How to beat SPOOKY FISH
Craig Barr has to work hard on calm, small lakes where fish are easily alarmed...
WE reser voir anglers tend to look upon small waters as easy, a bit like shooting f ish in a barrel. And compared to larger waters this can be true – but not always! Occasionally, I love to v isit some of the smaller waters close to where I live and I thought I’d give Narborough Fisheries in Norfolk a go since it has undergone a bit of a revamp. I arrive to overcast conditions and virtually no wind, which isn’t ideal, but on the smaller waters a f lat calm isn’t too bad and tends not to deter the fish as much as it does on reser voirs. I can see f ish aren’t deep and they’re porpoising at the surface. So, I’m thinking that this should be easy and I’ll catch some cracking trout for Peter Gathercole’s camera pretty quickly. However, 10 -15 minutes into the session it’s obvious that today is going to be any thing but a stroll in the park and it occurs to me yet again that on small waters f ish get wise ver y fast indeed. On a reser voir, it’s all about f inding the f ish but on small waters they’re right there in front of you and they’ve pretty much seen it all, unless they’re fresh stockies of course. My initial set-up is standard for small waters at this time of year: a f loating line with a Cat’s Whisker on point and a Buzzer on a dropper. The Cat attracts the f ish and if that’s too bright and garish, they’ll hopefully turn and grab the more natural-looking Buzzer. Flies are spaced nine feet apart due to the clear water (space f lies further apart in clear water so as not to spook the fish) with the Buzzer six feet from the f ly line. Leader is 15 feet of 8lb f luorocarbon since it’s common knowledge that Narborough holds some big f ish – well into double f ig ures.
Less spooky intermediate
I make a few casts to no avail but notice that the rising f ish have moved to the other side of the small lake. My f loating line hitting the surface has spooked them and it didn’t take ver y long – who says small water trout are stupid? To solve this problem, I reason that an intermediate line is in order, sinking a few
inches per second and not creating a wake on the surface as I strip the f lies back. It works, catching me three f ish ver y quickly. That’s how important a line change can be in certain conditions. I’d switched to a buoyant FAB on point to keep the f lies up near the surface while changing the dropper to an Apps’ Worm, which vibrates through the water when retrieved. Two fish come to the Blob and one to the Worm. But there then follows about an hour and 20 minutes of no follows or pulls at all. The fish are spooked yet again, most likely due to the commotion from the previous fights with fish. These trout are ver y easily put off and soon sense when something’s not quite right. A move to the ‘big f ish’ lake is on the cards. It’s a good idea to remain on the move at this time of year so that you’re covering new water and hopefully any unwise trout.
Big fish lake
Whenever a lake is called the ‘big f ish’ lake I always get excited. Not that we f ly anglers always crave a big trout, far from it, but let’s face it – ever y now and again we all like to see what it’s like. The Blue-f lash Damsel is my ‘go to’ f ly on winter small waters, it’s deadly – having weight, being an drab olive colour with just enough f lash to turn a trout’s head. Returning to the f loating line I hook and lose what’s obviously a double-f igure f ish f irst cast, which took the Blob, and then I add insult to injur y by losing another of about 5 or 6lb. Am I’m losing my touch? It’s time to move again to give this section of water a rest. Two large f ish
splashing about has sent ever y other self-respecting trout in search of more peaceful areas. I catch another modest-sized trout and then ever y thing totally switches off – they’re well and truly spooked this time and we consider calling it a day!
Go natural and static
Eventually, my mind turns to the obvious thing to do when faced with war y trout in a calm small water – going small, natural and static under the bung. Surely, they won’t spook with this tactic, will they? These lakes are quite shallow, giving the fish fewer hiding places and making them even more easily spooked. I place a Pink Squirmy Worm on point and a Tungsten Beaded Buzzer on the dropper – keeping leader strength and length the same as prev ious set-ups. The light is starting to fade and we reckon we have only 20 minutes left to catch that trophy trout that will make the feature complete. First cast I hook into a mighty f ish that f ights strong and turns out to be a ver y good-looking 10lb rainbow. Having got the method right, f inally, I manage f ive f ish in just 30 minutes, including a decent brown trout going about 5lb. The rest were all rainbows, good f ish too. I’m satisfied with our rewards today because – although I thought it was going to be a doddle – it wasn’t. I had to work hard. When I lost that f irst double I did wonder if it was going to be one of those days or maybe my barbless hooks let me down. Of course, it’s not the hooks, it’s just the way fishing goes sometimes. But persistence paid off and we got there in the end. If you’re a reser voir angler, support your local small water this winter – they’re tougher than you think and can provide the challenge that we all crave. Narborough reopens on Februar y 1, after being closed for winter maintenance.
“First cast I hook a mighty fish that fights strong and turns out to be a good-looking 10lb rainbow.”
A 5lb beautifully-marked brownie is welcome in any session. Cracking fish.
Craig’s best fish of the day was a near 10lb rainbow.
Stripping the flies was OK but the static approach really paid off.
A strong fish pulls Craig’s fly line in a flat calm at Narborough Fisheries.
Craig’s 5lb brown trout is carefully returned back to the water.