Tales from the River Bank

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The areas rivers are already at summer levels bringing concern amongst salmon anglers that we could be in for a repeat of last year’s disastrous season when rivers ran low for most of the fishing year. A brief rise last week after localised rain encouraged at least one fish into the Taw with Bob Lewington tempting a fresh run grilse of 6lb from the Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats. There are positive stories from the Taw and Torridge in that the brown trout fishing has been excellent with wild trout to over 1lb caught on Half Moon Beats of the Torridge. Anglers have also caught and returned good numbers of silver smolts on their way back to the sea a sign that all is not doom and gloom.

With salmon and sea trout scarce, I contacted Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce and suggested an evening fishing the middle Torridge for wild brown trout. Jeff was keen to visit a new stretch of water and I picked him up whilst the sun was still high in the sky.

Arriving at the river the lack of recent rain was apparent with the river running very low. When I say there has been a lack of rain this not entirely true as localised heavy showers had brought a short spate the previous week bringing the level up three feet. As is often the case in recent years the dirty river dropped very quickly as a combination of dry ground and thirsty trees mopped up the welcome water.

Despite its subdued and sedate flow rate the river and its surroundings looked resplendent in its late spring flourish of vivid life and colour.

I expected to see plenty of trout rising as fly life seemed abundant with insects flitting above the water illuminated by the slowly sinking sun. We walked to the top of the beat discussing the various holding pools as we passed them. Each pool held its memories and I enjoyed recounting stories of salmon and sea trout caught during previous seasons.

I had tied a small grey duster dry fly to my light tippet and started to wade carefully up a long glide. I cast the fly to likely spots as I scanned the water for signs of feeding trout.

A splashy rise twenty yards upstream raised expectations and I waded stealthily to get within range.

Photo courtesy of Jeff Pearce
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Pearce
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Pearce

After a couple of casts there came that most delightful of moments as the waters surface was broken as the  dry fly was taken in a sublime moment of deception. A flick of the wrist set the tiny hook and the water bulged, the rod flexed and line was ripped through the rings as I was forced to give a little line. A twelve ounce wild brown trout gives a pleasing account on a three weight rod. Jeff was soon at hand to capture the moment and commented that such a fish could be the best of the season.

I fished on for a while rising a couple of more trout that came adrift after a few moments. Fishing the upstream dry fly to rising fish is perhaps as close as one can get to the true essence of the hunter fisher. This searching and seeking is so different to the trapping mindset of the static bait fisher.

Don’t get me wrong I am not setting out one type of fishing as superior to another just highlighting the contrasting approach. Non anglers find it difficult to contemplate upon the diverse nature of angling. Why we need so many rods, reels, lines and tackles.

I am in danger of wondering into complex waters so to return to the night in question. Jeff was fishing a slower section further down and had found several trout sipping flies from the surface. I watched him place his fly delicately upon the water and hoped to see him connect. As I turned to walk away down-river I heard a  triumphant exclamation. The Snowbee Prestige G-XS Graphene Fly Rod ( Matched with a Thistledown 2 Wt line) was well bent as a good trout battled gamely on the gossamer thin line. After a few anxious moments a delighted Jeff gazed at his prize in the rubber meshed net. A pristine wild brown trout that would probably weigh close to 1lb 8oz. A splendid prize that was twice the size of  the trout I had returned a few minutes earlier.

Jeff held the fish close to the water at all times lifting it only momentarily from its watery home to record a pleasing image to take away. It would be difficult to surpass this success and as the sun sank the temperature dropped and we both changed over to nymphs and spider patterns fished down and across.

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Pearce
Photo Courtesy of Jeff Pearce

This style of fishing is less demanding than the upstream dry fly and allows the attention to wonder slightly absorbing the sights and sounds of the river and its banks. The electric blue flash of a kingfisher, the yellow wagtails, the handsome cock pheasants and the lively brood of beeping ducklings all part of the rich scene.

We both enjoyed success with hard fighting trout tempted as the light faded. Hopefully as summer arrives and a little rain the brownies sea run brethren will provide some more exciting sport.

Photo Courtesy of Jeff Pearce

Bass from boulder strewn shores

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First day of autumn probably the finest season for angling. One more try for a bass in Combe Martin SAC’s lure competition.

As I walk to the shore a few family’s are enjoying time beside the sea as summer fades. Its a balmy air as I make my way across the familiar boulder strewn foreshore. I arrive perspiring just before low water and make my way out onto a favorite  rocky promontory. The sea is calm, clarity good and I feel confident as I clip on a patchinko surface lure and launch it 40 yards or so out onto the water. After searching the water for ten minutes or so without any swirls behind the lure I clip on my favourite candy coloured shallow diver. After two casts I feel that electrifying jolt through the thin braid as a bass slams into the lure. The rod pulses in my hands as a bass of a couple of pounds fights for freedom. I relish the sight of the bass as it swims on a tight line in the clear water.

A couple more casts and a repeat performance as bass number two hits the lure.

As the tide pushes in I hop off the rock before getting trapped by the rising water and move fishing from boulders flicking a surface lure into the shallow water. There is a swirl behind the lure and I pause momentarily before twitching the lure and get an immediate response as a small bass nails the lure hard. I lift the bass from the water and on grabbing the fish impale my finger on a flying treble hook. Bass on one hook finger past the barb on the other; Ouch!!! I really should carry a small first aid kit..

A wash off in salty water and its time to resume fishing. I search the shoreline finding three more bass as I relish the calm water and the splendid scenery. I love fishing these shallow boulder strewn shorelines and the exciting encounters as the bass appear in the clear water sometimes smashing the lure just a few feet from the edge.

I end the session as the evening sun illuminates the steep cliffs pausing as I walk back to enjoy a hot coffee from my new drink pod.

The next few months are an exciting prospect for the angler with bass, mullet and tope on the sea angling agenda.

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.

SUMMER EVENINGS OF DELIGHTFUL DECEPTION WITH THE DRY FLY

Image Jeff Pearce

Summer evening on a trout lake in early July lush green vegetation surrounding the mirror calm surface. Swallows swooping over the water with trout cruising clearly visible in crystal clear water.

I was enjoying an evening at Blakewell with their resident instructor Jeff Pearce. Jeff was as always kitted out with the latest top quality tackle from Snowbee a Spectre 5 weight rod matched to a 2 to 5 weight thistledown fly line that has recently won a prestigious European Fly Fishing Trade Award.

Image by Jeff Pearce

I had elected to contrast Jeff’s top of the range modern tackle by bringing along a 7ft Scottie Split Cane rod that I purchased from a work colleague last year. I later discovered that the rod had once been owned by Richard Mann a regular at Blakewell who sadly passed away last year. Whilst I am not a devout advocate of vintage tackle I do have a fondness for angling history and split cane rods have a certain feel that is somehow more in sync with nature than the steely modern perfection of carbon fibre.

Image by Jeff Pearce

We had decided to restrict ourselves to dry fly only on this warm and sultry evening planning to savour the visual delights of this method. It is surprising that so many anglers miss out on the best trout fishing summer has on offer by concentrating their efforts during the daytime hours often fishing office hours between 9.0am and 5.00pm when they could arrive at 5.00pm and fish until dusk when the fish undoubtedly become more active.

After a days work that had entailed a meeting in Plymouth I was relieved to eventually arrive at the lake at close to 6.30pm where I found Jeff chatting to a couple of visiting anglers.

Trout were clearly visible, some cruising and others were suspended lethargically almost motionless in the water

I tied a small grey duster to my 4lb point and worked the fly line until I had found the range of the target trout. Jeff was soon into action tempting a fish on a small caenis imitation. After a pleasing tussle a beautiful spotted brown trout of a couple of pounds was being admired.

It was obvious that the actively cruising trout were the fish to target as they were we guessed on the lookout for food. After a few refusals I dropped my fly into the path a cruising fish and watched as it nonchalantly swam up to the fly and slurped in my offering. The satisfying tightening of the line and well-bent rod followed this delightful moment of deception. This was the first decent sized trout I had hooked on the old Scottie as previous outings with the rod had been on the river where I had relished catching 4oz wild browns. This 2lb plus rainbow was a more severe test for the rod though I lent into the fish with total confidence enjoying every moment as the old cane absorbed every lunge.

As we fished on Jeff enjoyed success with a small sedge pattern twitching it a few times and then pausing. This often provoked a rise from the trout and a well bent rod. I followed suit tying on a sedge pattern myself and casting to active trout. This was fascinating fishing watching each fish’s reaction to the fly. There is surely no more enjoyable way to catch trout than with the dry fly?

Image by Jeff Pearce

As the sun slowly sank the trout became more active as the air-cooled and more flies hatched around the lake. There was no hurry to catch fish as we enjoyed the ambience of the summer lake. Chatting about fishing here and there and hatching plans for fly-fishing excursions in both saltwater and fresh. Jeff is a dedicated fly angler and relishes catching on this method above all others.

As the sun sank we took the opportunity to capture images of reflections in the water as the summer day ebbed away. A pair of kingfishers flashed across the water a pleasing glimpse of blue and orange. A heron wheeled above the trees emitting a primeval cry and resembling a pterodactyl that once flew millions of years ago. Such summer evenings are to be savored as the evenings once again begin to shorten as summers glorious peak of perfection passes.

Blakewell Open Day and fine sport

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David Hill visited Blakewell Fishery and had a pleasing days sport landing four quality trout for 17lb including a handsome 4lb brown trout.

Next Sunday May 14th the fishery are hosting a Snowbee Open day with casting demonstrations, tackle on show and the chance to mingle with fellow anglers whilst enjoying food and refreshments.

http://www.blakewell.co.uk