Online Fly Fishing Magazine

England international Steve Smalley shares his early season stillwater patterns that have brought him success as winter turns to spring.

Steve Smalley rutland water rainbow trout

As spring emerges and the days begin to lengthen, the water temperature slowly starts to rise we see an increase in the feeding activity from our stillwater trout. Most anglers I know begin to look forward to the prospect of an early season outing from the bank or boat with the promise of some great fishing given the right conditions. The first hatches of buzzers wont be far away and on the warmer days and trout will be eager to make the most of this important food source.

Throughout spring, the buzzer fishing can be excellent, bringing the best sport of the year on some waters. I like to fish a floating or midge-tip line, with a three or four fly set-up, using a slow figure-of-eight retrieve with the occasional short pull just to lift the flies in the water. This can bring savage takes.

Try fishing the flies completely static, either just keeping up with them as your line moves round in the ripple or fish them under the bung; either way can be just as deadly. And don’t forget the hang, on both small and large stillwaters, on its day it can be the only way to catch.

Given the time of year, the cooler days will also keep making an appearance making lures the go to choice of fly. Weighted lures, blobs or boobies will take their share of both the freshly stocked and over wintered fish. Most anglers will tend fish these flies in conjunction with sinking lines with various retrieves until the correct holding depth is found.

Here are some of my favourite early season patterns that have become reliable fish takers for me on the stillwaters I fish.

black hot spot buzzer rainbow trout Steve Smalley

Black Hot Spot Buzzer


HOOK: Kamasan B110, size 10 to 14
RIB: White Spanflex
CHEEKS: Orange fabric paint ( Acrylic ) This is available online or from most craft shops. With many colours available the possible combinations are endless

One coat of UV resin on the thorax with one coat of Sally Hansen’s varnish over the whole fly keeps this pattern both durable and allows the segmented effect to come out on the body.

hatching buzzer Steve Smalley

Hatching Buzzer


HOOK: Hayabusa 761, size 10 or 12
RIB: Stripped peacock herl
THORAX: Hare’s ear mix

I usually tie this pattern in two stages. Firstly tie the body, applying one coat of UV resin with a final coat of Sally Hansen’s and then allow to dry, before finishing the thorax area with hare’s ear dubbing.

cat minky rainbow trout Steve Smalley

Cat Minky


HOOK: Hayabusa, size 8 or 10
THREAD: Orange
BODY: Chartreuse Pseudo Hackle
WING: FNF Hulk or white zonker strip. Two strips of red holographic flash tied in with the wing
EYES: Orange or pink bead chain
tequila blob rainbow trout Steve Smalley

Tequila Blob


HOOK: Hayabusa 761, size 10
TAIL: Silver, pearl, sparkle mix
REAR BODY: FNF Jelly Fritz, zest
FRONT BODY: FNF Jelly Fritz, magma

Steve Smalley

Steve Smalley has been fishing for over thirty years, firstly on the small freestone streams and rivers in the northwest of England moving on to the local small still waters and larger reservoirs. Steve has been on the comp etition circuit for many years starting in local competitions before progressing to national competitions, with the highlight representing England. Steve is a member of the successful competition team, the Ospreys, as well as an ambassador for Vision Fly fishing UK. When not competing he ties his own flies where he enjoys experimenting with new and different materials.

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