Although there are a number of small reservoirs in Britain of 60-100 acres, most are around 300 acres with some, such as Rutland Water, covering more than ten times this area. On these ‘inland seas’ a boat can help you get the best of the sport -as long as you know how to handle it and where to position it.
Most reservoirs are not the featureless places that some people imagine them to be. There are bays and headlands, valve pumping towers, submerged islands and many other features. These areas fish well at different times of the day and in different seasons – using various techniques. Taking a boat out means you can fish any of these places – and if the action’s slow, it’s easy and quick to move to another spot.
Using a boat can be dangerous, so fish with someone else unless you are highly experienced. Before you and your partner set out from the jetty, make sure that your boat has all the essential equipment.
You’ll need an anchor – the kedge-type is best because it holds bottom firmly without being very heavy. (It has blades which dig in when you pay out enough line.) If the boat has an outboard motor, and most do, make sure there are a pair of oars under the seats for emergencies. Nothing is guaranteed to ruin your day more effectively than being adrift in 3000 acres of water waiting for a rescue boat. Check the rowlocks aren’t damaged and that there is a life jacket or a buoyancy aid for you and your fishing partner. There should also be a bailer beneath the seat to get rid of the water you bring into the boat with your wet tackle and, with any luck, your fish.
For control over your drifting speed, a drogue (a small parachute dropped in the water and used to slow the rate of drift) is essential. One of 130cm (50in) square is just right. Obviously this is only useful for fishing on the drift.
Early in the season, the water is beginning to warm up and weeds are starting to grow in the shallower water. These weeds are a haven for insects and fish fry which attract the bigger fish. Areas of shallow water accessible only by boat are usually great places to find early season trout. Headlands often continue underwater for hundreds of yards, providing areas of shallow water. This type of feature produces some prime fishing from April to mid-May. The weedy ridge provides food and shelter for the trout and many can be caught before sport tails off in late summer. Approach the ridge downwind – to avoid scaring the fish you want to catch – and drop anchor about 60-80m (66-87yd) from the shore and 20m (22yd) upwind of the ridge. The fish lie close to the bottom, over and around the ridge.
In a light to medium wind, drop the anchor out from the central stern position – this stops the boat swinging about. In a higher wind with waves of 60cm (2ft) or more, tie up from the bows to reduce risk of capsizing. Some anglers tie up from the central rowlock, leaving the boat broadside to the wind. If you do this, then even if you stay right way up, the extra area presented to the wind can cause the anchor to drag along the bottom over the ridge – spoiling the fishing. Submerged islands provide very similar opportunities in mid to late spring. The shallow water over these areas also encourages weed growth and provides shelter for trout. Both types of hotspot fish well with a wave of 60cm (2ft). This can stir up the water, colouring it slightly over ridges and islands and creating a trail of colour downwind. Such a trail acts rather like ground-bait and can attract fish from quite some distance.
Sometimes the obvious hotspots fail to produce, and that’s when you must search for your fish. In a mild spring, you can try drifting. This is most effective in 2.4-4.6m (8-15ft) of water, with the fish tending to lie near the bottom. Always use the drogue except in the lightest of breezes. Without it, you’ll find yourself drifting too rapidly towards your flies.
At the end of a drift, pull in the drogue and motor back upwind to start another from a new position to the left or right. That way you cover a large area of water. When you find a fish or two, use the same drift-line until you stop catching. Don’t motor over the area down which you’re going to drift or you’ll scatter the fish. Use the deep water at the middle of the reservoir for this, and make sure you steer well clear of other anglers’ lines of drift. Etiquette on the water is more than just politeness—if everyone simply motored wherever they wanted, there would be more accidents and fewer trout caught.
In the sheltered, tree-lined margins of the reservoir there is often a hatch of chirono-mids in the late afternoon. This is another good place to hunt for trout in late spring. Anchor far enough away from the shore to avoid scaring the fish you want to catch -but not so far that you can’t cast to them. If you see trout rising, they are probably taking the emerging pupae trapped in the surface film of the water. Etiquette again demands that you anchor no closer than 50m (55yd) to the nearest boat – and watch out for anglers wading from the bank. bank. The ability to cast a fly 30yd (28m) is of little use here, but the knack of improvising a delicate little cast from behind a rock or bush to an unsuspecting trout is invaluable.