Nestling on the borders of three counties – Leicestershire, Rutland and Northamptonshire – Eyebrook Reservoir is a jewel hidden in one of the prettiest parts of England. Surrounded by rolling arable field, pasture land, spruce, pine and willow, you would be hard stretched to find a more-attractive looking water.
Built in 1940 by damming the Eye Brook to supply water for cooling the Corby blast furnaces of British Steel, the reservoir first opened as a trout fishery for employees only. In those days, many of the workforce were Scots who had migrated south to work in the East Midlands steel town.
Stewarts & Lloyds, as it was then known, formed a fishing club which initially stocked the Eyebrook with fingerling brown trout. These fish soon began to take care of themselves in the food-rich waters of the ‘Brook.
The reservoir opened to public angling in 1952 and has gone from strength to strength down the years, now attracting anglers from around the country.
Many famous still-water game anglers, including Cyril Inwood, Arthur Cove, Gordon Fraser and Bob Carnill, have fished Eyebrook, developing some of their best-known patterns there.
In 2002, a total of 7,099 rods caught 28,500 trout for a rod average of four fish weighing 1lb 10oz apiece. More than 20 double-figure rainbows were recorded, including a new record of 14lb 2oz. Best blue trout went 8lb 9oz, and heaviest brownie 7lb, which was released after weighing. The record brown trout for the venue still stands at 11lb 4oz caught in 1955.
SPRING: Eyebrook carries a large head of overwintered fish to which are added 5000 trout pre-season. Brownies are trickle stocked throughout the season.
Nymphs like Diawl Bach and Black Epoxy Buzzer can work from opening day in the shallow-water areas, but it’s the Tadpoles, Cat’s Whiskers and Fritz lures that take fish in the deeper areas of the reservoir, which go to 45 feet.
Lake olives still hatch but are not so prolific as they used to be due to the increase in arable farming. Some mayfly hatches off in spring, but it’s terrestrials like the hawthorn that bring the trout to the surface.
SUMMER: Buzzers will still hatch right through the day, particularly emerald green and big ginger ones. Damsel flies are important with good hatches of sedge in the evening. Expect to use flies like Hoppers, Emergers, and Daddies, particularly ones with yellow bodies. The Muddler is still worth a try or a wingless Wickham’s when fish are smutting.
AUTUMN: Now the corixa, shrimp and migrating snails are preyed upon round the weed beds, while the roach and perch fry are hounded by the larger fish. Minkies, Zonkers, Floating Fry and Spondoolies will all do the business.
As well as operating as a fishery, Eyebrook is also an SSSI and an important wildlife habitat managed within English Nature guidelines. Every year sees rare birds moving through on migration.
But perhaps the most unusual use for the reservoir was in 1943 when the Dambuster 617 Squadron practised its low-level flying across the water prior to raids on the Mohne and Eder dams.
UNDERSTANDING THE WIND
Sam's Dyke, Island, The Bell
The Rutland Bank from the the Dam to Stoke Dry
The Dam Wall
The Leicestershire Bank from the Bell to the Cow Shed
EYEBROOK Reservoir is very exposed to north-easterly winds which can sweep down the reservoir, killing dead early season sport. But the majority of the fishery can be fished on the predominant westerlies thanks to the hills that protect either bank. However, strong winds will colour up the shallow water at the top of the reservoir.
1 LODGE CORNER
With damp, warm south-westerly winds, Eyebrook fish are pushed to the Willows or beyond. But by following wind lanes that develop over the main basin, a few fish find their way up into the relative shelter of Lodge Corner.
Here the boat frontage extends along to the clump of willows at the corner end of the dam. Fishing is prohibited along this area.
With sturdy boots, fishing the dam wall at Lodge Corner can be very productive. A competent angler can make a cast towards the boats moored on the landing stage where huge shoals of fry, including roach and perch, abound. For the fish that have travelled across the reservoir to this area, the rewards in the way of a food source are immense.
Fry frequent this area year-round. Lures fished on an intermediate line tend to account for most fish taken. Never discount floating fry patterns as these can prove deadly, not only at the end of the season when we anticipate fry-feeders gorging themselves. But on any occasion when fish are busying themselves in this relatively unfished hotspot.
Best methods: Fry patterns, especially Floating Fry.
Best times: When wind lanes develop out from the corner of the dam.
Wading: Not permitted
2 DOGWOOD BAY
Bank anglers arriving at the ticket office opt for the Rutland bank, dam wall or the Bell. In their haste to reach the latter, they drive straight past Dogwood Bay. Named due to the dogwood shrub which borders the southern corner, the bay has a thriving corixa population in its shallow margins. Due to earlier excavations, including clay for brickmaking. this bay conceals some very dramatic contours including two particularly deep holes, which act as refuges for quality fish. During early summer, Canadian pondweed can be seen reaching up from the depths of Dogwood Bay and we have found now for a number of seasons that a Golden Olive Tadpole fished on a sinking line during hot periods can work with these better fish.
Top tip: A Montana can prove deadly on early spring days.
Best times: Good in westerly breeze, especially September, or after good north-easterly blow.
Wading: Not necessary when water levels are high.
3 THE BELL
This is the spot most Eyebrook regulars head for, so get up early to avoid disappointment. Car parking is easy and the high bank off the Bell means that wading is not necessary. There is also a handy disabled platform. At high water level the slope is gentle at first but 15 feet of water is within easy casting distance. Damsel nymphs can be devastating here as can a small dry fly such as Bob’s Bits or a Hopper. Some fantastic sport can be had here on Floating Fry patterns as early as June with size 1/0 and 2/0 resin fry patterns taking some heavyweight fish. Bloodworm patterns can also prove deadly at the Bell, fished deep on a floating line and inched back slowly. Watch out for savage takes. Walk along to the left to Bell Bay and you’ll find prime shallows. Small dries work well here.
Top tips: You won’t go wrong with a Damsel nymph.
Best times: Good all season in anything but a strong easterly blow.
Wading: Not necessary.
Generally a more-gradually shelving bank, the only obstacle being the hawthorns themselves on your backcast. Floating line with Buzzers or Hare’s Ear Nymphs account for a lot of fish, but a small dry will give you the edge over a nymph fisher. Cast to the edge of the ripple with possibly a Buzzer on the dropper. Takes will be positive with fish often taking the angler down to the backing and beyond, but with plenty of open water in front of you and very few snags, fish can be played quite happily. In September when crane flies appear, an artificial drifted out on the westerly breezes can be quickly taken. To the angler’s right is a pipe sticking up out of the water. Fish here with small nymphs or dries.
Top tips: Try the “washing line” with Buzzers held up by a G&H Sedge.
Best times: Fishes well in most winds except strong easterlies, and is a good spot throughout the season.
Wading: Avoid wading too deep. Knee depth is fine.
5 SAM’S DYKE
Named after a local angler called Sam Ellis, a small dyke runs into the reservoir and is bordered by several willow trees. On occasions, large brown trout frequent this area where oxygenated water offers them the opportunity to spawn. The gradually-shelving bay plays host to corixa, hoglouse, damsel and snail populations and remains sheltered even in a northerly blow. Two wire fences run into Sam’s a relatively long way. Many a boat’s anchor and fish have been snagged on these. To the east lies Wal’s Bay between tbe bank and the island, named after an angler called Wally who regularly takes superb grown-on fish on Hare’s Ear imitations tied with silver holographic tinsel to represent the corixa’s air bubble.
Top tips: Try a team of size 12/14 Buzzers, GRHE Nymph coupled with a green holo Diawl Bach, or a Fraser Nymph slowly trickled back on a floater.
Best times: All season, but especially early on.
Wading: Don’t wade to your chest. Fish will forage in less than 12 inches.
6 THE ISLAND
Long gravel spits help anglers gain distance for fishing the Island, or the Point as some anglers refer to it. Access is gained from the lane bordering the Leicester bank, where cars are parked, with a short walk over the stile to the island. Beware of nesting swans which become very protective of their particular breeding zones. Although the margins around the island are shallow, a good cast will put you in 8ft of water. Later in the season, a short cast from the bank with a small Ethafoam Fry will target big fish which move in from the surrounding deep water. A good tip here is to attach a dropper a short distance (say 18 ins) from the Fry and tie on a Corixa imitation. Use at least 8lb fluorocarbon as smash takes are common. Bloodworm, Diawl Bach and Hare’s Ears also score as well as dries.
Best methods: Try a B&P Spider tied bulky to imitate snails/rape beetles.
Best times: Good in most winds, except an easterly.
Wading: Fish the shallow margins first.
7 MUCKYBAY/THE PENS
Skirted by the old road, which is generally submerged except at low-water levels, Mucky Bay is a gradually shelving bay but a good cast will put the angler over five to six feet of water. This season in particular has seen some prolific sport to Buzzers, particularly bright green, and Bloodworm patterns. Early morning and late evenings are best in this area when mid to late summer sees some wonderful sport to sedge imitations. Try an amber Sedge Pupa early evening, switching to a G&H or a Stimulator as the light begins to fade. Good grown-on, or even overwintered, fish are regularly caught here. For the roving rod, this is a wonderful area to explore. A small wooden hut can give shelter from summer showers.
Best methods: When lake olives appear, try a size 12 McCleod’s Olive on the dropper with a Pale Watery nymph on the point.
Best times: Good most winds. Best in damp conditions with a westerly.
Wading: Try to keep out of the water to avoid spooking the fish.
8 THE CHESTNUT TREE
Look for the chestnut tree with its trunk protected from cattle by a metal fence. A good tip here is to always fan your casts to cover as much water as possible. When you find one fish, it’s a fair bet you will take a few from the same swim. Fishing into 8ft of water, especially in a westerly wind, a team of Buzzers works well. Or maybe try a red holographic Diawl Bach as this area plays host to numbers of red water mites. Damsel nymphs also abound here so fish one on the point with Buzzer or Hare’s Ear Nymphs on the droppers. Try a Floating Fry in the margins at the back end. I once took two superb three-pounders using this stealth approach.
Best methods: Nymphs in spring and summer. Floating Fry in autumn.
Best times: All season, but especially in autumn.
Wading: Generally shallow so wading is essential except at the back end when fry feeders charge into a foot or less of water.
9 COW SHED/BLACK CABIN
Open the five-bar gate and walk directly down to the water’s edge. You will notice once again you are on the hard standing, the old road. Originally it crossed the reservoir here to Stoke Dry village. Casting from the road, an angler can put his fly into 10 feet of water. Season after season, this hotspot produces some wonderful sport and superb quality fish. Only a few weeks back I caught my best-ever trout from this area weighing just over 4lb. It was absolutely fin-perfect and made run after run. Fishing in this area has been second to none this season. Try a Cruncher or a Hopper. Fish this bank north past the old corrugated cow shed and round to a small clump of willows. Between these two points, the contours drop away quite dramatically. Fry feeders abound in this area.
Best methods: Intermediates with lures and traditionals.
Best times: All season, but especially early on.
Wading: Not necessary when water levels are high.
10 STOKE DRYROAD
We’re onto the Rutland bank now. Below the village of Stoke Dry is an exceptional spot when the wind is east or south-east. Between the weed beds or along the fringes, fry feeders abound and shoals of small roach fry scatter in panic as marauding trout stun them with lashing tails. The barbed wire fence that runs out into the water has caused many a trout to escape. With the plantation behind, terrestrial insects abound, including alderflies, soldier beetles, hawthorn flies and flying ants. On the water are lake olives, damselflies and even some mayfly. As at most waters, observation is the key. Watch for insects being blown onto the water and whether or not they are being taken.
Best methods: Dry fly or fry patterns.
Best times: Fishable most of the season except when weed is prolific.
Wading: Wading advisable but no deeper than knee height.
11 TOP CAR PARK
Wading really is a must in this relatively-shallow area. At 20ft out, the angler will only be in two feet of water. Backcasting here is not a problem as the car park is directly behind you. All you will need here is a floating line, with a Damsel Nymph or GRHE. During high summer when male blue damsels are chasing the duller green females, sport can be cracking on a dry Blue Damsel. Bob Carnill gave me a tremendous tying of one of these. I have taken two fish on it but am loathe to use it any more in case a fish breaks me. It is a true work of art. Dries such as Black Gnat, dry Wickham’s or Red Sedge catch a lot of the resident brown trout. The wild variety are to be found here as too are shoals of dace that patrol the margins. A small dyke runs into the reservoir and shoals of fry are drawn into its mouth.
Best methods: You will only need a floating line.
Best times: Late summer.
Wading: Have to get in the water here.
This is a superb early-season spot with a gradually deepening bank and an unusual drop-off lip at about 10 metres, which fish love to feed up against.Black and Green Tadpoles and Montana Nymphs can prove deadly here early to mid season. Come summer when sedges abound, try a Silver Invicta or Wingless Wickham’s. The main problem here for bank anglers are the willow trees, which are close to the water and an obstacle for back casts. So position yourself sensibly. Another deadly method here is a single Hopper on a long leader, black or ginger being my first choice. Other good patterns are a Fiery Brown or a CDC Emerger. The bung or indicator has proved to be a killing method here with leader lengths from eight feet to as long as 22ft and flies from epoxy Buzzers to suspended Minkies.
Best times: Best early season, but mid season can be good too.
Best methods: Tadpoles to Damsels to lures as the season progresses.
Wading: Wading is OK but sometimes unnecessary.
13 ROBBO’S CABIN
One of Eyebrook’s most famous fishing spots. Robbo’s Cabin was originally a brick-built structure complete with wood burner which anglers used in bad weather to dry out their clothes or cook lunch. Sadly it was lost in an arson attack some years ago and replaced with a wooden hut. A good cast from Robbo’s will put the fly in about 15ft of water. The bank here was reinforced with stone several years ago to prevent erosion. An intermediate line is probably the best bet here as you can compensate for line drift and takes tend to be more direct. The Cat’s Whisker is the number one choice along this bank, but the fish will still accept Buzzers or dries on a floater.
Best methods: Try Hi-D line and Black & Green, White & Green and Orange Boobies on brighter days. A longer leader will give you the edge.
Best times: Great in a westerly. To the left of Robbo’s Cabin is a bank spot called Robbo’s Point, a gem of a hotspot. Arrive early to get this one.
Wading: Not necessary as the fish venture right into the bank.
14 THREE TREES
Rounding the corner from the dam to where the stone’s bank starts, three conifer trees stand on the waterside. The angler should stand to the right of the trees so as not to hamper the backcast. In a westerly blow fish will follow the flies right into the bank, so take care when lifting off. If needs be, drop the fly back into the water and the fish will take again. This area has produced good numbers of blue trout, which have a liking for the fry that shoal off this bank. As is the case along most of the wooded banks, access is very easy. Simply park your car just off the track and walk to the lake’s edge. Indicators with epoxy Buzzers work here. For boat fishing this is a prime spot with water 25 feet deep. Sunk line tactics work well with Sparklers and two orange Fritz Blobs fished at least 10ft apart.
Best methods: Lures or Buzzers all work well in the deeper water.
Best times: Good all season, but especially early on.
Wading: Not necessary.
15 DAM WALL/HARRISON’S CORNER
Harrison’s Corner is a useful fishing spot in a strong northerly due to the relative shelter from the wooded bank behind. Fish from the platform or between the willows and watch for rising fish. Bob’s Bits, Shipman’s Buzzers or Hoppers will all score here. Regulars who fish the dam know the hotspots but you can find some of the deeper water by studying the concrete slabs. The most deadly method has got to be a Booby on a fast-sink line. Leader length can be the deciding factor. Start at five feet and then go longer. Remember, dull day means dull fly. So if the weather is overcast, start with a black and green Booby. Don’t be afraid to use dries. I once lost a double-figure brown hooked on a size 14 winged Wickham’s.
Best methods: The fast-sinking line and Booby will take fish all season.
Best times: Fishes best in most winds, except very strong north-westerlies.
Wading: Keep out of the water. Wear walking boots with a grip sole.