April Fool’s Day. The fish very nearly made a fool out of me.

A cold and wet spring had kept me away from the water for a long time. The Easter weekend was similarly foul. The forecast for Easter Sunday was mostly dry. I made the most of the window in the weather and selected a new venue to try and to wake up my fly-casting muscles.

This was to be my first visit to the Sportfish Game Fishing Centre, near Reading; conveniently located just off the M4 motorway. The fishery offers the 11-acre Haywards Farm Lake stocked mainly with rainbow trout (and the smaller Hobby Lake for exclusive bookings). I was attracted to this venue by the option of a Catch & Release only ticket (£30). An additional pound enters you into the ‘tag’ competition. The fishery stocks a percentage of tagged fish: Orange tags win a day’s Catch & Release ticket; the Yellow Tag scoops the pot (at time of writing, this was over £1000). Perhaps this is the very antithesis of the wild brown trout fishing I prefer, but I’m game for trying something new. I chucked a pound in the pot, and walked down to the chilly lake.

In these cold early-season conditions, the oft repeated wisdom suggests suggests something “black and green”. I’ve no particular opinion on this myself, but I thought to give it a go. I tied on a Taddy Hot Viva as I watched diesel trains chug noisily past the lake.

The clear water revealed a shallow sloping fringe from the banks before dropping off into deeper water. A few trout were feeding on the surface, just out of range of my Hardy 4wt rod. The light rod didn’t have enough power to deliver the size 10 lure I’d selected, so I switched to a smaller natural type of fly – a favourite of mine –  a size 14 Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear. I tried a few spots around the bank before a savage tug separated fly from leader.

The nearest I got to a fish in the next hour was watching a sizable pike swim under my rod tip. A drop in the wind led to more surface activity. I tried a klinkhammer dry fly, but the trout stubbornly stayed out of range.

Haywards Farm Lake

I completed a lap of the lake without troubling the fish any further, and returned to my car. I’m going to need a bigger rod, I thought. I swapped the 4wt for my Grey’s 6wt.  My casting was definitely rusty. With the more powerful rod and concentration on casting form,  I started to get within range of the fish. Eventually a fish took the GRHE. I bullied the 3-pound-ish rainbow towards the bank and I noticed the orange tag waggling on it’s back. Result!

A tagged fish equals a free one-day Catch and Release ticket.

The tag popped off in the net, before I released the fish. This was to be the only fish today, but I’m happy with the bonus ticket win.


Total Catch:

  • 1 Rainbow Trout (Gold Ribbed Hare’s Ear)