Wrapped in a dayglo jacket with sparkly bits, Nick Hart’s fly of the month for March may not be to everyone’s taste - but it’s a damn near perfect reservoir pattern and he tells you exactly how to employ it to best effect.
It’s difficult to open an early season article without the old clichés about dusting down the rods and curing cabin fever. The time when days become longer and winter gives way to spring is marked indelibly on every game angler’s calendar, but it’s particularly special for those of us who seek to experience the thrill of early season reservoir silver. I count myself among the many who emerge from the shadows in a zombie like state, yearning for those first takes. But what fly should I tie on?
A simple Tadpole or Woolly Bugger pattern should do it and, of course, as per my January video, that small stillwater favourite, The Snake, is also in my top ten. Even so, I like to give the trout a little bit of everything at this time of year, and there are few more ‘Frakenflies’ than Keiron Jenkins’ Fenton Cat Booby.
A mixed-up pattern which doesn’t quite seem to know its place, part Tadpole, part Blob wrapped in a dayglo jacket with sparkly bits, it’s fair to say that this fly might not be to everyone’s taste. Personally, I am of the belief that it is what the trout thinks that really matters and I can report that when it comes to the Fenton they like to chase it with as much determination as that man who lost his dog in a London park. You can almost hear them shouting ‘Jesus Christ’ from the depths… at which point the line goes tight.
Originally finding fame on the shores of Farmoor, The Fenton is damn near the perfect lure and therefore ideal for searching the depths of many and varied large stillwaters. Break out your fast sinkers, warm yourself with a good slug of coffee and nail this ugly sucker well out of sight to the bottom of your chosen reservoir. A short single fly leader of 1ft to 4ft is all you need, the length depending on how deep you feel the fish are, using that tried and tested rule which says that colder it is, the deeper they will be. Popped up just off the bottom, or swaying to the tune of the current a few feet above, impart some extra life with an occasional sharp pull to make the lure dive and then rise in a tantalising fashion. Expect thunderous takes, real cobweb blowers that will banish the close season blues for another year.
Particularly steep drop offs could mean the fish are under your feet but when fishing concrete bowl venues, consider undertow and how this may determine water temperature and invariably fish location. Sometimes a shooting head is needed to reach the fish, that is unless you have access to a boat of course, which brings me on to my second method.
Going afloat, once again with sinking fly lines in the 5in to 8in sink rate category, I now have a two-fly team consisting of identical twin Fenton Cats, spaced at 4ft intervals on a 12lb fluorocarbon leader. On fast sink lines such as this a short leader will get you down there with the fish, and offers greater control and if the trout are feeling a little lethargic. I present them with both starter and main course, just in case they have yet to work up an appetite.
Deploy a drogue, searching the water on the drift and be sure to count down your line, because depth is always critical - but especially at this time of year. If it is allowed, and won’t hinder the sport of your fellow anglers, don’t be afraid to drop an anchor if you find a few fish although I implore you not to sit on a shoal and decimate them. There should be more satisfaction to be enjoyed from this time of year than those immortal words ‘Had my bag’ which so often chorus from the right honourable piscatorial egos as they unload their boat with a puffed-out chest. In all honesty who really cares? There is a lot more to reservoir trout fishing than speed filling a bass bag.
I have had success with the double Fenton by just steadily figure-of eight-retrieving all the way to the surface, slowly searching the layers but my favoured tactic is ‘strip and hang’.
To do this, throw out your cast, sink to the desired depth while maintaining contact with a slow retrieve during descent, and then strip retrieve back to the surface. Try slow strips, try fast strips and something in between like nice long, purposeful strokes of the line. Once you have stripped in ten feet of line, stop and allow the flies to ascend under the power of their Dremel perfected appendages, before commencing the strip retrieve once again. Imagine that you are walking two of the infamous London park dogs and maintain control by visualising what is going on under the surface, treating the leader as if it were on a lead.
Can’t bring yourself to go double Fenton? It is possible to have the best of both worlds by placing the anarchic lure within a team of slightly more politically correct buzzers or Diawl Bachs. Early season is unlikely to require ultra-long leaders and super finesse tactics, instead space the flies no more than 4ft apart, tying the Fenton to the point, then add the nymphs, using water or double grinner knots to form the droppers. My preferred imitative flies are the highly mobile Pseudo Diawl Bachs, ideally with a hot spot or holographic rib.
What we have created is a washing line rig with the buoyant properties of our colourful character supporting the Diawl Bachs and buzzers on their quest to find you an early season fish. Wrapped up warm, with a nice cross wind to form an enticing bow in the line, the whole lot can be allowed to dead drift attached to a 15ft fast sink tip, full intermediate or medium sinker. The overwintered full-tailed specimens we so desire may shun our Fenton but having been aroused by its eccentric appearance cannot resist the temptation to dine on something in plain clothes. Takes can be savage so don’t be afraid to use 8 or even 10lb leader such as Riverge Grand Max, a very strong fluorocarbon with a low diameter.
Considered tactics, depth and speed of retrieve is what fly fishing is all about, just add a tried and tested fly - such as the Fenton Cat!