Early Season Trout on Large Freestone Rivers

Martin Stuart, Greys' Pro

It's well known in Scotland that April and May can be very special months in the world of fly fishing - it really is my favorite time of the year. The wild garlic has shot up through the ground, the newly born lambs are jumping about the fields and the Swallows and Sand Martin's can be seen once again. But, most importantly for me, Large Dark Olives and March Browns can be seen hatching along the river banks once more and for me, it's all about catching fish on the dry fly again after spending most of the winter routinely lobbing nymphs into the icy cold depths of the river. These big flies can bring up some fine specimen's and it's not uncommon to catch big fish between 2lbs and 5lbs at this time of the year on rivers such as the Tweed, Clyde, Don, Deveron and Tay. You just need to do your homework...

At present we are halfway through the Grayling season. It's usually at this time my mind drifts towards the beginning of the Trout Season. I simply cant help dreaming about what might happen on the river bank this spring and what kind of fly hatches we might experience. I also love planning where I'm going to fish and think about what flies and equipment I will need.

Organisation and Equipment prior to Spring

I maybe go a bit over the top when it comes to planning my fishing trips but for the past 4 or 5 seasons I have organised myself by creating Excel documents into one large database. This includes equipment I need with a checklist I can use on the mornings or nights before trips to make sure I don't forget anything. There are also spread sheets in there with flies to tie, what sizes and the materials that I need. As I said a wee bit OTT but it helps me organize myself for the Trout season ahead so I'm not wasting any time on the water during my favorite fishing months.

Most of my dry fly fishing all year round is done on a Greys GR70 Streamflex 9' #5. The reason for this is that I can control my casting with a shorter rod, delivering delicate casts with nice tight loops even at range. Most importantly however the #4 has a medium to soft tip action which helps to cushion the impact of the fish taking my fly and absorb any sudden charges of freedom when hooked.

I use the Greys GX900 in the 2-4 weight which perfectly balances out with my 9ft #4 Streamflex.

I have a #4 floating lines spooled up on my reel with a #5 on a spare spool just in case there is a stiff breeze about. The #5 works well with my #4 rod and actually delivers the final cast a lot quicker with a bit more power.

Leader and Tippet
Everyone has personal choices on how to set up their dry fly leader in terms of performance and feel. I keep mine as simple as possible. I use a 15ft dry fly leader in 4x. I cut off three feet at the end of the leader and at about three to four feet of 0.14 Stroft ABR to a tippet ring. From the tippet ring I then add about 5 feet of 0.12 Stroft ABR to my fly.

I get asked this every year, "What flies to you fish at the start of the season?" My answer is always be the same - my old favourite, the Jingler. The Jingler is almost 200 years old so if it worked then it will work now. The movement of the partridge is what catches the fish's eye but the overall profile of the jingler looks very alike the real McCoy. I tie up Olive and March Brown versions of the pattern.

Fly Hatches
Fly hatches can be a funny thing. In my experience they can last 10 minutes or over an hour and can come at any time of the day but usually between 12 and 3pm during the spring months when the temperature reaches it's highest of the day, usually anything over 12 degrees. March Browns need warmth to hatch.

My approach to this is usually to head down to the river for 10.30am set up so I am on the riverbank for 11am, take a flask or a book and relax for a while keeping an eye out for both fish and fly activity. A tell tale sign apart from the temperature is usually the Gulls and Ducks moving into position for a fly hatch. They seem to have a sixth sense of when things are about to kick off.

You definitely need a bit of luck to catch big Brown Trout - it doesn't always go your way but is such a rewarding experience when it does. I have hooked many specimen Trout on my days fishing but have lost more than landed. It's awesome to catch these fish and get your award winning photos with them but bizarrely, I enjoy the moments when fish are lost as well with the what if thoughts running through my head, this is what keeps you returning to the river and is what keeps you dreaming about your next trip.

There is still time left during the Grayling season to catch some big lumps but if your looking to get into some specimen Brown Trout this season then start getting organised and enjoy the process, the hard work will be worth it.