Often, in fishing, things conspire against you (or seem to anyway); maybe the conditions are not ideal, maybe the fish aren’t feeding or maybe you just can’t find the right approach. Sometimes, however, the planets align and you just have one of those days, or two as it happened. After several months with no time to go fishing, and after seemingly missing the best months of the year, two opportunities presented themselves within one week.
On the boat
My first trip was on fathers day, where my family (happily for me) told me to bugger off for the day. Assuming the hot weather would have pushed the fish out, I pre-booked a boat on F1. The week or two leading up, however, the weather cooled down and on the day I was faced with a cloudy and windy day.
I tackled up with two rods; my normal 7-weight and a 5-weight with a floating line set-up ready for some dry-fly action. I could see lots of swallows over the water so assumed there was a buzzer hatch in progress. I started on the 7-weight with a floating line and a three-fly leader; sugar-cube emerger on point, buzzer on the middle dropper and a diawl bach on the top dropper. I started the first drift across the middle of the water but even with the drogue the boat was drifting quickly due to the strong wind. I had no interest and couldn’t see any fish moving so set-up the second drift on the west side, around 50 yards off the bank; this tends to fish better at this time of year, I presume due to the prevailing south/westerly wind and the fish pushing upwind in search of terrestrials.
On the first drift I saw lots of activity with fish topping and tailing as they swam upwind but got no takes. I figured that even though the fish seemed high in the water the combination of my set-up and drifting speed meant that my flies were sitting too high. I changed to an intermediate line with a blob on point to hold the line just under the water. Within half a dozen casts I’d had three trout, all to the blob. Now, I’m not a fishing snob but I do prefer to catch on naturals when possible. However, the blob had given me a hint that maybe the fish were in the mood to chase rather than just sip down nymphs.
With the wind getting stronger, I decided to tie-up to a buoy and switched flies. I put a black hopper on the point fly, a mirage cormorant on the middle dropper and a black cruncher on the top dropper. I cast the line out and retrieved with a quick, jerky figure of eight. Within seconds I had a fish on the end, falling to the hopper. I ended up catching eleven fish on this set-up, with the majority coming to the hopper, all on the same quick retrieve. As the afternoon passed into evening, I started to notice the big splashy rises suggestive of sedges. While I couldn’t see any, I pulled out my 5-weight and put a single foam-winged sedge on the end. Within half an hour, I’d taken another three fish. This was not delicate dry-fly fishing though – I was stripping the sedge back through the waves.
So, a lovely day with 17 to the boat in all. It was one of those days when the weather and the fish were on my side and I managed to figure out the successful tactics early on in the day.
On the bank
My second trip of the week was unexpected. Farmoor announced they would be opening late (till 11pm) for three days only, to allow anglers to make the most of the evening rise – when the sedges are out, the evening rises at Farmoor can be spectacular.
I arrived mid-afternoon to a hot, sunny day with a slight breeze. Even with the sun blazing down there were a few fish topping and tailing. I resisted the urge to go back to what worked last time (as it almost always doesn’t work again) and plumbed for two buzzers with a sugar-cube on the point to act like a washing line set-up. After 30 minutes, I had no luck and assumed the fish must be deeper. I’ve fished similar conditions here before and found that buzzers work but the fish are also taking snails or hog louse. I changed my set-up to a heavy black buzzer on point, a smaller grey-boy buzzer on the middle dropper and a hares ear buzzer on the top-dropper (to suggest a snail or hog-louse). I started fan-casting a counting down. As soon as I got to a 20 second count, my line went tight and I was into a lovely Farmoor rainbow of around 5lb. During the next four hours, I took 11 fish on this set-up, including my first ever brown trout!
As the sun started to set, the sedge came out in force and the trout reacted accordingly. Slowly, the water around me started to splash and boil with rises. I switched to the 5-weight and started fishing a single sedge fly. Now, I’ve been here before at Farmoor with the sedge – they can be picky buggers. I tried five different variations of sedge patterns and got nothing but refusals. With the light fading, I tried one last option and stuck on a sedge-hog which I stripped back quickly. Suddenly, wallop, I was into a fish! Another three followed quickly after before it got too dark to see. In retrospect, I assume there were so many naturals around and with clear, calm water it was too easy to see something not quite right – but something big and bushy stripped through the water did the trick.
By the end of both days my arm was shot. The fish on F1 are all a decent size – I doubt any of the fish I caught were under 3lb and most were 4-5lb or bigger – and they fight like stink. Great venue, fishing well at the moment.