TWENTY FOUR HOURS AT LOWER TAMAR LAKE

Twelve months or so ago I stood on the dam at Lower Tamar Lake watching several large carp basking in the Spring sunshine. I promised myself that when I had more time I would return and invest some quality time into pursuing fish. Twelve months on I have done just that and returned tackle loaded and ready to cast.

https://www.swlakestrust.org.uk/lower-tamar

On arrival at the lake the sun is shining across this large shallow expanse of water that was created as a feeder for Bude Canal back in the 1820’s. The depths in the lake vary from 8ft to 3ft and my guess is that fish movement may be influenced by wind direction, water temperature, food availability and angling pressure.

The choice of swim is not easy as three other anglers are already in position and a quick chat with them reveals that the fishing has been slow with just one carp banked by them in the past twenty four hours.

My aim is to catch carp or a double figure bream and realisation soon dawns that this is not a forgone conclusion and any rewards will have to be earned. After a stroll around the Lake, it was gut instinct that made me choose to fish the swim at the far end of the dam that would give access to deeper water.

The barrow was loaded and pushed to the swim where I was to spend the next 24hours. Ominous clouds were building as I hurriedly erected my oval brolly shelter and bed chair, stowing those items that needed to be kept dry beneath in preparation for the oncoming rain.

I cast around with a marker float that revealed that I had seven foot of water at fifty yards. The next thirty minutes was spent launching a few spod’s full of particles to the zone I intended to place my baits. Two rods with wafters and one with a method feeder baited with a couple of grains of artificial corn.

The rods were cast out as the rain began to pour down, the sky taking on a grey and foreboding tone.

I took shelter beneath the canvas and began the vigil watching the days weather pass by with traps set. Strange how time flies as the contemplation and observation occupy the mind.

As the rain beats down swallows and martins swoop low over the water. Ducks and ducklings busy about and a grebe hunts far out in the lake. As the rain eases warm sunshine illuminates the scene transforming the vista to that of summer. A buzzer hatch brings a frenzy of activity from the summer migrants. The swallows and martins are joined by the delightful sight of swifts twisting and turning in the blue sky a sure confirmation that Spring is turning relentlessly towards summer.

Afternoon turns to evening and baits are checked and recast. Sausage’s sizzle and hot coffee is enjoyed whilst watching and waiting.

The evening starts to descend and the light fades and with it comes expectation that the alarm will ring out as a fish locates the bait. Wood pigeons coo relentlessly and the hooting of an owl drifts across the stilling waters as the breeze drops away with the coming of night.

Far across the lake the surface is broken by fish but they are beyond my range.

I drift off to sleep the twinkle of farm lights in the distance. Rain patters on the canvas and cool air intrudes into the shelter.  I drift back into sleep. The alarm screams out and the blue light of the Delkim shatters the darkness. I stumble out into my boots, right foot in left and left foot in right! I lift the rod to feel a pleasing weight on the end. I am hoping it’s a big bream as I slowly retrieve a ponderous dead weight. Within yards of the margin’s, it wakes up ripping line from the reel telling me it’s no bream.

A golden flanked mirror carp of 19lb 4oz is a pleasing result and avoids a blank session.

After recasting the rod, I retreat back to the warmth of my sleeping bag. Heavy rain lashes down and I dread another run.

I sleep an interrupted sleep drifting in and out of strange dreams that seem to have been prevalent throughout the previous months of pandemic invoked lockdown. I step out into the night to answer natures call and marvel at the vividly clear star studded night sky and reflect on the fact that this is one of life’s constants virtually unchanged for millions of years.

Dawn breaks and the dawn chorus rings out to greet the day. All is still with a mirror like lake stretching before me. I savour the dawn expectantly but all is quiet. A couple of hours later I boil the kettle and cook up a bacon butty.

A couple of dog walkers take  a stroll and the day unfolds sunshine illuminating the lake as life resumes. I chat to a fellow angler of waters he fishes and swap notes. He has caught one bream of perhaps five pounds in the night and congratulates me on my success.

With heavy rain forecast I slowly pack away already planning my next trips. I intend to catch a carp from each of SWLT’s waters before the year is out and have made a good start. But still need to catch that double figure bream.

Lower Tamar Lake can be a challenging venue but it has many treasures within including carp to over thirty pounds, double figure bream, 2lb plus roach, big perch, tench, trout and eels.

https://www.swlakestrust.org.uk/lower-tamar

https://www.swlakestrust.org.uk/lower-tamar

Bratton Water – South Molton Anglers

I joined a dozen or so members of South Molton Angling Club at the tranquil Bratton Water Trout Fishery for a mornings fishing and chat. This was very much a social event with an opportunity for a mornings fishing. Conditions were perfect for enjoying the scenery and catching up with fellow members but far from ideal for catching trout. The water was crystal clear and the margins alive with tadpoles a fact that encouraged a few members to try small black tadpole type flies.

I had brought along my 10ft 5wt rod and matched it with a floating line and a long leader of 6.5lb fluorocarbon. A small bead head pheasant tail on the point and a black n’ peacock on a dropper. This was cast out and allowed to sink before retrieving very slowly watching the line intently for any twitches. I missed a few but caught my bag of 3 rainbows within two hours then proceeded to chat for a while with fellow members about things country and fishy.

Strange how you perceive that you have found the right method to find that other have caught using a totally different fly and retrieve.

Rob Kingdon with pleasing bag of Bratton Water Trout

It was time to head home and cook up a Sunday dinner of fresh trout!

Torridge Fly Fishing Club – Gammaton Reservoirs

We called into Summerlands Tackle shop to pick up our Permits for Gammaton Reservoirs and It brought home to me the vitally important role these establishments play in bringing anglers together. Mooching around the shop was long-time friend, angler and local guitar maestro Jim Crawford. We exchanged greetings and once again talked of a joining up for a long awaited foray beside a mysterious tree lined carp water.

Parking up at Gammaton memories flooded back of a time many years ago when I came here to work with the South West Water Authority. The two reservoirs used to provide water to Bideford via a water treatment plant consisting of slow sand filters. A labour intensive process that employed a small team lead by the resident Superintendent who would now of course be a manager. Charlie was a hard working countryman who lived in the water workers cottage. The garden was neat and tidy with rows of runner beans and a few spuds, a vision of Beatrix Potter’s Mr Mc-Gregor’s garden. My memory imagines pink roses somewhere in the garden though the mists of time perhaps enhance the vision.

The house still remains, and some of the old infrastructure still lingers from the water works but the old wooden work mans shed is long gone. A place where we would take a lengthy tea break or shelter from the rain. Charlie was a hard worker and took a great pride in the water works and the reservoirs. I remember the old Allen Scythe grass mowers that would be used to keep the grass dam trimmed. Old hand bill hooks were still used and honed sharp with a carborundum stone. I well remember talking with Charlie about the weather expressing concern about a particularly dry spell. “ Nature has its way of balancing out he told me; rainfall levels tend to average out throughout the year”.

When I started with the water board over forty years ago it seemed a very different world. Charlie and the water board men worked in a stable environment that had flowed along for decades where time seemed abundant. The water flowed from the two reservoirs gravitated through the old filters, a bit of chloros was added to kill the bugs and the water was distributed to the people of Bideford. In the summer the grass was trimmed and in the winter the ditches were kept clean and the fences mended. If it was wet the Allen Scythe would be oiled and maintained its blades sharpened. The old wooden shed would smell of oily rags and topics of the day would be discussed over a cuppa.

No spreadsheets, no technology except the landline that was linked to a bell on the side of the shed.

I digress in a bit of reminisce brought about by the location and the fact that I Leave SWW next week after close to forty two years. Besides it is worth recording a memory of times gone by before its gone.

Above the dam little has changed over the years. It’s the last day of April and primroses line the banks. Fresh growth burst forth from the trees and birdsong emanates all around. Lambs skip about in adjacent fields and the panorama of North Devon stretches out beneath a bright blue sky.

The fishing is controlled by Torridge Fly Fishing Club established in 1959, day tickets can be purchased from Summerlands Tackle permitting visiting anglers to keep three fish at a reasonable cost of £20. The trout are predominantly rainbow’s averaging 2lb to 4lb stocked by Bulldog Trout Fishery.

Several anglers were fishing when James and I arrived and made us very welcome offering much advice on flies and tactics.

We started on the lower dam searching the water with a floating line and long leader. The water was crystal clear rippled by a cold North wind that had prevailed throughout this April. A few fish broke the surface beyond casting range and after half an hour we decided to move to a promising looking area that had been made vacant by a successful angler.

The water here was deeper and I cast with greater confidence. After ten minutes James exclaimed surprise as a rainbow erupted from the water on a tight line surging away at speed the rod arching in battle. After a few tense minutes a full tailed rainbow of close to four pounds was safely in the net and given the last rites. The catching of the trout was given additional provenance as the rod James was using was the treasured possession of James fiancée’s grandpa who loved fly fishing for trout in the reservoirs close to London. A nine foot six inch Silver Creek Reservoir rod that has a rather forgiving soft action in line with the time it was manufactured.

Ten minutes later another rainbow was hooked by James and promptly threw the hook. By this time, I had not had a pull and was wondering what I was doing wrong. A feeling that was added to when James added a second rainbow to his tally.

Several small yet handsome perch seized our flies between trout bringing a bit of variance with their pleasingly smart defiant manner.

Persistence paid off eventually and the line zipped tight as a pleasing and very hard pulling rainbow seized my blue flash damsel.

As the afternoon passed I suggested we wander up to the top lake and try our luck. The familiar path had not changed over the years as it lead us to the slightly more open top lake.

The water here appeared deeper and I was confident of success especially when I spied the bent rod of a fellow angler on the far bank.

After ten minutes my line pulled tight and another fighting fit rainbow was brought to the net. Followed a cast later by another stunning fish of close to four pounds that pulled beyond its size.

With my bag completed it was time to relax and take in the view. I took the camera for a walk and captured the scene as swallows swooped in the cool evening air.

James persisted trying for his third trout but it seemed that luck had deserted him for the day and eventually after several last casts he decided it was time to head off for portions of fish and chips on the way home.

And so ended another almost perfect day in an angling life especially so in sharing it with James after a long break from fishing together in part due to the COVID times we have all endured.

Evening brings prizes of gold and silver

I took a stroll around Wistlandpound Resevoir rod in hand as afternoon drifted into evening beneath a cloudless blue sky. It was good to be out enjoying these longer Spring evenings as birdsong fills the air and fresh growth is bursting forth all around. With just a few flies in my waistcoat pocket, a net on my back and a five weight rod I had no intention to stay in one place.

It felt good to cast a line out across the calm water. A small bead headed PTN on the point and small black spider on a dropper. The open bank brought no interest in the flies so I moved on to the inlet shallows where shoals of Rudd were cruising amongst the weed. I flicked the flies into a passing shoal and watched a red finned Rudd divert to converge with the fly. The line zipped tight and a colourful Rudd was brought to hand. Flanks of burnished gold and silver, fins of crimson red a pleasing prize that was quickly followed up with another sparkling jewel.

I moved on and began a search of the windward bank casting the flies out and allowing them to drift around in an ark taking  a step along the foreshore with each cast. Suddenly the line zipped tight and the rod took on a pleasing curve as a wild brownie dashed to and fro.

A pristine wild brown trout slipped into the net. The barbless spider slipped easily from its jaws, I admired its golden spotted flanks illuminated in the evening sun as I slipped it back into the gin clear water.

To book online visit –https://www.swlakestrust.org.uk/book-now#e

IN SEARCH OF RAINBOWS

Wimbleball Lake high on Exmoor has earned a reputation as one of the West Country’s Premier Fly Fishery’s with its hard fighting full tailed rainbows and immaculate wild browns attracting anglers from far and wide. This recent upturn in fortune has been delivered by Mark Underhill his wife Trudi and their family team who continue to build on the venue’s attractiveness as an angling venue.

I was fortunate to join with Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce and Angling Journalist Dominic Garret at Rainbow Valley Trout Farm prior to a day’s fishing. The farm situated beside the pristine River Exe supplies quality rainbows to Stillwater trout fisheries across the UK including Rutland, Grafham, Pittsford numerous South West lakes including Kennick and of course Wimbleball.

The Trout Farming industry has had a difficult decade or so as market forces, the challenges of climate change and ever increasing demand for water has increased the need for legislation.

I arrived at the trout farm fifteen minutes or so before time and it was appropriate that a faint rainbow arched across the valley as the morning sun illuminated the scene.

I chatted with Mark about future plans and life in general for a few minutes until Jeff and Dom arrived. We then embarked upon a brief and fascinating tour of the trout farm. The first impression was of the cleanliness of the incoming water flowing in through a fast flowing leat. Within this swam an impressive number of rainbow trout that were destined for stocking out into Wimbleball. The trout are kept here for a while in a sort of strength and conditioning period ensuring they are fighting fit before stocking out. Mark tossed trout pellets into the water where they were eagerly devoured in a swirling frenzy.

We walked slowly around the stew ponds listening intently to Marks fascinating explanation of fish rearing and its many complex issues. An in depth understanding of the environment was apparent as we discussed the challenges posed by invasive species such as signal crayfish and Himalayan balsam. Whilst the numbers of trout were considerable the stew ponds were large and the fish in superb condition.

The four of us could have spent many hours discussing the world of angling and beyond but the sight of the trout and the call of the lake was strong.

The journey to Wimbleball required us to take a scenic route as a result of numerous road improvement schemes across the area. A trio of anglers took a ride through the twisting and turning roads of Devon and Somerset. Pretty hamlets and villages, trees in blossom and glimpses of streams and ponds brought thoughts of future explorations that will probably never see the light of day.

We assembled on the Wimbleball shoreline where we were joined by Dom’s friend Charles Halliday, who runs the Fishwish angling coaching business. a keen kayaker who had agreed upon the comfort of boat for this day afloat. We eagerly and loaded our gear into the boats deciding that we would all head for the Bessoms end of the reservoir and hopefully catch a few rainbows to start the day.

Early in the season bank fishers often out fish the boats if they can locate the fish. The big advantage with the boat is that you can cover plenty of water by drifting over a wide area. If this fails to work you can completely relocate to a different area of the lake within a short time.

There was a cool wind blowing into the bay as we drifted and conditions seemed perfect so it was surprising when the fish proved elusive. For an hour we all failed to get even a pull but persistence eventually paid off when we saw Dom’s rod bending as a fighting fit rainbow dashed about on a tight line.

Jeff and I continued to search the water varying fly choice and depth. Jeff persisted with a floating line and team of imitative patterns. We both had a couple of tugs at the fly before Jeff was in action the rod hooping over in a pleasing sign of success. A rainbow of around 3lb had got us off the mark.

Confidence is key especially on a hard day and I tend to stick with a small selection of flies and lures that I have confidence in. I often wonder how many casts are made during a long day on the water my guess is that it must be close to five hundred meaning that the  actual ratio of success is comparatively low. On our day on the lake with four of us fishing we probably made upwards of two thousand casts and actually boated a dozen trout losing around the same number. if you have been casting flies long enough with occasional success there comes a belief that each cast will bring that magical connection. It is undoubtedly that second of delightful connection that keeps us hooked. The bent rod and the singing reel are just the confirmation of success and the netting of the fish the sealing of the deal.

Days fishing always fly past at an alarming rate and this day is no exception. We move around fishing several areas of the lake. Taking in the splendid scenery of rolling farmland, wooded valleys and an ever changing vista of sky and water the light changing as clouds drift high above on the cool North West breeze.

Swallows and martins dart to and fro across the water a sign that warmer days are on the way. Fresh buds are bursting forth on trees and shrubs all around the lake. Whilst mid-April can be cold and a little bleak there is promise in the air that those warmer days of May and June are on the near horizon. The trout will then be feasting on the surface sipping in dries and buzzers.

These early days of the season can bring bumper bags of trout whilst some days can be harder going. The beauty of these bigger waters is that the fishing is not always easy. The fish are earned and success has a greater value because of this. Whilst I enjoy the occasional day on smaller Stillwater’s there is undoubtedly a deeper sense of satisfaction to be found from these vast sheets of water.

The trout of Wimbleball are undoubtedly a worthy prize their full tails giving long searing runs. In addition to the stocked rainbows there are also a good head of wild brown trout some of which have reached an impressive size feasting upon the rudd fry that abound. It would not come as a surprise if someone hooks a double figure wild brown. What a prize that would be!

I look forward eagerly to my next day searching the water with good friends and building upon those tales to tell on future days between fishing forays.

Many thanks to Jeff Pearce and Dominic Garnett for allowing me to share their excellent images on this page.

See Dominic’s enjoyable feature below.

https://dgfishing.co.uk/fly-fishing-on-wimbleball-lake/

A BLAKEWELL BRACE

A week ago it was like summer today, it is like winter as I walk out to the Lake at Blakewell! Hail and snow flakes are driven by the icy North West Wind. A few moments later the sun is shining and the world looks a less hostile place.

I have a two fish complimentary ticket from the Christmas Competition and had not got around to using it as a result of COVID and the lake being closed so I was pleased that Richard & John allowed me to use it after several months. I had a plan to wander around the lake casting to individual fish seeing if I could spot one of the lakes doubles. The water was crystal clear but the gusty wind frequently riffled the surface making spotting fish tricky.

I fished several spots around the lake and failed to get a touch. I tried several patterns without success but did manage to spot a few trout cruising in the bay. A black bead headed lure on a long leader resulted in a twitch on the tip of the fly line. Next cast the line zipped tight and a spirited tussle followed before the fish came adrift! I checked the hook point and all was well. Next cast and again the line zipped tight….off came the trout. Third time lucky I thought when I hooked the next a couple of casts later…off it came. Still at least I had found the right fly and tactic. Ten minutes later the brace was in the bag.

Its always good when you find the right answer and yet I always wonder if the trout had simply switched on for some reason. This thought is reinforced as I walk away and notice that one of the other anglers has a well bent rod. Its mission accomplished anyway with trout for tea and spring proper on the way.

A Gold and Crimson Reward from a sparkling stream

A brilliant blue cloudless sky and a North-East wind are never good for fishing but  despite this it was delightful  exploring this small clear water stream with a New Zealand style set up. This was challenging fishing with no manicured banks and plenty of branches and brambles to snare the flies. As I worked up stream flicking the team of flies into the deeper pockets and riffles it was both frustrating and encouraging to see plenty of trout darting for cover as they caught sight of me trying to be stealthy. I feel sure this will be easier in the evening when the sun is lower in the sky.

Two tiny trout succumb to a dry fly, images of perfection in the clear water their flanks a mixture of gold and crimson spots. It is also encouraging to tempt a small salmon par an indication that salmon have successfully spawned in this water during the winter.

The river weaves its way through woodland, fallen trees, lichen draped branches and wild flowers. Deer footprints in the muddy river side. A squirrel scampers across branches watching me warily. Marsh marigolds, primroses and the smell of wild garlic, Is there a better place than beside a trout stream in early spring?

Out of Lockdown Trip to Wimbleball

I took advantage of the partial easing of lockdown on Monday and travelled to Wimbleball Reservoir high on Exmoor in search of the venues hard fighting rainbows. On arrival a cool breeze was blowing and mist shrouded the hills, with sunshine forecast later in the day it was likely that the best sport would come early in the day. The water was certainly cold as I waded out to begin searching the water. A floating line and long leader with small black lures proved effective and soon brought a few pulls before I eventually stayed connected to a hard fighting rainbow of around 3lb. This was followed by two more similar sized fish before midday when the sun broke through as forecast.

The lakes surface reflected the blue sky and shimmered brightly, birdsong reverberated all around, buzzards soared high above and a pair of greater crested grebes flirted in the spring sunshine. The croaking of toads drifted across the water and fresh buds where bursting out from the tips of the bankside trees. There is far more to this fishing lark than catching fish!

As expected the fishing went quiet for a while but a change to an intermediate line in late afternoon brought further action with a wild brown trout and a brace of superb rainbow the biggest estimated at over 6lb.

Throughout the day I changed my flies several times in search of the correct pattern for the moment. I often ponder upon the value of changing patterns and its actual impact on results. The six trout I tempted were tempted on the following patterns; black wooly bugger 2,  Blue flash and olive Damsel 2, black buzzer 1 and orange blob 1. It is important to remember that there are many other factors to take into consideration beyond the choice of fly/lure including feeding depth, light values and rate of retrieve. It is also worth asking the question as to whether we are trying to imitate natural food that forms part of the trout’s diet or trying to stimulate a reaction? Generally early season I tend to go for black or olive and probably had  a black lure of some type or a damsel on the point throughout 95% of the day and fished a team of 3 flies throughout. The biggest fish of the day fell to the orange blob yet I only put this fly on late in the day when I had swapped to an intermediate line and speeded up the retrieve. Most decisions are made on the basis of an educated hunch and for most of my fishing I stick to the tried and trusted though this has changed over the years as patterns have come in and out of vogue.

It is this continual search for the answers that keeps us fishing the fun part is that each day has a different set of questions and different answers.

Beside A Clear Water Stream

Beneath the Bridge

Turning off the busy main road I follow a narrow lane flanked with primroses and fresh green growth. Several old farmsteads are nestled in the valley and it is exciting to be exploring new ground even though it is less than 10 miles from home. I park close to the bridge and walk up to take a look at the clear waters below as the sun shines into the deep clear water.

As I set up a light-weight nymphing outfit buzzards circle high above silhouetted against a blue sky with high white clouds drifting in the brisk westerly wind. I walk slowly up river searching the deeper runs and riffles with a pair of weighted nymphs. It is a delight to be out wading in the cool water and I am sure I will hook at least a couple of small wild browns before the morning is out.

A Clear Water Stream

I flick my flies searching the water exploring each run and riffle. Dippers flit up and down the river, pheasants take off in alarm as I push up through the valley. A sudden movement catches my eye as two deer gallop across the field opposite entering the river fifty yards above where I am  fishing. For a moment they stand transfixed in mid river before dashing away in a flurry of spray to disappear into the woods.

The tree fish steal a couple of flies whilst the trout are elusive, the morning evaporates all too quickly and I send a text to say I will be an hour late home. I catch a fleeting glimpse of  electric blue as a kingfisher flashes past. The occasional fly hatches from the river. Its’ going to be good here in the late spring and early summer. The clocks spring forward tonight and lighter evenings beckon.

As I return to the van a skien of Canada geese fly-overhead their distinctive call echoing across the valley. Half a dozen buzzards are riding the thermals.