The evenings may be drawing in and Autumn with us, but as Chris Ogborne expounds, the fishing season is far from over.
From late season trout to the coming pike season, autumn can be a great season for fly fishing. Dom Garnett sizes up some options for the coming weeks.
“Autumn has arrived quite suddenly, like a cool slap in the face this year. The falling leaves remind you that time is running short to catch on rivers that have been high and muddy for much of the season, while other species also come into play.
If you can find the time to get out, autumn can be the best fishing time in the whole year. There are still a few days left to catch wild trout, while the sea will stay warm enough to bring bass and other species or another month or so. And then we move on to freshwater predators like perch, pike and zander.
One last chance on for river trout
For me, those last days of the trout season are as keenly anticipated as the first. You may only have a few precious hours to make the most of rivers that were unfishable in July or August; that’s the reality of the British climate.
So with the aim of one last crack at the traditional season, I took off to fish the River Sid, a little known stream with some pretty, modest sized trout. Planning can be everything on these short sessions. I’d seen the river in flood quite recently, but knowing it drains and clears quite quickly I knew it would be fine a couple of days later.
I think of autumn trout as hungry, less selective fish a lot of the time. They can feel that coldness coming on better than you can. It makes them greedy. With not quite as much hatching though, they can also be inactive, so I believe in getting their attention.
There are some quite decent hatching flies on our rivers in September too. The hatches can be sporadic, but there are still some good sized sedge flies. I wouldn’t go too crazy on a small stream, but a fly like a size 14 Humpy or Elk Hair Caddis is perfect for fishing broken water. When fishing the boulder, fast bits, don’t be afraid to skate your fly a little either.
I had the best fish of the trip early, on a tumbling pool. It came up once, then again to look at the fly. On the next cast it looked again, so I gave the fly a twitch and that sealed it.
Sadly that was about it for any hatches, although a couple of smaller fish threw themselves at the Humpy. After that, they just refused to rise so I tried the pools with a Universal Nymph, one of Chris Ogborne’s barbless flies for Turrall, which is a great pattern to tempt deeper lying fish.
Two more fish followed to the nymphs, before time called. Will I squeeze in one more session this month? Ultimately, the weather gods might have the last say. Otherwise, it’ll be time for something completely different…
Tackling up for pike on the fly
Of course, while some of lament the passing of summer, other freaks among us rub their hands together at the prospect of a new pike season. It’s devilishly exciting if you can find clear water and watch the fish, so I tend to launch my campaign on close-quarters venues such as the drains of the Somerset Levels.
Of course many of the best pike fishing waters are quite small here, so you needn’t use shark tackle. Something like an eight-weight is perfect, coupled with 20lb fluorocarbon leader and (always!) a strong wire trace.
Smaller pike flies are great fun for these waters, and smaller patterns like my purpose made bite-sized pike flies (below) but you can also try for perch (Turrall sell patterns for both).
It’s a very different type of fly fishing, but addictively exciting. For further tips and inspiration, do check out my previous blog on pike fly fishing.
Autumn on the stillwaters
Of course, just because the trout streams might be out soon, it doesn’t mean other waters are done and dusted. If anything, the fishing tends to get better in the autumn, across stillwaters large and small.
We’re blessed with various places to try here in Devon, although there are not many fly fisheries near Exeter. Two well worth a drive for me are Bratton Water in North Devon, and Bellbrook Valley near Tiverton (above).
Bratton has a cracking head of brown trout and a good hatch of sedge flies as late as early November (yes, it sounds nuts but I’ve seen it), and will respond to flies like a CDC Sedge. Bellbrook Valley is always worth a go with small dries and emergers, even on mild winter days, and flies such as Griffith’s Gnat and Gary Pearson’s Two Tone Emerger (below). And if they refuse to come up, it’s always delightful to drift a buzzer or two.
Wherever you go fly fishing next, good luck and enjoy the outdoors this autumn. If you want to read more current news and features, do also check out our Facebook page and Total Flyfisher Magazine each month, where we run a special monthly fly tying challenge.
If the excitement of the dry fly season seems to be waning as we reach September and early autumn, there is still one very good reason to get excited. With a long body, big wings and gangling, clumsy legs, the crane fly (better known as the daddy long-legs) is a fly to excite both trout and anglers.
Just about any water bordered by lush fields will contain these beasts, which proliferate in the late summer and autumn. Not only are they hard to miss, they are also –if you’ll forgive the turn of phrase- completely crap at flying. Any keen wind is liable to send them blundering across the water, where they do an even worse job of swimming.
Unsurprisingly, they draw full-blooded takes and fishing the daddy long-legs fly is not so much a game of finesse, but a more visceral experience for the fly fisher. We produce a whole host of effective daddy longlegs fly patterns at Turrall: our foam bodied classic daddy is one of our best selling flies of all time, while detached-bodied, CDC and even sinking daddy long-legs are all popular choices.
However, for our fly of the month in September, we are going to look at the muddler or Muddle-Headed Daddy Longlegs. Why? Because when the fish are really hammering the natural flies, or need a bit of extra provocation this is a superb pattern to try.
A muddler style head of deer hair is the key with this pattern; not only does this make a nice commotion when twitched, it also renders the fly very buoyant so you can move it with little risk of the fly sinking.
Fishing the Daddy Longlegs
Before we look at a step by step tying guide, we’ll quickly look at a few fly fishing tips:
-A breezy day is best for trying daddies, on rivers or lakes. Pick an grassy bank or meadow where the wind is blowing out onto the water.
-On small stillwaters, the daddy will also work around cover, flicked under branches.
-For tackle, don’t go too light with leaders. You could step down to a four or five weight rod, but very fine tippets can get twisted or kinked by these meaty flies. We’d recommend starting with 5lb tippet.
-Don’t just cast out and wait. By all means use any natural drift, but try recasting regularly and twitching too (especially good with our fly of the month!).
-Takes can be violent, but don’t strike too early or too hard. Let the fish engulf your fly properly, before giving a measured lift.
-Finally, don’t think of the daddy as purely a trout fly. It can be excellent for chub, while carp will also sometimes take one fished static.
Tying the Muddler or Muddle-Headed Daddy: A Step by Step Guide
Hook: Mayfly, size 10
Body: cream or off white floss or thread
Legs: Turrall daddy legs
Head: Deer hair, tied muddler style
Step 1: Begin by running the fine cream floss onto the hook, a little distance from the hook eye, to leave space for the legs and head.
Step 2: Build a nice even body. With a little care, you can create a tapered effect as shown.
Step 3. Tie off the body material, before running a little base of brown thread just towards the eye as shown.
Step 4. It’s time to select our legs. You can knot these yourself, but Turrall also produce ready tied Daddy Legs that save time and fiddle.
Step 5: The legs are easiest to tie in each side separately. Trap with a couple of turns of thread and splay them out a little.
Step 6: Now we can add three legs to the other side, before covering up the stumps with thread.
Step 7: Take a good pinch of deer hair for the head (the best part of a pencil’s thickness is ideal). Pinch in place and apply one loose turn of thread.
Step 8: Now make another turn and pull steadily, allowing the deer hair to flare out and turn around the hook.
Step 9: Make another tight turn, before sweeping back the hairs and making a few turns of thread at the head, to keep the eye clear.
Step 10: Now you can tie off the thread and begin trimming. A really sharp pair of scissors really helps here. I prefer to trim the head fairly tight, but then leave some longer fibres facing backwards, which will add a little more profile and disturbance.
Step 11: The finished fly. Apply some fly floatant straight from the vice, as well as another coat on the bank, and you have a super buoyant fly that can easily be waked or twitched without sinking.
(Below): A fine rainbow trout taken on the muddler daddy; this one wanted dinner with a twitch
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