Wistlandpound Club @ Clatworthy

I always enjoy joining Wistlandpound Club on the annual trip to Wessex Waters Clatworthy Reservoir which is  fished in early April. The fishing at this reservoir in early spring is normally excellent with hard fighting good conditioned rainbow trout generally succumbing to lures fished down deep in the cold water.

On this occasion the competition was to be fished from the bank. Catch reports suggested that fish were being caught on buzzers and dial bachs fished on floating lines with long leaders. Whilst this is a way I love to fish I set up with an intermediate line and an orange blob on the dropper with an olive damsel on the point. We all headed up into the Westcott Bay area to start our search.

Paul Grisley search for spring rainbows

The fishing proved to be more challenging than expected and it took me an hour before I hooked my first rainbow of the day.

I persisted with my tactics allowing the flies to sink for 20 seconds or so before starting an erratic retrieve. I completed my five fish limit by 1.30pm and spent the next couple of hours chatting to fellow club members and taking a few pictures of the action and splendid spring scenery.

A typical five fish limit of spring rainbows

I am always fascinated to see the remains of the signal crayfish that abound around the shores of the lake these unwelcome crustaceans have established a large population within the lake and I suspect the herons stalking the banks may have been feasting upon them when we arrived.

Dave Mock brings a hard fighting rainbow to the net.
Andre Muxworthy added two rainbows to his bag within the last half hour.
Andre Muxworthy with a pleasing rainbow

We gathered at the fishing lodge at close of play with all members catching a few rainbows.

1st – Wayne Thomas     5 fish  11lb
2nd – Colin Combe        4 fish   8lb 8oz
3rd – David Eldred          3 fish   8lb
4th – Dave Mock            3 fish   7lb 15oz
5th -Andre Muxworthy – 3 fish   6lb 10oz
6th – Paul Grisley           3 fish   5lb 10oz

Wistlandpound – Beautiful browns brighten a stormy day

Wistlandpound is just a short drive from my home in North Devon and provides the opportunity for shorts sessions with the fly Rod in search of the wild brown trout and Rudd that abound in the lake.

As I walked to the water via the wooded path I was delighted to hear the sound of chiff-chaffs calling from the trees a sure sign that spring has truly arrived despite the overcast sky and near gale force south west wind. I arrived at the waters edge with the wind blowing from left to right which made it easy to put out a decent line despite its strength.

I retained the team of flies that had brought some success at Colliford at the end of last month. A small black lure on the point and a black spider on the dropper.

I put out the floating  line and paused to allow the fly to sink a little before starting the retrieve. My plan was to cover plenty of water making a step along the bank between each cast. On the third cast I was delighted to feel a strong pull that resulted in a spirited scrap from a wild brown of around 10″.

Half a dozen casts later after missing a few tentative takes I once again felt a strong pull and connected with a good fish that put a decent curve in the rod. After a short tussle I was thrilled to bank a beautiful wild brown of 14″.

This was a truly stunning looking trout that was admired briefly and its image captured.

I continued to search the bank missing several takes and connecting with several more stunning wild browns that were between 10″ and 12″. Each fish was totally different in appearance with some almost silver like a sea trout others golden flanked and crimson spotted. In the short two hour session I brought seven trout to hand each one released carefully ensuring future sport.

I look forward to warmer days with a gentle breeze rippling the lake surface but I doubt the fish will be so eager to grab the fly then.

Minehead Boat – Fishing Trip

With a Combe Martin Club Competition over the weekend, I was looking at a plan when Rob Scoines suggested a trip out on Steve Webbers Osprey. There were two places available and the weather forecast was spot on.  It took a few moments to come to a decision and within five minutes the trip was secure and plans in place.

The boat was due to sail at 10:00am so there was no crack of dawn rise. I picked Rob up at 07:30am and enjoyed a scenic drive across Exmoor arriving at Minehead Mc Donald’s for a Breakfast roll and coffee before grabbing some bait from Speedbait the new fishing tackle and bait outlet situated close by on the Industrial estate.

www.speedbait.online

We climbed aboard Osprey shortly before 10:00am and met with our fellow anglers, Colin Shepard, Rich Leonard, Lee Buck and Joe Woodward who had travelled down from the Bristol area.

It was one of those rare days with a mirror calm sea and a bright sky. There was a chill in the air after a few days of cold North East winds with overnight frosts. Anticipation was high as we headed off down channel.

First stop was in Porlock Bay hoping for an early smoothound. Within minutes dogfish were swung aboard in profusion.

Joe Woodward admires his first sea fish!!

After our first brew of the day from Steve’s son Will it was a unanimous decision to up anchor and head down to a well-known huss mark beneath the spectacular cliffs of the Exmoor coast.

After a few moments rod tips were nodding as scavenging predators below located our baits. I hooked into what felt a reasonable fish that plodded about at the end of the line as I persuaded it towards the boat. The head of a very large bull huss appeared ten yards behind the boat as Will stood ready with the net. Skipper Steve commented that it was a very good huss or words to that effect. At that moment the huss opened its mouth and spat out the bait, the terminal tackle flying back towards the boat. B******** or words to that effect. These nearly moments often seem to stick in the mind longer than success stories.

A flurry of huss to around 10lb followed along with strap eels and the occasional dogfish. As the tide began to ease the catch rate slowed and the decision was made to head back up channel in search of ray.

Myself and Rich Leonard with two of several Bull Huss caught during a brief feeding spell

We dropped anchor a short distance off Selworthy and put out our baits into what was very shallow water. A small eyed ray was brought to the boat by Lee Buck within a minute or so of settling at anchor.

Lee Buck with a small eyed ray

A good start that was to prove a false promise as just one other small eyed was tempted from the location. All remaining very quiet with just the occasional dogfish showing and a solitary conger of perhaps five pounds to my rod.

(Above) Rich Leonard with a small eyed ray

A move of a few hundred yards to a new position brought a few more dogfish and a small thornback ray.

As the day ticked past all to quickly it was very apparent that the fish were not feeding, perhaps as a result of the easterly air flow and high pressure?

Steve as ever kept trying and moved to another mark a mile closer to Minehead. The rod tips remained frustratingly still with even the dogfish scarce. As Steve called time my rod tip nodded and I lifted into a small eyed ray of 7lb. A reminder that success can come at the very last moment.

It had been an enjoyable day afloat with good company and the spectacular scenery of the Exmoor coast. Results had not lived up to expectations but this was no reflection on the skill of the skipper for we all knew that on another day these same marks would have brought a steady stream of quality fish.

Fluff Chuckers – Brown Trout Bank Day – Colliford

I joined the Fluff Chucker’s group event at Colliford Lake on Saturday March 26th in search of wild brown trout. Cast off for this informal competition was at 9:00am with pre meet at 8:00am.

I arrived on time at the car park to meet with fellow fluff chucker’s who were eagerly debating the day ahead and recent excursions with their fly rods. It was my first visit to this vast lake of 900 acres situated high on Bodmin Moor and my first impression was that it was a little daunting. These fears soon evaporated after chatting with fellow anglers who assured me that the trout were often found close to the margins.

I had undoubtedly been lulled into a false sense of security over recent days of warm sunshine as I had underestimated how cold it was likely to be. Whilst there wasn’t a cloud in the sky a bitter east wind was blowing across the lake creating many white caps.

We all donned our waders and set off shortly before 9.00am eager to cast a line with the majority heading for a bank that gave some shelter from the wind.

The lake is surrounded by ancient moorland with craggy granite outcrops and wind swept stunted trees. Sheep grazed here and there with old stone walls and fences dividing this harsh yet beautiful landscape. The water clarity was good and peat stained resembling the finest malt whiskey.

I approached the water’s edge with a degree of stealth and put out a short line with a small black lure on the point and a black spider pattern on a dropper. As I retrieved and lifted the fly ready to recast there was a swirl in the water and the glimpse of a golden flank. This gave my confidence an immediate boost.

It was however three hours before I actually made contact with one of the resident trout after moving to a bank that was being battered by the strong wind. A pleasing wild brown of 12” bringing welcome reward for my efforts. I had spoken with a few other anglers as I wandered the shoreline and knew that no one seemed to be catching a lot which was not surprising in the conditions.

I wandered back and forth along the shoreline trying different retrieves and searching the water. I had confidence in the flies on my leader and stuck with the tried and trusted.

Success came once again as I stripped the lure to suddenly feel that delightful connection as a good fish hit the fly leaping from the water in a somersault of spray.

I was relieved when a pleasing 15.5” wild brown was safely within my net. After a quick photo and careful measuring the fish was returned and swam strongly away after holding in the cold water for a few moments.

The remaining hour or so was a little frustrating  with four more trout being hooked briefly before shedding the hook.

It was all back to the car park for 5.15pm and the prize giving. The event was generously sponsored by Partridge of Redditch, Yeti, Hooks and Hackles and South West Lakes Trust.

I was delighted to receive the runners up prize for the second biggest fish of the day.

Full results below with thanks to Rodney Wevill who was the events main organiser.

Fluff Chuckers / Partridge of Redditch Brown trout bank event.

Not a great day for pictures at the event today.

Bitter cold easterly winds made it a day of heads down and try very hard to find some fish.

A very good turnout with anglers travelling from North Devon, Somerset and the usual pirates from Cornwall.

The overall winner was Roger Truscott with the longest fish and the most fish caught.

The runners up being Jack Welshman, Wayne Thomas and Jon Allen.

Even though it really wasn’t ideal brown trout weather there was a good amount of fish landed with respectable fish from 13” to 17”.

Fluff Chuckers would like to thank all the anglers that supported the event a great turnout and most importantly the sponsors for their great generosity providing the prizes.

Partridge of Redditch

YETI

Trout Fishing South West Lakes Trust

Hooks & Hackles

CASTING A LINE ACROSS THE LOWER TAW

Details on Membership for B & DAA can be found at https://barnstapledistrictangling.co.uk

I cast a line fly across familiar lies on the Lower Taw and as always lingered a moment beside the old club hut. Its sad demise continues with a large tree fallen across its roof and graffiti scarring it front. There are few anglers who will remember those anglers who once rested and shared a tea and chat at this spot. Wild garlic grows in profusion in front of the hut filling spring air with its heady aroma as nature endures.

In front of the hut the remains of an old bridge give Buttress Pool its name.

A hundred yards above the hut is Newbridge that spans the river and as I look up I contemplate the salmon and sea trout that have passed beneath its arches over the years.

As I fished lower down I caught a couple of smolts on their journey back to the sea. These gleaming miniatures give hope that they will return to the river as silver salmon in a few years time.

I have also received news from the Torridge where Seth Tuson landed a salmon  from the Lower River.

South Molton Angling Club – UNDERTAKE CITIZEN SCIENCE

Half a dozen members of South Molton Angling Club attended a  Riverfly count combined with  Westcountry CSI (Citizens Scientist Investigations). https://wrt.org.uk/project/become-a-citizen-scientist/ They enjoyed a Spring day in glorious sunshine beside the beautiful River Bray near Brayley Bridge. The results from both exercises exceeded all expectations with plenty of river life present. https://www.riverflies.org

The discovery of a number of eggs attached to the base of stone raised questions as to their origin. Further enquiries to an expert within the West Country Rivers Trust revealed that they were the eggs of a freshwater bullhead or Millers Thumb that spawn during March and April. These delightful fish are undoubtedly etched upon many minds as small fish caught as children exploring streams and rivers.

Spring Salmon Fishing – Brightly & Weir Marsh on the Taw

After hearing of a fresh run springer of 11lb caught by Tony Watkins on the Weirmarsh and Brightly fisheries on the River Taw  I decided it was time to reacquaint myself with this prime stretch of water above Umberleigh.

The drive to the fishery culminating in a pleasing country lane lined with spring flowers brought back happy and poignant memories of time spent with the late Ron Warwick whose bungalow overlooked the Taw valley and the river that he loved. Visits to many riverside beats and fisherman’s paths rekindle many memories of those we have known through angling and time at the waters edge. It would be impossible for me to fish the Weirmarsh and Brightly Beats without remembering Ivan Huxtable who looked after the fishing and the anglers for many years. Whilst Ivan himself was not an angler he was always very supportive of the angling community and the river. He also raised a huge amount of money for local charity’s including the North Devon Hospice with his regular sponsored walks over Exmoor.

https://www.northdevonhospice.org.uk/news/ivans-terminal-diagnosis-will-make-for-poignant-exmoor-ramble/

I met with fishery manager Chris Steer for a quick and invaluable refresher on the beats and the likely holding lies enabling me to prioritise my efforts when it came to searching the water.

The fishing is split into three beats; Upper, Middle and Lower with the day rotating between beats with changeover at 1.00pm.

I was fishing the Upper and Middle beats both of which boast some stunning Fly water with good holding runs and pools. As Chris explained the likely holding lies, pools and crossing places I struggled to retain much of this valuable information though when I returned to the water with my rod a short time later much of the briefing had undoubtedly sunk in. As I fished methodically downriver I recalled much of Chris’s wisdom in relation to likely taking spots.

Knowledge of these taking spots are invaluable on any salmon fishery and learning where they are can require many decades of fishing. Fortunately, if anglers share their knowledge these hot spots can be passed down through the generations enabling anglers to have a better chance of hooking into that silver prize.

These taking spots do of course change over the years and also change in relation to the river’s height and flow. As salmon populations dwindle this knowledge built up over the generations becomes ever more vital. Whilst the river is constantly changing to a degree some features that create the perfect resting place for salmon remain. Yet learning about catching salmon becomes increasingly difficult as the experience becomes ever rarer.

I took my rod to the top beat at around 10:00am and began swinging a trusty black and yellow pattern across the first run below the railway bridge. I fished down through each pool and run methodically full of anticipation tempered with a degree of realism in that my prize whilst undoubtedly present is scarce.

As spring flowers bloom beside the riverside path, I cannot avoid contemplating the changing times. Many have walked these paths and some of the pools reflect their names and events that have occurred. They may have sat upon the angler’s bench during times of war and trauma. They would perhaps have been reassured by the perpetually flowing water and the changing seasons. If they could perhaps through some miracle revisit they would be saddened and troubled by the demise of the salmon and sea trout along with dwindling numbers of elvers.

The demise of our migratory fish are undoubtedly an indication of the rivers failing health. This should be of concern to all as water is as vital to life as the air we breathe.

Myself and many others marvel at migrations undertaken by swallows, martins, swifts, cuckoos and chiff-chaffs. The sight of that first swallow always brings a sense of joy yet surely the silver salmon is equally important as an indication that all is as it should be?

Imagine the dismay if we could no longer glimpse the swallow as its scythes through the warm  fragrant summer air. Surely we should be equally dismayed if salmon no longer reach our rivers?

Whilst I continually try to raise the many issues that blight our rivers it is perhaps wise to appreciate the wonders that we still have. The river on this Spring day certainly appeared in superb health with clear water and plenty of fry visible in the margins. There were also what I assume were a few olives flitting above the water though no signs of rising trout.

The warm sun beat down upon lush green fields and lambs played friskily as I waded in the cool spring river. It is pure joy to be immersed in this idyllic rural landscape and fishing somehow connects you and slows things down enabling an appreciation that is not possible during a fleeting visit or walk.

Over the years I have observed wildlife at close quarters for as an angler you merge slowly into the scene. If you observe the patience of the heron as it fishes you will notice its slow and deliberate movement. As anglers we should perhaps mimic this unhurried patient approach for there are undoubtedly far more fish in the river than we perceive.

The late great nature writer BB has this quote at the start of his many books; –

“The Wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colours, lights and shades, these I saw.

Look ye also while life lasts.”

 

I recently received a delightful email from Dr M George who has fished the Taw for many years. Dr George  expressed appreciation of the river and the wonderful environment. He had fished the river on the same day fishing further up the system. Over the years Mike has landed many salmon and  sea trout during his weekly visits that are often short sessions focussing on the prime taking spots. He gave a valuable piece of advice in that he always holds the rod very high as salmon take “On the dangle” and hook themselves against the loop in the line. No loop a tug but no fish ! I reflected upon this as I read the email for during my day on the river I had received a strong tug as I lifted the fly to recast. Perhaps if I had just slowed down and given a little slack a silver salmon would have pulsed at the end of my line? As we fish we learn and modify our stance those little amendments can eventually make us better anglers. Many thanks to Dr M George for sending the beautiful images (Below) from the River Taw.

Those who value the River Taw should consider joining the River Taw Fisheries & Conservation Association.

http://www.rivertawfisheries.co.uk/index.html

Going with the flow

Is there a better place to be than beside a West Country River in Spring ?  A few fresh run spring salmon have been tempted from both Taw and Torridge and with river levels holding up I have spent several pleasant hours drifting a fly across familiar lies to no avail.

http://www.littlewarhamfishery.co.uk

In between these forays after salmon I spent an hour one evening flicking a wet fly into the small pools of my local stream. Scrambling between trees I used a 7ft 3/4 wt Snowbee Classic to search the deeper pockets.

I caught a couple of small browns that reminded me of the fish I used to catch as a child dropping a worm in the overgrown River Umber that flows through Combe Martin. The familiar scents of wild garlic and the wild flowers of Spring are timeless sights and aromas that I have savoured every spring for more than fifty years.

South Molton Anglers – River Working

I joined members of South Molton Angling Club on one of their stretches of fishing along the River Bray. This was the first of a couple of bank clearing work parties organised throughout the season. It was a delightful Spring day with a bright blue sky and a pleasure to be at the waterside with fellow anglers keen to carry out some early season work.

(Above) Before

(Above )After

The club rents several stretches of water and work with the landowners permission to undertake a minimal amount of river maintenance to allow access to fishing areas. The winter storm always bring a few fallen trees that can block the river and render some areas un-fishable. Substantial trash dams and fallen trees can also lead to serious bank erosion so these also need tackling.

A couple of hours hard work addressed a few areas of concern and also enabled the normal good humoured banter and discussion to flow. The long dead carcass of a red deer stag intrigued us all as we debated its demise. Had it died of old age, been shot or hit by a car? It is likely that the poor creature had gone to the river for its last drink before passing away to decompose beside the ever-flowing river the nutrients from its body returning to the land in natures never-ending cycle.

Questions and speculation abound during the autopsy