Spring Small Stillwater Fly Fishing Techniques (Andy Taylor Guest Blog)
Spring offers the small water angler some of the best quality fishing of the year. Upavon consultant Andy Taylor shares his tactics for making the most of the quality fishing for buzzer-feeding trout. Use discount code WELCOME10 for 10% off your first order with Upavon Fly Fishing.
I always say to any newbie trying to fly fish on the small waters that the best time to start is late autumn/early winter. Why? Well, the fishing on these waters gets better and better as you move through winter and into spring- the peak season for the small water fly angler. Starting at the backend of the year means we can keep the tactics for any new angler quite simple; we don’t need to worry about matching the hatch- with the focus being on fishing lures and perfecting casting techniques. Recent mild winters and improvements in clothing means we don’t have to freeze to death when out on the water. And fishing on small waters during the winter can be brilliant.
But as the blackthorn comes into blossom and the Chiff Chaffs chirp away, the daylight hours start to lengthen and so too does our urge to get out and make the most of the superb spring fishing.
March, April and May are bonanza time on the small waters as the trout will have switched on to the array of food sources that nature’s larder offers. On catch and release small waters, fish stocked in late autumn and through the winter will be well-mended and highly educated. The closest we can get to catch a ‘wild trout’ from a commercial venue. These fish are beauties- lean, mean, fighting machines with tails like spades, markings the finest artists couldn’t replicate and an intelligence level which says NO to lures and YES to those well-presented natural imitations.
When fly fishing on a small water in Spring, I tend to have two rods set up. Two rods allow for a quick change in tactics should the trout start to rise when the cloud appears or drop deeper if the sun comes out. A floating line is all you need now- I like the Wychwood Rocket Floater and Snowbee XS- two white fly lines. I prefer white floaters for small water work as I’m convinced it doesn’t spook those educated trout. Rod wise, a 9ft 6in 6-wt is my norm- the Wychwood Truefly T2 has been my number one rod for a while now- its middle-to-tip action allows for crisp casting with a single dry fly whilst it offers softness in the blank for those aggressive buzzer takes, thus allowing you to feel every twist and turn during battle. Leader-wise, I’ll use the finest I can, depending on the size of the fish and fishery rules. At this time of year, the water is likely to be at its clearest before the onset of algal blooms and colouration as any coarse fish populations come to life. The trout that have been in a while will be at their wisest, and the flies we are likely to use will be small, so fine leaders will be a must if you are to be successful.
Rod One - Lures
Rod one is likely to be a single fly. Early in the morning, this will be a lure- something with little weight in the pattern so it will hold in the first few feet. An Apps Worm in red or olive, a Green Flash Damsel or a small Pure Blob - Tequila is one of my favourites. Leader length tends to be 10ft with the finest diameter I can get away with - 4 or 6lb. I use a lure early in the day to find the fish, and there will likely be little in the way of a fly hatch as the water won’t have warmed up after the cool conditions at night. This will then change to my dry fly rod to make the most of any short hatches and fish rising. Leader length will be 10-12ft of 4lb fluorocarbon with either a small (size 16/14) F Fly or Shipman’s Buzzer on the point tied using Upavon Breather Yarn. The beauty of these two patterns is that you can fish them dry and then pull them under to fish them sub-surface.
Green flash Dragonfly Lure
Rod Two - Buzzer/Nymph
Rod two is likely to be a nymph/buzzer set-up. Early Spring, I would probably fish three flies on a 12ft, 6lb leader, equally spaced apart. On the point, I would have a size 12 Coves Pheasant Tail or size 10 Alder Nymph and up the droppers small black buzzers. This set-up allows me to cover the depths. The Coves, tied on a grub hook, I find to be a good generic pattern- it covers the winter shrimp and hog louse feeders and has the profile of the buzzer. The Alder Nymph is a great fly to stretch the cast out and target the nymph feeders. Black is the chosen colour for my buzzers, as most early-season midges tend to be this colour.
As we move into May, I would switch to two small buzzers (size 14 or 16) on a 10ft 4lb leader switching to olive to match the midge hatching now and any pond olives which also may be around. With all the above a good, regular application of Hunt’s Mud to degrease and take the shine off the leader is essential and with the dries some Hunt’s Floatant to refloat your CDC F Flies or some Up High to make sure the Shipman’s sit in the surface film (I apply this just to the back of the fly). If you’ve never tried fishing more than one fly then now is the time to try! Use a three-turn water knot for your droppers. Space your flies an equal distance apart, slow your casting down and open your casting loop a little. Dropper length for me tends to be 15cm.
Spring is a magical time to be on the small waters. The fishing can be superb as most of it will be on or in the surface layers. Nothing beats the arm-wrenching takes as the line draws away with one of your buzzers in the trout’s mouth. Likewise, watching a trout head and tail over your dries is what fly fishing is all about. The trout are at their best, and the flora and fauna take some beating as the countryside awakens.
Five Top Tips For Spring On Small Stillwaters
1. Fish fine, short leaders. This will keep your flies in the surface layers, allowing you to fish small (14 and 16) flies and will avoid spooking educated trout.
2. Have two rods set up. This will allow you to change tactics quickly should the fish rise or drop based on cloud cover and the sun and fly hatches. Have one dry fly/lure rod and one nymph/buzzer rod.
3. The middle part of the day is likely to be best, especially if the night has been cool. The waters I fish will see the fish rise from 2 pm til 5 pm.
4. Keep on the move. Don’t stick in one spot too long. I like to target the downwind bank or where the ripple meets the flat water.
5. Buzzers in small waters don’t tend to be big. Select patterns in sizes 12 to 16. Black for April and then switch to olive in May.