A Poor Day’s Fishing, Why ? and Does it Matter….

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

Kerry and I had a disappointing day at a major stillwater last week, which resulted in 1 trout netted and 2 lost between us all day ! Thank goodness for the silver and black humungous booby, the fly that always saves a blank

This would be a disappointing total on most waters, so I checked the book when I registered our catch returns and noticed that the top rod was 3 for the day and only 1 other boat had caught 2. There were a couple of 1’s, but most had blanked.

This seemed very poor as the fishing report from the previous week had talked about several people catching between 10 and 15 fish each. Indeed, the fishery manager told me that someone had caught 20 the previous day to a foam damsel drifted in the wind on the surface. The rod average for the week was put at 3, so this boded well.

Why then would the catch returns for us and others on the water be so poor? Surely we can’t all be rubbish fishermen/fisherwomen ?

Well, I think the main reason would be the sudden change in weather conditions.

The weather was certainly warmer and more sunny than recent days and the wind direction made fishing in to the areas recommended by the fishery team very difficult, even with a boat.

The sun had certainly pushed the fish down as we only caught or had takes on a di 5 and nothing whatsoever on floating lines. Last week’s South Westerly wind had been replaced with a North Westerly and this will have driven the fish in the opposite direction to last week. These would certainly be major factors and we tried to take them in to account by fishing the opposite banks to last week’s catches and dropping the flies a little lower down, but to no avail.

The sad fact is that the weekly reports are a historical record and by definition, out of date. The reports of best spots or flies to use are meaningless if the conditions have changed, such a 180 degree swing in the wind direction and the sun popping his hat on.

In my humble opinion, it’s useful to read the reports if the conditions are identical to last week and this should form plan A for the day. If conditions have changed, then Plan B should be employed, with Plan A as a backup.

Rod average is also an interesting one. Personally I find it can be very misleading. For example, to give a simplified view, if 100 people visit a venue and 20 of them catch 15 each, but 80 of them blank, the rod average is 3, despite the fact that 80% of people caught nothing.

I understand that waters have to give some indication of what’s coming out each week, but surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to display catches something like this :

  • 20+: 5%

  • 10+ : 15%

  • 5+ : 30%

  • 1-4 : 25%

  • Blank : 50%

This, at least, gives an indication of how the water is actually performing week by week. Admittedly this gives the fishery managers a bit more work, but I think it helps give a better picture.

Rod averages are generally hugely boosted by season ticket holders or professionals practicing on the waters for competitions. There’s nothing shady about this and fishery managers are simply dividing the number of fish caught by the number of anglers. It can’t be ignored that this is a great marketing tool for fisheries of course.

It’s also worth noting that fish returns rely on fisherman accurately registering their catches. I always try to fill in my returns, even when blanking, but I must admit that dreadful days have made me less inclined to do so and more inclined to get home and drown my sorrows with a brandy !

Returns not filled in result in a blanket (no pun intended) score of zero, thus potentially pulling the rod average unnecessarily lower. This also makes it more diffcult for the fisheries to manage the stock levels and it is therefore essential that we all try to fill them in when possible.

The one thing I took away from this trip was that we both had a fantastic day, despite a poor catch. The weather was warm, the wind wasn’t too strong, the venue was beautful and company wasn’t bad either ! There were damsel flies everywhere and we found them often landing on our clothes. The image at the top of the page was taken by Kerry of a damsel resting on the boat.

I guess rod average vs actual catches on the day became completely irrelevant, given how lucky we were to be in the position of being able to fish for the day.

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