Wistlandpound – Continues to fish well for wild brownies

The path to the water

Wistlandpound Continues to drop quickly as predominantly dry conditions continue across the region. The exposed banks are white with dying blanket weed as more areas become exposed. The water remains clear with extensive weed growth in shallow areas that does not impede the fishing to any extent.

I spent a couple of hours during late evening and brought six lovely browns averaging 10″ to hand all taking small black and silver spider patterns fished slowly with a floating line and fine tippet. The lake was calm and ringed by the rising trout and rudd.

A brace of carp on the fly rod

A warm breeze with high clouds drifting across the late Spring sky. Bird song filled the air and the countryside has reached that moment in time when everything is lush, fresh and vibrant.
It is always good to escape to the water’s edge and a few hours was all I could manage for this visit to Bideford Angling Clubs carp lake. Karen’s lake opened in June 2019 and has matured into a wonderful lake in the three years that have followed.

https://www.bidefordanddistrictanglingclub.com

Steve Bailey, Jude Gubb- Bideford Town Council, Paul Carter E.A, Karen Slade, Pete Skinner

Bideford Club Opens – Karens Lake


In fact, looking back at the opening day pictures it was a similar day to that on this recent visit.


I had visited the lake a week previously and caught one carp on the surface and with limited time and warm conditions I hoped that surface tactics would again bring rewards.
I catapulted out a few floaters on arrival and set up two sets of gear. A modern floater set up with an artificial dog biscuit and a 7 weight fly rod, floating line and a deer hair dog biscuit imitation.
I sat back and poured a coffee watching the surface for signs of feeding carp. It wasn’t long before there were a few swirls.
With the fish within range of the fly rod it was this option I chose putting the fly out just past the weed where several carp could be seen slurping down the floating baits.
This was exciting visual fishing as the carp cruised in the clear water clearly visible with the help of a good pair of polaroid’s to reduce the surface glare. A couple of fish moved into the left of my swim and I put the fly in amongst the free offerings. A good sized carp swam slowly towards the baits slurping down several of the free offerings before treating my fly with disdain.
Another carp swam purposefully towards the fly. Its orange lips opened, the fly disappeared and I set the hook! The surface erupted as the carp surged away diving for sanctuary. With large weed beds all around I was determined to keep the fish on as short a line as possible and piled on as much pressure as I dared. The 7-wt rod was straining as the reel spun as I attempted to slow the carps first run. It’s surprising just how much pressure you can apply with a fly rod if you have the confidence.
A few tense minutes followed as the tussle ebbed and flowed. The carps bronzed flanks gleaming in the sunlight as I coaxed it towards the waiting net. I breathed a sigh of relief as the fish came over the net cord. I secured the net and ensured that the unhooking mat was wet along with the weigh sling. The scales recorded a weight of 21lb 6oz my biggest carp on the fly.

21lb 6oz Carp on the fly

I was grateful to see two club members arrive at the entrance gate opposite and called them over to capture an image. It is always good to share the joy of success.


After a short break to savour and reflect upon success I continued to put out free offerings. By now the carp were a little more wary and I missed several chances as the fish managed to eject the fly before I could make contact.
I had a few tries with the floater rod further out but by now the Canada geese had got an appetite for floaters and each time I cast the heavy float headed straight for my set up.


The fly rod could be wielded without attracting the geese and I switched back to these tactics partly because of this and because the fly rod was far more exciting and rewarding.
My time was running out as early afternoon arrived and last cast time was approaching and had in fact gone when a couple of fish appeared slurping down a few floaters to my left.
The fly disappeared; the reel sang its song the rod took on an alarming curve and a few minutes later 12lb of mirror carp lay safely in the net.


A brace of carp on the fly is a great morning’s fishing and a reminder that fly fishing is not just a quirky tactic but on its day a very successful one.

Migratory Fish other than salmon !

Whilst the Rivers are very low a few migratory fish are still forging upriver. An encouraging story has been two rare shad caught by anglers fishing the Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats on the River Taw. Several of this herring like fish were caught last year an indication that there is a breeding population surviving on the river. Next month it is likely that anglers will see spawning sea lamprey digging redds into the river bed. These prehistoric creatures seem to doing well on both the Taw and Torridge.

Casting Into North Devon’s Rapid Streams

A couple of hours wading upriver passed all too quickly on a North Devon stream. It proved frustrating at time with the river very low and clear making it difficult to approach the pools without spooking the trout that could be seen darting away as I approached.

Flicking a bushy dry fly into the streamy water at the head of pools and runs rewarded me with a couple of beautiful wild browns of around 10″ and 8″.

www.nigelnunnflies.com

The lush green growth and abundant bird life of the river valley in late spring is undoubtedly England at its best.

The water I fished is South Molton & District Angling Club water on the River Bray. I picked a book of my bookshelf ” Trout Fishing On Rapid Streams”, by H.C. Cutcliffe FRCS, Published in 1883 the book comprises A Complete System of fishing the North Devon streams and their like.
In the preface of the book the author mentions David Bale, now I think a letter-carrier, residing at High Bray. He is the best worm fisher I ever saw, and forever, is a most civil, indeed I may say polite man, truthful and honest and will be found a most respectable and well informed companion to the fishermen, who, I Trust will not forget to well acknowledge the merits of honest old David, now I fancy, not over well provided with the good things of this life”. The picture above shows High Bray Church upon the hill. It is reassuring to think that I fished the waters that David Bale cast his worm into over a century ago and the trout that I tempted would be direct descendants. Long may these rivers continue to thrive with their crimson spotted trout.

“In getting at these several little holes and currents, dont be afraid of your knees: keep down close to mother earth: go on your knees or crawl on your stomach; remember the trout is there, and you can catch him if you work properly and do not frighten him away.” These words of wisdom apply equally today!

Snap shots from the waters edge

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North Devon has a vast range of waters to fish with an abundance of different species to target. Below are a few snap shots from the Water Edge,

The dwindling waters of Wistlandpound on a late spring evening.

A typical Wistlandpound brownie; great fun on a 5 wt.

(Above) An unsuccessful trip to the coast with the lure rod the sea full of suspended weed; but it was still good to breath in the salty air.

(Above) A short morning session resulted in this mirror carp at Bideford Clubs Karens Lake.

(Below)

Sometimes its good to get back to basics. James joined me for a session at Jennetts watching a crimson topped float close to the water Lily’s. Watching the float disappear was a delight and resulted in small roach, skimmers and a tackle twisting eel that reminded me of my younger days when these slimy tackle twisters were a common feature of catches.

Bratton Water – Wistlandpound Club Monthy Competition

Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club visited Bratton Water for their monthly competition and all those attending caught their three fish limit despite challenging conditions. It was a beautiful day to be beside the water but a bright blue sky and crystal clear water are always likely to prove difficult. The margins were alive with tadpoles, lush greenery all-around the occasional mayfly hatching. A perfect day in early May; is there a better place to be than England in late spring?

The trout could be seen cruising slowly just beneath the surface with the occasional fish slurping down surface flies. Shortly after arriving I dropped a  goldhead PTN on the nose of a cruising trout that took the fly without hesitation. A pleasing brown trout of over 2lb.  This proved to be   the exception for I failed to get another take for a couple of hours.

A fresh stocking of trout were introduced whilst we were fishing. I did not move to this area for a while but eventually moved to the half of the lake that had been stocked. With the help of polaroid glasses I observed a shoal of freshly stocked trout and dropped  the PTN into their midst. There was a swirl on the first drop and on the second connection with a rainbow of around 1lb 8oz. I fished on in this spot for 15 minutes or so but the trout appeared to have wised up taking no notice of the fly.

By now my fellow members had bagged up fishing from the dam. I decided to move and drop my fly amongst a fresh selection of trout. A couple of casts and couple of follows then a good brown turned, the white of its mouth showing as the stillwater dinkhammer moved ( dry fly indicator) I lifted the rod and watched the trout react in the clear water. After a spirited tussle the fish was safely in the net.

It was time to weigh in.

Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club – May Competition Result

1st Wayne Thomas  3 trout 6lb 10oz

2nd – Colin Combe 3 trout 6lb 9oz

3rd David Eldred 3 trout 4lb 14oz

Short Sessions with Brown Trout

A cool South West wind ruffled the surface of Wistlandpound and mist descended upon the tree lined perimeter as I waded out into the lake. I had left the rod set up since my last visit with a black tadpole on the point and small black pennel variant on a dropper. I commenced to search the water and after ten minutes hooked into my first brown trout of the evening a valiant scrapper of perhaps 10″. This was only a short session but proved to a good one. During the next hour I banked ten trout up to 12″ and on one cast even managed a brace with one on each fly.

I wondered if the rudd would still be present in the shallow inlet and wandered up for a cast or two. Six rudd later I returned to the trout area and added another brownie to the total as the light faded from the day.

The following morning I decided to head for a short session on the Torridge once again targeting brown trout as with river levels now very low there was little chance of a salmon.

It was a delight to be wading in the cool waters with lush green growth all around. I started out with a new Zealand style set up and hooked a brown trout of perhaps 8oz after a few casts but it came adrift after a brief tussle.

It was good to see plenty of fry darting about in the margins and a few toad tadpoles. I was hoping to spot a few rising fish but they were very few and far between. At the top of the beat I changed over to a pair of nymphs and tried drifting these over promising lies to no avail. With only a short time left a few fish started to rise and I hastily changed over to a dry fly. I flicked the fly into the streamy run where I had spotted the rising fish. A glance at the time and I realised that my time was almost up.  One more cast… a splashy rise and I was into a 12″ brownie to save a blank session.

One of the joys of fly fishing is the lack of preparation required. Just pick up the rod and head to the waters edge.

A Short Session at Wistlandpound

As I walked down to the dam at Wistlandpound I was surprised to see just how low the reservior was so early in the season. After a long dry spring and a relatively dry winter it will need a lot of rain to regain the levels with water pumped from the River Bray near Challacombe.

This was only a short session that was to prove far more productive than I expected. I tied a small black lure on the point and black spder pattern to a dropper. Walking to the point on the West Bank I started putting out a line and started a slow retrieve. After each cast I took a step to my right planning to cover plenty of water. After half a dozen casts I was encouraged by a boil on the surface as a fish swirled at the fly without connecting.

A few cast later came a solid tug as I connected with a brown trout that gave a spirited account spending plenty of time leaping high out of the water before coming to hand. During the next 45 minutes another five trout followed all pristine looking fish of around 10″.

I decided to walk to the far end close to the inlet to see if any rudd were showing. After a couple of casts another brown trout siezed the fly and was brought protesting to Hand. I caught sight of swirls close to the weeds and put the flies into the area. The line pulled tight and I lifted into my first rudd of the season. During the next thirty minutes a dozen or so rudd were brought to hand. These were beautiful fish the light bouncing off their scales and fins glowing red. Th size of the rudd was encouraging with the average size bigger than those caught last year. The best was around 12oz and I have heard runours of fish well over 1lb.

I walked briskly back to the car after a short but rewarding session.

A Successful Cast

The river was running low and clear as I  threaded the line through the rings tying one of Nigel Nunn’s scruffy dry fly creations to a fine leader. It was a cool calm overcast evening and no fish appeared to be rising as I watched the water.

www.nigelnunnflies.com

            Lambs pranced in the fields, spring flowers lined the banks and birdsong filled the air. With life throwing a few challenges the river gave a welcome relief as I waded carefully into the clear water. I was using a light weight Snowbee classic rod and flicked the dry fly up stream focusing on the buoyant fly as it alighted and drifted down.

            I have never enjoyed a great deal of success casting into calm still pools on these small rivers with fish far more liable to slip up in the streamy fast water at the pool’s heads or deeper runs.

            Searching the water as I waded and scrambled as stealthily as I could upstream; a true tonic fully focussing the mind upon the moment. The bushy fly bobbed buoyantly and I was heartened to raise a couple of smallish trout that I failed to connect with. Threading the back cast between overhanging branches proved challenging at times but tangles were few and my rhythm felt good as the fly alighted repeatedly in promising spots.

            The living river valley filled the senses, wild garlic in full flower its pleasing scent released from time to time as it was crushed underfoot. Carpets of bluebells beneath the trees with vivid fresh green starting to show. Ferns were unfurling and bird song drifted across the valley with activity all around as parent birds searched for food.

            I had covered perhaps half a mile of water when I flicked the fly into a streamy run.

A swirl on the surface, a flick of the wrist and that delightful connection. The light rod pulsed in my hand as the fish fought in the strong current. I relished the moments and was thrilled when the fish was safely pulled over the rim of the net. I admired its spotted flanks, slipping the barbless fly from its jaws  grabbed a picture of a 12” beauty, holding the fish for a moment in the flow.

It disappeared  with a flick of its tail, gone from whence it had come a vision etched upon the minds eye.

            I continued my search for  another half an hour before walking back to the car as the evening light began to fade. I glanced under the old bridge and thought about exploring the river below next time.

The western sky glowed pink over the horizon as I drove home and I thought of the coast and casting a lure to bass in the fading light or maybe waiting for a smoothound to scream away.

South Molton Angling Club – River Work & Litter Pick

I joined four members of South Molton Angling to undertake some work clearing debris from a stretch of the River Bray near Brayford.

Parking in an adjacent lay-by we were dismayed to find it strewn with litter that had been casually discarded by a section of society that appears to have no shame. Fortunately club Chairman Eddie Rands had a couple of fertiliser sacks in his pick up truck and after ten minutes or so we had cleared the vast majority of the offending material. It is sickening to see this total lack of respect for our beautiful countryside.

In the nearby woods a carpet of bluebells carpeted the slopes as welcome rain fell in the valley giving valuable water to boost the lush spring growth.

In the river we tackled a large trash dam that had built up behind a tree that had succumbed to the winter storms. We trimmed the mass of branches and roots opening up a small pool that will hopefully harbour a few trout that we may tempt with a carefully presented fly. A quick look over the rocks of the riverbed revealed plenty of caddis and a few clusters of bullhead eggs.

We chatted at length about the health of local rivers and the once prolific runs of fish. Stories of poachers that once stole fish from the rivers were exchanged and whilst tales of the fish these rogues killed were sad the fact that the fish are no longer there to steal is even sadder.

The problems that beset our rivers are both complex and many. Understanding the issues is perhaps the start of putting things right.