A Beginner’s Guide to Feeder Fishing

Excellent for a huge variety of bottom-grazing fish, the swim feeder is a useful tool for any keen coarse angler to master. Dom Garnett’s handy guide to feeder fishing is packed with useful tips, rig diagrams and years of practical knowledge that he’s picked up on the bank from other legendary anglers…


Choose the correct swim feeder for the conditions.
Image source: Dominic Garnett

In the evolution of coarse fishing, the swim feeder has to be one of the all-time greatest angling gadgets. In a nutshell, the feeder attracts fish to your hook, helping you to land real net-fillers like bream, tench and carp.

But what exactly is a swim feeder (often shortened to just “feeder”)? The original swim feeder was simply a plastic capsule filled with holes, designed to release free bait down near the fish as efficiently as possible. Feeders are also used to overcome challenges such as ugly weather and deep or distant swims, where throwing in bait accurately or fishing a float are impossible.

Let’s start our guide by looking at the basic types of swimfeeder and what they are designed for.

Basic types of Swim Feeder 

The Maggot Feeder

Maggot_Feeders_Kamasan (1)

Maggot feeder

Ah, the good old “plastic pig”. These come in various sizes and designs, but all do the same job: they release free live bait on a sixpence, right next to the maggots on your hook. Sometimes also called a ‘blockend feeder,’ the ends are blocked up to prevent the grubs escaping too early. Still mighty effective after all these years.

The Open End or Groundbait Feeder


Open-end feeders. Be sure to balance your rod and tackle with the feeder size

These feeders are ideal for accurately introducing groundbait into your swim. You simply squeeze your crumb mix in place and cast out. They come in various designs and sizes, from great big beasts that will hold in a current, to miniature models suitable for more cautious winter fishing.

The Cage Feeder


Larger holes release bait quickly creating an attractive cloud for shallow swims.
Featured product: Korum cage feeders from Fishtec.

Quite simply, this is a groundbait feeder with bigger holes. When would you use it? Well, there are times when it is an advantage to release your free bait more quickly, rather than hard on the bottom. This feeder will do just that, creating an attractive cloud to draw the fish in. Ideal for shallower swims and summer fishing, these work beautifully with mashed bread as well as crumb type groundbait.

The Method Feeder


This can be lethal for most larger bottom grazers.
Featured product: The method feeder from Fishtec.

An ingenious development, this feeder works quite differently to the others. The flatbed design is fixed in place rather than running freely on the line. Simply shape your sticky groundbait (look for a special “method mix” or add an egg or two to render your usual favourite crumb stickier) around your Method feeder. Then you can either bury your hook bait inside or let the hook sit just an inch or two away from the mix. The fish attack the feeder to dislodge the food, unwittingly pick up your bait and tend to hook themselves. It’s a fairly foolproof way of fishing; in fact the only thing that can go wrong is your rod getting pulled into the lake if you’re not right on it.

Further specialised feeders…

The feeders we’ve covered so far are more than enough to keep you busy. However, if you’ve got the bug and want to try some more, there are a few others that are worth a mention.

The pellet feeder is mainly used for commercial fisheries and offers a perfect little scoop of pellets to the fish. The banjo feeder, named because of its shape, is similarly designed to accurately present a tidy little nugget of freebies with your hookbait right in amongst it. Some of these feeders are elasticated, which helps cushion the impact of carp takes, which can be quite savage.


Featured product: The Guru Pellet Feeder from Fishtec is spot on for commercial carp and F1s.

And finally – the biggest brutes of the lot – specimen or specialist feeders. These cater for more extreme scenarios, like when you want to deliver a much bigger payload and leave it there for longer periods. They’re also good for big rivers and fast currents. A three or four ounce model that clings flat to the bottom is just what the doctor ordered. You’ll need to make sure you’ve got the right rod and tackle to cope with one of these though – correctly balancing your rod, line, feeder and hook size is the holy grail of feeder fishing.

Feeder fishing tackle

Once you have a rough idea of the type of feeder that will suit your favourite venue, you’ll need to decide which rod and tackle to use. Sadly there isn’t one rod that will do the lot, although most of your feeder fishing will be with a quiver tip rod – the one with the brightly coloured tip section to help spot the bites when you’re legering (fishing right on the bottom with something weighty like a lead or feeder, as opposed to float fishing). Here are some of your options.

The light feeder or “picker” rod

At the lighter end of the spectrum there are some neat little rods of 7-10ft with nice fine tips. These are spot on for shorter range fishing, on both commercial pools and natural venues. You’d typically match one with a smallish reel loaded with 3-5lb line for roach, chub or bream fishing, and perhaps slightly heavier line for carp and tench. If you want to flick a feeder out 20 yards with perfect accuracy, this is the puppy. Sadly, with the modern stranglehold of carp fisheries, this style of rod is getting harder to find- so be prepared to look around.

Medium/all round feeder rod


Featured product: The Shimano Forcemaster from Fishtec would fit into the all-round category and covers a lot of bases for less than £40

Next up, we have a longer all rounder. This could be a fair bit longer, say 12 or 13ft, if you’re aiming for the horizon on a big lake or river. Lighter models are ideal for classic species like roach, bream and chub. They work well with lines of 4-6lbs and a good range of feeders, excepting the very heaviest.

Heavy or method feeder rod

If you’re going to smash out a beefy method feeder or an extra large helping of groundbait, this is the rod for you. It can cast weights that would smash lighter tips, not to mention coping with those savage bites you get from carp as they bolt against the weight of a feeder.

You wouldn’t think twice about combining one of these with a bigger reel loaded with lines from 8-10lbs. Heck, if you’re casting big payloads a long way, you may want a shock leader – a thicker last few yards of line to handle the strain of casting big weights without the dreaded crack-off (not a city in Poland but that horrible moment when your line breaks on the cast.)

Which quiver tip?


A typical quiver tip; this one has an isotope added for night fishing.
Image source:
Dominic Garnett.

Just to confuse things even more, most quiver tip or feeder rods come with a selection of interchangeable tips. Like a full rod, they often have a test curve rating, in ounces. Obviously the higher the number, the stiffer the tip is. Use your common sense to pick the right one: a flat calm lake and shy biting fish would call for a slender, highly sensitive tip. A powerful river and heavy feeder would call for something much stiffer.

Feeder rigs

Running feeder, longer hook-link


Image source: Fishtec

Best suited for: Traditional species (roach, dace, bream, tench) and weedy/ clear waters.

For fish that don’t always charge off with the bait, a longer, finer hook-link is the way to fish. This could be as little as a foot to 18” (30-45cm) over a clean bottom. But if fish are shy or the water is weedy, a longer hook-link up to 4 feet helps the bait settle delicately without digging into the bottom. Sometimes using a longer link and bait like bread will earn you extra bites while the bait sinks through the water too.

Semi-fixed feeder, short hook-link


Image source: Fishtec

Best suited for: Bigger fish that tend to hook themselves (carp, tench, bream, barbel.) Commercial fisheries & carp lakes.

This is the modern, more typical way to fish on stocked fisheries or natural waters with a good head of bigger fish. To maximize this effect, try a really short hook-link (as little as 2-3”!) Hair-rigging gives the best presentation and hook-up rates, and with a big feeder, heavier line and a bait such as double boilie, this type of rig can also work for larger carp.

Warning! Is your rig safe?

Please beware. This rig comes with two dangers: the rod getting pulled in, or dodgy setups leading to breaks and tethered fish. This is why we call this a “semi” fixed rig. Most modern feeders have a sleeve that will snugly lock your hook-link in place via a swivel. Secure enough to hook fish, this makes the feeder easy to dislodge for a fish should you break off!

The ‘in-between’ rig (running feeder, fairly short hook-link)


Image source: Fishtec

Of course, we can make good general rules, but there are always exceptions. Some specialist roach anglers use a heavy feeder and short hooklink for distance fishing, just as canny carp anglers will try a longer trace for spooky carp that have wised-up to the classic heavy weight and short hooklink combo.

I was shown this rig by legendary specimen angler Bob James, and it has seldom let me down. It’s dead simple, provided you get the proportions right, and is simply brilliant for barbel, tench and all the bigger species. It’s not as crude as a method-type rig, allowing fish to move off a little more with the hookbait. It tends to work a little like a “bolt rig” – a common set up where the fish feels the weight, “bolts” and hooks itself.

The combination of double mini-boilie and small specimen hook is extremely effective – often far better than standard specimen rigs. I believe this is because smaller hooks, such as a 10 or a 12, penetrate with far less force than a carp-sized hook such as a heavy gauge 4 to 8. I’m not sure why, but two smaller boilies often work better than one big one, too.

There are many more specialised feeder rigs you might also try, once you’ve got the hang of it. The helicopter rig is good for tangle-free long range fishing. Heck, some anglers have even used floating feeders, or used a pole to drop a method feeder in the margins for carp. I’m not going to dictate how it’s done; but I would recommend getting familiar with the basics before going too crazy.

Practical tips

Cast accurately, cast often

The whole aim of fishing the feeder is to attract the fish to your hookbait. Two things are really important. The first is to recast on a regular basis to build up the feed and draw the fish in. It’s no use casting out and doing nothing for hours; the fish will just lose interest. Keep recasting at least every five to ten minutes.

The other vital thing to remember is accuracy. If you send free bait in here there and everywhere, the fish will disperse rather than gather in one spot. By all means, try the odd cast on the edge of your feed area. Sometimes the bigger fish are cagier and don’t muscle right into the thick of it. But my best advice is to line up with a marker on the far bank and concentrate on casting repeatedly to the same area. See our tips section below for more advice here.


A nice bag of fish on the feeder in wretched conditions! With heavy wind and rain, it would have been impossible to float fish.

How to spot bites on the feeder

We’ve already looked at quiver tips, which, as the name suggests, will shudder and twitch as you get interest from the fish. But when should you strike? In my experience it’s best to avoid the tiny little shivers and shudders; these are just nibbles and fish that are testing the bait. Instead wait for the tip to pull round a little further, or to pull forward and hold.

The truth is that you should play it by ear. One day, say when fishing for roach and skimmers, you might hit quite gentle bites and find success. However, if there are big bream or tench in the swim, it’s usually best to follow the classic advice and “sit on your hands” until the tip whacks right round. A lot of the earlier shudders and taps will just be fish disturbing the feeder and brushing the line.

Of course, if you use a semi-fixed rig or shorter hooklength, there is often no need whatsoever to strike! Just stay vigilant, ignore the smaller taps and be ready to pick up the rod when a fish hooks itself. You can’t really miss it – and don’t leave your rod unattended or you’ll feel a right plank if it gets dragged into the lake.

Top 10 Feeder Fishing Tips

  1. Stay vigilant and hang on to your rod. Get in a comfortable position so you’re ready to pick up the rod in a flash (try resting the butt of the rod in your lap).
  1. Always bait the hook first, then fill up your plastic when using a maggot feeder. Otherwise you’ll have maggots falling into your lap as you bait the hook.
  1. Get into a routine of casting accurately and often (you could even set a stopwatch!). Each time you send the feeder out, you are in effect ringing the dinner bell again. Active anglers catch more than the lazy brigade!
  1. Do you suffer from tangles on the cast? If so there are two things you could try. One is the loop rig. Another answer is to use a little anti-tangle sleeve. These slip over any small swivel and help keep everything straight and tangle-free.
  1. Use a snaplink so you can change feeders through the session. This way you can go heavier if the wind picks up, for example, or perhaps switch to a smaller model or a straight lead if you want to cut back on the free feed.

A nice barbel on the feeder; a two ounce model was needed on this occasion to tackle a wide river swim with a strong current.
Image source: Dominic Garnett.

  1. Try the feeder for carp and barbel in place of the usual leads. It could save you a fortune on PVA bags and is often the better method, because it encourages you to keep casting and attracting fish, rather than just plonking a rig out and waiting.
  1. Your reel’s line clip is the easiest way to keep hitting the same mark with the feeder. If big carp are about this could be a bad idea though… you could try tying a marker with braid or whipping silk to keep track of the distance instead.
  1. A bit of DIY can be handy for improving your feeders. You could make the holes bigger, or tape them up for a slower release of bait. You could also add extra weight. Tinker as you see fit.
  1. So far we have not discussed when NOT to use a feeder. At close range, or in shallow water it could be the wrong method- especially when the fish might be easily spooked.
  1. Last but not least, don’t assume swim feeders are only for general coarse fishing. Virtually every fish likes free food, right? Bigger feeders are also good for sea and pike fishing. Think outside the box (or should that be feeder?) and the results can be brilliant.

For a quick, simple and visual guide to feeder fishing use our infographic below:

More from our blogger…

Dominic Garnett’s books include Canal Fishing: A Practical Guide and his recent collection of fishing tales Crooked Lines. Find them along with his regular blog at www.dgfishing.co.uk or as Kindle e-books via www.amazon.co.uk

Beginners guide to Barbel fishing


Image source: Barbel Society
Avon barbel double and rod 


Barbel offer some of the most varied, exciting and dynamic angling in the UK. Aside from their sheer beauty and power, they can be found across a wide range of rivers. From small, shallow venues such as the Nene backwaters and Teme; steady flowing rivers like the Upper Great Ouse and Kennet, through to larger, powerful rivers like the Lower Severn, Wye and Trent.

The variety of river venues that we have in the UK offers the angler the choice of catching multiple fish of average size in a day, or putting the time in on tougher venues for a double figure fish. There is no finer moment in angling than when that barbel, big or small, picks up the bait and gives us the classic ‘three foot twitch’ on the rod. They can be caught all year round, using an endless variety of baits and tactics.

This piece shows you the very basics, along with a few simple tips to put your first barbel on the unhooking mat.


barbel river

Just one of the reasons to love barbel fishing

Finding the right location is by far the most important aspect of barbel fishing. After all, you can’t catch what isn’t there! Barbel are usually found in clean, faster flowing rivers, such as  those mentioned in the introduction, although it often pays – especially in the winter months – to seek out the deeper, steadier flowing water.

Barbel love to feed over clean gravel; if you can find the gravel then you are half way to finding a good barbel swim. The most important part of your armoury in the summer months is a good set of ploaroid sunglasses. These cut out the surface glare on the water, and help you to spot the gravel beds, deeper holes, weed beds, and if you’re really lucky, some fish!

Swims to look for are areas of smooth surface movement with some cover nearby. Streamer weed beds are the classic holding area for barbel, and finding gravel channels between the weed will increase your chances of catching.

Barbel also love to have a roof over their heads so seek out overhanging trees and bushes, preferably on your near bank to make feeding and fishing easier. It’s worth noting at this point to avoid the temptation of fishing tight to the snags. It’s these areas of refuge that barbel like to drop back into and it’s easy to spook them out of the area completely if you fish right in to their front door!

The ideal barbel swim will have a deeper area of water among a streamer weed bed, about twenty yards upstream from an overhanging feature, nearside reed bed or undercut bank. The best time to find these features is simply by walking the banks in the closed season and having a good look about. You’ll soon get an idea of the river by doing so.


simple tackle

Pure simplicity


Barbel are one of the hardest fighting fish in UK waters. Couple this with powerful flowing water and you’ll need robust tackle to land your quarry. Robust tackle doesn’t mean heavy: using rods that are too stiff with very heavy lines will result in hook pulls at the net.

The ideal rod on small and medium sized rivers is a 1.75lb test curve rod with a good through-action to absorb the powerful lunges close in. There are dozens of superb rods dedicated to the species on the market now to suit all budgets. I like to have a pair of isotopes on the rod tip about twelve inches apart to aid bite detection at night and give a useful sight tip in lower light conditions.

Reels need to have a good, smooth clutch and be of medium size and reasonably lightweight. This makes them more practical while moving between swims. While baitrunner type reels are useful, their designed use isn’t recommended, especially if fishing in snaggy rivers. A barbel can cover quite some ground in a short space of time, and become snagged before you pick up the rod!

Line should be of at least 10lbs breaking strain monofilament. Don’t be afraid to go up to 12lbs if you think the river calls for it. My personal preference is Gardner Gr60, or good old Daiwa Sensor in either clear or brown. The TF Gear nantec mono is also good stuff.

All offer good strength and abrasion resistance. Hooklength material is another topic that can, and has, have entire chapters written about it. I prefer to use the new Mimicry hooklength by Pro Logic, or Airflo fluorocarbon in 15lbs breaking strain, with a short two inch piece of supple braid running to the hook as a ‘combi rig’.

This offers a superb presentation that helps to fool the wise, old barbel in my local rivers. There’s also no reason why you can’t use a decent quality soft braided hooklength in a nice gravel brown to match the river bed you’re fishing over.

Hooks need to be strong and sharp. There are dozens of good hooks on the market, and any good tackle shop will be able to offer advice. One thing worth looking for are hooks with an in-turned eye as fishing over gravel will soon blunt your hook and you’ll be changing rigs every cast!

You’ll need a selection of leads from half an ounce to two or three ounces depending on the flow, and some free running rings and beads. A simple running rig is all that’s needed for barbel with a hooklength of around two feet, three feet if the barbel are a bit wary of tackle.

A couple of small lumps of plasticine three and five feet back from the lead can also help to pin the line down to the river. Of course, you’ll also need a rucksack to carry your tackle and refreshments, a decent hat in the summer, a lightweight chair if desired, and some comfortable clothing.

A decent landing net of at least 36’’ is essential, along with an unhooking mat. Most clubs now insist on the above items and good fish care can’t be emphasised enough. More on that later.


fishing bait

A world of baiting possibilities exists for barbel

This is every barbel angler’s favourite topic and one that has also had entire books written on it! Favourite baits include pellets, both big and small; luncheon meat, boilies, paste, maggots, caster, lobworms, bread, sweetcorn…… I’m sure you get the picture! Many anglers’ favourite bait is a decent quality boilie.

You can use a variety of sizes depending on conditions and the river I’m fishing. 14mm is a decent average size for both feeding and hookbait, though it pays to have a mixture of sizes and shapes both whole and broken up. Pellets are a superb summer bait too but use them in small amounts It’s very easy to overfeed, especially on smaller rivers.

Luncheon meat is a fantastic bait, and the following preparation is a simple and cheap way to make an effective bait:

Using an apple corer, bore into the meat in the tin and halve the pieces that you remove. With the leftover oddments, tear these into small chunks and pop into a freezer bag with the cylindrical shapes you already made.

Sprinkle in a generous amount of curry powder, shake about and pop in the freezer. Thaw out the night before you go fishing and you have one of the finest and cheapest hookbaits about! The cylinders can be presented on a short hair or directly on the hook, with the rough pieces that you tore off threaded onto a PVA string and tied to the lead.


simple fishing

Beautiful barbel caught with simple tactics

Undoubtedly the best tactic for barbel is the ‘bait and wait’ method. The theory here is that the fish build up confidence in feeding in your swim over several hours, so that when you arrive and cast out, you’ll get a bite within minutes.

You might be crying “but I don’t have time to feed a swim, I only have a day to fish so I need to get my hook in the water!” Well, every angler is in the same situation and the predicament is easily solved as follows:

You arrive at the river full of excitement and anticipation. You get out the car, pop on your polaroids, fill your pocket up with a few dozen boilies, some broken up, and maybe a few 8mm pellets.

The biggest mistake is made at this point by many anglers is that they do not move along the bank quietly and stealthily enough! Barbel will sense bankside noise and disturbance while you are still a long way from the swim, so stay low, quiet and use any cover you can.

Pick out three or four swims, and using your bait dropper (a handy item of tackle that’s neglected by far too many anglers), lower in no more than a dozen samples of your hookbait over your chosen area in the swim.

On the last swim you come to, your ‘’banker swim’’ (ideally one that’s got a lovely deep hole about twenty yards up from an old overhanging willow tree), deposit a good couple of dozen broken boilies and small pellets. Forget about this swim completely now for several hours.

Quietly wander back to your first swim and get yourself comfortable, and if possible, off the skyline. Fish with your bait and a small PVA bag of free offerings over the baited area. It’s worth spending a couple of hours in your first two or three swims before moving into the final swim.

Barbel commute along the river all day long so it pays to wait just that little bit longer in a swim to increase your chances of catching one as they swim through and find your bait. Fish with the rod pointing roughly towards the bait, low to the water, with a slack line as possible  to avoid spooking the fish with a tight line to swim into. Many anglers believe that barbel can sense a tight line ‘’singing’’ in the water.

When the barbel does find your bait, you’ll know about it! Barbel give the most spectacular bite of any coarse fish so it’s essential that you sit with the rod butt on your knee, or within arm’s reach. Play your fish firmly and keep the rod bent. With the right tackle you can stop the most powerful specimens in their tracks and it’s never good to prolong the fight.

Don’t ‘’bully’’ the fish to the net, but have faith in and use your tackle as it was intended. Once you have the fish in the net DO NOT LIFT IT FROM THE WATER STRAIGHT AWAY. Barbel give everything in the battle and they need to recover. You too will want to catch your breath and steady your hands after your first encounter with ‘Old Whiskers’!

Landing your barbel

rest fish before landing

Always ensure fish are fully rested before lifting fom the water

Make sure your net is in a steady flowing margin, with plenty of depth and that you won’t slide in. While the fish is upright and resting, wet your unhooking mat and weighing sling, zero your scales and set up your camera. With practice, the fish can be out the water, unhooked, weighed and photographed within a very short space of time.

Always check for other anglers’ hooks in the mouth, especially on pressured stretches or rivers that are match fished. Ensure a barbel is fully recovered by holding it in the flow with its head upstream. You’ll feel the fish regain its strength and only let go when you are sure it’s strong enough to swim away.

For more detail on handling this glorious fish, check out the Barbel Society’s handling code right here:

As the start of the barbel season starts on the glorious 16th of June, there’s plenty of time ahead for you to get out and find your first barbel. The methods mentioned in this piece are ideal for summer barbel fishing. But with a little bit of adapting, they can also put a big winter fish on the bank.

For further information, check out the Barbel Society Facebook page or website. Happy barbel fishing, and tight lines!

All pictures (unless stated) and article from Dan Whitelock of the Barbel Society

Beginners Guide To Fly Tying

Image Source Rene’ Harrop
All you need to know about fly tying!

If you don’t tie your own flies, you’re in good company. Over a third of fly anglers have never tied a fly. Maybe you’ve heard tying is too difficult, expensive or time-consuming?

Well, it’s none of the above. And once you get started, you’ll see how easy, enjoyable and addictive it can be.

Master of your own supply

Image source: Tim Hughes
The best way to match the hatch

Fly tying offers so many advantages you’d be crazy not to give it a go. But one of the most compelling is the freedom and versatility it grants you. Tie your own flies and you’ll always be able to match the hatch.

“The fact that I have an open canvas to put whatever I want on a hook draws me to the vice again and again,”

agrees Cheech Pierce on Fly Fish Food blog.

Convinced? You should be. Carry on reading, and we’ll tell you everything you need to get started.

Essential equipment

steady hand for tying flies

Image source: shutterstock
Pair the right equipment with a steady hand

You’ll need some basic tools to get tying. Start with the holy trinity of vice, scissors and bobbin holder.


While it’s possible to tie a fly totally by hand, we wouldn’t recommend it to a beginner. Most fly tyers choose to use a vice, and so should you. There are many types available, so do your research before you buy. As the Fly Dressers’ Guild advises:

“Choosing your first vice and tools is a bit like buying your first car: very exciting, potentially expensive, but easy to end up with something poorly made and not up to the task.”

Pick a vice that’s easy to use, has a good grip and will hold a variety of hook sizes.


Next on your shopping list is a pair of sharp, pointed scissors. Those rusty old scissors in your kitchen drawer literally won’t cut it. Get yourself a dedicated pair of fly-tying scissors.

If you’ve got a couple of hours to spare, Global Fly Fisher has the most comprehensive guide to fly-tying scissors you’ll ever read.

Master fly tyer Barry Ord Clarke recommends two pairs of scissors: “one with extremely fine points for the more intricate work and a pair with larger and serrated blades for deer hair and heavier work.”

Ceramic bobbin holder

fly tying bobbin holder

Image source: shutterstock
Spend a little more on a ceramic bobbin holder

Last in the trinity is the bobbin holder – a device that carefully holds your fly-tying thread so you don’t have to. In The Riffle recommends ceramic bobbins – they’re more expensive but worth it:

“The ceramic inserts on the tip of the bobbin will protect the fine fly-tying thread. Without the ceramic, the bobbin will develop burrs and grooves in the metal. This will cause the thread to constantly break during tying, very frustrating!”

Extra equimpent

fly tying gadgets

Image source: shutterstock
More shiny fly-tying gadgets

Next we move on to less essential, albeit still useful, secondary tools.

Hackle pliers

Hackle pliers are useful for big fingers that can’t get a good grip on small feathers. But the Fly Dressers’ Guild warns:

“Check that the edges of the jaws are not sharp or they will cut through your materials. A quick rub with emery paper or the addition of a small piece of silicone tubing will cure this problem.”

Dubbing needle

A dubbing needle performs a variety of roles. It will pick out dubbing (fur), apply varnish, undo knots and separate feather fibres. You don’t necessarily need to buy a dubbing needle if you can find something else that’s long and pointy to use instead – the Fly Dressers’ Guild recommends “Grandma’s hat pins”.

Whip finish tool

Some tyers love ‘em and some tyers hate ‘em. Whip finish tools come in various shapes and sizes and are used to finish off the fly. But they can be a real faff to handle. The alternative is to whip finish by hand.

Tying lamp v natural light

hillend dabbler fly

Image source: Hillend Dabbler
One of Hillend Dabbler’s al fresco creations

Depending on where your tying table is located you might need to shine some light on your handiwork. There are a number of fly tying lamps that give the magnification and shadow-free light you’ll need for the fiddly stuff.

But in warmer weather, natural light can work just as well, as Hillend Dabbler comments:

“Today I managed to get outdoors into the garden and tie a few patterns on the garden table with a nice cold beer close to hand. It has to be said the light was absolutely tremendous which I believe is a very important factor whilst tying. The natural light really assisted me outdoors today so maybe tying al fresco is something I should consider doing more often.”


good quality hackle

Image source: shutterstock
When choosing hackle, quality really does matter

Now it’s time to choose the materials you’ll use to create your first flies. Don’t go bonkers and buy every possible variation of anything you could ever need. Take it slowly at first.

1) Hackle
Before you choose your hackle – or feathers – consider the type of fly you’re going to make. When it comes to poultry, smaller, softer hen capes work best for wet flies as the fibres move better in the water. While for dry flies, cock capes are better, as the fibres are stiffer and so float better.

Fly Fishing Connection (which provides a good, quick overview of what you need to know about hackle) warns against scrimping on price:

“When choosing hackle, quality counts. You will end up being frustrated if you do not spend the extra money.”

wet and dry fly hackle

Image source: shutterstock
Wet and dry flies require different types of hackle

If you have friends who shoot, ask them for game bird feathers. These can come in handy for soft-hackle fly patterns. And start keeping an eye out for anything interesting on your travels. But be warned; David Cammiss says:

“Once you start collecting fly tying materials no walk along the river, or lakeside will ever be the same again. You will find yourself gathering feathers and anything else which ‘just might be useful’. On a recent trip my colleague could not believe I was collecting sheep’s wool off the barbed wire. Now that it has been washed in detergent in boiling water it will be dyed.”

2) Hooks

Choice of hook is very important!!

Choice of hook is very important!!

Your choice of hook is also very important, says Al Campbell of Fly Anglers Online:

“If you choose the right hook, your fly will be better proportioned and thus perform better in use. If you choose the wrong hook, you’ll have a flawed fly and your success with that fly will likely be less than the success you would enjoy with a properly tied fly.”

But with so many sizes and types of hook, how do you know where to start? Campbell suggests you first decide which flies you want to make and then buy the hooks you need to make them. Not the other way round.

3) Thread

There are almost as many types of thread as there are types of hook. But Fly on a hook blogger, Bernard Sunderland, advises beginners to start with a ‘standard’ thread – polyester, 70 denier – and not to buy any specialist thread in the early stages.

Once you’ve made your first few flies you’ll soon have a favourite combination of materials that you can draw from.

Rob Waddington’s top six are: “A B175 #10 hook with some white marabou, hare’s ear, peacock feathers, natural cock cape, pheasant tail and a few brass beads. You could tie anything with them.”

For Bob Mayers: “Hook would be Fulling Mill comp heavyweight, materials would be Booby Eyes, Straggle Fritz, Bronze Mallard, Pheasant Tails, cock hackles, Jungle cock Eyes.”


fly fishing gear

Image source: shutterstock
All the gear but no idea?

Teaching technique is way beyond the scope of this short guide. But we will point you in the direction of some very useful resources:

1) Reference books
A quick search on Amazon or a question posted on your favourite fishing forum will quickly lead you to the most helpful beginner’s guides to fly tying.
Here are three of the most popular:
Fly Tying for Beginners: How to Tie 50 Failsafe Flies, by Peter Gathercole
The Fly Tier’s Benchside Reference to Techniques and Dressing Styles, by Ted Leeson
Beginners Guide To Fly Tying, by Chris Mann & Terry Griffiths

2) Online tutorials

davie mcphail youtube

Follow Davie McPhail’s tutorials for beginner fly tyers

There are literally thousands of how-to videos on sites like YouTube and Vimeo. Some of the best beginners tutorials include:

Learn Fly Tying, by David Cammiss
What Makes a Good Fly by Mikael Frodin
Flies for Beginners by Davie McPhail

3) Lessons
If you know a fly tyer, ask them for help. If you don’t, try contacting your local Fly Dressers Guild for details of any fly-tying classes near you.

Expert advice

1) Simply does it
Without doubt, the main piece of advice for the beginner fly tyer is to keep it simple:

“Don’t over complicate, watch YouTube videos, start with easy patterns,” advises Bob Mayers of the Llandegfedd Fly Fishing Association.

“Don’t try to replicate complex patterns when you start, start with easy-to-tie patterns and build up your skills slowly,” agrees McFluffchucker blogger, Dave Lindsay.

2) Less is more
Resist the temptation to overdo your first flies, says Lindsay:

“Don’t use tons of materials when you tie a fly; always remember less is more when it comes to big pike flies, flies become more mobile in the water if you use less material.”

Waddington agrees: “Less is more, don’t ‘over-tie’. Sparse materials look better in the water and have a luminous effect.”

3) Don’t worry about perfection
And last, but not least, don’t worry if your first fly (or even your 101st) isn’t perfect. The fish don’t care. Dave Lindsay tells us:

“Even if you think your first tyes dosnt look professional they will still catch fish”

And take this advice from trout fly fishing maestro Geoffrey Bucknall:

Recently, fly tying has become very sophisticated. And master fly dressers, at the demos have raised the craft to a pinnacle of perfection. It is great to watch… and yet, I wonder, are we not discouraging a handful of would-be beginners who believe their sausage fingers could not manipulate what is needed for a woven body?

True, the fly must be basically right in colour and size, but the trout locks onto the natural fly by the way it behaves in or on the water. In other words, a simple fly presented in the natural way, that does the business. Fly dressing can be raised to a high level of craftsmanship but that has nothing to do with catching fish!

So, my advice to fly dressers is this; write in big letters above your bench: TROUT RECOGNISE THEIR FOOD BY ITS BEHAVIOUR. That will govern the way you make your flies.

And on that encouraging note, here endeth the lesson.

Fishtec stock everything you need to start fly tying – including amazing value tool sets, materials and hooks from all the major suppliers, plus the best selling all-in-one Airflo fly tying kits! Click here for further details.

6 Fantastic Flies To Add To Your Armoury

salmon fly on vice

Image source: shutterstock
Still on the vice, ready for the water!

Our big fishing survey revealed that that 66% of you fly anglers tie your own flies – you’re clearly a resourceful bunch!

When the weather is miserable, practising the art of fly tying is often preferable to actually fishing. Blogger Bob Walker agrees, after a recent bout of gloomy weather he: “retreated to my man-cave, fired up the heater, got some Planet Rock on the go and decided to tie a pike fly.” A wise man indeed!

We’ve scoured the net for the best additions to your fly fishing gear. So without further ado here are six new snazzy flies to add to your collection. Now just to make some room for them…

1. Organza Traffic Lights Diawl Bach

Learn how to tie this organza based Diawl Bach and land yourself more trout. The video is made by Davie McPhail, a well-known fly tyer and designer who also contributes to UK fly fishing magazines. Swing by his YouTube channel; he uploads new fly tying videos every few weeks.

2. Big flashy pike streamer Mcfluffchucker

Sometimes in life you just want to make a massive fly, just for the hell of it.” It’s a sentiment we’re sure many fly anglers can identify with! The video shows blogger Dave Mcfluffchucker making “something big and sparkly that will annoy the fish.” While this flashy great streamer is fun to tie, the main purpose of course, is it will help you catch more pike. We call that a win win.

3. The Northern spider flexi floss worm

After something a bit unconventional? Try out this multi-legged spider flexi floss worm with Level 2 Angling Coach Terry Phillips. Use in stillwaters for the best results; rainbow trout go mad for it thanks to the very realistic wobbly legs fished under a bung. Terry lists the materials in this fly at the end of the video; are you up to the flexi floss worm challenge?

4. Teal blue and silver palmer chenille lure

Scott Wilson sounds every bit the hardened Scottish fisherman, but watch as he whips up this lure with all the agile grace of a jeweller making filigree. The result is a stunning teal blue and silver lure, which looks almost too precious to use. Almost, but not quite!

Do you tie the best flies?

5. Black and orange sea trout fly

Want to catch more sea trout fly? This Black and orange fly should do the trick! This one has gained a reputation for success in Wales, but the man behind the video, David Cammiss says it’ll work wherever you are. With over sixty years of fly tying experience, David Cammiss is a man worth paying attention to. Visit his YouTube channel for a huge range of different fly tying videos.

6. Green Pearl Head Nymph

Gareth Wilson says the The Green Pearl Head Nymph is the most successful fly he has tied from Bob Church’s ‘Guide to New Fly Patterns’ – high praise indeed! You only need a small tail for this nymph; Gareth uses a pinching technique to remove the excess and make sure the tail is around the same size as the body. They key to making this nymph lifelike is to dub the body with dark olive seal fur very loosely for a very realistic effect.

Start tying!

So there you have it – six new fly ties to learn and experiment with. Which one will you be trying first? Check out our fly tying kits to get you started and remember to share your efforts on our Facebook page!

How to win the Classic Catch competition

Have you sent in your picture for the Fishtec Classic Catch competition yet? If you’re still biding your time, we’ve got some hints for you!

We did share some slightly more technical tips a while ago, but here are some ideas based on submissions readers have made.

We’ve noticed that some entries are better than others, so let’s look at what works and what doesn’t for entrants after our monthly grand prize (it’s £150 worth of Fishtec tackle, so it’s not to be sniffed at…). No-one expects Magnum quality pictures, but there are some tried and tested techniques.

1 – Have a great catch to display

August’s winner Ryan Jones sent in a fantastic vote-hooking picture. His fish is beautiful, and the picture is framed well. Ryan’s obviously delighted with the catch (and he’s claimed his prize of a TF Gear soundwave alarm set already!)

Ryan Jones river wye pike

PB 26lb River Wye pike. First time out on the river last year.

2 – Good lighting is vital

John Lewis also has a fine catch. His picture is well-lit, and the fish, like Ryan’s, is in full view – you can clearly see the size of the catch, and again, John’s face is a picture of happy angling:

John Lewis Smooth hound

A 9lb smooth-hound caught on a pulley rig loaded up with squid as bait, Morfa Beach, S. Wales.

3 – Use the scenery around you

Fiona Guest’s picture is not only of a beautiful catch, held by a delighted angler, it’s also set in some stunning scenery. Classic catch pictures are all about the fish, but framing it with some lush countryside is never going to hurt:

Fiona salmon The River Tay

Fiona’s first salmon on The River Tay. 10lb caught on Vision 110.

4 – Show us the whole fish

Lee Ashton’s 15lb rainbow is a beauty for sure – but the picture loses a little in composition. The tail’s chopped off, and we can’t revel in the full glory of the catch. Give us just a little bit more, Lee!

15lb rainbow

Lee Ashcroft 15lbs rainbow, CDs black daddy

5 – Show us the whole angler!

Richard James is proud of his catch – and rightly so. If only we could see all of the fisherman as well as the fish. Watch out for chopped off heads, and make sure you’re not scalped in your photo!

richard james 10 and a half pound sturgeon at Kingsnordley Farm Quatt, Bridgnorth Shropshire

richard james 10 and a half pound sturgeon at Kingsnordley Farm Quatt, Bridgnorth Shropshire

6 – Having a good angle is helpful

This picture from Stan Tear shows him happily displaying a catch from his local fishery – but we can’t really see the fish very clearly. Display your fish side-on to the camera, and we’ll be able to appreciate your efforts much more easily.

Stan Tear - I caught this at my local fishery, literally 50 yards from my house. It's not a whopper but fishing for me is about relaxing and not all about monster fish.

Stan Tear – I caught this at my local fishery, 50 yards from my house. Not a whopper but fishing for me is about relaxing, not all about monster fish.

7 – A fresh catch always makes a better picture!

Ian Swindlehurst may have had a fine waterside duel with this fish, but by the time it makes it to the kitchen door, your haul isn’t going to be looking its best. Freshly caught live fish will always make for a better picture – and if you snap it as soon as it’s caught, you’ll capture the excitement of fishing as it’s happening.

This is my Uncle Ian Swindlehurst with his catch!

This is my Uncle Ian Swindlehurst with his catch!

You should now have all the knowledge you need to take the ideal catch photo. Remember to think about your composition, lighting and how you display your catch – but if you have any other tips to share, just let us know.

Submit your catch here: https://blog.fishtec.co.uk/fishtec-competitions/classic-catch-competition

To find out more about how to get the best pictures out of your own photography while you’re by the water, check out our fishing photography guide. It’ll give you all you need to get started or learn more about the art of snapping!

How to Repair Leaking Waders


Repair minor damage to your waders at home with a few simple tips.
Image source: Simms

There’s nothing worse than your chest waders leaking. That moment you feel the cool, slight trickle of water seeping in you’re instantly put off your game. All you can think about is how cold you’re getting and the amount of water that’s quietly filling your waders at a rate of knots.

Here at Fishtec we have created the best wader repair kits for permanent fixes or for a temporary fix on the side of the river.

How do I fix my leaking waders?

First of all, if you can’t find an obvious rip or tear you’ll need to need to find the source of the leak. Airflo Bloc-it leak detector will help you locate the smallest of pin holes in your breathable waders.  This spray should be applied to the inside of a dry pair of waders to reveal any pin hole leaks. Once the leak or leaks have been detected they can be patched with our Block-It wader repair.

Airflo block it leak detector

The Airflo Bloc-IT Wader Repair glue has been formulated to provide a permanent and flexible repair to nylon, neoprene, rubber, nylon and breathable waders. This glue can be applied with ease to any material using a pair brush or flat edge to perform a fix to ripped or leaking waders. Also great for repairing torn fishing jackets, this wader repair glue is the ideal remedy to seal a leaking foot, seam or hood!

How to make a temporary fix

Airflo Block It Wader Repair

If you find a leak in your waders, it usually means you’re already out on the water and you’ll need to wait for your waders to dry out before a permanent fix can be made. Airflo’s Bloc-it emergency repair patches have been designed to create a temporary fix to any leak that may spring up. These emergency repair wader patches are the ideal remedy to block out water until a more permanent fix can be applied. We recommend the Bloc-It wader repair for a solid, waterproof bond.

Airflo Block It Patches

The only Barbel rig you will ever need

There are few articles written about barbel rigs because, let’s face it, they aren’t usually that difficult to hook. But there are considerations to be made and some of the dog’s dinners I’ve seen anglers using or have found on the river bank have made me shudder.

Let’s get one thing straight from the off – barbel are not carp. Most Coarse fishing tackle is fine, it does what it says on the tin. If you use carp tackle, especially lead clips, you are risking damage or death to fish in the event of a break off. I have recovered rigs with lead clips that I have had difficulty pulling apart with my hands so a tired, tethered barbel would have no chance.

Over the years I have tried numerous adaptations on a theme and have made all the mistakes that everybody else makes but, I have kept experimenting. I now have a rig that I haven’t changed for two or three seasons which means that I am quite happy with it. It ticks all the boxes and I believe that it is just about perfect – the only one I and hopefully you, will ever need.

The hook and leader are adaptable to conditions, more of that later. The important part for me is where the lead connects to the hooklink. This area is where we have to place most consideration to the fish’s welfare as a fish towing a lead is in severe danger. Also, and of great concern to me, was the number of times I lost a fish when the leader wrapped around the lead link. A barbel in full panic flight will make short work of most leader materials if they are tangled around a lead or link swivel, recovering a short, broken hooklink is usually a sign that this has happened. I tried beads, sometimes two or three in a row between the swivel and link swivel to create a stand off effect and this usually worked but not always, the same is true of tail rubbers. Using a link swivel is always liable to create a tangle just by virtue of the amount of drop from the main line. Any movement of your lead as it rolls along the bottom, something we often do to provoke a take, is likely to tie the whole lot into a knot.

So, let’s get to the point – Korda anti tangle sleeves (Kats), the answer to the barbel angler’s prayer. The pictures will show what I am on about. Immediately it is apparent that the stand off effect is exaggerated which helps us no end. But the clever bit comes when we eliminate the swivel from the link to the lead. By taking the swivel out of the equation we remove most of the problems associated with tangles.

By using just the link and attaching it directly onto the Kats we create a semi-fixed, self-hooking rig that is generally what we are looking for when barbel angling. The taper of the sleeve allows us to fine tune the amount of tension on the link and, in the event of the fish snapping you off and by carefully attaching the link at the correct point on the Kats, the lead will easily slip off and the fish will not become tethered. It really is simplicity itself and works with leads and feeders.

But, I hear you ask, what about when I want to use a running lead? Easy, just slide the link off the Kats and away you go, a running lead.

If you want to be cute and, in true Boy Scout manner, prepared, simply add a bead above the Kats when you set up. Now, if you are roving and altering your approach in different swims, you simply reattach the link above the bead which will stop it from riding up the Kats and give you a perfect running rig. You can even tease the bead over the end of the Kats for a neater set up.

You can even do away with the swivel at the end of your mainline and use a quick-change link. This allows you to switch and swap your terminal gear as well as going from fixed to running lead with the absolute minimum of fuss.

My last bit of fine tuning is to cover anything shiny (usually the link which can become shiny when its been on gravel for a while), with bits of modelling clay which will stay in place as there are no moving parts such as you have when using a link and swivel.

For the bit between the Kats and the hook, well that’s a whole article in itself. I am certain that many of you have your own opinions of hooklinks and I have tried them all. For the record, I generally start off with a length of Fluorocarbon which gives me a hooklink that will sink and sit well on the bottom. This may go directly to the hook or, when I feel it is necessary, I will form a combi-rig by attaching a short braided hooklink to the fluoro via a mini swivel.

There you have it, a simple rig with minimal bits and pieces needed to construct it which means less odds and ends to carry with you. If you stick to this simple set up you will find it efficient and adaptable to all of your barbel fishing needs.

Written by Dave Burr


Hungry shore crabs as well as shrimps and small fish can ruin a fishing trip by removing the bait before the bigger fish can get to it. In the most extreme cases of crab infestation the only alternative is to avoid venues altogether, but on occasions when fish are actually in on a venue eating your hook baits keeping them intact or maximising their time on the sea bed is important.

Without doubt the most effective way to beat the crabs is to time the duration of each cast, if the bait is being removed shorten the cast, if the bait is not being taken, lengthen it. Sounds simply, but lots of anglers spend countless hours fishing without bait on their hooks, because they fish robotically timed casts,  or only react to bites. The first cast will usually tell you immediately how active the crabs are and from that time you can adjust your cast timing to suit the bait’s survival.

It is common on many venues to find that crab activity ceases the minute the fish come on the scene, something lots of sea anglers are totally unaware of. That’s the time to increase your concentration on cast timing etc

In extreme situations there are a number of solutions and the first is to add floating beads to the hook snood near to the bait. These work well for some species of flatfish like flounders, plaice, etc to lift the bait up off the sea bed away from the hungry crabs. However, all crabs can swim so baits are not completely safe, but float beads do make it more difficult for the crabs to remove baits and in many cases they present the bait slightly off the bottom which may be where the fish are looking for them.

There are lots of buoyant beads available and they come various sizes and in bright colours too. Important is to make sure that your bead or beads stays close to the bait and some form of stop on the snood will keep the bead at the hook end of the snood. Use a short length of silicone tubing and pass the line through it twice, it will then lock in position to hold your bead. Float beads also make the perfect bait stop on rigs with bait clips. Now, whilst floating beads do work on lots of occasions there are a large percentage of UK sea fish that will not chase baits high off the sea bed. These include the flatties as well as cod, pout, dogfish etc and in lots of situations the best results come from baits nailed to the sea bed. Those species that do take a bait off the bottom include garfish, pollack, mackerel, bream, pollack and scad, whilst bass and coalfish are amongst others that occasionally take a moving bait or feed off the sea bed.

Another method for very extreme situations is to use a flounder spoon and actually retrieve the bait along the sea bed. This catches well in some estuaries where hungry crabs can be impossible to combat because they remove a static bait in seconds. Here a metal or plastic spoon with a short hook length and baited hook, usually ragworm, is continually cast and retrieved. Various beads etc can be added to the hook snood to introduce colour, noise or lift. Sensing a bite the angler stops reeling and pauses for the fish to take the bait.

Some hook baits are obviously more crab resistant than others, but not all of the toughest baits are regularly accepted by all species and so beating crabs by using the wrong bait for a venue is not really the solution.

Peeler crab: Is just about the most crab resistant bait there is – Whilst crabs definitely eat crabs there are times when crab flesh will be ignored, especially when the crabs are peeling and the cock crabs are looking for a mate. Peeler crab is also the most versatile and scented bait that is crab resistant and will stay on the hook longer and be eaten by the more species than any other bait.

Sandeel: Sandeel is a fairly robust bait that will withstand the attacks of crabs, especially if whipped on the hook. Another way to toughen it up is a wrap of squid, whilst a worm whipped alongside a sandeel is a great cocktail. Simply use elastic cotton to strap the worm the length of the sandeel for a parallel cocktail.


Fish: Most of the fish baits seem to be an instant crab attractor and they don’t last that long if used in small slivers. Cutlets of small mackerel are better than slivers when crabs are busy and if using a large bait mount the skin side out. Boat anglers use a section of fresh silver eel for tope to keep crabs and dogfish off and it is very effective.


Worm: All of the marine worms are easy prey for crabs and being soft they can be removed in minutes. A good tip when fishing for flounders in an estuary apart from adding a few float beads to the snood near the hook to lift the bait off the bottom is to use the head section of the largest ragworm you can find. You can also strap several lugworms together on a baiting needle using elastic cotton for a tougher worm sausage.

Squid: Perhaps the most crab resistant bait although a large offering of squid is not every species ideal bait and so its use as a crab deterrent is not often worthwhile except for the larger specimens like cod, bass, conger etc.


There are other baits and options you can use to fish where the crabs are active. Try a float fished soft of crinkly crab – That’s a crab that has already peeled and is still soft. A great way of fishing them for bass is to hook them through the side or rear shell and fish from a groyne or pier suspended under a float alive.

A bait that is naturally found off the sea bed away from hungry crabs is the prawn – a tail hooked live prawn will catch lots of species and is a great movement bait to use free lined or under a float.

Live sandeel are another bait that is worth trying to avoid crabs, again fished free line or under a float and hooked so that it can swim freely off the sea bed.



Using a larger bait is not al ways the answer because it will attract more crabs but using a smaller bait may make it more difficult or take longer for the crabs to find the bait – Obviously the down side is that that applies to the fish as well. Similarly casting different distances or angles makes the crabs work to get to your bait.

The complete answer is to mesh your bait in a crab proof (armour) mesh and these are available in carp fishing for use when baits are attacked by crayfish.



The common shore crab is the main bait thief. But as the summer progresses in many regions others in the crab clan move in on the baits. The red edible and velvet swimmers are most common on deeper water and rocky marks, whilst the spider crab is increasingly common on all venues especially deep water and clean sand.

Whilst crabs get the main blame for removing baits – Shrimps, prawns, shellfish and small fish also do their share of hook cleaning through the season.

Whilst anglers collect shore crabs for bait, most crustaceans have a minimum legal size limit and it is illegal to remove or offer undersize crabs for sale, although in many sea regions the limits are not enforced on anglers using crabs as bait. Check with your local Fishery Officer.

The minimum sizes vary throughout the regions although averages are:

Velvet swimmer 65mm

Lobster 87mm

Crawfish 110mm

Spider crabs 130mm

Edible crab140mm


Q & A

Q: How can I stop spider and large edible crabs etc nipping through my hook snoods?

A: Spider crabs have extended their numbers and range in recent years reaching plague proportions on many southern venues and they are still moving north. There is no real answer to them nipping through mono hook snoods as they devour your bait other than to check snoods regularly for damage and if you are fishing for the larger species like smoothhounds increase the diameter of the snood line and use the tougher fluorocarbons.

A short solid wire bite trace is used by anglers overseas to combat the fish that bite through mono and this idea might be worth trying in extreme cases. A short Gemini Genie boom is simply added to the hook making the hook an extra long shank. Alternatively a short bite trace in the aptly named Spider wire (80lb) which is a stiff braid line makes a relatively crab proof snood.