Pick off the pods
Iain Barr and Gareth Jones do meerkat impressions at Chew Valley Lake
RESERVOIRS can be tough at this time of year with warm water making f ish lethargic and hard to catch. But just ponder this true stor y for a moment. On a late summer/early autumn day last year the rod average at Chew was less than one fish – tough indeed. But two anglers had catches of 17 and 10 fish and they are the two anglers in this feature. So how did they do it? Well, in f lat calm conditions it pays to stand tall and watch for rising f ish. Trout are either hard on the bottom or just subsurface during late summer/early autumn and Iain Barr doesn’t like driving three hours to Chew only to fish a sinking line – he and many others want to f ish dries. A f ter all, it’s what Chew is famous for. On arrival, both Iain and Gareth Jones can see that conditions are tough – hardly any wind and nothing seemingly hatching. A few fish dimple rise in the calm water and both anglers decide on a different approach to see which one works – Iain chooses a washing-line set-up with a Foam Arsed Blob and Cruncher nymphs while Gareth opts for dries. These methods tempt f ish on or just under the surface. Iain notes that he has never seen so many corixa in and around the weedbeds in Herons Bay, there are literally millions of them in just two feet of water. They love the shallow, warm water and silty bottoms. But anglers struggle at the bottom of Herons with Iain catching only one small rainbow… on a Blob. This isn’t what they want. With so many corixa it’ll be hard to tempt f ish!
Gareth then stands tall, scanning for rising fish. He spots some towards the middle of Herons and they slowly motor towards them. It’s vital not to motor hard in these conditions. Go gently and give the f ish a wide arc then cut the engine so that you drift naturally towards the rising f ish. In these conditions there’s no need for a drogue to slow the drift, but if you do need more forward momentum, use the landing net to push yourself along – any thing that’s less likely to spook the trout. The engine is cut roughly 50 to 80 yards away from the rising fish and Iain switches to dries, three f ish coming fast to his favourite Big Red. He targets each f ish.
In these calm conditions, with fish holding close to the surface, don’t cast long. You’ll end up ‘lining’ trout and spooking them. Instead, cast a short line, only seven yards from the boat! This offers other advantages such as improved presentation, f lies remaining high in the water, you’re in direct contact with the fish and there’s less time spent getting the fish to the boat. But the most important benefit is not spooking the f ish. Be patient. If you see f ish rising 30 yards away, wait until you drift closer to them before casting. When fish are lying deep, you need to cast long… but not when they’re shallow. Gareth does another meerkat impression to locate more risers and spies some off Nunner y and False Island about 250 yards away. A fter locating these f ish, Gareth exploits a small ant fall using Claret Bits and Shuttlecock dries, but Iain attacks with his FAB/Cruncher set-up. From a f loating line he has four f lies on 8.5lb G5 fluorocarbon. A FA Bis six foot from the fly-line on the top dropper, a further 3.5 feet to a Cruncher Nymph then a 10 -foot gap to another Cruncher with a FAB a further 3.5 feet down on the point. Each buoyant FAB – being so close to the nymph – keeps it well up in the water right where the fish are. If the water wasn’t as clear he’d shorten the distance between the two nymphs, but in clear water this 10 -foot gap reduces the risk of spooking trout. It’s clear that today is about picking off pods of fish and not to be so engrossed in what’s going on directly in front of you.
Read the signs
Locating fish is a huge part of the battle, so learn to read the signs. If a cormorant pops up from beneath the water and f lies off, there’s obviously no f ish there. But if one pops up and then swims along munching away or dives dow n again, set up a drift over that area. Simila rly, watch for gulls and ot her birds f lying low to the water. These are hoover ing up buzzers hatching of f. Fish are sure to be feed ing on the pupa beneath.
Iain doesn’t switch to co polymer leader when fishing dries, he sticks with the 8.5 lb G 5 fluorocarbon used for his FAB/Cruncher set- up. His f lies aren’t on the water for more than five or six seconds and, being cast no more than several yards from the boat, it’s a quick lift off before targeting another riser. The fluorocarbon doesn’t have time to pull the dries under. The other benefit of course is that you have improved presentation because the
fluorocarbon sinks right up to the fly– avoiding the problem of leader on the surface.
CdC - matchman’s disadvantage?
Iain doesn’t like CdC! When competition fishing, anglers know when someone’s using CdC due to the false casting needed to dr y the feathers. Instead he uses dries with foam in them because they don’t need any Gink or Frog’s Fanny floatant application to help them float–zero fuss and more time fishing.
When fishing dries on reser voirs, any drag tends to put off resident f ish. Iain solves this by casting out and then throwing in a short line mend via a circular motion with the rod tip. This creates a little slack line so the f ly remains static.
“Locating fish is a huge part of the battle. So learn to read the signs.”
Leaping action. Iain Barr plays a lively Chew rainbow.
Iain’s FAB and Cruncher set-up caught plenty of quality Chew fish.
Gareth lands a dry fly-tempted rainbow.