Targeting Trout feeding on Killer Shrimp at Grafham Water

For those of you that have picked up a fly rod, or bought a fishing magazine in the last 30 years, you would certainly have heard of Reservoir expert and Fulling Mill Ambassador Rob Edmunds. Here he gives us an insight into fly fishing on Grafham water, its history and an acumen on targeting trout feeding on Killer Shrimp.

Grafham’s History

When Grafham Water opened in 1966 few could imagine the effect it would have on fly-fishing.  Game angling was now available to the average person at affordable prices, not just the elite upper classes.  It’s fair to say that these Midlands waters helped pioneer methods and drove changes to fly fishing as we know it now.

One of the favourite patterns on Grafham during the early years was a White Baby Doll; or a Tandem white baby doll. The fly was devised in 1971 by Brian Kench originally for fishing at Ravensthorpe; it quickly becoming a firm favourite with the midlands anglers and the short journey from Ravensthorpe to Grafham was inevitable.  Fished deep on a sinking line, it is taken for fry and proved very effective towards the end of the season when trout are bulking up for winter on a diet of bait fish.

trout feeding on killer shrimp
An Epic Rainbow from Grafham

Brian Kench is quoted to say that he uses a “New” Baby Doll on each days fishing, believing its the bright clean ‘white’ look that is the key to its’ success.Although effective the pattern didn’t really have any movement that as anglers we now come to accept. The fly relied on its profile, colour and the skills of the angler to induce the fish into taking the fly.

It was only a matter of time before it was superseded, shortly afterwards (just a year later) Bob Church revolutionised fly tying in my opinion when in 1972 he created the Appetiser Lure it was designed to resemble the roach fry in Grafham and was used by himself and close friends to target the large fry-feeders that were making the water so popular. It is to my knowledge the first time that Marabou was used in the wing of a modern lure so providing movement never seen before. To this day it remains one of my favourite patterns at fry feeding time and has accounted for some simply huge bags of fish.

trout feeding on killer shrimp
The Appetiser as designed by Bob Church

Dave Barker again changed the way we fish when he created the first Minkies, a pattern that had the correct profile; and movement yet could be fished with an ultra slow figure of 8. In 1992 Dave used the pattern to great effect when he captured the still current Grafham Rainbow of 13 lb 13oz on a Minkie from the Harbour. Fur based patterns still are my number one choice at “Fry” Time.

Target fry feeders with our recent blog post.

It is not just lures that have been developed at Grafham Water, it’s the birthplace of the modern reservoir dry fly. Hoppers (Bristol Hoppers as they are often known) started life at Grafham Water in the early nineteen-eighties and were pioneered by the likes of John Moore, Bob Worts and Andy Linwood  They first came to prominence when they were used to great effect by the successful Grafham Water  Fly Fishers team in a Benson & Hedges International final in extremely difficult conditions they allowed the Grafham team to record some amazing bags. It was inevitable that the method leaked out, it was soon adopted by anglers from the Bristol area as it proved equally effective on the relatively shallow Chew Valley Lake.

trout feeding on killer shrimp
Dry fly fishing can often prove effective for the resident fish.

Another modern dry that is now widely used by anglers in a vast array of colours was created for Grafham, the “Bob’s Bits” is a creation from the dry fly expert Bob Worts, he originally tied it as a small green dry to imitate a hatch of green midge that was prominent on Grafham at the time. His old green fishing jumper was the source of his first patterns. The name comes from the “bits” of wool pulled from the jumper.

The pheasant tail nymph was originally designed and tied by Frank Sawyer, for fishing southern chalk streams. But like all flies, there have been many popular variations. Arthur Cove’s pattern the “Cove Nymph” is probably the most famous of all pheasant tail nymphs; originally tied on a size 8 long-shank hook to represent the very large buzzers hatching at the time it soon became Arthur’s preferred nymph when fishing Grafham Water. Although extremely effective to this day; it has since been scaled down and is more commonly tied to size 10 or 12 hooks.

trout feeding on killer shrimp
A lovely fish for Rob’s Wife, Sam, caught whilst nymphing.

Current Position

All waters are subject to “cycles of nature” in that I mean that any fishery cannot fish well or even the same every season a number of factors determine our fishing and methods:

For Example……

  • Weather conditions (sunny/rain/cold)
  • Oxygen levels in water
  • Water level (affects weed beds/buzzer beds and food chain)
  • Fishing Pressure (matches/number of anglers)
  • Stocking Policy
  • Abundance of Parasites (i.e. argusillus or killer shrimp)
  • Colour of water (i.e. cloudy due to rain runoff or pumping in)
  • Water temperature (too warm less oxygen – more algae)
  • Amount of Fry/buzzers that hatch
  • Catch & Release

Trout feeding on Killer Shrimp

Things have changed over the last 7 years at Grafham, the arrival of the “Killer Shrimp” has seen a dramatic change in feeding habits. The fish are holding much closer into the bank.  In fact, the first 5 – 20 yards out has been the place to fish from August onwards. Boats have often struggled to catch consistently (unless they target the daphnia feeders in open water) as anglers simply cannot fish close enough in; with bank anglers now needing to angle their casts along the bank rather than out into the reservoir for best results.

Trout feeding on Killer Shrimp will regularly pick up scruffy Hare’s Ears and Shrimp Patterns if fished on a Floater or Midge Tip. I regularly fish them washing line style (held up with small boobies or even dries) and have been the most productive method for over half the season including deep into the winter months. My preferred method from the bank is simply to fish a short 15ft fluorocarbon leader with 3 semi-buoyant Foam Hare’s Ear shrimp patterns spaced equally 5ft apart on a floating line or midge tip. A medium to a fast figure of 8 retrieves is all that’s required and the takes can be savage.

trout feeding on killer shrimp

A recent trend is for wading anglers to adopt the “Grafham Shuffle” you basically kick the stones over under your feet as you shuffle knee high in the water. Trout feeding on Killer Shrimp will make their way to the margins as the shrimp appear from everywhere – anglers can ‘legally’ bait up their swim. It’s a devastating trick and the fish will be literally round your feet.

trout feeding on killer shrimp

Only time will tell if this trend continues in 2018 and beyond, but with the “Killer Shrimp” spreading to other waters such as Pitsford and Rutland.  I believe as anglers we will need to continue to adapt the way we fish and our patterns in order to keep catching. For me, it’s this uncertainty and the constant changes that makes our sport so appealing. Trout feeding on Killer Shrimp. Trout feeding on Killer Shrimp

Fishing Flies, Fly Fishing, Reservoir Flies, Trout Fishing, Trout Flies, , , , ,