Hacche Moor Carp Trip

After my recent carp fishing blank, I was keen to make amends and actually put a carp on the bank. I decided that a change of venue would be a good idea to perhaps break the spell. A quick ring around and I secured a day’s fishing at Hacche Moor Fishery’s Bottom Lake close to South Molton. This lake has been established for several years and has a good head of carp up to 36lb with numerous twenty plus specimens. https://www.hacchemoorfishery.co.uk

On arrival one of the anglers at the lake was already in action playing what looked like a good fish. Eager to get set up I hurried on to choose a suitable swim and did not wait to see what the scales read.

There were four anglers on the lake and two were vacating swims and moving into the swims that I fancied in the prevailing conditions. The two anglers had already fished for three nights and days without a fish so moving into their vacated swims seemed a bit concerning. But it all looked right and the other two angers on the lake had caught indicating that success was likely if the correct approach was adopted.

It was good to be set up and sheltering beneath my brolly confident that a carp would slip up. I fished one rod off the Island and another to my left a rods length from the margin. On the Island rod I fished a Sticky Bait Krill Boilie in conjunction with a small PVA bag of crushed boilie and small krill pellet. On the margin rod I employed a couple of old school baits planning to randomly  alternate bait with each cast.

I settled down to the waiting game changing baits from time to time and scattering a few free offerings around each rig. Swallows swooped over the lake and I relished the summer scene. In the background I could hear the constant buzz of traffic and industrial work at the nearby building site. The sounds reminded me of the outside world not too far from this oasis of calm water amidst lush green life.

Late afternoon and my confidence was ebbing slightly. I decided on a slight modification to my margin set up and slipped a back lead to the line pinning it close to the bottom.

Half an hour later the Delkim sang out the line ripped from the reel and rod bounced in the rests…..after a pleasing battle a handsome mirror was safely in the net. At 14lb 8oz it was no monster by todays standards but very welcome.

With confidence restored I made a fresh coffee and savoured a moment of success. Two hours later the same rod was away again and another fine looking mirror carp was safely netted and posed with me for a quick picture kindly taken by the angler next door. We both thought it would be close to twenty but I was not at all disappointed when the scales told the truth at 17lb 8oz.

With the blank spell broken I can resume my occasional carp fishing with renewed confidence a vital ingredient to success in all fishing. I fished on for another couple of hours until the light began to fade and was delighted to hear a bite alarm ringing out as one of the long stay anglers enjoyed success adding to a fish he had taken earlier in the afternoon whilst I was banking my first fish.

I pondered as I drove home. Did the fish switch on to feed for that period or did pinning the line to lakebed disguise the trap?

The frustration of Carp Fishing

BB wrote of Carp Fishers in his delightful tome “Confessions of a carp fisher”.

“ And then there are carp fishers, or should I say, carp addicts. These are very strange men indeed. Carp Fishing is a must curious form of fishing and calls for a very special turn of mind and character. First there is the quality of patience. Your habitual carp fisher is a man of inexhaustible patience, no angler born has more than he, not even a wild sad eyed heron has greater patience and, I may add, watchfulness.”

Much has changed in the carp fishing world since BB penned confessions in 1950. This was prior to Dick Walker catching the British Record carp of 44lb in 1952.

The days of mystery have by and large gone with carp fishing now big business with many lakes crowded. The methods used for carp fishing have changed dramatically since those far off days revolutionised by the innovations of the eighties and following decades.

I fished with a degree of intensity for carp during the eighties my imagination fired by the literacy of Chris Yates, BB, Walker,  Rod Hutchinson, Kevin Maddox, Tim Paisley and several others.

I return occasionally to carp fishing and have had a succession of blanks in the past twelve months. A couple of trips to Jennets have not seen the alarms screaming out which has to a degree increased the desire to connect again.

On my latest trip I arrived a little later than intended at around 7:30am to see a rod bent into action in the first swim. I knew I should have got up earlier! Still I set up half way along the res and put baits out against the far margin. Whist it seemed right at first I had a nagging feeling to move up  to the  shallower end of the lake.

By midday I was in my new swim and put one bait in the near margin and one to the far bank with a scattering of freebees around each. And so, the wait began again. I often liken carp fishing to a game of chess; the issue is to a degree that there is a board and we make our move but cannot see the pieces on the board or sometimes not even the board! There are so many factors to ponder upon as the wait goes on. Confidence is a major factor for without this doubt creeps in regarding the bait, location, rig etc.

Its not a problem waiting beside a carp lake in summer amid a bouquet of wild summer flowers. The occasional glimpse of a kingfisher and the constant background restful tones of birdsong.

It often goes quiet between 1.00pm and 5.00pm so a lack of action didn’t matter too much until early evening. Shortly after 6.00pm a carp rolled over my baits and expectation grew. I  hovered expectantly and felt sure a chance would come.

Just after 7.00pm the Delkim screamed out the bobbin rose and I jumped to the rod lifting into thin air. This proved to be my only chance of the day and I packed away at 9.00pm.

As I walked back I came across a small group fishing the first two swims one of whom was into a decent fish. They had been fishing since 5.00pm targeting the session over the prime time. After a few moments a handsome common was in the net and pulled the scales to 18lb 6oz. The angler was well known local angler Chris Connaughton who was using Remix Secret pop ups and Lakebed Leads products.

I was very impressed with the care taken with the handling, weighing and photographing of the fish. An important factor in these enlightened days of fishing.

Chris Connaughton who was using Remix Secret pop ups and Lakebed Leads products

As I walked away I pondered on the fact that I had seen two carp caught all day one as I arrived the other as I left. Perhaps twelve hours is not long enough! Or perhaps I should just arrive to fish early morning or late evening ensuring I get there first thing or stay till last thing?

Fathers Day At Wimbleball

Willie Waterston with a 10lb + fish yesterday which took him into the backing 3 times. 

With reports of stunning rainbows to over 10lb and trout feasting on beetles I was keen to get back up  to the beautiful Wimbleball lake again and do battle with its full tailed rainbows. Our son James was entering  a Motorbike Enduro event a few miles away so it seemed a good excuse to meet up for a Father’s Day Picnic combined with a few hours fishing!

I commented to Pauline as we enjoyed the journey across Exmoor’s summer landscape that the fish often went off the feed around midday. An ominous comment as I would probably manage my first casts for around 11:30.

I left Pauline reading her book in the car and hastened to the waters edge looking for  a place that would offer a little shelter from the brisk breeze along with a good chance of fish. Conditions were ideal and I soon found the perfect spot with the breeze blowing right to left. A few fish were rising just off the weed bed at the waters edge.

I tied a beetle imitation on the point, a diawl bach on the middle dropper and a black zulu on the top dropper. I waded carefully out and started searching the water. It wasn’t long before the line zipped tight; a pleasing 3lb plus rainbow was battling on a tight line. Ten minutes later a brace  were secured and tea secured for the next night!

It was now catch and release time. I wandered back to the car to see if Pauline was ready to join me and take a few pictures whilst enjoying the warmth of the day. On arrival back at the waters edge it seemed the spell had been broken as my first couple of casts resulted in a minor tangle and the rhythm seemed to have deserted me. It soon returned however but it seemed my prediction had proved right for takes became few and far between.

James and Sophie arrived and enjoyed a tasty picnic; Social distancing of course. Several trout rose within casting range and I was soon back casting a line. Rising trout really are not good for my social skills! Despite several chances I failed to connect and at around 6.00pm we headed for home.

It will not be too long before I get back for a more serious fishing session ensuring I get there well before the fish have their  afternoon siesta and perhaps hanging on for the evening rise as well!

A Walk along the Lyn

Vellacotts Pool

My favourite place on a wet summers’ day has to be the River East Lyn the river tumbles down the boulder strewn valley. The lush green foliage of the trees and fauna always gives a fresh and vibrant feel.

 Pauline stands beside Overflow Pool

The river has a wealth of memories for me and I recall the many days I have spent fishing for the river’s salmon and sea trout. Pauline and I walked the river two days running and it was sad to see just the one angler trying his luck. On a summer spate twenty or thirty years ago the river banks would have been full of anglers keen to catch a silver prize from the beer coloured water. These days far less anglers travel to this beautiful river as the runs of salmon and sea trout are but a shadow of those golden days of plenty.

The river is now 100% catch and release and perhaps this does not suit this river where spinner and worm reigns supreme. In the past the rivers fish were abundant and anglers harvest did little to dent the population. The demise of the salmon has also lead to the loss of a vibrant angling community. Having fished the river at the end of its era of abundance I have mixed feelings remembering those anglers I once knew and a sense of pleasure that I was able to cast my line in better days. How I wish that future generations could enjoy the sport we had just a generation ago.

It was very pleasing to see the replacement bridge at the lower part of the river that allows the option of a circular walk from the top of Torrs Road to either Blackpool Bridge or up the Watersmeet.

Today it was sad to see the tea rooms at Watersmeet deserted due to the COVID outbreak. The valley is normally alive with walkers and visitors but today it was far quieter.

Unlocking the mystery of the eel

Unlocking the mystery of the eel

Wistlandpound Reservoir was created in an enduring feat of engineering by building a clay core dam  across Bratton Stream during the late 1950’s. It supplies water to a large area of North Devon and has become a popular area for walkers and is used by the Calvert Trust to provide adventure holidays for disabled adults and children. The lake is managed by The South West Lakes Trust who also control angling at the venue which has a long history as a trout fishery.

My good friend Steve Dawe is a keen eel angler and member of the National Anguilla Club and we got talking about waters that contain eels and in particular large eels. I recalled how twenty or more years ago eels had become trapped in the inlet of the local water works and that these eels were of a good size.

Wistlandpound had never to our knowledge been fished for eels and it is a well-known fact amongst eel anglers that venues that have not been fished and have limited access for eels can hold the eels of dreams. The European eel has been known to live to over 100 years so it is possible that any eels trapped within Wistlandpound when the dam was constructed could still be present.

Steve and I spoke with Ben Smeeth who is head of angling at SWLT and after due consideration Ben agreed to an exploratory session to investigate the lakes eel potential.

Steves credentials as an eel angler are well documented so it was a welcome opportunity for me to join Steve and learn more about how to catch specimen eels. Whilst I have caught many eels over the years I have never caught a specimen of over 3lb and this target is now firmly in my sights.

Eventually in mid-June I met up with Steve and struggled to the banks of a depleted Wistlandpound with an array of tackle, bivvies’ and provisions. The weather forecast was a little ominous with a weather warning in place for thunderstorms and possible flash floods! This did little to dent our enthusiasm as eels are reported to become  more active during thunderstorms.

With the reservoir at around 60% capacity we had a good choice of accessible bank and selected a swim that gave access to deep water.

Steve gave me useful advice on the rigs to use and how to mount the small dead-baits to give a good chance of hooking an eel. Fortunately, we arrived before the rain and managed to get set up before it arrived in spectacular fashion accompanied by a very long resounding  rumble of thunder.

The rain beat down on our shelters and I looked out the rods hoping that a run would not come at this time. After a couple of hour’s, the rain eventually eased and we brewed a hot drink and began chatting about fish and fishing.

Suddenly Steve’s alarm burst into life and he was at his rod in expectation. To our disappointment he failed to connect and reeled in to find that his bait was gone.

We didn’t have long to wait though for within minutes my alarm sounded and I hoked into the culprit. It was no eel but a stunning wild brown trout of around 1lb 8oz.

Within half an hour Steve was in action again and connected this time to bring to the net a stunning wild brown trout that must have been over 3lb. I wondered just how big these wild browns grow to within the lake. I suspect there are a few surprises as there is now an abundance of silvery rudd residing in the lake perfect prey the lakes wild browns to grow to a large size.

Recent seasons have unfortunately been blighted by an abundance of thick green algae making fly Fishing difficult at times. Whilst trout are no longer stocked into the reservoir there is a good head of wild brown trout present and I am sure that Fly Fishing during the autumn could produce the goods as these large browns feed on the lakes abundant fry.

As the evening descended Steve and I talked extensively about our fishing lives and the many places  that we have visited and plan to perhaps visit in the future.

As we chatted we frequently cast our eyes upon the rods perched beside the lake their tips pointing into the green water. As the light faded expectation grew as this was surely the eels meal time?

After last hot drinks we both retired to our shelters to catch some sleep. Occasionally an alarm would give a single bleep and I would tense in anticipation. On one occasion I looked out to see a shadow flit away from the rods, an inquisitive fox I believe.

Just before light some type of bird gave a repeated cry that echoed around the lake in a strange almost stereo like mode. I spoke to Steve later who thought it could have been a type of hawk. Thinking back, I should have recorded it on my phone.

I snoozed intermittently as a grey and misty day dawned. I took a look at the weather forecast that told of heavy rain from 8.00am. The rods remained poised at the waters edge but by now our expectations of catching the mysterious eel had faded. After a rushed brew and breakfast we packed away our gear to escape before the rain. The question remains unanswered for now. The problem is that life is short and big eels can take time to find.

Fortunately there are plenty of other SWLT waters that have proven big eel potential. Upper Tamar lake, Lower Tamar, Melbury and Jennets all hold eels of over 4lb with far bigger eels likely to be lurking in the mysterious depths.

Is there a better place to be in mid summer than beside a Devon River with the countryside at its lush green peak?

 Misty Morning

Theres something special about being out on the river bank early in the morning before the mist has been burnt away by the summer sun. I wish I had dragged myself out of bed a bit earlier but Im not good at rising at silly o clock. It was around 6:30 when I cast a fly across the river. Twenty yards down the run and the line tightened slightly as if it had brushed a leaf but I knew it was more than that, this was confirmed a second or two later as the line zipped tight and for a moment the rod was bent to the the pull of life on the line. Before I could gauge the size the line fell slack as the hook hold failed.

The water was still a little murky following recent heavy showers but this early success ensured that I fished the entire session with expectation. There are a few salmon around as Simon Hillcox had tempted a fresh run fish a couple of days previous from a beat higher up river. (Below)

Is there a better place to be in mid summer than beside a Devon River with the countryside at its lush green peak?

 Is there a better place to be than beside a Devon River in summer?

Kingfishers flashed past, bright yellow wagtails flitted two and fro. In the rivers margins tiny pin fry massed in the margins and hundreds of tiny toads climbed from the river the steep banks must be like Everest to these vulnerable youngsters.

As the sun climbed higher in the sky I knew that my best chance of a silver tourist had ebbed away. Before leaving the river I sat on the Fishermans bench to absorb the surroundings. Damsel flies flitted above the lush green grass fluffy white clouds drifted across a blue sky and suns warmth felt good.

Welcome rain brings hope

Salmon and sea trout anglers across the region have had their spirits lifted following the recent heavy rain hopeful that the salmon and sea trout waiting in the estuaries will forge upriver offering the chance to enjoy that thrilling encounter with the most iconic of silver flanked fish.

I headed for the River Torridge to find the river at a perfect height but with the water a turbid brown and full of sediment I was not hopeful. Salmon fishing is a frustrating game with those perfect conditions often only fleeting. There will be a moment as the water clears following a spate and runs the colour of ale when the fresh run salmon rise freely to the fly as it swings across the river.

Salmon run up river as they smell the freshwater influx following a spate. The initial rush of water is often foul after a prolonged dry spell so the fish will often pause until the water quality improves. The fish that run up river are often intent on their journey and ignore the anglers offerings. There comes a time though as the fish rest for a moment when they can snatch at that tantalising creature that flutters across the current. The reasons salmon take a fly or lure have been debated by anglers far wiser than I. The fact is that they sometimes do and if you have faith and persist that delightful moment of connection will come.

Despite the imperfect conditions I fished carefully down through the river absorbing the vibrant surroundings of early summer. Relishing the constantly flowing river, the glimpse of electric blue as a kingfisher darted past. The birdsong resonating all around and the abundant wildflowers that thrive along the river bank. I also noted that all is not well in our world as I gazed at the ash trees suffering from the onset of ash die back. It is estimated that up to 95% of ash trees will succumb around 25% of our woodland!

Grey skies and ash die back

Hopefully I will report on a salmon or two over the coming days for there are plenty of salmon in the river they have been leaping in the estuary for weeks and have been seen forging up over the weirs.

A blank Trip !

During the 1980’s and 90’s I did a fair amount of carp fishing and enjoyed some success catching carp on a regular basis including a few fish over twenty pounds. My carp fishing sorties in the past couple of decades have been few and far between partly due to a perception that carp fishing requires lots of time and a desire to catch other species has taken precedent.

The spectacular catches of carp I report on has to a degree tempted me back to carp fishing albeit on an occasional basis. The complexities of carp fishing are perhaps a bit of a challenge but with modern tackle rigs and baits catching carp is or at least should be easier than it has ever been. I recently fished at Jennett’s reservoir near Bideford with James and arrived full of confidence. The weather had broken and a North West Wind was blowing down the lake after weeks of hot weather and the carp having recently spawned I expected a good result. As did keen and experienced local carp angler Rob Kendal who had already banked one carp before we arrived.

Rob Kendall 17lb 10oz

James and I fished a peg apart maintaining the required social distance, one bait close to the far bank and another in the nearside margin.

The day drifted past James was pleased to catch a couple of bream on the margin rod and enjoyed chatting with his mate from the cricket club fishing in the next peg along.

Rob Kendall added another carp but was surprised at the lack of action considering the conditions. We made a few brews with the Kelly Kettle and cooked up some sausages. The day drifted past and we took in the surroundings, watched the squirrels and birds going about their daily routines.

James decided to leave mid afternoon and catch up with a few jobs at home. Ever optimistic I stayed on spurred on by the sight of carp rolling close to where I had put my baits. Any time I expected those bobbins to lift and the Delkim to bleep its warning. As the light began to fade I decided to head for home and packed away everything except the rods. As I turned to reel in the rod tip nodded and I pick up the rod hopeful of a last minute carp. it was a bream of around 2lb. I left with lots of questions in my head and doubting my ability to catch carp. I think I will have to invest a little more of that time soon.

Blakewell Producing some superb Trout

It’s seems I have lost the knack of catching fish in these post lockdown days. The top priority in a fishing session is of course to enjoy it and to that end I am generally a highly successful angler. But it is nice, indeed essential that at some point connection is made with a fish!

After a difficult day at the wonderful Wimbleball reservoir and a couple of unsuccessful lure fishing trips after a bass. A day at the ever reliable Blakewell was planned with James. James was also in need of actually catching a fish having shared my lack of success with the lures.

Blakewell has been fishing exceptionally well since reopening with several stunning double figure trout caught.

I received the below report from Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club secretary David Richards :-

I fished Blakewell on Saturday you have to pre- Book £40 for six fish pay over phone so you don’t need to meet anyone, arrived at 8.30 two others guys fishing (max 12) although there wasn’t 12 there. Weed free fishing good sample 2x3lbs 4×2.5lbs. Fishing at the top of finger using a little black and blue dancer. The chap down about 20ft away hooked into a big trout after about 20 mins I helped him land a 13.2lb fish looking immaculate. 

John Jobson below :-


Terri said can we have some trout please, always happy to oblige, opening day Blakewell get in ! biggest 14lb 2ozs, 13lbs 6ozs, new pb total wt 6 fish was 40lb 1oz. Freezers full , I’m shattered happy days , fantastic day out , thank you Richard and John, trout for tea I guess.

James and I arranged to meet in the carp park at 9:30am and with a strong south west wind( gale) blowing with intermittent cloud I was confident of success. We promptly tackled up and headed for the lake choosing a spot well away from the other four anglers.

It was an awesome late spring day beside the lake with bright yellow flag Iris lining the banks, electric blue damsel flies, birdsong reverberating all around and the fresh green leaves shimmering in the strong breeze. The lake had a tinge of colour and a well riffled surface.

We cast our lines expectantly and after just a few casts James glimpsed a big rainbow in the margin as it followed his lure. I fished a team of small imitative patterns a PTN on the point with two buzzers. I was surprised when after an hour we had both failed to connect.

Joint fishery owner Richard Nickel strolled over for a chat and talked eagerly about their plans for the fishery. As we chatted I missed two opportunities as the line tightened momentarily in a signal of  successful deception. As with most recent conversations modern phrases dominated with COVID-19, lockdown, social distancing, post pandemic and the few positives of reduced air pollution the embracing of local business and a refocusing on family life. Richard and his brother John have great plans for Blakewell in the coming months and have some super specimens ready to stock over the coming weeks.

James hooked a trout that struggled free after a few moments giving hope that success would come. As we fished on we caught the occasional tantalising glimpse of large trout rising but our offerings failed to tempt.

As confidence started to ebb a strong pull brought momentary contact followed by that despairing moment of slack line. Next cast and I was in action and after a brief tussle secured a rainbow of a couple of pounds. At least I had avoided a blank!

We searched our fly boxes for inspiration and began to swap and change searching in vain for that effective combination of right fly, right retrieve and right depth.

Eventually we ran out time and had to admit defeat. It’s not often I have a bad day Stillwater trout fishing and I generally bank on Blakewell producing the goods relatively easily. Perhaps it’s good to have that occasional hard day to raise the appreciation of the good days.

To round the day off I arrived home to find that I had forgotten to replace the cameras memory card last time I downloaded and so I had no photos of those beautiful flag Iris.

(Above) A fine Blakewell Double of 14lb 8oz for an angler called Paul

Wimbleball – Beneath a Cloudless blue sky

I had been itching to get back to Wimbleball after lockdown and booked half a day off work mid-week hoping it wouldn’t be too busy. It probably wasn’t the best day to have chosen; the hottest day of the year so far with a cloudless sky. Despite this I arrived full of optimism despite the conditions and headed for Rugg’s bay where there was plenty of room to fish and maintain social distance.

The far bank was full of families and young people soaking up the sun and whilst at first this seemed a little concerning I deemed that several groups may well be from single households. In any case the sounds of fun and laughter drifting across the water was welcome after months of doom and gloom. I am growing increasingly tired of the bitching and blaming that has manifested itself as the COVID crisis has unfolded. Apply a bit of common sense follow the rules and accept that there is always a bit of risk in life.

The walk to the lake along a buttercup lined footpath with young lambs playing in the fields was a delightful start to the afternoon and it was truly good to be alive and out in the English countryside.

I set up a floating line and a team of imitative patterns, a gold-head PTN on the point, a buzzer on the middle dropper and a diawl bach on the top dropper. I was surprised just how far the reservoir had dropped since my last visit back on opening day on March 1st when the lake was full to the brim.

Wading out into the cool clear water I extended the line across the water. Paused to allow the flies to sink a little and started a slow figure of eight retrieve. I expected a pull at any second as I settled into the session. Swallows and martins swooped over the water and birdsong resonated all around.

I kept an eye on other anglers around the lake and caught sight of the occasional bent rod and flurry of foam as a fish neared the net. After about an hour starting the line zipped tight and a hard fighting rainbow of around 3lb posed for the camera.

I fished on optimistically changing the flies from time to time but sticking to the slow imitative approach because that is what I had expected to work.

Slowly as the afternoon slipped into evening I began to lose some of that early confidence. Whilst the occasional fish rose further out it was clear that the hoped for evening rise was not going to happen.

I should perhaps have changed to slow sink line and gone deeper with a lure but on this occasion I had perhaps become too content just enjoying the day going through the motions of fishing the fly.

I drove home as the sun set over Exmoor thinking of my return to the lake in the not to distant future.