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

WIMBLEBALL – OPENS MARCH 1st –

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A New Season gets underway at Wimbleball Reservoir where expectations are high for some superb early season sport with hard fighting rainbow trout that have been stocked in good numbers. With mild conditions running up to the seasons start the trout should be moving well and eager to feed. Lure anglers will probably do well over the opening days with black often the most successful colour.

The fishery enjoyed a very productive season last year with excellent catch returns despite difficult weather conditions that saw the lake drop to very low summer levels. The lake is now close to full and should give sport from both bank and boat.

An imaginative pricing policy gives excellent value with a five fish ticket just £25 or catch and release at £25 with two fish to kept at the start of the session. For full details click on the advert below…

Top Value Fishing Ticket offer at Blakewell

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Blakewell Fishery are offering a special rate for a days fishing offering great value for money. Plus if you visit on a Saturday there will be a delicious homemade stew available from the cafe for £5.00 an ideal warm up for lunch before travelling home or continuing fishing.

Loyalty 5 fish ticket for £30

Dear Angler,
Richard and John would like to thank you for your support last year; it was a challenging season and the Summer had an effect on all of us.
We hope to see you all soon for this new season and would like to offer you an all day 8am until sunset, loyalty 5 fish ticket for £30 available on your next visit.

Every Saturday there will also be a homemade stew available from the cafe for £4. Any angler who visits the fishery twice in a month and uses 2 x £30 tickets qualifies for a free bowl of stew and tea or coffee.

Tight lines and kind regards

John and Richard.

Winter trout sport at Blakewell

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Wistlandpound Flyfishing Club members visited Blakewell Fishery for the final leg of their winter challenge series and all members successfully completed their three fish bags within a couple of hours. The water was still crystal clear despite heavy overnight rain as the inlet had been diverted to maintain good water clarity. My first trout of the day was a fine rainbow of around 3lb 8oz that gave a great account in the cold water. The fish was tempted using my favourite winter Stillwater fly the olive damsel. This pattern always seems to work well sinking quickly due to its chain eyes with its long marabou tail fluttering enticingly with a slow erratic retrieve.

After catching my first trout quickly I decided to wonder around the lake a little and take in the scenery a little. I was pleased to see that frogs had been busy spawning in a small pool adjacent to the lake. Signs of spring were in fact all around if you took a moment to look around with daffodils well advanced and green buds on the hawthorns along the path to the fishery.

Dennis Toleman from the Triple Hook Club had elected to take a walk around the lake and as we chatted a small wild brown trout seized my fly and was captured on Dennis’s phone before being slipped back into the water.

As we chatted I missed couple of pulls but soon added a brace of rainbows to my first fish. As a dark cloud threatened we walked back to join fellow club members who had by now all caught their bags. We strolled back to the fishery weigh station to see who had won this heat of he winter challenge.

1st – Dave Richards – three Fish – 7lb 13oz

2nd – Wayne Thomas – three fish – 6lb 10oz

3rd – Paul Grisley – three fish = 5lb 13oz

4th – Colin Combe – Three fish – 5lb 8oz

5th -Nigel Bird – Three fish – 5lb 3oz

The  winner of the Winter Challenge was Dave Richards with 23lb 2oz, runner up Colin Combe with 22lb 8oz and third Wayne Thomas with 21lb 7oz.

Paul Grisley was forth with 21lb 4oz and fifth Nigel Bird with 20lb 6oz.

After fishing I enjoyed a fresh cup of coffee with John Nickell who shared exciting prospects for the coming spring. After a difficult season in 2018 due to the exceptionally hot summer plans are in place for 2019.John tells me stock fish are now growing well with plenty of good sized rainbow and brown trout coming along for stocking in early spring. In addition they will be stocking with sparctic trout a cross between brook trout and Arctic char. They are also planning to stock tiger trout a cross between brook trout and brown trout both species are obtained from Torre Trout Farms.

I was also tempted with some superb smoked salmon to try later in the day beside a roaring log fire. Blakewell smoke their own grown trout and organic salmon that taste far superior to mass produced products bought at the supermarket.

Organic smoked salmon on a fresh baguette with just a dusting of black pepper -Perfect!

Great cold water sport at Exe Valley

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With the snow melting fast outside it seems like a good time to show some of the stunning fish that anglers at Exe Valley have been catching. The cold spell has far from slowed the fishing with anglers having great success on a variety of flies and tactics. The fish are in great condition & fighting hard.

(Below)John Ratcliffe from Exmouth visited on a very cold day and used a variety of different patterns and depths with a slow retrieve. He caught all six of his fish including a lovely Blue Trout.

(Below)Andy Dade from Berrow visited and caught 4 fish including a cracking 6lb 1oz Rainbow Trout noting “Good day again, all fish on Apps Bloodworm. Deep and slow retrieve” A few days later however Andy returned to Anchor Lake and landed a stunning 12lb 2oz Rainbow Trout using an Apps Bloodworm on a floating line. This Rainbow was Andys personal best Rainbow Trout – well done Andy!

(Below) Colin Nice from Exeter visited with a friend during last week and enjoyed bacon rolls on arrival & soup by the lake for lunch – available from our the fishery pre order menu. Colin caught 6 fish including a nice 4lb Rainbow Trout. Colin said “Very good – enjoyable all aspects. All fish on small flies P.T.N, D.B, Bloody William & floating line – 6”-12” down.

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

BLAKEWELL CHRISTMAS COMPETITION 2018

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.

(Below)

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

(Below) Winter Trout Fishing at Blakewell