REFLECTIONS ON Stocking Success

One of the most frequent questions I am asked is about stocking. How many fish should I put in my dam? How do you decide whether to put in fry, fingerlings or bigger fish? How many will survive?

The truth is that it’s a bit of a lottery. I know one chap who stocks very small numbers of fingerlings every year and has a great catch and release fishery; and another who puts in 10 times as many and gets no better fishing. Another has given up because the fish just disappear.

Some of these variables are environmental – fish need good quality fertile water, and plenty of shelter, and food.  If you’ve got this, and that normally means you’ve got good weed, then you’re a mile ahead of the pack.  Some are about predation. In my view, cormorants are the most efficient predator. If you stock a lot of small fish, it becomes worth their while hanging around for a few days to mop them up – and they will. If you stock a few less and there’s plenty of weed to hide in they’ll give up and move onto greener pastures.  But those big trout you’ve been nurturing for the past 3 years will also make quick work of a bunch of naive fry or fingerlings – but again, the more and the denser the weed the easier the smaller fish will be able to hide.

Last year I turned up to stock a private lake near a house. The lake had been stocked but no one had seen a fish for years.  It was pretty much late dusk when I arrived and as I reversed the trailer down to the lake edge I spotted a bit of movement against the weed bed. Forget the fish stocking, I grabbed my rod and with the owner’s young son in tow stalked what I hoped was a fish and not a duck or a water rat, flicking a small nymph into a narrow channel. A thumping fish grabbed it in a swirl of mud and weed and took off into the middle of the lake as I handed off the rod to my eager accomplice. It wasn’t on for long before inexperience took its toll on the fine tippet. But the owner learnt he had fish (and big ones) that he didn’t know about, and he wouldn’t have needed to order so many from me.

This year we’ve mixed it up at Caddigat.  Small, medium and large fish. More larger fish than normal but they’re still as cunning as ever – if anything the catch per hour has gone down a bit, even thought the average size has gone up a lot.  Last weekend’s catch-of-the-day (by John out of Kidney) is a good example of a full finned hook-jaw male in top pre spawning condition. If you want to know what stocking success looks like, this is it! The only issue I had was he caught in on a monstrous bright orange woolly bugger! And as a footnote to that, the fish followed the fly right to the bank and refused it – then grabbed it as soon as it landed on the next cast. And did I mention this was hard earned – it was freezing with a bitter nor-wester!

 

Tight tippets!

 

 

Fly Fishing and Accommodation in Adaminaby