Farmoor 2 Reservoir Fly Fishing. Two old men in a boat.

October 10, 2013 at 7:03 pm

I joined my childhood friend Peter for a day afloat at Thames Water’s Farmoor 2 Reservoir this week, my first visit for twenty years and his second in as many months. Having fished the 17,000 acre Strawberry Reservoir in Utah a month ago, I was keen to see how Farmoor’s 160 acre concrete bowl compared.

A friend of Peter’s, a Farmoor regular, had fished the previous week and put us on the method, HD lines fished deep with long tails and an Orange Blob fly on the point, while stationed off the northern tower. Using this technique Peter’s friend had over twenty rainbows, while recommending that Hoppers and Daddy Longlegs were killing them on the floating line. This pleased me, as I prefer to fish the floating line and was already armed with an assortment of Hoppers from my trip to the US.

Once tackled up and aboard the boat, we headed out towards the tower at the down wind end of the water, where it was already decidedly choppy and the skies leadened with threatening rain. I was reminded of days spent battling the waves at Datchet Reservoir, where three foot breakers were common. In tribute to those times, I decided to have a couple of drifts using my heavy trolling lead core, on my original French multiplier reel, with a Pennel rigged tandem Whiskey lure, the 3 inch long monstrosity accounting for many 3lb +  rainbows back in the days of my youth. Dropping this collection of antiques over the side, I was paying out the thirty yards of backing, when the rod bent double and line flew through my fingers, when the lure was taken on the drop. I lifted against the pull. I’m in! Then, it’s off!

This was always a problem with this ultra heavy line, despite an 8/9 weight rod, setting the hook was never guaranteed.  Encouraged by this on the first drop in, I continued the drift, getting a further two tap,tap bangs and misses. I suggested we put out the drogue to slow the boat, as it was flying along, driven by the wind. Peter was getting no offers with his No.4 HD, as I think it was fishing too far off the bottom. In the old days we would tie thirty yards of rope on to a buoy, drift down, cast the rig as far as we could, then pay out line, before pulling our selves back to the buoy. We would then begin a slow retrieve back to the boat on the reel.  Often a take would occur as soon as the lure began to move, the line going solid, or a series of knocks and taps would develope  into savage take, usually when the lure lifted off the bottom. This was a laborious form of fishing, certainly a long way off from purist fly fishing, but the fish, when they came, were big and angry. 

After a couple of drifts with no offers for Peter and more misses on the lead core for me, we decided to tie off to a buoy close to the shore and fish down wind. I swapped to the floating line with a Hopper on the point and a Daddy Longlegs on the dropper, casting down and across and letting the combo work through the wave, where a wind lane had formed. Peter stayed with the HD and Blob, fishing several depths. With no takes for twenty minutes, the motor was fired up again and we bashed through the waves back to the tower. Several more fruitless drifts and we headed back towards the boat jetty, where the wind was more kind, stopping above one of the empty holding pens and tied up to a buoy. First cast in, Peter’s rod bent double and he was into his first fish. At last something worked and the first bar of silver was in the boat.

Now it was my turn, when the rod pulled down with a fish and kept pulling, as a rainbow hugged the bottom, the Orange Blob holding on during a rod bending run, that took it from bottom to the surface and back again. My luck and the hook held and Peter was on hand to net a perfect 21 inch, 2 lb 12 oz rainbow. Battling the conditions earlier, we had both begun to doubt our ability to catch fish.

Peter now hooked another fish, a fine two pounder, while I bent into a fish on the lift off from the bottom, which came up like a submarine and I lost contact, when it surfaced. Another large rainbow, which zig-zagged around the boat, just under the surface at speed before heading off. Peter was now the one to curse, when he was taken on the drop in a lightning dive, a doubled rod, a ping and a lost Blob. Peter continued with a Yellow Blob, while I decided to give the floating line another go, as a few fish had begun to top close to the boat.

With the Hopper on the point and a Daddy six feet away on a dropper, I watched as a trout showed interest in the big green hopper, then swooped on the Daddy, a nose, then a tail, while the line slipped beneath the surface. I lifted and the line flew back. No contact. Preoccupied I continued like a desperate gambler, convinced that the next cast would result in a fish, trout after trout swirling at the flies, without me making contact. Almost unnoticed by me, Peter netted another good rainbow from the bottom. I should have tried another combination of flies, but five hours on a boat had dulled my brain and strained my body, we two old boys grunting and groaning from aching limbs, due to the cramped conditions.

Boats were returning to the jetty and we decided to call it a day and compare notes with our fellow anglers. Almost to a man, they had all fished small sedges in the surface film not far from the boat, often drifting slowly with the aid of a drogue. Their fish were not as big as ours, but they had more action, one having taken 16 fish. On a less windy day, our efforts out by the tower may have paid off, but rain and cold had driven us back to the comfort of the leeward shore. Ironically this had caused a premature ending to my day at Stawberry Reservoir. It’s not only in England that the weather can ruin a day’s fishing.