Top Tips On Reservoir Bank Fishing
Reservoirs can be daunting, the sheer size and the body of water often intimidates anglers and many simply do not know where to start, and so consequently do not even try – Well you’re missing out on some truly fantastic sport, the fish have invariably been in the water longer, so are in much better condition and fight significantly harder
Bank fishing is really is not that difficult, especially if you keep your methods and fly selection simple. Think logically about how you are fishing, what your flies are doing and what you are trying to achieve.
Look at it simply, a reservoir such as Grafham will stock around 30,000+ fish per season, every 7 – 10 days 1,500 – 2,000 fish will be stocked usually in batches of 500 at certain points around the fishery. This means that there will be a huge amount of fresh stock fish in one area – once you find them catching them will be easy.
You also have the resident or grown on fish that although not as plentiful are still present in large numbers meaning that there are many more fish in a reservoir that have never seen a fly (and so are often easier to catch) than in a small Stillwater
My first step when visiting any water would be to do some background research. There is usually a map of the water posted on the fishery website, and recent catch reports – these can prove a valuable source of basic information giving you areas that are holding fish and methods that were working recently.
Tackle makes a big difference and light rods with AFTM’s of #3 – 5 make fishing very difficult from the bank at reservoirs. Conditions are far from perfect and you need a stronger stiffer rod to punch the line out and get some distance.
I always overload my rods by one line weight (so on a 7 weight rod I would use an a 8 weight line) This makes for much easier casting, the rod is loaded quicker and less false casts are needed. If you want to make casting easier in one step just go up a line size – I cannot stress this enough and how much of a difference it makes!
The following tackle is essential to be consistently successful on reservoirs in a wide range of conditions.
Rod: AFTM # 7 – 8 length of 9ft – 10ft
Reel: – Capable of holding at least 60m of backing plus a full line WF#7, #8 or 9 line
3 x Lines: Floating Line, Intermediate Line and a Di-3
Wellingtons or Waders
I’d advise that you consider the following dangers
1 – Dam walls can be slippery, especially at the water line were algae will build up usually in a think green or brown band – Simply don’t stand on this or you will fall in. The whole dam wall can be especially slippery early or late season especially if there’s been a frost or two. Waders or boots with studs will give you the most grip but just don’t step on your line or it’ll get cut in half ! – Please don’t consider wading on a Dam!
If you do slip in don’t panic …just accept your wet and keep calm There is usually cracks in the dam wall that you can grab and just ease yourself back up the wall on your bum…don’t try and stand or you may just slip in again.
2 – Reservoirs are also used by the public, cyclists, children, runners, walkers, birdwatchers – they often don’t really understand fishing and simply walk behind you whilst you are casting….Just take care you don’t want to hook one on your back cast – there could be a clamour to stop angling at the water if there are a number of incidents.
3 – Glasses and Hat. The wind often swirls around a lot – especially on dam walls meaning there is a chance you hit yourself once or twice – don’t risk a fly in your eye .
4 – Pontoons and Harbour Arms – Swans and ducks love these area’s and usually cover the pontoons in crap !…..this can become very slippery and is a hazard, especially when you are often fishing directly into deep water.
5 – Rocks – Many of the Midlands reservoirs have been repaired with large rocks and boulders, please take care when standing on these as they can move under your weight. I fell off the stones at Hill Farm – Grafham straight onto my rod breaking it in the process and up to my neck in water.
Reservoirs – In seasons
Every year the same area’s hold and produce fish on the same methods, so rather than spend years gaining experience; simply use mine.
I’ve broken it down and can almost tell you what method and patterns to fish at what time in the year. If simply catching fish is your aim then follow the guidance below – reservoirs are all basically the same; fish respond to the stimuli, the same tactics and the same patterns and I don’t really change my thought process unless I’m fishing for wild fish.
I accept it might take away some of the enjoyment for you – as it is a short cut to catching………but simply look at it as a push in the right direction……you’ve still got to physically catch the fish and beat the conditions on any given day!
Once you’ve got a couple of fish in the bag, or become more confident on larger waters you can change your methods, tactics and develop your own style – perhaps just targeting nymph feeding fish for example.
Early Season – February – April
Nothing difficult or technical is needed to catch consistently at any reservoir from the start of the season. The fish will hold in a band of water approximately 10 yards out to 70 yards out, so from bank or boat you should aim to keep your flies in this area of water – fishing in the bottom 1/3rd of the water column. In general from the bank you a 20 yard cast will allow you to fish 8 – 14 ft of water (unless you are fishing a dam wall or a known area of deep water ) a medium sinking line ie.DI-3 with a 6 – 7ft leader of 8lb fluorocarbon will be all that’s needed to catch fish (or a floating line with a heavily weighted lure on a12 – 14ft leader and a count of 10 – 25 seconds. Before beginning your retrieve)
The water temperature will be cold – so it’s a case of fishing deep and slow with lures if you want to maximise your sport a slow figure of 8 with the odd pull to induce a following fish is all that needed – whatever you say or think about methods or flies these are by far the most consistent methods.
Flies should be:-
Nothing else is needed – you should move after 30 – 45 minutes if you fail to catch and try another spot rather than continue in the same area with other patterns or methods. Fish are usually shoaled up at this time of year and will not move – you must find them – You can only catch what is in front of you !
Mid Season April – End Of June
Nature’s turned on a switch….everything seems to be coming alive as the temperatures have now risen. Weed will start to appear in the margins and, buzzers will be hatching in increasing numbers. The trout will naturally recognise this change and will switch onto the feed……and also on the move looking for food…..it’s the best time of the year to catch overwintered fish in my opinion….on a variety of methods !
The early season methods and flies will still work well; however you really shouldn’t miss this opportunity to catch fish on the nymphs as you will be able to tempt a higher proportion of resident fish.
Red Holographic Nemo
A Floating line with a simple 15ft leader is all that’s needed, with a 8 -10” dropper at the halfway point in your leader (so point fly at 15ft and dropper at 7.5ft
Just simply cast out and let everything settle and the flies sink for 10 – 15 seconds…. Then simply retrieve with a slow figure of 8, literally just keeping the line moving ultra slowly, watch to see any movement in the line (i.e. it moves to one side) but usually takes are so confident the line will just lock up with a take.
At this time of year I usually fish an area for 30 minutes then move if I haven’t caught anything
Summer Months July – September
The hardest part of the season for bank anglers, simply because the fish move out of the shallows and into the deeper parts of the reservoir during the daylight hours – unless you’re a season ticket holder fishing at first and last light then don’t even consider it from the bank; it’s a waste of time and money get a boat instead !!
Best methods will range from nymphs such as Nemo’s and Hare’s ears fished on a floater to orange blobs and boobies pulled back at speed It really is a difficult time of the year to predict as we are so reliant upon the weather and conditions.
At this time of year it’s imperative to read fishery reports and try and get up to date information on the fishery….I only ever fish an early morning or late evening session from the bank because the daytime is simply the “graveyard shift” in fishing terms.
My preferred method would be to fish a 3 fly cast on a floating line or Mini Tip – a Nemo Booby on the point of a 17 ft leader of 8lb fluorocarbon with a red holographic Nemo’s on the droppers a 7 ft and 12ft and fish with an ultra slow figure of 8
If the fish were deeper I would fish a black Goldhead Damsel on the point and with Nemo’s on the droppers.
I can’t stress enough how important it is to fish the hour before “First light” and the last 2 hours before dark, the fish will be in the shallows to feed often right in the surface.
Holographic Nemo Booby (for the washing line method)
Back End – October – January
As it turns cooler it’s your best chance to catch something really special in the season as the fish are desperate to pack on weight for the winter, they’ll be feeding heavily on fry, daddies or corixa. Floaters or intermediate lines for most patterns or medium sinkers for the boobies are again all that’s needed if fishing from the bank.
You won’t catch huge number of fish as many reservoirs don’t stock after September, but what you will catch will be fit, lean well mended fish at the peak of their condition.
Hummungus (black & sliver or white & silver)
A slow retrieve usually picks out the better quality fish, rather than a medium or fast paced strip…..the resident fish have seen it all and don’t want to waste energy chasing food when it can be easily picked off.
At this time of year it’s important to fish area’s with features, pontoons, weed beds, moorings harbours will all attract and hold fry ….because you’re not after large numbers of fish but simply those of better quality. I tend to fish area’s for longer usually 90 mins before moving on especially if there are fry visable – area’s can be dead for long periods, only to come alive when hungry trout move in
Basic all year reservoir tips
1 – Read the water – avoid coloured water – look at the contours of the bank (this may indicate the depth of water in front of you – although not easy on man made reservoirs)
2 – Points channel food across them, they also give you access to a range in water depths and so different temperatures always a good starting point (usually have some weed growth as well which will hold food and fish)
3 – Look for cormorants/grebes working the water…it will indicate fry…look for features, i.e. marker buoys/pontoons drop offs etc….
4 – You must fish the correct depth…..best early season to start off deep (as coldest in morning)…single fly gives better presentation, sinks faster and makes the fish compete for a single food source…so more positive takes….
5 – Think – your retrieve will pull the fly deeper when fishing a sinking line along the bottom (into the right holding zone)…as opposed to a floater and weighted fly that is pulled up and out of the zone.
6 – Boobies create disturbance (felt down lateral line of fish) also have big profile so easily picked out in coloured water…perfect for deep water fishing as they allow perfect depth control, create movement with marabou tail and can be fished slowly.
7 – Fishing deep the leader material can be 10lb Flurocarbon…there is no need for fine leaders early season in coloured water etc…
8 – Wave and wind action can lead to missed takes – put the rod tip 1 – 3” under the water surface so you’re in direct contact with the fish and can set the hook.
9 – Do not strike at every little tap (could be the low stretch line going over a stone or ledge) wait until everything locks up to strike…..
10 – Induce the take…if you get a little tap…induce the take…a pause or speed up should produce a more positive reaction…..lure the fish onto your fly.
11 – Fish location is essential you can’t catch what’s not there ! !….a response will usually be instant…if you have had no follows or takes in an hour move…..always try and find the fish.
12 – Fan cast the water in front of you on some days the fish will prefer the fly retrieved at a specific angle.
13 – A booby is the best and most versatile fly in your box….you could catch on it every day of the season if you presented it at the right speed or depth….