Tag: fly casting

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

Learning fly casting

The satisfaction we get from fly fishing is hard to put neatly into words. It comes from studying the feeding behaviour of the trout, choosing an appropriate artificial fly and then feeling the line tighten when a fish takes it. It also comes from fly casting itself, which is sometimes effortless, sometimes challenging.

First you have to learn to cast, of course, which takes a bit longer than it does with coarse fishing equipment. Most people will be good enough to go fishing after one or two lessons and a bit of practice. They often find the learning process to be much more rewarding than they expected.

My fly casting lessons have been continuing this April at Rib Valley in Hertfordshire and Broomfield Park, London, N13. We start off on grass before progressing to the water. This makes it easier to build up the cast through a series of simple exercises. I take pictures and video clips to share with my students after the lesson, to help them see what is going on.

To introduce some pictures from recent sessions, this is what we want to see at the start of a cast, the rod starting to bend under smooth acceleration:

Start of fly cast

We then need to stop the rod, creating a loop of line that unrolls in the air:

Open loop fly cast

The narrower the loop, the better:

Narrow loop fly cast

A pause allows the line to rolls out smoothly behind (ready to be sent forward again, over the water):

Fly cast pause

The main value of video clips is that they help us identify and correct faults. Here, we have a good narrow loop, but waves and slack in the line indicate that the cast is underpowered:

Wavy line back cast

Here is a similar thing on the forward cast:

Wavy line forward cast

All this analysis may seem a bit dry and technical, but at the end of the day, it helps you catch more fish:

Rainbow trout
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