An early trip to Draycote has become a happy ritual over the last few years. It’s a chance to blow out the cobwebs with a venue that normally fishes well from the bank early in the year.
So, after waiting for the initial opening day excitement to calm down, I’d booked a bank pass and done my prep. From experience, it pays to have the wind in your face at Draycote early in the season, assuming its a little less blowy than the storms we have been used to recently. The wind had been a bit variable during the week but I had two areas picked out for the day; the Hensborough bank and Toft. Both areas are quite shallow so generally just a floating line needed with the usual early season bankers of anything black and green and an orange blob.
I arrived just before 8am to a crisp, clear day which promised to turn the dial up from its current zero to something quite warm later in the day. After a quick chat in the lodge (“toft is the place to be”), I was kitted out in seven layers, waders and a woolly hat, ready to go. The wind was blowing into the south bank, so I started at the swans nest on a floating line with a weighted black n green minkie on point and an orange blob on a single dropper, to keep things easy into the wind.
The water level was up high so there was a bit of vegetation to get through to get to some clear water. Unfortunately, this proved to be a pain in the ass on the back cast and after half an hour of untangling flies from bare branches (and no takes) I wandered round to Toft shallows. A couple of casts later and, after a 5 second wait followed by a steady figure of eight, a little tap turned into a proper take and I had my first fish of the day on. This immediately felt like something substantial and when I got it to the net it looked like an overwintered rainbow of around 3-4lbs, which had taken the Minkie.
Content that I’d found the fish, depth and fly, I fished on for another hour with absolutely nothing! A couple of guys who had arrived after me had caught a few quickly but had nothing since as well. I tried different flies and depths but eventually had to decide that the fish just weren’t there, which was odd as it seemed perfect with the gentle wind blowing right into Toft.
I decided to jump in the car and try a few different areas. I had an hour at the Cornfield and half an hour at Dunns but with the wind behind the water was flat and still and just didn’t look ‘fishy’. I drove round to the other side to Hensborough bank and tried a couple of spots there. Again, it looked perfect with the gentle breeze in my face but despite trying different tactics and depths, I couldn’t get any interest. It was 12.30 by now and just one fish to the net. The sun was out and it was warming up nicely, so I decided to go back to Toft in the hope that the fish would follow the wind into the shallower water as it warmed up a little.
When I got back to toft it was deserted, other than a couple of boats anchored 40-50 yards off the bank. Presumably, everyone else had also moved on looking for the fish. Regardless, I wandered down to the waters edge, shoving a sandwich down my neck, to find a little buzzer hatch. The wind was still in my face but quite gentle, so I decided to change to straight-lining set-up with two buzzers and a diawl bach. I cast out and began the countdown and had my first delicate take after just five seconds and a very slow figure of eight, so not deep at all. Next cast and I had a proper buzzer take which nearly ripped the rod from my hand. Over the next few hours I had a very enjoyable time, catching fish (mainly stockies) on buzzers, with a size 12 grey boy the best option. The boats were catching as well and slowly the banks got busy as other anglers appeared to enjoy the sport.
Around mid-afternoon, the wind picked up and made it very difficult to cast three droppers, so I switched to a single fly with the black and green minkie. This accounted for a few fish, with another overwintered specimen of around 3.5lb coming to the net. Even though the sun was out, it was staring to get cold again. I was thinking about calling it a day when the wind suddenly dropped again, the midges appeared and some fish started rising. There was no chance I was leaving yet! Rather than re-rig again, I swapped the Minkie for the grey boy buzzer and fished it as a single fly. A 10 second countdown and slow retrieve did the job for another hour until things quietened down and my feet went numb.
From a quiet start, I ended the day with 11, including two decent grown-on rainbows. So, Toft was the place to be, with the wind in your face, but maybe it had been a little too cold early on and the fish were holding a little further out and deeper until the water warmed a little. It was lovely to get out and in the water and even better to get some unexpected, early buzzer fun!