How to beat SPOOKY FISH

Craig Barr has to work hard on calm, small lakes where fish are eas­ily alarmed...

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Tactics -

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.

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