The 2018 season has certainly been interesting from a variety of perspectives, not the least of which has been the choice of fly.
The weather this season has been challenging to say the least. The high temperatures have seen our rivers down to their bones and it has affected our stillwaters too. Fishing in these high temperatures has often been uncomfortable, not to mention potentially dangerous. Hydration has been a key safety concern in addition to being a mere refreshment. High factor sunscreen has been a must. For me SPF 50+ applied throughout the day, including to the back of the hands, an area often forgotten about by many. One thing I that didn’t need changing was my Boonie hat. It has a sun flap which unfolds down the back of the neck (doubles up as a wind break too). Great buy and not overley expensive it is a constant companion come rain, hail, sun and wind (it has a chin strap too). There has been the occasional overcast session in addition to the tropical-like conditions. On one occasion I had just began fishing in an overcast, drizzle laden, flat calm. The fish were rising all along my chosen bank. I had maybe three or four casts then they stopped rising, all of them, as far along the bank as I could see. ‘Strange’ I thought. Then it happened: the rain became heavy…and the thunder began. I didn’t hang around, I made for the car and pronto at that! That was quite a storm with the heavy thunder and torrential rain. I was inside the car at that point enjoying a sandwich and watching the drama unfold outside. That was the second thunder storm I’d been caught in. The one previous to that involved a similar hasty retreat to the car. That storm was even more spectacular and violent, with its torrential rain, loud thunder and bright flashes of lightning. Once again, I was glad to be in the car at that point too! Interesting that neither storm had been predicted.
My plan, concocted during the close season, of trialing North Country style flies in stillwater seems to have come to nothing. But perhaps that is a bit unfair. This season even my go to flies haven’t really produced much either. Has the unusually high temperatures affected fly pattern acceptability to the fish, perhaps by changing their feeding habits? I don’t know. The one thing I do know for sure is that the #16 spider patterns that I tied during the winter have been the saviours of my season. The Black Spider in particular has done well and so far, is my most consistent pattern of 2018, frequently resulting in fish like the one below from today.
The fish above weighed in at 1.1/4lb. while the biggest fish falling for the Black Spider to date was around 1.1/2lb (possibly a bit more): both good fish for the water they came from. The interesting thing about today’s fish was that it was feeding on tiny green and black caddis pupa, yet took the #16 Black Spider first cast. It came from a channel in the weeds where I’d seen fish moving. I hooked one other from the narrow channel but lifted at the wrong moment: fish on, fish off! The other #16 spiders have done well too with the Red Tag Black Spider accounting for the 1.5lb fish. The Copper Kate spider has also been consistent this season.
Will this trend for smaller dark coloured flies continue as we near the end of the season? I would be expecting to fish #12 PTNs or dubbed bodied flymph type flies from August onwards but it pays have an adaptable approach in this game. We shall see.
One really positive thing this season has been the insect hatches. I have seen some prolific hatches of olives, sedge and midge this season. I have also seen some wonderful blue, green, brown and even orange damsel/dragon flies around: some of them huge! I have also seen some massive sedge come off the water, which just makes the apparent preference for small artificials seem even more strange. But it is fantastic to see such prolific hatches once more. Long may it continue.