The Five Trout Challenge
Fly fishing guide Ben Fox takes a trip to Bank House Fly Fishery in Caton to take up the five fish challenge. Could he catch a rainbow trout, brown trout, blue trout, tiger trout and spartic in one day?
Bank House Fly Fishery, tucked away in Caton just outside Lancaster, has always been a favourite venue of mine. From competing in junior competitions there to writing features about it, it has always been a special trip. So, when I heard from the owner Ben Dobson that five species of trout were now going to be stocked I had to get over there and try my luck!
The Five Species
Rainbows, browns and blues have all been stocked regularly in recent years and in the past tigers have as well. Well now the tigers are back and they’re as beautiful as ever! Spartics have also been stocked for the first time! So that’s the five; rainbow, brown, blue, tiger and spartic.
Rainbow trout: Native to America the rainbow trout has been a stable stock fish in the UK for many years, with some breeding populations found in rivers such as the Wye. Easily identifiable by its pink coloration along its side and gill cover (although this does vary).
Brown trout: Our native trout. Wild browns inhabit rivers and natural lakes in the UK. They are also bred and stocked into various small waters. A brown/golden coloration with brown and sometimes red spots, the brown trout can also appear silver when grown on in large clear waters.
Blue trout: Affectively a rainbow trout, the blue trout has been selectively bred over the years to produce a fish with a blue back and vivid silver flanks. Often hailed as more hard fighting than rainbows the blue trout isn’t hard to miss! Their blue colour can vary from electric to washed out and sandy.
Tiger trout: Brown and brook trout are crossbred to produce an aggressive fish with stunning tiger like markings. This is an aggressive fish, like its parent’s species.
Spartic trout: the most recent addition to UK still waters, the arctic char/ brook trout cross has dark grey across the back and flanks with white or pink spots, a creamy orange underbelly, fins edged in white and swirled markings across the back. Gaining in popularity it is has now been introduced in several fisheries in the UK.
High Five At Bank House
The plan was that between myself, Elias Ame my long-time fishing companion and Adrian Cawthorne past client and photographer extraordinaire we would hook, land and photograph all five species in the day we had on the bank.
I had done my research and after extensive talks with the owner Ben Dobson, I felt I had a rough idea of what I wanted to do and where to fish in order to give myself the best shot of completing the task. I knew a rainbow was going to be the easiest with an aggressive blue likely. I had a feeling it would be the browns that would be the biggest challenge, tigers were going to be tough and spartics…well they were a total unknown. I decided to go for the aggressive fish first, my two lures fished 12ft apart with 6ft to my fast intermediate. A pink Zonker on the point and a Hothead Damsel on the dropper. Pink has been one of my top colours this season and it is particularly attractive to blues…
I had a feeling it would be the browns that would be the biggest challenge, tigers were going to be tough and spartics… well they were a total unknown.
Blue On Pink To Start
The first peg at Bank House is right next to the lodge and as it was angler free I felt it was as good a place as any to start. I started the process of fan casting, covering any fish I could see move, landing my flies in all the likely spots and after a couple of minutes my Zonker is followed and then hit by the first fish of the day, a blue! What a start. The fish was slipped back and I wound in for a move a couple of pegs down. Action was instant with follows and plucks before the line locks up and the Zonker is in the scissors of a hard-fighting rainbow – quick photo and its back to fight another day. Casting was tight in this spot, so I shortened my leader and changed to just one fly, opting to keep the Hothead damsel. Don’t be afraid to do this in the more enclosed spots as its better to fish one fly effectively then two ineffectively!
Two Down Three To Go
I continued to take fish using a variety of speeds, bumping several in the process, all rainbows and all giving a good account of themselves. I continue this pattern in another two spots and begin to build up a sizeable bag of rainbows but I’m still holding out for the other three species. I heard that there is a good number of fish in the bottom corner of the lake and upon arrival in the final fishable spot I was met by steady rises under the tree line from what I hoped might be brown or tiger trout. Both will often hold deep and rise to feed. The wind was gusting now and the fish were picking off anything that fell off the trees so my ginger Midas and two beetles, when carefully cast under the tree line, were consistently taken by…rainbows! Oh well, the sport was fantastic and the tricky casting an enjoyable challenge.
After a while the rises slowed and I decided to have a few chucks on the Damsel. It didn’t take long to hook up again and after a strong fight something different was sat in the bottom of my net… a stunning little tiger trout which fought well above its weight. Still the spartic and brown eluded us and with Elias starting to catch consistently on the bung I was hopeful one might come along. Then, Elias hooked into another fish and the tension rose – it was a spartic. However, the fish had other ideas and managed to slip the hook just as it was about to be taken in Elias’s net. So close to the fourth species of the day.
And this is how it remained. I guess three out of five wasn’t bad and we had a great day’s fishing with over 30 fish between us with an even split to dries, lures and the bung. Bank House continues to produce top quality fishing all year round and there is no doubt that the challenge of five species in one day adds additional interest to your visit. As I write, the FIVE species challenge has still not been completed so there’s a chance to make a name for yourself! Can you do it?
Ben Fox is a former England Youth International, instructor with the charity Fishing4Schools, writer and professional angling guide and coach. His company, Fly Guy, operates in the north of England covering a selection of venues.
If you would like to book a guided session with Ben visit: www.fly-guy.co.uk or email email@example.com