Message from Ashley Bunning – SWLT

Another year passes and we say goodbye to 2022! It has been a hard year for the reservoirs, not only in the South West, but all over the UK.  Low water levels and lake closures have been a frustrating factor to fishing through the summer, and we thank all of you for being understanding through these testing times. Having started my role in September, I would personally like to thank all of you for your kind words of support and I hope we can now push forward and continue the great work South West Lakes has been doing to improve the fishing on the waters.

There have been some great catches through the year with many great bags of silvers from many of the reservoirs to some special carp being caught.

Sadly, the lakes have lost two of its ‘A-team’, with Arnie from Porth and The Big Fully from Argal passing. These fish put many smiles on anglers’ faces, they will be missed!

Looking towards the future of the lakes, in November we stocked 39 new carp into Argal. These fished ranged between 13lb and 17lb, with 34 mirrors and 5 commons. Next year we are planning to stock other waters in the region to continue our work to improve all our waters. There has been some great swim building projects carried out on the lakes also, I would like to thank all the volunteers who have given up their time to help and make improvements on the lakes.

I am pleased to announce that we will be running the Mainline Pairs competitions again for next year the dates for this will be March 24-26, June 30-July 2 and September 29-October 1. We are looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces and welcoming new anglers to the competitions.

Also we will be having two event days in August, which will be part of the Angling Trust’s National Fishing Month, with the emphasis to get as many kids fishing as possible. The dates and places for this are the Royalty Fishery on August 5 and Upper Tamar Lakes on August 19. Please keep your eyes peeled for these events on the website, so you don’t miss out.

Once again thank you for all your support through this last year, may you all have a great Christmas and happy New Year. Look forward to seeing you all out on the bank in 2023.

Ashley Bunning

Christmas Gift Ideas

Christmas looms ever closer and if you have not purchased all those Christmas gifts yet why not visit your local tackle shop.

We are very fortunate to have several superb fishing tackle shops in North Devon all offering a vast array of quality tackle and bait. The local tackle shop is of course more than just a shop its also a social hub where anglers meet and talk fishing an essential ingredient for the future of angling.  I always try and do a short piece each year to highlight North Devons tackle outlets.

Quay sports has a friendly team of local anglers behind the counter willing to offer useful advice on all disciplines of angling.

(Above) The superb FoxArt limited edition prints are now available in store, only four of each print available
Will make lovely Christmas gift. all prints signed and numbered. More designs coming soon.
Summerlands Tackle in Westward Ho! is  a long established family run tackle shop that carrys a vast range of tackle. A warm greeting is always given and it is rare to walk into the shop without meeting a fellow of the angle.
Anglers Heaven is conveniently situated adjacent to Bideford’s Pannier Market.  Owner Tom Wade is extending the shop with a grand opening of the extension in the New Year. The shop carry’s a large stock of sea and Coarse tackle and works closely with Bideford Angling Club to promote local fishing.They also carry a wide selection of air rifles.
High Street Tackle in Ilfracombe offers one of the largest selections of lures in North Devon and is the domain of Danny Watson and Pauline Chard. Danny is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to the latest lures for bass fishing and has many contacts throughout the lure fishing community. The shop also stocks a range of essential tackles and baits for coarse and sea angling.
Danny is a keen supporter of Combe Martin SAC and plans to co host an open Lure Fishing competition in the summer of 2023. Danny is also a supplier of tackle for Reel Deal
Braunton based Chillcheater supply high quality clothing for outdoor enthuiasts with warm under layers and tough, wind and water repellent outers.

Anglers Paradise – Lure Fishing Weekend

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Joe Won with 5 Species consisting of Pike, Perch, Rudd, Rainbow Trout and Blue Trout.
He went home winning a massive bundle of Prizes from Fox Rage, Okuma, Rapala, Fortis Eyewear, Catch and a Week’s Holiday for 2 at Anglers Paradise.
Team Drennan with Captain Dave Drake with Mark Bloxham, James Durkin, Emily Durkin, Alan Dicks, Liz Dicks, Simon Blatch and Joe Sims winning with 8 Species caught as a Team.
So, Ben Humber has had his Crown taken away, this year was Dave Drake’s Year as Winning Team Captain and to make it even more special – his first ever Lure Weekend Win! A Massive Congratulations to Dave and his Team, they all fished their socks off till the final whistle and Captain Dave lead them expertly to victory and without a doubt deserved to win. The Species consisted of Pike, Perch, Tiger Trout, Blue Trout, Rainbow Trout, Rudd and Golden Tench. They were the only Team to catch Golden Tench too which is pretty special!
BIG Thank You to Fat Mammoth, Rapala, Fox Rage for the awesome Team Prizes – they all looked like the Cats that got the cream!
AARON CHUCK with 4 Species consisting of Pike, Perch, Rainbow Trout and Rudd, with a length of 146cm.
Congratulations and Well Done Aaron! Aaron was the Winner of the last Lure Weekend we held in 2019, so to come as Runner Up is quite an achievement!
Massive THANK YOU to Fox Rage, Drennan, Okuma, Rapala, Fortis Eyewear and Catch for the amazing Prizes!
STEVE SELF with 4 Species consisting of Pike, Perch, Rainbow Trout and Rudd with a length of 126cm.
Congratulations and Well Done Stevie!
Thank you to Fox Rage, Rapala, Fortis and Catch for the great Prizes!
Anglers Paradise

ANGLERS PARADISE 2022 report from Zenia

ANGLERS PARADISE 2022 report from Zenia
Well, what a week last week was!! The Netting of the Main Carp went extremely well and all fish were transported safely and happily.
If we could describe last week’s events we’d say it was full of FUN, FRIENDS AND MORE FUN!
Throughout the Netting week, we hold many Fundraising Events and this years events were a HUGE SUCCESS!
Here’s a breakdown of what we got up to and what was raised for Charity –
**Saturday Burgers and Hot Dogs – Special Thank you to Phillip Warrens Butchers and Jim Williams
**Party Games Night – Special thanks to Party Game King – Joe Drury, & helpers Wendi Postma, Jaz Trent and Di Mepham
**Pool and Darts – Special thanks to Johnathon Clark and friend Carl
**Connect 4 Battles – Special thank you to Nicky Lock
**Irish Bingo – Special thanks to Di and Andy Mepham
**Toga B-I-N-G-O – Special thanks to Di and Andy Mepham
**Netting Badges – Special thanks to Di Mepham
**Fishing Match – Special thanks to the Sam Wahid and his boys
**Naughty, Farty, Burpy Party and Ghost Hunt – Special thanks to Wendi Postma and Co
**Guess the biggest Catfish weight – special thanks to Step Pearson and Treasure Hunt
**Zeejay’s Sparklers – Special thanks to Zeejay
**Raffle – Special thanks to Jaz Trent for selling the tickets throughout the week and thank you to all that donated prizes and bought tickets
**Quiz Night throughout the year – Special thank you to the Quiz Master – Paul Teggy
**Charity Wine throughout the year – Special thanks to Anglers Paradise
Wow, wow, wow!!!!!
Here’s to 2023!!
Anglers Paradise

Barnstaple & District Angling Association

Barnstaple & District Angling Association held their AGM at the Ebberly Arms on Tuesday, November 8th.

It was a pleasure to attend the meeting and share in the club members enthusiasm. John Webber the clubs Chairman is to be thanked for ensuring that the club continues to thrive and appears to be entering a new era of prosperity. The clubs roots stretch back over 100 years and it was fascinating to view some of the clubs historic trophies that carry the names of many well known local anglers.

I have been a member of the association on and off for close to fifty years and have many fond memorys of fishing with the club and on its waters. I am pleased to say that plans are being made to rebiuld the clubs hut on the River Taw. I have waxed lyrical on several occasions about the hut and the anglers that rested there as they talked of fish and fishing.

The clubs committee are enthiuastic and committed to the clubs future and that of the River Taw and the salmon and other species that swim within.

This  year the club has used un-taken honorariums  to give a little help to local worthy causes.

We  chose two , The Wave Project , who run surf  therapy programs to improve the mental health of children and young people. I watched them at Croyde beach .It was wonderful to see the beaming smiles on their faces  as they surfed in with the help from the volunteer surf mentors

Our other choice  was the local Barnstaple Ability Football Club, they are totally self funded and rely on just donations. They  have nearly 80 disabled & special needs adults playing football in the club., including 30 new members and Lynn Ashman who helps run the club said our donation will go towards buying new kit for these new members

 £150 to each one odf these commendable causes.

Full details on the club and membership can be found at the below link.

Autumn Pike from South West Lakes Trust Waters

There is something reassuring about home waters and the continuity of revisiting each year through the seasons. I have been fishing at Upper and  Lower Slade reservoir for close to forty years and remember when they were both trout fisheries stocked with rainbow trout. It also had a population of wild brown trout that grew to over 6lb.

Sometime in the 1980’s the lakes were stocked with coarse fish and a new era began. Some of the lakes carp from this time still reside within the lake and this season saw the thirty pound barrier breached for the first time. The lakes also held tench, bream, roach and perch. The Upper Lake was closed to angling on health and safety grounds when maintenance of the perimeter path was deemed impractical.

In 1994 the Lower lake was stocked with twenty one pike from what is now the country’s top pike water Chew Valley Lake. Several of these pike were in excess of twenty pounds and they provided fine sport for several seasons. These fish eventually perished due to old age and angling pressure. Fortunately, some of the fish bred successfully and the lake now holds a good head of pike and has produced its own fish to over twenty pounds.

I have fished for the pike since 1994 when I caught the majority of the original stocking with my best from the water a fine fish of 21lb 3oz. Pike fishing is very cyclical and seasons tend to fluctuate with some years producing lots of jacks and a sprinkling of doubles. At the peak of the cycle waters can if the  environment is suitable produce those specimen pike of over twenty pounds that dedicated pike fishers seek.

The dilemma with all good pike waters is that pike thrive when fishing pressure is low meaning that if good pike are being caught it is best to keep it under wraps. South West Lakes Trust manage several waters containing pike with Lower Slade being the only on in North Devon. There are also other lakes within their portfolio including Trenchford, Porth and Argal.

I visited Lower Slade on this early November day as heavy showers drifted past driven by a strong south westerly wind. These showers were interspersed with periods of bright sunshine. I started on the road bank with the intention of moving swims every couple of hours fishing two rods with float-fished dead-baits. In addition to the float’s I also used electronic bite alarms to alert me to a take if my eyes wondered from the crimson topped floats.

Pike floats bobbing optimistically on dark waters are one of winters joys and I tend to opt for floats even though straight legering is equally effective.

After a short time, a robin alighted upon the rods a welcome presence that brightens many a bleak winter day.

In the first swim the alarms sang out twice and the floats disappeared pleasingly. These were both jacks the biggest estimated at 8lb.

I moved to the far bank later in the day and was surprised that no runs were forthcoming in the next two swims. As afternoon passed I noticed the float lift slightly in the water. The float trembled and then disappeared beneath the dark water. I wound down and lifted the rod but failed to make contact.

It was to be my last chance of the day. I will be back in search of those bigger pike that surely lurk in Slade’s dark waters.

Pike are precious and need treating with care and respect. Always use tackle strong enough to ensure the fish is banked. Wire traces are essential as are unhooking tools including long handled forceps and side cutters. A suitable unhooking matt should also be used at all times. South West Lakes Trust rules state that single hooks must be used. I used a size 4 hook with a hair rig arrangement to ensure that there was no impediment to hooking cleanly.

(Above) Great catch from Callum Hardwick recently at Argal🎣 Callum and his mate had a great day fishing, landing 3 pikes to 15-17lb on Mackerel.

(Above) John Deprieelle and his sons Dylan and Leo, with a couple of pike they had from Trenchford this year.


 Chew Valley Lake 8:00am, it’s an excited gathering of anglers as always struggling to the boats with masses of piking tackle. There were the normal sprinkling of BIG NAMES in pike fishing amongst the eager group. I Have fished Chew on numerous occasions since it opened to pike fishing in October 2001 and always relish the challenge.

            The early morning sun illuminated the vast lake as Bruce Elston and I  loaded our gear into the boat. We discussed where we would fish and decided to go against the general wisdom and head for deep water close to the dam. The well known Stratford area would undoubtedly be packed with boats and we just didn’t want to be amongst the crowds. Big pike have been caught from all around Chew Valley Lake so whilst location is the key it is a big lake and it might not always pay to follow the crowds.

            To some extent my approach to fishing has changed over the years and enjoyment of the day is undoubtedly my number one aim. This may to some extent have been influenced by catching a 38lb pike earlier in the year a fish of a lifetime that I may never surpass. That fish was caught on a fly and both Bruce and I now question the benefits of targeting the pike during the trials at a higher cost when the fish can be caught on fly tackle.

            That said there is something special about watching floats bobbing upon a lake and the expectation of their disappearance at any moment. I cannot say for certain which approach I prefer or which is the. most effective.

            We agreed to troll lures on the way to our first location and were rewarded with a jack each. Using an echo sounder we located the boat close to where the bottom contours indicated a significant drop off. We then dropped anchors to ensure the boat remained stable and cast out dead-baits spread around the boat. It was now time to pour a fresh coffee and gather our thoughts.

            Bruce was first into a fish on a horse mackerel dead bait a small jack of perhaps 4lb.

            The conditions were certainly very pleasant for early autumn with a gentle breeze and brilliant blue sky.

            After an hour anchored up with dead baits and the occasional search around with various spinners we decided upon a move to a bay further along the West bank.

            After dropping anchor, I had a cast with the lure and immediately connected with a pike of around 8lb. We enjoyed further success from this location with Bruce adding another couple of jacks to dead-baits.

            Throughout the day we tried a few different spots, trolled a bit and varied our lures searching each area carefully. The autumn colours were showing on bankside trees. Swans and geese occasionally flew over and grebes glided on the water hunting for fish. High in the sky large planes flew to a fro from nearby Bristol Airport and wondered where they were headed?

            Bruce and I both watched our pike floats intently willing them to disappear. Time as always ebbed away and our dreams of monster pike slowly evaporated as the sun sank in the Western sky.

            We had boated 14 jacks between us, ten to Bruce and four to me.

            Bruce fished with his good friend Stuart Calder the following day. They chose to anchor up in the renowned Stratford area as thick mist hung over the lake. Early in the day Stuart boated a fine pike of 26lb 10oz. Bruce blanked. Chew is a big lake and each day deals a different hand there are many variables that go to make the game so fascinating and addictive.

26lb 10oz of prime pike

            We will be back in the Spring Fly rods in hand casting in hope and hopefully connecting with one of those famous Chew Valley Giants.

Meeting SOUTH WEST LAKES TRUST – New Head of Angling

I met with Ashley Bunning at Lower Slade Reservoir to discuss his new role as head of angling with South West Lakes Trust. Ashley is a very keen all-round angler much like myself and we had plenty to chat about as we walked around the reservoir. Ashley’s new role encompasses  Game and Coarse fishing across the South West.

Ashley is very keen to promote angling across the region focussing in particular on encouraging young people into angling with school days a strong possibility. The lakes across the region provide a wealth of angling opportunities for pleasure, Match, Carp and specimen hunters. Getting a balance across all persuasions can be difficult and it is often difficult to please everyone. Being a keen angler himself Ashley has plenty of ideas and has plenty of contacts across the angling world. He acknowledges that there are challenges and that there is ground to make up following the departure of Ben Smeeth last year.

The popular Carp Fishing competitions sponsored by Mainline are due to return next year at Upper Tamar and  I will have full details on NDANs as soon as these are officially announced. I might even take part myself!

The reservoirs across the South West offer a wide range of unique fishing opportunities and Ashley is keen to expand these where possible if budgets allow. These are difficult times and as a potential recession impacts upon us all fishing will undoubtedly be affected. It is also worth remembering that angling can be a relatively inexpensive pastime that has great benefits for both physical and mental health.

The social media platforms are to be reinvigorated over the coming months and I hope to share any news on North Devon Angling News. South West Lakes Trust have taken over the running of the famous Royalty Fishery at Christchurch where many historical catches have been made.

Angling is of course not the only pastime that uses the lakes and tolerance is essential if everyone is to enjoy their time at the water.


September 2022 

Hi all, I’m Ashley Bunning, the new Head of Angling at South West Lakes.

I am a keen angler who has fished the South West Lakes reservoirs all my life. I grew up in Holsworthy and when I finished school I moved away from home and studied Fishery Management and Aquaculture to a Bachelor of Science level at Sparsholt College in Winchester.

After completing my course, I worked at various fisheries around the country, then settled at Anglers Paradise in Devon for the last six years.

Over the years I have volunteered for South West Lakes and when the opportunity came about to have a role here as Head of Angling I jumped at the chance! I look forward to pushing fishing forward and improving the experience for anglers on our waters.

Paradise Catfish – 58lb

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Report from Zenia at Anglers Paradise.
Jamie took his Dad Paul Noone to Nirvana’s Specimen Cat Lake to catch his first ever Catfish, and boy did he do that!!!
Paul caught his first ever Catfish at 30lbs, then lost one to a hook pull and then goes and catches a massive 58lber!!!
Anglers Paradise