So much for trying to fish more regularly; it’s mid-June and I’ve only managed to get out once this year. Not for want of trying mind you but a combination of work and family have had to take priority. However, I’ve arranged a doozy with my brother (BP- Hello! That’s me!) as a late, joint Christmas present; three days in Northants fishing Grafham and Pitsford Reservoirs.
We arrange to meet up at a campsite on the Friday afternoon to pitch up the tents. It’s a roasting hot, sunny day with hardly a cloud in the sky; perfect for camping but probably not for fishing. We quickly pitch the tents, grab some lunch and then jump in the car for the short drive over to Grafham. Our plan is to fish the afternoon and evening at Grafham today, spend the whole day at Pitsford tomorrow and then get up early for the morning rise somewhere on Sunday.
We dive into the lodge, grab a couple of catch and release bank tickets and then shoot over to the north-east side of Grafham. Having never been to Grafham before, we are a little surprised to find the bank fishing a little tricky on this side due to trees and steep banks but we eventually find a suitable spot and get cracking. The water is calm, the sun is bright and it’s hot, so no surprise really to find there is little visible activity and, despite numerous changes of fly and plenty of walking to change position, we get no takes all afternoon. But with the whole weekend stretching before us, the simple joy of being out fishing overcomes the disappointment of no fish. As the afternoon moves into early evening, we decide to hike down the bank to the dam ready for any evening rise. As we walk round the dam to the south end, we start to notice small swarms of midges and the odd sedge floating around. Armed with a little more knowledge from reading (in the absence of any actual fishing over the last six months) I tie up a CDC emerger with a buzzer tied to the hook on a length of tippet. Over the next hour, as the heat of day passes, the water slowly starts to come alive with the beautiful sight of rising fish; just gentle sips and ‘top and tails’ which, from what I’ve read, suggests they are taking flies in or just on the surface film. Suddenly my brother gives a ‘wahey’ (BP – Damn right! Twas a cracking fish and the first of the day!) and he’s into a 2lb rainbow on a klinkhammer. I quickly change my CDC emerger onto a klinhammer as well and over the next hour before it gets dark, we net a couple of medium sized rainbows apiece, all taken off the top of the water. We finish off a lovely day with a few beers back at the tent, talking tactics ready for tomorrow.
We’re up early the next morning, both keen to get a full days fishing in, and by 8.30am we’re questioning the helpful assistant in the lodge at Pitsford. The bank at Duffers has apparently been fishing well with buzzers recently, which is music to my ears as buzzers are one of the flies I’m more comfortable with. Thirty minutes later and we’re picking a spot on the bank ready to get cracking. The weather looks better for fishing – grey, cloudy, a decent enough wind to create a ripple and slightly cooler – but it’s forecast to rain heavily, so we’re fully kitted out in waterproofs. We find a spot where the bank slopes quite steeply into the water but with a comfortable standing position and both tackle up with buzzers. Unusually, I’m into a fish almost immediately on my favourite black holo buzzer and my brother nets one shortly after. Within another thirty minutes the rain has started, first as a steady drizzle but then more heavily until finally its torrential. I manage to net another 2lb rainbow but as the rain gets worse, the fish seem to turn off. After another couple of hours we are absolutely soaked and painfully aware that our waterproofs are not actually that waterproof. Knowing we have the whole day ahead of us, we take a break for a long lunch at a lovely local pub to dry off and plan our attack for the rest of the day.
As we get back to the reservoir, the wind has slowly changed direction and the sun is coming out from behind the clouds. We decide to try the bottom end of the reservoir close to the dam where there are a few bays we think we can fish in, even with the wind. When we get there, however, the bays are quite shallow and the wind seems to have moved again so we can’t cast out far enough. It takes us another hour of walking to finally find a spot over the other side of the reservoir with the wind behind us and deeper water. I’m starting to think a boat might be a better idea when fishing a reservoir all day. We have a couple of fruitless hours in what has turned out to be a stifling hot, sunny afternoon. It’s clear, even to me, that the fish have headed into deeper, cooler water so we decide to pack up and go back to our earlier position ready for an evening rise. But typically, even though the conditions are almost identical to the previous day, there is no rise at all. We fish through until dark with just one more rainbow coming off the same black holo buzzer. While it is still lovely to have had a whole day out on the water, we’re a little disappointed with a return of five fish in total, from both of us, from nearly thirteen hours fishing! But tomorrow is another day.
We both need to get on the road by lunchtime so we’re up at the crack of dawn and head straight down to the dam at Grafham. It’s a lovely sunny, hot day again (unfortunately) but we’re hopeful the deeper water by the dam might give us a better chance. The water is crystal clear and we can see small groups of trout lazily ambling down the bank just a few yards out. Not sure if this is a good thing or not but at least we can see there are fish here. I start with my new favourite set-up, a Klinkhammer with a buzzer underneath, in the hope that I can tempt a fish up or at least to the buzzer. Despite seeing lots of trout in the water, there is no surface activity and after a joyless first hour, I change to a gold-head hares ear and a longer leader, just in case they are lying deep in the water. Another hour later, and a couple of changes to different nymphs, I decide to try a damsel, then a montana, then some more buzzers and, in no time at all, I’m back to throwing on any old fly just to try and get some interest.
Around 11am, we greet a passing angler with the usual ‘how are you getting on?’, trying not to sound too desperate for any inside information. Very good apparently; he says that he’s caught six on a hothead diawl bach using an intermediate washing line with a booby on point. I nod sagely as he happily whistles off down the bank but in reality I haven’t got a clue what he’s talking about. I notice my brother is delving into his bag, so saunter across. Apparently, he knows what the guy was talking about and is busily changing his line. I leave him for a while and try a few different flies to no avail. Half an hour later and my brother has finally tied something that looks more like a medieval torture device. He quickly gives me a run down on washing lines, droppers and booby’s and shows me what a diawl bach looks like before casting out. I surreptitiously flick through my fly boxes but I have nothing that looks like a diawl bach or a booby, neither do I have an intermediate line or any idea how to tie a dropper. My brother and I are not massively competitive but there is a certain amount of pride which stops me asking for help with an entire set-up, line and flies. Apparently pride comes before a fish as well as a fall, as over the next hour my brother nets three nice rainbows while I frantically try every fly in my box on varying different lengths of leader, all to no avail. I’m ashamed to admit that I pack up early, completely flummoxed.
Overall, it’s been a great weekend; generally nice weather, quality time with my brother and a good break but as I drive home I can’t help feeling a bit disappointed with the fishing. I’ve spent around twenty-five hours on the water with just five fish to my name. While trout are the same everywhere, I seem to be sadly lacking in knowledge and experience on reservoirs even more than on small fisheries. I really need to do some more research on reservoir fishing tactic’s before I come again.