The Wednesday Fly
When faced with moody trout, Mike Thrussell selects a pattern that will get noticed!
Why using unusual colour combinations can provoke more takes
IGLANCE at the thick fog and mist, inwardly praying it would lift and the sun break through. Maybe it’s me but I find misty, flat calm conditions a tough call as fish are often cagey. Pant-y-Bedw fishery, five miles east of Carmarthen, is set in the heart of the west Wales countryside, very close to the famous River Towy. Owner Duncan Yearley, a keen international conservationist and nature lover, bought Challenger Lake two years ago. The lake is set in around 37-acres and formed from a natural bowl in the land, plus is surrounded on three sides by mostly native woodland. He’s worked tirelessly since to improve the fishery. This shows with well-manicured but natural banks and good easy access. Also, prior to Duncan taking over, the lake had some reputation for being weedy, but his good management has cured this. His aim is to create an “anglers’ fishery”, one that keeps you coming back, and he’s well on course to achieve that. He’s also keen to promote natural wildlife, which can only add to the fishery’s appeal. His angler audience is already a mix of relative newcomers to the very experienced and the fishery is well placed to provide sport to satisfy both. He’s equally keen to encourage young anglers and, through local clubs, has already organised numerous successful days of angling introduction and tuition, giving the future a helping hand.
I normally like to make an early start when fishing a new fishery, but learning about the lake from Duncan, and admittedly, playing for time so that mist lifts, sees me actually hit the water mid-morning. It’s mirror calm, not a ripple. Nothing stirs the surface, the bankside reeds are static, the only movement being the occasional fish rising far out in the middle of the lake.
Visibility is less than 50-yards at times and the grass, bankside vegetation and very quickly me too, are dripping in dew. I fish the shallower car park end first. Taking just the rod and net and keeping low behind the bankside reed beds, I creep along trying to spot any fish working tight in to the edge with a single fly, longish leader and covering rising fish. In normal conditions this would be a top tactic here given the good cover along the banks. I work along a fair bit of ground but see nothing. The banks are quite high in places, so if there’s no ripple on the water, try to keep low and off the skyline. Fish are soon put off by unnatural movement and keeping low can help on those tougher days. I spot the odd fish further out beyond casting range taking something subsurface, so change to a two-fly cast and small size 14 black emerger on the point and a size 16 Black & Green Spider on the dropper. I pick a spot that’s fairly tight between two trees to minimise my profile and make a series of casts out to where I’d seen the odd fish top.
The first take
Twenty-minutes later the rod pulls over to a nice rainbow that shows briefly on the surface having taken the dropper, then shoots away to deeper water. It is on for about a minute then just pulls free. It’s still mirror calm and close to midday
“...try to keep low and off the skyline. Fish are soon put off by unnatural movement and keeping low can help on those tougher days.”
now, but there are signs the mist is trying to lift and I slowly work my way up towards the island and the more heavily-wooded area. Here there’s a narrow channel between the bank and the island that looks prime for a big fish, especially towards last light or in very bright conditions as the trees and island give good shade. But again I have no interest.
Time for a Buzzer
Moving on, there’s a short open point of land at the top of the lake ,which allows you to cover a lot of water. This is a good spot, as is this whole upper bank, to work a Buzzer from. So, even though not ideal with no wind, I set up a single Buzzer with an indicator above to get a little movement from the natural left-to-right surface drift to try and cover more water and hopefully more fish. Hothead Black Buzzers are really effective here but – though I try a wide variety of depths, patterns and sizes, and cover a lot of ground – the fish are just not having it. Nor are they interested when I switch to pulling lures. There’s a good stock of fish in this lake, but, if I’m going to succeed, I need something that targets the few fish willing to feed in these ultra-calm conditions. The area, just a few days before, had suffered severe flooding not witnessed for more than 20-years as a major storm passed through, and I wonder if this had affected the fish and if there’s a band of sinking sediment deeper down. I move in to the corner at the top of the House Bank where Duncan claims there’s deeper water. I work this pretty hard and having gone back to emerger patterns and trying a fair few I hook and instantly lose another rainbow. My fears about the calm and mist seem justified. Taking a few minutes out for a quick sandwich, I then work my way down the House Bank trying different tactics. If this doesn’t produce, I’ll head back to the House End where I’d started and fish the shallow water where I’d seen more overall activity. I go through the motions for the next hour, switching from a floating line set-up with a point fly creating a wake and two droppers, to a sink-tip working flies subsurface, then to a slow intermediate using a very slow retrieve. I also change to a three-fly cast with a big target fly on the top dropper, trying to draw the fish’s attention to the trailing flies. I have a couple of very gentle pulls when using the intermediate, but no hook-ups. I head back to where I started. Here, the lakebed is comprised of silt with some light weed growth, but with a gently shallowing angle of bank falling away in to the deeper water. My plan now is to work that deep water and bring the fly up the angle of the bank to try to find fish that are swimming along this contour line. A habit, even reluctant-to-feed trout, will usually adopt. This is the main feature and it has to be where any hunting fish will be working. I choose a medium-sink intermediate line, add 10 feet of 8lb fluorocarbon, then a tippet ring, so I could easily change tippet breaking strains if needing to go lighter to try and pull a take, then finish with four feet of 6lb fluorocarbon. My start fly is a small Goldhead Damsel Nymph, which I’m told is a good fly on this water. I change lure types and colours several times and still don’t get a pull.
“When all other things fail, try the shock fly tactics using flies dressed in white, yellow and pink.”
It’s now late afternoon and with light levels dropping it’s time for shock tactics. I opt for ‘The Wednesday’ fly named after Sheffield Wednesday Football Club as it’s dressed in their famous blue and white. My thinking is that any fish in the vicinity has to see this fly and if worked slowly it might get a response. I want the white body as a shock colour, and the dark blue tail to give a silhouette, pretty much an attempt to cover all eventualities and overcome any suspended sediment colour in the deeper water. I make my cast at an angle just covering the deeper water, but then bring the fly back with a slow figure-of-eight retrieve up to and along the angle of the bank. As it comes to where I know the bank lifts, I increase the speed of the retrieve to trigger a response. A half-a-dozen casts later the fly stops dead just as it’s halfway up the incline and a rainbow powers off into deeper water. Duncan’s fish come from a south west fishery and they fight well, making short searing runs and twisting and turning near the surface. Even at the net it turns and takes off on one long run before finally finding the mesh. It takes a lot of effort, patience and experimentation, but The Wednesday fly hits me a late winner. A short while later the same fly takes another fish worked up the bank exactly as before. With time running out, I switch to another shock fly, an all-white and pearl White Warrior Goldhead, to give a bigger visual target, just to see if it increases the catch rate. It takes one more rainbow. Before coming to Pant-y-Bedw, I’d had a look on their Facebook page and an angler just a few weeks previously had 27 trout in a day, a fishery record. It’s pretty obvious that no two days’ fishing are ever the same for a myriad of reasons. I’d found it tough in the flat calm, but it’s always worth putting in the effort, even when you’re struggling. When all other things fail, try the shock fly tactics using flies dressed in pure obvious colour such as white, yellow and pink, just to make sure the fish actually see it, and then work on from there. The Wednesday Fly is a simple dressing but can be very effective on really difficult days fished fairly slow.
After trying almost everything, Mike finally got the fish to take.
Pant-y-Bedw is a wellmaintained natural setting for fly anglers.
Luckily, the morning mist cleared and Mike got amongst the fish.
MIKE’SLEADERSET-UP The fish are well proportioned and hard fighting. Inset: The Wednesday Fly.
Mike uses bankside reeds as cover when searching for fish.
To an intermediate fly line 10ft of 8lb fluorocarbon Tippet ring 4ft of 6lb fluorocarbon Wednesday Fly