Many fly fishers pack away their gear during the heat of summer, but there’s still arm-wrenching sport to be had if you tailor your methods accordingly and choose the right location. On a recent trip to Rutland Water I was joined by Farlows Retail Manager, Tom Clinton, and Sales Advisor, Ashton Pohl, and we headed afloat in search of summer rainbows…
Rutland Water is a vast, sometimes daunting place to fish, but anyone will tell you that it is one of the jewels of English reservoir trout fishing and the birthplace of many tactics and technologies that have shaped the way we fish for rainbow trout here in the UK. I try to visit the reservoir at least once per season, usually aiming to hit it in April or early May when the weather is starting to warm, and the trout are feeding heavily on buzzers – I LOVE buzzer fishing. This year, the plan didn’t quite work out like that, and the temperate spring months whizzed by before I had a chance to wet a line in Rutland’s 3,000 acres of water.
An opportunity arose in mid-July and, along with Tom and Ashton, we set our sights on a tussle with some big-water trout. Bearing in mind the recent temperatures, we weren’t quite sure what to expect. It was possible that the fish would near the surface if the overhead conditions were favourable, but equally likely that we’d have to get down and dirty to locate fish in the cooler, deeper layers of water. For that reason, we packed everything but the kitchen sink!
Thankfully, the temperature had cooled slightly compared to previous days, a gentle breeze was kissing the surface of the water and the skies were decidedly grey – this was the best chance we were going to get! Even better, we’d heard on the previous day that the famous fish-attracting ‘Rutland boils’ were in action, aeration outlets which help to keep the water oxygenated. We were confident that we would find some fish somewhere and settled on our plan of attack.
It’s important to have a strategy when fishing somewhere like Rutland. Its sheer size means that, if you’re not careful, you can spend a lot of time motoring around and not enough time fishing! After a chat and some advice from the guys in the lodge, the plan was set: we would first head off down the South Arm where recent reports had indicated some dry fly action might be a possibility, before venturing up to the main basin to hit the boils in the afternoon.
Water clarity in the South Arm was excellent and the three of us set up with three different line systems in order to try and work out where the fish were feeding. I started with a RIO InTouch Gold Floating Line with a team of nymphs, Ashton spooled-up a RIO Aqualux II Intermediate Fly Line and mini-lure, and Tom got straight down to business with a RIO InTouch Sinking Line ‘Deep 5’ and a black booby-snake.
After a couple of uneventful first drifts across the top of the South Arm in an area known as ‘The Bunds’, we pulled in the drogue and motored down to Manton Bay. It wasn’t long before the first of our rods bent over and it was Tom who was hooked-up to a feisty Rutland rainbow.
With little obvious action on or near the surface, Ashton and I suspected that Tom’s approach was on the money and that we’d have to get down to the fish too, especially as Tom went on to have another couple of plucks at his fly.
Only a few casts after his first fish, Tom’s rod was bent over again, only this time a perch had decided that the booby-snake made an appetising meal. One of the great things about Rutland is the variety of species that can be caught on fly, aside from rainbow and brown trout, there are also perch, pike, zander, and a variety of other coarse species that show up from time to time. This little perch was a welcome addition to the day’s catch.
Despite having a couple more knocks, a trout and a perch was all that Manton Bay was going to provide, so after lunch we set sail for the main basin, negotiating our way through the many small sailing boats that were out enjoying the wind.
‘To the boils!’
We could see that a few other boats had this idea too and we hoped that we’d be able to slot ourselves in somewhere to get a piece of the action.
Fortunately, we came across the first boil almost by accident and found its tantalising, bubbly water uninhabited by anglers. Ashton and I followed Tom’s lead and swapped out our lines for sinkers; a Deep 5 and Deep 7 respectively. Coupled with our new weapons, we tied on 10-foot leaders of 10lb fluorocarbon with a booby at the business end.
Before long, the tactical and location changes had paid off and both Ashton and I got stuck into fish of our own. We cast our sinking lines out the edges of the boils and counted them down to explore different depths, before employing a super-fast roly-poly retrieve to bring the booby back in a tantalising arc. Don’t forget to de-barb those flies if you’re fishing catch and release!
To say these fish were hard fighting would be an understatement. Jacked-up on oxygen and brimming with energy, the takes were vicious, the runs were long and deep, and the fish were in fabulous condition.
Ashton’s line again went tight and whatever was on the end tore off before racing back towards us and heading under the boat. After a bit of coaxing, we had the biggest fish of the day in the net – a stunning chrome rainbow of around 4lb.
As the action slowed up on one boil, we moved to another and found that we hooked into fish very quickly at each new location. It just goes to show, even on fish-holding features like these, it always pays to keep moving.We made some tactical adjustments too and I switched over from the booby to a FAB in order to try to counteract the ‘tail-nipping’ that was going on, picking up a couple of fish along the way.
It was apparent though that the black booby-snake was the killer fly and we had by far the most action on that pattern during the day. After boating a few more fish, it was time to head back to shore.
We hadn’t broken any records but, with 10 fish to the boat between us, we’d had a cracking day’s sport and came away with some great memories of our first trip to the famous Rutland boils.
It’s always satisfying when you and your fishing buddies are able to work as a team to discover the right method on the day. Despite experimentation with floating lines and intermediates, our full-sinking lines were crucial to our success, especially when paired up with a buoyant and mobile fly like the booby snake to entice fish that were holding deep down.
Moral of the story: Don’t be put off by hot weather, choose a location with areas of deep water, be prepared to get those flies down to the fish and look for those fish-attracting features.
Despite my love for early season fishing on Rutland, next July we’ll most definitely be back!
In response to this article, Harry Salmgrén (the Swedish area secretary for The Grayling Society), sent us a fantastic reply!
I read your summer trout blog regarding reservoir fishing and booby flies and found it very interesting, so thought I'd share a fly that I've tied and used, and which has worked wonders, fished deep in warm water, but also on an intermediate line in the autumn.
It is basically marabou–winged with a marabou and peacock–hackled body with pure silver wire ribbing, topped off with a pink collar and black bead head. Within the wing there are also a few strands of blue green curly flash.
The wing is sparsely tied giving it a slim profile in the water that moves easily every time the heavy–headed fly dives and rises, helped by a little extra weight in the form of a few turns of lead wire under the head.
I like a fly that you can fish attractively with different retrieving techniques, and my fly is surprisingly effective, even with a very slow retrieve. You have to be very observant on the tippet of the fly line to notice the subtle takes with ultra-slow retrieves and I like the heavy feeling when the fish turns away, surprised by being hooked, first slowly and then fiercely thrusting away.
I would not try to bring your attention to this fly if it wasn't for its catches. Especially last autumn when our fly fishing club had an outing around one lake and my fly outscored any other and the ones I gave to a few of my friends (beginners) also caught their first fish on it, although they lost the last ones due to some hefty takes…
I hope you like it and would be so interested in the outcome in your reservoirs over there.
See you on the water perhaps."