Fly Fishing at Fernworthy Reservoir, Dartmoor

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

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

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

Buzzer fly shuck fishing

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

Flies and tactics for Fernworthy

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

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

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

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

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

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

Keeping mobile

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

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

Fly fishing Dartmoor lakes

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

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

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

To the Dam…

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

Buy the flies…

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

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.
*******
“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.

9 Deadly Spiders: Top fly patterns and fishing tips

Traditional, understated and so often underused, spider patterns are a must for any fly box. Turrall’s Dom Garnett provides a host of traditional and modern favourites and tips for river and stillwater fly fishing.


There are so many reasons to recommend spider patterns. They are simple to tie, yet so effective for various species. Thanks to their subtlety and excellent movement, they also work in tricky conditions and so even if I don’t start fishing with one, there are always a few ready in my box.

A small water rainbow is hooked on a spider fished just inches deep.

So what exactly is a spider? Traditionally, it is a fly consisting of little more than a thread body and a sparse, mobile hackle. In fact the Americans simply call them “soft hackles”. Flies that date back to the earliest fly fishing.

They are fished wet and tend to work well with very little retrieve. There is such natural movement in the “legs” made of hen, pheasant, starling or any various soft feathers, that they often need little manipulation from the angler. In fact they are a godsend in flat calm conditions, or where there is little movement in the current. I like them for days when the streams are running low and clear, and also for stillwater fishing when there is little wind.

Classic spider patterns

Traditional Spider fly patterns Turrall

For the ultimate in simplicity and traditional good looks, we should start with some of the basics. The Black and Peacock, Greenwell’s Spider and Black Spider (above) are three to have in any fly box. The Black and Peacock is probably my most used fly of all time, not just for wild trout for me, but large rudd, roach and even carp.

spider patterns for trout(Above): This rainbow was tempted just beneath the surface with a small spider.

The Black Spider is another classic and about as simple as it gets: A black thread body, a hen hackle and that’s it! It remains an extremely versatile fly though. Fished in the top foot or two of water, it’s a great little fly during a buzzer hatch on lake or river.

Moving on to other spiders, some traditional patterns are more colourful and less realistic, such as the Partridge and Yellow (above L). These flies are useful in stained water or to ring the changes when drab flies won’t work.

Along with the traditionals, we also have some newer flies in the mix at Turrall, to target different species. Chris Ogborne’s Moorland Spider (above middle) is ideal for smaller streams, while my own Dace Ace is a tiny bead head to try for coarse species.

Spider fishing tips

River fly fishing Devon

  • You don’t need to impart a lot of action into a spider. The movement is already there, so try fishing these flies with minimal retrieve. Fish at dead drift on the river, or as you’d fish a buzzer on stillwaters.
  • Besides being fished wet, small spiders are also excellent fished in the surface film. Try applying some floatant and present a small dark spider on a fine leader; this can be a real frustration saver when fish are rising to tiny insects and bushy dry flies don’t work.
  • You can fish them singly, but spiders also work well as part of a team. Try two or even three in different colours to see what the fish want. Because they are so light and sparse, they are not always suitable as a point fly.
  • Don’t expect every take to be a line wrencher. Spiders are incredibly easy for fish to inhale and you may get quite subtle bites. Be ready to strike at anything suspicious.

  • Spiders are among the best patterns of all to try for different species. I love small dark spiders for roach, rudd and dace. That said, brighter colours are also great fly patterns for bluegills, crappies and other US “panfish”!

 

Three spiders to tie and try yourself…

Because they are so easy to tie, spiders are also fantastic to make and fill your fly boxes without spending weeks at the vice. That simplicity also makes the style of dressing hugely versatile, whether you tie large or small flies, or want to add your own twist. Here are three I’ve had great success with recently.


(
Three spiders to tie yourself. L to R: Spider sedge, JC Midge & Beaded Black and Peacock)

Spider Sedge

This is my ultimate wet fly for chub. Not what was originally intended though, because Spider Sedges are a very old pattern, originally tied in larger sizes and winged to be fished wet or just sub surface.

Hook: Nymph 10-12
Thread: Brown
Rib: Gold wire
Body: Olive Alpaca Dubbing
Thorax: Peacock
Wing: Woodcock slips
Hackle: Grizzle Hen

JC Midge

Adding a sparse hackle to your favourite buzzer patterns is a great trick for stillwater trout and this is a good fly when rainbows are feeding in the upper layers. Be sparing though; you just want a hint of legs so just one turn of hackle is usually more than enough. For coarse species or hatches of tiny midges, you can also try these right down in size 16 or 18.

Hook: Turrall Barbless Grub 12-16
Thread: Black
Rib: UV Multiflash
Body: Partially stripped peacock herl, fine.
Cheeks: Jungle cock
Hackle: Black cock (one turn only)

Beaded UV Black & Peacock

I just love this fly for coarse fish. Large rudd and roach are usually the target. The usual spiders also work, but for windy days, or when the bigger fish hold a little deeper and you have to get down to them, this is the daddy. It’s also the pattern responsible for my 2lbs 3oz PB rudd, caught this summer.

Hook: Turrall barbless grub
Bead: Metallic Red 2mm
Thread: Black
Tag: UV multiflash (pearl or red)
Body: 2 strands peacock herl
Hackle: Black hen (two turns max).


Spiders are fantastic for rudd; this canal fish took a beaded spider.

Fly tying tips for spider patterns

– Less is always more with spiders. This is especially the case with hackles. The old masters of river flies recommended two to two and a half turns of hackle, but modern feathers are so dense, one turn might be enough.

-Standard nymph hooks are ideal for spiders, but they also look great on short shank hooks- or even a curved pattern such as grub hook.

-A few basic feathers will set you in good stead. Whole capes are brilliant for getting a wide variety of fly sizes, but a few smaller packs of feathers makes a cheaper starting point. Hen is perhaps the easiest to find and use, closely followed by partridge. Traditional materials like woodcock and starling are also excellent and cheap if you can find them.

-The same is true with body materials. Keep dubbings sparse, so as not to lose that slim spider profile. That said, you can also add some special effects with just a hint of embellishment. A fine UV rib works well, while it’s no coincidence so many classic spiders have a touch of peacock.

– If you like to secure your materials with plenty of turns, a lighter thread is excellent for smaller spider patterns. It’s especially important to avoid bulk and not clog up the hook.

-To some extent, proportions are subject to taste. But spiders tend to have slightly short bodies (finish above hook point or barb), but if anything hackles tend to be slightly long.

– Try to tie your hackle feather so that the fibres point out at a lively angle, splayed out, like the spokes of an umbrella. Tied like this, they’ll really breathe, so avoid pinning them back or trapping with thread.

Further Reading

For anyone interested in tying the huge range of traditional patterns, or indeed the history of these classic flies, some other books are well worth a read:

A Guide to North Country Flies and How To Tie Them: 140 Flies with Step by Step Photographs (Mike Harding)

The North Country Fly: Yorkshire’s Soft Hackle Tradition
(Robert L. Smith)

Be sure to keep an eye on the Turrall Flies Facebook page for our latest news, tips and the latest fly patterns.

 

 

The Magic of Spring Fly Fishing

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

Skinny Black Gnat Fly

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

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

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

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

Chris Ogborne

Further Information:

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

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

Bloodworm Fly Patterns & Fishing Tips

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

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

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

Where to Fish Bloodworms on Stillwater Fisheries

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

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

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

Blood Samples

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Patience Pays Off

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended Bloodworm Fly Patterns

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

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

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

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

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

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

FURTHER INFORMATION:

Hollies Trout Fishery, Devon

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

Guided Fly Fishing with John Dawson

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

Fly For Coarse: 2016 Winners & Tips for 2017

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

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

Everything from Tenkara to kayak fishing featured in 2016!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

Specimen carp on fly


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

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


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

Further tips, trends and fly fishing lessons for 2017…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fly For Coarse continues in 2017…

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

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

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

 

Grayling Fly Fishing Tips and Tactics

As the trout season draws to an end, river fly anglers turn their eyes to the Grayling. Chris Ogborne offers some top tips on how to tackle this enigmatic and beautiful fish.
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“Grayling were probably designed to keep fanatical anglers like me sane in the winter months.  The trout season seems a fading memory as we head for winter, but with winter fly fishing for grayling available all over the UK there’s absolutely no need to put the river gear into mothballs just yet.

Grayling fin detail close upGrayling add a dash of beauty to the ugliest winter day.

Contrary to popular belief, the prolific grayling is also far from being confined to the aristocratic chalk-streams of Hampshire and Wiltshire. They abound in rivers as diverse as the Tamar in Cornwall, the Welsh Dee, and as far away as the most Northerly waters of Yorkshire and over the border into Scotland.  It’s also far from being expensive and it’s easy to find a days fishing at a good less than you’d pay for a bank ticket on many stillwaters.

So let’s dispel some more of the myth and mystique.  Here are my top tips on how to get started and for getting the best out of winter Grayling:

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1. Don’t write off dry flies

Start with dry flies for grayling, simply for the pleasure of it!  Grayling will respond to the sparsest of hatches and are always looking ‘up’ for their food.  They will rise even in appalling conditions and there are a host of stories of them coming up for snowflakes in mid winter.  If nothing is showing, try a bit of general prospecting with a Black Gnat, Red Tag or any dark up-wing pattern, but otherwise it’s a case of match the hatch with your nearest imitation.

Kilinkhamer Grayling fishing turrall

2. Try the deadly suspended nymph

This method is an absolute banker.  Use a big dry fly almost as a float, and suspend your nymph beneath it.  The leader length obviously depends on the depth of water you’re fishing, but  this method works even in very deep runs and holes. Crucially, it sharpens up your reaction time and turns plucks into takes!

3. Watch the water

It goes without saying that if you want to suss out how to catch grayling consistently, watercraft is as vital as with any fish. But it also pays to be aware of how and where they feed.  Grayling are shoal fish, so where you find one you’ll almost certainly find another  Walk the banks with caution and ALWAYS have your eyes on the water.  Polarising glasses are essential

wales_river_irfon Ben Garnett fishes the River Irfon, one of the UK’s best grayling waters.

4. Pecking order

Within the pools and runs you can usually find the bigger fish at the front of the shoal, at which point  they have first choice on food items brought down in the flow.  There’s a very obvious pecking order!  So make sure you have a good look in the pool rather than just casting blind, as this could give you a shot at a specimen fish

5. Weighted nymphs

Grayling will often hold in deep water so you’ll need some heavyweight nymphs to reach them.  In basic terms, you need to get the fly down to the fish so plenty of upstream ‘forward lead’ is called for.  A good tip to remember is that in clear water the fish are almost ALWAYS deeper than they look. If you’re struggling it can often pay to change the depth rather than changing your flies.

Beads, hooks graylingFor keen tyers, our range of brass and tungsten beads provide critical mass at great value.

6. Leader materials.

I use fluorocarbon for 90% of my grayling fishing. On occasion you may need to go fine if they’re being fussy, but for most of the time I’m happy on 5X for dries and most light nymph work, and maybe 4X for deep nymphs. In many of our smaller West Country rivers, you would struggle to work with much more than 10 feet of leader. On larger waters, however, French leaders are well worth trying in order to achieve greater depths and finer presentations.

7. Downstream spiders

For some strange reason, spider fishing seems to have gone out of fashion these days (although we have an exclusive blog on tying and fishing these classic flies on the way in the coming weeks!). This is a shame because it’s a fascinating and absorbing method.

Spiders for Grayling fishing

Downstream spider fishing is delicate, non-intrusive, and can help you reach pools that are unavailable with a more conventional cast.  Don’t be afraid to fish a team of spiders; it’s not uncommon for me to use three or even four on a cast, with the heaviest fly on point.

8. Wading is a must

As a general rule, I like to wade when I’m grayling fishing.  This avoids any skylining, because while not always the case they can be the ultimate in spooky fish on some days. But the real essence is that it puts you right down in the angling environment with them.

9. Don’t be a drag

Talking of wading, it can be hugely advantageous to position yourself so that flies track true and fairly straight between angler and fish. By this, we mean giving the flies a natural drift in the current, with plenty of time to sink to the optimum depth. The more awkward the cast and the more the flies are inclined to drag across the flow, the more reluctant the grayling will be to take.

10. Never fear the cold

Don’t let the weather put you off! Some of the best grayling fishing I’ve had has been on days when most sensible anglers have stayed at home!  They don’t mind the cold, they can positively relish rainy days, and I’ve taken loads of them when the snow has been lying on the ground.

River Itchen GraylingFortune favours the cold! This River Itchen fish took in spite of bitter easterly winds

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Turrall have a superb range of flies for all the methods outlined above, whether you pick and choose individual flies or go for a superb FlyPod or boxed collection of grayling specials (find them at quality fly stockists or order from one of our recommended online retailers)

bam02_grayling_selection

One last thing I’d stress is to take care of your catch, because grayling deserve respect. Crimping down your barbs and going barbless if at all possible makes total sense, as you’ll be releasing all the fish you catch.  Do also release them carefully, especially where they have fought hard. Support them in the water and be patient if they need a few seconds to recover and swim off. Do also note that while they provide great sport right through the winter, the grayling fishing season ends on March 16 in most areas; should you accidentally catch a fish in the spring when trout fishing, do release it quickly and carefully because it could be quite close to spawning.

For anyone who misses river fishing in the cooler months though, these fish are a godsend. If you haven’t yet been tempted to try the grayling, make a resolution to have a go this year.  Once you’ve caught one of theses lovely fish I guarantee that you’ll be hooked and it will re-define your thinking on what constitutes the closed season!”

Chris Ogborne
October 2016

(Additional images: Dominic Garnett)

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!