How to Fish Buzzers
The warmer months of April, May, and June presents us anglers with the best and most consistent buzzer fishing of the season. Nature flicks a switch to indicate the end of the cold winter weather and that spring has now arrived. With it comes huge hatches of buzzer, and as always the trout are always quick to feed on this plentiful food source. It gives us the best opportunity of the year to catch grown on resident fish (along with Fry Feeding ). I personally use this opportunity to catch a few good quality grown on fish for the table. Especially with the summer BBQ season rapidly approaching it’s nice to have some fillets in the freezer, and a good supply of trout for the smoker.
Nymph fishing is often considered challenging or difficult as it is a natural approach; leaders consisting of multiple; small flies, with little movement, and cast out in a huge expanse of water. It can put off all but the most experienced anglers – I often hear the argument, “that won’t work, it’s so small, the fish will never see it”.
Over the last few seasons, I have developed a number of specialist patterns (including a barbless range) that are now available via Fulling Mill; it gives everyone the opportunity to maximise their sport with proved patterns.
A good buzzer fishing pattern should be lifelike and realistic, and still have a subtle target point to attract the fish to your fly, basically make it stand out from the other thousands of nymphs in the water. With buzzers, I always aim for a segmented body, and add the target point to the wing buds or thorax cover… for example the Traffic Light Buzzer with its 2 tone red/pearl thorax cover, or my 2-Tone Quill Buzzer with fluro yellow/orange cheeks. Both patterns work very well and make the fly stand out by adding a subtle touch of brightness… but you can go overboard with the target points. Too much bling and all you will catch is stockies that are drawn to the increased colour on the pattern (i.e buzzers with red holo butt, pearl throats, fluro red head and tinsel cheeks etc…)
My patterns are lifelike with specific target points and triggers rather than an exact imitation I do not want my fly to be identical to the other 1,000’s of naturals in the water, but it do want it to be very similar and natural looking, it’s a very fine line to get a pattern to stand out slightly and pull the fish to your cast rather than spook them with too much bling, I prefer a thin holo thorax cover or occasionally a fluro cheeks (but never both).
As I previously mentioned bright fluorescent materials are most attractive to stockfish, and I feel it often puts off the larger resident fish.
Whether fishing the bung or straight line nymphing I always place my brightest nymph pattern on the top dropper. This will attract and pull the fish to your flies as it catches the sunlight better, obviously it will attract stockies but it will also attract resident fish to the more natural patterns further down the cast, it doubles your chances as any fish investigating your pattern from depth must swim by the other natural flies on your cast twice (on the way up and down).
When fishing buzzers most anglers, and indeed, the unwritten rule is that it’s best to have a light 5 – 9 mph left to right wind, it allows you to cast out and let your team of flies swing gently round in an arc. I fully accept it’s a very effective method but in my experience, it only tends to regularly catch fish up to 4lb.
What I’ve learnt about fishing buzzers…
Guiding on Rutland and Grafham over the years has taught me a lot, while I would often straight line nymphs as mentioned above and catch very well in terms of numbers it became increasingly noticeable that the novices I was assisting would consistently catch the much bigger and better quality fish. At first, I thought it a fluke, but it became too regular an occurrence over a number of seasons. (i.e 2 years ago Ian Fincham had 2 browns over 7lb and a 6lb rainbow in the same day on Rutland having never cast a fly before… I had 20 fish the same day with not one over 4lb). The common theme I soon realised was that the novice would always be fishing static, and around 3 – 4 ft off bottom usually under the bung, often they would literally just flick the flies out straight down the wind and leave them there with no retrieve etc…
My theory is that by fishing across the wind my flies (although moving slowly) are actually often moving too fast and look un-natural to educated fish, so they simply don’t take… Conversely stockies and well mended fish love that slight movement and change of direction as it induces the take, numbers of fish I win hands down, but in terms of quality I lose.
I now actually prefer a flat calm when fishing nymphs, and love the bung because it does consistently put really big fish in the bag, it allows you perfect depth control, and the option of fishing ultra slow or static which I’m convinced educated fish prefer over even a slight movement.
I fully accept the bung is a despicable method and frowned upon by many, no different from watching a float… but I now feel that sometimes we must forget our prejudices especially if we want to be consistently successful.
I have since taken this theory a step further when buzzer fishing under the bung and often fish directly into a light wind, so allowing my flies to drift back dead drift, with no drag, or straight down the wind again attempting to keep them totally static, results have been very encouraging over last few seasons.
I urge you don’t miss out on one of the most exciting times of the year by fishing a small number of specific patterns correctly anyone can be successful. Simplicity and confidence are the keys rather than fancy patterns and setups.
The right buzzer fishing setup
When buzzer fishing, the most important components of your tackle are your flies and leader material. The leader should be clear, soft and supple usually in breaking strains of 6 – 8 lb the thinner leader material allows the angler to offer a better presentation of his flies, which when fishing slowly or static is far more important than when pulling. Every fault is highlighted when fishing slowly as the fish has more time to inspect your cast before taking your fly – hence the reason it’s important to get things right. Personally, I have been using the new Fulling Mill MasterClass Flurocarbon leader material for over a year, in 3X 7.1lb or 4X 6.5lb as it’s very thin and the diameter to breaking strain ratio is excellent.
As regards flies the following patterns are all that’s needed to be successful on any water large or small when fishing buzzers.
- Traffic Light Buzzer black – Code 1017
- Black 2-Tone Buzzer – Code 9380
- Olive 2-Tone Buzzer – Code 9381
Where to fish buzzer fishing
At this time of year the best area is a band of water 5 – 60m off the bank; with a depth of approximately 6 – 15ft and home to the buzzers. The nymphs will begin life on the bottom; in the silt and mud, they will then rise in the water as the weather warms and eventually hatch.
So depending upon the temperature of the water, underwater currents and the surface tension the nymphs will be at a range of depths throughout the day… this is why the trout feed at a variety of depths (and why you catch on different droppers during the day).
By fishing multiple flies on a leader you can effectively cover a range of water… you are in effect increasing your chances by having flies at different depths.
Buzzer Fishing Tactics
- The Bung (or Indicator)
- Straight line buzzer fishing
The Bung is basically an indicator that suspends your flies perfectly at distinct depths, with the biggest and heaviest fly, such as an epoxy or gold headed buzzer, on the point. When the fish want flies fished static the bung can be absolutely deadly.
The length of your leader will vary but a standard bung set up for a 10ft rod will have 5ft to the Bung then 3.5ft to top dropper. Another 3.5ft to middle dropper then 3ft to the point. A total leader length of 15ft. The big advantage of having 5ft to the bung is that if you feel the fish are deeper, and are only catching on your point fly then you can simply take the bung off and replace it with another buzzer so allowing your whole cast to get deeper – in effect your cast will change to straight line buzzer fishing.
Simply make a short to medium cast and leave everything static for 15 – 20 seconds letting the flies sink, watch your line in case it suddenly straightens indicating a fish has taken your flies “on the drop”.
Once the flies have all sunk and are vertical, slowly figure of eight 2ft of line into the boat, then stop for 10secs just keeping in contact with your flies this does 2 things. First, it raises all of the flies in the water – then lets them fall again – just as the natural nymph does, also when fishing the bung it will cause a big disturbance on the surface of the water, this again can attract the trout to your flies.
Often the bung will dip just like a float allowing you to see any takes a split second before you feel them, it’s then just a simple case of lifting into the fish.
Straight line buzzer fishing
Fishing this style is ideal for when you want to fish deeper than 12ft (without the bung) a typical set up would be 6ft to the top dropper, 5ft to the middle dropper and 4ft to the point fly. (Total leader length 15ft) to fish deeper, simply use a Mini-Tip Fly-line instead of a floating line.
Again the heaviest epoxy or gold head buzzer is fished on the point, this set up will actually drag the tip of the floating line down 2 or 3 ft, don’t worry – this is totally normal!
Just fish with an ultra-slow figure of 8 (occasionally a little faster) but before you recast remember the hang and drop back… fish will follow buzzers, or on occasion will suddenly rush to take when there is upward movement, you have induced a take. buzzer fishing
Use the leader and braided loop as an indicator… if you see any movement STRIKE HARD… Do not just lift into the fish or you will lose it, the rod will absorb the take and you won’t set the hook so well. buzzer fishing
Testing our ideas
In the Spring of 2017 whilst testing the new Masterclass Fluorocarbon and 2-tone buzzers, Nick Elliott and I had a “Red Letter Day” at Rutland Water. With light 4 – 6mph winds and temperatures approaching 17c we had perfect conditions. Buzzers were hatching as we boarded the boat at 10:00am. As such, we decided to challenge ourselves and fish only buzzers on 2 and 3 weight rods. Any fish over 4 lb would be a real challenge on such light tackle and a true test of our skill. As we were fishing for the table we thought our light approach would be more sporting on the fish than using heavier tackle – it would at least give them a chance of escape.
We headed straight for the top of the Rutland South Arm and anchored in a small area called “Cattle Trough Bay” simply because of the porcelain drinking trough in the water. We both set up the infamous “bung” and made a short cast of 20ft or so, the action was instant and my indicator slid away and I lifted into a solid fish that decided to hold deep, it was obvious it was a good brown and after a spirited fight I was soon holding a 6 lb 10oz brown that pushed me all the way on my little 2 weight – A cracking start to the day.
It was then Nicks turn for some sport and whilst taking the photographs his rod hit the gunnel of the boat – in reality, he was extremely fortunate that his rod and reel were not pulled overboard and lost. With the fish already hooked he simply tightened up into a much more powerful fish, that instantly headed for open water. Its initial run was over 50m and we were thankful that we had loaded our reels with plenty of micro backing. The runs were fast, powerful with changes of direction we both knew this was a good rainbow. I lifted the boats anchor so we could drift into the open water away from the weed beds and tree stumps. Some 20 minutes later I netted a fin perfect rainbow that tipped the scales at just over 8lb 10oz.
The sport was intermittent and we didn’t actually land that many fish during the day, losses were inevitable on such light tackle when targeting such large fish, many fish simply headed straight for the weed beds and pulled the hook free. However what we did catch was exceptional, all grown on resident fish of 4 lb or larger. Incidentally, we ended the day with 10 fish between us for 46 lb.
Robs Trout Paté – Ingredients
250g Trout fillet, skin on (resident or overwintered fish are a must)
200g Smoked trout (or salmon)
150g Cream cheese
50ml Double cream
1 x Lemon
Ground black pepper
1 x Clove garlic, finely sliced
How to cook Rob’s Trout Paté
- Cook the trout fillet through in a pan over a medium heat with garlic and olive oil.
- Remove the fillet from the pan and add a dash of white wine. Reduce over a higher heat.
- Flake the salmon and pulse with 100g of the smoked trout/salmon, cream cheese, double cream and juice, zest of 1/4 of the lemon and the reduced wine. Keep the consistency quite rough.
- Season with plenty of freshly ground black pepper and a tiny amount of salt.
- Flake the remaining 100g of smoked trout/salmon on the top.