How to catch a wild brown trout – contrast and compare !

I spent a few days in a darkened room recovering after my recent day when fishing on a beautiful stock trout fishery.   A few people made contact to chastise, berate,or abuse me for my attitude to stocked brownies, much was presumptious because they didn’t know me and probably never would.   A brave few tried to explain to me that stock trout were more difficult to catch, and fishing for them was an enigmatic and complex challenge (!) – but overwhelmingly, more people were in agreement with my observations to a lesser or greater extent.

Upon recovery, I ventured out onto the river in between the gales and incessant rain.  I went to a stretch that doesn’t seem as popular with club members, and yet it has yielded some significantly good fish in recent seasons.  The renovation and flow improvement work of recent past couple of seasons has partially matured, and there is half a mile or so of quite variable fishing.  Very deep, unwadeable slow pools, fast shallow riffles over large cobbly stones

whilst on each side there is head high vegetation, thick patches of nettles, genuine thistles, and beautiful greeny purple teasels amongst the variety of other meadow flora up to the waters edge where a metre or more of rushes overtake and provide a serried bariier right along the bankings, growing through soft ground, residual silts and shallow water.  In this picture, you can  just about see the rings,  mid picture, that have been left by a good sized trout, he moved only in a small area, just below the surface, sweeping and mopping up the emerging mayflies,  mostly without hardly breaking the surface, taking them with delicate sips.  The approach was going to be quite difficult, the rushes at the waters edge are rooted deceptively in deep muds dropping quickly into waist deep water.   Getting behind the head height rushes wasn’t the problem, but there is no solid foothold, just the mud and shallow water that would quickly, easily, give out a pressure warning rippling bow wave that would put him down and away.  An upstream twitch wiggling lob of a cast getting surplus line onto the water, and onto the side nearest to me essential, to give five or possibly ten seconds of drag and suspicion free presentation of my emerger.  Before I’d arrived at this point, I’d already lower down the reach, spooked three or four similar  sized trout when making my first cast.  As with those, this was a one cast chance, then I’d have to move up a short distance and begin watching again.

I crab like wriggled and crawled through the undergrowth to the edge of the where the solidity gave way to sloppy wet, this was the difficult bit.  Raising to a raised crouching, casting position took a minute.  I began giggling thinking I must have looked like someone practicing Tai Chi in a bog.  Peering through the rushes, I could just about see him snootily sorting the ones he’d take and those that would be untouched to float downstream and maybe fly.  With a whispering silent prayer I made my cast, instantly looking down to ensure I’d not made a compensatory warning ripple.  Emerger a couple of yards upstream of the trout, then suddenly he switched to his left, and with his nose right under the emerger, gently emitted an air bubble and it disappeared.  I tightened and felt the fast moving weight.  You know when you’ve hooked a good trout.  It goes wherever it wants and you just keep it tight…ish, trying to coax it away from any obstructions and giving an impression of exerting your authority.   As I’d hooked it,  I’d stood fully up, step plunging into the water causing disturbance which I thought would force it upstream into the shallower riffle.  During a short delectable thrill of the fish’s plunges and powerful runs, (not without an underlying  fear of loss)  I don’t think I breathed until I had him coming towards the net.  A couple of last moment plunges and in the net he toppled.

Cheapo camera out of vest pocket, trembling wet slimed fingers, couldn’t remember how to focus it, two pictures with the wrist cord in front of the lens ! – (couldn’t be bothered slipping it on my wrist, concerned about time and returning the fish, thats how I came to drop the last expensive one in the river) and then I was cradling him and feeding my eyes on his immediate camouflage as I submerged him and waited for his break for freedom.  My holding hand could only partially encircle his solid powerful girth.

He didn’t hang about, after five or ten seconds and he robustly lunged away and into the depths.  I guesstimated his weight about three to three and half pounds, (sounds better than 1.5kg) and for his length on the Sturdy Scale this fish should have been much lighter, so the extra weight possibly comes from gorging in the past couple of weeks on Mayflies.

Compared to my previous fishing day, this was a deeply satisfying catch, even if it had been a much smaller fish.  I’d actually had to observe, think, calculate the possibilities, present the appropriate fly, in difficult circumstances to a fish that would have melted away if he’d been momentarily aware of anything in his surroundings being untoward.   Its a fairly safe bet, and I offer my apologies now for the unavoidable characterisation, not one of the chortling chaps who had nonchalantly strolled along the manicured bank of the stocked fishery, waving an expensive rod at the river, occasionally calling to each other, would have caught even the most suicidal of fingerling trout on this river.

Again, to quote one of Bob Wyatts beautiful analogies. (And I hope this doesn’t bring a law suit from his publishers)….. ‘Just to make worthwhile the inevitable indignant comments of elitism and snobbery or differerences of taste, stocked trout fisheries are so badly off plumb, that it isn’t trout fishing at all, it just looks like trout fishing.  Its similar to going out to for a romantic dinner with a woman who you have found to be attractive and interesting, one who you have chatted, wooed and charmed over a period of time before inviting out, against the option of hiring a hooker by the hour.   There may be superficial similarities, and a certain amount of fun may be involved, in one case its a possibility, in the other its an absolute certainty, but the distinction is very important, and its not only a matter of taste.’

Back to the fly tying and crawling through nettles, – I know my place, its the River Wylye, a sinously beautiful but challenging chalk stream populated by some of the most ‘ornery’ and difficult wild trout, some uncatchable, in the South of England.   It isn’t for the faint hearted, nor those with mental image of creels of fat buttery trout, Masochists only need apply.

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Mayfly Emerger Swimming Nymph – Step by Step tying guide.

Hook:                         Daiichi 1770  #12                                                      Thread:                      Uni 6/0 Brown or Tan                                         Tails:                          Pheasant Tail fibres                                             Abdomen:                  Goose Biot                                                                Gills:                           Single Peacock Herl                                           Thorax:                      Hares Mask fibres                                                Wing:                          Two CDC Feathers Folded over. 

Each winter I tie up a few experimental patterns, some fail miserably, others surprisingly effective.  This is one, called The Isla Wren, I tied it up two years ago, and I now count it as one of my most successful flies.  It is obviously to simulate ascending emerging mayflies.  The weight of the hook wants to submerges the fly, but, depending on the water condition, the CDC and the other tying materials have a natural buoyancy and also trap sufficient air to prevent it sinking completely.   I’ve caught many good trout on this last season, rarely did it fail me.  I’ve tied up a couple of dozen for this season, half of which have slight variations, some have dubbed hares mask for the thorax, some have partridge fibres tied under the CDC wing to  to simulate legs.  Experiment mixing materials and colours to suit your own locality; I haven’t changed the abdomen because the wound goose biots have a bright natural translucency.  I’ve tied it in diffferent colours of goose biot and its just as good on waters different to the chalkstream I fish.

Hook in Vice, wind a thread base along its length.  Tie in three pheasant tail fibres to form tails. Once the tails are secured, catch in a peacock herl, and a single goose biot. Wind thread forward over butts to hold firmly in place.

Use hackle pliers rather than fingers to wind the biot as far as the main kink in the hook. Tie it down.                                                                                                                                            Now carefully wind the biot, ensuring it is done with even spacing in order for the goose biot to show clearly through. Secure the end. 

Dub the thread with dubbing.  Here I’ve used Orvis Spectrablend – Tan, Wind it on but only to create a natural division between the abdomen and the beginning of the wing.  

Select two CDC feathers – these are natural.  Lay them on top of the hook, tips towards the bend, have just enough curling towards the bend so that when you curl them forward and secure at the eye, there isn’t very much to cut off as waste. 

I’m not very pleased with this pic,  I’ll replace it with a better one tomorrow.  Dub the thread with more hares mask fur, particularly the spiky guard hairs, and wind over the hook shank towards the eye, stopping about 2mm from the eye.   Curl the CDC feathers over together, over the dubbed hare, and tie down just before the eye, trim, and finish with a small head. 

 Fishing tip:  Grease tippet except final twelve or fifteen inches.  The fly will sink eventually, but I’ve  taken fish both whilst its been on the surface or completely submerged,

Flies for the coming Season

Each winter I find myself busy tying new patterns and adapting others, that I’ve seen on other Blogs or in the media.  Currently trying to cut down the new patterns so that a complete box for a season on a Chalkstream is less than two dozen, or, in my case, between forty to sixty patterns ! At the moment I’m intent on having a box full of new Mayfly patterns from nymph through to spinners.

Its a very personal thing tying flies, alone with your own thoughts, background music or radio, intensely focused on the tip of the vice, the hook and the way the pattern is forming in front of you.  I think it should be used as a new dieting method, because I’ve noticed that while I’m doing it, I don’t snack or even have a beer.

The Nymphs are easy to assimilate, this one, is the ever popular Gold Ribbed Hares Ear, it is an easy one to tie, and one that I’ve found to be a deadly pattern, and has taken in the past season or so, superb Grayling and Trout throughout the season.   

 It is one that I’ve copied from Dave Wiltshire, its well worth spending some time looking on his blog, http://www.riverflybox.co.uk/grhenymph.html  for for tying instructions on this and some others of his beautiful patterns.  

Other nymphs will have to be, Pheasant Tail Nymph, Peeping Caddis, Grey Goose, and maybe another half dozen Czech style nymphs with Tungsten bead heads, and a few floating nymphs which on the day when the fish are being ‘picky’ have been a day saver for me.  

Emergers become a little more complex, the universal Klinkhammercould cover most scenarios if I have them in four different thorax colours, mostly I tie them on a size #16.   I’ll also have Caddis Emergers in three or four patterns, essential for those exquisite hot, almost thundery Summer evenings, when, just as the light fades, – larger Trout become less cautious and begin to feed, slashing at them hungrily even if they are dragging in the current, which can be the trigger for them to attack them.   It is during this twilight into darkness, when you often can only guess where your fly is on the water and you instinctively lift into a fish rather than see a specific take.  I try to use the sky reflection in order to be able to assess where my fly is, but more of this in a later posting.   

Mayfly family are crucial for June through to mid August.  Nymph, Emerger, Dun and Spinner, I have some killer patterns for all of these with the trigger points essential to draw fish up.  The patterns have been so successful for me that you have to turn your back on the water when you tie them on otherwise the fish will leap out of the river and take them from your fingers!  I’ll be showing step by steps on detached bodies that are durable and don’t get shredded on the first Trouts teeth.

Here are the basic flies I think I need, there will be more variation later.  If you have any ideas or think any crucial ones have been omitted, please let me know and if I agree I’ll include them and a tying pattern.

Beacon Beige – Grey Duster – Daddy Long Legs – F Fly – Olive CDC Emerger – CDC Sedge – Pale Olive Mayfly – Parachute Adams – Klinkhammer – Mayfly Family – Caddis in CDC and Elk Hair – ParaAdams – SplitWing Olive – Blue Winged Olive – Yellow Duster – Black Gnat – Hawthorn – F Fly – Elk Wing Caddis: 

I’m a fly fisherman and a fly tyer,  but I’ve realised that to properly illustrate this BLOG, I’m going to have to get to grips with some basic photography skills, so bear with me a short while, over the next week or so,  I might be changing some of the pictures as I go through a learning curve, – tolerate the existing ones for the moment.

Let me know if you feel that I’m missing out on a good fish taking fly, I’d be pleased to include it. .