In the weeks leading up to June 16th, I always become excited about the prospect of fishing in running water again. The same period is also a great time for flyfishing the midlands reservoirs for Pike, Perch and Zander, and with the reservoirs opening on May 16th, it makes the months of May and June one of my favourite times of year to fish in the UK.
This year we managed a few trips on the reservoirs in that month-long time period, and concentrated on fishing the shallow bays and around the weedbeds, primarily for Pike and Zander. We had a slow start on our first trip, but in the evening Dad landed his first Pike of the season, which was a cracker at 21lb 4oz and 107cm. This was shortly followed by a couple of nice Zander, one of which followed my fly right to the boat before nailing it!
Before I’d even finished setting my rod up on our second trip, Dad hooked a good Pike on his very first cast of the day, and after four follows from Pike in the first hour, we thought we’d have an action packed day ahead.
However, it took another 7 hours before we had any more fish in the boat, when we came across some Zander in around 12ft of water. Interestingly, over the next few trips we seemed to have hardly any action in the morning and early afternoon, and caught most of our fish after 4pm. There was one afternoon that, from 4pm until 8pm, produced 15 Zander - Dad’s first three fish, in total, weighed 2oz over 30lb! The action continued and at times we had double hookups - Zander put up an amazing fight on the fly, and we finished the day with three Zander over 10lb, and some of the best sport we’d enjoyed on the fly for a while.
Following on from that trip, Tom Clinton, the retail manager at Farlows, joined us for a half day trip hoping to catch his first Pike and Zander on the fly. We managed to tick off the first one, a Pike, within an hour of fishing, which put up an awesome fight on Tom’s homemade Epic 8ft 8in 8wt (or triple 8 as he calls it!)
I managed a jack Pike shortly after, and then for most of the afternoon we had no bites. As the light began to fade, Dad managed a nice Perch whilst I caught a Zander, but thankfully on his very last cast of the day, Tom hooked and landed a Zander of around 5lb!
Time flies when you’re having fun, and before we knew it, June 16th was just around the corner, and on the opening day we were keen to explore our local rivers with lures for Chub. I started the day using a Salmo Lil’ Bug, which was deadly for Chub last summer, whilst Dad started with the 5cm floating Salmo Minnow, another hardbait that has worked well for us, especially if the Chub aren’t quite up for taking lures off the surface.
On Dad’s very first cast of the day, just before 5.30am, he hooked in to what he thought was a Chub after casting his lure towards a few fish holding up below a weir, but it turned out a Pike had beaten the Chub to it! It was nice for him to catch a fish on the first cast of the day, but sadly, the disturbance had spooked the Chub. Apart from landing a small Perch and me losing a Chub, it went very quiet, so we decided to make a short drive to a club-owned stretch of river, only to find two people poaching, which was very annoying! The Chub we’d been hoping to stalk on the gravel runs were spooked and it wasn’t worth waiting around, so we decided to hop back in the car and check out another section of river, which, although looked very fishy, was very quiet, so we ended up relocating again.
At venue number four, I soon landed a nice Chub, which took a 5cm floating Minnow in Rainbow Dace. After taking a few pictures and releasing the fish, with all the walking we’d done, we were both feeling a bit tired and decided to call it a day, head home and prepare for a few hours fishing the following day.
The next day we ventured out for a few hours on the river Lea, starting at around 2pm, and we were joined again by Tom Clinton from Farlows. As we were walking along the river, Dad spotted a Carp swimming upstream. As he was watching it, it spooked a good Chub out from under some reeds, so he decided to move about 15 metres upstream and clipped on a 4cm Salmo Hornet in Trout. He cast as far as he could downstream, and then payed out some braid so the lure drifted a few more metres down, and then started retrieving, swimming it back underneath the marginal reeds. He’d almost finished his retrieve, when, from under the reeds, the Chub loomed out and took the Hornet! After a thrashing fight right under the rod tip, I quickly scooped the fish up in the net and we knew straight away it was over 5lb.
Later that afternoon, we were searching for Chub on a gravel run, when I spotted a fish that looked a lot like a Grayling. Grayling are very rare in the Lea and I had to look again as I couldn’t believe what I’d just seen - it was, indeed, a Grayling! I called Tom over and pointed the fish out to him, and as he was flyfishing, it was the perfect fish to target on the fly. He made a bow and arrow cast with his 3wt, and the Grayling took first time, but the fly came straight out of its mouth as Tom struck. The fish hadn’t spooked though, so Tom made another cast, and the Grayling took again! I slid down the bank with the net and got stung up badly by the nettles, but I didn’t care - it was a River Lea Grayling! Great going for only his second ever fish from the Lea!
I’d taken three days off work for the start of the season so that we could fish and also catch up on other things, so we ended up fishing the third day too, again just for a few hours. We visited an area where it’s sometimes possible to stalk Barbel on lures, and although we did find a few, they were very spooky and we didn’t manage to catch any. Dad spotted a good Chub though in amongst a group of Barbel, and watched it swim downstream underneath some trees. Just like the day before, he cast the 4cm Hornet as far as he could under the trees, and payed out around 5 metres of braid, before starting his retrieve. He watched the Chub come out from under the trees and smash the Hornet, almost identical to the take he’d had from the 5lb’er the day before - only this one was bigger!
After checking out other parts of the river, I spotted two Chub together in a snaggy area, so I clipped on a 7cm Rage Critter and cast in front of the fish. Thankfully, the larger of the two snapped it up and it turned out to be another 5lb+ Chub! Apart from a small Perch, that was all we caught, but it was nice that we’d both ended the session with a good Chub each.
We had to wait until the following week before the next trip, and again, they were just a couple of short sessions. The Barbel that had frustrated us the week before were our main target, and on my very first cast of the day, I managed to stalk a nice Barbel of around 5lb on a creature bait rigged on a 3g jig head. That was the only Barbel we caught from that section, but a couple of hours later, on a different section of river, Dad also managed to stalk a Barbel, which was a slightly bigger fish that weighed 6lb 1oz. It was an awesome take (one of the most aggressive I’ve seen from a Barbel) and a great fight!
We ventured further upstream and Dad spotted the tail of what he thought was a good Chub. He couldn’t see its head and it was in a really awkward spot, laying under some streamer weed. He dropped his creature bait through a tiny gap in the streamer weed, and watched the tail accelerate forward, so he struck and all hell broke loose! After a crazy aerobatic fight, he landed one of the best looking Brown Trout I’ve ever seen from our local rivers! As it was really hot we didn’t want to keep it out of the water for too long (famous last words), so we prepared for some quick photos. As he held the fish up to the camera, it leaped out of his hands and straight back in the river! Luckily, I’d just managed to shoot one photo!
Two more Chub that took 3cm Hornets in Trout completed a great afternoon!
At the end of July, we decided to explore a river that neither of us had fished for several years, but we were keen to see what it was like and if there were any big Chub there that would be up for taking lures. We spotted some very big fish, and although we couldn’t tempt any, we did land quite a few small Chub on the new 2cm Lil’ Bug. What we also spotted, which was very good to see, were three Eels - one of them was actually stalking a shoal of Minnows on a gravel run, and it was hiding under the rocks and streamer weed waiting to pounce, which was fascinating to watch! I actually tried to stalk it on a Rage Micro Grub, as I’ve never caught an Eel on a lure before - it did go for it, but as it took, I struck and the lure came flying out of it’s mouth!
A week later we returned, and although we didn’t see the same number of big Chub as we did on the first trip, I did manage to tempt one nice fish in to taking a Lil’ Bug. Although it wasn’t a monster, it's hard to beat fishing for them topwater - it followed the Lil' Bug for about five feet, before absolutely wolfing it off the surface!
We’d planned our next trip to be on the Thames, but looking at the forecast (predicting thunderstorms and heavy downpours) we decided to postpone it for another day, and instead tried a different section of river we hadn't fished for maybe five years. Dad got off to a great start with a 5lb+ surface caught Chub on his first cast of the day! Around an hour later I had a brilliant take off the surface too, and netted another 5lb'er! We had a few more opportunities at Chub, but unfortunately they didn't quite want to take, before the heavens opened and we decided to call it a day.
After the storms, the weather cooled down, and we both thought it might be an ideal time to have a trip back to a reservoir flyfishing for predators. Not only that, we were keen to try out a new fly rod. Over the past two or three years, my Dad has suffered from tennis elbow, which he now has in both arms, so to make casting a bit more bearable, we treated ourselves to a new 9ft 9wt. Whilst I started fishing with my Sage TCR, Dad set up our new toy - a Scott Meridian 9’ 9wt, which is super light, and has a slower action than my TCR and his 9’ 9wt Sage TCX, and we were hoping it would make casting heavy lines less tiring.
It took a while to catch our first fish, but Dad boated the first fish of the day, and christened the rod in style with a 43cm Perch, weighing 3lb 4oz!
By the end of the day we’d managed to boat a ‘Grafham Grand Slam’ between us - Pike, Perch and Zander. We were super impressed with the rod, and we’re both looking forward to using it again!
Earlier this month we managed to get our boat back down on the Thames again. We’ve had a few trips there over the last month, but this blog post is getting a bit long now - so I’ll save that for next time!