Sunday, February 11, 2018

Want to up your catch rate this season? A few points to consider for effective fishing

I get a lot of fisher people asking me for tips and tricks on better approaches to effective fly fishing out side of having the right set up and good quality nymphs. Firstly the answer is not spending the winter filling your fly boxes with patterns un-tried and un-tested, if you want to do a winters tying only tie the flies that worked last season and tie them in all sizes and weights. Over the years, I have spent a lot of time working on, and thinking about the small details that result in productive approaches and the things we as angler can do to try and shift the odds in our favor a little bit more. I am no expert but I have some thoughts on the matter. There is a fair bit of stuff to consider when you break everything down, such as beat management, fatigue, fish behavior and the like. However, here is a few important pointers and hopefully there is somethings in this post that you will consider in the coming season when you approach the river that will aid your ability to catch more fish. 

1. Identify the predominant lies and protective lies of the fish in the beat.

It is crucial to discover this from inspecting your beat before you start fishing or enter the water. The predominant lie is where the

fish sit undisturbed and feed away naturally. This could be the shallow margins or the side of the main current near by. But not to far away there will be a place where they go for protection once disturbed, this could be a deeper pocket, behind or under some object in the water. Once you begin fishing and wading some fish will move from one to the other once they are aware of your presence; so you must know when to also move from one to the other to keep catching fish. There can be many of each of the lies in one beat. Discovering these will save you time fishing all the water on your beat and fishing water where there is less or no fish. Moving quickly between the predominant lies in the beat will result in clocking up early scores on the card or fish in the net and knowing where the fish go once you have gone through the honey holes will save time in finding them the second time around and allow you to target pockets of fish in their protective lies.

2. Fatigue and body posture

This is something a lot of anglers don't spend enough time on; you cant fish or wade a beat properly if you are tired and you will lose

your focus during a fishing session. The single biggest problem I encounter when coaching anglers is them getting tired and lose concentration on the water, leader, dry fly or indicator and miss the signs of the takes. So we must focus on how to conserve energy and slow down fatigue of the legs, arms and especially the eyes. Your posture during fishing can help, having an open stance not only will allow you better and safer wading but it will engage your core and help support your back and arm as you reach forward while nymphing. This stance will also allow for better netting practice as when you hook a fish you are now in a position to take a large step forward and move several foot closer to the hooked fish and scoop the fish within seconds of a hook up.
Having good glasses (dont have to be the most expensive) that suit the day light is crucial as the wrong lenses will cause you to having to try and focus harder on the small indicators or dries. Therefore your eyes become tired and you stop looking and miss the signs of a take. Another aspect for good vision and tired eyes is your hat. A long billed hat pulled down over your eyes will tunnel your vision and save on fatigue, this will also allow you to see smaller objects further away. Also it will save you from be distracted by the view or the passing wildlife.

Good core strength will allow you to wade quickly through heavy water, it is worth considering this and some simple exercises will give you better strength in the water and more confidence.

3. Be a predator
Another aspect of posture. Standing straight up is not only bad for
your back and makes it easy for the fish to see you, it is also takes it toll on your concentration levels. If you can imagine any predator in the wild before they strike and their posture before they do so; there body position is curled up ready to strike. This is not only for the speed of the attack but to also have full focus and concentration on its prey. Being a hunter instead of an angler is a lesson I learned many years ago and one that stuck with me and I regually remind myself of. I often say to anglers imagine a photog you is going to feature on the front of your favourite magazine and this photo could be taken at any moment when you are fishing. So do you want to be seen standing straight up in the air sticking out or do you want to be published where you are on one or two knees totally focused on your prey and reaching out to full length in complete control.

4. Hearding and moving fish
In long beats where the fish are spread out it can be good practice to heard or move the fish into pods to maximize your chance of a
good catch rate. Fish will move in different ways depending on the species and the time and place. For brown trout sometimes you need to gently push them to the head of their territory. This is not necessarily the head of a run as there can be several heads of territory in one run, depending on on its size and volume of fish in the section of water. In doing so, you will also heighten the aggression levels of the fish and they will attack your flies out of that aggression rather than looking to eat food. Of course the best thing is if you heard the fish you know where they are.

Fishing from wading up one bank will manipulate the fishes behavior differently to wading up the middle. On larger rivers I like to wade up the middle and push the fish into the banks where they feel safe (into protective lies) and they tend less to run down stream behind me where they are no longer in my catch zone if I am fishing up stream. Fishing a smaller river I tend to fish along one bank and push the fish ahead of me and by casting kind of across the stream (lining the fish) will keep the majority in my catch zone, before the head back behind me.

5. Chain reaction within the beat
It is important to be aware of the chain reaction within the beat once you disturb the fish. This will save you time fishing water where the fish have moved from because of ten minutes ago you pushed the fish from there or spooked them when you were fishing 50 yards down river. Be aware when and where you release your caught fish, I tend to release fish behind me. Also wade in and out of the river well behind the area that you are catching in if you have to bring the fish to a controller.

6. Be aware of your surroundings
Getting caught up in trees, rocks ect is a big problem and one that
will never leave an angler. Wading to release your flies from rock and trees is one of the biggest mistakes of beat management. Tie plenty of your best flies so losing a couple will not matter in a session. A lot of anglers will spend some time looking at the water before a session and rightly so, but few will look at the trees and objects they will encounter fishing and casting in that section of river. I will make a mental map of the beat as I study it and I will identify the sections I have to be on my knees to open up a larger casting gap into tight spots. Ill know the spots where there is some weed on the bottom so ill speed up the drag on my nymphs so they stay just off the bottom and not get stuck in the weeds. This is also the same for rocky bottoms. Allowing a dead drift will allow the nymphs to settle between the rocks and get caught up. However, dragging them through a slight bit faster means the nymphs will bounce off the rocks and are less likely to get caught.

When you have your hat down around you eyes and you are
focusing on you fishing, if you are not aware of your surroundings you will spend a lot of time in the bushes and trees when casting. This will result in you breaking your concentration, disturbing the beat, getting in tangles and loosing nymphs.

It is the lack of focus on these details that cost most anglers from maximizing there catch in a beat and with some time spent on these aspects and errors of the anglers will increase good beat management and more time for your flies to catch fish.
Three most important three words I have learned for good effective fly fishing is DETAILS, SIMPLE, DETAILS

I hope some of this will be useful to you, and there is some points that you will consider focusing on this coming season. Its a bit of a whistle stop to effectively fly fishing a beat, and if you have any questions or queries on any aspects of this post please feel free to contact me.

Thanks for reading my blog. If you have any questions please feel free to give me a shout on my contact details and if you are interested in Dohiku hooks, top quality tungsten beads, or Syndicate competition Fly Rods and much more, drop me a line or check them out on my website, Just click on one of the links to the right.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Wet fly & spider fishing: A productive approach that should always be considered.

Over the last number of seasons through coaching and meeting anglers on the water, I am discovering more and more anglers young and old who have a limited or forgotten knowledge of effective wet fly and spider fishing on rivers. I have even encountered some top competition anglers that would not even consider the option of swinging a wet fly or spider across a stream during a session. 
For me growing this was our bread and butter fly fishing method, nymphing didn't come into our arsenal till I was into my twenties. So up on till then it was craftily swinging wet through the riffles and pools of the Avonmore River in Co Wicklow that won most of our club competitions and Leinster Championships held by the
club. Even though, today I too tend to lean towards the nymphs and dries time and time again, there are days when the wet fly's and spiders fished correctly will catch more fish than any other method. In order to be a complete competition angler you must be able to fish all methods and more importantly know when each one will be more effective than the others. 

Over the last decade or so I do try and spend some time on the wet when the conditions are favorable for this approach. Ideally a Spring or Autumn day with a nice breeze blowing up the flats creating a wave is what you are looking for perfect wet fly fishing. A extra drop of fresh in the river or a dropping colour in the water can put the trout feeding right in the zone where the wet flies are swimming. 
But admittedly I am not a wet fly angler, I can do it, but am no means an expert on it. However a good friend of mine has spent countless weeks, months and years practicing and learning to understand this fly fishing approach and in my opinion one of the best river wet fly fisherman I have ever encountered. 
David O Donovan is a renowned and accomplished competition angler through Ireland and Europe. Fishing Munster rivers all his life and especially the famous Blackwater River, where wet fly fishing is the go to method to catch large number of fish; also in this region there is some of the best wet fly anglers in the Country. During our practice sessions over the years, David will always spend half a day on the spiders and wets to test them out to see if they will be wort setting up. In most cases we end up setting up at least one rod with the wets. They can pick off a few fish any time and can cover the stretch of water a lot quicker than nymphs if you need to find pods of fish. 
So recently in a conversation with Dave I asked him for his top five tips to good wet fly fishing to share with you here and hopefully get anglers to start thinking of this approach for the coming season. 
No.1 Scan the surface for any fish activity or movement.
Being able to identify when is a good time to fish and put some of your session time into the wets or spiders is a key. Some times there giveaways when the breeze is blowing up stream and there is a hatch on. You will be able to see fish breaking the surface and a good team of wets here would be devastating. Looking at the way fish are moving and breaking the water surface will give you a clue if they are taking off the top or under the surface where the wet would be fishing. 
No.2 Keep on the move, cover as much water as possible. Two or three casts then a few steps. 
Wet fly fishing will allow you to cove a lot more water than any other method. This can help if you have long beats and you need to find where the fish are. 
No.3 Change your casting angles 
This is one I often hear Dave mentioning "its all about the angles". So by changing  your casting angle you will change the presentation of the fly to the fish and in turn could be the factor to entice the fish to take. Some times you can change the angle by you changing your casting position or by the movement of the rod during the swing of the cast. Changing the angles can allow your flies to swim deeper or higher in the water, faster or slower on the swing; by practicing this aspect you will gain valuable knowledge to what works best in different types of water on different days. 
No.4 Large flies can catch small fish. Vary your fly patterns. 
Larger winged fly's can represent fry and large winged olives that are plenty to be found on most rivers. Trout can be opportunistic creatures and a larger fly sometimes can be too good to be resisted by a hungry trout.  By changing the patterns and understanding the reason for changing can be the difference to catching or not catching. Changing to a wet fly that looks nice in your fly box dose not necessarily mean the fish will like it, make sure they are tried and tested and you know when to fish them.  
No.5 Fish the Glides, margins and light riffles in the spring, then fish the heavier water as the temperature rises through out the season. 
A lot of the time anglers forget or tend to ignore the lighter water or margins as there nymph get stuck all the time so why bother, even though this water holds fish. Fishing light wets or spiders can be very effective on this type of water and produce great sport that others are missing. As the fish fall back in the warmer months then the heavier water will be come more productive. 

Dave recommends a 10 foot rod, 3 to 4 weight with an intermediate fly line. He normally uses 3-4lb mono and 3 fly's that are usually 4 feet apart. 
It is amazing that there is anglers out there that not only don't consider wets as an option but because they are so reliant on nymphs they cant even cast the flies if they had to. This is also a problem for our youths, they are being taught that nymphing is the be all and end all and once the nymphs fail to catch then they are done and have no other options. I would recommend to any angler out there is if you want to raise your game then get to understand effective wet fly fishing, and get them fly's back in you boxes. 
Here is a couple good patterns that can produce some good fishing on the swing: 

 The Black and Sliver 
A great wet fly for me over the years, always worked a treat when a shower of rain was failing.

Hook: 303 Dohiku 12-18
Thread: Fine silk  
Body: Flat Sliver 
Rib: Sliver wire 
Hackle: Black Hen 

The Partridge and Orange 
Another classic, but this one has a twist in its tying that I find very productive indeed. 

Hook: 303 Dohiku 12-18
Thread: Fine silk  
Body: Orange holographic  
Rib: Gold wire 
Hackle: Natural Partridge 

Partridge and Gold 
One of the great point flies, ideal when you want the cast of flies to sink that little deeper. Tied large and makes a great streamer. 
Hook: 303 Dohiku 12-18
Head: 2mm tungsten bead 
Thread: Fine silk  
Tail: Natural Partridge 
Body: Flat Gold  
Rib: Gold wire 
Hackle:Natural Partridge

The Greenwells 
What a fly, simple as simple gets but irresistible to fish, this fly will take fish all year around. 

Hook: 303 Dohiku 12-18
Thread: Fine silk  
Body: Olive tying thread   
Rib: Gold wire 
Hackle: Greenwells hen or red game which ever you prefer.  

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog and trying out some of these fly's and enjoy catching fish with it even more. If you have any questions please feel free to give me a shout on my contact details and if you are interested in Dohiku hooks, top quality tungsten beads, or Syndicate competition Fly Rods drop me a line or check them out on my website. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Pulling the Minky: Chasing Winter Rainbows

Pulling lures or streamers can be an effective approach that an angler can take to catching winter rainbows. This blog post is some of my thoughts and tips to catching fish using this approach. The choice of flies here that you can choose from for this method is a very extensive list. It includes Minkies, Damsels, Leeches, Cat Whiskers, large wet fly’s, and a host of flies beaded or not with Marabou or Zonkers tails in every colour under the sun. 
However, for the purpose of this post we will focus on fry imitating Minkies. In the majority of ponds around the country small fry and minnow make up a fair proportion of the fishes diet. Correctly fished this method can be devastating, but there are some key points to note when choosing to pull fry patterns. One of the most important aspects to good a good fry pattern is it must have movement. Not just how you move the fly through the water with your retrieve but also it must wiggle or pulse because of long loose tails or fibers that make up the fly. 
For this reason the most popular materials used to dress these flies is rabbit zonker strips. The soft long hair fibers when wet will move and pulse through the water as you retrieve it, giving it the look of natural bait making its way along. This movement also acts as a trigger for the fish and may entice an attack when it is following the fly. The soft skin that holds the fibers together is also strong enough so that when the fish pluck at the end of the fly it will last for more than one attack. 
Once again, finding the fishes depth is crucial and the speed of retrieve will also be the difference between catching and perhaps not. So to begin start at a chosen point or depth and work from there till you find the right speed and movement. Mixing up your retrieve will not only get the speed right but it will also affect the movement of your fly.
Once you feel you have discovered the right depth and speed, fan out your casts to cover all the areas of the lake in from of you, starting by the bank to your left or right. This location is popular for roaming fish looking for this type of food and stripping along the margins can be very successful. Remember to remain low and out of sight sometimes the fish will follow the fly right in to you position and if you are standing up you will spoke them before they have the chance to attack. Another good feature to watch out for is shelves under the surface on the bed of the lake, where it drops off to deeper water. This location is again a good spot for roaming and feeding fish and a well presented minkey can have good results here also.

There is however a constant issue some anglers have with fishing minke's and that is, tail bites. This is when the fish follow the fly in and nip at the long fibers of the tail not resulting in a hook up when the angler strikes. To remedy this problem, we see the introduction of what is now known as the snake design, this is a long minkey pattern with initially two hooks in the tying. The two hooks are connected with either fine braid or strong monofilament, the tyer’s choice. The long zonker strip is then attached to both hooks and the hook nearest the head of the fly has its bend and point cut off. So now when stripping in the long minkey and the fish tail bites the second hook is right at the rear of the fly and this will result in more hook ups for the angler. Unfortunately in a lot of competitions this fly is not allowed, so when fishing long minkey's you must remember to keep retrieving when you are getting tail plucks and only lift into the fish when you feel the weight of the fish solidly on the line. Sometimes I can get 3 to 4 plucks on one cast before hooking the fish, but I never strike I keep retrieving at either the same pace or faster waiting till the fish chasing it has had enough and decides to attack.
When tying your fry patterns it is a good tip also to use bright cheeks or glob brite heads as this shifts the attack point of the fish to higher up the body of the fly and will result in more hook ups. We also have variations of the standard style of minkey that is worth a try. 
Bunny leaches are of the same concept but have a bright plastic floating bead threaded up on the zonker strip in the tail to give a different movement to the tail of the fly as it swims through the water. Also you can add in double tail side by side to creates even greater disturbances in the water. Again you can add bead heads, twin eyes and booby eyes to the head of the fly which in turn will give different effects to how the fly will fish.
Like any discipline in fly fishing you must find what you are confident in using and doing, once you have that your flies will always have a chance of a fish. But remember when you find yourself wading through boxes of colours, fritz’s, marabou, zonkers strips, nymphs, lures, booby’s and god know what in all of our fly boxes looking for the answer to catching a fish. Always choose what you have confidence in and you will never be too far off.  

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog and trying out some of these fly's and enjoy catching fish with it even more. If you have any questions please feel free to give me a shout on my contact details and if you are interested in Dohiku hooks, top quality tungsten beads, or Syndicate competition Fly Rods drop me a line or check them out on my website. Thanks for reading.