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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


12/04/2017 - Starting Fly Fishing

I must say from the start fly fishing is about timing, it’s not a muscle game, during the years I had my fly fishing school in the UAE I had many lady pupils who outcast the men on most occasions, I also found the ladies listened, take notice practise and don’t know it all. Many of the ladies who I teach to cast a fly, do so either to join their husband at the waterside or because the partner plays golf, which they consider boring.What Does It Cost?I’m often asked what does it cost, my answer it’s as little or as much as you want to spend within in reason, you can get a decent rod, reel and line for around a £150-00, I suggest you choose a 9-foot rod rated for a 6-weight line, its most important that you match the line weight as described on the rod, written on the butt joint just above the cork handle, you will see AFTM 9ft for 6 line. Shakespeare do some reasonable rods, reels and fly lines ideal for the newcomer or improver that will suit most angler wallet, my advice is visit a local shop where an assistant goes fly fishing, also ask to try two or three rods to see what model suits you best. I usually teach my pupils with a progressive action rod, 4 years ago Thomas & Thomas produced a range of fibre glass rods, they had the action of cane the weight of carbon, they are perfect for dry fly fishing and give me lots of pleasure.Take a Lesson. It’s certainly worth taking two or three hours of instruction the cost is around £30-00 an hour, but, I’m quite happy to teach readers living in the North of England for a donation to one of my charities Ribble Valley Cross Road Care. A reel is just a reservoir for holding fly line and backing, for general fly fishing you can get a reel for around £30-00, without doubt the most important part of the outfit is the line, choose a weight forward line, rather than a double taper and pay as much as you can afford, don’t skimp on the price of the fly line it’s the most important part of the kit.You will need some backing line on the reel to which you attach the fly line to fill the reel, make sure you leave a gap between the end of the fly line and reel cage so you can slide a pencil underneath, if it’s a decent fly shop the assistant should put the backing and line on the reel.

Purchase a Few Leaders.

Due to the thickness of the fly line you will need to attach a leader of tapered nylon line with a breaking strain of your choice at the end of the leader to which you attach your fly or nymph, its known as the point or tippet, I would suggest a point or tippet of around 4lbs BS but again take notice of your guide or fishery owner.Flies or NymphsDepending where you are fishing in the UK, the type of flies and nymphs you have in your fly box will often vary from river to river, the best advice I can give is discuss what you need from a tackle dealer who goes fly fishing on a regular basis. If your planning to fish still water trout fisheries you will often find a well-stocked tackle shop at the fishery, seek their advice. I would recommend buying a good book on fly recognition, the pocket guide to Matching the Hatch Peter Lapsley &Cyril Bennett another good book is John Goddard’s Trout Fly Recognition.

My First Trout Session of the Season.

I arrived on the river around 1000 hrs finding conditions were quite good, a light south westerly wind, warm sunshine with some cloud ensuring the sunshine wouldn’t be too bright. I reckon it could be a good hour or two before there was a hatch of flies to encourage the trout to rise, the water was low and gin clear, I could count the stones on the bottom, thankfully the gravel runs were free of that horrid brown clodorpha weed, though it will appear when we get low flow rates with a week or so of sunshine, clodorpha creates a horrid blanket on the bed of the river also stones and rocks. I took a walk along the river checking out the various pools for signs of fly life and rising fish, in a pool halfway down a copse I found a small group of chubs between 3 and 4lbs slowly cruising around a pool without a care in the world.

Some Trout Were Nymphing

As I walked upstream I caught sight of a nice brown trout making a head and tail rise a typical sign of a fish taking a nymph, perhaps midge or caddis pupae, I find too many river trout fishers ignore fishing midges thinking they are only for still waters. I’ve had many great day’s river fishing with midges often down to a size 24, the best book I’ve read on the subject is Midge Magic Don Holbrook & Ed Koch, it should be available from your local library, better still go out and buy a copy. Want to catch more fish then read this book, not once but several times, it will pay dividends with more fish. As I continued my walk I enjoyed watching 4 oystercatchers putting on a great flying display which lasted some minutes, a further few yards I was at Sandbank pool where dozens of sand martins were getting ready to nest, to help protect these delightful birds, I have put down 4 mink traps. Hundred yards further on I arrived at a small copse with many willows and alders over hanging the river where several trout have taken up residence, usually where there is a decent sized rock which they can use to lie alongside picking off food items as they drift downstream. Making my way through the copse I disturbed 2 roe deer, which quickly climbed up the steep bank then disappeared, a bit further on I found a moorhen’s nest, hopefully they will have a successful brood, though the mink or even an otter could wipe out the eggs before they get a chance to hatch if they do hatch, then the youngsters could be lost, our ground nesting birds are under threat from so many dangers including grey squirrels and rats, let us not forget dogs that are allowed to roam free instead of being on a leash. Having seen 2 more nymphing trout I arrived back in the car park.Time for a brew, while waiting for the kettle to boil, I put together a 9 foot 4 weight glass fibre rod matched with a small reel Ross holding a 4-weight floating line, with the river low and gin clear I decided on using a 15-foot leader with a 3lb BS tippet.

Grannom Hatch Is On

After sorting out my gear and finishing my tea, I took another walk across the meadow to the river to see if there had been any changes, with a bit more cloud and warmth, the grannom were hatching in good numbers, at the first pool there were probably half a dozen fish feeding, this fly is the first of the caddis flies to emerge and we can expect the hatch to last for around 3 weeks, you might see grannom hatching for ten minutes , but there are times when clouds of grannom will come off for thirty minutes or more, the rise usually happening the first two hours before noon, today the rise started just before noon. I hurried back from the waterside to collect my gear, back on the river I looked in my fly box then chose a green sedge pupa, as the pupa in real life has a light green body. It’s a pattern I have used for years with some success, in fact it’s been a winner. As I walked slowly upstream towards where I could see a good fish feeding avidly, quickly working out the angle and distance of the cast I pulled off some line making a back cast I released the line on the forward cast dropping my imitation about 8 feet above the fish, as it glided downstream I took in the small amount of line keeping in contact, I thought the cast and drift were perfect but the fish ignored my offering, I made another cast then with no success I moved on to the next fish. This time I was lucky as the fish sipped down my imitation, I was forced to give a few feet of line as the fish moved downstream towards some structure in the water, these over wintered brown trout are really fit and give a good display. eventually netted a nice brown around 2lbs neatly hooked in the scissors, slipping out the barbless hook I lowered the net in the water so the fish could swim free.

Birds are in a feeding frenzy.

It’s not only the fish that are feasting on natures food source the wagtails, chaffinches and sand martins are feeding on the wing while the ducklings are moving around in the scum feeding on the trapped flies, soon to be joined by a moorhen. I spotted a nice fish alongside a big rock sipping down struggling grannom, it looked like another good fish, making my way upstream to a gap in the bankside briars nettles and other vegetation, I kept low so as not to spook the fish in the low and clear water, again my cast was spot on the drift was a good one, so it proved as the fish moved a few inches away from the rock to intercept my offering. Another good over wintered fish powered away downstream, as I couldn’t see any danger I let the fish soak up the pressure of well-balanced tackle, a few minutes later I netted another good brown trout like the first. Moving on upstream to another rising fish, I hooked it, then bumped it off, in the next 5 casts I spooked 2 fish with bad casting the other fish ignored my imitation, suddenly the hatch was over, the river looked lifeless, not a single fish or fly could be seen, all the birds had gone, the feast was over. My fishing for the day was over but it had been a great few hours on the river bank, I also managed to get some fencing repaired before going off home.

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Martin James Fishing