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Martin James award-winning fisherman consultant,broadcaster,writer


10/05/2013 - Trout Fishing Low Gin Clear Rivers

Trout fishing low gin clear rivers – Martin James


It always amazes me why so many anglers approach low clear rivers to fish for brown trout as they would on still waters for rainbows, arriving with a 10 ft. 7 weight outfit, with often a sink tip line not a floating line. Tackle better suited for sea trout and grilse, at the end of the session they go away moaning about the poor fishing.  I remember my grandfather often telling me when I was a youngster “A poor workman always blames his tools”. I say “Don’t  blame the river  for the bad fishing, think about the subject and conditions” When river trout fishing on a low gin clear river or stream often in bright sunshine, you need the finest and lightest tackle possible. This type of fishing demands good presentation, water craft and casting accuracy are important, but above all a quiet approach. Spook  your fish and you have no chance.


                                Do’s and Don’ts


Don’t use 9 foot 6lb leaders  and streamer flies, don’t go clumping up and down the banks, don’t crash your feet down on the bed of the stream when wading, do it quietly, in fact the less you wade the better. Don’t use a rod above a 4 weight, for me it’s a light soft action 3 or 4 weight rod, often fibreglass. Thomas and Thomas make a fine range of glass fibre rods under in the Heirloom series, my favourite is the 7’6” 3 weight or my 8’ 4 weight, they have the action of cane, the weight of carbon. I match this with a small reel, with a double taper floating line.


Using a TieFast tool I attach 15 inches of 30lb breaking strain line to my floating fly line, and then attach a taper leader usually 9 feet in length, that has a butt of 20lbs with a tippet of 4lbs. I then attach another 5 to 10 feet of 3lb tippet, finally a couple of feet of fluorocarbon between 2 and 3lbs BS which has been degreased so it doesn’t float. A floating tippet next to a dry fly or chironomid often down to a size 22’s when fished in the surface film is the kiss of death.


If you arrive on your favourite stretch of river with no rising fish, just sit on the bank in an area where you have seen fish in the past. Often within 10 minutes, but perhaps an hour you will usually see dimples or light bulges on the calm surface of the river, usually it’s fish taking emerges. Those fish are for catching. As you sit there you will see the occasional small flies leaving the water, often or not they are tiny black buzzers, known as a non-biting midge or chironomids. Many still water fly fishers will have experienced clouds of buzzer around the water’s edge. When buzzers are hatching off, the water surface dimpled by rising fish, even the ducklings; coots, moorhens, swallows, swifts and other birds join in the action filling their beaks with these tiny morsels of food.      


           I say “Its time you the river angler started fishing the buzzer”


Sadly too few river anglers think of fishing the buzzer, thinking it’s only for their still water angling friends. Not true, the buzzer is often a major food item for our river trout, This season when my trout have been spooned or stomach pump. The Americans have known for many years the midge reigns supreme on many rivers streams, they have perfected this style of fishing on flowing water which the UK angler would do well to follow. Two of the best books you can read on the subject are Fishing the Midge by Ed Koch published in 1972 by Freshet Press. A revised edition was published in1988 by Stackpole books. In 2001 Stackpole published Midge Magic by Don Holbrok and Ed Koch. I reckon it’s a book every fly fisher should have on his or her bookshelf.


The American midge angler will often fish a midge down to size 24, even size 28 on some of the clear limestone streams in Pennsylvania. I often fish a size 20 or 22 but nothing smaller. I doubt if I could thread the leader through the eye of the fly. It’s important to remember when fishing a very small midge or fly you need to use a very fine tippet matched with a soft action rod. I sometimes use a few inches of power gum tied in the leader. The takes from a trout taking the midge can often be very savage.


                                    Fishing the Dry Fly


For me the most delightful way of catching trout is by sight fishing with a dry fly, river trout fishing should not be difficult,  the fish will show you where they live by rising to the surface, secondly they show you what they are eating. By observing the flies coming off, then matching the hatch you should catch that trout unless it’s spooked by a bad cast.  You should cast up and across the stream so the fly lands like thistle down several feet above the feeding trout. The best advice I can give is fish the longest leader you can handle, but I reckon it needs to be at least 12 feet, I often fish a leader of 20 feet. When casting a fly to your intended quarry, don’t make more than one false cast, as the fish often get spooked by the line being cast over them. Just make a roll cast, a back cast then a forward cast dropping the fly where you want it to land. You should then catch that rising fish. It’s not rocket science. Above all enjoy being at the waterside

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Martin James Fishing
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