As I walked down to the dam at Wistlandpound I was surprised to see just how low the reservior was so early in the season. After a long dry spring and a relatively dry winter it will need a lot of rain to regain the levels with water pumped from the River Bray near Challacombe.
This was only a short session that was to prove far more productive than I expected. I tied a small black lure on the point and black spder pattern to a dropper. Walking to the point on the West Bank I started putting out a line and started a slow retrieve. After each cast I took a step to my right planning to cover plenty of water. After half a dozen casts I was encouraged by a boil on the surface as a fish swirled at the fly without connecting.
A few cast later came a solid tug as I connected with a brown trout that gave a spirited account spending plenty of time leaping high out of the water before coming to hand. During the next 45 minutes another five trout followed all pristine looking fish of around 10″.
I decided to walk to the far end close to the inlet to see if any rudd were showing. After a couple of casts another brown trout siezed the fly and was brought protesting to Hand. I caught sight of swirls close to the weeds and put the flies into the area. The line pulled tight and I lifted into my first rudd of the season. During the next thirty minutes a dozen or so rudd were brought to hand. These were beautiful fish the light bouncing off their scales and fins glowing red. Th size of the rudd was encouraging with the average size bigger than those caught last year. The best was around 12oz and I have heard runours of fish well over 1lb.
I walked briskly back to the car after a short but rewarding session.
The sun was rising above the hills of Exmoor illuminating the sky in shades of golden yellow as I drove the winding road towards Wimbleball Lake. Whilst silhouettes of trees still told of winters grip the roadside snowdrops and rising daffodils told of the coming of spring.
It was the last weekend of February and the first day of a new season on Wimbleball Lake a fishery that has been rejuvenated in recent years following careful management by the Underhill family.
I met with Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce at the lake for 8:00am and chatted with fellow anglers who had travelled down from the North of Bristol leaving shortly before dawn in their eagerness to connect with the first trout of the season. The two month break certainly rejuvenates enthusiasm with over thirty keen anglers booked into fish on this opening day.
Jeff and I had elected to fish the bank confident that the fish would likely to be close in. We started off near to the boat launching jetty where cheerful fishery assistant Trevor helped anglers on their way with words of advice and encouragement. Wading out into the icy cold water I pushed out my intermediate line with a small black lure on the point and a cormorant on the dropper. I paused a few moments allowing the line to sink whilst I looked around admiring the scene before me. Early morning sunshine casting light upon the cold waters that were ruffled by a cold South Easterly breeze. The stark outline of the surrounding hills and trees framing the lake.
I began a slow and lazy retrieve relishing the early season anticipation and expectation. On the second or third cast there came that delightfully electrifying tug as the line pulled tight the rod tip jagging. I lifted into the fish the rod hooping over as the rainbow surged away into the lake. The fish fought gamely testing the tackle and my patience as I coaxed the fish to the waiting net. A full finned rainbow of close to five pound was a great start to the season. Jeff was busy welcoming anglers to the boats and rushed over to catch a few images as I posed with my prize in the icy water.
During the following half an hour I added another three stunning rainbows to the days tally. The icy water stinging the fingers and numbing the toes seemed of little consequence. Jeff eventually joined me hoping to savour his first trout of the season yet by now the South East breeze was increasing in strength making casting more difficult.
We decided to move to a more sheltered area and start a fresh search. Wading out into the waters of a shallow bay we again began the routine of searching the water. Jeffs line zipped tight and he enjoyed battling his first trout of the season a silver rainbow of over 2lb.
We fished the bay for another half an hour without further success and decided once again on a move to deeper water close to Bessom’s bridge. Fishing here proved challenging with the strong icy wind battering the shoreline. Confident that fish would be present we fished hard and I was rewarded with a stunning looking long lean rainbow of close to 4lb.
We gave it another half an hour in the teeth of the wind before conceding defeat and heading once again to sheltered waters. A few fish were being caught in the bay and we fished optimistically before stopping for a bankside sandwich and a coffee.
We discussed tactics and decided to move once again and escape the cool wind. Moving to the far side of the sailing club we found calm sheltered water. By now the sky was a vivid blue with bright sunshine shining into the clear water. Once again my line zipped tight and a wild brown trout exploded from the water performing an acrobatic summersault. Jeff secured a few pics of the immaculate wild fish before it darted away to freedom.
It was mid-afternoon and we sensed a slight easing in the wind speed. The area close to the boat launching area seemed worth a revisit following the success enjoyed earlier in the day.
We braved the cold wind for an hour before conceding defeat at close to 4.00pm. Late February high on Exmoor can be brutal but the rewards are high with Wimbleball’s hard fighting rainbow trout amongst the hardest fighting trout I have ever encountered.
Fishing this vast often windswept lake feels truly wild.
Early season the fish can be concentrated as the catch returns revealed at the end of the day with some anglers recording up to twenty fish. Both bank and boat fishing giving great sport with the popular lures of the day working well.
I have always found black lures or olive damsels to produce well in early season fished down in the water at a slow pace. Anglers often follow fashions with favoured variations proving successful each season.
I look forward eagerly to my next Wimbleball session and once again connecting with its full tailed battling rainbows.
Berkley Side Wire Cutters
“Pike anglers are strongly advised by the Pike Anglers Club to always carry a strong pair of side cutters in case there is a need to cut through hooks to aid unhooking.” These Berkley Side wire cutters are ideally suited to this purpose and a wide range of other uses for the sea angler and lure angler.
They are excellent tools for snipping off those old rusty hooks on lures prior to replacing them.
It is also a good idea to carry a pair of side cutters for use in an emergency. I once had a large hook penetrate a finger whilst in Egypt fishing for Nile perch and was forced to have the hook cut free to remove it from my finger. Many hours away from hospital I dread to think how we could have proceeded without a pair of side-cutters.
Heavy duty wire traces used in sea angling need top quality side cutters for cutting traces to length when making traces and for the occasional instance when a hook is too deep to remove from a fish.
The Berkley side cutters have carbon steel jaws, Corrosion Resistant Composite Coating, Ergonomic Co-moulded handle, spring assisted one handed operation and an adjustable lanyard.
These smart looking side cutters are a useful addition to any sea angler or lure fisher’s armoury.
Pure Fishing is a collection of the world’s best known fishing brands acutely focused on meeting the needs of modern anglers worldwide.
It is sad to relay the sad news of the death of Humphrey Wood who contributed a huge amount of time and effort into preserving the River Taw. I fished at Kingford several years ago whilst writing ” I Caught A Glimpse” and have fond memories of visiting the hut mentioned by Alex Gibson below.
Extract for my book I Caught a Glimpse referring to the hut
The fishing hut provides the angler with a resting place during the angling day, a place to pause for contemplation, saviour a brew of tea and exchange tales and tactics with fellow anglers. Ron worked with Humphrey Wood on his fishing hut on the middle Taw. This hut features in the book, “Fishing Huts –The Anglers Sanctuary” by Jo Orchard Lisle. A pleasing book that details angling huts throughout England.
Humphrey Wood’s hut was built to replace the old hut that was swept away by a big winter flood. To avoid a repeat performance the new hut was built upon stilts. Heavy duty posts that were driven deep into the ground using the appropriate tool. Ron told me that each post had to be inch perfect so that the hut would sit firmly in its place. The building of the hut took a couple of months and on completion a small party of family and friends assembled to drink a toast and share a good luck cake to celebrate the occasion.
The hut with its elevated position should provide many years of service and will be host to many happy days beside the ever-flowing Taw.
It was an incredibly mild day for mid November and a perfect tide for the estuary. Several clubs held flounder competitions and a large number of anglers were spread out throughout the estuary at all of the tried and trusted venues. I was fortunate to tag along with my good friend and fellow club member Dan Welch and his young son Solly. Dan certainly found a good spot with Dan and Solly catching close to fifty flounder between them to 1lb 10oz. I also enjoyed some good sport catching over a dozen flounder and a pleasing 4lb bass. One of the joys of flounder fishing is that it is perfect for dads and lads and families with big flounder likely to take anyones bait. No specialist tackle is required and no need to cast long distances. Just flick out a trace of ragworm and wait for that tell tale rattle on the rod tip. The estuary with its many wading birds, ever changing lights and shades is beguiling. I have added a few pics of the day after the results section.
Thank you to Nathan Clements for the Bideford results.
Cyril Petherick Memorial Competition results
1st Nick Braunton Flounder 1lb 12 1/2oz
2nd Andrew Clements Flounder 1lb 11 3/4oz
3rd Dick Talbot Flounder 1lb 11 1/4oz
Congratulations all its been a lovely day for it!!!!
47 angler’s fished a brilliant turn out with some reasonable fish caught 🎣
BIDEFORD CHRISTMAS COMPETITION ON THE 12TH OF DECEMBER
We have an absolutely massive prize fund for this one so don’t miss it.
More details to follow this week.
All the best and tight lines 🎣
Braunton Small Boats – Annual Flounder Match
1st – Andy Henderson – flounder 1lb 6oz
2nd – Jeremy Long – flounder 1lb 1oz
3rd – Jack Philips – flounder 12oz
Combe Martin SAC – Flounder Competition
1st – Daniel Welch flounder 1lb 10oz
1st = Damiel Welch flounder 1lb 10oz
2nd – Daniel Welch & Solly Welch – flounder 1lb 9oz
4lb bass that gave a great account on light flounder gear.
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.
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.