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

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

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

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

Further Information & Top Flies for Blagdon & Bristol Water Fisheries

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


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

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

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

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


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

QUILL BUZZER

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stock up on quality materials and buzzers with Turrall…

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

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

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

Top Flies and Presentations for Blagdon…

Fab Cormorant, Turrall stillwater fly patterns

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

The Magic of Spring Fly Fishing

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Skinny Black Gnat Fly

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

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

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

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

Chris Ogborne

Further Information:

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

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

Bloodworm Fly Patterns & Fishing Tips

Tempting trout throughout the fishing year, bloodworm patterns are a useful addition to any angler’s fly box. Turrall’s Dominic Garnett reflects on a session with Devon guide John Dawson to uncover some ideal tips and tactics, along with a handful of the best bloodworm flies to use on your next trip.

A muddy morning in late winter is admittedly not the most glorious time to enjoy the Devon countryside. As we have an initial wander at Hollies Fly Fishery, near Honiton East Devon, the ground is still frozen solid and icy mist lingers. Nothing stirs and it’s the sort of day when you might wish you’d packed a spare jumper, rather than an extra box of nymphs.Hollies fly fishing in East Devon
Is this really a day for subtle or imitative fishing? You certainly can’t fault the optimism of Devon guide John Dawson, while fellow fly enthusiast Chris Tucker also joins us.

Testing conditions are not a cue for our anglers to thrash about with lures today, however, and you might say that both these anglers have a taste for blood. Indeed, John is a firm believer in fishing bloodworm patterns slow and deep for winter fish. Long experience tells him this is an excellent tactic, even in the dullest and least promising days of the year.

Where to Fish Bloodworms on Stillwater Fisheries

So what should you look for when seeking bloodworms and the fish that eat them on a stillwater? Aesthetics are a secondary consideration it seems. “It can often be the areas that look least productive,” John admits, “gravelly and muddy areas are ideal.” There is clearly nothing hatching as we take a preliminary walk around the fishery, but John is unperturbed by this. “Overwintering fish will really make the most of bloodworm, especially when other food is scarce.” The fact we’ve seen no trout so far doesn’t worry him either. “You won’t often see the fish” he admits, “they’ll be moving along the bottom.”

Bloodworm rainbow trout Hollies Fly FisheryDon’t expect to see clear signs of bloodworm feeders; they tend to be deep.

He sets up two six weight fly rods, one with a slow intermediate line, the other with a floater. His leaders are around ten feet, although he can always alter these as the day progresses. Each leader starts with a foot or so of coloured mono to aid bite detection. He doesn’t see the need to go ultra fine however, with 6lb fluorocarbon at the business end. “Getting the flies down to the fish is the real prority here, rather than fishing more subtly as we might when presenting flies higher up in the water” he says.

Blood Samples

Bloodworm flies themselves vary greatly, and John has a wide selection.  Do the fish always mistake these flies for the real deal? “Some are more realistic than others,” he admits. “The bigger marabou and flexifloss patterns must be ten times the size of the naturals, but they do work excellently. Good movement can be all important.”

Best bloodworm fly patterns Turrall UKIf you don’t tie your own, Turrall produce various, proven bloodworms to try.

He starts fishing on the smaller top lake at Hollies, which has a fairly silty bottom and looks ideal territory. In an era where many of our trout pools have become murky carp waters this pretty, tree lined pool presents the opposite story of a coarse pond converted into trout habitat. It is rich in bloodworm too.

John kicks off with a two fly set up: a size 12 goldhead on the point and a subtler, smaller pattern on the dropper. He degreases his leader to help it sink and flips out a series of neat roll casts to explore a few shady corners, letting his leader sink well before employing a slow, patient retrieve.

Hollies trout fishery Devon
The objective is to keep the flies deep- although John does throw in the odd twitch to bring out the movement of his point fly. A couple of gentle takes come early on, which John at least spots if he doesn’t quite connect. “You won’t feel a lot of the takes on bloodworms; all you’ll see is a little draw or flick on the end of the line” he says. In his guiding John is quite often surprised just how many takes his clients fail to spot and always advises them to keep a close eye on the end of the line and strike at any movement.

The top lake is still very cold however. Just a few days ago it was a sheet of ice and the takes could perhaps have been little coarse fish mouthing his smaller nymph. Nevertheless, we have our first signs of life.

Chris Tucker is already searching a corner with a flexi floss worm as we reach the main lake. There are still scarcely any signs of cruising fish or insect life though, and so it seems that success must come from the depths if it is to come at all.

Fly fishing retrieveRetrieves tend to be very slow, to keep flies deep.

John opts for the slow intermediate again and keeps casting with his two fly set up, watching the line carefully and keeping the flies deep. With the action proving hard to come by he knows that chances may not be numerous and he must concentrate.

It can be all too easy to rush the retrieve or keep changing flies when the going is tough, but John proceeds unhurriedly, moving a few yards down the bank only when he has given the water in front of him a fair trial.

Patience Pays Off

Just when we’re wondering where the trout are hiding, a splash on the opposite bank steals our attention. Chris Tucker’s rod plunges over as a fit rainbow grabs his flexifloss bloodworm and hurtles away. He doesn’t rush this first trout of the day but simply keeps the fight in the open and lets the fish run out of steam. Five minutes later a beautifully silver sided two-pounder is in the net and a relieved Chris introduces it to the priest. First blood, you might say.

Action Fly fishing Devon Hollies
It’s interesting to note that our first bloodworm trout came close to the bank, at the bottom of the silty near shelf. It’s not the first take for Chris either, which is an encouraging sign. John is soon joining him on this area of the lake, which is also the entrance to a shallower bay where the water changes depth quite dramatically. Sometimes the fish will be anything but evenly spread in the winter and these sudden drop offs, depressions and passing places for fish are always well worth a look.

John thus casts with renewed hope, but his patient approach remains the same. The critical detail seems to be teasing the fly over the shelf at sufficient depth. Eventually, his gold head pattern triggers just the response he’s looking for: a positive draw is met by a quick lift and finally John’s rod jolts into life. The fish ploughs straight out from the bank, but with a 6lb tippet John knows that barring a hook pull, he can pretty much just keep the pressure on and enjoy a good scrap.

John Dawson Fly fishingHard-earned, but very satisfying on a cold day.

Having saved the blank though, it still seems that our anglers must work hard for takes. If nothing else, we’ve sussed out that the fish are hanging deep along the near shelf. Patterns are mixed and changed during the day, but large or small it seems that the fish definitely seem to want a little movement. It’s not easy fishing then, but you might well argue that the process of sussing things out and coaxing the fish to take is a good deal more rewarding than simply hauling them out in double quick time.

The action keeps coming intermittently throughout the afternoon as the anglers slowly but surely contact more trout. What isn’t in doubt is that bloodworms can produce where other tactics fail and our duo’s handful of trout represent quite a fair return in the end. John still rues the loss of a better fish as we call it a day, but he and Chris have proved a valuable point: when the going gets tough, a few bloodworm patterns can prove to be a real ace up your sleeve.

Recommended Bloodworm Fly Patterns

There are all manner of bloodworm flies to try, but it pays to pack a few variants in your fly boxes. It’s probably fair to say that the most natural flies are the smaller patterns. In the Turrall range, the Micro Bloodworm is our tiniest, in a size 18. This pattern was originally developed for coarse fish such as roach, rudd and carp, but also scores well for rainbow trout, especially when a little more subtlety is called for.

Small bloodworm fly Turrall
Flexifloss bloodworms come next on our list, having caught countless fish over the years. Our Bloodworm Nymph is a simple but deadly example of this, and is highly effective with a slow yet twitchy retrieve:
Flexifloss bloodworm nymph

Less realistic but highly appealing to trout are our larger bloodworm patterns, making the most of marabou and other materials to attract fish. Our Goldhead Bloodworm is always useful when you need to get deeper or a breeze lifts lighter patterns too high in the water. You might argue that it is more like a mini lure than a true nymph, but it tends to work excellently with a very slow figure of eight retrieve rather than using “pulling” tactics:

Marabou Goldhead bloodworm Turrall
Should you want even more movement and provocation, our Bloodworm Variation is another great pattern to get a reaction. The added flexifloss and straggle fritz make this one especially useful for grubby water and less than ideal conditions where the more natural flies struggle to get noticed.

Bloodworm variation patterns
For further bloodworm patterns and nymphs to try, see your local Turrall Stockist, or visit one of our online suppliers such as Trout Catchers or Fly Fishing Tackle UK. Should you want to tie your own, Turrall also provide a range of ideal materials, from the best fly tying threads to flexifloss and squirmy worm bodies.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the Turrall Flies Facebook Page for regular news, giveaways, fly patterns and tips to inspire your fly fishing.

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Hollies Trout Fishery, Devon

Located near Honiton, Hollies Trout Farm offers quality year round fly fishing in East Devon. A range of ticket options includes catch and release, while the fishery also offers a smoking and filleting service, lodges for hire and specail fishing breaks. See www.holliestroutfarm.co.uk for more information.

Guided Fly Fishing with John Dawson

John Dawson is a friendly and highly acclaimed GAIA qualified game fishing instructor based near Tiverton, Devon. Whether you want casting lessons or a day’s guided fishing, he caters for anglers of all ages and abilities. Contact John on 01398 331498 or visit his site at www.johndawson.co.uk

Fly For Coarse: 2016 Winners & Tips for 2017

After another year of impressively varied catches, we are thrilled to announce the winners of the 2016 Fly For Coarse competition. A judging panel including Matt Hayes and John Bailey had another tough task on their hands. Flyfishing for Coarse Fish author Dom Garnett reports on another exciting year, along with some fresh tips and fly fishing trends for 2016

“While 2016 was a fairly bonkers year on many levels, at least in the fly fishing stakes it was exciting for all the right reasons! For those newer to the Fly For Coarse contest, this was set up in 2013 to provide a different sort of challenge. Bored of the usual “size is all” contest, we wanted to create an event to focus on the “how did you catch it?” rather than purely “how much did it weigh?”

Everything from Tenkara to kayak fishing featured in 2016!

Each year the contest brings fresh surprises and some awe-inspiring catches. 2016 was no exception, with a field of entries perhaps as strong as we’ve ever had! In particular though, it was a year for the rivers, with stunning chub, pike, dace and no fewer than three barbel to our adventurous anglers. So, without further ado, here were our top entries:

Overall winner: John Tyzack (Barbel 12lbs 8oz)
I’m always keen to stress to fly anglers that barbel are well worth targeting. Not easy, but rewarding and the sheer power of a hooked fish is something you’ll never forget. Fishing guide John Tyzack will be known to many of you as a highly  accomplished angler- but even his heart must have been thumping with this beast!

Barbel on the Fly John Tyzack
Caught on a five-weight outfit, it was tempted on a Scruffy Hare’s Ear, well-weighted and specifically designed to trundle the bottom. John had spotted a “big, dark shadow on the gravels, moving about slowly” and recalls that it “looked huge”.  Testing his nymph to get the right speed, he took aim. “It seemed to move in the direction of the fly and pause. I lifted and all hell let loose!” Grateful of tackling up with a robust leader, he managed to beat the fish after five hair-raising minutes. Wow!

John Bailey, himself an avid barbel on fly convert, remarked that the catch “shows that big barbel can be targeted on the fly with magnificent results. This is the perfect antidote to the stereotypical brain dead approach to barbel we see today!” Easy now John… we take your point though. Much more involved than sitting behind bite alarms!

**John’s catch wins a fantastic Peak Fly Tying Rotary Vice (RRP: £169.99). In our opinion the best value quality vice money can buy!

Second Place: David West Beale: Tenkara caught canal pick ‘n’ mix!

While it’s great to see bigger fish, the competition is also all about variety, skill and innovation. David West Beale is certainly no stranger to specimens (he catches some huge perch and was runner up in 2015), the judges loved his experimentation with Tenkara tactics on the Grand Union Canal, an often murky waterway that is perhaps not the most natural choice of fly fishery.

Tenkara fishing canal coarse fish
Nevertheless, using his own fly designs, including classic looking flies but also his so-called “Enterprising Worm” tied from Squirmy elastic, he has caught a real assortment of species. Perch and bream are favourites, but he even had a ruffe. And with only short casts required, his Tenkara antics seem perfectly matched to canal fishing. Conventional? No. Fun and effective? Yes!

Tenkara fly fishing perch
In fact, David’s catches were first choice for Matt Hayes, who is very much a fan of fly fishing for innovation and pure enjoyment, rather following “the PB and big fish at all costs mentality that is blighting coarse fishing.” He comments: “This angler is not targeting record breakers, but his all-round success and application of a game fishing technique to a completely different environment is fantastic and makes him the stand-out entry in my book.”

Other highly commended entries:
It is almost an injustice for me to describe the other entries as “runners up” because they were all winners as far the the judges were concerned. Every one of them deserved special credit in its own right- as did many other entries that didn’t quite make it (thank you to everyone who took part). So where do we start with the rest?


We see cracking fly caught chub every year now, but this lovely fish of over six pounds (above) from the River Taff must have given Nick Thomas a heck of a scrap. Very well-angled indeed.


Meanwhile, we were also delighted to see more young anglers getting out and taking to fly fishing. Ashley Mould was another impressive barbel captor (above), while Bobby Wright deserves special credit not only for his own whiskered specimen, but for a hat-trick of solid barbel, carp and chub (below) all on fly. Great all-round performance!

Fly fishing for chub Bobby Wright
On the subject of carp, we had some absolute belters in 2016. Dutch entrant Filipe De Clerk claimed a 22lb beauty, while our youngest winner Abbie Fielding had a real fight on her hands with a belter of 18lbs 12oz.

Specimen carp on fly


Size really isn’t everything though, and the 2016 list also includes a wonderful dace or Geejay Aitch (below) and some excellent roach and bream from Rutland Reservoir for the Abbott family of John, William and Harry. The panel especially liked Harry Abbott’s emerger-caught roach, which also features on the shortlist of winners.

Dace on the fly
Here’s a table summing up the best entries. Don’t forget you can see pictures of all the other entries at flyforcoarse.com


Each of our entries wins their choice of a set of flies from the special Turrall Flies for Coarse Fish range (which includes proven patterns for perch, chub, pike, roach, rudd and dace) or a limited edition Fly For Coarse T-shirt!

Further tips, trends and fly fishing lessons for 2017…

Finally, just to whet your appetite for the coming months, here are just a few tips and things to take on board for the coming season:

1. Anything is possible, but only if you try!
How often do most of us leave our comfort zone as fly anglers? It is a good thing to do every season for so many reasons. Not only does it improve our skills, but adds welcome variety to our fishing. The only reason more fish like barbel, zander and even tench are not caught more regularly on the fly is that few people try in the first place.

Mick Chater had this tench on a rubber-legs daddy in 2016.

Some challenges are easier than others, but for just a taster of what can be done with a positive attitude,  just look at the Fly For Coarse galleries!

2. Tie your own and try modern materials
Some folks get super fussy about using only traditional, classic materials for their flies. That’s a personal choice, but why miss out? I doubt very much whether the old masters would have turned their noses up at the fantastic materials we are lucky enough to have at our disposal today!

UV materials and special synthetics are all worth a look. But if there is one material that has both caught silly numbers of fish and divided opinion in 2016, it has to be the “squirmy” body material. It’s your call, but squirmy worm style dressings have accounted for many fish of all species, from perch to grayling.

Squirmy body materials might not appeal to the purist, but are excellent for coloured water and adding extra wiggle. We stock three deadly colours.

3. Adjust your timing and pick the best times to go fly fishing
More than ever, we have been getting impressive catch pictures with something noticeably different about the backgrounds. The light is often hazy, soft or downright murky! This is not pure coincidence. The best time to go fly fishing for coarse species -or any fish!- is not when you feel like it, but when they are feeding. Unless it’s overcast or you’re targeting sun-loving fish like rudd,  the middle of the day is often not the key time. Experiment on your patch, but do try early or late if you are not getting many takes!

4. Try Tenkara for Coarse Fish!
Modern foibles aside, one of the most noticeable recent fly fishing trends sure to continue into 2017 is the Tenkara bug. Indeed, stacks of fly anglers are enjoying this classic Japanese line-to-hand style of fishing. It’s simple and effective so why restrict your adventures to trout? Fish like chub, roach, rudd and dace are all highly catchable and light Tenkara rods make even small fish fun.”

Fly For Coarse continues in 2017…

With all to play for and so many possibilities, the competition is already on for 2017, with more great Turrall prizes lined up and no doubt more surprises in store. To view all of last years entries and find tips, venues and more on how you can get involved, see www.flyforcoarse.com

Further news and updates throughout the year can also be found in Flyfishing & Flytying Magazine,  while fly fishers of all abilities can join the fun on our Flyfishing for Coarse Fish Group Page.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on this blog and the Turrall Flies Facebook page for regular news and tips, besides top quality fly patterns, materials and accessories in 2017!

 

Surviving Winter: Tackle Tips for 2017

As we enter the New Year, Chris Ogborne offers some advice on how the fanatical angler can survive end of winter and prepare for warmer times.

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“Late winter can be a cold, frustrating time for the fly angler. It’s true that there is still plenty of fishing available if you don’t mind taking on the elements. Small stillwaters abound, there are grayling to be caught, and for some hardy souls you can brave the elements at sea or coastline

Winter fishing can be a cold business (above: grayling fishing on the Itchen)

But for others – and for fair weather anglers like me – it’s time for a rest. The holidays come and go, while other jobs need doing. As Danny McNicol of the infamous pub The Bell at Ubley used to day, ‘the fish need a break and so do we!’

A winter rest from fishing isn’t so bad either. It makes the anticipation of opening day all the more special so that we’re champing at the bit again come spring. Perhaps the best recipe for surviving winter is to set about all those jobs you never have time for during summer. Tackle needs sorting, flies need tying, and clothing needs attention. Here’s my list of essentials and tackle maintenance tips:

Reels: they may be fairly high tech these days, but most reels will benefit from a clean and a drop of oil. Wash them thoroughly in clean water and mild detergent to clear away any debris from the mechanism and then use gun oil, silicone spray or simply wipe over with an oily cloth.

Fly lines: I struggle to understand how some anglers try to economise on fly lines, or expect them to last for five seasons or more. They won’t. In the real world a fly line costs less than a days boat fishing on a reservoir, so in the overall scheme of things it’s not expensive. Treat yourself to the luxury – and the pleasure – of new lines where yours look tired. Or for those you intend to save, why not treat yours to a clean in warm soapy water? You can also use a cloth to remove dirt.

Your fly lines go through a lot. Why not clean or renew yours?

Rods: check the rings for any grooving and replace if necessary. Nothing tears through fly line or braid like a grooved tip ring or a cracked ceramic. Dirt and wear can also show on other parts of the rod, so now is a great time to give them a proper clean. Pay special attention to the joints and rings, and give the handle a good scrub; if things are really worn you can also gently refresh the cork with some fine sand paper.

Bags: Why not empty everything out and give the bag a good wash? Unless you’re very good, I’ll bet that there are things in the depths of your fishing bag that shouldn’t be there. At best it will be a few odd flies or sand and pebbles. If you’re more careless there could be a forgotten sandwich or Mars Bar (if it makes you feel any better, we’ve all done it!). Be slightly ruthless and get rid of any odds and ends that are past it too.

Fly boxes: The neat and orderly rows of flies of last April will probably have degenerated into a motley confused mass. You can often tell which flies have worked really well, because they are looking tired or there are some gaps where patterns have been given away to friends (and trees!). Sort out dries and nymphs and attractors into sections, and be absolutely ruthless about discarding any fly with even the slightest sign of rust.

Having your kit sorted out for the new season saves valuable fishing time!

Waders: Hang them upside down in a dry place if you can, as they can easily develop little cracks if you just chuck them in a corner of the shed or garage. Waders are expensive these days and I’m staggered at the way anglers expect them to last forever with little or no care at all

Waistcoats & Wading jackets: Check every pocket and have a throwaway session. Part used spools of mono aren’t really worth keeping if they are old. Replace floatant and line de-greasers too, especially if they are dirty. If you use a floatation device then double-check the mechanism. It could save your life next season.

Don’t let your pockets and bags degenerate into a tangled mess!

Nets: Landing nets don’t last forever and the mesh needs checking over and replaced if necessary. It can become holed or even rotted if not stored in a dry place, and the last thing you want is an opening day five-pounder falling through a hole in the net.

Before we know it, of course, it will be all change again and time to think about trout and salmon. It’s always great to have all those little neglected jobs done so you are completely ready for the new season. Should you still require a fishing fix in January and February though, you could always take a look at our recent blogs on pike, grayling and top winter fly fisheries.”

 

Chris Ogborne

For more news, tips and the best fly patterns to use this year, keep an eye on this blog and the Turrall Flies Facebook page for more.

Top Fly Fishing Books, Gifts & Stocking Fillers

What is it about anglers and Christmas? Most of them would rather be casting out than staying in for the annual dose of festive telly and inlaws. Buying presents for fishermen can be tricky too. To the non-angler, ours is a confusing world of Di-6 lines, furled leaders, Woolly Buggers and other funny terminology. So what on earth do you buy an angler for Christmas? Here are some ideal gift ideas for fly fishers this year, from top books to stocking fillers:

Top Fly Fishing Books

For anyone who daydreams of fishing when indoors around Christmas, books are the next best thing to fishing. Even in the digital age, many of us still pine for great angling reads. They not only tell great stories, but transport us away from TV repeats and back to the water! 2016 has been an excellent year for fishing books too, whether you want to be informed or entertained.

1. Haynes Fly Fishing Manual (Mark Bowler RRP £22.99)

Haynes Fly fishing Manual review

Known for their no-nonsense approach to all kinds of subjects, Haynes Manuals have a reputation for clarity and thoroughness. A fly fishing manual was perhaps overdue, with the mammoth task of compiling such a work entrusted to Fly Fishing & Fly Tying editor Mark Bowler.

Books like this can be highly practical, but sometimes run the risk of being very dry. So it is excellent to see that the author has not only done a thorough job but injected humour and readability to make this a very user-friendly reference work. Furthermore, the book should be commended for going well beyond the realms of traditional game species to cover coarse and sea fish, as well as a bang up to date primer on all modern fly fishing tackle and techniques.

This is a very well-crafted book indeed. Perhaps no such thing as the “complete fly fishing book” exists, but this is comprehensive enough to be pretty damned close. Highly recommended. ORDER HERE

2. Nymphing- The New Way: French Leader Fishing for Trout (Jonathan White, RRP £20)

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Another blooming text book about trout fly fishing, you ask? Well, not exactly. This new volume is a feast of technical knowhow and beautiful photography, written in consultation with top international fly anglers. The whole French leader phenomenon is one that often turns off anglers- after all, really bloody long leaders can be hard to manage. This book puts expert techniques in plain English, along with engaging stories and examples to get the average angler up to scratch. A great volume for the keen river angler. ORDER HERE

3.Crooked Lines (Dominic Garnett RRP: £9.99)

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Tired of rather traditional, prosaic angling literature? This book delivers a welcome shot in the arm to the genre, with a whole host of exciting stories that take the reader to all manner of unexpected corners. Full of great lines, sudden twists and gritty humour, this is a fishing book for the 21st century. It also contains suitably crooked illustrations by Lord Bunn and a foreword by none other than Matt Hayes. Refreshingly different and excellent fun. ORDER HERE

4. The Healing Stream (Laurence Catlow, RRP £20)


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For anyone who assumed that fishing books had a certain “safe” territory to stay within, this is a book to challenge and delight. Following the author’s deep relationship with two rivers, it is a work that contrasts the redemptive power of nature with the darker nature of human experience. Not always an easy read, but ultimately a redemptive one with some sparkling prose and no shortage of talking points. ORDER HERE

5. Fallon’s Angler (£28 for 4 issues)

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For those who enjoy a great angling yarn, this quarterly is somewhere between a book and a magazine. But it is so thoroughly readable and packed with great stories and contributors we had to bend the rules and include it in our roundup!

Whatever your tastes as an angler, a terrific variety of material can be found in each and every issue, from classic chalkstream angling to wilderness adventures across the globe. If you’re after articles to help you catch more fish, this might not be the title for you; but if you’re looking for a fantastic read then look no further. ORDER HERE

Top Fly Fishing Stocking Fillers & Xmas Gifts

 Besides great fishing books and the bigger items like rods and reels, it can be tricky to pick out those smaller but desirable gifts for the fly fisher. Here are five of our most popular choices to put smiles on faces without breaking the bank this year:

1. Sportsman’s Bumper (RRP: £14.99)

Sportsman bumper vehicle rod holder portable
Fishing rods and cars enjoy a jaded relationship at the best of times. Tackling up and packing away are especially risky, as rods fall over or slip- and many of us will have crunched one or two in the slam of a door or boot. This clever device keeps them upright and safe with minimum fuss; and because it sticks via magnets you won’t need to drill or modify your car. Just pop it on and pop it off, it’s that simple! The easiest rod holder for cars we’ve ever seen. BUY IT HERE

2. Turrall Fly Pod (RRP from £24.99)

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The Fly Pod is one of our bestsellers year on year and no secret to see why. Each features a healthy number and variety of fly patterns in a quality, double-sided box. Selections include everything from grayling flies to salmon and stillwater patterns, at a terrific price. ORDER YOUR FLYPOD HERE

3.Fly Tying Starter Kits (RRP from £39.99)

fly tying kit for beginners
There is nothing more satisfying to catching on your own flies. These kits allow you to give the gift of a new hobby! Featuring a well-chosen selection of tools and materials plus instructions, the kits contain all you need to get tying.

4. Turrall Bamboo Fly Boxes (From £19.99)

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Fly anglers always need containers to store their patterns; but there are very basic fly boxes and then there are those built to last a lifetime. Our Bamboo range fall into the latter category. Anglers tend to covet them because of their beautiful split cane finish, but the looks are matched by longevity in this case. Still many anglers’ favourite fly box on the market. Available in various sizes, from handy smaller pocket size to our “grande” version. ORDER HERE

5. Turrall Thingamabobber Strike Indicators (RRP from £3.99)

Strike indicators
Light, bright and so easy to use, these indicators continue to be extremely popular with fly fishers. Ideal for suspending even weighty nymphs, they are simple to put on your leader and show up beautifully. Smaller sizes can also be used to incorporate into your large dry fly patterns. BUY HERE

Cold Comforts: Winter Fly Tying Tips for Beginners & Improvers

As the winter frosts kick in, Turrall’s Chris Ogborne sings the praises of fly tying as the perfect tonic on cold nights, along with our top 10 fly tying tips for beginners and improvers.

“Autumn slips inexorably into winter.  The final leaves are ripped from trees, leaving bare branches for the next five months. Frosty mornings become normal and lights come on at 4pm.  For many anglers, the rods are put away and in the next few months all we can do is ‘dream’ fishing, rather than ‘go’ fishing.

blakewell_dec09-187-2 Winter fly fishing can be cold on the hands! Time to try a different “vice”?!!

Well, not always true actually (and for those down in Devon, our guide to Winter stillwater fly fisheries is well worth a read). But for most of us, we will fish less and daydream more in the winter. Which is why, for many decades now I have been resorting to the one thing that keeps a real flyfisher sane in the long dark months.  An activity that lets you switch from the world in front of your eyes with its rain and fog and snow into another world of sunshine, running water, and long soft evenings.  It’s called fly tying.

The joy of this amazing branch of our sport is that you don’t have to be an Oliver Edwards or a Charles Jardine to get real pleasure from it.  Even the most modest of tyers can create perfectly usable flies for themselves and this simple act will add hugely to the enjoyment and reward that you get from your fishing.  Flies tied by beginners or novices may  not all win prizes, but they WILL often catch fish, which is surely what it’s all about.

Fortunately for people like me, whose limited tying skills are legendary, the fish don’t actually mind if the proportion of the fly doesn’t precisely match the tying notes or is a touch scruffy! Above all, the main thing is to give it a try and see what you can create; and on that note, here are a few tips to set you in good stead.

Fly tying tips for beginners & improvers

1.When investing in tools, always go for quality. A really sharp pair of scissors is an absolute must and always money well spent.

2. Practice applying tension and making tidy wraps of thread. Learning how much force can be applied without breaking off is something you learn by practice, but do test your materials and get a “feel” for this.

Grub hook mayfly

3.What are the essential materials for fly tying? High on the list would be black, white, olive and brown threads, closely followed by dubbing in similar colours. Basics such as pheasant tail, peacock herl and hare’s mask tie a huge range of traditional flies, while the stillwater angler can tie a great many lures from simple marabou and fritz style body materials.
Peacock herl UK fly tying materials
For a really easy starter option, Turrall’s beginner fly tying kits have all the essentials at good value.

 

4.When you starting out tying flies, or making new or unfamiliar patterns, try slightly bigger hooks at first. These leave more margin for error. Then, once you’ve had the practice, you can try smaller hooks.

5.Try simple flies at first, made using only 2-3 materials other than thread. The F-Fly, Black & Peacock and the good old Hare’s Ear are among the easiest flies to tie for beginners.

6. Look around for decent resources online and in the shops. There are many online fly tying tutorials out there on YouTube and other sources, but one of the best is Davie McPhail, who produces stacks of handy videos for free. That said, there are also some excellent books, such as the long-standing favourite, the Beginners Guide to Fly Fishing (Mann & Griffiths) which is very clear and easy to follow.

7.Do get involved on forums and with fly fishing and fly tying clubs to add to your knowledge. The Fly Dressers’ Guild have groups all over the country and are a great source of information and events.fdg-logo-hd

8.It is often best to tie flies in batches of the same type. Notice how you get better and quicker with each successive fly! A little block of foam is ideal to keep a little selection together when the varnish is drying.

9.And on the theme of fly tying “by numbers”, one of the golden rules is to make three of each pattern: One to fish with, one as a spare and one to give away to a friend, should that particular fly be the one the fish really want! This might come up at the bar later too, because one good turn deserves another.

10. Perhaps the most important tip we can give you is simply to give it a try and go for it! You don’t need to be an expert to make flies that tempt fish, and little beats the thrill of catching on something you made yourself.

Devon brown trout

Don’t forget, there are all sorts of tips, instructions and step by step flies in the Turrall blog archives, including favourite fly patterns such as the Diawl Bach, Humungous and many others.

For further fly making tips, do also look out for our tying challenge in Total Flyfisher Magazine, where you can win prizes for sharing your ideas each month.

Winter nights at the tying bench

So, it might be dark and cold outside, but I know of no finer way to spend an evening than to settle at the tying bench, with glass of red wine and an extra log on the fire, and let the mind drift away.  It makes you completely forget the wind howling outside, or the patter of rain on the roof.

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Fly tying is not only a great way to keep the flame burning, but also a great way to prepare for those future sessions and, yes, look forward to sunnier times.

Sometimes I’ll tie up a load of ‘essentials’ such as the buzzers I know I’ll need in big numbers come June next year.  On other occasions I’ll try variations on proven themes, like the new sand eel patterns  that I’m currently working on.  And then at other times I’ll just sit there with the tying equivalent of a blank sheet of paper and just let my imagination run wild.  Sometimes the flies from sessions like this are rejected out of hand, but at others you can be surprised at the results.  It’s how new patterns are born.  And it’s fun!

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Turrall have one the most comprehensive ranges of fly tying materials and equipment in the world.  As your skills progress you can upgrade to a better vice and tools and try more advanced procedures; but at the end of the day it matters not how good you get.  Tying a fly that catches a fish is an achievement and one that gives you more pleasure than you ever thought possible.

At no time in the history of fly tying has there been such an amazing selection of fly tying materials available to us.  Just look at the Turrall website to see how vast the range has become!  From natural furs and fibres through to incredible synthetics and the fantastic UV tying materials – there are things in the range that would have been unthinkable a generation ago.

So if the advent of winter is getting you down, try a little fly tying.  I promise you that as a therapy for out of season anglers there’s nothing better!”

Chris Ogborne
Winter 2016

Fishing Tips & Fly Patterns for Pike

Turrall angler and fly designer Dom Garnett has been getting stuck into pike this month. Here are some recent tips and favourite fly patterns, with photography by John Deprieelle. 

“With autumn arriving quite late this year, it’s only in the past fortnight that I’ve been actively targeting pike once again. Many of my friends are already kicking off with bait and lure fishing. But I’m not about to get out the pike bungs yet, because of all the ways to catch them in the autumn, the fly gives me the most confidence.

Not that autumn fishing is always easy. There can be a lot of debris in the water too, with drifting leaves and the summer weed growth yet to die back. Conditions and temperatures fluctuate and the pike are not always where you expect them. But the fly is a stealthy way to search a lot of water and little beats that sudden moment of connection with an angry, powerful fish.

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Peak Hours

Whether you like it or not, your weekend lie in could cost you your best chance of a big pike. Early morning is so often the prime hunting period for predators. That early phase of half light is when pike are at their most alert and prey are at their most vulnerable. Being on the water at the right time is key, so be prepared to rise early or warn the wife that you might be late home.

Find features or Prey?

Finding the pike can be another challenge in autumn. Should the angler seek out features and snags, or prey fish? Both strategies can work, but don’t always expect pike to be sitting right by the shoals of roach, rudd and bleak. They’ll often lurk a few yards away but will only predate actively for a couple of short spells in any one day.

Killer Retrieves

How fast you move the fly for pike is a matter of personal choice, but it definitely pays to mix it up. Quite slow retrieves can be surprisingly effective and one of the biggest advantages the fly has over a typical lure is that it will work at much slower speeds.

When pike are seen hitting shoals of prey or are in the mood for a chase, by all means haul that fly in. But at other times a good general rule would be to keep your retrieve lively but don’t rush it. Several times I’ve had pike hit the fly when I have been doing nothing whatsoever; just looking over to a friend or resting the rod. Even at a near standstill, that fly breathes.

It’s always worth fishing and concentrating right to the end of every retrieve too. Leave it to hang over those final few yards, don’t rush and give the fly a final twitch or three.

pike_flies_turrall-9Fish on! This one took close to the bank, late in the retrieve.

Putting the Miles In

Pike might be aggressive, and even easy to catch at times. But remember these are also wild creatures. They can move quickly or become hard to catch in areas where anglers and poachers hang around. In recent fishing we’ve also had unexpected guests such as an adventurous seal, pushing well up the river to take salmon and pike!

It is absolutely key to stay on the move to catch pike consistently on the Somerset Levels, Fens or anywhere you find them on large freshwater systems. The more water you search, the more you’ll find, it is that simple.

dsc_1810 John Deprieelle joins the morning shift on the Somerset Levels. Pike fishing here is all about mobility. 

Pike Fly Tackle

The strength and condition of pike can vary greatly between venues and seasons. But in the early and late season, a pike of just eight to ten pounds will give you serious battle so it’s vital that you set up tough.

I tend to pick a nine-weight outfit and tough leaders. Mine are seven feet or so of 20lb fluorocarbon, followed by a wire trace which I make from a rig ring, 16” of Authanic Wire and a durable snap link.

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Pike fly fishing definitely takes its toll on your gear- and a lively fish will quickly find any weakness in your tackle. Do remember to test your knots and check everything at regular intervals. I like to tie my traces a little on the long side too, so that if the ends of the trace get kinked or worn, I can cut and carefully retie. You’ll also want a large, dependable landing net and unhooking mat for your pike fishing.

Pike Fly Patterns

So what are the best pike flies to use season round? They come in various styles and colours and can be quite daunting if you’re new to the game. Some are general fit patterns, but others are especially suited to different depths and types of venue.

For those with less experience of casting large flies, many of the bigger pike specials are rather cumbersome. So for a lot of my guiding I start people on smaller alternatives, such as the Frost Bite (below) or Tango. These are ideal on small waters such as canals and drains, where most pike are small and you might drop to an eight weight. Don’t believe for a minute that you need a huge fly to catch a big pike, because these have landed plenty of doubles.

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Next, we have our most versatile artificials, our slow sinking, mid-sized pike flies. Many of these are made using layers of synthetic fibres or hair in a baitfish profile, such as the Stupid Boy (below, in Grey and White), although traditional materials and simple designs such as the Black Pike Bunny also produce a lovely wiggle and pulse, although they get heavier to cast.

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Surface pike flies are another interesting diversion, perfectly suited to spring and autumn fishing. Many come from bass bugs and other creations, which have proved equally deadly for pike. Mice, frogs and even ducklings are possible.

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Perhaps the best tip for fishing these is to try them in the last hour of light, or even into darkness if your nerves will stand it, and I like a black-coloured surface lure, whether it’s night or day.

This style of fishing isn’t associated with the cooler months usually, but curiously we’ve continued to get surface takes well past the end of summer this year. It seems to work particularly well in the final hour of the day, when the pike are seen busting up shoals of roach and bleak.

Fast Sinking pike flies finish our list, but can be the most useful option of all. Aimed at getting down on deeper and flowing waters, weighted  patterns such as our Depth Seeker Predator Flies are very handy on rivers, getting down to the fish even in the push of the current. They also work well on deeper stillwaters, where they can allow you to get flies down a good depth without resorting to super fast sinking lines.

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Or tie your own…

Of course, the other great thing to do as we prepare for the winter months is to tie your own pike flies. They are quite straightforward to make, with a little practice. All kinds of materials will work to create bait fish patterns too.

Savage Hair is an excellent value option at under £2 a packet, and can easily be combined with tinsels such as UV Multiflash to create plenty of movement and shimmer. Keep an eye out for more on the subject of pike patterns, with chances to win both flies and materials on the Turrall Flies Facebook Page and in this month’s Total Flyfisher Magazine.

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Read Tangles With Pike

Dom Garnett’s book of pike fishing stories is available now in collectible hardback at just £14.99. Covering various methods in all seasons, it is packed with interesting articles and great photography. Find it at www.dgfishing.co.uk

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