The evenings may be drawing in and Autumn with us, but as Chris Ogborne expounds, the fishing season is far from over.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
-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.
(Three spiders to tie yourself. L to R: Spider sedge, JC Midge & Beaded Black and Peacock)
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
Rib: Gold wire
Body: Olive Alpaca Dubbing
Wing: Woodcock slips
Hackle: Grizzle Hen
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
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
Tag: UV multiflash (pearl or red)
Body: 2 strands peacock herl
Hackle: Black hen (two turns max).
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.
–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.
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.
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.
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.
Which patterns would make your shortlist?”
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.
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!
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.
Hook: Turrall Grub Hook (size 10-14)
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 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 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 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.
Top Flies and Presentations for Blagdon…
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.
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.
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.”
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!