Winter Trout – Blakewell

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On a stormy winter day small still-waters can offer the chance of excellent sport with hard fighting winter rainbows. Jeff Pearce and I met up with Dominic Garnett from the Angling Trust and his father John at Blakewell fishery where we hoped to connect with one of the recently stocked specimen brown trout.  Our arrival coinciding with strong winds and heavy showers a full English breakfast in the cafe beside a glowing woodburner was a welcome option and enabled us to chat at length about blogging, photography and the intricacies of fishing. We discussed the most important aspects of a fly. Dominic stressed the importance of a quality hook and its trout attracting features. Whilst I agreed with these vital ingredients I stressed that the most important aspect is that the angler has confidence in the fly or lure.  This generally leads to the angler fishing well keeping the fly in the water instead of constantly searching the fly box for inspiration. Dominic had also brought along his angling mascot the General who often features in Dominic’s musings in the acclaimed Fallon’s Angler magazine.

(Above) Dominic Garnett and the General with Turrall flies!

Eventually the call of the great outdoors became too strong and we ventured out to the lake. To our relief the water was still clear and had not been adversely affected by the torrential rain that turned the nearby river into a raging torrent.

The instant action we had all anticipated did not immediately occur and it was half an hour before Jeff hooked the first trout of the day. A pleasing rainbow a fish that thrives in the cold waters of winter.

Dominic and I had both expected the trout to respond to larger lures with perhaps a touch of colour. The trout had not read the script however and my first two fish and Jeffs were all tempted on small black flies or buzzers.

Many consider winter days to be drab and colourless but this is often far from true as winter sunshine and rainbows illuminated our day bringing pleasing winter vistas.

This was not one of those days when the trout attacked our offerings with gusto this was one of those days when persistance was essential. As the hours passed all too quickly the tally of trout slowly grew with the four of us eventually banking a dozen trout to just over 2lb.

(Above) Dominic Garnett nets a hard fighting Blakewell rainbow


Twenty Five of Blakewell Fisheries regular anglers attended the fisheries popular Christmas Competition where they enjoyed an unseasonably mild winters day with cloudy Skies that should have been ideal for trout fishing. Those anglers prepared to persevere and try different flies enjoyed a successful days fishing with six anglers taking their six fish limits. Small dark flies proved to be most effective with black and green combinations proving most productive.

Andy Facey with a fine brown trout of 3lb 12oz the biggest of the day.

The winner of the competition was Paul Grisley who banked six trout for 15lb 8oz. In runner up spot was Graham Turner with six for 13lb 10oz and in third Andy Facey with six for 13lb 5oz. In forth place was John Buxton with six for 12lb 7oz.

The competition was punctuated by a delicious chilli con carne meal followed by mulled wine and mince pies. John and Richard Nickel thanked all competitors for their valuable support following a difficult summer season when many thousands of pounds worth of prime quality stock fish were lost as a result of exceptionally high temperatures.  They talked of ambitious plans for the coming season with bank side improvements, weed cutting and of course every endeavour to ensure the fisheries stock fish are of the highest quality as the season progresses.

(Below) Small dark flies like this Black and peacock variant proved successful.


The coming weeks should see some excellent fishing with several stunning big brown trout stocked.

(Below) Winter Trout Fishing at Blakewell

Blakewell – In prime condition for winter season

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Blakewell Fishery has undergone a major weed-cutting exercise following the long hot summer and is now in prime condition as we enter the cooler months when trout can provide exciting sport. The main road past Blakewell is currently closed but a short detour via Shirwell is well worth it. At this time of year a wide variety of tactics can work with a damsel nymph fished on a long leader a good bet.

(Above & Below)) Weed-cutting machinery in action-

A fine rainbow caught during last years Christmas Competition.

With Christmas coming its a good time to visit the on site tackle shop that has a selection of tackle from West Country based tackle company Snowbee. There is also the opportunity to enjoy a hot coffee and slice of cake.

Autumn Trout at Blakewell

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As the river season closes its time to start thinking of Stllwater trout to keep in practice.

Its been a challenging summer for still water trout fishery’s and fish farming with high water temperatures and prolific weed growth causing many problems. At Blakewell the Nickel’s have as always endeavored to keep the fishery ticking over offering anglers a special ticket option of an open ticket entitling the angler to keep visiting as many times as they like until their bag limit has been completed. This offer continues until the end of October when normal operation resumes.

Early in October a specialist weed cutting company will be visiting the fishery to eradicate the problematic weed in preparation for the winter season when trout fishing is at its best.

The imminent closure of the Barnstaple to Muddiford Road is no obstacle to visiting Blakewell as a short diversion around Shirwell will only delay arrival by ten minutes.

The lake at present at the end of September has weed covering 50% of the lake but as you can see from these pictures I took today large areas are weed free allowing plenty of water to cast a fly. At this time of year a bushy daddy long legs imitation  will produce exciting takes on most days. A muddler minnow stripped across the surface could also work well as will all the normal buzzers and nymphs. Plenty of trout were showing as I walked around the lake with anglers telling of of browns to over six pounds in recent weeks. If your on holiday and have no tackle with you this is no obstacle to enjoying a day fishing as top quality Snowbee Fly Fishing tackle is available to hire.

Fun fishing is also available for children with a heavily stocked trout pond where children can catch the families supper.

The cafe offers a delightful place to call in for a coffee or cream tea with a tasty looking array of hot for to choose from. On a sunny day sit beside the stock ponds or on  cold day sit beside the wood-burner!

Blakewell Competition Day

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I arrived at Blakewell just before 9.00am to meet up with members of the Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club and fish for the Edwards Floating Line Cup. It was a very pleasant late spring morning with lush green growth all around and birdsong filing the calm morning air. Dennis Toleman and Rob Hancock also arrived to fish Triple Hook Clubs A & J Barrow Fly Trophy Competition. They were a little concerned when I told them it was Wistlandpounds competition but when I told them it was not starting until 10:00 am they breathed a sigh of relief as they would most likely have got well underway towards their four fish quota by then as early morning before the sun gets on the water is often the best time of day.

After setting up my tackle I took a walk to the lake to capture Dennis and Rob in action and see if I could get any tips for the competition ahead. Both anglers were in action by the time I arrived and I took a few snaps as their rods absorbed the lunges of the hard fighting rainbows that both exceeded 4lb.

(Above ) Dennis Toleman – rainbow trout 4lb 2oz
(Above)Rob Hancock with a 4lb 3oz rainbow

Dennis Toleman went on to win the A & J Barrow Trophy with a four fish bag totaling 13lb 4oz. Robbie Hancock finishing runner up with 12lb 3oz.

Blakewell’s  Lake looked the perfect trout lake on this sunny morning with a brood of ducklings chirping as they dashed to and fro amongst the reeds. A few swallows swooped speedily over the water  and high above a pair of buzzards soared on the thermals.

My fellow Wistlandpound club members duly arrived and after purchasing three fish tickets sauntered out to the lakeside. Within a few minutes several members were in action with bent rods as the lakes hard fighting rainbows surged to and fro in the clear water. I had tied on a damsel nymph and cast it well across the lake towards a rising trout. As I started to retrieve I noticed a trout of a couple of pounds closing in on the fly. Hoping for something a little bigger I stopped retrieving and watched the trout turn away. I fished on and within a few casts felt the pleasing tightening of the line. Whilst not big the rainbow fought gamely before eventually slipping over the rim of the net.

A few casts later I hooked an almost identical rainbow of a couple of pounds. Aware that other members had already landed bigger trout I decided upon a change of tactics and wandered to a shady corner on the far bank. I stood quietly leaning against a tree and peered into the crystal clear water watching as trout cruised past. I had tied on a gold headed green nymph one of my favourite stalking fly’s. After a few minutes a larger fish appeared and I flicked the nymph a few feet in front of the rainbow. I allowed the fly to sink then gave a twitch giving life to the gold head. The trouts mouth opened, the line twitched the rod lifted and I felt the weight of the fish and watched as it shook its head before surging away ripping line though my fingers before making the reel sing and rod absorb the strain. An enjoyable tussle followed before my prize was secure in the waiting net. At around four pound it was a pleasing result and emphasized how a little patience and stealthy angling can bring a better result than fishing blind.

(Above) My rainbow that succumbed to a gold head green nymph.

By midday all members had secured their three fish bags with Paul Grisley taking top spot with a bag of 9lb 9oz the best fish a fraction under 4lb. David Eldred was runner up with 9lb 6oz, Myself third with 8lb 13oz and forth Colin Combes with 6lb 12oz.

( Above) Winner Paul Grisley

With the competition over it was time to retire to the decking for welcome cups of tea and coffee. After a lengthy chat about fishing trips, catches and holidays it was time for a behind the scenes tour of the fish farm with co fishery owner Richard Nickell. Richard gave a fascinating and at times humorous  account of rearing thousands of trout from fry to table size. Explaining the many trials and tribulations that can beset the fish farmer and the extensive costs involved. Richard ended the tour with a demonstration of his skill with the filleting knife and many ways to cook trout.

Blakewell – Spring Open

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(Above)Jim Sim;s 7lb 3oz rainbow

Twenty Five anglers fished in Blakewell’s Spring Open and good sport was enjoyed as the venues hard fighting rainbows seized the various fly’s on offer. Robert Turner won the competition with a six fish bag weighing 20lb 7oz. The bag included trout of 6lb 14oz and 5lb 7oz. In runner up spot was Pete Rorstad with six for 19lb 9oz and in third Gary Matthews with 18lb 6oz. Most of the twenty-five competitors landed their six fish limits with a good number of four pound plus fish brought to the scales.

The event was punctuated by a lunchtime BBQ provided by Blakewell.

(Above)Rob and Graham Turner with trout of 6lb 14oz, 6lb 6oz and 6lb 7oz
(Above) Pete Rorstad with a rainbow of 6lb 14oz

The next few weeks are amongst the most enjoyable time to fish these small still-waters with fresh green foliage all around crystal clear water and free rising trout. Blakewell also has a well stocked tackle shop with many of Snowbee’s latest products.

Blakewell Spring Competition Sunday 29th April 2018

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Competition’s are very popular with our anglers.
Please book early to avoid disappointment, we can only cater for a maximum 25 anglers.
The competition will run from 9am to 5pm
with lunch provided at 13.00pm

Enter the Competition –

Our mailing address is:
Blakewell fisheries
Barnstaple, Devon EX31 3xg
United Kingdom

Springtime is trout time

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I always associate springtime with trout fishing being beside the water as the buds start to unfurl and birdsong drifts through the warming air. As the evenings draw out it is time to savour the opportunities for after-work sorties all too often the longest day has crept upon me and I realize that once again I have failed to grab those important times beside the water.

With this in mind I had arranged to meet up with Snowbee ambassador Jeff Pearce at Blakewell Fishery to try out a few of their latest products and of course to catch a couple of trout. It was a cool evening when I arrived at Blakewell with occasional sunshine and a light breeze blowing down the lake.

Jeff was keen to assemble all the latest Snowbee gear from his collection of smart and functional luggage to suit the mobile angler.

We set up four rods from the latest Snowbee range and Jeff set about demonstrating the art of roll casting using the eight weight Spectre Fly Rod that is ideally suited for fly fishing for pike or bass fishing in the estuary. After a few casts a large brown trout erupted from the corner of the lake seizing the large clouser minnow before ejecting the hook in a flurry of spray.

Apart from this brief encounter with the large brown trout it seemed quiet in this section of the lake so we decided to move to the other end of the lake that had apparently been fishing well. Armed with lighter set ups we strolled to our new area where we immediately saw a few fish moving. Jeff was first into a fish using a small bead headed nymph; a pleasing rainbow of a couple of pounds. Several fish could be seen cruising in the clear water and I spotted what looked like a good fish. The five weight Snowbee Spectre proved to be a delightful tool matched to one of Snowbee’s floating lines and I was able to drop my bead headed nymph directly in-front of the cruising trout. I allowed the fly to sink before giving a gentle twitch, a glimpse of white mouth and slight twitch of line saw me tighten into the trout. Several minutes later following a tense tussle a fine rainbow of 6lb 8oz was safely in the net.

A few moments later it was Jeff’s turn to hook a decent sized trout that surged to and fro whilst I tried to capture a few images with my camera and Jeff’s Go-Pro. This fin perfect rainbow of 5lb made the session a great success.

Casting to individual trout is an exciting way to fish that demands a keen eye enhanced with a pair of quality polarized glasses to reduce surface glare.

Whilst there was a chill in the air as the sun sank lower in the sky signs of spring were all around with buds bursting forth on trees and shrubs. The croak of toads in the margins whilst high above gyrating in the sky a few martins had arrived from warmer climes far away. A sure sign that winters grip is slipping as we slide into the most glorious season of all. In just a few weeks the countryside will be at its magnificent best.

A couple of hard fighting two pounders later it was time to pack away the gear and retreat for a hot coffee with co fishery owner Richard Nickel who was keen to share tales of his latest excursion to Scotland’s River Tay where he had enjoyed success with an 8lb spring run salmon.