WINTER READING

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Dark winter nights are made for reading and dreaming and the latest edition of Fly Culture delivers plenty of fuel to inspire. The editor in Chief of this quality read is local Fly Fishing enthusiast Pete Tyjas who was an inspiring Fly Fishing Guide at the Fox and Hounds, Eggesford.

My own book on fishing in North Devon entitled “I Caught A Glimpse” is available from https://thelittleegretpress.co.uk/product-category/author/wayne-thomas/

Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club – Christmas Competition @ Blakewell

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Seven members fished in the clubs Christmas Competition at Blakewell where all members caught their three fish bags of hard fighting rainbows. The fish were caught on a variety of flies mostly small imitative patterns with the water clarity good. The lake was well sheltered from the gale force winds that were beating in from the North-West.

1st – Paul Grisley –  3 Trout – 6lb 11oz

2nd – Dave Eldred – 3 Trout – 5lb 11oz

3rd – Dave Mock – 3  Trout – 5lb 8oz

4th – Wayne Thomas – 3 Trout – 5lb 5oz

5th – Nigel Bird – 3 Trout – 5lb

6th – Colin Combe – 3 Trout – 4lb 11oz

7th – Andre Muxworthy = 3 trout – 4lb 1oz

BLAKEWELL CHRISTMAS COMPETITION 2019

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Twenty seven anglers arrived to fish Blakewell’s Annual Christmas Competition despite the pending arrival of Storm Atiyah with winds forecast to reach up to 70mph. The competition is always an enjoyable day of socializing. Many of the anglers fish this competition each year catching up on the latest gossip from the South West Angling world with stories of places visited and of fishing adventures across the world.

I always find it slightly alarming how quickly this event seems to come around as the years drift past to merge into memories. Coffees, port and greetings are exchanged before the draw. The format is well known to all the regulars with six pegs drawn with an hour to be spent at each peg rotating around the lake throughout the day. With the storm forecast John and Richard Nickell wisely decide upon a slight change to this years timetable bring the competitions close to 2.30pm With dinner closing the event enabling anglers to retreat to the warmth of the tea room as the predicted storm arrives.

At 9.30am we set off for the lake full of expectation with those first few casts often productive. I draw a peg at the top corner of the Lake and have a grandstand view across the water where I observe several bent rods within minutes of the start.

To my surprise the first hour passes without any action to my rod and I am pleased to move to a new area. I have elected to fish a black tailed marabou lure with a bright green head on the point and two spider type flies on the droppers. After twenty minutes in my second zone I hook a rainbow of around 1lb 8oz and feel relieved to get the scoreboard ticking over. Persistence over the next hour sees another three trout caught the best a very pleasing fish of 4lb.

A vicious squall suddenly sweeps across the lake. Lashing rain and hail driven by a raging wind that bends the trees and sends branches drifting down the lake. At this point some anglers appear to be ready to pack away. Others like myself grit our teeth and try to soldier on.

Fortunately the squall is short lived and sunshine once again breaks through the clouds bringing a welcome splash of light and colour to the day. I make another move and soon connect with two more trout to complete my six fish bag.

With mission complete I take a walk around the lake capturing a few fishy moments as competitors chat and share the day. By 2.30pm everyone is ready for a hot dish of chilli con-carne a mince pie and a cool beer.

Many thanks again to John and Richard Nickell for their hospitality and good humour. Hard to believe its 12 months since we heard Richards cheery patter of optimism for the coming year. Once again a steady stream of families walkaway with their Christmas trees a sense of cheery optimism in the winter air.

Competition Results :-

1st Alan Evans – six trout – 14lb 10oz

2nd – Paul Grisley – Six trout – 14lb 2oz

3rd – Mark Buxton – Six trout 12lb 4oz

( Above) Biggest Fish – Alan Evans – Rainbow trout  – 6lb

Great Torrington Army Cadet’s Fly Fishing for Duke of Edinburgh’s Award 2019

This year’s course started on 2nd April 2019 with a basic Introduction into Fly Fishing, over the past 7 months 4 cadets from Great Torrington Detachment have worked hard learning the different elements required to be proficient fly fishermen, these included types of Rods, Reels, Flies, Lines, Leaders & Casting.

On 16th April we had a visit from Paul Carter, Environment Agency Fisheries Officer to talk about his job and Licencing.

As well as Paul we had another visitor, Alan Crawley, River Warden for the Commons Conservators to talk about the work he’s been doing to improve access to the river by installing steps etc.

The Cadets found this evening really interesting.

15th June was our fly tying day where the cadets were instructed in the art of fly tying, this was also an opportunity for them to tie a selection of flies ready for the lake days to follow, all the cadets successfully managed to tie 6 reasonably flies by the end of the day.

13th July was our first Lake day, Simpsons Valley Trout & Course Fishery, near Holsworthy. This day proved to be challenging and despite everyone’s best efforts no fish were caught, but the cadets did get a lot of experience.

27th July should have been our second lake days, Bratton Water Fly Fishery, Barnstaple. Unfortunately due to so much other training happening that weekend which some of the group were involved in, we had to cancel.

30th November was our third lake day, Blakewell Trout Fishery, Barnstaple. This day started with a guided tour around the farm to see and learn about the fish, how water levels, oxygen level and temperatures affect the fish’s growth & wellbeing.

Fishing was challenging with fish following lures and turning away at the last moment, the cadet didn’t let this put them off but persevered in their quest to catch and land their first fish.

By the end of the day the cadets had all caught a fish to take home, best result ever, a perfect end to the course.

The Cadets and Instructors would like to thank the following people for their continued support,

Paul Carter                   Environment Agency Fisheries Officer

Alan Crawley                 River Warden for the Commons Conservators

Paul Cozens                  Simpsons Valley Trout & Course Fishery

Andrew Moores            Simpsons Valley Trout & Course Fishery

Mike Williams               Bratton Water Fly Fishery

Richard Nickell              Blakewell Fishery

John Nickell                  Blakewell Fishery

Last casts of the Wimbleball season

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It always seems difficult to fit in enough time for fishing trips so with the season at Wimbleball drawing to a close I was keen to have one last trip at this rejuvenated water. The last two years have seen this large reservoir return to form after a sterling effort by Mark and Trudi Underhill and their team. Regular stocking of full finned hard fighting rainbows has ensured that a building number of Fly Fishing enthusiasts are visiting the lake.

It seemed a good idea to visit the lake on the last day of the 2019 season on Saturday, November 30th. I contacted my good friend and Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pierce to see if he fancied joining me. He too was keen so we agreed to meet up at 9.00am and take out a boat giving the freedom to explore a larger area than bank fishing.

I am not so sure either of us thought it was such a good idea when we set out at dawn with a bitter east wind and a forecast of temperatures of 5 degrees C. it was certainly a bitterly cold late November day with slate grey skies and a cutting Easterly wind that anglers dread. We have all heard that old saying, “ when the wind is in the East the fish bite the least”.

The only way we were going to enjoy today was to make sure we would keep warm. I had togged up with my full Chillcheater thermals, with a fleece trouser and top. On top of this I wore leggings and a Chillcheater waterproof smock. So suitably wrapped up we climbed onboard the boat and steamed out onto the cold expanse of water.

There were several other anglers braving the elements on the bank all fishing in the Bessom and Rugg’s area of the lake. This area gave some shelter from the wind and had been producing plenty of rainbows in recent weeks.

We both opted to start using sinking lines and a team of flies. Typically, a lure on the point a small imitative pattern on the middle dropper and blob on the top dropper. This was a combination I was to stick with all day.

We dropped anchor and extended our lines searching for fish in keen anticipation. It was great to be out despite the chill conditions and we chatted enthusiastically about past and future fishing forays.

After half an hour neither of us had so much as a pull and decided to make a move. On arrival at our new destination Jeff spotted a fish rise which gave some optimism. I heard a curse from Jeff  who had just cast out letting the line sink as he retrieved a drink from his tackle bag. The rod tip had surged over, loose line zipping tight. A momentary connection followed before the fish shook itself free from the barbless hook. A few minutes later Jeff saw another rise and cast hopefully immediately connecting with a hard fighting rainbow that had seized a tiny diawl bach as the flies hit the water. The rainbow would have weighed around 3lb and was carefully released at the side of the boat.

We fished on in this spot for a while before moving again and again in search of elusive trout. We saw that the bank anglers were enjoying some success with their rods bent and reels screaming in protest. To our surprise they seemed to be catching on floating lines despite the conditions.

Jeff worked hard as always changing his lines from sinking to intermediate and to a full floater. I persisted with the sinking line approach believing that most fish would be down deep. What I did do was change the tip fly on a regular basis and vary my retrieve. Slow and steady, fast and erratic. Sometimes letting the line sink deep and on other casts commencing the retrieve as soon as the fly hit the water.

Eventually the line zipped delightfully tight as something hit a damsel nymph beneath the boat. The fish fought deep swimming in circles with no long fast runs. To our surprise it was beautiful spotted brown trout  of round 2lb that appeared at the surface.

Jeff grabbed a quick picture of the fish at the side of boat and I let the out of season fish swim away into the chill water.

It was now early afternoon and we fished on relishing the challenge buoyed by some success. We both agreed that we looked forward to a return in the spring as swallows swooped low over the water, buds were breaking on the trees and trout were lazily sipping buzzers from warm waters caressed by a gentle breeze. Despite thoughts of spring and summer there is still something beguiling about this bleak winter landscape.

We continued to make regular moves hoping to locate a pod of fish. Once again my line pulled tight and another fine brown trout was brought to the side of the boat.

We watched the bank anglers continuing to enjoy some success which spurred us on to fish ever harder expectant of action with every cast. Jeff had several pulls that he failed to convert.

When my line again drew tight I was convinced I had hooked a big rainbow. The rod took on an alarming curve and line was ripped from the reel. For a minute or so the fish had the better of me causing a few anxious moments as it threatened to take the line around the anchor rope. Relishing the battle I piled on the pressure hoping Jeff would capture the bent rod as the fish tested my tackle. It was undoubtedly a very good fish as we caught a glimpse of its flanks in the clear cold water. Eventually the pressure told and a beautiful brown trout that must have been closer to five pounds than four broke the surface. The fish was drawn into Jeff’s rubber meshed net and carefully unhooked before a quick picture above the water. A stunning fish that would make this a day to remember.

We fished on for another hour moving a few more times but my arm was starting to ache. I suggested to Jeff that another ten minutes would do for me and I don’t think he was too disappointed at my suggestion. It was after all close to 4.00pm by the time we had moored the boat back at the launch pontoon.

We vowed to return in the spring at the start of a new season. It promises to be a good one if this season is anything to go by.

WIMBLEBALL – LATE AUTUMN

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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.