These cold winter days are delightful on small Stillwater’s where rainbows seem to feed hard. Just wrap up warm and enjoy.
Paul Carlisle with a cracking 13lb 4oz rainbow caught at Blakewell.
Gale force winds and heavy rain were forecast to sweep across the South West but with the wind from a Southerly direction I was optimistic that I would find the trout on the feed. November 1st was an informal meet up for members of South Molton Angling Club with the Mac Trophy up for the biggest trout banked at one of the clubs meets.
I set off at around 8.00am for the drive across Exmoor and arrived at Wimbleball for around 9.00am. A couple of members were already fishing and I wondered how they were faring. I had visited the lake a couple of weeks ago and found fish in the sailing club bay so I decided to head there for the first hour and see if I could connect. After half an hour I caught one small brown trout and decided to move on and find somewhere with a bit more movement. The gale force winds that had been forecast had failed to materialize and the rain was light and sporadic. To my surprise it was also very mild.
I tramped along to the Bessom’ bank and started searching the water using an intermediate line and a small black lure. After my previous blank my confidence was starting to wane a little. An angler fishing to my left had found some action and I wondered what tactics he was employing. I changed flies a couple of times trying olive damsels with a long leader and a couple of droppers.
The sight of a bent rod once again to my left was too much to resist and I wondered over to take a look at the handsome trout that had just been netted. There was a warm cheery greeting from the angler who had now completed his five fish bag concluding with a superb looking 5lb 8oz rainbow. The Taunton based angler Krystian Makucewicz was eager to assist and showed me the fly he was using combined with a floating line and long leader.
It is always a pleasure to share in the joy of success and I was inspired by the fine bag of trout displayed on the bank.
I changed over to a floating line with a long leader and attached a black lure on the point. Half an hour later the line zipped tight and an acrobatic rainbow was battling on the end of the line. Confident in my tactics I persisted catching steadily over the next four hours completing my bag at around 3.30pm as the light started to fade slightly. The fish were all good full finned rainbows the best an ounce under four pounds.
My fellow club members also managed a few rainbows but no other limits so I must give thanks to Krystian for being so generous with his advice.
When I got back into the car I was surprised to see the temperature was 15 degrees C exceptionally warm for early November. The ride back across the misty moor listening to Johnny Walkers sounds of the seventies rounded off another perfect Sunday.
Fishing is due to continue at Wimbleball until the end of December COVID regulations permitting.
In these troubled times time with the rod is so precious bringing a sense of stability to life that is in the shadow of ongoing uncertainty. To the East of Dorchester there are a number of small quintessential English villages nestled in the Upper Frome valley that exude that reassuring essence of continuity we perhaps need during these unprecedented times.
The River Frome is a chalk stream that rises in the Dorset downs passing through Dorchester and numerous villages before converging with the tide at Wareham before entering Poole Harbour.
For an angler the Frome has a rich and varied variety of fish to pursue with the upper reaches dominated by game fish and the lower reaches more suited to coarse fish that grow to specimen sizes. Salmon and sea trout also migrate throughout the river their dwindling numbers of concern as they are throughout the land.
The autumn and winter months are grayling season on the Upper River with the spring and summer trout season. John Aplin is custodian of several stretches of the Frome and carefully nurtures the river to provide a thriving habitat where wild trout and grayling reside within the crystal clear flowing water between swaying fronds of ranunculas.
Pauline and I were staying at the Dairy House West Stafford a well-furnished and comfortable Self catering http://www.chalkstreamflyfishing.co.uk/accommodation/
The accommodation is situated just a short walk away from an exclusive beat of the River Frome that has a reputation for producing huge grayling. It was these grayling that I was hoping to connect with and a day fishing had been booked to coincide with our stay.
The Autumn weather preceding our trip had been unsettled with weather fronts rushing across South West England from the Atlantic. I hoped that the rain had not rendered the river out of sorts as had happened on my previous two visits to the river in search of grayling.
We arrived mid-week and walked the river in late afternoon as the light began to ebb from the day. The river had a tinge of colour but was at a good height and certainly fishable. A herd of Sika deer were grazing in the meadow a large stag in attendance with his harem of fertile females. In the river a pair of swans searched for food gliding gracefully upon the water. Rooks swirled above the trees and leaves fluttered to the ground as the mild westerly gale swept the valley.
Rain pattered upon the windows overnight driven by the westerly wind. I slept fitfully through the night my mind full of weighted nymphs, running water and grayling.
After breakfast I assembled the tackle and chatted with John who told me that the river had dropped slightly and should be in good order despite the overnight rain.
I headed eagerly for the bottom of the beat the path winding its way through dense woodland. The river was slightly clearer than the previous day and at a good height. I was using a 10ft 3 weight nymphing rod, and two weighted nymphs on a 4lb fluorocarbon leader.
Whilst with polaroid’s I could glimpse into the river spotting fish would not be easy. My tactics were to wade carefully upstream searching likely lies trundling the nymphs over the gravelly runs and probing the deeper darker lies. Reading the water is a skill that is learned over many trips to the river though it is fair to say that all rivers share many characteristics and the language of the chalk-stream I waded now was not that different to the River Umber I explored as a child angler many decades ago.
Searching the water is a wonderfully cathartic experience requiring total concentration as the bright tip of the line traces the progress of the nymphs bouncing the gravelly runs. Each flicker of the line as the hook catches weed required a tightening of the line in case it is a fish that has been deceived. The wind conspires to send each cast astray, tree branches reach down to ensnare and tangle the nymphs that I have collected after succumbing to tempting emails and posts from https://www.barbless-flies.co.uk I hoped the grayling would be equally impressed!
After half an hour of searching I lifted the rod to flick out another cast but there came a pleasing living resistance. For a moment I was almost spellbound in disbelief as the rod plunged over, the line moving purposely upstream. The fish hung powerfully in the strong current then used the flow to gain a few yards of line heading down river. I caught sight of a silver flank and the distinctive sail like dorsal fin. Tense moments followed before the fish was safe within the folds of the net. The tiny pink nymph fell from the fishes underslung mouth, I gazed in wonder at the lady of the stream, put a number to it weighing in quickly in the net
(2lb 12oz) and took its portrait before holding the fish in the current relishing the sight of the fish swimming strongly away into the stream of memory.
I sent a picture to Pauline who was relaxing back in the Annexe. I fished on up through the beat immersed in the contentment of success. An hour later I broke away from the river for a late morning coffee.
Shortly after midday I was back in the river Pauline close at hand to take a few pictures of the river as I flicked my offerings into the stream ever expectant now having had my confidence boosted by success. One more grayling succumbed in early afternoon a feisty fish of perhaps 12oz. I caught a glimpse of a couple more grayling that had undoubtedly seen me before I had focussed upon them in the ever running stream.
The day passed away far too quickly as most days beside the water do and I packed away the rods and waders as the light faded. I will return to the river again in search of grayling and maybe even in the height of summer when the water meadows will be lush and green, the river running crystal clear and wild browns will be supping mayfly as the river meanders quietly on.
The following day we headed for home two more anglers were on the River undoubtedly spurred on by news of my grayling. The grayling of the Frome grow to record proportions with fish caught in the past to over four pounds. This autumn has seen at least three fish of over three pounds tempted but these are not prolific fish. Such a grayling is hard won and I look back upon my success contemplating how small the margin is between catching the dream or not. There are many hundreds of casts in a day on the river and with these rare and precious fish there is often only one cast that will connect with the top prize.
South West Lakes Trust Trout Fisheries Report
Boat and bank fishing is still available to rainbow trout anglers at the time of writing, with day tickets on sale through the Lakes Trust website or via the telephone (01566 771930). Most of the self-service permit huts are now open, but anglers should confirm this before buying tickets on site. Certain restrictions continue to operate and, before fishing, anglers are asked to read the latest Angling Trust advice with regard to health and social distancing. information is also available on the South West Lakes Trust website – www.swlakesfishing.co.uk.
Where boats are available, these should be pre-booked, and strict guidelines must be followed regarding their use (see website for details). Catch returns may be completed online, where the latest weekly catch reports will be available to view. Brown trout fisheries closed on 13 October, with some truly outstanding fishing at Roadford at the end of the season. The rainbow trout fishing improved as temperatures dropped, although generally fish tended to stay deep.
Kennick – Lure patterns (such as Boobies and Orange Tadpoles) fished on sinking lines hard on the bottom, or Damsel Nymphs in mid-water, generally produced the best results and, in spite of a few Daddy Longlegs being blown onto the water, fish could not be tempted to the surface. Bank angling was best in Clampitts Bay, while boat anglers preferred to fish in the deeper central water. The best fish caught in the month was a 4lb rainbow caught by Mr. Kent (from Exmouth). The annual Peninsula classic Bank competition was won by Andy Gooding (from Liverton), catching five rainbows weighing in at 10lb 5oz, using Damsel Nymphs and a Black and Green Lure.
Siblyback – In spite of plenty of fish in the water, the fishing was challenging throughout the month, with a number of decent fish being lost at the net. Dry Daddies picked up a few surface-feeding fish, although the majority were taken on lures (Cats Whisker, Sibblyback Sizzler, and Boobies) fished on a sinking line, with Two Meadows, Stocky Bay, and the North Shore proving to be the best locations.
Stithians – The fishing picked up towards the end of the month, with fish looking up to feed and the majority of fish taken on dry patterns (Deerhair Sedges, Foam Beetles and Hoppers in particular). Some sub-surface feeders were caught on Damsel Nymphs, Montanas, Black Spiders and Black Pennells. Fish were well spread out, with Holliss Bank and Sailing Club bank producing the most consistent results. The best fish caught in the month was a 3lb 3oz rainbow caught by Graeme Clement.
Burrator – The fish at Burrator continued to stay down deep, with Boobies and Cats Whiskers fished on a sinking line producing the best sport, with the occasional fish taking a mid-water hackled nymph, Damsel, Montana or Diawl Bach, with Longstone Point producing the best bank fishing.
Colliford – Colliford continued to produce some great sport through to the end of the season, with plenty of free rising brownies coming to a selection of patterns (Daddies, Hoppers, dry sedge patterns and the occasional Adams), with Black Spiders and Claret Pheasant Tails catching sub-surface feeders. As usual, the fish were well spread out. Local angler Dean Boucher finished the season with 18 fish on three visits, including grown-on fish to 2lb and the best fish of the season on the last day – a cracking 3lb brownie caught in the Narrows.
Fernworthy – The season finished with some hard fishing – a few fish were seen to rise but without much consistency (several were taken on Black Gnats and Sedgehogs). Subsurface nymphs and spiders fished on floating lines caught fish, but nothing of any great size, with the South Bank, Lowton Bay and Thornworthy producing the best sport.
Roadford – The fishing at Roadford continued to be truly outstanding, both for brown trout and perch from the boat, and just continued to improve throughout the month. Weekly trout rod averages started the month at four fish per anglers, steadily rising to over nine fish per rod by the end of the season. Cornish angler Roger Truscott banked 20 fish in one visit, including one of the best of the season – a grown-on brownie of 3lb, while Dean Boucher caught 51 fish up to 2lb 4oz in three visits, fishing from the bank. Both boat and bank anglers enjoyed some excellent sport, with fish being caught on a variety of dry patterns (Klinkhammers, Midges and Foam Beetles), wets (Pheasant Tails, Spiders, Soldier Palmers and Zulus) and lures (Tadpoles and Black Nomads), from locations all over the lake. Targeted boat fishing for perch resulted in plenty of fish being caught, the best day being enjoyed by John Deprieelle, catching four fish over three pounds and losing an even bigger one.
South West Lakes Trust Trout Fisheries Report
Boat and bank fishing is currently available to anglers, with day tickets on sale through the South West Lakes website or via the telephone (01566 771930). Most of the self-service permit huts are now open, but anglers should confirm this before buying tickets on site. Certain restrictions continue to operate and, before fishing, anglers are asked to read the latest Angling Trust advice with regard to health and social distancing. Information is also available on the South West Lakes website – www.swlakesfishing.co.uk.
Where boats are available, these should be pre-booked, and strict guidelines must be followed regarding their use (see website for details). Catch returns can be completed online, where the latest weekly catch reports will be available to view. The fishing has generally proved to be hard on the Rainbow waters, with the best results had where there are Brown Trout or other species which can be caught on a fly. Fish will now start to feed again more actively as the conditions cool down.
Kennick – High water temperatures have meant that generally the fish have stayed deep, with boat anglers enjoying the best sport, generally fishing over the deeper central water, using sinking line tactics with either Boobie patterns, shrimp or tadpoles. Bank anglers have caught fish using intermediate lines, particularly in Clampitts Bay, using Damsel Nymphs and Pheasant Tail Nymphs. Michael Herring (from Thurlstone) caught the best fish of the month – a 3lb 10oz Rainbow, as part of a bag of six fish using an orange shrimp on a sinking line fished from a boat. The ever-popular Peninsula Classic bank competition will be held at Kennick on 11 October this year – later than usual because of the Covid restrictions which were in place earlier in the season.
Siblyback –The hot conditions and water temperatures made the Trout lethargic and the fishing very challenging – however, now that temperatures have started to drop and freshly stocked fish are introduced to the water, the prospects for some exciting sport in late September and October are promising, with Stocky Bay and Crylla the best locations to try.
Stithians – The Rainbow Trout fishing has been difficult during the hot weather at Stithians, but anglers have still enjoyed some exiting sport with the resident Brown Trout, as well as with the Rudd, some of which have been caught up to 1lb, and which on lightweight tackle, provide a lively alternative to the regular Rainbows. Recommended patterns to try include Deer Hair Sedges, Daddies, Yellow Mayflies, Black Buzzers, Greenwell Spiders and Parachute Emergers, fished on floating lines.
Burrator – The fish have been down in the deep water and not enthusiastic to feed. The best results have been fishing from a boat with a sinking line, using a Boobie pattern. Early in the month, Matt Baines had an excellent day’s sport, catching nine fish from a boat in Longstone Bay, using boobies on a sunk line.
Colliford – The Brown Trout at Colliford provided some excellent and consistent sport throughout the month, with plenty of rising fish to dry patterns (Sedges, Black Bits, Hoppers
and Black Gnats) – sometimes cast to rising fish and sometimes catching when fishing blind on a ripple. Sub-surface feeders were taken on Hares Ear Nymphs, Black and Peacock Spiders, Zulus and Soldier Palmers. Phil Messenger-Rogers caught a 2lb Brownie, while Paul Ackland (from Plymouth) caught a bag of six fish, which also included a Brownie of 2lb, using a wet Black and Peacock variant and dry sedges.
Fernworthy – The Brown Trout sport was variable at Fernworthy in September, with weekly rod averages varying between .5 fish and 3.1 fish per angler. On good days plenty of fish were rising, and could be caught on a variety of patterns (Sedgehogs, Foam Ants, Daddies, Black Gnats and Deer Hair Sedges). If the fish were not on the top of the water, subsurface Bibios, Crunchers, Soldier Palmers and Kate Mclarens, all fished well. Jeff Ferguson had the best result, catching eight fish up to 1lb on Black Sedge Pupa and Kate Mclaren patterns, while Paul Ackland caught a 1lb fish on a dry sedge.
Roadford – While fishing at some of the other waters proved challenging over the month, Roadford proved to be the exception to the rule, with the fishing just getting better and better! Anglers averaged 5.8 Brownies per rod, with dedicated specimen Perch fishing (boat only) also available. These Brownies are in superb condition, with a number of grown-on fish in excess of 2lb being caught. The banks at Daveys, Wortha, Big Oaks, North Shop and Grinnacombe all produced some excellent sport and, if small Perch became a problem, one just needed to find some water with a good ripple to get into the Trout again. Boat anglers were most successful when casting into the bays around the edge of the lake. While foam beetles and Daddies brought some fish to the surface, most Trout were caught on sub-surface patterns (Spiders, Soldier Palmers, Zulus, Bibios and Claret Pheasant Tail Nymphs), with lures such as Tadpoles and Zonkers on Di3 lines also catching well. John Rumbold enjoyed an excellent day, catching 14 fish to 2lb 4oz. Dean Boucher landed 50 fish up to 18” in four visits. Later in the month Dean landed another 41 Browns in three visits, with two fish over 2lb.
The Perch fishing continues to be a great success, with plenty of fish to 2lb being caught. The best Perch of the month was a beautiful 3lb 4oz specimen – a personal best for George Hutton who, on a previous visit, had caught 50 Perch up to 2lb 2oz, when fishing with his father, Pete.
Please visit the South West Lakes website (www.swlakewsfishing.co.uk) for more information and the latest updates.
Chris Hall (September 2020)
For more information, please contact:
Customer Communications and Marketing Manager
South West Lakes Trust
It is hard to believe that it is early September as I approach the river as the sun slowly climbs above the trees sending shafts of light across the river. The river is in perfect order running at a good height with pleasing a tinge of colour that one could almost describe as that of fine ale.
I wade out into the cool water and begin my search, optimistic as an angler must be expectant that at any moment the line will zip tight. I absorb the familiar surroundings and listen to the soundtrack of the ever flowing river as it ambles to the sea. Wagtails bob about and a kingfisher flashes past. Fry are abundant in the margins giving hope for future seasons.
The seasons passing is obvious as leaves drift past and I notice a large number of ash leaves undoubtedly a sign of the ongoing of ash die back.
I have fished the river in perfect conditions several times this year and last with four or five years since my last salmon. After fishing the beat carefully drifting my flies across the favoured lies I work my way to the bottom of the beat covering the lies for a second time.
It is clear that the salmon are not as abundant as they were when I started fishing this Middle Torridge beat ten years or so ago when leaping salmon and sea trout were a common sight. The picture of a twenty pound salmon further up river is of course an image that maintains hope in the knowledge that the fish had swum past the waters I am fishing.
The sun is now well up in the sky as I place my fly inches from the far bank. As it swings across the river there comes that electric pull down the line and in a magic moment that contact is made with throbbing life on the line. I hold the rod high and savour the moment as the rod kicks before the reel sings. I keep a tight line leaning into the fish as I step sideways allowing the salmon to push up river. The fish hangs deep in mid river; the rod bends, the line pointing into mid river, the salmon holding station in the strong current. For a while the salmon powers up river but as the pressure tells the fish seeks help from the current heading down river as I attempt to maintain a position opposite the fish . I glimpse a wide powerful tail and the flash of silver.
Its always a tense experience playing a salmon hoping that the hook will stay put and the knots hold strong. After around ten minutes I detach the net from my back and the battle continues with the fish on a short line. This is a tense time for many salmon are lost during that time when the fish is so close to the net.
Then suddenly the fish rolls and is in the net as I give a call of triumph. “Yes!”
I carry the salmon to the margins and slip the barbless double hook from the top jaw. The Go Pro is clipped to my rod handle strategically placed at the water’s edge. I hold the salmon above the water for a brief self-take shot. The flanks of the 10lb plus hen fish are already showing subtle hues of the autumn season. Its image will remain etched upon my mind for the rest of my days fuelling the return to the river in search of silver.
The salmon is held in the cool water head upriver for a couple of minutes until I feel its strength return. It is a great feeling when the fish powers strongly away into the river to continue its amazing journey to hopefully spawn in the next couple of months.
I was pleased to have the opportunity to chat with Pete Tyjas for one of his recent Fly Culture Podcasts. See link below – If you download you can play it on the phone; a good way to entertain on a long car journey or in my wifes opinion ideal cure for insomnia.