I’m fortunate that my local reservoir, Farmoor, is one of the few that are open all year. Having said that I’ve never really got to grips with winter fishing on large waters. Partly, it’s down to inexperience but also the perceived wisdom of the locals is that the only way to catch is chucking out a fast sinking line with a booby and waiting for the fish to find it. Personally, that’s not a type of fishing which I can get excited about. So, I decided to give winter fishing a proper go this year and see if there were other, more interesting ways to catch.
I bought myself an Airflo FortyPlus DI7 to give me the option to fish deep and to try and get some extra distance. The line took a bit of getting used to but it really does fly out the rod rings.
My first outing was cold, with a reasonable wind and sunny. With almost no experience to call on, I started on the basis that the fish would be deep due to the cold. So, on went the FortyPlus but rather than a booby I tried a minkie on the basis that the trout might still be taking fry. Working on a sink rate of 7 inches per second I started on a count of 30, giving me a depth of around 17 feet. I increased the count in stages of 5 seconds and mixed up the retrieve – sometimes stripping it in, others using a slow figure of eight and then a bit of both. After a couple of hours with no interest, and a few moves, I finally caught my first fish at a 50 second count on a very slow retrieve. As the day warmed up slightly, I tried a floating line with a long leader and a team of buzzers. Again, I counted down so I was fishing deep. This was fruitless for a couple of hours until I got a tug, close into the bank and netted a nice rainbow which, surprisingly had taken the top dropper. That was my day done but I was happy that I had caught a few fish.
For my second trip, I tied up a few experiments. I tied a black buzzer and hares ear but in a shipman’s style, using foam at the head and tail. My idea was that I could fish them on a sinking line and the foam would help them float a little off the bottom – similar approach to a booby I guess but natural flies and I would be fishing them rather than leaving them stationary. I set-up with the DI7 again, with the minkie on point and the black buzzer on a dropper. I fished this through the levels again but had no joy so changed to the hares ear. That got me an immediate fish, on the hares ear, with a 50 second count and a slow retrieve. There was little other action for the next few hours, so again, I changed to a floating line with a team of buzzers on a long leader. After an hour of this with no interest, I put a white humongous on the point and picked up my second fish around mid-water. This was an aggressive take and a lovely lump of overwintered rainbow, around 5lbs, was netted after a good fight.
My last outing coincided with a cold snap. Wrapped in twenty layers I was warm enough but it was barely above freezing. I tried pretty much everything that had worked in my previous outings to no avail. I kept ringing the changes, trying different lines and depths, different flies and retrieves without luck. Eventually, I managed to pick up a solitary stockie on an orange blob, which it took about 10 feet down on the drop.
So, all in all, probably a little more successful than I would have thought. However, while I found some approaches which worked, there was not much pattern, nothing that I could be overly confident about at least – some fry, some nymphs and at various depths. Nevertheless, I got used to a new style of fishing (deep on a sinking line) and proved to myself it is possible to catch on a reservoir in winter without fishing a deep, static booby.