By 2012 I had done a fair amount of fly fishing on medium sized lakes and rivers. Obviously I knew about the big reservoirs and they seemed like the perfect adventure. I love fishing from a boat and I love fly fishing so I decided to hatch a plan!
Above: Grafham water – a big lump of water!
The first thing to do was to choose a reservoir. All of them excited me as they all contained big fish. Some were bigger than others but all of them were pretty enormous patches of water. I was looking at Grafham, Rutland, Pitsford or Ravensthorpe. Grafham is quite close to where my boat is moored in Huntingdon and so I was kind of familiar with the area. One day after piking on the Ouse I went to take a look.
I pulled up in the car park and straight away I was hit by the sheer size of the reservoir. I love a challenge and this was definitely going to provide that to me. I decided to have a bite to eat on the balcony of the small restaurant that overlooks the reservoir. Within the restaurant were cases of stuffed trout on the walls, they were massive. I had only ever caught trout to about 3lb, some of these stuffed trout were nearly 20lb – they simply looked huge.
Whilst eating my lunch I looked across at the boats you could hire that were moored up at a pontoon outside the restaurant. I visited the tackle shop under the restaurant, enquired on prices and some other information before leaving and vowing to come back at the soonest opportunity.
My first trip was in May 2013. I just took a single fly rod with me that I use on lakes and rivers. It was loaded with a floating line and a 7lb leader. I was really excited as I chose my boat at the pontoon, fired up the little 4hp engine and made my way across the mighty reservoir. I headed straight for the middle where I experienced waves as big as any I’ve come across in the sea! This place felt wild and I absolutely bloody loved it!
I spent the first hour or so just exploring the main body of water and various bays around the edges. I wasn’t even fishing, just exploring. After which I selected a series of bays to fish and made my first cast out into the water. I repeatedly cast all afternoon that day and realised how tough it actually was casting continually from a boat. And they say fishing is supposed to be relaxing!
At the end of the day I was knackered and had nothing to show for it – I was gutted. I met a man in the car park who was struggling to carry his icebox that was full of trout that he’d caught that day. I was obviously doing something wrong and so I stopped for a chat with him. Fair play to the guy as he asked me how I was fishing and then took the time to explain where I was going wrong. He explained that the water was still quite cold even though it was spring. This caused the fish to be quite low in the water and my floating line didn’t have a chance of reaching down to where the fish were. My floating line was sitting on the surface and the fly would only sink the length of my leader. Which was no good if you were in 30 foot of water but only had a 10 foot leader. The answer was a sinking mainline. I had never used one of those. This was going to be a learning experience.
A full year passed before I returned to Graftam for another crack at its inhabitants. This time I was equipped with two rods, one with a floating line and the other with a sinking line. I headed back across the main lake and found a really nice secluded bay. I went to make my first cast with the sinking line. It felt heavy and completely different to the floating line I used previously. It felt harder to cast but after a while I got the hang of it. I could see that my retrieve and fly were coming back to me much, much lower in the water. After about half a dozen casts I had a violent take. If you’ve not fished for trout before then you should try it. They are such a powerful fish and pound for pound must be one of the strongest fighting fish you can possibly ever hook. They just go bonkers! After landing a nice rainbow trout of around two or 3 pound I went on to land a few more through the day and the sinking line had really done the trick. I was well chuffed and this time returned home with supper!
My next visit was a few weeks later in early June 2014. The water had got warmer and I knew that I might get the opportunity to catch some fish right off the surface using dry flies and my floating line. It was quite a hot day and indeed they were up in the water. I remember catching a couple through the day but I had the most amazing time fishing a quiet bay through the evening as the sun went down. Trout were topping everywhere, grabbing naturals off the surface and I bagged up. It was fantastic!
I had a few more sessions like that again in the spring of 2015. I never caught any monsters but I will return. I have also never caught a Zander and Grafham looks like the place to catch one around September or October time each year.
If the sheer size of places like Grafham Water intimidate you then don’t let it. There is some amazing sport to be had on these reservoirs. Breaking them down into bays and areas make them feel totally different. If you like a challenge, love fishing from a boat and have a sense of adventure then give one of the big reservoirs a crack. You won’t regret it!