Fly fishing from reservoir banks

You don’t always need to go out in a boat to catch reservoir trout. They often come within casting distance to feast on fry, buzzers and margin-dwelling corixae. To enjoy bank-fishing to the full, you need the appropriate tackle and the correct strategies as the seasons change.

Proper equipment

A 10-10 ½ ft (3-3.2m) carbon fly rod (rated AFTMA 7-8) is powerful enough to cast 25m (27yd) of line and reach trout which are holding well out. Don’t attempt to fish a reservoir with a short rod because you won’t have the leverage to hook a fish at a distance.

It’s easier to cast weight forward lines than straight or double-taper ones because the weight is concentrated in the first 3m (10ft). A 7 or 8 is ideal for bank fishing.

Floating lines are used most of the time the fast sinker or Hi-D is reserved for fishing deep water. Attach the fly line to 75m (82yd) of backing, and use a needle or nail knot to connect a 30cm (12in) butt section of 25lb (11.3kg) stiff mono to the fly line. Tie a loop in the butt section so that you can change leaders quickly.

For most work on reservoirs, fish with the longest leader you can manage – ideally, twice the length of the rod, with two 10cm (4in) droppers at 1.2m (4ft) intervals from the tip. The overall leader length should not be less than 5m (16ft).

A popular nylon strength for most reservoir work is 6lb (2.7kg). Learn to tie the blood loop or double grinner knot for making droppers. You can help to avoid tangles by attaching the heaviest fly on the point and the bulkiest fly on the top dropper.

In addition to good waterproof clothing, thigh waders and a large landing net, other essential equipment includes a fly fisher’s waistcoat (with plenty of pockets to hold tackle), scissor-pliers, priest, fly box, polarized sunglasses, an assortment of nymphs and lures and a bag to keep your catch fresh.

Seasonal tactics

It goes without saying that you need to adjust your approach as the seasons change.

In April most reservoirs open for fishing. The water is still cold after months of winter temperatures, and the trout are fairly lethargic. Unless a hatch of flies (midge pupae or buzzers) brings the trout to the surface, they swim near the bottom and can be tempted to take a slow-moving weighted black lure. Lures such as the Viva, Tadpole or Cat’s Whisker with their mobile marabou tails or wings are best. With the lure on the point, put a Black Buzzer Nymph on the middle dropper and a Black Zulu on the top dropper. Size 10 hooks for all three are suitable.

Using your floating line, cast out, and then wait until the flies sink well down. Retrieve slowly with the rod tip about 20cm (8in) above the surface to keep in direct contact with the line and flies – this increases your chances of hooking a trout.

Early in the season the best places to fish are the dam walls and gently shelving banks where the depth is about 3m (10ft) at a comfortable casting distance.

Don’t fish with a wind coming directly behind you because the water temperature is then at its coldest. Fish near the downwind shore with the wind blowing from the direction opposite to your casting arm. For example, if you’re right-handed, fish with the wind blowing from left to right.

For deep water, use fast sinking line. Loop about 50cm (20in) of 7lb (3.2kg) nylon to your 25lb (11.3kg) butt section, and attach a buoyant Black Booby. Cast as far as you can, and again wait until the line sinks to the bottom.

The Booby is now suspended just above the bottom. Leave it static, keeping a good hold of your fly line, or you can retrieve it slowly.

In May and June prolific hatches of buzzers usually occur. As the year progresses the water gets warmer, and the trout become more active. Try a Pheasant Tail Nymph or a Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear Nymph on the point, with Buzzer Nymphs on the droppers. If you see adult midges on the surface, attach a winged wet fly, similar in colour and size, to the top dropper.

If trout are rising regularly, ensure that your flies hang just below the surface of the water by applying grease to your leader. If there’s no surface activity, try a weighted Stickfly or Montana Nymph on the point; let it sink well down, and retrieve slowly. In late June and early July there are many hatches of sedge flies, especially in the evenings, and the trout feed enthusiastically on them. Popular sedge imitations that you can try are Invicta, Green Peter, Wickham’s Fancy and Fiery Brown.

Buzzers are still on the trout’s menu, and the fish are now likely to be tempted by imitations of hatching flies emerging at the surface. Offer ‘dry fly5 patterns such as the Shipman Buzzer or Hopper – both treated with floatant – but again make sure the leader sinks. Allow the flies to drift around without retrieving. When your fly is taken, wait a few seconds before striking. In August the weather can be very warm -but as you probably know, trout don’t like warm water. The coolest water is found along the shore from which the wind is blowing (with the wind at your back). So choose your location accordingly.

Trout often feed on coarse fry in mid-season. You usually see big splashes around marginal weedbeds as the trout slash into the shoals. Such is the force of the attack that some fry are stunned and float to the surface. The trout return to pick them off. You can catch these trout by offering them a floating Ethafoam Fry. Just cast it out near the activity: resist any temptation to move it!. The trout takes it like a dry fly. It’s vital to wait a couple of seconds before striking, or you won’t hook the fish very well. As autumn approaches, wet and humid weather encourages hordes of craneflies to appear in the surrounding grassland. Some of these are blown on to the water and prove an irresistible mouthful for trout.

Experiment how far out to fish the fly. If there’s no response close in, use the wind from the windward shore to drift the floating ‘Daddy’ a long way out. When you get a take, don’t strike immediately: let the fish take the fly down first.