Ben Bangham takes his new wacky patterns to Surrey’s Frensham Lakes to see if the trout think they are weird or wonderful…
The weird, the wacky and the downright insane. Sometimes you need a bit of this to get by in life. Evidently, though, it isn’t just us that need it, it’s trout as well.
I have some pretty weird flies in my boxes that are sometimes just what you need to tempt a trout that isn’t in a giving mood. Over the last few months the editor has commented on some of my more bizarre creations and asked if they actually worked or were just the creations of a madman (bit of both really).
This signalled a challenge for me to create some weird or wonderful flies made from bizarre materials to see if they would work on some unsuspecting trout!
Nestled deep in the Surrey countryside is a quiet beautiful set of lakes at Frensham Trout Fishery. It has two separate venues not far from each other. The main one comprises six lakes, all with different characteristics. The trout are strong and healthy because there is a constant flow of water through all the lakes, and the owner, Richard Twite, is a keen advocate of letting nature do its bit. This means there are plenty of trees and bankside vegetation to hold a huge larder for the fish to gorge themselves on. As a result, it is a fantastic dry-fly water almost throughout the year because there is always something around to drop on the water.
The other part of the fishery is called Crystal Pools and, as the name hints at, the water is crystal clear in these ponds, and the fish are big! It is like an aquarium of big rainbows and a smattering of browns. When you see the main lake and stocking levels you think that things will be easy – they aren’t. These lakes are available on a catch-and-release ticket as well as a catch and kill, so these big fish have seen it all and are well educated.
We decided to separate the day into two parts. We started on the main lakes to give the flies a run through on a water more akin to most fisheries. Then we planned to take them for a swim in the specimen pools, where things might be a bit trickier and more of a test for the flies on some large catch-and-release resident fish.
The Blood Chain
Well here is the crux of the article in the form of the three weird flies, the Wotsit, Blood Chain and Marigold. Catchy names I know, but they describe what they are pretty well, I think.
The Wotsit is a simple fly that is made from one of those modern dusters with the bobbles on. The colour that I tend to favour is the hot orange. Each duster has a hundred or so bits to tie with, so they are great value.
It’s easy to tie. Get your hook and bead ready and then cut off a bobble and slide it onto the hook, lash it on and then put a small bit of dubbing on the thorax – job done.
The Bloody Chain is the easiest of the three to tie. It’s made from plug chain in red from B&Q. Cut off a good length and then whip it onto a grub-shaped hook with pink Nymph-It. That’s it, very simple and very effective.
The Marigold is my favourite. Tie in a marabou tail and then a Fritz body leaving a gap at the front of the fly to accommodate the marigold part. To finish the fly, cut off the tip of a finger from a Marigold glove (be careful of the wife) and make a hole in the tip, push it onto the front of the fly yellow first. Then whip it in by just catching it so that it stays in position. Push it so it inverts over the fly so that you are left with a white cone. On this cone I paint two eyes with an oil marker and that’s the fly finished.
The Wotsit, the Blod Chain & the Marigold
As is normal for the stillwaters I fish, out came the Sage Bolts 9ft 5-wt with matching reels, the perfect small-water tools. I set one up with a clear intermediate line and a short 6ft leader of 8lb fluorocarbon to which the Marigold was tied.
The second rod was set up with a floating line and a bung to fish the other two flies. I set the depth of this to about four feet because as I was setting up by the lake I saw a trout cruising at that depth.
Time For A Wotsit
I was at the end of the lake when setting up so that I could see most of the water and look for any signs of fish. I caught sight of a few moving fish in a hard to reach corner of the lake, which I kept my eye on while fishing the area where I had tackled up. I started with the Wotsit, casting it around the area to see if I could catch. I missed one fairly quickly, which I hooked but couldn’t keep on. I caught sight of a rainbow coming into the area so I flicked the Wotsit into its path. Much like me, this trout couldn’t resist a Wotsit and the first fish of the day was soon being netted.
I wanted to carry on with the early success so I took the opportunity to get the Blood Chain on. I carried on casting around the swim without much luck. All the time I saw the odd sign of fish in the hard to reach corner.
I said to myself: “One more sign of a trout and I will go over and fish the area.”
Sure enough, less than a minute later I was making my way around to the corner. There were trout absolutely everywhere. I started putting the Blood Chain in front of several fish, which elicited a large amount of interest but without any takes. This continued for a while until eventually one made a mistake. This did surprise me. Normally this fly has produced the goods for me; just not today.
There were still lots of trout in the area and they were pretty active as well. I thought that it would be a great opportunity to give the Marigold a go. I love this lure, and although it looks like nothing on God’s green earth it really catches fish. The head makes it wobble erratically on the retrieve and this really seems to get the trout’s attention. We saw this really well on the crystal-clear pool later on.
On the first water, though, the fish were tight to a reed bed in the corner. Due to the trees and bushes around the peg it meant an awkward roll cast over my wrong shoulder. I roll cast down the reeds, letting it all settle for a bit, and then retrieved. Well with all the fish stacked up in this corner, how could I fail? I didn’t. Every cast was either a take or a landed trout; they were loving the Marigold! To be honest, it was so easy that we decided to move off because it was losing some of its appeal. We decided it was time for the challenge of the educated big fish of the Crystal Pools.
Marigold Magic In The Crystal Pools
Marigold magic. The movement of this fly in the water proved too irresistible to both the fresh stockies and big residents
I found the hour or so we had on here very interesting. As in the other lakes, I started out with the bung fishing the Wotsit and the Bloody Chain to no avail.
First cast with a Wotsit a good fish took but spat it instantly and that was it in terms of action for this fly.
The Bloody Chain fared even worse, without even getting a look, so it was down to the Marigold to see if this fly could produce.
Out went the fly, I let it sink for a couple of seconds and then started the retrieve and the fish went crazy, four or five trout following it one time, what a sight! I frustratingly missed a couple of fish because they were hitting it and spitting it so quickly I simply couldn’t connect. After about five minutes one managed to hang itself, so I was the proud owner of a rather large rainbow that fought like a runaway steam train. It tore up and down the pool for a good few minutes, testing my tackle to the limits.
After this the action died. The trout weren’t interested at all in the fly. I decided that I would wet a few of my favourite lures to see if they would elicit a response. Well the trout were less than complimentary to my lures, showing no interest in them at all.
I switched back to the Marigold after a while and immediately took a fish again, which was amazing. As before, they would then ignore it until I fished other flies then switched back. It seemed as though they were forgetting the fly after a while and would then eat it again once reintroduced.
I have caught fish on all the flies over the last few months and it was great to show Andy how effective they can be. Without a shadow of a doubt, though, the star of the show has been the Marigold. With its seductive wobble it has accounted for numerous trout and will no doubt account for many more in the near future!
Now where has the wife left those Marigolds?