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Thursday, 10 January 2019

Tying a Gold Ribbed Olive Hare's Ear Nymph with Davie McPhail

The Gold Ribbed Olive Hare's Ear Nymph is an extremely popular fly. The reason for this is because this fly represents the natural food source of many freshwater fish. Its 'buggy' profile and its ability to be used all-year-round makes the Gold Ribbed Olive Hare's Ear Nymph a great fly box filler.

All of the materials needed to tie this fly are available from Glasgow Angling Centre as listed below, but as always, if you need any help finding materials or substitutes then we'll be happy to help. Time to tie a Gold Ribbed Olive Hare's Ear Nymph, with the guidance of Davie McPhail.

Materials Used:
Hook: Fulling Mill All-Purpose Medium size 14 Thread: Uni-8/0 Olive or Black Underbody: Copper Wire or Lead Tail: Dyed Olive Pheasant Tail Fibres Body: Dyed Olive Hare's Ear Dubbing Thorax Cover and Legs: Dyed Olive Pheasant Tail Fibres Thorax: Dyed Olive Hare's Ear Dubbing

Additional materials: Additionally, Davie made use of Varnish, which he applied to the thread after completing the fly.

Davie's preferred type of whip finish tool can be found HERE!

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

East Coast Winter Cod

We are into the last phase of the cod fishing season. This happens after Christmas until the end of February, but it can roll on to early March. This phase occurs when the cod change their feeding patterns, switching from crabs to fish. It also coincides with some of the bigger fish coming inshore in search of food.

Tactics for fishing the east's rugged coastline are dependent on the conditions and the chosen mark. Often, the fish can be found under your feet, making distance casting less of an issue. You would be surprised just how close-in the fish will come.

Most sea anglers are fairly expert at using the variety of apps, online forecasts and webcams to monitor sea conditions. The colour of the water directly correlates to the weather and tides. Most successful sessions tend to come when the wind is, or has been, blowing from the east, which puts colour in the water. A chocolate coloured sea is the most popular and gives the angler the best chance of catching.

Tackle Choice
Powerful beach rods, and sea reels with enough capacity to carry a significant amount of sea fishing line with a decent amount of drag, will allow you to bully fish through underwater structure.

Greys GR100S Beach Rod
The breaking strain of the mono or braid chosen is perhaps the most essential part of your set-up. Most anglers avoid using a leader because it is a weak link that is unnecessary on the vast majority of the marks. If fishing mono, a minimum breaking strain of 40lb with a diameter of 0.50mm is strong enough because distance casting is unnecessary. It is becoming increasingly popular to fish a high-diameter braided line straight through. Fishing with braid certainly has its benefits, with improved bite detection and connectivity to the terminal tackle.
Penn 515 GS Mag3 Reel
Rig choice is important because the ground will try its best to swallow up any rig that is not robust enough to cope with the demands of fishing into kelp and rocky structures.

You need 80-100lb snoods and rig bodies, with matching swivels and the all-important rotten-bottom link to have the best chance of retrieving gear, very often minus the lead weight. On some of the rougher marks, the best chance of getting your tackle back is with a fish attached.

Most anglers opt for a larger hook size that features a wide gape, and keeping its point showing when using large baits can often be the difference between success and failure.

How rough the mark is will be a deciding factor between a single hook or Pennel rig. Experienced anglers opt for a two-hook Pennel with the top one purely to assist with bait presentation. A Sakuma 5443 Pennel Manta Extra Hook attached to a pulley or fixed paternoster should suffice.

To reduce tackle loss, many anglers adopt a ‘less is more’ philosophy when rig tying by using line loops rather than swivels, and even pins and foam to replace rotten bottoms.

Black Lug
Bait choice depends on the time of year. Before December it can be hard going if you do not have access to peeler crabs, crab cart or cart wings. From December through to February, most fish baits (mackerel, Bluey and squid) will interest the cod. Many anglers also opt for cocktails that include other baits such as mussels, razorfish and frozen black lug.

Top Marks to Try 
Marks along the East coast of Scotland between the Tay and Aberdeen fall into a number of categories – cliffs, rocky skeers, shallow reefs and, on occasion, clean sand – each will produce fish when the conditions are good. For example, the Arbroath cliffs can be a big draw for cod anglers when the fish are present and conditions are good. The area gives access to deeper water from the relative safety of a series of ledges and stances. While the cliff marks seem to be one of the most popular areas, they can be dangerous in big seas.

Arbroath Harbour Cages
Victoria Park, the area at the start of the cliffs in Arbroath, gives anglers some rough ground and gullies to target. While not the most demanding of areas to fish, it can be very slippery underfoot and not a place to fish without studded waders.

Arbroath Sea Cliffs

Victoria Park 
For the visiting angler with mobility issues or disability, the cages at Arbroath harbour can be very productive and require very little effort to wet a line. The cages (above) are a series of box railings positioned along the harbour wall giving access to a large reef. They are generally fished over the flooding tide when a good sea is running. Each year, a number of double-figure fish are taken from here, undoubtedly with a few being lost when hand-lining them up the harbour wall. Often in high demand, they become crowded when the conditions are good.

Fisheagle Flotation Suit
Safety should be your priority when fishing in the North Sea because it can build very quickly, and rogue waves appear from nowhere. The tidal surge can be very quick, meaning you should always err on the side of caution when retreating from a stance. It is always advisable to avoid fishing on your own, especially on some of the rock marks north of Arbroath.

Parmaris Hi-Fit Deep Wade Life Jacket
A spare headtorch, a charged mobile phone, knowledge of the UK tides, an accurate weather forecast and a life jacket or flotation suit are essential for anyone wishing to fish the area safely.

This article was brought to you in association with sea angler magazine.

Monday, 7 January 2019

Winter Fly Lure Combos

Buzzers and nymphs are always a good start when winter fly fishing, but invariably, you will start to use lures at some point when things are slow. If you go back 20 or 30 years, the advice was always to fish big, black and deep in the cold months. This advice is still valid for today's fly angler, but for greater success, it's worthwhile adapting things to a more varied system.

Fulling Mill SR Black & Blue Taddy
The only possible creature that a black lure might suggest is a water beetle, but for rainbow trout, lures are mostly taken out of curiosity or aggression. What makes them so effective can be their construction in terms of the materials creating movement and therefore suggesting life, or the way they are retrieved along with the depth of the presentation.

Fulling Mill Nomad Viva
Adding another fly to the leader is a way you can swap colours around to find the ‘hot’ shade for the day. Alternatively, you can put a simple, old-fashioned wet fly or nymph in the dropper position and it can then look to the fish as though the bigger one is chasing the little fly. As trout are territorial, it will take the smaller fly in preference to the bigger one.

Conversely, if you put the ‘lure’ in the dropper position and then add a small fly to the point, what happens now is that the fish will come to look at the lure and then notices the trailing ‘smaller snack’ and takes that as an afterthought.

Fulling Mill Taddy Hot Viva
One of the most effective patterns to use in winter is the ‘tadpole’ style of lure because the long marabou tail creates great movement and it’s easy to swap colours while keeping the same action. Working on the traditional theory, when you can’t quite work out what to use when things are slow, then the best pattern will be something small and black. In this scenario, a Black Spider or a Butcher, if there’s a bit of colour in the water, are suitable choices.
Fulling Spider Black Magic

Fulling Mill Butcher
Using some form of lure combo also opens up the choice of fly line density, and one of the all-time favourites for smaller fisheries is the ‘slime line’. This clear intermediate line is a great choice for clear, winter water, and its only downside is that it’s a bit 'coily' in the colder weather. If your favourite fishery has water over 10 feet deep then maybe a slow or even fast sinking line will do a better job of getting the flies down quick, and holding them there. Or, if there are ledges or deep holes in the water, then you might find that a sinking polyleader on a floating line might be the better option.

Airflo Camo Clear Intermediate
Retrieving a lure set-up at this cold time of year is usually best with a slow, steady retrieve and it’s hard to beat the figure eight technique. It’s worth learning this retrieve as it can beat a 'strip' style hands down. Trout like to follow a slow, smooth retrieve for yards and then decide to take whereas they often give up the chase when the flies are moving along with a series of jerks and twitches. Of course, you shouldn’t blindly stick to what has been suggested or indeed to what worked last time if there are no takes happening. Trout can get bored with the flies moving through their area doing the same thing all the time, however, mix up the retrieve and they suddenly become interested once more.

Buzzers and nymphs in winter can be hugely successful when you hit the right conditions. However, lures can save the day when things are slow. Therefore, if you want to increase your chances of success, keep on the move because it sure beats just standing in the same old place and doing the same retrieve, hour after hour!

This article was brought to you in association with Trout Fisherman magazine.

Friday, 4 January 2019

Multi-Fly Buzzer Set-Ups for Winter

In winter, many trout fly anglers will automatically reach for lure patterns because there may be evidence of very little insect life, but because there are no hatches, doesn't mean there are no insects in the water. Using two or more flies at a time on the same leader is probably the most common style of presentation for stillwaters, and is deservedly popular. If you look at the options for two-fly rigs, particularly buzzers, it becomes clear that there are some fascinating techniques at your disposal which can be very successful in winter.
Fulling Mill Buzzer Black Traffic Light
There are several reasons why the two fly set-up is preferable to fishing with one fly. For starters, you are giving the fish a choice, but it’s more interesting than that. Fishing two nymphs will enable you to try different colours and sizes of the same fly. Most stillwaters have a buzzer hatch at some stage in the day, but with around 300 species it’s hard to make the right choice. Having the faith to fish buzzers is a big hurdle for many, but this is the most important imitation you can use and worth persevering.

Greys Stealth Platinum Fly Line
To fish buzzers during winter, use a floating line with at least a 12ft leader and size 10 Red Buzzer/Bloodworm on the point while 4ft away will be the dropper – a size 12 Black Buzzer. There are lots of variables, and if it’s a catch and release fishery, it's recommended to drop the hook size and fish with as fine a leader as possible. Then there’s the correct depth to consider. It can be hard to work out the depth the fish might be, so hedge your bets by putting a heavier buzzer on point with a lighter pattern on the dropper such that the fly sinks faster and therefore fishes at greater depth. But, if your point fly has a bulky dressing, it will sink slower than one which is almost a bare hook. In this case, you can add weight by using some lead or a bead that will speed up the sink rate.

Two-Fly Set-Up
Choice of sink rate for the point fly will depend on the water depth. There’s no point dragging through mud or weed in the shallows so you may need to change flies if the water is shallow.

Fulling Mill 3D Glass Buzzer
Fortunately,when trying to establish the correct sink rate, there are some great ‘buzzer’ patterns which work in these circumstances. You can try the 'skinny' style buzzer pattern (maybe with weight) or, you can try a slim body buzzer but with a fluffy thorax to slow the sink. Then comes the Diawl Bach family and finally Crunchers, which with their tail and hackle is the slowest sinking ‘buzzers.'

Fulling Mill Cruncher Orange
That’s the buzzer family sorted, but you can also try other nymphs. For example, a weighted Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear teamed with an almost non-existent Anorexic Buzzer suits fisheries not too rich in weed life but with freshwater shrimps. Pheasant Tail nymphs also lend themselves perfectly to this two-fly nymph approach and using a large (8 or 10) standard pheasant tail on point with a little (size 12) Sawyers-style nymph on the dropper, especially the flashback variant, can be very effective.
Fulling Mill Green Cheeked Diawl Bach
Retrieve Rate
The two-nymph system is best fished as slow as you can; indeed the buzzer set-up can be fished at a literal crawling speed. Keep the rod tip low and try to concentrate on the tip of the fly line. Any hesitation should be met with a firm lift of the rod. Don’t expect strong takes at this time of year – fish often don’t move much in the colder water.  Keep in contact with the flies and maintain some tension on the fly line by eliminating any slack.  You want to be able to lift the fly rod as soon as the line goes tight.

Fulling Mill Masterclass Fluorocarbon
If you are not having much success with the floating line, 12ft leader, and a weighted point fly, don't go searching for the heavy lures just yet. Attach a sinking polyleader to your floating line and experiment with counting down the depths. Or, add a tungsten beaded nymph.  Alternatively, experiment with different fly lines such as an Di3 or Di4/5. Give the buzzers a chance because when they are the right size and colour, and fishing at the proper depth and speed, they can out-fish lure methods. Then, after you have exhausted all possibilities with the buzzers, it's maybe time to change your approach and look at fishing bigger, flashier, lure patterns.

This article was brought to you in association with Trout Fisherman magazine.

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

Tying the Grizzly Bibio Hopper with Davie McPhail

The Grizzly Bibio Hopper is a dropper style fly that can be used in a wide variety of situations.  Originally inspired by small craneflies blowing onto the lake and "hopping" from wave to wave, this style has become a modern classic effective as a general representation of many different terrestrial and aquatic insects.

All of the materials needed to tie this fly are available from Glasgow Angling Centre as listed below, but as always if you need any help finding materials or substitutes then we'll be happy to help. Time to tie a Grizzly Bibio Hopper, with the guidance of Davie McPhail.

Materials Used:
Hook: Fulling Mill Competition Heavyweight size 12 Thread: Uni-8/0 Black Ribs: Small Silver Wire and Small Uni-Mylar Pearl No.16 Body: Black, Red and Black Seals Fur or Sub in equal parts. Body Hackle: Black Cock Legs: Dyed Black Knotted Pheasant Tail Fibres Head Hackle: Grizzle Hen
Additional materials: Additionally, Davie made use of Varnish, which he applied to the thread after completing the fly.

Davie's preferred type of whip finish tool can be found HERE!

Monday, 17 December 2018

Offshore Cod Fishing Tactics

Offshore cod fishing tactics have really moved on. Long flowing traces with mackerel flapper or squid baits, jigging metal pirks up and down, or working two-hook killer gear have long since lost favour.
The 21st Century has seen lures and tactics become better developed to one of the most effective methods for targeting offshore cod, not only improving the numbers caught, but also increasing the chance of getting that coveted 20-pounder. Another factor is that inshore cod fishing, especially in autumn and winter, has lost its predictability, while offshore, on the deeper reefs and wrecks, the fish retain more traditional habitation and migration patterns, making them easier to target.

Cod begin to head off for spawning, depending on their region of residence, from late January, though sometimes as late as April. A percentage of the smaller adults move away first, leaving the larger female cod, often in the high teens of weight or more, to pack on bulk. Offshore wrecks hold big cod for the longest period, and any deep-water wreck is likely to have its resident cod.

It is these larger-than-average fish that cod anglers are most interested in, but the tactics employed will take average-sized cod just as well. The same tactics work for summer and early-autumn cod too, with a slight adaptation of technique when these tactics are applied to reef fishing for what are generally smaller sub-10lb fish.

Offshore Tackle
Even with big cod in mind, you need to fish as light as possible for maximum sensitivity, and to work the lure effectively. In most areas, a 12lb-class boat rod is all you need for wrecking. In very deep water and fast tides you might require a 12/20lb outfit - the upper English Channel coming to mind. Rarely do you need to go heavier, and doing so affects sensitivity and makes the lure work less effectively.

Greys GR75S Boat Rod
Match the rod to a modern, compact, size 15 multiplier reel, such as the Penn Fathom series or similar reels from other companies. Star-drag reels are fine, but a lever-drag has more finesse when adjusting drag settings mid fight.

Penn Fathom Lever Drag 
Regarding mainline, 30lb braid is ideal, but select the right type. A lot of braids naturally float, so when a lot of line is out and being worked at an angle with lighter lead weights, it can arc upwards in the middle, reducing bite sensitivity. You can partially combat this without using heavier weights to tighten the line by choosing a true sinking braid. This helps maintain a straighter line between the rod tip and the terminal tackle, thus improving bite detection and sensitivity. Small margins can really make a huge difference.

Some anglers tie braid direct to the terminal tackle, but it's better practice to use a short section of fluorocarbon to give you a visual space between the coloured braid and the terminal tackle. Some anglers say it makes no difference, however some top sea anglers will attest that their catches are far better when using a fluorocarbon leader. It is advisable to make your leaders about one and-a-half times longer than the length of the rod.  This puts some leader on the sea reel when playing a fish close to the boat.

Berkley Trilene XL Fluorocarbon
Over reefs and in shallower water, or wrecks with little tide run evident, then a bass spinning rod of about 8ft in length, a 4000-sized fixed-spool reel loaded with 20lb braid and a 20lb fluorocarbon leader is an ideal outfit for offshore lure fishing for cod. In very light tidal areas, you can often tie the leadhead direct to the leader.

Penn Spinfisher VI Reel
Rig Choice
The traditional flying-collar rig is still the most widely used for working artificials but is not useful for targeting cod. One of the best rigs to use is the Whitby rig. It's simple, cost-effective regarding tackle loss, and versatile across a wide spectrum of tactics. It is also quick and straightforward to make too. Take a large size 2/0 to 4/0 American snap link and tie it to your leader. To the same top eye of the swivel, tie on between 4-8ft of 20-25lb fluorocarbon. The lead weight is then attached to the link. Add your lure to the free end of the fluorocarbon, and you’re ready to fish.

Whitby Rig
Lure Choice
To catch a big fish, you need to work percentages by fishing for one bite at a time. Choosing to fish a bigger than average lure, say a rubber shad 10 inches or more, may eventually get big cod, but that could be on your fourth or fifth trip with fewer smaller cod caught. Shads in the 4-6in range, either the weighted  or unweighted with a leadhead added, are excellent. Some of the favourites include the weighted Shakespeare Devil’s Own shad and Berkley Ripple shad.  Fish those with an added leadhead.

Shad Selection
Clear-coloured shads can be deadly, as can a mix of red and clear, or black and clear. Black and red give a good silhouette when viewed by the fish against any surface light, but in deeper water, or if there is a hint of colour in the water, try brighter colours such as white, orange and yellow. Pink shads can also be deadly for cod.

Weighted sandeel patterns, such as Sidewinders and Berkley Power sandeels, remain effective, but sizes can be increased to 10in because they have a slimmer profile. Many top anglers favour the more modern, fat-headed worm shaped lures with a wobbling tail. These offer a better target area than the slimmer sandeels, and have that pulsing tail that gives off masses of vibration for the cod to 'feel' and chase.

A good one to judge others by is the Berkley Havoc Grass Pig pattern. Black, pink or pearl white are deadly. They work best with a 1oz leadhead attached. Make sure the hook is big enough to exit the body enough to give an excellent hook-up ratio.

Cod Behaviour
To make lures work effectively, especially, if you are targeting cod, you need to understand how the cod work around wrecks. Unlike pollack, cod tend to be in among the wreckage hunting and scavenging during the faster tide flows. As the tide eases, they move out on to ground slightly away from the wreck, especially vessels that have loose bits of wreckage strewn across a wide area.

Cod also stay relatively close to the seabed but will rise up off the bottom a short way to target shoals of baitfish, but that rarely exceeds 20ft, and usually, they are within the first 10ft of the seabed when feeding. They will follow lures up a little way as they attack, so a near-vertical retrieve that can be successful for pollack and coalfish is not going to work that well for cod.

In The Zone
To target cod, you need to keep the lure in the zone closest to the seabed for as long as possible. On the drift, the way to do this is to time your lure descent to hit the seabed just before the boat actually floats over the wreck. Pay a little line off, say 30 yards, more if the drift is fast, then click the reel back into gear and begin a steady slow retrieve. This brings the lure up over the wreck at a shallow angle and keeps it in the taking zone longer.

Yes, you are risking the loss of tackle, but if you want to hook cod, this is the only way to work the lure where the fish are located. As you come over the wreck, take note of anyone that snags up, then immediately drop your lure back down. This will likely put your lure on the ground just downtide of the wreck, and again right in among where the cod are likely to be feeding. A good skipper will be continually shouting out where you are in relation to the wreck, so keep listening.

Wreck Caught Cod
Hopping Method
On slower drifts, you need to shorten the fluorocarbon hooklength to 4ft or so, and when you feel the weight hit the seabed, lift the weight up roughly the height of the hooklength, so about 5-6ft. Now, just lift the rod tip up and down repeatedly a couple of feet to hop the lure just up off the seabed.

This up-and-down action is the killer tactic to find cod on wrecks and in among scattered debris. The cod invariably hit the lure hard as it starts to descend after a lift. Occasionally, release some line to keep in contact with the seabed and then readjust the height of the bottom.

Both tactics work on reefs too. Leaving the lure on the seabed, letting off plenty of line, then bringing the lure up at a shallow climbing angle is highly effective at finding reef cod. If the ground is very rough, then try the hop method, which is equally successful. If you vertically retrieve, you’ll only be fishing for a maximum 20 per cent of the time as you’ll be fishing well above the cod.

When you hit a fish, bully them up away from the seabed and the snags as quick as you can. These tactics take bonus big pollack, ling and coalfish too. When hopping the lure, it's sometimes worth using 40lb fluorocarbon to combat any debris or teeth abrasion, but even 25lb will land most ling unless it’s a lump as most are lip hooked on lures.

Whether it's the retrieve or hop method, both are proven tactics that specifically target cod. They are relatively simple to fish and highly effective. In each case, the key is to judge the drift speed of the boat in relation to the wreck or rough ground and keep the lure working in the near seabed hit zone for the maximum amount of time.

This article was brought to you in association with Sea Angler Magazine.

Saturday, 15 December 2018

Tying a Bob's Bits Claret CDC Hopper with Davie McPhail

The classic Hopper has been given the CDC treatment. Originally inspired by small craneflies blowing onto the lake and hopping from wave to wave, this style has become a modern classic effective as a general representation of many different terrestrial and aquatic insects.

All of the materials needed to tie this fly are available from Glasgow Angling Centre as listed below, but as always if you need any help finding materials or substitutes then we'll be happy to help. Time to tie a Bob's Bits Claret CDC Hopper, with the guidance of Davie McPhail.

Materials Used:
Hook: Fulling Mill, All-purpose Medium size 12 Thread: Uni-8/0 Black Rib: Pearl Tinsel Body: Dyed Claret CDC Legs: Pre-Knotted Pheasant Tail Fibres Wing: Roe Deer Thorax: Claret CDC Dubbing
Additional materials: Additionally, Davie made use of Varnish, which he applied to the thread after completing the fly.

Davie's preferred type of whip finish tool can be found HERE!
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