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Patterns for Guaranteed Success on Reservoirs

Published: 25th May 2021 | Author: Rob Edmunds

Patrick Tillard Image.

I’m fortunate enough to have fished on English and Welsh reservoirs on a weekly basis the majority of my life. For those who want to improve their catch rate or get started, I’ve broken down my experiences gleaned over many years and can almost tell you all the patterns for guaranteed success on reservoirs.

Reservoirs are all basically the same; fish respond to the same tactics and patterns and I don’t really feel the need to change a winning formula when targeting stocked fish.

Chasing down trout on a rocky bank.

Early Season—January through mid May

Nothing difficult is needed to catch consistently at the start of the season. The fish will hold in a band from 10 yards out to 70 yards out from shore, so from bank or boat you should aim to be in this area of water. The water will be cold and often coloured as a result of the early season winds and rain. So, it’s a case of fishing deep and slow with lures that have one thing in common: movement. A great deal of movement will induce lethargic fish into the take (long marabou tails or fur patterns are ideal) if you want to maximize your sport.

There are certain fly patterns that you can use for guaranteed success on reservoirs.

You should concentrate your efforts in the bottom 1/3rd of the water column. Medium and fast sinking lines should be your initial starting point or a floating line with a heavily weighted lure.

I keep my fly selection very simple, and will simply move to fresh water rather than to change methods in the majority of instances.

My choice of patterns would be:

Mini Black & Green Snake Booby ( Sinking Line)

Mini White & Green Snake Booby (Sinking Line)

Viva Long Tailed Booby (Sinking Line)

Hummungus (Floating or Sinking line)

Olive Taddy (Floating or Sinking Line)

Nothing else is needed……you would be better to move after 45 minutes and try another spot than to continue in the same area with other patterns or at different depths.

Mid Season—Mid May to end of June

Nature has flicked a switch….everything seems to be coming alive as the temperatures are rising; weed beds are starting to become more established, and buzzers are hatching in increasing numbers. The fish are hungry, on the feed and on the move. It’s the best time of the season to consistently catch overwintered fish in my opinion….on a variety of methods!

Some go-to patterns for guaranteed success on reservoirs.

The early season methods previously mentioned will still work well; however you really shouldn’t miss this opportunity to catch on the nymphs as you will be able to tempt a higher proportion of resident grown on fish on this more relaxing and imitative method.

“Straight Lining” nymphs will be more productive than the washing line at this time in the season and I would I would normally fish a floating or mini tip line with my leader spacing as follows:

6ft to the top dropper, then a further 4ft to the middle dropper then a further 4ft to the point. (total leader length 14ft ). Remember the heaviest nymph is always placed on the point of your cast, this will aid and get the flies down and fishing correctly.


Simply make a cast and leave everything static for 15 – 20 seconds, watch your line in case it suddenly straightens indicating a fish has taken your flies “on the drop.” Once the flies have all sunk and are vertical, slowly figure of 8 around 2ft of line. Then, stop for 5 to 10secs just keeping in contact with your flies. This does 2 things: first it raises all of the flies in the water, then lets them fall again just as the natural nymph does. Repeat.

Your Flies should be:-

Traffic Light Buzzer

Black Two Tone Buzzer

Olive Two Tone Buzzer

Red Holographic Nemo

Green Cheeked Diawl Bach

Summer Months—July September

This is the hardest part of the season. Unless you’re a season ticket holder fishing at first and last light then it’s very difficult from the bank on English reservoirs. 

Flies should be:

Red Holographic Nemo (pictured above)

Red Holographic Diawl Bach

Black CDC

Bill’s Big Red

Hare’s Ear

Mini Blob Booby

Ham & Cheese Blob

Mini Weighted Olive Snake

Generally the fish will be in the shallows feeding heavily at first and last light. So, early mornings and evenings provide the best sport from the bank. After that, the fish move out into deeper water.

The most consistent method is undoubtedly “The Washing Line.” However, the best method on a particular day will be largely dependent upon the weather conditions. It’s best to keep an open mind. It could be anything from dries to a snake roly polyed back on a fast sinking line. It really is a difficult time of the year to predict.


The Washing Line Method is a generic term used to describe a floating point fly (usually a Booby, Fab or Popper Hopper) with nymphs on the droppers; it allows the angler to fish multiple flies in the killing zone.

For an in depth guide on how fish the washing line, have a look at my blog on the method.

During the summer mornings and evenings I would normally fish a floating line with my leader spacing as follows: 6ft to the top dropper, then a further 4ft to the middle dropper then a further 3.5ft to the point. (total leader length 13.5ft ) with a Mini Blob Booby on the point of the cast. This will keep the flies in the top 2 to 4ft when retrieved slowly

The washing line is a great method to use with many of these patterns for guaranteed success on reservoirs.

Back End – October through December

Nothing stirs up your angling adrenaline more than fry feeding time. It’s a special time of the year when the normally cautious resident fish leave the sanctuary of the reservoir depths to hunt the fry that often congregate in the margins of our reservoirs. Usually this is around some visible structure or underwater obstruction. It gives the trout a last chance to pack on weight before the baron winter months. They’ll be feeding on either fry, daddies or corixa. Floaters, Intermediate or Medium Sinking Lines ( DI-3)  will be essential for most methods.

I stick with tried and tested methods when fishing for fry feeders and never use anything other than Snakes, Suspender Minkies, or Hummungus. Fish gorging on fry will not feed continually all day, often 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. 

Your flies should be:

Cat’s Whisker Snake

Black & Silver Snake

Suspender Minkie


Foam Daddy


A slow or static retrieve always picks out the better quality fish, rather than a medium or fast paced. Your target, the resident grown on fish have seen it all and don’t want to waste energy chasing food when natural offerings can be easily picked off.

The best “Fry” holding areas tend to be around structure and obstructions, such as jetties, pontoons, weed beds, marker buoys, boats etc. When you hook a fish in these area’s you simply cannot give them an inch, its just hook & hold. Clamp down on the fish and apply the pressure and attempt to turn it into water away from the obstructions. 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 and snaps your leader. I’d estimate that 25% of fish hooked will be lost as you must play them so hard initially, however if you use inadequate tackle or let them run then the figure will be much higher. So, in my opinion, you simply don’t have an option.

Once you’ve hooked your fish, you have to play it hard into deeper water.

Top Tips

Dusk and Dawn are often the most prolific periods for fry feeders.

If you want to read more from rob, give his recent blog article on small stillwaters a read!

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