When trout are preoccupied with feeding on something small and numerous it can be frustrating. Time to apply logic for success…
SHARP tails break the surface of rippled water next to a patch of calm – a common sight and that’s why we should always seek out the riffled water. But how frustrating is it when you throw everything at them and they won’t take? Preoccupation is a common problem when trout are feeding on a dominant food source that’s so abundant and small that they just won’t choose anything else.
Even if you do manage to imitate the food item they’re feeding on, they’re so numerous that the chances of them picking out your offering arc minimal to say the least. What do you do? We encounter this very problem at Tanfield Lodge Fishery near Ripon, Yorkshire. It’s a tree-lined, scenic small water lying closed to the River Ure.
Shallow across most of its area, there are some deep holes to around 14 feet, which offer interest to the angler and a haven for overwintering fish. It’s a natural looking spring-fed fishery with reed-fringed bays and one particular point with reinforced wooden banks that looks to be popular with the regulars.
Rods aren’t bending!
Conditions are perfect, a decent warm breeze and intermittent cloud giving way to sunshine, and the fish are happily feeding away just under the surface. The only problem is that the rods aren’t bending. A problem that must be solved! The first thing we do is meet the anglers and – apart from Paul Simms fishing on the car park bank – they’re pretty frustrated.
Paul, from Masham, has caught one fish on a Baetis Nymph, a streamlined well-conditioned rainbow that Peter Gathercole photographs immediately.
But this fish is a false dawn because, for the next two hours, nothing is caught despite there being several regular anglers lining the banks. Fishery owner, Chris, arrives with his playful pet dogs and recommends that we wade out as far as we can along a shallow sand bank. If we cast out towards the middle from there, we’re sure of a fish or two. Some of the locals scorn this idea – claiming it to be a hotspot and too easy – preferring instead the challenge of fishing from the point jutting out and offering access to deep water. Besides that, it’s comfortable fishing from there.
Peeling the pressure to catch, I wade out and while slowly moving, mindful not to push too much fish-scaring water, I spot trout tails breaking the surface rather close to my left. So close in fact that I could touch them with my rod tip. The water’s surface is rippled and these fish, being close to the surface, have a narrow window of vision – hence why they move so close to me. What are they feeding on?
Occasionally, a small freshly hatched olive f ly f loats by but the trout ignore them. They must be feeding on something just subsurface. I need to catch a fish and spoon it to find out. Armed with a floating line and Orange Beaded Damsel (I’m told that they always work here) I make a cast across the wind out over where most fish are moving.
A couple of pulls to straighten the leader and then a figure-of-eight results in a pluck and a tightening of the line. I’m into a fish and Peter’s camera starts clicking. Tanfield doesn’t trade on huge trout, although there are some big ones present, but you can be sure that these fish fight well. And they’ll be of decent quality. This fish gives me the run around but eventually tires and comes to hand.
Tiny midge pupa
Spooning reveals tiny olive midge pupa, which the trout are obviously hoovering up as they cruise slowly just under the surface. Sometimes it pays to ‘knock the fish off balance’ by presenting something completely different to what they’re feeding on. It’s one way of dealing with fish concentrating on one particular food source, especially when the food is hard to imitate due to they’re small size.
After that, I suffer another barren patch, which provides an opportunity to walk the lake and meet other anglers. On the popular point area I meet former Junior Troutmasters Final stewards Daphne Porter and Dr Peter Fletcher, best pals who love the seclusion of this tranquil Yorkshire water. Daphne helped to arrange this day and with her usual smile and humour talks about how hard the fishing is today compared to others. “That’s fishing for you,” she says. Peter is a fan of tiny dry f lies and those of you who read this magazine regularly may well recall his feature a few years ago where he used size 32 dries with good results. After hearing that fish are feeding on tiny pupa just under the surface he has faith that his minute patterns will catch. He doesn’t have to wait long. Peter’s persistence and choice of pattern pay off as he lands a nice rainbow, which he gives to Daphne to take home.
The static Booby
Despite the lion’s share of the trout coming from the lodge end of the lake, as other anglers return, we learn that other patterns have done quite well – one angler catching four fish, which is good angling on a tough day like today. Dry Daddies, Damsel Nymphs and, latterly for me, a tiny Black Booby score well, despite the fish being preoccupied with tiny olive buzzer pupa.
With fish rising and moving around in circles and no particular pattern to their movements, it’s difficult to decide where they’re headed in order to make a cast to intercept. So, the only option is to present a pattern static and wait for the fish to notice it.
The Bibio Booby with very small foam eyes – trim the eyes and tail with scissors if too big – looks just like a small black terrestrial so typical of northern upland waters and with the f ly sitting low in the surface film I lie in wait. Excitement increases as a pod of fish move close by – surely one will notice my offering. Happily, one does. That classic slow head-and-tail moves over the f ly and once its head is down I lift the rod. Peter’s camera clicks again.
The beauty of these tiny Booby dries is that you can twitch them like a Sugar Cube dry, which is often all you need to entice a take. Well, when the fish are this focussed on a particular food source you’ve got to get their attention somehow! So, when trout are feeding confidently on food that’s so tiny that it’s hard to imitate, it’s worth offering something completely different or diverting their attention somehow. Just think logically and keep plugging away.