Covering over 3,000 acres, Rutland Water is one of the largest reservoirs in Europe. Its two arms reach miles into the surrounding farmland and can be unwelcoming to the newcomer.
Like any big open water there are vast barren areas mixed with thriving oases: fish the oases under the right conditions, and you’ll find consistent sport.
We surveyed the water on an August day when a gusty westerly wind was blasting down the barrel-like North Arm until it met the dam in a nasty head-on collision. The sky was partly cloudy.
Peter and Jeremy were quick to stress that most of the recently acclimatized rainbows are primarily midge and daphnia feeders – sheep-like grazers following their food where the water currents take it.
On the leeward (downwind) bank of the reservoir in mid summer, for example, the corpses of emerging midge pupae may litter the area in their thousands: a mass aquatic graveyard. Not far away are grave-robbing rainbows picking off the dead, dying and helpless with a minimum of effort.
Syke’s and the bowl
The water is quite shallow and weedy down the bank off Syke’s Monument. The North
Pit, a deep hole where gravel was extracted before the valley was flooded, is just off the monument. The water is deep, and the bottom is all gravel and stone. This is an excellent bank spot in the autumn.
Trout don’t spawn in reservoirs, says Jeremy, but they try. During the autumn, they may hole up on stony areas, and the North Pit is definitely worth some attention. The area past the monument to the dam, parallel with Syke’s Lane, is a productive drifting area. A combination of the weed growth along the bank, deep water nearby and a good westerly wind mean that trout won’t be very far away.
The prevailing westerly wind piling into the area off Syke’s Lane, the dam and Fancy Island concentrate the food in the east end of the reservoir. This was certainly the case on the day – Peter and Jeremy took most of their trout in this area.
On windy days tell-tale wind lanes, caused by spiralling underwater currents, are worth exploring in boats. ‘Wind lanes concentrate food on the surface of the water, says Jeremy, who was first off the draw. And the food attracts the trout that are on the surface of the lake. When the fish are not up on the surface there’s no point in fishing there.
You can be drifting on the water when the sun is out, says Peter, and the top is dead, but as soon as a bit of cloud comes, immediately the fish come up. The trout don’t always work upwind, either: they sometimes move downwind in the lanes.
Air is pumped into the basin or bowl of the reservoir to stop the water from stratifying – splitting into three layers. These are the epilimnion (at the top), hypolimnion (at the bottom) and the thermocline (in between).
When deep waters stratify, any decaying matter tends to get trapped in the bottom level, robbing the water of its oxygen and causing it to become stagnant. Obviously this is not the most ideal or tasteful state for drinking water. Stratification also forces fish up into the more highly oxygenated upper two layers in mid summer.
The boils, where the air is being pumped into the reservoir, are prime areas to fish during a hot summer in bright conditions -when everywhere else is dead. The trout may drop down deep to avoid the bright light. But they have plenty of oxygen around the boils.
Security, oxygen and cool water mean that the fish may feed avidly — even when conditions are at their brightest and hottest above the water. These areas are definitely worth some attention.
The points off Three Trees (only two in fact) to Normanton Church are among the best all-round bank spots on Rutland.
All through the year stock fish are going to be along this bank: it’s a good fry holding area, says Jeremy. There’s always some weed here. Plenty of perch. But it’s got a nice stony bottom which also brings sedge in. It has enough mud to breed chironomids: this is everything a bank spot should be. Most of the good spots are shelving banks sloping into deep water.
Imagine a featureless expanse of mud and gravel covered by deep water. It is dark and cold. A large, discoloured pipe, jutting up from the floor of the reservoir, runs from the North Tower all the way to the tower in the central bowl. Pretty basic accommodation to say the least, yet many coarse fish congregate above and around the pipe. To roach, this pipe is a haven — a comfortable armchair and cold beer to you and me.
Along with this population of coarse fish, there is a treasured, sought-after head of big, deep-water browns which feed almost exclusively on the coarse fish. These big browns (4-12 lb /1.8-5.4kg) are at the other end of the pole from the grazing rainbows (which are mostly caught by traditional loch-style tactics).
They are residents, well-practised in giving chase, in harrying their food from below, and in driving the shoals towards the surface to slash through them.
At one time the top end of the North Arm was the rendezvous for grown-on trout. Now, however, there seems to be a shortage of these middle-weight contenders. The often quoted, well-known reason is tampering with the food chain: cut out the algae link in summer, and the daphnia and aquatic insects decline in numbers. And so do the natural-feeding trout.
The top is a usually productive, early season area; the shallow water warms quickly and holds many insects (under natural conditions when not interfered with, that is).
Because the sunlight can penetrate the water, weed growth is abundant in spring and summer. Shallow plains covered in weeds give rise to aquatic insects and crustaceans which thrive in the dense fronds and have ample cover.
Two areas recommended by Peter and Jeremy are the Transformer and the Wall. The Transformer is a good early season mark, says Jeremy. It’s a 12ft deep hole surrounded by a basin of about 6-8ft deep.
There are no tell-tale signs of the Wall at the very top of the North Arm: it doesn’t continue up both banks of the bay. You can find it by drifting slowly along the bay west of the fish ponds . There’s a 90cm (3ft) gap which trout may use to move to the shallow west side.
On the east side the depth drops to about 3-3.6m (10-12ft). Grown-on rainbows and browns feed here on coarse fish such as roach and perch, and on a wealth of insects. Though you may have difficulty finding this mark, it’s certainly very productive under the right conditions.