Catch More Fish At Farmoor Reservoir
We all have our idea of the perfect fishery and our perfect fishing experience. Mine would be gin-clear water, with secluded bays, set in the heart of the English countryside, surrounded by rolling hills, woodland and fished only by a handful of local anglers. Meaning that the fishery was always full of well mended, almost wild fish.
Few if any of us would consider a concrete bowl as our ideal fishery, often thought of as “Concrete Ponds” or “Goldfish Bowls”, devoid of features and nothing more than a put in and take fishery that produces nothing but tail-less stockies for the masses.
Just how wrong stereotypes can be…
Waters such as Farmoor Reservoir should be overlooked at your peril. Concrete bowls have unique features that mean the quality of the fishing is second to none, over-wintered fish are plentiful and the equal to any trout caught in Rutland, Grafham or Chew. They consistently produce quality fish all season long, when anglers on the more notable reservoirs struggle for fish from the bank.
For beginners they are a paradise, well stocked with deep water literally right at your feet, allowing fish to be caught very close to the bank, often long casts are only needed in the hot summer months, and once an angler can reach the ledge at around 15 yards out they will have consistent sport all year round.
The very shape of a concrete bowl (usually round or oval) means that half of the fishery is always fishable, no matter what direction or strength the wind (often ¾ is fishable) the banks are tarmac or concrete allowing anglers easy access to all areas, meaning that the fishery is especially suitable for the elderly or disabled angler. Casting is a pleasure as there are very few if any bushes or trees to get caught up in (just the lip of the wall to avoid) and vegetation on the dam wall is minimal so your line does not tangle – so no need for a line tray or even waders due to the deep water at your feet.
Farmoor reservoir is full of daphnia, bloodworm, snails, shrimp and fry, meaning that the quality of the fish is superb. If you take into account the consistent fishing I think these waters get a raw deal from the majority of anglers.
We always have 3 or 4 trips to the fishery between January and April. Cold northerly winds at this time of year and the low temperatures means that the fish will be holding at depth, especially first thing in the morning when the day is at its coldest. Little will be hatching so nymphs will not be an option yet. The temperature means any feeding fish will not chase a brightly coloured lure pulled at speed.
For me, early season fishing on a concrete bowl, especially Farmoor reservoir as it’s so deep, is all about doing the simple things right – and staying warm! I always start by fishing directly into the wind, with the reasoning that the wind usually picks up during the day, often making areas unfishable by mid-morning. By starting off into the lighter wind you should get a couple of hours fishing water that is unfished by most or all other anglers. I take it as any fish caught here as bonus fish, and find that I’m often rewarded with an over-wintered fish or two. Then when conditions deteriorate I find a more favourable spot.
Farmoor reservoir doesn’t colour up like conventional reservoirs so it’s a great place to fish when and the turns nasty as it is now… The water is usually cold, clear and deep. I start just to the left of the draw-off tower. I reason that this feature will hold fry and predatory trout at this time of year. My regular winter approach is a fast sinking distance line, the Airflo Booby Basher with a 6ft leader of 7.12lb Fulling Mill Worldclass Fluorocarbon and a single Mini Cat’s Whisker Snake Booby.
Both Farmoor reservoirs have 2 distinct ledges, one at around 20ft and the other at around 40ft (depending upon water level) and the fish seem to patrol these areas and takes often occur just as your fly lifts over the ledge.
I make my initial cast and wait 45 seconds just to give everything a chance to get to the bottom. My retrieve is 6-8” pulls with a 2-second interval between pulls that gives the fly a chance to rise and fall enticingly in the water yet remain close to the bottom. The next cast I’ll fish with an ultra-slow figure of 8 retrieve.
Personally, I prefer to mix up my retrieves rather than fish the same cast after cast, as the fish don’t move much at this time of year they can soon wise up to the same fly and the same retrieve. When takes dry up my first option is to change colour to a Mini Black & Green Snake Booby then if I get no response I will move 50m or so.
I prefer a single fly approach and feel that it is more productive, you can cast further, don’t get tangled, have improved presentation and the fish don’t wise up to your tactics as quickly.
Today the wind is causing a problem, in the form of a bow can form in the line, this bow will absorb any takes meaning I won’t feel the fish or when to strike. I decided to dip my rod tip 1” under the water in an attempt to keep a tight line and direct contact with my fly and simply feel for takes.
After just 10 minutes I’m rewarded with a nice 3lb fin perfect silvered-up rainbow that took my snake booby at distance. Despite this, there are no further takes and a move is required if I am to be successful… I need to find the fish as they won’t come to me. I followed the dam approximately 100m to the corner, I hoped that any fish would follow the wind and ledge (and the food carried on the undertow) and be at the bottom of the wind.
From 11:00am I notice there is a distinct rise in temperature, rather than change method or tactics I simply lengthened my leader by 3ft from 6ft to 9ft as I feel they may be slightly higher in the water.
I punched out a long line and counted down. Other anglers were catching and My wife Samantha had just caught a stunning 4lb 8oz Rainbow on a Black & Green Snake booby. I was confident, the method was right, the fly was right and I was in the correct area.
As I began a slow figure of eight retrieve, everything just stopped dead, it was no ferocious take, it was just a solid dead weight. I lifted the rod and felt a “thump” the fish slowly moved off holding deep before making a powerful 20 yard run, soon another fish of 2lb graced the net.
It was clear that all the fish were being taken at distance, and a band of weed surrounded most of the reservoir around 20 yards out, I decided to take out a boat for the afternoon and fish further out and along the weed bed.
I dropped the anchor just past the tower around 40-50m off the bank and made my cast, a 60-second count was followed by a slow figure of eight retrieve. Sport was almost instant and on my second cast the rod arched over as a rainbow took at depth. Over the next 3 hours we boated another 18 fish all to the mini snake booby and it was clear that on this particular day the fish had moved out into the open water so a boat provided the best opportunity for consistent sport.
Here are more great hints and tips on catching more fish at Farmoor reservoir.