Early season mean low water temperatures and not much surface activity so my normal approach to trouting on rivers at this time of year is either upstream nymphing or wet fly fished up/down/across/anyway I can get it in the water. Let’s start with the nymph.
I fish almost exclusively with bead-headed nymphs these days. There are still some other designs in my nymph box but in practice I just grab a gold or copper headed hare’s ear or PT and fish away with that. There may be small variations in the pattern such as different ribs or additional thorax covers but I am much more concerned about the weight of the nymph than the dressing. That means I carry a range of sizes, from 10 down to 16 and also a range of weights. Normal brass beads, tungsten beads and additional weight under the dressing provided by either copper or lead wire mean I can vary the depth I am fishing at to meet the particular piece of water I am fishing. I also carry a lot of them because I tend to lose a lot in trees, bushes and stuck on the bottom.
Leader length is something I play around with a lot when I am nymphing, again I am trying to get to the correct depth for the fish to at least see the fly. I roam over fairly long stretches of the rivers so that means lots of chopping and changing to meet the challenges of each new pool and riffle as I work my way up river. We don’t have any Grayling here in Ireland (unfortunately) so I am concentrating solely on the Brownies. A normal day will see my nymph my way upstream and fishing a wet fly as I retrace my steps heading back downstream to where the car is parked.
If I am fishing upstream wet fly I tend to use simple spider patterns like the Partridge & Orange or Black Spider, but when I am fishing down and across i prefer a team of three flies and often include a beaded thorax pattern on the tail (see the Hare’s Ear with a gold bead thorax, above). This gives me the bit of weight which is sometimes required to get down to the trout. Down and across is a lovely way to fish and can be very effective at times, but I find nymphing will generally produce more and better fish than the wet fly this early in the year.
Even the faithful old Partridge & Orange gets a bit of an uplift from me. All that is required is the addition of a small bronze peacock herl thorax to the fly. I found this idea in a book by Mike Harding and since it sounded good I gave it a lash. Sure enough, peacock herl thorax flies do seem to be more effective. I think this could be due to the hackle being forced out more and thus pulsating more in the current giving a more life-like impression of a struggling nymph. Try it for yourself, it only adds a few seconds to the time required to tie up the fly and any fly dresser worth his or her salt has a stock of peacock herl at hand.
The heavy rain and howling wind outside appear to be abating. Time for a few casts?