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15 Wels Cats on Fly Rod in 72Hrs

15 Wels Cats on Fly Rod in 72Hrs

Months of planning for our 3-day trip was now upon us, cars packed and ready to go with Stuart facing a 9 hour drive all the way down from Scotland to Norfolk.
Who are we? A very small group of Predator Fly anglers who have been actively targeting Wels Catfish on fly for the last 5 years, this was our 6th trip after Wels catfish in East Anglia. Our first was September 2019 after reading about Stuart Watson landing what became the first known record with a 59.2lbs cat earlier that year. Some will already know Oliver Culingford who has held the biggest cat on fly since 2021, Stuart Smith who got the first Cat on fly on a float tube in 2021, Barbara Craig who was the first known lady to land a cat in the UK in 2022, Dean Barker and Andrew Eglon all on this trip. We are currently the core moggie on fly anglers making it a small group of 7-8 people actively targeting these fish in the UK, all good things start somewhere.

The weather did not look in our favour aligning with the “wash out July” that is set to continue. We arrived on Wednesday to get set up and get the float tubes ready while it was till dry. Andrew heading off with rod in hand for his first cast and into a fish straight away! In the back of our minds, we pondered about the “first cast curse”; you know the one, catch a fish first cast and not see another for the entire trip! Things went quiet early evening as the rain set in for the night, this would not deter anyone as we fished into the dark in the rain. Fly fishing at night takes your casting to a whole new level, we often start before dusk so that we can see our surroundings to work out how far that back cast can be and continue casting into the darkness with no head torches switched on. This is where your other senses kick in, you feel the line loading the rod and can hear it shooting out. Another thing that we have found fishing at night in the tubes is what your mind does in the little hours, sounds become louder, you jump out your skin when a Carp decides to jump out the water near you or freak out when you bump into a big cat with your legs/flippers! That “first cast curse” soon got debunked as Andrew saw another catfish in his net and little did we know; this trip would turn out to be one of the best we have ever had.

Thursday early morning saw a couple more Cats in the net ranging around the 20lbs mark, all of which were caught from float tube. The float tube record was set by Stuart in 2021 with a 25lbs cat, float tubes give us better access to spots that you can’t reach or cast from on the bank. We often break the day/night up by doing a mixture of tube and bank fishing. Day time sees us often take a break to check gear over, catch up with each other and recharge after the long drive and all-night fishing. Andrew woke up looking like a join the dots game after he got eaten by mosquitoes which often brings up the discussion of using mozzie spray and how the smell of that can transfer to your fly and put the fish off. Again, that theory also got thrown in the bin alongside the first cast curse as we all used mozzie spray and the cats kept on coming.
Landing any cat is a team effort on any trip we are on, this year we set up a central landing/weighing station. Every time a 2nd person in a tube was there to help net the fish, once secure in the net resting being paddled back to the landing station to be unhooked, weighed, photos with more rests in-between.

Action started again early evening with Andrew hooking in to a 44lbs cat on the tube which broke the record, no sooner had we got back out fishing an hour later; Oliver hooked in to a 60lbs cat (check weight) on the float tube seeing the tube record broken again. We knew it was a much bigger cat as it didn’t break the surface till near the end of the fight!
One thing that did seem a trend this trip is that the cats were taking the flies that were being fished deep and with a slow retrieve, figure 8 or 2 short pulls with long pauses. We all use floating lines as the catfish venues aren’t on average very deep, this venue is approximately 5-8ft deep with plenty of features and snags. Our leaders were all ranging between 7-9 ft long which helped to get the fly down deeper.
Something else we picked up on this trip is that the cats didn’t seem to be making big runs, with the float tubes being above them; they instead headed for the bottom and tried to stay there.
Thursday night saw the cats coming on to feed in ebbs and flows with a couple hours break in-between, seeing fish to the net over the night and into the next morning.

After a rest on Friday daytime where Oliver woke up with leg cramp from so much float tubing, after walking it off he was back in the tube and paddling circuits round the venue. We started to wonder if the man was a machine with as much time he’d spent thus far on the water paddling, casting, fighting in fish to do it all again repeatedly! Many do not realise just how much fishing time goes into these trips, from when we arrive to leave; there is someone fishing. For those of you who have cast 9# or heavier rods for a whole day. Wels Catfish on fly rod is still a very new side to UK fly fishing, it’s not easy, a lot of hours go into targeting these fish and many occasions we have come away having blanked with lessons learnt.

During Friday afternoon someone mentioned Carp on fly; are they those fish that jump out the water scaring us witless in the middle of the night?! We all turned to look at our lightweight rods still sat in their rod tubes, naaaaaaaah! We are here for the cats!
The venue has 3 lakes, one is a smaller lake with Carp and cats to 80lbs, another is a private Syndicate Lake and the main 5-acre lake which we fish. The main lake does boast an excellent head of Carp in to the 35lbs and bigger, it also has 100s of catfish to the 80lbs range, 25 odd cats to 100lbs and 5-7 cats pushing between 100lbs to 125lbs. Often sees cats out on baits into the 90-100lbs, with the fly fishing side; we do not pre-bait in any shape or form or use scents on the fly. Keeping things as natural as we can in a lake that’s often has tons of food going in over the year, this is why it is much harder to catch cats in the UK; they are used to being fed and happy to wait. Compared to our European brethren who have been targeting wild river catfish on fly, wild fish take every opportunity to feed.

Last night of the trip and a big push for those last chances to land more cats. Flies being clipped on had tails, rattles and were variations of bulkheads, colour is one thing we know does not matter. The water clarity is 1-1.5ft cats have small eyes but super sensitive whiskers to pick up vibrations of their prey swimming past. Through the trip all kinds of flies were landing cats, from your bog-standard pike red/white pattern to 6-8” bulkheads. We now knew when the cats were switching on in the early dusk into the night, middle of the night and into dawn. By this point a few of us had only slept a few hours between fishing, nodding off in the float tube or getting more leg cramp. We had a couple more cats in the net and we were starting to lose count! Was it 12 or 13? Already this trip had out fished trips in Somerset and the night was not over!
It was around midnight when Stuart hooked into a big lump while on the float tube and after an epic battle it was safely in the net and heading to the landing station. It weighed in at a WHOPPING 79lbs pushing the biggest Wels cat on fly record by another 5lbs AND smashing the biggest landed on float tube in the UK! The Float tube record broken three times in 48 hours!
Things seemed to go quiet for the next couple of hours across the lake, Oliver wakes up in his tube bobbing about in the reeds and they all decide to call it to get some sleep before the drive back later that morning.

Saturday morning once things were packed into the vehicles, we set back out for that usual last cast which did manage to entice 2 more fish out! A few times someone had been fishing a spot, decide to move, someone else drop in that spot and hook up! It was a fantastic trip, 15 Wels cats landed, several hooked and got off; ranging from 20lbs up to the 79lbs moggie.

We often get asked what gear we use, bear in mind the potential size of cat in the lake we fish, and we never know what size of cat will decide that that fly looks yummy! All of us are using 12# set ups, 2-3 are even on Fiberglass rods while the rest of Carbon Fibre. Below is the list of gear we used on this trip.

Barbara Craig: Rod 12# Green Predator 9ft 4pc, Reel: Redington Behemoth #9-10, Fly Line: Lunker Hunter WF12F, Leader: 9ft Berkley Trilene Big Game Fluorocarbon in 50lbs, Flies tied on Partridge Predator X hooks.

Dean Barker: Rod: Epic Boca Grande 1286, Reel: Danielsson H5D 11Fourteen, Fly Line: Cortland Compact WF12F, Leader: Berkley Big Game fluro 50lbs, Flies tied on Ahrex and Pallatrax Gripz hooks

Float tubes used on the trip are (in order of nearest to furtherest in the photo): MadCat, Guideline (model discontinued), Vison Keeper, and Decathlon Caperlan

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Fen Pike in -2C

Fen Pike in -2C

Yesterday Rick Bellars and I planned to go out fishing after pike, knowing it was going to be sub zero temperatures with its own challenges.
Being the last day of 2 weeks of Artic temperatures this past week its been -6 to -9 at night with day time barely getting above 0, I knew I wanted to get out and about . I know many pike anglers have prayed for a proper “cold stint”. The freezing temperatures kills off the last of the summer water weed where baitfish like to hide from predators, no weed means the baitfish will need to shoal up in large shoals for protection from those pesky predators. If it’s not been said before, find the baitfish, find the Pike.

Fen Pike in -2C

Knowing that all the fen drains were frozen over, Rick and I knew we needed to find moving water; Rivers or drains with a flow. We got to the venue just after dawn, walking down to the bank taking care not to go arse over tit! Most the bank edge had frozen up to 2 meters wide in a couple of places, as we both had long reach nets; that would not be a problem as only paces away were not as wide frozen patches. But things were moving and not frozen solid.

I was trying out a “trick” to keep my hands a bit warmer but wearing surgical gloves under my usual snug neoprene gloves. I suffer from cold hands and on days like this or Northerly breezes my hands really feel it! The idea behind this is that your skin doesn’t get wet = feeling colder. Did it work? I am need to do a couple more trips to know for sure, there was not much of a breeze for me to really tell. But my hands were not as cold as I thought they would be.
It didn’t take long for rod eyes to start freezing up along with ice build up on the fly line its self, so long as you kept on top of clearing the ice after every 10 minuets; you were fine. Rick was on his Intermediate line and I opted for the new Sink 3 as we both wanted to go low n slow to see if we can move fish tucked in on the bottom. At one stage I forgot and mid cast my fly line just stopped casting due to the ice build up. The other thing that both Rick and I quickly noticed is that our casting was not as good as it usually is, fly falling short or not going as far as it usually does. This was caused by the extra ice weight on the line as well as lack of smoooooth fly line as it was coated in ice, as we cast you could hear the ice fighting the rod eyes. An extra haul and tighter loop seemed to help with this.

Near the end of our freezing day out, OK about 3 hours after we started. I lost my favorite pike fly pattern! I cast out and on that retrieve it just felt too light/easy, when my leader hit the top rod eye I could see why…. no fly attached! 😭 I use the fast link clips and only one other fly has been lost as the knot of my wire trace had worked its way around the clip and off! Will this put me off using these clips? Nope as I have had 1,000s of casts with no issue.
I was challenged over a year ago to tie a fly from a photo of the Fire Tiger Lure, this fly quickly became my go to pattern with the way it swam, it’s light but bulky body and it certainly saw its fair share of action. So to date I have ONLY lost 4 pike flies in 5 Winters; 2 to the same snag a year apart and 2 that came off on their own. Compared to some cough Rick cough; thats bloody good going when you know you have cast it in to trees/bushes/reeds on the opposite bank more times than I care to count! I will see if I can replicate this as I need this back in my fly box.

Fire Tiger Pattern

After loosing my fave fly, I decided to call it a day. Rick had one tug early on in the morning, returning to the spot 20 mins later yielded nothing. We braved the sub-zero temperatures for a good 3 hours with no visible follows or takes. We had also noticed no baitfish topping or moving, certainly no pike smashing baitfish while we were there. Part way through the morning I spotted 2 people walking over the bridge holding camp chairs, bit odd as they were headed down a stretch of windy road and the bird spotters were a few miles away. 🤔
Pike were well and truly tucked up in bed which seemed a much better idea when my alarm clock went off! We decided to pop in to the pub for a coffee, warm up and chat about fishing photography sharing some tips and tricks. All in all we both enjoyed the morning despite blanking, it is after all FISHING and not Catching.
In case anyone has not had a chance to read Ricks own blog on Facebook called Pike, Fly only. Its always a great read with awesome photography and whit.

Photo by Rick Bellars

Fenland skating history, The fens has a lot of history in its own right and one of the past times dating back to the 1760s. I have been told about years ago was the ice skating on the wash or other frozen over areas, read the articles up on the wall in the Lamb and Flag pub in Welney. I’ve spoken to (in passing) the grandson of the famous fen skater James Smart and I had heard that people were out skating this week and wanted to see that for myself. So on my way back home from fishing, I parked up by the bridge on the Welney wash to watch some of the skaters out on the ice and found out why they needed camping chairs that I had seen wandering past earlier! To sit on to change in/out of skates.
For more information on the rich history of the Fenland ice skaters, have a read on the Wikipedia article:-

Fenland Skaters Dec 2022
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The Wels Catfish Pilgrimage

The Wels Catfish Pilgrimage

Wels cats on fly has become a pilgrimage to Norfolk for several of us insane cat hunters and this trip was our second this year (5th Anglia trip over last 3 yrs). Would Oliver’s record be bested? Would any of the float tubers break the newly created record? Would any new records be set?
Part of our endeavour to see if there is a “best time of year” to consistently hook and land cats on the fly. One (or a few) theory was to target when Cats feed up before they hunker down for winter, hence the time of year this trip was booked. If anyone has missed it, I’ll repeat: Wels cats on fly is STILL in its infancy, we are still trying to work out what or how they want that fly, at times can be very frustrating and there has been plenty of swearing!

12#’s to the ready!

Day one – Wednesday
Midday onwards we get the bivvys and truck tent up. Something as a fly only method angler that I am, I have had to adapt a little to the “Bivvy” camping side of angling that cat fishing needs. We knew we needed to get set up as on the horizon were dark rain filled clouds that were heading our way, around 5pm the heavens opened, and it royally pissed it down! Couple of us were caught out and dove into our trucks to ride out the heavy rain. Thankfully it didn’t last long, and we were back out fishing again. Some out on tubes with a couple of us casting from the banks, the venue is 80% fly fishable with only really one area that’s not suitable for a back cast and that area is covered by the float tube or boat.
Dusk fell, spirits were high with hope of a decent cat into our nets that night. Night time fly casting takes fly fishing on to a whole new level, you need to feel your rod loading, listen to the line/fly to know when to shoot and I know it has made me a far better caster as I am more tuned to my cast. It is always best to start your casting in an area before dusk, so you get to know what’s around you before it does get dark. We do not use our head torches until we get a fish on or need to tie knots.

Truck tent makes things easier

It was around 7.30pm, the waxing moon was up with the moonlight helping with moving around peg to peg. I decided to clip on my 6” long Moggie Hunter Magenta Nayat with Alpaca/flash head bulkhead fly I had tied for the trip. I kept the wind on my left shoulder making it a bit easier or rather safer to cast. I was keeping my retrieve slow as something Stuart said earlier stuck in my mind that we might be retrieving too fast for the cats.
I was fishing in a 3-meter gap between 2 large bushes and 3-4 casts in this spot. I had around half my line retrieved in when things went solid. I did 2 sharp strips keeping the rod tip aimed at the water and held/paused…………
I felt 2 head shakes through the line before it decided to run, it took some fly line through my hand as I hand retrieve my line. I locked the fly line with my left hand in to the cork which acts as a brake while I can spool the slack line on the floor back on to the spool. We do fight cats off the reel and bet get the fish on the reel asap. It decided it wanted to take off to my right, with the bush in the way I didn’t want that to happen, so I lent the rod over opposite to steer it off its run. It decided to turn and run left; rod goes over to the right to steer it out of that run.
By now Dave was beside me with net waiting, and the fish was not taking any more line. I used the brute force of the 12# Predator rod to lift the fish off the bottom, brought it closer to the bank and walked backwards for Dave to net it. Relief when I saw it was completely in the net as Cats can reverse back out a net given the chance!
Dean was on his float tube and had joined us to start resting the cat in the net while Dave and I set to getting the unhooking/weighing gear ready. This moggie had inhaled the fly, once unhooked the fly was just a ball of slimy mess! We rested the cat again ready for photos and its weigh in.
The moggie fly weighed in at 21lbs 10oz, this is officially my biggest UK fish I have landed as my PB Pike is also a 21lbs fish. Dean mentioned that it had not taken long to land it, it took less than 4 minuets. A little longer than my PB wild fenland Pike I landed on my 10# 3 winters previous which was in the net well under 2 mins and the Wels certainly put up a better fight than the Pike had. But on a 12# fly rod, that cat had no chance to get far.
Only after the cat had safely swam off do I really take in that I have had my 1st ever Wels cat, on a fly rod, my own fly and a fly line I had made for this very job! Did I celebrate? I just carried on fishing with a quiet proudness and waited for the next fish.

An hour later Dave wandered by moving to his next peg, he had hooked into a nice fish but had managed to get off only to lose his fly in the reeds casting back to the lost fish.
Both Dean and Stuart had a fright in the dark from a couple of big cats that got curious to their tubes 😳. When we do these sessions, we do also put a couple of bait rods out while no one is fly fishing. Around 2am Dean had a run on his bait rod that resulted in the 2nd Cat of the session and weighed in at 32lbs.

Deans 32lbs bait caught cat
Norfolk sunrise, stunning as usual

Following day chatting to the guys in the group that it came apparent that I am the first woman to get one on fly in the UK, all records start somewhere, and it can only get better from here!
Midday rolled round, enjoying the bit of sunshine when the local Environment Agency bailiff rocked up to check people’s licences. I am told this is a rare thing and one of the guys in the group hadn’t had his licence checked for almost 40 years! For me this was my second check in 4 years from when I got my first licence. The rest of the daytime remained quiet on the fish front, early evening Alex was on the float tube and hooked into a cat, after a brief fight it too got off with Alex swearing (as most of us do when we lose a fish!) or was it Dave’s lost float tube flipper he had hooked? 🤔….. Although whatever it was did fight back so Dave’s flipper is committed to the depths and a few of us would love to see the face of the poor sod who hooks/lands that into their net! WTF… 🤣
The rest of the night was quiet despite 2-3 of the tubers out to the weeee hours of the morning.

Alex float tubing in to the night
When things start getting hard & you resort to….

We had been invited to test out the new lake at the fishery to see if it was castable (fly fishing), The last of the landscaping took place several weeks ago. Stock wise there are cats up to 50lbs as well as Pike, as the lakes at this venue all have a water clarity that’s only 12” at best. You have no idea what you have hooked in to on the new lake until it surfaces, potluck surprise?
We all took turns spending a few hours on the lake, most of us had a take or knock. But none of us saw anything to the net. 90% castable lake which holds a lot of potential, I have already booked a shorter session on the lake for next May. The plan is to use it to introduce newcomers to catfish without needing the 12# set ups as it stocks smaller cats than the main lake we fish. Watch this space for the May dates/info.
Late afternoon Oliver hooked into a kitten that had eyes bigger than its tummy! 😸 But this was Ollies first cat on float tube, all PBs start somewhere and get better from there. As the evening drew in, more rain was forecast, and consensus was that no more fish would be showing. True to that, only action was the odd cat bumping into a float tube scaring the shite out of the tuber!

The Wels Catfish Pilgrimage
Olivers 1st cat on float tube

Last morning of the pilgrimage was a little down beat, most of us had started to pack up as soon as the sun had dried off the night dew. We did carry on fly fishing up to about 10am when we called it a day, Stuart had an 890 odd mile trip back home to Scotland!
Stood in the carpark mulling over the last few days, could we have done things differently? What we had changed this trip, did it work? What we do know so far:
-Fly colour does not matter; Cats have poor eyesight. But they do have excellent sense to pick up movement.
-Fly type: Bulkheads, baitfish patterns with and without tails have seen cats to the net.
-Catfish are bastards! Just two days after the end of our trip, the fishery posted reports of 80+lbs cats out with a further 96lbs cat out a day later!
We know that fly fishing for catfish is not easy, if we wanted easy; we’d all just lob in worm bombs or smelly baits! But that is not what this is about, however long it takes; we will eventually start seeing a trend emerge that we can use to home in onto catch MORE Wels Cats on fly rod.

Gear used on the trip
I know a couple of people think that what we use is over kill and it probably is for the small fish waters they fish! But the 5 acre venue we fish has cats up to 120Lbs with 20 off over the 80lbs mark and 100s more under that. We simply do not mess around with light gear at this venue, nor will the venue owner allow light gear to be used on this lake.
-Dave: Hardy Zane #12 fly rod, Orvis Mirage VII deep fly reel, WF12F Rio Outbound Short Fly Line, 60/80lb Fluorocarbon.
-Andy: 12wt bloke rod with Reddington Behemoth 11/12 wt
-Alex: 12# Hardy Zane rod, Zane carbon reel and a 12# Epic boca grande rod, Tibor Gulfstream reel with Cortland Compact Float & Int


Stuart: 12# Epic boca Grande, 11/12 Behemoth reel, Cortland compact floating and intermediate, 60lb fluorocarbon.

Oliver: 12# vision SWS Venus fly rod , Hardy CADD Titanium 10000 reel , Cortland compact floating line in 11/12# with 200 odd feet of 60 lb backing , leader 50 to 60 lb fluorocarbon x 4 to 9 ft long.

Babs: Predator 12# rod, Behemoth 9/10 reel, WF12F Lunker Hunter 50lbs core fly line, 50Lbs Berkley Big Game Fluorocarbon.

Dean: Epic boca Grande 12#, Behemoth 9/10#, WF12 Cortland compact and WF12F Lunker Hunter, 50lbs Berkley big game fluro.

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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.