After my last blank at Bewl, I’ve been desperate to get back out on the water. I’ve started reading the fishing reports for Anglian water, Bewl and Farmoor, mostly to get an idea of what flies are working throughout the year and this week they have all been positive; mid-September seems to be a great time for fishing as the trout recover from the hot summer and start to feed again. At the last minute I decide to take a day off and visit my nearest reservoir, Farmoor in Oxfordshire. The Farmoor updates reveal the water has been on fire; a rod average of seven fish over the last weekend and trout are feeding on the top; perfect.
As I arrive, the weather looks perfect: nice and warm, not too windy but with a little ripple and overcast. However, a quick chat with the helpful ranger reveals we could be in for some storms later which, apparently, might cause the fish to go off as they don’t tend to like big changes in air pressure. Great, another thing to add to the “what trout don’t like” list which is already much longer than my “what trout like” list.
Five minutes later, after a quick drive round to the far side of the reservoir and grabbing my gear, I’m stood on the side of the water. For those who don’t know Farmoor, its a concrete bowl split into two sections, Farmoor 1 and Farmoor 2; the former is catch and release only with a number of large resident trout and the other is a well-stocked catch and keep. Far from being a drab setting, the reservoir is surrounded by the green fields of Oxfordshire and is right next to the river Thames, which all means that natural fly life is abundant.
Filled with the usual desperation to get my line wet, I instead force myself to spend ten minutes watching the water to see what is, or isn’t, happening. There are a plethora of daddy long-legs flying around but very little action on the top of the water. I decide to try my new intermediate line (a slow sinker, apparently) with a hopper on the point, a buzzer on the middle dropper and a Silver Invicta on the top dropper as a fry imitation. It sounds like I know what I’m talking about but it’s all information I’ve gleaned off the web and sorely lacking in practical experience. Based on what I’ve read, this will work like a washing line with the hopper sitting high in the water and keeping the other flies a couple of feet down and also means I’m covering three different food options.
The hopper stays on the top of the water for a while but soon submerges. I decide to fish it wet as I read somewhere that they can work better that way sometimes. I fish this set-up for thirty minutes, trying to remember the basic’s: fancasting across the water, starting at the margins, and mixing up the retrieve between short pulls, longer pulls and a slow figure of eight. I’m alternating between drying the hopper out to fish it on the top and letting it sink for a few casts as there is the occasional ‘top and tail’ rise. I’m just starting to think I may be too deep and about to change to a floating line when I get a sudden, sharp tug on the line and I’m into a heavy fish. It quickly turns tail and runs and takes me down to my backing in no time. The fish puts up a lovely fight but I finally get it into the net and it’s a beautiful, full-finned, 4lb rainbow.
I continue with the same set-up for a while with a few missed takes but gradually the wind subsides and the air becomes very still. The sound of distant thunder and black clouds hint at an oncoming storm and right on cue, the changing air pressure kills the activity. The rain finally comes an hour later but no storm. The fishing, however, has completely gone off the boil; the ranger was spot on. I try a combination of hoppers, buzzers, diawl bachs, cormorants, fritz and pearly pheasant tail nymphs with no luck.
After another hour with no takes I take the opportunity to have some lunch and change my set-up to a floating line in the, possibly vain, hope that the rain will freshen things up a little. There are some small flies floating around on the top of the water which may be midges and the odd small head and tail rise, so I decide to tackle up with a CDC emerger on the point, an olive buzzer on the middle dropper and the hopper on the top dropper. After twenty minutes there are a lot more rises but I’ve had no luck. I’m retrieving slowly, using the CDC almost as an indicator and letting the buzzer float around. As I get to the end of a retrieve the line goes oddly slack. I strike in hope more than judgment but suddenly I’m into another big fish. It hooked close into the bank on the olive buzzer and the fish is rather lethargic but another good size at 3 1/2lbs. I assume the slack line indicates the fish took the buzzer swimming towards me and into the bank.
A couple of casts later and I’m into my third trout of the day. Bigger than the others at around 4-5lbs, this was a real fighter and didn’t want to come into the net. My arm was aching by the time I finally landed it and then noticed the fish had taken the CDC emerger which had sunk under the water.
I give it another half an hour but my time runs out and I have to get off home to the wife and kids. Would have loved to stay for the late afternoon/early evening rise as I reckon there would have been some good sport but I’ve had a good day and would be facing divorce if I stay out late again. Reflecting on my day on the way home, I realise that was probably my second best fishing day ever in terms of numbers but my best by a long way in terms of the size and quality of fish caught. If you haven’t been to Farmoor and live within driving distance then I’d heartily recommend a visit.