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.
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 🙂
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.
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.
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.
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 🙂 )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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
Early season fishing has been incredible recently. The combination of 1000s of fish being stocked across the country, lockdown preventing fisherman getting near the fish and the weather gradually starting to warm up has resulted in some reports of huge catches.
I was recently fortunate enough to spend the day on the boat at Draycote Water and had an amazing day fishing buzzers with 18 fish reaching my net on the day. This number would have been much higher, had I not been snapped so often.
Despite the average stamp of fish coming in at around 3lbs on the day, my 10lb flourocarbon leader droppers were regularly smashed on the take. Buzzer takes can be vicious and if a line is too tight, or the rod too straight or not flexible enough, then the leader or dropper can be easily snapped.
Besides being frustrating to lose a fish, leaving a hook or even an entire leader in a trout’s mouth is not a good thing at all.
So what do we do to protect ourselves from losing fish and the trout from being left with unwanted and potentially deadly hardware ?
There are several answers to this, including:
Ensuring your rod is flexible enough to take a rapid buzzer pull
Using a flexible and durable fly line. One with a little give in it’s construction
Keeping the rod at an angle to the line, so the flexibility of the rod tip absorbs some of the impact of the pull
Leaving more slack line than necessary to give you time to react and lift the rod (although not so much you deep hook the fish)
Using stronger leader flourocarbon (although this may reduce the takes)
Reduce the number of droppers, so double and treble ups are avoided
However, I’d like to focus on a rather more unusual approach to this, which is the eponymously named Bungee Butt.
These were available from Drennan, but are no longer sold. However, it is relatively easy to make one. You’ll need 2 braided leaders and a 5 inch (approx) piece of 22lb power gum (or equivalent).
First, take one of the braided leaders and slide the
power gum up to 1 inch in to it, just as you would a fly line.
Secure the sleeve over the power gum with superglue.
Repeat the process with the other end of the power gum
Once you have the completed item, simply attach your leader to one end and your fly line to the other and you’re finished.
But how does it work in reducing breakages on savage buzzer takes ?
Well, the power gum is extremely flexible and stretches easily and durably. It will not snap, even under extreme and sudden pressure. The power gum will absorb the impact of a hard trout take and reduce the stress on all other areas of your buzzer set up, from leader to reel.
I’ve tried this system on Rutland recently and found it to be extremely successful, so why not give it a go and see if this method improves your buzzer catch rate.
We’re often asked about angler’s casting issues, so I thought I’d outlne the most common errors with casting a fly line, the cause of the issue and how to remedy the situation.
The Line Cracks like a Whip
If you find yourself sounding like Indiana Jones on occasion, it’s because you’re effectively doing exactly what he does, but with the fly line.
The crack sound is the result of the end of the line changing direction at high speed – just like a whip.
The key to resolving this is patience. You need let the line straighten out before you start the next part of your cast. Obviously, don’t wait too long or you’ll catch the ground behind or the water in front of you, but leave it a little longer than you have been doing for it to straighten before changing direction.
This issue may result in a fly being broken off if you don’t correct the problem. At the very least it will weaken the leader at the fly and risk line breakage when a fish takes.
Does your casting give Indiana Jones a run for his money ?
Difficulty In Picking Up The Line When Starting a Cast
If you’re using intermediate or sinking lines like di3 or di7, they’re likely to be underwater when you try to turn them over. This is going to cretae some heavy resistance from the water, including the added stress of water tension.
Dragging a line through the water with great gusto is likely to cause a lot of disturbance in the water and spook any fish which may be lurking around, as well as exhausting any poor angler who keeps trying to do this.
So what’s the answer ? The way to do it, is to use less force, not more, when using heavy lines or flies. Make a gentle roll cast to clear everything out of the water before starting
the next cast. This puts the line on top of the water and it will lift off more easily and cause far less water disturbance.
It’s good practice to incorporate a roll cast into the start of every cast, whatever line you use, as this makes things easier by straightening the line and leader, hugely reducing tangles and becoming a muscle memory.
The reason the line crashes into itself is that the forward and back casts are in the same
plane. i.e. They get in each other’s way.
A slight twist of your forearm during the cast on the backcast will translate to a rotation movement at the rod tip of a foot or so. The effect of this rotation of the rod on the different strokes of the cast is to move the line going back further away from your body than the line coming forward. This movement then seperates the two parts of the line, stopping them clashing.
These knots are called wind knots and it is important that you check for them after each cast, as they can weaken the line leading to lost fish.
It doesn’t matter how good you are at casting, you will always get the odd knot in your line and droppers, as they are waving around during each cast, so it is inevitable that they will get in a birds nest occasionally.
If this happens regularly, the cause is likely to be similar to the main fly line hitting itself, but this time with the leader. As with the previous tip, slightly twist your forearm during the backcast to seperate both the fly line and the leader from themselves.
On occasion, we find ourselves in a position where the only way we can fish is directly in to the wind. This might be due to only being able to fish one bank or maybe we’ve spotted a rising fish behind us on a boat and want to cover it.
The best way to achieve a reasonable cast in these circumstances is to effectively cast backwards. Now that sounds a little silly, but by twisting your body so that the cast is in the opposite direction to where you want to be and using the final backcast as effectively a forward cast, you can punch the line directly in to the face of the wind.
Obviously, this is going to be hard work and the flies may not land quite as nicely as you’d like, due to wind resistance. This is particularly the case if you’re using very light flies, but at least you’re getting further than you would have done casting forwards.
As ever, please ensure you wear eye protection at all times when fly fishing, especially casting in to the wind, as a sudden gust can easily change the direction of your line and whip a fly across your body or worse, your face.
One of the best trout recipes we’ve tried is simply cooking trout in a skillet in olive oil, and then adding garlic, lemon juice, white wine, fresh parsley and butter. This dish is gluten free, healthy, easy-to-make and delicious! It is also a low-carb dinner, rich in lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids.
Ingredients (4 Portions)
1.5lb pounds of trout fillets (2 fillets)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (dried thyme, oregano, parsley, combined together)
1/4 teaspoon salt to taste
4 garlic cloves diced
3 tablespoons lemon juice freshly squeezed
2 tablespoons white wine
2 tablespoons butter softened
2 tablespoons parsley chopped
Season the top of the fillets with Italian herb seasoning and salt (generously)
In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil on medium heat until heated but not smoking.
Add the fish fillets, skin side up, to the hot skillet.
Cook the flesh side of the fish for about 3-5 minutes on medium heat, making sure the oil does not smoke, until lightly browned.
Flip the fillets over to the other side, skin side down (add more oil, if needed).
Cook for another 2-4 minutes on medium heat (to prevent oil from burning).
Remove the skillet from the heat, close with the lid, and let the fish sit for 5-10 minutes, covered, in the skillet, until flaky and cooked through completely.
After the fish is cooked through, carefully remove fillets with a fish slice and put them on a plate.
Carefully remove or scrape any fish skin off the bottom of the pan, making sure to leave all the cooking oils in the pan.
Add diced garlic, lemon juice, and white wine to the same pan with oil.
Cook on medium-low heat for about 1 minute, until the garlic softens.
Remove from the heat and add 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley, and 2 tablespoons of butter to the sauce, stirring, until the butter melts and forms a creamy mixture.
Add the fish back in to the pan and spoon the sauce over the fish for 1 minute.
Place the fillets on to a plate, pour on the sauce and top with a sprig of parsley, ready to serve.
The day didn’t start well as I’d picked up a bout of food poisoning the night before and arrived an hour late at Toft Newton as a result. Add to that the atrocious weather I’d driven through and I decided to stay in my car for half an hour to wait for the rain to subside. It was not a pleasent view :
It didn’t take long before the lure of fishing was too much and I tackled up in mild drizzle. Andy Hutson was manning the office and as ever, he offered a friendly welcome and excellent advice.
I’d come to Toft as Andy was offering a free tuition day and I know just how good a fisherman he is, so I was keen to talk to him. I particularly wanted to ask about two things I’d been trying to do all year, which was to catch a brown and to catch anything on an apps bloodworm.
Andy suggested a yellow apps for the stockies and a red apps for the grown on fish. These were to be fished on floating line with an 18ft leader. Alternatively, a slow intermediate line with a single white lure on the point of a 15ft leader would also work, possibly for the brownies.
I set out to the water and was pleased to see Matt Nuttall fishing the South bank. Matt had already caught a nice brown and was soon in to another rainbow as we chatted.
Matt was using a floating line with a booby snake on the point, an apps on the top dropper and a hare’s ear on the middle dropper. Each fly was at least 6ft-8ft from the other. The set up was cast out, straighted with a sharp pull and fished completely static. Matt was keeping the flies static and avoiding a bow in the line, which would have moved the flies unnaturally, by walking down the bank, keeping up with the line. This method proved particularly effective as Matt was soon in to another fish.
Although fish were being caught, it was obvious from the movement on the surface that there were a lot of fish just out of casting range. To get to these fish, Matt and I decided to shared a boat and moored up around 70 yards off the bank in the same area.
There were a lot of fish movement around this area as fry chasers were hammering across the surface chasing hapless prey all around us.
We both started with the booby and apps method and once again, Matt was catching well. Although I wasn’t doing as well as Matt, it was a great experience to watch and learn from a very accomplished angler indeed. Matt was very open with his advice and suggestions on how to improve my fishing and this proved invaluable as I was soon in to a real lump of a fish.
The fight was incredible and I played it for several minutes before we both saw a huge fish surface. Matt immediately leapt in to action and kindly netted it for me and a 10lb rainbow was on the boat. This is a personal best for me and I was absolutely delighted. It had taken an orange blob fished on a floating line with a slow figure of eight.
After missing another bite straight afterwards, I was in again on the orange blob with a brownie of all things. This was the icing on the cake for me after the lump I’d just caught.
Meanwhile, Matt had switched to a fast glass with a white snake and was catching fish on a very regular basis indeed. After 15 minutes without a pull, I changed to a DI5 with a white snake on the point and a red apps bloodworm on the top dropper and was soon in to another lump ! This one tipped the scales at 7lb and fought just as well as the earlier fish.
The best news for me was what it took though :
Finally ! I’d caught on an apps bloodworm. My day was complete, I’d caught a brown and caught on an apps. This was already a fantastic day, but it was not yet over…
It was Matt’s turn to hook in to a big fish next and it was clearly fighting hard as his rod was bent over. However, it turned out not be a big fish, but two rainbows on a double hook up. This day was getting crazy !
A few minutes later Matt was in again and this time it was a big one. Caught on the white snake on the fast glass with a very fast roly poly retrieve, Matt hooked in to a 6lb rainbow of his own.
The action continued with us both catching more rainbows, until I managed another lump of 6lb, this time on a white snake.
Andy came down for a fish on the bank opposite us and caught a 7lb fish on his first cast on a pink apps bloodworm. The fishing was simply unbelievable for all three of us.
An hour later and after lots of fish caught, lots of not safe for work banter and lots of great laughs, we called it a day as the last of the daylight sank away.
With 25 to the boat and 4 fish over 6lb, the day was simply fantastic. The levels of stocking and the stamp of fish in Toft make it a must visit venue at the moment. You get a warm welcome, good advice and great fishing, so what’s not to like.
Our catch on the day, all of which was returned unharmed, bodes well for the Fur and Feather match at Toft on Sunday 6th December. There are still places available in that competition, so if you’d like to enter, check out the details here
As the winter draws in, why not use some of your hard earned catch to cook a delicious warming meal.
This is a recipe for smoked trout chowder, which was intended as a starter, but is so rich and tasty, it’s always a good idea to have it as a main course too.
Ingredients (4-6 main course portions)
• 2 tbsp butter or olive oil
• 2 medium carrots, chopped small
• 650g potatoes, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
• 1 med-large onion, chopped finely
• Garlic 3-6 cloves, crushed or fine sliced
• Squeeze of lemon juice
• 1/2 cup dry white wine
• 2 vegetable stock cubes
• 1 litre milk
• 1 tsp herbes de Provence*
• 1/2 cup single cream
• 400g smoked trout fillet, chopped
• King prawns, scallops, mussels (optional)
• Can of sweetcorn without liquid
• Diced celery (optional)
• Saffron if available
• Fresh dill chopped to garnish
Melt butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add 2 or 3 twists of fresh ground black pepper. Fry off onions for a few mins add garlic, but do not brown.
Add carrots, potato, wine, stock cubes, squeeze of lemon, milk, 3-4 strands of Saffron and good pinch herbes de Provence.
Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer, very gently so as not to curdle the milk, until potatoes are tender but not mushy! (about 10 min). Try not stir too often as this breaks up the veg.
To thicken the chowder scoop out about 1/3 cup of soup without chunks and sprinkle in approx. 1 tablespoon of flour, mixing thoroughly with the flat of a spoon to make a thickish paste. Stir this in near the end of the boiling stage above.
Stir in cream and trout (plus other seafood), pinch of Saffron and sweetcorn.
Continue simmering on very low heat until the seafood is all opaque.
Season to taste, but the trout will already be salty, so don’t overdo it!
Add a sprinkle of paprika and chopped dill and serve with warm crusty bread.
Delicious and very filling!
*Note: If you don’t have herbe de Provence, use the following as an alternative:
Winter is upon us with a vengeance and we look forward (?) to some very cold days on the banks of our trout waters over the next few months.
How do we maximise our chances of hooking up an, often grown on, hard fighting winter trout ? Here’s a few tips we’ve put together to help you.
Match The Hatch
Although less prolific than in the Spring and Summer, there are still buzzer hatches in Winter and these should not be ignored when it comes to winter trout fishing. This is especially true when there is a warmer day following a prolonged cold spell, which can trigger a hatch.
Try starting with a floating line with at least a 12ft leader and size 10 Red Buzzer/Bloodworm on the point with a size 12 Black Buzzer on a dropper at 4ft.
The bloodworms will be hatching from the mud, so it’s important to get these flies nearest the bottom, as this is where the trout will be expecting to find them. The black buzzers obviously emulate any number of insect species in their emerger phase.
If you don’t get any success on this, after varying retrieve and depth, try dropping down the hook size. Winter trout are lethargic due to the cold water temperatures, which lowers their metabolism and a smaller fly might be just what they’re looking for.
Ensure that the heavier fly is on the point as this is the one you want to sink quickly. The lighter dropper can then drift down slowly at it’s own pace.
The simple red buzzer – Ideal as a Winter Point Fly
Luring Them In
Almost inevitably, winter fishing means using lures at some point.
Tradition would dictate that black and green should be the colours employed, often fished deep down in the warmer water. However, more brightly coloured lures should not be discounted. There may not be a natural prey sporting a pink, yellow and purple coat, but that doesn’t mean the trout won’t see it as prey. The most garish of lures, such as the Orange Zuddler (pictured below) can be a huge trigger for a passing trout.
Of course, lures have dual purpose, in that a bright, colourful point fly might not be taken, but it will be seen as an interesting thing to follow by a trout. Therefore, pairing a lure on the point with a buzzer or nymph on a dropper will often be the fly taken as it is the natural food the trout is expecting and it may not have seen it if it wasn’t for the attraction of the lure. In these scenarios, it is best to use a slow retrieve, as a stripping a nymph or buzzer would be seen as unnatural movement and the trout will avoid it.
The Orange Zuddler – A bright attractant point fly
Bung ‘Em Up
Although the purists wouldn’t agree, one of the best ways to catch a winter trout is the use of the indicator or bung.
Whether using a specific indicator designed for the job or simply using a booby or something similar sitting on the surface, this is a great way to find the fish.
Fishing a bung is effectively float fishing for trout. The bung sits on the surface with 2 or more flies hanging below it.
As with the buzzer fishing above, use a heavier fly on the point, perhaps an apps bloodworm or beaded diawl bach and add droppers of buzzers and nymphs or a squirmy wormy.
The movement of the bung on the water’s surface will cause the flies below it to move naturally and attract the trout. This is especially true of the apps bloodworms as the movement of the water can cause the flailing legs of the fly to move in a very enticing manner. This is why apps bloodworms are such a good winter fly.
Apps Bloodworm – Deadly under a bung
Trout like cold weather, so in the winter, they could literally be feeding anywhere in the water column, from near the bottom to right at the surface. Sometimes, even off the top.
On small stillwaters a floating line could be perfect all day, but it pays to take two rods one with a floating line and one with an intermediate or even a sinking line. Not only will it save you re-rigging the rod with a different line, but you’ll also be able to cover more depths and use a greater variety of retrieve speeds.
Set Up Two Rods – Allowing you to cover more depths
Wrap Up Warm
This might seem like an odd tip to give on a fly fishing blog, but it is often said that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing. A comparatively warm winter’s day can turn in to a very cold winter’s afternoon/evening very quickly.
I’m reminded of a recent trip to Draycote Water where I decided I didn’t need my waterproof trousers for the boat as I was wearing my thermals under my jeans and it wasn’t forecast to rain.
It didn’t rain, but the wind really got up and this caused a lot of water to splash in to the boat, soaking my jeans and thermals through to the skin. The resulting cold from the howling wind on my wet clothes mean a very early return to the car and a lot of lost fishing hours. The simple addition of waterproof overtrousers would have enabled me to stay out all day.
It is critical to dress for the weather, whilst still allowing for mobility. There’s no point being warm if you can’t physically cast or get yourself out of trouble should the need arise.
Besides waterproof outer garments, layering up with thin layers will help trap warm air and enable your body to regulate it’s temperature more easily.
The key areas of heat loss will be your head and your hands so investing in a warm hat and gloves can make a huge difference to your enjoyment and how long you actually get to spend fishing.
As at all times when fly fishing, a good pair of polarised sun glasses is a must. Not just to enable you to see the fish more easily, but to protect your eyes from wayward flies caused by a wind gust ruining your cast.
Wear a warm woolly hat – Maybe not this one though 🙂
Acknowledgment : Many thanks to ,,@jmurrey for the image used as a cover photo for this entry.
We greatly enjoyed an absolutely crazy day on Blithfield today. Pouring with rain all morning, windier than a windy thing in the afternoon, but the sport was great all day.
Starting on dries on the dam wall nearest the boat house, the first fish fell to a Griffith’s Gnat. Not much action after that on dries, so we tried lures.
Drifting between the row of green buoys and W buoy with a red hothead cats whisker stripped along the surface gave us fish after fish, with a white zuddler doing the same.
Later we found that di5 with three boobies (cats whisker, coral and long shank tequila) left dangling behind the boat was enough to induce multiple takes. I even managed a double hookup twice in two casts ! See the photo with my gormless expression
Fish came regularly throughout the day until we couldn’t take the cold wind anymore and headed in at 6pm.
Total to the boat for the day was 22. Cracking day, if freezing and very wet.