I Joined South Molton Angling Club for their Christmas get together at Blakewell Fishery where members hoped to win the Mac McCarthy Trophy for the biggest trout caught this season. The biggest trout up until this date was fine rainbow of 5lb 6oz from Wimbleball.
The morning was incredibly mild for mid December with an overcast sky that occasionally allowed glimpses of bright winter sun. I was hoping to once again slip into the bay where the trout had been shoaling the previous week. I joined club Chairman Ed Rands in the favoured spot and began working the bay with a damsel nymph.
Within an hour both Ed and I had secured five fish limit bags of quality fish with my five totalling just over 20lb and Eds around 15lb. We both chatted with Matt Kingdon who moved into the bay and continued to tempt the trout that had by now wised up a little. Strangely it seemed that the trout wanted a virtually static fly often taking the small black lure Matt was using as it sank through the water. It was fascinating to watch as Matt watched the end of the line twitch setting the hook with a quick strip of the line.
Blakewell Fisheries Christmas competition was held as a lower key affair this year in part due to high COVID rates in the area with only a small number of local anglers invited. Sunday morning dawned cold and showery as the draw for pegs was made along with a glass of port and a cup of tea.
The competitors drew lots at the start of the match with the intention of rotating around every hour. With the water cold and clear it was surprising that trout proved hard to tempt at first with several anglers struggling to get any takes at the start of the competition.
As the morning progressed it soon became apparent that the trout were tightly shoaled in the bay with any angler fishing there enjoying consistent takes. I was fortunate to draw this peg just before dinner and quickly added a brace of trout to the single trout I had tempted on my second peg. The best fish close to 4lb. The first two trout falling to a bead headed cats whisker the third to an orange blob!
A hot pasty dinner and cool beer enabled anglers to exchange opinions and tales around the venues large outdoor dining table.
After dinner the rotating pegs format was to a large extent ignored as the bay again fished well. I moved to the corner of this bay away from the other anglers and flicked a bead head PTN out on a short line. After fifteen minutes my bag limit of five fish was completed. By now the trout were wising up as lures seemed to lose their pulling power.
As the afternoon grew colder competitors gathered for the weigh in with a hot cup of tea. Over half the competitors had managed to take limit bags with several rainbows topping 4lb.
1st – James Burdus – 5 for 16lb 13oz
2nd – Paul Grisley – 5 – for 15lb 15oz
3rd – Dave Winter- 5-for 15lb 8oz
4th Wayne Thomas – 5 – for 12lb 5oz
Many thanks to hosts Richard and John Nickell for holding the event.
Richard told of the impact of changing climate on the trout fishery with warmer temperatures resulting in extensive weed growth throughout the year. The traditional season on small still-water trout fisheries has certainly changed across the country with the best of the fishing now starting in late October through until early summer. Increasing numbers of trout fisheries now close during July, August and September. Extensive farming could also be impacting with run off from fields helping to promote weed growth.
Blakewell is open for the rest of 2021 with a short break over the Christmas holiday. The lake will close for most of January when the lake will be drained to allow treatment of the weed growth. It will reopen rejuvenated in February with excellent prospects for late winter, spring and early summer.
I always tend to associate Spring with trout and salmon fishing so when picking up the Tesco shop I indulged in the April Edition of Trout and Salmon Magazine. Browsing through its pages of pleasing images I was delighted to come upon local fishery owner Richard Nickell’s familiar smiling features.
The magazine has another excellent feature on trout fishing on Dartmoor with local cane rod builder Luke Bannister.
Blakewell Fisheries Christmas Competition is always an enjoyable social occasion in North Devon Fly-Fishers Calendar and it was good to be back amongst familiar faces albeit more socially distanced than in normal times.
It was a cold and frosty morning with a vivid blue sky and mist rising from the lake as the warmth of the sun beamed down. Eighteen anglers were taking part in this years scaled down event and after a welcome glass of port we all headed out to the lake. As is normal trout were hooked within the first few seconds of the start as flies were cast onto the calm surface.
I elected to use an olive damsel nymph with a small buzzer on a dropper. Within fifteen minutes I had three rainbow trout in the bag which was my mornings quota. This left me a couple of hours to wonder around the lake capturing images of the lake and the anglers.
Dinner was served at 12:30; a hot pasty and a pint. The afternoon session saw me persevere with the same team of flies. As is often the case catching became a little more of a challenge but after a couple of moves I completed my five fish limit.
The lake had fished well with plenty of hard fighting rainbows averaging between 1lb 8oz and 2lb. Amongst these were a few outsize specimen rainbows. The winter sunshine and colours around the lake were stunning and it was great to see a steady stream of families arriving to select their Christmas trees.
The winning angler was Trevor Whyborn with his five fish bag of 18lb 6oz that included the biggest rainbow of the day at 11lb 11oz. In runner up spot was John Buxton with five for 17lb 4oz and third Gary Matthews with two trout for 12lb 3oz.
Once again many thanks to John and Richard Nickell for hosting this annual event after what has been a challenging year in many ways. The COVID outbreak inevitably had its impact but not so much perhaps as the ongoing warm summers that cause difficulties for trout fisheries the length and breadth of the country. It is noticeable that smaller Stillwater trout fisheries like Blakewell are at their best during the cooler winter months.
As temperatures drop small Stillwater fisheries like Blakewell hit top form. An ideal place to grab a few hours now that the river season has ended.
Shaun Antony Ley spent a day at Blakewell Fishery where he hoped to introduce his children to the joys of angling. After the childrens interest dwindled Shaun spotted a large trout cruising in the clear water. After several casts and fly changes the trout succumbed to a pink spider pattern with a gold head. After an epic twenty minute battle a fine double figure rainbow of 11lb 10oz was safely in the net. Shauns dads wet feet a cost well worth paying.
Shaun said “I was over the moon with one of the best looking doubles Ive ever seen at Blakewell”
Blakewell Fishery has been in fine form since it reopened in Mid-May with numerous double figure trout tempted. Pete Masters banked a 12lb rainbow and Graham Thorne a stunning 15lb rainbow. Andy Facey banked a rainbow of 10lb. Rick Perry banked a brace of double figure rainbows weighing 13lb and 12lb. Chris Bryan banked a rainbow of 9lb 3oz. Small imitative patterns are proving most successful.