It’s that time of year when small stillwater fly fishing comes into its own as the temperatures cool, the summer weed subsides and the Trout begin to enjoy life again. But that doesn’t necessarily mean every visit to a stocked put & take is going to be easy. There is less water to cover than on a reservoir and we can be sure that fish are almost certainly seeing our flies on every cast … which results in a little bit of a problem. It doesn’t take long for the fish to wise up to our antics! Here are 5 winter fly fishing tips which I hope help you on your next small stillwater outing.
1 – EARLY BIRDS CATCH MORE TROUT How many times has that been printed? OK, I realise that work commitments, family and all that sometimes make it impossible to be on your chosen small water at sparrows fart, but if you can be, it will make all the difference. Small water stocked Trout have been growing up on pellets packed full of belly filling protein. But that’s stopped now and this being late season, chances are there is not a whole lot of food about to fill them up. Stick your fly in front of a hungry Trout’s nose before anyone else and … well, you know the rest. Set your alarm for early and bag yourself a decent spot, especially as day light hours are currently on ration. Boo!
2 – KNOW WHAT MAKES A STOCKED TROUT TICK It is only natural to ask “what’s catching then” when we go fishing, after all just like you I want a miracle fly for the day. But it is more important to think about what the Trout in front of you is thinking, yes it’s a cliché but it pays to think like a fish. Imagine swimming around all day in your stock pond, with your mates, being fed pellets a couple of times a day. Then all of a sudden you are scooped out of that pond, with your mates and thrown in a much bigger one. At first you just can’t believe how much space you now have but within 24 hours you are starting to wonder where your next meal is coming from, although at least a few of your mates seem to have disappeared if a bit of grub does come along. A Buzzer or Diawl Bach fished slow is a great way to catch Trout but if we are targeting fish that are not properly tuned into this natural stuff we are better to think big or bold or both. That’s why Cat Whiskers, Woolly Buggers Montanas & Minkies all work so well. Think “shock and awe”.
3 – TRY BLOBS I say this about 50 times a week and the reactions vary. Some anglers look like they want to hit me but most just say “why on earth would they take that, it doesn’t look like anything” And I can understand that as I present them with a day-glow bit (Blob) of Fritz. But I have a theory about this fly, it might be completely wrong but it’s what I think about when fishing small waters for Trout, so it may possibly work for you. Tie one or two Blobs on to a leader of 12’ to 14’, fluorocarbon is what you want because it sinks. Then having tied on your Blob, stick it in the side of the lake, giving it a good old squash between your thumb and fingers so it absorbs water. Then bung out a cast, pull it all straight and figure-eight it back … uber, uber slow! Think pretty much static. If you need to keep the flies higher in the water, cast shorter and reduce your leader length. And why do I think Trout love this method? Because fished like this a Blob sinks just like one of those pellets that up until recently our stocked Trout had spent their life feeding on. A disgusting thought for some people I am sure but what’s the point of fishing a really nice slow Buzzer on a day when the Trout don’t want them? Fave Blob colours by the way are Sunburst, Candy Split & if the water has some colour in it Black is hard to beat.
4 – TRY VARIED RETRIEVES Now this goes without saying on any venue, not just small stillwaters, but looking around Exe Valley I reckon it is one of the most common mistakes a lot of anglers make. Sure try the big stuff, some bright colours and all that, but give the Trout a chance to see it. A full bore strip works at times, but only at times and imparts no kind of life into our flies. Cast a fly like the Cats Whisker into the margins and fool about with some erratic retrieves, go fast, then slow, then jerky. See how the marabou comes to life and all the other fibres, legs etc., which we incorporate into our patterns to attract attention. Strip too fast and all of that is lost, plus we could just be fishing too high in the water, especially during the cooler months when Trout can hold a little deeper.
5 – DON’T BE AFRAID TO EXPERIMENT Small stillwater Trout do learn fast and some get very good at recognising what could potentially mean a premature meeting with the priest. That means without almost any doubt whatsoever that on a Monday morning the remaining stockies that survived the weekend have tangled with one or two Cats Whiskers, Montanas and even the Blobs that I recommend so often and so highly. Have some fun with fly dressing, if you tie your own, it is a very worthwhile exercise. Add some hotspots, try a bit of sparkly stuff and perhaps try a few miniatures of your favourite lures, a perfect project for the long winter evenings while sat by the fire! And if you don’t tie, get your mate who does to knock you up some, learn how to whip up your own (its dead simple, honest!) or perhaps look at buying a few from a specialist in fly variants such as Iain Barr. Then take these not your normal everyday patterns, experiment with depth, mess about with your retrieve and don’t be afraid to wander around the venue if possible until you find a willing fish. This not only makes the day more interesting but I also have no doubt that you will be more successful.
My thoughts above are nothing new, you have probably read it a million times elsewhere but if you are checking out my blog right now then thank you and I hope something here may help you the next time you go fishing for small stillwater Trout. And if you don’t agree with some of the stuff above or have your own ideas, please don’t be afraid to use the comments box below to post your thoughts & questions because hopefully then we all learn and will have even more fun fishing this winter.