I’ve read a few posts recently on fly fishing forums talking about what makes a ‘successful’ days fishing. Whether it was number of fish caught, size of fish, the challenge of beating the fish or simply having a nice day out, it was clear from the posts that, as with most things, it was a very personal view. Nevertheless, after three years of fly fishing a recent trip to Farmoor Reservoir was about as close as it gets to a perfect days (well half day) fishing, for me.
With a morning full of client meetings in Newbury, I had decided to nip up to Farmoor, which is just thirty minutes away, for an afternoon/evening session on Farmoor I, the catch and release portion of the reservoir. I had tackled up and walked down to the eastern edge by 3pm and sat watching the water for five minutes, something I have been trying to make a habit of. It was a warm (27 degrees), sunny afternoon with very little wind and almost no ripple on the water, not the best conditions for fishing. However, the water had been fishing well and there were signs of the occasional rising trout. Having fished in these conditions before, I expected the trout to be relatively deep but the occasional rise suggested otherwise. I, therefore, decided to set up with a searching rig: heavy black buzzer on point, small black buzzer on the middle dropper and a diawl bach on the top dropper, with around sixteen feet of leader in total. By counting the line down, this should enable me to search most depths in the water I could reach with a medium cast.
I started by fan casting relatively close to the bank and then moved further out, starting my count from ten seconds. Within a couple of casts, I had a sharp take and brought a 2lb rainbow, which fought like hell, to the net, having taken the diawl bach. This suggested they were around 2-4 feet down, so I concentrated on that depth. However, I had nothing else for the next twenty minutes so continued to count down deeper. After another forty minutes or so with no takes, I decided on a change. There were lots of damsels flying around on top of the water so I tried a few damsel combinations, using weighted and unweighted to try different depts., but to no avail.
Given the heat, sun and lack of ripple, this was not unexpected but still somewhat infuriating so, lying down, I spent five minutes staring into the water (like an idiot) and noticed some bloodworms and a couple of claret midges hatching out. I changed my set-up to a dark red heavy buzzer on point, a lightweight claret buzzer on the middle dropper and a claret diawl bach on the top dropper. I cast out, waited for twenty seconds and drew the line in to bring the flies up a little and….wham, a huge take. After an arm-aching battle of nearly fifteen minutes, I finally netted a rainbow of around 5lbs which had taken the claret diawl bach. I’d nailed it, or so I thought. After another hour, I hadn’t had a whisper!
I decided to move to the south part of F1 on the causeway which separated the two parts of reservoir. It was getting on for around six o’clock, and I noticed there were a few sedges around. The trout weren’t rising so I stuck to fishing nymphs but changed to a black holo-buzzer on point, an olive buzzer on the middle dropper and a natural/brown diawl bach on the top dropper. I had no idea what a sedge nymph might look like but I figured something brown and general like the diawl bach might do the trick. In the first few casts I had a couple of small, quick takes, all around 7-10 metres out. Thinking the fish might be cruising, I started casting out sideways so that my flies were in this area for longer. I had an immediate response, catching one on the black buzzer and then another two on the diawl bach over the next hour.
As the sun started to set, the fish started to rise a little. I’m a sucker for fishing dries although I’ve never caught many that way but with five to the net so far, I decided to switch to dries to see if I could have a very good end to the session. I changed to a nine foot tapered copolymer leader with an extra five foot of fluorocarbon tippet with one dropper. I put a black shipmans on the dropper to cover my options but, given the significant hatch going on, I put a sedge imitation that I had tied a few days before on the point.
The rises were sporadic so I had little option but to fish it blind, giving it the odd tub to create a disturbance in the flat water. I’d had no interest for half an hour when, mid-cast, a trout rose about ten yards in front of me, just sipping in a sedge. I flicked the line out and it landed with a lovely soft plop a few yards in front of the rise. As the fly hit the water, the trout rose and took it perfectly (such a lovely sight). As I struck the trout went mad and shot off like a torpedo creating a huge wake on the water. I knew this was something big immediately but its first flight quickly took me down to the backing line. After dragging it back in, it went on three further runs, taking me down to the backing each time. After nearly twenty minutes, I finally got it to the net; a big lump of silver around six or seven pounds and probably my largest trout yet.
I continued fishing as dusk set, enjoying the warm evening by the water and the deep orange glow reflecting off the water as I watched my flies eagerly. I had a few more takes, which I missed with over-eager strikes. As it got close to packing up time, I uttered that favourite phrase of the angler, ‘just one more cast’. Just as I was about to release the line, a fish rose and I managed to slant my cast to drop the fly just in front, in perfect time to watch, happily, as the fish rose again to gulp down my fly.
So, a perfect day? Well, I caught seven fish in tricky conditions when other anglers were struggling, I caught two big rainbows, I changed flies when things weren’t working and caught on those flies, I caught on flies which I’d tied myself and it was a lovely day to be outside on the water. So, yes, for me a perfect day.
PS: I would have shown a photo of the sedge I tied but I forgot before hand and it was ruined by the end of the day. I’ll tie another an post it in the fly-tying section in due course.
PPS: My success rate this year has been significantly better than in previous years. This maybe simply due to more experience but I think there it might also have something to do with tying my own flies. Not sure whether this is due to confidence, having a better range of flies or a deeper understanding of what I’m tying, for what conditions, what I’m trying to imitate and how/when to fish it. Perhaps the subject of another post.