Tackle.

When fishing crayfish patterns in stillwater, I only consider one line to be useful, this being either an intermediate or slow sinker depending upon personal preference. For me it is an intermediate, as we are not looking to fish deep water relatively speaking, and the slower sink rate allows a better presentation. Oddly enough, occasional takes on the drop do seem to occur. Whilst on the subject of lines, I now use the clear or clear/camo lines on the market as I am convinced they make a significant difference in enticing larger resident fish to take. Such fish have often been caught before since the acceptance by many fisheries of catch and release, therefore I see no point in using hot orange and fluorescent green lines (among other bizarre colours on the market) to let the fish know of your deception. Other than this, a five or six weight outfit is pretty much standard, with the line being a weight forward, and the leader nine feet maximum for control of the fly. Anything much longer than this in an often strong wind during spring, and you are asking for a fly to lodge in some part of your anatomy!

Spring.

By late April, the shallow areas in stillwaters will have warmed significantly - hopefully! This change encourages the trout to move into shallows to feed due to the abundance of aquatic food forms in such areas. The temperature of the water is also a further inducement to the trout; as such shallow areas will not become uncomfortably warm until later in the year. These shallow areas of lakes are more often than not marginal areas, if gravel bars and plateaux are discounted, and are all the more productive if a significant shelf or drop off in depth is nearby. The trout will cruise in the region of the shelf, and then often move up and into the shallows to feed on nymphs, small fish and crayfish sheltering in the weedbeds and marginal vegetation.

For the simple reason that the margins are where the better fish will be feeding, forget trying to hurl your cast to the far bank. Instead, try short angled casts along the near bank, lengthening each cast to thoroughly search the margins. The same pattern is then performed to systematically search the area in front, making relatively short casts and allowing the artificial to touch bottom, prior to twitching it back over the ledge and towards the bank. Remember to stay well back from the water's edge, so that the rod tip is either just over the bankside, or in the water. This allows the artificial to be fished right into the bank and hence fish to follow without being spooked by you on the bank. Do not be in too great a hurry to lift into the next cast either as many takes occur right at the bankside. Once the area around you has been thoroughly searched, move down the bank and repeat the exercise. This may sound somewhat mechanical, but by carefully searching the water the rewards will come.

When fishing the pattern (I mainly use the standard Fulling Mill tying shown), do so along the bottom and vary the retrieve. I tend to prefer a slow figure of eight, then incorporate short sharp pulls, causing the fly to dart several inches. Allow the fly to resettle and continue the retrieve. The number of times the fly is taken as it resettles or as the retrieve is recommenced is unbelievable!

Summer

Having previously mentioned the tendency for trout to feed on crayfish during hot weather at night, then lie up during the day to sit out the heat, I shall not repeat myself again (see article entitled "The Crayfish Phenomenon"). However, should trout remain dour in the evening due to water temperature, then the searching technique discussed for spring can produce results for you. Equally, an angler starting first thing in the morning may also benefit.

Despite the opportunities to be had early and late during hot spells, daytime fishing (if you can take the heat) is not a completely lost cause. By changing the tactics to account for the lack of cool water in the shallows, casts should be made beyond the margins into deeper water, with any deeper channels and holes, especially ones close to the bank, being probable hot spots. The fly is then crawled back very slowly. This can be a great tactic, as the fish makes the most of an opportunity for a big meal with minimal energy expenditure. Sometimes a trout will follow the fly into the margins despite the temperature, and when this happens (if you can see what is happening) speeding up the retrieve can make all the difference between a take and a follow!

Autumn

From late summer and throughout the autumn period, fry feeding trout are increasingly apparent in lake margins. As an addition to the abundance of fry patterns used at this time, I would suggest that trying spring margin fishing tactics with crayfish patterns is a useful change tactic. My reasoning for this relates to not only the trout feeding aggressively in shallow areas at this time, but also due to the high number of anglers stripping lures. Trout often become cautious and suspicious of such tactics, and offering something different whilst remaining substantial to the trout can once more lead to the capture of the better fish, especially the ever cautious big browns!

When winter arrives, I must confess to not having tried this pattern as other angling interests take over from trout. This does not mean that it will not work, and when you do find something that works let me know, - please!

E-Mail: - steve.yeomans@genie.co.uk