It was the middle of January and the day before my first trip of 2012 the country was basking in sun, with temperatures reaching the dizzy heights of 13 degrees. Things were looking great for a day afloat on Farmoor Reservoir. But what a difference a day makes, as the following morning as I pulled into Farmoor Reservoir car park the thermometer was reading minus 6! Thankfully I had packed my thermals!
Farmoor Reservoir is owned and managed by Thames Water and is situated 5 miles west of Oxford and surrounded by beautiful views of the countryside. There had been some great reports of winter fishing at this reservoir, so I thought I would pay it a visit.
Joining me for the day was one of my old team mates, Peter Elliot, who I don’t mind admitting has taught me a lot over the past few years, especially when it comes to buzzer fishing. I would rate Peter as one of the top buzzer anglers in the country, but with subzero temperatures there wasn’t going to be much buzzer activity today!
As we drove round to the boat anglers car park we could see a dense wall of fog and promptly drove into it, with visibility became no more than 10m. We lost sight of the lake. It was going to be an interesting morning!
The thermometer remained at minus 6 and the fog, if anything, seemed to be getting thicker. We both reluctantly left the inside of the warm car and very quickly put on our warm clothes, which included full thermal ski undergarments, ski trousers, Sonik bib and brace, Sonik sweatshirts, two Sonik fleeces and waterproof jacket.
To have any chance of catching in such cold temperatures there was only ever going to be one method, fast sinking lines with two boobies fished very slowly along the bottom. I threaded a Di7 shooting head through the rod rings of my SK4XT, 10FT - 6/7. This is a rod that I am still testing for Sonik before it is launched this spring. I was looking forward to seeing how the rod coped with one of the heaviest lines on the market.
We both made our way to the boats, sliding and skidding on the icy path leading down to the jetty. The boats were covered with thick frost which resembled a light covering of snow. I took my position on the engine and made myself comfortable. The fog was so dense I could only just see Peter at the other end of the boat.
We had heard reports of fish being caught close to the boat jetty, so we unclipped the boat from its moorings and started fishing. With zero wind we didn’t move very far, but that didn’t matter as Peter missed a fish on his first cast. A good sign!
In the first hour Peter had boated 6 lovely looking trout. All on a pink booby on the top dropper. He was retrieving his line very slowly and the fish were taking confidently about half way through his retrieve. In that first hour I only managed one pull. Now as you can expect, Peter had become very sure of himself and enjoyed reminding me that he was beating the current British Champion 6 fish to 0.
Fishing is a thinking man’s game. Everything happens for a reason in our sport and I personally enjoy working out what that reason is. If you find the answer you will catch more fish. I watched Peter like a hawk as he was obviously doing something a little different to me. And there it was, Peter was retrieving slowly then stopping for 5 seconds before starting his retrieve again. It was on that pause that he was catching his fish. This retrieve causes the booby sink, then rise and it is when the booby rises that the fish thinks the food is escaping and their instincts take over and take the fly. I applied this retrieve and instantly caught a fish, making it 6-1. The temperature had now risen to a balmy minus 4 and I can assure you unhooking that icy cold fish was not the best experience I have ever had in a boat! I was almost glad I hadn’t had to touch 6 fish. But the competitive side of me won over and before I knew it my flies were back in the water. In the next hour I had caught 8 fish and Peter had only managed one other. There is nothing better than camaraderie in the boat to warm you up and I really enjoyed reminding Peter that in an hour I had just landed 8 fish to his 1!
At around midday the sun broke through the fog and instantly warmed the both of us up. The ice remained in the boat as the temperature hovered around freezing. We both continued to catch throughout the day and as the wind picked up we were able to cover more water. I had a lovely over wintered trout which had a tail like a spade close to the margins on a cat whisker booby and after a quick photo returned her to fight for another day.
Before we knew it, the sun had started to set and it wasn’t long before it was time to pack up and head home. I reeled in happy with just over 20 fish caught in some really harsh conditions. I am pleased to report that out of the 21 fish caught I only dropped 1 fish at the net. I believe this is due to the action of the SK4XT when playing the fish. The rod is very receptive to any lunges the fish make and as a result there is less chance of the hook pulling out of the fish. The rod also handled the heavy sinking lines very well. The SK4XT looks like it is going to be one of the best all round rods on the market when it is launched.
While I was packing up Peter had time for one last cast and hooked a lovely trout as the sun set. He successfully landed it making his total for the day 15. It had been a freezing but great day on Farmoor.