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Competition angler Scott Graham has a colour combination that he relies on when the going gets tough – forget gaudy, drab is the key!

Trends in ladies’ fashion vary each year. One moment purple is all the rage, then the catwalk is filled with skinny females showing off their orange or yellow garments, a little like the colour fads for flies in fly fishing. It doesn’t take much for some anglers to be swayed into using lures or nymphs decked in loads of red or wrapped in masses of gold because it’s suddenly become the latest fly box must-have. But there are only two colours that I believe can never lose their ‘chic’ appeal – olive and black. And if you put the two together, any lure or nymph is transformed into what I can only described as THE killer combination.

The two are made for each other and can be devastating wherever you fish, from small stillwaters to large reservoirs. They also work particularly well in the colder months, which is just as well because the temperature was starting to drop dramatically on the day I decided to test my two favourite shades on a water I had never fished before, Loynton Trout Fisheries.

On many catch-and-release venues the trout stocks can quickly wise up so, especially when coupled with a chilly winter day, I was expecting to have my work cut out and skills stretched to the limit if I was to fulfil my aim.

The first thing I did when I reached Loynton was to find Steve Yeomans, the on-site guide, casting coach, and Orvis-backed expert, who will give a helping hand whether you are a novice, intermediate or experienced. I was surprised to learn from Steve that all the lakes have a depth of around 30 feet when they are at their top level, quite staggering really given the size of them – none are more than a few acres. The signs looked promising as I set up my rod with a midge-tip line armed with 15ft of 8lb leader and a large gold-beaded Damsel. Steve suggested that we fish the furthest lake as it had been producing a little better than the other two for the days prior to my visit. We walked past the first two lakes and it was quite evident that the fishery was a popular place; there were a dozen anglers fishing the lakes and two of the anglers we passed had caught several large rainbows between 6lb and 8lb. I couldn’t wait to get started.

We arrived at the bottom lake where there were three other anglers fishing away, then walked to the nearest bankside where I started casting out towards the middle of the lake. I fished hard for 15 minutes trying different retrieves, but all to no avail. I was watching the other anglers on the lake and the three of them were using floating lines combined with slow, figure-of-eight retrieves.

There were some trout rising occasionally but in no particular section of the lake, and the rise forms were very splashy. There was no fly life on the surface and the trout were showing only once. My guess was that there was very little natural food around and that they were taking the odd buzzer underthe surface and occasionally showing as they did so.

I changed the fly, to all manner of lures in various colours, but no matter what I cast at the trout they just seemed to swim the other way. Enter the coach…

A Little Helping Hand

Steve suggested that I try something that he found in the corner of my box – a goldhead with a black tail and an olive Fritz body, which had a little bit of red holographic at the head. I cast out into the middle of the lake and started fishing again. On only my second cast, with a ‘fastish’ figure-of-eight retrieve I had a trout nip and nip at the fly all the way to the bank, but sadly it never took properly. This happened several times in the next 20 minutes!

I pinched an inch off the tail, hoping that the next trout would find the hook rather than just mouth the tail. Next cast I missed a take on the hang close in to the bank, did a quick roll cast and landed my fly back on the water, then let the fly just drop through the water. The trout swam back and nailed it. It took to the air straightaway before shooting around in short, fast sprints. It was impossible to control and it eventually threw the barbless hook. All very exciting and good fun, but I still hadn’t landed a fish! Never mind, I had a fly that was working and I thought it wouldn’t be too long before I had another. Sadly, I was there for a further 30 minutes and still I couldn’t catch!

Change Of Plan

The trout were high in the water and they wanted drab flies; everyone around me had tried and failed with bright patterns. I went back to my tackle bag and changed to floating line, swapped my leader for 6lb rather than 8lb fluorocarbon and changed the weighted lure for a really small, damsel-type nymph with a very sparse, slim marabou tail, olive rabbit body, two turns of black hen hackle at the thorax and a red holographic head.

The Background To The Fly

I hadn’t used this particular fly for some time, although looking in my box you’d swear it was a favourite, as I had 10 of them in a row. The reason for this was that I had tied them up after a ridiculously productive practice before a major competition on Grafham Water. The fishing had been tough on the water and lots of anglers were struggling. I had a few of these flies tied up, after an experiment at the vice, and halfway through the first day’s practice session I decided to give one a swim on the top dropper position, with two Diawl Bachs fished below, on a 16ft leader with the flies spaced four feet apart.

Fishing in the Savages area, it wasn’t long before I had my first trout. I thought it was luck, as the team had had only four Þ sh between six of them up until then. Ten minutes later I had another. I passed my boat partner one and he too stuck it on the top dropper of his cast. By the end of the afternoon, both of us had taken our eight fish limit, and bear in mind that the rod average for the day was three! We thought we had it sussed – that one particular fly seemed to be a like some kind of panacea. Sadly, though, on the second day’s practice none of the team caught on it, and on match day it failed too. A shame really, as we’d all tied up loads after that first successful day… which is why I still had so many in my fly box! with its dense colour and the olive gives the impression of food; after all, most of the things that trout naturally eat are drab olive. When looking for a suggestion of food then olive and black go together as well as any other colour combinations. We just tend to pick the more established patterns first, like Cat’s Whiskers and Concrete Bowls.

Fishing With The Wind’s Help

The plan was to cast out, let everything settle down and allow the light breeze to move the fly slowly through the surface layers rather than retrieving it. It didn’t take long, just four or five casts, before a trout inhaled my offering. The fly had only been in the water about 10 seconds when the fish took it. No nipping with this fly, the trout was locked up solid. It was a nice fish too, about 3lb, which put up a strong, dogged fight in the deep water. After what I would consider a long fight for this size of fish, I finally managed to get its head up and out of the water before netting it. The nymph, it seemed, wasa far better bet than the lure when fished higher in the water. I fished on at that spot for another half-hour and caught three more trout on the little damsel-type pattern. Isn’t it amazing how easy trout fishing can be once you get the tactics right? The main reason for my new-found success was the fly. The olive and black combination is lethal for trout, even more so on fish that are actively feeding. The black stands out well in the water

Summing Up

Although I was unable to catch one of the very large trout that Loynton can produce and is rightly known for, all the trout were silver, fit and very active. I also lost a couple of good rainbows due in part to their fighting abilities – they don’t half go, and I guess the extremely deep water helps! On the top lake, which is the water nearest the lodge, there were six anglers fishing, and every one had caught and released fish, missed plenty of takes and also taken a few for the table. Some of the rainbows were well over 5lb and all that I saw were in tiptop condition. These lakes are proof that catch and release can work if the release procedure is carried out in the correct manner.