Blakewell – Catch and Release Fishing

Times are changing in the world of Stillwater Trout Fishing with more emphasis being put on quality time at the waters edge. A few years ago, there was perhaps an obsession with catching big trout and whilst there are still fisheries that cater for the big trout angler these are now in the minority. It seems that most of today’s anglers want to catch good numbers of fish relishing the key ingredients of trout fishing.

This change in angler’s approach has resulted in an increase in catch and release or sporting tickets. Blakewell Fishery near Barnstaple has after careful consideration moved to meet this demand offering a sporting ticket that allows anglers to retain a brace of fish for the table and then continue fishing on a catch and release basis for the remainder of the day.

I joined with Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce for a mornings fishing at Blakewell that fortuitously coincided with a break in the stormy weather. After a chat over coffee in the tea room we headed out on the lake to try our luck.

Walking out to the lake we took a look around and elected to fish the bay with Jeff fishing the point whilst I fished the inner bay. I elected to fish a gold head PTN on the point with a spider pattern on a dropper. I extended the line across the water and on the second cast after allowing the fly to sink I saw the point of the fly line twitch. I instinctively raised the rod whilst pulling on the line with my left hand. There came that pleasing feeling of life and resistance as a trout erupted in a flurry of spray at the end of a tight line. Whilst I was using a 5wt rod I had taken the precaution of using an 8lb tippet ensuring I could bring any fish I hooked to the net quickly ensuring the fish could be slipped back quickly. The use of light leaders when catch and release fishing should be discouraged as trout should not be played to exhaustion.

Over on the point Jeff was putting a new Snowbee Spectre Fly line through its paces with impressive results punching small imitative patterns into a stiff breeze with ease. It wasn’t long before Jeff was also into a hard fighting rainbow. The fish was held briefly above the water for a quick photo before being slipped back into the water.

The next couple of hours passed by all too quickly with several trout falling to our offerings in the clear water. In the past I have often fished for trout and been almost disappointed when I have caught my bag limit for the session. Catch and release removes that perception that some anglers have in that they must catch their bag limit.

Catch and release offers anglers the opportunity to savour time at the water’s edge at a reasonable cost. It is however imperative that care is taken to ensure that a high percentage of fish survive to perhaps grow bigger. Barbless hooks are essential, fish should be unhooked in the water whenever possible and only held briefly to capture the moment.

It is advisable to use as strong a leader as practical to ensure fish are brought to the net quickly. Fish should only be handled with wet hands and should be steadied in the water for a few moments if they show any sign of fatigue.

Those anglers who do not wish to practice catch and release can of course elect to purchase a standard five fish ticket for the same price enabling them to take home all they catch. The two options cater for the vast majority of anglers. Over the next couple of months Richard and John plan to stock Spartic trout and a number of big brown trout.

Spring is a marvellous time to be at the water’s edge as green growth signals the onset of spring. The first swallows and martins will soon be swooping low over the water feasting after their long migration from warmer climes. The trout will also be rising setting those delightful rings upon the water. A carefully placed fly will be sipped down in that delightful moment of deception to be relished by the fly fisher.

As the morning grew to a close it was time to enjoy the first BBQ of the spring. A hot sausage in a fresh bread roll was the perfect end to a great mornings fishing. Jeff took advantage of a new clearing to demonstrate the art of roll casting.