Friday, April 23, 2010

Wet flies: not just for brown trout you know!

I wanted to try a new venue this week, and taking the opportunity to to put my WADAA wild trout membership to use, paid an evening visit to High Fairbanks Tarn. I had little idea what to expect of this 11 acre reservoir except that it evidently has a population of native wild browns and is given a supplementary annual stocking of fit rainbow trout. A chat the night before to my friend Patrick - who guides in the South Lakes area - yielded little further information as he has yet to fish the water himself.....but one thing upon which we both seemed to agree was that given a ripple, a team of wet flies might be worth a try.

Wet flies for rainbow trout fishing seemed to go out of fashion a long time ago in favour of marabou and fritz lures and slim profile nymphs such as crunchers, diawl bachs and buzzers. Sure the wild brown trout anglers have tended to remain faithful to their wet flies, but you won't find many palmers, dabblers, bumbles and bibios in the fly box of your average stockie basher; and that is despite the fact that some top competition anglers have long since keyed onto the fact that in the right circumstances, wet flies can be absolutely deadly. Take a look at the magazine articles of George Barron and Stan Headley for instance.....and my mate Rob got to the finals for qualification to the national team last year on the back of his wet fly expertise. Strange then, that a hell of a lot of anglers eschew patterns more traditionally associated with wild brown trout in favour of three inch long fritz 'damsels' and the like when pursuing stocked rainbows.

As it turned out, conditions were perfect last night; high thin cloud kept the brightness off the water and a warm southerly breeze ruffled the water sufficiently to persuade me to put up a team of size 12 dabblers on a slow intermediate line. An occasional fish rose to hatching midge but otherwise, surface activity was fairly minimal. However, casting a short-ish line into the ripple from the windward bank and stroking the flies back up through the surface brought almost instant response and I went on to enjoy a couple of hours of unbelievable action with fish coming to the flies - particularly the dark claret dabbler on the top dropper - almost every cast. They were I imagine, freshly stocked fish and so no great credit can be claimed on my part as the going was in all honesty pretty straightforward. By the time the wind dropped away and the fish began to rise to a good hatch of midge I had returned around 15 rainbows just by searching the north bank, casting and moving, brown trout style. Interestingly, when I briefly offered a couple of mini lures to the fish, the takes dried up temporarily. No it was definitely the dabbler they wanted and the takes as I hung the top dropper in the surface film were heartbreakingly beautiful - text book 'head and tail' rises. I am convinced that on this occasion, the wet fly would have outfished the lure.

Once the breeze died, it was time to turn to the floating line of course and although the fishing got a bit trickier in the flat calm, I found that Shipman's buzzers and Stewart style black spiders presented on light tippet in the surface film still attracted plenty of attention. By fall of darkness I had lost count of the number of fish I had returned - top quality fishing in spectacular surroundings. And as I made my way across the fell back to the car, I was treated to a red orange sunset behind the Pikes and Bowfell at the head of Langdale. I love this time of year!

Note: Although much of the WADAA controlled fishing is available on a day ticket, please be aware that High Fairbanks is one of their 'members only' waters. Applications for membership can be made to manager Neil Birkinshaw via the link adjacent.


Nick Carter said...

Hi Matt,

I'm gonna have to get into these wet flies!

had my 1st real outing this weekend with the wadaa ticket - did fairbanks saturday, kentmere sunday am then on to fish the eden on the ksda ticket in the pm. felt rusty as f**k after not fishing for a while!

Matthew Eastham said...

Cheers Nick. I decided to try HF first after being inspired by your posts last season - a lovely water to fish. Hope you enjoyed the Upper Eden - some big old trout knocking about in there you know!