Dead calms are rare on a large water, but when they occur, drift fishing is impossible. On such occasions, and on difficult days in all weathers, I try trolling. My idea of trolling is moving the boat (by oar or motor) slowly enough to keep a deep-water fly moving at a good depth.
For this, I use my usual reservoir rod, with a very heavy lead-core shooting head, and an old-fashioned, open, light salmon reel which easily holds 200 yards of backing. I tie a small piece of cotton or wool every 25 yards down the backing, to know how much line has been played out, then fish at varying depths. Takes are sometimes violent, so I always keep a hand on my rod.
Some large waters allow spinning, which some critics describe as an easy way of fly fishing. In my experience, however, trout are easier to catch on a fly than on a spinner. But if you want to try, fish deep water for specimens. Use an 8-9ft rod, a fixed-spool reel with 100 yards of 8 lb nylon and a variety of silver and gold spoons. My preference is for small Mepps spinners.
Large reservoirs and lakes are the most accessible venues for most trout fishermen.
In addition, most of the techniques used on large waters apply equally to small waters. They are usually stocked on a ‘put-and-take’ basis, with regular topping up of depleted stocks. The average weight of stock fish may be over 2 lb, but much larger fish may be added.
Methods andor flies are restricted on some waters, although the rules may be eased as the season progresses. But do not worry if the rule is nymph-only. My records show that more heavier fish are caught on imitation flies than on lures in these waters. The reason is probably that the newly stocked fish either get wise to lures quickly or get caught.
Most small fisheries are shallow, so there is no need to plumb vast depths for big fish. My tackle for nymphing is an 8 ft glassfibre rod with matching floating line and an 8ft leader of 8 lb b.s. Line, with perhaps one dropper. My favourite flies are black, brown and green midge pupae, orange and brown sedge pupae, leaded and unleaded Pheasant Tail nymphs, Shrimp, Cor-ixa and Black and Peacock spider.
If fish are showing on the surface, I start by fishing a midge pupa with very slow retrieves, gradually speeding up if there are no offers. Midge pupae are the commonest items in a trout’s diet, and they are usually effective, but for a change I fish the same way with a sedge pupa or unleaded Pheasant Tail nymph.
If the fish are not showing, it is natural to assume that they have gone deeper. But just how deep? I change to a 12ft or 15ft leader and tie on a leaded Pheasant Tail nymph. I then fish the fly slowly through various depths, counting it down to determine depth. If the Pheasant Tail produces no bites, I try another fly.
Although a trout does not have to weigh 10 lb or more to be a specimen, there is a special satisfaction in catching a double-figure rainbow. An ever-increasing number of small stillwaters are stocking these large fish. The waters are obviously more expensive but well worth a visit.
Avington, near Winchester, is the most famous of these waters consisting of three smallish lakes, often crystal clear and of no great depth.
It is possible to stand quietly on the bank and watch huge trout patrol the clearings in the weeds. ‘Quiet’ is the key word. The vast majority of these big trout are caught by those who spend more time observing and waiting than casting. There are, of course, a good number of ‘normal’ sized trout in these waters, and you can fish for them in the usual way with nymphs, but the ‘induced take’ is best for giant rainbows.
My tackle for these ‘normal’ sized-trout consists of a reservoir rod, floating line, and an 8 lb b.s. Leader lft longer than the depth where I am fishing. I then tie on a leaded Pheasant Tail nymph. The big fish seem to patrol a regular beat, and so you can calculate where they will be in a few minutes. Cast out and let the fly sink to the bottom in the expected path of the fish. When it approaches, tweak the fly off the bottom and across its path.
By taking care not to frighten the fish, it is possible to repeat this several times with different leaded nymphs. If you are lucky, a jumbo will snatch the fly. If one does, do not panic, just take the rest of the day to land it!
When sport at Grafham Water first started, the bank fishing was really superb and hundreds of trout fishermen soon got the message! I live over 60 miles away, so I did not have the local’s advantage of dropping by for a couple of hours when conditions were right. Slightly overawed by the size of Grafham, I set out to find a hotspot which was both off the beaten track and fishable throughout the season and in all types of weather.
Savage’s Creek fitted the bill perfectly. It comprises a sheltered creek with shallow water, a deep channel close to the North Bank, and good open stretches of water – all within 200 yards of the bank. Because it is sheltered, it is a spot where fish will rise freely to the surface for the nymphs, dry flies and fish fry abundant in such spots.
I only discovered why Savage’s Creek was so reliable for trout dur-ing the drought of 1976. Grafham fell 20ft below its normal level, but the deepwater channel was still fishable. The low water revealed the ‘dryland’ continuation of the banks of the creek stretching well into the main reservoir on both sides. At normal water height, these banks are at a very fishable depth. In addition, they funnel feeding fish, swimming into the prevailing wind, into Savage’s Creek.
Savage’s Creek is equally good for boat fishing. I prefer to fish from a drifting boat, and in this area, I can drift across a variety of depths, regardless of wind direction, in a short space of time and find out the depth at which fish are feeding.
At the start of the season, I find that a drift takes me through one or two shoals of smaller trout and also reveals the occasional solitary large fish. As the weather warms up, the shoals of fish start to disperse, but a good hatch of sedges on a warm evening will cause fish to rise.
Fishing from the South Bank is only allowed after July 15 and from then on it is well worth the extra walk to fish there. The bank and margin have been undisturbed since the previous October. The sheltered shallows of the creek are particular-ly productive on fry-feeding days.
Towards the end of the season, Savage’s Creek is a focal point for large browns and rainbows in their hopeless search for a stream to spawn in. These fish are very ag-gressive and are best taken in the deepwater channel on a large lure fished on a fast-sinking line.
Savage’s Creek is one of the most consistent hotspots on an excellent fishery, and is an ideal place for both the regular and the newcomer. They can be assured of fish at all times. 1,4 5£