Worshipping At The Riverside Alter Of The Small Fly

Worshipping At The Riverside Alter Of The Small(er) Fly

The last few days have been very wet, with what looks likely to be followed by warm and humid conditions, this usually heralds the start of the more tricky conditions as far as fishing on both rivers and stillwaters are concerned, i.e. low water levels and spooky fish.

But, there's no need to make sacrifices for your fishing - see what I did there. In this missive, I'm going to give you what is, hopefully, a good grounding on how to approach these conditions, and that is by using - smaller flies than you would usually consider.

P.S. This email is going to be quite long, so you might want to grab a brew before you start reading! Also, please read right to the end, as there's a really nice offer for you.

I've no doubt that we've all seen swarms of midges above the surface of the water - especially when there are sunlit pools. Low water levels and spooky fish means using small flies. Some rivers are not as full of nutrients as others, it’s these rivers which tend to fish better using smaller flies, due in part to the fact the river cannot sustain the production of the larger species. In these rivers trout can still flourish, they just alter the way they feed. Instead of selectively taking insects as and when they please (as insects are in abundance on the more nutrient rich rivers), the trout in less rich rivers are opportunistic feeders.

This is where the small, imitative fly is king.

In essence:

small flies = light tippet = longer leaders softer rods

The remainder of this email will take the above and hopefully shed a little light on each.

Small Flies

When you encounter low water it's time to turn to the smaller flies in your box - when I say small, I am referring to flies which are size 18 and smaller.

It is the one piece of tackle that the fish sees and makes their decision on to eat or not. The most important part of a fly is without doubt the hook, even more so when we are using very small hooks. It is important when choosing small flies to look at the gape of the hook (i.e. the distance between the hook point and the body of the hook), make sure that the tied fly still has plenty of room between the body and the hook point, if there is hardly any room between the body of the fly and the point it will make it very difficult to hook a fish. Generally, the hooks which are sized at 18 and smaller all are ‘wide gape’.

Often, the reason small flies are dismissed by anglers is that they have trouble seeing them, there are a few remedies for this:

  • For most dry fly angling it is not a necessity to actually see the fly, generally you will have a rough idea of where the fly is, if you see a rise, just lift into it – 9 times out of 10 it will be to your fly!
  • If you do want to know where your fly is, either use a small fly with a hi-vis sighter post, or use the ‘Double Dry’ technique, where you use a visible dry fly and then tie a smaller dry fly from the eye of the hook on a long dropper – just like the klink n dink method, but using 2 dry flies.

Having a selection of small flies (both nymphs and dries) is essential when fishing through the latter part of July and into early September. We've got you covered with all the smaller flies you will need for the whole summer in our Ultimate Small Fly Selection:

During the summer months it is essential that you start to fish with smaller and more representative flies.

We have created this selection of Midges & Aphids which work exceptionally well on all UK waters. Here we have a selection of 32 flies, twelve different patterns (8 dry and 4 nymph patterns) - all supplied in one of our super-slim silicone fly boxes - to stop your flies blowing away!

That's a selection of 32 nymphs and dry flies which represent all the smaller insects you will find on (and in) the water during the summer - including one of our Super-Slim Silicone fly boxes, for only £39.99.

Light Tippet

Because these hooks are really small - with small eyes, your standard tippet might not thread through the eye - you will need something that is less than 0.10mm in diameter. But don't worry, we have you covered - with a SPECIAL OFFER FOR TODAY ONLY:

*** FOR TODAY ONLY - Add a spool of RIO Powerflex 8X tippet to your basket, alongside the Ultimate Small Fly Selection and the tippet will be yours for FREE (while stocks last) - not something you would ordinarily buy, if you could even find it ***

*** Yes, you did read that right, that's 32 small fly imitations, a spool of RIO 8X tippet and a silicone fly box, all for only £39.99 ***

TOP TIP: When trying to thread your tippet to a small fly, try cutting the tippet at a 45-degree angle, it makes it much easier to get the tippet into the eye of the hook.

Longer Leaders

If you downloaded our copy of the Small Fly Manifesto (which we emailed you ast month, there's also a copy available at the end of this email), then you will have already seen the leader recipes for various long & light setups to tie yourself. Here's the best one for fishing really small flies:

To the 6X at the end of the above, just add in a couple of feet of the 8X tippet and you're good to go.

However you decide to create your leader, the one thing above anything else which will increase your catch rate is the length! When fishing small flies, on low rivers you need to make your leader as long as you can possibly get away with. This is what has given rise to the new style Front-Heavy Tapered leaders in the longer lengths – 11ft to 16ft. It is not uncommon for hardly any fly line to be outside of the rod tip and just the leader is cast.

Softer Actioned Rods

When fishing with light tippet, you need a rod which has a much softer action than your regular carbon rod, this is how you can land much bigger fish on really light tippet. You need to ensure that your whole system - fly, tippet, line & rod - work in harmony. Just try landing a small fish on a medium-fast carbon rod with a thin tippet (anything smaller than 7X) and you will appreciate the finesse of a softer actioned rod.  

You need a rod which will cushion every movement of the fish and protect your light tippet. This is where glass rods come into their own, especially on the small to medium-sized rivers where you are not casting to the horizon. One of the best in the business is the Redington Butterstick:

Fishing with small flies generally happens at close range, choose a rod you are comfortable with using for very short casts – sometimes a softer rod is much more accurate and sensitive on short casts. Softer rods are also much better for playing fish on lighter tippets – something which most rod manufacturers don’t explain, they are more than willing to tell you how far you can cast with one, but not how well it plays a fish! If you’ve never tried a glass rod, they have an ideal action for fishing smaller flies.

The Small Fly Manifesto

For those of you who missed our free download of the Small Fly Manifesto - which gives you the low down on leaders and tactics to use when fishing small flies - you can grab yours by clicking either the image or button below.

Get out there and have some fun with small flies.

P.S. Don't forget to add the RIO Powerflex 8X tippet to your Ultimate Small Fly Selection, to receive the tippet for FREE - while stocks last, we have about 30 of them waiting for a new home!