Fishing Amidst Summers Splendour at Wimbleball

It was always likely to be a challenging days fishing with a hot sunny day forecast requiring the packing of sun cream and plenty of water. The drive to Wimbleball was a delight with Exmoor in full summer splendour. Bright yellow buttercups and the delicate white flowers of cow parsley lined the roadside and the trees were close to being in full leaf.

I met up with Matt Kingdon at Wimbleball’s  boat jetty at 9.00am, we were fishing in South Molton Angling Clubs annual visit to the fishery where members hoped to catch a fish that could win the Mac Trophy.

Matt had fished the venue a few days earlier and enjoyed good sport using sinking lines and brightly coloured blobs and boobies. With warm sunshine we hoped that the fish might start to feast upon the brown beetles that were present in good numbers.

During early season I am happy to fish Wimbleball from the bank where fish can generally be tempted using buzzer tactics or lures on long leaders. As summer progresses access to deeper water can be beneficial and the ability to search the vast acreage becomes a distinct advantage.

We headed to Cowmoor for our first drifts searching previously productive areas with bright blobs and boobies. The first half an hour brought no action despite covering plenty of water as we set up different drifts.

We moved to the far end of the bay and found a few fish rising prompting a change to floating lines. Half an hour casting beetle patterns at rising fish resulted in a handsome wild brown trout of around 1lb.

With fish hard to find and less fish rising we decided to head for the tree shrouded Upton Arm. We pushed up into the far end of the Upton Arm with its steep wooded banks giving an almost Amazon jungle atmosphere as a hot sun beat down and thousands of small roach massed in amongst the tree branches.

We worked our way out through the Upton Arm at times frustrated by the cyclonic wind that dropped away and veered frequently in direction. Matt was first to succeed hooking a rainbow of around 3lb that as always gave a spirited tussle.

We persevered in the Upton Arm and Matt had a few follows and added another rainbow to his tally. My flies remained untouched as I fished hard and expectantly, a rainbow did follow my flies to the surface actually leaving the water as I lifted and taking a nip at the point fly as it dived back into the depths.

Perhaps we should have stayed in the Upton Arm instead of moving on? But move we did, back to Cowmoor and then to search Rugg’s and Bessom’s for a while before returning to Cowmoor for the Final effort.

We found fellow club members Ed Rands and Steve Bendle anchored up and reporting that they had found a few fish including a stunning 6lb 8oz rainbow to Steve’s rod.

We commenced a search close by and once again Matt was in action with hard fighting rainbows and a beautiful wild brown trout.

Suddenly my line zipped delightfully tight as a 3lb rainbow hit my yellow blob to give a hard battle before succumbing.

We fished on for a while having several last drifts before eventually deciding we had had enough.

It had been a hard day’s fishing beneath a cloudless sky. Sunseekers and water-sports enthusiasts were present in large numbers but there is room for all on Wimbleballs vast acreage.

We observed how natures calendar seems to be running slightly late with may blossom still in full flower in mid-June as foxgloves bloom. Sometimes a hard day’s fishing such as this is just as enjoyable as an action filled day when the fish come easy. Is there a better place to be than bobbing about in a boat beneath a blue sky amidst Exmoor’s pristine summer landscape?

The Reel Deal Team

Dan Hawkins has been operating his charter boat Reel Deal out of Ilfracombe for several years and has built a deserved reputation for putting anglers on the fish especially porbeagle shark. Dan has expanded on the waters fished out of Ilfracombe making the most of the boats capability to explore waters far to the West of Ilfracombe even venturing out into the Celtic deeps to catch blue shark.

Good news for anglers is that the Reel Deal experience has been expanded with Archie Porter joining Dan to skipper sister boat “Predator 2”. Seventeen year old Archie Pike has been assisting as deck hand for close to five years during which time he has undoubtedly been tutored well. I first met Archie as a keen junior angler participating in one of  Combe Martin SAC’s popular fun fishing events. It was apparent then that he had a keen interest in sea angling and I am delighted that he has takin this opportunity to help ensure Ilfracombe’s long term future as a charter boat destination.

I was due to join Dan on Reel Deal for a day with my camera capturing a few images for features. As is often the case circumstances dictate a change of plan and the need to fit a new engine into Predator 2 meant that young Archie was to skipper Reel Deal and was lumbered with me for the day.

On arrival at a busy Ilfracombe harbour, I was greeted by Dan and Archie who were chatting with Ilfracombe Sea Safaris the hot topic of the day being an invasion of Twitters eager to reach Lundy and tick off a rare warbler that had been sighted. Ilfracombe harbour is becoming increasingly popular as a destination for Wildlife watching and diving, operating as the stepping stone to Lundy.

Archie was taking myself and a party of anglers from the Weston-Super-Mare  area. Chatting with them I found that they ranged from experienced boat anglers to relative newcomers to the sport. Jerry Day, Raymond Galivlins, Igor Fursous, Matt Burns, Alec Hughs and Alec Gelasvili immediately made me very welcome.

As luck would have it the weather forecast was a bit iffy offering strengthening winds later in the day and low cloud. We set out from Ilfracombe and I was impressed as Reel Deal bounced across a moderate sea powered by twin Suzuki 325 engines that can push Reel Deal at a top speed of 45 knots cruising comfortably at 30 knots.

The familiar coastline West of Ilfracombe passed by quickly the cliff tops shrouded in mist. The first mark was a rocky reef close to Baggy Point where pollock and bass were on the wanted list. After several  unproductive drifts it was clear that the fish were either absent or not feeding.

I could sense that Archie was frustrated by this lack of action and overheard his enquiries as to conditions further afield. We were soon heading towards Lundy Island where we could drop anchor and target the tope that had been showing in good numbers.

https://www.northdevonanglingnews.co.uk/2021/06/07/tope-feeding-frenzy/

We spent an hour drifting with lures with a few wrasse and small pollock getting the fish count underway. The steep granite cliffs shrouded in mist created an exciting Jurassic park feeling to the vista. Guillemots  were abundant along with a few puffins.

As the tide eased towards low water it was time to embark upon the days main event and target the tope. We anchored at the favoured mark with a mixture of sand and broken ground. Large frozen mackerel baits were favoured by most and were sent to the sea bed. The rods set up in holders in anticipation of rod bending tope.

After a few minutes rod tips started to nod as a succession of bull huss and dogfish found the baits. A whiting tempted on baited feathers was attacked on the retrieve by what was undoubtedly the target species. The encounter being all too brief with the whiting showing deep lacerations on its flanks where the topes teeth had cut into the flesh.

As the tide eased towards low water bull huss came frequently each one boasting an impressive pattern of leopard like spots.

By now there were only five anglers participating in the day as one had been struck down by a particularly bad bout of sea sickness.

As the tide began to flood the fish once again went off the feed and we headed closer to the misty cliffs once again for the last session of the day. With a few small pollock added to the tally it was time to steam back to Ilfracombe.

It had been a hard day’s fishing as is sometimes the case. Despite this spirits were surprisingly high as future trips were planned with those on board eager to replicate their previous success on Reel Deal a few weeks prior to this trip when they had found the pollock in a cooperative mood smashing into their lures to result in a bulging fish box to take home for the freezer.

Lets hope my next venture out with the camera coincides with good light and plenty of fish.

TOPE FEEDING FRENZY FOR SOUTH MOLTON ANGLERS

With a calm day forecast it was great to arrive at Ilfracombe harbour and climb aboard John Barbeary’s Bluefin with members of South Molton Angling Club. With bottom fishing a little slow close to Ilfracombe John had suggested a trip to try the prolific fishing grounds close to Lundy Island. A trip out to fish in the vicinity of this rugged granite outcrop twenty five plus miles from Ilfracombe is a sortie I always relish as the scenery is spectacular and adds a welcome dimension to the fishing.

With reports of a few early tope showing first stop would be to anchor up and fish over low water with big baits. It was misty as we sailed out of Ilfracombe and headed West towards Lundy. As we looked back the morning sun started to burn through the morning mist and illuminate the Bristol Channel. A porpoise rolled in front of the boat. We all chatted enthusiastically about fish, the lack of fish and life in general as John delivered hot coffees and teas.

By the time we arrived at the banks and dropped anchor the sunshine had broken through and we were sat upon a mirror calm sea of blue. A variety of large fish baits were sent into the deep clear water impaled upon large strong hooks attached to wire traces or strimmer cord!

Within minutes Matt Brady was in action as a hard fighting tope seized his bait putting a healthy bend in his rod. Over the next hour or so over the low water slack a succession of tope hit our baits in a feeding frenzy giving exciting tussles and a few frustrating tangles. In total 16 tope were boated along with a few bull huss to 11lb a couple of smoothound and one or two inevitable doggies.

By the sound of the voices echoing across the water anglers were enjoying similar sport a short distance away in another Charter boat.

As the tide started to pick up general consensus was that we should try  drifting for other species using lures and baited feathers.

Drifting the West side of Lundy gave an opportunity to view the spectacular granite cliffs that were in parts decorated with patches of pink thrift. Cormorants stood drying their wings and seals basked in the warm sun. We even caught sight of a few puffins with their bright clown like beaks.

The fish finder showed plenty of fish close to the bottom yet action was slow as we drifted over the numerous peaks and pinnacles that lie to the West of Lundy. Sidewinders brought a few hard fighting pollock up around 4lb and baited feathers attracted more pollock a solitary small coalfish and some brightly coloured cuckoo wrasse.

John worked hard searching the reefs but it was obvious that the fish were not feeding well. This could have been due to the small tide we were fishing, light values or even lure choice. The complexities of angling are many and as I often say this all part of this intriguing game.

It was an enjoyable cruise back to Ilfracombe on a calm sea. The beautiful North Devon coast looked splendid with its steep green cliffs punctuated with vast sandy beaches that were undoubtedly packed with families, surfers and sun-worshippers.

The sizeable pollock were filleted a tasty and healthy reward for the day afloat.

We soon glided into Ilfracombe harbour dominated by the conversation stimulating statue Verity. Tourists were abundant and it was good to sense a feeling of normality returning to the seaside town.

Moments

A gentle South Westerly breeze and broken cloud are perfect conditions for fishing. With Low water at 7.00am I headed for the coast armed with the trusty lure rod. The sea was calm with a moderate swell caressing the shoreline. Water clarity was good with minimal amounts of weed present in the shallow rocky water. I felt confident from the first cast expecting a take at any moment. I watched the lure intently upon each retrieve hoping to see that shadow intercepting my pulsing soft plastic. The tide pushed in and my favourite taking places passed over. A slight knock at the lure gave encouragement to persist.

The sea air, calm conditions and a pleasing backdrop made the whole experience enjoyable as I followed the edge of the incoming tide. I changed to a bright green Mega bass lure and second cast there came that pleasing jolt as a bass hit the lure hard. A brief tussle in water less than a foot deep followed and a silver flanked bass was briefly admired before being carefully released. That moment of success is etched upon the mind and encourages future casts.

Later in the day I get an offer to fish a mid Torridge beat. With the river still at a good height and colour how can I resist this kind offer? I fish the beat with care covering each known lie in expectation. A wild brown trout of just over a pound seizes my fly and gives a brief tussle.

I walk to the top of the beat and wade out into the river working a line out across the river and searching one of my favourite runs.

Shafts of evening sunlight penetrate the tree canopy illuminating a world populated by thousands of flies dancing and darting above the water including a few mayflies. I glimpse a movement on the far and bank watch mesmerised as a stoat scurries quickly along the top of the bank totally unaware of me watching from my position waist deep in the cool river. I pause briefly until the stoat disappears and then resume with a swish of the rod watching the line unfurl, the fly alighting inches from the far bank. A kingfisher flashes past iridescent blue.

The line draws tight and there is life pulsating at its end. I keep it tight as a fish surges up river before erupting from the water. It’s a sea trout of perhaps a pound and a half. I draw it towards me and it flips free, I reckon it still counts as a catch and release prize!

Such moments accumulate in an anglers life painting a picture that is etched upon the mind.  These memories draw you back to the waters edge time and time again and perhaps they even give a place to retreat to when things in life are not how we would wish.

Rare Twaite Shad caught on the Mole

Richard Nickell co owner of Blakewell Fishery kindly sent North Devon Angling News a picture of a twaite shad caught whilst fishing for salmon on the River Mole a tributary of the River Taw. The twaite shad is a migratory fish that resembles a herring and run freshwater rivers to breed during late spring. The fish have declined greatly over recent decades with ever decreasing reports of captures in the West Country. The River Wye and Severn still have good runs each year that run into top of the the Bristol Channel.

(Below) Twaite shad caught from the River Wye

James Thomas with a shad from the Wye

It is to be hoped that Richards catch is evidence that a population are still hanging on in the River Taw.

Another migratory fish that enters North Devons river is the sea lamprey an eel like fish that can grow to almost a metre in length. The fish excavate pits amongst stones where they spawn the adults dying shortly afterwards.

Wimbleball Hardest Fighting trout in the West?

Late May is undoubtedly the best time to be in the English Countryside as natures lush greenery takes on that fresh vivid green hue that lasts a few fleeting weeks. The country lanes are lined with delicate white cow parsley and an abundance of late spring and early summer flowers.

Pauline and I were taking a short break on Exmoor. I was indulging in a few hours fishing at Wimbleball whilst Pauline relaxed in the sunshine and wielded the camera to capture a few images.

We arrived at the lake close to midday and set up beneath a bright blue sky as a cool breeze ruffled the lakes surface. I was surprised to see very little surface activity but elected to set up a floating line as I thought the trout would be likely to be in the upper layers.

The lake had risen several feet since my previous visit a fortnight ago as a result of persistent rainfall. I fished a team of three flies on a 12ft leader using a Montana on the point and two buzzers on the droppers. After twenty minutes without a pull, I changed to an olive damsel on the point and speeded up the retrieve. This brought an immediate response with a small wild brownie coming adrift after a brief tussle.

After a short  coffee break I again changed tactics extending the leader around four feet and tying a bead headed buzzer to the point, a diawl bach to the middle dropper and a bright yellow blob to the top dropper. I cast this out and fished a very slow retrieve just keeping the line tight and watching the tip for movement.

After five minutes the line zipped tight and a rainbow erupted from the surface in a flurry of spray the reel singing as line evaporated through the rings. A handsome full tailed rainbow was eventually netted and admired.

The next three hours saw me bank five more trout to over five pounds all of them giving thrilling battles in the clear water. It was satisfying to have once again found the right tactics for the day which is after all what this wonderful game is all about.

We packed up late afternoon and headed to the George Inn at Brompton Regis that is now in the capable hands of Trudi and Mark Underhill. This delightful historical country Inn oozes history and has been carefully renovated to retain its character. Our large room looked out over a splendid Exmoor landscape as swifts and swallows swooped around this peaceful quintessential English village.

Several other anglers were enjoying an ale in the beer garden when we arrived and chatted enthusiastically about rainbow trout that took them to the backing as they drifted the lake on one of the  Wimbleball fleet of boats.

We finished our day with a delicious meal in the busy bar relishing the sounds of laughter and chat after months of pandemic induced silence.

The combination of stunning fishing for some of the hardest fighting rainbows in the West and superb accommodation close by will I am sure prove very popular over the coming seasons.

Big Rivers Bring Silver Tourists

The Taw and Torridge are both running high following the recent spell of heavy rain but as the rivers drop and clear salmon and sea trout should start to show in good numbers. Jack Hillcox was fishing a River Taw beat with his father Simon who was acting as ghillie.

Simon told me ” The one thing better than catching a salmon  is acting as ghille when your son lands one.We had half an hour left before I had to drop him at Tiverton Parkway and were just philosophising how we had a great day and fish didn’t really matter ….then wham! A memorable day and hoping we all have some action over the next week or so.”

The salmon was returned quickly and swam away like a rocket.

As the rivers drop salmon and sea trout will settle into known lies where for a few days they will be catchable. Im sure a few good brown trout will also seize the salmon flies like this fine brown tempted by a seasoned Torridge fisher.

I fished a middle Torridge Beat as the sun started to rise above the trees and had  a couple of good pulls on a brass tube fly. The colour was perfect but the river is running just a little high and should be perfect within two or three days. Despite the lack of success is there a better place to be than in the river as the English countryside reaches early summer perfection?

After posting this I received news that Jamie Walden tempted a fine salmon of 16lb from Little Warham Fishery.

Plan “B” Brings A Pleasing Twenty – Lower Slade

The weather scuppered the boat trip out of Minehead with the wind due to swing West to North West by midday. A difficult call for the skipper but the right one as the weather men got it right. And so it was plan B. I had loaded the carp gear into the van the previous night thinking I might set out early but it was 6.30am by the time I woke up and close to 8.00am by the time I was on the road with dark thundery clouds in the morning sky.

It was precipitating down profusely when I arrived at Lower Slade and I watched a fellow angler pushing his barrow into the bay. With this area no longer an option I settled on a roadside swim that gave access to areas where I had previously enjoyed success. Whilst I haven’t fished Slade much for carp in recent years I don’t believe they change their habits to dramatically frequenting the same old areas with the wind influencing this.

By the time I had three rods out and some bait scattered about it was around 9.30am. The showers had passed by and the sky was blue with wisps of white cloud and the lush green growth of late spring was all around. A robin alighted upon the rods and searched for crumbs of bait around my feet.

After an hour or so I decided to check one of the baits and recast. As I prepared to recast the bite alarm on the right rod blipped and the bobbin bounced a couple of times. I grabbed the rod and wound down to feel a heavy weight as a good fish shook its head. The fish gave a good run around giving a few anxious moments as it found some weed, becoming solid for few moments before steady pressure coaxed it free. Eventually it swirled close to the bank and moments  later it was safely within the net.

The scales put a number on it of 21lb 14oz; a pleasing result and another carp ticked off my challenge to bank a carp from each SWLT North Devon Lake this season. I had charged my camera battery the previous night and had remembered to grab the camera on the way out of the house but had forgotten to put the battery in! Fortunately these days we always have our phone with a camera! Hence the slight grainy image.

The rest of the day drifted past and for a while it seemed as if summer had arrived as the call of the cuckoo echoed around the valley. I packed up late afternoon as a cool North-West wind sprung up as predicted.

Taking a walk beside the tumbling waters of the East Lyn

After the rain and clouds it is a relief to walk beside the tumbling waters of the East Lyn as they race towards the Bristol Channel. Over forty years ago I caught my first salmon from this river an event that is etched upon my mind. The numbers of salmon that now run this river have dramatically declined though of course as an angler I cannot help wonder what now swims within this raging torrent. It’s running too high to fish today as any fish hooked would surely be lost in the maelstrom unfair on the fish and pointless for the angler.

After one of the driest Aprils on record May’s rain has restored the balance and the coming weeks give promise across North Devons rivers with salmon and sea trout likely to be well distributed throughout. Time to pause and take in natures beauty as Spring bursts towards summer invigorated by weather fronts pushing in from the Atlantic.

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Fly Fishing Club Return to the water with screaming reels

Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club resumed activities at Wimbleball Reservoir after a twelve month lay off due to the COVID pandemic. Spirits were buoyant as members congregated at the ticket hut prior to heading out to the lake. Two pairs of anglers were taking to boats and the remaining three including myself were fishing from the bank.

Heavy thundery showers were forecast and a gentle breeze was pushing up into Bessom’s Bay and Ruggs. The three of us who had opted to fish the bank headed to this area.

Pulling into the parking area I was delighted to see a splash of vivid yellow with cowslips in full bloom a pleasing sight and less common in the West than the dominant primroses.

Wimbleball is undoubtedly the jewel in South West Reservoir fishing with a growing reputation throughout the Fly Fishing fraternity. Wading out into the cool clear water I put out a floating line and a team of three flies. After fifteen minutes using small imitative patterns I changed tactics slightly adding a damsel an olive damsel to the point and bright orange blob to the top dropper. This brought instant success as a rainbow hit the lure hard giving a spirited account before being drawn over the net. A couple of casts later another rainbow hit the blob and was safely netted.

With a brace secured I was now fishing in the zone expectant of a take at any second. A few missed pulls followed enough to keep me alert and fishing with that confidence that ensures total emersion in the task at hand.

(Above) Andre Muxworthy & Paul Grisley fishing in the rain!

By midday the rain was lashing down and it was far from warm. Angry clouds drifted past. I noticed a few fish rise and one or two Alder flies were showing. I changed my team of flies putting a bead head black Montana on the point, an Alder fly on the top leaving a black buzzer on the middle dropper. Slowing the retrieve right down I soon found action hooking into an impressive rainbow that erupted from the water before taking the fly line down to the backing. Five minutes later a full tailed rainbow of over 4lb 8oz was being admired on the bank. This was followed by another impressive rainbow over 4lb and a final fish of around 3lb. This sadly brought my fishing for the day to a close as being a competition all anglers had bought five fish tickets. My normal option is to buy a catch and release ticket.

I chatted to fellow anglers for a while before enjoying  a coffee and sandwich as the rain persisted. It was now close to 2.00pm with a couple of hours left until the weigh in back at the permit hut.

I drove back to the hut and took a stroll to the waters edge. A brief spell of sunshine transformed the scene as water sports enthusiasts enjoyed the day. There is plenty of space on the Lake for all with anglers, windsurfers and dingy sailors all catered for.

Just after 4.00pm club members gathered for the weigh in and all had tales of hard fighting rainbows with a couple of snapped tippets in the mix. Biggest fish of the day was an impressive rainbow of 6lb 7oz that had taken Andre Muxworthy over fifteen minutes to get into the boat. All members had caught with four limit bags and several fish of over 4lb.

Andre Muxworthy with the biggest trout of the day at 6lb 7oz

The results of the Edwards Cup:-

1st Andre Muxworthy – Five Fish – 16lb 6oz – Best Fish 6lb 7oz

2nd Colin Combe – Five Fish – 15lb 8oz – Best Fish – 5lb 8oz

3rd – Wayne Thomas – Five Fish – Best Fish – 4lb 10oz

4th – David Eldred – Four Fish – 12lb 10oz

5th – Paul Grisley – Five Fish – 12lb

6th – Nigel Bird – One fish – 2lb 8oz

7th Dave Mock – One fish 2lb 7oz..