A Year on the Drift at Grafham Water (Tim Joyce Guest Blog)
Something I am asked time after time. What are the best drifts at Grafham Water. Easy answer “Where the fish are!” Fish move about all the time for many different reasons therefor the areas I target through the season regularly change week to week or year to year. Water levels, temperature extremes, water quality and stocking regime all make a difference. There’s plenty of grub available to the trout in Grafham , huge Buzzer hatches , large Daphnia blooms , migrating Snails , Roach, Perch and Zander fry and of course the notorious Killer Shrimp. It sounds simple but locate the food and the fish won’t be far away.
These are a few of my most productive drifts, there are way too many to cover here so I have kept it to those I regularly rely on when guiding or pleasure fishing. It’s worth saying that the drift lines can be attacked from any direction and are dependent on conditions. However these areas rarely fail to produce for me. I have also included a brief overview of my ‘Go to ‘methods in these areas.
March, April, May
With a new spring comes rising water temperatures. This heralds the start of the buzzer season. With the shallow marginal water being the first to benefit from the increase sunlight and warm the quickest - these are usually the areas that will see the first buzzer hatches.
I like to target the drop offs on the points of the north shore and into the bays themselves. Typically I would be looking to set drifts parallel to the shore , so Pig bay , Church bay , Rectory and The Willows - Ideally on a NW or SE wind. In a S or SW wind I would be looking to hit the points themselves, short controlled drifts no more than 100 yards out right to the edge. Hedge end, Pylon point, Deepwater and of course G point.
You really are targeting the buzzer feeders so my setups would be a floater or midge tip with a heavy size 8 Grey boy buzzer on the point and 3 size 10 quill buzzers up the droppers. If fish are showing I would simply Change the point buzzer for a FAB or Booby. In a flat calm the bung can be deadly in these bays and shouldn’t be ignored. In a cold snap or rough weather I would be hitting the same drift lines but with a Di7 and 2 cat boobies or blob boobies fished slow as I can.
June, July, August
With the rising water temps fish start to push out from the shallows looking for cooler oxygen rich water. The early buzzer bonanza has slowed with the fish now turning to the smaller olive buzzer which has become so prolific in open water over the last few years. Big daphnia blooms can be found commonly at the dam end of the lake and huge quantities of snails start to appear in the open water. Pin fry can be seen packed into small bait balls, although the appearance of these over the last few seasons has been sporadic.
It’s at this time of year I prefer long open water drifts. The fish are usually very high in the water and moving in large pods which are easily spotted. H buoy to M buoy to P buoy … a huge drift that can take an hour or more but covers so much good water. Many times I have stumbled across some enormous pods of big grown on fish feeding freely and undisturbed on the vast green midge hatches out there.
B buoy to Deep water point, again sees big pods of fish feeding on small green midge, and N buoy to D buoy across the face of the dam. Strong up welling’s at this end of the lake bring cool water and vast blooms of daphnia to the surface making for a rich feeding ground. The daphnia is soup like in places and it appears to turn the water muddy, big fish are found in good numbers shadowing this plentiful food source.
Depending on the weed growth the mouth of Savages and Sanctuary bay can be hugely productive at this time of year. Relatively shallow for the most part, massive weed beds push out into the lake, providing habitat for fry, snails and of course shrimp. Long drifts on the edges of these beds often produce some of the best quality fishing of the year with big resident fish regularly putting in an appearance to test even the sturdiest of tackle!
Tactics are mainly top of the water stuff, and for the most part it’s unusual to need anything deeper than a slow intermediate. My first line of attack through this period is dry fly. Usually a team of Big Reds in the open water or larger Popper Hoppers if there’s a big wave on.
Pulling or twiddling blobs around the daphnia blooms is of course very successful, it’s at this time of year I like a very bright pink Blob or Fab fish on a slow glass in these areas.
The big weed beds around Savages and Sanctuary are well worth targeting with big disturbance patterns such as Popper fry which can induce some spectacular follows and slamming takes in shallow clear water.
Sept, Oct Nov
Autumn sees the weed beds start to drop back and the fish begin to push back into the margins for the annual killer shrimp feast. This means shallow parallel drifts to the shore or onto the points looking for rough ground or receding weed that exposes the shrimp.
One of my favourite drifts is the sailing club bank, over the raised point that is The Seat and along the Sludge Bank. Plenty of shrimp in this area and aside from the Seat itself rarely gets much pressure from bank anglers. This is one of those drifts that usually turn up larger than average fish.
Drifting out of Gaynes Cove parallel to Plummers bank to A buoy another great autumn drift covering the dying weed beds exposing plenty of shrimp and snails. It’s a nice long sheltered drift, a great spot to get out of a strong W or SW wind that we often get in October and you aren’t fighting for space with bank anglers. The fish can get in here and hold in huge numbers.
The north shore points. Try to fish the point itself or the side that the wind is pushing into. The fish cruise along these edges in incredibly shallow water hunting shrimp and snails. Favourites are Hedge end and Pylon point. G point can be great but you rarely get a chance to fish it effectively from a boat due to bank anglers, the same can be said for The Stumps and The Willows.
Methods are very simple for this period. Fiery Brown or Red Hoppers and Foam Back Daddies in tan or orange fish as a dry fly set up. Or a simple washing line set up, a small FAB on the point with a couple of shrimp imitations or Hares Ears on the droppers fished on a floater or a midge tip. Pulling large lures will of course work Black and Green Zonkers or olive or white Snakes on a fast glass are just as deadly.
Im sure you will all have your favourite areas and this is a topic I could write a book on. I think the main thing to remember about approaching a large reservoir is that the fish are always moving areas are always swinging hot to cold. Paying attention to changes in wind direction, temperature and seasonal feeding trends will keep you in touch with the fish as they move around your lake.
Tim Joyce is a full-time professional Level 2 Fly Fishing Coach specializing in bespoke beginners and improver days at Chigboro fisheries in Essex. A multi capped England Loch style international he guides on Grafham Water and other Midlands reservoirs. Why not follow him via the links below.