Nothing beats
seeing a fish chase a muddler as you strip it across the surface. Often
the fish will be half out the water and it will still want to eat your muddler.

I anchored the boat some twenty five to thirty yards from the foam
swept shore line. Having cast the muddler some seventy feet I started a
fairly fast retrieve. A good rainbow decided to give chase six or seven
yards from the boat, it ate that muddler in a very savage manner then
dived for the bottom in some twenty feet of water. In a few minutes a
fish about 4lbs was alongside the boat. It was unhooked and released
without being touched by hand. Another advantage of using barbless
hooks. In the next couple of hours I had 16 fish, all released, then
called it a day. It was like taking candy from a kid. I then sat
drinking tea with Frank and Mary Casson in their beautiful lakeside
home.

On another occasion when I arrived at Barnsfold conditions were
near perfect for buzzer or chironomid fishing. It was cloudy, warm and
muggy with a soft breeze giving a slight ripple to the water surface.
Swifts, martins, swallows, and ducklings were about in profusion, fish
were rising everywhere. After a mug of tea with Mary and Frank it was
time to fish. I made up a light outfit; 8 foot six inch rod with a 5
weight double taper floating line and a 12 foot tapered leader to a 2lb
point. I chose to fish a size 16 black buzzer. On every cast I had a
rise from a fish. Some were missed, others hooked and lost but in two or
three hours I had caught and released some twenty trout. It was time to
stop the fishing. It was that easy it become a bit boring, the challenge
had gone. I retired to Frank and Mary's kitchen to drink tea and chat.

Of course it's not always like this. Some days trout don't want to
Eat. Other times they will feed for just a short time at dusk. One of
my great pleasures in still water trout fishing, is fishing buzzers or
chironomids on the surface. Of course there are times when you arrive to
find condition just right with fish feeding but after an hour or so, a cold
wind starts to should blow and it's the kiss of death. The fish go down.
I don't know of any water in the country, from a small garden pond or
water butt to the big waters like Rutland, Grafham and Windermere where
there are not hatches of this non-biting midge.

Coarse fishing match anglers have long realised the advantage of
having blood worm (larva of the chironomid or buzzer) when conditions
are tough. The larva of the chironomid starts life in the mud and looks
like a tiny thin bit of red cotton. Later in its life the larva changes
its shape turning into pupae known as nymphs. They leave the lake
bottom making their way to the surface, the pupae to emerge and
reproduce. It's a journey full of danger, as millions fall prey to all
species of fish. On the surface, not only do they have the fish eating
them but other enemies, swifts, swallows, martins, ducklings etc. It's
said there are some 500 different species of midges in our waters.
Certainly a major food source for trout and birds.

Trout fishing on still waters must be one of the biggest branches
of angling today and it's still growing. It has not always been like
this. In the early 1900's there were only a few still waters available
for trout fishing, Blagdon and Chew being the most famous. Stillwater trout fishing as we know it today probably started with the
opening of Grafham, back in 1966 if my memory serves me right. The
fishing was fabulous. Many of those fishing that first season were
coarse fish anglers who quickly got to grips with the water and had some
spectacular results. Before Grafham we had Weirwood but it didn't have
the same effect on the angling public as Grafham did.

The tackle in those days was so much different to what we have
available in the year 2000. Rods, reels and lines have been improved
immensely. Anglers at the start of Grafham fished with rods made from
fibre glass. Some of us were still using bamboo fly rods. Oliver's had a
10 ft reservoir glass fly rod which I think cost about £10-50. Another
rod was the Tom Ivens bamboo fly rod for £14-00. What would that be
worth today in good condition? Aircel, Wetcel, Kingfisher and Milwards
were the fly lines of the day.

Its nice to see Young's reels being used as often today as they were back
in 1966. In those days we had the polystickles and Jersey herd lures, 35
years on the fish still eat these lures. Clothing has also changed from the
Barbour Solway jackets, Tank suits and Parka's. Today we have breathable
clothing that keeps us warm and dry with Patagonia clothing leading the
way. Another great advantage for today's still water anglers are the
new breathable waders.

Where to start?

Starting fly fishing today couldn't be easier. There are hundreds
of still waters all over the country. There should be a fishery close to
you. They range from Martin Bakers Churn Pool, a small still water
fishery at South Cerney Gloucestershire, to Barnsfold water, which is two
lakes of 22 acres in Lancashire. We also have some excellent large still
waters Chew, Stocks, Bewl and Blagdon to the very big reservoirs like
Rutland. Most still water fisheries have various price charges and limit
bags.

One of the popular fishing tickets these days is the sporting
Ticket, where you catch and release all your fish and use barbless
hooks. In fact I have used barbless hooks for many years in all my
fishing and can honestly say I have never lost a fish through the use of
a barbless hook. When a fish is lost, it's because I have done something
wrong. Other tickets usually available are a full day, half day and
evening, usually with a bag limit where you are allowed to keep a certain
number of fish which can vary from two up to eight. I am a great
supporter of a sporting ticket as I don't want half a dozen dead fish.
Of course catch and release doesn't please everyone. When you arrive at
your chosen fishery have a chat with the fishery owner or water bailiff.
They can give you lots of information on how the fish are feeding and
types of flies to try. The question you should always ask are, "What
depth are the fish are feeding at". Fishery rules are usually posted,
please read them as it's important to know what you can do and not do
when on the fishery. Also make sure you have an Environment Agency rod
licence.


Learning to cast

The most difficult thing you have to do is get the fly out on the
water. It's the rod and line that project the weightless fly out on to
the water. You can teach yourself through watching videos and reading
books but I don't feel that's the answer. You need to take some casting
lessons. My advice is to book a few hours with a recognised casting
instructor or attend a fly fishing school. If you have the time choose
the latter. I have visited the Simon Gawsworth fly fishing school in
Devon, and Pat O'Reilly's school in West Wales Tel 01239-698678. Take a look at
his web site at: www.fishing-in-wales.com/wwsf

The start dates for two and three day flyfishing classes at the West of
Wales School of Flyfishing are as follows:

Saturday 8th April Trout

Saturday 29th April Trout

Saturday 27th May Trout

Saturday 24th June Sea trout

Saturday 8th July Orvis Sea Trout Course

Saturday 22th July Orvis Sea Trout Course

Saturday 29th July Sea trout

Tuesday 1st Aug Sea trout

Saturday 26th Aug Trout

Saturday 30th Sept Salmon

It's well worth the effort and money. Golfers shooters, tennis players
all take lessons from the professional; why not fly fishers? Having
fished for many years I still take lessons and practise off the water.
Don't let your best mate teach you unless he knows how to teach. He
might be the best angler around, but that doesn't make him a teacher.
By choosing to visit a fly fishing school you will often get the chance
to try several rods and see what suits you best. You cannot judge a rod
by juggling it in the tackle shop. Another good point gained from
visiting a fishing school for a weekend is you will learn all about
knots for making up leaders (the line between fly line and fly), simple
fly tying, waterside plants, and aquatic insects. I always find the
river dipping time most interesting.

BBC Radio Lancashire's At The
Waters Edge programme and www.fishing.co.uk have a casting clinic on
Sunday 30th April 11-0 am until 4-0pm on the river Ribble at Mitton behind the
Aspindale Arms. The clinic will be conducted by Tom Broderidge from the
USA, Alan Roe from Blackpool and Buxton Derbyshire angler Robert Goodwin
there is no cost. All you need are a fly rod, reel and line.

The Tackle Required

I feel the most important item of tackle is the line, which has to cast a
weightless fly. It needs to be the best that money can buy. Forget the
cheap lines often called mill ends. They are useless if your aim is to
become a regular still water fly fisher and you owe it to yourself to
have the best.

The line I am at present using for most of my fishing is a
Cortland double taper 5 weight floating line, but occasionally I might go up
to a six weight. As a beginner at the sport, I suggest you go for a
weight forward in a six or seven weight floating line. You can of course
use a D/T line but the weight forward line in 6 or 7 weight will give a
slight edge when casting into the wind.

When I purchase a new fly line, I unroll the line and check for any
twists or damage. After a few fishing trips, I again roll out all the
line, taking out the twists. A good way to get rid of line twist when
boat angling is take off the fly cast out the line and troll slowly for
a few minutes. Another problem is coiling of the line or commonly
known as memory. Often a problem with cheap lines. This will often
happen when the line has been on the reel for a few weeks. It's easily
cured. Run out all the line with the aid of a friend then give it a good
stretch. It pays to do this every fishing trip even with the best fly
lines. All these small jobs help make you a better angler.

What you must do is clean the line after every trip. It's surprising
how much dirt, bits of fine sand, grit and algae etc. will stick to the
line during the course of a days fishing. If it's not removed it will
effect your casting and damage the line and rod guides. Wash your line
in warm soap water then rinse it in clean cold water. I then polish my
lines with Amorall - available from car accessory shops. This will give
your line a nice slick finish. On a recent trip to the States where I
was helping anglers with their casting, I would clean and polish their
line. In every case they cast at least another five yards for the same
effort. Forget what your mates tell you, clean the line after each trip.
Before putting the line on the reel you will need some twenty or thirty
yards of 20lb backing.

In the United States when you buy a reel and fly line, the dealer
will put the backing and line on the reel for you. Often only charging
for the fly line and reel. I can never understand why the tackle dealers
in this country don't give us this service. Kauffmans Streamborn in
Portland Oregon E-mail kaufmanns@kman.com will offer this service and
there is no state tax in Oregon, Even after paying tax , postage and vat
you will save money. NEVER LET DEET GET ON YOUR FLY LINE - IT WILL BE
RUINED.

(Deet is a chemical found in insect repellent,
especially those that have been put on the market for mosquitoes. Deet
will melt fly lines, take the paint off microphones, soften electrical
wires… so what does it do to our skin I ask?)

When choosing a reel, make sure it's big enough to take your chosen
fly line with some 30 yards of backing. J.W Young's reels have been
around a very long time. They are better today than ever before. The
Jubilee 5350 is a good model and will you give many years of service
provided you look after it. It's also made in England.

Fishing rods are certainly an emotive subject, pick six anglers and
they will all have a different rod by a different manufacturer - but
swear they have the best rod ever made. Price isn't the criteria for
choosing a rod. Masterline have a Red River rod at around £200-00, Sage
have a rod around £400-00 plus. I have used both but cannot see where
there is an extra £200-00 plus worth of value in the Sage rod which
doesn't even have a hook keeper on the RPLXi model.

My advice is visit a shop where you can try out a few rods with
line attached even if it means you have to travel a few miles. Once
again, many shops in the States have a casting area where you can make
some casts with the rod of your choice. Make sure you're happy with the
chosen model before purchase.

Some of the models I can recommend because I fish or have fished
with them are, Masterline Red River, Grey's Montana, Sage IIIe series XP
and G-Loomis GLX Series. They are all good rods, cast a nice line and
handle big fish without locking up. I cannot comment on other models as
I have no experience of them.

Whatever make of rod you choose
pick a nine foot, nine foot six rod for a six or seven weight line. The
line rating will be written on the rod butt just above the handle. Don't
worry if the rod of your choice weighs half an ounce more than one your
friend uses. I would steer clear of rods rated for three sometimes four
different line ratings. A rod is built and designed to cast one
designated line weight.

Always wipe the rod down after a days fishing, If the bag is damp,
hang it out to dry. With a cotton bud or Q tip clean the rod guides, you
will be surprised how much dirt can collect on them, which then gets
transferred to your line. Rub some bees wax on the spigots now and
again. Before assembling the rod, check the spigots for grit sand etc. In
fact it pays to wipe the spigots before assembling the rod. Don't forget
the winch fitting, give it a spray with WD40 now and again.

Between fly line and fly, we need a length of line known as the
leader, sometimes described as the cast. This is a very important item
of the tackle assembly. Many anglers just tie on a straight length of
line then tie on the fly or lure. That's not the way. Always use a
tapered leader then you will get a better turnover. You can purchase
knotless tapered leaders or knotted leaders.

In saltwater, I am quite happy with a knotted leader. In freshwater fishing I use a knotless tapered leader. Those of
you fishing lures should also use a tapered leader. I only use a knot
when I attach some extra tippet material. It's very important to make
sure your leader is what we call a big butted tapered leader. The thick
section goes to the fly line which should be about 30 to 35lbs Bs. As a
newcomer I suggest you use a nine foot leader. As you become more
experienced you can go up to 12 or even 15 feet, though when you get to
this length of leader you're likely to be a very proficient angler. My
advice is don't thrash the water. Use water craft, keep quiet and don't
spook the fish - then most times you will be able to get away with a
nine foot leader.

The breaking strain of the tippet (that's the end of the leader to
which you attach your fly) will depend on the size of fly or lure you are
using. It's no use tying a size 16 fly to some 6lb line - that's if you can
get the line through the eye of the fly! The fly action wouldn't be
right. On hooks sizes from 14's to 18's I use line with a breaking
strain of about two and a half pounds breaking strain. For hook sizes 8's
to 12's I would probably use some four or five pound breaking strain
line. This of course would depend on the size of fish I expected to
catch and how snag ridden the water was. There are no hard and fast
rules. You learn these things by experience I can only give you a rough
guide in such a short article. We have all heard about the lucky angler
who catches big fish on unsuitable tackle but that doesn't make it
right.

Fly or Lure Selection

There are it seems, hundreds of different patterns of lures and
flies for catching trout in still waters. I often ask myself the
question 'How many are designed to catch the angler'. My advice is talk to
the fishery owner, bailiff or local tackle shop owner for advice on half
dozen flies or lures, perhaps even a mixture for your chosen water.

In my fly box, these days when I fish a still water, I want a
selection of buzzers from size 12's to 18's. A few Black & Peacock
Spiders in sizes from 12's through to 16's. The B&P has always been a
favourite of mine both on small and big still water and rivers. If I had
to choose just one fly pattern it would be the B&P without a doubt.

You can fish the B&P as a wet fly ten feet deep or just under
the surface. Well greased, it's an excellent dry fly. If ever you get the
chance to fish a river and find no flies hatching, fish the B&P either as
a wet or dry fly. It can change a poor day into a good one.

Another fly pattern I would not want to be without are some Sedge
patterns. These would include the G &H Sedge, Cinnamon Sedge and Elk
Hair Caddis in various sizes. The latter pattern has proved excellent at
dusk on many of the still waters. When fishing Sedge patterns expect
savage takes. For sedge patterns in sizes 8's and 10's I use a 6lb
tippet, all others it's a 4lb tippet. I will often use some power gum tied
into the leader to soften the vicious takes.

A fly pattern I would never want to be without is the Muddler
Minnow. I believe this pattern originated from the United States. It's
certainly a fly to use in choppy water conditions when fish are feeding
on fry near the surface and should be fished on a 6lb tippet. Some other
patterns I would want to have are beaded Pheasant tail, Gold Ribbed
Hair's Ear and Damsel Fly Nymphs in sizes 10's through to 14's.

I cannot end this feature without suggesting some books that will
help you enjoy your fly fishing.

Lake, Loch & Reservoir Trout Fishing
Malcolm Greenhalgh A& C Black

Stillwater Trout Tactics Bob Church with
Charles Jardine Crowood Publishing

Tactical Fly Fishing Pat O'Reilly
Crowood Publishing

Matching The Hatch Pat O'Reilly Swan Hill Press and
finally Brian Clarke's book Trout Etcetera A&C Black. This latter book
takes you around the World.

If you have any questions that I haven't answered please E-mail me
martin@flyfish.demon.co.uk with your queries. I am here to help you get
the best out of this wonderful sport.