Spring Stillwater Fishing and the Wessex Water Challenge

So finally.

A new season has, falteringly, arrived…ish.

The snow that carpeted the country just a matter of weeks ago, seems like a semicolon to a new season a fading memory, replaced by rain that would have had Noah hammering nails to fashion an ark as fast his arms could pound. It’s been a bloomin’ odd start to a new year hunting trout.

If you are river fisher …just basically, let’s rewind and start again when the rivers have left the fields and retraced their course inside the banks. Lord! The trout must be bewildered. Still, I did detect the odd burst of greenery the other day, filling out the hedge grows.

But that water is still bloomin’ cold.

Oddly, even now our reservoirs are only just filling up….Oh OK filled up…now we just have clarity issues to deal.  Weird you might think, given the rain and snow…but not so “odd” for we people old enough to remember times when seasons actually had a degree of constancy. We had Snow in April. The early reservoir season was punctuated with bitter cold – and rain. Just not SO much.  Now? Just like Forest Gump’s “box of chocolates.”

I promised Fulling Mill faithfully just for once I would stay on message and right about Stillwater. So I shall.

One this conditions have been taxing ….I know I am boring for England on this, but conditions effect everything.

Ordinarily, this might be a real problem but the extremes has made life difficult or many a bank fisher, as with the water excessive fuelling these expanses has poured in, so the resultant run-off and inlets will be spewing into the lakes; our fly fishing nemesis – coloured water. I really do think fish find this discolouration unpalatable at best; sickening at worse.

Avoid these areas.

In days gone by – a time of steady even weather systems. Winter was winter, spring was spring …that sort of thing; this time of year would have us always heading for the shallower areas. Why? Simple: they were the zones which warmed up quicker and subsurface life was more active and prevalent. Now? Well, with diminished aquatic life on many of our inland lakes – for one reason or another. And the only factor that is predictable about our weather, is its unpredictability, Who knows…? But under any event, I will be going to the shallows. However, more importantly, I will avoid, wherever possible areas that are looking not too dissimilar to the Ganges pouring out through a muddy delta. Not good.

Two things: trout hate (I think) the fact that they have to attempt to filter all manner of detritus through their gill rakes and it just plain makes them sick… and fed up; and of course, they can’t see as well. Not great if you a predator that hunts prey primarily by sight.

So I avoid those areas. Ironically, the very paces that you would associate with shallows…stream inlets and culverts. So now what.

Well – and I have written about this on innumerable occasions – if you are canny (cute…for southerners reading this!) then  you will have good look around you, and even with the water as high as it is, you will get, at least a passing idea, how the bank side topography might look like under the surface. It’s a clue.

But you know, nature is an odd thing and in the space of time that I have had to write this Fulling Mill Blog; guess what? All change again…and spring – well warmer air – has started to breathe life into our landscape. Funny old world.

So maybe it won’t be, a combination of Snakes trundled – at a sedate pace – to appeal to comatose trout, after all. Maybe some of the rather splendid new Buzzer designs from the ever creative Davy Macphail might just be the answer,

What I think I can predict – always dangerous that “prediction” stuff – is that the margins freshly flooded will bring in the trout: and we might, I stress might, enjoy some good fishing in the margins.

Now this brings its own issues. Freshly flooded areas, especially ones that have lain arable and devoid of water for a good time, will be absolutely riddled with bottom-bound obstructions: structure. Hard places to fish with anything other than a full floating line or Midge-tip. OK . some areas you might get away with a full intermediate line, but you really are dicing with lost flies on anything faster (Of course Fulling Mill might be deliriously happy with you losing flies; you might not be).

On that note – the line business – so often I think we fish our patterns too deep. OK brown trout early season have a habit of being a little reclusive and reluctant to move from the bottom area, but rainbows seem to prefer the upper layers: say 4M to the surface; A natural place for them. Hence the success of the Washing Line and other surface ordinated tactics.

I have enjoyed such great times on reservoir banks with that deadly buoyant pattern on the point and say, two or three Buzzers or  Diawls, Crunchers and McKays and just let them swing and hang and drift on the breeze. Oh! The takes. Anything from that nerve-tingling heavy water notion of something just making off with the fly; to the blitzKrieg, feral wrench of startled rainbow discovering food bites back. In all instances, I do pay attention and keep control of the fly line beyond the rod tip.

And there are all manner of “minor tactics” on the washing line theme: you have the free fall and “soft decent” of a design like a plain Blob on the point – a Tequila or Biscuit is perfect in a 10 or 12. The comparative neutral density of the blob allowing for the nymphs to descend just a smidgeon deeper: and if you use a sizeable Holographic ‘Glue buzzer (if you can find them tied on a size 8 grub hook all the better) that will give you an enticing sweeping arc to the leader subsurface  – you might follow this with a Diawl or the oft now, overlooked, McKay further up the leader to fish nearer the fly line and therefore nearer the surface. This latter teach I question was shown to me by that nymph fishing marvel Rob Barden. It’s deadly …but fish it slow to static. NO hurried hands.

But even by swapping your point fly to a FAB or Mini Booby and then switch the weights of the flies around between you can achieve a bewildering amount of subsurface permutations. That is the beauty of this style. We really do have to thank Bewl fishers for offering it to us.

In all instances I would fish this set up slow. Static even. But a figure of eight hand twist is probably going to ideal.

But there is always going to be a rogue.

The other day I did a silly thing …well not exactly a day. Twenty Four hours to be precise. A little thing called the Wessex Water Challenge. I set myself the target of catching a trout from Clatworthy Reservoir in the near impossibly serene Quantock hills in Somerset, then do same in Hawkridge; another little Somerset jewel… then finish by catching one at Sutton Bingham reservoir just outside of Yeovil.  All I had to do was run between them all…a small issue of 57 miles …Well I did it with a dear friend and brilliant athlete Richard Davies in 12hr 29mins…not bad for an old ‘un. Even better we raised over 10k in the process for Fishing for Schools and Casting for Recovery. Excellent.

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That is not my point.

Clatworthy, with pre-race never jangling, was proving to be obstinate – on this occasion, no sentiment, I had to catch my fish and do so fast. The clock was ticking. And It was certainly ticking – loudly – at Clatworthy when the 10 o’clock start was shouted.

No takes: time was ebbing and escaping; it was nervy.

Danny Ford – one of the brilliant Wessex rangers sidled up and said: “No! Don’t fish a Snake ..slow or fast…Use the other road with the Cut Cat and the Tequila Blob …and two smart pulls then HANG!”

“Hang?” I said “that’s a boat tactic …you don’t hang flies from the bank…”

“Why not?” Came Danny’s retort.

Indeed, why not.

So I did: two casts later and a ferociously fit five pound Clatworthy rainbow (which spiked the heart rate to way over 160!!) later and Richard and I set off on our epic adventure through the West Country.

Just proves, if you don’t try it…

And: local advice is everything; take it!

Top Tip.

As many will know, I am not one to bandy names about or gratuitously promote things; Especially if I haven’t thoroughly tested them first.

Here is an exception.

I happened to pop into Sportfish Reading the other day and espied a spool of the new Masterclass fluorocarbon tippet. Can’t wait to try this…it is mat finished, looks super strong and and welcome addition to our fly fishing armoury: possibly better suited to nymph fishing, but we shall see. Good product boys…on the face of it. More later. …,

I very seriously hope, wherever you fish, this will be your best season EVER.

Fly Fishing, ,