Sunday, January 21, 2018

Wet fly & spider fishing: A productive approach that should always be considered.

Over the last number of seasons through coaching and meeting anglers on the water, I am discovering more and more anglers young and old who have a limited or forgotten knowledge of effective wet fly and spider fishing on rivers. I have even encountered some top competition anglers that would not even consider the option of swinging a wet fly or spider across a stream during a session. 
For me growing this was our bread and butter fly fishing method, nymphing didn't come into our arsenal till I was into my twenties. So up on till then it was craftily swinging wet through the riffles and pools of the Avonmore River in Co Wicklow that won most of our club competitions and Leinster Championships held by the
club. Even though, today I too tend to lean towards the nymphs and dries time and time again, there are days when the wet fly's and spiders fished correctly will catch more fish than any other method. In order to be a complete competition angler you must be able to fish all methods and more importantly know when each one will be more effective than the others. 

Over the last decade or so I do try and spend some time on the wet when the conditions are favorable for this approach. Ideally a Spring or Autumn day with a nice breeze blowing up the flats creating a wave is what you are looking for perfect wet fly fishing. A extra drop of fresh in the river or a dropping colour in the water can put the trout feeding right in the zone where the wet flies are swimming. 
But admittedly I am not a wet fly angler, I can do it, but am no means an expert on it. However a good friend of mine has spent countless weeks, months and years practicing and learning to understand this fly fishing approach and in my opinion one of the best river wet fly fisherman I have ever encountered. 
David O Donovan is a renowned and accomplished competition angler through Ireland and Europe. Fishing Munster rivers all his life and especially the famous Blackwater River, where wet fly fishing is the go to method to catch large number of fish; also in this region there is some of the best wet fly anglers in the Country. During our practice sessions over the years, David will always spend half a day on the spiders and wets to test them out to see if they will be wort setting up. In most cases we end up setting up at least one rod with the wets. They can pick off a few fish any time and can cover the stretch of water a lot quicker than nymphs if you need to find pods of fish. 
So recently in a conversation with Dave I asked him for his top five tips to good wet fly fishing to share with you here and hopefully get anglers to start thinking of this approach for the coming season. 
No.1 Scan the surface for any fish activity or movement.
Being able to identify when is a good time to fish and put some of your session time into the wets or spiders is a key. Some times there giveaways when the breeze is blowing up stream and there is a hatch on. You will be able to see fish breaking the surface and a good team of wets here would be devastating. Looking at the way fish are moving and breaking the water surface will give you a clue if they are taking off the top or under the surface where the wet would be fishing. 
No.2 Keep on the move, cover as much water as possible. Two or three casts then a few steps. 
Wet fly fishing will allow you to cove a lot more water than any other method. This can help if you have long beats and you need to find where the fish are. 
No.3 Change your casting angles 
This is one I often hear Dave mentioning "its all about the angles". So by changing  your casting angle you will change the presentation of the fly to the fish and in turn could be the factor to entice the fish to take. Some times you can change the angle by you changing your casting position or by the movement of the rod during the swing of the cast. Changing the angles can allow your flies to swim deeper or higher in the water, faster or slower on the swing; by practicing this aspect you will gain valuable knowledge to what works best in different types of water on different days. 
No.4 Large flies can catch small fish. Vary your fly patterns. 
Larger winged fly's can represent fry and large winged olives that are plenty to be found on most rivers. Trout can be opportunistic creatures and a larger fly sometimes can be too good to be resisted by a hungry trout.  By changing the patterns and understanding the reason for changing can be the difference to catching or not catching. Changing to a wet fly that looks nice in your fly box dose not necessarily mean the fish will like it, make sure they are tried and tested and you know when to fish them.  
No.5 Fish the Glides, margins and light riffles in the spring, then fish the heavier water as the temperature rises through out the season. 
A lot of the time anglers forget or tend to ignore the lighter water or margins as there nymph get stuck all the time so why bother, even though this water holds fish. Fishing light wets or spiders can be very effective on this type of water and produce great sport that others are missing. As the fish fall back in the warmer months then the heavier water will be come more productive. 

Dave recommends a 10 foot rod, 3 to 4 weight with an intermediate fly line. He normally uses 3-4lb mono and 3 fly's that are usually 4 feet apart. 
It is amazing that there is anglers out there that not only don't consider wets as an option but because they are so reliant on nymphs they cant even cast the flies if they had to. This is also a problem for our youths, they are being taught that nymphing is the be all and end all and once the nymphs fail to catch then they are done and have no other options. I would recommend to any angler out there is if you want to raise your game then get to understand effective wet fly fishing, and get them fly's back in you boxes. 
Here is a couple good patterns that can produce some good fishing on the swing: 

 The Black and Sliver 
A great wet fly for me over the years, always worked a treat when a shower of rain was failing.

Hook: 303 Dohiku 12-18
Thread: Fine silk  
Body: Flat Sliver 
Rib: Sliver wire 
Hackle: Black Hen 

The Partridge and Orange 
Another classic, but this one has a twist in its tying that I find very productive indeed. 

Hook: 303 Dohiku 12-18
Thread: Fine silk  
Body: Orange holographic  
Rib: Gold wire 
Hackle: Natural Partridge 

Partridge and Gold 
One of the great point flies, ideal when you want the cast of flies to sink that little deeper. Tied large and makes a great streamer. 
Hook: 303 Dohiku 12-18
Head: 2mm tungsten bead 
Thread: Fine silk  
Tail: Natural Partridge 
Body: Flat Gold  
Rib: Gold wire 
Hackle:Natural Partridge

The Greenwells 
What a fly, simple as simple gets but irresistible to fish, this fly will take fish all year around. 

Hook: 303 Dohiku 12-18
Thread: Fine silk  
Body: Olive tying thread   
Rib: Gold wire 
Hackle: Greenwells hen or red game which ever you prefer.  

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog and trying out some of these fly's and enjoy catching fish with it even more. 
Here is a link to a very interesting guide on fly-fishing that's worth looking up its by www.tackle.org https://www.tackle.org/ultimate-guide-to-fly-fishing/ Check it out.

If you have any questions please feel free to give me a shout on my contact details and if you are interested in Dohiku hooks, top quality tungsten beads, or Syndicate competition Fly Rods drop me a line or check them out on my website. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Pulling the Minky: Chasing Winter Rainbows

Pulling lures or streamers can be an effective approach that an angler can take to catching winter rainbows. This blog post is some of my thoughts and tips to catching fish using this approach. The choice of flies here that you can choose from for this method is a very extensive list. It includes Minkies, Damsels, Leeches, Cat Whiskers, large wet fly’s, and a host of flies beaded or not with Marabou or Zonkers tails in every colour under the sun. 
However, for the purpose of this post we will focus on fry imitating Minkies. In the majority of ponds around the country small fry and minnow make up a fair proportion of the fishes diet. Correctly fished this method can be devastating, but there are some key points to note when choosing to pull fry patterns. One of the most important aspects to good a good fry pattern is it must have movement. Not just how you move the fly through the water with your retrieve but also it must wiggle or pulse because of long loose tails or fibers that make up the fly. 
For this reason the most popular materials used to dress these flies is rabbit zonker strips. The soft long hair fibers when wet will move and pulse through the water as you retrieve it, giving it the look of natural bait making its way along. This movement also acts as a trigger for the fish and may entice an attack when it is following the fly. The soft skin that holds the fibers together is also strong enough so that when the fish pluck at the end of the fly it will last for more than one attack. 
Once again, finding the fishes depth is crucial and the speed of retrieve will also be the difference between catching and perhaps not. So to begin start at a chosen point or depth and work from there till you find the right speed and movement. Mixing up your retrieve will not only get the speed right but it will also affect the movement of your fly.
Once you feel you have discovered the right depth and speed, fan out your casts to cover all the areas of the lake in from of you, starting by the bank to your left or right. This location is popular for roaming fish looking for this type of food and stripping along the margins can be very successful. Remember to remain low and out of sight sometimes the fish will follow the fly right in to you position and if you are standing up you will spoke them before they have the chance to attack. Another good feature to watch out for is shelves under the surface on the bed of the lake, where it drops off to deeper water. This location is again a good spot for roaming and feeding fish and a well presented minkey can have good results here also.

There is however a constant issue some anglers have with fishing minke's and that is, tail bites. This is when the fish follow the fly in and nip at the long fibers of the tail not resulting in a hook up when the angler strikes. To remedy this problem, we see the introduction of what is now known as the snake design, this is a long minkey pattern with initially two hooks in the tying. The two hooks are connected with either fine braid or strong monofilament, the tyer’s choice. The long zonker strip is then attached to both hooks and the hook nearest the head of the fly has its bend and point cut off. So now when stripping in the long minkey and the fish tail bites the second hook is right at the rear of the fly and this will result in more hook ups for the angler. Unfortunately in a lot of competitions this fly is not allowed, so when fishing long minkey's you must remember to keep retrieving when you are getting tail plucks and only lift into the fish when you feel the weight of the fish solidly on the line. Sometimes I can get 3 to 4 plucks on one cast before hooking the fish, but I never strike I keep retrieving at either the same pace or faster waiting till the fish chasing it has had enough and decides to attack.
When tying your fry patterns it is a good tip also to use bright cheeks or glob brite heads as this shifts the attack point of the fish to higher up the body of the fly and will result in more hook ups. We also have variations of the standard style of minkey that is worth a try. 
Bunny leaches are of the same concept but have a bright plastic floating bead threaded up on the zonker strip in the tail to give a different movement to the tail of the fly as it swims through the water. Also you can add in double tail side by side to creates even greater disturbances in the water. Again you can add bead heads, twin eyes and booby eyes to the head of the fly which in turn will give different effects to how the fly will fish.
Like any discipline in fly fishing you must find what you are confident in using and doing, once you have that your flies will always have a chance of a fish. But remember when you find yourself wading through boxes of colours, fritz’s, marabou, zonkers strips, nymphs, lures, booby’s and god know what in all of our fly boxes looking for the answer to catching a fish. Always choose what you have confidence in and you will never be too far off.  

I hope you enjoyed reading my blog and trying out some of these fly's and enjoy catching fish with it even more. If you have any questions please feel free to give me a shout on my contact details and if you are interested in Dohiku hooks, top quality tungsten beads, or Syndicate competition Fly Rods drop me a line or check them out on my website. Thanks for reading.