SOUTH MOLTON ANGLERS ENJOY DOUBLES BONANZA AT BLAKEWELL

SOUTH MOLTON ANGLERS ENJOY DOUBLES BONANZA AT BLAKEWELL

I joined several members of the South Molton Angling Club Blakewell Fishery. What a contrast in weather conditions compared to last weeks Christmas competition that saw anglers greeted by frost and mist rising from the water. This week was dark and overcast with occasional outbreaks of heavy rain.

The dark and gloomy conditions did little to dampen the enthusiasm and good humour of the South Molton anglers who were all pleased to be out in the fresh air casting a line.

I decided to head for the area that had been producing the previous week and started off with my favourite olive damsel nymph. After half an hour without a pull I decided to try a different pattern. I could see that other anglers were catching steadily so the trout were obviously feeding. I glimpsed a big rainbow cruising just a rod length that convinced me to stay put. A bead headed black lure soon brought a rainbow of around 1lb 8oz. A few casts later I glimpsed the large rainbow again this time converging on my lure! The mouth opened and the line drew tight, the rod hooped over and a few anxious moments followed, a big trout lunged to and fro before being coaxed over the rim of the net. At thirteen pound it was a fish to bring a broad smile and set the hands a tremble.

Amazingly twenty minutes later I caught sight of another big trout as it followed my lure nailing it just a few yards from the bank. This one pulled the scales to 11lb a very pleasing brace of trout for 24lb.

Shortly after this on the opposite bank Matt Kingdon was into another Blakewell beauty that pulled the scales to 14lb 6oz. After completing my own limit I wondered over to get a picture of Matts and found he had a fine rainbow of of 9lb 12oz to go with it.

Amazingly back on the bank where I had enjoyed success Jim Ricketts was battling a good fish and we all watched on as his good friend wielded a net that was slightly undersized. We all felt relieved for him when the 12lb 14oz rainbow was safely banked.

The club had enjoyed a great Sunday mornings sport despite the gloom laden sky. Six big rainbows were banked by lunchtime along with plenty of table sized fish.

Blakewell Christmas Competition 2020

Blakewell Fisheries Christmas Competition is always an enjoyable social occasion in North Devon Fly-Fishers Calendar and it was good to be back amongst familiar faces albeit more socially distanced than in normal times.

It was a cold and frosty morning with a vivid blue sky and mist rising from the lake as the warmth of the sun beamed down. Eighteen anglers were taking part in this years scaled down event and after a welcome glass of port we all headed out to the lake. As is normal trout were hooked within the first few seconds of the start as flies were cast onto the calm surface.

I elected to use an olive damsel nymph with a small buzzer on a dropper. Within fifteen minutes I had three rainbow trout in the bag which was my mornings quota. This left me a couple of hours to wonder around the lake capturing images of the lake and the anglers.

Gary Matthews with a fine 10lb 5oz rainbow

Dinner was served at 12:30; a hot pasty and a pint. The afternoon session saw me persevere with the same team of flies. As is often the case catching became a little more of a challenge but after a couple of moves I completed my five fish limit.

The lake had fished well with plenty of hard fighting rainbows averaging between 1lb 8oz and 2lb. Amongst these were a few outsize specimen rainbows. The winter sunshine and colours around the lake were stunning and it was great to see a steady stream of families arriving to select their Christmas trees.

The winning angler was Trevor Whyborn with his five fish bag of 18lb 6oz that included the biggest rainbow of the day at 11lb 11oz. In runner up spot was John Buxton with five for 17lb 4oz and third Gary Matthews with two trout for 12lb 3oz.

Once again many thanks to John and Richard Nickell for hosting this annual event after what has been a challenging year in many ways. The COVID outbreak inevitably had its impact but not so much perhaps as the ongoing warm summers that cause difficulties for trout fisheries the length and breadth of the country. It is noticeable that smaller Stillwater trout fisheries like Blakewell are at their best during the cooler winter months.

Trevor Whyborn with an 11lb 11oz rainbow

John Buxton with his 9lb 5oz rainbow

A Humorous Tale – Bass and smelly huts

Paul Lorrimore has kindly allowed me to reproduce this rather humorous tale of big bass smelly fishing huts and Ilfracombe Pier.
Had my first bass just under that hut close in.

Myself and

Simon Higgins

were on day 2 fishing with no sleep in early September – maybe 1998 from memory.

We had been a few other places and got a good soaking from the swell, so decided to get somewhere dry for the night.
Just as we both finally succumbed to a well needed 40 winks amongst the warm and fuzzy aroma of years of rotten bait and piss in the
“love shack”, I was woken to the sound of my rod butt being unceremoniously slammed against the corner light with my rod rest in tow 👀
Not for one second did I consider setting drag back then, or even checking to see if my line had gone under the rod rest in front of the first ring….
After a good hard strike however, my heavy guage old trusty tripod reminded me of my school boy error by near enough breaking my nose and splitting my eye brow open 😂
By this time Simon had made it out the hut just in time to see me getting beaten to death by my own tackle… And found it hilariously funny..
He did manage to regain composure just in time to get a drop net down and land my first ever Silver Lump of 9lb though, so i forgave him a mere decade or so later.
I took my prize bass home, full of excitement as a young chef, furiously CeeFaxing fish recipes, ready for the culinary masterpieces I would create the very next morning.
I awoke to find my Dog had managed to pull the Bass, tail first from the sink of iced water in the middle of the night and endeavour to chew nearly all of it into pulp apart from the head, which he took to my bed with him so I could admire it when i first opened my sleepy eyes… 😳
In retrospect, the dog came off a heavy second in the crime – as it upset his stomach something awful.
I chuckled slightly for the next 3 days as he moped around the house wretching and farting fish scales like a confetti cannon 🐠

SAFETY ON THE COASTLINE

SAFETY FIRST FOR WINTER FISHING

The paragraph below is from my Angling Column in North Devon Journal and is worth repeating here.

Once again there has been a tragic loss of an angler’s life on the North Cornish Coast an area well known for its huge swells. The North Devon coast is also pummeled by these same Atlantic surges and anglers must be fully aware of the risks. Each winter I remind anglers of the safe guidelines to follow. Always check the tide and weather before choosing where to fish taking into account the wind direction and both the time and size of the tide. If fishing from potentially slippery rocks consider the impact of heavy rain not just whilst fishing but also accessing the mark and leaving.  Ensure that you tell someone where you intend to fish and your expected time home. Carry a mobile phone and keep it in a waterproof case. Always wear suitable footwear that gives a good grip metal studs can be excellent and cut through weed and algal growth. Modern lifejackets are lightweight and comfortable and significantly improve the chances of survival if you do fall in. When it comes to landing a big fish have a plan on how you will land it and carry a long-handled landing net or drop net. Alternatively use a strong enough shock leader to give a chance of lifting the fish safely from the water. I will repeat the frequently uttered quote no fish is worth losing your life for.

Well known North Devon Angler Jon Patten recently posted this :-
Ready for the next solo rock trip being as my wing man is out with a buggered back
My new life jacket from Summerlands Tackle
I’ve surfed some monster waves in my time… But even I know that I’m not as fit nowadays and my reactions are slower
God forbid anyone being washed off the rocks or beach into the cold sea water… The weight on you is instant as the water absorbs into your clothing and senses slow down considerably as the cold winter water takes hold … Its a struggle for even the fittest of us….
It literally becomes seconds to the point of exhaustion as you fight the winter swells and cold water
I was washed overboard several years ago in early spring as the guard rail on the boat snapped as I lent against it some 4 miles out to sea in this country while sharking locally here in Devon/Cornwall ..
Cold and exhaustion took hold quickly and I was super fit back then…. It was only sheer luck that got me back in that boat…..
Note I had only just taken my floatation suit off as it was so hot… Wrong move
I now have piece of mind knowing that if I should accidently go into the water at least I stand half a chance.
Another good idea is to load the what three words app onto your mobile phone. See below advice from our local village information group.
 WHAT THREE WORDS

The whole world has been divided into 10 meter squares each with a unique 3 word combination.  We are informed that all emergency services use it as well as the Council Highways dept and utility companies.

You can find the words applicable for your house (front door) and keep them by your phone for emergency use and of course with a mobile phone and the free download app you can report a fallen tree, water leak etc. very accurately as when you open the app it knows where you are and gives the 3 words.

Follow this link and it will give you the village hall  https://what3words.com/caressing.deadline.resort

You can expand and enlarge the map to your doorstep and find your unique 3 words.

Please do use this potentially lifesaving tool as we know that Postcodes are not unique.

BIG FISH IN PERSPECTIVE

            It has been said that many anglers go through several stages in their angling journey. The first stage is undoubtedly to catch a fish. From this point most anglers progress into different directions. Some will become competitive entering the world of match fishing and trying to catch more than other anglers. Others will become specimen hunters attempting to land big fish, others will adopt a particular type of angling becoming Fly Fishers or lure -anglers. Some will be labelled pleasure anglers a strange term as surely all anglers fish for pleasure?

Whilst I have dabbled in all branches of angling I guess I tend to lean towards being the specimen angler. I have always tried to keep my feet firmly on the ground keeping a perspective on my angling goals. In angling as in all sports and pastimes there is a danger that targets become unattainable diminishing the participants enjoyment.

Back in 1980 I caught my first double figure carp a mirror of 14lb 8oz that was tempted on float-fished sweetcorn. I remember it clearly an accidental capture using just 3lb b.s line and 13ft match rod. For over half an hour  I played a game of give and take until the fish was coaxed into my landing net. Back then this seemed a huge fish and for a while encouraged me to fish for carp after reading a wealth of literature available at the time as carp fishing began its trajectory towards todays state of play.

Just three decades before this carp fishing was shrouded in mystery with a twenty pound carp considered a monster. Richard Walkers book Stillwater Angling was published in 1953 and within its pages is documented the capture of the British Record Carp scaling 44lb. The previous record carp was caught by Walkers friend Peter Thomas and weighed 28lb 10oz. Both fish came from Redmire Pool a location that is revered as the spiritual home of  carp fishing. Close to seventy years later carp of this size scarcely raise an eyebrow and even here in North Devon we have waters such as Furzebray that hold a stock of carp superior to that of Redmire Pool in its heyday.

Todays carp anglers have in truth never had it so good. The advent of modern methods have also de mystified catching of carp making them relatively easy to catch.

Many of todays young carp anglers expect to set out and catch a twenty pound carp treating ten pound fish as insignificant catches. There was a time when a double was a worthwhile catch a twenty a significant achievement and a forty was the fish of a lifetime. Has this change in the merit of fish weights brought extra enjoyment to anglers?

This phenomena is not of course exclusive to the carp angling world. I clearly remember fishing Wistlandpound Reservoir when it was stocked with rainbow trout that averaged 12oz to 1lb. A limit bag of five trout was a good day even if the total bag was less than 5lb. During the eighties came the era of put and take trout fisheries with large rainbows stocked into double figures. Within a few year’s anglers wanted bigger trout and expected to get their limits. In response to demand fishery owners stocked ever bigger trout but had to increase prices to achieve the angler’s expectations.

I have caught a few double figure rainbow trout but I know that they are stocked into a water and need no special skill to tempt. An 8oz wild brownie from a tiny stream is in truth a greater catch and there are an increasing number of anglers who appreciate the value of wild fish.

Anglers are perhaps a complex and diverse group who are perhaps a mirror on society and how it changes. As the decades have passed how we value many things has changed. Forty years ago we had perhaps three channels to watch on the TV, now we have hundreds. Fifty years ago we had black and white TVs. Are we happier today?

To hark back to the carp; imagine Richard Walker casting into the mysterious waters of Redmire Pool. They new it held monsters but they had no idea how big. As the line trickled out on a dark night they had no idea what had taken the bait. It is this mystery that we have perhaps lost in this modern age? What are your thoughts are we happier anglers with today’s well stocked lakes and modern?

CARRY ON FISHING

Thanks to extensive efforts by the  Angling Trust angling can continue throughout lock-down as an outdoor recreational activity providing anglers only meet up with one other person. This is a common sense approach as individual angling is COVID safe and is recognized as having valuable benefits for participants mental well being. Individual fisheries will continue to implement all relevant guidelines to ensure anglers safety. Match Fishing is unfortunately the inevitable casualty of lockdown but hopefully this can resume next month enabling a little festive cheer.

For full details please visit the Angling Trust Website:- https://anglingtrust.net/covid-19/

Morning at Wimbleballfishery, a great photo capture of the morning mist, thanks to David Hocking…

AN AUTUMN GRAYLING

In these troubled times time with the rod is so precious bringing a sense of stability to life that is in the shadow of ongoing uncertainty. To the East of Dorchester there are a number of small quintessential English villages nestled in the Upper Frome valley that exude that reassuring essence of continuity we perhaps need during these unprecedented times.

The River Frome is a chalk stream that rises in the Dorset downs passing through Dorchester and numerous villages before converging with the tide at Wareham before entering Poole Harbour.

For an angler the Frome has a rich and varied variety of fish to pursue with the upper reaches dominated by game fish and the lower reaches more suited to coarse fish that grow to specimen sizes. Salmon and sea trout also migrate throughout the river their dwindling numbers of concern as they are throughout the land.

The autumn and winter months are grayling season on the Upper River with the spring and summer trout season. John Aplin is custodian of several stretches of the Frome and carefully nurtures the river to provide a thriving habitat where wild trout and grayling reside within the crystal clear flowing water between swaying fronds of ranunculas.

Pauline and I were staying at the Dairy House West Stafford a well-furnished and comfortable Self catering http://www.chalkstreamflyfishing.co.uk/accommodation/

The accommodation is situated just a short walk away from an exclusive beat of the River Frome that has a reputation for producing huge grayling. It was these grayling that I was hoping to connect with and a day fishing had been booked to coincide with our stay.

The Autumn weather preceding our trip had been unsettled with weather fronts rushing across South West England from the Atlantic. I hoped that the rain had not rendered the river out of sorts as had happened on my previous two visits to the river in search of grayling.

We arrived mid-week and walked the river in late afternoon as the light began to ebb from the day. The river had a tinge of colour but was at a good height and certainly fishable. A herd of Sika deer were grazing in the meadow a large stag in attendance with his harem of fertile females. In the river a pair of swans searched for food gliding gracefully upon the water. Rooks swirled above the trees and leaves fluttered to the ground as the mild westerly gale swept the valley.

Rain pattered upon the windows overnight driven by the westerly wind. I slept fitfully through the night my mind full of weighted nymphs, running water and grayling.

After breakfast I assembled the tackle and chatted with John who told me that the river had dropped slightly and should be in good order despite the overnight rain.

I headed eagerly for the bottom of the beat the path winding its way through dense woodland. The river was slightly clearer than the previous day and at a good height. I was using a 10ft 3 weight nymphing rod, and  two weighted nymphs on a 4lb fluorocarbon leader.

Whilst with polaroid’s I could glimpse into the river spotting fish would not be easy. My tactics were to wade carefully upstream searching likely lies trundling the nymphs over the gravelly runs and probing the deeper darker lies. Reading the water is a skill that is learned over many trips to the river though it is fair to say that  all rivers share many characteristics and the language of the chalk-stream I waded now was not that different to the River Umber I explored as a child angler many decades ago.

Searching the water is a wonderfully cathartic experience requiring total concentration as the bright tip of the line traces the progress of the nymphs bouncing the gravelly runs. Each flicker of the line as the hook catches weed required a tightening of the line in case it is a fish that has been deceived. The wind conspires to send each cast astray, tree branches reach down to ensnare and tangle the nymphs that I have collected after succumbing to tempting emails and posts from https://www.barbless-flies.co.uk  I hoped the grayling would be equally impressed!

After half an hour of searching I lifted the rod to flick out another cast but there came a pleasing living resistance. For a moment I was almost spellbound in disbelief as the rod plunged over, the line moving purposely upstream. The fish hung powerfully in the strong current then used the flow to gain a few yards of line heading down river. I caught sight of a silver flank and the distinctive sail like dorsal fin. Tense moments followed before the fish was safe within the folds of the net. The tiny pink nymph fell from the fishes underslung mouth, I gazed in wonder at the lady of the stream, put a number to it weighing in quickly in the net

(2lb 12oz) and took its portrait before holding the fish in the current relishing the sight of the fish swimming strongly away into the stream of memory.

I sent a picture to Pauline who was relaxing back in the Annexe. I fished on up through the beat immersed in the contentment of success. An hour later I broke away from the river for a late morning coffee.

Shortly after midday I was back in the river Pauline close at hand to take a few pictures of the river as I flicked my offerings into the stream ever expectant now having had my confidence boosted by success. One more grayling succumbed in early afternoon a feisty fish of perhaps 12oz. I caught a glimpse of a couple more grayling that had undoubtedly seen me before I had focussed upon them in the ever running stream.

The day passed away far too quickly as most days beside the water do and I packed away the rods and waders as the light faded. I will return to the river again in search of grayling and maybe even in the height of summer when the water meadows will be lush and green, the river running crystal clear and wild browns will be supping mayfly as the river meanders quietly on.

The following day we headed for home two more anglers were on the River undoubtedly spurred on by news of my grayling. The grayling of the Frome grow to record proportions with fish caught in the past to over four pounds. This autumn has seen at least three fish of over three pounds tempted but these are not prolific fish. Such a grayling is hard won and I look back upon my success contemplating how small the margin is between catching the dream  or not. There are many hundreds of casts in a day on the river and with these rare and precious fish there is often only one cast that will connect with the top prize.

I CAUGHT A GLIMPSE –

Its over twelve months since the publication of my book “I CAUGHT A GLIMPSE” and I am pleased to say I have had plenty of positive feedback and appreciate this and the healthy sales the book has earned since publication back in September 2019. If you are interested in obtaining a copy of the book it can be obtained on line via The Little Egret Press. https://thelittleegretpress.co.uk/product/i-caught-a-glimpse-ltd-edition-hardback/ 

I  only have a few copies left with me so if you want to purchase one for collection or delivery please PM me via Facebook or email.

Since publication I have had many interesting conversations with North Devons anglers and have enjoyed sharing their memories. One thing I have learnt is that many fishermen paths are similar though they often fail to converge.

Wimbleball – Autumn Fly Fishing

Fly Fishers are enjoying some great autumn sport at Wimbleball Reservoir with hard fighting rainbows and stunning wild brown trout. Harry Plant banked five rainbows including a stunning rainbow of 7lb 8oz. Barry Ware boated a prime conditioned brown trout of 6lb 8oz.

Mark Underhill comments
‘Receiving lovely comments like this just make our day’…
“These are the best quality and condition stocked rainbows I’ve ever caught. Certainly hardest fighting fish we’ve ever had pleasure to catch. We had a couple of real monsters break us off on 7lb fluorocarbon – buying stronger leader for next time! Trevor was super friendly & helpful. All in all a cracking days fishing – so thank you all involved.”
Tom & Max had 11 fish between them & lost several more…

Wimbleball Lake is attracting Fly Fishers from all over the country as its reputation for producing hard fighting rainbows and stunning wild browns grows ever stronger.

I was keen to get back on the Lake and booked a boat and a day off work to share with our son James in mid-October.

In life not everything goes to plan and James Fiancée’s raging toothache resulted in James staying at home leaving me to take the boat out alone.

The drive over Exmoor in the early morning light was a delight with bronzed beech hedge rows illuminated as the leaves took on their rich autumn hues.

I had arranged to launch the boat at 9.00am and arrived shortly after this to be greeted by the ever enthusiastic Trevor who told me that the fishing had been a little slower in recent days in calm sunny conditions. The brisk South East wind should improve matters and this view was reinforced as two anglers were already enjoying bent rods in the sailing club bay.

I eagerly loaded my gear onto the boat and set off up the lake. I dropped the anchor part way up the Lake towards Bessom’s and tackled up. An intermediate Line an olive damsel on the point and diawl bach on the dropper. A few casts and then I up anchored, put out the drogue and started a drift up the lake 30-yards off the shoreline. After a dozen casts or so there came that thrilling jolt through the line as a trout hit the lure. I failed to connect but there was plenty of time ahead and more chances to come.

A couple of hours later my confidence was ebbing after searching several areas of the lake. The wind was picking up and had become a little challenging at times. I changed tactics frequently. Set up a second rod and had short spells drifting a set of buzzers on a floating line. With no fish showing I went to a sinker searching with black lures and the olive damsel. The other two anglers had left the Sailing Club Bay and were fishing close to lakes inlet. Their tally was up to five each with an orange blob the successful pattern.

A moment of hope came as a large rainbow materialized behind my lure, an image that remains etched on my mind’s eye as I type this account of the day.

As the hours drifted past at an alarming rate I decided to try the Sailing Club Bay. By now the wind was uncomfortably strong and getting the anchor to grip was a challenge. With plenty of rope out I got the boat to hold firm thirty yards off the bank and sent out my lure and blob combination. First cast and I felt a good tug. Next cast another. Then after fifteen minutes I hooked rainbows on consecutive casts both coming adrift after a few seconds with the rod well bent.

A handsome wild brown trout of around 8oz eventually saved a blank. At 5.30pm I reluctantly admitted defeat. Disheartened? Not at all I often liken fishing to a game of chess with nature and on this occasion the fish had won the day. The fishing at Wimbleball is not always easy the the fish it holds are without doubt a worthy prize. I will be back in search of success as soon as possible. As autumn enters its final month the weather may be cruel and frosty mornings may sting the fingers but those hard fighting rainbow will be waiting and really need that reel to sing!