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Friday, 18 January 2019

Trout Fishing in Winter With the Bung Method

Fish are not as visibly active in winter and don’t need as much food, so this requires a different approach. Once you have fished imitatively or have tried lures, the static - in their face - approach is a winner, and that means it's time for ‘the Bung’.
Thingamabobber Strike Indicator
Often derided as nothing other than ‘float fishing’, there’s seemingly no problem if you use a big deer hair dry as the indicator, but somehow the foam/plastic or yarn indicator isn’t met with the same approval in some camps. It does the same thing though, so how do you fish it?

Fish Pimps Strike Indicator
There’s no doubt that trout in winter prefer cruising at a comfortable depth. Soon after light, they’re mostly below six feet, and around midday might well come up near the surface only to go down again as the late afternoon temperatures drop away. The beauty of the bung technique is that you can adjust your fishing depth, and by using two flies, you can gauge which is the most effective and move the dropper closer to the point. That way, both flies are in the zone.

Bung Method

Bung Set-Up
When you set out to fish the bung, try experimenting with the depth and position of your bung accordingly. For example, if you were using a 12ft, single length of fluorocarbon, you could place the bung 3 feet from your fly line-to-leader connection, therefore fishing your point fly at 9ft. Initially, you would have the flies around 4ft apart, so your dropper will be fishing at 5ft.  This tactic gives you more coverage than if you were fishing a single fly.

Example Bung Set-up
Any combination of nymphs will work, but in winter, the blob in conjunction with a simple buzzer/nymph on the dropper and trout will look at the blob – and may well take it. The blob acts as an attractor which can lure trout in, and when they spot the smaller nymph pattern, they may decide to take it instead. A similar combo is a multi-legged Bloodworm on the point or even an Egg Fly, but be wary of this latter pattern in catch and release waters as trout can swallow it right down.
FAF Blob Selection
Retreiving and Striking with the Bung
Don’t worry about casting any distance or about just leaving it to ‘fish’ without constantly retrieving. Remember, the indicator is an 'in their face' style, which is essentially a no-retrieve technique, although letting the rig drift with the breeze can work.
Hardy Fluorocarbon Tippet
If you are fishing the downwind shore, you may well come across a back current where your indicator will seem to be going against the wind. This is because there’s a sub-surface current opposite to the wind direction and it can be enough of a tow on the sunk flies to actually make the indicator move against the wind, and there’s nothing wrong with this.

Greys Platinum Extreme Fly Lines
If you have a surface drift which puts a loop in the fly line then it will pay to learn how to mend the line to negate the effect of the loop pulling the indicator along too fast. Also, if you are not in contact with the bung, when it comes to striking, you have minimised the chance of a hook-up because you are lifting slack line and wasting valuable seconds.

Any downward dip of the indicator or indeed any obvious check in its drift should be met with an immediate strike. However, don't just wait for the indicator to fully submerge before striking! Sometimes the subtlest movement in the indicator can be a fish inspecting or having a 'nose' at the flies, so in this case, 'firmly', not aggressively, lift the rod because you could potentially get a hookup!

Winter Bung: Top Tips
  • On the coldest days, start mid-morning and skip lunch to finish mid-afternoon so that you are concentrating your efforts during the peak hours.
  • Dress in layers. It’s best to be comfortable because then you fish well. Wear a pair of throwaway surgical gloves to keep your hands dry and also retain ’feel.’
  • Make up a few spare leaders on circular foam rig holders. That way it’s easy to then get back into action after a foul-up and it avoids having to tie knots when your hands are cold and stiff.
  • Banks are super slippery in winter from mud and frost so move carefully and have decent cleats on your boots. A few wader studs screwed into the heel can avoid an embarrassing or painful fall.
  • Keep in touch with the bung/line/flies at all times. Any slack when you strike will decrease your chances of a hookup.
  • Occasionally, give the fly line a gentle pull to simulate an emerging buzzer or nymph trying to reach the surface. This slight movement could trigger a response if fish are in the proximity of the flies.
  • Again, don't wait for the bung to fully submerge before striking! The slightest nudge could be a fish, so strike. You will be surprised!!
This article was brought to you in association with Trout Fisherman Magazine.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Tying the Hardy's Favourite with Davie McPhail

The Hardy's Favourite is a traditional, classic style of Wet Fly. This fly was originally created back in the 1870s by John James Hardy of the Hardy Brothers tackle company. It has been widely and variously used with success over the years for river trout and as a loch fly, normally fished on the point.

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 Classic Hardy's Favourite, with the guidance of Davie McPhail.

Materials Used:
Hook: Fulling Mill All-Purpose Medium size 12 Thread: Uni-8/0 Black Tail: Golden Pheasant Tippet Rib: Red Floss Body: Peacock Herl Hackle: Brown Partridge Wing: Speckled 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!

Dig Out The Devon Minnows

When conditions dictate, fishing for salmon with a lure can be very productive. Popular types include spoons, Abu Garcia Tobies, Flying C, Kynoch Killers, Rapalas, even heavier Droppen and Mepps can be effective. However, one of the most effective and productive lures which has stood the test of time is the Devon Minnow.

The 'Devon,' as it's affectionately known, has an impressive track record and can be extremely effective throughout the season, yet a lot of anglers favour the modern spoons and Vision Onetens as their weapon of choice when spinning from the bank or boat. Devons have taken many salmon over years and were once the 'go-to' lure for many anglers fishing the Tay, Dee, Spey, Don and Ness to name but a few.
Megabass Vision Oneten
There are two types of Devon Minnow: a standard version which is made from metal or wood (copper lined), and a floating version. Both have a similar action as they spin quickly as they move through the water. Both types are also rigged up identically, with each having a hollow body in which your line is passed through and tied to a wire mount which has a swivel and treble hook attached. The floating devon minnow, however, requires additional weight.
Reuben Heaton Sinking Devon Minnow
As the Devon spins so quickly when you retrieve it, one of the biggest issues is getting kinks in your mainline, so it is very important to use a ball bearing swivel. Many anglers have different preferences, but one of the most effective methods is to attach a ball bearing swivel to the end of your braid or mainline, then attach 2ft of eighteen-pound mono to it. Next, feed this length of mono through the devon and attach the other end to the swivel on the devon trace. Finally, slide the devon over the trace and slide the tulip bead (which sits just above the treble) into the bottom section of the devon.
Savage Gear Ball Bearing Swivel
Regarding the technique for fishing the devon, the approach is very similar to fly fishing where you allow it to swing around in the current. The key thing is getting the depth right; too heavy and it will not swing around, possibly even get snagged; too light and it will fish too close to the surface. Water height, speed and temperature should dictate what choice of devon you use. For example at the start of the season when the water temperature is colder, the best approach is to fish it slowly and deeply. Simply cast out at a seventy-degree angle and slightly downstream, and let it swing around in the current. When the devon reaches perpendicular to the bank, take a few steps and repeat the process.

Alcock Wooden Devon Minnow - Floating
To fish the sinking devon at various depths requires casting at different angles. For example, if you need to fish deeper, use a bigger devon and cast out at a ninety-degree angle or slightly upstream, which will give it a chance to sink before it swings around. Additionally, you can impart a bit of movement in the lure by lifting the spinning rod tip up and down as the devon swings around, and you can also try to retrieve it intermittently to induce a take. When fishing shallower water, use a smaller devon. Also, try experimenting with different colour combinations of sinking devon.
Alcock Devon Minnows - Metal
In contrast, the floating devon minnow can also be very effective when the conditions are favourable. Unlike the sinking devon, it requires additional weight to fish at the right depth, normally a bouncing betty. There are various options for attaching the bouncing betty to your mainline, however, one of the most popular methods is to attach a 12-15 inch section of mono to the first barrel swivel (attached to your mainline). Then choose the appropriate weight which will allow the devon to fish close to the riverbed as it swings around. Another option is to slide the bouncing betty up your mainline before you attach your first barrel swivel, that way the bouncing betting is free to move up and down.
Stillwater Bouning Betty
The technique for fishing the floating devon is similar to the sinking. Usually, you cast out around seventy degrees and let the lure swing around in the current. Ideally, you want the bouncing betting to 'bump' along the riverbed, therefore it's important when using this technique to take into consideration the conditions of the pool you are fishing. If snaggy, it can be problematic; if the current is too slow, then the lure won't swing around properly.

So with the salmon fishing season upon us, it's worth considering and resurrecting the humble devon minnow. Granted, there are a plethora of amazing lures out there, for example, the Vision Oneten, Rapala, and Tobie etc, but sometimes the traditional methods that have stood the test of time can be the most effective, and of course, satisfying.

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!
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