Using the right sinking line to find the feeding zone

Di-7, Hi-D, Di-3, or slime? It’s a jungle out there when it comes to choosing the right sinking line for boat fishing. England team member Iain Barr explains his strategy for success and how to find the feeding depth of the trout.

You are heading down Rutland’s Normanton bank to the dam. You don’t want to gamble on chasing the fewer, but larger, fish at the end of the reservoir’s two arms. The main basin seems a safer bet.

When you get there, a few trout are rising indicating that they are high in the water. But when the sun comes out, there is not a sign. So what line do you fish - a floater, sinker or an intermediate? Or do you alternate between all three or more?

For me, there is no discussion. On goes the fast-sinking Di-7. If the fish are showing, you can fish it short. If they are not showing, you can count it down.

Many anglers get confused as to what sinking line to use and spend all their time changing densities and getting nowhere. Last year I was drawn in the boat at the Rutland National with Bob Handford, manager of Chew. He’s a great fellow and I am sure he won’t mind me relating what happened. The fish were up and down like a tart’s drawers and had Bob swapping from a Di-7 to a Di-3 to stay in contact. I stuck with the Di-7 and had my 10 fish in an hour.

WINDOW OF VISION

THE SECRET of success when fishing a fastsinking line like the Di-7 is to keep the fly in the fish’s “window” of vision for as long as possible. And there are many ways of doing this which you learn through experience.Here’s how it works.

I will cast out two Blobs on a 20-ft leader, with the single six-inch dropper 6ft from the end of the fly line. I like to keep the two flies as far apart as possible so that the fish are not scared.

If I believe the fish are not far from the surface, I will count to 10 before starting the retrieve. Let’s say I get a couple of pulls almost straight away, then nothing. Then I experience a follow as I go to lift off. This will tell me that my flies are going too deep below the fish for the majority of the retrieve. I need to start my retrieve earlier, or change up to a slowersinking line like a Di-3.

If I experience no response, I will count the flies down to 20 before starting my retrieve. With a Di-7, this means the flies are down about 10 ft. Always watch out for takes on the drop. This will also show you that the fish are higher in the water than you think.

At this point, it’s worth mentioning the retrieve, which at times should be as fast as possible. If your arms don’t ache at the end of a session, you are not fishing them fast enough.

Remember that the line is continually sinking as you retrieve, right until you bring up the flies. To keep the flies in front of the fish for as long as possible, you need to pull like crazy or fish a shorter line. And by sticking out the rod on each strip you can increase the length of line retrieved at a time from three feet to six feet. But you do need to be fit for this pulling game. That’s why so many of the top Rutland teams suffer from tennis elbow.

Another clue to the depth of the fish is which fly the fish are taking. If they are hitting the top dropper only, it proves they are deeper than you are fishing. Yes, I said deeper.

Remember the top dropper will sink faster than the tail fly. If you don’t believe me, try fishing two Boobies. The top Booby will disappear long before the tail pattern disappears under the surface.

The answer now is either to shorten the leader to get your team of flies down quicker; put a heavier fly on the point (competition anglers can’t use weight, but if you’re pleasure fishing you can experiment with weighted flies); or count another five seconds before starting to retrieve.

Only when I am convinced that the trout are staying up will I switch to an Airflo slime line. I love their sensitivity. You can feel every little touch. Mind you, even these lines will sink as you retrieve. The answer now is to put a Booby on the point to keep your nymphs high in the water.

I appreciate that this style of fishing will not appeal to everyone. But it is the way to catch fish quickly and win matches. You get into a groove with this style when you’ve found the right depth. Casting, hooking and landing the trout is all done in one movement. But as I said last month, you need the tackle to do it - an eight weight rod and 10lb line.

My pal Robert Edmunds - or “Catman” as we call him - really set a blistering pace in last season’s Anglian Water Loch Style match by taking 12 fish in an hour on Blobs and a Di-7.

That was almost as fast as my 10 fish in 35 minutes in an England eliminator - a trout in the boat every three minutes!

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MY DATE WITH THE BLOB

I WAS first introduced to the Blob fly two years ago in early May when fellow England team member Tony Curtis handed me a stuffing. We were practising for the England eliminator off Sykes Lane when Tony suddenly switched into overdrive and took five fish on the Blob to my one. They were good fish, too, between three and four pounds, which were feeding on buzzers in the Sykes Lane shallows. My orange lure failed to produce a pull. Since then, the Blob is rarely off my cast when boat fishing.

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It seems strange that such an outlandish fly will take naturally-feeding, resident fish. But it does. One reason may be that it looks a like a clump of daphnia. The other is that it leaves a trail of air bubbles due to the water pushing through the Fritz when pulled hard. For some reason, the dark orange Blob catches better at Grafham, while the peach Blob works better at Rutland. This may be due to the different colour of daphnia in the two waters.

The fly was originally invented by Rutland bailiff Dave Doherty, although Martin Introna’s Captain Scarlet was a worthy forerunner.

I’ve developed some new variations on the Blob for the coming season. I’ll let you know how they work . . . . after I’ve won a few matches on them you understand!

OTHER LURES TO TRY

THE skinny Viva is also a great fly to fish early season when trout are buzzer feeding. It can look like a big buzzer to a trout, but its slim marabou wing makes it stand out in a crowd. I find it’s a great fly to place between two Blobs on your cast.

The Cat’s Whisker was never off my cast until I discovered the Blob. Now it’s relegated to the bench. However, the pattern still has its moments, particularly at the back-end of the season when the trout are on fry.

I was in the boat with Alex Hunt at Grafham last year when he took a rainbow of 6lb 12oz on a double Cat on the point, while earlier in the year I took a trout of 4lb 13oz on one.

Iain Barr's top ten sinking lines

1. Di-8:

An out and out bottom scraper to be used only when the fish are 10 ft or deeper. A must for those hot summer days when the fish are mopping up the daphnia down deep. Can be too fast for normal fishing.

Sink Rate: 7-8 inches per sec

2. Di-7:

My favourite all-round line for use right through the season whether the fish are deep or rising.

Sink Rate: 6-7 inches per sec

3. Di-6:

Reserve this line for when the fish are in the top eight feet of water. Now discontinued, and replaced by the Di-5.

Sink Rate: 5-6 inches per sec

4. Di-5:

A new line from Airflo this year, this will nicely fill the gap between the popular Di- 3 and the faster-sinking lines. I haven’t tried one yet but I am sure it will be useful.

Sink Rate: 4-5 inches per sec

5. Di-3:

Don’t be without this one. My second choice of line from mid May onwards when the trout are in the top five feet.

Sink Rate: 3 inches per sec

6. FAST SLIME:

A must for trout feeding in the top three feet of water. Useful in a big wind on a fast drift.

Sink Rate: 1.5 inches per sec

7. SLOW SLIME:

Use this one when you’re drifting in little wind and the fish are moving just subsurface.

Sink Rate: 0.8 inches per sec

8. WET CEL INTERMEDIATE:

This line falls in between the two slimes when it comes to sink rate. Also known as the Kelly Green, it’s a great line and popular with competition anglers.

Sink Rate: 1.25-1.75 inches per sec

9. SINKTIPS:

I use the 12ft and 9ft sinktips from Airflo, the Cortland Ghost Tip and my favourite Midge Tip from Rio with its short fourfoot fast-sinking tip.

10. Hi-D:

The original fast sinker, it will still work well on its day. Sometimes the trout just can’t resist the flies coming through on the curve produced by the belly in the line when it sinks. Great for fishing close to the bank and bringing your flies up the shelf.

Sink Rate: 4-6 inches per sec

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