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Paul Procter Q&A

Published: 18th January 2022 | Author: Paul Procter

If you saw part of Paul’s interview in our 2022 catalog, you’ve come to the right place! Paul Procter is one of the most well-known anglers in the UK. An exceptionally talented angler and tier, Paul has dedicated his passion to targeting large brown trout. He’s traveled the world in search of them, visiting places like New Zealand, Iceland and Chile. But, he finds many of these specimens close to home in the UK. For 2022 Paul has added several of his top performing patterns to our collection, including his All Purpose Terrestrial (APT) and Mayfly Lifecycle. You can check them all out here.

Paul with a fine wild brown trout.

FM: You are well known for your passion for catching large brown trout. When and why did you actively start targeting these big fish?

Paul Procter: My love affair with big trout began in 2002 following a trip to the Aberdeenshire Don. I was blessed with what many might term the ‘fish of a lifetime’ on that visit. From that day forward, I found myself consumed by the sheer magnificence of such specimens. They still hold sway with me and are a guiding force in my everyday life.

Of course, there are bragging rights with such creatures, but I’d like folks to understand that’s not what drives me. It’s the overwhelming sense of excitement and trepidation when edging in behind such a brute to make a cast that really floats my boat. Countless thoughts race through my mind in those final moments. Primary among them is probably ‘which one of the 1000 ways to lose this fish will it be today’?  It’s what we call adrenalin and it’s hard wired into the DNA of anyone who cares to waft a fly rod.   

FM: What is your preferred river dry fly set up when targeting large brown trout with dry flies?

Paul Procter: I generally choose a 10ft 4-weight with a dull coloured weight forward line.  The longer rod enables us to hold more fly line clear of grabbing currents and avoid drag. An olive or grey fly line fills me with confidence, though I’ll be the first to admit its superiority might only be in my mind. Many argue that all fly lines cast the same colour shadow when at rest on water, but that’s too much mind over matter for me. Whilst a 4-weight is my ‘go to’ weapon of choice, I’m quick to switch to a 10-ft 3-weight during low water which gives me an edge in terms of presentation under such conditions.

FM: What tips can you give to fisherman who want to start targeting large brown trout?

Paul Procter: Without reservation…patience and observation are the fundamentals of hunting trophy trout. Too many anglers are far too keen to step into a pool these days. You’re far better off sitting back and watching for a good fifteen minutes or so. Also, be economical with your casting and only deliver a fly when absolutely necessary. As a fishing guide, I frequently see trout spooked by anglers hastily making repeated casts, rather than waiting to deliver one opportune cast.

Patience and observation are key.

FM: Do you have any tips on how to play large trout on a light outfit?

Paul Procter: Each fish we hook is unique in every single way, so fighting them is somewhat subjective. That said, there are pointers to help us gain the upper hand. I’m very much for taking the fight to a fish rather than letting them have free rein. Where possible try keeping trout on a short leash as applying pressure and turning them is then more direct. Of course, when initially hooked and therefore fresh, most trout make a mad dash. Rather than remaining static, I follow them whilst reeling up line. A vertical rod at this stage holds line out of the water reducing pressure and preventing any sunken fly line from being wrapped around snags by belligerent trout. 

Once that first electrifying run is over, I close in and apply side strain by angling my rod in a horizontal plane. This really does exert more pressure on trout and ultimately helps you steer them away from danger. For example, a fish bolting to the left should be countered by you canting the rod to your right and vice versa. This action often causes trout to twist, then turn, and such energy expenditure will tire them sooner. As they become more disorientated, fish are netted far more quickly than if you leave them to tow you around a pool.

Netting fish, especially prize ones, is perhaps the most crucial stage. With hardly any line outside the rod tip there is little stretch in our system. Now, a vertical rod results in only the tip coming into play, thereby reducing unnecessary pressure, and guarding against any last-minute violent head shakes from a disgruntled fish. Finally, where possible guide fish into the net headfirst as the trout’s body will always follow its head, and of course conveniently for us, fish don’t have a reverse gear.

FM: What top five dry flies would you not be without anywhere in the world?

Paul Procter: Without question, number one would be Procter’s APT (All Purpose Terrestrial). In various sizes this fly covers most terrestrials from ants right up to hawthorn flies, as well as numerous beetle species. My second choice is Procter’s Pearly Butt Olive Emerger. Again, dependent on size, it’s reminiscent of several typical up-winged species. Close on its heels is my Flip-Flop. This outsized terrestrial lands with a resounding ‘plop’ that seems to turn the heads of stubborn trout, as well as those stapled to the streambed. My Hi-Viz Para Duster has to be in the mix as it appeals to trout the world over, whether they’re targeting emerging duns or sipping down spinners. And finally, Procter’s Caddis Emerger, in cream or green. If pushed on colour choice the cream version is what my fingers would settle on first. 

FM: Lots of your flies feature a little pearly butt and this has become the signature of many of your patterns. Explain to us the theory behind this and why it makes flies more attractive?

Paul Procter: It started some years ago by adding a pearly tinsel butt to the waterhen bloa. The idea being that a hint of sparkle was reminiscent of a partially discarded shuck. Following unprecedented success, this flashy inclusion soon found its way onto many of my emerger patterns. The thinking was one of suggesting an emerging insect was still shackled to its nymphal shuck and therefore easy pickings. Whilst the measure of success might not be tangible, in my experience a fly with the pearly butt does seem to be snapped up sooner than your average pattern.

FM: We have added in your APT pattern. How and when do you fish this pattern?

Paul Procter: Firstly, I’m delighted that FM included this fly of mine. Above all others, it’s my Numero Uno. The APT really comes into its own during terrestrial falls. Yet it also has worth as a search pattern, especially when combing broken water during the warmer months. As terrestrials of one kind or another are evident throughout the season, the ATP works from opening week until the closing days of the season.

I’m very much one for targeting rise forms so I’ll fish a single fly to feeding trout, often placing the fly a yard or so upstream of any disturbance. It performs at its deadliest however during falls of black gnats in April/May and of course, when flying ants drop onto the water. We’re fortunate to have several species of rove beetles (those long, slender jobbies) in Cumbria and the trout go berserk when these are present. Again, an APT matches them to the letter.   

FM: We have also added in a pattern of yours called the Flip Flop. Is this one of your NZ patterns? In what situation do you use it?

Paul Procter: In essence, yes, as this fly started life ‘down under’ as a rudimentary cicada pattern. However, dressed in black the Flip Flop seems to appeal to trout the world over. I find that trout in Chile, Iceland and Russia are particularly fond of it. What’s more, I’ve even had the odd salmon come and snaffle a Flip Flop! For me, it’s most deadly when used as a search pattern. I kid you not, its presence is such that it literally pulls fish out of the woodwork.  If there’s a trick to fishing this fly…make sure you land it with definite ‘plop’.

A memorable flip-flop eater.

FM: Before the Covid Pandemic hit you were regularly visiting New Zealand. What is it that keeps drawing you back there?

Paul Procter: There’s many reasons I keep retuning to New Zealand, but principally, in an ever-shrinking world the sense of freedom and remoteness it offers is what draws me. The Kiwis are truly wonderful folk and combined with the fact that there’s an overwhelming outdoor culture there, this is something I’ve rarely found elsewhere.

FM: What tips would you have for anyone planning a trip to New Zealand trout fishing?

Paul Procter: That’s a tough question to answer in a paragraph. Like anywhere, I guess research is paramount. I’ve been lucky to befriend several guides down there and this has provided me with something of a shortcut. I’d strongly recommend taking a guide for a few days as you’ll be privy to local intel and get started on the right foot.

FM: What is the most memorable fish you have caught in New Zealand?

Paul Procter: Boom…another tough question!  There have been many, but one trout in particular sticks out in my mind. I’d walked a good way into a backcountry river for a two-day solo camping expedition. The river in question was running high, so my first day proved quite challenging. On the second day, edging ever further into the wilderness, I picked up three notable trout that were trumped with my final fish of the day — a pristine looking hen brownie of 9lb 12oz. Feeding off the surface, she rose to a carefully placed #14 Flip Flop.

To read more about New Zealand, check out these articles.

FM: You have added in a full “Life Cycle” range of mayfly patterns to our catalogue this year. Included in it are two mayfly emerger patterns. When do you tend to fish the emerger patterns? Do you use them in preference to the dun at all times or just at the beginning of the hatch?

Paul Procter: It all depends on a given situation. Regardless of whether it’s a huge mayfly or a tiny pale watery, I’m generally happiest fishing emerger patterns.  The reasons being that with their best part (the hook bend and point) submerged, it’s easier for fish to grab hold, so arguably, your hook-up rate is higher. Furthermore, as the bulk of the hook gets anchored subsurface, drag is less likely to take hold. That said, there are definitely times when fish show a distinct preference for full-blown duns that waft awkwardly across the surface, calling for my Active Dun pattern instead.

FM: Although hugely effective, the mayfly nymph is often ignored by anglers in preference to the dry fly imitations. We have added in your nymph pattern, how do you fish it?

Paul Procter: Be it lakes or rivers, the mayfly nymph is lethal. It works best during the early days of Duffer’s when trout may still be a little intimidated by the sheer size of adult mayflies. I prefer a long-ish leader of some 14-16ft and a single fly. On lakes, this is cast out and allowed to settle before imparting a jerky figure-of-eight retrieve with plenty of pauses. On running water, it’s best to cast upstream then fish the nymph back on a slightly tensioned line, often with a lift or two of the rod tip creating a sort of blind induced-take if you like. 

FM: Do you have any tips and tricks for when fishing the mayfly hatch?

Paul Procter: Perhaps more than anything, it would be to impart movement to your dry fly. Mayflies are large and ungainly creatures at the surface. I’m certain their attempts to get airborne create a fair bit of disturbance that doesn’t go unnoticed by trout. It might only be a wee check of your rod tip to pause the fly and let it quiver for a second or two, but this is enough to turn the heads of trout.

Another excellent brown trout.

FM: What is still on your trout fishing bucket list?

Paul ProcterI’ve been extremely fortunate to travel far and wide though a few places remain high on my list. In terms of freshwaters, I’d jump at the opportunity to visit other parts of Russia and Mongolia. When it comes to saltwater fishing, the Seychelles would be right up there.

To see all of Paul’s new flies for this season, head to our website.

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