Early Season Trout At Blithfield Reservoir
TFF Editor Andy Taylor and Cookshill’s Steve Cooper cast their first lines of the season at Staffordshire’s Blithfield Reservoir where the rainbows were right under their rod tips…
As the big waters opened their doors the’ beast from the east’ put paid to many of us wanting to venture out opening day to get amongst the freshly stocked fish. Seeing thousands of trout being introduced in our reservoirs across the UK on the various social media sites had me wanting to get out and cast a line and test those patterns I’d spent the winter tying.
I remember past opening days on Tittesworth Reservoir in Staffordshire, where the banks were lined with anglers, boats fully booked and the car park full with cars parked in all sorts of places along the surrounding country lanes. It seems like opening day fever like this is a thing of the past on many English reservoirs.
Armed with my new 10ft, 7wt FNF Icon fly rod and a box of freshly tied early season patterns, myself and Cookshill’s Steve Cooper prepared for battle on the freshly-stocked trout at Blithfield Reservoir on the second week of the season. We met in the Estate Office just after 8.30am and after a quick chat with Claire Pullinger to get the lowdown on tactics and hotspots and our ticket we headed off to fill our boots and find the stockies.
Steve has fished Blithfield for many years during the first few months of the season and knew where the likely fish holding spots would be. We started at the mouth of Ten-Acre Bay – a productive spot on this water throughout the year. We parked up, donned our waders and had a chat with one of the regular season ticket anglers. He’d been out a few times the previous week and found the fishing to be tough; three had been his best outing. The recent snow and rain had put some colour in the water and a quick dip with the thermometer revealed the water temperature to be just four degrees. I was starting to wish that we’d put this trip back another week especially when I realised I’d left my net at home and Steve had forgotten his snips.
I was starting to wish that we’d put this trip back another week especially when I realised I’d left my net at home and Steve had forgotten his snips.
Tactics For Finding The Stockies
We decided to try different flies and tactics until one of us found the winning method. Steve set up a floating line, 14ft leader with a tungsten beaded black and green lure on the point and black nymph on a dropper 7ft up the leader. I went for a Di3 Sweep and three flies, a black Zonker on the point, a Cormorant in the middle and a two-tone blob on the top drop. These flies were evenly spaced apart on my 14ft fluorocarbon leader. The clarity of the water and the fact that we were targeting fresh stock fish meant there was no need to space my flies too far apart. Both tactics we felt would enable us to cover the different depths to help us find the fish. We also agreed that if we didn’t get any action after half an hour we would move and keep on the move until we located those fresh stockies.
As we made our way down to the water the season ticket angler we’d spoken whilst tackling up was just netting his first trout. There were obviously a few fish here. As I pulled line off my reel to make my first cast of the new season I felt it wouldn’t be long before we’d be into fish. Half an hour later, with several fly changes, and moving along the point and into the bay, we were both fishless with not a pull between the two of us.
Move To Mickledale Bay
It was time to move. We slid our rods into the back of our vehicles and headed into the wind on the opposite bank, to the mouth of Mickledale Bay. Surely there had to be fish here on the downwind bank? I started in the bay whilst Steve opted for the point. We waded out and fished at range covering all the water in front. We swapped places and made our way up to Mary Lous casting and fishing along the way. Forty-five minutes had passed and we were still fishless and cold so we put the rods in the car and headed up the bank to Dougies and then Watery Lane and by lunchtime the net we were sharing (I’d forgotten mine!) was dry. We had swapped flies, fished at range, varied the retrieve and fished hard in the cold. The dreaded blank was on the cards – not the start to my 2018 season that I wanted.
It was my turn to bend into a fish, which turned out to be a ‘jack’ pike of about 4lbs that took a liking to my black and chartreuse Blob!
Fish In The Margins
Steve suggested that we head back to Ten Acre Bay as there seemed to be a few bank anglers still fishing there. As we parked up we saw two anglers bent into fish, who then packed up, giving us the opportunity to slip into where they had been fishing. By now the banks around the bay were lined with anglers who were all catching. We, however, were struggling for a pull. Then we realised where we had been going wrong. Watching the anglers catching we saw that they were casting and fishing along the bank not directly out. We had been casting 25 yards and fishing at distance, we should have been fishing under our rod-tips. So we cast and fished short lines tight to the bank. Steve was first in with a lively stock fish caught on an orange marabou beaded lure. Then it was my turn to bend into a fish, which turned out to be a ‘jack’ pike of about 4lbs that took a liking to my black and chartreuse Blob! Then Steve was in again to the same fly and for the next hour or so we had some good sport catching close in.
So the start of my reservoir season brought home one key lesson, one that at times we all are guilty of: the need to fish close in and not to cast to the horizon. Even on a big expanse of water like Blithfield the fish can be under your rod tip, tight to the bank. Fishing short was the key; fan casting and combing the water in front is a method I use regularly on the small stillwaters I fish and one, which I’ll use a bit more often on the big waters from now on.
Andy is the Features Editor of Today’s FlyFisher.com following three years as Editor of Total FlyFisher. Andy is a multi-capped England International in both loch-style and bank disciplines. A qualified instructor and lecturer, Andy has a wealth of fishery management experience.