Stocked rainbow trout are often looked down upon by ‘purists’, but as an angler who enjoys all types of fly fishing, I love to head out to local still waters and test my skills against winter trout…
Upon arriving at Barnsfold Water on a cold Saturday morning, there were several fly-fishers there already… all keen anglers and great to see them out on the water even though the weather was bitterly cold and really quite windy. As a rule, I always look in the log book just to see how the fishery has recently been performing. It’s a great place to pick up tips on the best areas and top flies for the previous week. Upon opening the book, there were low numbers of fish being recorded, this made me more determined to make this session count, so seeing 2’s and 3’s getting caught – it was game on!
My go-to stocked rainbow trout flies
After signing in, my good friend Phillipa Hake also joined me for the cheeky 3-hour session. Having fished at Barnsfold since I started fishing, around 10 years of age, my standard set-up is a three fly cast spaced evenly apart. In total, my leader length is around 12 feet long, so 3 feet to the first fly and so on. My cast consisted of a size 12 gold head buzzer on the point, a red buzzer on my middle dropper and a small black buzzer on the top dropper, fished on a floating line.
If my go-to flies don’t work, then I literally swap the colours and sizes around until I find something that works and then build on that set-up from there.
Buzzers need to be fished slowly, so a gentle figure of eight retrieve is perfect and every now and again I give them a quick pull. If you can imagine the buzzers are in the water all at different depths, when you pull that line quickly they rise up through the water in a jerking motion. So a very natural movement and almost always after the third pull you can expect a lightning take…
What I love about this set-up is that it’s just classic winter fishing for stocked trout. Everything slows down in winter, so the best thing to do is slow your retrieve down. Using a floating line means that your flies won’t sink too deep staying clear of snags. With a gentle breeze, you can achieve near perfect buzzer presentation. Typically I will just cast out and let the flies do the work… it’s that easy! The number of takes you get when your flies are sinking “on the drop” is unreal – I guess most flies you see getting fish are retrieved almost instantly.
Once set-up and ready to go we headed to the far side of the lake… It looked absolutely ideal from the car park but once we actually got there we soon realised why nobody else was there… It was simply too windy. It always amazes me how much of a difference the wind angles are affected at Barnsfold.
After about 5 minutes of fishing, we both decided it was pointless to carry on where we were. As we were using floating lines we were literally casting out and after about 20 seconds our fly lines were against the bank. Even if the fish could see our flies, they would have been the fastest moving buzzers on the planet!
We decided to head back up to where the car park is as the conditions were much calmer and we could actually fish our buzzers the way they’re meant to be fished. Right from the very first cast, we were into them, both Phillippa and I hooking into fish. The takes continued to come, and I landed a total of 5 fish. My mission to ‘beat’ the trend was complete and I started to relax. At the same time, my attention from the end of my line disappeared and I missed a number of takes – If you feel them when fishing with buzzers, you’re (most of the time) too late!
This is one of the things I love about fly fishing… you can take it as seriously as you like. Having done a lot of competition fishing in extremely pressured environments it’s always a pleasure to just go fishing for the fun of it… and at the same time, you know you have the knowledge and skills to have an epic session if you put your mind to it.
Top Tip for catching Stocked Rainbow Trout
Another thing about winter Stillwater fishing comes cold water temperatures and as a result, algae is killed off, giving Gin clear lakes. With the water being so clear, it’s really important to fish thin diameter leaders. This can make a huge difference and can be the point of catching or not catching, particularly on sunny days. The thinner diameters of the Fulling Mill World Class Fluorocarbon are perfect for stocked rainbow trout.
When fishing for stocked rainbow trout on a small water, many of the banks are shallow, so a floating line is essential. A floater gives you a great visual aid when you get a take. When using a sinking line it’s all about the feel, your waiting for that tug as they say… but with a floater, it’s so much more exciting! When fishing slow, sometimes you’ll see the end of your fly line start to dive or even straighten out indicating a take, without feeling the take just strike and the connection is there 95% of the time!
At times when fishing buzzers, you will see the end of your floating line starting to sinking, a top tip is to treat it will floatant; Fulling Mill’s Dry Sauce is a great product to use, simply squeeze it onto a line cleaning pad and run your line through it, not only does it add buoyancy, but it also cleans the end of your line (do the whole line every couple of trips to keep it in tip-top condition).