How to Fish The Booby Hopper

On a big choppy reservoir or lake you want to put a fly on the surface that the trout will really notice and one fly which does that every time is the booby hopper.

Especially at this time of year, May/June, some of the larger flies are starting to get blown on to the water. This includes the likes of Daddy Long Legs which, although well catered for by their own specific flies, sometimes it’s useful to hold a fly on the surface permanently.

This is where booby hopper flies come in to their own. The large foam part of the fly will hold it on the surface perfectly, with no chance of sinking below. This leaves the point of the hook, shrouded in tempting leg and wing imitations sitting just below the surface, in full view of hungry trout.

There are a couple of ways they can be fished. Firstly, the hopper can be cast out and left to drift in the ripple, as you would a dry fly. This natural drift gives perfect presentation through the water.

Alternatively, try pulling the fly back through the water, the foam head will cause the water to pop and make the disturbance that will attract fish. The foam on these flies makes them unsinkable, so they can be treated very roughly in the water. Try to make a nice attractive bow wave with the fly. This will be a very visible attraction for hunting trout.

Being so bouyant, an effective way to fly fish with a popper hopper is to use it as an indicator fly. A few feet of fluorocarbon can be tied on to the shank of the hook and a small nymph (a small buzzer is ideal) attached to the end of the fluoro. If the popper hopper disappears then strike into the fish that will have taken the nymph!

However, you choose to fish the hopper, make sure you lift in to the fish when it takes, rather than full out striking. By the time a trout has taken this fly, it’s almost certainly already hooked. Striking hard will often cause the fly to come out and the fish escape.

A Poor Day’s Fishing, Why ? and Does it Matter….

Kerry and I had a disappointing day at a major stillwater last week, which resulted in 1 trout netted and 2 lost between us all day ! Thank goodness for the silver and black humungous booby, the fly that always saves a blank

This would be a disappointing total on most waters, so I checked the book when I registered our catch returns and noticed that the top rod was 3 for the day and only 1 other boat had caught 2. There were a couple of 1’s, but most had blanked.

This seemed very poor as the fishing report from the previous week had talked about several people catching between 10 and 15 fish each. Indeed, the fishery manager told me that someone had caught 20 the previous day to a foam damsel drifted in the wind on the surface. The rod average for the week was put at 3, so this boded well.

Why then would the catch returns for us and others on the water be so poor? Surely we can’t all be rubbish fishermen/fisherwomen ?

Well, I think the main reason would be the sudden change in weather conditions.

The weather was certainly warmer and more sunny than recent days and the wind direction made fishing in to the areas recommended by the fishery team very difficult, even with a boat.

The sun had certainly pushed the fish down as we only caught or had takes on a di 5 and nothing whatsoever on floating lines. Last week’s South Westerly wind had been replaced with a North Westerly and this will have driven the fish in the opposite direction to last week. These would certainly be major factors and we tried to take them in to account by fishing the opposite banks to last week’s catches and dropping the flies a little lower down, but to no avail.

The sad fact is that the weekly reports are a historical record and by definition, out of date. The reports of best spots or flies to use are meaningless if the conditions have changed, such a 180 degree swing in the wind direction and the sun popping his hat on.

In my humble opinion, it’s useful to read the reports if the conditions are identical to last week and this should form plan A for the day. If conditions have changed, then Plan B should be employed, with Plan A as a backup.

Rod average is also an interesting one. Personally I find it can be very misleading. For example, to give a simplified view, if 100 people visit a venue and 20 of them catch 15 each, but 80 of them blank, the rod average is 3, despite the fact that 80% of people caught nothing.

I understand that waters have to give some indication of what’s coming out each week, but surely it wouldn’t be too difficult to display catches something like this :

  • 20+: 5%
  • 10+ : 15%
  • 5+ : 30%
  • 1-4 : 25%
  • Blank : 50%

This, at least, gives an indication of how the water is actually performing week by week. Admittedly this gives the fishery managers a bit more work, but I think it helps give a better picture.

Rod averages are generally hugely boosted by season ticket holders or professionals practicing on the waters for competitions. There’s nothing shady about this and fishery managers are simply dividing the number of fish caught by the number of anglers. It can’t be ignored that this is a great marketing tool for fisheries of course.

It’s also worth noting that fish returns rely on fisherman accurately registering their catches. I always try to fill in my returns, even when blanking, but I must admit that dreadful days have made me less inclined to do so and more inclined to get home and drown my sorrows with a brandy !

Returns not filled in result in a blanket (no pun intended) score of zero, thus potentially pulling the rod average unnecessarily lower. This also makes it more diffcult for the fisheries to manage the stock levels and it is therefore essential that we all try to fill them in when possible.

The one thing I took away from this trip was that we both had a fantastic day, despite a poor catch. The weather was warm, the wind wasn’t too strong, the venue was beautful and company wasn’t bad either ! There were damsel flies everywhere and we found them often landing on our clothes. The image at the top of the page was taken by Kerry of a damsel resting on the boat.

I guess rod average vs actual catches on the day became completely irrelevant, given how lucky we were to be in the position of being able to fish for the day.

Trout Fishing on Blithfield Reservoir

Going through the various forums and fishing reports, it is obvious that something is happening at Blithfield Reservoir. The venue took a little longer than most to repen after lockdown and the current catch returns reflect the kind of results other venues were reporting once they allowed fishing to start again.

We decided to visit, to not only get an idea if the venue lived up to it’s current reputation, but also to see how they’d implemented Covid-19 restrictions and how well they’re being observed. This latter point is very important to us as the general demographic for fly fishermen tends to be skewed towards those of more advancing years and as such represent a higher risk to exposure to the Coronavirus.

Booking the boat was the first hurdle as there is no online or email booking system at present and we had to rely on the telephone. Every call we made went straight to voicemail, but the majority of these calls were responded to within a day or so by the ever friendly Claire on reception.

There’s no need to visit the shop / reception area as you can drive straight down to the water, but I went in anyway to ask about whch flies to use and which areas to try. There is hand sanitiser supplied and masks are mandatory in the shop. Claire was extremely helpful and knowledgable and I was soon on my way with the required information.

Arriving at the boat house, it was clear that Blithfield are taking Covid restrictions very seriously. There is a strict 1 in, 1 out rule on the main downstairs room and all prebooked tickets were laid out on a table for the relevant anglers to pick up, thus removing the need for interaction with others.

Picking our boat up, we were soon off the the dam wall in front of the boat house. The wind was helpfully blowing right along the wall, which enabled us to drift from one end to the other.

I’d selected a tequila booby on the point of a 15 feet leader with a candy FAB on the dropper 10 feet behind it. It took less than 30 seconds for a trout to rise to the booby and the first fish was in the net. This was followed by a second identical take on the second cast and the day was already looking good.

After 3 fish in 4 drifts, mostly stockies, I decided to try for a larger fish in the depths. I put of a DI5 with my favourite fly, a silver and black humungous booby, on the point and tequila booby on the dropper. Letting the line sink deep in the water with a slow figure of eight retrieve attracted no interest, so I reverted to stripping the line through the depths. I’d just about given up when, on the hang, something almost wrenched the rod from my hands, snapping 10lb line instantly. I reeled in to find just the line above the dropper left attached to my fly line. I don’t know what it was that took it, but if anybody catches a monster with a tequila booby still attached, please let me know what it was !

Further attempts on the top or bottom were fruitless, so we moved to the causeway. The wind had swung round 90 degrees and was now pushing straight down the reservoir. so we postioned ourselves in line with the gap to the other side of the reservoir and drifted down. Tequila boobies were once again popular, especially stripped across the top and it was great fun watching the frantic swirls and splashes as trout chased them.

After discussing the fishing with a chap on another boat, we switched to a plain orange booby and this proved an excellent move as the trout were taking it whether it was fished static, figure of eighted or ripped.

Once again reverting to try to the bigger fish, we adopted sinking and intermediate lines behind the boat, using only the drift to move them through the water. A goldbead olive detached daddy on the dropper with a Silver and black humungous booby on the point to hold it up seemed exactly what the trout were looking for and we were soon both in to fish around the 3lb mark midway across the reservoir. The good fishing continued until a flotilla of boats started following our drift, including one chap who stopped in our drift and put out a drogue, effectively cutting us off, so we moved on, grumbling quietly….

As we reached late afternoon, the wind was dropping, we moved to rainbow corner and had some great dry fly sport on green holo CDC owls, Adam’s parachute, black klinkhammer and orange detached daddy. All fished static, allowing them to drift naturally across the water using only the wind. Takes ranged from subtle little swirls for the klinkhammers to massive crashing takes on the daddies. These continued until boat curfew time and we were sad to have to leave such great sport.

Overall, a cracking day at Blithfield and a highly recommended venue, with excellent catches and a serious and robust attitude to covid safety. Add to that, the excellent customer service from all the staff involved at the reservoir and it’s a must visit site.

It’s Good to be Back !

On Sunday 10th May 2020, the Government announced that a resumption of unlimited exercise and travel to do that exercise would be allowed in the England from the 13th May.

The Angling Trust was quick to follow up on this and confirmed that this included fishing and that set the hares running (so to speak).

Orders for our flies went through the roof and we were all flat out with the three P’s – picking, packing and posting

Wednesday came around and an email from my local syndicate water confirmed that they were open for business, so I packed my kit and was off !

The club has sensibly introduced social distancing and other safety rules at the venue and it was great to see that these are being followed to the letter by the 6 anglers on the water.

The club house (wooden hut) was closed and no angler was allowed within 10 feet of another. With 7 anglers and a 2 acre lake, this wasn’t going to be hard

I did ask one angler, from a safe distance, if he’d caught and he said no, but that didn’t matter. He was just glad to be back on the bank. A feeling I’m sure is shared among all fisherman.

I set up my Orvis Clearwater II 5wt rod with a Sunray Competition Float 5wt line and added a 12 feet leader with a candy FAB on the point and a simple olive buzzer on a dropper at around 3 feet. That was it, a nice simple set up which works on pretty much any still water.

When fishing for trout with a buzzer, the rule is always, the slower the better. Real buzzers do not move very fast and as such moving buzzer flies too quickly will look unnatural to the trout and they’ll leave well alone.

So a very slow, almost static figure of eight was the order of the day. Just taking up any slack line, to ensure you keep direct control of the fly should a trout take it, is all that’s really necessary. As the FAB reaches the bottom, a long slow pull of the line to about an arm’s length will cause both the FAB and the buzzer to rise in the water and then slowly sink down again. This emulates the buzzer’s natural movement of attempting to swim to the surface before drifting down again when tired from the effort.

The FAB in this set up is largely there as an attractant and trout will often follow it before noticing the more familiar buzzer and taking that. On this occasion though, the FAB was taken by a nice 2lb stockie.

The trout at this water seem to fight better than anywhere I’ve been and this one was no exception. He took me all over the lake and was exhausted when I finally netted him. I had to keep him in the landing net in the water for a good while before he was recovered enough to swim away.

The sun then came out and the trout went lower. So I set up a sinking line (yes, in May!) With a single cats whisker booby on the point of just a 2 feet leader. This method is unusual (and not one for the purists) but is absolutely deadly.

The line most be allowed to sink so that it drags the booby under and the line is flat against the bottom. The two feet leader then presents the booby just above the weed bed. A slow retrieve them bobs the booby across the weeds and will tempt even the shyest trout from cover. This proved to be the case on the first cast as a cracking 3lb rainbow bent the rod again.

After a couple of hours, the fishing had died due to the sun and like all the other anglers on the lake, I decided to head home. Before I did that, it was nice to just stop and take in the surroundings. The lake is set in farm land and is a wonderfully tranquil place, especially when you’re the only one there !

It was nice to see that two families of geese have been hatched over the lockdown period too. My apologies for the terrible picture.

So a short day with only two takes, but considerable relief to be back on the bank again. There is nothing like the feeling that comes over you when you’re at the water’s edge with rod in hand. It’s good to be back

Latest Report From Eyebrook

Please find below the latest update from Eyebrook

,Opens Friday 15th May

Eyebrook will reopen on Friday 15th May,
All anglers members & day rods are required to call the lodge & pre book your visit
We will be working to reduced angler numbers, details below

Eyebrook will reopen for fly fishing on Friday 15th May 2020.

To ensure we comply with social distancing & government guidelines I have produced new operating guidelines for everyone to follow which are highlighted below.

I would ask during these difficult times & to ensure we keep within the COVID-19 guidelines which could change at any time, you comply with any daily instructions issued by fishery staff & our landlord’s representatives Tata Steel.

Staff working the pontoon will be wearing Face Shield, face mask & disposable gloves with all touching points on the pontoon regularly disinfected.

All boats & life jackets will be disinfected after every session.

Staff in the lodge will be wearing Face Shield and have access to hand sanitiser.

All customers will have access to hand sanitiser at the lodge & the pontoon

All touching points at the lodge, doors, handles, desk, phone, till, PDQ machine etc will be disinfected at least once every hour & more often if required.

New Operating Procedure While Visiting Eyebrook Trout Fishery

  1. Pre-Booking: Phones calls only accepted for bookings 01536 770264. All Bank & Boat anglers, including season permit holders will be required to call the lodge & pre book their visit.                     We will only accept member & day permits who have called & pre-booked
  2. Pre-payment will be required at your time of booking. No angler access to the fishing lodge
  3. Pre-payment will be made once your booking for the Boat or Bank is confirmed with the fishery staff. Payment accepted via BACSPayPal details below or via credit / debit card.
  4. Confirmation of your Boat Booking along with your receipt, allocated boat number & confirmation of the booked bank anglers will be posted on the outside of lodge window for you to pick up
  5. LOYALTY CARDS: You will need to keep hold of any receipts issued by the Eyebrook lodge from May 15th  2020 to claim your boat & permit loyalty stamp at a later date to be announced, when normality returns to the fisheries & we once again start issuing permits across the lodge desk
  6. To comply with COVID-19 guidelines you will travel to the fishery by yourself unless you are travelling with a family member & you live at the same address.
  7. You will be required to meet social distancing rules.
  8. The Booking in & out sheet will be placed outside the lodge door, hand sanitiser will be provided. Anglers will be able to call the lodge to book out.
  9. Lodge & Tackle shop: will remain closed, we will operate a click & collect for pre-paid tackle items which will be available for you to pick up outside the lodge door, you can also visit our online shop
  10. Boats: New operating procedure to ensure we comply with COVID-19 guidelines
  • Maximum 1 person per boat.
  • Husband & Wife / partner, parent & child who live at the same house may share a boat.
  • Boats & life jackets will be fully disinfected after every session.
  • Eyebrook Boat availability is reduced to 14 boats to allow staff adequate time to disinfect & rotate boat usage.
  • By reducing the available boats, it allows us to use every other boat on the pontoon, limits the number of people on the pontoons & it will ensure we meet social distancing requirements while you get in and out of the boats.
  • Fishery Ranger staff will control the number of anglers on the pontoon.
  • To speed up the angler usage of the pontoon, DO NOT sit in your boat tied to the pontoon to tackle up or take your tackle down. Once in your boat we expect you to leave the pontoon area as soon as possible. On your return have your tackle ready to vacate the boat and pontoon as soon as possible.
  • We are lowering our wind speed limit for boat usage down to 20mph
  1. Bank Anglers are to ensure they observe social distancing and while fishing keep a minimum of    15 meters apart. Maximum of 20 Bank anglers
  2. Life jackets worn by bank anglers will be disinfected after every session
  3. Float Tubing will be allowed but limit to 5 float tubers per day. They will be required to keep a minimum of 15meters apart while they prepare to launch. You must pre book your visit
  4. The Kitchen area, conference room & indoor seating area within the lodge will remain closed.
  5. Toilets will only be accessed from the front of the building, follow the signs, to ensure we control this area, we will only have the disabled toilet open.

Pre-Payment Options
BACS Payment details
Nat West Bank      Business Account: Fishery Management (UK)Ltd
Your Booking Reference: Your Name & Date of your booking
Sort Code 60 15 48    Account No 71544380

PayPal Payments to:
Fishery Management (UK) Ltd   email  [email protected]
Your Booking Reference: Your Name & Date of your booking

10 Top Tips To Improve Your Fly Fishing on Stillwaters

,Everybody wants to catch more fish and we’ve listed 10 top tips to help you do just that !,1. Use the countdown method

One of the key things you’re trying to do when you’re trout fishing is to find the depth at which the fish are holding. This will change according the light levels, water temperature, wind levels and insect hatches, so you’ll need to use the countdown method throughout your day.

After you’ve cast your flies, give the line a pull to straighten it out and ensure you’ll feel any takes, and then countdown down for 5, 10, 15, 20 or 25 seconds to allow your flies to sink through the depths. With each consecutive cast, use a slightly longer countdown before you commence your retrieve to help you find the depth at which the fish are holding.

Start near the surface and work down. Trout look upwards for food. Start with a five second count, then try 10, 15, 20 and 25 until you get some action. Count your flies down with each cast until you find the feeding depth.

,2. Watch the fly line at the tip

After and during your cast, always keep your rod tip down so it’s just above the water surface. If you retrieve with your rod up in the air, several feet above the water, any fish which takes your fly gently won’t be felt because it will only move the slack line dangling beneath.

Point your rod tip down all the water through the retrieve and keep a close eye on the line dangling just below the tip. It’s your strike indicator. If a fish takes the fly gently, you will often spot the line move outwards, even if you don’t feel the bite. Lift the rod and you might hook the fish. The fly line dangling beneath the rod tip is your strike indicator.

,3. Use the fan casting technique

Most fly fishers have a natural tendency to cast immediately in front of themselves on every spot at which they fish. This means their flies will only be covering a narrow strip of water, and the trout may be somewhere else.

Instead, try to cover the whole area of water in front of you, including the margins on either side. Imagine a grid or fan pattern drawn on the water, and place your casts from as far left as you can go, all the way round the fan until you’ve covered the area to your right.

Once you’ve gone all of the way across the fan from left to right, start again and re-cover the area you fished a few minutes before, perhaps with a different fly, a different retrieve or at a different depth. You’ll greatly increase your chances of finding any fish. 

,4. If the sun comes out, fish deeper

Where other animals have eyelids they can squint, or pupils that can constrict to help block out bright light, trout do not. They can’t squint and their pupils don’t constrict.

Their eyes are adapted for lower light levels, so when it’s sunny, they don’t feel that comfortable and they’ll drop through the water layers to find deeper water where less light has penetrated. When the sun comes out, make sure that you change to fishing deeper, otherwise the trout may miss your flies. 

,5. Fish more than one fly

You never know which fly is going to work, so while you’re trying to find out what works, you’ll increase your chances of success by fishing several at once – one on the point and one or two on the droppers.

More often than not, the flies chosen will consist of a bright attractor pattern, such as a blob, and some drab more naturalistic patterns, such as buzzersnymphs or cormorants, on the droppers. The trout may be drawn into the gaudiness of the attractor but end up taking one of the /naturals. 

,6. Leave plenty of room between your flies

If you’re fishing several flies on the same leader, ensure you leave plenty of room between them. As a general rule of thumb, a gap of about five feet is recommended between each fly.

Your top dropper can be tied five feet from the end of the fly line, the second fly goes five feet below that, and the point fly goes five feet past that. This gives you a nice long 15 foot leader with three well-spaced flies.

Experts reckon fishing the flies closer than this reduces your catch rate. If you’re fishing brightly coloured flies, then the rule of thumb is that you should leave a 10 foot gap between them, as fish can get spooked by two bright flies placed close to each other. 

,7. Remember that stillwaters aren’t still

Although they’re called stillwaters, and all you’ll see from above is a bit of surface ripple, stillwaters aren’t actually still beneath the surface. The wind action on most lakes causes the water to move constantly, which means that food is always on the move with the trout following it.

Trout in rivers usually position themselves with their noses pointing upstream so they can effortlessly consume anything that drifts past them. Trout in stillwaters can behave similarly and will sometimes position themselves into the wind.

Obstacles, such as points and islands, also affect the movement of the water, so look for the areas where the water is being driven to locate the feeding trout. 

,8. Stay on the move

Lots of stillwater fly fishers have a tendency to stay in the same place for long periods of time, repeatedly thrashing the same piece of water, often without fan casting.

You’ll usually stand a better chance of finding the fish if you move every 10 minutes or so, once you’ve fan casted a couple of times and searched the depths with the flies of your choice. Of course, if you get some interest, stay longer, or give the spot a short rest and return a little later.

,9. Observe the fly life on the banks

While stillwater trout will happily take blobs, blue flash damsels, cat’s whiskers and yellow dancers all day, every day, they’re going to predominantly be used to feeding up natural invertebrates in the water or landing upon it.

It pays to observant and look at what’s hatching on the banks. If you spot flies hatching or crawling around, then do try switching to smaller, more natural patterns. Unsurprisingly, it’s often very effective, if you can pull yourself away from the blobs…

,10. Don’t stick to the floating line all day

On most stillwaters, especially small or medium-sized ones, a floating line is the norm. You can easily catch fish all day using a floater, but if the fish go deep you’ll need to use a weighted fly to reach them and you may struggle to keep your fly in the feeding zone or retrieve fast enough with only a floating line in your arsenal.

Most competition fly fishers use several lines – some take literally a dozen or more different specialist lines with them and change them throughout the day depending on the conditions. Most stillwaters, you’ll be fine with a good floating line, an intermediate (which sinks very slowly) and a sinking line – maybe a Di3 or Di5 (which sink at 3-5 inches per second).

Buy a spare spool and take at least an intermediate line with you so you can swop the floater if conditions change, or if you can’t buy a bite on the floating line. It will mean you’ll get your flies into the feeding zone faster and you’ll be able to use retrieves you couldn’t with a floating line, which could be enough to catch you some extra fish.