I was really looking forward to getting back to Farmoor, after my last visit I was enthused to return. Only three of us were available for practice on the Friday which meant that one of us had to spend the day on our own. David Froggatt took the bullet and I was to share a boat with Mick Sale. Conditions were over cast and it started off with a nice ripple on the water, the odd fish could be seen in the surface. We opted to work our way round the reservoir, starting at number 7. For those that have fished the concrete bowl that is Farmoor you will know that there are numbers painted on the wall all around the water which is handy for reference. We had only been fishing five minutes and we were both into fish. I was fishing a fast glass and Mick was on a midge tip. Two drifts in this area confirmed that there were plenty of fish about. In fact, there seemed to be plenty of fish most places we went. As we moved around the water. I had switched methods several times and every change indicated that the fish were high in the water. I was a little reluctant to try the dries as I knew the wind was going to be up the following day. I thought it best to check downstairs just in case we were missing a trick. First cast produced a feisty trout, two or three casts later another followed but fell off before reaching the boat. We stopped at 1300 for a chat with David, just drifting out towards the middle there were fish moving everywhere. We had enjoyed a great mornings sport, lots of takes and interest made it a very enjoyable session.
In the afternoon, the wind dropped away until it became a flat calm. The fish were still splashing about on the surface and I managed a couple straight lining nymphs. Mick was still getting them pulling on a fast glass. When the water finally turned into a massive mirror I stuck the bung on. In the space of about fifteen minutes I caught one on the bung which straightened out the hook and missed another good offer. The place was alive with fish with no particular method outdoing another. For the last twenty minutes or so of the day I indulged myself with a bit of dry fly sport conditions were perfect for it. There were plenty of fish to target and my first couple of efforts went unanswered. I spotted a fish about thirty feet from the boat and dropped my flies in its path. It was text book the big boil below where the fly was and I gently lifted the rod into a cracking Farmoor trout. I was down to 4lb co-polymer and #16 bobs bit so got the fish onto the reel. The fight took a while but I soon slipped the net under a good 3lb plus fish. A bar of silver with a full tail, typical of the quality fish at Farmoor. It had been my best fish of the day, but it was time to head for home. We were a bit unlucky with the engine though and it gave up the ghost before getting us back to the lodge. No worries Mick is a strapping young lad grab the oars! Only one rollick, bollocks! I tried several times to get the engine going and at one point we made nearly 50m before it died a death. One of the lads from the lodge came out and retrieved us and said that this had happened quite a bit with the new engines.
The weather started off in glorious fashion the wind was rather brisk but we had bright blue skies. The rest of the team were already in the car park when I arrived busying themselves with sorting out their kit. I chatted through what we had found in practice and was unconcerned about catching my eight fish it would just be a case of what method to use. I had drawn Neil Jones from the Royal Navy who was content that I took the engine. The AMFC have gone to a four fish kill with a further four released. I think that this is a good thing, it prevents mass fish kill. I would have preferred to have a pleasant day on the floater or a midge tip but the wind was too high for that to be practical early on. I opted for a fast glass with a couple of blobs, three of the team had followed me around to number 7. After one drift, I knew it had gone a bit Pete Tong. Not a follow nor a take, as I looked around the other boys were very obviously in the same boat. A move up to the top of the wind and it was like a different water the fast glass was quickly replaced with a midge tip. There were no fish showing where the day before there were fish everywhere. After two drifts with not so much as a fish spotted and no rods bending a bit of head scratching had ensued. Had the low-pressure front scuppered the fishing? It was time to go downstairs on went the DI7 and I got a take very deep. Maybe they had gone down a short while later another tentative offer that failed to stick. Just maybe I was onto something though, Neil had changed to his DI5 sweep and he also got a wee nibble.
I had lost sight of the other guys in the team and had decided to move back down to the bottom of the wind. Neil took a fish on our first drift by the inlet and I thought that the day was about to pick up. It did for Neil, every drift produced action for him either a take or a fish on and off. I changed up to the 5 sweep but could not even manage an offer I found it rather frustrating. Neil had bagged three fish and had lost two at the net, I had to do something to try and get back in touch. I stuck on the DI7 and worked it through the water column. Most of Neil’s fish were coming on the hang to the top dropper so I figured the fish were a little deeper. It’s been a long time since I blanked in a match and even though we were only three and half hours in I had a really bad feeling that today was the day! It also looked like Neil was going to hand me my arse to boot, except for his extraordinary bad luck. My perseverance paid off though and despite missing a few takes a stupid trout put me out my misery and locked onto my fly. It was a nice start and I was soon back in the saddle fishing hard. The next drift I got another but it flew into the air discarding the fly as it went. Neil continued to enjoy lots of sport, whereas my short spurt soon dried up.
Back in a flat spin I changed my lines more times than I can recall and tried all my favourite patterns to no avail. The fish would occasionally torture me with a stabbing pluck, but nothing solid. Feeling pretty sorry for myself at this point I was less than over the moon when the skies went black and the heavens opened for the first time. It was biblical and if I was not in a boat already I would have been building one. Neil had killed his four fish and was now on catch and release. He had debarred his flies and it was interesting that he went on to hook and lose another five fish. I have always thought that de-barbed flies were not nearly as effective as manufactured barbless hooks. After the rain a nice ripple appeared on the water and the sun came out for a bit. Almost dry another front was coming in fast and the second dunking was just as bad as the first. Any moral I had left was thoroughly washed away. The rain had subsided but then came the wind and a chill entered my body that I just could not shake.
I have never been so glad to come of the water after a match. More than a little down in the dumps I was heartened to hear that the other boys had managed a good few fish with two bag limits. Perhaps it would not be too bad, all in all we had thirty fish which was pretty decent on what was not the easiest of days. The meal was £10 and you got a fantastic feed for the money and those that could stay didn’t leave hungry. The results were read out and we were beaten into second place by the RAF Old Lags who had managed a total of 32 fish. I have put a great deal of thought into how I fished yesterday and I was well below par and feel as every comp angler that fishes in a team rather disappointed with my own performance. The thing to do was move, but my boat partner was getting sport and it would not have been sporting to take him away. Luckily my good lady made me some chocolate chip shorty and I am feeling much better now….lol. Must do better next time!