Spring started officially just over a week ago and, as I write this, we have just had a wonderful day. The water is warming and the fish are getting used to their new environment (at least those that havenít over wintered are.)
I have had several days guiding and a couple of days of fishing with friends. My guiding has taken me to many different waters: I have visited Witcombe Water in Gloucester, Mill Farm in Devizes, Wiltshire, Exe Valley in Somerset, Blakewell in North Devon and several rivers too. I have also fished on both Chew Valley and Blagdon Lakes. The fishing everywhere has been fantastic and I believe it is due as much to our warm winter as to stocking policies.
I have spooned every fish my clients have had to kill (we have done quite an amount of catch-and-release too) and almost without exception the trout have been feeding well on buzzers (midge pupae). There have been a few bloodworm in the fish, the larval stage of the midge, but the good news is that the trout are feeding and there seems to be a good supply of food in the waters.
At the various venues I have visited the "in-fly" has been the gold-headed damsel or gold-headed daddy. I guess I have become a bit out of touch with small stillwaters, fishing as often as I do at the major fisheries in the country, but I must say I am amazed at how fast people seem to want to retrieve their flies. Is it because the fly is leaded or "gold-headed" and thus will catch the weed on the bottom if fished slowly, or is it just because anglers feel the need to retrieve all the time? I can tell you I have caught lots, and also helped my clients do the same, by barely retrieving the flies at all.
When the fish are feeding well on small midge pupae they do not expect to see their lunch disappear out of vision at a hundred miles an hour! The secret with buzzer fishing is to get your fly to the depth the fish are feeding at and leave it there as long as possible. It really doesnít matter I if you donít move the flies much; I donít even think the colour is as important as may be expected. However, there are a couple of things that really seem to help. Slim buzzers are really important: the creatures you are imitating are not bulky at any point of their anatomy Ė so why should your artificial one be so? Secondly, pick a target feature to incorporate in your dressing. In most buzzers the wing bud is quite a distinct feature in the natural, so many fly-tiers emphasise this element. I believe I told readers about this a few weeks ago when I was going through some early season patterns. I use "Tulip T-shirt" paint to get my buzzers with a target spot, but there are many other bits and pieces used. One of the most common materials to get this wing bud effect is a slither cut from a "Walkers" chicken flavoured crisps packet, whilst other tyers use a couple of turns of fluorescent floss silk.
A great many trout fishermen just donít have the confidence to fish their flies slowly. There is this feeling that one needs to keep retrieving! I can promise you that if you can discipline yourself to slow everything down, you really wonít regret it.
My early results at Chew and Blagdon have been very encouraging. I had an opening day on Chew with John Humphry and we found the fishing to be tough. I had a lovely brownie of near on five pounds shortly after starting the day. I returned this fish after John took a couple of photographs, but as he said he wasnít much of a photographer when I thrust the camera into his hand, I should have been prepared for the headless pictures that he took!
The day didnít continue in the vein of that good start. I had several opportunities, but it was mid afternoon before the next "take" actually stuck and a decent rainbow trout came to the net. John and I rather handicapped ourselves by staying with floating lines and nymphs all day Ė though John did have some heavily leaded stick flies to take his imitations down to a greater depth. We both ended up with five fish, but had we gone the way that lots of our friends did, and either fished in with the crowd off Wick, or used fast sinkers and boobies, we should have had many more fish. You have to decide what is more important though! The numbers game is not so much my aim as how I catch my fish. I really donít have much interest in fishing amongst a crowd of boats either. Chew Valley Lake is over 1200 acres and that means there is plenty of space for all boats. I like to find somewhere away from the crowds and take my time over fishing. In the past this approach has paid dividends; I am sure that it will in the future too!
I fished Blagdon on the second day with Geoff Lambert. The wind was from the north and it was really chilly compared with the opening day on Chew. However, we tried several likely early season spots and gradually built good bags of fish. All of mine were taken on floating line and buzzers or Diawl Bachs, whilst Geoff took a couple on a Cortland "blue" line, which is a very slow sinker. A lot of Geoffís fish were also on a floating line, and it really was so pleasant to fish on a pretty cold day yet be able to catch on "summer" tactics. Many fish were caught at Blagdon too, but the vast majority of anglers were using sinking lines and lures or boobies.
Get confident with slim nymphs, buzzers and dries and slow your fishing down. I am sure you will not regret it for long! If you have any problems with this form of fishing, please feel free to contact me for advice, or even book me for a day afloat at email@example.com