Modern Stillwater Flyfishing Tactics Volume 3

It is every anglers dream to catch more fish and this feature length DVD produced by Airflo and Trout Fisherman magazine will help you achieve this!

Originally available with the May 2017 issue of Trout Fisherman, the UK’s leading competitive anglers Gareth Jones and Iain Barr turn their attention to bank fishing on Graham water for killer shrimp feeders and then enjoy a productive session on the small stillwater paradise of Ellerdine lakes.

This MUST WATCH feature is stuffed full of invaluable fly fishing tips, tackle and techniques. And it’s totally free to view on our YouTube channel!

Waterproof Fishing Clothing Review – Airflo Airtex Bib & Brace

According to the weather forecast it said inclement for the morning, with light sporadic rain showers. It didn’t say driving rain and hail for 27 February 2017!

Yet here I am standing on the bank of Meadow Lake at Ellerdine Lakes facing up the downpour. There is a hill in the distance from Ellerdine, which has a saying attached to it. “if you can see the Wrekin, it’s going to rain. If you can’t see it, it’s raining”. Whatever the weather, we all just want to be able to keep on fishing. Through low air temperatures that freeze the fly line in the rod rings and chilled stiff fingers, that need the close attention of the lodge log burner. Having gear that matches up to your fishing ambitions, is something that we all want. Without breaking the bank too. I’ve used Airflo’s Airtex waterproof fishing clothing in the form of a wading jacket since July 2014 and as yet, touch wood not had a wetting.

Stuart wearing the Airflo Airtex clothing on Ellerdine lakes

Stuart wearing the Airflo Airtex clothing on Ellerdine lakes.

I knew that my old bib and brace were seeing their last few months out, so went ahead and bought the Airflo Airtex Bib & Brace for £99 from Fishtec. I’m 5ft 10” so opted for a large size. There is a sizing chart on the Fishtec website for more info.

These are olive and black with a full front zip and Velcro closure and zip legs again with Velcro touch pads for the all important weather resistant seal. Padded shoulder straps and bayonet clips offer great support at the shoulder.

Here’s the hype on the Airtex Bib & Brace:

The Airflo Airtex clothing ranges are designed for fly fishermen by fly fishermen. Made of durable fully waterproof tear resistant material in Airtex green with black reinforcement panels; these are fully breathable and extremely comfortable fishing garments cut for ease of casting and walking. The Airflo Airtex Bib ‘n’ Brace features wide, comfortable, elasticised braces that clip neatly and securely to the front of the bib, with the crossing point at the back forming a large, cushioned area for even greater comfort. Down at the ankles you’ll discover a gusseted zip for easy foot or boot passage and Velcro adjustment tabs to ease the way into your wellies. For your convenience, the Airtex Bib ‘n’ Brace also features a high quality full length waterproof zip.

  • Fashioned from high grade, tear-resistant materials
  • Wide braces with cushioned cross-over at the back
  • Gusseted zip at ankles for easy foot and boot passage
  • Light, warm and very comfortable
  • Low profile clips to the front
  • Reinforced stress points
  • Velcro gusset adjusters for smooth entry
  • Breathability 3000g/
  • Sizes: M-XXXL

From a fishing perspective they are super comfortable and offer up breathability that means your not sweating your head off. The knee and seat areas have extra protection for kneeling in the mud and don’t leech water up the material, when you’re stood in it releasing fish etc. I like the crossover shoulder straps, which stop the straps falling down and a full length chest zip for access to your inner clothing.

Simple, functional and breathable and they add a serious level of protection, for just when you need it most. Look at or search through Fishtec’s fly fishing section for more on breathable clothing and Airtex.

10 Stillwater Trout Fisheries to try this Winter

With most large reservoirs and the trout rivers now closed, the main option available to fly anglers over the colder months are the small stillwater trout fisheries, who coincidentally enjoy their very best fishing at this time of year.

In this blog post, we cherry pick 10 winter trout fly fisheries that we feel are well worth a visit this winter. In no particular order, we take a look at some great UK stillwater trout fisheries that offer anglers excellent sport during the winter months:

Ellerdine Lakes

What can you say about Ellerdine lakes? A top quality fishery, run by friendly, expert staff. Noted as a big fish venue, Ellerdine is situated in tranquil countryside just a few miles away from Telford. With 4 spring fed lakes there is a lot of variety here, and plenty of water to fish.

With double figure brown, rainbow and even tigers on the cards you can be sure of great sport here all winter long. Highly rated by our blogging team and customers, Ellerdine is the place to go for a ‘big unit’ this winter.

A quality Ellerdine rainbow..

A quality Ellerdine rainbow.

Garnffrwd Fishery

Situated in the rolling hills of West Wales, Garnffrwd has long been a favourite venue for Fishtec team members. It’s clear, spring fed waters host some stunning browns and home grown rainbows, thanks to owner Jamie Miller’s hard work in raising the fish on site.

What makes the venue all the more charming are the platforms and little nooks and crannies – the water feels a lot more than it’s 5 acres. With gin clear water and a constant water temperature you can be sure Garnffrwd will fish well even in the most extreme winter weather conditions.

With imitative sport possible at almost any time, this lake is a great sporting challenge and it’s convenient location not far off the M4 makes it very easy to find.

Garnffrwd fishing action

Garnffrwd fishing action.

Lechlade and Bushyleaze

Situated In the sumptuous Cotswold countryside these twin fisheries are rightly famous for their superb trout fishing. Lechlade for it’s specimen lake and massive double figure fish, and the larger Bushyleaze, which is an example of a ‘natural’ fly water; a mature gravel pit with plenty of space for all.

What both venues offer is quality sport in pleasant surroundings – and they fish extremely well all winter.

Busyleaze trout fishery

Busyleaze trout fishery.

Dever Springs

Who can forget Dever Springs? In it’s 1990’s hey day, this fishery was a constant producer of huge trout, so much so that it’s stew pond earned the title of the ‘Jurassic pool’.

With a UK record rainbow of 36lb, plus a 28lb brown being caught here, Dever is still one of the best places to head in the UK for something really special.

Dever Springs has been off the radar for a while, but we can confirm the giant, record shaking trout are back – for a shot at a UK super-size fish this venue should be on your winter bucket list for the chance of a trophy.

A winter Dever springs brownie

A winter Dever springs brownie.

Gludy Lake

Located just a few miles away from the Fishtec tackle shop on the outskirts of the Brecon beacons, Gludy lake provides fantastic sport for quality, hard fighting rainbows, blues and browns.

Run on a purely catch and release basis, Gludy has a large head of full finned grown on residents that feed best in the cooler months. With cheaper winter rates available and options to stay overnight at the onsite lodge, a winter trip is a great option on this unique fishery.

Plenty of our customers will tell you about the legendary sport Gludy offers – it’s well worth booking a visit at least once in your angling career!

Gludy lake on a crisp winter day.

Gludy lake on a crisp winter day.

Exe Valley Fishery

With a history dating back to 1968, the Exe Valley fishery supplies trout to venues all round the country as well as having it’s own superb lakes. Located in beautiful countryside on the edge of Devon’s Exmoor national park, Exe valley is managed by blogger and angling instructor Nick Hart, so you can be assured it is run to a very high standard.

With great facilities and hard fighting home bred triploids regularly stocked, this fishery is high up on our ‘must fish’ list.

 A quality Exe valley rainbow

A quality Exe valley rainbow.

Stillwater Salmon Fishery (formerly Palm Springs)

Just down the road from the vast expanse of Rutland Water, SSF (aka Palm springs) is well known for it’s monster freshwater Atlantic Salmon. While not the cheapest fishery for a day ticket to fish here means you have a very good chance of connecting with a double figure or even bigger beast – 25lb plus salmon are regularly caught here.

New for winter 2016/17 is the ‘year of the tiger’ – tiger trout will be the regular ‘stockies’, along with browns and salmon in smaller quantities The tiger’s standard size will be 8 to 10lb! If you want a tiger of a lifetime, take a trip to Rutland county. This blog post by Rob Edmunds for Fulling Mill will give you a taste of what to expect!

A stillwater salmon.

A prime stillwater salmon.

Meon Springs

This established fishery in the beautiful Hampshire countryside has a novel twist – as well four clear spring fed ponds full of quality trout there are anglers shepherd huts and authentic mongolian yurts onsite. For a weekend away, this makes the perfect place to head for with a group of fishing buddies.

Meon Springs super transparent water is ideal for stalking methods, and unlike some others it has a catch and release lake where anyone can fish for free after taking their limit. Here the challenge is high as brown trout are the main stock –  but a great way to finish you day off.

Meon springs fishery

Meon springs fishery

Graiglwyd springs

This fishery must be the best place in Wales to hunt for a double at the moment. With fish up to 30lb and at least one double stocked each day, from what we have seen on Facebook your chances of connecting with one are high.

The big blues, rainbows and browns are all reared on site. Although it’s in North Wales, not far from the Snowdonia national park, we feel this venue is well worth the trek if you want a fish of a lifetime.

Craiglwyd springs - double figure trout action

Craiglwyd springs – double figure trout action.

Canada Lake

As the name suggest, Canada lake is scenic. With a pine forest on the far bank, this 6 acre fishery has the feel of a a much bigger venue. Located not far off the M4 near the northern outskirts of Cardiff, this fishery is a secluded gem.

Stocked with rainbows, it also holds wild brown trout and carp. All three species can readily take your fly, keeping you on your toes. The fishing here is never easy – but for great surroundings and a true challenge we heartily recommend Canada lake.

A small stillwater in winter.

Canada lake in winter.

Fishing The Daddy Long Legs

The Fishtec office has been invaded by huge, gangly legged flying creatures. In fact, you could call it an infestation!

This is a great sign for fly fishermen of course. The arrival of the daddy long legs means autumn is here, and the fishing can only get better. And this year, according to a BBC report we could be looking at a record 200 billion daddy long legs emerging in the UK this autumn.

The daddy long legs

The daddy long legs.

The annual daddy long legs hatch is one of our favourite fishing events on the fly angling calendar – when blown on the water the fish simply love them. Big, and easy to imitate it is an anglers dream to go fishing and find every trout in the lake smashing daddies off the top.

What are they?

The daddy long legs or crane fly is a large, harmless insect and a member of the true fly family (diptera)  It hatches from a larval form, called a leatherjacket in autumn, especially in warm weather followed by rain. These larva prefer to live in pasture land, lawns and particularity love damp, soft ground which is why you find so many emerging near reservoirs, lakes and rivers.

Need flies?

Getting the right ones is crucial. If you don’t have any big, bushy patterns during a daddy fall, you will miss out! The daddy long legs fly pack by Fulling Mill has every variant you will ever need. Make sure you pick up a set, because if news reports are to be believed the autumn daddy sport is going to be outstanding.

A Fulling Mill daddy pattern

A Fulling Mill daddy pattern.

We also stock individual daddy long leg flies by highland flies.

How to fish them?

Fishing daddy long legs is simplicity itself. We like to fish a team of 2 flies. Use tippet material that is fairly strong – the takes can be savage! Also, a thicker tippet helps present the big fly better and reduces leader twist. About 5 to 8lb BS co-polymer is ideal.

On the bank, pick a spot with the wind blowing onto the water. Here the daddies will hit the water first. Look for the line between calm and ruffled water – it is there fish will often cruise, looking to intercept these long legged morsels as soon as they are blown on. Gink up your flies, then simply cast out and let them drift round with the wind.

If you are fishing from a drifting boat, cast and let them sit for 20 seconds or so – then give them a quick twitch and let them sit for another 20 seconds. Then skate them back before lifting off. Sometimes a little bit of movement can act as a trigger. By repeatedly covering fresh water with shorter quick casts you will maximize your chances.

Beat The Heat – 5 Tips for Summer Stillwater Trout Fishing

At the height of summer stillwater trout fishing can be at it’s hardest. There are however ways you can beat the heat and catch stillwater trout in even the worst conditions.

Read our 5 Summer trout fishing tips to find out how you can beat the heat!

1. Fish mornings and evenings
– Make an effort to concentrate your fishing when air temperatures are cooler. Avoid the middle of the day. If you can, get there at dawn – fish will often be in the margins feeding hard, only to vanish when the sun is up. Same goes in the evening – as it gets dark, fish will wake up and usually feed heavily for a short spell at dusk.

Evening on the Barrows tank

Evening on the Barrows tank – Image: Bristol Water Fisheries Facebook

2. Fish in the rain – Nobody likes getting wet. Fact. But if it rains on a summer day make the effort to hit the fishery with your waterproof fishing jacket! Wet weather, overcast skies and wind are our friends in mid summer. Get out in the rain – it will be worth it!

3. Fish deep – If you do have to fish in the day time, make sure you bring a selection of sinking fly lines. Locate the deepest areas of the lake, for example a dam wall or bank with a steep gradient indicating a drop off into deep water. The Sixth Sense range of sinking fly lines from Airflo are indispensable at this time of year – especially the Di5 and Di7 models.

The Airflo Sixth Sense Di7 fly line.

The Airflo Sixth Sense Di7 fly line.

4. Find Oxygen rich areas – Trout are always more active and congregate in areas rich in oxygen. On reservoirs and fisheries look out for boils and aerators. Other areas to target include inlets with water flowing in, or where water is being visibly pumped into the lake. Target these places and the trout will be nearby.

Look for oxygen rich areas - like these boils.

Look for oxygen rich areas – like these boils.

5. Keep looking – Even on a hot day a few trout will be on the feed, somewhere. Don’t waste time casting fruitlessly if nothing is happening, spend it either walking round the venue fish spotting, or gently motoring round the reservoir until you see signs of life. When you do find fish approach with stealth. An example of this is around the vast weedbeds on Rutland water – invariably a few grown on trout will always be on the prowl in such places in summer. Hard fishing but when you get one it could be a slab.

Go looking for fish - and you might get a result! Image: Rob Waddington

Go looking for fish – and you might get a result! Image: Rob Waddington

Airflo Sightfree G4 Fluorocarbon Tippet

Small stillwater specialist Stuart Smitham looks at the new G4 fluorocarbon from Airflo.

I’m always skeptical about new fishing tackle. Having tried several brands of leader tippet in past and been let down, via a breakage mid leader. I started asking questions with a certain manufacturer and was told, it could be bad knotting. With no knot in the area of the break and no further answers or explanations on why this happened. I formed my own conclusions and was on the hunt for a better performer.

That was when I found Airflo’s G3 and from that point onward, I loved how this tippet worked it’s magic on me. It boosted my confidence levels when I was on the water, making me perform as better angler. Your leader is your invisible link to your fly and the fish. Why spend 100’s of pounds on great gear, then go out and buy cheap tippet??

Just over two years ago, I was asked to try what is now G4 Fluorocarbon. Airflo like to thoroughly field test their products to ensure they will never let you down. I was given a big spool for a bit of feedback, just to see how G4 fares against some of those big Ellerdine Lakes fish that Ed & Jayne Upton are famous for stocking at the fishery.

An 11lb Ellerdine trout taken with the help of G4 Fluorocarbon

An 11lb Ellerdine trout taken with the help of G4 Fluorocarbon

I like having strength in my chosen tippet and this new material has bags of it. It is also thinner in diameter than G3 for it’s given strength, and is much more supple but not overly limp. Abrasion resistance is superb, and good at enough to handle the shock hits and drives that a big fast fish can produce. Especially on those Ellerdine upwind feeders, that cruise just below the surface.  These fish hit your fly hard and continue going on track and at pace.

I like fishing with confidence and G4 has improved my performance, because I can fish worry free. Especially when you get to those nail biting stages in a scrap, when a trout shows it’s true tenacity, by shaking it’s head to free the hook hold. Or when you’ve just cast out and straightened your leader, then get one of those truly violent hits, that rips the line from your fingers.  If you can stay in contact after one of those takes, then you have a tippet worth it’s weight in gold.

I construct my leaders in most cases with two droppers, or on a windy day with just one.  I always use a three turn water knot for these and G4 knots very well.  Especially when your closing the knot tight. I nearly always wet the tippet before drawing closed and my knots look small, which is important for those close up feeders.

Because G4 is more supple that G3, it turns over well and sinks with ease through the water surface. Through the odd bad cast, I discovered that G4 copes well with my inevitable casting knot too, but err on the side of safety when you have the chance of a “Fish of a lifetime” right out in front. Check your leader every few casts for wind knots and you’ll fish more confidently.

Looking at the spools on this new tippet. They all feature the same build components. Colour coded spool labels, and the spools lock together too. An elastic spool tender prevents your line from uncoiling in your bag or rig. Plus there’s a nifty little viewing port on the spool front, so you can see just how much is left.

The new Airflo tippet material has interlocking spools and colour coded elastic tenders.

The new Airflo tippet material has interlocking spools and colour coded elastic tenders.

With more choices of tippet on offer in the new range, from Saltwater, G5 Premium, Tactical and of course good old G3. The Sightfree range of tippets is a ‘go to’ tippet system that offers lots of scope for the all round angler.

For more information on buying the new Sightfree range, go to or

If it’s broke……….fix it!

When I got back into fishing, I was very lucky to have some knowledgeable people around me to give me a steer in the right direction.  The great fishing community on social media has only helped me to improve.

Helpfull advice will get you more fish on the bank.

Helpful advice from fellow anglers will get you more fish on the bank.

Early on, I was keen to learn and what worked best for me was asking questions.  Tactics; flies; rod setup; were all frequently asked to any and all fellow fishermen. In the main, I received positive and helpful responses.  There was however a few who were not interested in helping, the very same people of shun any advice you offer up.  One example was of a man who was catching at a local Stillwater when I nor nobody else was.  He went as far a removing his fly from his cast when having a lunch break so nobody could see what was being used! But as I said, this was the minority.

I’m now at a stage where I’m confident enough in my abilities and knowledge that I can offer some advice when asked.  It gives me a sense of satisfaction when I tell someone to try a tactic or use a certain fly and it pays off.

A rare still and warm day at Garnffrwd fishery

A rare still and warm day at Garnffrwd fishery.

I recently took a trip to my favorite small water fishery, Garnffrwd.  I managed to get there on a gorgeous day, which is unusual for me.  No rain, temperatures up and the sun was out and warm (the warmth of the sun was not realized until I got home and my partner laughed at my ‘panda eyes’ – always use a hat and sun cream guys!!!)

The fishery looked gorgeous as ever and I was the only person there.  It was early morning and the fish were already turning in the surface feeding on buzzers.  Having already set up my one rod with my Airflo Super-Dri line, G3 fluorocarbon and an Olive Damsel, I gave it a swim. After a short time, and many follows I hooked up into a decent rainbow which quickly graced my Airflo Streamtec Trout net.  Without much further action I took a walk around the lake and had a chat to a couple of other anglers who had arrived.  Jamie, the fishery owner, also came by for a chat and he advised that black flies fished in or just below the surface film were working best.  Lures were just not doing the business and a lighter setup with smaller flies was the way forward.

With Jamie’s advice fresh in my head (after all, its his fishery and will be Managing the Welsh bank team so surely only a fool wouldn’t take that advice?)   I tied on a Black suspender buzzer and cast out.  I quickly lifted into another good fish, which turned out to be the best of the day – just short of 4lbs.  Another fished soon followed before I moved around to the Dam.

The suspender buzzer working it's magic

The suspender buzzer working it’s magic.

So why ‘If it’s broke……….fix it!’  Well, having caught a few fish I could see across from me that the two chaps I was talking with were furiously stripping lures without any luck at all.  One was getting rather frustrated – “it worked the last time we were here” I heard in quip angrily to his mate.  Having taken another couple fish on the dam, I moved round to the island on the pegs next to the man I’ll call ‘Angry’.  This time after casting out an Olive suspender buzzer a few times, a good spirited Rainbow took my fly.  It fought well and left the water a couple of times right by where ‘Angry’ was fishing – I think it did that on purpose.  Soon after it succumbed and graced my Airflo Streamtec Trout net.

With lunch time upon me and my stomach making its feeling perfectly clear, I headed for a break.   As I walked past Angry I asked ‘how you getting on’.  ‘Rubbish’ he replied.  I offered one of my flies to him and he appeared grateful, I offered the same gratitude to his friend.  Watching as I sat for some food, ‘Angry’ was still pulling lures.  His mate had taken my and Jamie’s advice and had stripped down his setup and was casting out my buzzer.

I finished the day with 9 Rainbows (all safely returned to grace another anglers’ net), mainly on the buzzer but a couple late in the day I took on a small Black Hawthorn fly.  Back at my car tackling down, the two fellow anglers followed shortly after.  One was chuffed he had taken 2 fish on my buzzer, something that gave me immense satisfaction.  ‘Angry’ had nothing.  I asked what tactics he used and he said he puled lures all day.  I could have been wrong but I got the sense he wasn’t willing to take advice from someone much younger, that or he was just plain stubborn?

It’s a way of fishing where I have learnt the most, if I’m not catching, I try something different.  Going as far as completely changing my rod setup.  By doing this I have caught fish on days that looked lost and learnt how best to fish my local rivers.  I was often surprised with what the fish are willing to take during them slow days we all have.

Take my advice, or don’t – but if it’s broke, fix it.  You’ll often be surprised but the results.

Garnffrwd is a truly cracking fishery, I didn’t manage any Browns or Tigers on this trip but surely that’s just a reason to go back soon??  If you haven’t been, make the effort to go, you wont be disappointed – Garnffrwd Trout Fishery

Tight Lines and Wet Hands


A nice Garn rainbow going back

A nice Garn rainbow going back.

Spring Buzzer Fishing Tip’s

A great little post by former world champion Iain Barr on spring buzzer fishing – invaluable advice if you fly-fish stillwater’s!

April going into May is all about the buzzers for me and no doubt many of you fly fishers out there.

I’m having crazy sport on buzzers at the moment and it will only get better before it tails off through June when more aquatic nymph pattern become hot on the trouts agenda.

Outings to note recently have been to Elinor where I’ve landed 48 in two trips, part days with about 35 taking buzzers including a cracking 13lb 10oz rainbow and a fine over wintered fish of about 5lb too.

13lb 8oz Elinor Fishery - on a buzzer

13lb 8oz Elinor Fishery – on a buzzer.

Black and dark claret buzzers are my favourites this time of year and usually larger ones in size 10 and size 8 reservoir buzzers.

What’s key is to fish them dead dead slow but best static. Their decent can be controlled by using a blob or fab on the point and or top dropper.

The retrieve is key too, keeping them static as long as possible but every 12 second or so try a very long slow pull to raise them through the water column and pause again before repeating. This will lift and drop the buzzers through the layers just like the naturals.

The woofta - Iain's buzzer of choice at the moment!

The woofta – Iain’s buzzer of choice at the moment!

My Woofta buzzers, black crisp,  Red Butt, Claret Stealth and Claret Midlands are some of my favourites this time of year or you can pick up my black buzzers selections and reservoir buzzer selections through Fishtec.

Tight lines at this great time of year for the fly!


Chris Ogborne’s Pre-Season Tackle Preparation Tips

It’s March at last and we’re on the very cusp of Spring. The new Trout fishing year is just around the corner, so Chris Ogborne gives us his top tips on how to make sure that you, AND your gear are fully ready for the season!

I absolutely love this time of year! The wet, grey and overly long winter is almost behind us and all thoughts now are for the new fishing season, in whatever form that takes for the individual angler.

It matters not whether you’ll be heading for the lakes, the rivers or the coast. What DOES matter is that we have that wonderful feeling that the whole season stretches away in front of us, with over six months of great fishing to look forward to. Very soon now we’ll be out there with the sun on our backs and hopefully a decent bend in the rod as the first fish takes hold!

But to make sure that you enjoy it to the full, it pays to have a quick check through ahead of time, to make sure that all your fly fishing tackle is in perfect working order. For me it’s a fun job and one of the real pleasures of Spring. I usually do it on a Sunday morning, laying all the gear out on the patio and spending a few happy hours oiling reels, checking lines, wiping down rod handles and giving the fishing bag a good shake to clear all the debris.

OK hands up, I’m guilty of the following: Like most anglers, I’m lazy in Autumn and just chuck everything on the corner of the garage to be forgotten for the winter months. Our gear that gives us so much pleasure deserves better treatment, so here’s my detailed recipe for a spring clean:

Leader material: It’s absolutely crazy and false economy to make do with old leader material. Be ruthless and throw those old part-used spools away. In the overall scheme of things it’s the least expensive element of our gear, and you SO don’t want to lose the first fish of the year because the old material had de-graded. Spools get knocked about in jacket pockets, they get wet and shrink, or they get bashed about against harder objects so give yourself peace of mind and buy new. Whether it’s co-polymer or fluorocarbon, do it now. It’s a great investment!

Invest in new leader material at the start of your season!

Invest in new leader material at the start of your season!

Fly lines: of equal importance to the leader material is the fly line. There is a strong argument that the single most important item in the tackle box is the fly line, yet we seem to expect them to last for five years or more without any care at all. In most cases, a fly line costs less than a day out on the boat on your local reservoir, so it just isn’t reasonable to expect them to last forever. Unless you treat them regularly they will stiffen, become less supple, and the edge will be taken off their performance. Even the very best lines will degrade slightly in time so go on, treat yourself to new lines this year! Nothing quite compares to having the feel of a brand new fly line on opening day on the reservoir – the feel-good factor is well worth the cost!

Nothing beats the 'feel good' factor of a new fly line.

Nothing beats the ‘feel good’ factor of a new fly line.

Reels: check your reels BEFORE opening day! Modern reels are marvels of engineering but even the very best need a little TLC every now and again. Just check them over and even if it’s nothing more than a clean up you’ll feel better for it! The debris that inevitably collects can be washed away in warm water (top tip is to use an old toothbrush) and this applies to all reels, even the modern ones with inter-changeable spools. The more traditional alloy reels with spindle will benefit from a light grease (use top grade fine oil or grease) as well. As another top tip, I always like to take all the lines and backing off and then re-wind neatly.

Butt rig: If you don’t use a permanent butt rig system on your lines then this is something to consider. I use an Airflo polyleader on ALL my lines in the appropriate density as this provides the all-important clean turnover when casting, which in turn gives better presentation. These leader rigs are inexpensive and WILL make a difference to your fishing.

Rods: Modern rods are pretty bomb proof in design, but if you do little else apart from a wipe down with a damp cloth then there is one thing you really MUST do: check the rings for wear! Grooved rod rings will play havoc with your new fly lines and in the worst cases they can seriously damage them beyond reclaim. A quick check one will save a lot of frustration on the bankside in April. For more tips on fly rod care, click here.

It’s been said before but is worth saying again – a warm, dry and comfortable angler is a MUCH more effective angler. Early season can be pretty cold so make sure that you’re prepared for the elements. More importantly, make sure that the extra layers don’t impair your casting, as too much bulk in clothing can have nightmare restrictions on your movement. The Airflo clothing range includes no end of great layers, from lightweight and breathable through to sub-Arctic survival and it’s all made from the latest high-tech materials designed for anglers. My personal favourite item of clothing from their range has to be the Airflo Thermolite hoody.

Fly boxes: this is my absolute top tip. PLEASE check your fly boxes for any sign of rusty or damaged hooks! Modern fly boxes are designed to prevent rust but even the best will be susceptible to being stored in damp conditions. In recent years I’ve been using the Airflo Slim Jim boxes which are nothing short of brilliant – easy to see the contents at a glance, quick fly selection, and sure grips that won’t leave you with loose flies everywhere. The bonus is that they fit into a shirt pocket so they’re great if you like to travel light

Make sure you check your waders and boots

Make sure you check your waders and boots!

Waders: make sure you check your waders and boots NOW! This vital element of tackle is another one we tend to take for granted, expecting them to last forever. After three seasons of faithful use, especially if you’re a regular angler fishing once or twice a week, I’d reasonably expect to look to replace them. Far better to do this ahead of time as leaks on opening day can be VERY cold!

Enjoy your opening day, Chris.

5 Top Tips For Small Stillwater Trout Fishing

We all want to make the most of the limited time,we have on the water. It’s why we’re there and we  just want to catch a fish? I think I’d be right in stating that. Though in some cases, just catching one would be great, but just sometimes doesn’t happen.  Here are a few of my tips that may help‎ you to wet a net. They work for me and if you feel they could help you, then give one of them a try out.

1. Always work the margins. Watching a stranger walk up to a small lake, anywhere in UK and you’ll see the same thing everytime. Peel about 30yds of line off the fly fishing reel, drop the flies on the deck, then cast to the other side. We all see this approach and it doesn’t often work. In most cases lining fish feeding on top or just sub surface, with a very evident bow wave on the surface.‎ Then just to top it off, they cast at the bow wave, hoping to hook up? The better approach that pays for me, is to peel a few yards of line off‎, some way from the banks and work the fringes or margins. These areas hold a vast amounts of easy pickings for the trout. That’s why, when your lost in your little world,  a trout rises right under  your feet and scares the pants off you. Easy feeding for very little effort. If your careful with a lower silouhette, these fish will sidle up and you’ll get a chance to offer your flies to them. Sometimes with fantastic results!

This nice trout was feeding right in the margins off a reed bed.

This nice trout was feeding right in the margins off a reed bed.

2. Trout love obstruction. Anything that breaks the flow of water, creating a seam that brings in food to the fish, is a place worth a cast or two. This flow can carry small bugs or bigger items like drowning daddies, hawthorns and even empty buzzer shucks, which the trout can become preoccupied on.  So whether it’s a tree branch, jetty post or a weed bed. These areas house food items, that shelter out of harms way. No need to swim across the lake and risk swimming into open water. Most organisms in your lake, be they Buzzers, Damsels, Corixa, Shrimp etc all live sheltered lives, away from predation. Offering your flies into these areas, can reap you great rewards, often on the very first cast too.

A lake with lots of marginal structures - approach quietly, and fish the features!

A lake with lots of marginal structures – approach quietly, and fish the features!

3. Mix up your retrieve. I was trying to explain this approach, to my  angling buddy Michael Valler, earlier this year. He was casting out, then making a pull, pull retrieve that offered very little in the way of realism or a take trigger.  Ask most Competition Anglers what they do and they’ll tell you. Keep changing your retrieve to fool the fish around. They get bored too, watching the same flies, being pulled at the same speed, with nothing to offer‎ or entice them to take. Fish have no fingers, so the only option they have to test things out for themselves and satisfy their curiosity, is with their mouths. Short fast plucks mixed with longer pulls and stops, work a treat. Mix it up and try the FTA method. Fool them around, is what it stands for and it works. Try it and see if you can get a reaction?

Mark the end of your fly line.

Mark the end of your fly line.

4. Mark‎ your fly line. When you cast out and straighten up your leader. How do you recognise a take?‎ Most wait to feel the bump, bump on the rod tip. Watching your line can pay big dividends in reacting earlier to a take. How do you detect a take on a fly line? Well you need a contrast point. Something that makes your fly line stand out, even at distance. I’ve been marking my fly lines, for some years now. Using a permanent black marker on my floating and Mini Tip lines. Plus silver and gold pens like you see at Christmas, on my sinking lines. I mark bands on the line and at about 10ft, add two very large bands that are visible at distance. Using these bands, I can spot the line stopping. Any jags or plucks are instantly visible and I can react quickly to  these, with a line strike. Simply by chopping my line hand downwards. If I get a thud on the line, I can then sweep the rod up or sideways and tighten in. If there’s no reaction on the line, I can carry on fishing and I’ve only moved my line a few feet.  Quite simple really?

Don't follow the crowds - not another angler in sight!

Don’t follow the crowds – not another angler in sight!

5. Don’t follow the crowd. It’s easy to fall into the trap of taking the easy option. You arrive on the water and everyone is fishing a floating line. They’re catching too, but not with consistency.‎ What you don’t know is, the depth the fish are at. The fly that’s doing the business and the speed of their retrieve. Add into this long leaders and it’s easy to get confused and lose the plot. Watch the water when you arrive. Even two or three minutes spent looking at and into the water, is time well spent‎. Look at what’s present on the surface. Learn to recognise different rise forms and watch for sub surface activity. On a rippled surface this is easy to spot, in the form of a smooth spot on the otherwise rippled surface. Having some of this information, may give you some idea, as to a way forward. When you can make an informed decision,  on your line type to start fishing.  ‎Whether to utilise a Mini Tip, a floating set up or get deep with a sinker.

The end result - a fish on the bank

The end result – a fish on the bank.

Above all else, remember your there to enjoy yourself and have fun. Just like everyone else around you. Fish with confidence and handle your fish gently if at all. I’ll leave it up to you to make some great memories‎. There’s always a “Fish of a lifetime” out there.  You’ve just got to be there to catch it. Tight lines and wet nets. You just gotta get a trout to decorate your net now.


Stuart Smitham