It's Opening Day by Steve Peterson
When I'm dreaming about stillwater fly fishing I would generally be drifting along on the Erne or Melvin casting dries at rising fish on a summer evening but there is still something very special about our reservoir opening days.
Yes of course we can fish for Rainbows all year round on the smaller waters but the opening days on our larger waters often stick in the memory. I can still remember my first opening day which was way back in the early 80's in my second season of fly fishing. I can remember casting around icebergs and my fingers turning blue, but I also remember the look on my mum's face when I returned home with a bag full of Trout.
When planning our opening day trip the first thing we need to do is get our gear ready - make sure those reels are running smoothly and check that those rods were put away clean and dry last September. Then a trip to your local tackle shop for some new flies and new flurocarbon. Check out the Hardy Mach Flurocarbon.
Wrap up warm! It's probably going to be very cold, even if those first signs of spring are all around, the chances are that it's going to be cold at the waters edge with a cool wind. Wear layers and gloves (I prefer fingerless) can help you keep retrieving those flies in the cold. You can always shed a layer of clothing if it warms up.
Most of the opening day action will revolve around the newly stocked fish. The hot spots will probably be obvious as that's where most of the other anglers will be. If you don't want to follow the crowd look for the deeper water and search the depths with various sinking densities of fly line. I like to start with a clear intermediate like the Hardy Mach Trout on a #7 weight. Lures will more than likely be the order of the day my choice would be patterns like tadpoles, cats whiskers, zonkers or the latest snake lures. Patterns which you can put some enticing movements into even with a slow retrieve. Always vary your retrieve if the water is cold the fish may not be in the mood to chase so a varied retrieve should get them interested.
Another option of the session is to ignore all the stockies and explore - search the quieter or out of the way areas for an overwintered specimen. These fish will be fully naturalised survivors from last season and are likely to be the larger and fin perfect fish of the season. Fry patterns and lures may work but don't rule out the buzzers. It's always worth looking out for a hatch on the milder days.
Wherever you choose to fish after searching the depths and changing the colour of your flies if you don't catch get moving. Stock fish will shoal and move around but it's always a better idea to cover the water until you find them.
Apart from being very satisfying, distance casting can make all the difference to your catch rate. The fish may simply be in deeper water further from the bank or everyone else has waded out to the tops of their waders and pushed them further out. My choice of rod for this would be a Greys XF2 or a Hardy Zenith 9'6" or 10' balanced with the appropriate #7 or #8 weight line. The other key to getting the distance from the reservoir bank is a well timed double haul.
The double haul will increase your line speed and when practiced will make thirty yard casts look easy. The increased line speed will cut through the wind and when learned you will wonder how you ever fished without it!
Many of our reservoirs are unusually low for this time of year and we are in need of some rain to top them up. Last year's early season hot spot may look very different this year and may even be dry land! This of course gives us access to different features and depths and if your local venue is low it's a good opportunity to see all the usually submerged features.
Wherever you are fishing on opening day I hope you have a great time and if you can't make opening day get out there as soon as you can and enjoy your fishing!
Within just a few days, the big stillwaters will be opening around the country. It's always a keenly anticipated event, not least at the famous Bristol fisheries of Chew and Blagdon.
Blagdon will be first on the 16th March, followed the next week by Chew on the 23rd. Both lakes have over-wintered well and are at almost top level. The major pre-season stocking took place a few weeks ago and the fish are reported to be in stunning condition after a generally mild winter. More information from: www.bristolwater.co.uk/fishing
Many anglers will have seen the pictures of Southern's Bewl Water in the National news last week, where the near-drought conditions have meant that a hose pipe ban is imminent. It will be interesting to see how this affects the fishing, particularly after such a great season in 2011 when anglers averaged over 4 fish per return in what was generally claimed to be one of the best years in the history of the fishery. Bewl opens next week on 21st March.
Drought is also an issue on Anglian Waters reservoirs where levels are universally below seasonal average. Pitsford and Ravensthorpe have already opened for business with good fishing reported. Grafham opens on 16th March and Rutland on 31st. Bank anglers are warned to be cautious of soft mud conditions which could make wading difficult.
Further north, Kielder in Northumberland is not affected by the drought and is opening next week. Set in the heart of one of Europe's biggest forests, there is nothing quite like the atmosphere at Kielder although sinking lines will be the order of the day until things warm up a little.
Water shortage is not nearly so much of a problem the further West you go, particularly in the far South West where some truly amazing sport can be had on Colliford. Set way up on Bodmin moor, this much under-rated fishery is still the home of really wild brown trout lake fishing and for those who want complete solitude and the feeling of being truly ‘away from it all' it would be hard to beat. At 900 acres there is plenty of wilderness fishing to be explored and there's great way of buying your permit: just call in for a beer at the old smuggling pub The Jamaica Inn, just off the A30, and they will sell you a beer to go with the permit!
Stillwater report by Chris Ogborne
Steve Peterson is a qualified AAPGAI Master Casting Instructor and Hardy & Greys Game Marketing Manager.
Readers in the UK can buy the Hardy fly fishing products mentioned in this article online from Hardyfishing.com - click here to shop online.