Wellsfield Trout fishery, in Central Scotland, at one time held the Scottish record rainbow trout. Stan Moore braved the snow and ice amid a spectacle similar to that of the combat fishing seen in Alaska’s salmon runs
That need for the euphoria that comes with catching fish, was in full throttle. I had to get my next take soon and my addiction to fly fishing had to be fed. The thick blanket of snow and ice, which had caused all sorts of chaos in recent weeks, had put a hold to any fishing outings. But now the white curse was starting to melt away with the slightly, and I mean slightly, milder conditions. I suppose the expectations couldn’t be too high, we were in mid-January after all. Rivers were on the rise with snowmelt but some stillwaters were starting to thaw out now, meaning at least a few pegs could be fishable.
Driving to Wellsfield Trout fishery located in Central Scotland, which at one time, held the Scottish record rainbow trout, I pondered if there would be enough space and unfrozen water available to fish. I imagined that perhaps it would be a similar spectacle to that of the combat fishing seen in Alaska’s salmon runs. After meandering through the horse stables to reach the fishery car park, I soon realised that there certainly would be enough space. There was only one other angler on the brink of this insanity; like myself he was willing to go to extreme measures to curb his fishing withdrawals.
The short treacherous “bambi like” walk across the iced car park to the bothy, I could see the other angler had already taken refuge and he was in for a much needed break and a cup of tea.
Two Fly Approach
A 7-wt rod and intermediate line with two flies was my first approach. A blob was attached to the top dropper and a black and green Cat’s Whisker on the point. The blob can be great fly at both catching and drawing fish in to your point fly. It can be all too easy to change the blob for another pattern when fish have only been taking the point the fly, but only to find takes then dry up. It’s the initial attraction of the blob, which gains the attention of the fish to take the point fly. Like for many us, black/green and white/green are my favourite colours on stillwaters at this time of year.
Stan’s method was to cast the flies onto the ice and draw them over into the open water where the fish were holding
An aerator, helping to keep some of the water from freezing, was on my right-hand side and this was creating a river effect and hence producing a curve in the line. This could be used to my advantage for two reasons, covering more water and the arc of the fly line creating a change in direction in the retrieve, which can help to induce, takes. My intention was to fish my flies as close to the ice as possible, to the extent I would cast onto the ice, allowing the line to sink to various depths and then start my slow and steady retrieves allowing the flies to drop off the ice and into water. The edge of the ice is always my focal point on days like this, a lot of fish hang around in this area, perhaps they can take safe cover from predators and they can pick up food that has been trapped on the edge of the ice. One fish was lost using this method, but I felt I still wasn’t fishing as effectively as I could be.
Change In Tactics
A total change in tactics was required. On came the floating line, bung and a single white and green Puddle Bug. The reasoning behind the change in tactics is that I would be able to keep my fly in the best zone possible, just off the edge of the ice. The flow would also allow me to cover more water with this method and mending the line would prevent the flies being drawn back towards me. The bung went under, instant success and I felt the same sense of achievement that I get when successfully selecting a fly and angle to cast to a rising trout on a river. The fish wasn’t giving up easy and it gave constant darts and runs to try and get under the ice to break free. Eventually I slid the net under the fish and I felt just that little bit better now. I got my hit. But with any addiction one is too many and one isn’t enough. I had to catch another. Thankfully for Gordon, the man behind the photography, it didn’t take me long to land my second, with the careful return of the fish, we decided to call it a day.
It’s all too easy to find an excuse as to why we don’t go fishing in the winter months, but sometimes on these cold days you could be missing out on some exceptional sport. I’m not saying for one minute you should be out there all day, but an outing lasting a couple of hours can provide you with what you have long been hankering for.
England born Stan Moore is a Loop Ambassador. He currently resides in Scotland and fishes extensively across the UK and Ireland targeting trout, grayling, salmon and sea trout. Rivers and loch-style are his favourite disciplines competing nationally south of the border. Like most, presenting a dry fly to a wild fish, is his preferred method of fishing.