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March 1st beckons

Looking forward to the first hatches of the season, namely the large dark olive, and the black midge... and preparing flies and tactics


Kite's Imperial: deceiving trout taking olives, b-wo’s, pale wateries, etc...
Kite's Imperial: deceiving trout taking olives, b-wo’s, pale wateries, etc...

I know that many of you may have been fly-fishing for grayling over the winter months, when the rivers were not in spate, and that some rainbow trout stillwaters remain open through the dourest month of the calendar, but fly-fishing in spring, summer and autumn beats fishing in winter. And the start of spring, meteorologically at least, is March 1, and that date follows the last day of February.

It is in March that most rivers open for trout fishing and it is in March that hatches can be almost guaranteed to take place in both rivers and lakes. Thus, the arrival of March after a long, wet winter that ended in fierce frosts is worth celebrating.

On the rivers I have fished for decades the fly of early spring is the large dark olive (LDO), a fly that hatches consistently from just after noon to about three o’clock. [It does hatch in February on mild days, and in 1988 I caught my first fish for a TV camera – grayling – on a warm February day.] What flies are best in a large dark olive hatch? Well, those grayling, and umpteen trout each year for umpteen years fell to one of my favourite dry flies, Kite’s Imperial, size 14. The Imperial, originally tied by Kite with honey dun cock hackle and later with light ginger and blue dun hackles, is one of those flies that will deceive trout that seem to be feeding selectively on a wide range of flies including olives, b-wo’s, pale wateries, etc. etc. Since I met and fished many times with Marc Petitjean in the early 1990s, I have included many CdC patterns in my fly-boxes, and caught many brown trout that were feeding on LDOs with a fly with an olive CdC body and grey CdC wing. But does that mean that the CdC is a better fly? On one occasion, and this was recorded on video/DVD, a Derbyshire Wye trout refused the CdC, but took the Imperial first cast! Was that a particularly unintelligent trout? I am sure that a trout rising this March to the LDO hatch will take either, if presented properly.

But may I suggest, if you are relatively new to fly-fishing, that if you suddenly find a ‘general’ fly that works very well, in a variety of situations and through the season, to carry a lot of them in a range of size. Mine has been the Imperial; my pal Geoff’s is the Greenwell’s Glory (tied dry with a cock, not hen, hackle).

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British Fly Fair 2018 was superb, and we must thank Steve and Bridgett Cooper for organising it. Those who take part are presented with a BFFI mug and this year’s had on it a lovely illustration of one of my favourite spidery wet flies, the Black Magic. This is dead simple to tie: a body of black thread, two or three turns of peacock herl to create a thorax, and three turns of black hen hackle at the front. I tie it in sizes 14, 16 and 18. Which brings me to stillwater trouting in the new season.

Most of the rainbow trout stillwaters that I fish have good midge hatches, and most of the midge pupae (buzzers) taken as they rest, by hanging from the surface film before hatching as an adult on the surface, are dark grey or black(ish). When the trout are really being selective and taking buzzers from the surface film and ignoring our flies that are a centimetre below the surface film, dear old John Goddard’s Suspender Buzzer is a must. And looking now in my Buzzer box, I see I must get some tied, pronto. But when they are not being that selective tiny wet Black Spiders fished slowly are magic, and I think the best of them is the Black Magic.

Fished slowly? Cast into the ring of a rise and very slowly work the fly or flies (I usually fish two, say a size 14 on point and 16 on dropper) back. Sometimes a slow tweaking works better than a smooth retrieve.

Sometimes you will notice that rising fish move upwind as they take real buzzers, rising two, three or more times in quick succession. Then I try an even slower way of fishing the flies. On the point a Black Suspender Buzzer, and on two droppers two Black Magics. Cast out and let the surface current drift the flies, with the Suspender holding the two Black Magics just below the surface. If you see a swirl at the surface, tighten IMMEDIATELY!

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You may recall the Open Letter I wrote to DEFRA, the EA and the Welsh Assembly on the issue of river pollution by industrial dairy farmers spreading huge quantities of slurry on riverside fields (March issue, FF&FT). Thus far I have had replies from the EA and WA, but nothing yet from Mr Gove and DEFRA. I will give them a few more days before prodding them, and I will let you know their responses afterwards.
May this be a belting season for you all.

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