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Start of Coarse River Season 2022-23

Start of Coarse River Season 2022-23

The 16th June marks the start of coarse river season for England, a date that pretty much every river coarse angler has marked in their calendar. I am no exception and since I have been targeting pike, I have even been booking the day off work (Yes I also have a full time job!) to head out on the first day.
Everyone has their own rituals on how they start the season, apart from checking my gear over in the days leading up to the magical 16th; I also have a Pagan-ish ritual where I make an offering and ask the Gods of the river to bless me with a good season. For me this can come in the form of me not loosing my flies to snags, for my clients who book pike on fly coaching with me; for them to see action to some nice fish in to my net. Sure I’d love to break my currant PB of 21lbs River Pike each time I am out, but I am happy with any fish that falls to my flies.

The day started a bit later than some with my alarm going off at 4am, I know Rick Bellars who was already on the bank 30 mins before my alarm even sounded! Hence the “late bit for me” lol Truck was packed the day before to make a quicker setting off, unlike a lot of women stereotypes; I was up/out the door in 15 minuets and had time to grab a quick STRONG coffee. As I stepped out the door I was greeted by a beautiful misty pre-dawn, Mother Nature slowly waking up for the day ahead.

Start of Coarse River Season 2022-23

One of a few things that I love about the Fenland Area I live in are the breathtaking Sun rises/sun sets. Since moving to the UK many years ago, Nowhere else has come close to what I grew up seeing most days/evenings. I’ve read/heard people describe East Anglia is the land of BIG SKY, being mostly flat; I totally get that and agree with that description.
Setting off over the usual bumpy, rock n rolly (Ladies, make sure your wearing a good bra!) fenland roads semi-watching for when the sun does rise so I can pull over to enjoy the moment and I am seldom disappointed with the view.

Making good time (sorry Officer!) I arrived to meet up with Rick at my first (his 2nd) venue on a drain, there were some weed patches which I don’t mind as my gear is plenty to drag anything through them if needed. BUT the one thing that struck me on first cast is how coloured the water was! Clarity was barley 12″ and there was little to no flow, it wasn’t algae build up as that is usually green/brown. This was just muddy!
After spending almost an hour at the venue I suggested to Rick that we move to a different section of the drain to see if it was any better. Short while later we get to the next stretch to sadly find the same muddy clarity, after checking in with a man who knows a lot about the area; turns out the water board had pulled the drain through just an hour or so before we arrived! This will defiantly ruin any potential fishing as the fish hunker down and wait till things clear up. I mentioned to Rick that I was going to head off to a different venue as we both agreed that this drain was not fishable at this time.

We headed in different directions to our next venues, wasn’t too long before I got to my 3rd venue of the morning and with my rod still half set up; I was on the bank sharpish. This venue I don’t tend to fish in summer as its not overly deep and usually clogs up with weed pretty quickly. There are some deeper spots which I did try first, but was being thwarted by large clumps of meandering Cotton weed heading up the drain which was a little unusual as this drain usually flows the other direction. Walking back to the truck casting in the odd spot as I go with no sign of anything interested, however I was seeing baitfish which is always good.

Once back at the truck I decided to hit one last venue on a chalk stream with a quiet little corner away from most people as you need a decent vehicle to get to it (4×4 PickUp truck – check). Once I had arrived I could see that I wasn’t the only one with this idea and decided to go have a chat and see how they were getting on. As I rounded the bank, I was met with a small Gazibo, deck chairs, what looked like a bar and bivvy beds. While to me all this is overkill and why I love Fly Fishing as you travel light for moving around, I get that other methods prefer to stick to one spot. I got chatting to the chap who was there, he originates from a part of Europe that often has a bad impression on many angling issues. I know some people do not get on with them, but I for one will and do talk to anyone with a fishing rod and decide for myself if they are honest or up to no good. We chatted for a while, he hadn’t had any luck so far and he was telling me how last year this same spot had sadly become abused by litter louts; certainly can’t call them anglers with the amount of trash they left behind! If you bring it, you can take it home! But what saddened me more was what he told me had happened to his friend just two weeks prior.
He had sent his friend down to check the spot for anything they would need for two weeks time (size of gazibo etc), while he was there a boat was cruising past and stopped when the occupants noticed him on the bank. To which he was told to leave at GUN POINT as they claimed he was there to poach. Even after he had explained why he was there and was happy to show them his valid rod licence, the shot gun was being pointed at him again! it seemed the boat occupants had been drinking which is never a good mix with firearms! The chap phoned the police whom were not interested as he had “not been injured”! While this chap was telling me about what happened, he said that he knows that his country folk have a bad reputation; but not all have the same morals when it comes to fishing. Even showing me his own rod licence which I never asked him to do. I often get asked by people from that part of the world why I stop and chat to them to see how they have got on, I do it to meet people and gain more knowledge on fishing tactics. These guys are bloody good lure anglers, a lot of which you can bring over to fly; esp what type of lures they do use, retrive, depths they are fishing at. We forget that a LOT of our new tactics often come from Europe in the first place! Check out the Building Bridges project from Angling Trust. https://anglingtrust.net/building-bridges-project/
I bid him good luck for the rest of his day, I knew that I would not be fishing again for while as temperatures are hitting highs and headed off home in time for a late breakfast and make a start on getting ready for a Pike fly fishing/casting demo this Sunday at a fishery near Santapod. Wold Farm Fisheries & Country Pursuits is having an open day with free entrance, pop in and say hello

Always time to stop & enjoy nature
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Wels Catfish on Fly Spring 2022

Wels Catfish on Fly Spring 2022

Will records be broken this trip? Time to see if those waders are truly watertight! Did flashing of body parts to appease the catfish gods? Read on to find out.

Each session sees extremely experienced Predator/Pike fly anglers, most of whom have fly fished all over the world for much bigger, harder fighting species. To include several Pro-Fly anglers to boot, everyone in the group knows how to handle/land/unhook a catfish. The core people who systematically target catfish on fly is a VERY small one and we all know each other very well. Each session we do have one or two spots available for newcomers with the right equipment and attitude have the chance to learn knowing they are in safe/knowledgeable hands.

Equipment is extremely important for cats and there is simply NO getting away from the fact that you need a 12# set up for these fish at a venue that holds 80-140lbs cats! Below is a run-down of the gear that was used over the last three days.
– Babs Craig (Predator Fly Fishing UK) :- Rod: Predator 12#, Reel: Behemoth 9-10, Line: Lunker Hunter WF12F 50lbs core & 50lbs Big Game fluro leader
– Dean Barker (Pike Fly Fishing Association England RO):- Rod: Epic Boca Grande 12# Fast Glass, Reel: Behemoth 9-10, Line: Cortland Compact WF12F & 50lbs leader.
– Jo Stephenson (International Fly fishing Guide):- Rod: Hardy Zephrus 12#, Reel: Hardy Fortuna 10,000, Line: Lunker Hunter WF12F & 80lbs Suplex fluro
– Stuart Smith Scotland (International angler and pro-fly tyer) :- Rod: Loop 7X 12# and Epic Boca Grande 12# Fast Glass, Reel: Behemoth 11-12#, Line: Cortland Compact WF12F & 80lbs Big game fluro.
– Andrew Eglon (Experienced Catfish angler + Pike Fly Fishing Association member):- Rod: SeaWolf by Justin Anwyl 12#, Reel: Behemoth 11-12, Line: Airflo WF12I & big game 60lbs fluro.
– Alex Mason (Guide, St Croix ambassador, Predator Tackle Pro Team and LAS Committee member):- Rod: Epic Boca Grande 12# fast Glass, Reel: Tibor Gulf stream 12#, Line: Lunker WF12F or Cortland Compact WF12 & 60lbs Seaguar.
– Martin Redman (Lure Magazine editor, LAS committee member and experienced catfish angler):- Rod: Snowbee Deep Blue 12#, Reel: Behemoth 11-12#, Line: Lunker Hunter WF12F.

Our session started as an overcast, high pressure with temperatures of 10C highest, lows of 0C with a North/Easterly breeze; not ideal after the warmer weather just the 2 weeks before hand. But we will persevere.
After their first launch of the float tubes on the first day, some found leaks in their waders, and some had very sloshy boots. Leading the debate on what would people prefer? Wet feet or wet crouch!
Alex and I were on the boat the first evening, taking it in turns to cast/row. The first night was a quiet one, long distance travel to the venue catching up on a few, most had an early night and were tucked up by 2am.

Float tube and fun n games

During the day we mainly relaxed, chatted to each other about all sorts. From the ins/outs of fly fishing, fly rod building to difference in language or translating things into English; Cuppy into cuppa. Catching up with old friends and getting to know new folks… or in my case, getting to meet people I have spoken to online for a long while.

As the second evening was drawing in, Andrew was the only one out drifting about in the tube with a slow steady retrieve, bouncing the fly off the bottom and a 5lbs kitten decided it liked what it saw and latched on. After a short fight on the float tube the kit was safely netted bank side and after a couple of photos; the wee moggie swam back happy as. This was Andrews first catfish on fly as well.
Everyone had a revival of enthusiasm and set to getting on to the water. I worked an area I knew produced cats from the last trip, borrowing Alex’s boat and had the mud weight out to keep me in one spot. Casting toward trees that you knew you had to avoid when it got dark and being aware of your surroundings.
An hour in and I hear fish on nearby, look up to see Andrew into another cat. He thought he had hit a snag and didn’t want to set the hook resulting in losing the fly/forcing a break off…. But when the snag started to move, he realised it was a cat; but was too late to do a strip strike and the cat got off.
In the dark of the night, with absolute quiet; the imagination can often run riot. Probably didn’t help with telling of stories of big cats bumping float tubes/brushing up against legs in previous trips or one trying to attack a float tube in Europe. Dean had a kitten swim into his foot while out on float tube and quickly swim away. I am sure the kitten was more startled from the encounter than Dean was. Sort of leaving Jo creeped out that something BIG would bump into her in the dark and instead bumped into a gravel bar, thought it was a cat with the munchies for Jos feet. Few swear words were heard across the lake followed by a sheepish… No, It’s OK, just the gravel bar….
Stuart scarified his sleep to keep things alive fishing throughout the second night in his float tube, working his way through his fly box… twice! Starting off at 9pm on the tube, the catfish started to show in periodic bursts. Stuart often casting toward any sounds/swirls. At one stage during the night, a catfish ripped the wiggle tail off Stuart’s fly, the wiggle tails are clipped on as an extension to create extra movement/noise on a fly. Around 4.20am Stuart hooked into a much bigger sized moggie than the record he set on the last trip for float tube in the UK, had it on for several minutes before it got off. It then went quiet till first light the lake came alive, and Stuart was able to sight cast to cats, but none came to pass.

Andrews first Catfish of the session

Third day was much like the last, everyone just relaxing chatting about various things with a beer in hand and then catching up on sleep as another long night on the water was planned.
Anglers are superstitious folk; I know for one I do offer a small sacrifice start of each Coarse season to the river deities in hope they grant me a good season. (I do need to have a chat with them on getting a refund on this past winter or maybe my offering wasn’t good enough!) Late afternoon it was decided that a sacrifice to the catfish gods was needed to bring good fortune for that night. Some words were said, and offerings given in the form of flashing boobs/moobs to the water for extra good luck!

Did the sacrifice work or did we leave catfish gods wondering what the hell had just happened!
As the dark drew in, a couple hours later Andrew did indeed hook into another cat in the same spot that he had the one from the night before. Successfully landed a low double into a net he kept on the float tube all on his own and on the same fly as last time. With a pretty much moonless night, it got very dark which meant you must rely on memory of where structures/trees/reed banks are, listening and feeling your cast. If you need to fly fish as night, always best to get to location before sunset so you can familiarise yourself with the area.
The night grew colder, the forecast said low of 3C….. but that means it will get lower in rural/exposed areas. The lads started to see gloves freeze, rod eyes start to ice up from the air temperature; but kept at it. Jo had set her alarm for 4am to get up and start fishing in to the dawn, slid her van door open to see Stuart and Dean huddled over a camping stove trying to keep warm. She thought screw that and went back to warm n cozy bed. I had decided to hit the hay in my truck tent much earlier that night as I knew it was going to get very cold. The whole lake had gone quiet after Andrews fish much earlier in the evening, no other cats were hooked.

Andrews second Catfish on Fly of the session aka Catfish King

Dawn rises on the last day to frost on bivvies/vans/trucks, a few did manage to get another hour or so in on the water. But most set to packing up and chatting about the last 3 days, Stuart had a 462 mile return drive to still do!

Thoughts: – We are still figuring out what Catfish want with fly fishing. Any particular pattern emerging? Or just potluck that you cast one on top of the cats whiskers? Still a lot to learn and we have the time to do it with each time we book these sessions. BUT no matter what, fishing with like minded anglers is always great fun and that is one of the main parts of these sessions.. enjoying it.

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There be monsters

There be monsters

There be monsters in that pool over there says the son of the fishery owner, I remember his father telling me on one of my visits few years ago that they grow their own Trout stock on and only add them to their C&R lake when they hit 6lbs! I have seen reports over the years of upper double figure fish caught there. Narborough fishery is a Trout Master registered Fishery, and you can see why when you realise what they have cruising past your peg!

It’s been just over 2 years since I last visited Narborough Fishery located in the Breckland parish of Norfolk and in fact that last time I did go there was with my fishing buddy Martin Smith aka Trout magnet! We had made our plan to visit Narborough a few weeks ago on our last outing, with a little fine tuning during the few days up to Saturday and we were set to go; not ever fuel shortages would stop us going fishing! We arrived just before the gates opened, parked up while we tried to discuss tactics. As it’s been so long since I was last there, I was just going with the flow, and I knew I had my Scruffy Tiger trout pattern with me. Small/white or white snake I recon says Martin, thinking over what I know is in my small fly box; yep, got both covered.
We headed to the fishery shop to pay our day tickets, now some will know that the last 3 odd years I have spent much of my time on Coarse fish. A big part of that is due to the cost compared to a single day on trout, for example: the cheapest trout day ticket is £24 for the day/take 4 trout and most expensive at £70. For that same money I can pay for one whole year membership to the cheapest coarse club (and have change) that covers MILES of water or at the higher end of the price range cover me for two to three coarse club waters for the YEAR or Winter/3 months. One thing to note here is that I know full well that Trout do cost more to stock and on the rivers/drains I am fishing for wild species that don’t need re-stocking. In addition, trout fishery’s also spend much more on maintenance of the banks than Coarse clubs, But I do enjoy the challenge of casting in externally tight spots in-between the reeds/trees. When I chat to coarse anglers, they are put off by the higher prices, I find I am the same and only target trout when the rivers are closed for coarse season….. The tug is a drug, and we all need our fix.

Getting ready

Back to Narborough and we head up to the C&R lake. OK it’s not so much of a lake as my 1st ever trip there I was only 2-3 months in to fly fishing and I was able to cast to the opposite bank! Yesterday I decided not to target the Daffodils several meters beyond the opposite bank halfway down it near the otter fencing! You can easily cover the whole pond from three spots. It’s an old stock pond that was converted into the C&R lake, semi wedge shaped and at most 4ft deep.
The water clarity is crystal and that’s when you see them, Absolute HUGE fish cruising past your swim. Not just one or two, but several! Now anyone who tells you that stocked Trout are easy to catch, has not fished this place! These monsters are not stupid, most have been caught before and once they realise your there, they switch off but carry-on cruising past you. I swear they are flipping the bird as they come past! The leader minimum is 10lbs for this fishery and while I was sorting out my leader, Martin was into his 1st fish of the day just 3 casts in and realising he had left his landing net at home; I headed his direction with my net to land it for him. After releasing it I headed back to my peg to finish sorting my leader, no sooner had I picked up my nippers to tidy up a knot do I hear “I’m in”. Pick up my net and head back over to net a much bigger fish than his 1st, I weighed the fish which came in at 8lbs (after net weight was taken off). I head back to my peg and start fishing, by this point these monsters knew and the game was up. I had follows on the scruffy tiger as I knew they had never seen this before and that was my tactic for this pond! But none would take it and after a few fly changes an hour in, we decided to move over to the other trout lake.

Narborough has several lakes catering to the carp/match anglers as well and you can fly fish these once you have spoken to the shop when you pay your day ticket. There isn’t much that isn’t castable there, if you do coarse fish; make sure you have the correct sized landing net & unhooking mat. The trout lakes are at each end of the fishery, once at the catch/take lake we bumped back into Pete Gosnell who we chatted to earlier while booking in. Pete was with a friend helping him with his casting and yellow dancers was the pattern to use. I however clipped on my scruffy tiger again and on my 1st cast I could feel the nips and they were chasing it! Wasn’t long before one nailed the fly, I don’t tend to weigh trout and once unhooked; away it went. I lost my 2nd fish just before the net. Martin was also into the fish with a yellow dancer, but not long before the sun came out and things went quiet. I opted to switch to my Intermediate line and a yellow dancer which saw one more to my net.

Scruffy Tiger wins again

Around 1pm we decided to head back to the C&R monster lake and wasn’t long before martin was into another big trout on the same yellow dancer from the previous lake. Pete joined us and things went quiet, yup they knew we were there and not long after that even the big bruisers had stopped cruising past. The sun was out, they were hiding up out the sun somewhere. I moved to a new spot and head a commotion under the platform to see a huge trout shoot out from its shady spot into the open water! We each settled into a spot, by this time I just left my net with Martin; I seldom do well on the C&R lake. I opted for a white blob under an indicator set at 4ft and cast it out and waited, after 30 minuets of not much happening I opted to have a break. I was settled in to watching a tying vid put up by Rodney Wevill on how to tie his Trout sized Scruffy Tiger did I hear a shout from Pete, looked up to see him diving forward, splash and Pete half diving in after his rod! He too was fishing under an indicator, set his rod down by his feet for a monster to take his fly, take off and pull his rod in the water before he could get to it! Thankfully the fish let go of the fly and didn’t drag the rod any further.

We finished off the day with Martin having 7-8 fish on a white snake I tied him & the yellow dancer; most were the big uns from C&R lake and myself at just the 2 on my own tied flies. An enjoyable day to fish somewhere different and meeting Pete while there. Martin and I were using the same Mega High Speed fly line that comes in WF6F to WF10F. I use a WF7F and Martin has the WF8F which made short work of the wind Saturday.

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3 Friends in Norfolk

3 Friends in Norfolk

It was a week ago when I started to plan the trip, my coarse river season now finished, and I tend to look at targeting Trout to cover my addiction to that tug. I messaged my Trout fishing buddy Martin Smith and as soon as I mentioned “East Tuddenham”; it was an oooh yes, I’m in. Along with “oooooooo Baaaabs…. Can you tie for me (list)”, Martin and I have a deal that dates back almost 4 years now. I bought a job lot from him that was two large bin liners FULL of tying materials for next to nothing and that I tie him flies when he needs them. I know Martin has had a great deal of his fish caught on what I have tied for him, and may our deal carry on for another 4 odd years.

With Martins fly order in and my own plans on downsizing a pattern that has done extremely well for me on Pike the last two season, when I spoke to Rodney Wevill who created the Scruffy Tiger earlier in the week; he did mention that Brown trout do seem to love smashing a trout lure sized version of the Tiger. My 1st attempt didn’t turn out that great, I have reverse tying mindset and forget that it’s not always the best way to create a fly; esp trout flies. Round two, size 8 Aberdeen hook and I swapped the Nayat for good ol Marabou and set to tying a smaller version of the Scruffy Tiger. Happy with how it came off the vice, only true test will be in the water and Mr Trout being the judge. Some inside information came to light on adding black/Green to my fly box with some Montana or Viva Dancer patterns.

Scruffy Tiger
Top: Scruffy Tiger Bulk Head. Middle: My version of the Scruffy Tiger. Bottom: Trout version in Marabou

Part of my preparations is to get my Trout reel/spools set up with fresh fly line, I have 3 spools to which I normally have Floating, Intermediate and a big lure type fly line and these give me the scope to cover most conditions I encounter on a Stillwater. I spool of the Mega Gold WF8F, the Blue Intermediate WF8I and the Mega High Speed WF7F (my rod is 6/7# and yes, I upline). I needed to weld new loops on the Intermediate line as they come from the factory with out loops and an easy job for me as I have been welding loops on my lines for years. Check YouTube for vids on how to do this and what you’ll need, just remember one rule to welding loops; it can only be done to braided core fly lines and not to mono core fly lines. As I only use braided core lines in all my fly fishing, I know I am good to weld a loop on any of my lines if/when its needed.
Thursday evening, I get a message from our other fishing buddy Daniel who wants to come with us, I have been trying to get Daniel to fish East Tuddenham for years. It is a bit of a trek for him versus Martin or I, but worth the trip for sure.

New lines spooled, new leaders on and various patterns in the fly box ready. Alarm set for 5.30am as we’d arranged to meet up at the fishery for early this morning and quite often Martin and I are the first to arrive at the lakes giving us a head start. Daniel had only just arrived as Martin was getting in to his first tugs on a peg opposite the booking in hut, I briefly explained the booking in process and went round the bay to join Martin and only a few casts in did Martin net his 1st trout of the day on a Flash Damsel pattern. I had opted for a green/black Viva Dancer and within a few casts I was feeling a knock, still set in my Pike strip set ways and I had pulled the fly out of the trout’s grasp! 2nd cast back in the same area, and I felt the knock again, this time I paused, slowed my retrieve, and felt the take; This time I did both strip strike and lifted rod tip. Fish on! Nope, fish off! Agghh! Not put off I cast back over the same area and hooked up into another trout with the same slower retrieve with pauses (OK some of my Pike tactics coming through there). As I netted my 1st fish, Martin was already into his 2nd and Daniel joined us as well.

I have known Martin and Daniel for about the same amount of time and our banter is always entertaining. Are we competitive? In a friendly way we are but always wanting to help each other out where we can, the lads also know they can rifle through my fly box if they need a fly to use and it got raided good n proper! Today however they had one rule…. No one is to touch the scruffy tiger pattern! I decided to clip that on, and the knocks came hard and fast! Another 2 fish to the net from the bottom lake, at this point we decided to move up to the top lake.

We spread out at first as saw no movement, I opted for mid-dam wall and on my 1st cast I was into another fish and that was all the lads needed to join me on the dam wall stretch. Now some people would get arsey when another angler gets too close, we aren’t like that at all. Often, you’ll see Martin and Myself stood just meters apart casting away almost sharing the same peg. On several occasions we were casting within a couple of feet of each other’s flies and twice all three of us had fish on at the same time! One fish had followed the scruffy Tiger in nibbling the tail, as I went to lift out to re-cast, I saw the fish go for the fly. I just dropped it back in the water and same fish nailed it as it hit the surface! I’d say several fish today took the fly under my rod tip while I was “hanging” or twitching the fly. One thing I teach with Pike on fly is to always hand that fly under the rod tip as very often they will nail it on the hang. I see so many Trout anglers feel the leader touch the top rod eye and they go straight into their next cast, think of how many fish you might have lost out to by doing that?

Brown Trout or not? Martin hooked into a nice fish that fought well, upon netting it he said that it’s an odd-looking Brown trout. Not long after Daniel also landed an odd-looking Brown trout, the markings didn’t have the usual red/orange large spots that a typical Brown has and looked quite Tiger trout like. Knowing that Tigers weren’t usually stocked at these lakes, I sent some photos to the Chairman to check. Photos were then sent on to where the stock come from and later this afternoon confirmed that they were indeed Browns as the breeding fishery doesn’t supply Tigers at all. Certainly, different markings and great fighting fish for them both.

Daniel and I finished our day back where we started, we both had pretty much stuck to the same fly all day and Martin opted to tie on a black snake. Plenty more tugs came, but fish got off. All three of us had lot several fish through the day with Martin at one stage was like: Fish on… fish off.. back on…. Bugger its off…. No wait, back on…. 🤣 Needless to say that Daniel is glad he made the extra drive to these lakes and an excellent day had by all today. As martin and I were heading out we met the fishery manager Roy for a chat. One thing that did surprise me is that he is now using the WF6F High Speed fly line so he can cast in some of the tight areas of the lakes, using the short head of the line to load/shoot line in just one to two casts. I left THAT spool at home today! (Doh!)

For more information on East Tuddenham fishery, please read my Article called Norfolk’s little gem:- https://predatorflyfishing.co.uk/info/norfolks-little-gem/

My next bit trip has been planned for four months now and is just 5 weeks away, moggie heaven with an equally nutty bunch of people is all I will say. If you know, YOU KNOW. If you don’t? You’ll just have to wait till I post about it. Meantime, I expect there will be some more trout to keep me sane.

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Thats a wrap

Thats a wrap

As many know, my favourite quarry is wild Fenland Pike and I do start fishing for them in June. I always check the water temperature at depth as we all know Pike don’t live at the surface, taking a temperature reading off the water surface is null/void in my books and If the water temp is 18-19C and below; I’ll fish. Coupled with landing them quickly and nice long rests before/after unhooking. Dissolved Oxygen levels are equally as important here too, low DO levels are fatal to most fish, and I would not fish in those circumstances. Monitoring water conditions, weather forecasts are all I seem to do to determine if I will be fishing on a set date/day.

Mid-June saw open season and me itching to get back out on the bank again enjoying the peace and quiet. Early season saw several fish to my net and quickly I was able to spot a pattern of when they were switching on/off to target my fishing time to suit. I love fishing poppers, seeing the fantastic takes, but there were times when I covered an area with a popper with no interest. Clipped on a wet pattern and next cast I was fish on! Always seemed to be the pattern and I ended up not having any fish last season on a popper, but still enjoyed casting them.

As the early Summer warmed up to water temperatures that were not suitable for pike, I did stop fishing for them and had the intention to start targeting Carp on fly. One big downside on this plan is that most the carp fisheries near me are crammed with anglers and I would be stuck on one peg (Covid has seen a huge increase in anglers on the banks). As I type I am optimistic that this Summer I shall try for carp again, Covid restrictions have lifted meaning a lot of these anglers will be headed back to Europe for their fishing leaving fisheries more open to move around etc.

As the weather started to cool down, things on the rivers started to get odd… I was getting plenty of takes, but 90% were spitting the hook in split seconds before I could set the hook and fish I thought I had a hook set gave a brief fight before getting off! Spoke to several anglers across the country and several reporting a similar scenario. OK so it’s not just me, yet this continued well into October and one thing I got very good at was dodging warp speed sharp 8” pike fly after a fish has let go when I had the rod bent putting pressure on the fish to bring it in.

In saying that, very late summer did see the first time ever for me imbed a pike fly into myself (or any hook for that matter)! When I am coaching clients, I always warn to keep an eye on the fly line especially in windy conditions. If you see your fly line casting over your head… DUCK! As there is a big pike fly following it! I often fish in gales/windy conditions in winter and often have a pike fly hit me, but as I am wearing several layers; I am never worried about it as the hook never makes it through the 1st layer. BUT in summer I am wearing far less layers and I am far more conscious of where that fly is. On this occasion I had a small back cast area of only 1 meter wide of tall weeds behind me, it was a breezy day and I was mid double haul in to my back cast when a gust pushed my fly from safe to ooohh crap before I could react. I felt the fly line hit my exposed arm, instinct to find the fly was quick to kick in…. fly line…. Leader….. trace… ah… there’s the fly. Imbedded in my right lower/inside forearm! I ditched my rod and set to getting the hook out. Thankfully over the years I had seen plenty of “unhooking vids” that showed how to get a large hook out on your own. With my only free hand I pressed the eye of the hook down into my arm, gripped the back of the hook in the same hand and pulled down/backwards. It didn’t budge so I had to try again and after 3 attempts it finally came out. Surprisingly painless which I put down to me getting it out before the body had time to realise and react to the pain. I know what you’re thinking, If it was barbless; it would have come out easy? Yes, your right, it would have; but I only semi-crush my barbs leaving a slight barb still in place and this has not changed how I do my hooks.

November came and things started to change, pike were finally gracing my net again and spent a couple of days fishing with Rodney Wevill before the annual Fenland Flyer. Always great fun fishing with Rodney, we had 2 fish each and chatted about all sorts of things through the couple of days fishing.

Day of the Fenland Flyer saw a turning point in my Winter fishing, things for many anglers of all methods across the Fens for the coming months and many other places in the country. People started to struggle, and blanking became the new normal! One thing seemed to be the cause; lack of baitfish shoaled up in their usual places over winter. Many of the drains still had lots of weedy areas as we had not had a cold enough winter to kill the weed off, this meant the baitfish still had plenty of places to hide from predators and didn’t need to shoal up in the big balls we are used to seeing in the past. Is this something that we are going to have to get used to with global warming? Possibly, which means we need to adapt our tactics to find the baitfish better = finding the pike. The other thing we found is due to the mild winter, there were reports of pike getting ready to spawn almost 2 months sooner than usual!

It wasn’t till last 2 months of the season that I had another Pike in my net, it was just a mid-single; but it was a welcome sight for sure! Things seemed to change for the better, at least I was now seeing action again for the last few weeks of the season and it seemed for others too.

2021-22 high lights: several doubles up to 12lbs early season and a nice one when I was fishing with Rodney. Fishing with Rodney Wevill, Rick Bellars, Amie Battams which was an absolute hoot and meeting up with 10 yr old Sophie the Carp catching Kid. Hearing Sophie and her Dad making future plans to go fly fishing made my coaching season. Best day out I had was with 2 clients from Peterborough where 6 Pike were landed between them and plenty more action that day.

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Day 1 of 4 on the Pike

Day 1 of 4 on the Pike

This weekend is a busy one for me, 4 days fly fishing for pike!

Day 1, Friday. Woke up to a decent frost on the ground which means more of the water weed & bank growth will die back making it easier to fish/cast. I decided not to start fishing mid morning 9.30am as I seldom get takes at first light, instead I see takes start around 2 hours after first light; so thats when I like to start fishing.
I stood at my first spot with trepidation as the last several weeks have seen so many pike take and spit my flies, something that it seems to have been happening to a lot of people over the same several weeks; so at least I knew I was not alone! Cast out with my trusty Mega High Speed WF10F (Click HERE to open the link to fly line)
with a Scruffy Tiger pike fly, this spot is known to be a good spot producing several fish…. but when they are hungry! Sadly not this time, Its odd really as although this spot is where I like to start my day at this venue; I actually wanted to fish another section altogether! So I headed off to the other section which has a very nice deep and wide section.
I get to my second spot to see that the water has risen 2ft from the last time I was there, not put off as this actually opened up a few spots that I didn’t fish before as reaching the water to release pike safely was a challenge. Still with the Scruffy clipped on I get to work casting, retrieving different speeds each time to see whats working and hitting the jackpot with a slow retrieve with a couple of pauses. As I was retrieving slowly, I first thought I had snagged the bottom, after a couple more pulls I feel it again and decided to strike just in case; lifting my rod and feeling nothing. Fly still had several meters to go so I just carried on my retrieve and when the fly was almost under my rod tip I spotted the follow! The pike then lunged for my fly, took the whole thing leaving nothing showing; I quickly went to set the hook with lifting the rod for the pike to only spit the fly… My heart sank, was this going to be yet another one of those days?! I swapped the fly to a sparsely dressed/all flash pattern I call flashy Perch, cast out with the same slow retrieve and BANG! another take, but THIS TIME I kept my rod tip down and stripped several times HARD. This is the strip strike and this time the hook found home! A nice 8Lb pike graced my net and I am sure some passers by thought I was a nutter as I celebrated jumping in the air with a fist pump! If only they knew the frustrations I have had the last several weeks! After unhooking/resting, this Jack swam out the net strong and I set to checking my trace for damage. Finding none I set to casting again, something I usually do is move to the next spot as have found not likely that more fish will be in the same area. But this time I stayed put but cast several meters downstream with the same slow retrieve, I felt the take as a soft bump and started to strip hard several times again. Pike number 2 slid in to my net, only a small mid single fish ; I set to getting it unhooked and back. I didn’t take any photos of this one.

Things went quiet after these two and I started to work my way downstream, each new spot I change the speed of my retrieve as fish at the new spot might want things differently to the previous one.
After walking/casting a mile down stream I decided to head back to the spot I had fish from earlier, it was around 2pm when I got back to the spot. I am testing an intermediate WF10 fly line and I wanted to see how it would cast and fish, the spot I was at is quite deep so I knew it was an ideal line to use. I clipped the Tinsel town pike fly (Click HERE to open a link to the fly) on and cast out, I stuck to the slow retrieve and felt a take on my 2nd cast. Strip, strip, STRIP and Esox on! Fish landed quickly, unhooked, photo with a quick weigh saw it swimming off to ponder what the hell just happened 🤣 I cast back out but in a different area to before with a curve to bring the fly up the margin on my bank, as I was about 5 meters away from the rod tip I was startled by a broad, long pike flashing away from my fly! One of a few things I love about pike fly fishing, every trip these fish make me jump! I should expect them to do this, but when it happens it still surprises me! I cast back out to where the fish had headed but had no luck, time to change fly which is a tactic I do use when a fish has followed but not taken on 2nd (or 3rd) attempt.
Having tested out the swimming action of a Reaper fly I had tied earlier in the week on my floating line and it was doing exactly as it should; kicking out side to side and materials puffing up as it kicks out. I wanted to see how it would perform on an intermediate line I am testing, quick swap of spools, clipped the Reaper back on and cast out. Feeling the extra drag as I retrieved which I expected as this is a bulkier fly than the others in my stripping tray (story for another day). Cast out to where that fish I had my last follow headed, With just 1/4th left to go, I spot the Reaper in the depths heading towards me and getting ready to start the “hang” before my next retrieve. I spot something moving fast from my right heading straight for the reaper and whoooosh, the Pike nailed my fly! This fish put up a good fight diving deep several times, my rod bent right over to stop the dive and soon glided in to my net.

Today I am happy, the weeks long episode of every trip seeing my fly spat as fast as it was inhaled if finally over! Weather wise today was beautiful, started out cold and frosty; warmed up with a slight breeze. A good day to be out on the bank enjoying nature and fresh air. Day 2 of this weekend I’ll be fishing with Rodney Weivel who created the Scruffy Tiger pike fly which has seen so, so many fish to nets all over the country by many anglers. I do plan to stock this pattern once my supplier has them available.

For those interested in tying their own Reaper, these are Martin Smiths Custom flies youtube vids in 2 parts. Please Like and follow Martins Youtube channel for new patterns.

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Pike do not read the Rule Book!

Pike dont read the rule book

The alarm goes off while it’s still dark outside, the plan is to hit one of my usual venues to get a pike to the net! Pre-planning the route to the venue, dodging any petrol station traffic ques to make sure I arrive just before dawn. I’m also thankful I drive a 4X4 truck with the fenland subsidence bumpy roads, the truck makes things a bit easier to handle & also handy for getting through Welney Wash in winter when it’s flooded at a safe to drive depth I might add.
Park up and set to rigging up, grab my vest, line tray and head off to a spot I want to start at. I am fishing a fen drain so don’t need distance casting and with the drains still pretty weedy, a short leader is in order of 4ft to keep the fly above the weeds. This trips venue has a lot of overgrown banks, so casting can be a challenge at times; this is where the Mega High Speed fly line often comes to the rescue. The super aggressive weight all the way forward profile means it loads the rod in 1-2 false casts, so in tight spots it does really help.

Ten minutes after starting to fish, I spot/hear further up to my right baitfish scattering as a Pike has just struck; which is always a good sign. I can’t cast to that area due to the reeds, so I quickly walk round closer, however this spot is even tighter for my back cast with large features to each side of me, a fence behind me and reeds are also fairly high in front of me; I use my big net to flatten them down a bit. I have the big eyed Scruffy Tiger clipped on and get a decent cast out despite the tight room, start stripping, pause, strip a couple more meters, hang…. strip again which now brings my fly line in to the top eye, at this point I can’t see my fly due to the reed bank in front of me. I always “jig” my fly with pauses under my rod tip, on one of my upward jigs the water directly in front of me EXPLODES! Scared me witless, but I managed to keep my fly in the water instead of the natural reaction to pull everything as far away as you can! That Pike can try again, but sadly not on this occasion. I cast back out and tried again, nothing. Changed my fly to a different pattern/colour, sadly nothing.

It’s time to move! If a fish doesn’t come for your fly again, rest that spot for a while and try again. I decided to work my way back towards the truck but found it was too weedy, no matter as there is a River close by for me to drop on to. I head over to that and in to another wee spot I have been eyeing up for a while, again this was also a tight cast despite me flattening the overgrowth the last few weeks in to a 3-meter gap. This particular spot has a high bank from the water, so a long reach net is an absolute must.
I start casting and moving downstream on the river where after 30 minutes I had a pike nail my fly halfway across the river, I go to set the hook, and before I knew it; the pike spits the fly! I have learnt over the past several weeks that once a pike has spat that fly, you have no chance of enticing it again with the same fly and more recently I have found that a pike will not try again at all once it’s spat your fly!

Not disheartened, I head back upstream to the spot where I first started, cast out to the other bank and was roly-poly’ing the fly back with no pauses. The theory is to not give the pike time to think twice, and as I again got almost half way I spot a pike making a dash from over 6 meters away towards my fly. Its a mid single jack, it nails my fly with verocity, I go to set the hook and a split second later the little f**ker spits the fly! The fly lands several meters closer to the bank, I shake my head in frustration and a couple of rude things were said towards the pike! I maybe a woman, but not always lady like! I start to retrieve the fly once again, as what else can you really do? I know that fish won’t be coming back. I get to one rod length away and realise there is a second, much BIGGER mama (easy a mid-double) following my fly in! I am not overly religious, but I started to pray that this fish would make it to the net.

Light weight thermometer that lets me check water temperatures at depth through summer. If its 20C and under, I will fish. Sadly this broke on Saturday, I’ll buy a new one next year.

She keeps following the fly till it gets under my rod tip, she sits watching the fly as I hang it…… those seconds feel like an age, I start to jig the fly upwards, and she strikes! wooohooo… I watch as she inhales the fly, This time Babs, it’s a good’un. All the blanking frustrating weeks of pike spitting flies is finally over, She goes to turn away, and my fly is still very much inside her mouth; I go to set my hook.
She shakes her head once and PING!!!! Out comes my poxy fly! I am too disappointed to even swear and decide to head home.

Talking to several people about this, and it seems I am not the only one encountering this odd behaviour, even a friend of mine fished the same venue and same spots as I did two days later with the exact same results! Most think it’s due to the season change that Pike are very sensitive and able to spit what they feel is not right. We already know that pike can take and spit a fly before you can react! Often it happens while you’re unaware, only that you get your fly back looking dishevelled is the only tell-tail it’s been chewed.

Do rubber hooks exist? They certainly feel like they do at the moment!

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Trout in the Fens

Trout in the Fens

Nestled just inside the beautiful South West Fenlands, is a secluded 8 acre Fly Fishing venue called BlackDyke Trout Fishery. The road to the fishery cuts through beautiful fenland farming areas, abundant with country wildlife, but close enough to civilisation avoiding Deliverance Banjo music!
Established 12 odd years ago from a farmer’s irrigation pond dug in to the chalk rich ground and clay lined. The fishery is fed from a nearby cut-off channel, which in time has seen various coarse fish fingerlings run the pump’s gauntlet and survived! Blackdyke fishery is ranked in the top 100 of small fisheries in England. Dean and Niki Barton own/operate the fishery, with Dean being a keen angler him self and not forgetting adorable (and cheeky) Basil, the families Black Labrador.
Blackdyke Trout Fishery holds a special place in my heart as being where I caught my first Trout on fly, it’s also where I caught my personal best which was sent off to Trout Masters, to which I still have my patch. Blackdyke is also where I have had the most fish in one day, happened to the same day that was the Ian Barr competition heats were being held. I had one fish less than that days winner, the same day I landed the big’un, and it was a very windy day which made casting a challenge. I remember seeing guys sit out on pegs that they would have had to cast in to the wind! All with in months of me first taking up fly fishing! I have thought about entering the comps for a bit of fun, but the comps usually fall on the same weekend as a Pike fly fishing event aaaaand I am sure most know I prefer the much bigger toothy critters ❤️

The fishery is stocked with hard fighting trout from the well known West Acre Trout Farm, with Rainbows from 2lbs to specimen 12lbs going in to the lake and there is a population of Browns present as well. If you have a look at the fisheries Facebook page, you can see the stocking videos they post up and as you book in between the lodges; you’ll find a board with last stocking date, catch reports with pattern used and other info. Often I read reports of anglers hitting double figure catches (fish count, not weight) in one day, You’ll often see fish topping, jumping and hunting in the margins. Occasionally you’ll find a cheeky Perch or Bream on the end of your line, they are a welcome distraction on a hard day’s fishing, and I am a fan of fly fishing for coarse fish.

Upon arrival in to the car park, You’ll be met with nice clear banks for back casts a floating jetty near the lodges, with one bank a welcome challenge with a Hawthorn hedge to add to the mix or for a bit extra; a choice of 2 row boats and a Wheely boat/electric outboard which is ideal for wheelchair users. The fishery does allow float tubes for a £5 launch fee which a few people do make use of, do check with the fishery on boat availability and always best to pre-book them. You’ll find an urn with free Tea/Coffee where you book in, table and chairs for you to have a rest or plan your next moves. The fishery also has a small on site shop covering essentials, Dean was telling me today that they are re-vamping the shop area and hope to offer a bit more with tying materials, hand tried flies from a well known tyer as well as the usual essentials.

If you fancy making a weekend of it? Why not book the fisheries 3 bedroom caravan via AirBnB? There is plenty to do in the area with the RSPB reserve between Hockwold and Lakenheath, or a short drive to the Welney Wash RSPB reserve. Relax even more with Niki and the Yoga Cabin

Do always check the website for up-to-date prices. This was current at time of posting

What 3 Words: weekend.slogged.irrigated
Address: Blackdyke Road,  Hockwold cum Wilton, Norfolk IP26 4JW

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Norfolk’s little gem

norfolks little gem

Norfolk has a couple of places tucked away that are absolute gems, this place to me is one of them.
The Trout lakes at East Tuddenham just off the A47 15 minutes East of Norwich are run by a very friendly and inviting Norfolk and Suffolk Fly Fishers Society, formed in 1974 with an open membership and open to non-members on a day ticket; unlike many secret squirrel trout clubs who run a “dead man’s boots” type of membership fulfilment! There are two main types of membership, full rod or half rod, to suit your budget. The club is a member of Institute of Fisheries Management, they are also associated with the Countryside Alliance Fishing 4 Schools Campaign and Casting For Recovery.
One of the main things I love about this club is the amount of work they do getting people in to the hobby via their Try The Fly introductory days, £20* adults or £10* for under 17yr olds! You get a 1:1 or 1:2, all gear provided + your fishing licence for the day AND if your lucky enough to land 2 trout for the table. Many won’t know that it was at one of these Try the Fly days 4 years ago, when I actually started to fly fish and these days I based my Pike on Fly sessions on a similar template to Try the Fly (all the gear you need, insured, trained coach and just hope the fish play their part). I STILL highly recommend people to sign up if they want to start their way in to fly fishing via the N&SFFS, Contact Tony Hull via the details on the Try the Fly website page (linked above). *Prices at the time of posting this*

Two things usually happen on the anniversary of me officially getting in to fly fishing just 4 years ago, My fishing licence is due for renewal and N&SFFS hold their annual charity BBQ held at the lakes, where the club donates to EACH (East Anglian Children Hospice). The main fundraiser day is in the form of an auction, the auction is a gold mine of fishing tackle of all sorts for anyone looking for a bargain. Today saw a brand-new Salmon two handle 12ft rod go for £30, barely used waders for £10, coarse gear for £1.00 and if you ever wanted to get your hands on a pack of Pike flies tied by yours truly cheaper than shop price… yep, you gotta be there to be in with a chance. I usually donate things to this auction every year. Today’s annual BBQ had free casting lessons with Jim Gill from Strictly Flyfishing who also headed up my Angling Trust Coaching coarse, there was fly tying demo from Simon Easthope (email: [email protected]) who travels nationwide, live music, great food, equally entertaining auction run by Tony.. The man is a master at gleaning those extra £s out of you, and all for a worthy cause and beautiful venue.

East Tuddenham lakes are two spring fed, approx 6 acres, medium depth lakes and separated by a dam wall which you can cast from. I have found the Top lake to usually have better clarity than the bottom lake, each equally fishable as the other. Fully matured trees making some spots challenging, islands in each lake, maintained banks, on site toilet and new cabin to sit planning your tactics. The lakes are regularly stocked with 1lbs to double figure Trout and even up to every fortnight in the cooler part of the year, why so regular, I hear you thinking? This is the bit that some may not be too keen on, the lakes are strictly Catch/Kill, there is no C&R allowed even on the big lumps. But I have to say, out of all the fisheries I fly fish for Trout; East Tuddenham have the hardest fighting, tail walking trout around and these fish are not as gullible as many think! I have blanked on days that should have been a walk in the park!
After you have booked in by the walk through gate, pop in to the second hut and read the board; on the “board” are tips left by previous anglers to which pegs and patterns were working for them. This gives you a good start point, and the board will also let you know when the last re-stock was. As you walk around the fishery, you may come across various flies pressed in to the seats/leaning posts dotted around the lake. These are left by previous anglers who had success on them as a gift to the next angler to use, please pass on the same after your successful day’s fishing.

Top Lake
Bottom Lake

If you’d like to meet the N&SFFS, they will have a stall up at the East Anglian Game & Country Fair in a couple of weeks on the 25th and 26th September at Euston Estate near Thetford. There is a “fishing village” near the lake end of the show ground with fly casting demos and free fly casting lessons to sign up to, if you missed out on the auctions today at the BBQ; don’t worry, you have another chance at picking up a bargain from the stall at the show AND I have donated a DAY out with me Pike Fly Fishing!

Last but not least, membership/day ticket pricing:
MEMBERSHIP £60 per annum – Reduces non-members day tickets fee from £25 to £20 for 4 fish, PLUS options to buy books of day tickets at a further saving or, a book of five evening tickets (2 fish limit) for £50 PLUS access to various social events throughout the year.
JUNIORS (Under 17) FREE MEMBERSHIP. Day ticket £6.50 – 4 Fish limit
SEASON: Full rods – 40 visits (1st March – 31st October) and Half rods (20 visits) available. Multiple visits per day allowed if you are really ‘on the fish’ 3 fish per visit outside ‘Season’ – Members’ discounted day ticket prices apply.
‘ALL YEAR’ Rods/ Half rods: as above, but from 1st November – 31st October.

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Fly Fishing for Wels Catfish

Fly Fishing for Wels Catfish

The pursuit of Wels catfish with a fly rod is still very much new territory, with 2021 being only its third season in this side of Predator Fly Fishing.
A wee bit of back history: In the 1st season the 1st record was set by Stuart Watson with his 59.2lb Wels, we quickly agreed that these fish can not be targeted under gunned & we all switched to using 12# fly rod set-ups; with reels that can stop a freight train! Early 2021 saw Oliver Cullingford break the Wels on Fly Record with his stunning 66lbs 8oz moggie!
Covid-19 has seen a huge increase in angling the last two seasons and trying to book in to venues has been difficult for most, but we did manage to secure 36 hr slot at one of the top predator fisheries stuffed with Wels Catfish of all sizes. We have been working closely with the owner and I can still remember the first time I approached him to allow us to fly fish his venue… “Sorry, think you got the wrong number as the fly fishing place is next fishery down the road” After reassuring him that the humble Trout was NOT our quarry: I arranged to go and meet him. During that meeting, I showed him the gear we use & discuss any concerns he might have had. Since then, we have been back for 2 main bookings and a few shorter day sessions.

Left to right: Stuart Watson, Dave Keay, Dean Barker, Barbara Craig and Stuart Smith

Each group that joins in on these cat sessions are all accomplished and experienced predator fly anglers. 2021s group was no exception, with 2019s record holder 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Stuart Watson gunning to get his crown back armed with the Vision Merisuola predator #12 with vision Merisoula 9/10 reel and Cortland compact intermediate and float . 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Stuart Smith, who is well known in the Pike FF world; although Cats on fly was a first for Stuart armed with: Orvis access 12#, Reddington Behemoth reel with floating Cortland compacts. Seasoned moggie chaser Dean Barker who with Stuart Watson got me interested in this side of the predator hobby, Dean headed up this year’s group and his gear is: Custom build Bloke XGNP 12# rod, Behemoth 11/12# Reel And Cortland compact lines. Another newbie to cats were Gary Pearson & Dave Keay; both have fished all over the world with various methods. Dave geared up with: Reddington predator 14wt rod, Orvis Mirage VII deep reel and RIO Premier Outbound Short Intermediate WF12 fly line. Gary geared up with:…….. Cortland Compact WF12 lines. Last but not least, myself gearing up with the Predator 12#, Reddington Behemoth reel and a WF12F fly line (still in testing). We all had 40-50lbs Berkley Big Game Fluorocarbon leaders from 4ft to 8ft long.

Predator 12# with Reddington Behemoth reel

Finally! it’s here, time to pack the gear after weeks of tying new flies to test, gear to check and checking it again for the umpteenth time! Wee hours of the morning saw Scottish Stuart set off with the longest drive to arrive by midday when we can go in & set up. Most everyone made it to the venue, with me trailing in last after a day of mechanical issues on my truck when I was meant to be packing it ready to leave the next morning! (NO comment!!!)
The venue has many castable areas for the experienced caster needing to clear a tall bank behind, often with bank weeds or bushes. On this occasion we were allowed access to their boat & also allowed us to use float tubes which gave us better access to the water. Once everyone was settled in the fishing started, this was a mixed method session which saw bait & fly. Why mixed? We have found it actually helps find out when the cats switch on the feed by using the bait gear to detect this; then switch to fly. Only Gary and I were 100% fly on this trip
.

Sunset over the lake

The first night, the lake was eerily quiet to what we are used to; we didn’t see any Carp bashing about or basking. No catfish tail slaps or that unique wooouping sound they made inhaling baitfish. Casting a fly rod at night sounds like a challenge, but It’s surprisingly not if you have been casting a while. You can feel when the rod is loading, you can hear the noise fly line makes as it travels through the rod eyes and always start casting before dark, so you can see what’s around you; as well as naturally adjust your eyes to the dark. Best practise for night casting is simple, next time you’re out; simply close your eyes while you cast. Feel the rod loading, listen to the line, and it will be fine.
We didn’t see any action till well in to the dark, Dean & 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Stuart were on the boat working an area of the lake where trees over hang the water for several hours; a haven for Wels Catfish who often dig holes under these trees to rest in. Both reported a couple of bumps each, but nothing was taking the fly just yet. Meanwhile, the rest of us were working the rest of the lake from the bank, with the occasional swearing heard in the darkness as someone had clipped the Otter fence or bank weed! In the wee hours, the chaps who had brought bait rods had them set up for the rest of the night and only had a couple of runs; but again no solid takes. It was a promising start, as we have found that fly fishing for Wels Catfish in 24Hr bookings is just not long enough, 48Hrs was better, and we found that 72Hrs was the right amount of time to get to know the venue without burning your self out.

Morning mist rolling off the water

The second day, the Stuarts needed to get some additional gear from a tackle shop, so I took them to Tackle Up in Bury St Edmunds, where they were in heaven. It has to be the best mixed method tackle shop in East Anglia! It’s a very deceptive shop when you park out front and first walk in. It’s in fact like the Tardis in there, the further you delve, the more is revealed and with an excellent Fly Fishing area near the back of the shop. Once we had what we needed, a quick stop at the supermarket to top up, and we headed back to the lake. Once back the float tubes were being made ready to head out on the water, 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Stuart was using a MadCat tube with Hummingbird finder and 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Stuart was on a Gunki tube which got nicknamed the “Deflatable” due to a couple of punctures!

Dean on the Gunki Float Tube

Late afternoon, 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Stuart was testing out the MadCat tube when he spotted a Moggie following his fly for a bit, then turning away on the Hummingbird side scan mode.
Just before dusk, Dave and I head out in the boat to work the area with trees over hanging the water (this lake has several areas like this), as we neared the area we wanted to fish; we saw a huge swirl just ahead of us where we’d disturbed a large catfish which got our hopes up that they were in the area. Dave had two bumps just after dusk in the area we had seen the swirl earlier, after a while we moved to a new spot where Dave was flicking his fly as close as he dare to the edge of the trees, into little gaps just above the water and managed to get his fly back each time he did clip a tree.

Fly Fishing for Wels Catfish
All cute perfection, knowing it has potential to be a monster.

It was around 9.45pm when I was halfway through a retrieve when Dave said “I’m in!, wait…. yes I AM INNNNNN!!”. I quickly spooled my line in and set my rod aside out the way, giving Dave room to fight his fish. Our head torches now on, so we could see which way the fish was ducking, diving and trying to get back under the over hung trees. The boat quickly swung on the mud weight which held us in place during the fight, at this stage it was too soon to know how big the fish was that took Dave’s fly. The lake water clarity is only 12″ at best this trip, the only time you know the size is when it finally surfaces. Dave was handling the fish brilliantly, stopped its run back in to the trees several times and turning the fish as it tried to shoot off in another direction. It didn’t take long for Dave to subdue this Moggie, bringing it aside the boat and chining it to bring it in. We got the mud weight in quickly and head straight back to where Dean and 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Stuart had set up as they were the closest to us. They helped get the cat out of the boat and set to unhooking, weighing and photos with an ecstatic Dave who’d just had his first fly caught Wels Catfish which weighed in at 28lbs. The rest of Friday night, the chaps who had baits out saw a couple more runs without takes.

Dave cat
Caught on a black/purple bulkhead
Dave’s Wels weighing in at 28lbs

Saturday soon came around which saw one of my highlights of the trip, It was mid-morning, Dean and I sat waiting for the kettle for a cuppa and 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Stuarts bait alarm started to beep, slow at first then got faster! Stuart darts out his bivvy with his trousers halfway down (don’t worry, he did have boxers on), picks up his rod and sets the hook. He starts fighting and trying to pull his trousers up at the same time, which didn’t quite work as the fish took every chance to take a run, at this point he calls over Dean to help pull his trousers up while he’s fighting this fish; things we do for our fishing buddies eh. Once his wardrobe malfunction was sorted, he set to landing his new bait PB 80lbs Cat.
The rest of Saturday the chaps were back on the float tubes and boat with not much luck. Saturday night saw 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Stuart loose a fish to failure of a 150lbs swivel!

It’s the last morning of the trip, which saw Dave on top form with a 62lbs cat on baits. Around 10am 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Stuart and Dean were both on the float tubes, The Gunki finally staying inflated; I am stood chatting waiting for that kettle when we hear a yell from the tubers. Stuart had hooked up his first cat after a savage take with a non-vibrating fly, he’d been casting tight to a bank of reeds. At times, his rod was bent over almost double while the fish dove under him! He was able to turn the fish using a combination of rod and flippers, inching closer to the bank, where 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Stuart and I were waiting with the net. Dean paddled over to get the net from us, which helped get the cat landed safely. Stuart Smith has officially become the FIRST to land a fly caught Wels Catfish on Float tube in the UK! The moggie weighed in at a humble 25lbs, not knowing its new-found fame. The whole fight took 8.5 minutes and afterwards the group agreed that from here on that a 14# set up would be needed for float tube cat fly-fishing as his 12# was maxed out trying to turn the fish.

Stuart Smith, mid-fight on the UK’s first ever fly caught on flat tube Wels Catfish.
Stuart nearing the end of the fight
Dean on hand ready to land the fish
25lbs of moggie goodness
Off to the depths to grow bigger

Trips like this remind us that Fly Fishing for Wels Catfish is still in its infancy in the UK, we are still working on what fly patterns are best suited or if any ever will be, big, small, rattles or without… There are still a lot for us to learn about this side of the Predator Fly Fishing hobby, and we are more than willing to keep figuring it out.
An all round great long weekend was had by all, Good to catch up with old faces again and get to know new ones better. Can’t wait for next time chaps!

The current records stand are:
Float tube/Fly Caught: 25lbs – 2021 Stuart Smith
Bank/Fly Caught: 66lbs 8oz – 2021 Oliver Cullingford

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Fly Line Types

fly line types

Fly Line types can be very confusing, so here’s a guide for those new to fly fishing to help you understand what they are all for.

Fly Lines are made with an inner braided core or mono core that gives the line it’s strength and has a plastic outer coating mainly made from PVC. Depending on that outer coating the line will either float, sink slowly or sink faster. It’s the weight of the line that allows us to cast it. Where the weight is situated is controlled by the line taper; a fine tip section to allow for delicate presentations, a thicker middle section with the weight for casting and a long tail section (running line) helps the line slide through the rod guides and gain distance.

fly-line-types
Different types of fly line

A Weight Forward (WF)

fly line as the name suggests has more weight in the front half of the line hence it casts better in windy conditions, short casts and also will cast longer distances. Some are designed for delicate presentations while others for distance. So the WF lines are used for most general fly fishing situations.

A Double Taper (DT)

has the weight in the middle, with a longer fine tip section that allows for delicate presentations. The back half of the line is the same as the front half, so the line can be reversed which doubles the life of the fly line. They are best suited to smaller streams where delicate presentations are required.

The Aggressive Weight Forward

fly line is similar to a WF line as in the weight is set to the front of the head, but with the aggressive WF lines, the head has extra weight in a short area that can punch out big Pike flies without much effort.

fly-line-types
Floating, Intermediate, Sink tip & sink lines

Floating (WFxF):

These are the most common type of line used and can be used for a wide variety of fly fishing. It’s the materials used in the coating of a floating line gives them their buoyancy.

Intermediate (WFxI):

fly line will sink at a relatively slow rate. Intermediate fly lines are ideal where you want your fly to sink slowly, with the fly line slowly settling into the water column. An Intermediate fly line will sink at 1.5 inches per second are used when fishing lakes that have lots of weeds, and you want to keep the fly just above the weed. And also has applications when fishing rivers to aid sinking your flies to a medium depth.

Sink Tip (WFxF/I):

fly lines have tip sections that sink at the same rate as an intermediate line, while the head/running line float. Sink-tip lines can muscle big flies around and get them down to where they need to be.

Fast Sink (WFxS):

will sink quickly at a uniform rate as indicated on its box in inches per second (ips). Fast sinking lines will sink from 3 to up to 7 or more inches per second. Which sinking line is best really depends on how you want to use it, how far down you need to get your fly and how quickly you want to get it there. In fast moving water or really deep pools, a fast sink rate will be needed. Otherwise, a slow sinking rate will generally work well, and they are easier to pick up and retrieve than the fast sinking lines.

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Fly Rod Action Explained

fly rod ation explained

Fly rod action explained to help you pick the right fly rod for your needs. The action of a fly rod is a term bandied about like mad and used by marketing teams to sell rods, and it is often mistaken or misunderstood! In reality, it is a very simple concept, the action of a fly rod refers to how quickly it reverts to straight having been flexed. Hence, the main three actions are fast, medium and slow and this is why you often see customers and sales advisors doing the ‘fly shop wiggle’ when checking out new rods. As a general rule, the faster the action of a rod, the more experience it requires to get the most out of it. That isn’t to say a complete beginner won’t be able to cast a fast-action rod, but it will be harder to manage at first, so below we have the various fly rod action explained to help you.

Fly Rod Action Explained

Fast Action rods 

  • Powerful rods
  • Very little flexibility; only tip of rod flexes
  • The rod loads and unloads faster
  • Generates fast line speed
  • Requires good timing and technique
  • Difficult at first for beginners
  • Ideal for most predators

So, fast action rods are very powerful and load and unload the line quickly to generate fast line speeds. Loading the rod is simply applying pressure to make the rod bend. As the weight of the fly line is picked up by the fly rod, the rod bends and stores energy. As the rod unloads, that energy is released. Fast line speeds are needed for casting long distances or cast into the wind. A rod that generates fast line speeds requires good timing to cast properly, which means fast action rods are difficult for beginners to use, because everything happens fast.

Moderate Action Rods

  • Less powerful than fast action
  • More flexible than fast action
  • Intermediate Line Speed
  • The rod loads and unloads intermediate
  • More forgiving than a fast-action
  • Good choice for many waters and for beginners

Slow/Classic Action Rods

  • Very little power
  • Very flexible; entire shaft
  • Slow line speed
  • The rod loads and unloads slower
  • Very forgiving, easiest to control line and accuracy
  • Good for short, accurate and gentle casts for small rivers and streams

Slow or Classic action rods are not powerful at all and they load and unload slowly. They are good for delicate casts because they generate slow lines speeds. This makes them very forgiving and are easiest for beginners to use because it is easier to time the cast and to control the line.
There are very proficient fly casters that can do amazing things with just about any fly rod, but for the rest of us mere mortals, choosing the right fly rod action helps with certain tasks. The table below is a generalization of how different fly rod actions perform certain tasks.

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DIY Stripping basket/tray

diy line tray

You’re in the groove, your cast feels right & you know that this one is going to shoot exactly how you want it to. You let go of your line, watching it roll out beautifully ….. then see it stop way short & get ruined! You look down to realise that your line snagged a tiny bit of grass, weed, twig or that you have stood on the coils!
It’s at this point you might want to look at getting a stripping basket or line basket (same thing).
I use mine 100% when I go anywhere fishing for any species. It’s an absolute god send, no more standing on my fly line or line snagging a weed ruining a cast and If you’re a dab hand at a bit of DIY, you can make your own for less than the cheapest is available Online (At date of this article).

You will need:

  • Stickers, very important are these.
  • 1 x IKEA foersiktig kids stool from IKEA DIRECT
  • 6-8 Silicone gun cap-less nozzles cut to 40mm long
  • Marker pen
  • Drill & drill bits to suit the screws you buy.
  • Dome head screws x 35mm long with washers under the head end
  • Hot Glue gun with sticks
  • Knife *Please be careful*
  • Soldering iron or Dremel cutting bit *Please be careful*
  • Luggage straps; one to go around your waist or thigh & 2nd if you opt for thigh to help hold the basket up to your belt

Once you have the parts, time to build.

  • Mark out on the bottom of the stool where you want to drill the holes.
  • Mark on the side where you want to cut the strap slots
  • Use the soldering iron to melt the strap slots or Dremel to cut the slots
  • Fit washers on to your screws & push screws up from the bottom ready to place the caps on.
  • Fill one cap at a time, place that cap over the upturned screw & leave to set. Once set, fill another cap with hot glue & place over next screw. Leave to set.. repeat until all caps are fitted.
  • Feed the straps through the slots & adjust to fit
  • Finally, carefully place your stickers on your new stripping basket. Each sticker is one fish *Editor takes no responsibility nor guarantees this*.