Quick, get out there before we have a drought!

The window between a cold, wet (for many of us anyway - much of Scotland seemed to miss the soaking) spring and a hot, dry summer can be very small these days so do make the most of the superb conditions we’re in the middle of right now. Explain to anyone concerned by the frequency of your fishing trips that the ‘sweet spot’ is short and it’s right now – and if things stay good for rather longer you can always apologise later!

Fishing Prospects

It really is prime time right now for almost everything we target with the fly rod. Let’s consider the main options:

Stillwater Trout – the water is now warming up - meaning that insects and other trout food both above and below the surface of the water is abundant – but it’s not yet so hot that the fish are losing interest. Good fly life + hungry trout = great fishing! – so make the most of it. With the warmer water a more imitative approach is likely to be the most effective option – maybe Diawl Bachs and Crunchers on a Washing Line set up, or a beadhead Damsel on a floating line. It’s still prime time for buzzers – a favourite approach for so many, with that snail’s pace retrieve regularly interrupted by the rod hooping into action as another feisty trout confidently engulfs our lifelike imitation. Lures are still working of course but maybe with the size scaled down a bit – have a look at these mini lures if you need to top up on these. When conditions are right – a gentle breeze with fish moving on the surface – the dry fly can be deadly, and what can be more exciting than to see your fly disappear into the swirl of a feeding fish!

The Washing Line Selection - a well balanced mix of attractors to draw them in and imitative patterns for them to eat!

River Trout – many rivers will be hitting prime Mayfly time right now. Some people feel that this annual carnival of (sometimes!) easy fishing for over excited fish is perhaps a bit vulgar - I’m not one of them – I love it! Seeing these big beautiful insects bringing every fish in the river up to get their share is very special – plus this is one of the few times that even the biggest, moodiest fish drop their guard to join in the bonanza. Quite apart from the Mayflies (and of course many rivers don’t have them) there is plenty more going on. As well as other upwings/ephemeroptera such as Blue Winged Olives and Pale Waterys, there are Hawthorns and Sedges, including the famous Grannom. Whatever is hatching, with a range of c. 3,500 patterns to choose from you can be sure that you’ll find plenty of imitation options here at Selectafly – and we do still have limited stock of our own Magical Mayflies selection and all the flies that make up Fulling Mill’s Must Have Mayflies selection (just without the box!)

Salmon – the season so far seems to have been patchy, with some good days and some quiet ones – and no consistent pattern. Fish should now be arriving in increasing numbers and – if you’re lucky you might bump into a big one – a fish estimated by ghillie George Sutherland at 37lbs was released on the Helmsdale 10 days ago!! Whilst the ‘usual suspect’ patterns including Cascades, Stoat’s Tails and Willie Gunns in all their guises will usually do the trick, don’t forget options such as a Sunray Shadow or this deadly little Frances if Plan A hasn’t delivered and you want to show them something different. And for a party of friends fishing the Helmsdale last week a couple of fish that showed interest in a standard sized fly were hooked after the tried and tested tactic of changing to a smaller fly. Do always be sure to carry a good range of sizes as well as patterns. And remember that we now stock the Partridge Nordic Tube Single hooks - perfect for all sizes of tubes.

A mouth-watering pool on a Highland river!

Saltwater – numerous reports of early mullet and bass are now coming in. Again, sport has been somewhat patchy, in this case largely down to weather conditions on the day. Ideally, keep a couple of days free, with a few days between them. If conditions on day 1 are good, go then – if not roll plans forward to day 2. If conditions are poor again on that day you may just have to put up with them! And remember that the fish don’t read the books and many successful fishing days come together in less than perfect conditions. Our stocks of mullet and bass flies are generally good (with just a couple of exceptions) so fill any gaps in your fly box today and be sure you’ve got the flies you’re going to need in good time for your next salty outing. If you want to be sure you’ve got a good selection to cover any conditions, as always, our Top Performer selections will do just that.

Fly Line Advice

From time to time we get a call from someone who wants advice on a new fly line. We don’t sell them so you can be sure that any recommendations are 100% independent – and come to think about it they’re also very much in line with our often expressed view that the closer you get to the business end of the set-up the more you should be prepared to pay to get the best you can. It’s getting harder to buy a bad rod – at any price – but there are still some lines around which will not do your fishing any favours, e.g. lines that promise (and may deliver) great distances but are so heavy at the front end that the presentation is horrible. Rio make really lovely lines and the Rio Gold is perhaps the best general purpose floating line on the market. BUT, they are now horribly expensive and more reasonably priced offerings from e.g. Cortland, Orvis, Snowbee etc. will do the job very well. There is also Maxcatch - a Chinese copy of the Rio Gold which is very cheap indeed and remarkably good too. One other thing to note is that fly lines don’t last forever and need to be replaced as they get tired (cracks appearing, losing that slippery feel etc). Incidentally, showing what a difference the right line can make, several of the people who have called for advice subsequently called to say what a difference the new line had made to their casting – e.g. ‘I used to be the worst caster on the lake, now I can cast as well as any of them’.

Salmon lines are a whole new – and mysterious! – kettle of fish with Scandis, Skagits, MOW tips, running lines and all the rest. Personally, I rarely use anything other than a full floating line – I love the ones from Gaelforce – with the shortest sinking tip I can get away with. After the early spring that will normally be about 18-30 inches of medium sinking line and to be honest all it does is stop the fly from skating rather than adding any significant depth. I make these tips myself by putting loops at each end of bits cut from an old line. If necessary I will move to a 5-6 foot tip which does begin to provide a little depth and if really pushed I might go to the 10 foot version. N.B. This paragraph reflects personal preference and the way I want to fish rather than hard, objective advice. And if I was struggling whilst someone else was fishing the same water and hauling them out on their Scandis and Skagits I would join them straight away! – it hasn’t happened yet but maybe it will soon.

Leader Material

Staying on the same theme but getting even closer to the fly and the fish, a few thoughts on leaders - and again these reflect personal experience/opinion on a part of our set-up where such opinions can be firmly held!

I’m a great fan of Seaguar Soft Plus fluorocarbon for 95% of my sub surface trout fishing and it’s also Colin Macleod’s choice for mullet. For dry flies and also 95% of my salmon fishing I use Stroft ABR. For me bass fishing also requires a premium fluorocarbon, either Seaguar Soft Plus or Ace Hard. HOWEVER, in every case I choose the ‘size’ of the material on the basis of its diameter, paying very little attention to the stated breaking strain (which might be true – I would be a little surprised if manufacturers just made it up – BUT it will probably be achieved in laboratory conditions not a harsh real word fishing situation).

For stillwater trout it’s normally the 0.218mm Soft Plus (stated breaking strain 10.4 lbs) – this is also what Colin uses for the mullet - and for this material the recommended knots are a 3 turn water knot for droppers and a 5 turn untucked blood knot for the flies. If I were to use Fulling Mill’s ‘World Class’ fluoro for the same job I would use the 0.214mm, with a stated breaking strain of 6lbs.

For Spring/high water salmon fishing it’s 0.35mm Stroft (same diameter as 15lb Maxima) and for clear summer water it’s 0.30mm (= 10 lb Maxima).

For bass it’s the 0.26 or 0.285mm (and never with a dropper which will often be taken by another fish = fish gone, new leader time!)

One final thought on the subject of leaders is that, when using a single dry fly or nymph I will normally use c.6-7 feet of a tapered leader, cutting back a bit at either end to leave the bit that I want, tie a leader ring to the end of that, then add 2-3 feet of tippet, which can be replaced as necessary. I also use these rings quite often for both salmon and saltwater fishing.

Practicing What You Preach

In last month’s newsletter I showed a photo of 3 salmon flies I suggested might be appropriate for the weeks ahead and said I would take them with me for my 3 days at Wester Elchies on the Spey. I did just that and the very same Electric Blue Cascade that was in the photo accounted for two lovely fish including this sea-liced 15 pounder!

Tight Lines and very best wishes from us both!

Jessica and Martin