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.