When Bill Rushmer first started fly fishing for trout, the quality of the coarse fish he saw fall to flies inspired him to perfect his own fly fishing techniques to catch big rudd, roach, perch and carp.
Far from being an awkward hybrid of two styles, fly fishing for coarse fish can be fine sport in its own right and a successful way to target a variety of fish.
Many coarse fish in rivers, reservoirs and other still waters will have a go at a fly or lure if it looks like food or provokes interest.
Be flexible in your approach and vary your equipment according to conditions. Whether covering likely swims in a stream, casting to individual fish or covering large areas of water, normal fly fishing principles are the order of the day – although specialized techniques apply in some cases.
Many pike-holding waters are so deep that they need a specialist fly fishing approach for the best results. One successful method is to fish a tube fly (they all have treble hooks) or a large lure at depths of up to about 30m (100ft) using lead core tactics. The tackle consists of a very powerful fly rod, with a large centrepin loaded with 100m (110yd) of monofilament shooting line connected to a 10m (11yd) length of lead core trolling line as a shooting head. This line sinks like a stone. The leader is a length of 8lb (3.6kg) or 10lb (4.5kg) line attached to your fly. In deep water use tube flies for pike since the treble hook holds better than a single in the fish’s bony mouth. The tactics Cast the heavy gear from a boat as far as possible. Let it sink well down so that the lure is nearly dragging bottom. Try a variety of slow retrieves, from short pulls to a steady, uniform retrieve.
Although pike fly tactics work well for perch too, a more sporting approach using traditional fly tactics can often give a lot more pleasure.
Perch are possibly the easiest of coarse fish to catch on fly as they appear to take most lures and many nymphs readily.
A 9ft (2.7m) rod, A.F.T.M. no. 6/7, fished with a weight forward no. 7 sinking line and a 4-5lb (1.8-2.2m) leader, is a good combination with small lures. Again a slow retrieve along the bottom seems to work best.
Reservoirs such as Chew and Blagdon (both of them in Avon) have produced very big perch to this method.
These flies are generally fished with a sinking line and short leader of 60-90cm (2-3ft). Cast the fly out and let the line sink so that it pulls the buoyant fly near the bottom. Then retrieve the fly in a series of short pulls so that it dives and then rises from the bottom – rather like the sink-and-draw method of dead baiting for pike. The action is deadly for most species of predator, including perch and pike. (The pattern that has given Bill Rushmer the most success with this method is the modern tying of a Razzler.)
A buoyant fly can also be fished static, like a pop-up bait in pike fishing.
Although chub can be caught from rivers on the tactics described for perch, dry fly tactics are much more fun and can yield better results in the summer. Fishing for chub using fairly heavy tackle with A.F.T.M. no. 6 lines and big bushy flies meets with some success, but a much lighter approach can increase catches.
An 8ft (2.4m) no. 4 rod fished with a double taper no. 4 floating line held on a small fly reel is a good combination. Use a light leader, with much smaller flies and you’ll find the lighter tackle gives a much improved presentation and is a real pleasure to use.
Occasionally carp can give some good sport on the fly – particularly on a dry fly. Smaller carp take a fly with no hesitation and even large fish will rise and take flies – such as a large White Moth (also called a White Wulff) – off the surface.
Sometimes carp can also go for small nymphs fished slowly across the bottom. Of the modern patterns, the Gold Bead Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear appears to be one of the more successful nymphs.
In the early part of the coarse fishing season, many species recuperate after spawning in the faster water around weirs. These fish are often easily caught on a lure or nymph fished downstream from the weir and slowly retrieved. A floating line with a leaded fly worked through the weir sills or shallows below the weir pool is generally effective. When fishing a river such as the middle Thames, where you might target a number of species in different conditions, be prepared to vary your equipment. A range of outfits from A.F.T.M. no. 4 to no. 6 rods and lines should be enough.
Use double taper floating lines for better presentation with leaders of up to 12ft (3.6m) long made of 4lb (1.8kg) b.s. line. Most coarse fish can be persuaded to take a fly at times – don’t forget the sport you can have with dace, rudd, roach, bream and the rest on fly tackle. Flashy lures work well for pike and perch and gold bead nymphs work well for chub, dace and the odd barbel. .