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Catch More Trout – Big Autumn Browns

Catch More Trout – Big Autumn Browns On Pitsford Reservoir

Midlands’s reservoir regular Nick Dunn shares a recent autumnal red-letter day on Pitsford Reservoir where the big fish were on the fry…

Brown trout are the native species to Great Britain and still my favourite. They are creatures of incredible beauty and have an infinite number of spot patterns and colours that make them so. On the English midland reservoirs, they make an appearance in spring at the beginning of the season as they are hard on the feed after the winter and are typically caught on buzzers and nymphs. They then seem to mysteriously vanish in any numbers with odd fish being caught throughout the summer season. Come the autumn they turn up en-masse as they move in on the coarse fish fry that inhabit the weed beds and structures such as dam walls, inlets, jetties and so on. Apologies if this seems like a broad-brush stroke description as your own favourite waters may well differ, but I feel this is generally the case on the Midlands reservoirs in England where my fishing is mostly done.

Autumn is a great time for catching big resident browns from our big stillwaters like Pitsford.
Autumn is a great time for catching big resident browns from our big stillwaters like Pitsford.

Feeding Frenzy

These autumn fish are hungry and are now aggressively feeding themselves up having instinctively sensed the impending winter months that signal leaner pickings and cold water. They are determined hunters and can sometimes be witnessed co-operating with each other while herding small fish into a tight spot before crashing into them, stunning them and picking them off and then reeling around for another go. In this situation a Floating Fry or Popper Fry fished directly into the frenzied feeding area can produce explosive exciting takes. Take advantage while you can because it is all over as quickly as it started and the fish will move on to another area.

Nick Dunn plays another big brown trout on a recent red-letter day at Pitsford.
Nick Dunn plays another big brown trout on a recent red-letter day at Pitsford.

Big Autumnal Browns At Pitsford

In mid October, I was fishing on a very rainy and fairly cold Pitsford Reservoir in Northamptonshire with my great pal Richard Slater. We set out to catch big brownies as we knew it was about the time they should be hard on the fry and we’d heard reliable reports from friends that they were becoming active. We fished with two to three inch Humongous patterns along the dam and in the usual bays where we know there is a good chance of finding fry and small fish and therefore big browns.

Now, in my experience, if you were to catch four or five 5lb plus browns in a season, you would probably consider that to be good, even very good. During this one day, I hooked and landed four 5lb plus browns, three 3lb plus browns and three rainbows up to about 4lbs. Richard also had a fantastic day although the three seriously big browns he hooked avoided the net in several ways, but he still landed more 3lb browns and rainbows than any “normal” day on the water using these tactics. Even though it rained all day and everything got a real soaking, it was truly a red-letter day for me, and one that may never be exceeded with such a number of big brownies gracing my net in a single day. Thank you Fishing Gods!

Even though it rained all day and everything got a real soaking, it was truly a red-letter day for me, and one that may never be exceeded with such a number of big brownies gracing my net in a single day.

Richard Slater with a fin-perfect Pitsford brown trout.
Richard Slater with a fin-perfect Pitsford brown trout.
It wasn’t just the brown trout that were on the fry. Nick Dunn with a great looking 4lb Pitsford rainbow trout.
It wasn’t just the brown trout that were on the fry. Nick Dunn with a great looking 4lb Pitsford rainbow trout.

Tactics For Catching Big Brown Trout

The tactics we used were fairly straightforward and very specifically designed to target big brown trout. The successful fly lines were Di3 and Di5 sinking lines with an 18-foot heavily tapered leader sporting a single fly. These big flies are great for big fish, but to say they are not aerodynamic would be an understatement as they fly with the grace of a set of car keys through the air! Personally, I like to set up the leader to make the fly and leader turn over properly just as you would with a big heavy pike fly, for example. My leader butt was 10 feet of 23.5lb “Seaguar Ace Hard” mono, blood knotted to 5 feet of 15.4lb “Seaguar Ace Hard” and then three feet of softer 12lb fluorocarbon, to which the fly was tied. The Seaguar Mono is stiff and abrasion resistant, but it is the stiffness we are looking for in this material for big fly presentation. The wave action in the fly line created by the forward cast is forced through into the stiff mono ensuring that the energy of the forward cast carries right through to the fly. Ergo; the fly lands in a straight line 18 feet away from the end of the fly line and the angler can start the retrieve immediately, without having to take up any slack that can occur even with a reasonable cast but one that did not turn over properly because the leader was not structured for a big fly.

This may seem like a lot of effort to go to when you could simply tie the fly to 18 feet of your chosen mono, but believe me it makes a big difference and will pay you back by way of fewer tangles, better turnover for less effort and infinitely better fly presentation.

Seaguar Ace Hard Mono was used a leader material as it’s stiff and abrasion resistant.
Seaguar Ace Hard Mono was used a leader material as it’s stiff and abrasion resistant.

Forty Plus Lines

The fly lines we used were the “Forty Plus” variants of Airflo’s Di3 and Di5 as they are easier to cast a good distance without as much effort as the “full fat” versions. Two false casts and a big shoot will see most anglers putting the line 25 to 35 yards out which is enough to induce a fish to follow and ultimately take the fly. Casting out and pulling back all day might not be everyone’s idea of a good day out, but when it’s working, boy it’s fun! Not only do we get the pleasure of some heart-stoppingly spectacular pulls but we also get the fun of watching some eye wateringly large fish come and nose the fly without taking it. OK, you didn’t hook that fish, but what an adrenaline moment it was wondering if it was going to take or not! Great fun!!

The ever-reliable big fish pattern - The Humongous
The ever-reliable big fish pattern - The Humongous
Nick’s fry patterns for Pitsford - the Humongous and Los Roques Minnows
Nick’s fry patterns for Pitsford - the Humongous and Los Roques Minnows

Flies For Big Brown Trout

The flies for these fabulous brownies are typically made up with hues of pearl, silver, white and palmered grizzle body hackles. They can incorporate natural grey or white rabbit fur for the back, which gives them lots of sinewy mobility as well as looking genuinely fishy! There are many patterns for targeting fry feeding trout, browns or rainbows but the Humongous is the best known and often the most effective of them along with the Popper Fry patterns that are used to target fish near or on the surface that take the artificial for an injured fish and an easy mouthful.

We fished on Pitsford Water, but Rutland, Grafham, Eyebrook, and many other large reservoirs will have a decent head of big brown trout that are instinctively acting in the same manner as the fish we caught on Pitsford. Give it a go yourself, even if it’s for half a day or so, you may be surprised what you find at the other end of your line! A personal best is always on the cards when fishing this exciting and productive method. Tight lines!

Biggest fish of the session a 5lb 10oz brown trout for Nick Dunn.
Biggest fish of the session a 5lb 10oz brown trout for Nick Dunn.

Factfile

Nick Dunn can be contacted at:

T 07971 381442
E nick.dunn@fanatical-flyfishing.uk
W www.fanatical-flyfishing.uk

Pitsford Water Park

T 01604 781350
E fishing@anglianwater.co.uk
W www.anglianwaterparks.co.uk/pitsford-water-park/fishing


Nick Dunn

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.

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