How Small a Trout Every Day in May.


A long time back in the UK I made something of a switch for a while; the temptations of larger trout in the lakes drew me away from the small indigenous brownies of the local streams. I can recall exactly how it came about, despite the passing of the years. I had been invited to fish on a stocked lake Crowdy Reservoir, with a group of local anglers. I was but a child with limited skills and worse tackle but it was an adventure.

At one point the fish boiled on the surface all around us and the more experienced who knew something of their habits landed fish after fish. Trout of dimension I had never seen before and I was in awe. Of course I had no idea what was going on, I fished on with two or three flies on a leader all too short and with a rod all too soft for such endeavour. I changed flies and as I well recall eventually met with some success using a Kingfisher Butcher, I am not sure that I have ever fished such a pattern since, a gaudy concoction more suited to capturing anglers than fish.

As the angle of the light changed it was possible to see into the slightly tan waters and one could view the miracle taking place. Small caddis pupae were emerging like minute Polaris missiles, little shiny bubbles rocketing to the surface and as I remember flying away without so much as a pause.

It left me enamoured, the possibilities of large fish cruising close to shore, far larger fish than could ever be hoped for on the local streams.

Over the next few years I became something of a bank fishing specialist and developed a repertoire or skills that greatly improved both my understanding and catch rate. Most of that the result of what I still consider one of the best fishing books I have ever read. “In pursuit of Stillwater Trout” by Brian Clarke. Clarke’s book brought logical process to what had previously been little more than a lucky dip. He discussed and promoted a simple approach based on an understanding of the essential food forms of the trout, and a style that was both basic and effective.

I now roamed the shorelines of various reservoirs with only a floating line, long leaders and a simple selection of patterns. Perhaps the greatest trick of all, learned over time, was the ability to detect takes from the trout cruising hidden under the surface. In fact Clarke devoted an entire chapter to the various clues of a take and that chapter has stood me in good stead all these years.

It is perhaps something that many shore based anglers still neglect, they cast out and retrieve the flies all too quickly to imitate most real food forms. The speed of the retrieve driven more by the desire to “feel a tug” on the end rather than to fish in imitative mode. To fish slowly one must be adept at detecting the slightest hesitation of the line, the most subtle dip of the leader for with such a style the tug rarely comes without a strike from the angler.

Even after repeating the process hundreds of times the conversion of a seemingly innocuous twitch on the end of the leader to the pull of a large trout by the simple expedient of raising the rod briskly at the correct moment seems to me something of a magic trick. It is amazing how small a clue a large trout might offer. One quickly recognises that this is an area where it pays to “strike first and ask questions later” if one is in any doubt.

It is easy to imagine that one is limited being stuck on shore, simple to hanker for the freedom of a watercraft and access to the further reaches of a large lake. However whilst there are limitations there benefits too. The fish frequently can be found in the shallows, there is more food there, more sunlight, more weed growth and more cover for the fish. The angler, feet planted still and stationary has more control over his tackle and the movement of the flies. He is better able to fish amongst the weeds, to have better influence over the movement and sinking of his patterns than those boat based.

Those experiences still influence my thoughts and although I have a tendency to go boat-fishing in stillwaters these days I do enjoy shoreline fishing. By carefully viewing one’s surroundings one can get a good idea of what lies beneath the surface. An old road disappearing into the depths, a fence line or the simple topography which indicates a sudden drop off or productive shallows can all indicate areas on which to focus one’s efforts.

So don’t be misled, opportunities abound to enjoy good angling from the shore, one requires less equipment than the water based angler and need not be encumbered with boats, anchors, drogues and the paraphernalia that goes with it. Still now I can easily be persuaded to exit the boat and spend a while on the shoreline, focused on the end of the line and looking for that elusive stab down of the leader which might indicate a fish feeding in the shallows.

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