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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.