Get The Most Out Of Fry Feeders!
I’ve finally achieved a lifelong ambitions to catch a double figure “grown on” trout from all four of the Anglian Water reservoirs; it’s taken 25 years and hundreds of hours on the bank but the sense of achievement is second to none. I consider that most of my success comes down to planning and responding quickly when fry feeding happens and capitalising on these opportunities when they present themselves.
Nothing stirs up my adrenaline more than the hunt for big fry feeding trout. The crisp autumnal mornings are such a special time when the normally cautious resident fish leave the sanctuary of the reservoir depths to hunt the fry that congregate in the margins of our reservoirs, usually around a boat jetty, tower or weed bed. It gives the trout one last chance to pack on weight before the baron winter months.
Potentially every year from September to November there is the real chance of a double figure fish from the bank; a fish that is at the peak of its physical condition strong, fast, and relentless the worthy quarry of any angler.
I stick with tried and tested methods when fishing for fry feeders and never use anything other than Minkies, Suspender Minkies, Hummungus’s and Mylar Floating Fry. Yes my patterns have improved over the last 20 years with new materials becoming available but the same patterns continue to work (or at least variation of the original pattern)
Fish gorging on fry will not feed continually all day, often they feed for just short periods of time. You must be ready to take advantage of these short spells of activity and have a fly on that is proven killer.
For once I disregard my match man’s mind-set; ignoring the stockies and concentrating on the real fish…the heavyweights of the reservoir. The cumulative stocking and low catch rates due to high water temperatures in the summer months and a distinct lack of anglers on our waters has meant that there are now more fish than ever in our reservoirs; many of them have simply hidden away in the cooler depths, gorging themselves on daphnia (steroids for trout!) and so reaching peak physical condition and packing on weight.
At this time of year I’m up at 5am; without the need for any alarm – such is my excitement. I arrived as the first rays of sun break the dawn. I always fish the harbour arms before I venture out on the boat – it’s the same at every reservoir Rutland, Grafham, Draycote, Pitsford – the harbour is an excellent fry feeding area and it’s always worth spending a couple of hours there before the boats go out and disturb the water. With deep-water close in; structure in the form of weed beds, boats and stone arms that all attract the fry in their thousands. Is it any wonder that the Harbour one of the most consistent back end hot spots ?
While tackling at first light up the odd fish crashes through the thousands of fry that are milling around the boats, after the initial explosion of activity the water would settle and the injured fry would turn on their side and float just sub- surface stunned by the large fish crashing into them. As they reached the surface the trout slowly swim up and pick off the injured before returning to the depths leaving the water still and motionless
I immediately turn to my favourite suspender minkie, an accurate representation of the injured fry and a proved killer. (in 2013 I had 6 fish for 30lb before 7am from Grafham Harbour on the pattern) I’ve set up a floating line with a 12ft leader of 12lb Fulling Mill Fluorocarbon and a single fly (fishing multiple flies near obstructions you have a real chance of getting your dropper caught and your leader snapped – the short stiff leader helps turnover the large fly) I cast into the area of recent activity and simply wait
I feel a tingling in my body…..it’s like every sense is heightened; I’m fully charged and waiting to explode I cannot begin to accurately describe my feelings…..the anticipation of not knowing when or what you are going to hook is incredible. I begin to fish my fly back with an ultra-slow figure of eight my fly just creasing the surface occasionally with a sharp pull or two, attempting to imitate the movements of an injured fish as it struggles near the surface.
It’s a wonderful feeling, the waiting the anticipation of not knowing when or what you are going to hook next…will it be a 2lb silvered up rainbow or a 10lb brown –I’m constantly looking for surface activity, something that will indicate to me that fry feeders are in the area, grebes and seagulls are working the water from above and the trout below.
Suddenly the action starts, trout crash into the fry again holding around the harbour arms, any time now I expect action to my fly…sure enough right on cue a brown engulfs the Suspender just yards from the harbour wall and again heads straight for the boom, despite piling on the pressure I struggle to control the fish and it goes straight through another anglers swim again you have to except this and try and get your flies out of the water when a fellow angler hooks a fish with a bit of spirit. I manage to keep the pressure on and apply enough side strain to manoeuvre the fish out of the harbour and into the open water, and then it was just a case of letting the fish tire itself out before finally netting a fine 7 lb brown. The next 2 hours see two additional fish caught and the same number lost with my angling partner Gene Robinson also banking a fine brown of over 6lb.
When fishing for big fish around obstructions you need the correct tackle and technique if you are going to be successful. I use a stiff #8 rod with 12lb Fulling Mill Fluorocarbon its stiffness aids turnover of the larger than normal fry patterns and its ideal if a fish runs under one of the moored boats in the harbour (fine fluorocarbon would just be shredded.
At this time of the year the fly is more important than ever, you must use quality products, Fulling Mill flies are perfectly proportioned and tied using the best quality materials and hooks. Cheap poor quality patterns really are a waste of time and could cost you that fish of a lifetime as they often snap or bend out !
Despite fishing for several more hours the fry feeding stopped almost as quickly as it started. We decide to walk the banks and find other fish that have not been disturbed, it’s worth remembering that it’s not always necessary to see surface activity for patterns such as the floating fry or suspender minkie to be effective. Over a relatively short period of time the fish get switched on to a feeding style i.e. taking dead injured fish) so will be conditioned to look up.
At these times I simply prefer to fish an area for 15 minutes then move, try and find that elusive big fish, I like to use a large Mylar Floating fry static around the weed beds as it is such an accurate imitation of a dead fish, it’s such a close-copy imitation that sea gulls often pick it up – despite walking for 2 miles around Grafham’s banks we have nothing to show for our efforts and now feel the early morning has caught up with us.
Dusk and Dawn are often the most prolific periods of the day for fry feeders and I decided that a siesta would be appropriate, a chance to recharge my batteries before opting to fish the last hour before dusk this time around the tower at Grafham – with no obvious activity I begin fishing the tried and tested Hummungus on an intermediate line. I find that the movement in the pattern’s tail and the fly’s overall silhouette can often induce a response, when fished on an intermediate it allows the angler to effectively work the depths in a methodical manner.
The Tower is again a favourite spot of mine, responsible for a double figure brown at Grafham, and a double figure rainbow (from Pitsford Tower) the deep water, and structure provide both safety and a constant supply of food for the trout as fry always seem to hold literally against the concrete structure.
After an hour of working the depths with just a follow to the Hummungus for my efforts I decide to make an estimated gamble. I tackle up with a fast sinking line and just a 8ft leader on which I place a large Mylar floating fry –I cast the fly just a couple of feet from the tower, and just leave the line to sink with the floating fry “popped up” from the bottom in about midwater, just like an injured fish.
No retrieve is needed and the fly is just left to fish itself – I hope that my close copy Mylar fry will be singled out by a fry feeder and swallowed. It’s a technique that I have used on a number of occasions when I know that there are big fish in the area but they have seen a lot of angling pressure so are spooky I remember only too well losing a fish of a lifetime at Rutland when a Rainbow I estimated at 10 – 12lb + was routinely patrolling the pontoon in the harbour. I hooked the fish but was snapped as it immediately ran under the boats once hooked. The important thing was I learned from the experience and the “hit and hold” technique was developed (a method that would serve me well many years later)
When fishing for big fish around obstructions such as the pontoon, marker buoys, tower or weed beds you must have the correct tackle and technique you simply cannot let the fish run don’t give them an inch, it’s just “Hook N Hold” clamp down on the fish and have faith in your tackle – apply the pressure and turn it into water away from the obstruction if you let it start to run you’ve lost the battle as chances are you’ll never stop it before it wraps you around the obstruction. I’d estimate that 25% of fish hooked will be lost as you must give them so much stick initially, but if you use inadequate tackle or let them run then the figure will be much higher and in my opinion you simply don’t have an option as regards the method – hence the need for quality tackle and flies.
After 30 minutes I’m still waiting for my first take of the evening and just as its gets too dark to continue fishing the rod is almost ripped from my hand as it arches over. I clamp down and feel the power of a decent fish before everything goes slack. On this occasion the hook has pulled and I am left fishless wondering what might have been.
To a certain extent the not knowing is why I love this time of year and why I return……yes I’m disappointed at losing the fish but if anything it’s fired my enthusiasm – just how big was it ? what could I have done differently ?……The challenge is great but the rewards are greater still !