool at the top of the lake. The new pond will be lightly stocked for beginners and bank stalking next year. There is also a newly constructed boat house at the top end of the lake, next to the luxurious day lodge that visiting anglers can make full use of.

Setting up by the lodge

Setting up by the lodge

Bank fishing is a little limited on Gludy, due to the reedy, marshy banks and abundant shore line tree cover. Most anglers fish from a boat, with several different sized craft on site supplied complete with electric motors. This gives you complete freedom to fish any area of the lake you wish. Float tubing is also allowed – one of the few venues in South Wales where this special form of fishing can be enjoyed. You can bring your own or make arrangements to use one with the fishery.

Gludy Boat House

Gludy Boat House

Today we are looking to try the two methods side by side – Tim in one of the boats and myself in a tube. There are pro’s and con’s to each way of fishing, so this session should make it clearer as to which one can give you the best results on a water of this size.

Tim decides to fish from a smaller one man boat, armed with his usual stillwater outfit of a 10’ #7 weight Airflo Airlite V2  rod. He starts off with a Super-Dri Elite floater and more imitative patterns, looking for the grown on fish rather than raw stockies.

Tim's flies for Gludy

Tim’s flies for Gludy

I blow up my float tube, don neoprene bootfoot waders, float tube fins and a buoyancy aid fly fishing vest. My rod of choice for the session is an Airflo Delta Classic 10 foot #6/7. When tubing your back cast can be limited, due to your position low down on the surface. So you need to load up your rod quickly, with the minimum of false casts or you can risk clipping the water behind you. The Delta Classic is a perfect tool for today, with its deeper traditional action that loads nicely with a shorter length of line.

Ceri's flies to target fry feeders on Gludy

Ceri’s flies to target fry feeders on Gludy

Due to Gludy having a big head of roach and perch I’m looking to target the resident fry feeders that should be in fine fettle after a long autumn of eating protein. So I attach some lure patterns to start off. Linewise, I rig up with a Sixth Sense Di3 sinker, an early winter favourite that allows a versatile approach for searching through the layers. 8.8lb Sightfree G4 is the tippet, with a white hotty dancer on the point and an epoxy perch fry on the dropper I feel confident of success. As if to confirm this, we see plentiful evidence of coarse fish fry topping and jumping as we look out onto the lake – hopefully the trout won’t be far away.

Where to start?

Gludy is a predominantly shallow lake, with an average depth of 6 to 7 feet. However the Dam end goes down to nearly 15 feet, so in the absence of any obvious activity this is where we both head, with the assumption that fish will be lurking in the deeper water after the recent cold snap. Tim on the electric engine, with me kicking along at a much slower pace.

Naturally I take the opportunity to troll as I travel from A to B. By simply covering water you up your chances, and soon enough the Di3 tightens and the first fish is on. Some may call this cheating, but I call it effective!

A fish on the tube - trolling the flies

A fish on the tube – trolling the flies

As we head down the lake it becomes apparent that there is trout activity at the far end, in the deeper water off the dam. Fry are sporadically jumping clear, and with the odd boil around them it seems the trout are on the fin and interested in chasing them.

To even the odds, Tim has attached a Deeper echo sounder to the side of his boat – it confirms that the area is home to a vast shoal of coarse fish, sitting on top of a submerged weed bed in10 foot of water. He anchors up and starts to fish the area, quickly changing his point fly over to a minky booby, keeping a cruncher on the dropper.

A fish bursts out about 10 yards away, I swivel in the tube and put the flies across the spot. Stripping, the line tightens and another angry Gludy trout is attached. In fact, it is two of them at once but the fish on the dropper comes off during the battle.

A quality Gludy Rainbow trout

A quality Gludy Rainbow trout

A nice rainbow eventually graces the net, typical of the quality you can expect at Gludy. Action continues for me on the lures with a number of fish landed in quick succession. Meanwhile Tim has a number of boils under a floating fry, fished right on the surface. He bumps a couple of fish, and his line finally tightens with a nice rainbow that has taken the cruncher.

Playing a lively fish on the boat

Playing a lively fish on the boat

On a catch and release venue it is remarkable just how quickly fish wise up to lures, and the positive takes we were getting soon start to dry up, turning into just nips and follows. This is where float tubing can be a disadvantage – it is very difficult to change your fly line and leader set up over. Tim is able to adapt his tactics and change his tippet to a finer diameter (5.5lb G4) with ease in the boat – switching to a smaller nymphs, he is rewarded with several fish in quick succession that take the flies fished slowly. Meanwhile I am stuck on the Di3, which is limiting what I can do, although I am still picking up the odd fish.

A Gludy fish on the nymphs

A Gludy fish on the nymphs

We only have a short time on the water today, so have to call it quits after a few hours fishing. However a good number of fish have been caught by both of us making it a decent morning.

The Pro’s and Con’s:

Tube

Float tubes allow complete freedom of movement whatever the wind direction. They also allow you a silent, stealthy approach.

For whatever reason, fish simply do not fear tubes like they do a boat or wading angler. This allows you to get very close to them and fish into shoreline shallows where bank angling would instantly spook fish. Your low position in the water casts a shorter shadow, therefore less likely to alert following fish.

Float tubes allow you to troll your flies allowing you to cover a vast area by simply trailing your flies behind you.

Float tubes allow a stealthy approach

Float tubes allow a stealthy approach

On the downside, it takes some time to move spot using flipper power. You may also find yourself limited method wise, as I found. Changing a fly line over involves a lot of effort and time wasted as you have to go to shore.

I felt at times I could have converted many of the follows and plucks into fish by rapidly increasing the movement of the flies, but I was limited to the speed I could strip the flies back by a lack of elbow room.

Another aspect is comfort – despite wearing neoprene waders, being submerged in the water can give you a chill. I felt quite cold after only a few hours. You also need to be fairly physically fit, so tubing isn’t for everyone.

On the Boat

In a boat you are much higher up than a tube. This allows for a much better visual fishing experience. It is also better for slow nymphing techniques and for quick covering of rising fish. You have no arm room limit so if you want to rip lures back at a breakneck pace you will have no problem.

Speed is another factor – the ability to move spot quickly, with an engine is a big plus. Not forgetting being able to anchor up.

Fishing from a boat is more comfortable if you are fishing for a long day – access to food, drink and toilet facilities is made so much easier.

Boats are comfortable and easier to get around the lake in

Boats are comfortable and easier to get around the lake in

Boat or tube?

We both finished off with exactly the same number of fish – the advantages of one method over another seemed to have eventually evened out today. So ultimately, it might boil down to which mode of fishing you find most enjoyable.

Winter value

Gludy  lake offers fantastic value winter rates, with all day fishing available at £35 per head from 1st November to 28th February. It is possible to block book the fishery and stay overnight in well equipped onsite accommodation. The lodge and facilities are free to use.

For full details visit www.gludy.co.uk or call 07980 711 847

Gludy Fishing Lodge and Chalet

Gludy Fishing Lodge and Chalet

Sandford Pool – Stalking in the Woods

In this day and age it is quite refreshing to hear of a new small Stillwater trout fishery opening its doors, rather than yet another one closing down or turning into a coarse fishing water.

In an exclusive ‘first visit’ Airflo’s Tim Hughes and Ceri Thomas sample a new brand water in Gloucestershire called Sandford Pool.

Fishing on Sandford pool

Fishing on Sandford pool

I first heard of Sandford Pool just a few months ago. The word was, that an established, gin clear water where sight fishing ruled had opened its doors in the picturesque Forest of Dean. Finding a new trout water, let alone a genuine stalking venue is a bit of a rarity these days, so myself and Tim set a date to sample the fishing at the nearest opportunity, with a first ever feature on the fishery in mind.

We were hoping for clear skies, sunshine and calm wind for the feature – the best conditions for visual fishing. Typically, the UK winter weather let us down.  As we headed up the A48 from our Brecon HQ, we were greeted by drizzle and grey cloud, far from ideal for stalking and photography. Nevertheless, we decided to go ahead with the feature and found the fishery fairly easily, just off the main road.

Situated just outside Lydney, in the historic and beautiful Forest of Dean region, Sandford Pool appeared to be something rather special.  Our first glimpse of the lake was down a recently made wood chipped track, into a deep hollow where the pool sat, surrounded by mature trees.

Sandford pool nestles in a deep hollow

Sandford pool nestles in a deep hollow

We were greeted warmly by Sami, the Fishery manageress, who explained that the lake was once completely neglected and forgotten, the surrounding land like a jungle and the pool itself almost fully choked with weed.  We could see that immense time, effort and dedication has gone into making the venue fishable – careful tree cutting, new paths and sturdy, well laid out wooden platforms surrounded the lake. A portaloo toilet, wooden hut, picnic tables and a robust looking otter proof fence completed the picture.  Everything looked tidy and well kept, with nothing to spoil or clash with the original secluded charm of the venue.

A warm welcome awaits anglers at Sandford pool

A warm welcome awaits anglers at Sandford pool

Sandford pool only opened in April 2017 and is stocked regularly with quality rainbows and blues supplied by Exmoor fisheries, ranging from 2lb to 7lb in weight. The pool also holds a head of natural wild brown trout that have been there as long as anyone can remember.

Completely spring fed by groundwater flows, the acre or so pool was indeed crystal clear – and despite the poor light we could see plenty of fish to cast to, as well as tree roots and submerged weed. With depths up to 12 foot, the venue is fishable all year even in hot conditions due to the cold, oxygenated water that you can actually see bubbling up from the lake bed in some areas.

Tackle up for stalking

I favour a lighter approach to this sort of fishing – a 9’ #5 is perfect for accurate short and mid range work, with the added benefit of being great fun when you hook into a fish. Far too often have I seen anglers turn up on small fisheries with 10’ #8 weights – vastly overgunned and much harder to fish with delicacy. I set up with an Airflo Airlite V2, Switch Pro reel and 5 weight Airflo Bandit fly line, a stealth line with the added benefit of offering take detection by watching its brown banded tip.

Tim has set up with an Airflo Streamtec 9’ #4/5 and a WF5 Forge Fly line, which again is nice and subtle for stalking with its olive head section.

Stalking essentials

Stalking essentials…..

One essential that we both need today are yellow tinted Polaroid sunglasses. Yellow is the best colour for low light, which today is very poor indeed. With these on we can pick out a quite a lot of detail in the clear spring fed waters of the pool, allowing us to spot and target fish.

As we rig up Sami offers us a most welcome cup of coffee – complementary for any visitors to the fishery! Bacon rolls are also available on site, for a very reasonable cost.

Where to start

There are about a dozen pegs to choose from, I pick a peg right in front of me, where I can see a submerged weedbed about 20 yards out.  I add a clear 5 foot polyleader and 10 foot of 6lb G3 fluorocarbon tippet to my fly line. The floating Airflo polyleaders have been vastly improved in recent times. Now glass clear, they have no memory with improved welding technology, perfect for improving your presentation and turnover – so important if you are stalking!

Flies

To begin, I opt for a more natural pattern. I tie on a weighted gold bead damsel and make a few exploratory casts. Despite the pegs being surrounded by trees, there are lots of gaps for you to make casts, with side and over the shoulder casts being possible, allowing you to cover the water from all angles. For me the trees added to the challenge, causing me to slow down and think about where to direct my back casts rather than just blast the line out.

Into the action

In front of me I can see the odd dark shape ghosting over the weeds. Almost straight away I feel a bump through the line, and see a broad form materialise behind my fly. The water is so clear that I can see every follow. And believe me; it’s happening almost every cast! It becomes apparent that these fish are inquisitive but also wary. I try fishing slow but that seems to be totally ignored. Speeding up the fly up causes them to chase, but as soon as I stop the retrieve or hang the fly they turn away.

The fish are here, so surely it’s just a case of cracking the code:  fly choice, depth, and retrieve. As I mull over this, the banded tip of my Bandit fly line jags forward and a feisty little wild brownie come to hand. Underneath him, I spot a pair of nice blues that have come to take a look at the commotion – a clue perhaps as to what they want?

Sandford pool wild brown

Sandford pool wild brown

Meanwhile, between camera shots Tim has rigged up with a bung. First with an Apps bloodworm and then with a tiny nymph beneath it.  He gets fish looking but no takes. He also has a dabble with dries, casting CDC’s over cruising fish. But again, they ignore the offerings. These fish are pretty wised up and perhaps need to be induced into taking.

I move to another peg and tie on a lure – a favourite pattern of mine, a black tadpole featuring a 3.8mm tungsten bead. It is a fly that has worked well for me on both rainbows and wild browns. First cast, a fish follows it back to my feet. I start to mix up the retrieve finally the line locks up with a feisty rainbow attached. What has worked is a very jerky, erratic figure of eight that seems to trigger an attacking instinct. The heavy tungsten bead makes the fly jiggle up and down quickly, an action that seems to be irresistible. The weight of the bead is also keeping the fly in the taking zone for longer, about two foot below the surface.

A pretty rainbow trout

A pretty rainbow trout

From there on sport is pretty frantic, with lots of nice blues and rainbows coming to the net. Numerous times I spot fish, cast the lure at them and start the figure of eight immediately to grab their attention. Almost invariably they follow, with a good number charging at the fly then turning away with it in their mouths.

It has to be said that the fish here fight particularly well and are in superb condition, with a noticeable silvery sheen to them.  This must be due to the pure unpolluted spring water, which provides abundant oxygen. I get taken to the backing by a particularly feisty blue – something I haven’t had for a while!

A hard fighting trout from the gin clear waters

A hard fighting trout from the gin clear waters

Tim has also switched to a leadhead mayfly nymph and begins to catch in abundance from his side of the lake. Between us we have captured well over 20 fish, in just a couple of hours angling. Great sport and at £10 for 4 hours catch and release a genuine bargain.

The verdict

Although small, Sandford Pool offers a very enjoyable and engaging experience.  Due to the trees and spring fed water, it has a different feel to it than your typical ‘hole in the ground’ venue and seems a lot bigger than it actually is. The fishery is well run, facilities good, management friendly and the quality fish fight hard. What more could you want from a new fishery?

Tim Hughes with a nice fish

Tim Hughes with a nice fish

Fishing on Sandford Pool

Sandford Road, Alvington, Lydney GL15 6PZ
Open 8am – 6.30pm year round, Tuesday to Sunday
Contact tel: 07931115301

Catch & release:
£15 All day
£10 Four hours

For more information and ticket options visit: www.sandfordpooltroutfishery.co.uk

Fishing Snake Flies On Small Stillwater

If you haven’t tried snake flies yet, then you may be missing out on some brilliant sport! In this piece Fishtec blogger Stuart Smitham reveals how he fishes snake flies on small stillwater fisheries to deadly effect. Read on to discover how to fish these controversial lures to their potential.

An Ellerdine salmon captured on a snake fly

An Ellerdine salmon captured on a snake fly.

Ask most people how they fish a snake or leech pattern and they say, on a sinking line??  The reason for this, is because it was considered the norm and adopted by most. I’m fine with that philosophy, but when someone then tells me, it’s the only way to fish them, I’ll prove them wrong. I’m no doubting Thomas, but there are always advantages to be derived from other set ups and different presentations. In this blog post I take a closer look at how to fish snakes effectively on a small stillwater fishery.

For the most part, Leeches or constructed on a single hook, similar to zonkers. Snakes are usually a two hook construction, with the front hook chopped off at the bend. Some good tiers use braid instead of a front hook, which also works well.  If you tie your own, then you’re at a distinct advantage over those who shop buy.  Having tied mine in various guises, I like to think I have my colour combinations down to pat, but I also like to try other colours which can sometimes be fantastic.

For me the following work well. First colour is the rabbit or mink strip then the tail colour. Black/olive, black/pink, black/yellow, black/orange, black/red, black/chartreuse. Then grey/red, grey/green, grey/yellow, grey/chartreuse, grey/orange. Most have tungsten beads at the head so they can be fished on other fly lines. More on that later.

Ready for battle....

Snake flies ready for battle….

The best tip I can give on fly choices is, clear water use light colours like grey or white. Murky water makes dark colours like black stand out like the dogs breakfast. I’ve used this method for some time now and it works. You’ll get lots of follows when you get it wrong, because the fish will still come and investigate the fly, but the proof is in the eating and when you get it just right, the line just hammers away!

Get your tackle right I’ve seen people get into a right state when fishing Leeches and Snakes. Where they’re fishing too light a leader and get smashed big style. It’s all too easy to fish a thin tippet, because it offers up better presentation, but the sacrifice outweighs the reward. Losing a fish is bad enough, but snapping off and leaving a fly in a fish is far worse.  Most fisheries have a tackle stand or a small amount of tackle, where tippet/leader is available. Ellerdine Lakes insist on a minimum breaking strain of 6lb and rightly so, considering their stocking policy.  Ed and Jayne Upton have a great reputation for stocking some of the best fish and rightly deserve their UK No1 Small Stillwater Award.

I use 10ft 7 weight fly rods for fishing snakes. You need a strong and capable rod for firing out long lines, into the wind and to cast big flies with no problem. My reels are the Classic Cassette from Airflo which are cartridge type reel and take some abuse from me, no end. Tippet choice is down to personal preference and I use three types. G3 Fluorocarbon which is a good standard leader. G4 which is a slightly thinner diameter than G3, or G5, which is just outstanding and a premium leader but a little more pricey. Buy cheap leader at your peril. After all, it’s the invisible link between your fly and the fish.

A rainbow that took a white and green snake

A rainbow that took a white and green snake.

Fly line marking Unless you’ve seen it for yourself, you would never believe a fish could inhale your fly and reject without you feeling it?  I’ve seen this and had to find a way to help combat it. Since those early days, I started marking my fly lines. This radically changed my take detection, giving me more time to react to a take. You may not feel the take, but you can see the reaction to a take on your fly line. I use a black permanent marker and start at the line tip with small dots. In groups of five, I gradually increase the size of the bands in each set to the nine foot point. Then at ten foot I put two big marks about eight or nine inches each. These bands offer contrast points that you can concentrate your focus on during the retrieve. The two big bands are focus points at distance and yes you can see these. Having this contrast point you pick up the little tugs and small plucks, you’d otherwise miss. A simple concept and it just works well for me. Try it for yourselves and see what you’ve been missing?

I use floating lines, intermediates and sinkers, but my favourite at the moment is the mini tip. Airflo’s Super Dri mini tips are just outstanding. Because they use Super Dri Technology, they recover back to the surface quickly after sinking. I primarily start out with the 6ft slow sink mini tip and don’t shy too far away from it. Mini tips have all the great characteristics of a floating line but with a sinking section that does two things. It anchors the end of the fly line, to slow its movement, where the water surface is moving quickly with the wind and aids me in fishing my flies at a more controlled depth.  I normally have 12ft of leader and 10ft to my two big markers, which equals 22ft of line on the water plus whatever I’m casting. So you can cover a lot of water with little effort and you don’t realise it either.

Fishing leeches/snakes when I arrive at the waters edge, I drop my fly in and give it a squeeze to absorb water and help it break the water surface when I cast it out. Then once I’m happy I’ll pick up fly and move to my chosen fishing spot. Casting to the left and right margins first, can sometimes pay off, where feeding trout will cruise in for a small morsel.  Because they’re inquisitive they can be provoked into a take. Make short casts and straighten your line out, then slowly retrieve your fly. Little figure of eights with stops work. As does a short pull, wait then make a longer pull. The way this works is, the fish moves in the short pull and in most cases takes the fly, then as you make the long pull, your tightening into the fish. If you get a hit like this, drop your rod sideways and continue the retrieve until it all locks up. I don’t fish droppers with leeches.  It’s hard enough to control one strong fish. Having two on at the same time is scope for disaster. Fish one fly and fish it with confidence.

Use the line banding after you’ve cast out. Let your fly settle and drop through the water column. I don’t countdown for the first few casts, as I sometimes get plucks at the surface or just below. As your retrieving and make stops, you’ll notice the fly line looks limp? Make a short pull, then watch the line.  If the line stops, goes straight or plucks, line strike!  Chop your line hand down hard and drop the rod sideways. If you have a fish on, the rod tip will come to life and you’ll feel the tugging on the fly line. If there’s nothing then you’ve only moved the line a short distance and not pulled out of the taking zones depth. Watching the line banding is the key to success. Let your concentration drop and you’ll miss hits and plucks. Fish hard for 15 minutes then stop and check your fly and leader. This acts as a distraction and helps you break your concentration briefly. If you’ve not had a pluck then consider changing flies?

Sinkers and Intermediate lines When fishing sinkers or Intermediates the visual aspect only comes into play on the hang, unless you have hang markers incorporated into the fly line, like the Sixth Sense range. These have a 10ft, 20ft and rear taper marker or 30ft point marker. These are good for stops on your retrieve because they are highly visible and offer a great contrast point to watch for hits. Sixth Sense lines have superb cores which transmit takes, right down the line length, regardless of the length of line outside the tip ring. Just brilliant

Floating Lines I mentioned using beaded flies. They offer a great advantage with a floating line over fishing an unweighted fly, in that they sink quicker, so they can be dropped into most places with ease. Because they drop through the water quickly, you can concentrate on watching the banding and maintain close contact with the fly, feeling the hits as the fly is pulled away. What you’ll also notice is, when a weighted fly had been taken, the tension you have on the line changes, with a distinct momentary second or two, where the line feels weightless. Striking at this point will pay dividends. Also when the wind changes you can put a mend in the line, to maintain contact with the fly. Watching the line banding is a must to spot the takes though. The floating lines I use are Super Dri Lake Pro, Mend and Bandit. The first two I mark myself, the last one is factory marked and coloured Olive and Brown. When you view Bandit in the surface, it looks like a series of dashes which highlight line movement. Mend is a thicker bodied line used for fishing  bigger lures and is ridged, so the ink from your permanent marker ink tends to last longer as it drops into the grooves between ridges. A neat side effect of Ridge technology and I can’t knock it. Lake Pro is an out and out beast of a line. Great performance and being a mint blue shade is easy to spot on the surface and again ridged.

Here`s an idea on what can happen Ellerdine Lakes on the 13th December was a chilly day. Just three degrees on the temperature and as I drive in, a third of Meadow Lake is frozen. Of the four lakes at the fishery, Marsh is totally frozen over, The other two lakes I’ve not seen yet are fishable but have ice on the surface. Starting on Meadow initially I put on a white and green leech. Making  some casts into the margins on the reeded bank. No plucks or pulls sees me dip into the fly box and pull out a black and pink fly. I search the margins again, then cast at the ice edge.  Straightening the leader and watching the banding, when the line tightens up. The two large bands had been pulled under, meaning the line was tight and I’d got a take. Dropping the rod sideways I could see the line being pulled away. I haven’t seen the fish at all, so have no idea what it is?? All the line that was on the deck was already gone, so I’m watching for a direction change on the fish. It then comes back at me and I realise I’m walking on my line, that I’m now hand balling in quickly.

Salmo Salar taking a liking to snake flies.

Salmo Salar taking a liking to snake flies.

First fish and it’s a salmon! Then a grey ghost appears and it is the first time we’d seen each other. He doesn’t like me and shot off again. After a few minutes and signs of the fish tiring, I manage to scoop it into the net.  Talk about elated. Chuffed to beans Mr Salmon get in!  With a few more plucks and no further interest, a quick chat and brew with Martin Cooper and I’m off to Crannymoor. With small bows plucking the leech, I changed colours to a grey and red leech and make for the middle of Lakemoor and cast near the reed fringes.

As I’m hanging the fly, a brown trout shoots out of nowhere and nails it at the surface.  After a short feisty scrap, a beautiful Brown trout slipped into the net. After some great pics  back he went. What a cracking fish. I move into the corner and make another quick fly change to black and orange, then a short cast to the margin produces a hard hit. I saw the pluck on the banding, but wasn’t prepared for the run. Hard and running up the lake edge right near the weed. A snag here and I’m done for, so as the fish moves toward the weed, I change tack and apply pressure from the opposite direction, which works! This fish goes back down the bank edge it just swam up.

Another victim of a black and orange snake.

Another victim of a black and orange snake.

Several tense moments and concerns about snags are coming to an end, but my problem now is getting it into my net, plus keep control of this beast. A friend named Lorina is on hand and uses her bigger net, to put paid to this run around.  A couple of pics and back it goes. The rainbows are going crazy for black and orange!  I think I finished on seven, but what a session. The bows are coming in and just nailing the leech hard, which is great fun.

Does fishing a snake fly sound like something you want to do? Why not give it a try and see what you can catch.  Remember, above all else enjoy your day. Now get marking those lines!

Autumn Sport On Ellerdine Lakes

Autumn can be a fantastic time for fly fishing small stillwaters across the UK. As temperatures decrease, trout become more active and feed up in readiness for the coming winter.

In this blog report, Fishtec team member Gareth Wilson visits the productive Ellerdine lakes fishery deep in the Shropshire countryside – where he experiences some brilliant autumnal fishing.

A nice autumn Ellerdine Rainbow

A nice autumn Ellerdine Rainbow.

Autumn is one of my favourite times of year to fish a small stillwater. Rainbow trout become more active and harder fighting as the temperatures plummet. They tend to be in great condition and start packing on weight from bashing fry. The colder temperatures and higher oxygen content mean great sport can be experienced in October.

For those looking for the fish of a lifetime with the chance of a different trout species with every cast, then Ellerdine lakes are a perfect location. Set in stunning rural farmland in Shropshire, this Trout Masters Venue is ideal for both beginners and more advanced anglers. The venue is run by Ed and Jayne Upton who really understand the needs of the modern-day angler. With 4 spring-fed lakes, regular stocking and a superb tackle shop on site, Ellerdine lakes offer a great day out at a very reasonable cost.

A double figure rainbow from Ellerdine

A double figure rainbow from Ellerdine lakes.

This October I traveled up with a party of seven anglers from South Wales including four beginners for three days fishing.  My personal aim was of catching a brown trout as this was the only species I had failed to catch on my previous visit to the fishery, last year.  using an Airflo Super stik rod, my fly line set up to start the day was the Airflo Super-Dri 6ft Fast inter sink tip with an 18ft G3 8lb Fluorocarbon leader. I started with two of my own patterns, a Sunburst Muddler as a point fly and Robs Hopper on the dropper as we were advised daddies had been fishing well.

I cast out with anticipation as my previous visit had produced monster fish, starting with a faster retrieve causing the muddler to create a wake. After a few casts, I decided to slow everything down. Then on a slow figure eight everything went tight – I was into my first Ellerdine trout of the trip! This lovely 7lb rainbow gave a cracking account for itself refusing to come to the net. It had taken the dropper and this fly would prove to catch many more fish this weekend. My first fish in April was a stunning 10lb rainbow and this fish an equally impressive 7lb, this fishery is truly home to some huge trout.

A nice fish to start off with

A nice fish to start off with.

Unexpectedly for this time of year it was very warm with bright sunshine. This if anything seemed to enhance the fishing, with fish being in the top 4ft of water. Remembering my last trip, I decided to put on a rainbow flash damsel. This design, very similar to my blue flash damsel which helped catch the 12.7 lbs tiger I had caught here last time, was a great fly for fishing in amongst the weeds.

I moved in front of the lodge at Meadow lake and cast to a small bit of land with a tiny bush on it. I began to retrieve with a fast figure eight and provoked an aggressive take from my first Ellerdine brown trout. The fish went deep and tried to bury itself into the weeds. After a good scrap, my first Ellerdine Brownie was in the net.

A superb Ellerdine brownie

A superb Ellerdine brownie.

The rest of my party where also hitting fish with the majority coming to Robs Hopper. The day got harder as strong winds picked up leaving limited options of where to fish, so I moved onto Marsh and fished into the wind. I changed my set up to a Chartreuse Flash Taddy on the point with, for the first time ever, an Egg Laying Blob on the dropper. I had never used blobs before but within 40 minutes I hit into three good rainbows. Two took the point fly and the bigger of the three took the blob. We had a successful first day in what ended up being tough conditions.

I spent the evening tying flies to ensure we had plenty of the patterns that were working the previous day. We woke up early to perfect fishing conditions – it was mild with a very light wind of about 5mph. On this day two customers from the Fishtec Shop in Brecon had made the trip to fish with us on my recommendation.

Rob and Shaun both keen fisherman, but neither had caught a rainbow before. I set Rob up with one of Robs Hoppers and advised adding a 6ft tippet onto his tapered leader. Within 20 minutes he was into his first fish. A great joy of mine Is helping people new to the sport in hooking up with their first fish. After a decent scrap he managed to land it and the satisfaction was clear to see!

A lovely first fish

A lovely first fish!

Another fisherman who made the trip with us was Stuart who had blanked the previous day. After seeing the success of the Egg Laying Blob he asked me to tie him three. He started hitting fish on every other cast. This ‘killer fly’ was attracting fish in numbers. The T-15 material used turns into a translucent jelly which looks great in the water.

My aim on day two was the same as the previous year – to help the newer fisherman amongst us get into the fish. Things were going well, they were all having offers and landing fish from 2-5lbs in weight, so I decided to set my own rod up. Again, my choice of fly line was the Airflo Super Dri 6ft sink tip, a simply lovely line to cast and fish with.

I must have gone through every fly in my fly box on day two and worked my way round all 4 lakes but I was struggling. I had 4 fish on which all came off and plenty of offers but I was having ‘one of those days’. I honestly thought this would be my first blank in 5 years!

Luckily as the last light of day was fading behind the trees, I put on an Orange Flash Taddy and cast into the distance on Cranymoor. I varied the retrieve often pausing before a quick strip or fast figure eight and finally – fish on! Not the biggest but certainly one of the nicest trout from the lake. A tiger trout of about a pound and a half that was certainly welcome and avoided the blank.

Ellerdine Tiger

Ellerdine Tiger.

That evening I decided to tie the Incredible Cat and a couple of other fry patterns – after noticing a lot of coarse fish fry around all of the lakes. We left our accommodation at 7:30am and made our way to Ellerdine with high hopes and expectations. Today I was here to catch fish! My set up for the day started with a Chartreuse Flash Damsel on the point with and Emerger pattern on the dropper.

We started on Marsh as the main lake Meadow was packed and it wasn’t long before I was in. An energetic fish decided the emerger was a tasty option and continued to perform acrobatically out of the water before coming to the net. After seeing the success of the natural I set up a 18ft 6lb Sightfree G3 fluorocarbon leader with a Bibbio Muddler on the point and 2 emergers at 6ft intervals, one olive and one claret, on the droppers. I missed a few fish but takes were few and far between so I decided to switch things up. I changed to 12ft of G3 8lb fluorocarbon and put on the Incredible Cat tied the night before. I started pulling it through weed beds occasionally hooking weeds in the process. It was not long before I was into a nice fighting 3 lb rainbow. The take was savage and this was the start of good things….

The incredible cat

The incredible cat.

After seeing this fly working it’s magic, Stuart decided to arm himself with the killer pattern. Within 20 minutes he had hooked into a submarine. This cracking rainbow took him over 6 minutes to land and is his PB trout to date – It weighed in at 13.7 lbs. From Blanking to 17 fish and a PB, the ‘incredible cat’ was certainly doing the trick for him.

13lb 7oz of Ellerdine bow!

13lb 7oz of Ellerdine bow!

I continued to hit fish with a varied retrieve, pulling it through the weed beds on Marsh lake. The final fish of the trip was a fine brownie that found the Incredible Cat irresistible. As I pulled it through the water I felt it hit some weeds before a voracious take. Again, like the first brown trout he went deep and kept digging into the weeds. When I landed the fish, I was satisfied with how well we had done this weekend.

I came to Ellerdine with the target of catching one of their stunning brown trout. I left having caught two, a bunch of rainbows and a lovely tiger. A hat trick of species. The Autumn period at Ellerdine certainly lived up to our expectations leaving us fond memories of incredible fishing. The friendly staff and well stocked tackle shop ensures this is a fishery we will be returning to – with a trip in February in mind.

Gareth Wilson

For more details on the flies mentioned in this post visit UKFlyFisher.

Want to fish Ellerdine lakes? Visit their website here!