Tuesday, 27 September 2011 17:35

Trout from small waters


The brown trout is a great British game fish. They can be found in just about all the different sorts of waters throughout the British Isles, they can adapt to slow canal like rivers, deep Scottish lochs, brackish estuarine waters and tiny streams, so narrow that you could almost miss them. I like fishing for brown trout, probably because of the varied sporting opportunities they offer. Being based in Devon I am lucky to fish and guide on some great trout waters, I particularly love the tiny moorland streams on Dartmoor and Exmoor. These moors offer fascinating fishing, beautiful isolation and plenty of feisty trout. In this article I will outline my approach to fishing these streams.

The Gear.

The first thing to point out is that the fish that frequent these streams are not large, these are wild fish surviving in a harsh, relatively infertile conditions and subsequently an 12 inch fish is a good fish. So leave your reservoir gear behind. I like to use a light rod, a two weight is ideal, preferably between 7 and 8 feet in length. A two weight rod is rated to a two weight line; that means that approximately 30 feet of a two weight line will load the rod adequately when casting. The problem is that 30 feet of fly line on these streams will be out of the pool, in fact out of the stream. Shorter casts mean less weight outside of the rod tip, hence I tend to ‘overline’ my rod with a three weight, this also helps me cope with the windy conditions that are frequently found on the moors. I match this to a tapered leader to assist with turnover in these conditions.

On the subject of gear it is worth mentioning the need for adequate clothing. The weather up on these moors can be bleak and can change almost by the minute. Be sure to pack adequate warm and waterproof clothing.

The Flies.

I have already mentioned that these waters are relatively infertile. Do not expect to see huge hatches of upwings or writhing masses of nymphs and aquatic insects. The fish here are opportunistic feeders, they cannot afford to turn down a likely meal. Stoneflies and various terrestrial insects feature highly on the menu, anglers should carry suitable imitations, but a variety of suggestive patterns in different sizes will serve you well. I strongly advise using barbless hooks or to flatten the barbs on your hooks, catch and release is the norm here. There is no need for complicated patterns, F-flies, black gnats and klinkhammers will all serve you well.

The Approach.

Spring arrives late up on these moors, I would not advise heading up there for the first day of the fishing season, give things a little time to warm up. I tend to stick almost exclusively to the dry fly, mainly because of the depth of water means that a nymph or wet fly will frequently ‘snag-up’. I will sometimes add a weighted nymph below the dry fly when I want to explore a particularly interesting looking hole. So I would suggesting working upstream, flicking a dry fly into all of the likely looking water. Notice, I say ‘flicking’, whilst the fish here are not particular with regards to fly pattern, they will absolutely not tolerate poor presentation. The biggest problem when fishing these streams is line control, there are so many different directions and speeds of moving water ready to impart some drag to your carefully presented dry fly. There are lots of ways to counter this, mending your line, slack line casts or fishing downstream are all options but for me one of the best solutions is to minimise the amount of line exposed to the moving water. Think short casts or casts where the majority of the line is on dry land. Of course this means that you are up close and personal with the fish, the beauty of this form of fishing, so your river craft is important, keep quiet and keep out of sight. 

For me, fishing tiny streams for brown trout is the epitome of our sport, you are not going to catch huge fish but you can expect to catch beautiful, crafty, truly wild fish. At the same time enjoy fishing in stunning isolation, being close to wonderful wildlife, amongst dramatic scenery. 

About The Author:

Derrick Jones from Adventure Fly Fishing UKDerrick Jones is based in North Devon and runs Adventure Fly Fishing UK.

He is a qualified member of the Association of Advanced Professional Game Angling Instructors (AAPGAI) and offers bespoke guided fly fishing and casting instruction for individuals and groups.

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