With the forecast being a bit iffy this weekend the river seemed out of question. The wind and rain was due to set in and risking travelling anywhere to fish a river would have been the kiss of death, we headed to Farmoor where at least you can hide from the wind and the only effect the rain has is greying the sky.
As we arrived at the lake there was a strong westerly blowing directly into my favourite corner. The water was choppy but not so that you couldn’t get a line across it. Out came the Airflo Airlite Nantec Competition special loaded with the Di 8 Shooting head.
Usually if your first casts a good’un, the sinking time is normally left to a good minute just to make sure the line has hit the depth your aiming for, which in the winter is usually hard on the bottom! The first cast is normally a teaser, your excited, anxious to put a bend in the rod and a fish on the bank, your retrieve is too fast and you only realise when you miss a take… but 20 minutes in, nothing. Not even a take between 4 of us which was surprising considering the number of fish we had in this area over the last few months.
The next few casts I thought I’d do something different, retrieve the flies in a different manor to everyone else. The usual retrieve would be a dead slow figure of eight with the odd pull or jig throughout. As this wasn’t working i’d decided to fish the flies at the same level but a lot quicker, leaving the line sink 40-50 seconds with long exaggerate pulls, hopefully to entice anything that was feeding and not interested in the slow stuff.
It was like switching the lights on. A pull on the very first pull! Continuing the same steady retrieve it finally locked up and I’d hooked the only fish for 20 minutes on the Fenton Cat. The fish put up a good fight taking some line as it reached the bank, but eventually slid over the net. A clean looking for of about 2lbs, which was absolutely spewing daphnia. A water-mite which forms clumps in the water and provides a substantial part of the fishes diet in most waters. It forms to create ‘clouds’ under the water which fish gorge themselves on, this fish had it in its mouth and was pouring out onto the bank.
Still nothing was happening for the boys around so I tried the same thing again. For the next 4 casts I hooked and lost 3 fish and landed another. Cracked it! The next hour or so produced 6-7 fish with some slabs mixed in, older fish of up to 3 1/2lbs which had obviously switched due to the amount of daphnia.
Throughout the day the fish had risen in the water column, seemingly to make their feeding more active and aggressive. Varying the retrieve and sink rate we found fish more or less from the top to the bottom, with the bigger, more resident fish mid-water. Even though they were deep, they didn’t seem to want it slow. The speed of the wind was kicking up the undertow causing the flies to hooks some leaves which were caught in the current, the same thing was probably happening to the daphnia, forcing the fish to practically ‘chase’ it. Moving the flies seemed to imitate this perfectly and the fish were respoding well, why change anything when you get something going?