Tag: fly casting

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

Matching the hatch

Tim did my fly fishing course, which consists of casting tuition on grass followed by rainbow trout fishing at a later date (together with a casting refresher). This approach allows time for the student to absorb the casting lesson, and get a bit of practice in, before trying to catch a trout.

The first session went well, and we finished off by practising how to land a trout once it is hooked. A key point here, as with casting, is to maintain line tension. After the lesson, I sent Tim some video clips of his casting, together with suggestions for practice.

A few days later we were back at Rib Valley. Tim had indeed been practising his casting, and I am sure this is why his progress this time was rapid. After 45 mins he was putting out a decent length of line, so we moved down to the lake:

Afternoon fly fishing

Earlier on, fish had been rising to buzzers, but now in the late afternoon with the sun high, not much was moving. We got to work anyway with a black lure, while working on new skills such as getting line and fly cleanly onto the water to start with, and roll casting.

As a cloud passed in front of the sun, fish started rising in front of us, then stopped as soon as the sun came out again. This prompted a change of fly to black buzzer. Not long after that, Tim was into a fish:

Playing a trout

This trout put up a serious scrap, surging away with considerable elan several times:

Trout takes line

I remember at one point seeing the line cutting into the water in one direction while the trout went airborne yards away on a completely different heading. We were both glad to see this one on the bank:

Tim with a trout

After despatching it, we checked the stomach contents. It contained several still-alive buzzer pupae. We seemed to have matched the hatch quite closely:

Buzzers - real and artificial
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