Fishing Stone-sided reservoirs:

The rainbow and brown trout from concrete bowl reservoirs are virtually wild and very wary. They are by no means easy to fool – but their size, condition and fighting abilities are more than worth the effort.

Get beneath the surface

If the wind direction is your only guide to where you choose a mark, you’ll probably have a long, Ashless session. But concrete bowl reservoirs have some important fish-attracting features to look out for. Level platforms The sides of the reservoir don’t descend straight to the bottom at an uninterrupted angle. A series of level platforms about lm (3ft) wide line the bowl, forming rings. Depending upon the reservoir, these shelves are spaced anywhere from 1.5-4.6m (5-15ft) apart. Silt and debris collect over the platforms, providing ideal insect habitat and attracting coarse fish such as perch and ruffe (which in turn attract trout).

Since there are shelves near the shore, you don’t have to fish as far out as possible, for the trout sometimes come in close to feed — especially when the water has a slight chop (which helps to diffuse light). If you’re not careful and observant, you can overcast. Slipways are diagonal indentations (or platforms on some reservoirs) along the side of the bowl. Situated near the shallow ends of most reservoirs, they are used to launch sailboats and fishing boats.

Large amounts of silt settle in the slipways, and where there’s mud, insects aren’t too far away.

Towers The inflow and draw-off towers are located in the deep part of the reservoir. Some draw-off towers have spiral staircases which descend to the reservoir bed. Big trout hover off the silt-covered stairs in the early season, picking off bloodworms and caddis larvae.

In the heat of summer, trout need cool, well-oxygenated water – 10°C (50°F) is their preferred temperature. Most reservoirs and small stillwaters have high levels of oxygen near the surface and in bright light. Trout won’t feed if there aren’t cool

Food sources

Since the water quality is excellent in concrete bowls, trout are often fat and healthy, feasting on a variety of aquatic animals. Snails mainly feed on algae, insect larvae and even fish eggs and are an important food group. You can find them near weeds or in silty areas. temperatures and low levels of light.

Many concrete bowl reservoirs, however, have aerators in the inflow towers that oxygenate the water. So trout have the security and comfort of deep, oxygenated water and may be persuaded to feed much more readily. Weeds Some reservoirs have weed growth – especially when the sun warms the water in summer. Obvious insect and fry-attracting features, weeds grow along the bottom as far down as light penetrates. Jetties or piers Coarse fish, the staple diet of large trout, congregate around these structures. Any feature which offers shelter usually holds fry. You can fish these areas effectively with a boat using a team of small, fry-imitating lures.

Concrete tactics

These suggestions may help you catch more fish from concrete bowl reservoirs. Early season If the winter has been really cold, the overwintered trout as well as the stockies move to the deep, warmer water. Fish the deep water – 12m (40ft) or so. But when fishing along the bottom in deep water, you must remember to think about how long it takes your line to sink. This is something too many anglers fail to do. Always present your fly or lure at the ducks, coots and geese introduce coarse fish into many reservoirs and rivers. In winter and early spring trout especially rely on these fish.

Daphnia (or water fleas) are extremely important in the food chain. Big and small trout feed greedily on these protein-packed creatures. Daphnia are small (3mm long) but immensely prolific – especially in mid summer.

Since they don’t like bright light, they descend to the deep areas of the reservoir in mid-afternoon and move up closer to the surface as light intensity decreases. More than other food items, daphnia are responsible for producing some really big, fighting-fit rainbow trout.

Midges (chironomids) are second only to daphnia in importance for supporting a large head of trout. Once the end of the season comes, you can spoon a fish and find it’s packed with bloodworms (midge larvae).

At Queen Mother Reservoir, for example, there’s a big buzzer hatch in April, and then from May to June things are a bit sparse. Midge hatches increase between July and October – the water seething with buzzers in the evenings.

Hoglice are a good food source for trout at the beginning and end of the season – when insect activity is slow. They can be found along the bottom of the reservoir and among weeds or any debris. Coarse fish Sticklebacks, ruffe, perch and miller’s thumbs (bullheads) are abundant in most reservoirs – even though they aren’t stocked.

Fish eggs become trapped in the feathers of waterfowl. Flying from water to water, level where the trout are. It’s best to use a watch, or count.

If, for example, your high-density line sinks 15cm (6in) a second and if you are fishing in 12m (40ft) of water, it takes your line one minute twenty seconds to sink to the bottom. When fishing over deep areas (over 12m/40ft) anchor the boat.

If the winter has been fairly mild and the water temperature isn’t too cold, you’ll still find a good number of fish in depths from 12m (40ft) right to the bank -the overwintered fish are usually in the deepest areas, hovering off the bottom and feeding on bloodworms, hoglice and fry.

Typical tactics include using high-density line with small lures such as boobies fished along the bed.

Mid season Use floating line, a long leader (15ft/4.6m) and a nymph. The main food items eaten by trout at this time are daph-nia, and midge and sedge pupae.

A blowing wind can concentrate daphnia and midge pupae in one area of the reservoir. Casting with the wind at your back is undoubtedly much easier than battling against the steady onslaught of a gusty southwesterly. But the rewards of casting into the wind – catching trout – are well worth the labour.

Late season The reservoir bank fishes well – especially when trout herd the fry against the sides of the concrete bowl.

Once the first frosts come, however, the trout seek the sanctuary of deep, warm water. Most anglers put their rods away at the end of September. But for a regular angler at a concrete bowl reservoir, this is complete folly. The reservoir is like a giant vacuum flask: warm water stays warm for a long time and cold water stays cold for a long time. on a beck changes from yard to yard, twisting between rocks, cascading in waterfalls into small, deep pools, trickling over gravel or spilling over smooth bedrock.

Seeking out trout in highland streams

The uplands of the British Isles are veined with a network of small stony streams that tumble down steep slopes to the softer lowlands where they join together to become the great trout and salmon rivers of the north and west.

Many of the fat fish of the lowlands were hatched in these headstreams where spawning conditions are usually better than in the food-rich silty waters lower down. But many fish stay put in their upland nursery waters, supplying each of these unregarded highland becks, burns, gills – call them what you will — with a resident population of brilliantly speckled wild brown trout. This is the fascination of fishing in high country. No two becks are alike: each pool must be assessed anew, each cast improvised. You cannot ‘go through the motions’ on a highland stream.

Flexible fishing

The key to fishing a highland stream is improvisation. Because the hardness and formation of the underlying rock determines the character of a stream, the current

Pool potential

Brown trout are territorial. A large fish will chase a lesser rival from a good lie – a spot that provides maximum food and security with minimum effort. If you want to catch good fish the trick is to identify the best lies.

Depth On a small upland beck look for depth which provides fish with vital security and shade. By lying deep a trout can survey a wide surface area for anything drifting by or falling on to the surface – and on windswept highlands much of the trout’s food arrives that way.

There is another reason why depth is a key feature for good trout. On a highland stream, variations in width and depth and hence speed of water, can be enormous. Long stretches of a steep beck can be scoured to smooth bedrock or large stones where aquatic larvae and nymphs find it hard to cling on and survive.

The richest aquatic larders on these streams are where pockets of pebbles, gravel and detritus have gathered in the slower pools. All this is not lost on the larger trout which elbow lesser fish into the swifter sections.

Observation Never try to spot trout in an upland pool before fishing it. The trout see you long before you see them – and fish in these small waters are easily scared. Search instead for deep pockets and unsuspected holes from as far away and as low down as possible. Try to predict where the deepest parts of the pool are from the way the rocks are tilted across or down the course of the stream. If the pool is deepest at the head where a small waterfall tumbles into it, there is certain to be a trout lurking – possibly a good trout that has lain hidden and unsuspected below the fragmented surface for some time.

Beck and crawl

Approaching the trout is another problem. A typical upland beck is steep and often lies in a steep-sided gully. If you approach a pool from the side you tower over the water, sending any fish bolting for cover. Approaching from upstream again you are considerably higher than the pool and obvious to the trout which lie facing upstream. The best approach on a steep highland beck is from downstream. By standing in the pool below, you can keep low and out of sight of fish in the upper pool.

From this point you can study the pool. Look first for any possible lies close to you. It’s very annoying to see a good fish shoot upstream from an unseen lie nearby – not only do you lose that fish but you may well spook another one higher up as well. Constrictions If the pool is long, look for a narrow neck halfway down. This is a favourite lie, providing a concentration of food and no turbulence for the trout to cope with. The likeliest lie, though, is at the head of the pool if there is depth. This is where much of the food arrives. It also has the advantage of the most surface disturbance to hide the line and angler from the fish. Current Look to see how the current affects your line. Accelerating water pulls the bait or fly quickly through the slower water at the head of the pool. Water decelerating down the pool concertinas the line -it’s easy to lose touch with the bait or fly this way.

Wind is ever-present on exposed uplands. As always you must improvise – shift your position and adapt your cast to suit each pool.

Wellied wally

It helps to have waders. You may feel a bit of a buffoon wearing waders to stand in a 25cm (10in) deep beck, but you’ll feel even dafter stepping into an unseen 60cm (2ft) cleft wearing only Wellingtons. Whatever type of footwear you choose, it should have felt or rubber-and-ministud soles, since smooth rock and summer algae can be slip-pier than winter ice. The best solution is Welly-Waders – studded Wellingtons with a lightweight, roll-down wader top.

Fishing a highland beck is a mobile game and you can cover several miles in a day over quite hilly terrain. Your tackle should therefore be as light and as compact as possible. A succesful angler identifies the most likely spots, fishes them carefully and moves on – a couple of casts on each pool and then a climb up to the next or a walk past an unpromising stretch.

Seasonal bonus

Exposed uplands can be cool, but this is sometimes advantageous. When the more noble rivers of the lowlands are hot and dead in the heat of a summer’s day, there is still sport to be had on the highland becks. Again, these small stony rivers of the hills are often still fishable when the lowland rivers are in brown flood. And if you are fishing towards the end of summer there is always the chance of a fat lowland fish making its way into the high waters to spawn. If you can’t step across a stream in comfort, then it probably has trout. All you have to do is catch them.