South West Lakes Trust Trout Fisheries Report -May 24

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May 2024 

As the weather starts to warm, there has been an increase in insect activity, with fish eager to feed either on or below the surface; intermittent thunderstorms and heavy downpours of rain have resulted in some challenging days’ fishing, although this has meant that the reservoirs are still all at top level.


Kennick – Anglers averaged 3.5 fish per rod over the month, with fish well spread out around the lake. Bank anglers enjoyed slightly more success than the boats, with Clampitts, Smithacott, The Dam, The Lawns and Oak Tree Point being particularly popular locations. There were plenty of Hawthorn in the air, which, combined with Sedge and Buzzer hatches, meant that fish were eager to look up to feed, either at or near the surface. In addition to fish rising to dry Hawthorns, Sedges, Hoppers, Black Gnats and Buzzer Emergers on the surface, plenty of fish were taken on subsurface nymph patterns (Buzzers, Diawl Bachs, Damsels and Hares Ears), or deeper fished lures (Wooly Bugger, Black or Yellow Boobies, and Tequila Blobs). Alan Behan (from Plymouth) caught eight rainbows using an Orange Stalking Bug and Black Gnats, while Graham Read (from Christow) caught a bag of six rainbows.

Siblyback – Anglers averaged 4.8 fish per rod in May, with the catch rate improving as the month progressed. Stocky Bay, Two Meadows and the North Bank produced the best sport, and, with Hawthorns and beetles in the air and Buzzers hatching, there was plenty of dry fly action. Popular patterns included Hawthorns, Black Hoppers and Black Beetle patterns, with deeper-feeding fish taking Diawl Bachs, Buzzers, Damsel Nymphs, Montanas and the occasional Boobie. Floating lines with long leaders and a slow figure-of-eight retrieve proved to be the most successful method. Martin Stevens (from Liskeard) caught a bag of seven rainbows (six on dry patterns), while Alex Jackson (from Tiverton) caught a bag of twelve rainbows – fish coming up to dry patterns, with very subtle takes in a cool breeze. The Snowbee Bank Teams of Four competition on 4th May was won by Mark Damarell, Graham Johns, Paul Nottle and Jed Stone, with a bag of 24 fish weighing in at 34lb 9oz.

Burrator – The fishing tailed off slightly from last month at Burrator, with anglers averaging 2.1 fish per rod. Fish were found at all depths in the water column, with floating, intermediate and sinking lines all catching fish. Longstone Bank and Point, Pig Trough and Lowery Bank all produced fish, and with midges hatching, Buzzer Emergers and Hoppers took surface-feeders, while deeper fish were caught on Damsel Nymphs, Buzzers, Black Tadpoles, Orange Blobs and Green Fritz. Harry Duggan caught three rainbows, including a personal best and current season record with a fish of 4lb 4oz, using a stripped Orange Blob while fishing by Sheepstor Dam.

Stithians – The excellent sport at Stithians continued throughout May, with anglers averaging 3.7 fish per rod. Fish were well spread out around the lake, and, with Hawthorns being blown onto the water, there was plenty of dry fly action to be had, with anglers catching on Hawthorns, Black Gnats, Hoppers, Bob’s Bits, Klinkhammers and emerger patterns. Deeper feeding fish were caught on Black and Green Buzzers, Hares Ears, Spiders, Montanas, Cormorants and Orange Blobs. Nigel Burley (from Truro) caught a bag of eight rainbows; Steve Fuller (from Camborne) caught twelve rainbows to 2lb, as well as a Brown, using a self-tied Hawthorn variant and a Griffiths Gnat/Shipmans Buzzer hybrid, fished both stationary and pulled through the surface ripple.

Fernworthy – The warmer weather brought an improvement in the fishing, with anglers averaging 4.1 fish per rod, plenty of which were caught on dry patterns, as fish were eager to feed on the abundant beetles, Hawthorns and emerging midges – Black Hoppers, Black Ants, Black Gnats, Klinkhammers,  Hawthorns and Black Sedge patterns fished on a floating line all caught well. Sub-surface feeders were mostly caught on Buzzers, Montanas and Pheasant Tail Nymphs. Popular locations included Boathouse Bank, Thornworthy, Potters Bank and Lawton Bay. Daniel Robson (from Tavistock) caught eight browns to 1lb 4oz, with the best results in the late afternoon; Mark Mcilwane (from Bishopsteignton) caught eleven browns to 1lb 8oz, using a dry Hopper cast to fish feeding on terrestrials.


Colliford – Anglers averaged 3.9 fish over the month, and with Hawthorns in the air, many fish were taken on dry patterns (Bob’s Bits, Hawthorns, Foam Beetles and Claret Hoppers). Other successful patterns included Black Cruncher, Bloodworm, Soldier Palmer, Bibio, Zonker and White-Tailed Zulu. Fish were well spread out around the banks, with the most successful anglers keeping on the move to cover as much bank as possible. Allan Lawson (from Plymouth) caught a bag of eleven browns, with fish taking a Claret Hopper around the bank at Fishery Hut Bay. Dean Boucher (from Gunnislake) caught thirteen browns in one session, pulling wet flies (most takes were on the lift at the end of the retrieve), using Soldier Palmer, Zulu and Zonker patterns, while his best fish of the day (at fifteen inches) took a White-Tailed Zulu.


Roadford – The fishing improved towards the end of the month, by which time anglers were averaging 4.8 fish per rod, with the best fishing to be had at Gaddacombe and the East Bank. Floating lines were the order of the day, with a variety of retrieval methods. Rodney Wevill (from Lifton) caught seven browns to 2lb, using  Soldier Palmer, Mini Scruffy Tiger and Beaded Blue Zulu patterns on a floating line with a medium retrieve. Alex Jackson (from Tiverton) caught seven browns to 2lb, using an Olive Damsel on the point, and a Soldier Palmer fished on the dropper.

Please see the Trust’s website ( for more information on buying tickets, boat availability and booking, and forthcoming events. The Trust will be offering beginners’ taster days at Roadford, Burrator, Stithians and Kennick throughout the season, assisted by local experienced guides and instructors. The Trust, in conjunction with Fluff Chuckers, will be running a Brown Trout Masters competition this season, to be held over three dates at Colliford, Fernworthy, and Roadford – please see the website for more information.

Chris Hall (May 2024)


For more information, please contact:

Becky Moran

Head of Communications and Marketing

South West Lakes Trust

01566 771930

[email protected]



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.



The sun was rising above the hills of Exmoor illuminating the sky in shades of golden yellow as I drove the winding road towards Wimbleball Lake. Whilst silhouettes of trees still told of winters grip the roadside snowdrops and rising daffodils told of the coming of spring.

It was the last weekend of February and the first day of a new season on Wimbleball Lake a fishery that has been rejuvenated in recent years following careful management by the Underhill family.

I met with Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce at the lake for 8:00am and chatted with fellow anglers who had travelled down from the North of Bristol leaving shortly before dawn in their eagerness to connect with the first trout of the season. The two month break certainly rejuvenates enthusiasm with over thirty keen anglers booked into fish on this opening day.


Jeff and I had elected to fish the bank confident that the fish would likely to be close in. We started off near to the boat launching jetty where cheerful fishery assistant Trevor helped anglers on their way with words of advice and encouragement. Wading out into the icy cold water I pushed out my intermediate line with a small black lure on the point and a cormorant on the dropper. I paused a few moments allowing the line to sink whilst I looked around admiring the scene before me. Early morning sunshine casting light upon the cold waters that were ruffled by a cold South Easterly breeze. The stark outline of the surrounding hills and trees framing the lake.

I began a slow and lazy retrieve relishing the early season anticipation and expectation. On the second or third cast there came that delightfully electrifying tug as the line pulled tight the rod tip jagging. I lifted into the fish the rod hooping over as the rainbow surged away into the lake. The fish fought gamely testing the tackle and my patience  as I coaxed the fish to the waiting net. A full finned rainbow of close to five pound was a great start to the season. Jeff was busy welcoming anglers to the boats and rushed over to catch a few images as I posed with my prize in the icy water.

During the following half an hour I added another three stunning rainbows to the days tally. The icy water stinging the fingers and numbing the toes seemed of little consequence.  Jeff eventually joined me hoping to savour his first trout of the season yet by now the South East breeze was increasing in strength making casting more difficult.

We decided to move to a more sheltered area and start a fresh search. Wading out into the waters of a shallow bay we again began the routine of searching the water. Jeffs line zipped tight and he enjoyed battling his first trout of the season a silver rainbow of over 2lb.

We fished the bay for another half an hour without further success and decided once again on a move to deeper water close to Bessom’s bridge. Fishing here proved challenging with the strong icy wind battering the shoreline. Confident that fish would be present we fished hard and I was rewarded with a stunning looking long lean rainbow of close to 4lb.

We gave it another half an hour in the teeth of the wind before conceding defeat and heading once again to sheltered waters. A few fish were being caught in the bay and we fished optimistically before stopping for a bankside sandwich and a coffee.

We discussed tactics and decided to move once again and escape the cool wind. Moving to the far side of the sailing club we found calm sheltered water. By now the sky was a vivid blue with bright sunshine shining into the clear water. Once again my line zipped tight and a wild brown trout exploded from the water performing an acrobatic summersault. Jeff secured a few pics of the immaculate wild fish before it darted away to freedom.

It was mid-afternoon and we sensed a slight easing in the wind speed. The area close to the boat launching area seemed worth a revisit following the success enjoyed earlier in the day.

We braved the cold wind for an hour before conceding defeat at close to 4.00pm. Late February high on Exmoor can be brutal but the rewards are high with Wimbleball’s hard fighting rainbow trout amongst the hardest fighting trout I have ever encountered.

Fishing this vast often windswept lake feels truly wild.

Early season the fish can be concentrated as the catch returns revealed at the end of the day with some anglers recording up to twenty fish. Both bank and boat fishing giving great sport with the popular lures of the day working well.

I have always found black lures or olive damsels to produce well in early season fished down in the water at a slow pace. Anglers often follow fashions with favoured variations proving successful each season.

I look forward eagerly  to my next Wimbleball session and once again connecting with its full tailed battling rainbows.


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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