In praise of va­ri­ety

Jonathan Tom­lin­son catches blues, rain­bows and a Bri­tish record equalling tiger trout all from one lake

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

IN an era when f ish­eries are clos­ing down rather than open­ing, it’s re­fresh­ing to see what’s been go­ing on at the Sport­fish Game Fish­ing Cen­tre in Theale, Berk­shire. A fter ac­quir­ing the two-lake f ish­ing complex ad­ja­cent to their su­per­store a lit­tle over a year ago, the lo­ca­tion has been re­de­vel­oped in a big way, cre­at­ing two in­cred­i­ble f ish­eries. First, they fixed the main lake (which we’ve cov­ered in a pre­vi­ous is­sue), gut­ting and re­fit­ting the lodge, putting boats on the lake for the ver y f irst time, in­stalling aer­a­tors, in­tro­duc­ing catch and re­lease then stock­ing with fab­u­lous qual­ity fish up to high dou­ble-fig­ures. The lake now has a ver y healthy fol­low­ing and many reg­u­lars that visit weekly. But it wasn’t long be­fore an­glers asked what was go­ing to hap­pen to the smaller lake at the complex.

The new lake

Hobby Lake is around five acres and was pre­vi­ously used for catch and re­lease only. Ne­glected and unloved it truly needed some well-earned care. Jonathan Ran­dall and his staff were tasked with its re­de­vel­op­ment and they re­ally “went to town” with it. A huge amount of bank work was just the be­gin­ning of what was to be a huge un­der­tak­ing. A jetty was cre­ated so the two new boats could moor up right next to the pur­pose-built f ish­ing lodge full of ameni­ties in­clud­ing a fan­tas­tic new BBQ. Beau­ti­ful views now greet any­one who vis­its here. This fisher y is not your ever yday venue though. Hobby Lake can be booked out on an ex­clu­sive ba­sis for par­ties of up to four an­glers and will not be fished on con­sec­u­tive days to al­low it to be rested so that ever yone has the best op­por­tu­nity to catch. Sev­eral species now re­side in its cr ys­tal-clear wa­ters – rain­bows, browns, blues, tigers and golden trout up to dou­ble­fig­ures. A grand slam is a real pos­si­bil­ity.

To­day’s ses­sion

Pho­tog­ra­pher Peter Gather­cole and I meet up at 9am and head straight up to the lake, driv­ing all the way to the lodge. A week of very mixed weather lead­ing up to to­day had us a lit­tle wor­ried, but for once the weather gods are re­ally feel­ing kind to­wards us. Con­di­tions are warm and over­cast with a hint of a breeze – all the key com­po­nents for a po­ten­tially great day ahead. The plan of at­tack is to tar­get the tigers first from the bank. This brook-brown hy­brid is thick-set, pow­er­ful, ag­gres­sive and ter­ri­to­rial and will give you a se­ri­ously good work-out once hooked. With

“The tiger trout is thick-set, pow­er­ful, ag­gres­sive and ter­ri­to­rial and will give you a se­ri­ously good work-out once hooked.”

ex­tremely sharp teeth step­ping up in break­ing strain tip­pet is a must and I opt for my ‘go to’ Riverge Grand Max in 9.5lb. A sim­ple one-f ly cast on a 10 -foot leader is all I use at first – the prospect of hook­ing into two fish at once is some­thing I want to avoid. My favourite 9ft 6in 6wt rod is then teamed with a Rio Per­cep­tion f loater as the fish have been high in the wa­ter all week. Buzzers and pond olives hatch all around and fish be­gin steadily sip­ping down adults with ver y pleas­ing head-and-tail rises. We start at one of the small bays, where a long cast with a Black & Sil­ver Hu­mun­gus fol­lowed by a steady f ig­ure-of-eight re­trieve al­lows max­i­mum move­ment of the large marabou tail. Just a cou­ple of casts in and a re­ally solid take re­sults in one of the stun­ning blues com­ing to the net – the bar­b­less hook drop­ping out eas­ily be­fore its re­turn.

If you hire the f isher y for the day, the four an­glers will each be able to keep four rain­bows or blues. But the browns, gold­ens and tigers must be re­leased. It’s a great star t to the day and things are on the up. Twenty min­utes later – and a cou­ple of plucks missed – ever y thing goes solid. A few big thrashes on the sur­face and we can see straight away that it’s one of the tigers. Now the f ight be­gins. Like a brow nie, these f ish pull your string and don’t give up, bor­ing down, leav­ing huge oily pat­terns on the sur­face and f ight­ing un­til the ver y end. A huge f ish of 10lb w ith a pad­dle for a tale sets a new per­sonal best for me and a dream start. Need­less to say, I have a rather large smile at this point!

On the move

We fish on a short while longer be­fore mov­ing. Stay­ing mo­bile has al­ways been my ethos on still­wa­ters. If the takes dr y up or you’re strug­gling then tr y a move – all too of­ten an­glers set up camp for the day in one spot, never mov­ing. We head to a bay at the other end of the lake and con­tinue with the same method. The wa­ter is so clear that if any f ish gets within 10 feet of the f ly there’s a ver y good chance that they’re go­ing to see it. A few casts in and I get another thump. We’re into the sec­ond tiger of the day and at around 6lb it’s one of the smaller f ish, but the beau­ti­ful mot­tled mark­ings make it no less im­pres­sive or pleas­ing to the eye. A cou­ple of hard-f ight­ing rain­bows join in on the act and a grand slam is achieved in just the first hour. What a day much to mine and Peter’s re­lief! Trust me when I say that it doesn’t al­ways go to plan as well as this.

Record tiger

We’re both aware that f ish are ris­ing and a trip out in one of the boats is our next at­tack. But I have a few more casts be­fore head­ing to the lodge to re­tackle and wal­lop… I get hit by what can only be de­scribed as a “freight train”. A quick thrash on the sur­face and we both re­alise this is a ver y big f ish and another tiger. I tr y to keep hold as the f ish heads off to the hori­zon be­fore stop­ping just short of my back­ing knot. Five min­utes later and we have it in the net. It’s another dou­ble but how big? The scales fall to 11lb 8oz, another per­sonal best and it equals the Bri­tish record weight. I know that there have been big­ger tigers caught in the UK be­fore but the off icial record does stand at the same weight. I’m chuffed. What’s more, there may well be even big­ger spec­i­mens still in there that haven’t been caught yet!

Try the boat

We grab a drink and head to the lodge to have a change of tac­tics. A 16-foot leader is set up with one drop­per eight feet from the point. A marabou-tailed Flash­back Hare’s Ear on the point gives a nice cross­over be­tween a true nymph and a mini lure but of­fers a fan­tas­tic ‘sighter’ for

the f ish to hit on. A Di­awl Bach f in­ishes the cast and off we go to our boat. Drift­ing is al­lowed but we just edge our­selves out to an area of high ac­tivit y and drop the an­chor. Flies con­tinue to hatch and the wa­ter is alive with move­ment. Trout hunt down emerg­ing adults as they break through the sur­face. It just screams f ish and you can’t help but feel that it isn’t go­ing to take long to hook up – and it doesn’t! A slow f ig ure-of-eight re­trieve and just three casts in, the tip of the line dis­ap­pears be­fore the take is felt – non­stretch lines al­low for so much feel­ing and take de­tec­tion par­tic­u­larly when f ish­ing at any kind of dis­tance. A crack­ing rain­bow of around 6lb comes to the net. I swiftly re­move the f ly on the un­hook­ing mat that’s pro­vided be­fore re­leas­ing the f ish f it and well. Sev­eral more fish come in quick suc­ces­sion in­clud­ing another cou­ple of stun­ning cobalt blue trout. We have a close en­counter with one of the goldies but sadly no luck. But the f ish­ing is so good I take a rest and Peter is quick to get in on the action. First cast…a rain­bow, sec­ond cast and a rain­bow takes the drop­per be­fore Peter in­ad­ver­tently hooks a blue on the point f ly while play­ing the f irst f ish. T wo casts and three f ish to the boat – not a bad per­for­mance! The next hour or so con­tin­ues with both of us los­ing count of how many fish come to the nymphs. We call it a day and head back to the shop, bump­ing into staff mem­ber Si­mon Bed­well who in­forms us that the first party since its open­ing had been on yes­ter­day. They had left by 3.30pm as they were ex­hausted from catch­ing fish and that they had more than 60 fish be­tween them up to dou­ble-fig­ures!

Ex­pect su­perb action and an aching arm at the end of the day. Another vivid cobalt blue trout is re­leased to the wa­ter. Beau­ti­ful mark­ings - that’s the hall­mark of a tiger trout. A se­lec­tion of Jonathan’s nymphs that worked well.

The rain­bows were in ter­rific feed­ing mood on the day. Nymphs worked well as in­sects hatched through­out the day. Jonathan has the look of an an­gler who may have a Bri­tish record! Another rain­bow is care­fully re­leased back to Hobby Lake.

A quick weigh tells Jonathan that it’s 11lb 8oz – equal to the Bri­tish record tiger. Hobby can only be booked by four an­glers at a time. A re­minder to dis­pose of leader re­spon­si­bly. Ex­plo­sive rain­bow action from the boat on the new Hobby Lake. Jonathan strides past the new lodge at Hobby Lake.

“We lose count of how many fish come to the nymphs.”

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