Dries under your feet
Iain Barr and Team Costa’s Graham Hayward catch just a few feet from the shore at Rutland...
Iain Barr crouches down and flicks small dry flies out to shrimp feeders at Rutland
DON’T be fooled into thinking it’s just Graf ham that has shrimps in its margins. Both Draycote and Rutland have them too. The fish at Rutland are gorging on them and often in just a few inches of water. These are not the Graf ham ‘killer’ shrimp but a different species that have started to show in recent years in big numbers. The Rutland Dam provides the perfect haven for them as the large boulders offer a quick escape from a hungry trout. Rocks, used to reinforce some of the banks to slow erosion, offer the perfect refuge too. Like at Graf ham’s Dam, the fish cruise the margins at Rutland and it’s here you should target them. Next to the Dam is Normanton Bank, which has sections of gravel and boulders, perfect habitat for the shrimps to hide. The prevailing UK winds are from the west, which is directly into the west-facing Dam but offers a perfect left-to-right casting position on most days. What is astonishing is just how close these fish are willing to feed. We start on the dam wall after a slow and careful descent down the array of different size boulders – absolute caution is needed. I’ve young Costa team-mate and Rutland retail assistant Graham Hayward with me today. He’s caught many of Rutland’s large browns in recent years. It’s not long before we start to see fish cruising along the dam wall and Graham is soon into his first fish, a cracking 3lb rainbow, which took a Shuttlecock dry.
Shorten the leader
Like me, Graham is fishing a shorter leader than usual, about 14 feet. The first reason for this is to avoid hitting the large protruding
boulders behind us. It’s important to regularly check your flies when fishing dam walls because even the best casters may clip the concrete on the back cast. We’ve an easterly wind coming straight off our backs and, as the wind comes over the wall, it causes a downdraft. It’s this that causes the back cast to be forced down towards the concrete, thus damaging your flies. The second reason for a shorter leader when dry fly fishing is for accuracy. Dries are light in nature and easily catch the wind so with a long leader the flies ‘free drift’ before landing, losing accuracy.
There are a few buzzers hatching so I opt to imitate these with a size 10 Rutland South Arm Buzzer on the point and two size 12 Swimming Killer Shrimps. I’m targeting the shrimp feeders but the fish will pick up this extra food source. I soon take my first fish, which takes the Buzzer, followed quickly by another three with two taking one of the size 12 Shrimps. Two of these were targeted as I saw the obvious swirls in the margins along the dam wall as the trout nuzzle the debris on the rocks to dislodge the shrimps. By casting along the dam, as opposed to directly out, you cover more water where fish are feeding and increase chances of success. It’s gone a little quiet on the Dam. Our competitive instincts kick in and we go on the hunt for more fish. On the move We walk along the Normanton Bank and as we approach the well-known ‘Blue Pipes’ there is the tell-tail sign of shrimp-
“By casting along the dam as opposed to directly out you cover more water where fish are feeding and increase chances of success.”
feeders. Obvious swirls literally just a few feet off the bank have us rushing like two excited kids to cast the first fly at them.
Normanton is a flat bank and we don’t have the cover of the high dam wall behind us so a stealthy approach is necessary. Literally sitting on the grass, we flick our flies just a few feet from the bank. The fish are cruising in shallow water sometimes only a foot deep! With the fish so close and in such shallow water the Buzzers and Shrimps are not an option. Dry fly is our only chance as they stay afloat and will not snag the bottom. Also, crucially, you don’t have to keep recasting with dry flies so you’ll be causing minimal disturbance, essential when targeting good fish in such shallow water.
All-round dry fly
I opt for a Hare’s Ear Shuttlecock in size 12. This is a great imitation for the shrimps as well as an emerging buzzer. With corixa likely to be on the menu too, I’ve all options covered with this simple pattern. In my sitting position I flick my fly just a few feet from the bank with more fly line lying on the gravel between me and the water’s edge than actually lying on the water. It has only been out there for a few seconds when a fish sips it down. It’s not big but like a bonefish hooked in a few inches of water, it bolts for freedom as it rips line off the reel. I look up and Graham is into one too! We’ve found a large shoal of feeding fish because, while playing my fish, I see plenty more. Like an excited child, I quickly get the fish in and flick the fly to dry it before targeting the next one. These fish are in a feeding frenzy and the activity is fast and furious! On removing the fly before quickly releasing the fish we see fresh shrimps in the mouth, which proves
“With the fish so close in and in such shallow water, the Buzzer and Shrimps are not an option. Dry fly is our only chance as they stay afloat...”
our theory. What’s noticeable is the shrimps are generally smaller than those found at Graf ham and Draycote and lighter in colour. With the frantic spell over and more fish now refusing the Hare’s Ear Cul, I switch to a Yellow CDC Owl in size 14. Graham perseveres with a Costa Team-named fly, the Orange Duck, a heavily-dressed Orange CDC Cul. Graham’s takes dry up but I continue to catch.
It often pays to fish smaller flies when targeting heavily-fished for trout. I also use just 6lb G3 fluorocarbon and I rarely go below 8lb! The water is shallow and clear and with less water between the trout and the fly, it’s important to fish fine. Between us we soon put about 15 fish on the bank in what is a frenzied spell. Then takes dry up as if fish have sent out a warning. We walk a few hundred yards and pick up a couple more but with fading light the fish sensed it was time to take cover and our action is over. It was an exciting few hours’ fishing and targeting feeding fish on dry flies is hard to beat. Fry will soon be moving into the margins on all our reservoirs, but these are harder to catch than a nutritious shrimp that tries to hide in crevices between stones and rocks. When you see action in the margins don’t always think it’s fry – it’s just as likely to be shrimp-feeders, especially on Rutland, Draycote and Graf ham. If the fish are tight into the margins, try dry flies such as Hare’s Ear Cul or Yellow Owls. If they are in deeper water try the shrimp patterns. Following an incredibly hot summer, these next few months could be very special so clean up that floating line, tidy up the dry fly box and enjoy some frantic sport right under your feet!
Be prepared to roam the banks, watching for signs of feeding fish.
Resident trout in prime condition can be found very close in at this time of year.
Iain stays low so as not to spook the fish in the shallow, clear water.
Iain brings a fish to hand in the shallow water at Rutland.
A Hare’s Ear CDC caught the shrimp-feeders close to the shore.
Team Costa’s Graham Hayward gets in on the action.