Finding Fish - Fly-Only trout waters
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Some fisheries have too many rules
Some of the worst are home counties trout fisheries. In general these rules are based on a vague, ill thought out mimicry of rules from other fisheries which might originally have had some sensible basis but which have long since lost any meaningful connection with the real world.
One particularly daft example I encountered recently was a
prohibition on scouting the water with polarised glasses and binoculars before
Where they are a little more reasonable the polarising glasses are the better option. At the very least try to glimpse the entire water so that, should conditions prove awkward, you know where there will be shelter from the wind, shade from strong sunlight or possible concentrations of fish food.
I'm lucky to live in an area of chalk streams. No matter what the books all say, chalk stream trout are not perpetually on the fin sipping olives from a flawless surface. Sometimes, even in a hatch, the better fish are not easy to find.
Tie on the largest dry fly in your box — or the largest the rules permit. Work your way up the water fairly quickly, making note of the better fish you see and maybe trying a cast or two over any that are feeding, leave most for later. Instead cast under every overhanging bush, tree, bridge or steep bank. Don't bother with finesse, bang the fly down hard. If you're allowed a sedge (or miracle of miracles a popper) then make a few short strips after a second or so. You won't catch many fish this way but you are likely to see many of the larger fish, in which case you come back in a couple of hours, and you may get one or two. They are likely to be the biggest fish of the day.
If you want to see the biggest fish in the river, find shoals of spawning minnows in May. Wait and watch. Trout you've only dreamt of will be harrying the distracted tiddlers. The obvious lure is a live or freshly killed minnow but you're probably stuck with a dry-fly only rule so even a sculpin pattern is out. You might as well cast a mayfly over the carnage. The big fish won't take but at least you will have tried.
Ponds in winter
A lot of anglers are restricted to put and take ponds stocked with rainbows. In summer most of us can manage most of the time but winter fishing presents a fish location problem.
As long as you can do so without disturbing other anglers a swift bankside walk is a useful pre-fishing technique. In cold weather rainbows often find a lie under the bank where they lay quietly in wait for passing food. Walk briskly close to the water and disturb any fish lying doggo. You will see the ripple as they flee their lie. Make a note of the position and work out from where you will cast. The fish will be back on their lies in twenty minutes or so.
Now fetch your tackle and put up a medium sized lure. Go back to each of those fish in turn but this time approach carefully and cast along the bank to them. Try to bring the lure within a couple of yards of the fish. Winter limit bags are so much more satisfying.
Unless stated otherwise: Everything in this site refers to fishing in the British Isles and similar northern European waters.