01 - Best Early Season River Flies & Fishing Tips
Best Early Season River Flies & Fishing Tips
Whether you’re basking in the sun or hoping the rain will stop while reading this, the river fly fishing season is now up and running. The exact dates vary across the UK it’s true, but for most of us it runs from March 15th to Sept 30th. This means there are six whole months of fishing ahead!
Before we get too excited though, it’s fair to say that the early fly fishing season is often quite challenging. Why? Well, rain and high winds are still a feature. Water levels tend to remain fairly high too, making nymphs our first line of attack. That’s not to say you won’t find any flies hatching though, because you will find odd appearances of species like Grannom Sedge and Large Dark Olives.
So what are the best fly patterns for March and April? And how can you improve the odds of netting a few fish on your first trips to the river? Here are some great river flies from just 50p to stock up your spring fly box, along with handy tips from the Flies Online team.
Top 5 river flies to try in early spring (L to R):
Orange Hot Head PTN (£0.65) The PTN is a classic small nymph for any time of the river season. Early on though, with the possibility of coloured water, a slightly bigger, bolder target is often useful where tiny, subtle patterns get lost.
Double Bead Prince Nymph (£0.95) If the water is still cold and the fish are really hugging the bottom early on, you might have to go deeper in your favourite pools and runs. This variation of the classic Prince Nymph is double beaded for extra sink rate.
Evil Weevil, Yellow (£0.75) This nymph is a great all-rounder. The blend of natural and eye-catching colour is a winner, especially if it is a tricky, cold start to the season
Wet Grannom (£0.50) Classic winged wet flies have fallen out of favour a little in recent years, but here’s a nice pattern to try in March and April. The Grannom Sedge is an early hatcher on many rivers and this fly is a decent match, presented sub-surface or indeed with a dab of floatant to fish in the surface film.
Swollen, breezy rivers are no place for tiny, delicate dries. This large caddis is virtually unsinkable thanks to its foam body and deer hair wing. This makes it ideal for suspending even fairly heavy nymphs New Zealand style, although you might also get the odd unexpected slash from a trout that fancies a big meal.
Useful tips for the early river season
So, you’re tooled up with flies and tackle. You’ve also renewed your fishing license for the year (please don’t forget!). But how can you narrow the odds in your favour for an early catch? Here are some helpful hints to succeed in early spring:
- Conditions can be critical, so do keep an eye on weather forecasts. A high, chocolate coloured stream is hopeless. If there’s even a little visibility though (you can see the fly a few inches below the surface) you should be in with a chance. In fact, the day or two as a high river drops and clears can be a great time to fish.
The choice of actual river can also be important. Larger rivers can be quite forbidding places, unless you know them well. Smaller streams represent easier fishing generally, because the “hot spots” are more obvious. Clarity can also vary greatly; rivers on higher ground are often clearer, while the further upstream you travel, the better visibility improves too!
Take care of your gear and do allow time for a kit sorting session before that first trip. If your fly line is worn, treat yourself to a new one; it’s worth the money for better presentation and pleasure casting. Do also check your fly boxes. Discard any rusty patterns and perhaps run a hook sharpener over any flies that have been used a few times. We’d also strongly recommend de-barbing any new flies you buy for river use.
Opening tactics for most streams will be nymphs and we’d have no hesitation in trying a gold head nymph of some kind first. If the water is shallow (say three feet or less), the New Zealand method is great (a nymph fished directly beneath a larger dry fly as an indicator). If it’s deeper, or you want to really trundle the bottom, try a heavier beaded fly under an indicator such as the highly visible Thingamabobber.
While you wouldn’t bet on it, don’t be too surprised at the odd hatch. caddis and dark olives such as the March Brown and LDO are possible. Hatches are likely to be short though, so have a few patterns ready in the box, but don’t thrash the water if it’s not working.
Search as much water as possible. It can be a case of finding the fish in the early season, as they won’t be as spread out now. You’ll quite often find a cluster of them in a pool, bend or deep run. So, if you’re not catching, don’t hang around. You may catch all your fish from only a couple of spots.
Equally, there are many free urban bits of fishing that are a bit less pretty but have plenty of trout to target (Theo Pike’s excellent book Trout in Dirty Places is well worth a look for plenty of ideas all over the UK).Cheap river fly fishing in England and Wales Last but not least, don’t be fooled into thinking river trout fishing has to be expensive. Schemes like the Westcountry Angling Passport (Devon & Cornwall), Wye and Usk Passport (Wales and West Midlands Marches) and others offer wild fly fishing from under a tenner a day!Above all else, go out and enjoy exploring your nearest trout rivers! Even if you find it tough to start with, you’re sure to find useful clues and good spots for later in the season, so get out there and go for it!