Almost every day I watch anglers at the fishery casually casting and stripping lures with almost none or very little thought into what they are actually doing. Don't get me wrong some guys are perfectly happy coming along and sitting enjoying the surroundings and am I having a pop at them? Certainly not! Some anglers are very happy to come along and simply chill out. This is more aimed at the guy who comes to me and says "I fished there all morning I move away and that guy goes straight in and catches fish what am I doing wrong?"
Let's set the scene when you arrive at your platform or peg. On approach use a bit of stealth. The amount of anglers I see at my fishery who crash onto a platform dump their gear and throw the net down is unbelievable. I don't think some anglers realise that fish are very sensitive to vibration and these actions may be enough to send them racing off.
On the average smaller fishery it would be safe to say you could cast forward at 45 degrees to the left and right without upsetting your neighbour. Depending on the time of year we will start with a floating line standard leader of say 10 feet and a gold bead lure. For the first cast head straight out but not too far before starting your retrieve this could be anything from slow or fast pulls figure of eight short jabs to fast strip but initially keep it consistent. Starting the retrieve fairly quickly keeps the lure in the top layers of the water and any fish that may have been close in should at least see the lure.
Have a cast or two short and straight out varying the pause before retrieving as this should search down the depths enough to hopefully take that lurking fish. Remember it is vitally important to retrieve the lure right in to your feet the amount of anglers I see lifting 10 or 15 feet of line out of the water to recast is incredible the last part of the retrieve is commonly the most important that fish may be following the lure waiting to attack. If nothing happens have a cast either to the left or right of centre and work your way round to the 45 degree mark again it is up to you whether you cast and retrieve right away on the searching casts or cover all the angles in the upper reaches then recover them counting down your lure.
Once you are pretty confident that you have indeed covered the area pretty well start to cast further out starting again in front and working your way both sides and down in depth. Try and count your lure down as I personally think the fishing depth for standard Rainbow Trout fishing is far more important that the choice of fly. Your first cast may start the retrieve immediately then a pause of 5 or 10 seconds then 20 seconds and so on searching the depths pretty thoroughly until you get a response. You can then concentrate on ‘fan casting' your area at the right feeding depth. I have asked guys "What depth were you getting them at?" to be met with a complete blank response. Just by counting down the lure gives you some indication of where the fish are. An easy method of trying to assess the actual depth is to drop the lure in the water holding the leader at say a foot from the lure count how long it takes for the leader to tighten (with a wet lure!) and that will give you an approximate sink rate this can be multiplied by the pause before the retrieve. Remember however that as soon as you start to retrieve the lure on a floating line you will be lifting the lure in the water depending on the retrieval speed try pulling the fly across the front of you and watch what happens.
Let's just say that nothing happened it may mean a change of line may be required. Perhaps the fish are lying a little deeper so changing to an intermediate line and going through the whole scenario again may be the answer. Pay attention to the weather conditions if you are getting takes and the sun bursts through and the action stops remember the fish have no eyelids and because of the position of the eyes (on the top of the fish) the only thing the fish may be able to do to escape the sun is drop in depth so you go down with them. Likewise if it has been very cold and the sun pops out and brings with it some heat the fish may rise in the water.
There is no magic formula for catching fish on stillwaters but from what I observe on a daily basis the most successful anglers are the ones who don't mind changing and searching for the fish. Changing constantly may not be for everyone but it may be the difference between fish and a blank!
Greys ProTeam member Stevie Reid is a lifelong fisherman who is happy to chase anything with a fly rod. Stevie's main passion is Salmon fishing although saltwater fly fishing is a real close second. Owner of Bangour Trout Fishery in Scotland a small commercial stocked Trout reservoir Stevie teaches full time at the fishery. Stevie is qualified AAPGAI advanced single and double handed SGAIC single and double handed and flytying.