Late season rainbow trout

With winter fast approaching the browns of most waters are gearing up for spawning. Though surface activity is possible at ideal times, the browns are more likely to be found grubbing around the weed beds, feeding on crustaceans high in carotene and vitamin B, important for egg and milt quality. As fishing in most brown trout waters slows down approaching the close of the brown trout season (2 May), fly fishers may wish to turn their attention to rainbow trout waters when seeking the final chances for sight fishing and good quality fish for the season. Rainbow trout waters are open until 30 May this season and include Lagoon of Islands, Lake Rowallan, Lake Skinner and Dee Lagoon, with Dee Lagoon and Lake Rowallan representing arguably the better of the fisheries.
What to look for - the weather
At this time of the season the most important factor in the fishing is the weather. Ideal conditions to look for would be a stable weather pattern (high pressure system), preferably during or at the end of one or two days of above average temperature. A falling barometer with an approaching front (within 2 - 6 hours of the front arriving) will usually result in the fish "switching off" for the period until the front passes. Fish do not have to eat all the time, and many of you may note that fish have empty stomachs when caught during or immediately after the passing of a low pressure front - this decreased activity can even be the case on fish farms!
What to look for - the food
In an ideal world , given the choice, 90% of fly fishers would like to fish a dry fly or sight fish all season around, and there are a few food items that are present at this time of year that may if your lucky provide this opportunity. Midges are the most likely food item to provide surface activity to look for both in the early morning or late afternoon / evening. Midges usually hatch in calm conditions (often indicated by fog in the morning or evenings), only to eventually become trapped in windlanes and slicks. A boat equipped with an electric motor or a good rower is a necessity. Dee Lagoon is well known for this type of fishing and small nymphs or English style dry fly rigs often suffice in fooling feeding fish - That is providing you can present the fly quickly and accurately to erratically moving rainbows.
Terrestrials can provide sport more accessible to the shore angler with beetles and ants definite possibilities right up to the close of the rainbow waters. Ants are more likely during the lead up to a storm however any overcast day could bring these terrestrials out and on to the water. Lake Rowallan can be a particularly good lake to find fish feeding along its steep shores. These fish may only make the slightest of dimples as they sip down the tiny black specs so pay attention. Polaroiding these bank side cruisers is another possibility for the patient, slow moving angler fishing at close range.
What to use - flies and leaders
When fishing the slicks or windlanes a tandem nymph or pommy dry setup fished to feeding fish is the most practical. Keep the boat moving quietly whilst searching for fish.
Single fly setups on a tapered leader is a second method of attack and would be suitable for all the sight fishing opportunities available at this time of year. A slow sinking seals fur nymph or beetle, or a nondescript pommy dry can get a reaction out of these cruising rainbows.
A tandem dry fly / nymph rig can be an easier approach to undoing an erratically feeding rainbow. One example of its use would be on a rainbow working in amongst the timber along the shores of Rowallan. Work out the fishes beat (feeding pattern and area) and cast the dry fly / sunken nymph or beetle combination ahead of the fish into its beat. Once the trap is set it is a matter (hopefully) of patience, waiting until the fish reaches the fly and eats one or the other.
There is probably no better way to finish the trout season then with a reel -screaming rainbow, so pack a thermos, practice your quick and accurate casting, and keep an eye out for those sipping rainbows.
If all else fails either find a good weed bed or old submerged creek bed and start fishing a heavy Wooly Bugger on the point with a bead head caddis in the middle. Fish with a mix of retrieves and depths until something happens, or you get too cold. Alternatively, if flogging a wet doesn't do much for you, head for the nearest Irish Murphys and pull up a chair next to the fire with a creamy pint of Guinness!

Daniel Hackett
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