Recent years have seen difficult conditions for the fly angler what with the dry, droughty conditions of 2011 which stayed with us right up until late April of 2012 and were then followed by the unprecedented wet summer of 2012. It’s not surprising that most fishermen are looking forward to the coming season with some trepidation. The season so far has yet to really get started even though opening day has long since been and gone. This year has, so far, followed the trend of the previous two with difficult conditions. This time it has been the seemingly endless winter that has made fishing ‘interesting’. Not only is the water in our rivers exceptionally cold for the time of year, there does not seem to be very much of it. As I write this, the gauge at Brecon is down to 8 inches. In a normal season in April we would expect at least another 4 inches of water in the Usk.
Fly hatches that came several weeks earlier than expected last year have appeared at their more usual times this year, although I am not sure what is normal anymore. I have seen some good hatches of both Large Dark Olives and March Browns. Over the last two years the March Browns have seen a welcome resurgence on the welsh rivers, most notably the Usk, Wye and Taff, after a severe dip in their numbers in previous years. The decline had been so severe that the River Fly Project took special measures to try and monitor this species. Seeing the slow but steady comeback of these once near ubiquitous insects , I wonder if there is a relationship with the banning of cypermethrin1 ? Whatever the reason, I, for one, am always glad to see them. During a hatch of these famous flies it pays to be on your toes and be prepared to move to a more favourable place as soon as you see the first examples on the wing. The reason for this is the short span of the hatch, sometimes only lasting for 10 minutes. The nymphs of the March Brown favour the fast well-oxygenated water of the gravelly riffles so, during a hatch the best place to catch fish can be right at the head of the pool. Often fish can even be seen rising to dry flies in the fast white water. My favourite nymphs to fish in a Brown hatch are either a dark coloured GRHE (Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear) or a Pheasant tail nymph with a scruffy collar of guard hair from a Hare’s mask. Another successful nymph is the Fulling Mill Riffle Nymph and for a dry fly choice I find the Fulling Mill March Brown available from Guides Choice Fly Fishing Tackle hard to beat.
With both the LDO (Large Dark Olive) and the MB (March Brown) you can expect the hatch to start somewhere between 12 and 1 pm (an hour later after the start of BST) but, unlike the MB hatch, the LDO hatch can last for several hours. Favoured patterns of mine for the LDO hatch are the F Fly and the Rough Olive as well at JT’s Pheasant Tail Emerger. The LDO is a member of the baetidae family, the baetis Nymphs tend to be long and thin and have the common group name: agile darters. These slender nymphs are best imitated with the Pheasant Tail Nymph. I like to use various sizes with tungsten bead heads to help create a heavy fly but still retain the slim profile. I have had great success while fishing the Fulling Mill Pheasant Tail Marys and I am looking forward to getting out to make the most of the hatches before they end.
Let us hope that the increase in numbers of March Browns continues next year and maybe we will even get some “normal” weather next spring.
All the fly patterns mentioned in this article are available through Guides Choice fly fishing tackle
Tight Lines and enjoy your spring fishing.
Frank Williams APGAI
1 Cypermethrin is a synthetic pyrethroid used as an insecticide banned in 2010. The problem with it It behaves as a fast-acting neurotoxin in insects. Cypermethrin is highly toxic to fish, bees and aquatic insects.