SUMMER TROUT AT WIMBLEBALL

Exmoor looked splendid as I took the winding road to Wimbleball Lake, hills and woods lush and green illuminated by the morning sun.

            It was a delight to load the boat, start the motor and head out for a day on the lake in search of the lake’s renowned trout. I generally fish the boat with a partner but on this trip arranged at the last minute I was fishing solo.

            Each day’s fishing is a blank canvas and the picture will be painted by choices made during the day. Where to fish, tactics to employ all influenced by weather, experience and of course the often unpredictable trout. Playing this fascinating game of chess with nature has been a healthy addiction throughout my life.

            I headed across to Cow Moor Bay and drifted the boat, casting a team of flies into the margin. The occasional fish was rising and I was hopeful that they would start to rise throughout the day as beetles were blown onto the water. Recent reports told of some impressive catches of wild browns and rainbows to dry fly tactics with foam beetle patterns working well.

            After half an hour without a pull I decided to head for the wooded Upton Arm one of my favourite areas of the lake. I chugged along in my boat admiring the lush green woodland. Flocks of Canada geese eyed me from the shore line as I passed.  Old tree stumps showed high and dry exposed like skeletons as the water recedes following yet another long dry spring.

            The Upton Arm its banks shrouded in dense woodland has a unique character of its own. The occasional trout were taking beetles close into the margin and I cut the motor allowing the boat to drift in the gentle breeze. A wild brown of perhaps 12oz seized the dry beetle pattern and gave a spirited account on the 5/wt rod and floating line. I admired the fish in the clear water slipping out the barbless hook without lifting the fish from its environment. These are truly stunning looking wild fish with vivid spotted flanks.

            Another brown of close to a pound followed taking a coch-y-bonddu wet fly on a dropper. The occasional larger rainbow were slurping down dries but seemed hard to tempt.

            By now there was little breeze and white fluffy clouds were drifting across the brilliant blue summer sky. The haunting call of a cuckoo drifted across the lake. I glimpsed fish cruising in the crystal clear water and savoured the moments pouring a sweet coffee from the flask and enjoyed a snack. Its moments like these that endure in the memory on those cold winter days and when life is on one of its down turns.

            A rainbow of  perhaps two pounds sucked down my foam beetle and gave a good account on the light outfit.

            Whilst the occasional fish continued to rise it was no frantic hatch and I felt that the majority of fish were not rising. Changing tactics slightly I switched to my 7/ wt rod and a team of flies with a slow sinking booby on the point with a coch-y-bonddu wet fly on the dropper. A good fish was cruising a few feet off the margin and I watched intently as it approached my flies. The line twitched and I pulled tight to feel that pleasing resistance and a flash of flank as the fish reacted in the clear water. The fish took off for deep water testing the tackle, powered by its full tail. The fish would probably have pushed the scales towards 4lb. I captured an image of the fish in the net before releasing it. With warming water and hard fighting fish it is vital to net the fish quickly and release with only minimal time out of the water. Fishing alone I chose to take no self-portraits with the fish.

            On a hunch I changed the tip fly to a bright sunrise blob. I cast this out and allowed it to sink slowly before beginning a slow retrieve. I could see the bright blob in the clear water and watched as a rainbow cruised towards it. I gave a twitch to induce interest and observed the trout’s mouth open and engulf the blob. I stripped the line tight and connected relishing the joy of sight fishing. During the next half an hour two more rainbows succumbed to the same tactics each one hooked by watching the fish take the fly. If I had waited for the line to twitch or feel a pull I would not have caught. A good pair of polaroid’s being an invaluable tool on this occasion.

            The vivid bright sunrise blob seems so out of place and is far removed from any natural food the fish might find. What triggers the response from the trout? Is it curiosity? It’s not aggression as I was not retrieving fast so I can only assume they think its food and need to sample it. There are certainly no hatches of sunrise blob flies to imitate! These nuances make this whole thing so fascinating. Another question could be why did I choose to tie on a bright gaudy fly? To this I would answer that it was a hunch based on previous experience and the old mantra of the salmon angler to use bright flies on bright days.

            Whilst there were a few fish around there is always the nagging thought that there will be more elsewhere and by mid-afternoon this lead me to  leave the sheltered waters of the Upton arm and head for a breezy Cow Moor.

            An hour drifting around Cow Moor brought no action and there were few fish rising so I decided to head for Bessoms.

            The open expanse of Bessom’s and Rugg’s was a total contrast to the intimate wooded Upton Arm. A couple of youngsters were basking in the sun with loud dance music blasting across the lake. I started a drift and after five minutes felt a savage tug as a rainbow of close to four pounds hit the sunrise blob. This was to be the last fish of the day and gave a superb account as most of these Wimbleball rainbows do.

            I fished on until around half past six having a few more casts in Cow Moor before mooring the boat and heading for home. It had been a great day with six rainbows between 2lb and 4b with a couple of stunning wild browns. Whilst the fishing is not always easy its always rewarding and on a summer day Wimbleballs vistas of moorland, woodland and pasture are truly stunning.

OPENING DAY –APPOINTMENT WITH FULL TAILED RAINBOWS

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.

Wimbleball – Fine bag

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Andy Facey enjoyed a spot of Wimbleball trout action putting together a fine bag of hard fighting rainbows weighing 5lb 2 oz , 4lb 12oz , 3lb 12oz , 3lb 6oz and  2lb 8oz all on black and peacock spider.

The coming Autumn should see some spectacular sport at this venue as the trout feed hard as temperatures start to drop as the season changes. A wide range of tactics can work from lures to dry flies.

Wimbleball Hardest Fighting trout in the West?

Late May is undoubtedly the best time to be in the English Countryside as natures lush greenery takes on that fresh vivid green hue that lasts a few fleeting weeks. The country lanes are lined with delicate white cow parsley and an abundance of late spring and early summer flowers.

Pauline and I were taking a short break on Exmoor. I was indulging in a few hours fishing at Wimbleball whilst Pauline relaxed in the sunshine and wielded the camera to capture a few images.

We arrived at the lake close to midday and set up beneath a bright blue sky as a cool breeze ruffled the lakes surface. I was surprised to see very little surface activity but elected to set up a floating line as I thought the trout would be likely to be in the upper layers.

The lake had risen several feet since my previous visit a fortnight ago as a result of persistent rainfall. I fished a team of three flies on a 12ft leader using a Montana on the point and two buzzers on the droppers. After twenty minutes without a pull, I changed to an olive damsel on the point and speeded up the retrieve. This brought an immediate response with a small wild brownie coming adrift after a brief tussle.

After a short  coffee break I again changed tactics extending the leader around four feet and tying a bead headed buzzer to the point, a diawl bach to the middle dropper and a bright yellow blob to the top dropper. I cast this out and fished a very slow retrieve just keeping the line tight and watching the tip for movement.

After five minutes the line zipped tight and a rainbow erupted from the surface in a flurry of spray the reel singing as line evaporated through the rings. A handsome full tailed rainbow was eventually netted and admired.

The next three hours saw me bank five more trout to over five pounds all of them giving thrilling battles in the clear water. It was satisfying to have once again found the right tactics for the day which is after all what this wonderful game is all about.

We packed up late afternoon and headed to the George Inn at Brompton Regis that is now in the capable hands of Trudi and Mark Underhill. This delightful historical country Inn oozes history and has been carefully renovated to retain its character. Our large room looked out over a splendid Exmoor landscape as swifts and swallows swooped around this peaceful quintessential English village.

Several other anglers were enjoying an ale in the beer garden when we arrived and chatted enthusiastically about rainbow trout that took them to the backing as they drifted the lake on one of the  Wimbleball fleet of boats.

We finished our day with a delicious meal in the busy bar relishing the sounds of laughter and chat after months of pandemic induced silence.

The combination of stunning fishing for some of the hardest fighting rainbows in the West and superb accommodation close by will I am sure prove very popular over the coming seasons.

Wimbleball in fine Spring Form

Mark Jones and his brother enjoyed a cracking day at Wimbleball where Mark boated a personal best rainbow of 8lb and and another fine rainbow of 5lb 10oz.  Marks fish plus another four over 4lb were tempted using dial bach’s and buzzers. Marks brother boated a 5lb rainbow first cast! The venue is certainly providing some superb sport despite the inclement early spring weather.

WIMBLEBALL – OPENING DAY – MARCH 1st 2020

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Wimbleball is a good hours drive from our house North of Barnstaple but it’s a drive I always enjoy winding across Exmoor’s wild landscape. A wintry dusting covered the moors on the high ground yet signs of spring were all around with daffodils already blooming and the snowdrops already withering.

I had been looking forward to Opening day with anticipation since my last visit to the venue on the close of the season last November. Storm Jorge had forced the cancellation of the boat launch and undoubtedly deterred all but the hardiest of Fly Fishers. I had arranged to meet Fishery Manager Mark Underhill and his wife Trudi for a chat before joining former England International Matt Kingdon at the lakeside. Mark and Trudi have transformed Wimbleball over the past two seasons stocking the lake with large numbers of fighting fit full tailed rainbows and introducing an enlightened catch and release option that enables anglers to enjoy a full day on the bank.

Mark and Trudi Underhill

Early March is not for the faint hearted as it can be bracing. A cold wind was driving across the lake as I walked down to greet Matt who had been fishing for fifteen minutes without a touch. I had set up an intermediate Snowbee Fly Line with a gold headed black lure on an 8lb b.s leader. I never go below 8lb b.s as the trout at Wimbleball have smashed up many an angler’s tippet as they seize the lure.

I waded out into the cold water and put a line out allowing the fly and line to sink a couple of feet before starting a slow erratic retrieve. The cold wind and icy water tingled on the fingers. I settled into the rhythm of casting and retrieving, relishing the ever changing vista of the lake, hills and sky. Dark clouds threatened bringing showers of sleety rain.

Suddenly the line zipped delightfully tight and the rod hooped over as a feisty rainbow lunged and powered away causing the reel to sing pleasingly. Matt grabbed a couple of pleasing images of the battle. The full tailed rainbow was well over three pound and a great start to the day.

A few moments later Matt cursed as a vicious take smashed his 9lb point! Ten minutes or so passed before another rainbow hit my lure and gave an aerobatic display on a tight line.

An hour passed with a couple of fish coming adrift for both Matt and I. The hectic sport we had hoped for was not forthcoming though neither Matt nor I mind having to work for our fish.

When it goes quiet a move is often a good idea as the walk warms the body and the change of location brings an injection of fresh hope. The move brought two hook ups in quick succession with both fish coming off after a few seconds.

An angler appeared at the point to my left and immediately hooked into a trout his line singing tightly in the wind, rod hooped over forming a pleasing image against the horizon.

Matt suggested a move to some deeper water and so we set off once again in search of rainbows. The ongoing search inevitably brought connection for Matt as his black lure was intercepted. The next hour saw us catch a further four trout all cracking thick set rainbows of between 3lb and 4lb.

Dark clouds hastened towards us and icy droplets of  wind blow rain beat upon the face and hands. It was close to 3.00pm and we both were pleased to have had enough for one day. We walked back to the cars chatting eagerly of the season to come and more days beside the water.

With frogspawn in the shallows, hawthorn in bud and the soft grey of pussy willow tipping the branches spring was on its way and days of warm sunshine undoubtedly just a few weeks away as winter inevitably gives way to a new season.

Calling in to fill in our catch returns revealed that other anglers had also enjoyed some great sport with plenty of five fish bags, one individual catching fifteen trout on a catch and release ticket ;all on snakes and lures.

The return journey across the moors to the soundtrack of Johnny Walkers Sounds of the seventies was a fitting end to the days fishing. The poignant sound of Terry Jacks; “Seasons In the Sun” reminded me of a  work colleague whose funeral I attended a couple of days ago. A prompt to savour these precious spring days.

Wimbleball Opens – March 1st

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Wimbleball enjoyed a fantastic season last year under the management of Mark Underhill who has transformed the fishery stocking hard fighting quality rainbow trout throughout the season.

The new season gets underway on March 1st and promises excellent sport from the off. I hope to see you there!

Season opening date 1st March 2019

For all fishing information please call Mark on 07758561412
Facebook: Wimbleball Fly Fishery
Email: [email protected]

Ticket prices: 2019

If you want to buy any tickets please enter your email address and name below and the number of tickets you require. We will then send you an invoice which you can pay online, alternatively please call 01398 351371.

Day ticket (5 fish limit) = £25.00

Catch and Release Day Ticket £25.00 (first 2 fish must be kept)

Day concession (5 fish limit) = £22.00

Evening Ticket after 4pm (2 fish limit) = £17.00

16-18yrs (2 fish limit) = £18.00
Juniors under 16yrs fish free with an adult ticket.

Boat Hire – 2 man occupancy. (Mon-Thurs boats need to be pre-booked)
Rowing Boat = £20.00 per day.

Rowing boat single occupancy = £15.00 per day.

Rowing Boat with engine = £30.00 per day

Rowing boat with engine single occupancy = £20.00 per day.