Steve Parton: Northampton Style part 5

Losing and Finding

Expect to have fast activity and then for it to stop just as quickly as it started. Its unlikely the fish will have moved out of the area. They may have just got full, the hatch may have finished, or they may be feeding on it higher or lower in the water than they were before. So you start experimenting again - up and down.

The echo sounder can tell you all you need to know very quickly. But do beware of it when you are looking for bigger fish in particular - I've had numbers of bigger fish at depth when bugger all was showing on the box. Big solitary fish are relatively few and there may just not be enough to get picked up on the relatively narrow sampling that is an echo sounder down cone. If you treat an echo sounder as a sort of a scrappy and occasionally inaccurate statistical sampler you'll do a whole lot better than by being governed totally by it!


Talk to the unknowing and you might well get the impression that Northampton Style is all about leadlining and fishing at massive depths. Wrong almost entirely!

Most of the target fish are subsurface rainbows and as a rule they only drop really deep in early season and bright, hot, mid-season weather. The rest of the time they are as likely to be 2 feet down as 10. The real killing game is hitting the exact depth and I'll tell you I've had most of my trout over the years 6 to 8 feet down only - Wetcel2, intermediate, maybe a fast sinker - always shooting heads - deadly accurate using pitch and pay you can be with them.

Deeper fishing was always about bigger fish - and frequently when there was such a population about we used to work systematically with one of us plumbing the depths whilst the other concentrated on banging out enough Rainbows for the bag. It isn't unusual to fish deep all day for no pulls at all - and for day after day as well! But sometimes you get the bingo hits - and that is what you are really after! They are relatively rare and you need both of you ready if the real monsters switch on.

Sad history and then Pike and Zander Deep

Historically a minor tragedy happened at Grafham - due to the obviously semi criminous attitudes of certain of the rudder brigade, a weak management and assorted traditionalists pushing - the technique got banned - which annoyed me no end. It resulted in my taking a major part in the formation of the Rutland Water Fly Fishers to ensure that nothing similar occurred on that water which was frankly very unproductive fished by most other methods in the early brown-dense years.

There is still and probably always will be a school of micro-minded bigots opposed at all times to ways of fishing they couldn't cope with intellectually or even learn to perform satisfactorily enough at to enjoy. The problems always come when these imbeciles get into positions of power in clubs and instead of operating even-handedly to the benefit of all fishermen - attempt specifically to advantage one group (theirs) over others. I watch continuously and comment publicly whenever necessary but it did no good with the gentry at Grafham!

They did achieve one of their main objectives though as the main Grafham criminals then turned up at Rutland during its second and third seasons and went to work there. And much annoyance we had, as Honorary Bailiffs, catching the overkillers, bait users,motorised trollers of metalwork ( Toby lures are quite beyond any pale, by the way!) and the like. And despite very significant attempts I have to report we never got near Dick - but we did get his son Jim nicely banned! Me, I think foul fishermen should be dealt with at source instead of just being moved on elsewhere - moving the problem is a very cheap solution in all senses!

In the last few years most of my Northamptoning trips have been specifically for zander and pike (I'm still obsessed with Northampton Style float tubing for trout). We had a brief little window of opportunity at Grafham at the zanders a couple of seasons ago when we were allowed to fish with the rudder for a couple of trips experimentally.

The rudder is absolutely necessary for zandering seriously because that fish holds and takes just above the bottom and there is no other way of presenting the necessarily largeish lures accurately. We found fish near structures in around 25 feet of water and had a beanfeast the first couple of trips - catching 31 Zander for 156lb, and 5 significant Pike (and no trout) on the first day between four of usand on the second trip when the wind was wrong to run the structures, I had 6 pike over 20lbs apiece instead using exactly the same tactics (and no trout either!).

Then the abysmal GWFFA bitched to Anglian and we got stopped once more.

We do get the one day a year at Grafham in the " Rudder Match " which we have been known to enter and then fish specifically for zander - but it is late in the season and we've not managed more than 3 between two of us (and no trout either!).

We keep on making overtures to the Grafham management to let us on specifically to have a go at the zander on a return all trout basis one day they may trust us enough to see the commercial logic of letting specimen crazies have a go!

And apart from odd lucky days at anchor nobody else has made a fist of either zander or pike at Grafham since!

Subsequently I and Richard Holmes have been fishing odd days for pike at Pitsford and with a considerable degree of success. As with Grafham the basic requirement has been to fish at great depth as indicated by blips on the echo sounder - over 40 feet deep in the main and with action implicit lures on the end of 40lb Mason nylon traces. And all done by the simple trick of using continuous leadline and running down the wind letting enough out to just bump a known depth bottom and then lifting the gear a couple of feet above that or higher if the echo says so! The deepest pike I've had out of Pitsford were at just over 50 feet down! And although I don't particularly care for long leadline fishing because it is hard work pulling in and letting it back out all day - I'd like a 30lb pike on the fly because I've never had one bigger than 24lbs to date!

And we did have one memorable do at rainbows entirely by accident whilst pike hunting. On a foul hot August day I made the mistake of letting out 50+ metres of leadline over the Pitsford deeps and we then took 12 rainbows for 39lbs in three hours flat. On wired up pike traces and lures well over 6" long.

Fortunately we finished early enough not to attract attention!

Steve Parton needs no introduction to the UK readers. Midlands reservoir angler, obsessional float tuber, author and "in the trade", Steve owns Sparton Fishing Tackle (drop by for a visit!) and is well known in the UK for his in-depth flyfishing knowledge.

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