This spring I’ve been putting a lot of time and focus into my fly fishing focusing on catching brown trout on my local Welsh rivers and streams.
I started my efforts a week after the opening of the Welsh trout season (3rd march) to be greeted by a fairly high river that was toe-numbingly cold from decent snowmelt…yes in March!
As one would expect fishing for the first few weeks of the season was tough! The trout were reluctant to rise to the surprising abundance of large dark olives, an early hatching fly that normally brings the first signs of life to British rivers.
The midday dry fly sport that can be short but frantic in the spring was replaced with deep and slow nymphing be that on long leaders, under a bushy fly or dare I say it, a less than subtle fluorescent foam indicator. This would allow me to fish a single or team of nymphs deep and slow to tempt unobliging trout that seemed to sulk on the river bed with their metabolisms slow conserving energy.
I managed a few fish throughout the month but none were easy or came without hours of effort and searching. Regardless though I was improving my fly casting and presentation with every session.
April arrived and with it, things balanced out and came back to ‘normal’ for how one would expect rivers to fish in spring. The fish began to systematically like clockwork rise during the warmer midday periods, capitalising on the predictable hatches of Olives and March Browns. The trout still didn’t prove easy and with my questionable but improving fly fishing skills, it was often a case of being sat on the bank, pondering why these fish that I could watch rise with confidence would then never once take to my imitation.
Presentation was the defining factor and I quickly learnt this with frustration. I experienced how one can over line fish – cast a fly line over their head and that fish won’t rise again. The way in which if you don’t take into account that there is a subtle difference in flow speed between you and the fish that could be moving your fly line…and thus your fly faster than natural, you will find the fish rise to everything bar your fly! This highlighted the need for mending, accurate casting, line control and of course not cutting corners in regards to the state of your leader and line.
Slowly by putting together these pieces of the constant puzzle that is fly fishing for brown trout I saw results. Yes, the rise in temperatures over the month did help but only by getting out and putting in hard hours did fish come and my skills improve.
I boosted my confidence during some hard times with a few sessions at the ever superb Garnffrwdd fishery were myself and regular fishing partner Sam experienced some superb dry fly sport targeting rising fish in the shallows of what is one of, if not the most stunning small Stillwaters the UK has to offer.
Small CDC Emergers and CDC Duns were the order of the day fished in sizes 14-18 depending on the fussiness of the fish, it was a case of fishing a long leader and watching the cruising patterns of the fish to allow you to place your fly ahead of where they would be patrolling next! The water here is extremely clear and fish that are often that little bit smarter than your standard stocked lake so delicate presentation and fine tippets are a must.
From here having built confidence in my dry fly presentation from the targeting of Garnffrwd’s fine rainbow, blue and brown trout, it was time to see my local stream come to life…this is where my trout fishing began, creeping along the bank with a short ultra light rod flicking a free-lined worm out into likely looking spots! I had now returned a more competent fly angler and replacing my tiny spinning rod was a 7’6 #3 with a long taper line and small bushy dry that suggested anything and everything. The fish here are opportunistic and it more a case of presenting the fly properly with stealth not to spook the fish rather than an exact imitation of the food source, as often this is in short supply!
Now I’d love to say I went out and landed a bunch of fish but in reality, I went out and rose a bunch of fish but missed 50% of them on the strike! Nevertheless just knowing you have fooled these fish into their noses breaking the surface to slurp up an imitation of their food source is satisfying enough in itself, but landing a few beautiful perfection in miniature wild trout, was the icing on the cake!
With spring transitioning to summer over the next few weeks I look forward to creeping around some small streams and rivers, fly rod in hand. As I watch the sky turn a clementine sun-kissed orange as the spinners fall and trout rise throughout the warm evenings.