Dry fly fishing for large trout can be very exciting, although there are not many days when it is appropriate. Look for a hatch of sedges in late afternoon. This often occurs when the wind starts to drop. Find a bay or inlet where there is still a good ripple, with a portion of calm water in the most sheltered part. The wind will usually continue to drop as the evening progresses, and the area of calm water will increase. Select a spot where you can cast into the border between the ripple and the calm water, ideally with the wind behind you. Grease your leader to within 2in of the fly. If the rules of the water allow, tie a nymph on a dropper. Then, cast into the ripple and watch. Be prepared to let the fly drift naturally, and try to avoid drag. When a fish takes the fly, count to five slowly and then tighten into the fish rather than striking. As it gets dark, remove the nymph (unless it has been scoring) so as to avoid ‘bird’s nests’.
Good rises to sedge often start with only an hour or two of fishing time left. If you find that a dry sedge does not work amid rising fish, tie on an Invicta and fish it slowly through the ripple, quickening the rate of retrieve if there are no offers. Do not waste time changing tackle, but fish the Invicta on the dry fly tackle. If that does not succeed, try a sedge pupa.
A good sedge rise will often occur at the end of a warm day, when the water has seemed devoid of trout. Many anglers will have already packed up and gone home, unaware that the best part of the fishing day is yet to come. Stay on in the hope of an evening rise. Remember, trout have to eat sometime and the longer they don’t, the better they will feed when the opportunity arises.
Sometimes, though, even this ‘in- fallible’ ritual will let you down. Then, the only thing to do is to try several flies until one works. For example, one evening at Grafham Water, as dusk started to fall, I could see fish coming right up to the bank and taking sedges from the surface but none would take my fly. In desperation, I greased a small Brown Muddler so that it floated on the surface, case close to the bank, and slowly twitched the fly back towards me. I took two good rainbows in my first two casts, and then saw the swirl of a really big trout working its way along the bankside towards me. It was taking sedges from the surface with a casual rise, but with the powerful boil which betrays the movement of a large fish. I pitched the greased Muddler directly in its path. Twitch, twitch .. . bang, and the fish was on and soon 50 yards away, with the reel still screaming. I played it into the darkness, but it eventually threw the hook when it jumped for the sixth time. Nevertheless, the big-gest rainbow I ever hooked at Grafham was feeding in 18in of water at a distance of only about 10ft away from the bank.
Boats have both advantages and disadvantages for the specimen hunter. Although a boat gives access to the whole of a large water, unless you are anchored or in a flat calm, it also makes it difficult to fish a fly below 2-3ft.
I have never seen the point of anchoring a boat all day in one spot in the vain hope that a fish might swim by. I prefer to find fish by drifting the boat over a set area and fishing a good choice of depths. In deeper water and windy weather, slow your rate of drift to allow your fly to sink – down to 50ft if necessary.
I use the same tackle as when fishing from dams, but I usually use a lead-core shooting head, which is the quickest way of getting down to the fish. Most boats are equipped with a drogue andor anchor, but neither is capable of sufficiently fine adjustment for this purpose. I like to take my own home-made drogue (5ft across), two different weights and a grapnel hook. The drogue slows the boat down in a breeze, and one of the weights attached to 50ft of nylon washing line provides an ef-fective drag on the bottom in stronger winds. If I want to anchor, I tie a weight a few feet above the grapnel hook so that the anchor drags until it secures the boat.