Dry or die! Floating flies for September trout

After one of the longest, hottest summers in living memory, fly fishers all over Britain are breathing a sigh of relief as more autumnal weather arrives. Theo Pike reveals his thoughts about how to make the most of what’s left of this year’s trout season…

End of season dry fly trout

End of season dry fly trout
Image source: Fishtec

As I wrote this time last year, September can be a month of mixed emotions for fly fishers – especially those of us who love stalking wild trout with dry flies.

Suddenly the best of the season seems to have been compressed into four precious weeks, and there’s hardly time to fit in last-minute trips to venues we’ve prevaricated over when midsummer conditions have been less than ideal.

So how do we make the most of this end-of-season bonanza? Here’s my own mental checklist for making the back-end of trout time a little less frantic and a lot more fulfilling…

1. Dry fly forever

Even if hurricane season on the other side of the Atlantic brings significant weather fronts barrelling over into British and Irish airspace, average river levels are likely to remain relatively low. This brings bottom-hugging fish closer to the surface in relative terms, making it easier for them to focus on prey that’s floating or trapped in the meniscus.

Better still, as the days turn shorter, cooler and wetter, mayflies and other aquatic insects will start cycling back to daytime schedules that are much more family-friendly than the pre-dawn hatches and late-night spinner falls of high summer.

It’s a perfect storm of circumstances if you’re a dedicated dry fly fisher. At this time of year, you could almost go as far as leaving your nymph box at home (or at least in the very deepest recesses of your backpack), secure in the knowledge that you’re sure to find rising fish somewhere on the stretch of water you’re fishing.

2. Behind the mask

A blue winged olive is a good choice.

A blue winged olive is a good choice.
Image source: Fishtec

Often it’s not the most visible flies that end-of-season fish are feeding on. Just like mayfly time, when you’re quite likely to find trout ignoring the masking hatch of big juicy Danicas while mopping up hordes of small stuff that’s virtually invisible to the human eye, September trout may be focused on less-than-obvious fare.

You’ll sometimes see big, aggressive slashes at the last of the summer caddis so juicy mouthfuls like green sedges and Welshmen’s Buttons are always worth a cast. But inconspicuous trickles of tiny pale wateries, blue-winged olives, or even the autumn’s first LDO’s, are much more likely to be the reason for regular, sipping rises.

3. Go large…

Big daddies blundering over the water are rightly famous for getting some of the season’s heaviest trout looking to the surface for an easy meal – on rivers and stillwaters alike.

You may need to beef up your tackle to fish craneflies successfully, but if the rules of your water allow, you can save time by carrying two rods – one rigged with a heavier line and leader to propel a wind-resistant daddy-long-legs without helicoptering a super-fine tippet, and the other dedicated to the minutiae at the other end of the seasonal spectrum.

4. …or very, very tiny

A tiny Griffiths Gnat is a secret weapon for September trout fishing.

A tiny Griffiths Gnat is a secret weapon for September trout fishing.
Image source: Fishtec

After a long, hot, rainless summer, many trees may start to shed their leaves early. When they do, you’ll find them depositing huge numbers of aphids on the surface. Trout can become absolutely fixated on them, a phenomenon I’d never twigged until the legendary Stuart Crofts let me into this secret with his customised miniature bug-sampling net on his beloved River Don.

At times like these, I’ve found very small palmered Griffiths Gnats and bibio-style patterns exceptionally useful for splitting the difference between clusters of aphids, river midges and even (I think) tiny willow flies.

5. Get your sneak on

Fishing the smallest flies is easiest with the lightest rods and lines you can handle. For me, this means scaling right down to an ultralight 10-foot 2-weight setup, minimising the impact of the line as it lands on the water, and creeping as close as possible to cut drag to a minimum.

According to Jeremy Lucas, most successfully-landed river trout are risen and hooked within 20 feet of your casting hand, and while there are occasions when this clearly can’t work, I’ve been surprised how often it does pay off.

Wear dark or neutral-coloured clothing, and invest in a pair of military-spec knee and shin pads to make crawling around in the rocks and mud less painful for your joints as well as your waders!

Stay low, avoid repeated false casting if you can, and resist the temptation to recast if your first delivery isn’t right on target. Trout will often roam around pools in low water, so fish out your drift, and you may be surprised by how many fish will actually swim over to eat a very slowly moving floating fly…

6. Slow is smooth

Speaking of military options, the US special forces have a motto: ‘Slow is smooth, and smooth is fast’. Low water levels mean taking your time to scan the water for fish hiding in plain sight, before planning a smoothly glacially-paced approach.

If you can, try to stay out of the water. When levels are low, even the stealthiest stalk can send alarming pressure waves radiating out around you, rippling the mirrored surface and warning even the doziest fish in the pool that something’s not quite right.

7. And finally… don’t despair!

Urban fly fishing on the River Don in Sheffield

Urban fly fishing on the River Don in Sheffield
Image source: The River Beat

Even when trout season feels like it’s rushing to its end, you can still look forward to targeting grayling, when most of the tactics I’ve mentioned will continue to pay dividends as late as November or even December.

And don’t miss out on flyfishing for coarse fish, either. On some town and city rivers, or where sewage treatment works raise the ambient temperature of the water and keep the food web active, you can continue catching chub and dace on midge patterns all the way into the New Year – a very valid excuse for keeping your favourite dry fly rod strung up well past the end of trout season!

A Time of Plenty By Rene’ Harrop September, 2018

The departure of summer in the high country is a process that begins well before the Autumn Equinox. It may be something as small as adding an extra blanket on the bed in late August or a morning layer of thin ice on the dog’s water bowl at about the same time. At the fly shops, river guides may linger with clients for an extra hour while waiting for temperature that may not be sufficiently comfortable until well past eight a.m.

Breaking The Calm

Breaking The Calm

Early September brings a change for many residents of the Henry’s Fork community as shotguns and bows join fly rods as tools for a season that adds hunting to the list of opportunities for outdoor activity. With these changes comes an alteration in the rhythm of daily life as noticeably shorter days prompt a sense of urgency for mountain dwellers.

Air Under A Rainbow

Air Under A Rainbow

With signs of a colder season blending with the remnants of summer the pulse of all creatures seems elevated into heightened awareness that time is short before the arrival of winter. It is a rare September that does not feature a substantial snowstorm which, though always a temporary disruption, is a stark reminder that preparations must be made for the six months or so when that form of precipitation becomes standard.

As with all wildlife, trout are instinctively alert to a behavioral necessity that will determine the ability to survive during the lean months when food becomes scarce and existence is largely reliant upon fat stored prior to that precarious period.

Free & Proud

Free & Proud

In autumn, trout become opportunistic in a constant search for food and at times can appear almost indifferent to its identity or timing of availability. This is a time of plenty for a fly fisherman as virtually all local waters are at their best in terms of condition and productivity. Always severely tested in this regard, personal discipline for responsibility nearly evaporates during the thirty days that span my favorite month of the year.

With so much happening on the rivers and lakes of Yellowstone country, the biggest challenge in September is making a decision on where to fish on any given day. But is that such a bad problem to have?

Henry's Lake Monster

Henry’s Lake Monster

Fly-tying For Beginners Part 2: The F-Fly

Classic, traditional dry flies can give even experienced fly-tyers nightmares. However, the good news is that one of the deadliest of all modern floating flies is an absolute cinch to tie, even for beginners. In this new mini series of step-by-step fly-tying guides, fishing author Dom Garnett shows you how to tie the F-Fly.

Tying your own flies

The F-Fly is easy to tie, even for beginners

The F-Fly
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

For anyone who has inspected beautifully tied trout flies, it can be both an inspiring and deflating experience. All those perfect little wings and legs, insanely accurate proportions and elegant touches.

As a lump of a man with hands as delicate as garden shovels, I’m living proof that even the less dextrous among us can create neat, effective flies with the right equipment. When you’re just beginning, things like realistic wings can wait. Lovely though they are, you don’t need such details to catch fish. In fact, you could happily catch more than your fair share with just a small number of very basic flies. The F-Fly is definitely one on my shortlist.

The simplest of dry flies ever!

The F-Fly will work on just about any river with trout and grayling.

The F-Fly will work on just about any river with trout and grayling.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

So how basic are we talking? Well, clever old stick Marjan Fratnik must have got very few ooohs and ahhhhs when he first hit upon his excellent dry pattern, the F-Fly. In fact, the more likely response was probably “um… is that it?” or “have you been getting your five-year-old nephew to tie your flies again, Marjan?”

The F-Fly is a simple combination of thread or dubbing body, with a really basic wing made of CDC feathers. It’s the latter that are the real secret. Not only do the natural oils and structure of the feathers from a duck’s backside float beautifully, they also look lovely and move well.

Of course, being less complicated than a Eurovision song contest entry also has its advantages. With such a simple blueprint, you can tailor the sizes and colours really easily. And you can tie them so quickly you’ll have loads of spares and can spend even more time fishing. Complete win!

Here’s what you need:

Hook: Dry fly size 12-22
Thread: Black or colour of your choice
Dubbing: Fine dry fly dubbing
Wing: Natural CDC

How to tie the F-Fly: step-by-step

The F-Fly is a very versatile pattern indeed. It works in many sizes and colours. Perhaps the most useful sizes are 14 to 18. Practising your first efforts with a hook no larger than a 14 makes sense though, as you can always get finer as you get the hang of it.

As for the ingredients, you don’t need to stock up on many materials. You can by Cul-de-canard feathers in various colours, but you could do just fine with standard, natural CDC (a greyish beige colour). The only other colour I usually bother with is white. As for body colours, you could use any fine dubbing. Stripped quill also looks lovely – or you could simply use thread for smaller flies. I’ve chosen natural CDC, with a black body, because “smallish and black” is such a universally useful blueprint on both rivers and stillwaters.

STEP 1: Run some thread onto the hook, overlapping a few turns until it catches tight.

STEP 1: Run some thread onto the hook, overlapping a few turns until it catches tight. Trim off the loose end to keep things tidy.

STEP 2: Run the thread along the hook shank in tidy, touching turns, until you reach a point just above the hook point or barb.

STEP 2: Run the thread along the hook shank in tidy, touching turns, until you reach a point just above the hook point or barb.

STEP 3: Take a tiny pinch of dubbing and pull it apart between your fingers. Between thumb and forefinger, rub it evenly along the thread. With practice, you should be able to get it fairly even. Again, less is more with most flies!

STEP 3: Take a tiny pinch of dubbing and pull it apart between your fingers. Between thumb and forefinger, rub it evenly along the thread. With practice, you should be able to get it fairly even. Again, less is more with most flies!

STEP 4: Run the dubbing-laden thread back towards the eye in even turns, keeping the body as even as you can. Stop just before the eye, leaving a little gap so there’s space for the wing. You might need to carefully pinch or pull off a little excess dubbing at this point.

STEP 4: Run the dubbing-laden thread back towards the eye in even turns, keeping the body as even as you can. Stop just before the eye, leaving a little gap so there’s space for the wing. You might need to carefully pinch or pull off a little excess dubbing at this point.

STEP 5: Pick out some CDC. For a small fly (size 16-20), two feathers will often be enough. For a larger fly, you might use three or four feathers of roughly the same length. Pinch them together so that the tips are level.

STEP 5: Pick out some CDC. For a small fly (size 16-20), two feathers will often be enough. For a larger fly, you might use three or four feathers of roughly the same length. Pinch them together so that the tips are level.

STEP 6: Now pinch the feathers in place above the hook and secure with 3-4 turns of thread. Make a slightly lighter turn first, followed by a tighter wrap or two is best. Don’t worry if you get it wrong, just undo and try again – no harm done. The right proportion of wing is subject to taste, but just beyond the end of the hook looks about right.

STEP 6: Now pinch the feathers in place above the hook and secure with 3-4 turns of thread. Make a slightly lighter turn first, followed by a tighter wrap or two is best. Don’t worry if you get it wrong, just undo and try again – no harm done. The right proportion of wing is subject to taste, but just beyond the end of the hook looks about right.

STEP 7: Take a sharp, fine-tipped pair of scissors and trim off the CDC as tight as you can. This is where good quality scissors will serve you well – treat yourself to a decent pair!

STEP 7: Take a sharp, fine-tipped pair of scissors and trim off the CDC as tight as you can. This is where good quality scissors will serve you well – treat yourself to a decent pair!

STEP 8: Once you’ve trimmed off the CDC, cover the leftover stumps with a few tight, tidy wraps of thread and form a neat “head”.

STEP 8: Once you’ve trimmed off the CDC, cover the leftover stumps with a few tight, tidy wraps of thread and form a neat “head”.

STEP 9: Now all that remains is to finish the fly. A whip finish tool gives the best result (take a peek at an online tutorial such as this one by Peter Gathercole). Failing that you could just add a spot of varnish and trim when the head’s dry. You’ll find a dubbing needle handy to apply varnish. Once the varnish dries, the fly is ready to fish! With practice you can easily tie one in just 5 minutes.

STEP 9: Now all that remains is to finish the fly. A whip finish tool gives the best result (take a peek at an online tutorial such as this one by Peter Gathercole). Failing that you could just add a spot of varnish and trim when the head’s dry. You’ll find a dubbing needle handy to apply varnish. Once the varnish dries, the fly is ready to fish! With practice you can easily tie one in just 5 minutes.

Further F-Fly tips and variations

Variations are simple, whether it’s a larger, livelier sedge fly imitation, or right down to a size 20 for days when the fish are feeding on the tiny stuff.

Variations are simple, whether it’s a larger, livelier sedge fly imitation, or right down to a size 20 for days when the fish are feeding on the tiny stuff.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

This fly is so universally useful, it’s hard not to love it. Just keep it simple and tidy, and you can’t go wrong. That said, it can be tied in various sizes and colours for different scenarios. It’s a belter for trout and salmon, but in smaller sizes I also love this fly for dace and other small-mouthed coarse fish. The materials are so soft that even delicate feeders will suck it in with ease!

My favourite twists are:

  • Step up to a size 12 or even a 10 and use rougher dubbing (such as hare’s ear) and you have a lovely, simple but lively caddis fly.
  • Or, for low, clear water or where you find tiny insects, the F-Fly is simple enough to dress a 20-24 hook! Dark colours are great for gnats, while a tiny green-bodied fly is superb as a greenfly.

Happy tying and fishing!

Read more from Dom Garnett

Regular Fishtec blogger Dom Garnett can also be caught every week in the Angling Times, while you can also find more on his site www.dgfishing.co.uk and the Angling Trust’s Lines on the Water blog.

Dave Lane on September Carp Fishing

It’s been a challenging summer for all of us, nobody could have expected that we would be plunged into a heatwave that lasted for months, and the carp fishing suffered as a result.

However, it seem to have broken now and, at last, we have dew in the mornings, condensation on the windows, and some much needed rain so things are looking up at last.

Sustained periods of hot weather can seriously deplete the oxygen levels in a lake, making the fish very lethargic but the conditions we have now will soon rectify that and the carp will once more be on the feed.

September stunner on a large baited area

September stunner on a large baited area

Also, we have the magical month of September looming and this is my favourite time of the year, a time when the carp really get their heads down and those dried up landing nets get wet once more.

Now is the time to start introducing a bit of bait and step it up over the next couple of weeks in areas of activity, which will become far more noticeable at first light.

Look for signs of feeding by scouring the lake for early morning patches of bubbles and, of course, the odd head breaking the surface. Try to feed a decent quality boilie as well as the carp will be looking for a good food source and one that is easily digested and readily available.

When I undertake a baiting program I also like to spread my bait over the whole area I am targeting, keeping the fish grubbing about and ensuring there is room for plenty of carp to feed at once.

Either use a catapult for close quarters or, if you haven’t already, try the new TF gear Airbomb for baiting at range.

The beauty of the Airbomb is that it deploys in the air and this spreads the bait over a larger area rather than just depositing in small clumps on the bottom like a spod or spomb would do. A bigger spread will give you a better feeding pattern and really get those carp tearing up the bottom looking for more.

With shorter evenings and cooler mornings, you can expect longer periods of feeding activity, but you must also pay heed to your own situation and stay comfortable on the bank. Nobody likes to be cold or wet and you cannot fish effectively if this happens.

I always carry a decent set of fishing waterproofs at this time of year and a spare set of clothes, just in case.

I also make sure I have the front of my bivvy attached at all times, just in cast the wind gets up or the heavens open during the night.

It’s weird really, the rest of the country is praying for an Indian summer and moaning already about the change in conditions, but the carp anglers are all rubbing their hands together in glee.

I like nothing better than sitting out there on a big pit with the wind whipping across the surface and huge clouds racing across the sky; proper carp fishing weather.

Proper carp fishing weather.....

Proper carp fishing weather…..

September has two other main attractions for me, apart from just the changes in conditions.

Firstly, there is the Autumnal Equinox, the point in time when we have equal day and night as the sun crosses the celestial equator. This is probably the finest time of all to be out there, carp fishing, I don’t understand exactly why, but the carp certainly do, and I have had so many bumper session on this particular week.

A big pit equinox mirror

A big pit equinox mirror

The actual Equinox itself is normally around the 22nd of the month.

The power of the moon is a mystery

The power of the moon is a mystery

The second phenomenon is the Harvest Moon, the full moon closest to the Equinox and for those of you that follow moon phases then you will already know that this is a special one indeed. This year the two events fall together so I am expecting a bumper session and I am going to spend as much time between now and then getting some bait in the water, sussing out feeding areas and, also, taking advantage of the fish starting to get on the munch…are you?

How to Fit Wading Boot Studs

The addition of studs to the soles of your wading boots can make a huge difference to grip and traction on slippery surfaces.

In this blog post we look at how best to fit and install wading boot studs to felt sole wade boots.

Pick your studs

There are various wading boot studs on the market, including Simms, Greys and Kold Kutters. All work in the same principal way – you screw them into your boot sole. However, this seemingly simple process needs to be done with a bit of care and consideration.

We are going to use Kold Kutter studs in this guide. Kold Kutters are a DIY stud option that are massively popular in the USA. They were originally designed for tyres of vehicles used in ice racing and they provide brilliant grip in snow and ice. They also make perfect wading boot studs, being made of hardened steel with a 3/8 inch diameter thread.

How many studs per boot?

Adding too many studs is a bad idea because you still need flat areas to make contact with the river bed – or you could end up skating precariously on the tips of the studs. 10 studs per boot sole will be about right. This allows you to spread the studs out nicely. Our preferred pattern is 4 in the heel and 6 in the toe area, with the studs near the outside of the sole for best traction.

What do I need?

A packet of 20 studs, Stormsure or Aquasure glue, permanent pen.

Everything you need to fit studs to a wading boot

Everything you need to fit studs to a wading boot

Step 1. Mark your holes

Using a permanent marker, mark the soles of your wading boot with the pattern shown below.

Mark your soles with a permanent pen

Mark your soles with a permanent pen

Step 2. Apply glue

The addition of a small dab of wader glue (such as Aquasure or Stormsure)  this helps the stud lock into place and remain secure.

Add some glue to your wader stud

Add some glue to your wader stud

Step 3. Screw the studs in

No special tools are required!! You can use a standard flat head or socket screwdriver to install the stud. Ensure the stud goes into the sole perfectly straight, not at an angle. Do not over tighten the stud.

No special tools are required to fit Kold Kutter studs

No special tools are required to fit Kold Kutter wading boot studs

Screw your studs in nice and straight

Screw your studs in nice and straight

Step 5. Ready to fish!

When wading you need to be sure footed and safe – you have gone a long way to achieving this!

Wading boot studs fitted and ready for action

Wading boot studs fitted and ready for action

Kold Kutter wading boot studs are just £3.99 for a pack of 20. Available here.

For tips and hints on better wading practice and safety, check out our ‘Wade safe’ blog here: https://blog.fishtec.co.uk/wade-safe-tips-for-better-wading

Summer Sea Fishing Safety Tips

Men fishing from rocks in Rhossili Bay, South Wales

Men fishing from rocks in Rhossili Bay, South Wales
Image source: David King Photographer

Fifty people lost their lives while sea fishing in the four years from 2011 – and most of them were shore anglers who were, to quote the RNLI, “fishing from exposed areas of shoreline.”

Not only is this staggering loss of life tragic, it’s also unacceptable. Failing to take adequate precautions to stay safe while out fishing gives the whole sea fishing community a bad name, risks the lives of the people who come to rescue you, and – worst case scenario – means you never get to go fishing again.

To make sure you don’t become a statistic, check out all the safety advice you can find online. The Angling Trust is a good place to start. And while you’re at it, here’s our guide to staying safe while you’re sea fishing from boat or shore.

Shore Anglers

Fishing from rocks can be exhilarating.

Fishing from rocks can be exhilarating.
Image source: Mogliami

You get a buzz from fishing from those hard-to-get-to secret spots using light rock tackle, but you want to enjoy your day and get back in one piece? Or perhaps you love nothing better than standing thigh deep in the surf, spinning for bass? Great. Here’s what you need to do to survive the experience:

  • Fish with a friend. If you fall, who will raise the alarm? The minimum unit of survival is two, so if you’re searching out an isolated spot from which to wet your line, always fish with a buddy, and always tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. If you don’t have anyone waiting for you at home, a quick phone call to HM Coastguard to let them know your plans is a good idea, but do remember to tell them when you’re back or they’ll send out a search party.
  • Wear a life jacket. Today’s life jackets are comfortable to wear, inflate automatically, and don’t get in your way. If you hit the drink, a little gas canister inflates your lifejacket, and you don’t drown. Why wouldn’t you wear one?
  • Wear boots. If you’re clambering over rocks, no matter how hot it is, nothing less than a stout pair of fishing boots will do. Beach casting? Wear crocs – if you tread on a weever fish with your bare foot, you’ll know all about it – the pain is enough to make a grown man weep.
  • Wear sun protection. Wearing suncream and good quality sunglasses protects your skin and eyes from sun damage. But it’s absolutely essential to wear a hat. It does more than keep the sun off. A hat prevents you from overheating which is when the unpleasant symptoms of heat exhaustion morph into lethal heat stroke. What’s the difference?
Heat exhaustion – too much sun makes you dizzy, pale, sweaty, feverish, and nauseous. You’ll have a headache, your pulse might race a bit, and you might throw up, but a cool drink, a seat in the shade, and a lie down at home should see you right.

Heat stroke – sees your core temperature rise. You’ll stop sweating because you’ll have no more fluid left to sweat; your skin will grow rosy red, and hot and dry to the touch; your pulse becomes rapid. You’ll get confused, restless, and possibly aggressive, you may suffer seizures, but as time passes, you’ll lapse into unconsciousness, and eventually die. If your buddy starts showing signs of heat stroke, don’t mess about, cool them down NOW! Chuck a bucket of cold water over them, strip them off, wet them, fan them. Get them out of the sun. Call the emergency services. You don’t have time to hang about; heat stroke kills.

  • Be prepared. No matter how competent you are, accidents happen, so always be prepared. If you’re fishing from rocks, be aware that even when it looks calm, swells can sweep unwary anglers into deep water. Take a rescue throw rope with you – not only does it come in an easy-to-handle bag, the bag doubles as a grab handle, the rope also floats, and the bright colour makes it dead easy to see when you’re thrashing about in the water.
  • Make sure your phone is fully charged. And carry it in a waterproof case. If there’s no reception where you’re going, consider taking an inshore flare pack and a waterproof strobe light.
  • Pack a basic first aid kit. Have enough basic equipment to deal with minor incidents and injuries without spoiling an entire day’s fishing.Be sure to wear appropriate clothing to deal with a soaking, as-well-as a decent waterproof coat which should be brightly coloured because if the worst happens, you want to be found – never trust the forecast, even in summer. Coastal weather changes fast.
  • Know your tide times. The coastguard, RNLI, and lifeguard service would have a much easier life if only anglers knew their tides and didn’t get cut off by them. Buy yourself a local tide timetable and learn to read it – remember to check whether your tide table adjusts for BST or not.

Boat fishing

Conditions can change quickly when fishing out at sea.

Conditions can change quickly when fishing out at sea.
Image source: Federico Rostagno

Everything you’ve read already applies to fishing from a boat or kayak. If you’re using your own boat, you need to make sure you get your engine (plus your auxiliary) serviced regularly, especially at the start of the season, or after a long layup. The emergency services don’t call the summer the “silly season” for nothing – make sure you’re not the one they’re wrapping in a warm blanket while they carry on the search for your missing crew mates.

  • Educate yourself. The Royal Yachting Association (RYA) offer myriad power and sail boating courses run through yacht clubs, and commercial outfits right across the country and beyond. As a bare minimum you should know how to safely pilot a boat in familiar waters by day – check out the range of courses on offer in your area, and make sure you know what you’re doing before you head out onto the blue.
  • Carry safety gear. It might seem like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised just how many people get into trouble because they don’t carry any safety gear. If you’re heading to sea, you must carry everything you need to get you out of trouble. That’s everything from spares, fuel, and tools, to oars, plenty of rope, a compass in case your GPS packs up, a comprehensive first aid kit, and an inshore flare pack. On a boat? Always wear a lifejacket.
  • VHF Radio. Your mobile phone cannot be relied on at sea, so make sure you invest in a decent VHF radio – either fixed or handheld, and do take the RYA’s radio operator course – there’s no excuse not to because you can do it online.

No matter how good the weather or how confident in your abilities you feel, never underestimate the ocean.

About the author:

As well as being a keen sea angler, Robin Falvey is an experienced surf lifeguard and has been a lifeguard instructor and assessor for the Surf Lifesaving Association of Great Britain. He has worked closely with the RNLI and Coastguard on rescues and first aid incidents at sea and ashore.

How to get kids into fishing

Fishing is a sport the entire family can share.

Fishing is a sport the entire family can share.
Image source: Bex Nelson Fishes

Bex Nelson is the inspirational angler behind Bex Nelson Fishes, a Facebook page with a rapidly increasing following. Not only a keen advocate of the sport who encourages everyone to get involved, she’s a passionate ambassador for getting kids hooked as soon as possible.

Here are some of her tips for sharing your love of fishing with children. After all, it’s our responsibility to vouchsafe the future of the sport we love by introducing it to the next generation…

Fishing is the new cool

Fishing is cool for teens!

Fishing is cool for teens!
Image source: Bex Nelson Fishes

The one regret I have in life is not going fishing when I was a child. I did a little bit of float fishing with my Uncle, a match fisherman, but that was all. Then I met my partner who has been a very keen angler since the age of 6. The first time he took me fishing we went to a lake and caught 17 fish in one day. I loved it! And this is where my passion for this incredible sport was born.

There are more people fishing now than ever before. It’s a cool sport these days. Celebrities champion it on the television – even actors like Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson loves fishing so much that he had a lake built on his farm. It’s fantastic seeing more females and children on the banks as well and I love to inspire anyone and everyone to get into fishing – there’s just so much to love about it.

Getting kids involved

Sharing the joy of fishing with 11 year old Ellen.

Sharing the joy of fishing with 11 year old Ellen.
Image source: Bex Nelson Fishes

I recently enjoyed a fishing session with a young girl of 11 years old called Ellen. She managed to catch her first fish on the surface, and as I stood back and watched her play the fish, it looked as though she’d been doing it all her life. But more important than that, her passion and willingness to learn from other anglers was amazing. She was such a joy to fish with!

Now it’s the summer holidays, there’s plenty of time to get your children, grandchildren, nephews and nieces out in the open and away from the Xbox. You don’t need anything expensive – just a good value rod and reel, a few hooks, floats, net and a mat. Get youngsters to help you prepare by making the ultimate mix of bait – kids love getting their hands dirty and will happily get stuck in!

Choose your battles

Fishing at Anglers Paradise

Fishing at Anglers Paradise
Image source: Bex Nelson Fishes

Choose a lake which has plenty of fish. In the early days, the last thing you want is to have them sitting behind a couple of rods with nothing happening. Keep plenty of bait going in to make sure you get lots of quick bites. I’ve found that even when the fish aren’t biting, kids love to get the net out and try and catch a big fish that way!

Talk to youngsters about the behaviour of fish, get them involved in reading the ‘clues’ or signs on the lake, encourage them to try and think like their quarry and explain why you love the sport. It will interest them more than you might think. Watching their passion for fishing ignite is one of the best ways to remember your own. So sit back, enjoy the view, and don’t forget to capture the moment on camera for posterity! (Check out Dave Lane’s advice on taking great photos for some top tips.)

Next time you head out with your tackle, don’t leave kids at home. Make it a family event where everyone gets involved. Kids love a competition, and there’s nothing better than the feeling of a fish on the line and an ‘epic battle between two warriors’ to teach children to appreciate these ancient creatures.

More about the author:

Bex Nelson manages the Facebook page Bex Nelson Fishes. Got a query? New to fishing? She’s more than happy to answer questions about her own journey and offer tips and encouragement to anyone just starting out.

Summer holiday fishing for mackerel

fishing for mackerel

A good sized mackerel caught from a small boat.
Image source: Shutterstock

Mackerel are one of the most popular fish for UK anglers to target and for good reason. They’re relatively easy to catch, put up a great fight once hooked, and taste great.

Mackerel fishing doesn’t require a great deal of equipment or complicated fishing tackle so it’s an ideal way to get children interested or for holiday-makers who want to try their hand at sea fishing. Here, Chris Middleton shares his top tips to give you the best chance of success.

Understand your quarry

Using a light rod and a spinner is one of the most common ways to catch mackerel.

Using a light rod and a spinner is one of the most common ways to catch mackerel.
Image courtesy of Chris Middleton

Mackerel visit UK waters in the summer after spending the colder winter months in deeper offshore waters. They generally arrive around the British coastline in May and stay until late-September, although this can be later around southern England.

Mackerel are a relatively small fish – the UK shore caught record is 5lb 11oz but the average size for mackerel in the UK is only around 1lb or so. Despite this they are fast, active hunters which feed on smaller fish such as sprats and sandeels. For this reason the main method for catching mackerel is with artificial lures such as spinners, feathers and daylights.

Where to find mackerel

Piers are one of the most popular marks for mackerel anglers to fish from.

Piers are one of the most popular marks for mackerel anglers to fish from.
Image courtesy of Chris Middleton

Mackerel hunt for their prey in mid-water so fishing from places like piers, breakwaters, jetties and other artificial structures which extend out into the sea is the best way to access this deeper water. It’s also possible to catch mackerel from steeply sloping beaches. Indeed, Chesil beach in Dorset is one of the UK’s top mackerel fishing marks. However, shallow, sandy beaches are unlikely to offer water deep enough for mackerel to be present and are therefore best avoided.

Visual hunters, mackerel can be caught at any time of the day, but it’s worth noting that rough seas and choppy water can send them out of range into deeper water. Your best chance of success is usually during a steady spell of good weather and calm seas.

Best tackle for mackerel fishing

A mackerel caught with a spinner.

A mackerel caught with a spinner.
Image courtesy of Chris Middleton

Mackerel fishing doesn’t need to be complicated. Most anglers use a spinning rod of 8 – 10ft in length which can cast lures of 1 – 2oz coupled with a simple fixed spool reel. You can often buy rod, reel and line combination deals that give you the full setup for a reasonable price.

The main types of lures used in mackerel fishing are:

Spinners: These are solid metal imitation fish fitted with hooks. There’s a seemingly infinite number of spinners on the market but simple, traditional silver spinners seem to work best for mackerel. Alternatively, try this set of four of the most deadly coloured lures.

Feathers: These are hooks which have been fitted with brightly coloured feathers to make them resemble a small fish. They’re bought ready-made on rigs usually containing three to six feathers. Using feathers is an effective way to catch mackerel, and there’s always the chance of catching multiple mackerel if a shoal attacks the feathers.

Daylights: Similar to feathers, these lures are made with synthetic plastic material instead of feather. You’ll need to remember to buy weights if you’re casting feathers or daylights.

The best method for catching mackerel

Multiple mackerel caught on daylights.

Multiple mackerel caught on daylights.
Image courtesy of Chris Middleton

The great thing about fishing for mackerel is that the same method is used for spinners, feathers or daylights. Cast your lure out as far as you can and then reel it in through the water to tempt the fish to attack it and get hooked.

As mackerel are a shoaling species they can descend on an area very quickly. A spot which has produced nothing for a number of casts can suddenly become alive with mackerel, producing a fish every cast.

If you’re not having any luck, try varying the speed that you reel your lure in. Reeling in quickly will bring your lure back high in the water, while reeling slowly will retrieve it much deeper. Try various depths to give yourself the best chance of locating the feeding mackerel.

Another tip is to watch for sea birds diving into the sea (a sure sign that small fish are present and mackerel will be nearby) or bubbles appearing on the surface of the sea. This happens when mackerel chase small fish upwards through the water, causing them to panic at the surface and the sea to look as if it is bubbling. This is a clear sign that mackerel are present and a productive fishing session will follow.

Eating your catch

Hot mackerel straight from the barbecue is a real treat.

Hot mackerel straight from the barbecue is a real treat.
Image source: BravissimoS

Mackerel is a tasty fish which is full of healthy omega-3. Once gutted, it can be very simply barbecued, grilled or fried, although take care to avoid small bones which can be difficult to completely remove. There’s not much that tastes better than a fresh mackerel thrown on the barbecue on the beach within hours of being caught.

For more ambitious chefs mackerel makes excellent pate and can even be substituted for sausage meat in scotch eggs. If you have a bumper haul, gut, fillet and freeze your catch for another time. Try some of these recipes from Great British Chefs for inspiration.

More about the author…

Chris Middleton writes for British Sea Fishing where you can find find information and advice on all aspects of shore fishing around the UK with information on techniques, bait, tactics and fishing marks across the country. As well as this there are features and articles on wider issues such as commercial fishing, conservation and the sea fish species and other sea creatures found around the British Isles.

Airflo Covert Compact Fly Vest Review

Looking for a new lightweight  fly vest that is comfortable and full of storage options? We might have found something for you. In this review Fishtec blogger Stuart Smitham takes a closer look at a vest he has been using for some time, the Covert Compact from Airflo.

Having used the original Airflo Outlander vest back pack for some years, it was good to see it have a freshen up, with some innovative digital camo. Ceri Thomas at Fishtec, hinted of another new addition to the range, called the Covert Compact vest. I’ll never forget Ceri’s apt description, “It’s a fishing bra with two chest pack’s”.  In truth, it’s a lot more than that.

I’ve had mine since March this year, so I’ve had time to make an accurate assessment of it. Once you see it you’ll see why it’s attributes become easily visible.

In general the Covert Compact has a generous pouch capacity, not only on the front two, but also the back. A lightweight system in digital camouflage. The philosophy of a one size fits all, works here for sure.

The Airflo Covert Compact fly fishing vest

The Airflo Covert Compact fly fishing vest

Looking at the vest from the inner most out, the padded areas offer a great stand off from your clothing, so allowing air to circulate between the vest and your body. Wide shoulder pads, much like the vest back pack, help spread weight distribution. The mesh back is great for two reasons. (1) to help keep you cool and (2) it allows you to wear a day pack with ease. A plus plus from me, particularly if your hiking and dumping waterproofs inside.

There’s a D ring in the top of the mesh yolk which is well stitched and will stand up to the endless pulling that I do on my net magnet.

Padded areas and D rings are a nice touch!!

Padded areas and D rings are a nice touch!!

The pouches on the front are very spacious, with split storage. They differ slightly as the right pouch has a velcro with fly patch. On both of them there’s a small inner pocket on the back wall, for small items and then a larger storage area. This will easily cope with fly boxes, spare tippet and a small water bottle. On the outside are two smaller pockets for tippet, nips, floatant and so on. The front pouches clip together for a secure fit, and you can also use the side straps to tighten it all up for optimum comfort.

The front pods and the back pouch of the Covert Compact vest

The front pods and the back pouch of the Covert Compact vest

The back pouch has rod tube straps on the underside (rod tube not included) which is a neat touch. On the inner are two small pockets on the back wall, for things like spare glasses, sunscreen etc. The main storage area here is large enough for your large fly boxes, snacks, drinks and even a lightweight jacket.

The construction and build quality on the Covert Compact is something else. Good stitching and quality zips that will stand up to heavy abuse. Overall, this is a well thought out piece of kit, worthy of joining the Outlander range of fishing luggage. For more on the Outlander range, visit the Fishtec tackle website. Best regards, Stuart.

Stop press: Covert Compact Fly vests are now just £34.99 (rrp £49.99)!!

AVAILABLE HERE

Fly-tying for beginners part 1: The Black & Peacock Spider

If you’ve just started learning to tie flies, take heart, you needn’t be an expert to create really effective fish catchers! In this new mini series of step-by-step fly-tying guides, fishing author Dom Garnett shows us a handful of his favourite “simple but deadly” flies.

Tying your own flies

Easy_Flies_Black_&_Peacock_FINISHED_FLY

The black & peacock spider.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

The world of fly-tying can seem a pretty bewildering place these days. From the starting point of a hook and thread, the possibilities and sheer range of materials are vast. Some anglers can tie incredible works of art or amazingly detailed insect replicas. But there’s nothing wrong with keeping things simple.

If you’re after fly-tying tips for beginners, the patterns in this series should prove nice and easy to tie. That said, there’s no harm in more experienced tyers getting back to basics. I’ll also show you how, with just a little tweak here and there, some really simple, quick flies can be incredibly versatile – and well worth a second look!

What is a spider fly?

Easy_Flies_Black_&_Peacock - 2

The simple ingredients: you just need a hook, thread, peacock herl and hen feather.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

For those new to fly-tying, spiders are simple, soft-hackled flies with a rich tradition in the UK. They’re not perfect insect replicas (and in spite of the name, they don’t copy actual spiders), but suggestive creations, often with just a thread body and “legs” fashioned from feather fibres. Perhaps this is why they’re so useful?

The Black and Peacock Spider has to be one of the most classic, versatile flies of all time. No other fly has caught me such a huge variety of fish, from wild brown trout to rudd, roach and carp. It’s also lovely and simple to tie. With a bit of practice you can turn one out in less than five minutes. Just as well, because I get through dozens every season.

Here’s what you need:

Hook: Wide gape nymph, grub or buzzer, size 12-16
Thread: Black
Tag (optional): Contrasting tinsel or wool of your choice
Body: Peacock Herl
Hackle: Black hen

How to make the black & peacock spider: step-by-step

making a black and peacock spider fly - Run some black thread onto the hook, leaving a little gap behind the eye. Pinch in place, until a few turns of thread catch in securely.

STEP 1: Run some black thread onto the hook, leaving a little gap behind the eye. Pinch in place, until a few turns of thread catch in securely. Trim the loose end if necessary.

making a black and peacock spider fly - Run the black thread in neat, touching turns down the hook shank. If you want to add a “butt” or “tag” of brighter colour at the rear, now is the time to catch it in. I’ve used red UV tinsel here.

STEP 2: Now run the black thread in neat, touching turns down the hook shank. If you want to add a “butt” or “tag” of brighter colour at the rear, now is the time to catch it in. To keep the body even, use a long strip of material and trap all the way down the back. I’ve used red UV tinsel here.

making a black and peacock spider fly - Pick out a couple of strands of peacock herl. Pick finer pieces for a tiny fly, or go thicker for a bigger, bushier number. Stroke the fibres back with your fingers so they fluff out

STEP 3: Pick out a couple of strands of peacock herl. Pick finer pieces for a tiny fly, or go thicker for a bigger, bushier number. Stroke the fibres back with your fingers so they fluff out, as above.

making a black and peacock spider fly - tie in the peacock herl, clamping down right the way down the back of the hook shank to keep things nice and even.

STEP 4: Now tie in the peacock herl, clamping down right the way down the back of the hook shank to keep things nice and even. If you tie just by the “tips” you get an uneven less secure body, so go right down the hook and bring the thread back to the rear of the fly.

making a black and peacock spider fly - wrap the thread around the peacock strands to trap the peacock in place and make it secure.

STEP 5: Next, we wrap the thread around the peacock strands. You don’t absolutely have to do this, but doing so traps the peacock in place better and makes for a much more secure fly, that won’t unravel after a fish or two.

making a black and peacock spider fly - wrap the thread and peacock from back to front in even turns. Once you’re a short distance from the eye, trap the peacock in place tightly with 2-3 turns of the black thread as shown. Leave a little gap here and don't crowd the head of the fly

STEP 6: Wrap the thread and peacock from back to front in even turns, like this. Once you’re a short distance from the eye, trap the peacock in place tightly with 2-3 turns of the black thread as shown. It’s important to leave a little gap here, because we don’t want to crowd the head of the fly (or it will be difficult to tie onto our leader).

making a black and peacock spider fly- trim off the peacock as tight as you can.

STEP 7: Trim off the peacock as tight as you can. If you’re new to fly-tying I can’t over-emphasise the need for a quality, sharp pair of scissors here! Don’t be a skinflint, because fine-tipped scissors are a fly-tyer’s best friend and make the job much easier.

making a black and peacock spider fly - Now take a black hen feather. Fibres that are 2-3 times the width of the hook gape look about right. Gently tease out the feather fibres and strip a little at the front with your thumb nail, so it’s easy to tie in

STEP 8: Now take a black hen feather. A small pack of feathers should tie several flies without breaking the bank. Choose a feather where the fibres or “spikes” are in proportion to the hook size. Fibres that are 2-3 times the width of the hook gape (the gap between the hook point and the shank above) look about right. Prepare it by gently teasing out the feather fibres and stripping a little at the front with your thumb nail, so it’s easy to tie in, as above.

making a black and peacock spider fly- tie in place as shown , with two or three nice tight turns of thread, just behind the eye.

STEP 9: Tie in place as shown, with two or three nice tight turns of thread, just behind the eye.

making a black and peacock spider fly - Holding the end of the feather, wrap it around in two neat, tight turns, so that the feather fibres splay out like the spokes of an umbrella. Hackle pliers make the job easier. Just make two wraps and trap the feather in place with another 2-3 turns of thread. Trim off the excess.

STEP 10: Now for the slightly trickier part. Holding the end of the feather, wrap it around in two neat, tight turns, so that the feather fibres splay out like the spokes of an umbrella. Hackle pliers (a tool which keep the feather pinched in place) can make the job easier if you’re struggling.
It’s tempting to make loads of wraps, but just make two before carefully trapping the feather in place with another 2-3 turns of thread! So often in fly tying, less is more because sparser materials move better and won’t crowd the fly. Once you’re happy, you can trim off the excess.

Easy_Flies_Black_&_Peacock_FINISHED_FLY

STEP 11: All that’s left to do is finish the fly. A whip finish tool is the tidiest way to do this – it’s not easily explained in words, so take a look at one an online tutorial, such as this one by Peter Gathercole. If you’re struggling, or don’t have the right tool, you could always just varnish, leave to dry and then carefully trim off with scissors (the fish won’t mind and we won’t tell anyone).

There we have it, job done! One of the easiest flies to tie for beginners, but also one that experienced anglers still swear by.

Further ideas and useful variations

black and peacock spider fly

Three useful variations.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

So, hopefully with a bit of practice, you’ll be tying these simple flies quickly and your efforts will get tidier. Don’t worry if your first few attempts are a bit messy – the fish don’t mind a great deal as this isn’t a super “fussy” or accurate fly. Whether you fish it gently, just letting it swing round in the breeze, or pull it like a loch style fly, it’s a great pattern.

Once you’ve cracked the basic tying, you might like to experiment with some simple variations. Try different models and sizes of hook. Small, fine hooks and sparse dressings can be useful for low, clear water and finicky feeders. Bigger brutes, on the other hand, are great for blustery days and aggressive fish. Of course, different weights and sizes of hook will also give you very different sink rates.

My favourite twists are:

  • Add a small bead (above left) for a faster sinking fly.
  • Tie a little sparser with a red tinsel rib and lighter hook (above middle), which works excellently for trout feeding in the upper layers.
  • Tie more boldly, with a red tag and perhaps a thicker body (above right) which is great for loch style fishing.

Above all, have fun and, I repeat, don’t worry if your early efforts are a bit unkempt. I guarantee you’ll still catch fish! Happy tying and keep an eye out for more patterns this summer. Next time, I’ll show you a simple but brilliant dry fly to tie yourself.

Read more from Dom Garnett

Regular Fishtec blogger Dom Garnett can also be caught every week in the Angling Times, while you can also find more on his site www.dgfishing.co.uk and the Angling Trust’s Lines on the Water blog.