2017 fly fishing season on Drennec lake in Brittany
Drennec Lake, if there was any need to remind, is a manmade 270 acres venue with clear, pure waters, located in the headwaters of the river Elorn, in the foothills of the Monts d’Arrée.
It is one of my preferred haunts when it comes to fly fishing and fly fishing tuition, mostly using my Irish drift boat but also from shore when entire groups are involved.
A wrapup video will be published at the end of each season.
During the 2017 season, the fishing has been quite fair, as water levels were able to be maintained. The early deficit (very dry 2016/2017 winter) was reason for worst worries but the water syndicate of the Elorn watershed was able to boost the water volume by the end of late spring, up to maximum level (8,3 million m3)
As a result, the water level of the lake has been quite important right through the height if summer with an anticipated drop in early autumn, but certainly not comparable to 2016 drought levels.
Fish harvest has been limited due to the rearrangement of management schemes; even though fish stockings have also been reduced due to financial shortcomings, the fishery itself has been improved.
Meat anglers were avoiding Drennec lake altogether as anglers need to be a member again of the Elorn AAPPMA (angling association) to be able to fish the venue: yearly memberships run 132 € while daily permits retail for 12 €, exceeding what meat anglers would typically pay as daily catches do not make day tickets worthwhile, what a mediocre approach to game angling. During the 2015 and 2016 seasons, both impoundments, Drennec and St Michel lakes were accessible by paying an annual fee of only 30 €, with all sorts of approaches in terms of harvesting practices, on-the-water behavior and with the possibility to fish the venues in the very same day.
We are a far cry from fish densities that can be had in UK reservoirs, but the quality of our fish has vastly improved. We were able to catch and release some very pretty rainbow trout that only ask to grow on, some of which were in the 24-inch range!!
The local brown trout population is also on a very clear rebound. In 2017, we were able to catch 25 wild brown trout, more than the total of the 5 previous seasons together: in 2016 this number was down to 3 or 4. The better specimen ran close to the 20-inch mark, enabling to have great hopes for the coming season. The Elorn AAPPMA angling association was able to secure a deal with a local fish hatchery (INRA hatchery right below the dam) for some larger specimen to be released to keep cormorant predation at a reasonable level.
Lough-style fishing at Drennec Lake is now closer to fishing a natural lake (or a large river) rather than fishing a classic manmade reservoir.
This predation has seemed less at the end of the season, probably because the birds may have found better conditions on surrounding venues where water levels were at their lowest. Coarse fish populations have dwindled, however, possibly because of bird and rainbow trout predations we did not experience any noticeable fry feeding situations during the autumn months. Limiting boat fishing to fly fishing methods only, as welcomed by Elorn AAPPMA angling association, has always been an excellent evolution. The days of limiting out on day tickets using plastic lures seem to be over. It has been too easy to target trout in cool water pockets under the thermocline during the height of summer, as I can attest.
The climatic conditions always play a major role and affect fishing conditions greatly. As soon as the surface water temperatures rise, the trout flee for cooler water in the depth of the lake and doe not necessarily feed there. The use of fast sinking lines is then recommended, Di6 et Di7 (RIO InTouch Deep), to be able to connect with the fish.
My choice to investigate the depths : RIO InTouch Deep 6 & 7
During prevailing north-easterly wind conditions with clear, cloudless skies, it becomes even more difficult. Drennec trout hate sunshine and crappy wind. It during those potentially unfavorable moments when local knowledge and experience will make a difference for my students.
Bank fishing become even tougher when the weather does not comply. We have experienced some outstanding fishing, covering the wind lanes in the middle of the lake in water depths of 12 to 15 meters, using floating, hybrid and intermediate lines (RIO Intouch Hover, InTouch Midge Tip Long, InTouch Aqualux) and long leaders with advanced retrieving techniques, while the warmer areas in the vicinity of the lakeshore have kept all fish away.
My choices for sub-surface strategies : RIO Intouch Hover & Midge Tip Long, Aqualux II & InTouch Perception
During westerly wind patterns with a good wave, however, surface fishing has been excellent, especially with Daddy Longs Legs (FM Daddyhog & DLL Raphia) and beetle (Devaux JBT) patterns. Quick retrieves and accurate presentations had ben key, not always easy for beginning students angling for fast-feeding fish active in a feeding surface frenzy. Oftentimes, their reactions were too slow to anticipate the trout’s feeding pattern, missing their presentations altogether.
This type of angling, filled with subtleties, does require a certain time to adapt, especially when the wind is blowing and the boat has a faster drift that usual. One of the key is deploying a shorter line in order to speed up presentations with a minimum of false casting.
My 19-foot Sheelin boat was conceived for such type of angling and will drift a bit more slowly even in strong winds and agitated water. At Drennec lake the use of a drogue is seldom a necessity as the boat has a certain weight to it.
We have also experienced some great fishing using washing line techniques with floating and midge-tip lines as well as buzzer and cruncher patterns (those patterns devised by my colleague Ian Barr are particularly effective and are exclusively available through me). In April, May and June, we were able to fool a number of nice brown trout with either subtle or violent takes on the lift and on the hang.
During the dog days of summer, good fishing is limited to the early hours of the day, so I had my students get up very early. Regrets have been few as the fishing had been intense with great surface fishing, with fumes coming off the lake before the sun came up, whose rays would certainly send the fish back to the secure haven of the deep, Tolkienesque moods guaranteed.
At the end of the season, streamer fishing has been very prolific (Fulling Mill Skull Head Zonker patterns being particularly effective) while fishing wets (FM Cruncher Traffic Light Olive & Killer, FM Hopper Olive, BFF Drennec Woodcock™) proved equally rewarding with a handful of 15- to 30-fish days between two anglers using floating and intermediate lines.
On October 28, three days before the end of the season on the lake, together with my friend Christian, we were wrapping up our 2017 season with a great day on the water using streamers (FM Cormorant UV or Cat Straggle pattern) in the surface as well as wet flies and dries (Florian EMC in #18, Shipman’s Emerger, small terrestrials) in the surface film.
At the end of the afternoon, drifting the eastern shoreline, all the trout in the lake must have been on the prowl. Hundreds of fish, both rainbows and browns, were actively cruising the wind lanes looking for food. It was a great and very promising experience for us guides and anglers. Still, they were not easy to fool as they have had time to get used to angling pressure all along the season.
At the end of a thrilling season, this body of water never ceases to amaze us either by its natural setting and the wildlife present(fish, birds, mammals, insects), the available fishing and the prevailing weather conditions subject to constant change as well as the fluctuation of water levels along the seasons. You cannot but feel free when quietly drifting along in your boat, covering the mysterious depths with the hope of catching a fish of a lifetime.
Now that I write these lines, the lake is chock full after weeks of heavy raining in the Monts d’Arrée. The island that had been peninsula since late spring and has now become island again.
Upper Elorn, upstream the lake
The tributaries of the lake, the Mougau and upper Elorn are in flood and the trout eggs in the gravel should soon be hatching if temperature remain so clement (200°C/day, the equivalent of 20 days at 10°C or 40 days at 5°C)
According to the latest census, fish numbers at the ladders have been up, 160 fish at the Mougau fish trap with certainly higher numbers, though, due the very high water levels.
A fish count of 200 should be more realistic and among them some nice specimen (bellow pictures: 4/5 lbs fish), that have migrated upriver during December. The other axis of the Elorn does not have a fish count so numbers look very promising.
From an administrative point of view, regulations will not change. The season will close on October 31st (sadly, as November is a great month on the Drennec and there is no negative impact as far as I am concerned if anglers continue to use barbless hooks and fish nets with protective mesh, releasing all their catches, including the protected species such as brown trout. Alas, it is only my opinion…
Please note :
Daily harvest limited to 3 trout per day, 50 per season. Minimum legal size : 30 cm. No brown trout must be harvested in the fly-only zone. Fly fishing with single hooks only. Once 1st category closure regulations prevail (for 2018 season opener on March 10th, season ending on September 16th) fishing will be with fly tackle only on the entire body of water, all brown trout must be released.
2 – Read the latest articles
published on the subject in : Trout Fisherman, De Vlaamse Vliegvisser and Pêcheur Belge. Free download on REVUE DE PRESSE page.