12 - Top Tips - Fly Fishing in Tight Spots

Fly Fishing Tips for Tight Spots and Small Waters

Ever found a spot full of fish, but really tricky to get at? Whether it’s a bushy stream or the craggy corner of a stillwater, trout and other species so often love the spots anglers hate! Dominic Garnett has some great tips for fly fishing in difficult spots with limited space.

  1. Get stuck in and gamble!

Some of the best fishing spots of all are the least accessible, period. However, you won’t reap the best rewards by just avoiding risks, so take a gamble! Many of these areas are very much a case of nothing ventured, nothing gained. One cast in a fishy corner can be worth 20 in featureless open water! This is true for fish like pike, perch and chub as much as trout.

  1. Go with simple, tried and trusted flies

If you are on a venue full of trees and pushes, you don’t want to keep losing elaborate fly patterns that take hours to tie. Stick to simple, tried and trusted favourites that can be quickly made or cheaply bought. Fish are often less fussy when they’re hugging cover, in any case. 

The Coch-y-Bonddu is one of the very best flies for use around cover. Easy to tie (or just 50p per fly at FliesOnline!), it imitates a small beetle, which is a universal prey item anywhere you find fish lurking under trees and bushes.

  1. Adjust your gear

Tiny, tangled spots are no place for your usual reservoir rod. Depending on the cover, you might need to go right down to something as short and light as a 7ft 3 weight. Play it by ear though- every venue is different. If casting space is reasonable, but there is lots of awkward  marginal cover, the extra reach of a 10ft rod can be useful too.


  1. Take cover

It’s not just cunning fish that use cover to their advantage- the angler can too! Bushes, rushes and other features can help conceal your outline against the sky. Keep a low profile and you might be able to get really close to your quarry, making long, risky casts unnecessary.

  1. Shorter, tougher leaders

While you might use a fine, 12ft plus leader in open water, such tackle can be a liability in really tight corners. Where you know you will be brushing with trees and snags on a regular basis, stepping down to just a rod’s length of leader and going up a bit in breaking strain is sensible. In shady swims, fish are less line shy in any case.

  1. Roll and catapult casts

One of the great challenges of any tiny stream or tight spot is how to cast a fly with little space at your disposal. Two casts that come in handy time and again are the roll cast and the catapult cast (above). The latter can be used anywhere- and is performed by turning your rod upside down (so the reel is directly on top of the rod), pinching the bend of the fly and using the flex in the rod. Simple, but very useful.

  1. Or look sideways…

Of course, another possible way to get around limited room is to lower your cast to shoulder height- or even lower. This is especially useful when fishing streams with tree cover. With practice you should be able to deliver the cast as low as waist height to flip your fly beneath any overhang.

  1. Try the “disgorger” trick!

Getting your fly stuck in a tree or three is an occupational hazard for anyone who tries tight fishing spots. But don’t despair if yours won’t come free. One neat trick is to reel in all the fly line and leader, until you can get the fly to stick in your tip ring. A quick push and you may be able to free it, much like using an extra long disgorger! Be careful and do this gently though- because obviously too much force could damage your rod. If it’s really lodged in place you might have to pull for a break. As often as not, however, this trick will save your fly!

  1. Leave it for later

If you get it all wrong in a cramped swim (and you will!) don’t panic- you can always come back later. The fish might spook, but they don’t tend to have long memories. A big, wily chub or trout might take a couple of hours, but most fish will settle again in half that time.

There’s always another spot to try, so if you mess up, don’t fret- just keep moving. You always come back and try that hot spot later, when the fish have forgotten about your earlier sins. Again- think of it as a case of nothing ventured nothing gained. You won’t win every time, but by being brave you will get to fish that most anglers simply walk past.