Looking for your next big fly fishing buzz this year? For those who enjoy new challenges, the possibilities with a fly rod have never been greater. So what is the ultimate test for the fly angler? Here are eleven ideas to get you inspired over the coming months. Which one captures your imagination right now?
Catch a big wild brown
If stocked fish tend to average two pounds these days, we should never be complacent about wild fish of anywhere near that stamp. For the vast majority of British anglers, any wild brown trout of over a pound is an excellent one, while a two-pounder is the stuff of dreams. They are not as common as we’d like; nor do they give themselves up easily, becoming wilier with every angler they come across.
We’re not going to set a glib “specimen” weight here. If you fish a tiny stream, a pound plus fish might be the king of the brook! If you fish a larger, noted river like the Usk or Upper Wye, the equivalent fish might be several times bigger. Why not seek out your own fish of dreams this year? For some top advice on doing just that, check out our previous blog on dry fly fishing for big browns with Gary Pearson.
Create your own unique killer fly
While many anglers only ever use widely recognised or famous fly patterns, there’s a genuine thrill to getting creative. Tying your own flies is not only exciting, but allows you to deviate from the usual suspects. Whether it’s a clever insect copy for your local river, or perhaps a smart twist on an existing pattern, little beats that feeling of catching on your own invention. You’ll want to give it a snappy name- and if it proves especially lethal you might even see it in our catalogue one day!
Catch an overwintered rainbow
While many fisheries have a high turnover of greedy, fairly green trout, some will also hold wily fish that have survived several seasons. Cottoning on to natural food, they take on a wild existence and become a genuine challenge to catch.
You can often tell an overwintered fish by their condition. They’ll have full, fins and no scale damage for one thing. They also tend to have a longer, leaner form and less unnecessary fat, although some real giants do bulk up after switching to a fish diet! Forget the tinsel blobs for such monsters; they’re often found in the wilder corners of big waters, feeding on natural food well away from the lodge.
Teach a newcomer to fly fish!
A more vital challenge than any other, the very future of fly fishing depends on new blood. Is there someone you know who might enjoy a go at fly fishing? It could be a son or daughter, but not all beginners are kids and it could equally be a friend, workmate or sibling. In the current era, outdoor activities have never been more eagerly prized, so why not share the love this year?
Of course, if you don’t fancy being a teacher, you could also treat a beginner to a coaching session. Most coaches will take two on- and it could be a great chance to brush up on your skills while they get a grounding in the basics of fly casting and fishing.
Battle pike on the fly
More enlightened attitudes to this apex predator have spawned a new generation of anglers, armed with specialist flies and tackle. Not for the faint-hearted, landing a large pike is a test of nerve as well as tackle.
Our fly range has expanded to cover pike with various patterns in recent years, while our own Gary Pearson (above) has become a bit obsessed with the species.
That said, even the most modest canal or drain will hold decent pike. This is not a species to wing it with, however, as they are not only powerful and toothy but deceptively fragile. Newcomers should seek out a guide or knowledgeable friend at minimum to learn the basics of handling and unhooking. You’ll need at least a nine weight outfit, as well as an extra-large net, unhooking mat and footlong forceps.
Explore a craggy stream
If you’re used to reservoirs or big, open rivers, a tiny river can be a real challenge. It’s a whole different ball game, tackling up a rod as short as seven feet and using roll, side and catapult casts. For the adventurous, however, these venues are a delight, and while the fish are often small, you could argue that they are a much greater measure of an angler’s progress than mere pounds and ounces. Try schemes like the FishPass/ Westcountry Angling Passport for amazing value sport!
Tame a tiger, gold or sparctic trout
Variety is definitely the spice of life and while most fly fishers will have caught plenty of rainbows and browns, unusual breeds can take some tracking down. Golden trout exist in a select few fisheries. Genetically they have the same makeup as a rainbow, but can be spookier due to their conspicuous looks attracting lots of attention.
Tiger and sparctic trout (above) are hybrids rather than “true” trout, but are now a viable target at numerous fisheries. Aggressive and hard-fighting, not to mention beautiful, these fish are something of a collector’s item for many of us.
Tempt a salmon on the fly
So many fly fishers dream of catching a salmon, or add it to their mental bucket list. It’s certainly not a simple challenge, but as one wise soul once said, nothing truly worthwhile ever came easily!
How sad that comparatively few fly anglers ever land that silver king of the river, because in terms of sheer power and beauty, a wild salmon on the fly is something that you couldn’t forget if you tried. Why not make it your mission this season?
Cast a full fly line
Every single one of us, from beginner to expert, can find ways to improve our fly casting. Nor is distance the only measure of success in this, of course. However, if you regularly fish large reservoirs or the sea, sending out a long line can be a big advantage.
What factors limit your casting right now? Don’t let fly lines be one of them! A top quality produce designed for the job will always help. Cortland produce some of the best fly lines for distance casting.
A minority of fly anglers will get close to launching a full fly line, but it is possible for anyone determined enough. Two huge tips here would be to get some tuition and to practice on grass. Many of us won’t do either for the same reason: it feels a bit silly! Swallow your pride, however, and even casting a whole fly line takes time, you’re certain to end up with a neater and more efficient cast.
Subdue a specimen carp on the fly
For the ultimate tug of war with a fly rod, carp are now among the most reliable options for a bone-crunching battle. You’ll need to find a suitable fishery and check permission, but plenty of venues exist. Nor do you need specialist tackle; for fish that regularly run to ten pounds and more, a sensible set up would involve a rod with some backbone and a minimum of 8lb leader.
The easiest route to action is with bait and a simple deer hair artificial (and we stock various flies for carp, including Peter Cockwill’s designs). However, once you get a taste for carp, you simply must try natural flies for a truly fascinating challenge!
Target sea bass on the fly
One of the greatest success stories of recent years has been the return of the bass. Thanks in no small part to angler campaigns and no-take zones, numbers of smaller bass are thriving. With good looks and fabulous fighting properties, this is great news for the fly angler!
Nor are bass the most horribly difficult fish to catch- provided you can locate them! They will often hunt very close to shore and gladly take flies such as Clouser Minnows and Sandeels. Estuaries are an ideal place to start- and if the wind isn’t too fierce, your typical stillwater outfit will do nicely. Just don’t forget to wash your kit in freshwater when you get home!