Targeting Fry Feeders this Autumn
Fits of anglers consider October to be the start of the “fry feeding” season and will almost exclusively fish large mobile lures such as Snakes and Hummungus’s on sinking lines in the hope of catching large trout. I’ve no hesitation in saying it’s very effective but are you sometimes missing an opportunity.
For me targeting fry feeders and Corixa feeders go hand in hand, traditional angling methods can be tweaked so you cover both options, giving yourself a better chance of success.
Some anglers believe these fish are difficult and almost impossible to catch. While I accept that they are challenging they are also much larger grown-on, resident fish worthy of that extra effort.
Both Corixa and Fry love shallow weedy water often the weed acts as a filter or barrier in the main body of the reservoir. It is not affected by higher winds and so does not colour up as quickly making the water we anglers fish particularly clear in most instances.
Trout feeding in this shallow, clear water are highly viable to the angler, you can often see them cruising just over the weed beds literally feet from the bank, confidently taking any food in their path. There is a temptation to rush to the water’s edge and frantically cast at every fish you see, especially as it’s often a larger than normal fish. Numerous casts, weighted flies, and an animated angler only do one thing, they spook the fish and simply push them out of reach. Patience and a stealthy approach is key to success.
Through experience, I discovered that the “shrimp feeders” at Grafham cruise literally along the bank, in the shallow clear water you can see them swimming towards you just yards off the bank. However once they see the silhouette or frantic casting of an angler they veer out to around 20 yards, a safe distance in many cases. I found that by sitting down and remaining still, casting once every 30 seconds or so, the fish will remain confident, and continue to swim along the bank so casts of 5 – 10ft are all that’s needed.
I’ve found that exactly the same rules apply when targeting fry feeders and corixa eaters – you need to make very few casts, keep low and remain patient.
The correct tackle is also essential – I prefer a 9ft 6 – 10ft rod in AFTM 7 and a high-quality clear co-polymer as a leader material. It’s thin, strong and does not sink as fast as fluorocarbon so does not pull your flies into the weed. It must, however, be degreased to take and shine off the line. My preference is the Fulling Mill Co-Polymer in 10lb
Trout are not programmed to eat just 1 food source – hence the reason when they are spooned they contain lots of different things, it’s not uncommon in September or October to find daddies, fry, Corixa, and snails all in the stomach of a trout – they are opportunist feeders.
Fewer casts by the angler mean fish are not spooked, this, in turn, requires a slow or static retrieve. casts must be within your capabilities (you don’t want to be pushing for distance and hitting the water hard, or the cast not turning over…) you want to be stealthy; let the fish come to your flies… it does require a change of attitude for most of us, it took me many hours of spooking fish before I finally accepted that patience is a virtue I need to possess.
When fishing Corixa imitations I prefer a generic pattern with specific target points and triggers rather than an exact imitation I do not want my fly to be identical to the other 10,000’s of naturals in the water, I want it to be very similar but able to stand out slightly and pull the trout to the fly. This is usually done by a fluorescent tag/head or a holographic rib.
My favourite Corixa patterns are:-
- Pearl Nemo, Size 10.
2. Neutral Density Nemo Booby, Size 12.
The pearl in the Nemo represents the air bubble trapped when the corixa comes to the surface to get air… the fly is also a natural brown colour and approximately the same size as the corixa, a hackle on a cruncher provides subtle movement to mimic the the legs of the corixa. The booby Nemo gives the fly a more agitated movement and slight buoyancy to keep the cast above the weed.
When replicating dead or injured Fry my best pattern is 1-2” Mylar floating fry, this pattern lies sideways on water like a dead or injured stickleback and it has the correct green/brown colouration and scale like appearance of a small fish.
Mylar Fry, Size 8.
As both food sources are often found together near features, so you should replicate both food sources to catch more fish – i.e. pull the fish up to the silhouetted fry and let them take the small cruncher.
I have had some excellent and exciting sport at Rutland, Grafham, Draycote and Chew reservoirs over the past 5 years, especially in the shallows. One thing I must stress though is timing is essential. There is no doubt in my mind that the most prolific times of the day are early morning 4:00am – 8:00am or evening 5:00pm – darkness, at these times the shallows come alive, the wind is at its lightest and the trout leave the safety of the deep water to hunt for food. You will catch during the day but conditions must be almost perfect (overcast and warm with light winds).
The method and my initial line of attack is always to fish the flies ultra slow or static on a 12ft leader of 10lb Co-Polymer with a Mylar floating fry on the point and a small size 12 red nemo cruncher booby on the dropper just 3ft from the point fly, remember that any trout will have a very small angle of vision in such shallow water. In flat calms fish are often pulled to the Mylar fry and then take the cruncher just subsurface, when it’s a little more windy they will take both patterns equally (really big fish 5lb + usually take the fry imitation).
On some occasions (flat calms) I like to fish a suspender minkie on the point, basically because the mink tail imparts a small amount of movement into the pattern. Often it’s all that’s needed to turn swirls into positive takes… a suspender minkie can also be given a sharp strip to create a “pop” again this disturbance can pull the fish to your cast – irrisistable to trout when targeting fry feeders that’s for sure.
When a fish is hooked it’s important to have a plan of what you are going to do – these are not stock fish, but well mended resident or overwintered fish – a 3lb fish is easily capable of snapping a 10lb leader – you must assess the water and it’s features, are there any trees, platforms, fences, weed beds that these fish will head for? It’s literally pile on the pressure and side strain, turn them out into the clear open water and let them run they can’t snap you as easily there… Because these are fit, strong, resident fish in the peak of their condition you must accept that you will loose at least 1 in every 3 fish hooked – for me it makes the ones caught that little bit more special.
Targeting fry feeders from a boat is much more difficult, especially in a 19ft large white boat. Longer 20 – 25yard casts are needed as the boat pushes the fish away from you. I prefer to either anchor up and fish directly along the weedbed ledge or drift the banks, not repeating the drift as the boat will undoubtedly spook the fish in such shallow water.
I’ve now been fortunate enough to catch a double figure trout from all four of the Anglian Water fisheries; I consider that most of my success comes down to planning and responding quickly to activity at a reservoir as and when it happens.
Potentially every year there is the real chance of a double figure fish, a fish that is at the peak of it’s physical condition strong, fast, and relentless – the worthy quarry of any angler.
When purely targeting Fry Feeders or really large trout I stick with tried and tested methods and never use anything other than Snakes, Snake boobies or a 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 a proven killer.
It’s a wonderful feeling targeting fry feeders, the waiting and the anticipation of not knowing when or what you are going to hook next…will it be a 3lb silvered up rainbow or a record breaking brown. Expect periods of inactivity then sudden action… fish will hunt in shoals and leave the deeper water to hunt fry then return to the safety of the deeper water.
Tips for Targeting Fry Feeders
- Heavy Leader material 10 lb minimum with 12 or 14 lb preferable
- One fly box with all of the necessary patterns – tied on good hooks with thick wire that will not bend out when playing a fish.
- After each big fish thoroughly check your leader…it can become frayed by the razor like teeth of a big brown, or on underwater obstructions.
- A big landing net essential.
- Try and plan what you intend to do once you hook a big fish – i.e where is best to land it, can you steer it away from any obstructions try and visualise your potential problems and more importantly plan your solutions.
- Match the size of the fry fish patterns that accurately match the hatch.
- Hook and Hold if necessary – clamp down on the fish and apply the pressure and 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 breaks you.
- Look for fry jumping a sign that something is chasing them. Look for seagull activity/grebe activity they will show you the location of the fry.
- Short leaders 13ft max with a preference of 10ft will ensure the turnover of large bulky flies.
- Cast at the activity, fish often hunt in shoals so where there’s one there’s more, there also they like to charge through the fry crippling them then coming back to gently sip down the dead/distressed fry.(You also get a few foul hooked fish for this reason)
If you’re fishing a small water with the chance of targeting fry feeders, check out this post written by Kieron Jenkins on targeting small water trout feeding on fry.