Lure Blog #51

Fresh thinking……..

Having got my “fly head on” again, I can’t think of anything I’d rather be doing at the moment. I’ve enjoyed it so much, the challenge of fishing different waters, especially those I’d not fished before has given me a new sense of freedom I’ve not experience for many years. With this open minded approach I’m now starting anew and learning new skills and tactics, while using different flies, all very exciting stuff. “So where to next”?

Chalybeate Springs – Eridge East Sussex TN3 9JA [07583 071 871]

This lovely 2 acre spring fed lake is situated in the heart of the Eridge Deer Park. Stocked with Rainbow and Brown Trout, Chalybeate also has a small stock of native Brown Trout which breed in the feeder stream. I have happy memories of hours spent chasing their ancestors in the various streams on the Eridge Estate back in the 70’s with spinners and worms before I learnt to fly fish.

I arrived on a crisp Sunday morning, the frost was so thick on the ground I happily accepted a cuppa from Jim Streeter the fishery owner. Jim has revived the fishery since he took over with a lot of TLC, effort, enthusiasm and passion. Jim’s new found hobby of fly fishing, he only took it up when he retired, having previously been a coarse fisherman. Jim was hesitant to start fly fishing having thought it was only for toffs, nothing could be further from the truth, believe me.

Nick Cox enjoying the early morning sun at Chalybeate

Jim’s peg, what a view!

I used to fish Chalybeate quite a lot when it first opened many years ago. I remember I often caught fish very close to the bank, on the “lift and hang” at the end of my retrieve. All successful reservoir anglers know how important it is to finish each cast with a slow “lift” followed by a long pause, “hang”, before lifting off to make the next cast. This tactic is the downfall of many fish and is often overlooked by small water specialists.

I decided to start in the right hand corner of the dam as this allowed me to cast parallel to the adjacent bank. I was again using my Lee Wulff Predator ‘sink tip’ line with a single, semi-buoyant FAB Blob, no droppers allowed here. By now it was a beautiful calm and bright sunny morning, in fact I had to wear my sunglasses it was that dazzling. There were occasionally fish rolling on the surface that were very distracting, at first it appeared that there were quite a few fish rising but on closer inspection I concluded it was only a small number of very active fish that seemed to be cavorting all over the lake. In the past I could easily have ended up chasing these fish thinking there was a rise on, but I could hear the advice of my good friend James Gardner ringing in my ears, saying these were only about 1% of the population and the rest were somewhere else down below!

So after each cast I counted my line down, first 15 seconds, then 20 seconds as I searched deeper and closer to the bottom, where any feeding fish would be finding food in the form of fly larvae. I slowly retrieved my fly back towards the dam face; takes came shortly after I felt the sink tip section of my line dragging along the bottom. The extra friction of the line alerted me to the fact my fly was approaching the incline of the dam face. I had to be very vigilant at this point as a take could come at any moment; in fact 4 of my first 6 fish came on the lift as I felt my fly clipping strands of weed or reeds. After a few hours I’d exhausted all the angles I could cast to from my corner position, so I now moved to the casting platform in the middle of the dam.

Nick Cox enjoying the early morning sun at Chalybeate

Nick Cox enjoying the early morning sun at Chalybeate

Nick Cox the only other angler brave enough to venture out this morning had fished this spot earlier without success. Although Nick was fishing in a very similar fashion he’d not received a take, I wondered if the fact that the platform forced him to cast out into deeper water was the reason for his lack of action? I couldn’t buy a take casting from the platform either so decided to cast along the face of the dam, as I was sure there were more fish to be caught here if I could. I struggled to cast conventionally so resorted to casting backwards, this allowed me to guide my cast away from the limbs of the overhanging trees and bushes. After the drama of casting I continued my methodical slow retrieves and managed to extract another 4 fish, one of which took so close to the end of my cast that none of my fly line was actually on the water, the take was indicated by the sudden tightening of my leader!

I’d fished as well as I knew how and felt tired but contented. What a welcome return it had been, I mustn’t leave it so long before returning to this cracking little fishery.

Norton Fishery – Stapleford Tawney, Essex RM4 1ST [01708 688 525]

As James Gardner and I approached the fishery’s we wonder if it would be frozen or not? The last few days and nights had been Baltic. I’d taken the precaution of phoned ahead to confirm the lake wasn’t already solid. Neither of us had ever fished here before so it was with some trepidation that we entered the fishing lodge. Bert the owner gave us a brief rundown on the fishery’s history, its stock and what to expect regarding features and depth. At about 5 acres in size Norton’s an ex-gravel pit so the water is very clear. With casting platforms dotted around the banks there’s plenty of room and water to explore. On this occasion we had the lake to ourselves, no surprise really as the previous day’s snow still hadn’t cleared.

The grass crunched underfoot as we surveyed the scene before us, James elected to fish off the point directly outside the lodge. Being left handed James could cast across the wind that was funnelling down into the bay to his left; he could easily cast across the narrow channel into the opposite margin which allowed him to fish his flies down the drop-off. I decided to explore the other end of the lake and cast into the light breeze that was pushing into that corner. I wanted to cast along the margin but the various shrubs along the bank forced me to cast directly out into open water, I then let the wind drift my flies back towards the margin.

After about an hour, doubt started to enter my head, I began to wonder if we’d “bitten off more than we could chew”. I hadn’t seen any signs of fish, I’d been fishing through the upper layers of the water systematically searching, going deeper and deeper but still without a take! In desperation I went much deeper and retrieved much slower too, first cast and a take at last, “fish on”, what a relief. Unfortunately this wasn’t the answer and after many more casts I moved to the adjacent bank which allowed me to cast across the wind and drift my flies into the down-wind margin. My set up was my go to method of the moment ‘sink tip’ line and ‘washing line system’; flies were my reliable Blob – top dropper, Diawl Bach – middle dropper and FAB Blob point fly.

From my new casting position I noticed the occasional fish roll through the surface, these were so gentle it suggested they weren’t coming from depth, fish rising from deep water usually burst through the surface creating very splashy rises, these fish seemed to be mooching along near the surface which was at odds with what we’d expected. I tried searching a little higher in the water on my next few casts, counting down 15 seconds before commencing my retrieve when everything locked up “fish on” a little while later another fish falls in a similar fashion, maybe I’ve found the method after all?

James had been experiencing the same as well, one fish taken deep while the other came shallow, time for lunch, a warm up and a re-think. Having thought I’d cracked the method fishing through the mid-water I had a rude awakening as I remained fishless for the next hour after lunch. What to try next? I switched to an indicator [bung] and a team of flies suspended at 2ft, 4ft and finally 6ft, this would allow me to hardly move my flies. The thought occurred to me that I might have spooked the fish by casting repeatedly into the same area? Clear water fish are more aware of being pursued; maybe this change of tactic would open the flood gates?

Drifting my flies around in the breeze brought no response. Next move I returned to casting into the now freezing wind, it was painful but “no pain, no gain”. A few casts later and as my indicator reaches the near shelf then dithers, bobs and finally jabs under, a quick strike and a welcome fish splashes on the surface. Just then the owner appears and asks me if I’ve tried fishing the platform on the opposite, up-wind bank? He informed me this was one of the most productive spots on the whole lake. “It’s always worth casting back into the corner, where there’s an in-flow, or out towards the island”. Well by now I was frozen and I wasn’t going to ignore local advice, plus the comfort of getting out of the bitter wind was too much to resist.

Nick Cox enjoying the early morning sun at Chalybeate

Andy looks pleased with one of Norton’s finest

Casting from my new spot was not easy due to my back cast clipping the bushes when I got over ambitious. My first two casts produced finicky takes that I missed the bung dipped and bobbed but didn’t stay under long enough to strike. Next cast and this time my vigorous strike results in me breaking off, d’oh! I re-tackled but this time with just two flies under the bung as I was sure the takes were coming to the shallowest fly, as this was where my leader had broken, at the junction with the top dropper. First cast and hardly had my flies settled when the bung disappeared, I lifted quickly and felt the satisfying surge of power as a fit Rainbow powers off towards the island. What happened next was truly amazing as every cast produced a take, with fish falling to both flies; they were very shallow now, most fish took the top fly but some took the deeper fly “on the drop” before it reached its full depth setting. By now James had joined me; fishing from the next platform he was also enjoying the action. In that manic last hour we managed to catch at least a dozen fish which sent us home with big smiles on our faces. I’m left wondering if that lost fish sparked the other fish into action? It was as if someone had flicked a switch and the lake suddenly turned on.

The “bung”

I mentioned in last month’s article about positioning my flies closer together when fishing the bung, this is because the flies are fishing vertically with little or no lift as they are fished most often static, so they are actually fishing 2ft apart. My usual spacing of 4ft to 5ft when casting is to allow for the angle in my leader as I retrieve. The lift caused by the drag of my flies and leader line means in all likelihood my flies are fishing 2ft apart depth wise.

Nick Cox enjoying the early morning sun at Chalybeate

A few precious moments to savour before releasing

It’s important when searching the layers of water that you only make small depth changes if you want to be successful, so 2ft apart rather than 5ft apart is likely to put at least one fly in the right depth. Finally another tactic is to occasionally make one or two long strips to lift your flies towards the surface before letting them settle again, this catches the attention of cruising fish that might not have noticed your static presentation. I’m now pretty sure these thoughts explain my lack of success previously when using this method. I’d never given it much thought and as a consequence had only bumped into the very occasional fish, usually on the drop when my flies were above the fish for a briefest moment.

Til’ next month “tight lines”.

Andy Lush

For expert service and advice visit Andy’s shop The Friendly Fisherman in Tunbridge Wells [TN1 2PS] for a huge variety of freshwater, fly & lure tackle.