The long awaited club trip to Ravensthorpe Reservoir and Rutland Water had finally arrived, Crown Fly Fishers were ten years old and this holiday weekend would be an excellent way to celebrate this milestone. Unfortunately for one reason or another only fourteen of the current eighteen members could make the trip but the numbers rose to sixteen with the addition of former member Alan Kerr and Colin Hek who would celebrate his eighteenth birthday while on the trip, a present from dad Dougie.
Secretary Craig Osborne had booked us into the Elizabeth Hotel in Rockingham near Corby, one of the few places in the area that could accommodate the numbers who had made the six and a half hour journey south in two mini buses and a couple of cars. Anglers really do carry to much gear. This hotel was also handily situated almost halfway between the two venues to be fished meaning that once in the area travel to and from the fisheries was kept to a minimum. After a bite to eat and a few beers it was time for bed, everyone eagerly anticipating bending rods and hard fighting fish and so it was off to Ravensthorpe for day one.
No one on the trip had fished Ravensthorpe Reservoir before although we had read quite a lot in magazines and websites and most of us thought we were well prepared. As anyone who takes part in outdoor activities knows the only thing you can't influence is the weather and the strong wind was to play a major part in the next couple of days. My personal thoughts are rainbow trout and strong winds don't mix. Scottish brownies love the big waves, the rougher the better but rainbows, well I think they go and sulk and to get them in any numbers requires a Di-7 and patterns that will make them aggressive and bring them up from the depths. As we all had spent the last few weeks tying buzzers and nymphs the conditions that faced us as we set out were the last thing we wanted to see.
Stewart Wallace with a Ravensthorpe rainbow with a tail like a rudder
Here is how Craig Osborne described his day on Ravensthorpe.
18/05/07 Ravensthorpe Reservoir
My boat partner for the day was former club member and very good friend Alan Kerr. We decided to stick to the sheltered shore as conditions were very windy with both Alan and me tackled up with floating line and long leaders (20 ft) with Buzzers on the point and Diawl Bach nymphs on the droppers. After an hour or two without any action we decided to head for the rougher water on the east shore to get out of the swirling wind on the sheltered side (at least on the far side the wind was blowing in a straight line).
Drifting along the dam wall with Alan set up with a Di-7, my choice was a Di-5 we were immediately into fish, well at least Alan was. He had fish following almost every cast for periods throughout the drift and managed to convert three of these into solid takes. All of these fell to an Orange Blob on the top dropper. I stuck a Blob on and had a fish first cast. Near the end of the drift I took another, once again on the Blob. As fish seemed to be concentrated in this area we dropped the anchor allowing us to cast into the corner of the dam that had the wind blowing into it.
Alan again drew up fish to his flies every other cast and as I didn't seem to be interesting fish at all I decided to ring the changes. I switched to a floater again with the big leader and fished a small unweighted Green Pea on the point and two Olive Crunchers on the droppers. Things changed for me then with lots of follows, pulls and nips and I even managed to hook a few. Alan also changed to this method more for a rest from stripping a fast sinking line like a mad man. With both of us fishing the same method and patterns we again drew a lot of interest to the Green Pea and we hooked a few on it. What we both agreed on though was every fish caught on the cruncher saw the line ripped out your hand while on the lure everything was soft gentle nips and tentative takes. We finished off the day with fifteen on the boat and missed another two hundred and sixty eight. Well it seemed like that.
Craig Osborne's unweighted version of his Green Pea
I shared a boat with Stewart Wallace and like Craig and Alan decided to anchor along the sheltered west shore at the Clay Pitts. To begin with sport was slow on the nymphs and Stewart changed to a Di-3 with a small lure and this change brought immediate interest from fish. We spent most of the day moving up and down this bank and Stewart as usual when we share a boat was leaving me well behind with three fish to my big zero. As the day wore on the wind started to ease, it was now possible to drift parallel with the Causeway and all the other boats were now at the dam end and we had the whole of the top of the reservoir to ourselves.
Stewart had boated a lovely rainbow around the six pound mark earlier and we thought this could be the best fish of the day, how wrong we were. We had managed to position the boat in the bay at the top car park where we had seen a couple of fish moving and drop the anchor. After a few casts my floating line tightened, I lifted the rod and battle commenced with the biggest rainbow trout I have ever hooked. The fish had taken a size twelve Diawl Bach on the point and as it turned out this had been the easiest part of the whole procedure. The anchor had started to drag and we were heading for the tree lined shore. The fish then took a liking to the anchor rope and managed to get round it not once but three times, how any of the droppers never caught the rope I'll never know. Then to top it all the tip section of my rod came off and the line was slack for what seemed like an eternity as Stewart somehow managed to replace it but the fish remained firmly on the hook. After nearly ten minutes of pure stress finally the fish was in the net, I could only estimate its weight at somewhere between twelve and fourteen pounds, without doubt a personal best for me.
The best of Tam Campbell's two big fish from Ravensthorpe
What does a successful angler do when he finds a hotspot? Yes that's right, into the bay again, drop the anchor and give it another go, so it was back into the same spot, a few casts and bang into another big fish. Same place, same fly this time the fish was slightly smaller, an estimated eight pounds but just as good a scrap and with the anchor dragging once more this time we did end up in the trees as the fish was netted. Concerns about getting the first fish back meant no photos this time and this one went straight back and it swam off strongly. My three fish to the boat so far had estimated weights of twelve, eight and four pounds, some bag indeed and at this point I could have retired as I don't think I'll ever better it. Stewart had fish of six and four; we could now see the appeal of Ravensthorpe. This was a sample of the nymph fishing we had travelled all this distance to enjoy and with any luck the next two days on Rutland would be even better. To summarise, sixteen rods ended the session with sixty four rainbows, all returned, taken on a variety of methods and patterns. Top rod was Robert Irvine who had twelve fish to the boat.
Another beautiful silver rainbow trout for Stewart from Ravensthorpe
Day two began with a good breakfast and we headed for our first session on Rutland Water. Quite a few of the guys had fished here before and new just what the reservoir was capable of. Our overnight prayers had not been answered and the strong winds actually seemed to be blowing harder contradicting weather forecasts we had eagerly sought out the previous evening. With little shelter to be found in the vast expanse that is Rutland , the white capped waves coming up the length of the South Arm did not fill me with optimism that a red letter day was in store for us.
My boat partner for the day was Rab Brazier and looking out from the lodge the North Arm looked as if it might be sheltered in certain areas so we decided to give it a try, big mistake. As it turned out we spent most of the morning motoring, looking for suitable sheltered spots, and trying to get the anchor to bite and generally becoming more frustrated as time wore on. With both of us still on a blank the decision was made to head for the South Arm via the lodge, where hopefully after a bite to eat our luck would change and we would start getting among fish. While having our lunch, looking out over the reservoir it was brought home to us just how windy it was when a catamaran catapulted into the air and finally came to rest after three or four cartwheels with a full mast and sail disappearing under the surface each time the boat rolled over. Thankfully rescue boats were on hand but it made us realise just how easy a boat can capsize in certain conditions.
This is how Craig described his first day on Rutland .
19/05/07 Rutland Water
My boat partner for our first day on Rutland was current club champion Robert Irvine. For the second day of our three day break the strong wind dictated that we seek more sheltered climes and we decided to join a small flotilla of boats gathered in Sailing Club Bay. We both set up with floating lines, long leaders with buzzers & nymphs again.
After a fishless first hour and without seeing a fish being caught in the immediate area we decided to head up the south shore of the South Arm where we passed a lot of boats around either side of New Zealand point. We finally stopped in a sheltered looking bay at Gibbets Gorse. After anchoring up in a sheltered area of the bay we fished for about twenty minutes without any success so I changed to a Di-7 and tied on a Blob and Yellow Dancer. I had five good offers all on the blob within a half hour managing to hook and land one of these which was a brownie of about 1 lb 8oz. The wind got so strong it ripped our anchor free and we started drifting back down the loch at pace. We motored back upwind and decided to anchor in the shallows of the same bay, looking to make our anchor more secure. Takes on the Blob dried up at this point although a few fish did follow the fly up to the surface before turning away. It was time for a change so on went the floater with a Quill Buzzer on the point and a Cruncher and a Diawl Bach on the droppers. Robert had on Gold bead Pheasant Tail on the point with nymphs on droppers.
Robert Irvine plays a hard fighting rainbow on Rutland Water
Both of us continued to catch fish by casting out and letting everything sink down. The retrieve was really slow, almost just keeping in touch with the flies. Takes began to come but they were very soft nips and no real solid pulls. Eventually some of the small nips turned into solid pulls and our rods were bending into some cracking brownies up to 2lb in weight.Throughout the day every now and then a real strong, solid take came and these turned out to be rainbows. They were far more confident in their approach to the fly. Both of us noticed this as the day wore on and we could tell when a rainbow was hooked long before it came to the net. We finished off with nineteen fish for the boat, mostly browns. The Quill Buzzer with orange cheeks and holographic red butt was my best fly.
As we headed towards the sailing club we could see boats congregated in Sailing Club Bay and just off New Zealand Point, probably seeking shelter more than the fact this part of the reservoir was fishing well. We decided to anchor off Sailing Club Point and fish the drop off, but more importantly get some respite from the wind. For the first time in the session the anchor was holding and we started to hit one or two fish, Rab on a Midge Tip and nymphs while I stuck with the floater and nymphs. Rab had a couple of nice rainbows on a small green nymph and missed about half a dozen more while I was getting the odd pull now and again before finally connecting and bringing one to the boat. I should probably have changed lines but stayed on the floater. Although the boats anchored in the vicinity were not catching, through the power of mobile phones we new that some club members were doing very well and that more brownies than rainbows were being caught. After a quiet spell we decided to spend the last couple of hours in the area near buoy 15 as we had been told that fish were here in good numbers. It was at this point that I made Rab's day. From total concentration looking for the slightest twitch on the line to lying on my back in the bottom of the boat staring at the sky and all in a millisecond; it was as if I had been shot. This was the result of serious boat seat malfunction in other words it broke in two. One of us found it hilarious and it wasn't me, sort of summed up my day.
Seriously pissed off? You bet.
I could not add to my bag, indeed at this point I just wanted the session to end, all I could think about was what was on the menu back at the hotel. Rab however stuck in there and had another couple again on green/olive nymphs. If he had converted the chances he had during the afternoon he would have been well into double figures. As it was he finished with four and I had two, I staggered along the jetty with my gear, still rocking with the movement of the boat and cursing the wind. One day to go, surely conditions would improve. Sixteen rods managed to catch sixty two fish of which thirty five were browns. Considering weather conditions it was agreed we had done alright and Robert Irvine for the second day running was top rod with eleven fish, eight were brown trout.
Bob Logan puts the pressure on as Hugh Skeoch gets ready with the net.
Day three presented us with our last chance to test ourselves against the hard fighting browns and rainbows of Rutland . A quick look outside before breakfast revealed that the incessant winds of the previous two days had gone, brilliant, now I had the chance to see what I could do with the nymphs and buzzers I had tied up for the trip. My boat partner for the final day was to be Bob Logan who had been one of the top rods on day one on Rutland with seven fish taken mostly on small nymphs, a style of fishing he was taking the opportunity to familiarise himself with on this trip. Like the rest of our club members we were going to concentrate on the north shore of the south arm as this area had been left alone for two days due to the weather. Our intention was to start in Oldhall Bay but as we approached it was clear that a large number of boats fishing a local match had also had the same idea. We decided to pull into Yellowstone Bay the main reason being it was empty, not a boat in sight.
It was so calm the anchor was not needed and we had just started to fish when we were joined by Alex Watson and Ed Cameron who began further round the bay. Ten minutes into our last day and the first fish was on, floating line, long fluorocarbon leader, three nymphs and a slow figure of eight retrieve, just what I came for. In the first hour I had a couple, Bob had a couple and we thought we were doing well. But Alex Watson must have had his Weetabix that morning. Every time we looked over he was playing another fish and poor Ed couldn't get fishing as he had become Alex's unofficial photographer. Ed had struggled on the first two days of the trip and the very loud roar of celebration now coming from the direction of his boat could only mean one thing, yes the blank was off, the big man had come good and now it was time for Alex to take the pictures. We on the other hand were suffering a slow spell and a short move to the drop off at Hambleton Wood Point paid immediate dividends as we both hooked into fish minutes after we started fishing this area. These turned out to be brownies and with more rising in the area things were looking good.
Ed Cameron puts his first in the boat from Yellowstone Bay
Craig Osborne had headed like many others for Oldhall, this is his report.
20/05/07 Rutland Water
My boat partner for the second day on Rutland was Colin Hek, Dougie Hek's son fishing as a guest on this trip, an 18th birthday present from his dad. As the wind had finally dropped we decided to head straight for Oldhall Bay as this area had been very lightly fished for a few days because of the weather. We both set up with floaters and teams of buzzers.
Colin hit a nice fish early on and fish were being caught by other boats nearby, however with a match being on it got very busy (as well as being fed up watching the local match guys skelping fish and us not hitting anything) so we decided to leave the competitors alone and moved to the shallower west side of Old Hall Point anchoring up in a nice sheltered bay. This looked like a fish holding bay with a gradual taper from the shallows down to about 20ft; ideal. Olives and midge were hatching and a few fish were to be seen rising through out the day. I managed three fish from this bay, two rainbows and one brown. I also hooked and lost an over wintered fish about 4 or 5lb on a Pearly Pheasant Tail nymph.
Craig's Holographic Quill Buzzer, his most consistant performer
This fish rose for an olive, I covered it with a full line, the fish took the nymph and ran me down to the backing on a couple of occasions before deciding to part company. Colin and I both had a few takes which we missed before I hooked into this fish. Colin did manage another fish from this bay on a Cruncher while Quill Buzzer, Pearly Diawl Bach and Cruncher accounted for my three fish. We spent our last hour between buoy 15 and the sailing club. Colin picked up another brown here and I picked up a rainbow about 4lb and another brown. These fish fell to the quill buzzer I had been using the day previously fished on the point of a long leader. Eight fish on the boat all on floating line and nymphs.
As the afternoon wore on the wind dropped away totally, the sun came out and the fish went down. At this point we decided to motor to the Bunds at the bottom of the South Arm just to have a look at the area but more importantly to kill time until the cloud and breeze returned.
Over an hour later and conditions had improved and so it was back along to Yellowstone Bay , same tactics with the same results, more fish to the boat. For a brief twenty minutes around six o clock lots of fish were up at the surface, cruising along with their dorsal fins out of the water feeding on who knows what, but we certainly never cracked what it was. I covered fish after fish without so much as a look from one, so frustrating. The breeze strengthened slightly, the temperature dropped and within seconds they were gone, just like someone flicking a switch and turning them off. It was time for the last move of the day.
Wullie Osborne and Rab Brazier look for inspiration during a calm spell
We headed for Spud Bay just a short motor back across the South Arm to the lodge. I tied on a black Pheasant Tail with a gold bead on the point to help straighten out the cast and to get down a little deeper and this had amazing results. Nips, pulls and tugs on nearly every retrieve with the occasional hook up. Again we both had nice browns and had obviously found a concentration of fish in this bay. I kept glancing at my watch as we had decided to end the session early to make it back to the hotel for our evening meal. Typical, the fish were on, it was as if they new. All too soon it was time to head for home on what had been a terrific day. Although we had fourteen to the boat the number of fish we had contacted during the day was nearer forty and all with floaters and midge tips, a very relaxing day indeed. Sixteen rods caught ninety two fish of which sixty one were rainbows. Top anglers were Alex Watson and Alan Kerr who both had ten fish and the club total for three days was two hundred and eighteen a rod average of four point five, pretty good by any standard.
Bob Logan with a nymph caught Rutland rainbow
We managed to cram a lot into a short break and everyone thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Personally and on behalf of the rest of the guys, thanks to Craig Osborne for organising the trip and the hotel, to Bob Logan and Rab Brazier for driving one bus and Gordon Turnbull for flying the other one. Cheers guys.