Light Fishing Tackle on Reservoirs
Over the last 3 or 4 years I’ve witnessed changes on the reservoir and match scene, most competitions are now won on top of the water methods, dries, washing line etc as a result I have had to re-evaluate my own tackle and methods in order to remain competitive – a stiff #8 weight rod just isn’t sensitive enough to fish size 14 dries – hooks bend out, leaders snap and you find yourself pulling out of fish. I have tried raising the rod 2 – 4 ft from the water to cushion the take as much as possible but still encountered problems especially with low stretch lines, this is why I’ve switched to light fishing tackle to increase my catch rate.
Light Fishing Tackle
For my pleasure fishing when conditions allow I now fish a 9ft 6 AFTM 2 or 3 weight rod you have that great fight with long runs and screaming reels that we all dream about from smaller well mended fish of 2 lb – which is the average on many of our reservoirs. If you are skillful or fortunate enough to hook anything larger than 4lb then you have a real challenge and a true test of your skill. For me it makes your whole session much more exciting.
I feel it’s important to stress that this light approach is very effective but only in the correct conditions if you want to fish large lures into a stiff wind, deep or with a sinking line then you must revert back to the 6, 7 and 8 weight fly rods that many of us use.
During the last month my good friend and “dry fly connoisseur” Nick Elliott who enjoys using light fishing tackle too, have had some excellent evening bank sport at Rutland Water between 7:00pm and 9:30pm, at this time the shallows literally come alive, the wind is at its lightest and the resident trout leave the safety of the deep water to hunt for food This is your best chance for “surface sport” with dries or small nymphs. The added benefit of fishing these sessions is that you are often only one of a handful of anglers and literally can have the bank and fish to yourself.
When targeting surface feeders any trout will only have a very small angle of vision as they are holding high in the water, your casts must be fast and accurate, so practice your accuracy before hand when using light fishing tackle.
We’ve kept the fishing simple to ensure perfect presentation a 12ft leader of 5lb Fluorocarbon with a size 10 Unsinkable Dry from Fulling Mill on the point and a small size 14 red holo diawl bach on the dropper, 5ft from the point fly – washing Line style. Many anglers have experienced the virtues of the popper hopper and how the disturbance it causes in the form of a “pop” when stripped sharply can literally pull fish to the cast especially when imitating large terrestrials i.e. daddies or hawthorn flies then the popper hopper has few equals. However it is a large pattern, and the majority of the dressing sits subsurface – so it doesn’t create the correct profile when you are trying to imitate hatching buzzers or olives, you will often get refusals in the form of swirls or half-hearted takes from feeding trout rather than solid hook ups. To imitate these insects correctly you want a pattern that lies flat on the surface (i.e. like a big red dry)
The Unsinkable Dry is a much smaller delicate pattern, that lies flat in the surface film and incorporates the best aspects of the popper hopper, the small foam lip will still cause some disturbance when stripped, and the foam means that anglers don’t need to use floatant that invariably gets onto your leader and fingers, the soft hen hackle adds to the pattern as it gives movement and improves the silhouette with a “leggy” appearance. To fish feeding in the surface layers this pattern is a magnet.
Although named the ‘unsinkable dry’ the pattern will get pulled down by the fluorocarbon is left static for long enough, or if a nymph larger than a size 14 – if you want it to remain in the surface you should fish a single fly on a co-polymer leader.
This evening in the light winds we’ve been casting at rising fish, a 2ft long pull to straighten the line will cause a little disturbance from the dry then it’s just a case of hanging on and waiting, after leaving the cast static for 20 seconds an ultra-slow figure of eight retrieve is all that’s required – allowing the dry to just crease the surface, while the nymph remains below. Fish are pulled to the silhouette of the unsinkable dry and then take the diawl bach just subsurface.
You can literally park your flies out there, keep low as the water is so clear and the fish are so close to the bank, and simply wait for your target. Do not wade or splash about as this will simply push the fish further out and spook them. A short 10 – 20ft cast is all that’s needed, you can then just sit and wait for any rising fish to come into range. (when using light fishing tackle, a 10ft cast will give you the perfect amount of line to quickly make a longer cast if a sizable fish moves a little further out).
As you are fishing in shallow water runs will be spectacular, runs of 20 – 30 yards are an everyday occurrence and your drag must be set correctly you do not want the reel to overrun and tangle or the drag to be too stiff so the hook simply pulls out or leader snaps, it’s a very fine balance remember any fish hooked in shallow water’s first instinct is to run to safety – this equates to deep water some distance away or a weed bed.
With smaller natural patterns takes are much more positive and the lighter rods really do act as a shock absorber, I personally don’t see the need to fish lighter than 5lb Fluorocarbon on reservoirs with light fishing tackle. You still want strength in the leader just in case you do hook a large fish, or you would have no chance.