Spring Has Sprung – Early Season Tips and Advice

This month we join Russ Symons for some early season tips and advice when fishing on all of our waters. Russ is a local, well renowned fly tyer, photographer and journalist within the fly fishing industry and greatly respected angler.

The green buds are just starting to show and primroses are brightening the hedgerows, a welcome sign that this long and unpleasant winter is at last behind us.  But there are after effects of such a dank and dismal winter. The insect life is often several weeks behind and flies, such as the welcome early season buzzers and beetle, may not make much of a showing before the end of April…maybe even stretching till the first weeks in May.

If you are feeling adventurous, and a few fish are showing near the top, then try a Skinny Buzzer tied on hooks size 12 or even 14’s, fished on 4 or 5 pound breaking strain soft fluorocarbon. A sixteen foot leader with two or three skinny buzzers fished as slow as possible may well show some reward.

Damsel are a reliable, early season fly. The Damsel nymph hatches out in the colder months of the year as a mini version of the adult, growing larger as the season progresses into the warmer months of the year. But when the buds are just little nubs on a branch, there are immature mini Damsels in the water, and the fish know it. Many anglers wait until they see our little blue friends flitting around the fishery before they even think about fishing a Damsel nymph…. they will have missed half, and I believe the better half, of the Damsel season.

Years ago one of my earliest still water mentors used to fish olive Pheasant tail nymphs in the early part of the season. At the end of the day he would often have as many fish as the rest of us, with half the effort and often a better stamp of fish. A lesson there for all of us.

Another early season fly that can really focus the fishes attention for a week or three is the beetle. The standard wet fly when the beetles are about in our neck of the wood’s is the old time Black and Peacock Spider. In recent times the B&P has enjoyed something of a revival when some crafty so and so tied it with a green iridescent flashback, which makes it a sweet little fly… Tied on a size 12 or 14 Gamakatsu B175 hook, which gives the fly just enough weight to overcome the natural buoyancy of the Hen hackle and Peacock herl, it is a fly which fishes the top foot of water with some delicacy. Give it a little grease and it will sit in the surface film, hardly breaking the surface, which is the cunning plan for a little later in the year.

The other fly which is perfect for this situation is the Diawl Bach and a mixed leader of B&P spiders and Diawl Bach is a classic Beetle fishing leader.One thing is vitally important when fishing this style of fly, that is that the whole of the leader sinks, a buzzer tip flyline is perfect for this style of fishing. So use a leader degreased with Fullers Earth compound and the buzzer tip treated to remove any residual grease/silicone it might have acquired from the floating part of the line. A small detail perhaps, but one that matters.

Dry flies, such as the Daddy, Hawthorn, Hopper and Klinkhammer patterns, can give some fantastic sport for those with the patience to get everything absolutely right. It is essential, in such early season clear water, that the deception is perfect. The last two feet of leader must be sunk, right up to the fly, fluorocarbon with its slightly negative buoyancy works best.

Traditional running water dries as the Grey Duster, Grey Wulf, Black Gnat and Rough Olive in small sizes, will also work well, particularly for the Browns.

If you arrive on the fishery and there is a cold wind from the East, and yet you know there are fish to be caught, try some lures such as the Cats Whisker, Humungous or Viva fished from a sinking line and pulled at varying speeds till you find what the fish want on the day. Start with an Intermediate line or even a sink tip, because in South West waters those lines are often all that you will need. Having said that, there are occasions when nothing short of a full blown sinking line will be needed and the fly pulled with vigour. Not the most interesting way to fish, but it will keep you warm if the wind has a cold edge to it.

Russ Symons

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