Originally, I intended this column to be an overview of how the fishing for the last month had been but with January hardly having a dry day and February suffering storm force winds as well as rain not a lot of fishing got done so I have decided to give new comers to the sport an insight into the types of trout fishing there are.
Of course, being a dinosaur when it comes to technology I spent 3 hours on my web-page typing it all up and then asked my wife to proof read it only to find I had been timed out and all the work was lost. Someone with more knowledge than I of these confounded contraptions that now rule our lives might be able to retrieve my work but alas not me so here we go again.
I have categorized the fishing we do into three main types and sub-indexed them where there are distinct differences within the main category.
Small Still Water Fisheries: -
Usually fished from the bank using 9ft – 10 ft 5# – 8# AFTM rods and matching lines, most often floating as these waters are usually shallow and a leader of 6 – 8 lb breaking strain, 9ft to 14 ft long.
These are generally stocked on a regular basis and are often referred to as put and take waters as at least one fish must be killed to give room for new fish.
Being shallow they tend to get very weedy in the hot summer months and the rising temperature of the water makes any surviving fish lethargic and mortalities can be high. These waters are often very good in the winter and early Spring and late Autumn.
With such a constant influx of new stocked fish the whole spectrum of flies can be tried from dries to lures and everything in between according to weather conditions.
They are ideal waters for a beginner to learn on as the bank vegetation is often kept trimmed back and fish are often found within a short casting distance.
Large Still Waters & Reservoirs: -
These can also be fished from the bank using the same tackle employed on smaller waters but there is often the availability of boat fishing as well. They tend to have good variations of depth with some waters reaching depths of 50 feet and quite often deep water can be found close to the bank. Boats enable you to explore lots of different water from shallows and weed beds to deeps and structures such as valve towers and oxygen/air pipelines plus water in front of thick tree and bushes where bank anglers cannot get to.
Anchored: - The tackle can be the same as bank fishing but depending on the depth of water sinking lines can be effective, longer leaders and consider using a breaking strain to 10 lbs but with an 8 lb tippet to the first dropper as you can use 2 or 3 flies here. Boobies can be effective on a fast sink line but here consider reducing the leader length and using just one fly. If fishing in shallow water near weed beds or close to bank side vegetation floating lines are often most effective.
Back-Drifting: - This is my least favoured style and involves fishing out of the side of the boat with the wind in your face. Cast a short distance into the wind and pay out line as the boat drifts with the wind. Usually a sinking line is used, often with a booby or two on a longer leader depending on the strength of the wind and depth of water. I would suggest that the rod should be at least 9 feet and not less than a 7 ATMF weight and a leader of no less than 10 lbs when using sinking lines and boobies.
The pro’s of this style are that you do cover new water continually and it ease a very easy relaxed method which can be altered quickly by lengthening or shortening the leader or by switching the fly line to change the sink rate.
The cons are that for me I find it very boring and I have seen quite a few anglers say good-bye to their rod and reel as they shoot over the gunnels as fish suddenly steams off with their fly. Indeed, one chap I know was pouring a coffee leaving his rod across the gunnels and off it shot resulting in a reverse Excalibur moment. An hour or so later and the same thing happened to his boat partner. Always hold onto the rod or fix it so it cannot be ripped out by a savage take and back drifting can produce some big fish and very savage bites. The other issue is that your boat is always travelling over the top of and possibly spooking any fish. One last thing if you have the wind in your face and concentrating on your rod tip or line you don’t see what you are drifting into which could be an anchored boat or the bank.
Loch Style: - This is my favourite method of boat fishing and the style used for most competitions and always for national and Inter-national matches. Again, you are always fishing new water but this time with the wind at your back. Fishing is done over the left-hand side (port) gunnels whilst a drogue may be employed on the starboard side to slow the drifting boat down.
Rods tend to be a little longer from 10 – 11ft 6 ins but again 7 – 8 weight with similar lines. Some people will go down to a 6 weight especially if using a dry fly. Leader length is often 16 – 24 feet using 3 or 4 flies and for competition work where speed is everything tippet breaking strains could be 13 lbs. No time to enjoy the fight, get them in, killed or returned alive depending on the rules. I prefer using barbless hooks and don’t want to kill fish. Most of my loch style work is done using a floating line or midge tip with a 10ft 6 ins 7 wt. rod but I carry 17 different sink rate lines with me – just in case.
Possibly my favourite form of catching trout and grayling but unfortunately, I live in Essex where there is no reputable English trout river this side of Derbyshire and I belong to a club in North Yorkshire for my sins. The other thing is the little cost of river fishing – The River Wharfe £4/day, the River Swale £7/day etc. With river fishing other than the Hampshire chalk streams(these are very expensive, manicured banks and fat stocked fish) you are seeking wild fish that may never have seen a fly before and whilst generally smaller than those stocked into the southern rivers, they are beautiful hard fighting and very wily. Tackle is much lighter and flies generally much smaller down to a size 24 with breaking strain even down to a 1 ½ lbs. There are four main styles of river fishing:
Up-Stream Dry Fly: Rods between 8 and 9 ½ feet long, 3 to 4 wt. 9 ft tapered leaders down to 2 lb breaking strain or less with a 3 or 4 wt. floating line and a single dry fly and the tippet de-greased for the last few inches. Casts are made up-stream usually to seen rising fish attempting to ensure that there are ‘snakes’ in the line to avoid any drag so the fly comes back at the same speed as the current. Successive casts are made after taking a pace upstream. Usually a method practised when wading.
Down Stream Wet Fly: Rods are often a tad longer but still light in the 3 – 5 wt area. Lines to match the rod and usually floating but tippets/leaders are up to 15 ft as three flies are the norm and of course it does depend on the depth of water. Casts are made across and downstream and then the line is held as the river current swings the flies down-stream and towards the inside bank. Further casts are made after taking a pace downstream. This method can be done either from the bank or wading.
Upstream/Downstream Nymphing: Rods are again at least 9 ½ - 10 ft long, 3 or 4 wt often using a floating line with a shorter leader of around 9 feet depending on the depth and speed of the river. The flies are often weighted to sink down and casts can be made up or down stream. Sometimes two flies are used and occasionally three. Decide if you are going to fish up-stream or down and take a pace in that direction every other cast. Usually a method employed to fish close to a bank.
Czeck Nymphing/Euro Nymphing: Since the Czeck and East European teams began winning all the International Competitions 20 years ago this method has become one of the mainstays of river fishing. Rods are not shorter than 10 feet long, very light at wt# 2/3 with 0 rated fly line or no fly line at all – just a thick nylon tapered into the leader which is not usually more than 5 feet long where it joins some form of sight indicator (river depth/speed dependent) Flies are small nymphs but very heavily weighted tungsten/lead/brass and fished between 2 – 4 on the tippet but only a foot or so apart so that they get down deep into the water. Tippet breaking strain is between 2 – 5 lbs.
There is no casting in the usual sense – just a “lob” upstream about the length or so of the rod which is held high and the indicator tracked as the flies bounce along the river bed to a distance of a rod or so downstream and about a rod length out. It is usual to take a pace upstream between casts and you can get through a lot of water and a lot of casts with this method hence keep the rod and reel as light as possible.
It is a deadly method and along with downstream wets my favourite although there is nothing more magical than seeing your dry imitation being sipped down delicately by a hungry trout or grayling. Neither is there anything more frustrating than to strike too early or late as the fly slips from view and leaves you wondering how you did not connect with the fish.
In 2013 I won the EPFFA Nationals on the River Eden using Czeck Nymphs and in 2015 won using dries and in the between years have been placed but each day fishing is different due to the venue, the depth, the speed or climate so you need to have a knowledge of all methods for success.