Early Season Tackle and Fishing Tips for UK Reservoirs

Chris Ogborne looks at early season tackle and fishing tips to make your early spring sport that little bit better!

Early season on the reservoirs is one of those paradox times. We’ve been longing for it all winter and getting all excited  about opening day, but the fickle British weather has a way of making it all something of an anti-climax.  Frosty mornings, chilly winds and the inevitable showers can make even the most enthusiastic angler wonder if he’s chosen the right sport!

Early Season on Blagdon lake

Early Season on Blagdon lake. Source BW Fisheries.

But when the sun does shine, the birds sing and the countryside is poised on the very cusp of Spring, that’s when we know we’ve made the right choice.  On a bright crisp day there’s no finer place than the banks of your favourite lake and certainly no better way to dispel those winter blues.

I have my own recipe for making the most of these early days out, but wherever you’re fishing steps may take you I can guarantee that you’ll enjoy it more if you get your tackle  and tactics right.  Here are my guidelines for making sure that the first days on the water are among the best

Floating line: Make the floater your first choice, rather than automatically reaching for sinking lines.

The one benefit of his really mild, wet winter is that water temperatures are universally better than they should be in March, with many reservoirs recording temperatures two or three degrees above normal.  This in turn means that the fish are less lethargic and more inclined to take an imitative fly rather than one that simply provokes an aggressive reaction.

And apart from everything else, you’ll feel a far greater sense of achievement if your first fish of the year is taken on a floater! Fishing is, and always should be, about  the feel-good factor!

Fluorcarbon: I’m increasingly finding that I’m choosing fluoro on the lakes these days, with less and less need for copolymer. The latter still has a place of course, and there is always going to be a strong case for it on the river or in the ocean, but the simple fact is that there’s very little you can’t do with fluorocarbon.

I absolutely love the new Sightfree G5 fluoro from Airflo.  It’s has exactly the right mix of suppleness and knot strength, with minimal memory and shine. Above all its totally dependable and consistent, unlike many other materials I could mention.  In the overall scheme of things it’s not at all expensive and it’s one of those key factors that go to make you into a more effective angler – confidence. You can be sure that it won’t let you down.

The new G5 Airflo fluorocarbon

The new G5 Airflo fluorocarbon.

Nymphs: Whilst it may not be entirely realistic to expect to fish dries this early in the year, it most definitely IS reasonable to expect the Nymphs to work.  This can be particularly true when fishing banks where you can access deeper water. Early midge activity can often bring the fish up to the surface layers and they can respond readily to a nymph. Even if they persist in staying deep, they can more inclined to take a nymph rather than to waste energy chasing lures and streamers – remember that in the deeper, colder water layers the fish are more likely to be a bit dour.

Multi fly leaders: I’ll always tie up multi-fly leaders at this time of year with a minimum of two flies and most often with three.

It still surprises me that a lot of bank anglers think that multi-fly leaders are strictly the province of boat anglers, whereas the truth is that they’re every bit as effective on the bank

Line brand choice: This is something that a lot of anglers overlook.  It’s actually a fact of life that some line formats will suit some anglers, whilst some will not.

This is plainly true even within our PRO TEAM at Airflo. My own favourite floating line has for some years now been the Ridge clear.  It suits my casting style and I love the supple feel of the line when I’m employing an expanded figure-of-eight retrieve. On the other hand, Gareth Jones is rarely parted from his Forty Plus floater as it fully compliments his superb casting.

So don’t be afraid to experiment this year, and try different lines. Obviously you still need to look at the spec of the line to ensure that its relevant to your fishing, but beyond that there’s still room for a bit of old fashioned personal choice. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that there WILL be one that’s exactly right for you.

A nice fish taken using an Airflo floating fly line.

A nice fish taken using an Airflo floating fly line.

Distance casting: This will sound like heresy to some, but my best advice on distance casting is NOT to have permanent casting competition with yourself!  We all need to accept the fact that it’s FAR better to present a fly properly at a range of twenty yards, rather than present it badly at twenty five.

Obviously there will be occasions when you need to achieve long range, but generally speaking it’s best to accept what your ‘comfort’ range is, and stick with it, rather than always trying to out-do yourself.

The facts of life  are that we can’t all present a fly perfectly at long range like the superstars can.  Cast within your capabilities and you’ll be a better – and a happier – angler

Avoid the crowds: My final tip is the simplest one, and it applies not just to early season but for the whole year through.  On any form of lake fishing, whether small Stillwater or massive reservoir, I will ALWAYS avoid fishing in the crowd.

A walk away from teh crowds can give rewards - a fine BW Barrows tank bow'

A walk far away from the crowds can give rewards – a fine BW Barrows tank bow’

Whether it’s human nature or the thinking (often wrongly) that crowds of people mean the best spots,  long and bitter experience has taught me that fish will quickly react negatively to angler pressure.  It’s largely for this reason that it’s also good to keep moving from spot to spot, rather than anchor yourself in just one place Keep moving, keep thinking, and you’ll find the fish that the crowds of anglers have scared away!

Tightlines, Chris.

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Chris Ogborne

About Chris Ogborne

Twice English National fly fishing champion, Chris Ogborne is a legend of the national fly fishing scene. Author and co-author of several classic works on trout fishing, competition angling, and Advanced Stillwater Flyfishing, Chris is also an expert fly tier whose knowledge of fish behaviour informs the way he refines his patterns, to produce killer flies fish can’t resist.