Dries un­der your feet

Iain Barr and Team Costa’s Gra­ham Hay­ward catch just a few feet from the shore at Rut­land...

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

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.

Cho­sen flies

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.

Keep low

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.

Go small

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.

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