Fishing lines | Keith Elliott

My doomed day of the locusts
Click to follow
The Independent Online

If you want to catch a fish that could be worth £10,000, let me give you an insider's tip: using a locust as bait may not be the best method. I speak from experience, having just been skunked on the Angling Writers' Association's annual trip to troutland.

Over the past couple of years, we have chosen a popular fishery for an annual trouting get-together. This year's venue was Rutland Water at Empingham. Rutland is huge. It has 24 miles of bank and covers 3,100 acres.

There are lots of trout here. Since April, more than 40,000 have already been caught. But locating them requires expert knowledge, especially as the day we picked had bright sunlight and a fierce north wind: dire conditions for trout fishing.

It was so rough I wished I had taken seasickness tablets. It was certainly too wild to do what I had planned: dap the daddy. This ancient method was first mentioned in Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler, and involves floating a live insect (at certain times a daddy-longlegs, at others a mayfly, grasshopper or duck fly) on the water. It needs a long rod and a length of floss (wool works just fine) to make the insect skip across the surface.

Unfortunately, in a Force Seven wind it's near-impossible. The daddy-longlegs spends most of its time 8ft above the water, and that's a bit high for even the hungriest trout. However, I was determined to wrest the King Fisher Trophy from Charles Rangeley-Wilson, secretary of the Wild Trout Society. Not easy, because he's a darn fine trouter, while I'm somewhere below incompetent. But I had a secret weapon: locusts.

I reasoned that a big trout was far more likely to relish a big snack rather than a weedy one like a daddy, so I ordered, unseen, two packs of extra-large locusts from my local pet shop. These are normally lunch for snakes or giant lizards, but I believed I could set a whole new trend: dapping the locust.

Rangeley-Wilson was horrified when he saw them. He is used to flies the size of an ear-stud. "Those are obscene," he pronounced. He was clearly worried.

In the event, I didn't use the locusts. It wasn't just the wind. The damn things jumped like kangaroos, and I was concerned that the moment I opened the box, they would all hop out to God knows where. Would we return in a few months' time to find the county bare of trees because of my environmental gaffe? The other thing was, they were frightening. I didn't fancy putting my hand in their mini-enclosure one little bit. Could they bite? No one knew. I didn't want to use my finger as an experiment.

Well, I caught nothing. Nor did my boat companions, who included Mac Campbell, former deputy editor of Trout Fisherman and a man who once won a competition on Rutland. Charles R-W blanked too, though his companion, Jonathan Young, the editor of The Field, caught his first reservoir trout. Though his was not the only fish caught, Jonathan has won the trophy.

And what of my locusts? Maybe I should save them for Rutland's 25th anniversary next year. Their fishery manager, John Marshall, says they will probably repeat an attraction they staged to celebrate their 21st, when a 20lb trout with a £10,000 tag was put in. That's a big trout – but my money would be on the locust.

Comments