It’s not over yet: Making the most of the late season

The evenings may be drawing in and Autumn with us, but as Chris Ogborne expounds, the fishing season is far from over.

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” I feel a bit cheated this year.  My favourite month of September, normally one of the softest in terms of weather and the best in terms of fishing, was a bit of a washout.
I honestly can’t remember a year when Autumn arrived so emphatically. It seemed that in a period of just a few days we went from summer straight into the next season, with scarcely a pause for breath.  One minute the tourists were here in Cornwall and yet in the next the were all gone, seeming to take summer with them and leave behind only falling leaves.
 
It’s been grey, very damp, and not at all like the long Indian Summer days that we normally enjoy in September.  Half of the members of the boat club have taken their boats out of the water into winter lay-up and the last swallows and Martins have left for warmer climes.  The fishing community is bracing itself for what promises to be a long old winter
But it’s not all doom and gloom.  As I write this in the first week in October there is glorious sunshine outside, with enough warmth to get the thermometer in the garden up into the late teens, and the little trout in my stream are feeding avidly on something I’ve yet to identify.  It’s enough to get me thinking that I might take the fly rod down to the beach for a late Bass this afternoon – from a fishing point of view, the season is most definitely not over yet!
Whilst most trout rivers are closed from October 1st, there are still a host of reservoirs and small stillwaters open for business and after a season that can at best be described as ‘patchy’ the fishery managers will be only too pleased to see you.
Open all year: a cool day at Devon’s Bellbrook Valley Trout Fishery.
Most of the big reservoirs stay open at least till the end of the month, and whilst they don’t stock heavily at this time of year you’ll still have the chance of a top quality residential fish. These quality specimens that have survived the summer will be a real challenge, and in the cooling water they are best sought with subtle tactics.
Floating line and slow retrieves with a team of nymphs are the best way, making the most of the last two hours of the day as dusk draws in.  On warmer afternoon you can even get them to rise to a surface dry fly and a big hopper will rarely let you down.  The fish seem to know that winter is just around the corner and will often lose the caution and reserve they display in high summer.
On the coast, there are even more options.  I’m reminded that last year we had an absolute rock-hopping bonanza in November, which actually turned out to be our best month of the entire season. Using fly or LRF, I just love to go stalking individual Bass that come into the rocks in late afternoon, hunting the last of the sandeels or maybe punching through the kelp for prawns or small pollack.
Bass are still about, but you may need to go a bit deeper.
In recent years, another unexpected turn has been a fair run of Shad in the estuary and whether deliberate catches or otherwise, anglers fly fishing the sea later in the year from  are quite likely to be surprised. Harbour walls, boat pontoons or any rocky outcropwill give you access to the deeper water you may still find bass and pollack, and you never know, perhaps one of these beautiful, enigmatic fish.
Generally speaking then, you’re better off on the rocks rather than the beaches in October and November as you can access the deeper water.  The schoolie bass that give such great sport in warmer days have now gone looking for deeper water, so a bit of rock hopping is our preferred method on the estuaries.  Remember to take a line tray with you – nothing cuts through a fly line like mussel shells and the wave action has a nasty habit of washing the line all over the place if it’s not secured in a line tray
You may even be lucky enough to live near one of the rivers enjoying an Autumn salmon run, like my home river the Camel.  Here, we fish on till mid December and whilst the leaves in the water can be intensely frustrating it’s worth it when you latch on to a late run fish. The same is true in parts of Scotland, where there is still some “extra time” to catch that late season winner.
Running late: Can you spot the salmon in this picture, seen earlier this month?
So don’t give in to winter just yet.  We still have the glorious days of Autumn to enjoy and on the occasional balmy afternoon  when the sunlight sets the trees on fire with spectacular colour, the pull of the fishing rod is irresistible.
Grayling are another good reason not to hang up the rods as things cool.
Wherever you decide to fish, stay optimistic, get out there and you may be pleasantly surprised. Keep an eye on the Turrall Facebook page and blog too, as the team will be looking at flies and tips for various species over the cooler months, from grayling to pike. Frost and snow are just around the corner, so let’s get out and enjoy the countryside while we can.”
Chris Ogborne
October 2017

Autumn Fly Fishing

From late season trout to the coming pike season, autumn can be a great season for fly fishing. Dom Garnett sizes up some options for the coming weeks.

“Autumn has arrived quite suddenly, like a cool slap in the face this year. The falling leaves remind you that time is running short to catch on rivers that have been high and muddy for much of the season, while other species also come into play.

If you can find the time to get out, autumn can be the best fishing time in the whole year. There are still a few days left to catch wild trout, while the sea will stay warm enough to bring bass and other species or another month or so. And then we move on to freshwater predators like perch, pike and zander.

One last chance on for river trout

Fly fishing River Sid

For me, those last days of the trout season are as keenly anticipated as the first. You may only have a few precious hours to make the most of rivers that were unfishable in July or August; that’s the reality of the British climate.

So with the aim of one last crack at the traditional season, I took off to fish the River Sid, a little known stream with some pretty, modest sized trout. Planning can be everything on these short sessions. I’d seen the river in flood quite recently, but knowing it drains and clears quite quickly I knew it would be fine a couple of days later.

I think of autumn trout as hungry, less selective fish a lot of the time. They can feel that coldness coming on better than you can. It makes them greedy. With not quite as much hatching though, they can also be inactive, so I believe in getting their attention.

Bigger flies are worth a try for a late season binge.

There are some quite decent hatching flies on our rivers in September too. The hatches can be sporadic, but there are still some good sized sedge flies. I wouldn’t go too crazy on a small stream, but a fly like a size 14 Humpy or Elk Hair Caddis is perfect for fishing broken water. When fishing the boulder, fast bits, don’t be afraid to skate your fly a little either.

I had the best fish of the trip early, on a tumbling pool. It came up once, then again to look at the fly. On the next cast it looked again, so I gave the fly a twitch and that sealed it.

autumn trout dry fly fishing
Sadly that was about it for any hatches, although a couple of smaller fish threw themselves at the Humpy. After that, they just refused to rise so I tried the pools with a Universal Nymph, one of Chris Ogborne’s barbless flies for Turrall, which is a great pattern to tempt deeper lying fish.


Two more fish followed to the nymphs, before time called. Will I squeeze in one more session this month? Ultimately, the weather gods might have the last say. Otherwise, it’ll be time for something completely different…

Tackling up for pike on the fly

 
Of course, while some of lament the passing of summer, other freaks among us rub their hands together at the prospect of a new pike season. It’s devilishly exciting if you can find clear water and watch the fish, so I tend to launch my campaign on close-quarters venues such as the drains of the Somerset Levels.

Of course many of the best pike fishing waters are quite small here, so you needn’t use shark tackle. Something like an eight-weight is perfect, coupled with 20lb fluorocarbon leader and (always!) a strong wire trace.

Smaller pike flies are great fun for these waters, and smaller patterns like my purpose made bite-sized pike flies (below)  but you can also try for perch (Turrall sell patterns for both).


It’s a very different type of fly fishing, but addictively exciting. For further tips and inspiration, do check out my previous blog on pike fly fishing.

Autumn on the stillwaters

Of course, just because the trout streams might be out soon, it doesn’t mean other waters are done and dusted. If anything, the fishing tends to get better in the autumn, across stillwaters large and small.


We’re blessed with various places to try here in Devon, although there are not many fly fisheries near Exeter. Two well worth a drive for me are Bratton Water in North Devon, and Bellbrook Valley near Tiverton (above).

Bratton has a cracking head of brown trout and a good hatch of sedge flies as late as early November (yes, it sounds nuts but I’ve seen it), and will respond to flies like a CDC Sedge. Bellbrook Valley is always worth a go with small dries and emergers, even on mild winter days, and flies such as Griffith’s Gnat and Gary Pearson’s Two Tone Emerger (below). And if they refuse to come up, it’s always delightful to drift a buzzer or two.


Wherever you go fly fishing next, good luck and enjoy the outdoors this autumn. If you want to read more current news and features, do also check out our Facebook page and Total Flyfisher Magazine each month, where we run a special monthly fly tying challenge.

9 Deadly Spiders: Top fly patterns and fishing tips

Traditional, understated and so often underused, spider patterns are a must for any fly box. Turrall’s Dom Garnett provides a host of traditional and modern favourites and tips for river and stillwater fly fishing.


There are so many reasons to recommend spider patterns. They are simple to tie, yet so effective for various species. Thanks to their subtlety and excellent movement, they also work in tricky conditions and so even if I don’t start fishing with one, there are always a few ready in my box.

A small water rainbow is hooked on a spider fished just inches deep.

So what exactly is a spider? Traditionally, it is a fly consisting of little more than a thread body and a sparse, mobile hackle. In fact the Americans simply call them “soft hackles”. Flies that date back to the earliest fly fishing.

They are fished wet and tend to work well with very little retrieve. There is such natural movement in the “legs” made of hen, pheasant, starling or any various soft feathers, that they often need little manipulation from the angler. In fact they are a godsend in flat calm conditions, or where there is little movement in the current. I like them for days when the streams are running low and clear, and also for stillwater fishing when there is little wind.

Classic spider patterns

Traditional Spider fly patterns Turrall

For the ultimate in simplicity and traditional good looks, we should start with some of the basics. The Black and Peacock, Greenwell’s Spider and Black Spider (above) are three to have in any fly box. The Black and Peacock is probably my most used fly of all time, not just for wild trout for me, but large rudd, roach and even carp.

The Black Spider is another classic and about as simple as it gets: A black thread body, a hen hackle and that’s it! It remains an extremely versatile fly though. Fished in the top foot or two of water, it’s a great little fly during a buzzer hatch on lake or river.

Moving on to other spiders, some traditional patterns are more colourful and less realistic, such as the Partridge and Yellow (above L). These flies are useful in stained water or to ring the changes when drab flies won’t work.

Along with the traditionals, we also have some newer flies in the mix at Turrall, to target different species. Chris Ogborne’s Moorland Spider (above middle) is ideal for smaller streams, while my own Dace Ace is a tiny bead head to try for coarse species.

Spider fishing tips

River fly fishing Devon

-You don’t need to impart a lot of action into a spider. The movement is already there, so try fishing these flies with minimal retrieve. Fish at dead drift on the river, or as you’d fish a buzzer on stillwaters.

-Besides being fished wet, small spiders are also excellent fished in the surface film. Try applying some floatant and present a small dark spider on a fine leader; this can be a real frustration saver when fish are rising to tiny insects and bushy dry flies don’t work.

-You can fish them singly, but spiders also work well as part of a team. Try two or even three in different colours to see what the fish want. Because they are so light and sparse, they are not always suitable as a point fly.

– Don’t expect every take to be a line wrencher. Spiders are incredibly easy for fish to inhale and you may get quite subtle bites. Be ready to strike at anything suspicious.


Spiders are among the best patterns of all to try for different species. I love small dark spiders for roach, rudd and dace. That said, brighter colours are also great fly patterns for bluegills, crappies and other US “panfish”!

 

 

Three spiders to tie and try yourself…

Because they are so easy to tie, spiders are also fantastic to make and fill your fly boxes without spending weeks at the vice. That simplicity also makes the style of dressing hugely versatile, whether you tie large or small flies, or want to add your own twist. Here are three I’ve had great success with recently.


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Three spiders to tie yourself. L to R: Spider sedge, JC Midge & Beaded Black and Peacock)

Spider Sedge

This is my ultimate wet fly for chub. Not what was originally intended though, because Spider Sedges are a very old pattern, originally tied in larger sizes and winged to be fished wet or just sub surface.

Hook: Nymph 10-12
Thread: Brown
Rib: Gold wire
Body: Olive Alpaca Dubbing
Thorax: Peacock
Wing: Woodcock slips
Hackle: Grizzle Hen

JC Midge

Adding a sparse hackle to your favourite buzzer patterns is a great trick for stillwater trout and this is a good fly when rainbows are feeding in the upper layers. Be sparing though; you just want a hint of legs so just one turn of hackle is usually more than enough. For coarse species or hatches of tiny midges, you can also try these right down in size 16 or 18.

Hook: Turrall Barbless Grub 12-16
Thread: Black
Rib: UV Multiflash
Body: Partially stripped peacock herl, fine.
Cheeks: Jungle cock
Hackle: Black cock (one turn only)

Beaded UV Black & Peacock

I just love this fly for coarse fish. Large rudd and roach are usually the target. The usual spiders also work, but for windy days, or when the bigger fish hold a little deeper and you have to get down to them, this is the daddy. It’s also the pattern responsible for my 2lbs 3oz PB rudd, caught this summer.

Hook: Turrall barbless grub
Bead: Metallic Red 2mm
Thread: Black
Tag: UV multiflash (pearl or red)
Body: 2 strands peacock herl
Hackle: Black hen (two turns max).


Spiders are fantastic for rudd; this canal fish took a beaded spider.

Fly tying tips for spider patterns

– Less is always more with spiders. This is especially the case with hackles. The old masters of river flies recommended two to two and a half turns of hackle, but modern feathers are so dense, one turn might be enough.

-Standard nymph hooks are ideal for spiders, but they also look great on short shank hooks- or even a curved pattern such as grub hook.

-A few basic feathers will set you in good stead. Whole capes are brilliant for getting a wide variety of fly sizes, but a few smaller packs of feathers makes a cheaper starting point. Hen is perhaps the easiest to find and use, closely followed by partridge. Traditional materials like woodcock and starling are also excellent and cheap if you can find them.

-The same is true with body materials. Keep dubbings sparse, so as not to lose that slim spider profile. That said, you can also add some special effects with just a hint of embellishment. A fine UV rib works well, while it’s no coincidence so many classic spiders have a touch of peacock.

– If you like to secure your materials with plenty of turns, a lighter thread is excellent for smaller spider patterns. It’s especially important to avoid bulk and not clog up the hook.

-To some extent, proportions are subject to taste. But spiders tend to have slightly short bodies (finish above hook point or barb), but if anything hackles tend to be slightly long.

– Try to tie your hackle feather so that the fibres point out at a lively angle, splayed out, like the spokes of an umbrella. Tied like this, they’ll really breathe, so avoid pinning them back or trapping with thread.

Further Reading

For anyone interested in tying the huge range of traditional patterns, or indeed the history of these classic flies, some other books are well worth a read:

A Guide to North Country Flies and How To Tie Them: 140 Flies with Step by Step Photographs (Mike Harding)

The North Country Fly: Yorkshire’s Soft Hackle Tradition
(Robert L. Smith)

Be sure to keep an eye on the Turrall Flies Facebook page for our latest news, tips and the latest fly patterns.

 

 

Holiday Flies from Stream to Coast

The summer holidays are here and with many anglers planning a day away from the monotony of the beach, Chris Ogborne looks at some of the options and fly patterns for your summer trip.
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“We are now entering what the locals here in Cornwall call the  ‘silly season’. For the next eight weeks the population of Devon and Cornwall will be swollen by a massive influx of visitors, all looking for the sunshine and the famous climate that we enjoy.
Most will be heading for the beaches, but not all.  There is a growing band of anglers who are getting the message that we have some fantastic fishing down here, much of which is under-used and available for very little money.  So as well as the swimming gear and wet suits, the thinking angler can squirrel a rod or two into the car boot, in the hope that they can leave the family on the beach and head off to enjoy the kind of peace and quiet that can only be found on our amazing waters.
Our river fishing is top of the list right now. It’s staggering how much quality you can get for no money at all.  The brilliant West Country Angling Passport scheme allows you to sample rivers as diverse as the Tamar, the Dart, the Fowey, the Camel and so many more.
The deal also involves many little-known tributaries of these great rivers and can be as near to ‘wilderness fishing’ that you can find in the UK.  Beats are generous in size and you simply use the voucher system, depending on the river you chose.  Many beats equate to six quid a day, whilst even some of the prime sections are barely £15.  As a great example, the latter sum will buy you a guest day ticket for Bodmin AA where you have upwards of ten miles of the beautiful R Camel at your disposal and many other clubs offer the same kind of deal. You also have affordable fly fishing on the upper Exe and Culm in Devon. Just order your tickets and get directions from www.westcountryangling.com and away you go.
For all the rivers, Turrall have some brilliant selections to get you into a fish, from classic dries, to small nymphs and my set of Barbless River flies.  Take a few of my barbless Hi Vis Black Gnats with you and you’ll have a great banker pattern for any river.  Or maybe a few spiders, for those truly wild stretches where casting in the conventional way is all but impossible.
The thin, peaty water flowing off the moors just begs to be fished with upstream nymph, as well the more obvious dry fly. My barbless Skinny Pheasant Tail (below) is my default choice, but you’ll also need patterns like  the Camel Nymph for the deeper pools.
The water may have peat stain but it’s generally crystal clear in high summer so remember to scale down leader diameters.  I reckon that there’s little you can’t do with 5lb.
Then of course there are the countless miles of shoreline where the enterprising angler can find amazing sport with a fly rod, or the rapidly developing  LRF spin and lure gear.
The beaches and the rocky drop offs are home to Bass, Pollack and Mackerel, all of which give fantastic sport on light fly gear.  Look for the obvious spots where the light blue water turns to deep blue in a few metres – these are the drop offs that always hold fish.
Turrall’s sand eels patterns are first choice here, especially the bootlace sand eels or the larger summer sand eels.  For general prospecting closer to the rocks, try the bait fish imitators.  In all cases, you can’t go wrong with any kind of retrieve rates and you’ll be pleased to hear that it’s impossible to retrieve them too fast!  Remember again that these flies are designed to be fished on heavier leaders and in fact they won’t swim well on lighter diameters. 8 to 10lb is fine, and you can scale up to 12lb around the rocks for extra security.
A good piece of advice is to consider one of the great truisms of sea fishing: bank anglers spend most of their time casting OUT to sea, whilst boat anglers are always casting IN towards the rocks.  This simple one-liner tells you where most of the fish are!
So remember that whilst the family are happily ensconced on the beach this year, us anglers have these wonderful options open to us.  Pack the boot of the car with a fly rod as well as the bucket and spade this year!”
Chris Ogborne
Chris offers guided fly fishing trips from river trout days to saltwater fishing for bass and other species. Visit the Kernow Game Fishing site for further details.
Stock up with Turrall
From barbless river flies to saltwater specials, we sell a huge range of flies for every type of fly fishing. Find our award-winning patterns at your local Turrall stockist and keep an eye on our Facebook page for the lastest news, competitions and more.
Our Fly Pods are especially good value for the travelling angler, featuring a great selection of flies in a double sided box, whether you want to stock up on loch style flies or sea trout specials.
Fly Pod by Turrall

Turrall to bring quality Cortland Fly Fishing products to the UK.

Turrall are thrilled to sign a deal with premier American fly fishing company Cortland, to distribute their market leading products in the UK. With their fly lines having something of a cult status already over here, there are a number of other exciting developments, from leaders and tools to accessories.

The Cortland range of rods should also cause a stir of excitement, with a well-defined range British anglers will love. From seriously affordable starter fly fishing outfits, through to top spec competition nymphing rods and perfect blanks for UK reservoir fly fishing, there is something for everyone.

Most of us already know about Cortland fly lines of course. An extensive range includes the classic 444 series, along with excellent stealth lines for trout and some really tough, high performance lines in the upper end for those of you who like fly fishing for pike, bonefish and bigger saltwater species. We can’t think of a better range to cast our flies to the fish!

The news follows a highly successful EFTTEX show in Budapest, where the distribution deal was agreed by Cortland President John Wilson and Turrall Director Dylan Pӧnisch. A delighted Simon Jefferies, Turrall Sales Manager, said: “The new arrangement with Cortland is a perfect fit for both companies. We already have an established relationship… and crucially we share a total commitment to quality above all else.”

We’re looking forward immensely to seeing Cortland’s range of tackle hit UK stores in the coming months. Do keep an eye out at your local Turrall stockist and watch this space for more on Cortland products.

Those in the tackle trade can contact us directly for all inquiries, while our Facebook page always has the latest news, fly patterns and more.

Catch 22 Flies: What would make your shortlist of essential fly patterns?

It’s a classic question: if you could only take a handful of flies fishing, which few would make your selection? Chris Ogborne has his own favourites, along with some interesting thoughts on those fly patterns we’d hate to be without.
 
“If there is a single paradox in fly fishing that provides the sport’s ultimate ‘catch 22’ it has to be fly selection. It’s an immutable fact of life that we all have our favourite flies and so our own circular logic develops.  The more we fish with those best-loved patterns, the more we catch; the more we catch, the more likely we are to keep fishing with them. The ultimate Catch 22 situation.
But within that inescapable sequence of reasoning, there is usually some really good advice. Those timeless, favourite flies of all time don’t attain that status without good reason, and with the fishing season now well and truly under way it’s worth taking a look at our fly boxes and stocking up with a good supply of banker patterns.
 
These are the flies you WILL need, come rain or shine, high water or low.  Whether it comes to a tough day on your local stream, or travelling to the ends of the earth, there are patterns you’d simply hate to be without. Most important of all, flies that inspire confidence and seldom let you down.
We all have our biases then. Picking can be hard, like trying to narrow down your music to a handful of albums or your bookshelf to just a few classic fishing books. But having fished and travelled between many rivers and stillwaters, the following would be my slimmed down shortlist.
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STILLWATERS
Catch 22 River Flies Turrall
BUZZERS
At this time of year my thoughts immediately turn to the large reservoirs, such as Blagdon. But the following patterns will catch on all stillwaters, natural and manmade. For just about any lake, I would start with buzzers, as these are present throughout the season.
There are so many variants, but it would be hard not to venture onto any reservoir without buzzers such as the classic Black Epoxy Buzzer (1) to fish at depth, as well as classic variants like the Shipman’s Buzzer (2). After all, some suitable flies to represent or suggest the number one food item in the trout’s diet simply cannot be ignored.
CRUNCHERS  are one of the newer breed of imitative/suggestive flies, but so versatile in appeal and already a solid standby.  Fish them as a nymph, instead of wets, pulled fast or slow and steady.  Crunchers are one of the must have stillwater fly patterns without a doubt, so I’m taking the basic Cruncher (3), plus at least one variant such as the  UV ThoraxCruncher (4).
HOPPERS  Probably one of the best all-round dries or semi-dries of its generation. I’ve caught fish on Hoppers on every continent, from the cold lakes of Iceland right through to gin clear ponds across Europe. Not species specific, but a deadly general impression of a whole range of terrestrials. Close to the ultimate ‘don’t leave home without it’ pattern in my book! I wouldn’t be without these in basic colours so lets add a Black Hopper (5) as a bare minimum.
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RIVERS
Top 5 River Flies Catch 22 flies
BLACK GNAT. Or more specifically for me, the HiVis Black Gnat (6).  This is probably my number one default choice and almost always the first fly that goes on the leader if there are no natural insects visible or there’s no hatch taking place.  On rivers large and small, moorland streams, chalk streams – the black gnat is an all time classic
ADAMS. An American fly with a massive following worldwide, and with good reason.  It looks like so many naturals, with those key trigger factors that have seen it in good stead for generations.  The classic Adams (7)very rarely fails, which is why it makes my shortlist.
EMERGERS are another must for any list of essential river flies. Parachutes style ties in the classic Klinkhamer mold are not just practical and easy to spot, but often taken in preference to conventional dries by hungry trout. For my list, I’ll pick a barbless version- my General Emerger (8), which works on just about any river you can name.

CLASSIC NYMPHS:
Is there any nymph, really and truly, that has caught more fish the the humble Pheasant Tail Nymph or PTN (9)?  I doubt it.  From these early days of Frank Sawyer, across generations of anglers and right up to the present day, the Pheasant Tail has been a top pattern.  There are hundreds of variations but the original, which is a study in simplicity, is still the best and makes my list every time.
HARE’S EAR:  No modern selection of river flies would be complete without a bead head or two in the mix. They don’t come much more simple, or useful, than the Gold Bead Hare’s Ear (10).
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Short lists are always a subjective matter, but those would be my ten flies.
Which patterns would make your shortlist?”
Chris Ogborne fly fishing Kernow
Chris Ogborne.  May 2017
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Pick your top 10 flies and win with Turrall!
If you could only pick ten flies to cover both stillwater and river fishing, which ones would you take? Give us your selection and join the debate on the Turrall Flies Facebook Page and we’ll give two winners an exclusive selection of our best fly patterns!
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Turrall are Britain’s longest running fly dressing company. Find all our award-winning flies in your nearest Turrall dealer or shop online for a huge range of proven patterns, from trout and salmon classics, to flies for coarse fish and saltwater species.
Turrall BFFI 2016
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Keep an eye on our monthly blog for the latest tips, news and all things fly fishing. Our topics range from coarse fish on the fly, to catch reports and our latest tying tips.

Fly Fishing on Blagdon: Top tips and flies for tricky conditions

Chris Ogborne is a lifelong fan of Blagdon Lake, but encountered tricky conditions on a recent day of flat calm and high temperatures. Nevertheless, challenging sessions can often be the ones that teach us the most. Here are some of his recent reflections and top fly fishing tips for difficult days on the reservoirs.
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“The Turrall team had been planning their recent day out on Blagdon for some time. You know what happens: we day dream about perfect conditions and top class fly fishing. But you don’t always get what you ask for! A whole series of factors conspired against us on this occasion. Nevertheless, with spring turning very quickly into summer I couldn’t resist the pull of this wonderful place so I took myself up there to sample the colours and atmosphere, whilst everything was fresh and green
Blagdon Lake boat
The only problem was, the water had switched rapidly to sultry full summer mode!  As we motored out, it was clearly set to be one of those days when hardly a ripple troubled the water surface all day. The sun shone relentlessly, and temperatures soared to the high seventies.  Hardly the best conditions for fly fishing!
But Blagdon seldom disappoints even when it challenges the angler. And although there was no surface activity, it was obvious that fish were feeding a few feet down, with plenty of swirls and nervous water giving a sure sign of fish taking buzzer pupae in mid water.  There was only one place to go – there is only ever one place to go for me – and that’s Top End.  With an average depth of less than eight feet, the whole of this shallow end of the lake can always be relied upon to give sport, and so it was on our day.
Turrall Epoxy buzzer Blagdon flies
We used a combination of epoxy buzzers (above) and small damsel nymphs pretty much all day, and whilst I’d have loved to try the dries it just wasn’t that kind of fishing.  The simple rule at Blagdon is always to find the feeding depth as once you’ve done that then it’s just a matter of getting the fly right.
My partner took a stunning rainbow on a size 12 red epoxy buzzer, and then I took one on a black.  We tried larger flies through the day, but the fish wanted them small, as so often happens in a flat calm.  Long 5lb fluorocarbon leaders were essential, as was a stealthy approach with the boat.  Quite often we overlook this factor, but one of my essential fly fishing tips for the boat angler would be not to clunk about, because any careless noise or clatter might send the fish away for half an hour or more. This is never truer than when it’s calm and there are no waves or windy gusts to cover your presence!
It was almost a stalking day, just moving the boat quietly amongst the semi-submerged withies and keeping an eye out for any kind of sub-surface water movement.  Very calm and fairly tricky, but I absolutely loved it!  To my shame, I hadn’t been to Blagdon yet this season and it reminded me again, as it has so many times over the years, that this is still the very best Stillwater trout fishing in the land.  The natural beauty of the valley, the fact that the lake feels like a lake and not a man-made reservoir, and then the simple atmosphere of the place.  Nothing comes close and I honestly think nothing ever could
Blagdon brown trout fly fishing
We returned all our fish, including a lovely brown (above) that gave by far the best fight of the day.  It was absorbing fishing but I have to confess that I spent almost as much time just simply soaking up the unique Blagdon ‘feel’

For me, it’s England’s spiritual home of still water fly fishing without a doubt, but it’s also still the benchmark by which others are judged.  Blagdon fully deserves it’s place at the top and I suspect these images will stir happy memories in many angling hearts.  It has a very special place in mine, whether it’s a bite filled session, or one of those challenging sessions that really sharpen our skills.

Until next time, I wish you enjoyable fishing and urge you to get out there while you can.”

Further Information & Top Flies for Blagdon & Bristol Water Fisheries

Blagdon Lake is open right through the season and also into the winter for top quality fly fishing. Rod averages are excellent throughout the year, with a range of bank and boat tickets available, including discounted fishing for young anglers. See the official Bristol Water Fisheries site for further details.


For a great range of the best fly patterns for Blagdon and other stillwaters, you’ll find a terrific selection from Turrall stockists. For the best value of all, our boxed selections and Fly Pods are packed with proven fish catchers that are sure to put a bend in your rod this season! Current selections include patterns by the likes of Chris Ogborne and fellow competition angler Gary Pearson’s stillwater specials (above).

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the Turrall Flies Facebook page for the latest news, tips and special giveaways!

How to Tie a Quill Buzzer: Fly Tying Step by Step

Is there ever a bad time to have a few buzzers in your fly box? With a few variations in size and colour, there aren’t many days in the entire year you won’t catch stillwater trout on these favourites. We must have sold enough buzzers to fill a bathtub over the years! Not all of these patterns have to be black, or ribbed using tinsel or flexifloss. In fact, good old stripped quill makes a lovely natural looking body that will appeal to wild browns as much as stocked rainbows.


Here’s our quick guide to tying a simple Quill Buzzer, as recommended by Turrall tyer and competition fly angler Gary Pearson:

QUILL BUZZER

Hook: Turrall Grub Hook (size 10-14)
Thread: Black
Body: Stripped peacock herl
Cheeks: Yellow goose biots
Cover: Strand of UV Multiflash

STEP 1: Take your thread and run it onto the hook until it catches tight. Run down the shank in touching turns.
STEP 2: Continue the touching turns evenly, until you reach a little into the bend of the hook.

STEP 3: Prepare a strand of peacock herl by carefully scratching off the fuzz. A finger nail should work, but if you’re struggling try an eraser.

STEP 4: Tie in the strand as shown. For an even body, it’s best to tie the length of herl right along the hook, rather than just a short “stub”. Be sure to tie in via the thinner end of the quill (this will help create a slightly tapered body).

STEP 5: Using hackle pliers to grab the end of the quill and bring it up to the eye in even turns.

STEP 6: Now secure the quill with a few tight wraps of thread, leaving plenty of space to make the head end of the fly.

STEP 7: Now take a yellow-dyed biot and secure along one side of the head as shown. Secure with a couple of fairly firm turns of thread.

STEP 8: Pair up with another, setting this on the opposite side. Remember, if you are not totally happy, you can always undo a couple of turns and try again!

STEP 9: Bind in place with several even wraps of thread and trim with scissors as shown.

STEP 10: Now add a strand of UV tinsel on top of the fly. This will add just a hint of flash to the finished fly.


STEP 11
: Now trim any excess and bind all the materials tidily with a few more wraps of thread, like this.

STEP 12: Now bring forward the yellow “cheeks”, followed by the tinsel strip and bind in place with a couple of tight turns of thread.

STEP 13: Now do the same with the UV tinsel, binding it in place with a couple of turns of thread.

STEP 14: Now trim all the excess cheek and flash materials as tight as you can! A really sharp pair of scissors will help here.

STEP 15: Now use just a few sparing turns of thread to tidy up and whip finish. You can now take a needle and/or brush and apply a thin layer or two of varnish. Tip: If you find it tough to get a nice even finish, try a thinner varnish and make more layers.

STEP 16: The fly is now finished and ready to fish!

These flies work perfectly in sizes 10 through to 14. Remember, the heavier the hook and the more varnish, the deeper they will fish. You can also tie them on finer nymph and emerger hooks to create slower sinking buzzers for those days when the fish are up in the water. You could also replace the flash with a tuft of CDC to create a suspender buzzer.

Stock up on quality materials and buzzers with Turrall…

For a selection of the finest fly tying materials and tools, try your local Turrall stockist or one of our online retailers. The Fly Line at Amazon UK sell a range of materials, hooks and tools, while the likes of www.troutcatchers.co.uk offer individual and boxed selections of our best buzzers, including the great value Turrall Fly Pod.

Don’t go changing: Why you must fly fish Blagdon Lake this spring

Blagdon Lake is the seat of learning for stillwater fly anglers around the world. This month, Chris Ogborne takes a snapshot of his favourite lake in springtime and reflects on the permanence of this beautiful water.
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Increasingly these days I’m finding time to reflect and enjoy the finer aspects of fishing.  In an angling career that has been intense at times, and even frantic with the unique atmosphere that only top level competition can generate, it’s only in my later years than I have been truly able to sit back and appreciate some of the things we so easily take for granted. And so it was this week when I allowed myself a few hours around Blagdon’s hallowed shores.  A meeting in Bristol finished early and I arrived at the South Shore as most of the boats were heading for home.  It was incredibly peaceful, not an angler in sight and I had nothing but the resident and visiting bird life for company.
Blagdon Lake Fly fishing
I saw my first migrants of the season, in the form of a flock of sand martins that had almost certainly arrived on the favourable southerly winds.  I saw grebes performing their mating dance, crowning and presenting strands of water weed to each other in one of nature’s most beautiful ceremonies.  There were no end of ducks around the margins and coots that had ceased quarrelling were quietly building nests in the withies.  The daytime breeze had dropped and calm water around the margins just begged to be fished with a floating line.
   But beyond this I also had to reflect on the  future of this beautiful fishery, and that we anglers so often take it all as given. My friend Danny McNicol always said that ‘Blagdon will always be Blagdon’ as he dismissed the thought of any real change at the lake.  But today there are pressures that even the far-sighted could not have anticipated.  Water companies are not charities and the temptation to make  a profit from resources such as Blagdon must be intense.  It would be all too easy to let this lake become a pike fishery, running at high profit with minimal cost. It would be oh-so-easy to take it down the franchise route, without the worry about summer weed growth that saps the revenue or the cost of constant re-stocking against an ever-present cormorant problem.
I hope this doesn’t happen because Blagdon is, has been and always should be the best stillwater trout fishery in Britain.  It has certainly stood the test of time and from way back in 1904 when it opened its doors to anglers it has hardly changed in any material way.  The photos I took today could truly have been taken fifty years ago, when I first fished this lovely water. Apart from a slight change in the tree line there is virtually no change at all to the skyline. There’s no change to the number of houses on the slopes of the Mendips, the farms are still viable and traditional.  It was then, as it is now, stunningly beautiful.
   Personally, my early days on Blagdon involved the development of the fly patterns I was evolving here.  I worked on buzzer patterns, variations of the infamous Diawl Bach, my own Stick Fly, Bristol Hoppers, and so many more.  I pioneered a ‘light line’ philosophy which stood me in good stead in so many competitions around the world. I developed my own tactical approach that led to success in home, international and World Championships.  It allowed me to create and develop a unique business. And I owe all this to Bladgon.
   Blagdon is the most demanding, the most scintillating, by far the most challenging and undoubtedly the most beautiful lake I know.  Set in the rolling Mendip Hills and yet barely a stone’s throw from the thriving conurbations of Bristol and Bath, it’s also so easily accessible.  If you’re not already a fan, I urge you to try the fishing here and I urge you to do it now, before it’s too late.
Not that Blagdon is the only precious place at risk, because ALL our fisheries, yes, all the amazing places that we enjoy with scarcely a second thought, are under pressure. Water authorities have no obligation to provide anglers with a place to enjoy their favourite sport .  Their first and overriding  priority is water supply and they, like any other business, need to make a profit.  If revenues from fishing drop – as they most definitely are – then our sport could be at risk.  Angler numbers are shrinking, it’s a fact.  The average age of anglers is rising, another alarming fact.  We so desperately need to foster the next generation of anglers if we are to survive.
   There is nothing completely inevitable about the decline of angling, but I’m afraid as a group we anglers are notorious for taking our sport for granted.  In real terms a day on any of our lakes is ridiculously cheap, yet we are all too quick to vote with our feet if the weather isn’t to our liking, or the summer weed growth renders our favourite spot unfishable, or if we don’t agree with the current stocking policy.  But you only have to look at Wimbleball on Exmoor to see what can happen if anglers fail to support a fishery. It’s not scaremongering to wonder ‘where next?’
   Have a look at the images here.  It’s Blagdon, on a perfect early spring evening.  If you want your children to enjoy this same view, with the option for them and their children to fish the same spot, then PLEASE support the fishery by  going fishing more often this year.  Most importantly of all, take a youngster with you, because new blood is what we need most of all.
   Use it or lose it.  It’s our choice and I so fervently hope that we don’t fall under the spell of apathy that affects so much in our sport these days.  More than anything, I pray that Danny McNicol’s words are upheld and that Blagdon will always be Blagdon.”
Chris Ogborne
Spring 2017

Top Flies and Presentations for Blagdon…

Fab Cormorant, Turrall stillwater fly patterns

For some great patterns to try on Bristol Water Fly Fisheries, take a look at our previous blog with top fly patterns and presentations from Turrall’s Gary Pearson.
Don’t forget to keep an eye on the Turrall Flies Facebook page for all our latest news, views and the best fly patterns and accessories!

The Magic of Spring Fly Fishing

Are you pining for spring? Do trout have spots?!! Turrall’s Chris Ogborne looks forward to sunnier times and the most optimistic time in the fly fishing calendar…

“That magical date of March 1st is with us.  Yes, it’s officially the first day of Spring and although in many parts of the UK it may feel as though winter still holds us in its grip, things are slowly changing.

Every day we get another few minutes of daylight.  In early morning and late evening the tentative calls of birds are heard, as though they are rehearsing for the rich dawn chorus that is so much a part of the coming season.  Temperatures are rising, green shoots are in the hedgerows and the sequence of Spring flowers is underway.  Snowdrops will turn to primroses, then daffodils and finally bluebells in a blaze of colour that brings the British countryside back to full vitality.


But perhaps most delicious of all is the glorious sense of anticipation keenly felt by fishermen up and down the country.  The over-long winter is passing and we all have our own version of opening day to look forward to.  So where would you choose?


Many stillwaters open in March and a lot of rivers and streams will be available come April 1st.  We need to wait a little longer for the sea fishing, but it’s worth the wait and after Mayday I’ll be starting to think about wet wading on the beach, or a bit of rock- hopping for the early bass.
 
My Dad used to say that it was sometimes better to travel than to arrive, and his thinking was that this long period of anticipation was something to be savoured.  There’s wisdom there and quite often the best of the fishing is a little further down the line.

Still, there’s no time like the present to get the tackle boxes in order, to arrange all the new flies in perfect rows in our fly boxes, and to get the lines off the reels for a pre-season stretch.  It’s a fact of life for most of us that our gear will not look the same come summer – those orderly rows of flies will have lapsed into the inevitable muddle and the perfect order in the tackle bag will be chaos and confusion again, just as it should be!  But just for this moment in time, everything will be ship-shape and precise.

A tempting spot on the stream; spring daydreams are made of this!

The best moments for me are those when I prep my fly boxes ahead of the first trip up to the river.  It will be too early for olives I expect, and up on the moors the old adage about ‘any colour you like provided it’s black’ will probably hold sway.

Skinny Black Gnat Fly

The usual suspects will be on the front row, with Hi-Vis black gnats and hawthorns being the default choice.  Natural Hawthorns were early last year and the weather meant they had a shortened season, but I’m hoping for better things this year.  When I see the unmistakable shapes hovering over the hedgerows, trailing those long legs beneath them – that’s when I truly believe that Spring has arrived.

On the lakes you’d be well advised to look at the old favourites to start the season.  Black and green is always a top combination and remember that a fly with plenty of life in it will be a safe bet.  Early season trout can be reluctant to chase a fly for any distance in the cold water and patterns like a black tadpole or anything with a marabou tail will enable you to give ‘life’ without too much speed in the retrieve.

My beach fishing will probably start with a bit of rock hopping, at least until the water warms up a bit for wet wading on the beach.  The bootlace sand eels are perfect for Spring as the natural eels will arrive ahead of the larger summer sand eels.  It will be intermediate lines to start with as well, until we reach for the floaters once the beach sport starts in earnest. The bigger bass are not always around at this time, but find the schoolies and you’ll still get some fine sport.

Whatever your pleasure, enjoy this magical time of year.  Spring is a season of hope and optimism, a time of year when everything is waking and growing, and life and fishing are in the ascendancy.  And the best bit of all is that we have the full angling year stretching ahead of us, with all its hopes, expectations and challenges.”

Chris Ogborne

Further Information:

For a range of guided fly fishing in Cornwall, Chris runs a range of sessions from small stream angling to reservoir and saltwater trips. Click here for more details.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the Turrall Flies Facebook Page for further news, fly patterns and top giveaways as we head into the new season!