We are now into autumn and falling air and water temperatures have kicked off the predator fishing season in earnest. The Fishtec sales team start their season with a weekends predator fishing on one of the biggest reservoirs in the UK, the vast expanse of Rutland water. Find out how they get on!
Here at Fishtec we normally take an annual pilgrimage to one of the superb Anglian water fisheries, and this year Rutland was our destination with predator fish species being our prime target.
You can fish for predators all over the UK in rivers, lakes, gravel pits and canals at a moderate cost, but my favourite venues are the larger UK trout reservoir fisheries which open their doors in autumn to predator anglers.
Once exclusively for trout fly fishers, these vast waters now attract plenty of predator fishermen in season. These large reservoirs are full of abundant numbers of predatory fish which can grow to huge proportions; you can fish for pike, perch and in some cases zander.
The benefits to the trout angler of allowing predator fishermen onto their waters are very high; more money goes into investing in the facilities and trout stocking, whilst the lure anglers target fish which occupy a completely different niche of the lake and tend to concentrate their efforts from September to March, when fishing for trout becomes much harder. So everyone is ultimately a winner.
Rutland water has a decent head of zander of a moderate size – great sport can be had, but the main challenge is tracking them down in the vast 3100 acres with depths over 100 foot deep. Our plan was to mainly concentrate on fishing for the zander on this trip.
We arrived at the water at 9.00 am on a crisp late September morning. Unlike previous years the weather was settled and calm with air temps in the high teens rather than lashing down with rain and wind as is often the case. These settled conditions allow you to fish effectively at depth when vertical jigging, the preferred method for targeting zander.
In the day time zander tend to hug the bottom in deep water, so the only way to effectively target them is to drop your lure straight down on top of them. Calmer conditions make this so much easier. We had all set up with lightweight spinning rods, small fixed spool reels and soft-plastic lures fitted with jig heads.
Braid is used as a mainline to give you maximum feel down to your jig, with the rough rule of approximately 1 gram of weight per two feet foot of depth for the head. There is no need to go mad when jigging, it’s not like mackeral feathering. A slight rise and fall is all you need, and when you set up a second ”sleeper” rod on a rest you often get takes to an almost static presentation; with the motion of the boat being enough to induce a strike.
The fishing tackle combination being used on our boat was the Savage gear bushwacker XLNT2 rod 7′ 10 -40g, TF Gear blue strike reel 20 FD, and Savage gear finesse HD4 Braid in 17lb which has a diameter of just 0.13mm. On the business end was a 40 gram jig head and a berkely shad lure body. This particular outfit is exceptionally well balanced and ideal for a full days jigging.
We headed out to a well known hotspot on the lake and in 70 foot of water we began picking up fish on our fish finder holding near the bottom. A fish finder is a truly essential item of fishing tackle for targeting bigger waters; my advise is to always take one along with you- it really is like having an extra set of underwater eyes. Knowing there are fish in the area is always a confidence boost and this sometimes permeates into how you fish and helps get your results. Within half an hour I had a decent take and a nice conditioned zander came to the surface.
We had several more decent zander over the next few hours, plus a couple of bonus brown trout which hit the jigs when retrieving vertically. Perch and several jack pike also found their way into the net. The reason for this mixed predator species feeding frenzy seemed to be water being pumped into the reservoir in this area. In the turbulent up-welling of the pumped water small stunned coarse fish could be seen floating about; free and easy pickings for any predator on the prowl. It must have been like a dinner bell going off in that part of the lake!
After a few hours of pretty much constant catching and takes, the pumping suddenly switched off and the wind picked up. Both factors saw the fish disappear from the area as rapidly as they had arrived, so we decided to try a few other areas which had produced on previous visits. After a few fruitless drifts we turned our attention to the main tower, in 85 foot of water. Almost right away I picked up a nice one on the jig and had some knocks.
Unfortunately sailing traffic suddenly increased in this area, and it become uncomfortable fishing so we tried another area near the tower in the north arm. My boat partner Simon hooked up with a jack at 50 foot down, and I had a surprise bream which somehow foul hooked itself on a pike lure. This fish put up one hell of a fight, making me think for a few minutes I was into a 20lb plus pike. If this fish had been hooked in the mouth using a feeder rod it probably would have come in like a wet sack!
The day ended with a fairly early return to the digs for a hearty evening meal and to catch a rugby game, it being the world cup of course! A decent days fishing was experienced by all of us, and in the extremely bright sunshine we had done better than expected.
Day two and we were on the water early again. Nothing happened in the first hotspot aside from a perch of about 1lb and a very small zander, so we prospected in the deeper water off the main tower and off the Normanton church.
I had a decent Z off the tower first drift, about 10 feet off bottom in 85 foot, and we picked up 5 schoolies to 2.5lb in rapid succession near the church in about 65 foot of water.
We were forced to abandon the area due to very heavy sailing traffic again, so a slow period followed but Simon picked up a pike of about 8lb on his sleeper rod off Amberly wood, which gave him a decent fight on his lightweight setup.
Rhys and Mike had stayed in the main basin near the boils and picked up a good number of small shoal zander here and also drifting off the dam.
Like all fishing, time really flies when you are having fun and it was soon time to leave the water and return to Wales. We had experienced a pretty decent start to the predator season, with 20+ zander landed to both our boats, 5 pike, several perch and trout. A great couple of days fishing on one of the best mixed fisheries in the UK to say the least.
Predator fishing is a new exciting growth area of our sport, with more and more predator fishing tackle becoming available from the big brands, including Savage Gear, Fox, and Korum. So why not give it a go this winter when fishing for other species is at it’s worst? You never know, you might just become hooked!