Fly Culture – Podcast

I was pleased to have the opportunity to chat with Pete Tyjas for one of his recent Fly Culture Podcasts. See link below – If you download you can play it on the phone; a good way to entertain on a long car journey or in my wifes opinion ideal cure for insomnia.

https://www.buzzsprout.com/402997/4765247-wayne-thomas-on-writing-and-fishing-in-devon.mp3?blob_id=18923708&download=true

Bass on the lure

With a boat trip off Ilfracombe cancelled due to a brisk wind I decided upon a short session with the lure rod in the hope of a bass. I timed my arrival at the mark two hours after low water as the flooding tide pushed over the shallow boulder strewn shoreline. The shallow water was a little murky with more suspended weed than I would like but if the lure can be presented I felt sure bass would be there. I had a Megabass spindle worm clipped the end of my line from the previous trip in similar conditions. This lure is weedless and can be fished nice and slowly in the snaggiest of water without fear of losing tackle.

5lb bass

I started searching the water close in where weed was not so prevalent and after a couple of casts there was a  swirl and knock as a bass snatched at the lure. The next ten minutes were non eventful as I peached the mark carefully. A cast to an area of slightly clearer water brought a big swirl and an all too brief encounter.

My confidence was now high and as the tide pushed in my confidence grew. I followed the edge of the tide up and was rewarded as a bass hit the lure with thump. Line was ripped from the reel and the thin braid burnt my finger as I applied heavy pressure as the fish thrashed about in the weed. After a spirited tussle the bass was secured and at around 5lb despatched to take home for tea. I only take the occasional fish for the table returning any fish over 7lb and any under 4lb. Pan fried bass fillets are delicious!

5lb bass

I continued to search the shallow water and  enjoyed another spited tussle with another bass of identical size that was slipped back into the shallow water. The fish swam strongly away and  I hope to encounter the fish again in ten years time when it will perhaps be a double.

Old Trophies bring back a few memories

We had a bit of a lockdown clear out like many others and in the shed was a box of old trophies many of them from a while back. Whilst Pauline suggested it was a shame to throw them out I decided the re-cycling centre would be their resting place but just to preserve them a bit longer I took a few photos. I hope the images bring back a few happy memories.

Lynton Rodbenders, Barnstaple Rod N Reelers, THe National Federation of Sea Anglers. Wyvern Division, South West Federation of Sea Anglers

( Above)Peter King was the owner of the tackle shop in Bear Street Barnstaple and an active member of several North Devon Sea Angling Clubs. He was also a keen salmon angler.

(Above) A selection of trophies from the Ilfracombe Fishing Festival that was organised by the Ilfracombe and District Angling Club. Looking back those week long festivals were amongst the happiest days of my fishing life.

The North Devon Sea Angling Association ran a competition league encouraging friendly competition between the regions many clubs.

Combe Martin SAC competitions back in the 1970’s were all bag weight competitions like most clubs of the time. My 52lb 13oz haul set a club record for a 6 hour match. 6 mullet and 3 conger if I remember correctly from Camels Eye!
(Above) Pauline pointed out that I really have been fishing the North Devon Coast for a long time!

Summer Fishing at Wimbleball

WIMBLEBALL

As we enter July trout fishing tends get harder going as the water temperature rises and the fish go deeper. I was eager to get out onto Wimbleball before the summer doldrums set in and had arranged to meet with Snowbee ambassador Jeff Pearce for a day afloat.

I met up with Jeff at the boat launching bay just before 9.00am and my spirits were immediately lifted by the enthusiastic banter that was flowing amongst the anglers gathering for a day on the water. I have found that angling has been a great antidote to the widespread doom and gloom of the COVID pandemic.

We were all greeted cheerfully by Trevor the fisheries resident guide and bailiff who is always willing to offer valuable advice on where to fish and what tactics to employ.

It seemed the perfect day for trout fishing with a moderate westerly breeze and broken cloud cover. If this had been a month earlier teams of buzzers would have been the way to go I am sure but general consensus was now for deeper water and lures.

During the more difficult days of mid to late summer a boat gives a significant advantage allowing a larger area of the lake to be explored.

Jeff and I decided on a few casts in the sailing club bay just to get warmed up so to speak. As we drifted slowly Jeff caught a glimpse of a good sized rainbow estimated at 6lb + and put his olive damsel into the area. The fish immediately seized the offering and erupted from the water in a flurry of spray. I grabbed for the camera to no avail as Jeff pulled in a slack line to reveal that the hook had partially opened out. Testament to Wimbleball’s hard fighting fish or a dodgy hook?

I had one trout follow my lure in the bay but after this early success we decided to head out onto the lake proper. The deeper water up near the dam seemed a good idea so it was off to there that we headed powered by the petrol outboard.

Drifting the margins Jeff had the first chance as a trout likened to a tuna chased a damsel nymph to the side of the boat. A few more glimpses of trout brought excited comments from Jeff as we explored the lakes margins that dropped off into deep-water within just yards of the bank.

After a few tentative plucks the first fish of the day was secured. A small handsome rudd of just over 8oz!

The Upton Arm has a reputation for producing some superb wild brown trout. And so we headed up into this delightfully wooded bay. Drifting with the strong breeze proved a little too fast even with the drogue so we decided to drop anchor at a promising looking spot not too far off the shoreline. I often ponder upon this for when we fish from boats we often strive to get close to shore whilst when we shore fish we aim to put our flies as far out as possible. In truth the margin of the lake is its biggest and most often productive zone.

This area soon proved a good call as Jeff hooked a fine rainbow of close to 5lb that used its broad tail to good effect. Over the next couple of hours Jeff added another three rainbows to the tally. I couldn’t get a pull and started to question what I was doing wrong. I was on a sinking line and fishing a damsel nymph whilst Jeff was on a sink tip with using various large nymphs on the point a yellow and red buzzer on a dropper.

As the fishing eased we decided perhaps unwisely to try elsewhere and headed for the deep water of the Narrows close to some old boat launching steps. Sticking with  the sinking line and a damsel nymph I searched the deep water. Suddenly the line zipped tight and a rainbow of a couple of pounds graced the net. Over the next couple of hour’s we drifted around anchored  for periods and it was me that started to enjoy success adding a couple more to the days total.

As afternoon drifted into evening we decided on a last half an hour back in the sailing club bay. After a few casts another rainbow hit my black zulu on the dropper. With four trout each it seemed a good time to head for home.

As we packed away the gear the lake looked superb in the early evening light. We reflected upon an enjoyable day of two halves. A morning when Jeff seemed to charm the trout and an afternoon when I somehow found the key to success. These long hard summer days though challenging are often just as rewarding as those easier days of plenty in the early season.

We will be back in search of those broad backed tuna shaped rainbows with full tails before too long!

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.