The Special Trout of Rutland Water
Rob Waddington tends to talk extremely highly of Rutland water, the quality of the trout fishing and the fish themselves gets him all worked up – and we can see why! Read his blog and thoughts about Rutland Water.
Rutland Water is a vast natural-looking reservoir which we fly fishers refer to as a lake. Since 1976 when it first opened, Rutland has matured to a beautiful leisure resource with world-class birdwatching, Sailing, cycling and above all, fly fishing which is talked about in respectfully hushed tones within the UK and international fly fishing community. Anglers come here from places you’d think already have first class trout fishing: – Ireland, Scotland, Wales and throughout Europe to sample its delights.
For two main reasons. firstly it’s 3,500 acres of water and 26 miles of varied bankside containing many bays, points, shallows, and depths of lush, clear water makes this lake always interesting to fish, never the same, always changing, we’re always learning.
Secondly and the point of this blog is the high quality of its trout. Not necessarily the size but the special way in which trout become superb, fighting fit specimens. How does this come about and why is Rutland Water so unique? Firstly we should understand what sort of trout are present in the water.
Anglian Water (AW) own and run the Rutland Fishery and adopt a far sighted strategy with their stocking policy. Aiming to keep their customers happy and to create a profitable facility, AW put into the lake approximately 80,000 trout per season (March-December). Ordered in advance from trout farms as far away as Devon and as near as Rutland itself.Superior buying power provides us with superior buying power provides us with high-quality stockfish.
Superior buying power provides us with superior buying power provides us with high-quality stockfish.
The lake’s population of cormorants have prompted AW to ensure a minimum stock size of trout around 1.25 pounds in weight, any smaller and these voracious predators would have a field day. But this is a natural way to ensure that these birds find it easier to prey on the huge volumes of sustainable and smaller coarse fish naturally present in Rutland Water rather than the somewhat larger stocked trout. Not all the time but it certainly helps.
However, it’s the relatively small weight of the biggest fish which are stocked which makes this lake so special. Trout are stocked to a maximum of 2.5-3 pounds and it’s this reason which makes the fishing so special.
All fish stocked are sexless triploids because with no running water in the lake, trout cannot breed here and the highest percentage of the trout, the Rainbow trout, very rarely breeds in the UK at all. So, we have no problem taking some fish to eat as we’re not protecting the next generation of trout, and quite honestly they make a delicious meal! But surely we’d prefer a bigger size of stocked fish wouldn’t we? I think not.
This maximum size of fish compares drastically with many smaller fisheries which may breed trout of monstrously huge proportions before stocking the lake only for them to be caught days or even hours later. that’s rather like ‘catching’ rather than ‘fishing’. Photos abound in the fishing press of huge fish which are obviously straight out of a trout farm. I’m not criticising, I have also fished plenty if times at these venues and enjoyed catching giant trout, or caught vast number from a small heavily stocked trout fishery, we all like to catch fish, but we have a different scenario here.
The good thing about Rutland Water is that it gives trout the perfect conditions to thrive and grow large themselves without ‘pellet supplementation’. Of course, many are caught within days of being released, and there’s nothing wrong with that as they are good quality stock fish anyway, and we always like to catch a few. But many of the trout swim away from the angler’s fly and explore the huge space of great quality water with a vast larder of things to eat, gaining weight, getting bigger, tougher and smarter. A grown on fish is a sight to see.
A Rainbow trout with a few months of living wild here looks like a bar of chrome: sharp fins, with mother of pearl flashes and a solid body, capable of fighting you down to your backing and beyond in an instant. The image of a spanking new, young salmon, fresh from the sea. A similarly grown-on Brown trout often has the look of a bright sea trout, a silver flank with black spots. Or conversely a golden buttery body highlighted with bright red spots. A fine sight.
Large specimens are caught every year, but not many by any means; these fish don’t get big by being caught! Don’t expect to arrive at Rutland and catch a 6 pounder every time you fish. A 3 pound fish, remember has done its fair share of feeding on the abundance of food and become as wild as is possible within these ‘artificial reservoir surroundings’.
However, 2016 has seen many superb 5-6-7 plus pound trout being caught, and at least 1 double figure fish (a brown trout of over 13 pounds).
The largest ever Rutland caught trout was taken just 3 years ago by local angler Tom Cooper which weighed an astonishing 17 pounds 6 ounces and had grown from it’s 2 pound stock weight within about 10 years in the lake.
There aren’t many waters in the world which can produce fish of this weight naturally. The water is full of food items; chironomids, various nymphs, corixa, damsel nymphs, sedge or caddis flies, daphnia (a high protein soup-like food lazily devoured by trout); terrestrials such as crane flies and hawthorn flies, snails, shrimps and then we have the coarse fish fry. Coarse fish can and do breed quite happily in stillwaters so the explosion of tiny roach, bream and perch every May gives the trout their first taste of the meaty morsels which the survivors will become in the Autumn and Winter leading to some superb top of the water fly fishing for aggressive ‘fry feeders!
Top flies for through last Autumn have been the following, and they don’t tend to change much unless the fishes feeding habits change, which is unlikely.
Fulling Mill MINKIE SUSPENDER 2383 If you’re looking for a pattern to create disturbance and give a life-like movement, look no further. From what we hear from the Rangers, they reckon that the majority of the big fish caught at Rutland Water fall to this pattern, or those that are very similar.
Perch Fry Special 9544 The ideal pattern for targeting big, grown on fish which are specifically feeding on the abundance of Perch fry which inhabit Rutland Water.
Floating Fry Roach 977 A great roach fry immitation – ideal for popping over heavily weeded areas. Takes can be explosive, so ensure you keep your wits about you!
All surface patterns make for some heart stopping action. Make sure you use a minimum of 8lb tippet, the most reliable I have used is the Fulling Mill World Class Fluorocarbon 8lb 100m.
The majority of stock in here are Rainbow trout but it’s a testament to Fishery manager Jon Marshall and the former (now retired) head Ranger John Seaton that their passion for the UK’s native trout, the Brown Trout, has had a small but steady introduction over the years. And boy, have they flourished.
I’m sure that John and Jon will be proud to see ‘their brownies’, (a more expensive but hardy fish than the North American Rainbow) grow happily to a great age in this rich environment. Indeed, I suspect that although they delight in customers catching trout, here’s maybe a hint of sadness when they see one of ‘their brownies’ caught by a delighted angler.
One lucky chap, who attended one of Rob’s beginner’s courses and landed this beauty.
There are some great brutes of trout still in Rutland Water. Regulars like myself see them often; a huge swirl here or a boil of water there, giving away the presence of a leviathan. Leaving us to wonder what might be in the vast expanse of this huge water, thoughts which can occupy us throughout the close season as we confidently predict that “next year I’ll get a 10 pounder!”. Many of us have had massive fish take our fly, only for it to smash the line or to take us into a weedbed or around a buoy rope.
In my case it was an angry rainbow which wrapped my fly line around the North Arm tower as I struggled and ultimately failed to tame such a great fish. Oh yes, the wild monster fish are out there and sometimes, they make a mistake and some lucky angler makes headline news with his or her catch of a lifetime.
Proper Fly Fishing
These big fish are usually caught by imitative methods, ie copying the natural food item using an artificial fly, perhaps self tied and then trying to fool a good fish into taking it as natural food. This type of angling brings you an additional dimension in your fly fishing, as the method in which you catch a trout is as important as actually catching it. Turning your fishing into a stealthy 1:1 hunt for a naturalised fish; pitting your wits and your skill against a virtually wild animal. Often the fish wins! As is often heard on Rutland, “…it’s proper fishing!”
Come and try yourself, you could be that lucky angler to catch a 20 pounder!!