Ben Bangham takes his marabou lures to Albury Estate Lakes to see if the simple approach to catching trout works as well today as it did when he first started fly fishing.
On a recent fishing trip, I was having a chat to the editor about articles and what we looked for in them when we first started fly fishing to where we are now. What we both agreed was that sometimes we, as writer and editor, might write articles based around fairly advanced techniques and flies, especially the flies.
Most fly anglers are at what I call a happy level of fly tying, ie they can tie flies and love to use and catch fish on them. Most of the flies in the magazines are fairly advanced to tie. For most people, these are hard to do, as well as using a multitude of materials that many might not have at their disposal. Sometimes they use techniques that are fairly tricky.
A handful of simple lures coupled with a floating and intermediate line was Ben's choice of attack for the Albury Trout
So as a result of that chat we decided that for this article I would go back in time to when I was fishing solely for fun and really just getting into fly tying. It was back to the old school and a few flies based around the classic Dog Nobbler-type patterns that I used to use religiously in the early years.
This is one of the most simple lures to tie and is very effective. More importantly, it doesn’t use a lot of materials and doesn’t have any advanced tying techniques in its creation. All you need is a hook, a bead, a marabou feather for the tail and body, and a bit of rib to hold it all together.
Fish could be seen close in, so keeping a low profile and casting back from the water's edge was required early on
Colourwise I used to use orange the most but this time I tied up a few more variations just in case. I knew as I was tying them that they would work, the question I had was would they work as well as some of the more modern, more advanced lures that are out there now?
I decided that fishing in the spirit of things I would only take the bare essentials with me. This consisted of the new Sage Bolt rod in a 9ft 5-wt, which is my go-to rod for all small stillwater situations now. It casts a line beautifully, giving the impression of a fairly stiff casting tool; however, when you play a fish with it the rod almost seems to soften up and give you a really exciting playing tool. I matched it up with a Rio Gold 5-wt floater loaded onto a Sage 4250 reel to get a beautifully balanced outfit.
I also set up a rod with an intermediate line on just as a backup. To be honest I much prefer fishing a floater than an intermediate nowadays.
Leaderwise I didn’t do anything special at all, again looking at how I used to fish. All I used was 10 feet of 8lb fluorocarbon. Obviously, I didn’t have fluorocarbon when I was starting out, but this is what I use on stillwaters now and so on it went. Very simple and very easy.
We headed down to Albury Estate Fisheries, a place that I had driven past a few times over the years, but had never wet a line there. I guide with one of the Albury’s fishery managers, Cameron Craigs, from time to time so I thought it was high time to go down and catch a few of his fish!
Wth a slight tinge of colour in the water, the Albury fish wanted brighter flies, with the sunburst lure pick of colours.
The fishery essentially consists of four separate fisheries: Powder Mills, Syon Park, Vale End and Weston. On this occasion, I decided to concentrate on the day-ticket waters that make up Weston Fishery.
Weston consists of three lakes: Main Lake, which is the biggest of the three, Lower Millhouse Lake and finally the smallest one, Wood Lodge Pool. I wanted to fish each of the lakes to see if the flies could catch across all three.
Black To Start
I headed up to the furthest of the lakes – Wood Lodge Pool – to start. On the end of the leader was the black and orange bead version of the lure that I had tied, as I have a lot of confidence in black flies. The lakes are normally crystal clear, but today they were carrying a touch of colour. Not so much that you couldn’t see the fish but you had to look hard and work your flies in the areas where you saw movement.
I had managed to spot a few fish cruising a couple of feet under the surface of the lake, but despite covering them all only one or two showed any interest in what I had to offer. I changed retrieves to see if that would make a difference, but it had very little effect at all, if any.
I wondered whether the water carrying that tinge of colour meant that the rainbows might be a bit responsive to a splash of colour being pulled through their watery lair. It was a toss-up between the sunburst with a purple bead and the orange with a black bead. I opted for the sunburst as I just thought that extra brightness might be the key to unlocking these fish.
A swap to the orange lure brought success on Lower Mill House Lake. Changing colour can make a big difference to your catch rate.
It turns out that I made the right choice, as it was only a matter of minutes until the steady slow retrieve resulted in the line tightening and I was playing my very first Albury Estate rainbow. It was a great fight and it was fairly hard fish to get on top of. It went off like a rocket, racing around the lake putting a great bend in the rod. It eventually gave up and came to the net!
It pays to watch the water before selecting where to fish. Keep an eye on rising fish, wind direction and other anglers before choosing your peg
"Once I had located a few active fish I knew it wouldn't be too long until I had my limit, and I was right"
With the first fish in the net, it was time for a move. While we were taking photos I noticed that on main lake there were a few fish moving in a certain area. I marked the place they were moving and started to pack up my kit ready to move. At the end of Wood Lodge Pool, right in the margin, was another trout about the same size as the one I had just caught. I stopped and slowly sank to my knees using the bankside cover to my advantage while I got my rod ready, keeping my eye on the fish all the time.
It didn’t really need a cast, the fish was that close. I just swung the fly out and let it sink down right in front of the rainbow’s nose. It sank seductively and before it had touched the bottom the trout had snaffled it – game on!
Once again the fight was great and the rainbow gave a very good account of itself but I soon had it in the net.
This time I managed to get onto the Main Lake. I headed straight for the area that I had seen the fish moving in and started to work it methodically, fan casting and varying the retrieve and depth that I was fishing at. I never counted it down too long as it seemed that the fish were mainly working the upper levels of the water column.
It wasn’t too many casts before the little sunburst lure had done its job again and another hard-fighting rainbow was doing its best to strip all the line from my reel. Another cracker about the 3lb mark.
For my final trout on the four-fish ticket, I decided to move to the last lake of the three to give it a whirl. Cameron did say that this lake was having a few issues due to lack of water flow, but it seemed to be not too bad and I could see a few fish moving. I changed up the fly to the orange one as I have a soft spot for it.
I spent 10 minutes walking around the lake just trying to locate the fish and in the process I had my licence checked by an EA bailiff (which was great to see). Once I had located a few active fish I knew it wouldn’t be too long until I had my limit, and I was right. Again this fished punched well above its weight and tested my tackle, but there was only one outcome – a happy angler. That brought an end to my first session on Albury Estate Fisheries, but I can say for sure that the next time I drive past I shall definitely be stopping.
I wanted to go out and use a fly that everyone can tie. It was my first ‘useful’ fly that I ever tied and caught me most of my early trout. It was such a great thing to go out with this fly again and catch on it.
As I progressed in fly tying this pattern went to the back of the box and eventually out of it all together. So how does it stack up compared to the more modern, more complicated counterparts now, and does it get a place in my box again?
Happy memories. The buzz of catching on your own creations takes some beating!
I would say very well. On the day of the article I can hand on heart say that I caught those fish as quickly as I would have done with my normal lures; I was stunned at just how effective this pattern is. It is great to see that it hasn’t lost its potency over the years and has gone from being a bit of a blast from the past to having a firm place in my everyday box, praise indeed.
So get out the vices and the marabou you have lying around, whip it onto a hook and catch a fish. Get that buzz from catching on your own flies – it’s great.
The Keep It Simple Marabou Lure
Hook: Hanak 260 or similar, size 10
Bead: 3mm tungsten
Thread: Colour to match the body
Tail: Pinch of marabou
Rib: Silver or copper wire
Slide the bead onto the hook and run a layer of thread down the shank to the bend.
Take a pinch of marabou and tie in the tail. Run the thread over the marabou towards the eye to keep an even body ad return to the bend.
Tie in the copper wire rib and a marabou body and run the thread to the eye of the hook.
Wind the marabou up the body and tie off and then take the wire up in open turns to form the rib and secure.
Whip finish and varnish. Using your finger and thumb, nip the marabou tail to the required length.
Venue: Albury Estate Fisheries
Location: Estate Office, Weston Yard, Albury, Guildford, Surrey, GU5 9AF
Albury bailiff: Mob 07976 810737
Pupils from six primary schools across Sussex enjoyed a day of exploring fishing and wildlife themed fun on 26 April at Arlington Reservoir in East Sussex , taking part in a range of activities from pond dipping to hedge laying.
The day, organised by South East Water and The Countryside Alliance Foundation’s Fishing for Schools initiative, was the first of what it is hoped will become a regular event at this idyllic reservoir, which is a designated Local Nature Reserve and offers some of the finest trout fishing in the South East of England. Fly fishing and wildlife conservation are the only activities allowed at the site which is also a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI).
Emma Goddard, South East Water’s head of environment said: “It was a fantastic day. The children were all so engaged. We really hope this is the start of an ongoing relationship between ourselves and local children. If we have inspired just one of the children who attended to learn more about the environment it will all have been worth it.”
And Charles Jardine of Fishing for Schools added: “I love being part of these days. The children arrive perhaps not knowing anything about fishing or the ecology of our wetlands but they get so enthused and go away wanting to know more. That’s what these days are all about.”
The schools taking part were Alfriston School in Polegate, Chyngton Primary from Seaford, Cross-in-Hand CEP School, Grovelands Community Primary School, Oakwood Primary from Eastbourne and West Rise Junior School in Langley.
In all, 50 children took part in sessions on fly tying, fly casting, pond dipping, hedge laying, fish-themed art and watched freshly caught trout being prepared and cooked.
Mandy French of Chyngton School said: “The children had a fabulous time. They really enjoy these sort of activities and if we had the chance to come again with another year group we would leap at it.”
Jenny Lewis of Grovelands Community Primary said: “I was amazed at the concentration on the children’s faces as they watched and took part in the activities. They particularly enjoyed the pond-dipping - it has been a wonderful day of exploration.”
Angus Scott of West Rise School said: “The boys learned so much today and had a fabulous time – none of them had tried making a fly or casting before.”
Lindsey Hudson of Alfriston School said: “It’s been really interesting to find out just how much is involved in fishing, and the hedge-laying demonstration was fascinating. Many of the children live close to the reservoir but were not aware of all the wildlife here.”
James Smither, one of the pupils from Cross-in-Hand School said: “I really enjoyed the fly tying and casting best - and eating the trout. I already take part in coarse fishing but I’ve not casted before – it was really fun.”
Emma Taylor from Oakwood School said: “The pupils loved the cooking with trout and the pond dipping and catching newts. They asked so many questions and will go back to school with lots more knowledge.”