Fd: How were your beginnings in fly fishing?
Andy: I began learning to cast when I was just five years old. My father taught me in a field near our home, just 30 minutes from the river Dove in Derbyshire, England. I was casting proficiently by the time I was seven years old but my mother wouldn't let me in the river until I had passed my swimming badges! I caught my first trout on a fly when I was nine, on a Black and Peacock spider - a pattern which I keep in my box to this day.
Fd: What would you say to someone who's thinking about visiting the UK for fly fishing?
Andy: The UK has so much to offer the destination fly angler! Look beyond the put & take fisheries and you'll find some incredible ecosystems, amazing history and most importantly - stunning wild fish! There's such variety, from the gin-clear chalk streams such as the rivers Test and Itchen, tumbling freestone rivers like the Usk and Eden and vast, sprawling Lakes and Lochs like Windermere and Tay. It's isn't all about history in the UK - we've got some fantastic angling opportunities right now!
Fd: What memories have you got from your times as a trout bum in New Zealand?
Andy: Mostly the smell of dried sheep crap on my boots, and the taste of cheap whisky in my mouth! Seriously, so many memories from what was the time of my life. You hear all the hyperbole and cliche around trout fishing in NZ, but when you get there it's all true! There were some rivers where we'd walk past the 6lb fish to avoid spooking the bigger ones - you just cant imagine numbers like that! One of my abiding memories will be of the people though, I never met a bad Kiwi. Huge shout-outs to my man Chris Dore, Stu Tripney, Sven Tulcic, Dizzy Gillespie and Stu Hastie - amongst many more! My 'once in a lifetime' memory will be slipping back my 5th fish over 7lb in an afternoon, sitting on a rock in the middle of the river surrounded by snow capped mountains, an azure blue sky and gentle heat on my skin. An NZ Eagle circled in the air and everything was so perfect I had to wipe a tear from my eye - I knew then that the dream had been achieved and that all that was left was to enjoy the moment.
Fd: And what can you tell us about fly fishing for those huge catfish you found in Italy?
Andy: Well this was very different to NZ! I was working in the fly shop Farlows in London when this young and very well spoken chap asked for the predator fishing expert - everybody looked at me! He showed me pics and video of these big cats he's been hitting in the centre of Florence. The guy's name is Ollie and he runs an outfit called Fishing in Florence. We met for a beer in a London pub and he asked me if I thought it was possible to catch them on flies - I guessed at yes. Roll forward six months and there I was, Ollie's private guest for a week, there to suss out if it really was possible. Research was tough as so few people had ever done it - I was working on a mixture of instinct and guesswork. We hooked up on the first cast of the trip and it went from there - catching Wels catfish by design from the banks of the river Arno! Even on a 12# outfit these guys bust you up - we're using the same kit as for GTs! Last season an American Client banked a fish of around 170lb - the largest fish caught on fly kit in Italy!
Fd: What are the destinations that you dream about today?
Andy: I dreamed about NZ for years and did it, I dreamed about the Seychelles for years and did that too! I'm very lucky to have been able to achieve what I have. If I was pushed, I'd love to fish in Mongolia for Amur Pike, a species which was on my radar ten years ago. The small river Bolivian Dorado stuff looks EPIC, and if anybody can fit me in their suitcase then I'd love to tag along!
Fd: What would be your top 5 flies for trout?
Andy: There's a question, wow! I'm not fly picky, as I believe the fish aren't either. I like form and size rather than super imitative. I love the Duracell jig nymph designed by Craig Macdonald but I tie my own version called the Dzigi Dzigi which gets down faster due to a slimmer body. I'd always have a beaded Hare's ear nymph of some kind on my box. The snipe and purple is a classic North country spider pattern which works all over the world too. As for dries - a simple Caddis and a CDC Olive (mayfly) in sz 14 is an essential. This is basically my whole trout box right here!
Fd: Do you have any advice for those pursuing grayling on the fly for the first time?
Andy: Get down and dirty! We use Euro Nymph techniques for them here, and it involves a lot of tungsten. If you want to catch the big guys then you need to be nailed down on to the deck. Try to find the cleanest gravel you can too, they like the golden coloured stuff - and ideally there will be a steep drop in the depth too, I find these areas hold more fish and larger fish then the flat gravel beds. And if it still isn't working then give me an email and lets take a guided day together!
Fd: What is your favorite setup for trout and grayling in the UK?
Andy: I generally fish smaller waters, and my Scierra Brook 8' 4# in combination with the Brook line is ideal for hunting rising fish. The line is a shorter head than normal for a river line, something I really like as I use quite long furled leaders and tippets - something I picked up in NZ and Slovenia.
For euro nymphing I love my Scierra Surge 10' 6" 3# rod with a Hends Fluo Camo 9 metre leader. The rod is longer than many but so light in the hand - I can use it all day without fatigue. The action is crisp on the strike but forgiving enough to not pull the hooks out of a soft grayling mouth - just a perfect tool for this style of fishing.
Fd: Many European anglers frequently fish reservoirs. What recommendations would you give to those who have never fished this particular kind of stillwaters?
Andy: The key to the stillwaters is depth. Wherever you are you'll have fish in front of you, finding where they are in 40 feet of water is the challenge. They move up and down depending on the water temperature and generally you'll find most of the fish cruising at the same depth. There's a reason the competition guys carry twenty lines with them - they know that finding where the fish are in the water column is more important than fly or retrieve.
Fd: Any future projects related to fly fishing?
Andy: There are always more projects! Some of the stuff is a little secret at the moment, I don't want to say too much. I've been involved in filming some wild fishing over the UK recently with a media and marketing company which is exciting, as well as formulating some plans for some awesome fishing in less known parts of Europe - stuff that you don't really see in the mainstream media - that's what drive me now, finding new avenues.
Fd: Lastly, what does fly fishing mean to you?
Andy: Crikey guys, enough with the big questions!
Well, I'm a full time guide, I write articles, I tie flies for clients, I travel all over the world with a fly rod. It's my business, my pleasure, my focus and my down time. I get stressed over it and it relaxes me. I honestly couldn't imagine my life without fishing, I've no idea what I would do. I guess you could say that fly fishing owns me. I'm so lucky to have the opportunity to chase my dream and make it a reality, and to share that lifestyle with like-minded anglers from across the globe makes it even more sweet.
_Thank you, Andy!
Find more about Andy and his guided trips on his website: derbyshirefishingguide.co.uk