SEEK THE DEEPS IN HOT SUMMER SUN

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.

www.fallonsangler.net 

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.

WINTER PERFECTION

The trees were stark and dark looming out of the mist as night gave way to day. The line was punched out and allowed to settle the lures sinking slowly in the clear water. I began the retrieve attempting to impart life into the two flies. The cool water stung the fingers as I settled into the rhythm of fly fishing for Stillwater trout.

After five minutes the line drew tight with an electrifying tug and for a magical moment there was life on the line. It was short lived however the hooks failing to find a grip.

This brought the essential ingredient of anticipation to the hunt for a trout. The following fifteen minutes or so resulted in several missed takes but no actual hook ups.

I became immersed in the search relishing the cool fresh air, the ever changing light on the water and glimpses of birds upon the lake. Cool rain was driven by the Southwest wind but I hardly noticed as I focussed on the line as it entered the water expectant of that connection with life beneath in an unseen dimension.

After a quiet half an hour I moved fifty yards along the bank and restarted my quest. The line drew tight and life once again pulsed at the end of the line. After a pleasing tussle a handsome brown trout of close to 2lb was brought to the net and admired briefly before being slipped back to disappear with a flick of its tail. Another brown trout equally handsome followed a couple of casts later; half the size of the first.

After an hour without further success the nagging doubts began to set in prompting a move. Once again I cast out into the lake ever expectant. I watched anglers on the far bank and wondered how they were faring? I changed flies, small lures, large lures, small imitative patterns, slow retrieve, fast retrieve, erratic, smooth, deeper and shallower. This is the fascination of fly fishing on a large wind swept Stillwater. Whilst the trout are stocked the fishing has a feeling of wildness that is not experienced in the smaller commercial trout fisheries.

Location is of course vital in the search for success and after three hours without a winter rainbow I decided to move to the far bank. I walked back to the van, broke down the rod; loaded the gear and drove to the next car park.

A hot coffee from the flask and I set off to fish a new area with renewed optimism. I waded out and punched the line out across the lake. A stiff breeze was blowing and the water felt cool as I stood waist deep. It was now early afternoon and I sensed that the best of day had passed. Suddenly the line zipped tight and the rod hooped over as a hard fighting rainbow threw itself into the air. It was a relief to get a rainbow on the bank a pristine fish of a couple of pounds.

I fished on with  renewed expectation and was soon rewarded as a heavy pull resulted in connection with a super fit rainbow that took the line almost to the backing. The rod was hooped over as I relished the moments as the fish shook its head on a tight line making repeated powerful runs. After several tense minutes the rainbow was coaxed over the waiting net. Four and a half pounds of fin perfect perfection was given the last rites and laid to rest beside the other rainbow.

The winter sun eventually broke through illuminating the landscape. Shots from a nearby shoot drifted across the lake. I fished on content with success and was delighted when once again the line drew tight and a third prime conditioned rainbow was brought to the net after another exciting tussle.

The sun was now sinking closer to the hill tops and I decided to head for home after an exciting and rewarding days fishing. Wimbleball remains open until New Year’s Eve and is well worth a visit. I look forward to returning at the end of February at the start of a new season. Many thanks must go to Mark and Trudi Underhill for providing what is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of South West trout fishing. Its not always easy but those rainbows are true piscatorial perfection!

OLD FISHERS UNITED

Friendships are a vital part of angling and it is always great to maintain those long lasting bonds with a trip to the water’s edge. Garry, Rob, Ray and I were once part of South West Waters Game Fishing Team who travelled the length and breadth of England fishing in the annual Water Industry Game Fishing Competition (WIGFIC). We have tried to maintain the tradition of an annual fly fishing trip ever since our participation in the event ceased several years ago.

After a long lull due partially to COVID the Old Fisher Farts set off for a weekend at Wimbleball Lake staying at the delightful old Exmoor pub The George at Brompton Regis.

We assembled at the ticket hut at around 8:30am and cooked up an open air breakfast of sausage and bacon sarnies before heading out to cast our lines. Rob and I for the shoreline and Garry and Ray to the boats to be greeted by the ever helpful Trevor.

Conditions seemed ideal with a gentle breeze and light cloud cover. Despite this the trout proved hard to tempt with just a couple of hard fighting rainbows and wild browns succumbing to my lures fished on an intermediate line.

We met up at lunch time for another fry up and a chat.

Garry had managed a couple of rainbows but Ray and Rob had yet to catch. Spirits were still high despite the uncooperative trout and we set off refreshed and eager. With me joining Ray in the boat whilst Garry enjoyed a few hours on the bank.

The afternoon drifted past with me adding another couple of rainbows to the tally along with a beautiful wild brown of around a pound. Mid-afternoon Ray hooked a good rainbow that to my alarm caused him to almost stumble overboard! I think Garry added another rainbow to the score from the bank whilst Rob remained fishless.

As the sun slowly sank we headed back to the pub for a well-earned meal and a pint or two. Back in the early 1990’s we had been part of a winning team securing overall victory in the WIGFIC competition held at Wessex Waters Sutton Bingham Reservoir near Yeovil. In the intervening years since we have fished many times without repeating that victory. Back then as young men working in the Water Industry we undoubtedly  talked a far different agenda. Close to thirty years later we discuss our medications and ailments and have more in common with the elderly gents in “The Last of The Summer Wine” and suffer occasional bouts of Victor Meldrew like grumpiness! The tales of days and colleagues some long gone bounced across the pub table. Memories of younger days rekindled once again.

In years gone by evenings in the pub would have endured into the early hours with last orders signalling close of play. These days catching the end of News at Ten signals a late night!

Next morning when we arrived lakeside where the lake was hidden in dense early morning mist. A bright calm sunny day was forecast so we suspected that the fishing would be even more difficult. Admiring the morning splendour as we chugged out on calm waters having elected to use boats. Catching trout seemed to be secondary as the new day dawned and a brilliant blue sky was unveiled, trees emerging from the mist dissolving in the warmth of the rising sun.

The tree shrouded Upton Arm of Wimbleball Lake is one of my favourite areas to fish. We resumed the days fishing searching the water with various lures. The morning proved frustrating with numerous good trout following the flies before turning away tantalisingly close to the boat.

By late morning Rob and I met with Garry and Ray to discuss tactics and decided on a move to the far end of the lake where we had enjoyed some success the previous  day. We also knew that a fresh stocking had been made in the area so hoped a few uneducated fish would grant us success.

In the shallows we found the trout attacking fry sending tiny fish scattering to break the calm waters surface. Casting into the shoreline I tempted a small brown trout and secured a hard fighting rainbow. Rob also hooked a good fish that threw the hook  after a pleasing encounter. Retrieving lures briskly with a roly-poly retrieve brought several follows from some impressive looking trout including a blue trout that looked a good five pound plus. A few brief hook ups kept us casting until we eventually conceded defeat at around 6:30pm the sun slowly setting to close what had been a magnificent autumn day.

Our lack of catching was certainly nothing to do with a lack of trout in the lake for the stocking of Wimbleball is regular and often with fin perfect rainbows that will take you to the backing. Large waters like Wimbleball are my favourite trout waters for success is sometimes hard earned but all the more rewarding for that.

Once again we resumed tales of bygone days at the pub that evening. Eagerly plotting future forays and discussing the state of the world.

After a delicious Full English on the Sunday morning, we set off for home another collection of memories etched upon our minds. The Old Fisher Farts will hopefully reunite in the spring of 2022.

‘Ebry day good fer fishing’ – but not ebry day good for catchin fish’.

Hot and getting hotter; mid-July the forecast gives wall to wall sunshine with temperatures into the mid-twenties. It’s not a perfect day to be heading out trout fishing yet there are worse places to be than floating about on Wimbleball. Part of anglings enjoyment is after all working for a result when conditions are difficult.

I had arranged to meet with Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce to try our luck in the height of summer. We were optimistic as we launched the boat despite the bright sunny conditions and headed for Rugg’s Bay for a drift or two. During these hot days of Summer, a boat is a distinct advantage enabling the option to search far and wide for the trout.

Plenty of water, sun cream, sun hats and sunglasses were essentials for today and Jeff had equipped himself with Snowbee’s finest.

A pleasing breeze was blowing down through the bay as we started our first drift. Jeff elected to start on a floater whilst I went down deep with a blue flash damsel on the point and a bright yellow and orange blob on a dropper. This proved to be a promising tactic as after half a dozen casts a fish was on! Then off! After I lost a couple more Jeff also went down deep  and had a couple of pulls. Eventually after a run of fish on and off I managed to get a hard fighting rainbow to the net.

As the middle of the day approached we decided to head off to the deep water near the dam where a few fish had been tempted the previous day using sinking lines and boobies. An angler there reported on some success with several follows and a couple of good rainbows.

We tried for an hour without success and decided to move into the wooded Upton Arm where we might tempt a wild brown in addition to the rainbows. After half an hour our spirits dropped as expectation started to ebb in the hot sun. We headed back to the deep water where a good rainbow followed my lure close to the boat before turning away.

It was now late afternoon and we decided to head right back up to Rugg’s and drift in the breeze ensuring we at least covered plenty of water. After ten minutes Jeff’s olive damsel was nailed by one of Wimbleball’s energetic rainbows. A blank was at least saved, reward for dogged persistence.

As we drifted the occasional fish was glimpsed following the flies. On one retrieve I was astounded to see a group of good sized rainbows chasing my team of flies before turning away at the last moment. Thinking we had found a shoal we dropped anchor and fished static for an hour giving a floating line and a team of imitative patterns a try. Whilst it was good to slow down and chill for a while I felt that the fish were not feeding and the best hope was a stripped lure or blob to stimulate an aggressive response.

We upped anchor and drifted until we ran out of water, calling it a day at close to 7.00pm after ten hours with just a fish each it had been a hard day’s fishing.

A Jamaican proverb: ‘Ebry day good fer fishing’ – but not ebry day good for catchin fish’.

A phrase for the day and the reason I will be back again whatever the weather.

After a long hot day afloat perhaps a cool beer at the George Inn at Brompton Regis? https://thegeorgeinnexmoor.co.uk/?fbclid=IwAR3a8bHVB5iHmbvTNTYunb_jCt1nG-rz9Nm-DLtWYL1cpV408SQdS8VD8pQ 

Fly Fishing Club Return to the water with screaming reels

Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club resumed activities at Wimbleball Reservoir after a twelve month lay off due to the COVID pandemic. Spirits were buoyant as members congregated at the ticket hut prior to heading out to the lake. Two pairs of anglers were taking to boats and the remaining three including myself were fishing from the bank.

Heavy thundery showers were forecast and a gentle breeze was pushing up into Bessom’s Bay and Ruggs. The three of us who had opted to fish the bank headed to this area.

Pulling into the parking area I was delighted to see a splash of vivid yellow with cowslips in full bloom a pleasing sight and less common in the West than the dominant primroses.

Wimbleball is undoubtedly the jewel in South West Reservoir fishing with a growing reputation throughout the Fly Fishing fraternity. Wading out into the cool clear water I put out a floating line and a team of three flies. After fifteen minutes using small imitative patterns I changed tactics slightly adding a damsel an olive damsel to the point and bright orange blob to the top dropper. This brought instant success as a rainbow hit the lure hard giving a spirited account before being drawn over the net. A couple of casts later another rainbow hit the blob and was safely netted.

With a brace secured I was now fishing in the zone expectant of a take at any second. A few missed pulls followed enough to keep me alert and fishing with that confidence that ensures total emersion in the task at hand.

(Above) Andre Muxworthy & Paul Grisley fishing in the rain!

By midday the rain was lashing down and it was far from warm. Angry clouds drifted past. I noticed a few fish rise and one or two Alder flies were showing. I changed my team of flies putting a bead head black Montana on the point, an Alder fly on the top leaving a black buzzer on the middle dropper. Slowing the retrieve right down I soon found action hooking into an impressive rainbow that erupted from the water before taking the fly line down to the backing. Five minutes later a full tailed rainbow of over 4lb 8oz was being admired on the bank. This was followed by another impressive rainbow over 4lb and a final fish of around 3lb. This sadly brought my fishing for the day to a close as being a competition all anglers had bought five fish tickets. My normal option is to buy a catch and release ticket.

I chatted to fellow anglers for a while before enjoying  a coffee and sandwich as the rain persisted. It was now close to 2.00pm with a couple of hours left until the weigh in back at the permit hut.

I drove back to the hut and took a stroll to the waters edge. A brief spell of sunshine transformed the scene as water sports enthusiasts enjoyed the day. There is plenty of space on the Lake for all with anglers, windsurfers and dingy sailors all catered for.

Just after 4.00pm club members gathered for the weigh in and all had tales of hard fighting rainbows with a couple of snapped tippets in the mix. Biggest fish of the day was an impressive rainbow of 6lb 7oz that had taken Andre Muxworthy over fifteen minutes to get into the boat. All members had caught with four limit bags and several fish of over 4lb.

Andre Muxworthy with the biggest trout of the day at 6lb 7oz

The results of the Edwards Cup:-

1st Andre Muxworthy – Five Fish – 16lb 6oz – Best Fish 6lb 7oz

2nd Colin Combe – Five Fish – 15lb 8oz – Best Fish – 5lb 8oz

3rd – Wayne Thomas – Five Fish – Best Fish – 4lb 10oz

4th – David Eldred – Four Fish – 12lb 10oz

5th – Paul Grisley – Five Fish – 12lb

6th – Nigel Bird – One fish – 2lb 8oz

7th Dave Mock – One fish 2lb 7oz..

Summer Fishing at Wimbleball

WIMBLEBALL

As we enter July trout fishing tends get harder going as the water temperature rises and the fish go deeper. I was eager to get out onto Wimbleball before the summer doldrums set in and had arranged to meet with Snowbee ambassador Jeff Pearce for a day afloat.

I met up with Jeff at the boat launching bay just before 9.00am and my spirits were immediately lifted by the enthusiastic banter that was flowing amongst the anglers gathering for a day on the water. I have found that angling has been a great antidote to the widespread doom and gloom of the COVID pandemic.

We were all greeted cheerfully by Trevor the fisheries resident guide and bailiff who is always willing to offer valuable advice on where to fish and what tactics to employ.

It seemed the perfect day for trout fishing with a moderate westerly breeze and broken cloud cover. If this had been a month earlier teams of buzzers would have been the way to go I am sure but general consensus was now for deeper water and lures.

During the more difficult days of mid to late summer a boat gives a significant advantage allowing a larger area of the lake to be explored.

Jeff and I decided on a few casts in the sailing club bay just to get warmed up so to speak. As we drifted slowly Jeff caught a glimpse of a good sized rainbow estimated at 6lb + and put his olive damsel into the area. The fish immediately seized the offering and erupted from the water in a flurry of spray. I grabbed for the camera to no avail as Jeff pulled in a slack line to reveal that the hook had partially opened out. Testament to Wimbleball’s hard fighting fish or a dodgy hook?

I had one trout follow my lure in the bay but after this early success we decided to head out onto the lake proper. The deeper water up near the dam seemed a good idea so it was off to there that we headed powered by the petrol outboard.

Drifting the margins Jeff had the first chance as a trout likened to a tuna chased a damsel nymph to the side of the boat. A few more glimpses of trout brought excited comments from Jeff as we explored the lakes margins that dropped off into deep-water within just yards of the bank.

After a few tentative plucks the first fish of the day was secured. A small handsome rudd of just over 8oz!

The Upton Arm has a reputation for producing some superb wild brown trout. And so we headed up into this delightfully wooded bay. Drifting with the strong breeze proved a little too fast even with the drogue so we decided to drop anchor at a promising looking spot not too far off the shoreline. I often ponder upon this for when we fish from boats we often strive to get close to shore whilst when we shore fish we aim to put our flies as far out as possible. In truth the margin of the lake is its biggest and most often productive zone.

This area soon proved a good call as Jeff hooked a fine rainbow of close to 5lb that used its broad tail to good effect. Over the next couple of hours Jeff added another three rainbows to the tally. I couldn’t get a pull and started to question what I was doing wrong. I was on a sinking line and fishing a damsel nymph whilst Jeff was on a sink tip with using various large nymphs on the point a yellow and red buzzer on a dropper.

As the fishing eased we decided perhaps unwisely to try elsewhere and headed for the deep water of the Narrows close to some old boat launching steps. Sticking with  the sinking line and a damsel nymph I searched the deep water. Suddenly the line zipped tight and a rainbow of a couple of pounds graced the net. Over the next couple of hour’s we drifted around anchored  for periods and it was me that started to enjoy success adding a couple more to the days total.

As afternoon drifted into evening we decided on a last half an hour back in the sailing club bay. After a few casts another rainbow hit my black zulu on the dropper. With four trout each it seemed a good time to head for home.

As we packed away the gear the lake looked superb in the early evening light. We reflected upon an enjoyable day of two halves. A morning when Jeff seemed to charm the trout and an afternoon when I somehow found the key to success. These long hard summer days though challenging are often just as rewarding as those easier days of plenty in the early season.

We will be back in search of those broad backed tuna shaped rainbows with full tails before too long!

Wimbleball – Beneath a Cloudless blue sky

I had been itching to get back to Wimbleball after lockdown and booked half a day off work mid-week hoping it wouldn’t be too busy. It probably wasn’t the best day to have chosen; the hottest day of the year so far with a cloudless sky. Despite this I arrived full of optimism despite the conditions and headed for Rugg’s bay where there was plenty of room to fish and maintain social distance.

The far bank was full of families and young people soaking up the sun and whilst at first this seemed a little concerning I deemed that several groups may well be from single households. In any case the sounds of fun and laughter drifting across the water was welcome after months of doom and gloom. I am growing increasingly tired of the bitching and blaming that has manifested itself as the COVID crisis has unfolded. Apply a bit of common sense follow the rules and accept that there is always a bit of risk in life.

The walk to the lake along a buttercup lined footpath with young lambs playing in the fields was a delightful start to the afternoon and it was truly good to be alive and out in the English countryside.

I set up a floating line and a team of imitative patterns, a gold-head PTN on the point, a buzzer on the middle dropper and a diawl bach on the top dropper. I was surprised just how far the reservoir had dropped since my last visit back on opening day on March 1st when the lake was full to the brim.

Wading out into the cool clear water I extended the line across the water. Paused to allow the flies to sink a little and started a slow figure of eight retrieve. I expected a pull at any second as I settled into the session. Swallows and martins swooped over the water and birdsong resonated all around.

I kept an eye on other anglers around the lake and caught sight of the occasional bent rod and flurry of foam as a fish neared the net. After about an hour starting the line zipped tight and a hard fighting rainbow of around 3lb posed for the camera.

I fished on optimistically changing the flies from time to time but sticking to the slow imitative approach because that is what I had expected to work.

Slowly as the afternoon slipped into evening I began to lose some of that early confidence. Whilst the occasional fish rose further out it was clear that the hoped for evening rise was not going to happen.

I should perhaps have changed to slow sink line and gone deeper with a lure but on this occasion I had perhaps become too content just enjoying the day going through the motions of fishing the fly.

I drove home as the sun set over Exmoor thinking of my return to the lake in the not to distant future.

WIMBLEBALL – LATE AUTUMN

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

Fly Fishers have enjoyed a splendid season at Wimbleball Reservoir with regular stockings of quality rainbow trout throughout out the season.

I enjoyed some exciting sessions at the venue in the spring but have struggled to get back during the summer months with other fishing trips and lifes demands conspiring to keep me away from this delightful venue high on Exmoor. With reports of some stunning rainbows being caught during the autumn I was determined to have at least one more session before the seasons close at the end of November.

Whilst the North Devon coast was tempting I decided I must take the fly rod and try for a reservoir rainbow. After the big storm that had blown through on Saturday I wondered what the water clarity would be like as I arrived on Sunday morning. To my relief the water was crystal clear and sparkling in the late autumn sunshine.  A brisk Westerly breeze was blowing across the lake into Ruggs Bay where I started my session. After half an hour or so without a pull I decided to move to Bessoms Bank opposite where the wind would be blowing over my shoulder, This was also the area that appeared to be fishing well according to the catch returns in the fishery office.

A couple of other anglers were already fishing this area and boats were drifting off this bank indicating that a few fish were probably about. It was encouraging to see several fish rising within casting range of the bank especially with it being November 3rd. I was fishing a team of flies with a floating line, Montana on the point and buzzers on the droppers. After ten minutes a fish rose at the limit of my casting range and I dropped my fly bang on target! One pull, two pulls and there came that satisfying thump down the line. The rod hooped over and several yards of line disappeared through the rod rings. A near fin perfect rainbow of around 3lb was soon safely in the net.

I persisted with the floating line set up for a couple of hours briefly feeling one other fish. With few fish rising as afternoon set in I changed over to a sinking line and a lure with a long black marabou tail and silver head. After ten minutes a solid take resulted in another hard fighting rainbow of a similar size to the first.

With two trout in the bag I now ensured that I was using barbless flies. For a while I persisted with the lure and sinking line approach and had several follows and swirls, I glimpsed what looked like a very large brown trout following the lure right to waters edge. After this all went quiet for a while and I reverted back to the floating line for an hour without success.

With no activity on the surface I again swapped over to the sinking line and lure approach. After ten minutes a beautiful brown trout of around 1lb seized the lure and was slipped free without removing from the water. Next cast brought a solid take from another brown trout that was pushing 3lb this was returned immediately as being on my own it would be difficult to get a decent picture.

As the light started to fade heavy rain began to fall and I decided it was time to head for home. It had been a very enjoyable day with a couple of good trout for tomorrow nights tea a pleasing brace of browns returned and that monster glimpsed to come back for next time. I slipped back into the permit office to make my return and checked out what others had caught. Plenty of stunning rainbows to over 5lb had succumbed with several multiple bags of fish. I could have done better but at least I had caught a few and enjoyed my day. I will be back in the spring. There are over three weeks left of the season and there are some stunning rainbows waiting to be caught from what has to be the West Country’s best large Stillwater. trout fishery.