WIMBLEBALL TROUT – With a little help from a fellow angler

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Gale force winds and heavy rain were forecast to sweep across the South West but with the wind from a Southerly direction I was optimistic that I would find the trout on the feed. November 1st was an informal meet up for members of South Molton Angling Club with the Mac Trophy up for the biggest trout banked at one of the clubs meets.

I set off at around 8.00am for the drive across Exmoor and arrived at Wimbleball for around 9.00am. A couple of members were already fishing and I wondered how they were faring. I had visited the lake a couple of weeks ago and found fish in the sailing club bay so I decided to head there for the first hour and see if I could connect. After half an hour I caught one small brown trout and decided to move on and find somewhere with a bit more movement. The gale force winds that had been forecast had failed to materialize and the rain was light and sporadic. To my surprise it was also very mild.

I tramped along to the Bessom’ bank and started searching the water using an intermediate line and a small black lure. After my previous blank my confidence was starting to wane a little. An angler fishing to my left had found some action and I wondered what tactics he was employing. I changed flies a couple of times trying olive damsels with a long leader and a couple of droppers.

The sight of a bent rod once again to my left was too much to resist and I wondered over to take a look at the handsome trout that had just been netted. There was a warm cheery greeting from the angler who had now completed his five fish bag concluding with a superb looking 5lb 8oz rainbow. The Taunton based angler Krystian Makucewicz was eager to assist and showed me the fly he was using combined with a floating line and long leader.

Krystian Makucewicz with a fine five fish limit the best a fine rainbow of 5lb 8oz

It is always a pleasure to share in the joy of success and I was inspired by the fine bag of trout displayed on the bank.

I changed over to a floating line with a long leader and attached a black lure on the point. Half an hour later the line zipped tight and an acrobatic rainbow was battling on the end of the line. Confident in my tactics I persisted catching steadily over the next four hours completing my bag at around 3.30pm as the light started to fade slightly. The fish were all good full finned rainbows the best an ounce under four pounds.

My fellow club members also managed a few rainbows but no other limits so I must give thanks to Krystian for being so generous with his advice.

When I got back into the car I was surprised to see the temperature was 15 degrees C exceptionally warm for early November. The ride back across the misty moor listening to Johnny Walkers sounds of the seventies rounded off another perfect Sunday.

Fishing is due to continue at Wimbleball until the end of December COVID regulations permitting.

Wimbleball – Autumn Fly Fishing

Fly Fishers are enjoying some great autumn sport at Wimbleball Reservoir with hard fighting rainbows and stunning wild brown trout. Harry Plant banked five rainbows including a stunning rainbow of 7lb 8oz. Barry Ware boated a prime conditioned brown trout of 6lb 8oz.

Mark Underhill comments
‘Receiving lovely comments like this just make our day’…
“These are the best quality and condition stocked rainbows I’ve ever caught. Certainly hardest fighting fish we’ve ever had pleasure to catch. We had a couple of real monsters break us off on 7lb fluorocarbon – buying stronger leader for next time! Trevor was super friendly & helpful. All in all a cracking days fishing – so thank you all involved.”
Tom & Max had 11 fish between them & lost several more…

Wimbleball Lake is attracting Fly Fishers from all over the country as its reputation for producing hard fighting rainbows and stunning wild browns grows ever stronger.

I was keen to get back on the Lake and booked a boat and a day off work to share with our son James in mid-October.

In life not everything goes to plan and James Fiancée’s raging toothache resulted in James staying at home leaving me to take the boat out alone.

The drive over Exmoor in the early morning light was a delight with bronzed beech hedge rows illuminated as the leaves took on their rich autumn hues.

I had arranged to launch the boat at 9.00am and arrived shortly after this to be greeted by the ever enthusiastic Trevor who told me that the fishing had been a little slower in recent days in calm sunny conditions. The brisk South East wind should improve matters and this view was reinforced as two anglers were already enjoying bent rods in the sailing club bay.

I eagerly loaded my gear onto the boat and set off up the lake. I dropped the anchor part way up the Lake towards Bessom’s and tackled up. An intermediate Line an olive damsel on the point and diawl bach on the dropper. A few casts and then I up anchored, put out the drogue and started a drift up the lake 30-yards off the shoreline. After a dozen casts or so there came that thrilling jolt through the line as a trout hit the lure. I failed to connect but there was plenty of time ahead and more chances to come.

A couple of hours later my confidence was ebbing after searching several areas of the lake. The wind was picking up and had become a little challenging at times. I changed tactics frequently. Set up a second rod and had short spells drifting a set of buzzers on a floating line. With no fish showing I went to a sinker searching with black lures and the olive damsel. The other two anglers had left the Sailing Club Bay and were fishing close to lakes inlet. Their tally was up to five each with an orange blob the successful pattern.

A moment of hope came as a large rainbow materialized behind my lure, an image that remains etched on my mind’s eye as I type this account of the day.

As the hours drifted past at an alarming rate I decided to try the Sailing Club Bay. By now the wind was uncomfortably strong and getting the anchor to grip was a challenge. With plenty of rope out I got the boat to hold firm thirty yards off the bank and sent out my lure and blob combination. First cast and I felt a good tug. Next cast another. Then after fifteen minutes I hooked rainbows on consecutive casts both coming adrift after a few seconds with the rod well bent.

A handsome wild brown trout of around 8oz eventually saved a blank. At 5.30pm I reluctantly admitted defeat. Disheartened? Not at all I often liken fishing to a game of chess with nature and on this occasion the fish had won the day. The fishing at Wimbleball is not always easy the the fish it holds are without doubt a worthy prize. I will be back in search of success as soon as possible. As autumn enters its final month the weather may be cruel and frosty mornings may sting the fingers but those hard fighting rainbow will be waiting and really need that reel to sing!

Fathers Day At Wimbleball

Willie Waterston with a 10lb + fish yesterday which took him into the backing 3 times. 

With reports of stunning rainbows to over 10lb and trout feasting on beetles I was keen to get back up  to the beautiful Wimbleball lake again and do battle with its full tailed rainbows. Our son James was entering  a Motorbike Enduro event a few miles away so it seemed a good excuse to meet up for a Father’s Day Picnic combined with a few hours fishing!

I commented to Pauline as we enjoyed the journey across Exmoor’s summer landscape that the fish often went off the feed around midday. An ominous comment as I would probably manage my first casts for around 11:30.

I left Pauline reading her book in the car and hastened to the waters edge looking for  a place that would offer a little shelter from the brisk breeze along with a good chance of fish. Conditions were ideal and I soon found the perfect spot with the breeze blowing right to left. A few fish were rising just off the weed bed at the waters edge.

I tied a beetle imitation on the point, a diawl bach on the middle dropper and a black zulu on the top dropper. I waded carefully out and started searching the water. It wasn’t long before the line zipped tight; a pleasing 3lb plus rainbow was battling on a tight line. Ten minutes later a brace  were secured and tea secured for the next night!

It was now catch and release time. I wandered back to the car to see if Pauline was ready to join me and take a few pictures whilst enjoying the warmth of the day. On arrival back at the waters edge it seemed the spell had been broken as my first couple of casts resulted in a minor tangle and the rhythm seemed to have deserted me. It soon returned however but it seemed my prediction had proved right for takes became few and far between.

James and Sophie arrived and enjoyed a tasty picnic; Social distancing of course. Several trout rose within casting range and I was soon back casting a line. Rising trout really are not good for my social skills! Despite several chances I failed to connect and at around 6.00pm we headed for home.

It will not be too long before I get back for a more serious fishing session ensuring I get there well before the fish have their  afternoon siesta and perhaps hanging on for the evening rise as well!

Wimbleball – Beneath a Cloudless blue sky

I had been itching to get back to Wimbleball after lockdown and booked half a day off work mid-week hoping it wouldn’t be too busy. It probably wasn’t the best day to have chosen; the hottest day of the year so far with a cloudless sky. Despite this I arrived full of optimism despite the conditions and headed for Rugg’s bay where there was plenty of room to fish and maintain social distance.

The far bank was full of families and young people soaking up the sun and whilst at first this seemed a little concerning I deemed that several groups may well be from single households. In any case the sounds of fun and laughter drifting across the water was welcome after months of doom and gloom. I am growing increasingly tired of the bitching and blaming that has manifested itself as the COVID crisis has unfolded. Apply a bit of common sense follow the rules and accept that there is always a bit of risk in life.

The walk to the lake along a buttercup lined footpath with young lambs playing in the fields was a delightful start to the afternoon and it was truly good to be alive and out in the English countryside.

I set up a floating line and a team of imitative patterns, a gold-head PTN on the point, a buzzer on the middle dropper and a diawl bach on the top dropper. I was surprised just how far the reservoir had dropped since my last visit back on opening day on March 1st when the lake was full to the brim.

Wading out into the cool clear water I extended the line across the water. Paused to allow the flies to sink a little and started a slow figure of eight retrieve. I expected a pull at any second as I settled into the session. Swallows and martins swooped over the water and birdsong resonated all around.

I kept an eye on other anglers around the lake and caught sight of the occasional bent rod and flurry of foam as a fish neared the net. After about an hour starting the line zipped tight and a hard fighting rainbow of around 3lb posed for the camera.

I fished on optimistically changing the flies from time to time but sticking to the slow imitative approach because that is what I had expected to work.

Slowly as the afternoon slipped into evening I began to lose some of that early confidence. Whilst the occasional fish rose further out it was clear that the hoped for evening rise was not going to happen.

I should perhaps have changed to slow sink line and gone deeper with a lure but on this occasion I had perhaps become too content just enjoying the day going through the motions of fishing the fly.

I drove home as the sun set over Exmoor thinking of my return to the lake in the not to distant future.

Wimbleball in fine Spring Form

Mark Jones and his brother enjoyed a cracking day at Wimbleball where Mark boated a personal best rainbow of 8lb and and another fine rainbow of 5lb 10oz.  Marks fish plus another four over 4lb were tempted using dial bach’s and buzzers. Marks brother boated a 5lb rainbow first cast! The venue is certainly providing some superb sport despite the inclement early spring weather.

WIMBLEBALL – OPENING DAY – MARCH 1st 2020

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Wimbleball is a good hours drive from our house North of Barnstaple but it’s a drive I always enjoy winding across Exmoor’s wild landscape. A wintry dusting covered the moors on the high ground yet signs of spring were all around with daffodils already blooming and the snowdrops already withering.

I had been looking forward to Opening day with anticipation since my last visit to the venue on the close of the season last November. Storm Jorge had forced the cancellation of the boat launch and undoubtedly deterred all but the hardiest of Fly Fishers. I had arranged to meet Fishery Manager Mark Underhill and his wife Trudi for a chat before joining former England International Matt Kingdon at the lakeside. Mark and Trudi have transformed Wimbleball over the past two seasons stocking the lake with large numbers of fighting fit full tailed rainbows and introducing an enlightened catch and release option that enables anglers to enjoy a full day on the bank.

Mark and Trudi Underhill

Early March is not for the faint hearted as it can be bracing. A cold wind was driving across the lake as I walked down to greet Matt who had been fishing for fifteen minutes without a touch. I had set up an intermediate Snowbee Fly Line with a gold headed black lure on an 8lb b.s leader. I never go below 8lb b.s as the trout at Wimbleball have smashed up many an angler’s tippet as they seize the lure.

I waded out into the cold water and put a line out allowing the fly and line to sink a couple of feet before starting a slow erratic retrieve. The cold wind and icy water tingled on the fingers. I settled into the rhythm of casting and retrieving, relishing the ever changing vista of the lake, hills and sky. Dark clouds threatened bringing showers of sleety rain.

Suddenly the line zipped delightfully tight and the rod hooped over as a feisty rainbow lunged and powered away causing the reel to sing pleasingly. Matt grabbed a couple of pleasing images of the battle. The full tailed rainbow was well over three pound and a great start to the day.

A few moments later Matt cursed as a vicious take smashed his 9lb point! Ten minutes or so passed before another rainbow hit my lure and gave an aerobatic display on a tight line.

An hour passed with a couple of fish coming adrift for both Matt and I. The hectic sport we had hoped for was not forthcoming though neither Matt nor I mind having to work for our fish.

When it goes quiet a move is often a good idea as the walk warms the body and the change of location brings an injection of fresh hope. The move brought two hook ups in quick succession with both fish coming off after a few seconds.

An angler appeared at the point to my left and immediately hooked into a trout his line singing tightly in the wind, rod hooped over forming a pleasing image against the horizon.

Matt suggested a move to some deeper water and so we set off once again in search of rainbows. The ongoing search inevitably brought connection for Matt as his black lure was intercepted. The next hour saw us catch a further four trout all cracking thick set rainbows of between 3lb and 4lb.

Dark clouds hastened towards us and icy droplets of  wind blow rain beat upon the face and hands. It was close to 3.00pm and we both were pleased to have had enough for one day. We walked back to the cars chatting eagerly of the season to come and more days beside the water.

With frogspawn in the shallows, hawthorn in bud and the soft grey of pussy willow tipping the branches spring was on its way and days of warm sunshine undoubtedly just a few weeks away as winter inevitably gives way to a new season.

Calling in to fill in our catch returns revealed that other anglers had also enjoyed some great sport with plenty of five fish bags, one individual catching fifteen trout on a catch and release ticket ;all on snakes and lures.

The return journey across the moors to the soundtrack of Johnny Walkers Sounds of the seventies was a fitting end to the days fishing. The poignant sound of Terry Jacks; “Seasons In the Sun” reminded me of a  work colleague whose funeral I attended a couple of days ago. A prompt to savour these precious spring days.

Storm Jorge delays boat launch but there’s still a chance to cast a fly

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A serve weather warning for gale force winds as forced the postponement of the boat launch at Wimbleball but Opening day still has the promise of some exciting bank sport at Wimbeball. Hope to meet a few of you on the bank where I will be fully armed with rod and camera.

Try a black lure on a slow sinking line for some exciting opening day action.