Year Of The Big Brownies
Trout & Salmon|December 2017

Andrew Flitcroft explains why Rutland Water has experienced arguably its best-ever brown trout season.

RUTLAND WATER IS unpredictable. Regular rods will agree that no two seasons are the same. “But that’s the appeal,” they say. Rutland is so big (3,000 acres) that its character and grown-on fish are similar to a wild fishery. The sport is sometimes dour, but it is often outstanding and every now and again conditions and hatches align to offer what is possibly the best stillwater fishing in the land. It happened in 2012 when high water flooded the surrounding grassland and vast numbers of corixa in the margins were preyed upon by 4lb-6lb grown-on rainbow trout. That season’s early-summer bank fishing was possibly the best in my two-and-a-half decades at the reservoir, but this season something equally special has happened.

It started in the autumn of 2016 with reports of rods landing some big brown trout. “Nothing unusual in that,” you might say, “it’s the back-end and brownies always show up at the back-end of the season.” Little did we know, however, that these fine sea-trout-like specimens would continue being caught throughout the 2017 season.

Brown trout comprise ten per cent of the annual stocking at Rutland, the rest are rainbow trout. Stocked at 1¾lb, the brownies are frequently caught in the first or second week after their release, after which they usually disappear into the depths during the warm summer months, sporadically reappearing in the summer gloaming, but re-emerging when the water cools in autumn. “In the past, you could set your calendar by it,” says Anglian Water fisheries manager Jon Marshall. “It was always the third week in August when they started to appear again.”

This year my brownie sport started at Burley Reach, along the north bank shallows at the end of Rutland’s North Arm. It was a month into the season. Again the water was high – in the grasses. I remember it was a still evening with no-one else about; Burley had hardly been fished. I approached with my usual stealth, keeping away from the water’s edge and watching the surface carefully while I treated my dry-fly and leader. It wasn’t long before I saw a fish, almost certainly a brownie and so close that it was only visible between gaps in the long grass. I followed as it patrolled the bank for 50 yards, just 3ft out. Every 6ft or so it slowly tipped up, took something, and tipped down again with a gentle wag of its tail. It then turned around and followed its tracks, oblivious to my presence. I walked ahead, found a gap in the grasses through which to cast and waited, kneeling well back. I saw it rise in the neighbouring gap. Time to cast the single size 14 Claret Bits across the grass. The fly landed 3ft from the bank and I could see the shine on the brownie’s head as it rose. I lifted into a spray of water. 

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