Late season bank raid
Iain Barr gets up early to target Rutland’s big trout lying just yards from the shore
LATE season offers anglers a chance of a very large grown-on trout. Our reservoirs are cooling and this triggers the trout’s feeding instinct to pack on weight ready for winter. These fish concentrate on corixa and fry, but it’s the fry that offers the most nutrition. Millions of small fish fry gather around the shores of our reservoirs and Rutland this year is no exception. Hordes of juvenile perch mixed in with fry from bream, roach and rudd amongst others – and a splattering of sticklebacks – line Rutland’s shorelines. They can’t be found along all 26 miles of this large expanse of water but look for obvious structure and places of cover where they find safe haven.
As a youngster and coming through my 20s and 30s, this time of year was very exciting with large browns in particular regularly seen and caught as they hunted the shorelines, aggressively attacking the shoals of fry. This has not always been the case but something has changed because, for at least the last four years, it has been like the old days with so many specimen fish crashing into the margins. The fry parade around the surface leaping in their millions at first and last light and this can be a spectacle in its own right. But the sight of large trout cartwheeling into these petrified shoals is something special. Rutland’s South Normanton shoreline offers a great opportunity for a large trout. Along this bank there’s the Boat Harbour, Normanton Church, Fantasy Island and a splattering of small bays with plenty of large stones and boulders where the fry can take cover. I start early, first light in fact. I may have been fishing for almost 40 years now but I still don’t sleep before any fishing trip so I can usually be found on the banks early. The same can’t be said for Peter Gathercole, unfortunately. A 6.30am start for Pete could be anything up to 8.30 so I’m a little surprised when this character appears over the Fantasy wall where I had started. “Afternoon Pete,” I joke with a large grin on my face. I report I’ve had nothing so we opt to walk the Normanton bank.
Stay on the move
During late season it certainly pays to keep on the move. I know the fish feed hard at first light but I’ve had no offers and seen no fish. Don’t hang around if you’ve seen zero signs of fry, keep moving until you find out where they are! With time at a premium we briskly walk the shore looking for signs of life. The ‘Blue Pipes’ further up the bank offers deeper water closer in and these are used in conjunction with the ‘boils’ for pumping water. They also offer a hideout for small fish fry. I start casting here and walk back towards my car at Fantasy Island. This is about half a mile of water for me to target, which is plenty. I’m travelling light, certainly much lighter now Peter is here to carry my net!
Set-ups and retrieve
My set-ups include a floating line with a single White Humungus and a tip line with a WCC Single Rutland Perch Fry. From the shore I prefer these lines as it allows me to fish them slower through the shallower water. I often see anglers pulling fry lures back extremely fast and, although this does work, I find the slower retrieve gets a more positive take. Like fishing a shared salmon pool on a river, I cast and step my way back towards Fantasy Island, with every cast hitting a new piece of water. This is important as you are often fishing for individual large fish, not shoals of fresh fish moving through. I move some 100 yards with no offers but, while fishing the Humungus with a medium figure-of-eight retrieve, I have an immediate solid take. Straight away we can see the golden flanks crashing on the surface as a brown – estimated at about 6lb – prepares to take a dive for freedom. Pete frantically runs down the bank to grab the net, which was left some 50 yards or so up the bank. After a two-minute battle, a magnificent Rutland brown nestles in the landing net. Pete gets the photographs he needs and the fish is safely returned. These are beautiful creatures and I always
“I have an immediate solid take. Straight away we can see the golden flanks crashing on the surface as a brown prepares to dive for freedom.”
release specimen browns where I can. And of course at this time of year they are out of season so must be returned. I’m aware of debates regarding these fish being killed but we must remember they are stocked trout at the end of the day and the angler is entitled to take them during the season. Where I do have a grumble is where some anglers continually take them for car park glory as they parade it back at the lodge.
It’s critical that you beef up your tackle for late-season fry feeders. You shouldn’t really fish anything below 8lb at the very least. I’m using 13.1lb G5 fluorocarbon to give me the advantage should I make contact with a large fish. It’s strong but extremely thin for it’s breaking strain. I continue to walk the shore swapping between the Humungus and Perch Fry with no other offers. This is typical for this time of year so don’t be disappointed with just one or two offers when hunting the larger fish. Other areas will offer more frequent sport from smaller rainbows but the quieter banks and those offering features will give you the chance of that better fish. It was a short session but the job is done. I deliberately chose first light as the time to fish. The shoreline was also chosen carefully with Fantasy Island offering rocky getaways for fry and the Normanton bank giving me a ‘plan B’ close by. My choice of Humungus and WCC Perch Fry are two absolute bankers. The Humungus is an all-time favourite for this time of year and the Perch Fry is the ideal imitation of the large numbers of perch fry present this year. Put all these three factors together each time you go fry bashing and you’ll increase your odds for that fish of a lifetime.
A 6lb-plus brown trout is slipped safely back into Rutland.