I took a client boat fishing at Blithfield Reservoir in Staffordshire recently after hearing about the excellent top-of-the-water fishing at the venue. I had been there a few weeks earlier and seen numerous “Big Reds” hatching off and the fish were up in the wave and on them. The weather conditions had changed and the heat wave was in full swing. After grumbling for months about the poor summers we have had, we start again as soon as the sun comes out and things get hot!
We had arranged to meet at 2pm and fish the afternoon and evening from a boat. The water was almost flat clam when we got there. The only sign of a ripple was up at the causeway end of the reservoir and this is where we headed.
Fish could be seen en-route rising and before we made it to the causeway, temptation got the better of us and we cut the engine and sat in the still flat water where we had seen fish rising. I had two rods set up – a fast glass and two pearly twirly boobies located on the point and top dropper and a cruncher in-between. On my other rod two dries on a 12ft leader, a big red on the point and a claret shipmans on the dropper.
I started on the fast glass hoping to annoy the rising fish while my friend started on the double dries. After half an hour it became clear that pulling through these occasional rising fish wasn’t the method but my friend had raised two fish to the dries. There seemed to be more rising fish in the ripple by the causeway, so the motor was started, and quietly we headed in that direction.
Here the fish were rising and we witnessed something which would probably have been akin to one of the Attenborough television programmes. It was nature at its true best. It was a sight which I will never forget and something which I have never witnessed before, certainly at this time of the year. The fish were rising in pods, these weren’t the single occasional risers, they rose more than once three or four times in one area, and more than one fish. These trout were working together, not only in their small pods but also as a larger shoal of fish.
It was clear they weren’t rising for the big red buzzers that were hatching or the daddies that were drifting across the water, but whatever it was the fish were obsessed by it. A glance over the side of the boat revealed the food source. Fry – small roach fry about an inch long. These fry had been rounded up by the trout in this area. They were working like a pack animal, bashing the fry and then coming back to mop up the wounded fry. It was like a family of whales rounding up shoals of sardines out at sea.
I took off my big red and replaced it with a red shipmans – mainly due to the fact that these flies would sit in the surface, like the dead fry killed by the ferocious nature of these trout. The tactic was to wait for the fry to boil at the surface – the first sign that the trout was underneath the shoal and about to strike – cast both flies into the disturbance made – and wait. What followed once the fry had hit the surface, was the trout heading and tailing out of the water or in some instances jumping out – clearly the attack, followed by two or three rises in the same area as they mop up the wounded and dead fry.
The tactic worked and I managed four cracking fully finned rainbows and blue trout on both the shipmans. These were quality fish and the aggressive nature was evident in the fight, boring down deep, trying every trick in the book to escape. No sooner had the feeding frenzy started then it stopped. On spooning the fish it was clear that they had been gorging themselves on the fry.
The evening rise never really happened. It didn’t matter really as we had just witnessed one of those moments in fly fishing that doesn’t happen every week. Fry-feeding trout in July – I’m getting pretty excited about what we may find there this autumn. I’ll keep you posted!!