WIMBLEBALL FASTMAIL PAIRS MATCH

Great turnout for our Fastmail pairs competition over the weekend. Winners were Martin Williams & Darren Blackburn who recorded a total weight including time bonus of 40lb 11ozs. 2nd place went to Andrew Gooding & Paul who recorded a weight of 37lb 13ozs. 3rd place went to Wayne Thomas & Matt Kingdom with a bag weight of 32lb 8ozs. Thanks to all the anglers for your support…

Calm waters greeted Matt Kingdom, myself and other competitors as we assembled for the 2024 Fastmail Pairs Match at Wimbleball Reservoir. A day out on Wimbleball with good friend and experienced Fly angler Matt is always a joy. It’s also a good idea to pair up with an England Team member.

There was a buzz of anticipation in the air as lines were threaded through the rod rings and favoured patterns tied to the tippets. Some had practiced the day before and had an idea of where to head. I was told that there had been a good hatch of bright blobs the previous day and that this could be a wise fly choice!

Shortly after 9:00am Mark Underhill gave a briefing to all competitors with rules explained before giving the go ahead to depart and go fishing.

The start off reminded me of a slightly shambolic Grand National Start as competitors boats milled around before the starting signal was given. Competitors set off and Matt and I paused to see where everyone was heading. One thing I quickly learned from Matt is that observation is a key factor in competitive angling.

We headed straight for Cowmoor Bay an area that had been producing a few fish and an area that we had both done well in during previous visits.

It was a beautiful morning to be on the water with warm sunshine and a very light cyclonic breeze. The wooded banks and gently rolling arable land a delightful backdrop on this May morning. A time of year when the English countryside is at its most beguiling.

The occasional fish was rising but we soon realised that we had made a wrong choice when we saw a boat heading back to the pontoons at 10:30am, presumably with their ten fish bag complete.

A change of area was required as by this time Matt had caught one nice rainbow and I had had one follow.

We moved to the Dam end of the lake where most competitors seemed to be concentrating their efforts. We drifted the deep water in the gentle breeze. My line zipped tight and I was into a hard fighting full tailed rainbow a moment that was given added value when that evocative sound of the cuckoo drifted across the lake.

My first fish of the day a silver bar with a full tail that reminded me of fresh run grilse.

Over the following two and a half hours we picked up fish on most drifts with Matt’ s competitive experience undoubtedly scoring for us as we fished hard Matt ending with seven rainbows to my three.

Matt Kingom with the full tailed rainbow that completed our ten fish bag.

We headed back to the pontoon with our trout and weighed in to record 32lb 8oz inclusive of our time bonus.

Despite being close to four hours later than the winning pair at completing our bag it was pleasing to end up in third place.

         It had been a very enjoyable day. Many thanks to fishery manager  Mark Underhill and Jeff Pearce from Snowbee who worked very hard on the day ensuring that all went to plan. Thank you to Phil Dixon for organising the day and providing prizes and goodie bags.

 

Snowbee 2024 Catalogue

Snowbee are delighted to present their new 2024 catalogue, with new products including the new GXS Prestige 9ft #9 4-piece Fly Rod, new 4th generation Deep Blue reels along with  new saltwater fly lines.  We also have 10 new killer fly selections for the coming season.

The new catalogue is available to view and download by clicking the image below :-

Link Below :-

https://www.snowbee.co.uk/catalogue?utm_campaign=1574266_New%20Snowbee%202024%20Catalogue%20Available%20Now&utm_medium=email&utm_source=SM%20GROUP%20%28EUROPE%29%20LTD&dm_i=55YS,XQPM,59HG2G,3VKLE,1

RAINY DAY RAINBOWS

RAINY DAY RAINBOWS

         Waterproofs hanging drying beside the Wood-burner reflected the story of the previous day as we sat enjoying coffees and full English in the George Inn at Brompton Regis. I was with Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce, Nigel Evans and Andy Jesson who had fished in a friendly competition at Wimbleball the previous day.

         The nine competitors had recorded thirty trout in a close run event that had seen them battling some pretty severe weather as the strong winds and rain of Storm Babet brushed the West Country. On practice day Nigel and Andy had boated 29 trout between them so were slightly baffled at the relatively reduced catches on match day.

         Breakfast chat included in depth analysis of match day and then diverged to include the problems of the wider world and the intricacies of drone flying. These included several accounts of expensive drone crash disasters that must have been stressful for their owners at the time yet highly entertaining in the subsequent retelling. Strange how tales of disaster are often recounted and savoured with an ironic humour frequently lurking far longer than successful events. A bit like the memory of a big fish lost at the net that lingers painfully for years.

         Feeling fortified we all set off for Wimbleball confident after referring to the latest from the met office inferring that today’s weather would be better.

         After five minutes with the bilge pump to empty the boat Jeff and I set off under grey skies to the sheltered waters of the Upton Arm.

         Tinges of autumn showed upon the wooded banks with shades of golden brown amongst the still predominantly green canopy. The Upton Arm at Wimbleball is sheltered by steep wooded banks and always seems to have a unique other world atmosphere.

         Jeff manoeuvred the boat into position in an area that had proved productive over recent days. I eagerly extended my Snowbee intermediate line and began to retrieve the team of flies. A solid jolt was transmitted down the line to be followed by an acrobatic trout!

The resulting 2lb plus rainbow was a great start to the day and ensured I had at least ensured my ongoing 100% catch rate during the modern Wimbleball era.

         The successful fly was the ever reliable gold headed blue flash damsel on the point. I constantly reiterate that it is important to tie on a fly that gives confidence. I probably catch more than 50% of my still-water trout on this pattern and that is undoubtedly due to my confidence in its use. I am not generally one to swap and change flies repeatedly preferring to try different depths and speeds of retrieve before swapping patterns.

         We could see fish moving on a regular basis further along the bank and moved towards these fish. Once again my fly was seized, there was a flurry of spray and an angry rainbow erupted from the water.

     Over the first hour or so the pattern continued and Jeff also started to hook up with some hard fighting rainbows. All full tailed fish in splendid condition. It soon became obvious that the fish were tightly shoaled as we glimpsed numerous fish in the dark clear water as they followed our flies.

         Sport was to be consistent throughout the day with some epic battles with Wimbleball’s finest the best of the trout nudging 4lb and averaging close to 3lb.

         It was the weather though that will linger in the memory along with persistently bent rods and purring reels. The dark skies brought some brutal showers on the tail end of storm Babet.

 

         It seems that we are increasingly weathering the storms to go fishing. Fortunately, modern waterproofs are up to the job ensuring that fishing is enjoyable in even the most hostile of conditions. There can be few climate change deniers amongst the angling fraternity.

         Sport proved consistent as the day drifted past all too quickly. The high banks of the Upton Valley provided welcome shelter from the wind and we were joined by Nigel and Andy who fished a hundred yards or so behind us. They too enjoyed consistent action and also noticed that most of the fish were patrolling one side of the bay hugging the shoreline.

         A red kite soared high above the valley as the rain eased. The calm surface of the lake reflected the dark trees and as the showers passed by wisps of mist lifted from the lake.

         By mid-afternoon we had caught 19 rainbows releasing all but a couple at the side of the boat. Barbless hooks and rubber meshed Snowbee nets ensuring minimal damage.

         Inevitably sport eased and we decided upon a change of scenery heading back to the yacht club bay for a final hour. We had a quick drift without success and then proceeded to drop the anchor. A small wild brownie brought the days total to twenty.

         Another brutal shower descended upon the lake and a rainbow appeared briefly as the late afternoon sun momentarily broke through the clouds. The trout proved elusive probably switched off the feed for we felt sure they would be present in the area that had been productive over recent days.

In truth I wasn’t too upset when Jeff suggested he had had enough, I had too!

         It had been a top day on the lake a water that has provided some spectacular sport under the management of Mark Underhill and his family since 2018. Wimbleball is not always an easy water with a vast acreage the trout can sometimes prove elusive but it is always well stocked with pristine conditioned rainbows. There is always the added chance of connecting with one of the lakes wild brownies that have grown large feeding upon the abundant fry.

         Winter sport can be enjoyed with plans under consideration to remain open for most of the winter.

Bass and thunder on the Jurassic Coast

 

The tide was flooding rapidly into the River Axe estuary when I arrived to park up and I took note of what looked like a potential mullet fishing venue. This was confirmed later as I chatted with the skipper John Wallington.

The cliffs were shrouded in grey mist giving a truly Jurassic atmosphere to an early October day as we motored out of Axemouth aboard https://www.devonbassprocharters.uk/

There is always something particularly exciting about visiting a new fishing destination. I had been invited by Snowbee ambassador Jeff Pearce who had brought along a few Snowbee Deep Blue Rods to test out. https://www.snowbee.co.uk/sea-fishing.html

There were six of us fishing on the boat Jeff and I knew none of them but as always anglers are a little like super glue gelling quickly to become friends sharing an adventure within a short time. Names are banded about at the start of the day, Mark, Martin, Mick and Zee but in truth I am terrible with names and by the time we left the harbour they could have been Uncle Tom Cobley and all.

         Those grey mist shrouded cliffs of the Jurassic coast soon faded into the distance as we headed out to wrecks deep beneath the grey waters of the English Channel. Bass were our target with the chance of pollock. I always find it fascinating how many Skippers have their own approach and special tricks. John is very keen on safety and had given a very thorough     briefing before leaving the port. Focussing on how to use the ship to shore radio if he was to become incapacitated a factor that I have often thought of but never actually asked any skipper about.

         John explained how we would be drifting the wrecks using lures on long traces of up to 6 metres. The ball weights used must be inserted into their holders when the fish is retrieved and the fish is then handlined carefully to the waiting net. Flailing weights can be dangerous. When lowering the tackle into the water the weight is lowered first the lure held carefully until the weight has taken up the slack in the trace.

( take care not to get hooked by the inertia of the sinking weight- It hurts! ) The set up incorporates a simple anti tangle tube with the weight attached to a weak link. ( Well, mine was as I was using 50lb b.s braid mainline!) The other technique/protocol that was different to many charter boats was that we were all to fish on the same side of the boat with the lines all trailing away, ensuring none of the tangles associated with lines coming under the boat.

         It was a very grey murky day but fortunately the sea was calm with just a gentle breeze. John spotted a few tuna leaping from the water. Gannets soared gracefully in the dark sky.

         After forty minutes or so we reached our first wreck with the shoreline now hidden by mist. We sent our lures to the sea bed and followed the drill. On reaching the sea bed wind up slowly for thirty or so turns then send it back down and repeat. If a fish started to attack the lure keep retrieving until all locks up and then thump the hook home by lifting the rod positively.

 

A Red gill hybrid !

 

         The morning started slowly with a few bass and pollock from the first two or three wrecks. I was pleased to get off the mark with a decent pollock and bass.

         The fishing was steady then as we covered a couple more wrecks. As the tide eased the breeze dropped away and we were entranced when pods of dolphins appeared to play around the boat passing within a few feet clearly visible in the clear water.

         Several martins flew overhead as they headed South on their migration to Africa. A warbler of some type circled the boat another tiny migrant heading south its survival surely against the odds.

         Sport began to pick during the afternoon as the tide picked up with each drift bringing multiple hook ups keeping a smiling John busy with the net.

         Despite dark skies and intermittent rain, we were all surprised when a flash of lightning was followed by an impressive rumble of thunder. The storm persisted for around fifteen minutes with huge thunderclaps and some spectacular flashes of lightning. We fished on in shock and awe. This failed to deter the fish that were hitting our lures with gusto.

         Not sure how many bass and pollock we eventually caught but I ended with seven bass and three pollock. I did lose a very good fish that hit my lure hard putting an impressive bend in the Snowbee Rod, the reel screaming  before the hook pulled free.

         We headed back to Seaton bouncing across a dark grey seascape as gannets plunged into the water. We all climbed from the boat a little weary and said fond farewells thanking John for a great day.s sport.

 

 

Trouting In Paradise

Anglers Paradise

I first visited Anglers Paradise over thirty years ago and at the time it was all very new and I wasn’t too impressed with the rather stark collection of large ponds and lakes. At the time I frowned upon the extensive commercialism that was creeping into angling.

Today when I visit Anglers Paradise I rejoice in the amazing transformation of the complex nestled deep within the heart of Devon the thirty plus lakes have matured along with the extensive woodland and wetlands that now provides a diverse habitat abounding with wildlife and fauna.

At the heart of the complex is of course Anglers Paradise the vision of  the colourful character Zyg Gregorek. The  luxury holiday destination for thousands of  happy families over recent decades and famous for its wealth of fishing opportunities.

On this occasion I was visiting the Nirvana Trout lake with Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pierce. Recent reports had hinted at some rather special trout residing in this 2-acre lake including specimen tiger, rainbow, blue, brown, golden trout and artic char. The lake is strictly catch and release with unhooking matts and rubber nets mandatory along with barbless hooks, single fly and minimum line of 10lb b.s.

We met up in the lakes car park at 9:30am and looked out to the lake across the grass meadow that was punctuated with hundreds of  pale pink cuckoo flowers commonly known as lady’s smock. Wispy white clouds drifted high in the bright blue sky and bird song resonated all around. I passed Jeff a fresh jam doughnut and poured a coffee. A days fishing ahead life doesn’t get much better than this!

We both set up with light 6 -wt rods with floating lines and walked confidently to the lake. The water was crystal clear with tadpoles swimming in abundance along the margins.

            We started fishing on the near bank both of us opting for damsel nymphs. After just a few minutes Jeff called out with his rod well bent and a good trout darting to and fro in the middle of the lake. I rushed over and did the honours with the net, thrilled to share in the moment. A fine tiger trout of close to 3lb was a great start to the day.

            We fished on for half an hour but Jeff and I both eyed up the far bank where several fish broke the surface on a regular basis. The water was deeper on this bank. On just the second cast Jeff was again in action his rod hooped over and his reel singing as line was ripped from the spool at an alarming rate. Several anxious moments followed as the fish headed for the  concrete overspill monk. Pressure from the rod soon told and a fine rainbow that must have been close to 6lb graced the net.

 

            Being catch and release we had both elected to leave the scales at home and not give the fish a number. A quick release of the trout with an absolute minimum time out of the water is essential to maintain these valuable pristine stock fish.

            The day progressed beneath the bright blue spring sky. Swallows swooped over the water and an early brood of mallards navigated the lake. The harsh strum of a woodpecker came from the nearby wood. We both fished hard and I glimpsed a couple of fish close to my flies but nothing actually connected.

            The bright sunshine and light easterly breeze gave us an excuse for a slow day. Large numbers of hawthorn flies were blown onto the water and we assumed it was these that the fish were occasionally slurping down from the surface.

            The morning drifted past all too soon and I suggested we head back to the cars where I fried up some sausages that were devoured with fresh rolls and ketchup. This wasn’t a healthy eating day!

            With the fishing proving hard we discussed tactics and I elected to set up a second rod with a sinking line. I tied on one of Jeffs bead headed damsels and returned to the deeper side of the lake. We both searched the water and I eventually made brief contact with a powerful fish that threw the hook. After six hours without a touch my confidence was given a boost. Jeff had a good take from a fish that he glimpsed in the clear water before it too threw the hook.

            It was now late afternoon and the prospect of a blank was starting to loom. I hooked another trout that again came off after a  few seconds. Surely persistence would pay off? With very few fish now rising I was convinced that my best chance was to persist with the tactics of a deep damsel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

            Suddenly a savage pull came through the line and I lifted the rod to feel a heavy fish pulsing deep down in the clear water. The loose line was quickly stripped through the rod rings and I let the fish run as I carefully applied pressure. After several tense minutes the fish was holding deep beneath the rod tip. I put the rod into a deep curve and we both peered into the dark water for that first glimpse. Jeff exclaimed “wow what a fish !” as  the flanks of a  large tiger trout appeared. I patiently applied pressure guiding the magnificent fish over the nets rim.

 

            The barbless hook fell easily from its jaws and we admired the fish in the net before lifting it from the water for a quick grip and grin before slipping it carefully back and watching it swim away strongly with a flick of its broad tail.

            I could have packed up then but I wanted to savour the moment and after all perhaps the fish had just come on the feed? Five minutes later my line once again zipped tight and another hard fighting tiger was secured and briefly admired.

            At two all it seemed a good time to pack away for the day. Memories made and plans made for a return visit to Paradise next spring.

Prior to that I have a trip in search of  the catfish of Eldorado during the summer.

Anglers Paradise

2023 SOUTH WEST FLY FAIR – REPORT

The 2023 South West Fly Fair was held at Roadford Lake on February, 26th. This has become a very popular event in the West Country Fly Fishers diary heralding the onset of Spring fishing.

The format of the day allows plenty of time for social interaction with anglers from across the South West and beyond converging at the conference centre. There was a range of expert anglers at hand to offer advice on tackle, tactics, fly casting and fly tying.

There were numerous stalls with both new and second hand tackle, a vast array of flies and fly tying materials along with details of where to fish. Representatives from numerous angling club’s associations and trusts were in attendance.

Thanks must go to South West Lakes Trusts head of Angling Ashley Bunning and Dil Singh technical lead for game fishing who organised the event with their dedicated team. The event was opened by the familiar fair’s patron Charles Jardine. The fairs main sponsor was Chevron Hackles.

South West Lakes Trusts head of Angling Ashley Bunning( Right) and Dil Singh technical lead for game fishing

As always Charles Jardine’s enthusiasm for fly fishing was very apparent and was this year bolstered by the company of angling writer Peter Cockwill. Charles and Peter both highly respected fly fishing practitioners who have witnessed a huge amount of change in the fly fishing world and have remained at the fore front for several decades.

Charles and Peter are joining forces on June 21st at Syon Park to “ Cast A Marathon”. Twenty six miles of casting using a mix of Orvis 4,6 and 8 weights to raise funds for https://www.fishingforschools.co.uk and Castaway and to promote their love of Fly Fishing. Full details to follow.

Charles Jardine and Peter Cockwill

On arriving at the lakeside venue, it was immediately apparent that the lake is still barely half full following last seasons disastrous drought. This was undoubtedly a widely discussed issue amongst anglers as they debated last season and the coming months. Colliford in Cornwall is apparently even lower prompting the alarming question what if we get another summer of drought? Let’s hope it’s a more traditional British summer with a few downpours to keep the lakes topped up and the rivers flowing.

The experts , Charles Jardine, Snowbee’s Simon Kidd and Gary Champion delivered fine casting demonstrations with impressive flexing of rods and swirling of lines that all looked so simple in their hands despite the chill brisk North East Wind.

( Above) Charles casts his magic

 

Gary Champion explaing the art of fly casting

Snowbee’s Simon Kidd

The fly tying fraternity created many flies and lures to tempt the most discerning of anglers. Talks were delivered with humour and wisdom with plenty of audience participation.

The trade stands and expertise are an integral part of the show but above all it is the angling community that is at the heart of this event. Each year friendships are rekindled and plans made for the coming year. I’m sure its not just me who discusses plans for the season to then find that time and life intervene as for any keen angler will testify there is so much water and little time.

Topping up the tackle – Homeleigh Garden Centre – Angling Department – 

A cheerful smile from John Aplin of Casterbridge Fisheries LTD

Put a couple of hundred anglers together for a day and there will be a huge amount of discussion. That great angling writer H.T. Sheringham penned several classic books in the early part of the last century  the titles of which would cover many of the debates undertaken. Trout Fishing Memories and Morals, Elements of Angling and perhaps more appropriate “Fishing its Cause Treatment and Cure”.

Debate about tactics and morals have raged within angling for centuries. When does an artificial bait become a fly? Is Upstream dry fly fishing superior to upstream nymph. Is the use of an indicator akin to float fishing? Are wild trout more worthy than stocked? What of the future of fishing? Cane, carbon or fibre glass? Is social media toxic or is it the anglers that post upon it? Is competitive angling good or does it bring out the worst in people?

I joined a discussion with well-known West Country Fluff chucker Rodney Wevil debating on how to catch mullet on the fly. Are they the most difficult fish to tempt? Despite considerable success with the species Rodney believes they are indeed among the most challenging of fish.

Talk of Fly Fishing and twenty years ago most would have thought of trout or salmon. Today fly fishing enthusiast’s target a very wide range of species in both salt and freshwater. Predatory fish such as pike have become top targets as have carp. The tactics used to tempt these species open up an entire new spectrum for anglers to debate.

Rodney Wevill

Another item very high on the agenda is the river environment a topic that is now gathering a far wider audience due in part to the sterling efforts of Feargal Sharkey and the like. As anglers we have a very close affinity with water and are very aware of change.

As waters closer to home suffer from mankind’s actions it is perhaps inevitable that those who can afford seek fish from distant lands. I talked of fishing the richer waters of Norway and Iceland.

I also had a very interesting discussion about the fishing in the Southern Hemisphere. I had seen pictures of adventures with huge seatrout, brown trout and rainbow trout posted by Peter Cockwill.

Peter enlightened me about how these fish have thrived in pristine waters of the Southern hemisphere after being stocked many years ago by us northerners. Waters that had no significant fish populations now have these fish that many think of as wild. They are not of course truly wild but illustrate how mankind can redistribute nature to his own ends. Mankind is undoubtedly decimating the marine ecosystems of the world how nature responds is complex.

         The 2023 Fly Fair was a very enjoyable event that will hopefully run as an annual event for many years. I arrived home late afternoon with a head full of fishy thoughts. In the middle of the night I awoke; discussions of fish populations in our rivers swimming through my mind. A common theme amongst anglers is how it used to be. Each generation has its own bench marks.

Keen to record my thoughts I left a warm bed to compose the following:-

I REMEMBER WHEN

The old guy said,

 

I remember when the salmon poured into the pools,

Packed like sardines you could have walked across their backs, (1983)

 

I remember when some anglers caught one hundred salmon in a  season,  (2003)

 

It’s been a better season we caught forty from the river last year,  (2023)

 

I remember when there were salmon in the river,     (2043)

                                                                                                  

I remember being told there were once salmon in this river,  (2063)

 

(Above) Zoe Latham keen Dartmoor Fly Fisher – With her fish and fly art works

                                                                                                

http://www.bannisterrods.co.uk

 

Invasive Species – 

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.