The tower of plenty
RobEdmunds recalls a memorable fryfeeding session in Rutland’s North Arm
I’VE been fortunate to catch a double-figure trout from all four of the Anglian Water fisheries. Most of my success comes down to planning and responding quickly to activity at a reservoir as and when it happens - taking any opportunity that presents itself. The ‘back end’, as it’s known, brings out the child in me. I get very excited at the thought of big fry feeders just yards from the bank and, for once, I’m able to get out of bed even before the alarm goes off! Nothing stirs up your angling adrenaline more than a big fry-feeding trout. The crisp autumnal mornings are such a special time when the normally-cautious resident fish leave the sanctuary of the reservoir depths to hunt the fry that often congregate in the margins of our reservoirs, usually around the boat jetty or weedbeds. It gives the trout one last chance to pack on weight before the lean winter months. Often you can see your quarry tantalisingly near, sometimes at the end of your rod tip! Every year there’s the real chance of a double-figure fish from the bank; a fish that is at the peak of its physical condition – strong, fast, and relentless – the worthy quarry of any angler. I think that Rutland and Draycote will be the fisheries for 2017 if you want to target a big fry feeder. Both currently have a good head of fry in the water and prospects are excellent. I stick with tried-and-tested methods when fishing for fry feeders, fish gorging on fry will not feed continually all day, often for just short periods of time. You must be ready to take advantage of these short spells of activity and have a fly on that is a proven killer. It’s a wonderful feeling, and to me it epitomises angling and the reason we all do it. The waiting… the anticipation of not knowing when or what you are going to hook next. The tug is the drug! Will it be a 3lb silvered-up rainbow or a record-breaking brown? Then, once hooked, will you get the fish in or will it escape? I’d estimate that I lose 30% of fish hooked simply because they fight so long and hard.
A day on Rutland
One of my most memorable fish came a couple of years ago at Rutland, and surprisingly from the boat not the bank. As is common knowledge fry love structure and big trout are never far away from a plentiful food source such as the fry. Often, the cumulative stocking and low catch rates, due to high water temperatures in the summer months and a distinct lack of anglers on our waters, mean that there are now more fish than ever in our reservoirs come early September/October. Many of them have simply hidden away in the cooler depths, gorging on daphnia (steroids for trout) and so reaching peak condition and packing on weight. Here’s an account of my most memorable fryfeeding story. I leave Rutland’s harbour at 9am and head for the weedbeds around East Creek and the Sailing Club – a well-known and consistent area for big fish in late season. With almost no wind and gin-clear water it’s easy to find the weedbeds, drop-offs and fry, yet – despite my best endeavours – by 1pm I’m still fishless. Hunting big fish means you must forsake numbers for quality! Rather than following conventional wisdom by heading to the main basin for a few easy stockies, I persevere in my quest and head up the North Arm past the Peninsular and into Carrot Creek. I cut the engine just past the trees on the corner of the bay as I see the beginnings of a large weedbed. The motion of the boat carries me silently along the weedbeds. I lift the engine so it won’t slow the boat down or become tangled in weed. Suddenly the weed vanishes and I’ve found the drop-off. The weed is a safe haven for thousands of fry and corixa, yet the trout prefer the safety of the deeper water, patrolling the edges of the weed and feeding on anything unfortunate enough to find itself in their path.
Minkie on a slow retrieve
I manoeuvre the boat into position as quietly as possible with the oars. I change my fly to a large white palmered Minkie – it’s unweighted so I can fish it slowly, imparting as much movement into the fly as possible. Large trout do not want to expend energy chasing fry; they’d rather pick off any injured or unsuspecting fry that hold along the weedbeds. I make my first cast literally along the weedbed and start my retrieve, an ultra-slow figure-of-eight with the odd short sharp pull, again trying to mimic the actions of a fry. Twenty yards away I notice a boil on the surface, I strip the line back and cast seven yards
to the left of the ripples, hoping that the fish is either moving in this direction, or there are other fish in the area – trout often hunt in packs when fry feeding. I make one long pull to straighten the line then the usual slow figure-of-eight. Ten seconds pass before my rod tip arcs over and the rod is nearly wrenched from my hand. I instinctively lift into the fish and I’m met with solid resistance. I know that the weedbed is on my right and to the left is the open water. I apply as much side strain as possible and guide the fish out to the deeper, open water. It’s now just a case of taking everything easy, not rushing the fish and keeping a tight line. The fish is surprisingly co-operative and opts to run further into open water, and then I feel the head shaking that’s typical of a brown holding at depth and putting up determined, dogged resistance. After a few minutes, I’m met with my first fish of the day, a beautifully-conditioned brown of around 4lb, which I quickly return to grow bigger still. I continue to work my way slowly down the edge of the weedbed. After another 20 yards or so I have a follow from a well-proportioned rainbow that snatches at my fly as I lift off (I should have remembered to hang the fly at the end of the retrieve), but nothing else. With the area fished I continue up the North Arm intending to fish the vast weedbeds around the Transformer area. While motoring some 50 metres away from the tower I notice a large boil with a huge displacement of water, it’s the tell-tale rise of a fry feeder hitting the fry. Being almost flat calm I see the feeding fish a good distance away. I never leave feeding fish, especially fry feeders, so I cut the engine and let the boat drift to the tower where the fish is in casting range. I change fly to a Mink Wrap, a fly that has almost neutral density, hanging in the water. A slight pull imparts movement into the fibres. I cast towards the tower, exactly where the fish boiled and take up the slack line.
Basically, I’m fishing the fly static on-the-drop and letting any underwater currents move the fly, occasionally adding a sharp twitch or slow figure-ofeight into the retrieve. After just three casts the loop in my line straightens and my line slides away. I lift into the fish and the water erupts. A spade of a tail and a huge boil greets me as a good fish takes off and attempts to go around the tower. I know I have to stop it straight away or it will be lost. I give the fish as much stick as I think my tackle can take. Fortunately, it veers into the open water. I kick the engine into life and motor away from the tower. The last thing I want is to lose this fish, which continues its impressive display in the open water, twice taking to the air in an attempt to shed the hook. It takes me down to my backing three times, then runs towards me, and away from me, anything to escape. Then eventually, I see its belly break the surface. I’m mindful not to bully it, or change the angle of the fish’s head because this can result in the hook pulling out. I gently guide the fish towards the net. At last a big feeding rainbow of well over 6lb. Spooning reveals half a dozen roach fry all about two to three inches long. An opportunity taken, my day is complete.
“After just three casts the loop in my line straightens and my line slides away.”
fry. When bank fishing, look for rocky structures or other features that attract fish
The Minkie Wrap is a deadly fry pattern.