11 Great Fly Fishing Gift Ideas for Christmas2018!

Looking for the perfect Christmas present for the angler in your life? From great value fly sets to fly lines, accessories and more, here are 11 items sure to be popular this festive season! We’ve included something for everyone here, from fishing gifts under £10 to great value starter kits, materials and must have gear.  Perfect treats for anyone who loves fly fishing, on sale from retailers and online shops right now. Just click the titles for product links to find out more…

1. Turrall Bamboo Fly Selection Gift Boxes (RRP: from £44.99)

Fly Fishing christmas gifts cane fly box Bamboo turrall

If you know what kind of fly fishing they love best, a beautifully presented selection box of flies could make a great present for him or her. Providing a whole host of winning fly patterns in a fine quality split-cane box, our Bamboo Fly Selections do just that, whether their first love is sea trout or stillwater water fly fishing.

2. Fishing Hoorag – RRP £9.99

angling buffLooking for a simple, stylish way to keep out the heat or the cold when fishing? Well, here’s a great Christmas stocking filler, perfect for those anglers who don’t do embarrassing knitwear! Fashioned in non-fish scaring camou colours, this accessory can be worn many different ways all year round.

3. Hemingway’s Dubbing Dispensers (RRP: £17.99)

Hemingways dubbing dispenser

For the tyer looking for the very best in fly dubbing materials, look no further than these sets of fantastically useful colours. Keeping the materials neatly stored together, these are also a great solution for those of us whose fly tying areas are less than tidy!

4. Hemingway’s Realistic Fly Sets (RRP: £15.99)

Hemingways realistic fliesIn the world of shop bought flies, it pays to be as selective and fussy as the fish you want to catch. This year, we are delighted to add Hemingway’s superbly lifelike patterns to our quality range of UK flies. The detail on many of these has to be seen to be believed, from caddis to mayflies, with both wet and dry flies to give you complete confidence with picky fish.

5. Sportsman Bumper (RRP £14.99)

Sportsman bumper fishing rod holder car
When you’re setting up for a day’s fishing, the last thing you want is your rod getting stepped on or worse (crunch!) getting caught in a car door. This brilliant fly fishing gadget keeps several rods snug and upright, sticking to the side of your car via magnets. Voila! No more rods falling over or costly accidents.

6. Today’s Flyfisher Magazine Subscription (£27.96)

Todays Flyfisher Subscription
This brand new fly fishing quarterly really is a thing of beauty! High production values, stunning photography and lively features cover just about every style of fly fishing you are likely to enjoy, from Britian’s wild lakes to far flung adventures across the globe. Highly recommended reading- why not treat yourself or a friend to four mouthwatering issues? See www.todaysflyfisher.com

7. Turrall Off Bead Nymphs (RRP: £9.99 set of 12)

Grayling nymphs best value
Looking for the best in modern grayling flies for winter fishing? These off-bead nymphs fish jig style, to get right down to where the fish are feeding on the coldest days. Doubling up on six of the very best colours and sizes, this set is great value for money.

8. Cortland Fly Lines, from feather to heavy weight! (RRP from £39.99)

Cortland fly line ultralight

Whether it’s flicking out a tiny dry fly on a delicate leader, or heaving out articulated pike flies on a 10-weight, Cortland produce some of the best fly lines money can buy. Currently in the range are lines that cater for the most demanding extremes, from Cortland Ultralight Trout Fly Lines in weight classes down to a two, right up to the Cortland Big Fly Line, already winning fans among those who cast large flies for toothy, hard-hitting predators.

9. Cortland 9ft Pike / Saltwater Fly Rod Kit (RRP: £74.99)

Cortland starter fly fishing kit pike bassAt some point in any fly angler’s life, a new challenge is a must to keep the flame burning strong. Fancy a crack at sea bass or pike in 2019? This ideal starter kit includes rod, reel, fly line and leader at the best possible value! Just add flies (and perhaps a wire trace for pike) and you’re away…

10. Cortland Chest Pack (RRP: £29.99)

Here’s a great portable solution for those who like to wade or wander for mile after mile. Deceptively spacious, yet light and highly practical, this stylish bag will carry plenty of odds and ends safely and stylishly.

11. Turrall Camou Fly Box (RRP £14.99)

Turrall camou fly box fishing gifts Super durable, besides eye catching, this box features high quality foam to store all your favourite flies snugly for seasons to come.

 

Late Season Bass Fishing Tips, with Chris Ogborne

Has the sun already set on your saltwater fly fishing this year? With big bass still a mouthwatering possibility, you might just want to reconsider! Chris Ogborne still finds plenty of encouragement to launch his boat on the Camel Estuary. Here, he tells us the story of an Autumn day’s bass fishing on one of those special rare days between the Autumn storms.
*******
boat fishing bass Cornwall winter autumn tips
Well, the crazy and ill-advised Bass regulations have at last been relaxed, and from 1st October we leisure anglers can fish again with the option of retaining a Bass for the table.
Or put another way, we can once again exercise our rights as part of our national and marine heritage.  Whether the draconian imposition on our sport for most of 2018 will have had any effect on fish stocks is debatable, and in fact will probably never be proved one way or the other.  With commercially licensed boats taking five tonnes each, I severely doubt that the quantities taken by leisure anglers would  have had any impact at all, but doubtless the  politicians will find a way of making the numbers read the way it suits them.

Regardless of this, at least we still have the rest of this lovely autumn in which to enjoy our fishing. Besides, if things don’t get too cold in a hurry, I’m hoping the back-end sport will be at least as good as it was last year.  These days, of course, you can enjoy fishing bass year round, although timing is key. So what are the best conditions for bass on the fly?

Glorious autumn fly fishing for bass

Bass fishing cornwall fly boat
I took the boat out this week on a glorious day and was reminded for the millionth time why I love living in this special part of the U.K.  The estuary looked stunning.  Autumn colours were blazing in the sunshine, skeins of geese were flying overhead as I left the mooring and a huge mixed flock of Curlews and Oystercatchers exploded from the salt marshes as I cruised past, on route to sea.  I thought, as indeed I think every time I take the boat out, that life doesn’t get a whole lot better than this!
The fish were in a good mood, too. Last week’s storms had  stirred things up nicely – we need a good blow now and then to liven up the water and move the food around for the fish – and the extreme water clarity of summer had changed to a very slight green haze, which is exactly what we want for Bass fishing.

Best fly colours and fly lines for late season bass

Bass fly fishing tips lines colours sandeels
I stopped off at several estuary marks on the way down channel, taking a couple of schoolies at each one on the fly.  The Turrall sand eel patterns in chartreuse and pink are just right in the brackish water, as the fish can see them more clearly than the neutral, grey or blue colours that we use in clearer water.
I tend to use intermediate lines almost exclusively at this time of year, as the fish can be a touch lethargic when the water cools down from summer temperatures.  Retrieve rates are slower too and the ultra fast stripping of high summer is replaced by slower, staccato movements which give you the opportunity for more variety in each cast.
 –
Conditions were as near flat calm as I’ve seen for a while, so I headed out to sea for a bit of prospecting around the islands.  Sport on the fly was good, but I had to switch to a fast sinker on some of the marks, just to get down quickly.
 –
Fish were feeding well in the running tide, and I positioned the boat in the down-tide lee of the island to fish the seams effectively. As high tide approached I just let the boat drift off across the rocky reefs that circle the island, taking fish between two and four pounds from around 15 feet of water.  Brilliant sport, made so much better by the near-calm conditions that allowed the rare luxury of perfect control on the fly line.
 –

Plan B: From fly casting to lure fishing

As often happens a breeze picked up after the tide changed, so I had to adjust  tactics.  For anyone sniffy at doing this, there’s no shame in casting lures when the need arises. As much as we’d love to catch every fish on the fly, lures can be a brilliant backup weapon that could save you a blank afternoon should the fly become difficult or impossible to fish.
On this occasion, a light LRF  spin rod and 25gram soft baits enabled me to find the depth and if anything the sport just got better.  I headed back inside the estuary to explore a couple of favourite marks inside the headland and they didn’t disappoint.  I found a good pod of fish, all in the 3 to 4 pound class that gave a great account of themselves on the LRF tackle.  There were still a few mackerel around too, to I dropped a string of feathers down to pick up a few for supper – the humble mackerel is still one of the most delicious fish to eat when it’s this fresh.

Time and tide…

All too soon it was time for home.  I keep my boat on a mooring that gives me around 3 hours either side of high tide, so I have to make sure I’m back in time  before the water disappears. Get it wrong, and you and your boat are stranded for ten hours or more!! Only once in thirty years have I left it too late to get back on the mooring – lesson learned!  It wasn’t dangerous in any way, but the embarrassment factor was off the scale and I didn’t live it down in the boat club for many seasons!  These days, no matter how good the fishing is, I always err on the side of caution!  Or maybe that’s old age for you!
 –
As is a part of my boating ritual, I stopped off on a little shingle beach about a mile from the mooring to gut the mackerel.  In the flat water, I couldn’t help but notice a spray of tiny fish (probably baby Mullet) which were obviously being chased by something bigger.
  It happened again about twenty yards away with an accompanying swirl so I quickly dropped the filling knife, reached for the fly rod, and put a fly  down near the last disturbance.  Three seconds later I was into a beautiful bass that must have been close to five pounds and he lead me a right old dance around the beds of wrack before I subdued him in the shallows. A spectacular end to a very special day and I admired him for a few long moments before slipping him back into the water.
Whatever your sport, get out and enjoy these final weeks of the season.  The legacy of the summer heat is that we have a stunning array of autumn colour this year, but all too soon this will turn into the inevitable grey of winter and, as we all know, it’s a long old time till spring!”
Fishing_sunset_cornwall
 –
For further reading on bass and saltwater fly fishing, check out our blog archives. Previous posts include:
 –

Bass and Saltwater Fly Fishing Tips

-Beyond Bass: Saltwater Tips from Garfish to Grey Mullet

Perfect fly lines and saltwater fly patterns for bass…

Looking for the best flies to catch bass and other saltwater predators this autumn? Look no further than Turrall’s own range of proven fish catchers. Designed and tested by Chris himself, our various sandeels and baitfish designs are spot on for bass. Chris recommends the brighter colours for later in the year, especially following disturbance and less than gin clear water. Find them at your local Turrall stockist or order online from the likes of Troutcatchers.co.uk or FliesOnline.

Sandeel flies for sea bass

As for fly lines, an intermediate or fast intermediate is perhaps the most useful tool later in the year, with slower retrieves. Tough and long-casting, Cortland Lines come especially well recommended for the job. Find all the best Cortland products from fly stockists across the UK.

Grayling on the Fly: Patterns and Tactics for Autumn Fishing

With busy lives, not to mention a summer of weird weather, it’s not always easy to get as much time on the river as you’d like. What a godsend grayling are, therefore, to take fly fishing into “extra time” on running waters everywhere! Dominic Garnett reports on a session of contrasting flies and tactics, with the Turrall gang and the Westcountry Angling Passport‘s Bruno Vincent.

River Tamar fly fishing grayling

“Although Devon and Cornwall are not exactly synonymous with grayling, there’s a surprisingly good selection of rivers where you can find the species. Nor is it all private, “members only” water. In fact, the excellent Westcountry Angling Passport scheme provides excellent fishing from as little as £6 a day.

Perhaps the first priority for our trip, given unusual current conditions (still very low water, after the bizarre summer of 2018), was to get some local advice. So I was quickly in touch with Bruno Vincent, who is a fellow writer for Fallon’s Angler as well as the current manager of the scheme, for some up to date information. Not only was he incredibly helpful, but we managed to tempt him out for a couple of hours on the water. Also joining me were Simon Jefferies and Gary Pearson.

Instant grayling fishing with the FishPass App…

Fish Pass App fly fishing day ticket Devon Cornwall

In an angling world that isn’t always tech savvy, it’s great to see day ticket fly fishing  moving with the times under the Westcountry Angling Passport. Today, I’m able to download the app, pay for tokens and digitally deposit these within minutes. Job done!

With water levels still low, Bruno’s advice is to fish Beat 22 (Ham Mill), near Launceston, which has a stretch of the Tamar, along with water on the Ottery, a lovely tributary.

“The Tamar always has a bit of colour, as do it’s main feeder streams the Ottery, Cary and Kensey” he advises. The Launceston area in general is excellent, with a cluster of beats all quite nearby (20, 21 and 25), for anyone in East Cornwall or West Devon.

“If the rivers are filling with rain, though, the Rivers Lyd and Inny are moorland fed and tend to colour up less- although that seems wishful thinking at present!” adds Bruno. “For those nearer Exeter, Tiverton and Barnstaple,  Westons (beat 1) offers lovely grayling fishing too, on a tributary of the River Exe on Exmoor, and is well worth a visit.”

Install the free app for yourself or find out more at westcountryangling.com and there are stacks of waters to go at, with several open well into the colder months for grayling fishing.

Grayling leaders and flies for small river fishing

While long rods and even longer leaders are all the rage these days for grayling, I must admit that I’m a relative latecomer to such antics. Part of it is the fishing on my typical home patch; Devon and Cornwall have lots of diddy little streams with clear, shallow water. Beanpole anglers, such as yours truly, scare fish easily at short range here, while beanpole rods can be more of a danger to trees than trout and grayling! Nor have I done too badly with shorter rods and the classic New Zealand duo or nymph plus indicator route.

Today though, there’s a definite argument for mixing and matching. Like several beats, we have the welcome choice of a narrow, bushy tributary along with a larger more open river at Ham Mill. The 7.5ft 4 weight wand I’m rigging up should do for the former, while Gary, Simon and Bruno’s long rods are ideal for the latter. With lots of room to play with, we should all have space to do our thing (well, let’s hope some whipping match doesn’t break out because I’ve got the shortest rod).

Best grayling flies nymphs off bead jigs
Regardless of rods and leaders, though, we’ll all be starting fishing with off-bead nymphs today. Not long released by Turrall, these flies give a jig-style presentation, to get them right down to the take zone without snagging up every other cast (you can find them here at just £10 for 12 brilliant grayling flies!).

Long leaders and location issues

With Cornwall’s rivers still so low, our initial challenge today is simply locating fish. The shallows are looking bare and often bereft of current, so it seems a safe bet that the fish are less evenly spread out than usual. It quickly becomes apparent that the deeper, faster water is the place to be.

Bruno misses some small early fish in a nice looking steady run with three feet or so of depth, which is encouraging at least. As with so many beats that contain both a main river artery and a smaller tributary, however, the confluence of the two looks especially tempting. In this case, there’s a lovey seam where coloured main river and clearer stream water meet.

Gary is straight in with the long rod. It’s a bit deeper here, but with reduced flows, one of the lighter off-bead nymphs is his pick, coupled with a soft hackle fly on a dropper. With weaker flows, heavier flies just wouldn’t move  through the swim freely enough.

Indeed, the weight of flies you use is important; in deep rushing water you might find two dense bead heads best, but today’s low flows require less mass. Gary uses a 10ft 2wt Cortland Competition series, with an extra long leader (around 20ft) with a section of indicator mono to help spot bites.

Just watching an experienced nymph angler “high sticking” is instructive. I always feel like casting more line out, but this isn’t the right idea. Instead, the fly line stays in the guides and a short, curt flip forward delivers the flies. By holding the rod up and out, with the tip high and the angler really pivoting and reaching (the sequence below gives a better sense), you can cover a surprising amount of water with each cast. You can see why he likes a very light reel for the job, too. My cheapies would give you arm ache:

How to fish french leader czech nymph fly fishing
Getting this right is about good habits and watching an expert always helps. I tend to want to lift the flies out too quickly when they’re heading downstream; whereas if you leave them for longer you’ll be surprised how close to your waders you can catch fish- and how many fish come across the current or even a bit below you. Obviously careful wading helps- and grayling tend not to be as spooky as trout.

Sometimes the bites happen right at the end of a delivery, as the flies start to lift. Again, holding on that extra second, when the flies have passed us, takes a bit of reprograming for those taught the logic of “upstream good, downstream bad”. It’s not rocket science, but it takes poise and control. Watch Gary and it looks easy!

Nor is it all posturing or techny knowlegd, as he shows by striking into something pretty solid early on, a fish that really thumps the light rod. Size of fish is always relative in any angling, but this looks a belting Cornish grayling. Anything of over a pound can be considered an excellent Westcountry specimen. It’s absolutely beautiful and around 15″ long:

Big grayling cornwall Devon fly fishing

Hide and seek

Short fly rods jungle fishing
While some of the more cramped spots on the Ottery look ideal for my short rod approach, it seems that the low water is the killer today. Spots that would usually be nice glides of water have shrunk to scrawny little pockets and at first can only graze a single accidental trout, which is quickly released.

So far, so not going to plan then. Until I join Simon in a slightly deeper, more susbtantial flow on the Ottery. Rather than argue over it we share a rod, which is always a nice way to fish. Here, a longer cast is useful- and the combination of a pink-tailed off bead nymph and an indicator set at around three feet seem to be just right.

River Ottery Cornwall fly fishing trout grayling
In no time, we’re winning some takes. These are quite gentle, but we each manage to connect with fish, including a lovely half-pounder. That’s a bit more like it!

Other than that, the main challenge is not getting your leader ravaged by biting winds or getting hit in the head by acorns. Yes, it sounds harmless but in the bigger gusts they really smash down into the water and could do a man’s face some mischief. Perhaps there’s something unlucky about this stretch for me? One of the few other times I fished it was with a stinking, self-inflicted headache, as recounted in the Crooked Lines story “Hangover Blues”.

Late dry fly fishing

Spurred on by our change of fortunes, we decide to explore further up the tributary after lunch. Bruno takes his leave, although not before kindly earmarking a couple of deeper runs and pools. Again, the low levels have rendered some of the sections between these areas a bit thin. Gary keeps saying just what I’m thinking: “If only there were another six inches of water, this run would be perfect.”

It’s still utterly beautiful though. Well, apart from a dead sheep. Those always give me the heebie jeebies. This is perhaps the price of watching too many low budget horror films.

Baby grayling

As much fun as the afternoon is, we don’t manage to improve on Gary’s earlier net-filler. In fact, Simon’s next grayling is one of the smallest we’ve ever laid eyes on. However, as the afternoon gets milder things pick up nicely. In fact, contrary to expectations, there are odd rises forming in the slower flowing waters.

Casting a dry fly on a 10ft Czech Nymph type rod and ultra long, fine leader isn’t exactly cricket, but is exactly what Gary resorts to. It’s not the most elegant way to fish, but with pretty much no fly line at all on the water, he achieves a very subtle presentation.

The grayling are not window shopping, but buying, anyway. CDC dries down to 18s and 20s get delicate-yet-positive rises, bringing the grayling tally higher still, although no one spot seems to produce bite-a-cast sport. If you do intend to try for some dry fly fishing, though, it certainly seems that afternoon is the time to try, as this is the only time we spot any rises.

I stick to the nymph fishing for grayling. Just out of interest, I compare some of the other, more conventional flies in my box at intervals; there is a definite difference between “point up” designs on jig hooks or off-bead styles, compared to old fashioned nymphs.

How to avoid flies snagging

It’s no rigid survey, but there’s definitely a marked difference, especially with all the autumn debris in the water. With the modern nymphs, I spend more time fishing rather than unhooking twigs and branches.

With summer already feeling like a distant memory, I’m just grateful to have caught grayling as well as unwanted bits and pieces. After all, conditions have been hard: a stiff wind, along with very low water. In fact, the fishing has been just balance of challenge and reward by the time we decide to call it a day.

Further information

Turrall flies are available across many UK retailers, both in stores and online. To order our new Off Bead Nymphs, as used in this feature, CLICK HERE.

Turrall Off Bead Nymphs grayling flies

The Westcountry Angling Passport offers amazing value fly fishing across South West England, for locals and visitors alike. With their excellent new Fish Pass App, you can now buy fishing tokens and get cracking at the touch of your smartphone! Trout season might be done and dusted for now (October 2018), but grayling fishing is still available across several beats to extend the season further. For full details and a list of fishing beats, see: westcountryangling.com

Westcountry Angling logo

 

September Specials: Autumn Fly Fishing Tips & Favourite Fall Flies

On the very cusp of Autumn, Chris Ogborne looks at some flies that will help you make the most of September, an excellent month for fly fishing.

*******

Well, after a parched summer we did at last get some much needed rain in August and I suspect that the majority of fishermen and gardeners were heartily pleased to see it. Lakes were ridiculously low and rivers have been ‘showing their bones’ for way too long. The feeling is that we were all just a few weeks away from a national hose pipe ban.

However, now things seem to be relatively back on track and with a definite chill in the air this morning, I felt that Autumn was just around the corner. A drop of rain was enough to bring a few sea trout into our rivers here in Cornwall and at long last the flow is looking vaguely normal, not just in terms of levels but colour. For most of this summer, river clarity has been such that it made tap water look cloudy!

reservoir flies for autumn
So what does September hold for us? If you’re an observant angler, you’ll have watched the migrant birds departing and at the same time you’ll see nature stocking up ahead of the long winter months, with the fish being no exception. Evening rises have been prolific after the drought and it’s as if the fish know that this is their last chance of a good feed.

Early autumn always tends to be a good time to fish then, but this year could be even better than usual.  With that in mind, here are a few suggestions on flies that really MUST be in your box this month:

STILLWATERS

It’s Daddy Longlegs time! Morning, afternoon and evening you will see the ubiquitous Crane Fly on the water and you’d be a brave man to leave home without a few suitable patterns in the fly box. These include daddy imitations, but I also like Hoppers.

daddy longlegs flies

Claret and Black are my favourites, depending on cloud conditions, but even on a bright day the Claret Hopper (above left) provides all the silhouette trigger factors that the feeding fish need. Of course, if things are really kicking off, foam bodied daddies (above right) are also great fun and among the most durable flies to use when takes are regular and splashy!  For further tips, our previous blog on fishing daddy longlegs patterns is worth a look.

Stillwater flies for autumn

Following close behind the daddies, though, would be caddis patterns such as the CDC Sedge (above left) . Some good hatches can be had in the autumn and these flies work particularly near dam walls and stone banks. As the weed breaks up, Corixa (above right) will always feature in my fly box, too. Indeed, these bugs  can be quite active all year on large and small stillwaters alike, even as things feel a lot cooler.

Finally, September also provides some of the best buzzer fishing of the year, and for the last hour of the day from either boat or bank it will be epoxy buzzers all the way into darkness.

RIVERS

For the beginning and end of any season, Black is the colour and the ever faithful Black Gnat takes a lot of beating. If you’re fishing one of the rivers where there’s been significant rain, with those sluggish flows turning to white water, then the Hi Vis Black Gnat (below left) will be useful in helping you keep track of the fly in the fast water.

best river flies late season september
It’s also the time of year when Spider patterns come into their own, especially if bank growth has been prolific and brambles and nettles deny you a decent cast. Fishing downstream with a team of Spiders is an art form in itself and it enables you to reach those secret places denied to a conventional upstream cast.

Most of the classics will catch, including the classic Black Spider, Partidge and Orange or Snipe and Purple (above right). While we’re on the subject of classic soft-hackled flies Dom Garnett’s blog on these understated patterns is also worth a read here.

Evenings are drawing in a bit now, so depending on the hatch I also like to give the lighter dries an outing. We get a lot of lighter upwing flies down here, but almost anywhere you can use pale colour in flies to help you keep track of them as dusk encroaches, and the fish won’t mind too much because at this time of day they see more silhouette than colour.

SALTWATER

September has long been my favourite month on the coast, not least because most of the tourists have gone home and the beaches are quieter. This is my time for either a bit of rock hopping or very slow ‘stalking wading’, where I replace my usual two-fly rig with a single sand eel on a very long leader.

best flies sea fishing autumn
The trick is not to cast at all until you actually spot a fish – if you’re casting all the time you just create an exclusion zone around yourself as the big solitary bass that come in close at the time of year are much too wary. Very slow, soft wading is the key and the Turrall Summer Sand eel in olive (above, top right) or blue is top fly for this fascinating style of fishing.  Sometimes the autumn is the best time of year to catch a big bass too, especially after a hot summer with prolific fry like the one we’ve just enjoyed.

At the other end of the estuary, it’s also the time of year when we fish the little channels in the salt marshes, right up at the top of the tidal reach. Solitary bass will prowl in here, looking for mullet fry or baitfish and they’ll be opportunistic, often taking anything that moves! Turralls baitfish patterns will do the trick nicely- and as always the Saltwater Clouser Minnow (above bottom right) is a good all-rounder.

*****
Whatever your pleasure in September, make the most of this lovely month. The drought denied us all a fair bit of our usual sport this year, so get out there and make some memories to last you through the long old winter, because it’s only just around the corner!

Chris Ogborne
September 2018

Follow Turrall Flies on Facebook & Twitter!

Best flies for Fernworthy Dartmoor Reservoirs

For the latest news, tips and competitions, be sure to follow Turrall Flies on our Facebook Page and Twitter feed. Besides free articles and current news, you’ll find regular fishing tips, giveaways and more.

Fly fishing for chub and trout with terrestrial patterns

As we approach the late summer holidays, there’s no better time to try a spot of fly fishing with larger terrestrial flies. Dom Garnett reports on some exciting recent sport.

“For any angler who doesn’t relish using tiny flies and the finest tippets, mid to late summer needn’t be all about the small stuff these days. In fact, some of the best days of all are to be had when things get really bushy and overgrown on the rivers, and land-borne insects are at their most prolific.

In the past, I would raid smaller trout streams with flies like the classic Coch-y-Bonddu or perhaps pick off a few fish with flying ants at this time of year. But these days, the real cream of the terrestrial season is on mixed waters as far as I’m concerned, and this means chub as much as trout.

Taking cover

River Tone Fishing Taunton Angling
An intimate, feature-packed summer river. Ideal habitat for terrestrials.

Find dense cover, or even riverbanks bordering on open meadowland, in July and August, and you will find a rich stock of “accidentals” that find their way into rivers. With the possible exception of flying ants, you are unlikely to find one particular “hatch” right now, but beetles, weevils, grasshoppers and other prey are all regular casualties. That said, it has been a very prolific year for wasps; which are more popular with chub than humans it must be said.

Our starting point, then, should be not so much to find the perfect insect to copy, but to find any suitable spot where the fish might expect to nab fallen insects. Trees, bushes and any overhangs are prime areas; but then again, even steep, open and earthy banks tend to be worth a shot.

Grasshoppers seem to be especially prolific this year, which remind me of a recent guiding client on a Devon trout river. We’d endured a slow afternoon trying to trick fish on small traditional flies, when we saw a huge swirl under a steep bank that bordered lush open meadows. I hadn’t seen what the fish had risen for, but recommended a grasshopper imitation from the fly box. Going from a size 18 to an 8 raised my guest’s eye-brows, but the fly was immediately  snaffled by a big mouth! The fish raised hell for perhaps thirty seconds before flipping off the hook. A little unlucky, but it proved a point.

Summer chubbing

river chub fishing
Trout might be fun to catch on terrestrial flies, but I have an equal regard for the chub and the fishing on my local rivers (usually the Culm and Tone) can be excellent.

The chub is a fish to break many of the usual fly fishing rules, making it a refreshing target. Given a choice, I would tend to start with a fly no smaller than a size 10-12, with trailing legs and good buoyancy. The Chopper is a point in case; black knotted legs and a floss body stand out a mile under the surface film, but a generous deer hair wing makes it very buoyant and easy to locate.

Even more fun though, not to mention useful for uneven currents and fish that need waking up, is my grasshopper pattern. Indeed, my normal first attempt at a sighted chub will be to drift a fly with the current and little interference. Sometimes this is enough!

However, where you have perhaps already hit or missed a fish, or they have rather too long to study the fly, you sometimes need to provoke these fish a little more. This is where a twitch or two come in. You can try twitching a fly like  my foam grasshopper several yards- but often the best way is to let an inquisitive fish approach and give the fly a little movement just as the gap is closed, to warn your quarry that dinner might escape.

Flies Fly Patterns for Chub

All these flies are available to order online, from the likes of Troutcatchers, Flies Online or my own website www.dgfishing.co.uk (where you can also order the book Flyfishing for Coarse Fish).

Tight spots and risk taking

Fly fishing for chubAt close quarters, it can be important to keep a low profile.

Successful fly fishing with terrestrial patterns is often about taking a gamble. Chub and trout are both at their most confident around cover, where we can’t get at them so easily. For this reason, you can’t always get the rewards by playing it safe! You’ll often find that chub sitting close to cover will hit a fly instantly, in fact, but only if you land it right in the mixer!

Of course, a few other rules also apply in these situations. One is not to risk an overly light leader. I don’t go much lighter than 5lbs around cover- and the thicker tipped also helps avoid twisting and weakening with a larger fly. I also insist on fully debarbing my fly. Should disaster then strike, and a big fish take you into sunken snags and break you, it is almost certain that the fish will soon lose the fly.

As for tackle, a short rod may be essential for wading, but I most often find a long rod to be best for bank fishing, along with an extra long landing net. One classic chub trick is to fight sluggishly at first, before plunging right under the near bank- and the longer the lever you have to keep it out, the better. These fish don’t fight as hard as trout, but they do fight dirty, so be ready.

Cheap, thrilling fly fishing

When you stop and consider just how cheap and accessible chub fishing is compared with the classic chalkstreams and other venues, it’s a little surprising these fish are not more popular. After all, if I told you there were rivers you could fish for a fiver a day where the typical catch averaged over a pound and a dozen in a session was possible, you might either think I’d been drinking or that such sport would cost a fortune. But this is normal chub fishing!

Chub on flyA typical small river chub. Net-sized fish like this are common.

Who cares if the fish don’t have spots? The smaller samples will provide lots of action, while a large, wily chub is a truly worthy adversary and much smarter than a stocked trout. In fact, many if not most of the same trout fishing rules of watercraft apply to these fish; approach with care, keep low and cast upstream.

Perhaps the major difference is the size of fly they like best and the greater success rate of the “induced take” when a dry fly is waked across the surface. It’s terrific fun, and two-pounders are not “fish of the season” material on most rivers but fairly common. Great summer sport in anyone’s book!

Red Letter Fly Fishing for Sea Bass!

In spite of the recent heatwave conditions, there has been some sensational saltwater fly fishing around the English coast so far this year. Chris Ogborne reports on some phenomenal action with sea bass in Cornwall.

*******

saltwater fly fishing cornwall UK chris ogborne

“It’s not often that I get really excited about fishing these days. At my age, you tend to temper over-enthusiasm with a little reality and there are few things that still get the adrenalin flowing at high speed.

But last week, I ran out of superlatives to describe the sport we had on one of my favourite beaches here in Cornwall. It was, quite simply, off the scale!

Picture the scene: I was hosting two friends for the week. John Pawson (former England International fly fisher and individual World Champion no less!) and Andy Payne, who although relatively new to the game is already a very accomplished angler. I was therefore understandably a little nervous about how good the fishing would be, especially in the light of the current heatwave, and also because the beach fishing in general hasn’t really switched on yet. In the event, I needn’t have worried.

bass fly fishing cornwall uk

For some reason, which I can only try to explain, there was a higher than usual number of very big bass coming in to this particular beach. This doesn’t usually happen until September, when the tourists have gone home and the big solitary bass come close in prowling.The only explanation I’d offer is that the fishing has been poor out at sea because of a lack of wind – we need a good storm every now and then to stir things up – and because of the heat and continued bright conditions.

Whatever the cause, the schoolies we normally play with have headed up into the estuary and the normally elusive big fish were here in numbers. Big numbers. Every ten or fifteen minutes or so we’d see a huge shape moving through the shallows, mopping up the prolific bootlace sand eels that are everywhere at the moment. And if you can spot these feeding fish, you can catch them.

I was using the new Cortland line which is proving a real delight to fish with. Supple in cold water and easy to handle even within the demands of saltwater flyfishing, where you constantly need a mix of long and short casting and lightning quick responses when you see a fish. The water was full of bootlace sandeels so our imitations were simple – the Turralls bootlace eels in pink, chartreuse, and blue, depending on water conditions. To clarify this point, you need the pink and chartreuse in any kind of brackish or ‘low tide’ water, whilst the blue and grey artificials are perfect when there’s a high degree of clarity in the water.

Sandeel flies specially designed by Chris. Find these from various UK suppliers including www.troutcatchers.co.uk

John and Andy were visibly excited when we spotted fish almost immediately, and I have to confess that I was too. If you don’t get a buzz when you see fish up to and beyond double figures in casting range, then you’re in the wrong sport!

John’s very first fish of the trip turned out to be his lifetime best sea fish, a stunning Bass of around 7 1/2 lbs. We spotted it, he covered it perfectly with around 20 feet of forward lead and we both gasped out loud when it turned and surged towards his pink sand eel. With an almighty swirl it took the fly. A full fly line then disappeared in seconds!


Such was the power and pace of the fish that he had to literally run through the waves to keep up with the monster that was heading for the Doom Bar at about thirty knots! Two grown men were giggling like school children – well, why not!! It took nearly twenty minutes to subdue, and a further five minutes to relax the fish before releasing it. The high five was a bit special!

Although I initially thought that this would be the high point of the trip, if anything it just went on getting better. Andy had never caught a Sea Bass before, so his first fish the following day which touched 4lbs or better, was a real moment. The pictures here show the quality of the fish we caught, but of course nothing quite compares with seeing them in real life. The pure silver flanks, the beautiful eye and the sheer power of them, all this makes it a genuine pleasure to release them back to the sea. The Bass is a stunning. fish and arguably the greatest challenge you can get on a fly rod, so these were memorable days.

Whether you fish by bank or boat this summer it certainly bodes well for the summer. Should you want to book your own special trip and make some memories, do take a look at my site.

boat fishing cornish bass on fly

In the end, I guess it’s a combination of factors that makes a top fishing experience. The tackle was perfect and performed faultlessly, the flies were exactly right and we just happened to hit on a unique set of water and weather conditions. Whatever the analysis, these were some red letter days with some special friends in a special place, and they will live in the memory for a very long time.”

guided bass fly fishing cornwall uk

Chris Ogborne
July 2018

Two’s Company: Fly fishing on Devon’s River Otter

When it comes to getting the best from a varied stretch of river, two rods –or even two heads- are better than one. Dom Garnett joined Gary Pearson on Devon’s beautiful River Otter to enjoy some fine dry fly and nymph fishing.

“When we think of most river days in the trout season, most of us tend to take just one rod. This seems logical if we want to travel light, but it can be limiting. After all, the tackle needed to present a dry fly in a shallow, stony run is completely different to that for nymphing in a deep, swirling pool.

Having two setups allows you to fish very different bits of water and get the best from every turn of the river. An even more sociable solution is to fish with a friend and carry a different rod each. It’s excellent fun and by taking a different set up each, you can keep swapping and comparing notes.

I should know- because my recent best ever trout from the River Usk was caught this way; my brother had packed a short, light dry fly rod for the shallows, while I took a much longer rod to handle long leaders and heavy nymphs. Had I just taken one, compromise set up, I wouldn’t have caught that fish.

Today, there is a similar theme as I meet Gary Pearson on the Otter. Our two outfits for the day will be a 3wt Cortland Mk 2 Competition rod of  10’ 6” , along with a slightly shorter 2wt Cortland Mk 2 Competition rod of 10ft. While the former is just the job for long leaders, heavy nymphs and deep swims, the latter is more suitable for delicate presentations, longer casts when needed, and the dry fly.

Gary is a firm advocate of long rather than short rods on the river and has threatened to show me how to approach the small streams on the top of Dartmoor with a 11footer later in the season!  Back to today and the nymph rod has two bugs on it set 2.5 feet apart along with a foot of Cortland bi-colour indicator mono attached to a very long tapered leader with this set up very rarely do you involve any fly line outside the rod top so casting can take a bit of getting use to if you haven’t fished like it before.  The dry fly set up is a much more straight forward 9ft tapered leader down to a 2lb point.

At the business end, on the nymph setup both Gary and I are big fans of the new Cortland Ultra Premium fluorocarbon tippet at the moment. It’s reassuringly expensive, admittedly, but incredibly strong for its incredibly fine diameter. Ideal then, for a small river where you might need some finesse but enough stopping power to land a surprise monster.

Poetry in motion: The River Otter


It’s not hard to fall in love with the River Otter. It’s a meandering and varied water to put it mildly. The poet Coleridge was also smitten by it; although by all accounts he was too busy scribbling verse and frolicking with the ladies to spot many trout.

As the place he learned to fly fish, the river has a special connection to former England international Gary. And while our sport is always prone to the “things ain’t what they used to be” or “you should have been here last week/year/century” comments, he assures me the river is still in good health.

There’s plenty of river to fish, too.  Day ticket guests have several beats to try at the Deer Park Hotel, while locals could also apply to join Ottery Fly Fishing Club. There is also a limited amount of free fishing at Otterton, but do check carefully!

Explore everything

 

One of the things I love about river fly fishing in Devon is the whole “hide and seek” aspect.  When watching an angler like Gary,  one thing you quickly notice is how often he’ll drop into the smaller, awkward or less obvious spots too many of us walk past.

Our first stop today is a point in case. A little swirling crease looks barely worth a cast; but a nymph gets an instant response and a small brownie gets us off the mark. In these rough little pockets, Gary’s long rod and duo if heavy nymphs is ideal.

Wild trout otter

The next little piece of water is similar- not much bigger than a coffee table of turbulent water gushing around a tree stump. I try with the nymph this time; and just where you’d expect, there’s a sudden jolt on the line. I’m surprised to connect with a pound plus fish that wallops the fly but comes adrift seconds later.

Just like the old days? 

Whatever the reasons given, the decline in fly life across so many UK rivers has been glaring in recent years. But is that always the case? “Don’t tell me, the hatches used to be so thick here, you couldn’t see the far bank!” I tease Gary.

However, as we approach mid morning, we keep seeing olives coming off the water. From early dribs and drabs come dozens at a time, in fact, of little pale watery olives, along with odd samples of other species from cinnamon sedge to a lone “proper” mayfly. Out comes the dry fly rod.

Pale watery olive fly fishing

We find a decent colour match in the fly box, but even a size 18 emerger seems large compared to the natural flies. A fun-sized trout lashes out first, but it is the meaty, steady rises a few yards further that really capture our attention.

After a few casts with no interest on a pale fly, Gary switches to a slightly larger, darker size 16 Klinkhamer, which does the trick. After a delicate sip, however, the expected half-pounder turns out to be something much larger altogether. Indeed, the next few seconds are hair-raising and it takes careful handling from Gary, not to be broken.

Gary Pearson Cortland Fly fishing lines UK

When you’re on camera, you don’t want to add any extra pressure, so the best policy is usually to keep your mouth shut and avoid the obvious bits of advice as you snap away.

Gary Pearson specimen trout river otter devon

What a fish it is that hits the net, too! Sixteen inches –or around a pound and a half- of trout is a phenomenal fish for our Devon rivers, where they average less than a quarter of that.

Meandering on…

After releasing the fish, the hatch shows little signs of any let up for a good hour or so. My first dry fly fish of the day could probably be eaten by Gary’s, but every single trout we catch is noticeably fat and well-fed. Whether the river is especially rich at present, or local farming is small scale and not reliant on chemicals it is wonderful to see.

Gary Pearson Turrall fly fishing

Even with flies on the wing slowing down by late morning, what we have seen is categorically the best fly hatch I’ve seen for several years on any English river! Even when it tails off, we keep bites coming by switching back to the nymph rod, which is perfect for deep and more turbulent spots where there are no rises.

The short line/ high rod approach might not be as “pure” as the dry fly, but is such an underused method on our Devon rivers, where classic dry fly or New Zealand style tactics tend to be the way with most anglers.

What’s really noticeable about Gary’s 10ft 6” rod is the feel of the takes too- for anyone who assumed a rod is just a rod, you can really feel the taps and tingles of interest through the competition blank! It’s a lovely way of fishing which, once you get used to it, can really winkle out extra fish and change the way you fish a river.

Mayfly fly fishing

There are odd large mayflies joining the party by lunchtime, although the trout don’t seem to be dining on them just yet. There is also evidence of beavers here, as a well-gnawed and felled tree shows. At first I’m sceptical-but the chisel like tooth marks in the stump could not have been caused by anything else. I’ll let you decide whether this is good news or a bit ominous for our rivers!

Beaver River Otter Devon UK

There is certainly no shortage of variety on the Otter though, as we keep on the move. One minute, we’re high sticking in tumbling water; the next it’s side casting under a shallow, leafy glide. The fish are still here, if a little challenging now.

Dom Garnett fly fishing Devon UK

As we make our way back through the fields, we’re still excited about that large trout and the morning’s biblical scale fly hatch. Having two rods has definitely made a difference, allowing us to search every last corner with the right key for each lock.

Fly Fishing the Hawthorn Hatch

As predicted, Spring almost seems to have been bypassed this year and as we enter early summer, our rivers are  dramatically coming to life.  Chris Ogborne takes a look at the enigmatic hawthorn fly, a species now well on the wing, with some expert tips and recommended fly patterns.

“There are many signs in the countryside that Spring has truly arrived: The swifts soaring and screaming overhead, the first cuckoo call and the first brood of hatched duckling paddling in the margins.  But for me, there’s a humbler and less obvious candidate – the first Hawthorn flies hovering over the hedgerows.

spring fly fishing in Devon
Unless you’re lucky enough to fish a river that has a decent mayfly hatch, these jet black flies are likely to be the first real feast of the season for the trout.  The hawthorns are prolific, for one thing.  They  can generate huge swarms and the fish love them.  Once used to them, they will rise with total abandon often with a splashy rise form more often seen on Irish loughs  at Mayfly time.

Like the mayfly, however, the fish seem to take a week or so to get locked into hawthorns.  It’s almost as though the smaller wild brownies are afraid of their size, or maybe cautious would be a better word. I watched a little fish on the Fowey this week, rising from the river bed as each insect passed over him, but failing to find the confidence to take it.  I’ve seen this behaviour before and even on the big lakes you can sometimes observe rainbows slashing at daddies without actually taking.

Hawthorn fly drowningNot waving but drowning! Temperature change periods are prime.

While you might need some patience, though, once the fish get a taste for hawthorns, there’s no stopping them.  So when do trout take advantage most? Well, hawthorn flies are particularly susceptible to temperature change and if there’s a cold snap or even if the sun goes in for a while, you’ll often see them falling onto the water in large numbers, at which time the fish get well and truly locked on.  Similarly in the evenings, as the days warmth recedes and the cool of evening takes over, there can be a significant fall.

Top hawthorn fly patterns and how to fish them

So which flies are best to imitate hawthorns? That old adage for fishing wild rivers is ‘any fly you like as long as it’s black’ has a lot of truth in it, and I’ll almost always start a days prospecting with the ubiquitous black gnat or an emerger version such as the Hi-Vis Black Gnat (below), one of my favourite barbless river flies.  These small, black flies imitate are readily accepted as a small hawthorne (or any one of many small terrestrials!) even without that characteristic pair of trailing legs.

But there’s  nothing like the real copy and the great thing about hawthorns is that they’re dead easy to imitate at the tying bench. You can exaggerate the all-black body and the gauzy, almost white wings with either a conventional pattern or even a parachute version, which not only replicates a drastically drowning fly, but makes it easy to spot in white water or faster runs.

Whichever pattern you try, fishing it well-drowned is often more productive than presenting it neatly; so think “in” rather than “on” the surface! If you don’t tie your own flies, Turrall produce several effective imitations, including the dry hawthorn (below):

Turrall winged dry hawthorn Enjoy Hawthorn time while  it lasts.  I have  a feeling that we’re in for a long hot summer this year as all the country signs are pointing to it, so make the most of  this early surface sport.”

Chris Ogborne

Small Stream Fly Fishing in Spring

After a rather cold, late spring, the trout fly season is finally starting to pick up on our classic smaller rivers. Dom Garnett reports on a testing yet rewarding start, including a battle with a real monster from a modest West Country stream.

“Although every season in fishing might look similar according to the textbook, things can be so very different in practice. So how did 2018 begin for you? Here in Devon, there was still snow in March; as we begin May, temperatures have varied from heat wave all the way back to winter chill. In short, it still feels like the rivers are two or three weeks behind.

I tend to start every new trout season with optimistic ideas, which quickly tend to give way to more practical realities. I’ve been fishing locally on the urban rivers, and also further afield with Wellow Brook Flyfishers in recent weeks. The fish have responded on each trip, but not as you might have expected.

Moorland or Lowland Streams?

Jig Nymph trout
Although I love the heights of Dartmoor and other wild waters, I actually find that the lowland streams tend to fish better in the early season. In fact, the urban locations are often that bit warmer and more sheltered that exposed, lofty rivers up on the moors and right out in the sticks. And when things are a bit chillier, this is the time to hit them; before the sun lovers and holiday crowds are out in force in our parks and suburbs.

I had a couple of lovely, if testing , recent afternoons on town rivers too, including Tiverton’s River Lowman. Like the fishing in Okehampton and Tavistock, the modest size of the average trout is more than compensated by their brilliant colours. That said, on each trip I struggled to get an early bite.

Usually by this time of year, I would expect to start seeing some fish in shallower water and steady runs of only 18” or so deep. Not so far in 2018. I can’t remember the fish ever being so clustered on these little streams either. Some really juicy little weirs and pools produced two or three fish within minutes; others have been completely luckless. Go figure!

One really useful tip is to increase the depth you present your nymphs if you are really struggling. The usually reliable “duo” or New Zealand dropper is not always the answer, either, once you need the wet fly to fish well down. Better to use an indicator- and with the need to get right down I won’t hesitate to step up the fly size and use quite a large indicator that won’t pull under too easily when it’s trundling the bottom at around at three or four feet.

Best flies for early season on small rivers

off bead nymphs jig Turrall
Perhaps the real revelation this season have been nymphs dressed “jig” style. I’ve been field testing several new “off-bead” flies for Turrall, which are already filtering through to some of the shops . With an up-turned hook point they are superb for deeper presentations and definitely snag less and run through likely spots effortlessly. In a nutshell, this seems to lead to more trout and fewer losses!

It certainly adds confidence when you can bump a nymph through a rocky pool, knowing that you’re unlikely to snag. And for every spot that seemed lifeless, the next or next but one would produce a sudden hit and another lively trout. These fish are still rather skinny after a tough winter, but fit and beautiful nonetheless!

Winning the pools

Of course, trout sitting deep and rivers being rather full are not altogether negative for the angler. One thing you do notice as a bit of a beanpole angler is that you can get much closer to the fish without scaring the spots off them!

I can seldom get so close to the trout, even in a deep pool, when it’s high summer. Again, they seem to have really clustered up lately. You find nothing in the runs and tail of the pool and then, suddenly, two or three from the same small area, usually with extra depth and some cover nearby.

As gratifying as it is to get those first fish, however, there is part of you that craves dry fly fishing. Even a single hatching fly makes you scan the water more carefully. Occasionally, there have been some large dark olives, but alas I must admit that I’ve barely seen a rise in a whole month.

Large Dark Olive fly life
Not for the first early season spell, then, I have finally managed to tempt a fish or two not by matching the hatch at all, but by being a little more provocative. After all, while the shallows seem devoid of fish at first inspection, pocket water and the tumbling stuff around boulders, perhaps with more sanctuary than meets the eye, is well worth testing.

Small river fly fishing Devon
I don’t bother with tiny flies unless there are hatching flies and obvious risers, however. In fact, against your instincts, a big hairy sedge tends to work better in the more turbulent water.

Elk Hair Caddis Turrall
A size 14 Elk Hair Caddis (above) with plenty of floatant was the breakthrough fly this April. I like a sedge to be extra buoyant so I can wake it slightly through tumbling pocket water swims and little corners. It can feel like a heavy handed tactic, until suddenly… wallop!

Dry fly fishing April Devon
My first take or two on the sedge were missed by trout, or angler, or both. Then again, both man and fish were probably a bit out of practise with dry flies as you might expect. Next time there was no mistake though. A small trout, but beautiful and that first dry fly fish of the season is always cause for optimism. Things are sure to get better, too…

A monster from the Wellow Brook

Finally, I was also the guest of the wonderful Wellow Brook Fly Fishers recently. It was a sparkling day, the best of the year so far in face, and is all set to make a special Fishing Club of the Month feature for Fly Fishing & Fly Tying magazine in the next month or two.

Neil Keep, Wellow Brook Fly Fishing
You cannot beat local knowledge and I picked up some fantastic tips and spots to try from club member and fellow South West Guide Neil Keep. In fact, luck was truly with us and we couldn’t have picked a better day.

The local farmer’s ice cream shack opening just as you indulge in some trout spotting was one bonus; but the real highlight was an absolutely cracking wild trout that I hooked in a deep pool. At around a pound and a half, it was really well fed for an early season fish too.

small river, big brown trout
Like on the urban streams, our bites were concentrated in a just handful of spots. The biggest beast took a jig style nymph and really stretched a four weight to the limit! Do look out for the full story, not to mention some fantastic fly fishing tips from Neil Keep, in the article.

In the meantime, let’s hope the temperatures get steadier and hatches increase, because after the winter just gone, we could all use some sunny cheer. Till next time, happy fishing, best of luck and don’t forget to take some bigger nymphs to really search those pools, because you never quite know what you’ll hook next.”

 

Fly Fishing at Fernworthy Reservoir, Dartmoor

With some better weather and fly hatches arriving, the Turrall staff have been back to one of their favourite trout fisheries in Devon, the beautiful Fernworthy Reservoir. Dominic Garnett reports on a testing but excellent day’s fly fishing, along with successful flies, tactics and one or two surprises.

“The arrival of ‘true spring’ is never incredibly exact. This year, more than any other, it has been cold, wetter and later than expected. And with the rivers still high and difficult, it has been a case of getting out onto the reservoirs instead for some sport.

Fly fishing Fernworthy Reservoir
Fernworthy Reservoir is a particular favourite with the Turrall crew. Even so, I wondered whether it would be a little early for the fish to be very active. How wrong was I though, because as Simon Jefferies, Gary Pearson and I set off, there were fish rising everywhere. Very small brownish buzzers seemed to be the culprits, as lots of shucks and hatching adults proved.

Buzzer fly shuck fishing

We tackled up with five and six weight rods, although with the lack of much wind we could have gone a bit lighter, I suspected. All three of us went for long, fairly fine leaders (5lb droppers) of at least 15ft. This is dependent on conditions, but definitely helped us get good presentation in the calm spells, allowing flies to land well away from the heavier fly line.

Flies and tactics for Fernworthy

There was only the lightest ripple on the water as we began, suggesting it might fish hard. I hadn’t fished here in a while, but remembered small loch style flies worked well when there was a good breeze. But with gentler conditions and such small naturals hatching I went small to start with, with spiders and buzzers in sizes 14 to 18 (although even these looked big compared to a lot of the real flies). I had a small, dark wildie right from the off on a Black Spider, but then struggled to get another bite for a while.

The others were struggling a bit too, initially, so it was a case of experimenting until we got it right. Gary mixed it up with some different nymphs and even the odd mini lure, but as before, it was his use of buoyant flies as part of a team of three that I found most interesting about his approach. You always pick up good little edges from these competition anglers- even when they’re just fishing for fun!

Best flies for Fernworthy Dartmoor ReservoirsSome of our fly choices on the day (Starting from far L, going clockwise): Mini Muddler (Golden Olive), Booby Buzzer, Black & Peacock, Quill Buzzer, UV Epoxy Buzzer.

The Booby Buzzer, for example, is a brilliant little fly of Gary’s design. Not only does it fish differently to a normal fly, tending to hang just in the surface film or below, but also changes the way your other flies fish. And when the trout are feeding in the upper layers it will keep your other buzzers higher up in the water too, almost like a mini washing line set up. Yet it’s so much subtler and more natural than the standard Boobies and buoyant offerings. It could just be my new favourite point fly !

It certainly worked for Gary anyway. While most of us use flies that sink and then rise as we pull them, he often uses a fly that is buoyant on the point, which will sink when he pulls. Or perhaps even deadlier, will suspend and just hang there enticingly when he makes a pause.

Whatever he was doing, it earned him the next fish, a cracking stockie putting a good bend in his rod. Probably our biggest on the day it went around 15″ and well over the pound mark. An excellent fish for Fernworthy.

Keeping mobile

Perhaps one of the most common errors for these Dartmoor Reservoirs is to stick to only one or two spots. That’s not to say you shouldn’t loiter if there are several rising fish in front of you, but with the browns quite territorial, it’s certainly good to move.

A quick word of warning here is to approach each new spot carefully, though. Tempting as it is to wade straight in and launch a long cast, quite often the fish were just a few rod lengths out. Hence it’s often a good idea to keep back and cast short for a couple of minutes first.

Fly fishing Dartmoor lakes

With the going tough early on, Simon put in the legwork to get into one or two lesser fished spots and it quickly paid off. He had a manic half hour with two landed, two lost, by doing something totally different though. The tactic that seemed to drive the fish nuts was a Mini Muddler fly, pulled just inches under the surface.

This fly is a favourite of Simon’s from many Fernworthy trips- but usually in a big evening sedge hatch, not late morning! For the record, if you come here in the summer, it’s well worth staying late and pulling a good sized Stimulator or Mini Muddler through the surface, because the fish can go nuts when the sedges are on.

Dartmoor Reservoirs Fernworthy Fly fishing
Gary then managed another fish after trying to provoke them a bit more by switching to a Cormorant. That was the last of the action for a while though, as the skies brightened and it seemed a good time to stop for lunch.

To the Dam…

There is access pretty much all the way around Fernworthy, making it a great venue for anglers who love to roam. We found plenty of space just along the lodge bank though- and with the daytime crowds picking up (and picnicking up), we ventured down to the dam end. The plan was we’d move again bank if no bites ensued within fifteen minutes or so (a good general rule). And so we moved spots towards the dam, looking out for rises.

Luckily for us, the sun that warmed our faces over lunch was more intermittent by now. It certainly felt like every time it got warm, the fish went deeper. But as the cloud came over and we got a slight ripple again, back came the odd rise.

The other notable feature of this area was an absolute mass of breeding toads in the margins. As keen as we all are on our fishing, these distractions are one of the great joys of a day out I guess. In one spot under the bank in particular there must have been about seven or eight all in a scrum, like some kind of Roman orgy for toads!

toads dartmoor
A lesser known fact about these beasts is how long they can live. Ten or fifteen is normal in the wild, but apparently in captivity they can make fifty! What has this to do with fly fishing? Very little… well, until the eggs hatch and the trout very possibly take notice of all the tadpoles! Small black lure in a fotnight, anyone??

Back to the fishing and while sport wasn’t easy, the trout were still willing to look at a small buzzer from time to time, at least when the wind raised a notch and carried our flies better. Just letting them swing across with virtually no retrieve seemed to be the way.


Perhaps the best moment of drama was with Gary, just as his cast landed. Having just nabbed a tiny little native, a much bigger fish gave a crash take at the surface. The hook didn’t set, but my own timing was more fortuitous, as I was perfectly set with the camera just as the surface exploded!

Surface take fly fishing Gary Pearson
I was only getting sporadic pulls meanwhile, but was glad I persisted with the smaller buzzers, because it was swinging these around in the breeze that led to the best wildie of the day. Following a few juicy head and tail rises perhaps a hundred yards before the dam, I was simply letting my flies move genty on the breeze, when the line jolted tight.

I’d assumed it was a “stockie” by the ruckus, but the more slender shape and milky edged fins suggested otherwise. It had dense spotting and an incredible blue sheen to it too. One of the best looking trout I’ve caught in quite a while and at 12-13″, a very good-sized “wildie” for here.

wild brown trout fishing fernworthy dartmoor
It was with reluctance then, besides satisfaction, that I pullled myself away from the lake to pick the wife up from work. Inevitably when you reach for the car keys, the fish begin rising again- and I left Simon and Gary to it.

What a beautiful venue and what excellent sport for our day out. Not easy, but certainly rewarding if you mix things up a little and keep mobile. I’m told the real cream of fly fishing on Fernworthy is on a summer evening when there’s a good ripple and the caddis are hatching. Hoppers and small terrestrials have also worked though. Failing that, however I would take light-ish tackle and fish a long leader with two or three small natural flies; you cannot go too far wrong with classic dark spiders and skinny buzzers.

I hope this little write up has given you an idea or two for your next trip to Dartmoor anyway- and the same tactics certainly work on all our brown trout stillwaters, whether free or day ticket. Here’s to an excellent season for everyone.”

Buy the flies…

For all the flies used in our trip, including all of our favourite fly patterns for Fernworthy and the other Dartmoor reservoirs, see your local Turrall dealer or order at a click from our online stockists, including www.troutcatchers.co.uk, Fly Fishing Tackle UK and FliesOnline.