Rutland & Grafham Water - Black Flies Matter

Posted by Craig Barr on

A recent back to back two days fishing on Rutland & Grafham Water, threw up a very interesting tactic, enabling us to finally crack the code to success.

If you have visited either of these lakes the last few days, you will be well aware there is a bit of colour in the water now - often the reason, or so we like to think, why we struggle ! Right?

I was lucky enough to share a boat at Rutland, with a young angler who certainly will be a name to watch in the future, Preston's Kieron Donaghy.

After hearing Rutland's North Arm was starting to produce some good fish, we decided to head there. Conditions were good at the start with light winds and soft clouds. The water clarity here was perfect too.

Kieron and I both started fishing dry flies, and it wasn't long until a tiny swirl turned into a fighting fish. A size 12 suspender hares ear was the key.


The water at the very top of the arm is relatively shallow, and with several boats in the area, it wasn't too long until the odd rising fish, turned into no fish rising. We decided to drift further out, some 200yds, and we both missed a good fish, with Kieron actually hooking into one.

As the sun came out, the fish simply vanished, as often is the case here in the shallower water, so we decided to abort the North Arm and head to the basin.

On route, we passed the tower, located in the centre of the arm, where we saw a good number of fish topping. The issue we had now, was not only the sun, but a nice flat calm to contend with. It was like a game of cat and mouse.The closer we go to the fish, the further they seemed to get - just a little irritating.

It was time to head to the basin, the area arguably holding the larger numbers of fish. Sun, flat calm, and now water visibility down to a couple of feet - the day was getting more interesting by the minute.

Kieron decided to put a Flash Attack Cormorant onto his middle dropper, in between a tequila booby and fab, fished on a fast glass line. Fifteen minutes later, and he had landed two lovely rainbows.

Both fish took right at the boat, and not casting too far, indicated the fish were high in the cloudy water. I went back to the dry flies, thinking if these fish are high, they'll be more tempted to pick these off the surface. WRONG, not even a sniff. 

Kieron meanwhile latched into another nice fish, again on the cormorant.

Needless to say, I switched back to the fast glass, and added the same cormorant onto my cast. I soon latched into a fish, but this had taken the tequila booby, as it bounced along the surface.

The water clarity really niggled me, as I felt forced to fish high, believing the fish wouldn't see too much below the surface. Coupled with bright skies and at times, long periods of flat calm, I felt up against it. Some days, I guess we just have to accept it is not going to be our day. I managed a further 2 fish, both falling for the tequila booby, again, as it popped across the surface.

With Rutland beckoning the next day, I switched my plans, and decided to head to Grafham, this time with Scotland's, Martyn Shaw. Grafham has been in scintilating form recently, and was looking forward to my first trip there this season.

As we headed out from the pontoon, I had a sudden feeling of deja-vu, as I looked into the water - brown.

The conditions were perfect, yet 2 hours in, we hadn't caught, or moved a fish. I persisted with dries, and was rewarded with a nice fish on a claret Midas, in open water.

Though I was pleased to get off the mark, dries was obviously not the way forward, as 1 fish in a couple of hours should certainly tell you that.

Martyn had persisted with his slow intermediate line, and was also rewarded with his first fish of the day, falling to a Flash Attack Traffic Light Cormorant, fished on the middle dropper between two tequila flies.

We headed to Gaynes Cove, where it had been humping with fish for weeks. Absolute perfect conditions, yet not a fish to been seen. To top this all off, we were hit with a thunderstorm, that lasted for over an hour, filling our boat with several inches of water.


After sheltering from the storm on the bank, it gave me time to think of my next plan of attack. Murky water, perfect conditions, and with the scant information we could retrieve from our day so far, the fish, like Rutland, still appeared high in the water.

I switched my dry flies to cormorants, and the point fly to a cormorant booby. My leader was just 12', therefore the flies would remain high. Hours of pulling between us, for very little reward, certainly signified the fish were in no mood to chase flies, so a more static approach was the plan.

WOW ! Just like somebody had flicked a switch, the fish started to come. It really was incredible, hours of nothing, to my line tightening every drift. Though the visibility was poor, the fish still remained it what appeared the top few inches, and with only a 12' leader, and a booby on the point, my flies were obviously in the zone.

Martyn took 1 pulling to my 4 on the floating line, so he too swapped his tactics, and started to catch immediately !

We wanted to prove it was not just the area(G buoy), and that the change of tact had made the difference, so we headed to a spot we had started in the morning, where we failed to catch a fish, even though we had seen the odd fish move there.

We tucked our boat onto the edge of the weed, in line with the bird hide at the start of the West Bank(left out of the fishing lodge and heads to the corner). Our new approach got going almost immediately as we both hit into fish. It was like a breath of fresh air, we really got this method working.

What was looking like a tough day two days in a row, turned out to be a fantastic day, as Martyn and I landed 12 fish between us, as well as dropping a fair few too !

Keeping our flies high proved crucial, aided by an abnormally short leader, fishing 2 traffic light cormorants, and a cormorant booby on the point. Black flies always stand out in dirty water, but the key here was to keep them high, fish them slow, and it made a world of difference......I just wished I had tried this at Rutland the day before - I dare say it would have worked !

If you would like a guided day with Craig, then get in touch, either by email,, or call 07921335197 Details can be seen on our website.(Guiding)

The cormorant used successfully by Kieron at Rutland...

Traffic Light Cormorant, that took 8 fish at Grafham.... (available in barbless too)

The cormorant booby, fished on the point.....

Remember, what works one day, doesn't always work the next, -o;)  Tight Lines.......Craig


Share this post

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published.