A Spring Salmon is a sought after prize, a rare accolade to even the accomplished angler…. Yet it may be easier to achieve than these stereotypes suggest thanks to a fishery in Rutland.
Palm Springs is an exclusive fishery in its infancy with the potential to cause avid debates amongst salmon and stillwater anglers alike, as the spring-fed one-acre lake is home to silver flanked, hand-reared ‘Atlantic’ salmon.
Fishery creator Ben Green is a veteran in salmon-farming, capable of growing fish over the magical 40lb barrier and is immensely proud of his stock with very good reason. The inhabiting fish here yield monstrous proportions and are possibly the most pristine stillwater fish I have ever seen, for which no photography can do justice!
As mid-February falls victim to another spate of snowstorms, I rue my calendar selection as I embark on journey across the midlands. Travelling from West to East I bear witness of snow laying in varying depths whilst nervously anticipating my days fishing ahead. Although upon arrival of the lake I am relieved at the only partial covering of snow on the surrounding tailored landscape.
At the angler’s lodge I’m quickly greeted by a smiling Ben, as he welcomes all my fellow anglers with equal enthusiasm and outstanding hospitality. We catch up and chat winning tactics on the porch of the wooden lodge as I tackle up. Quickly I make my way to the bank with a statement made moments earlier ringing in my ears “there are at least twenty 20lb+ Salmon constantly cruising the depths and a stock average of 250 salmon/acre” – not bad at all…
As I arrive at the water’s edge the first thing that strikes me is the colour of the water. Displaying a turquoise-blue hue it bears resemblance to a mountain lagoon rather than a small UK Stillwater. It’s clarity reveals the vast banking walls of the lake and V-shaped 15’ depths that keep this lake warm in winter and cool in the summer.
My first tactic for the day is determined whilst pondering over my fellow anglers whom are all using an identical cast, sink and pull technique. In view of this I opt for a slightly more ‘natural’ approach using a bright shrimp pattern on a Di3 line and a medium figure of eight retrieve, to keep the flies at a constant depth. The rod setup I’m using is a 9’ #8 Wychwood Quest rod with a Truefly SLA reel [any standard Stillwater kit should serve you fine], though you must go heavy on your tippet with 12lb being the minimum…
Several casts into my session my pulse begins to race as I lift the fly ‘on the hang’ from the depths and a bright fish of a decent size emerges hot in pursuit of my fly, it turns as the shallow water approaches, I curse! A re-cast is made with an identical approach, within several figure of eight retrieves a take is felt but no hook is set, then a solid pull is followed by a head-shaking run: the first fish of the session is on. Having hooked the first fish of the day on the lake I want to lose this fish even less, however this Stillwater Salmon was in no mood to give into my demands. Acrobatically leaving the water, diving deep runs and heart stopping headshakes all fail to release the hook. Finally after several minutes of rugged scrapping a bar of silver is floated over my net, defeated, and the quality of the Palm Spring stock instantly hits me smack in the face. It’s beautiful dark shoulders, with mirror-like silver scales amplified as the winter sun hits its flanks. Not a true Atlantic Salmon –granted – but a perfect copy of it’s saltwater ancestors.
Throughout the day more fish are caught of equal quality and slightly larger proportions. Yet, I’m constantly reminded of the monsters that lurk within, as they boil on the surface and pass me by in the shallows, as I will a take from one of these beasts. It is not until the later part of the day as the sun drops behind the horizon-line that I get my long-awaited opportunity.
After having tried what seemed like every fly in my box I revert back to the old faithful Stillwater nymph: the damsel, featuring a long marabou tail to tempt and tantalise my prey. After dancing my fly close to the lake floor I pull the fly up to recast, instantly catching sight of a large fish. With the familiar white flash of its gill covers I know it’s inhaled my fly, I strike. Instantly it rolls, then kites to my left diving under two of my adjacent anglers’ lines, then rising quickly it leaves the water rolling in mid-air. With a huge splash it re-enters and both anglers politely remove their lines from the water, for which I thank them. The fish hits the far bank and immediately makes it way back toward me, I fight furiously to get the line back on the reel. As I do so the fish again speeds through the water this time to the right, walking me to the opposite end of the lake. Again passing under several anglers lines, with an immense strain on my outfit it is clear to all this is a decent fish. Down to my backing line again I bully the fish to turn, reluctantly it does. Following an epic battle the fish is finally rolling in the shallows, I slip the 24” diameter net under it and it dwarfs it. I’m child-like with joy, at 16lb 8oz it’s not my largest Salmon but it is every bit as satisfying and a perfect way to end my session.
Whether or not ethically you agree with this fishery you cannot deny it’s magical attributes and preparing for the journey home this becomes obvious. As all the day’s anglers are in boisterous but high spirits, all sharing the same smiling faces – a sure winner for any fishery!
For full details of the fishery and how to get there please check their website at www.palmspringssalmon.co.uk or call Ben on 07759 481255.
All photography supplied by www.clockworkcloud.com