Category: fly fishing lessons

Trout on lures and buzzers

To prepare for a fly fishing lesson the next day, I fished Millennium Lake to see what mood the trout might be in. It was a grey day with a light NE breeze:

Grey day at Rib Valley

The first couple of hours were slow. Odd fish were showing at the surface – probably taking midge pupae. The only response I got to midge patterns fished shallow was one fish hooked which came adrift. I changed to a goldhead Cat’s Whisker which would fish deeper:

Cat's Whisker trout fly

(The original version of this lure featured actual cat’s whiskers to stop the fluffy marabou catching round the bend of the hook. I don’t use them myself, so my local moggies can come and say hello without being pinned down and trimmed.)

Still nothing, but when I saw a fish boil a few yards out I covered it, raised the rod to make the fly swim and got an immediate take. A rainbow trout:

Rainbow trout

After that I worked my way along the bank towards the downwind end of the lake. Two more fish came to the Cat’s Whisker, plus one on a midge pupa imitation (aka buzzer). I moved to the other side of the lake where fish were moving some way out:

Rising trout

I changed the Cat’s Whisker for a buoyant pattern but kept the buzzer on the dropper. This setup would present the flies close to the surface. First cast and the line pulled tight as a fish took the buzzer. A few minutes later the same thing happened again.

Rainbow trout

It is difficult to say if I would have caught the last two fish if I had stuck with the Cat’s Whisker. The rise to buzzers seemed to intensify in the late afternoon, perhaps giving the relevant imitative patterns the edge. Who knows?

Next day I met Kevin at the lake. He had already done an initial casting lesson but had not been able to practice since due to work pressures (helping people get set up to work from home during the coronavirus).

It was sunnier than the previous day with an annoying swirling breeze. Kevin’s casting was inconsistent, but he was getting the fly out a few yards:

Fly casting
Fly fishing

After a blank 30 minutes or so we changed the Cat’s Whisker for a black goldhead (another non-imitative lure). Shortly after I was rigging up another rod when Kevin shouted that he had a fish on. He did a good job keeping the line tight but letting it run when it wanted to:

Playing a trout

It was a three pound rainbow trout, his first fish on fly:

Kevin's first trout

With odd fish rising (but not as many as yesterday) we changed to a shallow rig. This quickly produced another hard fighting trout, which we unhooked in the net and released.

We kept the first fish so I showed Kevin how to gut and clean it for the table. He went off planning to cook it tandoori style. I might try that with the next one I catch.

Trout at Thornwood Springs

Thornwood Springs is an interesting trout fishery not far from Epping tube station. It offers year round fly fishing for trout in peaceful surroundings:

Thornwood Springs trout lake

Jan came along for a fly fishing lesson, accompanied by Tim, a previous customer of mine. We started off with some dry land casting practice, followed by a discussion of fly fishing tackle and tactics.

While this was going on, Tim caught a couple of fish on a hare’s ear nymph (a traditional pattern that has been catching trout for hundreds of years). When Jan started fishing we tried a couple of different patterns to no avail. After 30 mins or so we shamelessly begged Tim for the magic fly, and it soon did the trick:

Jan playing a trout

Jan’s first ever trout was duly landed by Tim:

Landing a trout at Thornwood springs

I was back the next day for more lessons. Taking a walk round the lake beforehand I encountered some interesting insect life. This is the shuck left behind after a dragonfly nymph emerged from the water, climbed up a reed stem and hatched out into an adult fly:

Dragon fly nymph shuck

A cinnabar moth:

Cinnabar moth

My customer Leigh was getting ready for a forthcoming trip to Iceland. He had already had a casting lesson on grass and it was now time to try and catch a fish. It took a little while to get the casting going again; after that it was all about keeping the rod tip low and the line straight so as to be able to feel if a fish took. Eventually one did:

Leigh with his first trout

We had a look at the other lake after that, but we had no further action. The casting was flagging a little now, but that is quite usual when you are learning. With some short practice sessions I would expect Leigh to make rapid progress.

Fly fishing at Thornwood Springs

Taking up trout fishing

Over the last few weeks, the Rib Valley trout have been feeding on various different flies close to or on the surface. This photo shows the stomach contents of one fish – midge pupa, mayfly, honey bee, a small black fly I can’t identify and a couple of buzzer shucks:

Trout stomach contents

At times it has been difficult to know what fly to use. I have had a few trout on this floating pattern which resembles a number of different natural insects:

Dry sedge

The suspender buzzer, representing a midge pupa hanging at the surface, has also been effective:

Suspender buzzer

Even when the trout seem to be preoccupied with natural prey, they will still sometimes take non-imitative lures like the black and green:

Black and green lure

Dan and James had signed up for my fly fishing course because they wanted to try something a bit different after years of coarse fishing. When it came to their fishing session, conditions were ideal with an overcast sky and a decent breeze:

Fly casting

Using the black and green lure, it didn’t take long for James to connect with his first ever trout, which he duly landed:

James's first trout

After 20 minutes, nothing had shown any interest in Dan’s damsel nymph, so with fish moving in front of us it was clearly time for a change. I rigged him up with a suspender buzzer on the point and a normal sinking buzzer on a dropper. This is the ‘washing line’ rig which keeps the dropper fly fishing close to the surface. It was soon proven to be the right choice, with this nicely marked rainbow taking the sunk buzzer:

Dan's first trout

Dan could probably have had a couple more fish; he missed one due to slack line, and I saw another take his point fly, but he didn’t realise.

The next day Louis came for the second part of his fly fishing course, having done the initial casting lesson a few weeks back. The morning was a brief escape from work for him, as he was due back in the office later on.

Conditions were a bit different now – bright and warm with virtually no breeze – so I thought we might struggle.

We rigged up the washing line and started fishing in stealth mode, staying back from the water’s edge in case the fish were close in:

Close range fly fishing

Trout were indeed rising occasionally just a short distance out, sometimes very close to the flies:

Close range fly fishing

After about ten minutes there was a heavy boil where I thought Louis’s point fly was. He did not react at first so I shouted out “it’s you”, prompting him to strike. It is very easy to miss these surface feeding fish, but luckily he connected:

Louis's first trout

Louis had no more action after that, but he was happy to have caught his first trout and would no doubt be daydreaming about it later on, back at his desk!

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