STEPHEN SMALLEY'S TIPS FOR EARLY SEASON STILLWATER SUCCESS.
The Promise Of Great Fishing!
As Spring begins and the days start to lengthen, the water temperature slowly starts to rise, and we see an increase in the feeding activity from our Stillwater trout. Most of us look forward to the prospect of an early-season outing from the bank or boat, and it’s no wonder, this time of year brings with it the promise of some great fishing given the right conditions.
With warmer days on the cards, the first hatches of buzzers will take place and trout will be eager to make the most of this important food source. Throughout Spring, the buzzer fishing can be excellent, bringing the best sport of the year to some of our waters. Given the time of year, there will still be cooler days making lures the ‘go-to’ choice of fly. Weighted lures, Blobs, or Boobies too will take their share of both the freshly stocked and overwintered trout. Most anglers will tend to fish these flies in conjunction with sinking lines and using various retrieves until the correct fish-holding depth is found. From bank or boat, I use a ten-foot, seven-weight outfit. This gives me everything I need in order to fish both nymphs or buzzers on light tippet as well lures in conjunction with fast sinking lines, it covers all the bases.
Set Up For Buzzers
I like to use a floating or midge-tip line when fishing buzzers because these lines give me the ultimate in control. I also have the visual aid of the floating section, which is great for take detection. I’ll use a three-fly set up for bank fishing and a four-fly set up when in a boat. Using fluorocarbon of around 8lb with the three fly set up my overall leader length will be18ft. Using a three-turn water knot I place the droppers at 6ft, 12 ft, and on the point. With the four fly set up, it’s longer at 22ft.
I put the first dropper at 10ft a further 4ft to the second dropper, 4ft again to the third dropper 4ft to the point fly. This allows you to fish your team of buzzers deeper down, often where the fish are, and is a tactic I use mainly on the larger reservoirs. I’d employ a slow figure-of-eight retrieve, with the occasional short pull just to lift the flies and drop them again in the water column. This can bring savage takes at times!
You can also vary the depth that the flies fish at by using a FAB or small-eyed Booby on the point to slow the flies down. Don’t forget ‘the hang’, on both small and large still waters, on its day it can be the only way to catch.
Try fishing the flies completely static too, either just keeping up with them as your line moves round in the ripple or fish them under the bung; either way can be just as deadly.
Sinking Lines & Lures
My other favoured method is to use sinking lines and lures particularly Blobs and Boobies with anything from a slow sink, three-inches per second to super-fast sinking lines, sinking at seven inches per second. I count these down through the water column until I find the holding depth of the trout, mix up the retrieve too until you get hookups.
Long, slow pulls with a pause here and there or the roly-poly retrieve can both bring results. You need to mix up the retrieve until you find what the trout want. At the end of the retrieve hang, hang, and hang again! There’s nothing more frustrating than when you go and pull your flies away from the water to recast only for a trout to appear barreling after it, and leaving a boil or a swirl, and a missed opportunity!
Hang markers on sinking fly lines are a must too, some lines come with markers but it’s not too difficult to add them to your line using thread or a coloured UV bond. I like to have my hang markers at 15 and 25 ft.
Set Up For Lures
My leader set up is a simple affair with sinking lines. 18ft of 10lb fluorocarbon with one dropper at 6ft giving you a two-fly set-up. Alternatively, you can opt to fill the gap using a Cormorant or similar small fly, sol that you’re fishing a three-fly cast, giving you another option. Whether boat or bank fishing, it pays to keep on the move until you locate the areas where the trout are. Newly stocked fish will be on the move; one of the advantages of the drifting boat is the ability to cover a lot of water quickly! However, early on in the season, the trout tend to hold closer to the bank, so it’s well worth covering the margins too. In the boat, remember to keep your distance from any bank anglers.
Steve Smalley’s Essential Patterns For Spring
Below are some of my favourite early season patterns that have become reliable fish takers for me on the particular waters that I fish.
Hook: Hayabusa size 8 to 10
Body: Chartreuse Pseudo Hackle
Wing: White Zonker with 2 strand of red holo
Eyes: Orange or pink chain bead
Hook: Hayabusa 761, size 10, 12
Rib: Stripped quill
Thorax: Hare’s Ear
Cheeks: Jungle cock
I usually, tie this pattern in two stages. Firstly, tie the body, applying two coats of Gulff Thinman UV resin. Then finish the thorax area with hare’s ear dubbing and JC.
Black Hot Spot Buzzer
Hook: Kamasan B110, size 10 to 14
Rib: White Spanflex
Cheeks: Orange fabric paint
A couple of coats of Gulff Thinman UV resin keeps this pattern both durable and allows the segmented effect to come out on the body.
Hook: Hayabusa 761, size 10
Tail: Silver Pear Sparkle Mix
Body: FNF Jelly Zest rear and Magma front