Bonkers On Zonka's At Rutland !

Posted by Craig Barr on

A back to back visit to Rutland, as so many times it can, showed once more how you can have a serious love hate relationship with the place - Like it or Loathe it, its sheer size brings the best out of "fishing" and puts you the angler, to the test !

On Friday I shared a boat with a Phil Calvert, and our mission was to locate, and catch a Rutland "biggie" hopefully a brown. At this time of year, with so much fry in the water, the bigger fish certainly become more active, thus more vulnerable to capture. Knowing where to find them on such a big water is the next mission, however my 38 years knowledge of the lake, gives me a bit of a head start on the not so frequenting angler!

As we unleashed the boat, we could see fish hitting fry immediately in front of the lodge, so having already set up, it was all systems go. Just minutes in and we were into fish, both using a Flash Attack Rutland Tube on fast sinking lines, pulled straight back.


After a couple of quick fish into the boat, and one or two lost, we headed on in search of some bigger ones. Our first stop was Barnhill Creek, nice deep water, plenty of fry and weed, and a known big brown holding area at this time of year.

Having recently fished here in the same week, I knew there were some bigger fish about, so parked the boat right into the creek to set the drift.

The booby basher line is perfect for locating the often deep roaming browns, as its rapid decent gets the fly down quickly. We were varying the countdown as to locate a depth where the fish wanted the fly, and it became apparent, several follows in, that 30 seconds down was bringing results.

We both took a brown each here, rose several more, but not the big one we were after, so a move to Whitwell Frontage (where the wind surfers launch) was next.

Conditions were overcast, looked good, so we both switched to our 2nd rods, armed with floating line and a Flash Attack Polar Popper fry. This just had to work, well it just didn't! We managed 2 or 3 offers, but experience told me, today was not the day!

Next stop, Armley Wood, another known big brown holding spot. Fortunately we had the drift to ourselves, so as usual with me, a good wide birth, subtle approach was done, as we sneaked our way alongside the weed. Just a few casts in, and that dream fish was there, right behind my fly, and as Phil and I looked on, ready to go "BANG", it turned away from my fly, and sailed downwards. We both agreed it was heading into the 6-8lb bracket! Oh so close.

Moments later and Phil was into a fish, still fishing the Flash Attack Rutland Tube fly on a fast sinking line. I too took another brown here, but still not the big one.

We went back round on the drift, this time trying the Polar Popper fry, but just like our previous go, no joy!

Heading back to the fishing lodge, we had a quick stop at the peninsular road end, right in front of the woods, fishing the deep water. Just a few minutes in, Phil hit into a fish, however one of a different species, and a nice one too - this cracking perch, taking the tube fly.


We ended our day back at the fishing lodge frontage, where we managed another trout or two, ending with 10 to the boat for the day.

Day 2, and I headed out with London based Murray Laban, and just like the day before, we saw fish hitting the fry directly outside of the harbour walls. Needless to say, we started just yards off the wall. It seemed instinctive to start with the same lines and flies as the day before, however 15 minutes in, no fish. Scratching my head already, as I expected fish instantly, I was pondering a change, as unlike the day before, asides the fry feeders, there were other fish just sipping in the surface. Think it, do it, is often my motto, so change I did, onto my floating line and popper.

Another 15 minutes in and both Murray and I still hadn't had a fish, though I was moving in the right direction with the floating line, as I had now had 4 swirls to the popper fry.

Having watching the rising fish more closely, I could see they were feeding just under the surface, and not off it, which explained the enquiry to the popper, and not the take.

So, fast pulling wasn't getting them, fishing static on the surface wasn't getting, so what next? The clue is in the rise - just under the surface.

Enter the Black Mamba lure. Fished on a floating line, this rabbit strip zonka, sinks extremely slowly, and I know it will sit right where the fish are feeding, just centimetres under the surface. Its irresistible tail wiggle was sure to turn the heads of these rising fish, as this fly will now be right in their faces.

My second cast, and the line shot off with this cracking rainbow on the end - RESULT ! We cracked the code. A quick fire rapid catching of 2 more, and Murray too, was now on the same set up, floating line, 15' leader and a single Black Mamba lure, and you know what came next...His line went tight. Believing it was a combination of the right fly, in the right place, I added a 2nd Zonka into the mix, to test the theory, and It worked. Two fish hit the Flash Attack barbless brown zonka on the dropper.

We decided to go and have a look at some of the brownie hot spots, Barnhill Creek, Whitwell, then onto Armley Wood. 

The popper fry pulled through the wave, just like the day before, just didn't arouse the fish today, so we switched over to the fast sinkers and Rutland Tube Fly. My first cast at Armley Wood, rose a pretty hefty looking brown of about 7lb, and again like the day before, just meandered up behind the fly, and said "no, not today!"

Sensing the big ones were once again a little shy, we headed back the lodge frontage, and now were both on the Black Mamba and floating lines. Though fewer fish were showing than in the morning, I knew they would still be out there somewhere, and so it proved as we both steadily caught over the next two hours, taking our tally to the boat to 17, with Murray taking 5 of them, his best ever catch on Rutland !

Murray into another fish on the Black Mamba.

Predominantly the single fly, floating line, and moved very slow, was the way forward on this day, a complete contrast to the day before, echoing how Rutland often fishes, what works one day, doesn't mean it will work the next !

This brown & rainbow smashed the Black Mamba fished high in the water on floating lines.


A bit of "watching in front of you as to what is actually happening, in this instance, fish not quite breaking the surface, and moving very slowly as they do so, gives you the heads up as to where in the water they are, and where your fly needs to be for them to want it !! If your fly isn't where the fish want it, this can be all it is between catching a few, or catching more.

Murray had two of his friends on the water, whom between them managed 2 fish to our 17. They hadn't fished where we had, however when they did meet up with us, and a quick swap of information, they took tow fish - guess what on? The Black Mamba. It really was the fly of the day, but remember, tomorrow can be very different indeed !

If you would like a guided day on either Rutland Water or Grafham Water, then please email craig  at for details and availability.


We hope you enjoyed the read, and wish you all tight lines

Craig Barr


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