South West Lakes Trust Trout Fisheries Report – March 2019

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The unseasonably warm weather in February could not continue and early March saw strong winds and heavy rain, making conditions challenging for anglers. However, as the month progressed the weather became warmer and calmer, with some hatching insects evident, and a few surface-feeding fish (a few fish even being caught on dry patterns). The water levels are still all full, with water temperatures rising – up to 10ºc by the end of the month.


Kennick– Rods averaged around 3 fish per angler, with a number of full bags and fish over 3lbs being caught. The North end of the fishery continued to prove the most productive, with bank anglers finding fish from the Causeway, Laployd and Smithacott Banks, as well as Clampitts Bay, while boat anglers tended to concentrate on the Narrows and deeper central water. Some surface-feeding fish are evident in the early mornings, although few hatching insects have yet been seen, and no fish could be tempted to rise to a dry pattern. Gold-head Damsels and Montanas fished on floating or intermediate lines have caught well, as have lure patterns (such as Kennick Killers, Tadpoles and Cat’s Whiskers). The best Rainbow caught during the month was a 3lb 11oz Rainbow, caught by Jim Heathcote (from Totnes), while Wes Ower caught a bag that included a Rainbow of 3lb and a wild Brown of 3lb while fishing from a boat. Mr A.Lobb had two excellent sessions, catching full bags on both occasions, with two fish and three fish of over 3lb respectively, although the best bag of the month was caught by Mr. M.Ure, catching (and releasing) 17 Rainbows up to 3lb 8oz on a tadpole pattern.

Siblyback– After a tough and windy opening weekend, both the weather and the fishing improved as the month progressed, with some nice full bags of fish being caught, rods averaging around three fish per angler, and surface feeding fish evident at the Marshes and Two Meadows (a few being taken on Black Gnats and Hoppers). With plenty of Buzzers hatching, small nymphs and teams of Buzzers have been successful patterns, while pulled deeper fished lures (Baby Dolls, Orange Blobs, Tadpoles and Vivas) have also caught well. The best fish caught in the month was a 3lb 8oz Rainbow caught by Mr Westlake.

Burrator– With two Coulam boats now at Burrator, and boats available for anglers from the beginning of the season, the opening weekend at Burrator got off to a flying start from both the banks (Longstone and Sheepstor Dam) and boats, with rods averaging 5.6 fish per angler. In addition to the freshly stocked fish, a number of wild Browns and overwintered Rainbows were caught. While fish have generally been feeding on small buzzers, small lures and flashy nymphs fished on intermediate lines proved to be the most effective method. Local club member, Stuart McCullough, caught the best fish of the weekend – a Rainbow of 3lb 8oz. As the month continued, catches remained high, with anglers averaging 5 fish per rod (and plenty of fish over 3lbs), with the best fishing to be had from Longstone Bank, the Lawns and Sheepstor Dam, mainly on Intermediate/Slow-sink lines, with a selection of patterns (Green-flash Damsel, Cats Whiskers and Tadpoles) slowly retrieved. Mr McMahon (from Walkhampton) also caught a 3lb 8oz Rainbow on a Goldhead, while Allan Lawson caught the best bag of fish – nine Rainbows from Longstone Bank and eight from the Lawns, using a Blue-flash Damsel.

Stithians– Pub Bay, The North Bank and Yellowort have proved to be the best locations in the opening month at Stithians, with anglers averaging just fewer than two fish per rod. As yet there are few surface-feeding fish and most fish have been caught on either a selection of nymph patterns (Pheasant Tail, Hares Ears, Diawl Bachs, Damsels and Montanas) or deeper fished lures (Orange Blobs, Tadpoles and Nomads). As the month progressed, fish also started to be caught from the banks at Mossops and Goonlaze.

Roadford– The opening weekend at the Brown Trout waters was met with gale force winds and driving rain, deterring all but the hardiest of anglers. Duncan Kier (from Belstone) caught six fish up to 1lb, fishing from the more sheltered banks in Dam Bay and Shop Inlet, using a Woolly Bugger. The weather improved the following week and local angler Dean Boucher caught nine fish in good condition from Davey’s Bank using a Black Tadpole. There are two new Coulam Boats on the water this year and over the winter we have cleared hundreds of metres of self-seeded willow from the banks to improve accessibility to the water’s edge.

Fernworthy– The first week of the season produced some wonderful sport at Fernworthy, with a number of anglers catching more than ten fish in a session and, overall, anglers catching 5.5 fish per rod. Fish have been moving throughout the day, taking buzzers and small nymphs (try Hares ears and Midge Pupae) in the calmer conditions, but otherwise Black Mini-lures on floating lines caught well in the deeper water by the dam.

Colliford– Fish are well spread out over the water and being caught off most banks – it pays to keep on the move to cover as much water as possible at Colliford. With some fish already starting to move on the surface, a few fish have been taken on dry patterns (Soldier Palmer and Black Bits). Floating or intermediate lines have worked best, even in the deeper water by the dam, with Black Spiders and dark lures catching well.

Chris Hall (April 2019)


Issue date: 3 April 2019

For more information, please contact:

Rosie Vine

Customer Communications and Marketing Manager

South West Lakes Trust

01566 771930


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These spring days are full of contrasts as the seasons turn. Fresh green shoots all around, the call of chiff chaffs, warm sunny days and cold days as the wind swings to the North.

As I drove to the river sleet settled on the windscreen and the temperature gauge read 3 degrees. Yesterday it was double figures and warm sunshine.  It was good to wade in the lower Taw this evening and see the first sand martins swopping over the river. I have been fishing the river since the seventies and there is a certain reassurance in the constant flow through familiar lands. I glimpsed fry in the shallows and wondered what they were; minnows, trout or maybe roach or dace fry?

A fish swirled half a dozen times in the narrow run at the head of a pool. A salmon, a sea trout or a large brown trout? I asked the question swinging the fly across the river but got no answer! High water had reached above Bishops Tawton half a mile or so downriver. Had a fresh springer come in on the tide?

Just three days ago fourteen year old Ed Broggio landed his first salmon estimated at 8lb ten miles or so upriver close to the Junction with the Mole. Great to hear that a young angler setting out has enjoyed success.

Salmon fishing News and prospects from Taw and Torridge

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At least two salmon have been tempted from beats on the the Torridge this weekend with Jonathon Sykes catching a 9lb sea liced fish at Beam and Anthony Ward tempted a fine fresh run salmon estimated at 13lb from a middle Torridge beat. There are also reports of a few sea trout to around 4lb. Not had any reports from the Taw but I suspect a few fish have been tempted over the weekend.

After a week or so without substantial rain the rivers are starting to drop back and run clear. Northerly winds are forecast over the next week with lower temperatures which could impact on sport. Best chance for fish will come from the Lower beats of both rivers and spring tides towards the end of the week could encourage a few fresh fish to run. It won’t be long before we are hoping for rain.


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The journey across Exmoor on a late March day evaporated into a whirl of fishing talk and tales as Jeff drove us to Wimbleball Lake high on Exmoor. On arrival we were greeted warmly by Trevor Telling who assists Mark and Tracey Underhill in running Wimbleball Lake.

Its just over twelve months since Mark took over running Wimbleball and I am sure that many of the anglers who have visited since will vouch for the Stirling job that Mark and his team have done.

I asked Mark to summarise his feeling after a year running the Lake.

“During our first season it was certainly a surprise to us how many fishermen came to fish at Wimbleball, and that gave us confidence to go on and order the Coulam boats. I don’t think we could have picked a worse year to have started running Wimbleball due to beast of a the east and then that awful fishing summer. But even with that we were very pleased with everything. The lake fished it’s socks off and we only had a few blanks all year, It’s truly a magical lake and I feel very blessed to have taken on the fishing my end goal is make Wimbleball one of the country’s top lakes for cracking quality and the hardest fighting fish any where in the country.”

Trevor Telling is himself a keen angler and is passionate to ensure that all those who visit the Lake enjoy the experience. He shares information freely suggesting where to fish and what flies and tactics are likely to succeed. We chatted at length about trout fishing and fisheries and how important it is to all work together in promoting this wonderful pastime. One issue that Mark and Trevor feel strongly about is the need to encourage young anglers into the sport and to promote this they offer Juniors under 16 the opportunity to fish for free when accompanied by a permit holding adult.

The adoption of a forward thinking catch and release policy has proved very popular with visiting anglers. The sensible catch and release ticket option costs the same as a five fish ticket with the first two fish to be retained ensuring a constant turnover of stock. The angler can enjoy a full days fishing without any worry about bag limits and having to leave when the quota is made.

A blue sky interspersed with white cotton wool clouds, birdsong drifting through the air, fresh green leaves and buds all around. Daffodils, celandines and primroses denote that we are in that delightful yellow phase of spring. Time to go trout fishing!

The bright sunshine and cool North West Breeze would undoubtedly make the trout a little harder to catch but this did little to dent our enthusiasm as we tackled up in the car  park close to Bessom’s Bridge.

I threaded the Intermediate line through the rings attached a leader of 8lb b.s Fluro-carbon and put a bead headed black lure on the point with a buzzer pattern on the dropper.

Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce set up with some of Snowbee’s finest kit  and elected to start off with a booby on a fast sinking line.

We both walked eagerly to the waters edge and took a few steps out into the gin clear water before extending our lines. And so, the search began in a rhythmic cast and retrieve that is so absorbing. The icy cold water on the fingers, the coolness seeping through waders, the expectation as the line is pulled back through the rod’s rings.

This wonderful vibrant spring landscape is surely all so vital in this quest to connect with the hard fighting trout that live within this other dimension beneath the surface. It’s all so hard to put into words but I can only link the total emersion into this trance like state as the mind set determined during yoga or mindfulness endeavours.

It was mid-morning by the time we started fishing and I am sure that we both expected success early in the day. I persisted with the set up I had started with whilst Jeff continually swapped and changed lines, tactics and flies. After an hour I hooked a rainbow trout that erupted at the end of the line leaping two or three feet into the air in a flurry of spray before racing away at a rate of knots then coming detached from the hook. This frustrating occurrence was to be repeated several times throughout the morning. This at least gave hope that I was doing something right, as Jeff had not even had a pull in the first two hours.

We stopped briefly for lunch resting our arms and assessing the situation. It was apparent that other anglers were also struggling to find the fish as they were constantly moving around searching.

By mid afternoon our spirits had dipped slightly and we decided it was time to try a new area. If nothing else it would give us a change of scenery and fresh hope. We figured that the shallow bay opposite could be worth a try. Whilst several anglers had been fishing there in the morning they had moved on and the area had been rested for a while.

As we walked to the water’s edge there came that welcome ring upon the water that signifies a feeding trout. Jeff put out a long floating line with a Black n’ peacock on the point. First cast came a pull; second cast a bent rod and an acrobatic rainbow. We were both relieved to break the prospect of a blank day and I captured the moment before resuming my own quest for a trout.

A few casts later and I was once again enjoying the thrill of a hard fighting rainbow at the end of the line. Exhilaration once more turned to disappointment as the hook once again lost its hold. I was now however brim full of confidence and expected a take with every cast and It wasn’t long before I was again relishing the battle with one of Wimbleballs hard fighting trout. Each trout seemed to be turbo charged ripping line through the fingers as the rod bent and bucked to the strain.

The next couple of hours saw us hook multiple hard fighting rainbows with black lures fished on an intermediate line highly effective. We don’t know of course whether it was the change of location that had brought success or the trout’s appetite or mood.

The fact that we had eventually unlocked the key to success brought satisfaction, whilst the perfect light as the day faded brought appreciation of the artist in us both. As the sun slowly sank it was difficult to know what mattered most, was it the thrill of hard fighting trout or the capturing of that moment with the camera?

With bare trees silhouetted against the skyline and the mirror of the lake reflecting the glowing embers of the day I hoped that Jeff could seal the moment. As I framed him fishing; a fish seized the fly. The next few minutes we both relished the moments as a hard fighting trout tested the tackle for several minutes before eventually surrendering into the folds of the rubber coated net. The barbless hook slipped easily from the  jaws of a stunning wild brown trout. After capturing the moment Jeff let the fish swim away into the cool waters and into our memories.

We packed away, our fingers tingling with the cold water, our feet numbed after  hours stood up to our waists in the cool water. As we left enchanting Wimbleball Lake I commented  that we would never endure such discomfort during a day at work!

As the road climbed up onto the moor Jeff’s phone sprang into life. The fact that he was due at the pictures at 8.00pm had totally slipped his mind whilst lost in the waters of an angling life.

Its always good to be at the start of a season with those longer spring days and summer evenings still to come. The thrill of rising trout during perfect days beside well stocked waters.

Wimbleball Lake is a large reservoir with a surface area of 374 acres. The dam construction was completed in 1979 and provides water that is distributed by  South West Water and Wessex Water. It was run as a trout fishery for many years by South West lakes Trust who downgraded the fishery in 2016. Mark Underhill took on running the lake in 2018 stocking it with quality rainbow trout from Rainbow Valley Trout Farm.

The lake also has a good population of wild brown trout that run to over 6lb.



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The River Taw Fisheries Association held their Annual General Meeting at High Bullen Hotel on Friday March 22ndand a good number of the 165 members were in attendance.

The membership overwhelmingly endorsed the RTFA’s new constitution with the removal of the two tier membership resulting in one membership type of full member at an annual subscription of £25.00.

Secretary George Marsh stepped down after giving several years of Stirling service and was presented with a gift in appreciation by RFTA Chairman Alex Gibson. Ian Blewett steps into the role and will I feel sure continue with George Marsh’s excellent work.

Representation of the rivers angling stakeholders is well represented with landowners, salmon anglers, wild brown trout fishers and important fishing hotels all key ingredients.

Reflecting upon the 2018 season was considered a depressing task with the beast from the East blighting the first month, followed by raging spates that then saw the onset of the worst drought since the summer of 1976. With fishing condensed into no more than a month it is no surprise that catches were very poor. Estimates appear to indicate a catch of between 50 and 70 salmon and 45 to 70 sea trout. The nets took 35 salmon and 23 sea trout. The removal of all netting should in theory ensure more salmon make it into the river where they will hopefully spawn successfully. Brown trout fishing was good despite the poor conditions with around 2000 recorded.

Alex Gibson and Paul Carter both stressed the importance of good practice regarding catch and release. The importance of carrying a suitable landing net and keeping salmon in the water is essential to ensure a high survival rate.

The RFTA is contributing to funding for the West Country Rivers Trust to undertake river improvement work including gravel washing. Investing in habitat improvement is vital with many issues impacting upon salmon and sea trout including, farming practices, Climate change, pollution from sewage works, reduced water flows and predation amongst just a few.

One concern shared by many in the RFTA is the lack of young anglers fishing on the rivers. The RFTA urges its members to introduce young anglers to the sport of Fly Fishing and actively promotes upcoming events at Blakewell Fishery.

Paul Carter urged anglers to report any pollution incidents or netting via the EA hotline – 0800 60 70 80. Trash dams have proven to be a serious issue on the Upper reaches of the Taw and its tributaries and it is imperative that landowners and anglers keep an eye open for any potential blockage to upstream migration.

Dr Andrew King gave a fascinating talk on the Population Genetics of Brown Trout and Sea Trout (Salmo trutta) in southern Britain. Whilst I have to confess that the in depth analysis and statistics left me slightly baffled it also opened my mind to the vast complexities of sea trout and brown trout.

Brown trout and sea trout are one and the same species with some trout opting to go to sea to feed. The studies carried out by Andrew on the genetics of trout focussed upon the rivers of the South West and in particular South Cornwall. This immediately struck a chord with me as I know many of these small rivers from visits to Cornwall over several decades. In particular the Polperro stream that I have walked beside on numerous occasions often punctuated by gaps of several years. As a teenager I glimpsed the trout as I walked down the street with my parents far more interested in the river than the quaint Cornish cottages and shops. Only last year I walked the street with my wife Pauline and again it was those spirited spotted brown trout that caught my eye. Still surviving in that tumbling brook running beside the tourist thronged streets that also lead to the bustling harbour.

The life of the sea trout is certainly complex as is nature once you start to delve into the amazingly interdependent jigsaw. Whilst it is generally considered that sea trout return to the river of their birth this is not always so. Returning sea trout will sometimes stray into different rivers and this it would appear keeps the stocks healthy reducing interbreeding within the rivers.

Navigation is of course one of those remarkable facts that we all ponder upon. It is generally accepted that salmon and sea trout find the river of their birth by utilising their sense of smell and perhaps the magnetic fields of the earth. This is truly remarkable if you give it a moment’s thought. I sometimes struggle to find our car in the Tesco car park after half an hours shopping! These fish find a stream or river flowing after a year or more swimming in a vast ocean.

I asked the question at the end of the talk as to why sea trout stocks seem to be declining at a faster rate than salmon? The most likely reason would appear to be a lack of food at sea due to mankind’s over harvesting of the sea in particular sandeel.

There is also the fact that not all brown trout get the urge to migrate out to sea and this could be linked to the health of the river. If the river is healthy and full of life then there may not be a need to go to sea to supplement the diet? How the sea trout work this out I have no idea. And it would also appear that around 85% of the brown trout that develop into smolts are female with most males deciding to remain in the river system.

To sum it all up sea trout and brown trout are complex creatures that deserve to be treated with respect. As anglers who delight in casting a line for these fish we owe it to the fish to do all we can to preserve the delicate environment in which they live. Whilst there are those who see angling as cruel there is no doubt that there is no group of people more passionate for the survival of salmon and sea trout than those who yearn to be connected briefly via a rod and line.

South West Fly Fair 2019

South West Lakes Trust once again hosted the Annual South West Fly Fair at Roadford Lake. This popular fixture in the Fly Fishers Calendar is sponsored by Turrall and Cortland and attracted a good number of Fly Fishing Enthusiast’s despite gale force winds and an unfortunate clash with the Six nations Rugby.

Casting, cooking and Fly Tying demonstrations entertained the audience with numerous trade stands offering an array of flies, clothing, tackle and art. Conservation was high on the agenda with Westcountry Rivers Trust, Wild Trout Trust and South West lakes highlighting the issue of Invasive species. Fixtures like this are vital in bringing anglers together to share in enthusiasm for the coming months. A poster declared that; “Time is Precious Spend it Fishing”; wise advice in these turbulent times.

(Below) Charles Jardine always puts on a great demonstration of Fly Casting manipulating the fly Line effortlessly even when faced with gale force winds that would ensure certain tangles for the average angler.

( Below) In the warmth of the Fly Tying lounge a wide range of flies and lures were tied up to trick the wariest of fish.

In the Main Hall anglers mingled rekindling friendships and waxing lyrical about days at the waters edge both close to home and far away. Stands included Second Hand Tackle, Dry Fly Powder, Arundel Arms,  Homeleigh Angling Centre, Invasive Species, Turrall and Cortland, Snowbee UK, West Country Rivers Trust, Luke Bannister Split Cane Rods, Rawson Fly Rods, Robin Armstrong, Wild Trout Trust, Upper Teign Fishing Club, Crediton Fishing Club, SWLT, Virtual Nymph and Milemead Trout Farm were amongst those in attendance.

(below) Raising awareness of Invasive species.

(Below) Robin Armstrong with some of his works of art.

(Below) Ben Smeeth observes as Gary Champion gives a fascinating cooking demonstration explaining the method of marinating trout in lime with garlic and ginger – Ceviche is I believe the term. The resulting trout tasted delicious ; an ideal starter to try on friends.

(Below) West Country Based Snowbee UK

(Below) An array of flies from West Country Fly Firm Turrall

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.

New Sporting Ticket Option at Blakewell

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Blakewell Trout Fishery have introduced a new sporting ticket that entitles the angler to retain two trout and then continue fishing on a catch and release basis for the remainder of the day. The cost of a day’s fishing is £30.00 for the catch and release option or the same for a five fish bag when fishing must cease when bag completed. This enlightened move brings the fishery in line with many other Stillwater fisheries that have adapted to a changing market. Catch and release fishing allows anglers to focus upon quality time spent at the water’s edge away from the stresses of modern society. Perhaps this reflects a move away from material gain towards the actual experience of a day in the great outdoors.

Full report on my latest visit to the water with Snowbee ambassador Jeff Pearce will follow later this week.

Jeff Pearce with a hard fighting Blakewell rainbow trout