I enjoyed a day at Wimbleball catching up with some good mates for an annual get together. Whilst fishing wasn’t top of the agenda the lakes hard fighting rainbows put a serious bend in our rods.  A superb full finned rainbow of 5lb 1oz that took me to the backing after taking a black foam hopper was the highlight of the fishing day. The sight of the fish slurping in the fly in a leisurely roll and then stripping line from the reel in a blistering run before leaping from the lake is one of those enduring memories from a summer day of sunshine and heavy showers.

Wimbleball offers superb fishing with hard fighting rainbows and wild browns. Its large expanse of crystal clear water nestled within a lush rural landscape makes it must a visit venue. The catch and release option ensures that a full day can be enjoyed.




Tumbling clear waters have carved valleys between the undulating hills of Exmoor over millions of years. The River Exe from which Exmoor gets its name flows from Exe head near Simonsbath to Exmouth a distance of 60 miles. It’s major tributary the River Barle merges with the Exe a couple of miles below Dulverton a spot immortalised in the rare book ‘Philandering Angler’ by Arthur Applin. Applin reminisces about the ‘Carnarvon Arms’ waters and a “trout fat as butter with belly like gold”. And also in that classic tome “Going Fishing’ by Negley Farson. Farson writes of “an imperturbable scene which fills you with content”.

Both authors are well travelled especially for the era in which they wrote and yet there is great affection for the humble brown trout of the Exe and Barle.

Exmoor has a rich literary history that has it seems to be ongoing with Michelle Werrett’s latest book ‘Song of the Streams’ a book that is set to become a classic of its genre.

Sadly the ‘Carnarvon Arms’, a country Inn with a rich history is now converted into flats. A fate that has befallen many fine Country Hotels.

Fortunately those crimson spotted wild brown trout with bellies of gold are still abundant throughout the Exe and Barle and can be fished for at a very reasonable cost.

I joined Dulverton Angling Association a couple of years ago with the intention of exploring their eight beats of fishing on the Upper Exe and its tributaries. And so on a warm and sunny 1st of June I walked into Lance Nicholson’s shop to enquire if any beats were available. This was only a short session with Pauline joining me to relax and read a book at the water’s edge whilst I explored the river.

We were advised that the Stoats Tail beat was available and would tick all the relevant boxes. The beat is half a mile or so of fishing that runs up from the main road bridge in the town to the weir in which I often spot trout and the occasional salmon when I sometimes pause for a look in the river on route to this delightful moorland town.

Swifts were gliding above the roof tops in the hazy blue sky as we walked to the river their high pitched screeches a truly evocative sound of summer.

After passing through the gate to the riverside we followed the pathway through into the meadow where Pauline found a shady spot to read whilst I scrambled down the tree lined bank to the river.

There is surely no better place to be than beside a West Country River in late May or early June. The lush fresh green leaves provided a fine frame to the river as it tumbled over boulders and between rocky gorges.

The water was as clear as gin, as I clambered over the slippery rocks I noted that the pools were deceptively deep. I started to explore the pools and runs with a bushy dry fly. Nothing showed for the first hundred yards or so but in a large pool below a split in the river a good sized trout rose to the fly. Whilst I failed to connect I was encouraged and after resting the pool for fifteen minutes returned with a change of fly. Once again a fish rose but I again failed to connect.

Above the rapids there was a tempting looking run overhung by a holly bush. I guessed where a fish might lie and on the second cast there was a splashy rise and I was connected to a handsome Barle trout of perhaps 10”.

I looked upriver, contemplated exploring further but decided to quit whilst I was ahead and returned to Pauline. As we strolled back through the meadow we noted how delightfully detached we were from the town that was hidden from view behind the wooded river.

The following morning I once again set off across Exmoor’s winding roads as the early morning sun streamed through the vibrant green of fresh leaves. The destination was Wimbleball Lake in search of its hard fighting rainbows.

I would be joining fellow members of South Molton & District Angling Club.

         I had left it too late to book a boat and headed for the bank of Rugg’s bay where I have enjoyed good sport in the past.

The path to the lake was lined with vivid yellow buttercups and birdsong drifted through the cool morning air.

A light North wind was creating a gentle ripple across the lake; I waded out into the cool water and put out the team of three flies, a black bead headed spider on the point, a black pennel on the middle dropper and a foam black buzzer on the top dropper.

After half a dozen casts the line zipped tight and a trout cartwheeled from the water. A handsome wild brown trout of close to 1lb graced the net. These are wild trout descendants of the trout that lived in the River Haddeo, before the lake was completed back in 1979. I admired the trout briefly before letting it swim back into the clear waters of the lake. A few weeks ago a wild brown trout estimated at around 7lb was tempted from the lake. I noted the large numbers of fry swimming around me as I stood waist deep. During late summer and autumn the wild browns can often be seen harassing the tiny fry in the margins. With such an abundance of food it will surely be only a matter of time before someone hooks into a double figure wild trout?

A few minutes later a hard fighting rainbow of around 2lb took the tip fly and was duly despatched.

         South Molton and District Angling Club Chairman Ed Rands and a boat partner arrived fifty yards or so away and dropped anchor. They gave a me a cheery wave as I hooked into another hard fighting rainbow.

During the following hour I hooked several more rainbows and noticed that the tip fly was showing signs of stress. I used forceps to bend it back into shape after landing four rainbows of around 2lb with one or two others coming adrift.

I secured a self-portrait with the fish and held it aloft for Ed and fellow club members to witness. The fish had completed my five fish limit so it was catch and release from now on.

Several coch-y-bunddu beetle could be seen drifting on the water and it was these that I guessed the trout were feeding upon. A fact that was confirmed when one of the trout regurgitated numerous beetles that drifted away as I unhooked the fish. I expect the next few weeks will produce the cream of the years sport as the trout turn on to this annual feast.

To my surprise the boats fishing out in the bay were not catching despite several fish rising in their proximity. Ed and his boat partner even beached their boat and came over for a chat. I showed them my flies and set up telling exactly how I was presenting my team of flies.

         Despite this I continued to catch returning ten more hard fighting rainbows to an estimated 4lb whilst my fellow club members remained fishless. Sometimes success in fishing comes through a slice of luck or some subtle detail that whets the fishes appetite on that day.

I packed away my tackle at around 2.00pm very content with my days sport. I will undoubtedly be back soon. Chasing Exmoor trout in both running and Stillwater. News that Tarr Steps Farm are now selling day tickets for both trout and salmon is certainly on the to do list. I have fond memories of fishing the Tarr Steps Hotel Water several years ago and treasure the memory of a grilse caught on the day of Princess Diana’s funeral back on September 6th, 1997.

         The Tarr Steps Hotel has sadly closed a contributary factor is undoubtedly the dramatically declining runs of salmon. I remember spotting several dozen salmon in a days fishing. The fishing was often exceptional as the river fined down after a spate and my visits failed to coincide with that magic taking period. The salmon could be spotted though in abundance. Today the salmon are very scarce and hard to find whilst the wild brown trout are thriving a sign perhaps.


Fly Fishing Club Return to the water with screaming reels

Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club resumed activities at Wimbleball Reservoir after a twelve month lay off due to the COVID pandemic. Spirits were buoyant as members congregated at the ticket hut prior to heading out to the lake. Two pairs of anglers were taking to boats and the remaining three including myself were fishing from the bank.

Heavy thundery showers were forecast and a gentle breeze was pushing up into Bessom’s Bay and Ruggs. The three of us who had opted to fish the bank headed to this area.

Pulling into the parking area I was delighted to see a splash of vivid yellow with cowslips in full bloom a pleasing sight and less common in the West than the dominant primroses.

Wimbleball is undoubtedly the jewel in South West Reservoir fishing with a growing reputation throughout the Fly Fishing fraternity. Wading out into the cool clear water I put out a floating line and a team of three flies. After fifteen minutes using small imitative patterns I changed tactics slightly adding a damsel an olive damsel to the point and bright orange blob to the top dropper. This brought instant success as a rainbow hit the lure hard giving a spirited account before being drawn over the net. A couple of casts later another rainbow hit the blob and was safely netted.

With a brace secured I was now fishing in the zone expectant of a take at any second. A few missed pulls followed enough to keep me alert and fishing with that confidence that ensures total emersion in the task at hand.

(Above) Andre Muxworthy & Paul Grisley fishing in the rain!

By midday the rain was lashing down and it was far from warm. Angry clouds drifted past. I noticed a few fish rise and one or two Alder flies were showing. I changed my team of flies putting a bead head black Montana on the point, an Alder fly on the top leaving a black buzzer on the middle dropper. Slowing the retrieve right down I soon found action hooking into an impressive rainbow that erupted from the water before taking the fly line down to the backing. Five minutes later a full tailed rainbow of over 4lb 8oz was being admired on the bank. This was followed by another impressive rainbow over 4lb and a final fish of around 3lb. This sadly brought my fishing for the day to a close as being a competition all anglers had bought five fish tickets. My normal option is to buy a catch and release ticket.

I chatted to fellow anglers for a while before enjoying  a coffee and sandwich as the rain persisted. It was now close to 2.00pm with a couple of hours left until the weigh in back at the permit hut.

I drove back to the hut and took a stroll to the waters edge. A brief spell of sunshine transformed the scene as water sports enthusiasts enjoyed the day. There is plenty of space on the Lake for all with anglers, windsurfers and dingy sailors all catered for.

Just after 4.00pm club members gathered for the weigh in and all had tales of hard fighting rainbows with a couple of snapped tippets in the mix. Biggest fish of the day was an impressive rainbow of 6lb 7oz that had taken Andre Muxworthy over fifteen minutes to get into the boat. All members had caught with four limit bags and several fish of over 4lb.

Andre Muxworthy with the biggest trout of the day at 6lb 7oz

The results of the Edwards Cup:-

1st Andre Muxworthy – Five Fish – 16lb 6oz – Best Fish 6lb 7oz

2nd Colin Combe – Five Fish – 15lb 8oz – Best Fish – 5lb 8oz

3rd – Wayne Thomas – Five Fish – Best Fish – 4lb 10oz

4th – David Eldred – Four Fish – 12lb 10oz

5th – Paul Grisley – Five Fish – 12lb

6th – Nigel Bird – One fish – 2lb 8oz

7th Dave Mock – One fish 2lb 7oz..

Summer Fishing at Wimbleball


As we enter July trout fishing tends get harder going as the water temperature rises and the fish go deeper. I was eager to get out onto Wimbleball before the summer doldrums set in and had arranged to meet with Snowbee ambassador Jeff Pearce for a day afloat.

I met up with Jeff at the boat launching bay just before 9.00am and my spirits were immediately lifted by the enthusiastic banter that was flowing amongst the anglers gathering for a day on the water. I have found that angling has been a great antidote to the widespread doom and gloom of the COVID pandemic.

We were all greeted cheerfully by Trevor the fisheries resident guide and bailiff who is always willing to offer valuable advice on where to fish and what tactics to employ.

It seemed the perfect day for trout fishing with a moderate westerly breeze and broken cloud cover. If this had been a month earlier teams of buzzers would have been the way to go I am sure but general consensus was now for deeper water and lures.

During the more difficult days of mid to late summer a boat gives a significant advantage allowing a larger area of the lake to be explored.

Jeff and I decided on a few casts in the sailing club bay just to get warmed up so to speak. As we drifted slowly Jeff caught a glimpse of a good sized rainbow estimated at 6lb + and put his olive damsel into the area. The fish immediately seized the offering and erupted from the water in a flurry of spray. I grabbed for the camera to no avail as Jeff pulled in a slack line to reveal that the hook had partially opened out. Testament to Wimbleball’s hard fighting fish or a dodgy hook?

I had one trout follow my lure in the bay but after this early success we decided to head out onto the lake proper. The deeper water up near the dam seemed a good idea so it was off to there that we headed powered by the petrol outboard.

Drifting the margins Jeff had the first chance as a trout likened to a tuna chased a damsel nymph to the side of the boat. A few more glimpses of trout brought excited comments from Jeff as we explored the lakes margins that dropped off into deep-water within just yards of the bank.

After a few tentative plucks the first fish of the day was secured. A small handsome rudd of just over 8oz!

The Upton Arm has a reputation for producing some superb wild brown trout. And so we headed up into this delightfully wooded bay. Drifting with the strong breeze proved a little too fast even with the drogue so we decided to drop anchor at a promising looking spot not too far off the shoreline. I often ponder upon this for when we fish from boats we often strive to get close to shore whilst when we shore fish we aim to put our flies as far out as possible. In truth the margin of the lake is its biggest and most often productive zone.


This area soon proved a good call as Jeff hooked a fine rainbow of close to 5lb that used its broad tail to good effect. Over the next couple of hours Jeff added another three rainbows to the tally. I couldn’t get a pull and started to question what I was doing wrong. I was on a sinking line and fishing a damsel nymph whilst Jeff was on a sink tip with using various large nymphs on the point a yellow and red buzzer on a dropper.

As the fishing eased we decided perhaps unwisely to try elsewhere and headed for the deep water of the Narrows close to some old boat launching steps. Sticking with  the sinking line and a damsel nymph I searched the deep water. Suddenly the line zipped tight and a rainbow of a couple of pounds graced the net. Over the next couple of hour’s we drifted around anchored  for periods and it was me that started to enjoy success adding a couple more to the days total.

As afternoon drifted into evening we decided on a last half an hour back in the sailing club bay. After a few casts another rainbow hit my black zulu on the dropper. With four trout each it seemed a good time to head for home.

As we packed away the gear the lake looked superb in the early evening light. We reflected upon an enjoyable day of two halves. A morning when Jeff seemed to charm the trout and an afternoon when I somehow found the key to success. These long hard summer days though challenging are often just as rewarding as those easier days of plenty in the early season.

We will be back in search of those broad backed tuna shaped rainbows with full tails before too long!


Wimbleball Fly Fishery launches wheelchair-accessible boat for disabled anglers

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Wimbleball Fly Fishery launches wheelchair-accessible boat for disabled anglers

The Coulam 16 Wheelyboat, a purpose-built angling boat, will join the growing fleet in Somerset

On Sunday 1st March 2020, the opening day of the new fishing season at Wimbleball Lake in the Exmoor National Park, Somerset, a new Coulam 16 Wheelyboat – specially designed for angling – will be launched, thanks to a joint venture by The Wheelyboat Trust, The Angling Trust and Wimbleball Fly Fishery.

The new Coulam 16 Wheelyboat will enable disabled anglers, and wheelchair users in particular, to access the clear waters of Wimbleball Lake, allowing users to fish independently for top quality rainbow and wild brown trout, courtesy of renowned Rainbow Valley Trout Farm near Bampton. The new boat is the result of a partnership between national charities The Wheelyboat Trust and Angling Trust that provided seven part-funded Coulam 16 Wheelyboats. The funds for the project were generously provided by The Peter Harrison Foundation and Lord Barnby’s Charitable Trust. 

Fisheries across the UK were invited to apply for the seven Wheelyboats, and Wimbleball Fly Fishery is the first to be launched.  A crowd of bank anglers, boat anglers and VIP guests from South West Lakes Trust, the Environment Agency, South West Fishing for Life and The Wheelyboat Trust will gather on the pontoon to see the new Coulam 16 Wheelyboat set off for her first fish of the season. Trudi Underhill will launch the new boat with a bottle of bubbly and Gillian Payne from South West Fishing for Life will cut a ceremonial ribbon. Guests will hear speeches from Mark Underhill, who owns Rainbow Valley Trout Farm and leases the fishing at Wimbleball, and Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust. Andy Beadsley and Patrick Veale will be the first disabled anglers to take to the water.

Mark Underhill, Proprietor of Wimbleball Fly Fishery, says: “With our new Wheelyboat, disabled anglers will be able to fish across the 374-acre Wimbleball Lake, exploring the many bays and inlets, all stocked with some of the best trout in the country. Our new Wheelyboat will join the existing Mk II Wheelyboat, which was launched in 2005, as well as eight other Coulam-built boats already on the lake, with a further two arriving early in the season. It’s fantastic that our growing fleet of Wheelyboats will be able to accommodate more disabled anglers, allowing more people to indulge in their passion for fishing or indeed take up the sport for the first time.”

Andy Beadsley, Director of The Wheelyboat Trust, says: “As a disabled angler myself, I know first-hand the enjoyment that comes from casting a line and whiling away a few hours on the water doing something you love. We’re delighted that another Wheelyboat will be calling Wimbleball Lake home and hope that many disabled anglers and hopefully those new to the sport too, will come and experience for themselves the joy of angling independently.”

Ben Smeeth, Head of Angling at the South West Lakes Trust, adds: “The provision of a new Wheelyboat for fishing at Wimbleball Lake fits perfectly with our aims at South West Lakes Trust to enable as many people as possible, of all abilities and ages, to enjoy themselves at our lakes. Being outdoors and active and in particular taking part in fishing can have great benefits to peoples’ health and I fully support this great addition to Wimbleball Fishery.”

Coulam 16 Wheelyboats are widely used on fisheries large and small across the country, along with more than 1,000 standard Coulam 15s and 16s that the Wheelyboat model is based on. Access on and off is via a ramp from a pontoon onto a hydraulic platform built into the boat, that lowers the angler from gunwale height to floor level with ease. Once on board, the angler can sit at the bow or the stern and is able to operate the boat entirely independently. The Coulam 16 Wheelyboat can accommodate up to three people, uses an outboard motor up to 10hp and is designed primarily for angling on stillwaters, on the drift or at anchor.  The smaller Coulam 15 Wheelyboat is designed for angling on rivers, e.g. the River Tweed, where a boatman rows and the angler fishes from the stern.

The Wheelyboat Trust currently supplies four models of Wheelyboat that provide disabled people with independent access to a wide range of activities on inland and inshore waters including angling, nature watching, pleasure boating and powerboating. All Wheelyboats are hand built and fitted out to order by Jim Coulam of boatbuilders Coulam Ltd having been designed by naval architect Andrew Wolstenholme.

As a charity The Wheelyboat Trust relies on donations from individuals and organisations and their work could not continue without the ongoing generosity they provide. To donate and help The Wheelyboat Trust get more disabled people out on the water, please visit: www.wheelyboats.org/current-projects.

To find out more about The Wheelyboat Trust, visit www.wheelyboats.org.


Another Month At Wimbleball- Full Tailed Rainbows on the agenda until end of November!

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West Country Fly-Fisher’s have enjoyed an exceptional fishing season at Wimbleball Reservoir where Mark Underhill has transformed the quality of the fishing stocking regularly with hard fighting rainbow trout.

The season at Wimbleball continues until November 30th and will when conditions permit offer anglers the chance of some superb sport. I intend to make at least one more visit to the fishery before it close for the winter.

On Sunday October 27th they hosted Kennick Flyfishers for the final round of their Snowbee Top Rod Competition 2019. The weather was kind, considering recent conditions, providing the 14 anglers taking part with a dry, sunny day & cool northerly breeze. After a good day on the water they managed 52 fish between them, with 8 anglers getting their bag limit, the action was mostly in the Bessoms & Ruggs areas. Best fish of the day went to Alan Riddell of Newton Abbot with a fine Rainbow of 8LBS 6OZ, (pictured). Top 3 anglers were:

A typical bag of Wimbleball Rainbows !


Wimbleball Report from Ed Rands – South Molton Angling Club

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A quick report on our trip to Wimbleball.
It was a mainly overcast day with a few sunny spells, there was a westerly breeze which became quite strong when we had a few light showers.
Roger Bray and myself shared a boat with a good, reliable petrol outboard and, after some good local advice we headed towards deep water.
Although the fishing was tough by 3 o’clock Roger had landed 3 and lost 1. I had got my 5 all on a sinking line on 5 different lures.
Steve Edmonds had 1 from his boat and Steve Bendle had 1 from the bank.
All fish were hard fighting rainbows between 2 and 3lbs.
I enjoyed our trip and look forward to going again next year.

A typical fin perfect Wimbleball rainbow caught during my last visit to the water.


Fine Sport at Wimbleball despite the weather!

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Philip Smith enjoyed a successful trip to Wimbleball Fishery where he found the fish cooperating despite the challenging conditions.

“Tidy bag of fish to 3lb 11oz today, caught in driving snow, a cold northerly wind and 0 degrees! Lots of fish in Ruggs, taking small black nymphs and buzzers on a floater. Things are looking good for Wimbleball, wishing Mark and the team every success. Will be back soon..”

Peter Duckett also braved the weather conditions; caught and kept his 2 on a catch and release ticket and then went on to catch another 16 Rainbows between 2lb 8oz – 4lb 12oz and also lost 10.
He also banked 2 fine browns of which the largest was estimated at 4lb 12oz.