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.

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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.

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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

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Best flies for Fernworthy Dartmoor Reservoirs

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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.

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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

8 Top Tips for the Early Stillwater Trout Fishing Season

As the big chill recedes, Chris Ogborne allows himself to think about the start of the new season. Here are eight great ways to get ready and put more fish on the bank on stillwater opening day and the early season.
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“Well, the first day of Spring was hardly what we expect down here in Cornwall! We normally get birds singing and eggshell blue skies – instead we had a foot of snow and temperatures more like Siberia.
 chew early season fly fishing
But as usual with such extremes in the UK, it didn’t last long and with temperatures returning to seasonal norms I’m allowing myself to think that maybe Spring really IS just around the corner. The milestone markers for me are the Cheltenham Festival, the start of the F1 Grand Prix season – and opening day on the big stillwaters!
This has always been a ritual for me, with that glorious sense of expectation that you get ahead of a new seasons fishing.  Any moment now we will be happily wading in our favourite lake or river, with that spring in our step that a whole six months of sport stretches away ahead of us.
reservoir fly fishing trout action shot
So if you’re still suffering from the cold, here are a few early season fly fishing tips to help you get going.  There are also some nice little jobs to do that will take the mind away to warmer days and fish in the net.  Hopefully some of these will strike a chord with fellow anglers!

1. Get your fishing kit checked!

Take some time to steadily check through all your fishing gear.  Be ruthless about it, too. A bit like spring house cleaning, it’s time to say goodbye to any bits and pieces that aren’t up to it any more- and dust off and organise the rest.

If in any doubt, Club Cortland is a good scheme just starting up this year. The idea is that you can take your gear to selected tackle dealers who will give your stuff a free health check and MOT at the same time. There are some neat offers and events for members too, making it a great way to increase your fly fishing enjoyment this year. Click here to sign up!

2. Fly lines: keep or change?

When to change fly line
Be honest: how well do you look after your lines? If you clean them periodically and are careful, they can last a good few seasons. But everything has its limits. So when should you change a fly line? Cracks, discoloration and poor performance (like a floating line that won’t float) are all signs that time is approaching.

Don’t kid yourself that the line you bought six years ago is up to the job! It’s a simple fact of life that a new fly line adds massively to your angling pleasure, and in the overall scheme of things they cost little more than a days boat fishing.  It’s a false economy to hamper your efforts with poor gear, so treat yourself and replace it!

3. Flies and Fly Boxes: It’s substitution time!


It’s fairly obvious when a line has gone past its sell by date, or a rod needs repairing or binning, but what about your flies? How long do typical patterns last? And when does a fly need changing or replacing, exactly?

Go through your boxes with a keen eye, for starters, and remove any hooks that show even the tiniest sign of rust.  Few things are worse than losing a good fish because the hook has given out at the barb, due to rust.

Other flies can sometimes be rescued by means of a hook sharpener; if it’s seen even a couple of busy trips, the chances are that the point is no longer as keen as it should be.

Do sharpen up before you start missing fish.Get the flies into order in the box as well, with sections for dries, nymphs etc.  We all let our boxes get a bit chaotic at the end of the year, and I’d bet that yours will be less than ordered if you’re honest!

4. Waders: Should I repair or replace?

Always check your walkers properly – you truly don’t want a leak of icy water in March or April!  Few pairs seem to last for season after season these days, so a quick test might be in order. If it’s a single, slow leak, it might be a relatively simple and an easy DIY job ahead of the big day (most waders come with a basic puncture kit- or you could try some “Zap-a-Gap” or other fishing glue).
If it’s a more serious job though, should you bin the darned things? If it’s a posh pair of waders, the man to send them to is Diver Dave Wader Repairs. This chap lives in Scotland and not only uses his own testing pools to go over them from top to toe, but will redo the seams and other trouble spots to give them a new lease of life! Click here for Diver Dave’s services.

5. Think before you Wade!

Colliford lake fly fishing CornwallWaders can be handy, but do have a cast or two short before you plunge in!

Talking of waders, please DON’T wade straight up to the tops of your waders on opening day!  This not just a safety thing, but a case of watercraft. Always fish the margins first.  Find a spot away from the crowds and you’ll find un-spooked fish that have had five months of peace and quiet. They can be closer in than you think and are much more likely to take a fly than those in the hot spots, where every man and his dog are splashing about at maximum wade depth.

6. Best flies for stillwaters in early season?

Fab Cormorant, Turrall stillwater fly patterns
 The thinking angler these days will tend to look to the floating line first, before moving through the sinking line densities as the day progresses or the fish become more spooky.
Any large body of water can take a while to warm up, and the rule of thumb in cold water conditions is to fish SLOWLY. Try gentle retrieves at first, rather than over-fast pulling.  Trout are cold-blooded after all, and can be pretty lethargic at this time of year, meaning they’re less likely to chase a fly for any great distance.
Nymphs, epoxy buzzers, and darker colours are always in my first line of attack. Turrall’s heavier buzzers are spot on, while you could also try some classic lures, such as the Cat’s Whisker or the excellent Kennick Killer.

7. Stay mobile to find the best stillwater fishing spots


Avoid the temptation to plant your landing net in one place and fishing the same spot all day.  Have that first hour in your favourite place by all means, but come mid morning you’ll almost certainly be better off to move around. The only major reason to stay in any spot is if you’re regularly seeing or catching fish!
If you’re bank fishing, be sure to explore the shallows, especially if there’s been a bit of sunshine in recent days. The easy-fishing spots will probably have been taken, but the remote areas will still be un-disturbed and well worth investigation. Fly fishing is meant to be a mobile sport and the more you look, the more you’ll often find.
 

8. Pack something warming

Never mind trout spoons, gadgets and gizmos and he most important fly fishing accessory me on opening day is the coffee flask! My happiest memories of opening days are sitting on a bench on Blagdon’s North Shore, and sharing a flask of coffee with my Dad.  In his case, it would have been fortified with a small libation from the hip flask as well!
We’d take time to watch out for the first migrant birds too, and it would always be a bit competitive to see who could spot the first Sand Martin or Swallow.  There is more to fishing than catching fish as they say! So take a break from the fishing, admire the first trout in the bass bag, and relax in the feeling that the whole season lies ahead of us! Happy fishing.”

Read more on the Turrall Flies blog & Facebook page…

Blagdon reservoir fly fishing spring 2017
Are you new to the Turrall blog? If so, take a look through our listed archives (left) for a whole stack of great posts! There are tons of excellent tips and flies to learn about, whether you want to tie the brilliant Humungous lure, or take a look at spring options for saltwater fly fishing in the UK.

Meanwhile, you’ll find inspiring tips, catches, news and exclusive giveaways on the Turrall Flies Facebook Page.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Further Information & Top Flies for Blagdon & Bristol Water Fisheries

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


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

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

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!

Moving Upstream

Yet again our British Summer weather is proving to be fickle and variable, impacting on even the best laid fishing plans.  Chris Ogborne takes a look at one way aspect of our sport that is almost immune to the weather – small river fishing.

Cornwall Fly Fishing Chris Ogborne
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With summer holidays in full swing, I actually find myself feeling sorry for the thousands of tourists who head for the West Country at this time of year.  They come with expectations of beach fishing, boat trips or kayak fishing, only to find that the weather has conspired against them and that wind or sea conditions make their plans impossible.

But the good news is that they can still go fishing.  It’s a little known fact that there are literally hundreds of miles of moorland streams, small rivers and tributaries inter-lacing the counties of Devon and Cornwall.  It’s even less well known that such water can be fished for an incredibly small sum of money and that £6 will still buy you wild brownie fishing in true wilderness conditions, surrounded by spectacular scenery and wildlife.

Devon Brown trout

In fact, the choice is endless.  The Westcountry Rivers Trust still operate their excellent ‘passport’ system, where you can purchase a book of vouchers online that will give you access to over 100 venues, ranging from tiny brooks through to stretches of mighty rivers like the Tamar or Dart.

Many are stocked but almost as many rely on natural regeneration, and the fish you catch will be as wild as the wind that brushes over the moorland heather.  With the excellent passport project you can have a full days fishing for under a tenner, yet feel as though you’re just as privileged as the Hampshire chalkstream angler who would need to add many zeros to his fishing bill!

It’s also a really user friendly scheme, where you simply buy tokens to fish and post these on the day. See the site for further details and to buy tokens online: westcountryangling.com

Another great source of where to fish information, along with the right flies and that all important local knowledge, is to visit one of the many tackle shops.  Most shop owners will either be able to sell you a day or a week ticket, and even if they can’t I’d bet that they will direct you to someone who can.  On my home River Camel, the Bodmin Anglers Association will happily let you have a day ticket for £15. (It’s actually a 24hiur ticket so you can split afternoon and morning if you like) and this gives access to some 15 miles of stunning river fishing, the likes of which are the stuff of dreams.  Canopied pools for nymphing, long glides for spider or wet fly, moss covered rocks carried here by ancient glaciers where you can sit and watch Kingfishers or Dippers, and sparkling runs that just beg to fished with dry fly.

EscapeFromDartmoor_Dart

For those who find themselves further East in Devon, Dartmoor is also well worth a try if the conditions have been unsettled. As Dartmoor’s rivers begin life high up in the hills, they seldom ever get badly coloured. Various spots offer prolific wild trout fishing and cool, clear water even when rivers such as the Exe, Taw and Torridge run brown.

Turrall have a whole range of flies to cover all these conditions, with classics such as our emergers and nymphs always worth having in your box. Classics such as the Klinkhamer, Black Gnat, PTN and Copper John continue to catch every season. Or if you prefer you can buy one for their excellent selections, which take away all the guesswork for you.  My own range of Barbless River Flies cover pretty much any set of weather or water conditions you’re likely to come across.

DSC_0970

So don’t despair this year if you happen to find yourself in rain-soaked West Country.  Look on it as a bonus and take yourself up-river.  It could be the start of a life-long love affair with the stunning rivers in this amazing part of England.

Sandeels, bass and opening time for saltwater fly fishing

Looking to fly fish the sea this year? The right time and tides to give it a try are fast approaching, reports Chris Ogborne, who highlights a key change period in the fly fishing year – when saltwater temperatures hit the magic double figures!

This week saw one of the key milestones in my sea fishing year. Our local weather forecast guru told the West of England that sea temperatures had reached double figures. Knowing that the estuary is always a little bit warmer, I took the thermometer down to the beach and sure enough, the magic 11 degree mark is registering.

sea bass on the fly
Along with the sand eels come the bass. Good news for the fly fisher, but you MUST currently release any you catch under law.

It’s uncanny and just a little bit mysterious, but  for a few years now 11 degrees is and has been for years the signal for the estuary to come to life , marking the ideal time of the year to start thinking about fly fishing in saltwater. To prove it I went up to Wadebridge and yes, there are Grey Mullet under the town bridge.  They weren’t there yesterday but now, as if someone had flicked a switch, here they are.
mullet fishing Devon
Mullet are one thing but Bass are another.  There are early bass in the estuary right now and  the numbers build as they come in hunting sand eels all summer long, but even this predictable behaviour has a cycle.  The first to arrive are the little bootlace sand eels, the ones you see in the their hundreds along the shoreline.  They’re here right now, providing food not just for the fish but also for the myriad of sea birds setting up home along the cliffs.  The arrival couldn’t be better timed.

Next in will be the main run of summer sand eels, the staple food item of so many fish and arguably the ultimate bait for Bass and most sport fish.  These eels are between four and six inches long, packed full of protein, and crucial to the survival and breeding success of most sea birds.  They normally show in Cornwall in early May, although with the mild winter and slightly higher temperatures it looks as though this could  be early this year

Sand eels Devon fishing
Early sandeels tend to be the “bootlace” eels. Imitate these with smaller patterns.

Close on the heels of the summer eels will be the fabled Launce, or Giant Sand Eels.  These guys are huge, often well over a foot in length and regarded by serious sea anglers as the ultimate bait for many specimen fish.  Big Pollack love them, as do so many species, and they are a must-have bait for a days boat fishing.  They’re also fun to catch, and we always have a lot of fun with clients catching a supply on feathers at the start of most days afloat.  It also gives anglers that rather satisfying feeling of catching your own bait – it feels that somehow you’re more deserving of the big fish you catch with them!

But of course, for most of you reading this blog, there is only one way to fish once our saltwater predators are on the chase, and that is to try fly fishing with an imitation sandeel! You could get at the vice with a selection of tinsels and fibres to tie some sandeel patterns, or indeed buy some proven ready made fly patterns. Whichever way suits you, Turrall have an excellent range of saltwater tying materials, as well as a range of deadly sand eel imitations in a wide range of sizes and colours (search for these under the Turrall name, or shop online with one of our recommended retailers HERE):

Sandeel flies for sea bass

My advice would be to use the bootlace patterns in the spring and early summer from beach or rocks, and then move up to the summer sand eel fly patterns in a few weeks time.  If you have the chance of some rock hopping over deeper water then bring out the eight weight sinking line and use the Launce patterns from June onward.

One final word of warning about bass however: Current legislation means that it is currently illegal to kill any bass you catch, even if it is above minimum size. We would always recommend practising catch and release tactics anyway, because bass stocks are precious. But please don’t be tempted to take one for the table until the ban is lifted- because it could be a costly mistake.
Naturally, many other species also eat sand eels and these flies work brilliantly for so many other fish.  Pollack, garfish, mackerel and wrasse have all been caught on these patterns, which are just part of Turrall’s selection of brilliant flies for sea fish, so give them a try this year.  There is fantastic sport to be had!

Mackerel on the fly, saltwater fly fishing UK

Chris Ogborne runs guided saltwater fly fishing sessions in Cornwall throughout the summer. For further info see his website HERE.

For more tips, giveaways and fly patterns for fresh and saltwater fishing alike, keep an eye on the Turrall Flies Facebook page.

Early Season Fly Fishing Tips, with Chris Ogborne

Are you ready for the river? Chris Ogborne welcomes the new trout fishing season with some solid tips and advice on how to get the best out of those special first days out.

Chris Ogborne Fly Fishing

Good Riddance Winter!

Is it just me or has this winter been one of the most dismal  in  recent years?  Over-long and definitely overly wet, I honestly can’t remember another that has dragged like this one.  Country walking has been more like a mud bath and without those usual crisp frosty evenings it seems that even the pigeon shooting has been mediocre.

But at last, these past few days we have some warming sunshine.  I walked my favourite river beats yesterday and the water looked near perfect.  Good flow, clean water over freshly washed gravel beds and the kind of levels that you’d relish if there were any sea trout in the system.

Brown Trout DevonIt’s not hard to get excited by beautiful wild fish!

I even saw some early fly life, just a tentative hatch in the chilly breeze, but a hatch nevertheless.  It was the kind of day that made you itch for a fly rod in the hand and I allowed myself an inner smile with the thought that the new season is now just a matter of weeks away.

Tackle tips for Early Season Fly Fishing

The river walk prompted me to go through my gear and I had a very pleasant hour dragging it all out of the log cabin and having a good sort out.  As usual I don’t practice what I preach and I’m ashamed to say that the rod was on the rack, still with the the last nymph from last September tied to the leader!  So I cleaned everything down, re-packed it all neatly into the tackle bag and now I’m pretty much ready.

Fly boxes need a bit closer attention though, and it’s a good idea to get them sorted now.  It’s almost inevitable that flies get mixed up through a season and in my case last May’s neat and orderly lines had been reduced to a confused mess.  Countless fly changes had lead to nymphs and dries sitting in amongst weighted flies and bugs.  So now I’ve re-organised them into some semblance of order and it’s back to clean rows that will save me searching for flies in the box when I should be fishing with them!

Early Season Fly Fishing Is your kit ready for the new season?

I’d suggest you have a check for rusty barbs as well.  In spite of best efforts and good quality  hooks, it’s almost inevitable that you’ll find an odd spot of rust and it’s better to weed these out now and replace them.

I’ve also replaced all the old spools of leader material, that vital final link between you and the fish.  In the overall scheme of our fishing the leader really isn’t expensive and I love the extra confidence you get from using fresh new spools.  I especially like the Airflo Sight Free fluorocarbon which I’ve been using for the last two seasons now. It’s perfect on the rivers with less shine, neutral colour and great suppleness.

Changing Colours

Checking you have decent eyewear is another priority for the new season, and a conundrum many anglers ponder is which colour polarising glasses are best for fishing? I’ll share another tip with you.  In the last few seasons I’ve been experimenting with different colour lenses in polarising sunglasses.  It goes without saying that if you’re a serious fly fisher then you’ll be using good quality glasses, but it’s not so well known that you should look at different colour lenses for different fishing situations.  Out on the sand bars in bright sun fishing for bass then it a grey lens, but up on the river I’m increasingly finding that amber works better.  In tree canopy situations when there’s reduced light, the higher contrast you get is invaluable.  As one of my guests said last year when I loaned him a pair, ‘it’s like switching on the lights’ and it really can make a difference.

Early Season Trout Fly Patterns

To get back to fly choice, it’s sensible to make up a ‘shortlist fly box’ ahead of the seasons start.  I know that so many fishermen aren’t happy unless they take their entire fly collection with them, but in truth it makes a lot more sense to keep to a shortlist.  I keep these in a small shirt pocket box in line with my long-held philosophy of travelling light and it serves to focus the mind as well as saving a lot of wasted minutes peering hopefully into a massive fly box, looking for inspiration that rarely comes!

My shortlist for the first few weeks of the new season will focus on the darker colours, especially if I’m up on the moors in search of wild brownies.  Even if you’re on more lowland rivers I’ll bet that 70% of your early hatches will be dark if not black.  Within my barbless selection in the Turrall range, I just KNOW that the Skinny Black Gnat will be a real favourite, as will the Hi Vis Gnat in the fast water.  If there’s no surface activity then I’ll almost certainly be using the Shellback nymph, skinny Pheasant tail or the Camel Nymph. Indeed, these are some of the best flies for March and April.

Skinny Black Gnat FlySmall, dark emergers make great all-rounders for early season trout!

The great thing about my Turrall barbless fly selection is that it does all the thinking for you, as in essence it’s a shortlist.  With just these patterns in your box you’ll be covered for 90% of fishing situations, confident that you can get close enough to anything that’s hatching or living in the water.

Of all the flies in the barbless collection, I think the Skinny Black Gnat is my all-time top fly.  It works in any kind of dark fly hatch and is a good suggestion of so many insects. I even use it when the Hawthorns are about as well and the fish don’t seem to mind that it hasn’t got the legs that distinguish that particular natural.

Wherever you spend your first days out, I’ll wish you good luck for the new season.  Let’s hope the weather is kinder to us than it has been in the past year!

DSC_0153Chris’s Barbless River Fly selection (dries pictured above), is available from fly stockists this spring. You can also catch Chris in action on the rivers in his Youtube Film, featuring fly fishing tips on the River Camel, Cornwall.

Keep an eye on our Facebook page for further tips, news and giveaways!

 

Bass and Saltwater Fly Fishing Tips

This month our blogger is top angler & Turrall fly designer Chris Ogborne, who has some timely advice  for the exciting prospect of fly fishing for sea bass and other species this year.

Chris Ogborne, UK sea bass on the fly

The saltwater fly fishing scene around UK shores has developed fast in recent years and is still moving forward.  Whatever you read in the press about British bass stocks and the rather ineffectual (and mis-guided) regulations currently emerging from the EU, the truth is that sport fishing around our coasts is one of the few growth markets in the angling world.

In short, fly fishing in the sea is exciting, refreshingly different and here to stay. But while there are many great sport fishing opportunities and no end of species available, the fact is that most people aspire to catch a sea bass on the fly.  This species is arguably one of the greatest remaining challenges in the sport.  They’re enigmatic, fickle, unpredictable – but great fun when you get it right!

Best Flies for Sea Bass

My fly patterns for the sea are centred around the bass.  The good news is that these flies are also great for pollack, mackerel, garfish, bream and even the amazing golden grey mullet on occasions, even though the latter are technically vegetarian!

uk saltwater fly fishing tackle

All my UK saltwater flies are based on the premise that while bass will eat almost anything that moves, from crabs and prawns through to baby pollack and floating carrion, their favourite food is the sand eel.  So my philosophy is that if you can represent sand eels and bait fish with effective imitations then you’re 90% of the way there.

Within this you need to know that not all sand eels are the same, however.  We start the saltwater fly fishing season down here in Cornwall in May with what we term the ‘bootlace’ sand eels, the small ones around three inches long that look just like – you guessed it – bootlaces.

Sandeel flies for sea bass

These are then superseded in June by the main run of ‘summer sandeels’ and these are instantly recognisable.  Around 4 to 6 inches long, they are the staple diet not just of fish by also a host of sea birds as well.  Beyond this you have the giant sand eel or Launce, the largest of them all at 10inches plus .  Some of these get to well over a foot long and as thick as your middle finger, and are regarded by most anglers as the ultimate bait for a specimen bass.

Launce flies for bass
This is the premise upon which all the Turrall saltwater patterns are based.  The Imitative sand eels represent these varying sizes, along with the obvious limitation that a fly of 12 inches or more is behind the casting capabilities of most fly rods, let alone most anglers.  In this case we compromise with artificial launce patterns at around 8 inches.  Fortunately, the fish don’t seem to mind that they’re a tad short! We also make weighted bass flies, for those days when you need to get down to the fish quicker.

Saltwater Baitfish Flies

My saltwater baitfish patterns are smaller and tend to employ the ‘shimmer’ factor from the amazing new flash materials in the Turrall range. These are a great way to give your own patterns a real boost too, and the UV reflective materials such as Turrall UV Multiflash are brilliant:
fly tying Flash materials

Close copies of real food are usually unnecessary here. It’s a bit like using suggestive fly patterns on a lake and river – whilst they don’t look exactly like any particular species, they still ‘suggest’ a whole range of small baitfish. Nor is it just the bass that love them- and one of the most exciting parts of saltwater fly fishing is that the next bite could be one of many species.

Mackerel on the fly, saltwater fly fishing UK

Arguably the best thing about these flies is that you can take all kinds of liberties in the way they’re fished.  Retrieves can be fast, slow, staccato – the variations are limitless.  They can be fished at all depths and with all line densities, at all speeds and in all conditions.  As ever with fly fishing, it’s all about ‘life’ in the fly.  The art of flyfishing is about making the fish believe that your concoction of fur and feather is a real living thing.  If you can do that, then you’re on the way to being a proper angler!

Watercraft, Wading and Fly Fishing Tips

The final word is about watercraft, the one element of flyfishing that so many people get wrong by failing to understand that it’s the most important single factor in fishing.  I teach my clients that wet wading, getting right down there into the aquatic environment and proceeding with care and stealth, is the key.

One good fishing tip is to forget the heavy gear and waders, leave the kit bags behind and use a simple neck lanyard with the bare essentials.  Travel light, move with the tide and don’t forget your polarising glasses. Read the water, check the tide tables and above all use your eyes to interpret the signs.  Gulls and terns diving, shimmering water where fish are feeding, bait fish jumping clear of the water – these are all things that help you find fish.

Thinking like a fish, sub-surface vision as we call it, is what makes a successful angler.  The fly itself is vital, of course, but of equal importance is how and where you fish it.  Getting the mix right is the true essence of saltwater fly fishing. Good luck and enjoy your sport this year!

DSC_0665A fine brace of fly caught bass; do be warned that new EU directives mean that all bass caught from January 1st to June 30th must be released.

The Best UK Fly Patterns for Bass & Saltwater Species

For a full range of great flies produced by Chris and Turrall, see your local fly shop or order online from one of our recommended retailers. Tackle stores and fly stockists can order direct from us by starting an account at www.turrall.com

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the blog, as well as our Facebook page and Pinterest Galleries for more tips, news, photography and the latest and greatest flies for all your fishing needs. We have lots of great free content on the way from the likes of Chris, Dominic Garnett, Gary Pearson and Wes Ower.

Guided Saltwater Fly Fishing in Cornwall

For thrilling sport in some beautiful locations on the Cornish coast, Chris Ogborne runs friendly guided fishing trips. Tackle can be provided, along with all the knowhow you need to catch your first bass on the fly, or improve your existing skills. Find out more on his website: www.chris-ogborne.co.uk