Have your best early sea­son!

Hot early-sea­son small wa­ter tips from Eng­land world team mem­ber Phil Dixon

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

Top early-sea­son tips for small wa­ters from Eng­land world team mem­ber Phil Dixon

SET in the stun­ning Cheshire countr yside West­low Mere Trout Fisher y is back on the way up af­ter a cou­ple of bad years. The fisher y has had some neg­a­tive press in the past but this is where I started my f ly-f ish­ing ca­reer so I’m ea­ger to see if I can get the best from the wa­ter to­day. The 18-acre gin-clear venue sup­ports plent y of f ly life through­out the year, giv­ing an­glers so many f ish­ing op­tions. The wa­ter is ef­fec­tively di­vided into two sec­tions – one known as ‘The Deeps’ to the north has depths up to 27 feet and pro­vides the f ish with cool, high­lyox ygenated wa­ter all year round, while the ‘Shal­lows’ of­fers depths to 11 feet.

Make your­self at home

A new, spa­cious cen­trally-heated f ish­ing lodge of­fers free tea and cof­fee plus a mi­crowave and makes a great refuge when the weather turns for the worse or you just want to talk f ish­ing with fel­low an­glers. The f isher y runs a free f ly-t y ing class ever y Fri­day so please drop in. Stand­ing at the top of the hill with a cup of tea brings back great mem­o­ries of watch­ing the f ish rise and the boats spin in the wind. I’ve fished West­low for 20 years now and, in my opin­ion, it’s one of the best f ish­eries avail­able with a good mix­ture of f ish rang­ing in size to high dou­bles and stocked monthly.

Set up two rods

As with all my fish­ing, I glean as much in­for­ma­tion from the f isher y staff be­fore set­ting up a rod. The staff spend time on the wa­ter and will al­ways tell you the best places and f lies to f ish. A nglers have been catch­ing well on var­i­ous lures, nymphs and even the odd fish on dr y f ly when the weather set­tles down and the tem­per­a­ture rises a lit­tle. A rmed with this in­for­ma­tion, I set up two rods, one with a sink­ing line (fast glass) and the other with a f loater with a team of nymphs. The back cast has al­ways put a few an­glers off f ish­ing the far side of The Deeps. But if you use the 40 -plus lines you can shoot the line out rather than hold­ing it all in the air and catch­ing the banks be­hind you.

Go search­ing

Start­ing with the in­ter­me­di­ate and my favourite White Leech lure, I set about tr y ing to f ind the depth of the f ish and the best area. I nor­mally use the lure rod to do this as it cov­ers the wa­ter and the depths ver y quickly. I al­ways say, never be too quick to bring your f ly back. Let them sink and f ish them on-the-drop, es­pe­cially on this wa­ter be­cause the f ish tend to hold out off the bank. A fter work­ing my f irst spot for no takes, I fish my way down the bank fol­low­ing the wind. I tend not to change my f ly as I feel that, if I’m over f ish, then a White or Black Leech will tempt them. Af­ter 40 min­utes’

fish­ing and only one fish briefly hooked, I ques­tion my theor y. But at the bot­tom of the wind I see an an­gler catch a cou­ple of trout. This makes me think I haven’t been over the f ish and they could be at the bot­tom of the wind.

Into the ac­tion

On wa­ters where there’s plenty of nat­u­ral food, the best spots will usu­ally be at the bot­tom of the wind or the ver y top. Now with the wind blow­ing right into my face and the an­gler next to me play­ing an­other f ish, my line tight­ens as I let the f ly sink. Rather than strik­ing and risk pulling the f ly out of the f ish’s mouth, I sim­ply start strip­ping the line back to set the hook. The f ish will al­ways pull hard in the clear wa­ter and sure enough the trout dives down, mak­ing the most of the depths. A fter a cou­ple of min­utes it safely nes­tles in my net – a stun­ning brown trout of around 2lb 8oz. Land­ing an­other two rain­bows quickly, I was just about to change rods – as I had seen a few f ish mov­ing – when again it all locks up and I’m at­tached to what feels like a ‘lump’. You can usu­ally tell the bet­ter f ish as the head shakes vig­or­ously, and the f ish tend to go on long, slower runs us­ing their weight. With the cr ys­tal-clear wa­ter and my Po­laroids on, I can see a de­cent-look­ing f ish around eight feet down. A fter

“It all locks up and I’m at­tached to what feels like a lump.”

get­ting the trout to the net on two oc­ca­sions, I man­age to slide the net un­der a stun­ning rain­bow, weigh­ing 6lb 1oz!

Wind drops, so nymphs

The wind has been eas­ing all morn­ing and now I’m con­fi­dent of be­ing over plenty of fish and change to my f loat­ing line. I choose to fish a size 10 Di­awl Bach on the top drop­per, six feet away from my braided loop, then a 007 Di­awl Bach five feet down, then an­other five feet to a size 10 Red Buzzer. I al­ways fish with the heav­i­est f ly on the point to help the cast to turn over. With a team of f lies, I al­ways like to cast with good turnover, so never tr y to cast too far and let the line hit the reel at the end of ever y cast. Some­times, down on the wind­ward bank, the fish can be ver y close to the shore, right un­der your feet. Be­fore I can even straighten my line, my reel starts spin­ning and I’m into an­other f ish. A f ter giv ing a f ine ac­count of it­self, I net an­other f in-per­fect rain­bow, which has taken the Red Buzzer on-the-drop. When nymph fish­ing, I like to fish slow or even static with long draws to lift the f lies through the wa­ter. With the takes dr ying up I change area and fish what’s known as the Beach

“Af­ter a few casts with no takes and watch­ing my floater as close to the end of the fly line as I can, the loops in the line pull away...the fish is hooked.”

along­side a large reed bed. A fter a few casts with no takes and watch­ing my f loater as close to the end of the f ly line as I can, the loops in the line pull away. Sharply lift­ing my rod, the f ish is hooked. It seems to spend more time out of the wa­ter than in, even­tu­ally throw­ing the hook, as do the next two f ish.

Bar­b­less hooks

I’ve started to f ish more bar­b­less hooks and West­low in­sist on their use, but I don’t feel I lose any more f ish be­cause of this. I land an­other three f ish in quick suc­ces­sion, all tak­ing the 007 Di­awl Bach on the mid­dle drop­per and the last one be­ing a blue trout. A ll I’m wait­ing for now is a tiger trout to get the f ull set. The fish­ing has been at its best to­day. I’ve caught on both meth­ods and there’s been a good va­ri­ety of fish show­ing as well.

Mak­ing an­glers of the fu­ture

West­low Mere does its best to en­cour­age be­gin­ners, with free tu­ition and loan of equip­ment, and free f ish­ing for all un­der 16s. A ll learners can f ish for free un­til they catch their f irst trout. The f isher y also has boat f ish­ing in The Deeps, which – dur­ing the warmer months when the fish push out into the deep, cooler wa­ter – can be ex­cel­lent to deepny mph­ing and sink­ing lines with lures. It’s a great place to start for any an­gler who doesn’t want to step right into a boat at the larger Rut­land or Graf ham. It’s great to see West­low back at its best. I’ve learned a lot of meth­ods here, which I now use all over the world when com­pet­ing for Eng­land in the world cham­pi­onships. The fish­ery has every thing from dries to deep-sink­ing lines and you can’t say that about many small wa­ter UK fish­eries.

High banks can snag back casts so punch out with 40-plus lines.

Phil’s 6lb 1oz early-sea­son rain­bow from West­low.

This rain­bow fell to a Red Buzzer – a great early-sea­son nymph.

Hook: Two size 12 hooks. Clip first hook at bend and link via length of back­ing braid Thread: White UTC Tail: White zonker strip with a red thread butt Body: White zonker dubbed on White Leech

007 Di­awl Bach Hook: Any size 10 or 12 Thread: Red Uni thread Tail: Nat­u­ral light hen fi­bres Rib: Sil­ver wire Body: Nat­u­ral light pheas­ant tail fi­bres Back: Sil­ver holo­graphic tin­sel Throat hackle: Same as tail

Hook: Any size 10 or 12 Thread: Black Uni thread Tail: Black hen hackle fi­bres Rib: Sil­ver wire Body: Black pheas­ant tail fi­bres Tho­rax: Red holo­graphic Throat hackle: Same as tail Cheeks: Jun­gle cock Black Di­awl Bach

Phil care­fully re­leases a rain­bow back to its wa­tery abode.

It’s al­ways sat­is­fy­ing when a trout is hooked in the scis­sors.

There’s deep wa­ter close in at West­low, in­di­cated by high banks.

A beau­ti­ful brown is ad­mired be­fore re­leas­ing.

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