THE LINGERING ESSENCE OF SUMMER – Fishing out of Beer

The coast was shrouded in early morning mist as dawn broke, sunlight breaking through low cloud to glisten upon the calm waters of Lyme Bay off Beer in South Devon. We were fishing aboard Orca Charters skippered by Stuart Pike. A trip that had been rearranged on several occasions over the past two years due to weather conditions and COVID isolation concerns. I was joined by two previous work colleagues fishing pal Mike Spiller and my son James.

It was mid-October yet there still seemed to be the lingering essence of summer. Mackerel had only recently arrived in any number and it was indeed pleasing to catch a few strings of the fish I had always associated with summer. The weather forecast told of a change over the coming days as low pressure systems were due to sweep in from the South West. This would undoubtedly stir up sediment and reduce the water clarity signalling the transition into the true autumn season.

It is always exciting and refreshing to visit and fish a new venue. It is also extremely rewarding to meet up with a new skipper and glean valuable knowledge that can be deployed both at the venue being fished and further afield.

This was not a serious outing in many ways more of an excuse for friends to meet up and enjoy a day afloat fishing for a variety of species. Derek Walters and Simon Trapnel are not seasoned boat anglers but were very keen to learn and enjoy. Mike Spiller is a long time sea angler and has like myself been dangling a line for many decades. My son James enjoys a day’s fishing and has travelled extensively with myself and my friends in search of fish. He is not a dedicated angler but relishes the experience along with the environment and wildlife that it allows him to observe and enjoy.

This was to be very much a team effort without any competitive edge. Well only a little! Black bream were the main target using light tackle with the chance of ray and conger on a heavier outfit.

Orca is a traditional fishing boat and is ideally suited to fish five or six anglers with comfort. The skipper operates fishing trips in the Lyme bay reserve an area that has benefitted from a mission to forge valuable links between fishermen, conservationists, regulators and scientists in order to maintain a sustainable marine environment.

https://www.lymebayreserve.co.uk 

Stuart had greeted us warmly the moment we had climbed aboard and chatted enthusiastically throughout our day afloat. Imparting a wealth of knowledge learned throughout many years at sea.

I had made up numerous two hook rigs for the intended bream that Stuart frowned upon offering up one of his own bling free rigs. I passed this rig to Derek who proved its effectiveness by out-fishing the rest of us throughout the day.

Derek, Simon, James and myself all targeted the bream whilst Mike decided to focus upon larger fish using  larger baits for most of the trip. I also set up a heavier outfit with joey mackerel or large fillets. The intention was to take it in turns to land fish on this outfit giving everyone the chance of a larger specimen.

As the sun burnt off the morning cloud and mist we soaked up the ambience of the seascape. Gulls cried out, fishing boats floated at anchor, gannets dived into the clear water and porpoises rolled close by.

We lowered our bream baits to the sea bed. Stuart advised us to ignore the initial rattles on the rod tip and wait until the tip was dragged down into the water. We used size 4 Sakuma Chino hooks with slivers of mackerel. Stuart explained that frozen mackerel would out-fish fresh with the bream whilst fresh mackerel would be more likely to attract jumbo sized channel mackerel. This was to prove uncannily true throughout the day.

Shortly after lowering down the big rod its tip nodded vigorously. I took first turn and picked up the rod waiting until the tip plunged hard over before setting the hook by winding steadily until the rod was compressed. This was certainly no dogfish!

Steady pressure soon turned the battle my way and line was steadily retrieved as I pumped the fish away from the seabed. A pleasing blonde ray of 13lb 8oz was soon held aloft for a quick photo before being released. I took delight in watching the fish swim serenely back into the clear waters from whence it had come.

As the tide picked up the bream began to feed in earnest with a succession of these delightful fish coming to the boat. Their silvery iridescent sides illuminated in the sunshine. Bream after bream came to the boat each giving a spirited account on the light tackle employed.

In addition to the bream came a few good sized mackerel and a couple of vividly coloured red gurnard.

The bigger rod once again nodded and James took his turn to subdue another fine blonde ray of 11lb plus. Derek followed up with a small thornback ray. The bigger rod brought a succession of conger up to double figures and the occasional dogfish.

As the day drifted along beneath the warm autumn sun fishing slowed as the tidal flow eased . Stuart discussed options mulling over whether to make a move or stay and hope an elusive undulate ray would show as the boat swung with the changing tide.

We decided on a move higher up onto the reef. As soon as our baits touched down the rod tips signalled that the bream were present with a succession of good fish coming aboard some close to 2lb most around 1lb 8oz. A change to strips of squid brought a period of frantic sport with even my rigs bringing frequent double shots of bream to the boat.

All too soon Stuart indicated that our day afloat was coming to an end. The bream bites were by then easing as pouting started to rip into the baits.

Throughout the day Stuart had worked hard unhooking fish and untangling the occasional entwining of lines. His knowledge of the fish and their environment was outstanding and his pleasure in giving his customers a good day plain to see. Stuart is a qualified Angling Trust coach and delights in introducing new anglers to the joys of boat fishing. He is also a keen angler himself enjoying shore fishing in addition to boat fishing.

As we prepared to leave the fishing grounds a huge dolphin rolled close by a sight that thrilled all on board. We sailed back to Beer’s pebbly shoreline where the boat was driven pleasingly into the shore with a jolt before being hoisted up the pebbles over weathered planks of timber. A well-practiced routine plied by many generations of Beer fisherman.

On shore day-trippers savoured the last days of sunshine and warmth. Ice-creams and coffee, children launching pebbles into the clear waters with pleasing plops. Those simple pleasures that have been enjoyed by many generations.

It had been a perfect day enjoyed with friends, memories made and vows made to set out on another adventure next year all being well.

Last casts of the season

After a long dry late summer and early autumn the rains have arrived swelling the local rivers into a dirty torrent. On the last day of the salmon season following rain earlier in the week the rivers had started to drop. I took my rod to the Middle Torridge and swung the fly more to say goodbye to season as in expectation of catching.

The river was at a good height but visibility was no more than 6″. I put on a big orange tube fly in the hope that it could be seen. The water was dark and turbid and rain beat down. The Bankside trees and vegetation showed little sign of the changing season. I savoured the sights of the river bank, the invasive Himalayan balsam has spread widely in some areas. Its pink flowers added colour, water droplets shone like jewels upon  seed heads that popped as I walked past. Rose hips added a splash of colour as persistent rain beat down on this grey final day of what has been a disappointing season. In a few days the river will have fined down and will hopefully be full of salmon and sea trout forging up river to spawn high up on the redds.

Rose hips add a splash of colour on the dullest of days.

We are living in strange times the ash trees suffering from ash die back some already dead and cut into lengths. Nature will heal of course I read recently of the loss of the nations elm trees during the dutch elm disease outbreak during the  60’s and seventies when an estimated 25.000,000 elm trees perished in the UK.

It is hard to believe that another season has passed by and for me a season without a salmon. As an all-round angler there is much to look forward to as autumn arrives and I will be torn as to where to cast my line. Until the wild daffodils once again decorate the banks I will no longer cast in hope of silver.

Fishing for Life at picturesque Hawkridge

Many thanks for the report below from Sally Pizii  Trustee and Fishing coordinator of all  SWFFL (South West Fishing For Life)  and FFL groups  :-

What a wonderful day the ladies from South West Fishing for Life had on Sunday at Hawkridge Reservoir.

The weather was warm and fine and, as always, the scenery provided a stunning background to the competition.

The ladies might have all been united by having had breast cancer, but competition was fierce as they fished their annual fly fishing boat match.

The boats were all carefully rowed by members of the Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club  and secrets shared as to which fly to use and where the best place to cast would be.

There were trout everywhere and could be clearly seen cruising through the water, one almost jumped in to one of the boats, but only one was hungry enough to take the fly offered.

Julie Abbott caught a lovely two pound, four ounce trout. She took first prize as did her boatman Andre and everyone else got ‘runners up’ prizes.

Due to Covid, a shared meal was not on offer at the end of the event, but next year, we hope it will all be different.

Thanks go to the Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club and to Wessex Water who allowed the competition to take place.

https://www.southwestfishingforlife.org.uk/index.php

 The Wistlandpound Club members fished on after the mornings boat sharing to compete in the clubs Roger and Guard Shield. The winner was Colin Combe with four trout for 11lb 4oz and runner up myself with four trout for 9lb 12oz. David Eldred was third with one trout of 2lb 14oz.

Colin Combes with his winning bag of trout

Hawkridge Reservior is at present run by Wessex Water and is a picturesque water located in the Quantox Hills close to Taunton.

https://www.wessexwater.co.uk/community/activities/fishing-at-hawkridge

East Lyn Brown Trout Report.

Many thanks to Simon Francis for this excellent report on the East Lyn.
Having been away for a few months I was excited to see how the East Lyn would fish.
On Saturday and Sunday there had been good hatches and rises to ephemerids, but jobs to do around the house had kept me from fishing. The river levels were very good for this time of year, and a bit of wild swimming confirmed the water was pretty cool! Monday 26th July was a little cooler and I waited until 2pm to head off, upstream on the Watersmeet & Glenside fisheries water from our Primrose Cottage at Rockford, Brendon. (https://primrosecottageexmoor.co.uk/)
I fished my (now vintage) 7 foot Orvis HLS 1 ounce #4wt with an old Rimfly reel, a 9ft leader and 4ft 2.5lb fluorocarbon tippet. The rod was a gift to myself when I qualified as a STANIC game fishing instructor 21 years ago. It is easier under the trees in the height of summer than the 9 ft #3wt that offers a bit more line control. I fished a size 14 elk hair and CDC caddis all day as it worked all day, and has the advantage I can see it even in the gloom in the shady spots!
Whilst there wasn’t much of a hatch fish were moving, and came freely to the Elk Hair Caddis. Rises varied from a full on “smash and grab”, to the most discerning of sips.
I caught a couple of fish in every pool, and picked up the odd fish in the lovely little runs and pots between pools. It is a shame that so many people overlook these little holes where you get short drifts and instant takes, it’s the best fun!
I also love fishing the back currents that wash food back upstream, often close under the banks, or alongside big boulders. Whilst it challenges casting and mending to get a good presentation, it’s a great reward when an often better sized fish sips down your fly.
As usual I was accompanied by dippers, wrens, wagtails, martins, and swallows but was especially pleased to see the Pied Flycatcher back outside the cottage, as I sat with a cold beer, contemplating another great day on the East Lyn. All for £5.
See also  Dominick Garnetts  excellent write up below

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.

TWENTY FOUR HOURS AT LOWER TAMAR LAKE

Twelve months or so ago I stood on the dam at Lower Tamar Lake watching several large carp basking in the Spring sunshine. I promised myself that when I had more time I would return and invest some quality time into pursuing fish. Twelve months on I have done just that and returned tackle loaded and ready to cast.

https://www.swlakestrust.org.uk/lower-tamar

On arrival at the lake the sun is shining across this large shallow expanse of water that was created as a feeder for Bude Canal back in the 1820’s. The depths in the lake vary from 8ft to 3ft and my guess is that fish movement may be influenced by wind direction, water temperature, food availability and angling pressure.

The choice of swim is not easy as three other anglers are already in position and a quick chat with them reveals that the fishing has been slow with just one carp banked by them in the past twenty four hours.

My aim is to catch carp or a double figure bream and realisation soon dawns that this is not a forgone conclusion and any rewards will have to be earned. After a stroll around the Lake, it was gut instinct that made me choose to fish the swim at the far end of the dam that would give access to deeper water.

The barrow was loaded and pushed to the swim where I was to spend the next 24hours. Ominous clouds were building as I hurriedly erected my oval brolly shelter and bed chair, stowing those items that needed to be kept dry beneath in preparation for the oncoming rain.

I cast around with a marker float that revealed that I had seven foot of water at fifty yards. The next thirty minutes was spent launching a few spod’s full of particles to the zone I intended to place my baits. Two rods with wafters and one with a method feeder baited with a couple of grains of artificial corn.

The rods were cast out as the rain began to pour down, the sky taking on a grey and foreboding tone.

I took shelter beneath the canvas and began the vigil watching the days weather pass by with traps set. Strange how time flies as the contemplation and observation occupy the mind.

As the rain beats down swallows and martins swoop low over the water. Ducks and ducklings busy about and a grebe hunts far out in the lake. As the rain eases warm sunshine illuminates the scene transforming the vista to that of summer. A buzzer hatch brings a frenzy of activity from the summer migrants. The swallows and martins are joined by the delightful sight of swifts twisting and turning in the blue sky a sure confirmation that Spring is turning relentlessly towards summer.

Afternoon turns to evening and baits are checked and recast. Sausage’s sizzle and hot coffee is enjoyed whilst watching and waiting.

The evening starts to descend and the light fades and with it comes expectation that the alarm will ring out as a fish locates the bait. Wood pigeons coo relentlessly and the hooting of an owl drifts across the stilling waters as the breeze drops away with the coming of night.

Far across the lake the surface is broken by fish but they are beyond my range.

I drift off to sleep the twinkle of farm lights in the distance. Rain patters on the canvas and cool air intrudes into the shelter.  I drift back into sleep. The alarm screams out and the blue light of the Delkim shatters the darkness. I stumble out into my boots, right foot in left and left foot in right! I lift the rod to feel a pleasing weight on the end. I am hoping it’s a big bream as I slowly retrieve a ponderous dead weight. Within yards of the margin’s, it wakes up ripping line from the reel telling me it’s no bream.

A golden flanked mirror carp of 19lb 4oz is a pleasing result and avoids a blank session.

After recasting the rod, I retreat back to the warmth of my sleeping bag. Heavy rain lashes down and I dread another run.

I sleep an interrupted sleep drifting in and out of strange dreams that seem to have been prevalent throughout the previous months of pandemic invoked lockdown. I step out into the night to answer natures call and marvel at the vividly clear star studded night sky and reflect on the fact that this is one of life’s constants virtually unchanged for millions of years.

Dawn breaks and the dawn chorus rings out to greet the day. All is still with a mirror like lake stretching before me. I savour the dawn expectantly but all is quiet. A couple of hours later I boil the kettle and cook up a bacon butty.

A couple of dog walkers take  a stroll and the day unfolds sunshine illuminating the lake as life resumes. I chat to a fellow angler of waters he fishes and swap notes. He has caught one bream of perhaps five pounds in the night and congratulates me on my success.

With heavy rain forecast I slowly pack away already planning my next trips. I intend to catch a carp from each of SWLT’s waters before the year is out and have made a good start. But still need to catch that double figure bream.

Lower Tamar Lake can be a challenging venue but it has many treasures within including carp to over thirty pounds, double figure bream, 2lb plus roach, big perch, tench, trout and eels.

https://www.swlakestrust.org.uk/lower-tamar

https://www.swlakestrust.org.uk/lower-tamar