Airflo Stories River Adventure – Fly Fishing with Iain Barr on the Itchen

In this installment of ‘Airflo stories’ we join former world champion Iain Barr on the banks of the famous river Itchen, where he re-discovers his love of fly fishing with light tackle for trout and grayling.

Iain also reveals many useful tricks and tips for river fishing, including those that helped him become WFFC champion in 2009.

Fly Fishing on the Wye for Brown Trout

Having fished on Saturday for the first time in quite while (and with a little success) this past Sunday was meant with some excitement. It had been cold the past week but dry, which meant the rivers were at a good level and clear for this time of year.

Eager to put my new Streamtec Nantec fly rod through its paces I decided I would fish one of my favourite spots, hoping to pull out a couple of good fish.  The river Wye, a beautiful river which runs through the heart of Wales, and one of my all time favourite places to fish. The pool I intended to fish was just below the confluence of the Irfon and the Wye. With the weather being very cold, I layered up and slipped into my Simms Freestone Waders, and met up with my good friend Dan Graham for a few hours fishing.

Wye Irfon Confluence

With the trout season just kicking in and the cold weather still present, the usual sport on the dry fly didn’t seem so apparent. Armed with my 8ft 5# rod, I’d decided to fish the Duo whilst Dan opted for the Czech Nymphing setup for the faster water.

My set-up for the day was to be the Streamtec rod paired with an Airflo sixth sense floating line. Attached to this, a 5ft tapered leader with two addition lengths of 4ft & 3lb G3 fluorocarbon straight to the dry olive klinkhammer on a fixed dropper. Below I attached a silver bead red hot spot nymph. Recent conversations has brought to my attention the benefits of a sliding dropper knot. Something I will be learning and practising a lot. With the ability to vary the depth at which my nymph is fished, could well have landed me a couple of extra fish in some of the shallower water.

Having fished a few likely looking spots (excellent for dry flies when the fish are on the feed) I made my way up river until I was just below ‘Aber pool’. Aber pool is a keen spot for the Salmon boys and also the coarse anglers as the pool has an extremely deep run and holds a lot of big fish. Casting diagonal with a little up stream mend, I let the flies drift down past me and repeat along the length of the pool, covering all likely looking areas.

After wading and fishing my way along a very likely looking crease to no avail, I waded further into the river searching a small depression behind a large boulder. The klink suddenly dipped under the water and I had finally struck into a fish. The fish was very lively and fought extremely well considering it’s early season condition. I finally netted the gorgeous wild brownie, the first of many for the oncoming trout season I hope! Having unhooked the nymph from it’s scissors, Dan took a quick picture before I released the fish back to the water.

Wye Brown Trout - Fishtec Blog

You could tell that the fish had recently spawned as she was slim. However weighing in at one and a half pounds it was a lovely fish to start of the season. You can just imagine what weight she will get too after feasting on the early season files!

With Spring seemingly disappearing back into Winter, I along with nearly every river fly fisherman am looking forward to the mass hatches of Blue winged olives, Brook Duns and hopefully the odd March brown, that adorn our rivers during the day and the sometime spectacular hatch that we see in the evenings.

Check out Craigs blog here:

Wye & Usk Vouchers at Fishtec!

Wye & Usk Foundation ‘Roving vouchers’  are now available at the Fishtec Fishing tackle Store in Brecon!

To purchase, just visit us in store at Brecon! A Booklet of 10 vouchers are available for just £26, tickets cannot be sold individually. Purchasing these vouchers can open up many waterways through Wales offering outstanding fishing and scenery.

Rules and Regulations

Roving Vouchers are only valid in the same calendar year they were purchased (except when buying vouchers specifically for the following year). No refunds or exchanges can be made should you be left with unused vouchers at the end of the year.

You must post the required number of vouchers in the box (as described in the Passport brochure) BEFORE FISHING. If an angler is found fishing without having posted vouchers, or having posted insufficient vouchers, he/she will be asked to leave the water. Once you have posted your vouchers you may fish that beat as many times as you want that day. If you want to fish a different beat in the same day, you will need to post further vouchers appropriate to the new beat.

Rod sharing is not permitted on Roving Voucher beats. Every angler present must have posted the required amount of vouchers.

It is a condition of use that all anglers must post a catch return after fishing, even if no fish have been caught.

Anglers must be aware of individual beat rules and EA byelaws before fishing and must abide by them at all times.

No dogs are permitted on any Roving Voucher Beat.

Visit the Wye and Usk foundation website or the WUF Passport booklet for more information on beats.

The Taff Demise? I think not.

Fly fishing on rivers has become vastly popular over the last eight to ten years, I remember days when we were the only anglers on the river. You could go anywhere, on any river and not see ten other anglers throughout the whole winter! There would seem to be just the few hardy grayling fishers, standing in the river with the water below 3 degrees and the air temperature even lower. Then, we had two techniques. Czech Nymphing and the Indicator.

Overtime, our flies and techniques have evolved, the Czech nymphing has more or less turned into french nymphing, using tapered leaders with short indicator pieces. The indicator, superbly impressive on its day – using a foam indicator (fish pimp.etc) has become the ‘Duo’ and ‘Trio’ fished with a dry fly as the indicator. All, very, very effective.

The lower Taff is designed to relieve the valley of water quickly. The steep banks and pools gather the water and lets the water flow  uninterrupted downstream in theory reducing the risk of flooding. Over the years, pools have changed and water flow has increased and subsided in some areas, obviously pushing the fish around into more comfortable areas.

Fish caught czech nymphing Mid winter 2009

But. There’s always a but. Especially on the Taff, the numbers of large grayling getting caught have dropped dramatically. Fish in access of 1.4lbs, which were very common in previous years. There is much speculation on what has caused the decrease of large grayling, angling pressure, cormorants and their life cycle.

I fished a tributary of the River Wye, the Irfon on the weekend with two friends last weekend, Tim Hughes and my usual fishing buddy, Jon. Tim has been around for some time, representing Wales at Rivers and Lake internationals and World-championships.

Tim had observed anglers from European countries fishing the Czech nymphing style whilst fishing the World Championship in Wales 1991 –  The Euporeans swept away the glory through fishing deep with heavyweight nymphs, something he wanted to master, and went on to qualify for river teams and take top welsh rod at one international on the Dee too.

We got talking at the bank about techniques, flies, fish, the usual stuff when on the bank and holding a rod. Tim had opted for a Czech nymph set-up, the way we used to do it, two heavily weighted, pretty large czech nymphs – Pink on the top dropper, a hotspot pink & hares ear in the middle, and a tungsten headed red tag hares ear on the point. Me and Jon, the usual, french leader setup.

Looking for a pool which the three of us could fish, we walked from the mouth of the Irfon upstream and eventually broke off the path into a long run. The kind which is only up to your knees, easy to wade and has plenty of pea gravel… The perfect grayling tertiary, right?

I pitched my fly into confluence of the slow & fast water on inside seam, and within a few seconds, I struck into a feisty browny on a pink bug… skill eh? Into the same crease, Jonathan made the same cast, and the indicator shot forward… it was a lady of around a pound. Again, third cast, I had another brown. A small shoal was located and as we move upstream it was obvious why, a small depression in the bottom with a dip of around 10 inches. Only if all pools where like this? We met up with Tim after he ‘bugged’ his way downstream to no apparent avail.

From there up, the water started to deepen, pools started to get larger and our catch rate seemed to go down, many trout but less grayling. This is how we usually fish the Taff, two nymphs.. change the weight and leader length accordingly to the depths. Tim on the other hand was ‘whacking ’em’ – Fishing these pools with heavy czech nymphs and double tungsten caddis patterns. I had heavy bugs on, 4mm tungys, I seemed to be fishing the bottom, but I couldn’t get them.. I quick change from the french leader to a braided fly line and three heavy bugs went on. A few casts in I was into a lovely grayling. We continued fishing picking off grayling and the odd trout in the fast and powerful water.

Talking to Tim later in the day we were discussing the lack of larger grayling in the Taff, their there, because their caught sometimes.. Usually when the waters low.. When we can reach them. It suddenly hit me, with the same situation happening that day, Jon and I would have had a pretty dower day for grayling if we hadn’t switched to the Czech style of nymphing. When fishing the Duo, Trio and the French Leader – Our flies are naturally lighter – Its our mind set. Dryflies can only suspend so much weight before being submerged, and two flies are never going to be as heavy as three.

Maybe we’re not catching any large grayling because were not fishing like we used to? Our flies may be too light, and not getting down to them. Trout don’t usually feed on the bottom unless grubbing, maybe that’s why trout and small grayling catches have increase.

Are we REALLY getting down there?

Written by Kieron Jenkins

Coarse fishing tips – River Angling

When you approach the river and opt for a particular swim, how careful is your entrance? What is your thought process as you descend the bank to your chosen spot and what effect has your arrival and on the resident fish population? I put it to you that the first five minutes in a swim has the strongest bearing on your overall day success rate.

Let us first look at how to do it wrong. You struggle up to your peg, stand bolt upright in your white T shirt as you have a quick look around for the best place to sit then drop your heavy load of coarse fishing equipment and bait before slumping into your chair. In the modern parlance – epic fail!

First there is the visibility factor. I am not one for wearing Realtree or second hand clothes from the armed forces as I feel they are unnecessary but wearing subdued colours such as greens and browns will help you to blend into the surrounding foliage. More important is to remain below the skyline if possible as any movement against the bright background of the sky is easily visible to all fish and, if they see you they may well spook. I know that at this point some of you may well be thinking that barbel are a bit more tolerant than chub and are less prone to spooking from noise and movement, and I’d have to agree however, we are talking about the first moments in the swim and you have yet to get the fish’s heads down and onto bait. Should you spook the ultra wary chub they will quickly leave and take the barbel with them, from then on you are playing catch up and hoping that the fish will recover their nerve and come back. So, lesson one is to approach as quietly as possible whilst keeping a low profile. Put your gear down quietly and, very importantly, watch where your feet are landing; on the Wye, where I mainly fish, there is a lot of loose stone and gravel which is very difficult to creep over, in swims where you can view the fish, it is possible to see just how disastrous a few heavy footfalls and kicked stones can be as the tails of fish disappear downstream.

Our thoughtless angler is now on his feet and noisily sorting his gear and thinking about giving the barbel a meal. Very often this is a fatal mistake as the temptation to lob out a big feeder, bait dropper or handful of bait overcomes his need to have a think about it first. Before you put any bait in you have to ask yourself a few questions the first being location. Where are you going to position your bait? Is that the best spot or just the easiest spot? If it looks good, can you hold out there or is the current going to push your bait away from your loose feed? It doesn’t take a minute to have a test cast and see of the spot you want to fish can be done so with the gear you have with you, much better to do that and maybe decide to fish a little closer in where the current is less powerful or where there are less snags.

Another ‘location’ factor is to ask yourself ‘where does everybody else fish?’ If the fish are used to getting caught from the obvious part of a swim then, by simply fishing above or below that point you may find the fish less wary of your gear.

Once you have made the decision you can think about bait. Throwing or catapulting free offerings is fine when you know the depth and pace of the river but I see so many anglers doing it without any thought it beggars belief. To start with, different baits have different densities so they will fly from the hand or catapult differently and will not reach the same distance for the effort used. Mix hemp and corn and give it the full elastic and you will see the hemp run out of steam and land in a shower whilst the corn tends to go beyond it. This is the same when you mix different sized pellets or pellets with dense boilies, your baited area has a very uneven spread of bait. This is further exacerbated when your baits hit the water as the dense items will sink quickly, especially if they are spherical boilies whereas the smaller and lighter objects will be carried farther downstream. It is worth reminding you that the Elips pellet is so shaped to make it fall slowly through the water to give captive salmon a better chance of eating them before they land on the bottom and foul the bed of the lake where they are farmed. You may be dropping your lead where you think your bait is landing whilst the fish are feeding merrily on your free offerings well downstream of your hooked sample.

Of course, the differences in bait densities can be used to our advantage as the lighter offerings will travel further downstream and pull fish to feed in front of you but make sure that this is done on your terms and that you understand what is happening beneath the surface.

So far, by just a little extra thought, we have hopefully turned a hit and miss approach into a considered and accurate one which is far more likely to get you a bite. I would however, suggest that long before you get to introducing bait into the swim you spend some time just watching the river. In a turbulent river the current can change from moment to moment, the crease that looked ideal as you first arrived can swing or pulsate and move by quite some distance, a nearside current can become a back eddy. This phenomenon does not occur on all rivers but the Wye is a wild and fast flowing river with many moods. To put all your eggs in one basket and bait the so-called ‘hotspot’ then find that it has moved can frustrate your efforts and yourself. Time spent in observation is rarely wasted.

Likewise, when you do eventually introduce your first bait samples, have a look see. Can you see the bottom? Maybe you can see some way into the water, is it enough to see the tell tale flash of a turning barbel? To see your chosen species in your swim is a huge lift to confidence but do you then follow immediately with your end rig or do you wait a little longer? I suggest that if you see signs of feeding fish in the swim the longer you leave it before actually fishing for them can be a major advantage as the fish, if fed correctly, will gain confidence and will feed much harder making a multiple catch or the capture of the biggest shoal member much more likely. If you doubt this then consider the number of times when you have arrived at a swim and caught a barbel within ten or twenty minutes causing you to sit back and think ‘this is going to be easy’ only for the swim to die for a long period, maybe the rest of the day. The fish you caught may well have been a modest size and almost certainly was accompanied by several or many similar fish yet you were unable to tempt them, the reason? You caught too soon and they spooked.

If I catch a very quick fish from a swim I am in no hurry to get my bait back out there, if I do have another cast and get a second barbel I will add a little bait and go for a stroll or just sit and watch for 30 minutes to an hour. This may seem excessive but, if I have chosen to stay in that swim all day then I want it to produce fish all day and by catching and resting it gives the fish a chance to return to their feeding and regain their confidence after each capture. Get the timing right and the fish will keep coming regularly, get it wrong and you will get bored waiting.

So remember the rule – get the first five minutes right and the rest of the day should fall nicely into place.


Grayling Fishing Tackle

Some of the most fun fishermen have in the Winter is chasing the ‘ladies’. Now, this can be taken one of two ways – but I think we’ll stick to the fishing sense.

It is fair to say that winter is fast approaching, October has been the impact of Autumn with leaves falling from the trees and the steady but very noticeable decline in air temperature. With the development of seasons it’s lead to us changing out fishing quarry. Moving away from the Brown and Rainbow trout which inhabit the rivers and lakes, onto the shoals of Grayling of the runs, riffles and glides.

Grayling are predominately a bottom feeding fish, with the down turned mouth making it easier for them to feed from the small and juicy morsels of the river bed. Although, I’ve had some of my best fishing with Grayling on dry flies!

Most angling gear used for river fishing would no doubtingly suffice for Grayling. Tippet strengths will vary with methods, something like 5-6x nylon for nymphing, and 8x for dries.

One of the most important pieces of fishing tackle for Grayling in my opinion is the fishing rod. A hard, fast actioned rod will be a great casting tool for the heavy nymphs, but unfortunately will result in countless numbers of lost fish.

Grayling, big ones especially, like to burrow down onto the bottom, stick their sail like fin up and kite through the flow ‘nodding their heads’ trying to free themselves of the hook. Usually with a stiff rod, the hook will pull out. A softer rod has more play, more forgiveness if you happen to pull to hard, and eventually will tease the fish around into the net (not to say they don’t come off!). A fly rods in the region of 3/4/5 weights will have enough ‘give’ to play the fish easily and allow you to hold the rod out at arms length to get maximum distance with ease whilst European Nymphing.

Recommended Tackle & Flies

One of my most favourite fishing rods for the river in general is the Airflo Streamtec XT Fly rods be it a long 10ft rod for all styles of nymphing, or a shorted 8 or9 ft version for the Dries or Klink and Dink.

My favourite Grayling flies over the past 3-4 years have been all of the same style. Mostly Jig type patterns, with tungsten beads on the head which the fly fishes upside down causing less snags and a better hook up rate.
‘Normal’ nymphs sometimes out-fish these though. Jigs seem to sink too quick when fishing the Klink and Dink, a nymph suspended by a dry fly. Some of my favourite trout flies are tied on straight hooks, probably because they fish with a more natural manner compared to the jig.
As you can see between these two nymphs, there isn’t a lot that changes, just the colour of the bead and the collar. Both Very effective, both have their day it all depends on what sort of mood the fish are in. Give them both a try!

Written by Kieron Jenkins


The end of another season and another lesson learnt

Sunday was the last day I would be able to get out fly fishing for trout this year. The occasion was marked by a trip to the Ure with a guest with both having a good day. The weather whilst not been perfect was as good as you can reasonably expect with autumn nearly upon us. Fish were caught but as usually the case with rivers it had to be worked hard and the fish earnt. Something I love about river fishing. On the day, small size 16 cdc emergers were the flies that worked for me. Fished in the faster runs for the Grayling and in the tails of the pools and the eddies for the trout. In the early afternoon they both rose freely enough. The best of the fish were the two I picture here the grayling was a very long fish that seemed thin for its length and came to the net without to much fuss the brownie was different it fought like something twice its size.

Later on in the afternoon between five and six, the grayling had long since finished their activity but I fancied the last hour in a large pool on the river. There would be trout rising there I was sure. The pool has a large gravel bar down the middle and I was stood on their which gives you command of most of the water. I was aware of fish rising to my left towards the bank but casts towards them were into the setting sun, after wasting about 20 minutes without a single response and not willing to wade back down and across the pool due to the small time left I decided I should move as I had agreed a finish time with my fishing companion.

Reeling in ready to pack down the fly rods, the fly came skittering back across the surface and a bow wave followed. A splashy rise failed to produce a hook up. A light switched on in my brain and I worked my way back down the pool. As I reached the bank I spotted them, sedges dozens of them. The sun had stopped me seeing them. I had been to complacent and missed a golden opportunity.

I had about 10 minutes so I waded back in and put on a sedge pattern, in a rush I foolishly didn’t swap the 3lb tippet for something stronger, I think you can guess the rest. Second retrieve and a big bow wave followed by a savage take. The tippet parted and a large brown jumped and swam free. I should have known better. . It was almost as if the river was leaving me with a rap across the knuckles and leaving me with a hundred lines for the close season.

Dont stop thinking and concentrating
Dont stop thinking and concentrating
Dont stop thinking and concentrating
Dont stop………

Post written by Andy Tucker

Terrestrial Patterns – part 2

The terrestrial-imitations fly box has holds just a few trusted patterns. Choosing which to use may be a little more complicated than when identifying what is hatching. But careful observation will often help you make the right choice. Are there aphids about? Are the fish rising under leaf filled trees? Are there explosions of ants? Are the fish rising persistently? Remember that fish are opportunistic and will rise to even the odd offering that passes over-head… be that a steady trickle of aphids or a one-off fallen caterpillar.

The odd off-target cast that catches the leaves (does that ever happen..?) may pay dividends as you induce a fall off aphids as you free your fly. It has happened!So here are a few more patterns that can produce the goods when the fish are feeding on terrestrials:Aphids
Tie them small; my preference is for a #28 and #30 and have been really favouring the dual fibre thread called Hends Synton. Neat compact bodies with good colour can be achieved even in the smaller sizes:
There are plenty of patterns suggested for ant imitations, but a CDC wing makes a good sighter for this imitation, whilst allowing the body to pierce the surface film. I like the Varivas 2200BL-B for these patterns:
The Super-Pupa
This pattern was originally produced from the vice of Lennart Bergqvist and was devised for use when sedge were taking to the wing. However it is a devastatingly effective pattern and works well even when the fish are taking terrestrials. I first came across the pattern when I was handed a version by Johan Klingberg whilst tying next to him at the British Fly Fair a couple of years ago. A simple palmered hackle with the upper and lower hackles trimmed, this pattern seems to suggest everything and nothing:

The ‘FP’: Fully Palmered
This is very similar to the superpupa, but simply leaves the palmered hackle in place. This is a superb pattern. It takes fish dry, wet, upstream and downstream. Simple to tie, it just requires a sparse dubbing and a Rooster hackle palmered through the dubbing. I also prefer to trap the hackle in place using my tying thread – rather than using a more traditional ribbing material:

Perhaps the fish see the ‘FP’ with its generic shape as a spider, beetle of small caterpillars:

Big Klinkhamer
I know I have already mentioned the Klinkhamer in part 1, but it warrants another picture – this time in larger sizes. A black / peacock Klinkhamer in larger sizes will often induce a fish to take even when your other offerings have been ignored. An essential addition, I prefer the pink wing post and in larger sizes value the Partridge Klinkhamer and the extreme versions too:

As ever, fly choice is always second to good presentation. As mentioned previously, your fly fishing tackle will have a big role to play in getting your flies where you want them. Fishing flies as small as 28’s and 30’s, like big flies, take some turning over! . If your fly/flies turn over, you know roughly where they are, giving you a better chance of hooking a fish which may take your ghostly size 28. If you get turn over, your more than likely going to get decent presentation. Make sure you aim for accurate casts and drag-free drifts.

Back to part 1 – Terrestrial Flies

Post written by Dave Wiltshire of DW Fly fishing & Tying

Terrestrial Patterns – Part 1

September can be a great time to pursue brown trout and it’s also the the time I really start to think about targeting grayling. However, the end of August and on into the new month can be lean pickings when it comes to fly hatches – which in turn, can make finding feeding fish a little more tricky. Sure, you can fish a nymph, but before you open the nymph box, try a terrestrial pattern. 

Take a look at the bankside flora and you’ll find that it is (and has been for the last few months!) literally crawling with insect life – some of which will find itself falling onto the surface, directed down the food lanes and ends up as a decent meal for a stationed trout. Here are a few of the patterns that sit in my terrestrial fly box and have found me some success:The Hawthorn Fly 
Whilst used as a Hawthorn fly imitation early in the year, this imitation continues to bring success right through the summer (and Autumn) months. It’s a simple tying with Pheasant tail fibres knotted for legs and a folded CDC wing. I prefer a curved hook – with my preference being for the Varivas 2200BL.
The Procter Beetle 
A brilliant, simple pattern that I picked up from Paul Procter. Whilst we usually aim for our artificials to land on the surface gently, this foam backed beetle lands under the leafy bows with a resounding ‘plop’ – and this can be part of the attraction. The fish respond well to its dark outline and silhouette. My preference is for a pink or orange tag so it is clearly visible on the water.
This has become a favourite pattern of mine when rains brings the water levels up and the river is carrying some colour.

As you can see from the above, tapered poly leaders or fly lines with a heavier rating or a steeper tapper allows casting some of these beasts much easier. Some of the Beatles which end upon the water are huge so a size 10 foam backed fly needs to be pushed harder on the cast, something like an Airflo Supple Technical fly line can haul these flies to your desired trouts!
The Klinkhamer 
OK, this works in most hatches, but a small, black version can take some beating if the fish are feeding on terrestrial patterns. I prefer it tied in a #22 with an orange wing post. Again, the Varivas 22ooBL takes some beating for this small offering.

Part 2 now available – Terrestrial flies
Post written by ~Dave Wiltshire  of DW Fly fishing & Tying

Fly Fishing on Rivers – Top Tips!

When tackling a river there are many things you need to consider. Many more than you actually think! Here are my top tips to succeed when trying to fool wild trout or grayling in a river.

1 – Always keep low!  Trout, most fish of that matter, look up. If your walking along the top of a banking or near to the side of the river the fish are lying on, it’s crucial that you stay out of sight of the trouts view. If your walking along a high bank and wish to take a look over, keep low, I normally try and walk as far away from the waters edge as possible.

2- Wading! Wading is the most common cause  of spooked fish! Whether fishing slow glides or runs wading is crucial. Not rushing, and taking small steps is the way forward! your waders are restricted for a reason :O !

3 – DRAG! Drag is a killer. Alot of dry fly experts will tell you that micro drag is the key between catching and not catch a fish. Drag is when your fly/flies are traveling faster than the current itself. This is ‘usually’ caused by the fly line, when the fly line is traveling faster or slower than your flies. To check for drag, watch your dry fly, and also keep an eye on something on the surface of the water – A leaf, a bubble, another fly… anything thats traveling the same pace as the current. There you can judge whether your fly is traveling faster or slower. The solution? Put mends into your cast, mid air or whilst the fly is traveling downstream.Another way is to change your position, go upstream or downstream of the fish and re-cast.

Keep low, Wade slow, Don’t drag your feet

Written by Kieron Jenkins