I have been fishing from rocky shorelines for may years and have a had few near misses in my time so thought it worth sharing this link to all readers of North Devon Angling News.
The coast was shrouded in early morning mist as dawn broke, sunlight breaking through low cloud to glisten upon the calm waters of Lyme Bay off Beer in South Devon. We were fishing aboard Orca Charters skippered by Stuart Pike. A trip that had been rearranged on several occasions over the past two years due to weather conditions and COVID isolation concerns. I was joined by two previous work colleagues fishing pal Mike Spiller and my son James.
It was mid-October yet there still seemed to be the lingering essence of summer. Mackerel had only recently arrived in any number and it was indeed pleasing to catch a few strings of the fish I had always associated with summer. The weather forecast told of a change over the coming days as low pressure systems were due to sweep in from the South West. This would undoubtedly stir up sediment and reduce the water clarity signalling the transition into the true autumn season.
It is always exciting and refreshing to visit and fish a new venue. It is also extremely rewarding to meet up with a new skipper and glean valuable knowledge that can be deployed both at the venue being fished and further afield.
This was not a serious outing in many ways more of an excuse for friends to meet up and enjoy a day afloat fishing for a variety of species. Derek Walters and Simon Trapnel are not seasoned boat anglers but were very keen to learn and enjoy. Mike Spiller is a long time sea angler and has like myself been dangling a line for many decades. My son James enjoys a day’s fishing and has travelled extensively with myself and my friends in search of fish. He is not a dedicated angler but relishes the experience along with the environment and wildlife that it allows him to observe and enjoy.
This was to be very much a team effort without any competitive edge. Well only a little! Black bream were the main target using light tackle with the chance of ray and conger on a heavier outfit.
Orca is a traditional fishing boat and is ideally suited to fish five or six anglers with comfort. The skipper operates fishing trips in the Lyme bay reserve an area that has benefitted from a mission to forge valuable links between fishermen, conservationists, regulators and scientists in order to maintain a sustainable marine environment.
Stuart had greeted us warmly the moment we had climbed aboard and chatted enthusiastically throughout our day afloat. Imparting a wealth of knowledge learned throughout many years at sea.
I had made up numerous two hook rigs for the intended bream that Stuart frowned upon offering up one of his own bling free rigs. I passed this rig to Derek who proved its effectiveness by out-fishing the rest of us throughout the day.
Derek, Simon, James and myself all targeted the bream whilst Mike decided to focus upon larger fish using larger baits for most of the trip. I also set up a heavier outfit with joey mackerel or large fillets. The intention was to take it in turns to land fish on this outfit giving everyone the chance of a larger specimen.
As the sun burnt off the morning cloud and mist we soaked up the ambience of the seascape. Gulls cried out, fishing boats floated at anchor, gannets dived into the clear water and porpoises rolled close by.
We lowered our bream baits to the sea bed. Stuart advised us to ignore the initial rattles on the rod tip and wait until the tip was dragged down into the water. We used size 4 Sakuma Chino hooks with slivers of mackerel. Stuart explained that frozen mackerel would out-fish fresh with the bream whilst fresh mackerel would be more likely to attract jumbo sized channel mackerel. This was to prove uncannily true throughout the day.
Shortly after lowering down the big rod its tip nodded vigorously. I took first turn and picked up the rod waiting until the tip plunged hard over before setting the hook by winding steadily until the rod was compressed. This was certainly no dogfish!
Steady pressure soon turned the battle my way and line was steadily retrieved as I pumped the fish away from the seabed. A pleasing blonde ray of 13lb 8oz was soon held aloft for a quick photo before being released. I took delight in watching the fish swim serenely back into the clear waters from whence it had come.
As the tide picked up the bream began to feed in earnest with a succession of these delightful fish coming to the boat. Their silvery iridescent sides illuminated in the sunshine. Bream after bream came to the boat each giving a spirited account on the light tackle employed.
In addition to the bream came a few good sized mackerel and a couple of vividly coloured red gurnard.
The bigger rod once again nodded and James took his turn to subdue another fine blonde ray of 11lb plus. Derek followed up with a small thornback ray. The bigger rod brought a succession of conger up to double figures and the occasional dogfish.
As the day drifted along beneath the warm autumn sun fishing slowed as the tidal flow eased . Stuart discussed options mulling over whether to make a move or stay and hope an elusive undulate ray would show as the boat swung with the changing tide.
We decided on a move higher up onto the reef. As soon as our baits touched down the rod tips signalled that the bream were present with a succession of good fish coming aboard some close to 2lb most around 1lb 8oz. A change to strips of squid brought a period of frantic sport with even my rigs bringing frequent double shots of bream to the boat.
All too soon Stuart indicated that our day afloat was coming to an end. The bream bites were by then easing as pouting started to rip into the baits.
Throughout the day Stuart had worked hard unhooking fish and untangling the occasional entwining of lines. His knowledge of the fish and their environment was outstanding and his pleasure in giving his customers a good day plain to see. Stuart is a qualified Angling Trust coach and delights in introducing new anglers to the joys of boat fishing. He is also a keen angler himself enjoying shore fishing in addition to boat fishing.
As we prepared to leave the fishing grounds a huge dolphin rolled close by a sight that thrilled all on board. We sailed back to Beer’s pebbly shoreline where the boat was driven pleasingly into the shore with a jolt before being hoisted up the pebbles over weathered planks of timber. A well-practiced routine plied by many generations of Beer fisherman.
On shore day-trippers savoured the last days of sunshine and warmth. Ice-creams and coffee, children launching pebbles into the clear waters with pleasing plops. Those simple pleasures that have been enjoyed by many generations.
It had been a perfect day enjoyed with friends, memories made and vows made to set out on another adventure next year all being well.
All of the South West Lakes Trust trout fisheries continue to be operated under strict Covid 19 restrictions, in line with the current Angling Trust and Government guidelines. At the time of writing the on-site permit huts are not open, so day tickets, season tickets, and boats should be pre-booked online (www.swlakestrust.org.uk/trout-fishing) or via the telephone. Water levels are currently between 60% and 65% full, and water temperatures have now started to drop.
Kennick – The weather conditions have generally been settled (apart from one short spell of very heavy rain) with a couple of mild sunny weeks toward the end of October, when there have been buzzer hatches and a number of fish showing on the surface. Generally intermediate or sinking lines have accounted for many of the fish caught, either on nymphs (Damsels, Montanas, Diawl Bachs and Buzzers) or lures (Cats Whiskers, Boobies and Baby Dolls), with only the occasional fish rising to a dry Daddy or Orange Hopper. The fish have been well distributed around the lake, although The Narrows and Clampitts Bay proved popular locations for both boat and bank anglers.
Matthew Simpson (from Exeter) caught the best fish of the month – a 4lb 5oz rainbow, using a yellow and white Booby fished on a fast sink line. Graham Roberts (from Torquay) caught a 4lb rainbow from a boat deep down in the middle drifts, while Alan Behan (from Plymouth) caught a bag of five rainbows to 3lb 2oz using various patterns on an intermediate line.
Siblyback – Another challenging month’s fishing at Siblyback, with not much insect life in evidence, and few fish showing, although the occasional fish could be tempted by dry patterns when the wind was low. Buzzers, Pheasant Tail and Montana nymphs fished on intermediate lines produced the best results, with some deeper lying fish taking Baby Dolls and Black and White Fritz patterns. Crylla Bay, Stocky Bay and the West Bank were the most productive locations. The best fish caught varied between 2lbs and 3lbs – Phil Messenger-Roberts (from St Austell) caught a 2lb 9oz rainbow, while William Brown caught two rainbows of 2lb 8oz.
Burrator – Although there has been little insect activity and few fish showing on the surface, apart from the occasional evening rise to midge hatches, anglers have still favoured floating lines fished in conjunction with a wide variety of nymph patterns (Damsels, Montanas, Buzzers, Diawl Bachs and Bloodworms being the most popular). Longstone, Sheepstor, Discovery Bay and Pig Trough Bay were the most productive locations, with most fish being caught by bank anglers. Robert Prout (from Plymouth) caught the best fish of the month – a 3lb 2oz rainbow caught using a floating line and 18’ leader. Sam Brown (from Plymouth) caught two rainbows of 2lb and 3lb.
Stithians – The fish have been well spread out around the lake, with anglers catching fish in most locations (Yellowort and Mossopps in particular). Floating and intermediate lines have been the most successful, with the fish still feeding near the surface – toward the end of the month in particular, there was plenty of insect activity and fish feeding from the surface, when dry sedges, daddies, emergers, beetles and hoppers all produced good catches; otherwise, slow-fished nymphs (Damsels, Diawl Bachs and Buzzers) proved to be successful. Phil Messenger-Rogers (from St Austell) caught rainbows to 2lb 4oz, while Simon Peters (from Cusgarne) caught ten rainbows to 2lb in two visits, and John Hedges (from Falmouth) caught three rainbows to 2lb.
Colliford – The fish are still near the surface and looking up to feed, although sometimes the rises have been sporadic, with short bursts of activity. As usual at Colliford, the fish are well spread out, and the successful angler keeps on the move to cover as much bank as possible. Hoppers, Beetles, Daddies, Black Gnats and Sedges have been popular surface patterns, while sub-surface feeders have taken Hares Ears, Montanas, Soldier Palmers and Diawl Bachs. Dean Boucher (from Gunnislake) caught five browns to 2lb 8oz (best fish of the season at Colliford) using Foam Beetles and Red Hoppers, and another brown of 2lb 4oz on a separate visit; Chris Tilyard (from Fraddon) caught three browns to 38cm.
Fernworthy – The fish have generally been near the surface, so floating lines with a long leader have been the order of the day with dry patterns working well (Black Gnats, Grey Wulffs, Klinkhammers and Hoppers in particular). Otherwise slow-fished sub-surface nymphs (Damsels, Diawl Bachs, Buzzers and Montanas) have proved successful, with fish well spread out around the lake. Clive Garland (from Tiverton) caught five browns to 36cm using a Balloon Caddis with a slow retrieve; Howard Thresher (from Crediton) caught six browns to 35cm using a floating line and static/slow retrieve.
Roadford – Daveys Bank, Wortha Bay and Grinnacombe have proved to be the most productive locations this month, with a floating line and a variety of retrieval methods producing the best results. Dries (Daddy Longlegs, Foam Beetles), Nymphs (Pheasant Tails, Buzzers, Damsels and Hares Ears), and Lures (Appetisers and Black Tadpoles) all caught fish. The best fish caught during the month was a cracking 3lb 8oz brown caught by Michael John Tregoning (from Wadebridge), while John Isaac (from Newquay) caught a bag of five browns to 3lb 4oz.
Please visit the South West Lakes Trust website (www.swlakestrust.org.uk/trout-fishing) for details on ticket prices, fishery information, clubs, competitions, and boat availability.
Chris Hall (October 2021)
As temperatures drop and the days grow shorter the smaller stillwater trout fisheries offer exciting sport. Bulldog fishery near Barnstaple are building a reputation for quality hard fighting trout that are regularly stocked into double figures.
(Above) Tom Early stocks the latest trout in Bulldog fisheries trout lake.
“Summers out, big fish in! A few of the many fish we stocked in the fly lake here at Bulldog today! Ranging from 2lb- 10lb we think the anglers in the weeks to come will be very happy with the lumps that will be coming out!”
Combe Martin SAC member Jamie Steward enjoyed a great session in the estuary landing close to thirty flounder with several fish over 1lb 8oz. Pick of the session was this fine 2lb specimen.
There is always a feeling of intense anticipation as a visit to Chew Valley lake approaches. The vast water undoubtedly holds numerous pike of a lifetime but the reality is that such fish are hard to come by. Catching a big pike is like most specimen fishing a combination of being in the right place at the right time. A slice of luck can play its part and ensuring that everything is in place for when connection is made seals the deal.
I was very fortunate to have been invited to join my good friend Bruce Elston who had secured tickets to fish the boat trials. Early October and the weather was set fair with a blue sky and calm waters.
Due to other commitment’s, I didn’t arrive until late morning and climbed into the boat to find that Bruce had boated two jacks and had several follows. We started off with a bit of trolling using Bruce’s electric outboard. After a short while Bruce boated a jack of 5lb or so which was an encouraging start.
The rest of the day was spent using varied tactics. Anchoring up for periods we put out a float fished dead-bait and searched around the boat using various lures. I experimented with some of my soft plastic bass lures and had a few hits without contacting the culprits. A change to a bright orange shad pattern also brought a few tugs, pulls and follows from small jacks and trout.
We also enjoyed spells drifting with a dead-bait suspended a few feet above the bottom whilst searching with the lures.
As evening approached and the sun sank lower we savoured the scene. We chatted about lures and I dug a bright orange and yellow spring dawg from my old lure bucket. “They have gone out of fashion” commented Bruce. A few moments later a jack hit the lure and was brought to the boat side. To my relief it saved me unhooking it by erupting from the water to shower us in spray, shaking the hooks free. I was pleased to have avoided a blank trip.
The cry of Bruce’s reel alerted us that a pike had taken a mackerel dead-bait. I watched hoping that this would be a big un as Bruce set the hooks. Unfortunately, it was another jack. A few moments later I boated my second pike of the day a small jack of a couple of pounds tempted on a wobbled smelt.
As the sun slowly sank we were forced to head back to the lodge another enjoyable day chasing dreams and creating memories.
Friendships are a vital part of angling and it is always great to maintain those long lasting bonds with a trip to the water’s edge. Garry, Rob, Ray and I were once part of South West Waters Game Fishing Team who travelled the length and breadth of England fishing in the annual Water Industry Game Fishing Competition (WIGFIC). We have tried to maintain the tradition of an annual fly fishing trip ever since our participation in the event ceased several years ago.
After a long lull due partially to COVID the Old Fisher Farts set off for a weekend at Wimbleball Lake staying at the delightful old Exmoor pub The George at Brompton Regis.
We assembled at the ticket hut at around 8:30am and cooked up an open air breakfast of sausage and bacon sarnies before heading out to cast our lines. Rob and I for the shoreline and Garry and Ray to the boats to be greeted by the ever helpful Trevor.
Conditions seemed ideal with a gentle breeze and light cloud cover. Despite this the trout proved hard to tempt with just a couple of hard fighting rainbows and wild browns succumbing to my lures fished on an intermediate line.
We met up at lunch time for another fry up and a chat.
Garry had managed a couple of rainbows but Ray and Rob had yet to catch. Spirits were still high despite the uncooperative trout and we set off refreshed and eager. With me joining Ray in the boat whilst Garry enjoyed a few hours on the bank.
The afternoon drifted past with me adding another couple of rainbows to the tally along with a beautiful wild brown of around a pound. Mid-afternoon Ray hooked a good rainbow that to my alarm caused him to almost stumble overboard! I think Garry added another rainbow to the score from the bank whilst Rob remained fishless.
As the sun slowly sank we headed back to the pub for a well-earned meal and a pint or two. Back in the early 1990’s we had been part of a winning team securing overall victory in the WIGFIC competition held at Wessex Waters Sutton Bingham Reservoir near Yeovil. In the intervening years since we have fished many times without repeating that victory. Back then as young men working in the Water Industry we undoubtedly talked a far different agenda. Close to thirty years later we discuss our medications and ailments and have more in common with the elderly gents in “The Last of The Summer Wine” and suffer occasional bouts of Victor Meldrew like grumpiness! The tales of days and colleagues some long gone bounced across the pub table. Memories of younger days rekindled once again.
In years gone by evenings in the pub would have endured into the early hours with last orders signalling close of play. These days catching the end of News at Ten signals a late night!
Next morning when we arrived lakeside where the lake was hidden in dense early morning mist. A bright calm sunny day was forecast so we suspected that the fishing would be even more difficult. Admiring the morning splendour as we chugged out on calm waters having elected to use boats. Catching trout seemed to be secondary as the new day dawned and a brilliant blue sky was unveiled, trees emerging from the mist dissolving in the warmth of the rising sun.
The tree shrouded Upton Arm of Wimbleball Lake is one of my favourite areas to fish. We resumed the days fishing searching the water with various lures. The morning proved frustrating with numerous good trout following the flies before turning away tantalisingly close to the boat.
By late morning Rob and I met with Garry and Ray to discuss tactics and decided on a move to the far end of the lake where we had enjoyed some success the previous day. We also knew that a fresh stocking had been made in the area so hoped a few uneducated fish would grant us success.
In the shallows we found the trout attacking fry sending tiny fish scattering to break the calm waters surface. Casting into the shoreline I tempted a small brown trout and secured a hard fighting rainbow. Rob also hooked a good fish that threw the hook after a pleasing encounter. Retrieving lures briskly with a roly-poly retrieve brought several follows from some impressive looking trout including a blue trout that looked a good five pound plus. A few brief hook ups kept us casting until we eventually conceded defeat at around 6:30pm the sun slowly setting to close what had been a magnificent autumn day.
Our lack of catching was certainly nothing to do with a lack of trout in the lake for the stocking of Wimbleball is regular and often with fin perfect rainbows that will take you to the backing. Large waters like Wimbleball are my favourite trout waters for success is sometimes hard earned but all the more rewarding for that.
Once again we resumed tales of bygone days at the pub that evening. Eagerly plotting future forays and discussing the state of the world.
After a delicious Full English on the Sunday morning, we set off for home another collection of memories etched upon our minds. The Old Fisher Farts will hopefully reunite in the spring of 2022.