All the Gear and No Eye Deer !


Strange game this fishing lark and angler’s fishy targets that vary considerably. Bream are a species that are loved by some and loathed by others. My own feelings on bream go back a long way and they are a fish I have mixed feelings for rather like eels. Small skimmers are slimy creatures only worth catching during match’s and a complete nuisance when targeting bigger fish. Eels are much the same with slimy bootlaces tangling the tackle whilst snatching bait offered to a more worthy specimen.

Big eels and big bream are both worthy targets that hold a spell over a dedicated hard core of specimen anglers. The dedicated tunnel visioned  carp angler view both species as vermin cursing at the hooking of either species regardless of its specimen proportions. A bream or eel that would be a fish of a lifetime to some anglers is tossed back without weighing by many carp fanatics.

Big bream have eluded me over the years and they are not a species I have targeted to any great extent. I have caught bream to over 8lb from Hatchett Pond in Hampshire under the guidance of a good friend twenty five years or so ago and I once tempted a 7lb bream from the tidal Exe whilst fishing for carp.

Recent seasons I have heard many reports of the big bream that reside in Lower Tamar Lake. At first I tended to treat these reports from carp anglers with a degree of scepticism when they told me of bream well over ten pounds that they had caught but not bothered to weigh.

My sceptical nature on this occasion proved to be wrong as more  pictures started to appear of big bream that had been weighed several of them well over ten pounds.

These specimen bream were on my list of target species yet time as always seems an issue as I spend my time pursuing many fish and balancing this with family, home life and a little work.

My first trip after bream was back in May 2021 when I enjoyed a session banking one nuisance carp of 19lb 4oz! I jest for in truth I am pleased to catch anything that bends the rod and a 19lb carp is far better than a blank.

The bream remained on my bucket list but for one reason or another I didn’t get back to them until earlier this year when I persuaded my good friend Bruce Elson to join me at the venue. Bruce had already achieved his target of a double figure bream after just two trips.

The night before the trip I picked up a couple of books from my bookshelf and flicked through the pages looking for a few nuggets of info regarding specimen bream fishing. Renowned specimen anglers talked of long sessions and many blanks chasing specimen bream. Judging by the efforts of these anglers and the results I was hearing about it was obvious that Lower Tamar is an exceptional venue for specimen bream.

In late April Bruce and I lugged our barrows full of gear to what had proved productive swims on the lake. We talked tactics and I noted Bruce’s approach. We had pulled straws to select swims and Bruce assured me that my swim was a cracker as was his.

Last year I had fished Roadford Reservoir during the carp removal project and purchased a sack of pigeon conditioner a renowned particle bait for carp. I had cooked this up and added a tin of sweetcorn and a few pellets. I spodded the best part of a bucketful out the suggested number of wraps. Strange how carp anglers have now created a language of their own. Twenty years ago I would have looked puzzled if someone told me they were fishing at 15 wraps.

In old terms this was about 60 metres.

         This spodding out of bait is a bit tedious and took close to an hour. We had arrived shortly after midday and it was late afternoon before the baits were in place and the bivvy assembled. Time to make a cup of coffee and sit back.

         We didn’t expect much action until after dark so when Bruce called me over to his swim well before darkness I was surprised. I stood waiting at his side as he reeled in a fish that was undoubtedly a big bream. The sight of the bronze flanks as it appeared were certainly impressive. At 9lb 5oz it was an encouraging start.

9lb 4oz an encouraging start for Bruce

Bruce recasts in the fading light.
Watching the fading light

Shortly after dark Bruce’s call came again and this time it was a truly special fish. I slipped the net under a real slab weighing an impressive 13lb!

          This set the pattern for the night as Bruce woke me periodically to show me bronze flanked bream weighing 9lb 13oz, 9lb 1oz, 12lb 1oz and 11lb 4oz. And a small eel…. A breamers dream session!

         I must have had some sleep for I awoke just before 6.00am and recast my rods. Not a bleep all-night.

13lb a truly impressive fish!

I chatted with Bruce in an analysis of my failure. Bruce expressed that he was concerned when I had told him I was using pigeon conditioner. An excellent bait for carp but he and his brother had used it in France to deter the bream!

Return trip

And so a few weeks later with plenty of big bream being reported I headed to Lower Tamar once again. This time I was on my own and it was late Sunday afternoon by the time I arrived. The prime swims were occupied so I had to fit in where I could and a swim named Fishless Corner failed to inspire. I knew it had produced the target fish in recent weeks and reasoned that my chances were still good. I spodded out a mix of pellets, sweetcorn and crushed boilies.

It was early evening by the time I was settled in waiting. I watched the water, the grebes and that ever pleasing sight of mother duck and her ducklings patrolling the margins. I cooked up a burger, made a fresh coffee and became emersed in the scene.

         The light slowly drained from the day and a stillness enveloped the lake. The birdsong became subdued and hundreds of bats appeared as the stars began to twinkle in the night sky.

I climbed into the sleeping bag expectant and alert. Slowly I drifted into a shallow sleep waking from time to time. My expectation was fading as the sky slowly lightened as the sun returned for another day. A movement caught my eye in the half light as a rat scampered onto the boards at the front of the swim, its form clearly silhouetted against the dim light. The dawn chorus slowly increased in volume familiar sounds of birdsong resonating in the still light of dawn. I am always amazed at the volume and clarity delivered by the tiny wren. I have an app on my phone called Merlin that identifies birdsong. Wren, chiffchaff, goldcrest, wood pigeon, carrion crow and blackbird all recorded in 60 seconds.


Reflections of lush green and blue sky upon mirror calm waters. Mist drifted across the far side of the lake it was a perfect late spring morning. I sat back and breathed in the pure cool air savouring the sharp taste of hot freshly brewed coffee. I contemplated upon my lack of success and philosophically accepted that in the grand scheme of life not catching was of little consequence. To be here was surely worth the chase.

I contemplated upon my lack of success and philosophically accepted that in the grand scheme of life not catching was of little consequence. To be here was surely worth the chase.

As a gentle breeze riffled the water all hope of catching evaporated and I packed slowly away. As I pushed my barrow full of gear back to the car I had to concede clearly that I had all the gear and no idea.

         Back at the car I met a fellow angler. “ How did you get on ?” I asked.  He replied that he was, “ delighted to have caught a 29lb common carp but had been plagued by nuisance bream that were this big!” He stretched his arm wide to indicate  the size of bream within my dreams.

         I will be back third time lucky. In a different swim with modified rigs and hopefully no requirement to find a reason that I failed to connect.


Big Bream at Lower Tamar

posted in: Coarse Fishing, Sidebar | 0

Shaun Thorne has enjoyed success in several sessions at Lower Tamar targeting the Bream. He has banked thirty five bream including twenty over 10lb the best a stunning fish of 12lb. He has also banked carp and a tench of 6lb 11oz.

As weed growth takes over fishing becomes increasingly difficult meaning that the bream fishing will virtually cease until next Spring.


South West Lakes Trout Fisheries Report June 2023

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South West Lakes Trout Fisheries Report

June 2023


June saw a dramatic rise in water and air temperatures, with plenty of bright sunshine and very little rain, with the trout retreating to deeper waters on many of the reservoirs, and in many cases not so eager to feed, which made the fishing challenging, and anglers needed to be flexible in their approach. Boat anglers enjoyed the best of the sport.



Kennick – The reservoir has started to fall again, down to 91% capacity by the end of the month. In spite of plenty of surface insect activity (beetles and sedges), generally the fish stayed in the deeper water, and intermediate or sinking lines fished with lures, blobs and boobies often produced the best results, although nymphs (Damsels, Dawl Bachs, and Buzzers) fished on floating lines did produce good results on some days. Apart from the central deeper water fished by the boats, bank anglers managed to pick up fish at Smithacott, Clampits, the Lawns, Jan’s Rock, and the deeper water by the dam. Simon Vowles and Andy Sterrick (from Exeter) enjoyed a great day’s boat fishing, catching twenty fish between them using a Coral Booby, Cats Whisker Booby, and a Coral Blob on fast sinking lines and short leaders tight to the bottom, using a slow figure-of-eight retrieve. Brian Parry (from Newton Abbot) caught six fish to 2lb 8oz using a Cats Whisker on a sinking line.


Siblyback – The fishery has now dropped to 92% full, and with plenty of insect activity (Beetles, Damsels, and Sedges) the fish continue to rise freely to feed. Early in the month anglers averaged 3.5 fish per rod, although this fell off as the month progressed with warmer brighter conditions. Two Meadows, Crylla Bay, Stocky Bay, and the North Shore produced the best sport, with plenty of fish being taken on floating lines and dry patterns (Coch-y-bondhu, Bibio, Shipmans Buzzer, Black Hoppers, and Deer Hair sedges), with sub-surface fish being caught on Montanas, Buzzers, and Kate McLarens. Fourteen year old Johnny Moesel (from Okehampton) enjoyed a superb day’s sport, catching nine trout, including a rainbow of 3lb 5oz, another at 3lb, and a lovely wild brownie of 1lb 9oz, using a floating line with a Coch-y-bondhu on the point and a hopper on the dropper, casting to rising fish.

Burrator – During the first two weeks of June anglers averaged two fish per rod, but this tailed off as the month continued. Back Bay, Longstone, Sheepstor, and Pig Trough banks produced the best sport, and with plenty of beetles on the water as well as a good evening rise, fish were feeding eagerly from the surface. Floating lines with a slow figure-of-eight retrieve or washing-line tactics proved to be the most effective methods, with anglers catching fish on a variety of dry patterns (Hoppers, Sedges, Beetles, and Grey Wulff), while sub-surface feeders took Buzzers, Damsel Nymphs, Montanas, Diawl Bachs, and Invictas. Chris Arscott caught a beautiful 3lb 8oz brown using a Diawl Back, floating line and slow retrieve fishing early in the evening, while Roger Prout caught a 3lb rainbow using a Black Top Hat Topper. Simon Stokes (from Horrabridge) caught five rainbows to 2lb 8oz along with one brownie, using a washing line of Buzzers, Crunchers, and rubber beetle.

Stithians – Stithians fished fairly consistently throughout the month, with anglers averaging 2.3 fish per rod; fish were well spread out around the fishery, with anglers enjoyed particular success at Mossops, Yellowort, Goonlaze, Hollis Bank and the deeper water by the dam. With plenty of beetles being blown onto the water, fish were keen to look up to feed, and a selection of dry patterns caught fish (Beetles, Sedges, Black Gnats, Hawthorns, and Hoppers); otherwise, sub-surface feeders were taken on nymph patterns (Diawl Bach, Montanas, and Damsels) fished with a floating line. Roger Clark (from Truro) caught four rainbows to 4lb (best fish of the season so far). Simon Peters (from Cusgarne) enjoyed a couple of successful sessions, catching eight rainbows to 2lb and a couple of 10oz browns using dry beetles on one visit, and five rainbows to 2lb on another.


Fernworthy –  With beetles in the air, there have been plenty of rising fish throughout the month at Fernworthy, and anglers have averaged 2.3 fish per rod, mainly using a variety of black dry patterns (Hoppers, Hawthorns, Black Gnats) and beetle imitations. Fish have generally been between five and fifteen yards from the shore, with popular banks including Thornworthy, Potters Bank, Boathouse Bay, and the North Bank. Phillip Smith (from Lechlade) caught five browns using a Hopper pattern, while Paul Ackland (from Plymouth) caught 7 browns to 1lb 8oz using a dry foam beetle and pheasant tail nymph.

Colliford – The water level here started to rise, but then receded with the warm dry weather, and is now at 64% capacity; anglers fared well, averaging 4.2 fish per rod over the month, and with beetles about, plenty of floating line and dry fly action. Successful patterns included foam beetles, black hoppers, Bobs Bits, and sedge patterns, with fish well spread out around the fishery – best tactics are to keep on the move to cover as much water as possible, fishing close to the bank, as well as out over the deeper water. Rodney Wevill (from Launceston) enjoyed a successful evening session, catching eight browns on a floating line in the last two hours before dark; Nick Odle (from Looe) caught fifteen browns using a mixture of wets and dries; while Phillip Smith (from Lechlade) caught seven fish to 1lb, mainly on dries and a single hopper.

Roadford – Now down to 66% full, the fishing has been challenging at Roadford, with a few fish being caught from Davey’s Bank, East Bank, Goodacre Bay, and over the boils from a boat. There have been a few midge hatches, with the occasional rising fish, but anglers have had more success using intermediate or sinking lines with nymph and lure patterns.

Please see the Trust’s website ( for more information on buying tickets, boat availability and booking, and forthcoming events.


Message from Ashley Bunning – SWLT

Another year passes and we say goodbye to 2022! It has been a hard year for the reservoirs, not only in the South West, but all over the UK.  Low water levels and lake closures have been a frustrating factor to fishing through the summer, and we thank all of you for being understanding through these testing times. Having started my role in September, I would personally like to thank all of you for your kind words of support and I hope we can now push forward and continue the great work South West Lakes has been doing to improve the fishing on the waters.

There have been some great catches through the year with many great bags of silvers from many of the reservoirs to some special carp being caught.

Sadly, the lakes have lost two of its ‘A-team’, with Arnie from Porth and The Big Fully from Argal passing. These fish put many smiles on anglers’ faces, they will be missed!

Looking towards the future of the lakes, in November we stocked 39 new carp into Argal. These fished ranged between 13lb and 17lb, with 34 mirrors and 5 commons. Next year we are planning to stock other waters in the region to continue our work to improve all our waters. There has been some great swim building projects carried out on the lakes also, I would like to thank all the volunteers who have given up their time to help and make improvements on the lakes.

I am pleased to announce that we will be running the Mainline Pairs competitions again for next year the dates for this will be March 24-26, June 30-July 2 and September 29-October 1. We are looking forward to seeing all the familiar faces and welcoming new anglers to the competitions.

Also we will be having two event days in August, which will be part of the Angling Trust’s National Fishing Month, with the emphasis to get as many kids fishing as possible. The dates and places for this are the Royalty Fishery on August 5 and Upper Tamar Lakes on August 19. Please keep your eyes peeled for these events on the website, so you don’t miss out.

Once again thank you for all your support through this last year, may you all have a great Christmas and happy New Year. Look forward to seeing you all out on the bank in 2023.

Ashley Bunning

Free trout fishing taster day at Kennick Reservoir

posted in: Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

Free trout fishing taster day at Kennick Reservoir

Environmental charity South West Lakes is hosting a free trout fishing taster day at Kennick Reservoir on Dartmoor on Saturday 20 August.

The day is part of National Fishing Month (1-31 August) which celebrates the social, wellbeing and environmental benefits of angling.

The event is kindly supported by Snowbee and Turrall. As well as tuition, there will be fly-tying demonstrations with Brian Ratcliff and Colin Nice, casting demonstrations with Simon Kidd at Snowbee, a raffle, and countless tips and tricks for beginners and more experienced anglers. All participants will also receive a gift bag from Turrall and there will be the opportunity to purchase a range of fishing gear and accessories.

Dil Singh, Technical Lead for Game Fishing at South West Lakes, said: “We would like to extend a warm welcome to all new beginners to our sport, and of course any established anglers who would like to come along. If you would enjoy the chance to try fishing or brush up on techniques as well as catching up with some friends over coffee and biscuits then we look forward to seeing you. The kettle is on!”

There are three sessions to choose from: 10am-11.30am, 12pm-1.30pm and 2pm-3.30pm. Booking is essential at

Raffle tickets are also available in advance and prizes include Snowbee Classic fly rod, fly reel and fly line, rod kits from Turrall, Kennick day permit and boat permit. Tickets cost £2.50 each or five for £10.

Ben Smeeth Leaves South West Lakes Trust

South West Lakes Trusts head of Coarse Fishing Ben Smeeth is leaving the trust after close to twenty years of sterling service. Ben will be missed by many in the angling community having contributed to a thriving Coarse fishing portfolio that includes several of North Devon’s favourite angling venues.

Ben Smeeth pictured at Upper Tamar Lake


“After nearly 20 years with the Trust it is time for a new challenge. I have made many friends and have worked with some fantastic colleagues during that time and am very grateful for the opportunities I have been given within the organisation. I feel very lucky to have worked on and around the amazing lakes for so long and I am very proud of the achievements that have been made. I am leaving to take up a fishery manager role with another organisation but leave with a heavy heart. I wish everyone at SW Lakes and everyone I have come to know during my time here a very happy, safe and prosperous future.
Ben Smeeth – Visitor Experience Manager North / Head of Coarse Fishing.”


Twelve months or so ago I stood on the dam at Lower Tamar Lake watching several large carp basking in the Spring sunshine. I promised myself that when I had more time I would return and invest some quality time into pursuing fish. Twelve months on I have done just that and returned tackle loaded and ready to cast.

On arrival at the lake the sun is shining across this large shallow expanse of water that was created as a feeder for Bude Canal back in the 1820’s. The depths in the lake vary from 8ft to 3ft and my guess is that fish movement may be influenced by wind direction, water temperature, food availability and angling pressure.

The choice of swim is not easy as three other anglers are already in position and a quick chat with them reveals that the fishing has been slow with just one carp banked by them in the past twenty four hours.

My aim is to catch carp or a double figure bream and realisation soon dawns that this is not a forgone conclusion and any rewards will have to be earned. After a stroll around the Lake, it was gut instinct that made me choose to fish the swim at the far end of the dam that would give access to deeper water.

The barrow was loaded and pushed to the swim where I was to spend the next 24hours. Ominous clouds were building as I hurriedly erected my oval brolly shelter and bed chair, stowing those items that needed to be kept dry beneath in preparation for the oncoming rain.

I cast around with a marker float that revealed that I had seven foot of water at fifty yards. The next thirty minutes was spent launching a few spod’s full of particles to the zone I intended to place my baits. Two rods with wafters and one with a method feeder baited with a couple of grains of artificial corn.

The rods were cast out as the rain began to pour down, the sky taking on a grey and foreboding tone.

I took shelter beneath the canvas and began the vigil watching the days weather pass by with traps set. Strange how time flies as the contemplation and observation occupy the mind.

As the rain beats down swallows and martins swoop low over the water. Ducks and ducklings busy about and a grebe hunts far out in the lake. As the rain eases warm sunshine illuminates the scene transforming the vista to that of summer. A buzzer hatch brings a frenzy of activity from the summer migrants. The swallows and martins are joined by the delightful sight of swifts twisting and turning in the blue sky a sure confirmation that Spring is turning relentlessly towards summer.

Afternoon turns to evening and baits are checked and recast. Sausage’s sizzle and hot coffee is enjoyed whilst watching and waiting.

The evening starts to descend and the light fades and with it comes expectation that the alarm will ring out as a fish locates the bait. Wood pigeons coo relentlessly and the hooting of an owl drifts across the stilling waters as the breeze drops away with the coming of night.

Far across the lake the surface is broken by fish but they are beyond my range.

I drift off to sleep the twinkle of farm lights in the distance. Rain patters on the canvas and cool air intrudes into the shelter.  I drift back into sleep. The alarm screams out and the blue light of the Delkim shatters the darkness. I stumble out into my boots, right foot in left and left foot in right! I lift the rod to feel a pleasing weight on the end. I am hoping it’s a big bream as I slowly retrieve a ponderous dead weight. Within yards of the margin’s, it wakes up ripping line from the reel telling me it’s no bream.


A golden flanked mirror carp of 19lb 4oz is a pleasing result and avoids a blank session.

After recasting the rod, I retreat back to the warmth of my sleeping bag. Heavy rain lashes down and I dread another run.

I sleep an interrupted sleep drifting in and out of strange dreams that seem to have been prevalent throughout the previous months of pandemic invoked lockdown. I step out into the night to answer natures call and marvel at the vividly clear star studded night sky and reflect on the fact that this is one of life’s constants virtually unchanged for millions of years.

Dawn breaks and the dawn chorus rings out to greet the day. All is still with a mirror like lake stretching before me. I savour the dawn expectantly but all is quiet. A couple of hours later I boil the kettle and cook up a bacon butty.

A couple of dog walkers take  a stroll and the day unfolds sunshine illuminating the lake as life resumes. I chat to a fellow angler of waters he fishes and swap notes. He has caught one bream of perhaps five pounds in the night and congratulates me on my success.

With heavy rain forecast I slowly pack away already planning my next trips. I intend to catch a carp from each of SWLT’s waters before the year is out and have made a good start. But still need to catch that double figure bream.

Lower Tamar Lake can be a challenging venue but it has many treasures within including carp to over thirty pounds, double figure bream, 2lb plus roach, big perch, tench, trout and eels.


posted in: Carp Fishing, Sidebar | 0

Mark Gibson and Mark Eager fished Lower Tamar Lake banking eleven carp including eight over twenty pounds the best 27lb.

(Below) Ian Knowles had these two from Upper Tamar recently. 19lb 5oz and 12lb 4oz.

(Below) John Deprieellee had a cracking day at Jennets yesterday and sent this report in for us:
‘I spent the day fishing a combination of adjustable zigs and surface baits at range. The fish certainly werent in a big feeding mode and the key was to feed small amounts of bait every 5 mins. I literally didnt stop casting from start to finish and it took 4 hours to get the first bite which came off at the net. It was then a case of persistance and changing hook baits and trying to deal with the easterly cross wind which made for a challenging session. Eventually I found the bait they would take and caught 9 fish plus a handful of bream. Most of the carp were mid to high doubles but the best 3 went 22, 24,8 and 27,8. plus a few more that came off.