Snails !

Trout Stomach Contents Incliding Snails

I rarely take a trout home these days as I have a few in the freezer, but on the odd occasion that I do, I sometimes find them packed to the gills with snails. This can happen at any point in the season and can be found in fish caught on the top or deep down. There seems to be no pattern to it.

Water snails are common in most UK waters and it may come as some surprise to hear that there are actually over 5000 species of freshwater snail across the world. However, only 30 or so species live in the UK, ranging from the likes of the tiny Dwarf Pond Snail (Lymnaea truncatula) to giants such as the Great Pond Snail (Lymnaea stagnalis) or Great Ramshorn (Planorbarius corneus). Trout will munch on any of these but may struggle with a fully grown Great Ramshorn, as they can grow up to 3 cm in diameter.

Great Ramshorn Snail

Despite the staggering number of species, the life cycles of all freshwater snails are fairly similar. They lay their eggs in clumps, usually attached to plants or similar surfaces in the water. Some species do lay their eggs out of the water, and the juvenile snails go back into the water after they hatch.

Snails can lay eggs multiple times a year, sometimes as often as once or more each month. Depending on the species, there can be anywhere from 5 to 200 or even 600 eggs in a single bunch.

The eggs typically hatch after 1 to 5 weeks. Once again, this depends on the species. It also depends on environmental factors, such as how warm or cold it is. A juvenile freshwater snail looks almost exactly like a very small adult. In some cases, their shell may be less curly, but in general, they look almost exactly the same.

Trout will gorge on these as they patrol the rocks and weed beds of their natural habitat. Often hoovering up vast numbers of them on one go. The question is, of course, what do we use to catch them if they’re feeding on snails?

It’s worth noting that freshwater snails will be in two distinct places, either sat on vegetation grazing on the plant life or drifting on the current between patches of vegetation as they simply let go and let the water take them to a new feeding ground once the old one is depleted.

This gives us two states that the snail can be in, on the bottom and floating. We can target the trout feeding on both of these very easily with very different approaches.

Floating Snails

When the trout are feeding on floating snails, there are a couple of approaches.

If the fish are on the top, I’d use one of our floating foam snails. These have been explicitly designed to emulate a snail caught in the top film of the water and can be fished as you would a dry. Often as a single fly on a floating line and fished visually.

Floating Snail

Another approach for floating snails below the surface is to use a washing line with a buoyant fly on the point, such as a FAB with a couple of our wet snails on the droppers. The point fly keeps them that little bit higher in the water and can convince the trout that the snail is drifting to fresh pastures.

Wet Snail
Wet Snail

Deep Snails

If they are deep, try a Short Shank Montana on the point with Wet Snails or even a Coch-Y-Bonddu on the droppers. This can be fished very deep on a di7 and very slowly twiddled. Remember that the snails don’t normally move much on the vegetation on the bottom and only really move with any speed on the current, so leaving it static or simply letting it drift in the current are equally valid approaches.

Short Shank Green Montana
Short Shank Green Montana
Coch-Y-Bonddu Wet Fly
Coch-Y-Bonddu Wet Fly

Size DOES Matter !

Yellow CDC Owl scaled

I was lucky enough to get a chance to fish Toft Newton again this week. A warm, sunny day with a slight NW breeze greeted me and it was clearly going to be a day for dries.

As always, I spent a few minutes watching the water around “Stockie Bay” to try to spot any rising or moving fish. I was pleased to see that there were plenty rising, but surprised to see that the bank anglers weren’t catching them.

There’s still quite a bit of weed near the banks, so I’d booked a boat for the day. I was, in fact, the only boat out. It’s very easy to book both a boat and fishing ticket on the Toft website (see below) and I really don’t know why all of the waters in the country don’t provide this facility. It really cuts down on needless and endless phone calls to lodges to try to book a boat etc.

I didn’t head out far, as the fish were lying no more than 30 yards out. I kept my distance from the bank anglers and started on a size 12 CDC Shuttle Cock from our exclusive Andy Huston range on a floating line.

CDC Shuttle Cock
CDC Shuttle Cock

This led to immediate interest, but nothing more than swirls and refusals. I tried it static, twitched and slow figure of eight retrieve, but I couldn’t tempt a take. Often trout will swirl at a dry fly trying to sink it before taking it, so I wondered if they were preferring to feed slightly below the surface.

Therefore, I switched to a washing line with a Candy FAB on the point with a Scruffy Diawl Bach on the bottom dropper and my personal favourite in the Andy Hutson range, the Red Holo Black Psuedo on the top dropper. I fished this on a very, very slow figure of eight retrieve and I was rewarded with a nice little brownie on the Psuedo.

Small Brownie

I spent the next few hours struggling to find fish, using various methods without any great success. I had around 5 fish to buzzers, snakes, humongous etc, but nothing consistent.

Around 2pm I took the boat back in and went to speak to Andy, in particular about the situation with the trout refusing the dries I had on. Andy advised me to go for a Yellow CDC Owl. I told him I’d tried this, but he suggested going down to a size 16. I’d only tried down to a size 12 and so I changed to a 16 as suggested. The result was incredible.

Yellow CDC Owl

As soon as the fly hit the water I had a huge take. I was so surprised, I struck too hard, missed it completely and tangled my leader into a birds nest. Why does this always happen when you find the fish and the method to catch them? πŸ™‚

A new 15ft 6lb leader fitted onto my floating line with the same CDC Owl on the point and I was off again. Thankfully, the fish hadn’t deserted me and I was soon into fish after fish after fish.

To be honest, it got a bit embarrassing, as every time the fly hit the water, it was taken by a hungry trout. After about 15 fish, I moved off to try the fly elsewhere on the reservoir.

One problem I did have was that every time a fish took the fly the CDC was too wet to float and it would sink like a stone, even with the use of floatant. I found the best way to dry the fly and restore it to maximum floatation was to use the rubber band trick. This is described brilliantly in this video:

Moving down the South bank of the reservoir to the point where the life belt is held on the bank, I started again with the CDC Owl. This spot is a particular hot spot because there’s a large hidden outcrop of concrete jutting out into the water here and the trout like to lie alongside it and watch for food passing over it.

True to form, the fly worked again and again and I came in around 5pm with a total of over 30 fish to the net, all of which were returned unharmed.

It’s amazing to think that going from a size 12 to a size 16 would have such a monumental effect on the fishing, but thanks to the sage advice of Andy Hutson, I had a cracking day at Toft.

The Toft Newton online booking options can be found here

It’s Been A While

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Well, it’s been a while since we posted a new blog entry and this is due to many reasons.

Busy, busy

Firstly, we’ve been extremely busy ! The past few months our existing loyal customers and many brand new customers have been placing a huge number of orders with us and we’ve been working very hard to ensure that everything is sent out as soon as possible, so that the vast majority of purchases are on the customer’s doorstep the next morning.

We’ve actually been very successful at achieving this too, as we’ve taken on new staff and streamlined our processes. This has led to some great feedback from our customers, which shows us we’re getting it right time and time again.

We’d like to take this opportunity to thank all our customers for their continued support. We really appreciate your custom.

Shiny New Website

We’ve also been busy creating a shiny new website and I’m pleased to say that you’re looking at it now !

Among the many improvements we’ve made to the site is a brand new search facility which displays matching categories and products as you type them in, so you can easily and quickly see the item you’re interested in without typing anything else. Try it, it’s fun !

We’ve also taken brand new close up photos of most of our flies and this makes it very easy to see every detail, giving you peace of mind that our products continue to be of the very highest quality. Here’s a few examples:

Machair Claret
Machair Claret
Weighted Pheasant Tail Nymph Fly
Weighted Pheasant Tail Nymph
Black CDC F Fly
Black CDC F Fly

The website design is much easier to use now, with simple click and buy options from the home screen. Simply select the options you require, such as hook size and barbed/barbless and click add to basket and that’s it. On our old website, you needed to visit the individual product page each time and now you don’t need to. Of course, if you do want to visit the product page, just click on the product image or name and it’ll take you there.

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Variation Options

If you’d like to see any other changes to the website, please let us know via the Contact Us page

New Product Range

We’ve also been busy tying brand new patterns for the store. These innovative patterns are already proving deadly on the water as we’ve been trying them out ourselves at various waters across the country, including Draycote, Toft and Pennine.

A couple of examples of these include :

Olive Shipmans White Foam
Olive Shipmans White Foam
Rainbow Black Zonker
Rainbow Black Zonker

To see all the new range, select “Latest Products” from the home menu or simply click here

The Brand New Andy Hutson Collection is Now Available

Toft Newton is fast becoming a big favourite amongst the UK fly fishing community and rightly so with reports of big bags and huge fish being caught daily at the venue.

This was not always the case and under previous ownership, Toft’s reputation suffered badly with minimal stocking and poor customer relations.

However, with new ownership and the appointment of Andy Hutson to the role of Fishery Manager, a clear change has taken place. There is little doubt that huge credit is due to the owners and Andy for turning this venue around to become one of the top fisheries in the country.

Andy Hutson

Photo Credit : David Edwards Photography

Weekly stocking of large numbers of good quality brown and rainbow trout has turned the venue in to somewhere to catch fish rather than hope to catch.

Red Butt Black Quill Buzzer

The Andy Hutson Collection

Andy has introduced initiatives like Free Tuition Mondays where he gives his time to help improve people’s casting or fly presentation and he can always be relied upon to impart knowledge that will change your day at Toft for the better.

Red Holo Brown Muskin

The Andy Hutson Collection

It is very common to see Andy Hutson fishing on the bank at Toft and absolutely bag up very quickly, even when others might be struggling. I discussed this with Andy and he said that he was catching on his own fly designs.

I’m delighted to say that Andy agreed to exclusively share his collection with Trout Flies Direct, with a view to offering them for sale on the site. We readily agreed and and we have used those designs to tie identical versions of them and these are now fully approved by Andy and available on the site.

CDC Shuttle Cock

The Andy Hutson Collection

To see the collection click on the “Andy Hutson Collection” button on the home page of the site to see each individual fly or click HERE to buy the entire collection in one.

Klink ‘n’ Dink vs Suspended Droppers

It’s that time of year when buzzers and dries are catching a lot of fish. The popular washing line, straight lined buzzers and the ubiquitous bung methods are being used throughout the country to great effect. Early evening dries are also producing some great and exhilarating fishing.

When fish are taking buzzers and dries, which one do you use to maximise your catch ? The answer could be both !

There are two main methods of doing this, the New Zealand (or Klink ‘n’ Dink) and the suspended dropper.

The New Zealand (or Klink ‘n’ Dink) Method

This method relies on using a dry fly (such as a Klinkhammer, hence the name) as an indicator, like a bung, but also has a dropper below it. The dropper is tied directly to the dry fly and this gives a dry fly presentation with a subsurface fly sitting directly beneath it. The dry fly can then be watched for a potential take on the surface but also seen as a bung as it will suddenly shoot under the water if the dropper is taken.

The dropper can be attached in one of two ways :

Added Ring/Eye

An added ring can be attached to the dry fly and a dropper can be tied to the ring and hung below the dry fly. This is the most secure way to do it, but does add an obstruction to the hook which may, potentially, interfere with hooking the fish. In addition, this unnatural addition may make the fish more wary of the dry fly.

Direct Attachment

The dropper can be tied directly to the curve of the hook on a dry fly using a uni knot or similar. This eliminates the issue of unnatural presentation of the dry fly, but may still interfere with the hooking of the fish. Care should be taken with barbless flies of course, as the knot may slip off the dry fly hook under pressure from a fish.

How long you set the dropper depends entirely on where you’re fishing, where you think the fish are feeding and what conditions prevail. This will, of course, vary depending on when and where you choose to fish, but experiment with different length droppers until you find the fish.

The Suspended Droppers Method

An alternative to the New Zealand method is to suspend your dropper(s) between a point fly and your fly line. This is similar in some ways to the washing line, but the point fly (usually a FAB or a booby on a washing line) is replaced with a dry fly. This gives the dry fly method on the top of the water, but allows you to suspend (or hang) your droppers just below the surface in between the point fly and the fly line.

Obviously, this approach would work best with a floating fly line and an especially buoyant one would really help, as this will support the weight of the dropper flies and reduce the strain on the dry fly on the point. The time to use this is when the fish are on or just below the surface, as the dry fly will attract the trout and the droppers will be right in front of them at their depth.

Everything else is very similar to the New Zealand method, in that you watch the dry fly for a take on itself or a take on the droppers pulling it below the surface. You should, of course, keep an eye on the fly line too, as a take on the droppers could pull towards the point fly and not give a clear indication of a bite. A shooting fly line is an obvious sign you have a fish on.

These are unusual methods and can, on their day, catch when nothing else is working. I wouldn’t necessarily recommend you starting with either of these methods, but keep them in your back pocket for when you’re struggling. These simple, yet clever, methods can be the difference between a blank and a good day.

Trying out Foremark Reservoir After a 10 Year Break

Although Foremark is only half an hours drive away from me, for some reason I’ve not fished it for 10 years or so. I’m not sure why, but I guess it doesn’t get much attention compared to the better known waters like Rutland and Draycote. I’m a member of the Derbyshire County Angling Club and this enables me to fish Foremark ten times per season completely free, so I decided to return to give it a go.

This was also an opportunity to try out some of the flies from our new range we’re about to launch (more on this soon!). Foremark is a barbless only water and this was perfect, as our new selection is entirely barbless.

I’d heard rumours of big catches on buzzers recently with a good head of resident fish, including good sized brownies, so my intention was to try that method.

Arriving at the site, I was greeted by a a helpful chap in the office called Alistair, who explained everything about the water, where I should try and what tactics to use, etc. He mentioned that the recent heavy rains had pushed the water level up and that the fish generally head for deeper water in that scenario. This wasn’t great news, given that I was bank fishing, so I decided to start with lures.

Looking out from the car park, the boat pontoon juts out straight in from of you and unusually, fishermen are allowed to fish from the pontoon. Unfortunately, there was already two anglers on there and Covid restrictions of only 2 angler on the pontoon meant that I couldn’t join them.

Instead I set up on the bank to the right of the pontoon and began to cast out on a floating line with a Gold & Black Humungous on the point and a Sweetcorn FAB on the top dropper of a fifteen foot long leader.

Gold & Black Humungous

That area of the bank is relatively shallow and as such, I waded out in my wellingtons to just below half way up them. This was the point where I realised that my boots leak….

Giving up on a bad job, I looked around and noticed fish moving to the left of the pontoon. I moved my gear down and continued with the same set up. Despite fish topping around me, there was no interest in the flies, so I presumed that they were a little further down. I switched to a DI 3 and used the same flies again.

I immediately had a pull and missed it, but cast out again and hooked a good fighting fit 3 1/2lb rainbow on the Gold and Black Humungous. Three or four casts later, and I was in to another rainbow on the FAB hitting the net at just over 4lb.

By this time, one angler had left the pontoon and gone home and the other had joined me on the bank. I could see that the fish were moving a little further out now, so I switched to on to the pontoon. I was correctly stopped from doing this by Alistair, who insisted I wear a life jacket on the pontoons and he supplied one straight away. Great safety awareness and great service.

A young man called Geraint had also moved to the pontoon and was soon in to a very good fish, but despite playing it for a good while, it sadly worked it’s way free of the barbless hook right at the net. The fish were clearly here for the taking.

However, with the wind rapidly changing direction and strength, it became difficult to ascertain the correct method and the fish turned off for a good while.

I eventually opted for a DI3 with two boobies, a McKaye Booby on the dropper and a White Fritz Cat Booby on the point. There was no interest in the boobies being moved fast, so I tried an ultra slow retrieve and was suddenly in to something very special indeed.

McKaye Booby

I was trying out a Guideline Reach 7/8wt 11ft Switch fly Rod and it was bent double as soon as I hit this fish. It immediately dived for the bottom, so I assumed it was a big brown, but after a good fight, a cracking 6lb rainbow hit the surface.

Alistair and Geraint had seen the action and came over to watch and Geraint helpfully netted it for me. It was an absolutely cracking fish and I was delighted to catch it on the Fritz Cat Booby.

The wind eventually dropped and the trout started topping more freely and I switched to a Black Booby Hopper on the point with a Black Standard Thoraxed Buzzer on the dropper. It took two casts to get a take on the buzzer, but as is often the case, the trout chose the exact moment to take as I was pouring a coffee and I missed it.

Geraint was now getting takes, some of which were on the Gold & Black Humungous I’d given him, so things were going well for everyone.

I packed up soon afterwards leaving Geraint on the pontoon still fishing, I hope he caught after I’d left.

The fishing was great from a quality, if not quantity, point of view and I was very happy with the session and the performance of the new flies. I’m looking forward to putting the entire collection on the site very soon.

I’d like to end by saying that the whole experience at Foremark as greatly enhanced by the friendly and knowledgeable presence of Alistair. He runs the place with his Dad and clearly has a real passion for the sport. I would urge anyone to visit Foremark for a friendly, helpful welcome in beautiful surroundings with some quality fishing.

Thoughts on a Disappointing Performance in the Sierra Pairs

I was hoping to be able to write this article after triumphantly winning the 16th May Sierra Pairs heat at Blithfield, but it was not to be.

Regular readers will know that I fish Blithfield a lot and have recently been lucky enough to fish it four times in two weeks. On three of these occasions I’ve fished with boat partners and once I fished alone. With boat partners we managed 40+, 50+ and 47 to the boat, on my own, I landed 21 and lost many more. Given this, both my and my boat partner Paul’s hopes were high.

The Scierra Pairs runs heats all over the country and the top 2 or 3, depending on venue, go through to the final at Rutland on the 19th September 2021. The full list of heats is shown below:

Carsington Water – Saturday 10th April

Shaws Trout Fishery – Saturday 10th April

Eyebrook Reservoir – Sunday 11th April

Chew Valley – Sunday 18th April

Lake Of Menteith – Sunday 25th April

Toft Newton – Sunday 2nd May

Kielder Water – Sunday 9th May

Blagdon – Sunday 9th May

Elinor Trout Fishery – Sunday 16th May

Blithfield Reservoir – Sunday 16th May

Llyn Clywedog – Sunday 23rd May

Glencorse Rsv – Friday 28th May

Grafham Water – Sunday 30th May

Harelaw Trout Fishery – Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th June

Wimbleball – Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th June

Sweethope Loch – Sunday 13th June

Black Loch – Sunday 27th June

Rutland Water – Sunday 4th July

Llyn Brenig – Sunday 11th July

Draycote Water – Sunday 18th July

Glencorse Rsv- Sunday 1st August

The format of the competition was to catch and kill 10 fish and return to the boat lodge as soon as possible. A weight time bonus of 8 oz would then be added for each 15 minutes left of the competition, which was formally scheduled to finish at 5pm.

The start of the match was a little chaotic with one boat still setting up when the whistle blew, but we were off.

We knew from previous visits that the fish were close to the bank and mostly on the North shore and it appeared that most of the other boats knew that too as a large flotilla headed straight for the Concrete Bowl area. We didn’t want to get involved in the scrum for the Bowl and thought that the presence of so many boats would put the fish off feeding, so instead headed just around the corner to a point between the boat lodge and Ten Acre Bay.

We knew there had been a recent stocking there, so hoped that the trout were still hanging around. We don’t normally like to prey on stockies, but with the time bonus. we thought we might be able to bag up quickly and get back in to a hefty weight bonus. Only one other boat had the same idea and after 20 minutes of no pulls between either boat we both moved on.

Paul and I trying and failing to find fish on the South Shore.

With the armada of boats still in the Concrete Bowl, we decided to try the dam wall, a favourite spot in the Autumn and Winter and we hoped the Spring too. Again, this tactic failed us, with no fish taking. There were a fair few of fish topping and a switch to dries looked like a good choice, but again they weren’t interested in anything we put in front of them.

We next tried the sailing club and finally found a pod of fish. We weren’t allowed to anchor according to the competition rules, so we repeated a drift past the sailing club on the North shore a few times, picking up one or two fish on each pass, mainly on Ally McCoist and Hot Head Cats Whiskers. Sadly, before we reached our ten fish, the sailing boats came out on to the water and as per fishery rules, we had to move off and head further down the North Shore.

There was a lot of bank anglers on the North shore, so we had to keep well away from them, meaning that we couldn’t drift too close. The bankies were catching regularly though so we kept as close as we could without interfering with their fish. The same could not be said for all of the competition boats though and one in particular moved far too close to one bank angler on several occasions and got a deserved telling off from the bankie. The same boat (you know who you are and I wont embarrass you by naming you) also powered straight through our drift on one occasion, so a few lessons in boat etiquette wouldn’t go amiss there…

I was still on lures and ripping them on a DI3 and getting good success with regular takes and Paul was also doing well on 3 buzzers and a FAB under a bung. Several lost fish later, mainly caused by trying to rush them in to the boat, we finally hit our total of ten fish and headed in to return at 1:15pm, giving us a 7lb 8/16oz time bonus.

Unfortunately , when we arrived back, we’d been beaten in by nine other boats and it was clear we weren’t going to qualify. Our combined bags totalled 16lb 13/16oz giving us a total of 24lb 5/16oz with the time bonus.

The match had started at around 9:45 and the first team back, Mark Dixon & Mike Harrison were docked and weighed in with ten fish by 11:00 ! This wasn’t a guarantee of winning or qualifying though as their fish returns were not as heavy as others, leaving them just outside qualification in fourth place.

We ended up with a respectable, if disappointing, 8th place and we were pleased to see our old friend Yousaf Dar and his boat partner Rick Ruff taking 1st place.

Thoughts on the day are mixed. It’s easy, with hindsight, to say that we should have started on the North shore, where we knew there were fish, but we tried something else and took a gamble instead, which didn’t work.

We lost a lot of fish trying to get them to the net too quickly. Normally, we play fish gently and do everything we can to keep them on the hook. We only use barbless flies now, so this is generally a tricky process. In our attempts to get fish in to reach the ten fish target, we lost a lot of them. This cost us a good 2 hours or 4lbs of time bonus.

We killed the first ten fish we landed, including some very small stockies. The competition rules allowed us to choose which ten fish to take and, again with hindsight, we should have returned these and kept fishing for bigger fish.

We didn’t switch tactics quick enough or accurately enough. When one of us is catching and the other not, the other angler should change to exactly what the first angler is doing. Same line, same flies, same leader and dropper length, same retrieve. We didn’t do this, we tried something different to see if it worked. We should have both been on what we knew worked.

So we had lessons learned and a little disappointment at not qualifying, but we also had another good day’s fishing at Blithfield and a well organised, friendly competition, which was enjoyed by all. The full results of the heat are shown below.

Changing It Up

After another great day at Blithfield recently, with 47 fish to the boat, it was clear that the fishing there was on fire. I was interested to note how our catch returns matched others on the water at the same time, to see how we were doing.

So I took a sneak peak at the catch returns posted by the day’s anglers. We were the last boat off the water and as such, I could get a clear picture of how the water was performing generally.

Given the last 3 trips to Blithfield had given us 40+, 50+ and 40+ to the boat, I was expecting some bumper scores on the cards. However, I was very surprised to see returns averaging around the 6 or 7 to each boat.

This struck me as odd, as I was aware of the recent stocking of 6000 trout in to Blithfield from their own trout farm and as such, expected much better returns, especially given our own success.

I raised this with Claire, the super friendly organiser of the boat and bank tickets (among many other things) and asked her why she thought this might be. Claire’s said that she’d read my recent report on Blithfield (available here) and that she felt that the number of flies and methods we’d tried had enabled us to find the magic combination to push our catches up.

I’ve thought about this quite as lot, as both my regular boat partner and I have been accused of spending too much time out of the water changing flies and hence not actively covering fish. However, our successes seem to fly (no pun intended) in the face of this theory.

Whenever I change a fly, I put the old one in a sealed plastic box I’ve dedicated to used flies. This stops them passing any moisture they still hold on to other flies which are nicely dry in my boxes. When I get home (usually the next day, as I’m lazy) I take all the flies out and air dry them before returning them to their correct boxes.

To investigate the extent of my chopping and changing during the last fishing trip I counted the flies in the “wet” box showing just how many I’d tried throughout the day.

The results were a surprising 47 flies !

Admittedly, some were just changed due to the voracious teeth of trout damaging them or, in the case of boobies, they’d lost their full buoyancy, but the majority were different flies.

This really brought it home to me that changing often is sometimes a good thing. On a water like Blithfield, with a huge head of fish, changing will mean a catch of 10, rather than 2. Changing often when fishing on a more challenging water might be the difference between a good day and a blank.

There’s no guarantee that the flies and tactics that worked on a water yesterday will work today, so keep trying different types, colours and bouyancy flies until you find what they want.

It’s not just changing flies of course, changing lines is important too.

I was asked recently about what to do if the wind was strong and the boat wouldn’t stay at anchor and moved too quickly to cast to the front of the boat, even with a drogue.

In these difficult circumstances, it’s worth using the speed of the boat in the wind to your advantage. The best way to do this is to put on a sinking line, like a di5 or di7, with two boobies or one on the point and a FAB on the top dropper and simply let them drift behind the boat.

The drifting of the boat in the wind will pull the flies through the water at a good rate and the sinking lines will hold the flies down to the bottom of the water, with the boobies pulling the leader up just above the weed beds. This is often where the larger fish lie, so hold on to your rod !

If simply drifting doesn’t work, let the drift pull your full line out and then strip or roly roly it back in. The speed of the retrieve, added to the speed of the boat will tempt even the most stubborn trout.

The point I’m trying to get over in this article is that if you’re not catching or you’re catching very few, even when you’ve moved around the water, don’t be afraid to switch things around. Changing flies, fly lines, and retrieves can all help improve your catch returns.

Two Hectic Days On Blithfield Reservoir

I was lucky enough to spend two days on Blithfield this week, one with my regular boat partner, Paul and one with my friend Joe.

The reports I’d been reading had been all about the fantastic buzzer hatches and consequent huge buzzer catches around the margins, giving bank anglers some great sport.

Armed with this information, I headed to Rainbow Corner and prepared a straight line buzzer rig. There is no bank angling in Rainbow Corner on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, to allow the sailing club easy access, so we could get in quite close to shore with the boat. With continual rain in the air, we were lucky there were no sailing boats out and we could drift from quite close in to the dam wall.

My rig was a simple red buzzer on the point with a black and brown epoxy buzzer on the droppers. This was presented on a 12ft slow sink midge tip. I had takes immediately and although not particularly big, the fish fought like tigers.

Realising, due to the size of the fish, that we were sitting on a pod of stockies, I changed the point fly to an orange FAB. Stockies will often mistake this for a pellet and that’s exactly what they’re used to eating, so takes were again immediate.

After an hour, we moved on as we’d not come to stockie bash (even though it was great fun) and we moved through the causeway in to the North lake. We’d not fished this much before as there’s usually enough fish in the South lake to keep us busy. However, we’d had a tip that there were fish around The Stones and Yeatsall Corner, so we gave it a go there.

We stuck with buzzers for some success, but the orange blob was again favourite, with multiple hits leading to slightly better fish. It was here that I managed the catch of the day with a freshwater mussel clinging on to a rock succumbing to my blob !

Paul was now trying a lure pattern with an orange blob on the top dropper with a black cutthroat minkie on the point on a fast glass. This proved to be very effective too and his first cast produced a skinny 1lb rainbow. Paul joked that he’d definitely win the smallest fish prize today, but I immediately bettered him with a 1 inch perch on a simple olive buzzer πŸ™‚

We then tried a drift along Duck Keys with a strong wind blowing us straight along the bank. We decided to take it easy and back drift red holo and ninja diawl bachs with a tequila blob on the point and we were soon in to more fish as the rod bent round time and time again.

We’d noticed the terns and swallows working furiously over a small area in the middle of the North lake basin, so worked out that there was a buzzer hatch of some sort going on. It seemed strange that the buzzers should be hatching in such deep water, but the evidence was there with the birds, so we drifted over the middle, again back drifting, with buzzers and FABs on fast glass and di3 midge tip lines.

Despite being slowed by the drogue, we were still drifting at some speed, so hope of the buzzers working was fading fast. Suddenly, there was a huge crashing splash behind the boat and my rod bent round hard. We both saw a very large brown tail on the surface and knew that I was in to a good brownie.

After a short, but hard fight, this beauty came to the net. It had taken a Brown Epozy Buzzer and was perfectly hooked in the scissors. We didn’t weigh it, as we were worried about it after such a hard tussle, so we photographed it and returned it as soon as possible. I’m pleased to say it swam away very strongly. Just look at the paddle on that !

The wind was getting up and so we returned to the South Lake and decided upon the sheltered Watery Lane bank, which was almost flat calm close in. We moored up and switched to the bung with buzzers and I was surprised to see a fish jump clean out of the water and over my bung. The reason soon became apparent as it turned out to be hooked on the FAB on the point. We had, once again, found fish and were looking forward to some action. We were later told that 1000 fish had been stocked that day and that the resident fish often retreat to the causeway and Watery Lane when this happens. It looked like this is what had happened here.

Sadly, two bank anglers then appeared next to us and despite their kind protestations that they could fish either side of us, we felt it right to move on to pastures new. Although I can see why they do it, it’s a shame that waters have the bank anglers priority rule and I much prefer the Toft Newton approach, where first come first served is used.

A move further up the bank gave us slim pickings and we ended up trying the Concrete Bowl area. This proved to be an excellent move as a change to big lures like pink and orange humongous snake zonkers on a fast glass gave us great results with a pull and/or a fish every cast. It seemed that speed was the key, as Paul is able to retrieve the roly poly method far faster than I can and as such caught twice as many fish as I did with the same tactics, including this cracking brown.

Tiring of the constant stripping, I switched a fab on the point with a Soldier Palmer on the top dropper on a floating line. This, pulled slowly with a figure of eight, had the same effect as stripping snakes as the fish seemed to like the more natural fly just as much as the garish lumps we had been pulling through them.

Thankfully, Blithfield has the excellent policy of staying open until 8:15pm at the moment, so we were able to stay to almost darkness. We finished the day, exhausted but very happy with 40+ to the boat.

The second day started in much better weather than the previous one and naturally we headed straight for the Concrete Bowl armed with pink humongous snake zonkers. Joe was even faster on the roly poly than Paul and as a result caught 7 in the first 20 minutes to my 1.

Encouraged by thoughts of the big brown from the previous day, Joe and I headed through to the North Lake and fished The Stones area with buzzers on a floating line and a pink snake on a di 3. Both methods gave us fish, but not in any consistant manner. Two bank anglers in Yeatsall Corner were absolutely bagging up with a fish a cast, but we couldn’t see what they were using and couldn’t reasonably get close enough to ask.

A quick comfort break took us back to the lodge and the South Lake, so we thought we’d try the Concrete Bowl again. However, they just weren’t there, so we moved to around 50m off the bank opposite the big house next to Concrete Bay.

The fish were definitely here and were obviously very close to the surface as we could see them topping from time to time. I switched to a pink cutthroat booby snake on a floater and stripped it across the surface and was rewarded with fish literally jumping over each other chasing it through the water. Joe changed to a black and green booby snake and had exactly the same experience. The sport was frantic for a hectic half an hour before these bites dried up.

We noticed a bank angler nearby catching very well and asked him his method and two tequila FABs on a di 3 was suggested. We changed to FABs and in my case a Weighted Egg Zest Lime Jelly Blob on the point. The difference in the fishing was extraordinary.

I was immediately in to fish whether I used a stripping, roly poly or medium fast figure of 8 retrieve. I even doubled up on my second cast. Joe had switched to an Ally McCoist on the point with a tequila FAB on the dropper and was also catching consistently.

I moved to an Ally on the point and found that I could even use a slow figure of 8 and catch on it. The fishing was simply off the charts with fish after fish coming to our nets. This continued until 6pm when the weather took a real turn for the worse and we called it a day with 50+ to the boat.

The trip back in was a delight as a rainbow formed over Rainbow Corner and the lighting around the big house on the bank was stunning.

Overall, a fantastic couple of days on Blithfield with 90+ fish to the net in two action packed days. I heartily recommend a trip there, whether bank or boat fishing, as the fish are very close in at the moment.

I spoke to Dave at the boat lodge, who could be seen diligently cleaning the boats and dock area after each use (good to see), who told me that they’ve stocked over 6000 fish in the past 6 weeks and the results are obvious, as it’s the proverbial fish soup at the moment.

In conclusion, it’s rare, but not impossible, to catch a monster at Blithfield, but you will catch and the chances are you’ll catch quite a few, if you fish near enough to the bank and use the flies described in this article.

Flies used :

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Map of the Areas Described

Get Knotted !

We received some feedback recently that our flies were excellent, but the angler kept losing them due to his knots giving way. Therefore, we thought we’d put together this article for everyone to improve their knots.

There are many, many knots that can be used when trout fishing. In reality though, it’s best to focus on using 1 or 2 of them all the time, simply because it’s easy to forget all the details of a knot if you’re tying several different types at once. Here’s a summary of knots commonly used in trout fishing.

ALBRIGHT KNOT

The purpose of this knot is to join two lines of different thickness, so it is ideal for joining the reel end of the fly line to a backing line. You can see from the diagram that this knot might cause quite a bump on your reel and if you’re using a thick fly line, there can been times when this might snag the rest of the backing line as it comes off the reel. This could be an issue in the event of this knot coming in to play when playing a fish, so keep the tag ends as close to the knot as possible.

ARBOUR KNOT

The arbor knot is used to secure the backing line to the spool, it is a simple and secure knot. It’s much better than the slip knot we’ve all been tying for years (come on admit it πŸ™‚ )First tie a half hitch in the end of the backing line and ease the knot close to the end of the backing line. Now pass the line once round the spool of the reel and put a half hitch around the long end of the backing line, capturing the spool in the loop you’ve made. Pull gently on the long end of the backing and it will slip and tighten round the spool. It will be stopped from coming off the spool by the first half hitch you made at the end of the backing line. Two half hitches put on the spool as well will stop the line slipping round the spool.

BLOOD KNOT

This knot is used for joining two pieces of line together, when tied correctly this is a very strong knot. Lay the two tag ends against each other from opposite directions for about six inches. Wind one line around the other four times and bring that tag end back through where the turns start. Keeping a loop at that point now wind the other line four times around its counterpart and bring that tag end back through the loop. The tag ends should now be sticking out in opposite directions. Gently pull the knot tight and remember to lubricate the knot with a little spit before you tighten it all the way. After trimming off the tag ends this is a neat and efficient knot. It is ideal for joining two lengths of line of similar diameter, as when making up a leader and using progressively thinner line. However, a large difference in the thickness of the lines and this knot will fail to perform.

FIGURE OF 8 KNOT

The figure of 8 knot is used for making loop connections, tying dry fly leaders and for tying on droppers.

GRINNER, UNI OR UNIVERSAL KNOT

This multi-named knot has the advantage that it tightens against itself rather than the eye of the hook. This means that the fly is left loose in a small loop of line and so moves much more freely and naturally in the water. The downside is that the knot can be quite difficult to tie in adverse conditions. You can see from the diagram that the knot requires that the line is looped around itself and through a loop several times. It’s a very fiddly knot and requires a good deal of practice.

NAIL KNOT

The Nail Knot is a popular knot to join fly line to leader. The use of a small hollow tube instead of a nail is also effective if you don’t have a nail. The simplicity of this knot hides its inherent weakness. Under stress there is nothing to stop this knot simply sliding off the fly line, especially if the fly line is of the coated variety when the coating may part from the core. While no knot is perfect it is another reason why a collar and superglue are the best answer to this problem.

PERFECTION LOOP

A loop is only as good as the knot that makes it – and the perfection loop is made with a knot that has inherent strength because it spreads the pressure over its length and there are no pinch points. It is used to form the loop that attaches the tapered leader to the tippet.

SEAGUAR KNOT

This knot is named after the leading manufacturer of fluorocarbon line, which gives an indication of its use. It is a very simple knot and can be employed for tying two lengths of line of unequal thickness as well as tying up leaders. When used to make droppers the tag end pointing away from the rod tip is left long and used as the dropper. A lot of heat is generated when the ends are drawn together and tightened, so it essential that the knot is well lubricated – usually with spittle – before pulling everything tight. You must ensure that you hold all four ends and pull them all at the same time or the knot will fail to form properly and you will be left with a small loop at one end which will severely weaken the performance of this knot.

SURGEON’S KNOT

This is a simple knot and is primarily used to attach the short piece of line to your leader so that a dropper can be attached to the leader. Just put the two pieces of line together and tie in two half hitches. Pull the knot tight after applying a little spit to lubricate the lines. Cut off the tag end, which must be the end pointing up the line or else the fish will rip off the dropper when it grabs your fly. The danger with this knot is that it has reduced strength when compared to other knots such as the figure of 8 knot so use it with caution!

TUCKED BLOOD OR IMPROVED CLINCH KNOT

This knot can be used to attach the hook to the line. While it is a simple knot to tie, but there is one caveat that you should bear in mind. When a knot is pulled tight at the final stage, a great deal of heat is generated through the friction of the pieces of line coming together. This can have a disastrous consequence in that the line can become so hot that it is fatally weakened and will fail at the first sign of stress. The easiest way to solve this problem is to simply dab a little saliva onto the line immediately before it is pulled tight. Some people use the simple blood knot, which turns the tag end through the original loop and leaves the end pointing towards the hook. Some put a second tuck in the knot by carrying the tag end back up through the second loop that is formed. This is called a tucked blood knot and is much more secure. There is a chance that a fine or ultrasmooth line can slip with a simple blood knot, but that risk is eliminated with the extra turn in a tucked blood knot. When you have tied your knot and pulled it together with a spot of spit, give it a good strong pull to make sure it is correctly made. It’s better for the knot to fail when you test it rather than when a fish tests it!