We are now entering the best time of year for fishing nymphs and buzzers on our smaller stillwater venues. Midges and olives are hatching in large numbers and fish will be looking to feed actively on these food items as temperatures continue to rise.
When fishing stillwaters it amazes me how many anglers seem to have very little faith in buzzers and nymphs and will continue to fish lures and attractor patterns despite being surrounded by feeding fish. The purpose of this blog is to give my top tips for fishing natural nymph patterns on our smaller waters.
Many articles and features are written at this time of year on how to fish buzzers and nymphs, you will, however, find that most concentrate on larger reservoirs and often from the boat. Whilst these articles are always informative and describe effective techniques I believe that they can actually lead the small stillwater angler in the wrong direction in terms of the finer points of catching small stillwater fish.
For me the single biggest difference between reservoirs and small stillwaters is the fishing pressure, fish in reservoirs are not subject to the same intense pressure that small water fish experience. As a result of this, the fish in small waters quickly become educated and therefore more difficult to temp with a natural imitation.
Most reservoir anglers will target fish at this time of year with a team of nymphs and buzzers on size 10 hooks and heavy fluorocarbon leaders around 8lb breaking strain. These setups are effective on all of our reservoirs and allow the angler to fish with confidence and land some large hard-fighting fish.
To the surprise of many, fishing small waters with these heavy setups will in my experience, be almost useless for catching fish which have been caught and released several times and begun to feed naturally. As a result, anglers copying these methods are unsuccessful, quickly lose confidence and revert back to lures and attractors and successfully catch either stock fish or rely on aggression and curiosity to get fish to take.
Below are my 5 top tips to catch fish from small still waters using nymphs at this time of year.
1. Fish fine leaders
This is the single most important tip I can give for nymph fishing on small stillwaters. Educated fish become line shy and simply uncatchable on heavy leaders, even with an exact imitation. I regularly use fluorocarbon or co-polymer tippet in 4lb breaking strain and will often drop to 3lb when fishing a single fly. It is amazing how many more takes you will get with finer tippet.
2. Use smaller imitations
Larger reservoirs such as Chew and Rutland have hatches of large buzzers which are best matched with size 10 nymphs, whilst you occasionally do see large buzzers on small waters, in my experience the majority of the food items such as olives and buzzers are much smaller, to ‘match the hatch’ you must carry imitations in these smaller sizes, usually in sizes 14 – 18.
3. Try different presentations methods
There are three main ways to present small nymphs and buzzers on small stillwaters it is worth considering all of them until you find the correct method for the day.
· Straight line – this is best when fish are relatively deep or are not seen feeding at the surface. Fish a longer leader with a team of nymphs and fish as slowly as possible or allow them to swing on the breeze. When fishing fine leaders keep the rod tip high to avoid smash takes.
· Bung – hated by some this is great nymph fishing method, particularly if the fish want it static or are at long range. The bung also allows anglers to fish fine leaders as smash takes are not an issue as takes are visible rather than felt on tight line.
Check out this great article on Straight line nymphing and using the Bung
· Washing line – a great method when fish are moving or very high in the water fish one or two nymphs on droppers with a buoyant fly on the point. Try replacing the FABs or Boobies used by reservoir anglers with a foam suspender buzzer or large dry fly. Look for takes or swirls between fly line and point fly although takes will usually still be felt at the hand.
Check out this great artcle on using the Washing Line method
4. Fish a lighter set up
With small flies and light leaders, it is important to adjust your set up to avoid smash takes and protect finer leaders. Rather than the usual #7/8 weight rods and lines try a #6 or even a #5 set up and avoid non-stretch lines. I would recommend you carry 2 rods and continue to use a heavier outfit if you wish to also try fishing lure patterns during the day.
5. Keep the patterns simple
When nymph fishing on small waters keep the selection of flies simple, particularly when fishing natural patterns. I would recommend that you stick with simple general plain buzzer patterns in black, olive and brown. To this add simple nymph patterns in hares ear, diawl bach and pheasant tails. Finally, avoid bright tags, cheeks, and heads, these are unnatural and will usually only decrease your success with naturally feeding, educated fish in clear water.
Using these tips, I am confident you will see a great increase in your nymph fishing success. If you are new to stillwater fishing or have little confidence in how effective nymphs can be at this time of year hopefully this article has given you some tips to try on your next visit to your local water. Fishing natural imitations is a very rewarding style of fishing and, when fished correctly the results can be spectacular.