New Airflo V2 Fly Fishing Reels In Stock

We recently had some exciting new fly reels land in our warehouse – the new Airflo V2’s. These reels are the follow up to Airflo’s successful V-Lite range of fly reels, which we sold in high volumes for many years.

Nicely finished in silver, red and black, they are a fully machined fly reel range, made out of a solid aluminum block that has been cut to exacting standards.

Airflo V2 fly eel full set

Airflo V2 fly reel full set

On first impression, they are a fantastic looking range of reels and appear to be incredibly well built with a solid disc drag. The drag itself is completely sealed, allowing them to be used in saltwater environments with no danger of failure. Construction wise, while a fraction heavier they are just as robust and well screwed together as the old V-Lite’s, and like their predecessor provide plenty of backing space thanks to the deep V shaped recess found on the spool.

Surprisingly, the prices are pitched lower than the V-Lite, offering a way into the premium quality reel market for anglers on a lesser budget.

Prices start at just £109.99 for the 3/4 size. Other models include the 5/6 at £119.99, the 7/8 at £129.99 plus a 9/10 and 10/11 for the double hand and switch fly rod users priced at £139.99 and £149.99 respectively.

The Airflo V2 fly reel has a fully sealed disc drag

The Airflo V2 fly reel has a fully sealed disc drag

As an introductory offer, they also come supplied with a FREE Airflo fly line – the Super Dri Elite in the case of the trout models and a Scandi head for the double handed sizes. This makes the package as a whole incredible value for money.

With a model for everyone, the Airflo V’2’s quite simply represent the best value fly reels we have seen for many years! Get yours today.

 Premium performance and good looks
 Fully machined aluminium construction
 V cut spool for extra backing capacity
 Strong, fully sealed saltwater proof drag
 Sizes: 3/4, 5/6, 7/8, 9/11 & 10/11
 Prices from £109.99 to £149.99
 FREE Airflo fly line included

AIRFLO V2 REEL TROUT MODELS ARE AVAILABLE HERE

AIRFLO V2 REEL DOUBLE HAND MODELS ARE AVAILABLE HERE

Airflo V2 fly fishing reel

Airflo V2 fly fishing reels represent brilliant value for money

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Small water survival

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

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

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

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

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

Coming into their own

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

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

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

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

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

Treat yourself this autumn and winter…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

12 FANTASTIC DAY TICKET TROUT FISHERIES TO TRY

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

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

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

SOUTH & SOUTH WEST

Bellbrook Valley Trout Fishery (Near Tiverton, Devon)

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

Simpson Valley (North Devon)

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

Manningford Trout Fishery (Wiltshire)

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

Duncton Mill Fishery (West Sussex)

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

WALES & MIDLANDS

Garnffrwd Fly Fishery (Near Llanelli)

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

Ringstead Grange Trout Fishery

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

Woolaston Court Trout Lakes (Gloucestershire)

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

EAST

Black Dyke Fishery (Norfolk)

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

Chigborough Farm (Maldon, nr Colchester)

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

NORTH

Mere Beck (Lancashire)

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

Roxholme Trout Fishery (Nottinghamshire)

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

Danebridge Fisheries (Cheshire)

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

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

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

Top Tips for Fry Feeders

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

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

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

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

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

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

1. Search for the structure

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

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

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

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

  1. Shake up your tactics

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Tie for flash and movement

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Tackle up for the job

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

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

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

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

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

Fly Fishing Tackle New Gear – Airflo Super Stik II Rod Review

If you are looking for a mid-level fly rod that is ‘just right’ in terms of action, feel, cosmetics and performance then the Airflo Super Stik II’s could be a safe bet. Here Robbie Winram of Trout Fisherman magazine gives the range a comprehensive review – read on to find out more.

The Airflo Super Stik II fly rod

The Airflo Super Stik II fly rod

Airflo Super Stik II rods from £139.99

AIRFLO have relaunched their Super Stik rods in two ranges – the standard range consists of seven dual rated three-piece models, and the competition specials are four piece 10ft rods in 6wt, 7wt and 8wt.

The standard Super Stik II’s are: 9ft 5/6wt and 9ft 6/7wt at £139.99; 9ft 6in 6/7wt and 9ft 6in 7/8wt at £149.99; and 10ft 6/7wt, 10ft 6/7wt and 10ft 6in 7/8 at £159.99.

While the old Super Stik’s featured bright red blanks, the new ones are a subtle olive-green colour. The other difference is in the cork handle which now has a ‘flexible’ 1.5-inch section of composite and natural cork rings, aimed at reducing wear in this high-pressure area.

I had the 9ft 6in 6/7wt rod on test which I set up with a 6wt floating line. Even with a relatively short length of line on the water the rod loaded smoothly, all the flex coming from the top quarter. I was able to generate some good line speeds and nice tight loops. As I started to get a feel for the rod, working longer head lengths outside the tip, the blank flexed a little deeper, almost to the midway section, living up to its rating as a middle-to-tip action rod. But it handled these longer lengths competently.

My casting stroke was quite long and I found it a very relaxed affair with the rod doing the majority of the work. With overhead and double hauling taken care of I moved onto continuous motion casts such as the roll and switch. Here, the softer flex in the blank really paid dividends with some nice casts going out onto the water.

Fishing and casting with midge-tips through to fast intermediate lines also saw good results and nice turnover. Only when I tried out some medium to fast sinkers did I feel the rod working a good deal harder to perform at the same level. I just had to shorten the head lengths and watch my timings for those distance casts.

VERDICT:

A great all-round rod for floating and sinking line work. The dual 6/7 rating means this rod will also take a 7wt line so I spent a good bit of time with the heavier floating and sinking density lines as well. The 6wt balanced the rod just right for my casting style but what the7wt gives you is a little bit more help with loading the rod, a real bonus if your casting isn’t quite up to scratch.

Airflo Super Stik II competition special rods £169.99

THE 10ft Super Stik II competition specials are available in 6wt, 7wt and 8wt, and are all four piece models so are easier to travel with and store out of the way in the boat.

Airflo say the rods have slightly more ‘steel’ in the butt section than the standard models, which not only helps to knock fish over so you can get them into the boat quickly, but also helps when striving for those distance casts to cover fish at range. This slightly different action really makes light work of sinking lines.

The 10ft 6wt that I tried out was also proficient with floating and intermediate lines, giving good turnover and presentation. When it came to roll and switch casts it was nowhere near as smooth as the standard 9ft 6in 6/7wt, but with overhead and double hauling it had a beautiful feel and I could aerialise very long casts with little effort.

Airflo Super Stik II Comp special

Airflo Super Stik II Comp special

VERDICT:

This is not a difficult rod to cast so will find favour with anglers of all abilities. It does have a bit more steel than the standard Super Stik II model so is very good at pulling fish quickly to the boat and also fishing a range of dense sinking lines.

Airflo Super Stik II fly rods – ‘Tackle testers choice’

Fly Tying Gear – Hardwear Fly Tying Tool Range

With the winter months on the horizon many anglers now begin fly tying over the cold, dark months so their fly boxes are well stocked in time for the start of next season.

If you are thinking of starting, or need a budget conscious set of quality tying tools then the Hardwear range could be the answer. Here, Trout Fisherman magazine talk us through the range.

Fly-tying gear: Robbie Winram brings you news and reviews of the latest materials and tools to hit the market.

Tools to get you started

These ‘entry level’ Hardwear tools will get your fly-tying journey off to a good start without breaking the bank.

1 Rotary hackle pliers £3.49
The revolving feature of these pliers ensures the hackle doesn’t twist out of line when you wrap it around the hook shank. The sprung-metal jaws holds materials firmly and the knurled aluminium handle ensures a comfortable and reliable grip.

2 Dubbing brush £3.49
The wire brush is fairly stiff so when you are picking out dubbing and other fibres just tread carefully. It is set into a knurled aluminium handle which makes it easy to grip and comfortable to use.

3 Deluxe whip finish tool £2.99
While it is possible to create a whip finish with your fingers, if you’re not that nimble fingered or have rough skin you might find a whip finish tool an easier solution. Once you get used to how it works it is very easy to use and produces a neat and secure head (visit www.troutfisherman.co.uk and search for ‘the whip finish’ for a demonstration).

4 Hackle pliers £2.50
These traditional English-style spring-loaded hackle pliers have a set of long jaws and two finger pads to depress for opening and closing. The inside face of the jaws are not ridged or raised so I would add a little bit of silicone rubber tubing on one jaw to give extra grip on slippery materials.

5 Bobbin holder £2.99
A traditional spring-arm design with a stainless steel tube and brass feet. It will take a range of small and large bobbins. While the thread tube is very smooth it is not ceramic lined so don’t overwork your thread in one place or you could weaken it.

6 Four-inch scissors £3.99
These have 1.25-inch blades and are non-serrated, giving a clean cut on a range of
materials.

7 Arrowpoint spring scissors £4.99
These are five inches long and being spring loaded are ideal for repetitive cutting strokes. Just depress the handles between thumb and forefinger to cut, then release the pressure to open the blades. The scissors have three quarter-inch long blades with extra fine points, ideal for close in, accurate cutting.

8 Fly-tying scissors £3.99
The same size as the four-inch scissors, but these have extra-large open finger loops. They would be a good choice if you have chunky fingers, but my personal preference is for the standard loops as I find them more comfortable. The fine point blades are super sharp for an excellent close cut.

Hardwear fly tying tools are available here.

 

New Tricks for an Old Dog By Rene’ Harrop October, 2018

It is no secret that I am a man of rivers. Drawn to their mysteries at a very young age, my identity has been forged on moving water where a fly rod has been a constant companion for more than sixty years.

Stillwater action On Sheridan lake

With dry fly fishing as the primary focus, my profession as a fly tyer hinges upon understanding trout and the organisms that draw them into view as they feed on a fluid surface. Knowledge and skill are the primary components of finding big trout and then overcoming their resistance to an artificial fly. Over the decades, my comfort on the water has evolved in proportion to the confidence gained from a near obsession that demands a solution to every problem encountered. In recent years, however, a growing distraction has pulled me toward a dimension of fly fishing that forces a level of humility that I sometimes struggle to accept.

Henry’s Lake Prize

The mental exercise of probing the depths of still water has become a stimulating factor that now accounts for perhaps fifteen or twenty percent of my attention. The steep learning curve installed by such a late start in an already long life might have compelled an early withdrawal were it not for a mentor several decades younger than I.

Gareth Jones with Sheridan’s best

Gareth Jones is a still water master of international acclaim, and we fished together again just last week. Every visit from this friend of more than a dozen years has been an opportunity to learn, and his latest was no exception.

Fishing two distinctly different lakes over the four day visit, Gareth again proved an uncommon ability to quickly ascertain the requirements of getting fish in constantly changing weather conditions varying from near disastrous to ideal.

It mattered little to Gareth that cold, strong wind and discolored water wreaked havoc on Henry’s Lake, a splendid public fishery of notable reputation. He had a solution for the problems that drove nearly everyone else from the water, and the day ended with more than a dozen respectable trout.

Another Big One

On privately owned Sheridan Lake, Gareth’s still water prowess kicked into high gear in fall weather that could not have been more pleasant. For an observer, it was like watching Houdini perform magic tricks as fish after fish succumbed to his mastery.

Through each impressive demonstration, Gareth provided detailed explanation of technique along with generous access to his impressive fly boxes. At days end my brain was swimming with new information that will keep me busy on the water and at the tying bench for at least a year. I know too that the learning will continue on Gareth’s next visit, which I hope is soon.

A Good Ride

 

How To Fish For Back End Barbel

Landing a winter barbel

A winter barbel
Image courtesy of Dan Whitelock

Leaves are falling and the nights have drawn in. There’s tinsel and tat in the shops and a lot of anglers have hung up their rods for a few months. But come the first frosts, a group of dedicated anglers will be taking advantage of the fact that the weed has died back, biting insects are a faded memory and the barbel are big!

According to Dan Whitelock, this is one of the best times of year to go out and bag that special fish. Here are his tips and tricks for snagging a good sized winter barbel.

Get to know your venue

Winter barbel fishing can be hard, but it’s also be incredibly rewarding if you follow a few simple methods and invest some effort. For the most committed anglers, winter barbel fishing starts in early summer. By walking the banks, making note of gravel runs, depressions, cattle drinks and snags, you’ll greatly enhance your chances of catching once the floods have cleared the weed and coloured water has rendered the riverbed invisible.

When to go winter barbel fishing

There’s one critical factor when it comes to winter fishing and that’s the conditions. Barbel are synonymous with low pressure, mild air, warm water and steady flow. Group those together and you’re more than halfway towards finding the fish. We’ll come to location and swim choice in a moment, but let’s look first at when to go fishing in order to maximise your chances of catching.

During the summer, it’s a fair bet to say you can pick any day between June 16th and early October and, barring a massive unseasonable flood or freak cold spell, you’ll only have to worry about picking a swim and finding some fish (see our Beginner’s guide to barbel fishing for summer tips).

However, in winter, it’s vital to look at weather patterns and consider the effect on the water – notably the temperature. If the temperature suddenly falls, air pressure rises, the skies clear and a frost forms, you may be wise to seek an alternative quarry.

On the other hand, if there’s been a period of cold weather, high pressure and frosts, followed by a warm southwesterly and falling pressure – this is the time to plan your trip. The rise in temperature triggers the barbels’ metabolism and feeding instinct and they go on the search for food. Couple this with a rise in river levels to wash some food down and you’re onto a winner. There have been entire chapters written on conditions for winter barbel, but if you look at it in a simplified way and fish in the above conditions, you’ll definitely increase your odds.

Of course, barbel being barbel and habitually forgetting to read the script, they do turn up from time to time in the frost and snow. In fact the last two seasons have seen a stretch of the Upper Great Ouse produce barbel over 17 lbs to chub anglers fishing with cheese paste on crisp, clear nights! While it isn’t recommended to target barbel in these conditions, there’s always a chance.

Using a feeder

If you do choose to fish for barbel in low, clear conditions, or you don’t have the luxury of being able to fish at the drop of a hat when conditions suit, then there’s no better way to find winter barbel than with a maggot feeder. I must stress that overfeeding will guarantee a barbel blank. They don’t need much food in cold water to fill themselves up. A pint of maggots steadily fed through a feeder in a swim will suffice for a day’s fishing in really cold conditions.

Pick a swim with a nice gravel bottom, steady flow and good depth and keep hitting the same spot with the feeder. If your swim has a large feature such as an undercut bank or overhanging tree, even better. This approach may entice a lethargic barbel to feed should it be resident, and it’s a method well deployed on venues with a good head of fish such as the Trent, Wye or Middle Severn.

Best locations for winter barbel

A flood is the perfect condition for winter

A flood is the perfect condition for winter barbel fishing
Image courtesy of Dan Whitelock

A flood is one of the favourite conditions for all winter barbel anglers, but a high river is an incredibly daunting prospect and can put beginners off. I must stress that you need to be familiar with your river here. Flooded fields, steep muddy banks, undercuts, strong currents and rapidly rising levels can be very dangerous. Anglers have died in pursuit of winter barbel so please, be wise, know your river and don’t take any silly risks. It’s a hobby at the end of the day and no fish is worth a life.

When you arrive at the river, go for a walk to find some swims. It’s four or five feet up from normal summer level, the last rain was early yesterday and most of the rubbish has been flushed through. Perfect. A rising river can, and does produce fish, but it can be incredibly frustrating dealing with leaves, weed, branches and flotsam coming down and fouling your line. If you have to fish at the peak of a flood or a rising river, then choose a steady flow with good depth and gravel close in. (Remember your summer homework?) This will enable you to fish with the rod pointing downstream and as low to the water as possible in order to present a bait with minimum pressure on the line. Whilst barbel aren’t the brightest of buttons, they rely on instinct and know what isn’t natural. A bowstring tight line running through their habitat, with a load of surface junk floating seemingly out of place isn’t natural and their instincts will tell them there’s danger.

Barbel like a nice steady flow. A boiling, whirlpool of a back eddy is a waste of time. All that river junk spinning about over their heads just isn’t comfortable. What you’re looking for is the classic crease swim where fast water meets slow, at least five feet deep with a nice clean bed on the edge of the main flow. This is where the fish will be holding up, waiting for food to wash down and settle. The summer cattle drink is perfect here.

Another great swim is the back of a raft behind a fallen tree where the flow steadies and food collects. The inside of a bend will often provide a good holding spot in the highest of floods. Couple this with the gravel bed that you found while walking the banks in the summer and you’ve another good swim to fish. Any depression or depth change is a key spot to fish and again, the summer legwork with a plumbing rod or fish finder will pay off. A fast walking pace or slower is ideal.

It pays to keep mobile

Assuming you’ve got several of these swims on your venue, you’ll need to decide how to approach them. In winter, it pays to keep mobile. The fish tend to hold up so if you’ve sat for three hours and not had a bite, there’s a pretty good chance that you’re simply after a fish that isn’t there. An hour in a swim is more than enough. Ten minutes in the right spot is much better than ten hours in the wrong one.

When it comes to bait and baiting, forget the baiting part. You’ll be filling fish up and decreasing your chances of your hookbait getting taken. A big, smelly single bait will out-fish a load of free baits in flood conditions. The critical factor is where to swing out that bait. If your swim has a really long run, then it’s simply a matter of starting at the head and moving down ten or twenty yards every half hour or so. Trundling or rolling a big lump of luncheon meat is worth a go here. You could give the quiet swim behind the fallen tree an hour, but after that it’s worth a move. You can’t catch what isn’t there!

Best bait for winter barbel

Don’t overthink your bait. Barbel are incredibly stupid. Put some food in front of them and they’ll eat it until they’re full. In a flood, the latest fancy bait won’t catch any more fish than a chunk of luncheon meat or a lobworm. In coloured water, a decent chunk of meat, a paste wrapped boilie or a big old lobworm are the top three baits. Don’t get bogged down in worrying about choosing the ‘’right’’ boilie for winter barbel. Conditions and location are far more important.

One bait that isn’t so effective in winter is the pellet. The oils inside them are no good for the fish in cold conditions and they don’t break down. Leave them at home until the summer. In low or clear conditions then feeder fished maggots are hard to beat. Small boilies fished with a small stringer of half a dozen freebies are also very effective but again, don’t overfeed these as you’ll ruin the stretch of river for several days.

Should you pre-bait for winter barbel?

Pre-baiting can work to an extent, but bear in mind that if you’re fishing a popular venue, the chances are there’ll be several other anglers filling up the swims and the barbel won’t be hungry when you come to fish. Small river venues are particularly vulnerable to over-baiting.

Think about this: if an angler walks a stretch of a few hundred yards, picks out the best six classic winter swims and throws a dozen boilies in each on Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning ready for his Saturday session, he’ll be full of confidence when he turns up and puts his boots on. Quite rightly so.

If a couple of local retired anglers are fishing on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday while it’s quiet and throwing in a few freebies to ‘’get them going’’ that’s another load of food gone in. Add three or four more anglers to the mix and by the weekend that’s several kilograms of highly nutritional food that’s gone sailing right into the barbel’s homes. The two or three barbel that are resident in each swim will each eat half a dozen baits and then hold up to digest for a day.

The angler goes home Saturday night frustrated at the rubbish new bait that he paid £12 a kilo for and tries another that’s supposed to be better. The cycle continues, and the stretch gets a reputation for being hard or devoid of barbel! The odd, greedy big double gets caught, more anglers turn up to catch it from that snag swim and the process snowballs.

It’s been witnessed first hand on the Great Ouse, Ivel and Nene over the years. Please think about what you’re throwing in the river, especially during the winter. Less is more, I promise!

Tackle for winter barbel

playing a winter barbel on a centrepin

Playing a winter barbel on a centrepin
Image courtesy of Dan Whitelock

It’s important to have the right tackle for winter barbel fishing and it must be up to the job. Strong hooks, strong line and powerful rods are essential. For big rivers in high flood conditions, a stepped-up barbel rod with a test curve of around 2lbs is ideal. It’s very rare and completely unnecessary to fish with anything heavier – you’re fishing nice and close in on most occasions, especially in a flood. You need that progressive action to absorb the powerful lunges in the flow – if you start using carp rods you’ll get hook pulls.

On smaller rivers you can get away with slightly less. I prefer an 11ft rod with a 1.75lb test curve for my winter fishing. It’s light enough to present a bait close in on local rivers, but has enough power should a big barbel take the bait and move out in to the flow.

Rigs are best kept simple – a running rig with a lead to suit the conditions is all that you need. A lump of plasticine three feet behind the running ring will pin everything down nicely. It’s best to fish with the rod pointing downstream and almost parallel to the bank to minimise line pressure and bottom weight required. Bites are still unmistakeable!

Don’t spook the fish

One final point that’s often overlooked in winter barbel fishing is stealth. Maintain the same quiet manner on the bank that you use in the summer. Even in a flood, the fish are looking up into the light and can see movement and silhouettes on the skyline.

In the same vein, vibration can ruin your day before you’re within twenty yards of your swim. Next time you’re in the bath, lay back with your ears underwater and gently tap the side with your finger. It’s surprisingly loud. Sound is magnified and travels well in water. A barbel’s senses are far more advanced at detecting sounds and vibration in the water than the human ear. Bear this in mind when you dump your rucksack in the swim, unfold your chair and shout to your mate upstream.

So there we have it, winter barbel fishing in a nutshell. A river in winter is a special place to be. The birds are easier to spot without all the foliage and there’s a unique and peaceful atmosphere that you don’t get in the warmer months. The fish are much bigger than in the summer, the riverbank is a much quieter place and the rewards are great. Enjoy your fishing and tight lines!

More about the author

Dan Whitelock grew up in the North Bedfordshire countryside and learned to fish on the famous Upper Great Ouse above Bedford that ran a few miles away from his home. He started barbel fishing at the age of thirteen and has an impressive list of fish to his name from the Ouse, Ivel and Nene. He devotes a lot of spare time to his local angling club and maintains a healthy balance of fishing for all species, photography, family and work.

Fly Tying for Beginners Part 3: The Beaded Hare’s Ear

The Hare’s Ear fly

The Hare’s Ear fly
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

Scruffy, weighty and darned useful for river and stillwater fly fishing alike, the Hare’s Ear is one of the truly indispensable patterns in any angler’s box. It’s also an absolute piece of cake to tie, even if you’re all thumbs at the vice. In fact, you could argue that the scruffier the finish, the better the fly. In his new series of step-by-step fly-tying guides, Dom Garnett shows you how to tie the Beaded Hare’s Ear.

Tying your own flies

The Hare’s Ear will bring bites all year round, on still and running waters alike.

The Hare’s Ear will bring bites all year round, on still and running waters alike.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

So far in this series, we’ve shown you a dead simple dry fly, along with an equally straightforward hackled wet fly. As we move into autumn, though, our next fly is going to be a slightly weightier affair. Quite literally, with the addition of a small brass bead.

The practice of adding small metallic beads to flies seems to have been going on since Izaak Walton was in nappies, but to this day it remains a really simple way of adding extra mass and attraction to all sorts of different flies. Few are more universally effective than the Hare’s Ear.

Scruffy does it

Like all the flies in this series, the Hare’s Ear (sometimes abbreviated to GRHE –“Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear) is not an incredibly realistic creation. It’s suggestive or “general fit”. It’s not origami or master craftsmanship – it just looks seriously edible in the water. Don’t be fooled into thinking its rough simplicity makes this fly inferior to the amazing little works of art you see in glossy magazines and tying shows. Does it resemble a shrimp? Or perhaps a caddis larva? The fish seem to care even less than we do, because more often than not they’ll try to eat it.

In fact, my older brother and I experimented over many seasons comparing different flies. He got the tying bug bad, making Rhyacophila, Heptagenids and the rest (typical scientist, he gets off on this stuff). But the more we fished, certainly on our wild streams at home, the more apparent it seemed that a scruffy fly, finished in five minutes flat, would routinely outfish some incredibly accurate little work of art. And when you cast that scruffy five-minute fly into a tree, there’s less wailing and gnashing of teeth.

What am I driving at here, then? Well, I don’t want to denigrate realistic fly tying. It’s beautiful, creative and clever. It’s like painting a wonderful portrait, rather than just quickly taking a selfie. If you fish on rivers where the fish are very selective or see a lot of angling pressure, it can be useful, too. But for most of your fly fishing, the Hare’s Ear is a simple, brilliant pattern you just have to have!

What you need to tie the Hare’s Ear

A very simple recipe: hooks, beads, fur, wire and thread… and that’s it.

A very simple recipe: hooks, beads, fur, wire and thread… and that’s it.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

There are loads of variations on the classic Hare’s Ear fly. You can mess about with different dubbings, beads and the rest. You can add fancy tails or a thorax. Once you’ve sussed it, go ahead and knock yourself out. For now though, we’re going to make this most basic of fly patterns seriously easy to tie with a few basic tools and ingredients.

One notable main material is the namesake “hare’s ear” dubbing. Yes, you can substitute this for modern dubbings, but do try it with the real hare’s fur first. Nothing is quite so beautifully spiky and full of life. Buy yourself a full, natural “mask”. Yes, it’s a bit grim. If you live with any vegetarians, you might want to hide it so they don’t freak out.

Take a look at the material though, and marvel at it for yourself. There are lighter and darker coloured bits of fur. There are softer and spikier parts too. All of this can be used- if you pinch firmly with thumb and forefinger and tear out in little pinches. Less is always more with dubbing!

Here’s what you need:

Hook: Nymph or grub hook, size 12-18
Head: Brass or coloured bead, to suit (typically 2mm-3.5mm)
Thread: Tan or Brown
Rib: Silver or gold wire
Body: Dubbed hare’s mask, natural

Tying the Hare’s Ear, step by step

Pass a suitable sized bead onto the hook. run some thread onto the hook just behind in close turns. Pinch in place at first, before overlapping until it catches tight.

STEP 1: Pass a suitable sized bead onto the hook. If you catch the hook in the vice at a slight slope it should stay put. Now run some thread onto the hook just behind in close turns. Pinch in place at first, before overlapping until it catches tight.

STEP 2: As you proceed down the hook shank in tight, touching turns, bind in a length of gold or silver wire as you go. This will form your “rib” (which gives the fly a segmented look and also helps keep the body neatly secured so you don’t end up with a dog’s breakfast when a few trout have savaged the thing). Stop just above the barb of the hook, or just beyond the point on a barbless hook.

STEP 2: As you proceed down the hook shank in tight, touching turns, bind in a length of gold or silver wire as you go. This will form your “rib” (which gives the fly a segmented look and also helps keep the body neatly secured so you don’t end up with a dog’s breakfast when a few trout have savaged the thing). Stop just above the barb of the hook, or just beyond the point on a barbless hook.

STEP 3: Prepare your dubbing. Pinch and tear off a few fibres as shown. You can pick light or dark as you please. I try to get a mix of soft and spiky bits, to give the fly suitable “bugginess” (if that’s even a word). Don’t go too bonkers, as you only need a little to make a single fly.

STEP 3: Prepare your dubbing. Pinch and tear off a few fibres as shown. You can pick light or dark as you please. I try to get a mix of soft and spiky bits, to give the fly suitable “bugginess” (if that’s even a word). Don’t go too bonkers, as you only need a little to make a single fly.

STEP 4: Add the dubbing to your thread – you might need to have the bobbin a bit lower under the hook to give room. Do this by spreading out the dubbing material between your thumb and index finger and “roll” on the thread, as above. It can take practice to get perfect, so keep at it. If you resolutely fail to get the dubbing to stick to the thread, treat the thread with a touch of hair gel. We won’t tell anyone. You may end up with not enough or too much dubbing on the thread. This is quite normal! You can always pinch off a little or roll a tad more as you go.

STEP 4: Add the dubbing to your thread – you might need to have the bobbin a bit lower under the hook to give room. Do this by spreading out the dubbing material between your thumb and index finger and “roll” on the thread, as above. It can take practice to get perfect, so keep at it. If you resolutely fail to get the dubbing to stick to the thread, treat the thread with a touch of hair gel. We won’t tell anyone. You may end up with not enough or too much dubbing on the thread. This is quite normal! You can always pinch off a little or roll a tad more as you go.

STEP 5: Once you have the dubbing on the thread, apply it to the body in nice even turns so that you get a tidy profile. That said, we want plenty of those wiry fibres sticking out, so don’t panic if there’s a bit of mess.

STEP 5: Once you have the dubbing on the thread, apply it to the body in nice even turns so that you get a tidy profile. That said, we want plenty of those wiry fibres sticking out, so don’t panic if there’s a bit of mess.

STEP 6: Now for the rib. Bring the wire from back to front, in nice even turns, trapping the dubbing in place. It’s easiest to do this by changing hands as you go up the hook. When you reach just behind the head, trap the wire with a few tight turns of tying thread. Notice I’ve left a little gap behind the bead.

STEP 6: Now for the rib. Bring the wire from back to front, in nice even turns, trapping the dubbing in place. It’s easiest to do this by changing hands as you go up the hook. When you reach just behind the head, trap the wire with a few tight turns of tying thread. Notice I’ve left a little gap behind the bead.

STEP 7: Now, if you wiggle the wire back and forward, it will neatly break clean off. Much better than knackering your scissors trying to trim wire!

STEP 7: If you wiggle the wire back and forward, it will neatly break clean off. Much better than knackering your scissors trying to trim wire!

STEP 8: Now take another, smaller pinch of dubbing, and apply to the thread. Use some of the darker fibres from the hare’s mask, to create a bit of contrast. You could also go for a touch of bright colour such as red or orange though.

STEP 8: Take another, smaller pinch of dubbing, and apply to the thread. Use some of the darker fibres from the hare’s mask, to create a bit of contrast. You could also go for a touch of bright colour such as red or orange though.

STEP 9: Build up just enough dubbing to finish the fly, before whip finishing just behind the bead

STEP 9: Build up just enough dubbing to finish the fly, before whip finishing just behind the bead (this is easier watched than described, so take a peek at Peter Gathercole’s online tutorial).

TOP TIP: Your fly is ready to fish. However, many fly tyers like to liven it up a bit by picking out the fibres with a bit of velcro. This isn’t a pretty, faultless fly – those straggly bits all help to add life! Whether the fish take them for legs, feelers or little breathers, they move in the water and suggest life.

TOP TIP: Your fly is ready to fish. However, many fly-tyers like to liven it up a bit by picking out the fibres with a bit of velcro. This isn’t a pretty, faultless fly – those straggly bits all help to add life! Whether the fish take them for legs, feelers or little breathers, they move in the water and suggest something edible.

Further Hare’s Ear tips and variations

Variations and twists on the Hare’s Ear fly.

Variations and twists on the Hare’s Ear fly.
Image courtesy of Dom Garnett

If you fished little other than the fly I’ve just shown you, you could catch plenty of fish from streams and small stillwaters alike. In fact, the trout won’t begrudge your lack of artistry one bit. Keep your flies nice and scruffy and fish them where the trout expect to find things like shrimp and hog lice (i.e. the weedy margins of a small lake, or the bed of the stream) and you won’t go far wrong. On rivers, this tends to mean trundling along with the speed of the current, whereas on small stillwaters I like a picky figure of eight retrieve.

The simplest of Hare’s Ears will catch plenty of fish. That said, it’s fun and useful to add some extra touches to your Hare’s Ear flies. My favourite twists are:

  • Use a different type of bead. Try hot orange for dirty water, for example, or tungsten for extra weight.
  • Hackles and tails aren’t strictly necessary, but can add extra attraction. Partridge fibres or Coq de Leon make lovely tails and legs. Or add a CDC hackle for extra, wispy movement when wet.
  • Dubbings are also wide open for experimentation. Original hare’s mask is excellent, but you can get sparkly substitutes that are easier to dub. You could even add some brighter colour, such as red or orange, just behind the bead as a bit of a “hot spot”.
  • Of course, different hooks will also give different effects to your fly. You can tie a Hare’s Ear on any straight nymph hook, but a curved shrimp hook gives a lovely effect too.
  • But perhaps the biggest change for many anglers has been the switch to “jig hooks” (like the right-hand fly in the shot above). This design of hook will make the fly fish “point up” and seems to reduce snagging the bottom on rivers, while many believe it also leads to more hook-ups when fish bite.
  • Don’t forget to tie your flies in a good spread of sizes, too. I find a size 12 ideal for rainbows, especially for trying the edges of smaller, weedy lakes. Meanwhile, a size 16 with a smaller bead is ideal for most small to mid sized trout and grayling fishing on the river. That said, weeny little Hare’s Ears in sizes right down to a 20 can be superb for roach and dace.

Wherever you fish, you’d be hard pressed to find a more useful all-round fly pattern than the good old Hare’s Ear. 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.

The Sunray Shadow; versatility and simplicity personified

The sunray shadow is an immensely useful and versatile fly, often provoking a reaction when nothing else will. It can work throughout the season and under almost all river levels and conditions.

They work well for salmon, of course, but also work extremely well for sea trout, becoming a ‘must-have’ pattern on the likes of the Rio Grande in Argentina but also on rivers closer to home. Brown trout will often attack them too, provoking a cannibalistic reaction from fish of all sizes.

The Sunray Shadow fly

The Sunray Shadow fly – useful and versatile!

They are, as a rule, easy to dress. Indeed, in the most simplistic form they can literally be a stack of black fur over white fur! However, as a rule we are content with something a little more aesthetically pleasing, which is often when and why patterns evolve from their original state.

A myriad of different dressings exist for the pattern and no doubt it has ‘evolved’ over the years to suit certain situations, different imaginations or even access to materials. The following is my interpretation and has served me well when dressing smaller sizes and, in particular, when dressing onto hooks rather than tubes.

For salmon, sea trout and even brown trout the Sunray Shadow is an effective fly

For salmon, sea trout and even brown trout the Sunray Shadow is an effective fly

TYING INGREDIENTS

Hook: Partridge Patriot up eye double – sizes 6-14

Body: Silver holographic flat braid tinsel. Place some superglue on the thread base before wrapping over the braid. This will help protect the body from unravelling.

False Hackle: White arctic runner – loose/fine underfur removed

Wing 1: White arctic runner – loose/fine underfur removed. To stop the wing wrapping around the hook, you may also support this finer fur with a few white bucktail fibres if you wish.

Wing 2: Silver holographic lite brite

Wing 3: Black arctic fox – loose/fine underfur removed. Or, my personal favourite, especially for smaller sunrays, is American opossum. Draw out some tips before tying in, which will help taper the wing.

Wing 4: 3-4 peacock herl tips

Cheeks: Jungle cock – optional

Do dress them in different lengths, and vary the one being fished according to colour and water temperature. Don’t be afraid to fish them from 1 inch long through to 8-10 inches on tube versions. Do also make some with a gold body and gold lite brite underwing, then replace the white arctic runner with yellow or chartreuse, this can be a great pattern, especially in coloured/peat-stained water.

A sea trout that fell for the charms of the Sunray Shadow

A sea trout that fell for the charms of the Sunray Shadow

Steffan Jones has fished for sea trout all over the world, but the Teifi and Towy Rivers in West-Wales are his home waters and where he honed his skills. These rivers became his laboratories on which to test theories and fine-tune fly patterns. He has guided people onto sea trout for over twenty years and recently released a book on sea trout fishing – for more information please contact book@sea-trout.co.uk

Back End Boat Fishing on Reservoirs – What Lines and Flies are best?

Autumn must be one of the best times of the season to get out and fish! Here Kieron Jenkins of Fulling Mill takes a closer look at ‘back end’ fishing on our reservoirs and reveals how you can make the most of this brilliant time of year whilst afloat.

When it comes to reservoir fishing the end of the season is one of my absolute favourite times to fish. The fish are high in the water and extremely active, the winds are often strong and rejuvenate depleted oxygen levels from the summer, giving the fish a new lease of life. As the temperatures drop to a more comfortable 15-18 degrees insect life increases with daddies and sedges appearing in abundance, along with daphnia blooms flourishing.

The end of the season is one of my absolute favourite times to fish!!

The end of the season is one of my absolute favourite times to fish!!

Fishing wise, you very rarely have to go below 3ft in depth to find the fish, and keeping your flies high in the water is key to getting more takes. Airflo’s range of ‘tip lines’ are tremendous for presenting your flies in the feeding zone for longer – and keeping them there – as opposed to the straight sinkers of any densities which continue to fall through the water column, however slow they sink.

What method to use?

One style of fishing which has taken the reservoir scene by storm is the washing line method. In short, the washing line features a buoyant fly on the point of a three or four fly cast, which holds your leader up on the far end, while the flies on the droppers and your sink tip line gently falls and holds through the taking zone. Without a doubt, it’s one of the most effective ways to fish a reservoir.

A victim of the deadly washing line method

A victim of the deadly washing line method

The washing line is particularly good for fishing imitative patterns such as nymphs and buzzers, allowing them to effectively ‘hang’ in the surface at a mostly uniform depth. The buoyant fly on the point either consists of a FAB or a Booby depending on the amount of buoyancy needed – If you’d prefer your flies to gently fall, a FAB is great because of the minimal amount of foam in the fly, but if you’d prefer your flies to skate across the surface creating a wake for attraction, a booby is second to none.

What Fly Lines do I need and how do they work?

The trick behind fishing the washing line effectively is using the correct fly lines, and the Airflo tip lines are without doubt the best on the market. With a range of 5 different lengths and densities -with another being added to the range watch this space – every eventuality is covered.

Airflo Super-Dri tip fly lines ready for action

Airflo Super-Dri tip fly lines ready for action

Airflo 3ft Mini Tip

The 3ft mini tip is the ideal fly line for anchoring your flies below the surface, and quickly. It features a fast intermediate tip which sinks at 1.5 inches per second, this allows you to fish extremely slow and keep them at the exact depth almost all the way through your cast. This line is more suited to straight line nymph or buzzer fishing, but can be super effective when fishing the washing line if the fish are within the top 2 ft. Personally, I prefer this line for fishing in near flat calm conditions.

Click here to check out the 3ft Mini tip fly lines

Airflo 6ft Slow Tip

The 6ft slow tip is THE best line on the market for fishing sub surface, the slow intermediate tip sinks at a rate of 0.5 inches per second and gently falls allowing you to present your flies perfectly to around 1ft in depth. Being just 6ft long the tip doesn’t hinge when sinking, keeping you in full control and in contact with your flies – if anything, it fishes more like your old floater that gets dragged down at the end. I like this like particularly for fishing sub surface and minimising any wake off the flies, a deadly line on Llyn Brenig and Llandegfedd reservoir.

Airflo 6ft Fast Tip

The 6ft fast tip is an exceptionally good line when the fish are around 2-3ft deep. The fast tip which sinks at 1.5 inches per second beds in quickly and is perfect for hanging your flies at a constant depth, it’s one of my all-time favourite fly lines for fishing the washing line as it’s so versatile. A four fly cast with two small boobies will create enough disturbance to grab the attention of any fish in the area, but quickly drop and present the flies in the feeding zone, it can also be brought back up quickly with a few good pulls. It’s a perfect alternative to the costly Rio Midge Tip.

Click here to check out the 6ft Mini tip fly lines

Airflo 12ft Slow Tip

In my opinion, the 12ft slow tip is a must have line for fishing washing line style. The tip sinks at just 0.5 inches per second and keeps you in direct control of your flies. It allows you to fish anywhere from 6 inches to 2ft in depth with ease depending on the speed of your retrieve. As much as it’s a great line for fishing the washing line, it’s all extremely effective for pulling wet flies for wild brown trout, allowing you to fish your flies just below the surface and keeping the wake to a minimum not to spook weary nearby fish.

Airflo 12ft Fast Tip

The 12ft fast tip lets you fish much deeper than the other mini tip lines in the range, the length of the tip which sinks at 1.5 inches per second allows you to really drop your flies down if you fish slow. It’s a great line for early summer fishing when trout tend to drop. Earlier on in the year I done extremely well fishing a team of 4 buzzers on this line at Rutland water, the water was as clear as I’ve ever seen it and the fish were hard on the buzzer 20ft down. The only line I could present my flies at this depth was with this 12ft fast tip, once the flies hit the depth it was a case of holding on for the take.

Click here to check out the 12ft Mini tip fly lines                

One thing that sets these lines off against any other on the market is the use of Super-Dri technology in the floating section. It’s extremely buoyant and doesn’t get dragged down by the weight of the tips and sits super high on the surface, allowing you to fish in exactly the same depth as the previous cast, as well as keeping you in as much control as possible. When the fish are high in the water you often see fish rise or bulge in the ripple, the SD technology also allows you to peal your line off the water quickly to cover them with ease, simply covering more fish = more takes.

This nice autumn trout took a liking to a FAB

This nice autumn trout took a liking to a FAB

Recommended Fly Patterns

Fishing at the end of the season means one thing, you must keep your flies high in the water, and there are 3 styles of fly which allow you to fish the washing line effectively. The FAB, Blob booby and a Mini Booby – each give different ways of fishing the method and present your flies slightly different.

The FAB allows your flies to cut through the wave quickly and settle at a pretty uniform depth throughout – My favourite has to be the Biscuit FAB as it offers a subtle, but attractive colour combination which will work for recently stocked and resident fish alike.

The Mini Cat Booby is particularly effective when it comes to nymphing on the washing line. It gives off a lot of movement with the marabou tail and straggle fritz body – but still maintaining the slim profile that may imitate anything from a small clump of daphnia, fry or a damsel nymph if tied in appropriate colours.

When there are an abundance of stockies around you simply cannot beat the Tequila Booby – If this is the case, a four fly cast with two nymphs or cormorants on the middle droppers, and two tequila boobies on the point and top dropper can be deadly. The two blob type boobies are irresistible to stocked fish.

For the dropper flies, I tend to vary them depending on how deep I want to fish. I usually have a selection of Diawl Bachs, Cormorants and Hoppers. Here’s a quick insight into fishing what flies and when.

  • Nymphs – Use them when the trout are educated and feeding naturally – They also sink quickly so great for fishing in windy conditions.
  • Cormorants – Ideal for stocked fish because of the movement. Great middle dropper patterns when fish may chase boobies or blobs and turn away last minute. These smaller more mobile patterns often result in takes when the fish have gone off the colour.
  • Hoppers – Most effective when the fish are extremely high in the surface, they imitate emerging buzzers or corixa and allow you to keep everything fishing high in the water without dropping too quickly.

    Back end fly fishing success on Chew valley lake

    Back end fly fishing success on Chew valley lake