Fly fishing for chub and trout with terrestrial patterns

As we approach the late summer holidays, there’s no better time to try a spot of fly fishing with larger terrestrial flies. Dom Garnett reports on some exciting recent sport.

“For any angler who doesn’t relish using tiny flies and the finest tippets, mid to late summer needn’t be all about the small stuff these days. In fact, some of the best days of all are to be had when things get really bushy and overgrown on the rivers, and land-borne insects are at their most prolific.

In the past, I would raid smaller trout streams with flies like the classic Coch-y-Bonddu or perhaps pick off a few fish with flying ants at this time of year. But these days, the real cream of the terrestrial season is on mixed waters as far as I’m concerned, and this means chub as much as trout.

Taking cover

River Tone Fishing Taunton Angling
An intimate, feature-packed summer river. Ideal habitat for terrestrials.

Find dense cover, or even riverbanks bordering on open meadowland, in July and August, and you will find a rich stock of “accidentals” that find their way into rivers. With the possible exception of flying ants, you are unlikely to find one particular “hatch” right now, but beetles, weevils, grasshoppers and other prey are all regular casualties. That said, it has been a very prolific year for wasps; which are more popular with chub than humans it must be said.

Our starting point, then, should be not so much to find the perfect insect to copy, but to find any suitable spot where the fish might expect to nab fallen insects. Trees, bushes and any overhangs are prime areas; but then again, even steep, open and earthy banks tend to be worth a shot.

Grasshoppers seem to be especially prolific this year, which remind me of a recent guiding client on a Devon trout river. We’d endured a slow afternoon trying to trick fish on small traditional flies, when we saw a huge swirl under a steep bank that bordered lush open meadows. I hadn’t seen what the fish had risen for, but recommended a grasshopper imitation from the fly box. Going from a size 18 to an 8 raised my guest’s eye-brows, but the fly was immediately  snaffled by a big mouth! The fish raised hell for perhaps thirty seconds before flipping off the hook. A little unlucky, but it proved a point.

Summer chubbing

river chub fishing
Trout might be fun to catch on terrestrial flies, but I have an equal regard for the chub and the fishing on my local rivers (usually the Culm and Tone) can be excellent.

The chub is a fish to break many of the usual fly fishing rules, making it a refreshing target. Given a choice, I would tend to start with a fly no smaller than a size 10-12, with trailing legs and good buoyancy. The Chopper is a point in case; black knotted legs and a floss body stand out a mile under the surface film, but a generous deer hair wing makes it very buoyant and easy to locate.

Even more fun though, not to mention useful for uneven currents and fish that need waking up, is my grasshopper pattern. Indeed, my normal first attempt at a sighted chub will be to drift a fly with the current and little interference. Sometimes this is enough!

However, where you have perhaps already hit or missed a fish, or they have rather too long to study the fly, you sometimes need to provoke these fish a little more. This is where a twitch or two come in. You can try twitching a fly like  my foam grasshopper several yards- but often the best way is to let an inquisitive fish approach and give the fly a little movement just as the gap is closed, to warn your quarry that dinner might escape.

Flies Fly Patterns for Chub

All these flies are available to order online, from the likes of Troutcatchers, Flies Online or my own website www.dgfishing.co.uk (where you can also order the book Flyfishing for Coarse Fish).

Tight spots and risk taking

Fly fishing for chubAt close quarters, it can be important to keep a low profile.

Successful fly fishing with terrestrial patterns is often about taking a gamble. Chub and trout are both at their most confident around cover, where we can’t get at them so easily. For this reason, you can’t always get the rewards by playing it safe! You’ll often find that chub sitting close to cover will hit a fly instantly, in fact, but only if you land it right in the mixer!

Of course, a few other rules also apply in these situations. One is not to risk an overly light leader. I don’t go much lighter than 5lbs around cover- and the thicker tipped also helps avoid twisting and weakening with a larger fly. I also insist on fully debarbing my fly. Should disaster then strike, and a big fish take you into sunken snags and break you, it is almost certain that the fish will soon lose the fly.

As for tackle, a short rod may be essential for wading, but I most often find a long rod to be best for bank fishing, along with an extra long landing net. One classic chub trick is to fight sluggishly at first, before plunging right under the near bank- and the longer the lever you have to keep it out, the better. These fish don’t fight as hard as trout, but they do fight dirty, so be ready.

Cheap, thrilling fly fishing

When you stop and consider just how cheap and accessible chub fishing is compared with the classic chalkstreams and other venues, it’s a little surprising these fish are not more popular. After all, if I told you there were rivers you could fish for a fiver a day where the typical catch averaged over a pound and a dozen in a session was possible, you might either think I’d been drinking or that such sport would cost a fortune. But this is normal chub fishing!

Chub on flyA typical small river chub. Net-sized fish like this are common.

Who cares if the fish don’t have spots? The smaller samples will provide lots of action, while a large, wily chub is a truly worthy adversary and much smarter than a stocked trout. In fact, many if not most of the same trout fishing rules of watercraft apply to these fish; approach with care, keep low and cast upstream.

Perhaps the major difference is the size of fly they like best and the greater success rate of the “induced take” when a dry fly is waked across the surface. It’s terrific fun, and two-pounders are not “fish of the season” material on most rivers but fairly common. Great summer sport in anyone’s book!

Summer Fly Fishing: Pocket Water Trout & Lake Rudd

Warm weather brings some exciting fly fishing prospects- although it might pay to cast into some different places this month. Dom Garnett has been investigating small pockets for trout and tackling coarse fishing lakes for rudd.

Of all the fishing seasons, a day in June can take you right back to the basics. The art of not being spotted by your quarry and of getting a fly where it counts. The small streams of Devon never looked more tempting than on a sunny afternoon in June. But on hot days the trout can be very suspicious in the smooth water. In such conditions it’s invariably the faster water, and the broken, tumbling corners where you have the best chance of getting a reaction from the fish without being seen yourself.

River Culm brown trout

Not only do trout love the broken, well-oxygenated water here, but life gets simpler for the angler. Tumbling water helps to conceals fishing line or a clumsy cast. It also presents the trout with a simple “take it or leave it” decision to make.

Small Stream Fly Fishing in Pocket Water

Some of the most enjoyable fishing of all each summer is to be had in the tightest, smallest places on the river.  It is eye-opening just how little water a trout sometimes needs to take station. Pockets of space around rocks and undercuts are ideal, and the smallest can be little bigger than a shoebox.

With a cautious approach, you can get very close to such areas. They are best fished fast and loose, at short range- because you will often only get two or three seconds of presentation on each cast. More than enough time for a trout to dash out, and the takes can be bold and aggressive.

 

The best flies for rough water and fishing the pockets tend to be bushy, visible and unfussy affairs. You can go a little bigger than you would normally (on the Devon streams, for example, I increase my fly from a 16 or 18, to a 12 or 14. A well-ginked Elk Hair Caddis is my favourite fly, but a Bivisible, Humpy or Balloon Caddis also fits the bill nicely.

Black_ELK_HAIR_CADDISThe best advice I can give is not to fear the current. I do a lot of guiding on the streams each summer, and with those from a coarse fishing background, as I was, you’re used to seeking out slacks and slower water on rivers. Fly fishing for trout is the opposite, with fish holding up in tumbling currents and tiny spots you could easily walk right past.

The tumbling water is the ideal place to try if you’re a beginner too, because while short accurate casting is paramount, you don’t need the perfect delivery. If your fly spends a split second in the right place, it will be grabbed!

Devon stream fly fishing

If you fail, of course, the beauty of a small stream is that there is always another spot a few yards on. How you approach each is critical, but when the water level is low, the decision of whether to wade or not to wade is critical. Where possible, it can be best to fish from the bank to create less disturbance.

Should you spook the fish or overstay your welcome in a spot though, it’s always worth having a closer look. The water you were casting into can be deceptive- it could be much deeper or shallower than you first thought, which is a lesson for next time! If there is good current along with some depth, you could be surprised by a larger trout than you expected.

Summer Fly Fishing for Rudd

fly fishing for rudd

Of course, rivers are not the only places to cast a fly this summer. When temperatures really soar, trout to not always fare well, let alone feed well. This is when I switch my attention to rudd. Clear, hot days are brilliant for this free rising fish, so I reach for a box of small dries and slow sinking nymphs, starting with flies in the 16-18 stamp.

Bank fishing can be highly successful, but little boat is a godsend if you have access to a pond or lake. You won’t have too much trouble finding fish- but spooking them can be an issue. I tend to place an unhooking mat on the bottom of the one I use to avoid banging about and spooking fish- paddling into position must be done cautiously, and it’s often better to hit a slightly longer cast rather than try and get right up to a shoal. I also stick with light tackle (a four weight) and a fairly fine leader, because lighter fly line has less impact on the water and won’t send them scattering with a less-than-perfect delivery.

DSC_0859

If fish are rising, a tiny emerger buzzer or CDC Black Gnat takes plenty of fish, but the easiest way to catch rudd is with a slow sinking wet fly, such as a Black and Peacock or another spider (my own Rudd Bugs have soft hackles and a trace of CDC). Other than a gentle accurate cast, little else is usually needed to get the rudd to take- I barely ever employ a retreive, but just watch for a reaction and cast again fairly quickly if there is no response (most rudd will take within the first five or so seconds).

rudd on the fly

A really huge fish still eludes me this summer so far, but when you can confidently expect to catch several dozen in an afternoon, with plenty from half a pound to a pound and a half, this is excellent fly fishing.

Catch the latest news and patterns from Turrall Flies

Turrall produce top quality flies for just about every species of fish you could wish to target this season. Find them at all good fly stockists, as well as online retailers such as www.troutcatchers.co.uk and www.flyfishing-tackle.co.uk

Meanwhile, you can also find further news, tips, fly patterns and giveaways at the Turrall Flies Facebook page.

Read more from Dom at www.dgfishing.co.uk where you’ll find his new book Crooked Lines (for just £10 or £5 E-book), fly patterns and guided fly fishing days in Devon and Somerset.