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Top Tips On Reservoir Bank Fishing

Published: 24th August 2023 | Author: Rob Edmunds

Reservoirs are daunting, especially when we approach a new water for the first time. The sheer size and the body of water 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. Reservoir bank fishing is really is not that difficult—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.

Large reservoirs usually introduce between 500 and 1,500 fresh stock fish every 10 -14 days. Often in batches of 500 at certain points around the fishery. This means that there will be a huge amount of fresh fish in one area. As a result, once you find them catching them will be easy.

In addition, you 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 Stillwaters.

Stillwater bank fishing at first light is spectacular.

First Light

For me the break of day is the most exciting time. It brings fresh hope and the opportunity of picking up a “grown on” fish or two. Resident fish often feed best early morning or late evening.

My first step when visiting any water is 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.

First light is the best time to have a chance at “grown on” fish when reservoir bank fishing.

Tackle makes a big difference in your ability find success while reservoir bank fishing. Light rods with AFTM’s of #3 – 5 make fishing very difficult from the bank. 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 as 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 enough how much of a difference it makes!

The following tackle is essential to be consistently successful on reservoirs in a wide range of conditions.

Essential Tackle

Time it right and reservoir bank fishing can be great sport.

Safety Considerations

I’d advise that you consider the following dangers:

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. 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 that you’re wet and keep calm. There are 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.

Reservoirs are also used by the public. Cyclists, children, runners, walkers, birdwatchers, etc. 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.

Wear glasses and a hat. The wind often swirls around a lot – especially on dam walls. This means there is a chance you’ll hit yourself once or twice. Do not risk a fly in your eye.

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.

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 ended up to my neck in water.

Fulling Mill do a range of great Caps. Make sure to wear one for safety!

Reservoir Bank Fishing: the 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 same tactics and the same patterns and I don’t really change my thought process unless I’m fishing for wild fish.

Choose Your Journey

I accept that it might take away some of the enjoyment as it is essentially a short cut to catching. Personally, I feel the “journey is more important than the destination.” However, that’s not the case for everyone. To each their own! If you want, simple look at this 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 adapt your methods. Then, you can develop your own style. Perhaps you will just target nymph or dry fly feeding fish, for example.

A favorite of mine is targeting dry fly feeders.

Early Season: February to April

Nothing difficult or technical is needed to catch consistently on any stillwater or reservoir from the start of the season. Stocked fish will be plentiful and will hold in a band of water approximately 10 yards out to 70 yards out. From bank or boat you should aim to keep your flies in this area of water. I concentrate my efforts and generally fish in the bottom 1/3rd of the water column.

Preferred Methods

A medium sinking line (DI-3 with an 8 – 10ft leader of 8lb fluorocarbon) will be all that’s needed to catch fish. You could also use a floating line with a  heavily weighted lure on a 12 – 14ft leader and a count of 10 – 25 seconds before beginning your retrieve.

The water temperature will be cold. As such, it’s a case of fishing slowly with lures that have a large amount of movement to induce the take if you want to maximize your sport. A slow figure of 8 retrieve with the odd pull to induce a following fish is all that’s needed. Whatever you say or think about methods or flies these are by far the most consistent.

Fulling Mill’s Masterclass is excellent

Flies for Early Season

Mini Weighted Black & Green Snake

Mini Weighted Cat Snake

Booby Hummungus

Coral booby

Nothing else is needed. You should move after 30 to 45 minutes if you fail to catch. 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 so you must find them. You can only catch what is in front of you!

Mid Season: April to End Of June

Nature’s now 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 recognize this change and will switch onto the feed. They will also go on the move looking for food. This is the best time of the year to catch overwintered fish in my opinion/ You can do it on a variety of methods, too!

Preferred 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.

Flies for Mid Season

Jenkins Black and Pearl Muskins

Jenkins Lightweight Buzzer

Red Holographic Nemo

Mini Cocktail FAB for the washing line method.

A Mini cocktail FAB pattern, which is great for fishing the washing line.

A Floating line with a simple 15ft leader is all that’s needed. I put an 8 -10” dropper at the halfway point in your leader. So, the point fly at 15ft and dropper at 7.5ft.

Simply cast out and let everything settle. Let the flies sink for 10 – 15 seconds. Then, retrieve with a slow figure of 8 to keep the line moving ultra slow. Watch to see any movement in the line—it would move 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 through September

This is the hardest part of the season for bank anglers. This is because the fish move out of the shallows and into the deeper parts of the reservoir during the daylight hours. If you’re a season ticket holder, fish at first and last light. If not, then don’t even consider it from the bank; it’s a waste of time and money. Get a boat instead!

The 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 what will be effective 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.

Preferred Methods

My preferred method would be to fish a 3 fly cast on a floating line or Mini Tip. I’ll tie a Popper Hopper or Foam Daddy on the point of a 17 ft leader of 8lb fluorocarbon with a red holographic Nemo on the droppers a 7 ft and 12ft. I’ll fish that setup with an ultra slow figure of 8 retrieve.

If the fish were deeper I would fish a black Goldhead Damsel on the point and with Nemos 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, and are often right on the surface. It’s an ideal opportunity to fish small imitative patterns (especially dries) for grown on resident fish.

Flies for the Summer Months

Sumo Hares ear Hopper. This is essential for the shrimp feeding fish in many of the midlands reservoirs ( Rutland/Grafham/Draycote/Pitsford).

Hot Head Diawl. A generic pattern but very effective for “pin fry” feeding fish when fished “washing-line” style from early June onwards.

Popper Hopper or Foam Daddy. This is the essential point fly for the washing line method when fishing naturally.

Back End: October to January

As it turns cooler it’s your best chance to catch something really special in the season. The fish are desperate to pack on weight for the winter, they’ll be feeding heavily on fry, daddies or corixa. Floating 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. However, what you will catch will be fit, lean well mended fish at the peak of their condition.

Fulling Mill’s V2: the Workhorse of the range.

Flies for the Back End

Olive Mini Snake. Natural looking and the best “Perch Fry” imitation on the market. It has the correct profile, colour and stacks of movement. It catches fish when all else fails. With more fisheries insisting “brown trout” are returned, the barbless version is essential if we are to conserve fish stocks.

Snake Bait White. A non-weighted real life fry pattern created by Steve Carew. It’s proved deadly on Rutland and Grafham when the fish are gorging on roach and bream fry and want a slow–almost static–retrieve. It’s a pattern I can no longer be without.

Red Holographic Nemo. The nemo is effective year-round because its so buggy looking. It’s taken for shrimps, buzzers, and corixa. I cannot recommend this pattern enough.

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 areas with features. Pontoons, weed beds, moorings and harbours will all attract and hold fry. Because you’re not after large numbers of fish but simply those of better quality, these are the places to be. I tend to fish areas for longer than the rest of the season, usually 90 mins, before moving on. This is especially true if there are fry visible. Areas can be dead for long periods, only to come alive when hungry trout move in

Stay patient in the back end of the season. The fish can suddenly turn on!

Basic All Year Reservoir Tips

  1. Read the water.  Avoid coloured water. Look at the contours of the bank, which may indicate the depth of water in front of you. Man made reservoirs make this tricky.
  2. Points channel food across them. They also give you access to a range in water depths and different water temperatures. This is always a good starting point. They usually have some weed growth as well, which will hold food and fish.
  3. Look for cormorants/grebes working the water. It will indicate where fry are. Often this will be around features, like pontoons or marker buoys.
  4. You must fish the correct depth. Its best in the early season to start off deep as its coldest in morning. A single fly gives a better presentation, sinks faster and makes the fish compete for a single food source. This results in more positive takes.
  5. Think. Your retrieve will pull the fly deeper when fishing a sinking line along the bottom. In contrast, using a floating line with a weighted fly will pull it up and out of the zone. Think about where the fish are, and which is preferable.
  6. Fish feel the disturbance created by booby patterns. Additionally, the profile of a booby pattern shows up well in colored water. They are perfect for deep water fishing as they allow excellent depth control, create movement with a marabou tail and can be fished slowly.
  7. When fishing deep the leader material can be 10lb Flurocarbon. There is no need for fine leaders early season in coloured water.
  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 flies and can set the hook.
  9. Do not strike at every little tap. This 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 with a pause or speed up. This should produce a more positive reaction. You need to lure the fish onto your fly.
  11. Fish location is essential. You can’t catch what’s not there! A response will usually be quick. 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.

If you want to read more on stillwater fishing from Rob, check out his other articles on our blog!

We are also adding stillwater fishing to our YouTube channel, which you can find through the stillwater fishing playlist.

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