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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Turrall BFFI 2016
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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.

Hawthorn Flies

As spring proper finally settles on the trout streams, the hawthorn fly represents some cracking dry fly fishing- as Chris Ogborne reports.

“Of all the signs of spring in the countryside, it’s the sight of the ubiquitous hawthorn flies on the water and in the air that excites me most.  I was on the river this afternoon and the great news is that these amazing flies, with those distinctive trailing black legs and  semi-hovering flight,  are now  with us.

spring fly fishing in Devon
Mild spring temperatures should see many streams buzzing with hawthorns.

There’s nothing quite like the hawthorn.  Jet black all over apart from a gauzy wing,  they conform precisely to the anglers blueprint of what a key  food item should be  – large, plentiful, reliable, easy to imitate at the tying bench and very available to trout in still and running water.  If anything they came a bit early this year but in most  seasons you can set your watch by them as they brighten up the first weeks of May, with these terrestrial flies giving the fish their first real feast of the year.

Hawthorn fly drowning
In the drink: trout soon get used to these black snacks!

Interestingly though, the fish almost seem to be scared of them in the early days of the hatch.  In this respect they are a bit like the mayfly as with the latter you often see even larger lough trout in Ireland reacting nervously to them.  Smaller river Browns are the same and many is the time I’ve seen the little fish bolt away from a Hawthorn thrashing in the water surface.  But this case of ‘the nerves’ only lasts a few days and once they get used to them they take them avidly, often with a confidence rarely displayed even with a thick hatch of Olives. Hawthorns are an early protein bounty that the fish cannot afford to ignore

Hawthorne Fly Patterns

Turrall make some superb Hawthorn fly patterns (such as the dry winged Hawthorn, below) to help us capitalise on this exciting time. On the river I like to fish them dry, or occasionally semi-dry.  Either way, one of the best fly fishing tips I can give is that you use them WITHOUT floatant and fish them IN the surface film rather than ON it.

Turrall winged dry hawthorn

Fish will take them from the film with confidence and mostly with a very deliberate rise form. On upland lakes and reservoirs the insects can get easily waterlogged or drowned, especially in a rolling wave, and as such they can be fished wet and submerged.  In these conditions, a smaller wet black hopper makes a good representation and has for many years been one of my favourites.

So it can be seen that from an angling viewpoint its best to be flexible at hawthorn time.  In general terms I’d summarise it as close copy on the rivers, but suggestive and more loosely imitative on the lakes.

Enjoy fishing with hawthorn flies this month.  These amazing insects are true harbingers of summer and are the best early season bonus that we get.  The angling year is now officially under way!”

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

Deadly new flies, from river to predator patterns

 With exciting new options for wild trout, pike, perch and zander, Turrall have some fantastic fish catchers on the way for late 2015. Combining fresh ideas to our top class hooks and materials, both Chris Ogborne and Dominic Garnett have created new must have flies that will appeal not just to traditional anglers, but also predator fishing fans.

Barbless River Flies by Chris Ogborne

For anyone who ever had that nagging feeling of not having the right flies on the river, this new selection is the perfect solution. The concept was to bring all of Chris Ogborne’s experience into a single fly box, providing dries, emergers and wets that cover virtually every base.

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The dries (above) are tied beautifully sparse

For anyone who ever had that nagging feeling of not having the right flies on the river, this new selection is the perfect solution. The concept was to bring all of Chris Ogborne’s experience into a single fly box, providing dries, emergers and wets that cover virtually every base.

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 Nor are these flies like all the rest. Tied beautifully sparse, unlike so many commercially tied flies, they also feature top quality barbless hooks that make them ideal for catch and release. Among universally useful patterns, there are also some great twists in the set too, including a river emerger buzzer and deadly sinking nymphs. Available individually, or as a beautifully presented collection, these flies will catch anywhere in the world.

Depth Seeker Predator Flies

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Filling a really useful niche, these new flies have lots of movement and a faster sink rate that makes them brilliant for deep or running water. Featuring dumbell eyes, they also fish “point up”, making them less prone to snagging up when you fish close to the bottom.

Flyfishing for Coarse Fish author Dominic Garnett has refined these great predator catchers over several seasons, taming not only big pike, but zander with them. When predators are sluggish or lying deep, their fast sink rate and deadly jigging motion make them succeed where standard pike fly patterns fail.

Drop Shot Minnow Flies

Have we got a screw loose with these new gems? Not in the slightest! A great option on either game gear or drop shot tackle, these will appeal to lure fishers as much as fly casters.

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With super sharp, wide-gape dropshot hooks, these patterns fish “point up” and have excellent hooking properties. An exciting new development, there are many ways they can be fished. All predator fish will take them, but they are especially good for perch.

We will be showcasing these new patterns at the 2015 Tackle and Guns show, for general release this autumn. Do also keep an eye on our Facebook page for further news, updates and giveaways.