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            Wimbeball Reservoir reopened under new management on Friday 23rd March and visiting anglers were treated to some fine sport with pristine conditioned hard fighting rainbow trout that averaged well over 2lb. Adam Westcott banked the best fish of the day a fine rainbow of 5lb 12oz that topped a five fish limit bag of close to 20lb. J. Glanfield registered a return of five for 20lb 5oz and G.T Benson five for 18lb 2oz. Anglers practicing catch and release enjoyed frequently bent rods with up to fifteen fish per rod. A wide range of patterns worked well with small dark lures amongst the most successful.

I visited the fishery on Saturday March 24th eager to reacquaint myself with a long time favourite venue. Like many South West Anglers I was very disappointed when South West Lakes Trust downgraded the fishery in 2016 ceasing the stocking of rainbow trout. This was a huge blow to Fly Fishing in the area with the 374acre lake that was built in the 1970’s providing traditional reservoir trout fishing for many years. The Dam straddles the River Haddeo a tributary of the river Exe and is surrounded by stunning Exmoor scenery.

Wimbeball Fly Fishery is now under the fresh stewardship of Mark Underhill an established Fish Farmer and his wife Trudy. I met with Mark at the Fishery permit hut and had an in-depth discussion on the complex world of trout rearing.

Mark and Trudy Underhill

Fortunately Mark is a passionate angler and has an understanding of what anglers want from their day at the waters edge. Mark told me that he was delighted with the opening day when all of the fourteen anglers attended enjoyed great sport with the freshly stocked trout that averaged three pounds with plenty of trout between 4lb and 5lb. A five fish ticket is excellent value at £25 for five fish with an option to practice catch and release at the same price with the first two fish caught to be retained with barb-less hooks mandatory.

It was a cold dank morning when I arrived with Exmoor draped in mist and the car thermometer reading just 2 degrees C. After my enlightening chat with Mark I set off for the waters edge as the morning mist started to lift. Early season rainbows are not generally hard to catch with location the key. Based upon the previous days reports I decided to fish the Sailing Club Bay moving to other well-known areas if success was not forthcoming.

I had set up two rods one with a fast sink line and the other with an intermediate. To the fast sink line had tied an 8lb leader tipped with a black lure with long marabou tail and fluorescent green head. It was this outfit that I started with fishing the fly deep with a steady retrieve. After ten minutes I felt that electrifying tug as a trout attacked the lure. To my surprise I glimpsed a flash of golden flanks as a beautiful wild brown trout flashed on the line before being drawn over the waiting net. I admired my prize for moment before taking a portrait and slipping the prize back into the chill waters.

Whilst I love to fish a floating line and a team of nymphs later in the season I also relish this early season fishing that lacks the finesse of the warmer days. There is something particularly thrilling about that moment  a trout hits the lure.

It was perhaps ten minutes before I caught my first rainbow of the day a hard fighting full tailed two-pounder. Mark had wondered down to see how I was faring captured the fish and I on camera.

Mark and I chatted for a while on fishing excursions for both shark and salmon swapping stories of our adventures and lamenting the sad decline of salmon catches over recent seasons.

I resumed fishing after this short break swapping to the intermediate line with the black lure on the point and an orange blob on the dropper. This allowed me to slow the retrieve down and it wasn’t long before another rainbow slammed into the lure. The next hour saw me hook one or two rainbows that came adrift, one a good fish that could well have pulled the scales to four pound plus. I also banked four rainbows ending with a fine fish of 3lb 8oz that pulled far harder than the scales indicated.

I returned to he fishing hut with a pleasing bag to weigh. Mark had intended to cast a line with me for a while but a damaged rod had kept him from the water. He was pleased to accept my offer to have a few casts with my rod and we wondered back to the  water s edge to get a few more pictures. Mark’s wife Trudy joined us and I asked her if she fished to be told that she did not fish now but had once caught two salmon from the Exe illustrating that old adage that women often have an uncanny knack of tempting salmon.

Mark enjoyed half an hours fishing making contact with several trout that refused to stay on the line for more than a second or two. With fish to attend to back at the farm Mark had to leave to prepare for deliveries of fish to venues in the Midlands.

I captured a few images of the lake in its rather stark early spring state. When I return in a few weeks’ time swallows will be swooping over the water and fresh green foliage will decorate the trees. The trout will be sipping flies from the surface and my floating line will tighten at that glorious moment of deception.