For me the winter months are a time of reflection, thinking about the season that has passed, evaluating my successes and failures and trying to develop patterns and methods that will be even better for the following season.
A number of times during the season I’ve wanted something just a little different, something large with a great deal of movement even at low speeds, and a pattern that creates disturbance and excites the fish.
For the last 4 or 5 seasons I have been experimenting with mink patterns that are highly mobile even at the slowest speeds in order to induce these often sulking, lethargic fish into feeding. I’ve had extraordinary success with “fur” patterns such as the “Rob’s Wrapped Minkie” The movement from the individual hairs at low speeds is unbeatable; patterns literally come alive and pulsate in the water at your slightest touch. Although the Mink Wrap is very effective especially in sizes 1” – 3” I do feel that it has its limitations especially when you are fishing hard on the bottom as it has a tendency to pick up weed.
“The Snake” is a relatively modern pattern that has taken both the small water and reservoir scheme by storm over the last few years however it first came to my attention as an unknown pattern some 8 – 10 years ago in 2005 as it was responsible for some double figure browns at the top of Rutland’s South Arm.
As with most patterns I have tweaked the concept a little to arrive with my own variations on a proven theme my favorites being the Black and Silver Snake and Green & White Snake (Hummungus or Cats Whisker colour schemes!) They are the perfect patterns for big Rainbows and Browns and deadly in both the early season and “back end” it basically ticks all the boxes to induce the take, movement, silhouette, target point, disturbance, colour etc…
Again the snake has it’s limitations when fishing deep or over weedbeds, so in the winter of 2014 the idea of the “Snake Booby” was born.
Since then I have used the pattern extensively in the 2015 season. It has proved deadly on all the Anglian waters especially when fished on a fast sinking line with a 6 – 10ft leader a slow figure of 8 and the fly will undulate in an enticing motion – a fast figure of 8 or roly poly and the fly dances back causing massive disturbance – fry feeders seem to find it irresistible and it often stimulates a response when all others fail!.
Before going mainstream with the pattern I wanted to be 100% sure of its effectiveness I decided to wait until the depths of winter – So in January 2016 I deceided to fish a different venue in order to assess its effectiveness.
We are having the first serious “cold snap” temperatures have dropped to minus 5 and there have been hard frosts for a week now. The idea of a day’s fishing and getting up at 5:00am isn’t that appealing but it has created the perfect opportunity thoroughly test the Snake Booby.
Farmoor is one of the only reservoirs open in January, I haven’t fished it for over 3 years and I have no idea what’s actually going on at the water – I was simply going to turn up blind and apply the knowledge and skills that I use on Rutland and Grafham in order to hopefully be successful.
Personally I usually fish a single fly at this time of year, it gives me better presentation and makes any fish compete for a single food source, the result is a more positive take, also when targeting large fish you do not want any weak spots on your leader if the form of droppers or knots, often you won’t get a second chance when a large fish goes on a run, your tackle will be put under more pressure than normal and in the excitement you are likely to make mistakes.
The fish will be lethargic, not wanting to waste energy and unwilling to chase a brightly coloured lure, I play the percentage game and use a fly that ticks all the boxes, a pattern that will induce the take through movement and disturbance, have a colour and silhouette that will stand out in the coloured water or when fished at depth and most importantly won’t scare resident fish.
The Snake booby should be perfect!
I motor out of the Harbour and decide to start my day by the harbour and tower, I drop the anchor some 40m out and angle the boat (by using a G clap to change the anchor point and angle cast) so I am able to cast directly at the tower and present my flies close to a feature which I presume is a fish holding area.
I always work the depths I start with a count of 30 seconds before I begin my retrieve, the first few casts produce nothing so I opt to fish deeper and I eventually end up with a count of a full 60 seconds before retrieving – my line and fly now fishing right along the bottom.
With a count of 60 seconds everything went solid, I lifted the rod and it buckled over, for a second nothing seemed to move, it was one of those fleeting moments when you wonder if you have hooked the bottom of a fish. I was soon brought back to reality when the fish began to power off towards the middle of the lake, before taking a moment and running again Rainbows often have erratic runs that seem to change direction every 10ft or so. After a spirited fight a nice 3.5lb bar of silver was in the net a Snake booby firmly in its scissors.
The next 30 minutes produced no further action so I decided to move, I headed across the lake towards the floating pontoon and marker buoys.
I quickly moved into position and angled the boat so I was casting along the ledge and close to the rear of the pontoon (2 features)
I made the cast along the ledge and waited, after 60 seconds I began my retrieve I felt a little tap, tap, tap I paused for 5 seconds so the fly would lift in the water (hoping to induce the take) nothing so I continued the figure of 8…..half way back I gave a long pull to speed up the fly hoping that any following fish would take – it proved successful again the rod just stopped dead and arched over – my heart was thumping as again I instantly knew this was a good fish.
I piled on the side strain and got the fish heading out into open water rather than towards the pontoon.
Once there it was relatively straight forward, play the fish correctly and don’t bully it. Finally after 5 minutes a wonderful overwintered rainbow was in the net, it was stunning and literally shined in the morning sun like a bar of silver….I estimated its weight to be around 5lb 8oz I was overjoyed – the Snake booby was proving a valuable asset.
Looking at the fish I noticed it spewing sticklebacks from its mouth, they were fry feeding…I’ve never seen birds and trout fry feeding in mid-January before (fry feeding usually ends December at the very latest) The Cat Snake booby with its lime green underwing mimicked the sticklebacks very well and I understood why it was proving successful..
At this time of year there are only short windows of feeding activity and limited opportunities for the angler; you must take advantage of any chances that present themselves, with the midday sun starting to drop I could feel the temperature plummet again and knew that time was short.
Over the next 2 hours I managed 4 fish in total, all overwintered rainbows and in perfect condition
On the scales at the lodge the fish weighed 6lb-4 oz., 5lb-12oz, 5lb-8oz and 3lb-10 oz.…..4 fish for over 21 lb. I was blown away, I would have been happy with just one fish of this size, but 4 made it a truly memorable day – I can’t remember a better winter session on a reservoir. Farmoor may not be picturesque but is a truly an outstanding water.
Better still I feel that it conclusively proved the value of the “Snake booby”. Available from Fulling Mill!