Sim­ply Buzzing

Don’t write off the hum­ble Buzzer in win­ter. We find out why at Scot­land’s Ban­gour fish­ery

Trout Fisherman (UK) - - Contents -

IF there was a TroutFish­er­man award for The Big­gest Gam­ble in Fly­fish­ing, Ban­gour Trout Fish­ery would be the last place we’d go in search of a win­ner. Big gam­bles among fish­eries would have cer­tain give­away clues about them – like scaf­fold­ing and Apolo­gies­forIn­con­ve­nience no­tices, penned in felt-tip by what seems a slightly des­per­ate hand. And there’s none of that at Ban­gour. Just an L-shaped loch, hand­somely em­braced by ma­ture wood­land and ser­viced by nu­mer­ous cast­ing plat­forms. An ar­ti­fi­cial turf walk­way along the dam and a solid metal bridge across the spill­way speak to some gen­uine TLC be­ing lav­ished on this West Loth­ian water, whose crown­ing touches are a lodge slightly more com­fort­able than my liv­ing room and the pala­tial sandy-coloured own­ers’ house next door, over­look­ing the loch. Gam­ble? Fac­tor in the hub­bub of con­tented pun­ters and Ban­gour looks like a sure thing. Only when you meet its lat­est own­ers does the spec­tre of what spec­u­la­tors would call ‘a proper punt’ raise its alarming head. This time last year, Ja­son and Karen Smith’s world re­volved around cy­ber­se­cu­rity and per­sonal fit­ness, in the horse rac­ing hub of New­bury. With the rat race weigh­ing more heav­ily on their minds, they headed to Scot­land in search of clear heads

and new busi­ness op­por­tu­ni­ties, hap­pened upon For Sale ads re­gard­ing Ban­gour and thought what the hell? En­thu­si­asm to­tal. Ex­pe­ri­ence zero. A proper punt.

For­ward

It’s oc­curred to me since that I might have come across as a lit­tle for­ward when I learnt of their gam­ble, but as the man who proof-reads Peter Cock­will’s col­umn for each month, I’ve ef­fec­tively sat a master’s de­gree course in the pit­falls of run­ning a fish­ery. The Smiths, what’s more, are the kind of peo­ple you like within min­utes of meet­ing them. If I sounded like a com­bi­na­tion of anx­ious par­ent and lo­cal busy­body in sug­gest­ing that they burn no bridges and keep their former day-jobs tick­ing over at least, it stemmed only from that. Bobby Wat­son has fished here for more than a decade and well re­mem­bers the loch’s ‘wilder­ness years’, once it was no longer re­quired as a reser­voir for the lo­cal hospi­tal. It be­came a poacher’s play­ground, the sur­round­ing woods a place where heavy­duty garbage went to die. “It was fal­low for about three years, be­fore a man called Steven Reid turned it around,” Bobby tells me. “He built the lodge, the house, ti­died the place up; did an amaz­ing job.” Reid’s legacy is a trout loch where most

flies have their day and fish are catch­able at all depths. Just un­der the sur­face suf­fices for Bobby to­day, fish­ing a pair of Buzzers from a long leader. As we head deep into au­tumn and to­wards win­ter, don’t write off this hum­ble pat­tern in favour of the pop­u­lar cold­weather predilec­tion for big fluffy flies. With water fin­ing down to high lev­els of clar­ity dur­ing calm spells at this time of year, min­i­mal pat­terns are less likely to spook fish and it only takes a mod­est rise in tem­per­a­ture for small buzzers to start hatch­ing. Have a se­lec­tion of Buzzer sizes with you, for while sizes 16 to 18 re­flect the smaller size of nat­u­ral found in late-au­tumn/ win­ter, sizes 10 to 12 can be re­quired to make your of­fer­ing vis­i­ble, should bad weather have tinted the water. Bobby is fish­ing an Olive Buzzer to­day, an­other ef­fec­tive shade once the clocks go back, as olive hatches per­sist on rivers at this time of year, so are well worth mim­ick­ing on still­wa­ters, us­ing olive, washed-out yel­low, gold or am­ber shades. Bobby is one of those ty­ers who re­gards a se­lec­tion of per­ma­nent-marker pens as an in­te­gral part of his ty­ing kit, al­low­ing him to fine-tune the pat­tern’s colour, as he has here, em­bel­lish­ing the Buzzer’s Krys­tal Flash body with an olive pen colour­ing, for a nat­u­ral tone that he be­lieves is the fly’s strength. His other Buzzer is a Hatch­ing Buzzer pat­tern; the stan­dard Buzzer ‘J’ shape tweaked so as to hint at the tail fins and breath­ing fil­a­ments of the nat­u­ral. The nor­mal do­main of this pat­tern is mid-water, dur­ing the pupa’s jour­ney to­wards the water’s sur­face, rather than at the sur­face, when Sus­pender Buzzer pat­terns are pre­ferred.

Im­pres­sion­ism

There are vary­ing de­grees of im­pres­sion­ism where this pat­tern is con­cerned. The late John God­dard is at­trib­uted with hav­ing de­vised the orig­i­nal Hatch­ing Buzzer, topped and tailed with white hen hackle fi­bres to sug­gest the nat­u­ral’s tail fins and fil­a­ments (for an ex­am­ple, visit our Fly­ty­ing page on Pin­ter­est - www. pin­ter­est.co.uk/ troutfish­er­man/ fly­ty­ing/). He stressed that the head fi­bres should be tied into the tho­rax so as to lean for­ward over the hook’s eye. Writ­ing on the sub­ject al­most 50 years ago, he be­moaned the fact that midge pupa im­i­ta­tions of that time were com­monly tied mi­nus any tail fins and with the ‘fil­a­ment’ fi­bres tilted away from the hook’s eye. The lat­ter, he felt, would give the pat­tern a highly unnatural sil­hou­ette. Which brings us to Bobby’s vari­ant, which, like some com­mer­cial ver­sions of the Hatch­ing Buzzer I’ve seen, hints at the nat­u­ral’s prin­ci­pal

“As we head to­wards win­ter, don’t write off this pat­tern in favour of big, fluffy flies.”

el­e­ments with­out slav­ishly copy­ing them. The tail fi­bres are black, not white, and while small clus­ters of white and or­ange fi­bres, tied into the tho­rax, hint re­spec­tively at the breath­ing fil­a­ments and wing­buds of the nat­u­ral, they both point away from the eye, rather than to­wards it.

One of each?

If the fly­dressers among you fancy fish­ing one of each ver­sion on the same set-up to see whether ‘go­ing the ex­tra mile’ with the at­ten­tion to de­tail reaps div­i­dends, I’d be in­ter­ested to know how you get on, but Ban­gour’s trout, it must be said, show lit­tle re­luc­tance to­wards Bobby’s ‘Hatch­ing Buzzer Lite’.

He fishes his Buzzers with a gen­tle re­trieve to­day but there is an al­ter­na­tive way to fish Buzzers that could come into its own on breezy days which put a rip­ple on the water. Sim­ply sus­pend the Buzzers be­neath a heav­ily-ginked dry fly on the top drop­per. The lat­ter may be noth­ing more than a glo­ri­fied in­di­ca­tor at this time of year but as it bobs up and down on the rip­ple, it gives the Buzzers be­low it all the move­ment they need to be en­tic­ing. Should con­di­tions be un­sea­son­ably calm, then em­ploy a very slow sink-and-draw re­trieve in­stead. Given the jour­ney in­volved in their life-cy­cle, there is an un­der­stand­able mis­con­cep­tion con­cern­ing buzzers that they only ever move up­wards. This might be true if sur­face con­di­tions are per­fect for a hatch (ie breezy enough to break the sur­face film but not so blowy as to jeop­ar­dise the

hatch) but the pu­pae gen­er­ally make sev­eral sor­ties be­fore com­plet­ing the en­tire jour­ney, so there’s noth­ing un­usual about en­tire colonies mov­ing up and down the water col­umn. The novice an­gler can there­fore be as­sured that his or her Buzzers are work­ing just as much when be­ing al­lowed to fall through the water un­der a sink-and-draw as when they are be­ing fished static or slowly re­trieved. Other flies tak­ing fish dur­ing my visit were a Yel­low Apps’ Blood­worm, Viva Cat and a small Black Rab­bit lure but what re­ally caught my eye was the con­sis­tently good stamp of fish they pro­duced. I don’t re­call see­ing a tired or bat­tle-scarred trout emerge all day long – great look­ing fish in­deed. Call it shrewd­ness or be­gin­ners’ luck, but Karen and Ja­son Smith have cho­sen well in their new life north of the Bor­der. Ban­gour is one of those fish­eries that will stick in my mem­ory but the wor­rier in me means that when it’s time to leave, I’m cheered rather than dis­ap­pointed to hear Karen say that Ja­son can’t say good­bye in per­son be­cause he’s stuck in a con­fer­ence call with two peo­ple on op­po­site sides of the world. The cy­ber-se­cu­rity busi­ness would ap­pear to be boom­ing. If they in­di­rectly help buy time and a safety-net for places like Ban­gour, maybe even those in­fer­nal com­puter hack­ers have their uses.

“Given the jour­ney in­volved, there is an un­der­stand­able mis­con­cep­tion that buzzers only ever move up­wards...”

Words & pic­tures: Jeffrey Prest

Bobby Wat­son used Buzzers to good ef­fect at Ban­gour.

Alec Weir’s Viva Cat ac­counted for this chunky rain­bow. Time-out and post­mortems in the com­fort­able lodge.

The lodge and own­ers’ house com­bine for an ele­gant back­drop .

Alec Weir leans into an­other fish. All the fish caught dur­ing our visit were in great nick.

An­other Ban­gour reg­u­lar, Alex Brit­ton, took this fish on a Yel­low Apps’ Blood­worm.

An­glers wait out a brief lull be­tween fish.

A use­ful raised plat­form juts out from the dam.

No fish­ing on the top part of the lake, it’s used for con­ser­va­tion .

A lo­cal church-go­ing an­gler de­vised this red cop­per-wire Buzzer vari­ant, hence its name, the Min­is­ter.

Colin Ste­wart casts from one of the nu­mer­ous plat­forms.

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