Head for the Deeps on hot summer days

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As the hot weather conditions persist stillwater trout fishing can be very challenging. The larger reservoirs are undoubtedly the best venues to head for and deep water offers the best chance of fish. Wimbleball can be well worth a visit during even the hottest of days. The below map gives a guide to the deeper areas worth concentrating on. On most reservoirs water close to the dam is deepest and well worth a try. A benefit of the low water levels is that it opens up large areas of bank normally out of reach to bank anglers.

Free trout fishing taster day at Kennick Reservoir

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Free trout fishing taster day at Kennick Reservoir

Environmental charity South West Lakes is hosting a free trout fishing taster day at Kennick Reservoir on Dartmoor on Saturday 20 August.

The day is part of National Fishing Month (1-31 August) which celebrates the social, wellbeing and environmental benefits of angling.

The event is kindly supported by Snowbee and Turrall. As well as tuition, there will be fly-tying demonstrations with Brian Ratcliff and Colin Nice, casting demonstrations with Simon Kidd at Snowbee, a raffle, and countless tips and tricks for beginners and more experienced anglers. All participants will also receive a gift bag from Turrall and there will be the opportunity to purchase a range of fishing gear and accessories.

Dil Singh, Technical Lead for Game Fishing at South West Lakes, said: “We would like to extend a warm welcome to all new beginners to our sport, and of course any established anglers who would like to come along. If you would enjoy the chance to try fishing or brush up on techniques as well as catching up with some friends over coffee and biscuits then we look forward to seeing you. The kettle is on!”

There are three sessions to choose from: 10am-11.30am, 12pm-1.30pm and 2pm-3.30pm. Booking is essential at www.swlakestrust.org.uk/whats-on

Raffle tickets are also available in advance and prizes include Snowbee Classic fly rod, fly reel and fly line, rod kits from Turrall, Kennick day permit and boat permit. Tickets cost £2.50 each or five for £10.


Some of our amazing supporters at Quay Sports in Barnstaple donated money raised at their 1st Anniversary Fundraiser. They raised an impressive £1122 in ONE day and we’d just like to say a massive thank you to Toby, Harrison, Chris and Mark L and the rest of the store team for continuing to fundraise for Children’s Hospice South West.

Free Trout Fishing Taster Day

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Saturday 20 August, Kennick Reservoir- Free Trout Fishing Taster Day (Booking Essential).

National Fishing Month (1-31 August) is all about celebrating the social, wellbeing and environmental benefits of angling.

Angling offers you a chance to get outside, experience nature at its best, get the whole body moving, take a breath and allow your mind the time it needs to reset.

We would like to extend a warm welcome to all new beginners to our sport, and of course any established anglers who would like to come along. Join us at Kennick Reservoir for a ‘Have a Go Session’ with local and experienced Fly- Fishing guides and anglers.

The event is kindly supported by Snowbee and Turrall. As well as tuition, there will be Fly-Tying demonstrations with Brian Ratcliff and Colin Nice, casting Demonstrations with Simon Kidd at Snowbee, fishing gear and accessories available to buy from Turrall (cash only please as no card facilities at Kennick) a raffle, as well as countless tips and tricks to use going forwards. Plus a gift bag from Turrall for participants.

Wellies or old footwear advised as it can be muddy in places. Equipment is available to use on the day but feel free to bring your own if relevant. Bring a Packed lunch (Tea, coffee and biscuits provided).

Raffle tickets available in advance. Raffle prizes include Snowbee Classic Fly Rod, Fly Reel and Fly Line, Rod Kits from Turrall, Kennick Day Permit, Boat Permit. Tickets cost £2.50 each or five for £10.

If you would enjoy the chance to try fishing for the first time or brush up on techniques as well as catching up with some friends over coffee and biscuits then we look forward to seeing you. The kettle is on!

There are three sessions to choose from: 10am-11.30am, 12pm-1.30pm and 2pm-3.30pm.

Tickets are free but booking is essential. 


South West Lakes Trout Fisheries Report

July 2022

Hot sunny weather conditions have meant that, as the month progressed,  water temperatures have started to rise quickly, levels dropped, and fish (rainbows in particular) have generally preferred to move to and feed in deeper water during the heat of the day, when boat fishing has proved to be popular. South West Lakes stress that during these conditions, fish welfare must remain paramount, and care must be taken to limit handling fish, and that catch-and-release must be done promptly to avoid stress.


Kennick – Anglers found, unsurprisingly, that success rates dropped as the month progressed and the water warmed. The monthly rod average was 2.5 fish per rod. The fish were well spread out earlier on, but moved to the deeper waters by the dam, Clampitts Bay, and Boat Bay as the water warmed, and fishing from a boat with a long leader or sinking line resulted in the best sport. Traditional dry fly techniques (black gnats and daddies) worked well in the early mornings during buzzer hatches, but otherwise nymph, lure, and booby patterns accounted for most catches. Graham Roberts (from Totnes) caught six rainbows to 4lb, mainly on lures and nymph patterns; Brian Sedgebeer caught two rainbows to 3lb 4oz fishing from a float tube with a sinking line and slow retrieve, while Malcome Ure caught seven rainbows to over 3lbs in one session.

Burrator – Again catches dropped off each week as the month progressed (with weekly rod averages falling from 3.8 to 1.5 fish per angler), and the fish moved out to deeper water. Longstone, Lowry Point, Pig Trough, and Pines Bay proved to be the best locations, and while dry fly techniques worked well in the earlier part of the month (with Beetles, Black Gnats, and Hoppers all catching fish), as the water warmed,  nymphs (Montanas, Damsels), blobs, and boobies fished on intermediate or sinking lines proved preferable. Mike Lunney (from Douseland) enjoyed some great sessions, catching bags of six rainbows on two visits, and a bag of three to 2lb 2oz on another.

Siblyback – A mixed bag this month at Siblyback, when some days provided excellent sport and others proved to be challenging. When there was a bit of cloud cover and a surface ripple, fish were keen to rise to Sparkle Hoppers and foam beetles, but otherwise sub-surface tactics with nymphs (Red Diawl Bachs, Buzzers, Damsels, and Montanas) and lures (Cats Whiskers, Blobs, and Orange Fritz) accounted for most fish. Stocky Bay, Two Meadows, and the West Bank proved to be the most productive locations. While no exceptionally large fish were caught during the month, there were some decent bags of fish, including five rainbows each for Andy and Al Lawson (from Plymouth) on dries, and Paul Bancroft (from Plymouth) also caught five rainbows to 2lb.

Stithians – Anglers averaged 2.3 fish per rod over the month, with plenty of rising fish throughout, particularly in the evenings, when Daddies, Beetles, Black Gnats, and Hoppers gave rise to some great sport, and floating line tactics have produced the best catches, even with sub-surface patterns (Spiders, Damsel Nymphs, and Diawl Bachs) on a slow retrieve. The Dam Bank, Goonlaze, Yellowort, and Hollis Bank proved to be the best locations, although other banks also produced fish. Simon Peters (from Cusgarne) caught fourteen rainbows to 2.5lb, starting on dries at 5am to catch seven fish, and switching to the washing line method as the sun rose to catch a further eight. John Henderson (from Falmouth) caught six rainbows and seven browns in one session using a floating line with beetles and a damsel nymph on the point.

Fernworthy – Has produced consistently good sport, with anglers averaging 4.4 fish per rod, and fish looking to the surface to feed in spite of the hot sunny conditions. Floating lines with a variety of dry patterns (Hoppers, Beetles, Sedges, and Black Gnats) worked well, otherwise nymphs (Damsels, Spiders and Montanas) fished just below the surface on a slow retrieve caught fish. South Bank, Lowton Bay, the bank by the Dam, and Permit Hut bank all fished well, although it pays to keep on the move and cover as much water as possible. Alan Green (from Plymouth) caught twelve browns to 1.5lb in one session using Bibio and black dry patterns, with fish often chasing a medium retrieve strip. In another session, Richard Buckingham (from Helston) caught five browns.

Colliford – Anglers enjoyed outstanding sport this month at Colliford, averaging over 6.4 fish per rod. Fish were well spread out around the lake, although Stuffle, Lords Waste Bay, and Menaridian banks recurred repeatedly on catch returns – the recommended tactic is to keep on the move to cover the most water. Floating lines with dry patterns (Black Gnats, Bob’s Bits, Beetles and Sedges) caught well, as did sub-surface spider patterns, buzzers, Hares ears, Soldier Palmers, and Sedgehogs. Tim Laws (from Falmouth) caught a 3lb 4oz brown (in a bag of three fish) – the best fish of the month (and the season so far). Chris Tilyard (from Fraddon) had four excellent sessions, catching three bags of fifteen browns, and one of thirteen, using black spiders and Bob’s Bits fished close to the bank, or pulled wet patterns fished into the wind. Paul Rollings (from Polperro) caught seven browns to 30cm, initially using Soldier Palmers, and then moving on to dry patterns.

Roadford – Floating lines with dry Hopper patterns or sub-surface nymphs (Diawl Bachs, Damsels, or Soldier Palmers) accounted for most fish, with Wortha and Davey’s Bank the most productive locations. Dean Boucher (from Gunnislake) caught fifteen browns to 14” in one session, using Soldier Palmer, Zulu, and Black Tadpole patterns fished on a floating line.

A Glimpse of hope in dwindling waters

Many of my childhood days were spent beside the River Umber that flows through the village of Combe Martin. It was from this river that I caught my first freshwater fish a small wild brown trout of just a few ounces. The river also produced good numbers of eels that would seize a worm intended for the trout. During the 1970’s wild brown trout thrived within this small river and I caught hundreds of buttercup flanked trout with bright crimson spots. The prolonged drought of 1976 had a severe impact upon the river and many trout perished as some stretches of the river dried up. The river made a partial recovery but was hit by several pollutions that decimated stocks further.

I have never lost sight of this tiny river walking its banks from time to time on a stroll down memory lane. I haven’t fished it since the late seventies but still relish the memories of those trout and the adventures I had beside the river. On my last few visits I have failed to spot any trout and feared that the population had all but died out.

I recently read of a scheme to monitor the water quality in the River Umber and saw a report of fish being seen in the river. With the present drought I was worried that the river had dried up so Pauline and I took a walk beside the dwindling water. Some of those childhood haunts had changed little with familiar trees and walls still present.

The water flow was alarmingly low but it was at least still flowing. The water was clear though there were a few silty deposits. I noted one of the water monitoring stations and was pleased to see this indication that some still care about the river.

To my delight as I peered into the water I glimpsed two trout ancestors of those wild trout that brought me so much childhood joy.

Worrying Times

Photo – With kind permission of Ian Lewis
Wistlandpound Reservoir

As I write this drizzle is freshening the land but will do little to replenish local rivers and reservoirs that are showing the signs of an extensive drought. If the dry weather continues our news screens will be filled with drought fears and water companies will undoubtedly be forced to contemplate imposing hose pipe bans. If we do not get substantial rain this will be inevitable but all too late I fear. Water is a precious commodity for both ourselves and the environment. As anglers we see the dwindling rivers and most of us have ceased fishing many rivers as fish are threatened with low oxygen levels and increasing risks from pollution.

Dwindling water flow in the River East Lyn

Harts tongue ferns wilting

On my trips to the waters edge I have been alarmed by what I perceive as a significant lack of swallows, swifts and martins. Whilst at Wistlandpound recently I failed to spot any swallows. The swallows are often seen swooping low over water feasting upon fly’s emerging from the lake. The evening rises of years ago are few and far between now as I fear a dramatic reduction in insect life.

The impact of climate change is widely apparent compounded further by mankinds intensive use of the land fuelled by  an ever increasing population. There is hope in the growing awareness of natures decline but I fear it is all too late. I hope that I am wrong but the decline I have witnessed in my life is dramatic and life is short in real terms.

” Life’s a long song but the tune ends too soon for us all”

A parched outfield at North Devon Cricket Club, Instow

I attach a copy of correspondence from South Molton & District Angling Club. This highlights typical issues that impact upon local rivers and how anglers are at the forefront of raising concern.

Dear all

Its been brought to my attention of potential water and general environmental pollution on the bray by hanson quarry activities.
Mike Coulson, a club member, emailed me yesterday. I thought all club members should and keep an eye on our precious river. Fishing activity should not be encouraged in these low water conditions as the fish are probably stressed enough already but if you are in the area, walking, driving and notice any discolouratioin, milky colour, take a picture,time and place and inform the EA to keep the pressure on. 
I have copied mike’s email for your digestion.
Ed Rands (chairman)
  I attended a small meeting at the village Charles on Tuesday with 3 local people, including a contracted employee of Hansons and other quarries, a Parish Counsellor and a doctor,  to discuss the extended working at the Hanson Quarry below Brayford (due to work on the link road) and the increased pollution caused by the more frequent blasting. The concerns of those attending were the potentially serious health issues connected to breathing in silica dust from the atmosphere. (Silica dust particles become trapped in lung tissue causing inflammation and scarring. Silicosis results in permanent lung damage and is a progressive, debilitating, and sometimes fatal disease).
I was invited, with the blessing of South Molton Anglers, to provide a view from the angling community about the blasting – particularly about the potential damage caused by run-off from the quarry entering the river Bray (silting up Salmon and Seatrout spawning beds). The 3 locals approached Hansons about their concerns and so far have not had any response to their request for a plan to stop the dust and run-off. They intend to hold a meeting at Brayford village hall to increase awareness of the silica issue, gather more information from people who may have been affected and then with this information, put pressure on Hansons to act. From an angling/conservation point of the view one of the major worries is that if Hansons are to stop the increased dust they will have to use more water to spray on the workings. This will mean more run-off. The manager of Hansons who talked to the residents of Charles before my meeting admitted that there were traps at the quarry that are supposed to capture run-off but they haven’t been cleaned or maintained for as long as he’s been there. The Charles resident who is a contracted employee of Hansons and other quarries stated that Hansons are well known for their lack of regulation and limited concern about safety/ environmental matters. 
One other concern is whether Hansons has an abstraction license – there are large pumps placed in the river near the quarry. It would be useful to know when they can abstract and how much water they are allowed to take.
In my recent discussion with the Charles group, I understand that next steps are a request for monitoring of the river Bray and a record kept of any visible run off. South Molton Anglers could probably assist with this. There is also a chap with a small holding below Newton Bridge who has already reported seeing “the river run white” who could be approached. More information will hopefully be gathered from the Brayford town hall meeting and then perhaps a careful approach to the press can be made – if no response from Hansons. 
I hope these two issues are of interest. Any thoughts you might have about how the angling community could help would be much appreciated.

The below report is full of statistics that makes grim reading. Statistics are of course complex and influenced by many factors that make them difficult to analyse. Data is vital in gaining knowledge yet there is seldom a level playing field. There are those who will want to ban angling completely in an effort to protect salmon stocks. In my view this would be counterproductive as anglers care deeply about the rivers and the salmon. Take away the anglers and who will care? Who will be there to observe the unfolding disaster?

The latest news on salmon stocks makes for grim reading see below from Mike Moser of the Nature Recovery Group.

Worrying news for Atlantic salmon in the Taw and Torridge river systems as the Environment Agency issues its latest assessments.
Salmon populations in both rivers are now considered “At Risk” (of local extinction); in the previous assessment, populations in the Torridge were “At Risk” and in the Taw “Probably At Risk” – so this is another step in the wrong direction. We urgently need concerted action throughout the catchments to identify the sources of pollution and sedimentation which are so damaging to salmon breeding. And we urgently need more restoration of peatlands and wet grasslands throughout the catchment to help maintain river flows.
The Smart Biosphere project in the Umber (Combe Martin) catchment has done just that, with sensors throughout the catchment delivering real time data for land management so that farmers and others can take positive actions to address any issues.
Let’s replicate this throughout the Taw/Torridge systems, and all work together to address the issues before it is too late for our Salmon.


Wistlandpound – A Short Evening Session

After reading a few reports of good sized rudd being caught at Wistlandpound on Dry Fly Tactics I decided it was time to enjoy a short evening session. After a long dry spring and early summer the reservoir is now very low with a vast area of bank now fishable. Water clarity is still excellent with no signs of significant  algal blooms.

The lake was mirror calm and a few fish were rising. I opted for an easy to see Dry Fly as the light values were already starting to drop. I started at the top end of the reservoir and soon connected with a trout of around 10oz. To my surprise it was rainbow trout that have not to my knowledge been stocked for around ten years. It is possible that it has been accidentally stocked with brown trout but as far as I know the lake is now promoted as an un-stocked wild fishery. This raises the interesting possibility that there is a breeding population of rainbows in the lake?

A few more missed takes followed before I connected with a lovely brown trout of 10″.

After adding another brown to my tally I set out to target the rudd and managed a brace of golden flanked rudd as the light begin to fade. Both fish succumbing to a small peter ross fished slowly through a large shoal. There are undoubtedly some big rudd to be caught but getting though the small fish is challenging. The large numbers of rudd fry will undoubtedly result in some good sport with wild browns during early autumn.

Drought Thoughts 2022

Advice from Richard Fieldhouse of Barbless Flies

As I’m sure you are well aware, it’s been pretty hot over the last few days  in this weather it is recommended to leave the fish in both rivers and stillwaters alone. Water temperature has a massive effect on the ability of a fish to recover once it has been caught – it is generally accepted that once the water temperature is above 18°C, fish will start to become stressed (the warmer the water, the less oxygen is dissolved in it).

For the above reasons, it’s probably just best to give the fishing a miss and sit in the garden with a cold drink for the next few days – enjoy it while it lasts!

The above is good advice for those who fish rivers and small still waters. It is alarming to see how low our rivers are here in the South West. I paused to look over the wall at Barnstaple Square on a recent evening out. A large salmon was swimming lethargically close to the wall. It was sad to see this iconic fish aimlessly swimming the estuary as it waits for rain to swell the rivers enabling it to forge upriver to achieve its life goal.

A few weeks ago whilst on the lower Taw I found a dying lamprey languishing in the shallows. These prehistoric creatures have been migrating  rivers since before dinosaurs roamed the land. And that is a long time ago. It is good to see that they are surviving in our rivers though it is worth thinking about their perilous existence as mankind continues to trash the world.

Are there many left who deny that climate change is happening? Are those that deny it totally removed from nature?

Wimbleball levels dropping after months of dry weather.


I joined Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce at Wimbleball Lake to try for a summer rainbow. We knew conditions would be challenging with the long hot dry spell continuing to impact upon the lake and the surrounding countryside.

Jeff had already been fishing for several hours when I joined him in late afternoon. He had boated a rainbow of over 4lb and had lost a couple. We hoped that the fish would come on the feed as the hot sun sank beneath the surrounding hills.

We set off for the wooded Upton Arm to try a few drifts. The water level had dropped significantly since my last visit in Late May. The expanding shoreline revealed scars from the past with tree stumps standing high and bare like skeletons upon the barren shore. Jeff likened them to alien invaders.

Michelle Werrett has written a nostalgic feature in Fallon’s Angler that touches upon this lost valley that was flooded in the 1970’s to meet the ever increasing demand for water across the South West.


As we drift across the water it is fascinating to try and picture what this valley once looked like with deep woodland descending to the streams that flowed at their base. The wild brown trout that thrive within the lake and the minnows  swimming in the margin’s descendants from this flooded landscape.

I started off with a floating line and a long leader a fab on the point and two buzzers on droppers. Jeff fished a fast sink line with booby and a fab with smaller imitative pattern between.

(Above) The vital link

After an hour without success, we headed for the deep water off the dam close to the aeration curtain. This was where Jeff had enjoyed success earlier in the day an area that often fishes well during prolonged spells of hot weather.

I changed over to a fast sink line with a bright booby on the point, a small imitative pattern on the middle dropper and a bright fab on the top dropper. There is a certain fascination with fishing down deep and slow. Expectation that a big hard fighting rainbow will seize the flies far below the boat. This expectation is fuelled as we chat with fellow anglers who have caught a few and lost several powerful fish.

After fifteen minutes Jeff hooks a hard fighting rainbow that battles gamely before being coaxed to the net. I hook a fish close to boat that slips the hook after a short tussle giving my confidence a welcome boost.

As the hot sun beats down I am pleased that I have made good use of a hat and sunglasses to protect from the hot sun. Plenty of water is essential to keep hydrated on these long hot and challenging summer days.

After  several changes of tip fly I eventually tempt a hard fighting rainbow of around  2lb. A well earned reward for persisting deep and slow.

Some excellent fishing can be enjoyed on even the hottest summer days with the deep water undoubtedly the place to target as fish seek cooler waters and increased oxygen levels.


If you follow my writings over several years you will have read my ramblings regarding the Barnstaple & District Angling Clubs hut situated beside the river at Newbridge. During what was perhaps the clubs heyday this fishing hut provided a welcome meeting point where members could meet and socialise as the river glided slowly past. The river then was thriving with salmon and sea trout and the club was also thriving in unison with the healthy river.

As catches dwindled a generation of anglers drifted away from the river and the hut sadly fell into disrepair. In recent seasons the club has seen an influx of enthusiasm and just maybe some sentiment from my writings stirred a will to resurrect the hut. I have spoken with the clubs river keeper Don Hearn on several occasions and was delighted to hear that the hut is to be restored.

It was very sad to recently receive news from Don via an email that vandals have visited the hut setting fire to the old bench and wood saved to help in the restructure.

Don asked if I could highlight the issue in the hope that police could be informed to help with their enquiries.

My initial reaction at hearing this was anger; but as I thought more it was sadness that replaced the anger. The world is sadly full of angry and intolerant people. Anger is contagious hitting out in anger and frustration just extends the problem. I have to ask what is gained by vandalising and inflicting damage to the dreams and efforts of others?

I look forward to enjoying the new club hut with fellow members. There are still a few salmon in the river and we can only hope that efforts to curb pollution and the many other issues that face the river eventually  bring rewards. I hope to write a full article on the huts history and its resurrection in due course.