Catch More Trout – Lash On The Cormorants
As autumn slopes in the fish in our stillwaters will move higher in the water. Nick Dunn shares his Cormorant patterns and the methods he employs to Catch More Trout…
Throughout the season the trout’s diet varies from Chironomid midges in the early season to jelly fry, then pin fry, snails, daphnia, terrestrial flies and so on. There are some days when its difficult to determine just what the fish are feeding on and sometimes the fish have nothing inside them at all when closely inspected.
When you can accurately work out what they’re eating it’s easy to fish an artificial that represents that food source, but on the occasions when it’s less clear, I often turn to Cormorants as a way to imitate a general food item. A Cormorant is typically tied with a very sparse wing and a slim body and can be representative of a small fish or a nymph and looks generally “foody” to a trout.
Cormorants can be deployed in several different ways, making them super adaptable and flexible. I use them on the middle droppers of a four fly leader when pulling or stroking flies on any depth of line, and they often get fish on the “hang” or the “lift” right by the boat, more about that later. I also use a team of them on a long three fly leader on a floater or sink tip line. Cast them in, straighten the line and just figure-of-eight them all the way back to the boat or bank. Another little ploy is to give the line a good yard long slow pull between “twiddling” and this often results in a lovely tightening of the line and a solidly hooked fish.
Catching Fussy Fish
On one July occasion while out on Rutland Water in a team competition, I was in the boat with an angler who is renowned as a good “puller.” His tactic was to go out and pull lures all day on a Fast Glass line, and he did get a couple of early offers and a fish or two. I had practiced the day before and struggled to get the fish to take my offerings, and the day of the match proved to be equally tricky. I couldn’t make the nymphs work, the fish were not interested in even the most beautifully presented dries, even though they were up near the surface, and pulling wasn’t really working for me or indeed my boat partner. At about 3:00pm I only had one fish and my boat partner had two with only three hours left until the end of the match. At that point I gave myself a good telling off as I realised I had not tried my favourite Cormorants and that might well be the answer to catching these fussy fish.
The results were astonishing and immediate. I fished a Midge-Tip line with a long leader and three different, well-spaced Cormorant patterns with an erratic figure-of-eight and six-inch pulls, retrieve. The takes came immediately upon switching and I started to hook and land fish at a rate that had not seemed possible earlier in the day. I went on the take nine fish on the Cormorants and my boat partner continued pulling lures and caught nothing in the same period. What a difference it made to my team and me! Making the switch to Cormorants turned out to be the answer on a tricky day when the rod average for the match was less than four fish per angler.
I went on the take nine fish on the Cormorants and my boat partner continued pulling lures and caught nothing in the same period. What a difference it made to my team and me!
The Fly With Many Variants
The original Cormorant is still a great fly today and catches fish like it always did. It has a peacock herl body ribbed with copper wire and a very sparse wing tied with the very tips of black marabou feather, not the fluffy part of the feather, the spiky tips at the top of the feather. The original also has Jungle Cock “eyes.” Many variations have been developed and they all follow roughly the same pattern rules in that they all have a slim body and slim wing. The body can be pearly, UV, coloured, ribbed or not and with or without Jungle Cock eyes. My favourites aside from the original, which I still use regularly, are the one with a UV black Micro Fritz body and one with a red holographic rib. These were the three flies I used to take the fish described previously and they took them all equally, showing no particular favourite.
When tying these deadly little flies, try to keep the body as slim as you can and the wing the same. When fishing them, the best retrieve seems to be an erratic one. Mix up some six-inch pulls with figure-of-eight retrieve and the odd long slow yard long “slide” to get the fish interested and following the flies. Sometimes, when to fish are up for it and on the fin, you can pull Cormorants quite quickly and the trout will come racing after them and take them with an almighty commotion!
Hang And Lift
The best lines to fish them on are floaters and sink-tips. As I said before though, they are great dropper flies when pulling Blobs and Booby’s and they will take bonus fish all the way through the retrieve and especially on the “hang” and “lift” by the boat. These two tactics are commonplace on the competition scene but I don’t think many other anglers deploy them. Believe me, if you give it a try you will be pleased you did. For those who have not tried this yet, please let me expand:
The “hang” is simply a long pause at the end of the retrieve, giving a following fish (that you have probably not seen at this point) a decision to make. That is; do I swim away or eat this fly? Often you can hang the flies for a good 10 or 15 seconds, which seems a long time when you do it, and just as you have decided there is no fish there you get an almighty pull which jars the rod straight down and you’re in!
The “lift” is, rather than pulling your flies straight out of the water after hanging them, a long slow lifting of the leader to make the flies swim straight upward right by the boat. Any fish that have followed your flies to the boat and did not take on the hang may be tempted to take at this point and it can result in bonus fish that you simply would not catch if you ripped the flies away from the fish to re-cast. These two boat-fishing techniques combined with Cormorants on the leader are deadly! Sometimes the majority of the fish I have caught in a day have come to these techniques, without which, I would have had much less sport and many fewer smiles!
Nick Dunn is a fanatical reservoir trout angler, earning six England Loch Style caps over the past 13 years. In 2016 he captained the England team to a resounding victory at the Spring International in Southern Ireland. Nick is now a full time professional guide on the best Midlands reservoirs.