The Wels catfish (Silurus glanis) is the largest freshwater fish within the UK and probably also within Europe. Catfish can be large with an average of 100lbs, the largest recorded in the UK at 286lbs and are very powerful fish. Strong tackle is essential to try to stop them from running or lifting them off the bottom. They prefer to hunt in murky waters and primarily feed during the night. They use their long highly sensitive barbels to sense their surroundings and search out resting fish and other food sources. Fishing tactics similar to those used for large pike or zander are very successful. Unconfirmed (No official records are kept for wels cats in the UK any more) record for a Wells on fly was set early 2019 by Stuart Watson who landed 59.2lb lump of a cat, Stuart Watson is one of the original two anglers who started the UK in to Fly Fishing for Cats; Anglers in Europe have been targeting cats on fly for many years now. Stuarts record was broken early 2021 by Oliver Cullingford with a stunning 66lbs 8oz moggie! The records keep coming too, the biggest fly caught cat in the UK now stands at 79lbs by Stuart Smith July 2023. who is still the currant holder of this record. 2021 saw a new record created by Stuart Smith who caught the 1st ever wels on a Float Tube in the UK at 25lbs and late 2022 saw yet another new record for ladies class with Barbara Craig landing a 21lbs cat. The great thing about new records, is they can be bettered/broken with bigger cats.
|Mens – Bank
|Mens – Float tube
|Womans – Bank
|Womans – Float Tube
The biggest fly caught cat (above pic) in the UK now stands at 79lbs by Stuart Smith July 2023, Stuart hooked and landed this on his float tube.
Ollie Cullingford still holds the biggest fly caught cat from the bank with a stunning 74lb Wels catfish. Oliver supersedes the previous record of 66lbs 8oz which he set almost 2 years ago.
2021 saw a new record created by Stuart Smith who caught the 1st ever wels on a Float Tube in the UK at 25lbs
Late 2022 saw yet another new record for ladies class with Barbara Craig landing a 21lbs cat from the bank.
Below is a break down of things you’ll need to start targeting Wells Cats on Fly.
- Fly Rod weight: 10-12 Weight fast action to assist in controlling these big fish
- Fly Reel: 10-12 Weight with a VERY good drag to help stop a run
- Fly Lines: 10-12 Weight Float with a sturdy core like the Lunker Hunter or compact head type fly lines
- Floating line is mainly what is used as most fisheries are not deep
- Leader: 50lbs minimum X 5-6 feet long (depending on lake depth)
- Trace Pike not present: Not needed
- Trace Pike are present: 80-100lbs Fluorocarbon
- Fly: Size 1/0-3/0 hooks (check the fishery rules first), Patterns can be similar to Pike ones: Bufords or patterns that have Dragon Tails & Rattle chambers
- Net: 42 inch MINIMUM (rubber mesh if you can find them) Net will be needed, if you are lucky enough to land a big catfish; you may need the help of a friend to help you land it.
- Unhooking Mat: A must for wells cats + make sure its wet before you put the fish on it.
- Forceps/Pliers: Yes
- Unhooking glove: Optional but strongly advised (If you chin them you will need a glove, the tiny teeth covering the pads are surprisingly very sharp)
- Night time Fly Fishing: Learn how to cast with your eyes closed to start to train your self as cats on fly are often caught at night
Tips for Wells
- Always check the fishery rules, there are often size limits on hooks, min size on nets etc
- Big catfish lakes often require you to have a buddy to help you land the fish safely.
- Don’t walk around too much as catfish are sensitive to movement on the bank & often stop taking flies. A lot of coarse fishery anglers stay in one spot.