The keys to loch-style fishing

As its name suggests, loch-style fishing originated in Scotland. An angler in a boat drifts broadside with the wind and, using three flies, makes short casts downwind to intercept surface-feeding trout.

Loch-style fishing using traditional wet flies is a method for the summer months when the water has warmed and the trout search for food in the surface layers. The great advantage of this method is that you continually cover new, unfished areas of the reservoir or loch.

Trout tend to work upwind when feeding at this time of year, taking hatching insects in the surface film as well as terrestrials blown on to the water.

The first key: equipment

Loch-style fishing requires a certain range of equipment for success. The rods With a long rod (10-llft/3-3.4m), you can control the flies more effectively during the retrieve than with a short one. A long rod also makes the handling of hard-running rainbows much easier. Since you don’t need to cast very far, a softish rod with an allthrough action is recommended – but buy a lightweight one to save your casting arm.

The line. The best choice is a WF6 – heavier lines make a splash on landing; this could scare fish near the surface (especially in calm lanes).

Although sinking lines are sometimes used, the traditional way to fish loch-style is with a floating line and a long leader with three wet flies (or nymphs).

When trout are not showing at the surface, however, you might want to try a slow-sinking line to fish the flies a few feet below the surface film.

The leader and flies Especially useful are extra-strength nylon leaders which combine clarity and high breaking strain with a low diameter.

The correct construction of a leader helps to reduce tangles. The length between the fly line and the bob fly (first one) should be 1.8-3m (6-10ft) of 10lb (4.5kg) mono. The farther the flies are from the fly line, the less likely trout are to be spooked by the line, and the more confident the take.

From the bob fly to the middle fly, use 1.2m (4ft) of 7lb (3.2kg) line. From the middle fly to the point fly, attach 1.2m (4ft) of 6lb (2.7kg) mono. Each line length is reduced or stepped down in breaking strain to help the whole leader turn over better during the process of casting.

Connect the sections (and also create droppers – short lengths of mono on to which the bob fly and middle fly are tied) with proven knots such as the double grinner or the four-turn water knot. Droppers about 10cm (4in) in length help reduce tangles, yet they are long enough for you to change your flies once or so.

Even with short casts tangles inevitably occur; it’s just a fact of life when using three flies. But by fishing with a slightly heavier • and perhaps larger – fly on the end (point) of the leader, you can reduce tangles greatly. The extra weight turns over the leader better and helps to keep the trio of flies apart.

Flies can climb up and down large waves in windy conditions, and trout may not see them. Fish something heavier on the point • a weighted pattern or a fly tied on a twin- pointed hook.

The second key: retrieve

The most important aspect of loch-style fishing is to bring ‘life’ to the bob fly: to imitate an insect struggling to escape from the surface film — not to mention hungry trout. Choose a bushy fly and work it across the surface back towards the boat. As you retrieve line, gradually lift the rod from a horizontal position to a vertical one.

Trout have good eyesight and will move a long way to intercept a well-worked bob fly. In some cases, though, they are attracted by the movement of the bob fly but take one of the other flies in the team – particularly the point fly which fishes deeper than the bob fly and is frequently the first one the trout will in fact encounter.

When the flies reach the boat, pause for five or so seconds before recasting – for unseen trout which have been following the team sometimes erupt through the surface to engulf a fly, believing it’s about to make a last-second escape.

Another trick which may convince reluctant trout is to experiment with the speed of the retrieve. Sometimes trout chase flies stripped back fast. Other times, however, trout take them only when retrieved slowly. The behaviour of fish can change even during the course of the day, and not just from day to day.

Third key: the drift

Some of the best times to use this method are on grey, overcast days and in the mornings and evenings when the light isn’t too intense. Trout are less wary and feel more confident to come near the surface in low levels of light.

When drifting always be on the look-out for rising trout. If you’re drifting too fast, use a drogue to slow things down. On many southern reservoirs drogues are used almost all the time – except when conditions are very placid.

Fish activity at the surface may not always consist of a swirl followed by ever-widening rings. Often you see a fin or a back cutting through the surface in waves. Sometimes it’s a tiny dimple rise. No matter how insignificant a disturbance on the water, always cast your flies at it. It’s amazing to see lazily feeding rainbows hovering near the surface suddenly become transformed into highly aggressive predators as a team of artificial flies is pulled past their noses.

Rainbow trout seem to possess an in-built shoaling instinct, and very often when a ris- ing rainbow is encountered, others are also in the vicinity. If one angler in the boat hooks a fish, the other should continue to fish, looking very hard for any signs of activity.

Fourth key: calm lanes

Obstructions on the bank – a clump of trees, a barn or a draw-off tower – block or divert the wind, forming calm, alleylike lanes. But sometimes there’s no apparent reason for their formation. Concentrations of drowned and trapped flies can rapidly build up in the lanes. Some insects tend to find it difficult to escape from the surface film in calm water. Trout are quick to take full advantage of the abundance. On good days you can see trout working upwind along the calm lanes, and you can make some fine catches.

Often it is better to cast to the edge of the lane into the ripple where the leader and flies are less likely to make a disturbance. The fly line and leader can look all too obvious right in the flat, placid lane.

Loch-style fishing is probably the most demanding style of trout fishing. Frequent casting and effective working of the flies have to be combined with constant alertness at all times. Even so, watching a trout shoot through the surface of the water to engulf your bob fly or other flies is more than enough compensation.