Veniard - The Harvester
Steve Cullen shares The Harvester, which should be all you need to pick off the better early season trout!
Having done a lot of my river fishing around the start of the season, because this is usually when the ‘muckle troot’ come out to play, there are two flies that dominate – Large Dark Olives and March Browns.
There are a myriad of patterns that can be tried to tempt fish feeding on these flies at the surface, from Spiders, Waterhen Bloa, Partridge and Orange to the good old Greenwell’s Glory. But, and it’s a big but, most flies will have a productive period, a time during the hatch when it mimics whatever it is the naturals are doing.
The Harvester, which is an adaptation and amalgamation of several of my favourite tried and trusted patterns, seems to catch throughout the hatch period and in most flows, too.
It looks like the real deal but, importantly, and this is the key for me, it behaves just like the real deal.
The addition of a dubbing loop of dirty yellow CDC just in behind the wing post seems to really work wonders and triggers something deep in the trout’s feeding psyche.
Another few attributes worth mentioning, and no doubt you can tell from the images, is the use of solely natural materials, materials that move and breathe, yet at the same time have that insecty look of many of our upwing species.
The fly, when it alights on the water, from my perspective anyway, looks exactly like the naturals do as they float in the current, set to take flight when their wings are ready. This dead drift phase can be deadly on the tails of pools, where I often find the larger, less gung-ho trout!
Hook: 130BL, size 12 or 14
Thread: Light Cahill
Tail: Coq de Leon
Body: Olive stripped herl
Thorax: Dirty yellow CDC, in dubbing loop
Wing: Five CDC feathers
For Best Results
I like nothing better than to sit on the bank and survey a vast swathe of water. The more I have to focus on the better. Long flat glides, at the tail of pools, just as the water shallows up and speeds towards faster flows.
On this flat, oily water rises are easily picked out, but you must sit on your hands. Let the little ones rise and the big boys will soon follow. For prospecting find fast pocket water. ‘Popply’ water is best because you can get up close and personal with the trout without them fleeing!
The sensible time to attach this Harvester to the end of your tippet is spring. For me, it was when I started to see the daffodils in bloom, although it must be said that this year I saw some in early February!
March, April and May are bankers for this pattern but, given the size and look of the fly, it does a really good job well into June as the mayflies hatch in numbers. I’ve even had trout take this for the spent late on in the evening, indicating that they were so switched on they would have taken a Coke bottle top if it floated past them!
Dry-fly fishing is all about fooling that one trout, the individual that you are keyed in on, the fellow that has piqued one’s interest. I’m very patient, only once it rises will I apply fuller’s earth to my tippet. My tippet is usually two feet of 0.12mm tied to the end of a 12ft leader tapering to 5lb. I will add floatant to the end of my fly line. Success is all in the detail. By the time I have done both of these the trout should have risen again. This tells me it’s feeding, not just a random ‘oncer’.
I false cast to get line working through the rings; not much, never more than five metres. I like to get as close as possible and if that means getting on my hands and knees, so be it. I always cast short, gauge the line I need, pull it off the reel and deliver the fly a good metre above the riser.
Takes will be instant, even if it’s not dead in the feeding line. At this time of the year, the trout are on it!
Tying The Fly
Place the hook into the vice and wind on the thread. At the end of the body create a bump with several thread wraps. Tie in some Coq de Leon, same length as the body, butt the thread up to the bump to splay the tail
Prepare the herl and secure at the rear. Now take some varnish to the body, this makes the herl less fragile, before winding the herl up in touching turns to the thorax area.
Take five CDC feathers and take your time and align the tips so that they all sit flush. Try and pick feathers of the same size and density.
Tie in the CDC with tight locking turns, leave some space just behind the eye for use later. Once locked in place, trim the butts and tidy up with thread wraps.
Create the dubbing loop at the end of the thorax area and prepare the CDC fibres, add a little wax to the dubbing loop for grip.
Slide in the CDC fibres and spin the loop, not overly tight, then wind on as the thorax, stopping at the wing post and trim. Now bring the thread up and under the wing post and use thread wraps to push the post back and upright before tying off.
Ben Bangham takes his marabou lures to Albury Estate Lakes to see if the simple approach to catching trout works as well today as it did when he first started fly fishing.
On a recent fishing trip, I was having a chat to the editor about articles and what we looked for in them when we first started fly fishing to where we are now. What we both agreed was that sometimes we, as writer and editor, might write articles based around fairly advanced techniques and flies, especially the flies.
Most fly anglers are at what I call a happy level of fly tying, ie they can tie flies and love to use and catch fish on them. Most of the flies in the magazines are fairly advanced to tie. For most people, these are hard to do, as well as using a multitude of materials that many might not have at their disposal. Sometimes they use techniques that are fairly tricky.
A handful of simple lures coupled with a floating and intermediate line was Ben's choice of attack for the Albury Trout
So as a result of that chat we decided that for this article I would go back in time to when I was fishing solely for fun and really just getting into fly tying. It was back to the old school and a few flies based around the classic Dog Nobbler-type patterns that I used to use religiously in the early years.
This is one of the most simple lures to tie and is very effective. More importantly, it doesn’t use a lot of materials and doesn’t have any advanced tying techniques in its creation. All you need is a hook, a bead, a marabou feather for the tail and body, and a bit of rib to hold it all together.
Fish could be seen close in, so keeping a low profile and casting back from the water's edge was required early on
Colourwise I used to use orange the most but this time I tied up a few more variations just in case. I knew as I was tying them that they would work, the question I had was would they work as well as some of the more modern, more advanced lures that are out there now?
I decided that fishing in the spirit of things I would only take the bare essentials with me. This consisted of the new Sage Bolt rod in a 9ft 5-wt, which is my go-to rod for all small stillwater situations now. It casts a line beautifully, giving the impression of a fairly stiff casting tool; however, when you play a fish with it the rod almost seems to soften up and give you a really exciting playing tool. I matched it up with a Rio Gold 5-wt floater loaded onto a Sage 4250 reel to get a beautifully balanced outfit.
I also set up a rod with an intermediate line on just as a backup. To be honest I much prefer fishing a floater than an intermediate nowadays.
Leaderwise I didn’t do anything special at all, again looking at how I used to fish. All I used was 10 feet of 8lb fluorocarbon. Obviously, I didn’t have fluorocarbon when I was starting out, but this is what I use on stillwaters now and so on it went. Very simple and very easy.
We headed down to Albury Estate Fisheries, a place that I had driven past a few times over the years, but had never wet a line there. I guide with one of the Albury’s fishery managers, Cameron Craigs, from time to time so I thought it was high time to go down and catch a few of his fish!
Wth a slight tinge of colour in the water, the Albury fish wanted brighter flies, with the sunburst lure pick of colours.
The fishery essentially consists of four separate fisheries: Powder Mills, Syon Park, Vale End and Weston. On this occasion, I decided to concentrate on the day-ticket waters that make up Weston Fishery.
Weston consists of three lakes: Main Lake, which is the biggest of the three, Lower Millhouse Lake and finally the smallest one, Wood Lodge Pool. I wanted to fish each of the lakes to see if the flies could catch across all three.
Black To Start
I headed up to the furthest of the lakes – Wood Lodge Pool – to start. On the end of the leader was the black and orange bead version of the lure that I had tied, as I have a lot of confidence in black flies. The lakes are normally crystal clear, but today they were carrying a touch of colour. Not so much that you couldn’t see the fish but you had to look hard and work your flies in the areas where you saw movement.
I had managed to spot a few fish cruising a couple of feet under the surface of the lake, but despite covering them all only one or two showed any interest in what I had to offer. I changed retrieves to see if that would make a difference, but it had very little effect at all, if any.
I wondered whether the water carrying that tinge of colour meant that the rainbows might be a bit responsive to a splash of colour being pulled through their watery lair. It was a toss-up between the sunburst with a purple bead and the orange with a black bead. I opted for the sunburst as I just thought that extra brightness might be the key to unlocking these fish.
A swap to the orange lure brought success on Lower Mill House Lake. Changing colour can make a big difference to your catch rate.
It turns out that I made the right choice, as it was only a matter of minutes until the steady slow retrieve resulted in the line tightening and I was playing my very first Albury Estate rainbow. It was a great fight and it was fairly hard fish to get on top of. It went off like a rocket, racing around the lake putting a great bend in the rod. It eventually gave up and came to the net!
It pays to watch the water before selecting where to fish. Keep an eye on rising fish, wind direction and other anglers before choosing your peg
"Once I had located a few active fish I knew it wouldn't be too long until I had my limit, and I was right"
With the first fish in the net, it was time for a move. While we were taking photos I noticed that on main lake there were a few fish moving in a certain area. I marked the place they were moving and started to pack up my kit ready to move. At the end of Wood Lodge Pool, right in the margin, was another trout about the same size as the one I had just caught. I stopped and slowly sank to my knees using the bankside cover to my advantage while I got my rod ready, keeping my eye on the fish all the time.
It didn’t really need a cast, the fish was that close. I just swung the fly out and let it sink down right in front of the rainbow’s nose. It sank seductively and before it had touched the bottom the trout had snaffled it – game on!
Once again the fight was great and the rainbow gave a very good account of itself but I soon had it in the net.
This time I managed to get onto the Main Lake. I headed straight for the area that I had seen the fish moving in and started to work it methodically, fan casting and varying the retrieve and depth that I was fishing at. I never counted it down too long as it seemed that the fish were mainly working the upper levels of the water column.
It wasn’t too many casts before the little sunburst lure had done its job again and another hard-fighting rainbow was doing its best to strip all the line from my reel. Another cracker about the 3lb mark.
For my final trout on the four-fish ticket, I decided to move to the last lake of the three to give it a whirl. Cameron did say that this lake was having a few issues due to lack of water flow, but it seemed to be not too bad and I could see a few fish moving. I changed up the fly to the orange one as I have a soft spot for it.
I spent 10 minutes walking around the lake just trying to locate the fish and in the process I had my licence checked by an EA bailiff (which was great to see). Once I had located a few active fish I knew it wouldn’t be too long until I had my limit, and I was right. Again this fished punched well above its weight and tested my tackle, but there was only one outcome – a happy angler. That brought an end to my first session on Albury Estate Fisheries, but I can say for sure that the next time I drive past I shall definitely be stopping.
I wanted to go out and use a fly that everyone can tie. It was my first ‘useful’ fly that I ever tied and caught me most of my early trout. It was such a great thing to go out with this fly again and catch on it.
As I progressed in fly tying this pattern went to the back of the box and eventually out of it all together. So how does it stack up compared to the more modern, more complicated counterparts now, and does it get a place in my box again?
Happy memories. The buzz of catching on your own creations takes some beating!
I would say very well. On the day of the article I can hand on heart say that I caught those fish as quickly as I would have done with my normal lures; I was stunned at just how effective this pattern is. It is great to see that it hasn’t lost its potency over the years and has gone from being a bit of a blast from the past to having a firm place in my everyday box, praise indeed.
So get out the vices and the marabou you have lying around, whip it onto a hook and catch a fish. Get that buzz from catching on your own flies – it’s great.
The Keep It Simple Marabou Lure
Hook: Hanak 260 or similar, size 10
Bead: 3mm tungsten
Thread: Colour to match the body
Tail: Pinch of marabou
Rib: Silver or copper wire
Slide the bead onto the hook and run a layer of thread down the shank to the bend.
Take a pinch of marabou and tie in the tail. Run the thread over the marabou towards the eye to keep an even body ad return to the bend.
Tie in the copper wire rib and a marabou body and run the thread to the eye of the hook.
Wind the marabou up the body and tie off and then take the wire up in open turns to form the rib and secure.
Whip finish and varnish. Using your finger and thumb, nip the marabou tail to the required length.
Venue: Albury Estate Fisheries
Location: Estate Office, Weston Yard, Albury, Guildford, Surrey, GU5 9AF
Albury bailiff: Mob 07976 810737
Glen Pointon relives the day he caught a huge river brown trout from a city river just a short walk from his front door…
I have always hunted specimen fish. Even as an eight-year-old sat there with my non-fishing dad, watching the bobbing of a hand-painted oversized perch float, I always had the thought “Is it a big ’un?”
The adrenaline kick from the rushing thoughts in my mind was my drug. I couldn’t get enough of that feeling and now, at 40, I feel no different. Is this my downfall or a bonus? I don’t know, but one thing for sure is that fishing has driven me to many lows and massive highs.
Travelling around parts of Europe and the UK I have searched out big fish and had reasonable success, but my 2015 season brought something special… and it was right on my doorstep!
Trout In The Trent
Stoke-on-Trent is my home soil, a city of five towns and known in past times for its huge pottery industry, which devastated the source of the river, turning it into a lifeless drain.
The industrial revolution took its toll on the Trent and it wasn’t until the 1970’s recession that the river started to become cleaner. This is when it became the river fishing Mecca of the UK, with hundreds of anglers lining its banks.
Times, however, have changed and anglers have moved onto stillwater commercials to get their fix. Over the last 30 years Environment Agency (EA) groups have kept up with modern times and this 184-mile river has now become clean. It was in 2015 that my River Trent trout fishing story began.
When we think of the Trent we usually imagine the massive river of the lower reaches, but here in Stoke it’s small and has some of the looks of a bumbling trout stream like my local River Dove.
In the last few years I have always looked over bridges after work and watched small shoals of chub and dace, and dreamt of seeing trout. Around four years ago that dream came true as before my eyes I saw a small trout of 8oz flitting around a fast gravel run. I was buzzing and before long had caught my first-ever Trent trout. I felt proud as punch.
Another few years passed and I had been hitting the Dove hard, but now and again I would go and have a look at my little Trent to see if any more trout were about.
The Buttercup Warrior
It was late October 2013 and the trout were out of season as I walked along to my favourite ‘sighter’ bridge and peered over the edge. What I saw turned my next few years into a total obsession.
Behind a boulder midstream, in three feet of water, was a trout; not your average 10-incher, but a huge wild buttercup warrior that looked as wild as they come.
I froze on the spot. I didn’t move a muscle. My eyes gazed with anticipation as I watched its every move.
It was there for a reason. It came to the surface, inhaled a fly, flashed its heavily marked red spots and buttercup flank and bolted downstream to its home.
For me this had everything I could dream of: a big wild Trent trout that rises to the natural, and within five minutes of my house! I went back home with a smile on my face so big my missus thought I was I was having an affair. I was, and for two years it would be with this big, wild, female buttercup trout!
Learning From Nature
My first attempt at this fish was a big lesson. So many Dove fish I had targeted I had caught after a few sessions, but as I strolled up to the river I soon realised I was into something that would be near impossible. It would teach me how to fish at another level.
The first few weeks I had been down all rigged up ready to fish and I simply could not get near the trout. It would drift into position and start to feed above and below the surface but any sudden movements by myself would send the fish bolting to its home under a fallen tree.
This went on for weeks and in the end I found that crawling in from the side got me into a spot where I could be 20 feet away with the fish in full view.
To my right was a bridge where the fallen log and flood debris held, which was home to this fish. It would swim out upstream of the bridge to sit behind a boulder the size of a bucket and move from left to right, focusing upstream on any food sources drifting down or hatching. The boulder would just take enough flow out of the main current for it to be a perfect feeding zone.
The first time I took my rod after all the homework on this fish, however, was my last time for the season…
I was sitting there in position, the trout was in its feeding zone and hard on the feed. This was my big chance. I peeled line off my reel. Behind the trout was a shoal of small chub that saw my rod whip around to the side. They all shot off upstream and the trout instantly sensed danger and bolted.
I was gutted. I now had to deal with shoals of coarse fish above and below this trout that were acting as spies. Rod flashes, coarse fish, movements, and one big, hardy, wised-up trout – I was really up against it. That was about it for my 2014 season hunting down this Trent beauty, as I had become distracted by some River Manifold trout, but in the back of my mind, I felt failure for not carrying on.
Time To Return
After a decent grayling season 2015 came around and in early March I took a wander around my failure spot.
"So there I was in position, the big hen rising at midday, taking the odd olive and anything that looked like food on the surface."
The season’s floods had changed the riverbed slightly and some kids had rolled a big boulder into the river, not knowing that to me this was a gift from the trout gods!
It’s one of nature’s wonders that year after year, after a hard winter of floods and extreme cold temperatures, trout return to their homes in the same spots. I have now watched the same trout on a Dove tributary for seven years and it’s never moved!
The Derbyshire rivers were Glen's normal fishing haunts until the Trent trout became an obsession and addiction.
My only worry was that the fish on the Trent would have been old and died, but on March 14th, my birthday and the start of the trout season, I was gifted with a sighting of the big buttercup hen trout I had been targeting.
Just the sighting gave me palpitations, she moved into the flow for at least 30 seconds, and that’s all it took for me to become totally obsessed with holding this beauty. I had a clear mind, it was early season and I began to study this fish like no other.
Trout On My Terms
The first few weeks of the season brings the magic large dark olive hatch. The big girl knew this and from 11.30am until 12.30pm there was a burst of activity when she would swim out of her home and bully all the other fish from the feeding zone. I got to know so much about the behaviour of this trout from hours of watching it.
The boulder that had been thrown in the river was the new spot for the trout; it was some 10 yards further upstream from its last feeding zone and it gave me a chance to get into a decent casting position.
I have watched trout rise for many years but I had never seen one as wary as this, it was so zoned into being predated itself it would rise to one single olive and bolt to its home downstream and within a minute it would cautiously ghost back to the feed zone. With heavy predation from birds and pike, to survive in these conditions takes some skills.
Everything was set up for me; even the chub were in the deeper water out the way this early in the season!
So there I was in position, the big hen rising at midday, taking the odd olive and anything that looked like food on the surface. It wasn’t locked on to a certain food source – they never are on these neglected rivers, they eat what they can to survive – and I peered into my fly box, with size 19 Blue Winged Olives, Large Dark Olives and F Flies, all tied on thin little quaint hooks.
I knew this fish would take anything but I needed something with a strong hook. I am not an angler with rows of immaculate flies and when I saw a size 14 Bibio from Scottish loch fishing it just screamed out at me.
The famous Bibio is sadly a pattern not associated with rivers but that’s the anglers’ loss – this fly has caught me more big trout than any other.
I had planned in my head what would happen when I hooked this fish; it would bolt downstream under the bridge in at least two seconds so I had just that amount of time to turn it. If it went under the snags it would be all over very quickly. I opted for some 1.8kg Stroft, something I could hopefully turn the fish with.
Two Years Of Waiting
I tied the Bibio on with a Palomar knot – one that is a pain to do and rarely used on dries, but the strongest there is – and greased the fly up.
I waited, glaring like a madman, for the fish to rise to a natural and it did, I loaded the rod once and shot my Bibio five feet above the fish.
The fish twitched its head as it confidently sighted my fly. I just knew it was going to take it. I watched in amazement as it approached the fly, this was sheer adrenaline like I had never experienced. There’s a quick flash in my mind thinking “two years, don’t mess it up!”
The trout’s mouth came over the fly. I was shaking and stalled slightly from the total pressure in my mind and struck! I felt nothing and the Bibio flew behind me! The fish bolted home and I had my head in my hands.
I sat there totally deflated, thinking of ways to make me feel better. At least I got it to take the fly but I messed it up big time, my nerves went.
Ten minutes passed; a couple of local homeless lads were drinking Stella on the bridge. I had got to know them as they had seen me spending so much time there and even they looked gutted for me as I told them.
As they strolled off I glanced into the river and did a double take as the big buttercup hen was on station looking for surface food again.
I went through the whole process again, only this time my line tightened up as I struck the Bibio home. The fish went absolutely berserk and leapt out the water straight up like a salmon three times in the same spot. I had never seen a trout do that.
It then bolted so quickly it took me by surprise and I had to go running into the middle of the river to stop it going into the roots.
I gave it some serious stick beyond what I was happy with but it worked and it stopped in its tracks with another spectacular jump.
I saw a weakness then in its fight as it started the old trick of staying deep and plodding around the bottom. The fish was tired but not letting go.
The trout made one last dart but it was too late, I had won the battle. I turned the fish and sank the net under it.
The buttercup warrior, well worth two years of waiting!
The buttercup warrior, well worth two years of waiting!I left the fish in my floating net at the side in the water, threw my rod on the bank and sat in the edge with an overwhelming feeling of satisfaction.
The fish had not yet been out the water and I let her revive before I took a good look at her.
I lifted her out to see the most amazing looking big trout in its glorious colours! I had studied and watched this fish in the water for two years and now I was blessed to see her in a way only a fisherman can.
She was lovelier than I thought, a picture postcard for how a trout should look! I took a quick picture and just let her drift back off – oh the satisfaction of catch and release.
I drove home that night with a smile on my face. A car cut me up and I had to swerve over the road, I remember it well. I even waved to the driver and accepted his apology with a smile! Fishing is good for the soul and mind.
Safely returned to the clean water of the Trent!
Later in the summer, I walked the banks of this urban Trent with a cocky attitude and often watched the big hen rising. I never once had any intention of casting at her again. I saw lads with spinning outfits off the bridge but she is too wary for them.
Half a mile downstream I saw a dark shape under an overhanging tree… it turned and showed its flank, a fish so big it made my knees wobble!
Oh no, it’s starting all over again…
Ben Bangham steps back in time on a trip to the River Avon where river keeper and angler Frank Sawyer brought us the Killer Bug.
There are a few names that are synonymous with fly fishing and none more so in the more modern era than Frank Sawyer. He has given the fly fishing fraternity many things in his years as a river keeper and fly angler, in particular, his fly patterns the Killer Bug and Pheasant Tail.
He holds a special place in my heart as a fly angler because I cut my teeth fishing on the Avon, which is the river that he had a passionate love for and spent all his life both keeping and fishing.
Adam Sinclair (left) and Ben Bangham on Frank Sawyer's commemorative bench
He was born in 1906 and got his first job on the Avon as an under keeper in 1925 at Lake in the Woodford Valley. It wasn’t long until he got a head keepers job on the Officers’ Fishing Association waters around Netheravon in 1928. The club changed its name to the Services Dry Fly Fishing Association (SDFFA) and is still called this today. Frank was the keeper of this stretch until his death in 1980.
The Avon now has a healthy sustainable population of wild brownies...
Restoring The Avon
We who fish the Avon can really say thank you to Frank because he made it what it is today. In the early 1930s, the river was in a very bad way due to the army training around the river on Salisbury Plain, as well as the farming practices employed in the area. This meant that there was a huge amount of silt running into the river and destroying the trout’s redds. If the eggs did manage to hatch then the river itself was still in a good enough condition to support the trout population. It was really just the build up of silt that was the problem, suffocating the redds.
... With plenty of prized specimens thanks to work done by Frank Sawyer and SDFFA
This meant a huge decline in the trout population on the Avon. Frank, spurred on by his love of the river, took it upon himself to rectify this. He started a stocking programme of fry that he hatched just for this purpose. He introduced around 100,000 fry into the Avon for nearly 25 years. This brought the fish stocks back from the brink of collapse. As well as this, he started a project to clean the river up by removing hatches and sluices to speed it up, setting up silt traps and dredging the worst affected areas. This along, with other projects, really set the groundwork for the river I know and love today.
The Killer Bug
In fishing terms he has also contributed several things, such as the induced take, a method of making the nymph rise up in front of the fish, therefore inducing a take. Nymph-wise, the Pheasant Tail is the most famous of the flies he gave us and is a generic nymph pattern that is still used in many shapes and forms and has caught fish all over the world. It's lighter cousin, the Grey Goose Nymph, was a very well-known fly that seems to have gone out of fashion somewhat in recent years. There were a couple more but the one I am concentrating on is the Killer Bug.
The 'special grayling'. Not the biggest of fish but one that will remain with Ben for the rest of his angling career!
It is said that it was originally concocted as a grayling fly, representing the Gammarus that are so plentiful in the Avon. This was so that Frank could remove the grayling from the river because they were considered vermin back then. As a result, he wanted a highly effective fly and he certainly found one. Like most of his flies, it is a simple pattern that involves two materials – copper wire and yarn. The original pattern was tied with the legendary Chadwicks 477 wool that ceased being produced in 1965 and is now a bit like gold dust! It still makes the best killer bugs in my opinion.
A Trip To Hallowed Waters
I have used this pattern over the years on the Avon with good success, but they have mainly been commercially tied Killer Bugs that do not incorporate 477. When a friend of mine, Adam Sinclair, got his hands on a card of Chadwick’s 477 it wasn’t long before I had managed to alleviate him of some and I was finally able to tie a few Killer Bugs ‘original style’. Adam also happens to be a member of the SDFFA, the beat that Frank used to keep. When we talked about the Killer Bug and Frank he suggested that he might be able to get me permission to do an article based on the bug at the actual place it was invented. The SDFFA kindly agreed to let me onto the hallowed waters to do this article; a truly amazing opportunity.
The Avon offers a nice mix pool and riffles with plenty of hidden lies to target.
I decided to use the commemorative bench that is on the river just outside Netheravon as the starting point and centrepiece to the article, where I would tie a Killer Bug using the original Chadwick’s 477 then fish the water that Frank used to keep.
It was a very mild autumnal day, warm and just right. We met Adam and made our way to the bench. The sun was shining, the leaves were turning, the river low and clear and the fish visible – perfect.
Tying the Killer Bug on Frank’s bench was special, to say the least; then to tie it on my cast and catch a grayling on it in sight of the bench was just amazing. It did make me feel pretty special and I think Adam and Andy were also a bit touched by the whole experience. It’s as close as you can get to going back in time. It’s something that I will remember for a very long time indeed.
So how did I fish it? I wanted to keep in tune with what Frank would have used as much as I could, so to start with the nymphing rod stayed in the car, along with my modern-day nymphs. Just a normal fly rod, tapered leader and single nymph cast upstream was the attack.
Tying at the water's edge. The Killer Bug is a simple pattern to tie and deadly when used!
I started with a 9ft, 4-wt Sage Method with a floating line, a 9ft tapered leader to a small section of RIO Two Tone indicator tippet. This is the best indicator line on the market, I think. The colours are amazingly vibrant and don’t fade like many others. The other advantage is that the coloured sections are short, which makes it easy for your eyes to pick up any movements. Onto this, I tied three feet of 0.12mm Stroft and then the freshly tied, fabled Killer Bug.
Later I did crack out the proper nymphing kit to fish as effectively as I could. I couldn’t help thinking: “I wonder what Frank would think of this kit and my flies?”
The Special Grayling
I used the single nymph in the stretch opposite Frank’s bench, just working slowly up the shallows casting into likely looking spots. I concentrated on casting to the small gravel patches or the back of the weed patches. As I moved up I spooked a grayling that was sat behind a bit of weed that I hadn’t cast to. This fish then moved a few more that were sat in the same spot. I slowly moved back downstream to a safe distance and waited for a couple of minutes. I didn’t think I had spooked them too much so hoped that I could still get a couple.
A change of tactics for the deeper, slower water meant a heavy modern bug was tied on the point and the Killer Bug onto the dropper
Once I had given them a good rest I made a cast into the hole and was treated to a sharp jag on the indicator tippet. I struck and instantly saw the twisting, turning silver flashes of a small grayling in the clear water. To me this was a very special grayling indeed.
This spot was good to me and produced a fair few small grayling but none as special as that first one.
It wasn't just the smaller grayling that liked the 'Bug'. The Avon holds some quality trout and grayling, proving that Frank's fly was still to their liking
When Old Meets New
I then switched to my normal nymphing approach and coupled the Killer Bug on the top dropper with one of my nymphs on the point, depending on the water depth. I caught steadily on all the flies throughout the day and had a huge number on the Killer Bug, giving me a slightly warm feeling inside.
It’s a shame that I only have this space to write about the experience because I could probably fill the whole magazine. It was truly special and I am privileged to have been able to do it. When you have been doing this as long as I have, it is rare to feel how I felt about that small grayling. Firsts for me in fly fishing are generally a distant memory, and of them all, this, as well as being the newest, is probably the best.
It was a special day, a special place, a special fly and a special grayling. A huge thanks to Adam and the SDFFA for making the day possible.
Tying The Killer Bug
Hook: Hanak BL200, size 12
Thread: Fine copper wire
Body: Chadwick’s 477
1. Secure the Hanak BL200 in the vice.
2. Start with the wire at eye of the hook.
3. Build up a couple of layers of wire on the first half of the hook to give the fly some weight and a uniform body.
4. Tie in two bits of the Chadwick’s 477 yarn onto the back half of the hook. Leave the wire at the back of the hook so you can tie the fly off at the back.
5. Wind the wool up to the eye of the hook and then back down to the back of the hook. When you reach the back of the hook use your whip finisher to finish the fly and break off the wire.
6. I add a drop of superglue on the wire at the back for peace of mind.
Simon Robinson has fished over 30 times for England in all disciplines. Here he reveals some of his top tips for practising in competitions on still and running water.
Most anglers who fish competitions will also practice for the upcoming match. As with any sport, having a solid game plan is often the difference between success and failure. Practice allows the angler to prepare methods and flies in advance of the match and hopefully cut down on any time wasted during the competition looking to find the successful method or locate the fish.
Most matches in England are divided into three categories – loch style from the boat, stillwaters from the bank and rivers. Each discipline is very different and has its own methods, tackle requirements and competition format. To be consistently successful in each discipline it is important to understand the best ways to practice to maximise your chances in the match.
Loch-Style Boat Matches
On the big-water matches location is one of the key factors to being successful. Find the fish and then fine-tune the tactics.
Most loch-style matches are held on the UK’s well-known major fisheries such as Rutland, Chew Valley or the Lake of Menteith. They are normally fished over a single eight-hour period. Anglers fish in pairs, which are drawn randomly, and can fish anywhere on the lake (unless out-of-bounds areas are in place). Most major competitions usually take up the vast majority of the available boats and with most anglers practising the day before, if you intend to practice it is vital to book a boat well in advance!
It may sound obvious but the key to success in boat matches is almost always fish location. In loch style you are not restricted to pegs or beats, so you will have the whole area of the lake or reservoir to fish. This can, of course, create issues because our larger reservoirs, such as Rutland, are too big to cover in a single practice day. For this reason you may wish to practise for more than one day if time and cost do not become too prohibitive. It is also a good idea to share information with others anglers. If possible, structure your practice by splitting the lake into sections so that you cover the whole venue between you. This is particularly useful in team events.
Depth is probably the next critical element of practising for a loch-style event. Because you are likely to be practising with a boat partner, it makes sense to fish different lines at all times. I usually opt to fish a line at least two sink rates either higher or lower than my partner. For example, if my partner is on a floating or intermediate line I will use a Di3. If fish are deeper and my partner is using a Di3 or medium sink I will opt for an ultra-fast-sinking line such as a Di7 or Di8. I feel that is important because there are significant differences in sink rates to cover as much of the water column as possible. Only when we are happy that we have the taking depth should both anglers begin to fish similar lines and experiment with flies and retrieves.
Teams Of Flies
While I do not feel that flies are as important as depth or location, you do need to have a selection that you have confidence in. In most loch-style matches you will be fishing a team of flies. Generally, the fish will show preferences for lures, nymphs or dries. When this is established, I believe that the exact pattern is usually of little importance. If lures are the most successful method it makes sense to fish a bright one such as an Orange Blob or Cat’s Whisker on the dropper and a drab lure in black or olive on the point. If you are drifting over fish and varying the retrieve you should quickly be able to establish the methods that they prefer.
When I am practising for boat matches I like to locate fish and initially spend time working with my partner to establish the best methods to catch them. When you are confident in the methods you can then move around the lake searching for fish with confidence that if you cover some you will get takes.
Keep Your Eyes Open
When practising it is always a good idea to keep an eye on other boats; they can provide a lot of valuable information. If you are struggling to catch and you notice other anglers catching it is worth taking time to observe their methods, even if they are not in the match. Look for telltale signs such as the colour of fly line. Is it dark or light? What angle is the line entering the water during the retrieve? While you can rarely identify the exact line being used, these observations will allow you to establish if successful anglers are using floating, slow or fast-sinking lines, countdown time and speed of retrieve. It is often worth taking a pair of binoculars to observe other anglers without getting too close!
Practising in pairs allows you to try different lines and flies until you find the method that works. As a guide, Simon likes to fish two line densities different from his partner
Bank matches are certainly growing in popularity, especially in the northeast of England on waters such as Chatton Lakes...
Bank matches have been one of the few growth areas in competition fly fishing, particularly in the north of England where there are many, as well as a popular winter series. Increasingly, we are seeing anglers who specialise in this discipline. Small-water bank matches have also given anglers the opportunity to fish during winter when the reservoirs are closed to boat fishing and the smaller stillwaters are often at their best.
... and these are the best place to start for anyone fancying getting into the competition scene.
Cover The Pegs
One of the key differences between bank and boat matches is that bank matches are almost always pegged. A standard pattern is that you will complete a full lap of the lake and in the process usually fish four pegs in the morning and four in the afternoon. It is also worth noting that competitions are often scored on the number of pegs you catch from, so it is vital that you can catch off as many as possible. Another factor is that catches on each peg are usually limited to five fish in a session, again making it important to catch in as many areas of the lake as possible.
The fact that you are pegged means there is nothing you can do regarding your location. Therefore, it can be argued that there is little point in looking for the best areas because you will not necessarily be fishing there on the day!
There are, however, definite merits to moving around a lake during practice, particularly if it is not uniform in depth and shape. You also need to take the wind into account; the methods that work in the calm water at the top of the wind may not work on the downwind bank and vice versa. To do well in most bank matches you will need to employ a variety of methods to suit different areas of the lake. For example, you may need to fish small nymphs or dries in a shallow area and then change to a sinking-line approach in deeper areas. To prepare for bank events I find that it is best to simulate the competition format when practising. Completing a full lap of the lake will allow you to see and fish all of the different areas and plan your strategy in terms of fish behaviour and successful methods as you go.
It pays to practice around the lake beforehand because tactics may well be different on the downwind bank to what they are in the flat water.
Three rods are the norm for bank matches. This allows you to change tactics quickly, which is important when you may have only 30 minutes a peg.
In boat matches, you are usually only permitted to have one rod set up at any time. However, in bank matches, you are usually allowed three. Consequently, you need to be able to chop and change methods to suit the peg. This is where practice really counts because most anglers can quickly work out a method to catch the easy fish. It is, however, anglers who can turn to effective methods on their second and third rods and keep catching, particularly on difficult pegs, who will usually come out on top.
"I have lost count of the number of times I have known anglers catch lots of fish in practice (and usually let everyone who will listen know!) only to perform poorly in the match"
Fly Choice And Setups
Small-water matches usually require a far greater selection of flies than other competitions because it is likely that you will be setting rods up with lure, indicator, nymph or dry-fly tactics. I would advise that you don’t go overboard with too many patterns; stick with tried and trusted flies in each category. One thing that is worth noting is that as small-water fish are usually subject to far higher fishing pressure it is often worth trying nymphs and dries in smaller sizes, as well as finer leaders on difficult pegs.
River Competition Practice
Unfortunately, we do not have the same number of matches on the rivers as we do on the stillwater scene. Nevertheless, we do have several regional qualifiers, a national final and an international event between the home nations. One interesting fact is that we do not fish to the same pegged format used in all World and European championships. River matches are fished within certain boundaries or sections, but all of the anglers competing are free to roam anywhere within the same section. The only restriction is that they must not go within 30 metres of another angler who is fishing.
Study The Section
The format of most river matches in the UK means that it is important to look for water where you feel you can catch the most fish, as opposed to catching the most fish from a given stretch of water, which is the aim of events with a fixed peg for each angler. To do this it is well worth walking the full competition section and mark down the likely areas. I usually look for an area that is likely to hold a lot of fish combined with the possibility of fishing a variety of methods in a relatively small area. This means that even if there are other anglers in the area you can spend time fishing the same water and hopefully pick up a good number of fish.
If I could pick an ideal stretch of water it would be a nice fish-holding run with fish moving on the tail. This will allow y me to start with the dry fly before changing to a variety of nymph methods.
Work On Methods To Suit The Water Type
In river matches, you are allowed to set up a spare rod. This means you can have two methods ready and it is important to establish the correct ones for the sections of water you intend to fish.
If you are going to target rising fish then dry fly is the obvious choice. When the correct fly is discovered you can be pretty sure that it will work on any other rising fish in the competition sections.
When it comes to practising nymph fishing it is again worth observing the water and working out the weights of nymphs you are likely to need. Obviously weight will vary in different parts of the river depending on depth and pace.
Time Of Day And Competition Sessions
A very important consideration is time of day, particularly if you are fishing a match early or late in the season when fish will often feed at certain times. I have witnessed anglers practising taking fish on dries in the afternoon then drawing the morning session and struggling because the fish are simply not rising! It is therefore important to prepare for both morning and afternoon sessions, particularly if fish behaviour and hatches are likely to be different in each session.
The time of day you practice needs to be taken into account. What might work in the morning may not in the afternoon. It pays to have methods for both sessions.
Methods To Use After A Section Has Been Fished
Because you may be fishing an afternoon session on water that has been fished in the morning, and also sharing the section with other anglers, it is very likely that at some point you will be fishing water that has already been fished. This means that the easy, active fish will probably have already been caught. You therefore need to look for other ways to catch and this is often what separates the top anglers from the rest of the field.
Various methods can get you a few fish, including fishing finer leaders, smaller flies or adding extra weight and targeting deeper, faster areas where other anglers may not have reached fish holding close to the bottom.
To practise this I will often deliberately target water that I know another angler has fished to simulate a competition situation. Another option is to practise with another angler and alternate or swap sections and compare successful methods after the water has been fished, or simply fish the same small area yourself with different methods.
In river matches you can have two rods set up. Again this allows for two tactics to be employed, such as dries and nymphs
That is a basic summary of practising for matches across the disciplines and some of the tips to help you prepare.
There are several other general factors that apply to all competitions for me, the two most important by far are to not overfish the water you plan to fish on the match, so discipline in practice is particularly important. I have lost count of the number of times I have known anglers catch lots of fish in practice (and usually let everyone who will listen know!) only to perform poorly in the match. These big catches in practice are usually by anglers who continue to fish in productive areas with a successful method and then seem confused when the fish are not there to be caught on that method in the competition.
The second is the flies. Despite many rumours of ‘secret’ or ‘magic’ flies, very few actually exist and the majority of competition anglers fish basic, simple patterns available to all. So do not be worried about flies; stick with basic patterns such as those below and concentrate on preparation, presentation and approach when practising! Good luck!
Clark Colman targets ‘magic lies’ on a small, feature-packed urban tributary in the hope of a back-end personal best.
I’ve been trying for a 2lb-plus wild brownie from this little river ever since I discovered it some five years ago. I thought I’d cracked it in 2012, after being led a merry dance by what turned out to be a very nice, but ultimately slightly smaller than expected specimen that seized my nymph in the neck of a pool overshadowed by overhanging tree branches. Things also looked promising a year later, when something rather out of the ordinary took hold while I was demonstrating for a guiding client. However, despite a lengthy and remarkably trout-like scrap along the wall-lined, undercut and rocky bank from which the fish had come, it was a broad-backed, huge-finned, gunmetal-grey male grayling that finally broke the surface.
Narrowing The Odds
It’s not entirely surprising that I’ve struggled to break the 2lb barrier here. For all its urban surroundings, tight confines and varied, man-made riverbed detritus, this is a remarkably clean system that holds impressive numbers of fish. However, I’m not convinced that the available food it offers goes far enough to permit real growth in anything more than a small number of bigger residents. As a result, finding such trout can be something of a war of attrition, particularly if conditions on the day aren’t right. In my experience, the odds of landing a really sizeable wild brownie (particularly on venues like this) are best narrowed by timing your visit appropriately and being a little more savvy where reading the water is concerned. A little touch of ‘magic’ also helps.
While inevitably tinged with sadness as another season draws to a close, September also carries with it the promise of bigger than average fish that might, just might, be more readily catchable than in previous months. Having survived another year in competitive running-water environments, such quarry will (like their smaller cousins) now be looking to feed as much and as efficiently as possible to see them through the forthcoming rigours of spawning and another cold, lean winter.
As ever, it’s important that trout receive more energy from aquatic and terrestrial morsels than is used up in getting them, and that they also continue to have a care for their other basic needs: oxygen, temperature-stable water, shelter from fast currents and bright sunlight, and protection from predators. Welcome assistance in these respects is rendered by the cooler and generally more hospitable conditions that tend to follow the dog days of August. With water and oxygen levels rising as a result of early autumnal rainfall, and a host of nourishing grub still there for the taking, September fish are now tempted to leave their high-summer hidey-holes and venture forth more readily at meal times – particularly when (as was the case when this feature was shot) periods of higher and more-coloured water embolden trout more and place more dislodged food items at their mercy.
That said, the territoriality with which bigger residents monopolise the most productive parts of a river or stream still often remains. As with any other time of year, therefore, it’s a wise move to seek out specimen wild brownies in areas where as many of their requirements as possible are met in one place – just like the areas where, prior to this feature, my biggest fish from the venue in question had come from.
In his excellent film ‘The Anatomy Of A Trout Stream’, the well-known American entomologist and flyfisher Rick Hafele refers to these locations as ‘magic lies’. This term has stuck with me since childhood and I love the sense of anticipation and excitement that it conveys. The very appearance of such lies often reinforces this, as many look decidedly ‘mysterious’ and are awkward to cover with a conventional roll, overhead or sidearm cast. Think overhanging trees, bridge stanchions, walls, undercut banks, submerged weed beds, tree trunks or roots (not to mention the host of shelter and protection-providing man-made items that can turn up in our urban trout waters) and you start to get the idea. If there’s a reasonable amount of depth there also, together with an oxygen and food-providing current line or two (such as in the neck of a run or pool), then so much the better.
Magic lies aren't alays the easiest places to access! Expect dense vegetation...
... and extreme wading conditions ...
... and when finally there, tricky casting scenarios!
The awkwardness of some ‘magic lies’, together with the fact that they often cater for most (and in some cases, all) of a trout’s basic needs, is what makes them so attractive. It’s hardly odd, then, that such areas have long become synonymous with stories of the biggest, oldest and wisest of running-water fish. We’ve all read or heard of trophy trout grown fat on a diet of bigger morsels as well as more run-of-the-mill food items, and which have lived to a great age by taking up residence in attractive but practically inaccessible areas, and by using their wits to avoid capture by scaly, furry, feathered or wader-clad predators. The next time you come across such a tale, pay close attention to its watery setting. I’ll wager you could describe it as a stereotypical ‘magic lie’.
There are one or two caveats to all of this, however. In the first place, not all ‘magic lies’ are as readily identifiable as those around which so many legends (and realities) have gathered. In theory, you could pick out many more commonplace parts of standard riffles, runs, pools and glides (such as necks, current seams, pockets and drop-offs), and term them ‘magic lies’ simply because they’re the most likely fish-holding areas in front of you at that time. Such locations may well need a little more in the way of observation and understanding of running-water anatomy to identify and make the most of them – which is where I hope the previous articles in this series have come in handy.
Unmanged urban rivers are capable of holiding some quality fish despite the surroundings.
What’s more, there’s no guarantee that ‘magic lies’ will always hold the grandaddy of the river or stream. Such lies are just as attractive to smaller fish as the bigger ones that can bully them out, prey on them; or which, over time, have become more substantial after managing to hold on to such prime territory since their youth. So don’t be surprised if the monster you’ve been expecting isn’t among the first few trout to show themselves – especially if, like the little urban river featured here, the density of fish prevents the available food from being enough to create and sustain decent numbers of bigger residents.
Finally, for all the attractiveness of ‘magic lies’, bear in mind that there are certain times when you might not find a trout there at all. Changing weather, water and feeding conditions throughout the season can sometimes cause fish to behave in ways other than how you might expect them to. The very pleasing River Ellen brownie that I wrote about last month would have fitted in perfectly as a mugger of small fish and other bigger morsels from the security of a ‘magic lie’. However, there he was, happily sipping in a procession of tiny emerging midges from the middle of a shallow, clear and sedate glide. Why? Simply because he could take in enough of them to satisfy his appetite, with no real threat to his comfort and safety. In contrast, grabbing hold of something bigger and potentially more animate to eat might well have been more of an effort in those hot, low-water and oxygen-depleted conditions – even when operating from a more covert ‘deliberate ambush’ station.
Think Like Robin Hood
More accessible ‘magic lies’ can be effectively targeted with the equipment, fly patterns and presentations appropriate for the situation and fish feeding behaviour. The more difficult ones ask a little more from flyfishers, particularly in terms of casting and line control. Having such ‘get out of jail’ options as the bow-and-arrow or catapult cast in your armoury can be worth its weight in gold. Whenever I think of this or go through it with a client, I always revisit the example of Don Howat – a lovely, good-humoured ex-RAF ground crew technician for whom I had the pleasure to guide some three years ago through Bill Howell’s excellent Fishing for Forces organisation.
It's not just natural features to look out for. Bridges are often places where those special fish lie.
The first ‘magic lie’ that Don confronted that day was a pool with a surface not much bigger than that of an average-sized dinner table, and a depth of little more than two or three feet. The only refuge of any size in an otherwise-shallow, fast-flowing and inhospitable area, the shelter it offers is enhanced by a short current tongue entering at its neck, and by the lower tendrils of large, awkwardly hanging tree branches that almost render it unfishable – but which also provide shade, protection from avian predators and a source of terrestrial food.
It’s difficult to pick out this little ‘cistern’ from the raised bank above, while down below many anglers choose to wade past it in favour of the weir pool a short distance upstream. I knew from past experience, however, that it usually holds a bigger than average fish or two, and thought it might make a nice challenge for Don – who had by now gotten to grips with the short-range, fixed-line duo technique we’d been concentrating on. However, while soon appreciating why a cast or two here might well pay dividends (especially if his Balloon Caddis and Copperhead Hare’s Ear Nymph combo could be placed into the neck of the pool), he couldn’t see a way of getting the flies there without falling foul of the overhanging branches. He’d reckoned, however, without the bow-and-arrow cast!
After kneeling down carefully below the pool’s tail, Don began by adopting a ‘thumb on top’ grip with his rod hand, which provides stability and a means of directing the cast. With the nymph held between the thumb and forefinger of his line hand (hook point carefully exposed to prevent it being driven into these!), and the line below the reel clamped against the rod handle by the first two fingers of his other hand, Don then pointed the rod tip in the direction he wanted the line and flies to travel – in this case upstream towards the narrow ‘window’ between the bottom of the branches and the attractive pool neck. Slowly and steadily, he drew back the fixed length of line and leader to flex the rod tip upwards and back towards him. All Don had to do then was simply let go of the nymph, watch as his duo rig was catapulted forwards over the unloading rod tip, and be ready to keep in touch with the flies as they landed and drifted back towards him.
Newcomers to the bow-and-arrow cast often have to experiment with the angle at which the rod tip is held, and with the amount of ‘draw’ placed on the tip, before they get it right. Too little draw means not enough load, with the result that the line, leader and flies simply collapse in a heap well short of the target. Too much causes everything to straighten quickly before springing back towards the caster as the rod tip counterflexes backwards again. The tip might even smack the water if it’s held too low in the first place.
The bow-and-arrow cast. Essential to fish those hard to reach areas.
After a couple of failed attempts, Don’s third-ever bow-and-arrow cast managed to slot his flies into the right-hand current seam. I’d warned him to be ready for on-the-drop takes in such relatively shallow water, and to Don’s credit he reacted perfectly as the Balloon Caddis almost immediately took a dive upstream, signalling a take to the Copperhead Hare’s Ear beneath it. A flick of his wrist brought a speckled, paddle-finned and rocket-fuelled bar of gold cartwheeling out of the pool neck and charging back downstream towards the faster water below this ‘magic lie’. With Don applying as much pressure as he dared against the 21/2lb tippet, I managed to net the fish before it could get too far. When I eventually held up the 1lb-plus wild brownie I was treated to a sight I’ll never forget – a grown man kneeling in the river and absolutely roaring with laughter. Now that really was magic!
Take extra care when running the 'grandaddy' of the river. These big browns are older fish and will take time to recover from the battle.
Size, of course, is relative. A two-pounder, for example, from a location in which there are a lot of two-pounders is nice enough in itself, if not exactly out of the ordinary. It would most certainly be a specimen, however, on venues where – for reasons such as those given above – the average size of fish is much lower. So persevere on such waters and you might just get lucky, as I did on my very last cast of the day in the neck of a pool that certainly qualified as a ‘magic lie’.
For the record, it was the reliable as ever Copperhead Partridge and Hare’s Ear Jig that did the trick, presented via the excellent, soon to be released 10ft, 3-wt Orvis Recon, a 40ft leader-only setup of 0.30mm monofilament with 20 centimetres of 0.25mm bicolour indicator mono, and four feet of 3lb fluorocarbon tippet attached to the indicator via a 1mm micro ring. It was just… now what was it Paul Daniels used to say?
Hook: Orvis 1524 (Traditional Nymph Hook), sizes 14-16 (barb flattened)
Bead: Copper tungsten, size to suit hook
Thread: Semperfli Nano Silk, 12/0, copper
Tail: Three or four cock pheasant centre-tail fibre tips
Body: Tying thread
Rib one: Red wire, diameter to suit hook size
Rib two: Bronze peacock herl, wound in opposite direction to wire (tying thread visible beneath both ribs)
Thorax: Dark hare's ear, natural
COPPERHEAD HARE'S EAR NYMPH
Hook: Tiemco TMC 2457, sizes 10-16 (barb flattened)
Bead: Copper tungsten, size to suit hook
Thread: Semperfli Nano Silk, 12/0, copper or olive
Tail: Cree hackle point
Body and thorax: Dark hare's ear, natural or dyed olive
Rib: Copper wire, diameter to suit hook size
COPPERHEAD PARTRIDGE AND HARE'S EAR JIG
Hook: Partridge Patriot Barbless Jig, sizes 10-18
Bead: Copper tungsten (slotted), size to suit hook
Thread: Semperfli Nano Silk, 12/0, copper or olive
Body: Dark hare's ear, natural
Rib: Copper wire, diameter to suit hook size
Legs: Brown speckled partridge
Collar (optional): Tying thread
Hook: Tiemco TMC 103BL, sizes 13-19
Thread: Semperfli Nano Silk, 12/0, grey
Tail: Grey/tan polypropylene yarn
Body: Fine grey/tan dubbing
Underwing: As for tail
Overwing: Yearling elk hair
Thorax: Hare's ear
Flyfisher and engineer Micheal Commons brings us the Thremo-WADE, a wading stick that offers more than our standard ones.
For as long as I can remember, people always have something to say about the weather. Hot, cold, damp, windy; perpetual conversation between people and anglers alike. Early season, many of my fly fishing friends will comment on how the water is still a bit cold for fish to come on and we patiently wait for spring and early summer to warm up our rivers and streams.
We know through observations that fish become more active as water temperature increases, with a peak at summertime due to long hours of radiation from the sun. Fish become increasingly more active as temperatures increase and it requires them to conserve energy by seeking cooler pockets of water, known as thermal refuge. Water temperature fluctuations are becoming an increasing challenge to fish stocks and their food sources; both locally and globally as the earth experiences environmental changes. It was only when I got into fly fishing as a young teenager that I took an interest in river and lake ecology. This quickly led to a lifetime obsession with matching the hatch with my flies, which most of us can relate to on our journey to seek fishing perfection.
It was Michael's home river, The Liffey, where the journey with his new wading staff began.
As a schoolboy I hadn’t a penny; I used my father’s vice-grips clamped to my homework table as a starting point to create imitations that I found above and below the surface of my local River Liffey.
Luckily, I joined the fly-tying guild in my home town. The building owner was a friend of my mother who used to recover the waste materials after a night fly tying. This became a staple source of material for my early creations. Soon I was tying flies for busy anglers with certain requirements. Looking back, they never paid me but I learnt from them and that was the important thing.
Observations on late summer’s evenings chasing the sedge fly hatch on the River Liffey opened my eyes to the patterns of large brown trout moving from their holding positions into shallow warmer waters where fly hatches were more prolific. I thought to myself: “If only I could capture that information.” So began my journey with Thermo-WADE.
In search of its magnificent golden brown trout...
During research on my local river, I was amazed to see the temperature ranges vary so much – from 15.7oC to 10.4oC on the same stretch at different times in the day – with strong thermal differentials discovered between static water and adjacent flowing water. I knew this would be very useful information for my local waters. Indeed, one thing I have learnt from years of fishing and travelling is that fishing is like politics – local information is important to be successful. The discovery of how cold spring waters could be was soon felt when the holes in my waders became unrepairable. However, gratefully, the water that accumulated at the bottom of my waders soon heated up as I raced from one secret fishing spot to the next. I now know those waters were as low as a cool 4oC – happy memories.
I think, as a fishing community, we are only now beginning to question and understand the profound impact of temperature in the rivers, lakes and seas that we fish. Some fishermen use water thermometers as a guide. My research shows a temperature variation from the bottom of a river to the water surface. Many insects and flies come from the water bottom, making this temperature more of a critical indicator to the hatch than water surface temperature. On a good day’s fishing, some of my friends would ask: “What fly and size did you take the fish on?” I now ask what the temperature was.
I recently had the privilege of fulfilling a lifelong dream to travel and fish in Iceland. This was also an opportunity for Thermo-WADE testing in a landscape of extremes; to say no two rivers are the same is an understatement, especially where rivers are fed by cool glacial streams on one side and thermal hot springs feeding the other. While fishing there, not many fish were showing on the Tungufljot River; the water appeared cold at times when wading and not cold in adjacent areas. When I took the river bottom temperature it read 8oC, from which my friend commented: “No way, this water is freezing!” He was in a different location. I dropped my small black streamer at the start of this micro thermocline that was uncovered by Thermo-WADE, which was instantly hit by what felt like a freight train stealing line from my 6-wt light setup. Once landed, I was struck by the golden brown colour on this Icelandic brown trout.
The Thermo-WADE meets the needs of young and old in terms of simplicity and gadgetry...
These micro thermal streams were very evident in Iceland but the principle applies everywhere. Temperature variation can be a result from external inputs such as direct radiation from the sun on the water surface, the speed and depth of the river, inbound feeding streams/land run-off and the riverbed temperature itself. When you combine all these factors you have a thermal melting pot of temperatures in your river. This is why Thermo-WADE was created to help make sense of the waters we wade and generate a thermal map of the water system we fish in.
Designed By Fly Anglers For Fly Anglers
Once a proof of concept was completed we met with fly anglers to see what they wanted from this concept tool. Given the space constraints and practicality of a wading staff, it was clear we needed a compact device serving several purposes. Sound alarms soon got knocked from the drawing board when we considered the constant sound of water, especially by wading through it. I separated the feedback into must-haves and what was nice to have. It soon became evident there was an age divide, with more mature anglers looking for simplicity and younger anglers gadget-hungry in these modern times. I think we just about found the sweet spot for both sets of users.
Attached to a Gear Keeper retractor the staff can be clipped to the back of your waistcoat when fishing.
We started off with collecting water temperature at the bottom of the river because this is a more accurate reading of ambient temperatures, where fish are lying and insect water temperature columns help match the hatch because there is a direct correlation between water temperature, fly hatching and fish feeding. Simultaneously, we wanted to monitor the air temperature above the river to offer the user information for ratio differences of both temperatures. Time and date was also going to be necessary when it came to capturing this information at the touch of a button and would appear when scrolling through the 10 sets of information for review during or post a fishing session later on.
Water temperature variation indicator and pre-set water temperature alert allows the angler to hunt for a particular temperature while wading. Other minor features were added such as eight hour auto power down while still holding valuable data collected held in the Thermo-WADE unit.
More Than A Wading Staff
When we had a good look at wading staff requirements, adjustable height and extended bottom probing was soon added as an important requirement. Ergonomic design with a double injection mould came in as an important feature for comfort and user experience. Also, a ruler along the bottom of the shaft for measuring fish size on a light 7075 aluminium collapsible staff.
The ruler along the shaft of the stick allows you to measure your fish and record the depth of the water you wade.
During Thermo-WADE research, late in the evening, I found myself fumbling with a small thermometer in the dark. We learnt from that and installed an eight second delayed LED backlight for dusk and night fishing viewing for the mobile flyfisher.
One thing that is constant in the modern world is change – in particular, technology. For many years analogue devices were relied upon for measurements in all industries. In recent times, the digital revolution dominated technology development. However, we are now standing on the precipice of change, with a marriage between digital and analogue through the explosion of connected devices offering us real-time information at our fingertips under the umbrella term iOT (internet of things). There are currently 20 billion sensors connected, which is set to rise to 50 billion by 2020. The patent and end state for the Thermo-WADE temperature-sensitive wading staff will have upload capability to a smartphone app that will waterfall into a national and global database offering important information locally and globally of water temperature by time, date and location. This will make anglers an important integral part for monitoring and highlighting changes to the thermal topography. This is not something new because historically anglers are the first point of escalation for environmental threats like fish kills from pollution.
There has also been some government agency interest as field environmentalists regularly track water temperature where certain species have been caught to help understand migration habits of our nation’s fish stocks. Upon reviewing species like grayling, warm summer temperatures have been identified as a critical limiting factor for such cold-water fish species during their juvenile stage, with temperatures greater than 8oC proving to be a danger range.
Measuring both air and water temperature along with the time and date will allow anglers to build a picture of their river in relation to fly hatches and fish catches.
Some people ask where I got the concept for the Thermo-WADE wading staff from. I guess I always have had a few ideas in the hopper at any one time. I am an engineer and a fly fisherman, or should I say a fly fisherman who also happens to be an engineer. Having worked in the tech industry for many years with some very clever people, the greatest innovator I have ever known was my father, who could develop solutions to problems from very little. Indeed, my first fishing rod he fashioned from a bamboo rod with sheet metal wrapped around a spool of line for a reel. The foundation for many breakthrough technologies that come through focused problem-solving.
I met someone who became a good friend years ago while travelling to the north-west of America to work. We exchanged telephone numbers on the plane and met up regularly to fish. One thing I noticed about him was he always carried a wading staff when in the water. I fell in love with wading staffs there in the US and would not get in the water without one thereafter. A wading staff is great when negotiating deeper stretches of river while trying to get into position to drop a dry fly upstream on the nose of a rising fish. So why not combine temperature monitoring and recording with a practical tool like a wading staff? Although wading staffs are slowly on the increase, I sometimes think they are perceived much like seat belts were 30 years ago.
While at ICAST this year, we were overwhelmed with positive feedback. However, there were some good questions about wading in big waters over large boulders and rocks. Luckily we were able to tell them about the TW03 ‘big river’ non-folding rugged wading staff suitable for large rivers due later in 2017. One thing I had not anticipated is the diversity of uses for this temperature-sensitive wading staff. I got a sense of this at ICAST/IFTD, with people wanting the staff in pursuit of red fish and other species that I was not too familiar with. Since the product launch, we have received enquiries from all continents for all kinds of fishing and other potential applications. I believe we never really arrive, be it fishing or in life itself because it’s our hunger to learn that drives us on.
Testing the Thermo-WADE in subzero conditions means the Kelly Kettle is put to good use.
Photography by Pauline Dunning
David Heseltine teams up with fly fishing legend and former Wychwood team-mate Brian Peterson to sample the tranquillity and quality fishing offered at New Haylie Loch.
To really get a ‘feel’ for the history of this picture-postcard corner of the world I’d have to be heavily clad in old tartan, topped off with a Viking helmet. But here I stand to do battle of an altogether gentler nature, armed only with rod and line, spending a few minutes to fully admire the lovely backdrop of sweeping craggy hills that conveniently fall away and open wide to spectacular views of the isles of Bute and Arran.
Originally known as The Slopes, this is Largs, in Scotland… and I can see the sea from here!
New Haylie Fishing Loch
Contact: 01475 676005
New Haylie Fishery is tucked in beautifully at the coastal edge of Largs, on the Firth of Clyde. And it’s so, so inviting, I can virtually smell the TLC so willingly applied by owners Senga and George Murray. But then of course, when your water is manned 24/7 and open for business every day, including Christmas Day, this is not just a job but a complete way of life.
Haylie is a small hillside loch of some 3.6 acres and as I already know the water’s head of wild browns is well pumped up with rainbows, blues, tiger trout and more browns, who could ask for anything more? But yes, just for once I do… and there is.
Tackling up for the day ahead as David (left, Brian (right) and Alan all opt for floating lines.
A Venue For All
On my brief ‘all our yesterdays’ tour of the west of Scotland (God’s own country as they call it, being just a wee ferry ride across the Clyde) I’ve stopped off here for a day with my old friend and mentor, Brian Peterson. I’ve seen the pictures and heard the stories of this place. And now that I’m actually here for the proof of the pudding, one single word seems to cover all: Quality – the surroundings, the peace and quiet, the warm welcome and of course the water itself. And to think my old Wychwood team-mate lives just a hop, skip and jump away!
My twinge of envy is already present because now I get it. I understand why a thoroughbred Scot with a top-drawer fly fishing CV as long as my leg comes here every week. And the other guys wandering the shoreline can be anyone from a couple of beginners to a bunch of the Scottish national men’s, ladies or youth team. They all come to this tiny pocket of water within the hills for a little tranquillity and seclusion.
I can hardly wait to put my line out, but before diving headlong into the fishing itself, I must say I’m learning another lesson already. My first lesson in these parts many years ago was to realise that a ‘mad’ (unknown) Scot attaching a couple of maggots to his fly during a very hard day (on another hill loch), wasn’t so mad after all. And now, probably as per many flyfishers no doubt, I must admit I’ve previously screwed up my face a little when presented with a trout fishery that also permits bait fishing. But here we have it for very good reason, with both methods living in perfect harmony. The bait fishing here is ‘contained’ within a small corner of the loch and it’s really for the kids, says George. “They come for a little dabble in their school holidays and after watching the big guys, many of them soon turn to fly fishing.” Now is that forward thinking or what!
The loch also stages various fund-raising events, always on a catch and release basis, in support of all national fly fishing sectors.
Flies For Haylie - Black Sussy Fly - It's not pretty but it's very effective; Brian's Black Sussy!
Dries are the way as this stunning box of dry flies tied by local expert Alistair Murphy shows.
Dry Fly Throughout The Year
This water invites all styles of fly fishing, from lures to buzzers and nymphs, to excellent dry fly. We have depths ranging from two feet, shallows to 20 feet, the deepest area of the loch around the L-shaped dam wall, and there are more than enough small bays with tidy little peninsulas and platforms to make for a very interesting and comfortable day. The waterside lodge is also permanently open to provide refreshment and a ‘square slice’ (yummy Scottish sausage) so obviously I tested that too.
The natural fly life at New Haylie is of a certain quality also. There’s the all-year-round black midge, so buzzer fishing is high on the list, but the water also gives up an abundant supply of pond olives, and then come the varied terrestrials including plenty of daddies. All of this natural mix encourages dry-fly fishing throughout the year, even during the seriously cold winter months.
But to be clear, New Haylie isn’t a ’doddle’. No, this is not one of those over-easy waters where almost any old fly will do. Some small fisheries do get the balance just right with a sensible stocking routine and constant effort – this is one of them. Although catch and release is permitted within a sensible day-ticket structure, New Haylie has a good regular turnover of fish so George likes to stock on a weekly basis with fish averaging 2lb plus, and the occasional injection of biggies.
While hoping not to hear those twisted words of wisdom “You should have been here yesterday…” I am genuinely listening, talking and watching all at the same time; listening and talking to Brian and George while watching over the loch. Noticeably no doubt, my concentration wavers a little each time I see a good fish rise. So in no time at all the conversation is in complete disarray as the residents with fins start showing here there and everywhere.
A local guy hits into a good fish on the opposite bank and then, among all of this distraction, I spot the unusual posture of another man I know only too well. My regular fishing mate, Alan, is already set up and sneakily waddling off to a likely spot. The temptation of rising fish versus polite conversation is no contest for him.
Brian makes a start with his Black Sussy Fly...
Flies For Haylie
The favourite recommended flies for New Haylie include small CDCs and Sussy (Suspender) Buzzers in sizes 16 to 14, and many local anglers really favour the exquisite quality of the patterns produced by local expert Alistair Murphy. So it’s of little or no surprise that a box of this man’s perfected flies can fetch up to £250 at a fund-raising event.
But it’s not entirely about tiny stuff. Brian, being Brian, swears by his Sussy Rabbit, which (in English terms) is a rabbit (zonker) strip tied on a size 10 with a ‘sugar lump’ of foam at the head. This lure works like a single-breasted booby (which are wisely banned), sitting right in the surface with its tantalising tail pulsating gently away just below. The occasional tweak is all that’s required to bring the fish up for a solid hit.
I think the fly is as ugly as a baboon’s bum but that misses the point and I’d still put money on it. I’ve experienced this Brian Peterson scenario a few times before.
On To The Fishing
... and it's not long before a 3lb rainbow makes it to the net.
Although I never ignore local advice from the guys that know (and I make sure I have a couple of Brian’s Sussys in my pocket), my thoughts are elsewhere, but while I’m pondering over my fly box Alan is quick to take the first fish of the day.
I watch my line and keep an eye on Brian at the same time. He knows what he’s doing and the magic touch certainly hasn’t deserted him just yet, as his black Sussy is taken with a stonking big wallop at the surface. This rainbow believes it’s a fresh-run salmon and fights like a bull at a gate for some considerable time, and although I catch a glimpse to see a 3lb fish that simply oozes health and fitness, after such a lengthy battle Brian is anxious for a quick revival and return to the water undamaged.
Meanwhile, Alan has spotted a few hefty fish, including a sizeable tiger trout, sauntering right in at the edge of the dam wall but the call for lunch postpones our intentions of a little stalking – mistake! Unfortunately, having allowed my belly to overrule my brain, although I returned to the hotspot three times, the bigger specimens were nowhere to be found.
So after hooking (and losing) a couple of fish on Brian’s Sussy, and because I keep on seeing fish cruising the top level of this slightly brackish but clear water, I just have to switch to small flies. A small CDC eventually takes two fish and while I’m still not entirely happy with my success rate against so many rising fish, this leads me to switch again to another of very similar dressing.
My new Olive Cruncher Quill (see the September 2016 issue) has produced fairly rapidly at home on Draycote and once again this little beauty did the trick for me. But at the end of the day, I have a feeling that fish numbers are far from the main vein of this loch.
Most mature flyfishers are wonderers by nature and every now and then, purposely or incidentally, we happen upon a real jewel in the crown. Well, this quite unique tiny dot on our planet is within that minority list of places: fisheries that we sincerely hope and pray never change, because of course, we want to come back and do it all again and again. But at least my real haggis from the local butcher and (yet another) special bottle of single malt will help see me through, until the next time.
With the Firth of Clyde as the backdrop, is there anywher more scenic to cast a line?
With the Irish loughs closed for another year, Tom ‘Doc’ Sullivan heads to Adaire Springs, one of just a few stocked small-water trout fisheries in the Irish Republic.
Over the last couple of years I became aware of a fishery that was beginning to make waves and be talked about in fly fishing circles here in Ireland. Word was that we had a top-quality small stillwater that catered for the big-fish hunter. The pictures doing the rounds on social media confirmed this; big rainbows and big browns were popping up in various posts. Unlike the rest of the UK, we don’t have a large amount of these fisheries, particularly in the Republic, so naturally I was very interested in paying it a visit.
At last year’s International Fly Fair in Galway I bumped into Ned Maher, who owns and runs Adaire Springs. A chat in the bar with him only whetted my appetite even more. I told him how hard it was for me to get away during the fishing season, seeing that I am quite busy on the Western loughs. He told me they are open all year around and some of their best fishing is to be had when the big loughs are closed. A lot of double-figure fish are caught then. My fishing bucket list has long ago exceeded one page, so Adaire Springs was added to it.
You won't go far wrong with small nymphs, with Diawl Bachs catching their fair share of fish!
So it was in early September this year that my fishing buddy, Mike Shanks, bit the bullet and gave it a try and off we set for Kilkenny on a grey misty morning. The fishery is located outside the village of Mooncoin and from thence is well signposted, so we had no problem getting there.
On arrival, as we got out of the car in the heavy damp drizzle, a completely becalmed Adaire Springs looked back at us. The telltale rings of large fish breaking the surface gave us that lovely feeling of anticipation that all us anglers enjoy when arriving at a new piece of water!
Ned developed this fishery from a green-field site five years ago. You can see pictures at the lodge of what he started with and what was done in the excavating and making of the lake. There has been a lot of work undertaken. The fishing lodge is a timber structure that blends in really well in the countryside environment of the rich farmland.
The well-equipped lodge looks out over the lake. The perfect place to tackle up with a brew!
We walked into the lodge and there was Ned to greet us with the best greeting you can get: “Howye lads,” he said. “I’ll put the kettle on.” So we had a welcome cup of tea. The lodge is very impressive, spacious with good seating, a well-kitted tackle shop and, importantly, a fine selection of flies for sale. The walls bear testament to the quality of the fish on offer, with pictures of beaming anglers cradling impressive trout, both rainbows and browns! Outside the lodge, there is a covered veranda complete with decking, tables and also a barbecue, which gets good use in the fine weather. This is a perfect spot to tackle up, as long as the sight of rising fish doesn’t cause you to rush and make a mess of things.
So after our welcome cuppa, Mike and I kitted up. We got advice from Ned as to what to use. Diawl Bachs had been fishing well, he said, but with the amount of fish moving, the dries would have to be considered. I set up my 9ft 5-wt with a single dry and set up a 10ft 6-wt for the nymphs. Mike set up two rods as well. ‘English Jim’ joined us in the lodge. Originally from London, he has made his home in the southeast of Ireland and is an Adaire regular. He was setting up with nymphs because that had been the killing method for him over the last week or so. We were like coiled springs, loaded and ready to go, especially with the fish moving.
So Mike and I went over to a corner of the lake where we had seen quite a number of fish moving on the calm surface. We had our minds made up that dries were to be the opening armoury. We covered a couple of fish with size 12 Klinkhamers but to no avail; we had a couple of swirls but no definite takes. A closer look around us and we could see that the only fly hatching was quite a small buzzer, size 16, not many but enough. So I switched to a Crippled Midge pattern and bingo! The first fish I presented it to took it with the certainty that it was just another natural. This was a real eye-opener because I was convinced beforehand that it was just a case of chucking anything over these trout and they would take them with gusto; that certainly wasn’t the case. The fish had locked into a definite size and that’s what they wanted!
I picked up a couple more fish with the dry but at this stage the mist began to lift and there was a change in the weather and with this came a change with the trout.
Ned had joined Jim on the far shore and with both of them fishing the nymphs they suddenly started to have action; interestingly it was the browns.
With the fish vacating the surface it was apparent that we had to change tactics too. Mike switched to his nymph rod and within a matter of minutes he was buckled into one of the bigger fish. After a hectic battle, a quick snap and release he was fishing again and within two casts was buckled into another.
“Same fly again,” he said.
One of his Diawl Bachs, which he kindly passed my way to try. I put it up on my nymph rod and gave it a throw. After 15 minutes with no response, and Mike landing another trout, I asked him: “How are they taking the nymph?”
Before he could answer I felt the tap, tap, lunge as my rod went heavy in my hand and I connected into a fish. I then had good sport on nymphs for the rest of the morning, picking up another four fish on Mike’s Diawl Bach.
The day had brightened up considerably and at 1pm we called a halt and had our lunch in the lodge.
English Jim with a quality Ardaire brownie!
Enticing The Big Boys
Ned joined us and we discussed the chances of getting into one of the double-figure fish. He said it was worth giving the snakes a go on a sinking line because this tactic can very often entice the bigger boys. He gave us a couple of patterns from his impressive selection of flies on sale. Initially I was apprehensive about using snakes for catch-and-release purposes until I saw these. The top hook is clipped and the rear hook is barbless.
So after lunch we decided to give them a rattle. The main body of the lake has depths to 15 feet, so Ned told us we could use any array of sinking lines. I switched to a Di5 Sweep and set forth. I varied my approach at first to see how the fish wanted it and it became apparent that the best way was to cast the full line and bring the fly back with a medium figure-of-eight retrieve. The response was fantastic and the fish wanted it at two stages, initially when the fly was diving and then when it was lifting towards the bank. The Sweep line did the trick here.
The takes were amazing, with the fly getting repeatedly hit, and you could witness this in the really clear water. I picked up about half a dozen fish on this method but none of the big ones. I also found that the snake nearly always came out of the fish’s mouth in the net, allowing for a quick release and allaying my earlier fears.
Something that almost pulled the rod from my hand and into the lake did hit me; it was something very big! I never saw it, though, and it left me wondering. Mike had adopted the same tactics and also had success. He was unlucky, though, because he did hook one of the big boys. He brought it to the surface, where it thrashed around and then was gone. In his estimation it was a double-figure fish.
A Date With A Double
After a while, the takes dried up on this method and I reverted to dries. I picked up a couple of fish on a beetle that Ned had recommended. Some very big fish started to move on the surface and I got to cover a couple of them. One turned on my fly and boiled underit but didn’t take it. I thought it was going to be my first double-figure Irish rainbow, but not this time!
While the doubles didn't want to play there were plenty of great looking stock fish to be caught on a range of methods.
We wrapped it up at 5pm because we had a long drive ahead of us. We’d had a fantastic day and had experienced sport on quite a number of methods, from matching the hatch with small dries in the morning, to tweaking nymphs back and having great fun pulling with lures. Between us, we reckoned we had more than 24 trout up to 6lb.
So I’ve found one of my destination spots for this winter; Mike and I will be back when the Corrib closes. I have a date with one of Adaire’s doubles and don’t want to stand her up! I look forward to returning to fish one of the best small fisheries in Ireland!
Flies For Adaire
Hook: Medium-gauge, size 12
Thread: Glo-Brite No5
Tail: Red game fibres
Butt: Red tying thread
Body: Peacock herl
Rib: Gold wire
Throat hackle: Red game fibres
Head: Red tying thread
Hook: Light-gauge, size 12-14
Body: Peacock Glister
Back: Strip of black foam
Sighter post: Pink Antron
Crippled Midge (Fulling Mill)
Hook: Light-gauge, size 14-16
Tail: Stub pearl holographic
Body: Black seal’s fur sub
Rib: Fine pearl Lurex
Hackle: Black hen
Okay, so this is a bit of a beast! However, it does work. It is dressed tandem style with front hook clipped at the end of the shank.
Hook: Wet fly, size 10
Tandem Line: 12lb mono
Body: Blue Glister
Zonker Strip: Rabbit dyed chartreuse. Attached to both shanks. It is marginally shorter than the mono link.
Ardaire Springs Angling Centre
Arderra, Co. Kilkenny, Ireland
Tel: 086 812 8937
Tom 'Doc' Sullivan offers a guiding service on loughs Corrib, Mask and Carra
There is a certain feeling of not doing it correctly when it comes to fly fishing for mackerel, the days should be warm and sunny, the hotter the better, often you will hook them just a meter or two from the tip of the rod, and they attack your fly with almost a stupid type of vigour. Basically, the opposite of what regular saltwater fishing along the coast is. It's a fish that's great fun on a fly rod and a fish that will fill your days when it's too hot to fish for anything else with endless fun.
Flyshing for mackerel is not hard, it's easy, so easy in fact that during the right conditions you can hook and land over a 100 fish in one afternoon of fishing. They patrol the edge between the shallows and the deep continuously searching for their next meal so standing on the cliff and casting will always result in a fish or two. Me, I have a more relaxed way of approaching the mackerel. I live 5 minutes from the sea, mackerel has been a part of my life since i was a small child and I tend to fish for them a bit differently than most. I use the same gear, 7 wt rods, 7-9 foot leader and small baitfish and shrimps flies. it's my attitude towards it that differs. you can catch the mackerel all day long if you want to, but I prefer waiting, waiting for the spectacular moments that only mackerel fishing can bring, and you'll probably have one or two per hour during the right conditions.
First priority is seeing a lot of small baitfish in the water close to shore and second is to wait. Massive shoals of mackerel patrol the shorelines and once they find the baitfish they turn into a stampede, a feeding frenzy of epic proportions turning the mackerel crazy, making them bite after everything. Tens of thousands of fish making the surface boil. that's what we call them 'mackerel boils'.
So I wait, rod on the cliff, line and leader pulled out and prepared, sitting back with a coke in my hand and my ears alert and waiting for that sound that will make my heart go from slow to fast in a millisecond, on edge and feeling the reserves of adrenalin just waiting to kick in. It starts with the panicked sounds of baitfish fleeing in the surface, more and more of them, then the sound of thunder starts to build, by this time I'm searching along the shoreline from my vantage point and i spot the boil, 300m up shore from me and slowly coming towards me. the trick is to fish the edges of it. not the middle as that will almost always result in either no fish at all or foul hooked fish, fishing the border, the fish will select your fly and target it.
It's getting closer and I stand ready, casting my fly out just beyond the boil, a good 15m out, stripping as fast as I can I hook and land the first of the forerunners, 2 minutes later the shoal is upon me and I've already landed 5 fish and released them, fishing along the edges of the frenzy I land another 5 fish before the shoal slowly moves off and I follow it, catching another four stragglers I decide to release all but one., watching the mackerel move off beyond my casting range I sit down once again, start a small fire out of drift wood, smoking my freshly caught mackerel over it, letting the smoke, salt and smell of seaweed give taste to this gift from nature. I enjoy the rest of my coke while eating my dinner on the cliffs of the Swedish west coast. In the distance I hear the sound of panicked baitfish fleeing for their life, and the sound is getting louder. My rod and line are laid out on the cliff in front of me, prepared.
Bio: Photographer, writer, professional fly tier (though first and foremost) a fly fisherman. Ilias was born and raised on the west coast of Sweden. I grew up chasing sea run browns in the salt and pike in the fresh. When I am not writing and chasing fish on the fly I run a small hobby company, Apex Flies
Facebook : https://www.facebook.com/ilias.karanzas