Wednesday 23 July 2014

Barbel fishing on the Wye

My brother Chris regularly fishes the River Wye and on Monday took me barbel fishing on a Lower Wye day ticket water.

Chris had not been there before so it was going to be a first for him, too.  We set up with feeders and various flavoured baits.  The Wye is a big river for the UK - about 135 miles long and wanders back & forth across the Wales/England border in the lower reaches.

I didn't wait long before a hefty pull on the rod resulted in a 7lb 1oz barbel - a baitrunner fixed spool is pretty much essential! The Wye has a salmon run and several surged along the surface as they moved upstream.  There is also good head of brownies.

There is a public right of navigation downstream from Hay-on-Wye and canoeists appeared from time to time all travelling downstream. They are picked up at various places and taken back to their start point.

I finished the day with 5 barbel, a 3lb chub and a slimy eel.

First fish of the day - a 7lb barbel

Chris with a 7lb-er

My Kelly Kettle enjoying the view!

One of the hazards of fishing the Lower Wye!

Tea in hand and a bite straightaway.

Friday 11 July 2014

Celebrating Burrator - Fly Fishers take a Stand

Peter, Linda and Mrs. McCoy on the Stand
On Sunday 6th July the South West Lakes Trust held a Burrator 'Celebration Day' at the lake. It was intended to mark in style the official opening of the Iron Store (the big green corrugated building) as the centre of Burrator's conservation, industrial archeology and educational activities. This project, which is now fully operational, has been brought about with help from Lottery funding and the tireless efforts of SWLT staff and volunteers. The day certainly succeeded in its aim of setting the project off in a positive way, because there were hundreds of people in attendance, there was lots to see, from traditional crafts, music and dance, ponies, boat rides and orienteering, to say nothing our own modest contribution.  There was also lots to eat and drink.

The atmosphere was really positive and fun. We were very pleased to be invited to put on a Burrator Fly Fishers' Stand within the large Marquee that housed almost all of the invited activity and conservation groups. Additionally we were asked to put on a couple of demonstration/taster sessions for those visitors who might be interested in fly fishing. This we did. They were done by Peter Macconnell between 12.00 and 1.00pm and by Mark Clark between 2.00 and 3.30pm.

Below the Lodge - Peter demonstrating casting, and catching! 
The Stand was very well attended. Some visitors had fly fished before, some had done other kinds of fishing and some were keen to know how to start from scratch. All were a real pleasure to deal with. Peter, to his own shock and embarrassment, managed to hook three rainbow trout (and actually land two of them - without a net or waders) while really doing nothing other than demonstrate the basics of fly casting to complete novices who gasped 'Is it always that easy?! They were assured that it wasn't.

Two 'accidental' fish - note the shoes!
At the end of the day we had given away almost all the club leaflets and application forms we had taken and had had many interesting, amusing and useful conversations with people of all sorts, whether interested in angling or not. I think we made some new and potentially useful friends and tried our best to show the club in a positive light. I think we suceeded.

Many thanks to Linda James, Tony and Mrs. McCoy and Mark Clark for giving their time so generously to represent us, and to Emily Cannon and Rosie Vine from SWLT who did so much to make it a really excellent day.

Where is Linda? - taking the picture

Thanks to James Bird, Emily Cannon and Linda James for the photographs.


Thursday 10 July 2014

A Day at Bellbrook

I have recently had the pleasure of  re-educating a friend of mine in the gentle art of fly fishing.The friend in question is Aubrey. He and his wife have recently moved from Surrey to the Devon town of Crediton. While they were down here house hunting they stayed with us in Dousland. Aubrey was fascinated to hear my fishy tales and to learn that there is so much water to fish here in the county. 

The trouble was Aubrey hadn't picked up a rod since 1974. So before we could go fishing we had a couple of sessions casting practice on his lawn and we talked entomology. We then went fishing at Kennick, where Aubrey managed to hook a few and got teased by many 'plucking' takes, but until yesterday the poor chap hadn't actually got a fish on the bank.

Aubrey lives  near Bellbrook Fishery; a group of very pretty and quiet lakes at Oakford near Tiverton. This was a good opportunity for me to try a new water and, hopefully, find Aubrey a local fishery he could visit on future occasions with a degree of confidence. Bellbrook has six lakes altogether, one of which is a so-called specimen lake. They run down a lovely wooded valley and are joined together by a gently babbling brook which helps to keep the water moving and aerated. Most pools are clear to about 5 feet but are much deeper.

When we arrived just before eleven o'clock on a bright but cool July morning we were pleased to find we were the only people fishing . We opted for three fish tickets and decided to fish in adjoining lakes, within earshot and view of each other. I put a trusty Blue Damsel Nymph on the leader; seeing many 'naturals' around the waters edge, and on my second cast was in to a lively rainbow which turned out to be 2lbs 4ozs.

First fish of the day - 2lb 4oz
Aubrey was fishing the next pool up the valley. He had opted to fish a Green Montana Nymph. After my early fish things went quiet so we both changed flies. A few casts later we were both were into fish. I landed another good rainbow. Unfortunately Aubrey lost his fish after a three minute tussle.

The sky now took on a heavy grey hue and within a short time the heavens opened and we found ourselves as wet as the trout. A quick sandwich lunch was the order of the day. Duly fortified we decided to fish the large bottom lake where we could easily fish together. 

Fishing a Gold-head Daddy Long-Legs I hooked a trout that took out twenty-five yards of line was clearly a very fit trout indeed! It kept running hard and taking more line. After a couple of minutes the combined weight of the fish, the line and a several pounds of weed in which it had become entangled, proved too much for the knot tying my leader to the fly and off went a very lucky trout. A few casts later I was in again and had my third and final fish. 

A satisfying full bag to end the day

I gave Aubrey the Daddy Long-Legs and within half an hour he landed trout of 4lb 0oz and 3lbs 8ozs. So a very happy day all round.

Aubrey - damp but happy

Mark Clark

Tuesday 8 July 2014

June Reflections

Ken looks satisfied - a limit bag on 6th June in bright conditions

Now we are in early July it is worth reflecting back on Burrator fishing in June. The month, it seemed to me, was one of transition where, at the beginning, the weather was still quite mixed; some days nice and warm and others still quite chilly especially once the sun went down. Fish were still mostly taken in the middle of the day so hanging on for a good evening rise was largely a waste of time. The above picture shows Ken Hindley, our former chairman and long standing member, looking pleased with a nice bag of rainbows taken on a bright afternoon. By the time of our club competition on 11th June the conditions were changing rapidly, as Mike Duckett reports below:

Club Competition - Wednesday 11th June
It was a fine warm day, perhaps too warm for wearing waders and not wading. A couple of times I had to get in to the water just to cool my lower regions down!

Pat - June competition winner with five fish for 7lb 3oz

Because of my personal circumstances I had to fish early and be home by 4.00pm. Tony Vallack and I arrived about 9.00am and found John Jeffrey already there and into a fish. I elected to fish from the roadside bank that runs from the smaller dam to the Longstone Manor. I fished the first hour with nothing to show so switched to a Montana Nymph on a floating line. As I was making that change Pat Power arrived and began fishing what is fast becoming known as Stockie Corner. All of a sudden I began to catch fish. I don't know if it was the change of fly that did it or the way Pat seems to attract fish to the area. Whatever the reason the change was almost instantaneous and I landed my five fish limit in the next hour. Pat was hooking them at the same rate, with John all the time shouting encouragement. His cries of 'Not another one Pat' could, I'm sure, be heard over at the dam. 

Mike's five

Tony, meanwhile, tried a number of spots on the Longstone Peninsula and located fish by tempting them with a Dawson's Olive Nymph. When I met up with him later he had found a number of fish out on the point, and, fishing his favourite intermediate line, landed another three fish in a very short time.

In  the end Pat Power won it with a total weight of 7lb 3oz.

Tony on The Point - a picture of concentration

Boat Fishing & Brown Trout
As the month went on, and the boat was returned from its brief sojourn to Fernworthy for use in the Commonwealth Fly Fishing Championships, it got progressively more use. Mike Duckett, Peter Macconnell, Pat Power, and a couple of new members have been getting afloat. Initially catches were quite good with the best rainbow falling to a size 14 Kate McClaren fished by Peter Macconnell. Though by the end of the month the weather and consequently the water had become so warm that fishing near the surface was unproductive. Mike Duckett, however, had a decent bag one evening by fishing the extra-fast sink line and a white Booby Nymph. The fish were in ten to fifteen feet of water and a bit further offshore than is typically the case.

Another feature of the boat fishing throughout June has been the pleasing increase in the number of brown trout caught. They tend only to be round half to three-quarters of a pound but are feisty little fighters and beautiful to look at.

3lb 10oz - from the boat

A typical Burrator Brownie

Tuesday 1 July 2014

Chew on That!

Two Damsel Nymphs - What happened to the one on the left?
5.00am Thursday 26th June saw me spring out of bed with boyish enthusiasm, as seven of us from the Burrator Fly Fishers prepared to head north up the M5 into the Mendip Hills to fish at Chew Valley Reservoir. 

Now, I’ve fished at Chew at least a dozen times before, mainly in competitions, and the quality of the fish, the water, the breakfast and the tackle shop in the Woodford Fishing Lodge are second to none. I just couldn’t wait to get there and for my friends and I to have a memorable day.

I picked up Kelvin Nikulin en-route to Peter Macconnell’s house, where we piled into his car and headed off to pick up Tony Vallack. By the time we’d got on the A38, I think they were already becoming bored with my tales of leaping fish, smashed leaders and full bass bags. On arrival at Chew we booked in, bought our tickets and consumed our breakfasts and met up with Linda James before heading down to our boats. By now I think my car partners were ready to push me in the reservoir just to shut me up and douse my enthusiasm !

Chew Reservoir is set in beautiful countryside. The weather overnight had changed from the hot, almost windless, early June summer we’ve had, to an overcast but bright day with a brisk’ish veering wind from the southwest. The warden in the Lodge said it had been 'challenging fishing' for a couple of weeks, but that the change should see an improvement, so to stick to the ‘Chew formula’ of teams of Buzzers, Hawthorns and Damsels on a long leader or an intermediate line.  

Linda had elected to fish from the bank but the other six; myself and Kelvin, Tony and Peter, and Tony Hooper and his brother all opted for the boats. So the six of us headed for the west bank of the reservoir. Linda made for the deep water of the north shore. 

After 45 minutes without so much as a tug, Kelvin and I headed for the back of the wind across the reservoir and we sat in a calm reeded area, verging the ripple, in the hope that this would be where the trout were now gorging themselves on the plentiful chironomids, hawthorn flies, and blue and green damsels that buzzed all around us.  

We had been drifting gently for a while when, as I went to lift my flies from the water, I thought I’d caught the bottom. I gave the rod a couple of yanks to free the leader and then began a 15 minutes tug-o-war with something very un-trout like in its behavior. We were towed in various directions for some time before a beautifully marked pike of five or six pounds poked its head above the water. Kelvin very kindly offered to net it, but as I pulled the fish in it took one look at him and headed for the bottom again. It did this several times more before we got the net under it. There, firmly embedded in the 'scissors' was my blue and green hothead damsel fly. Hook removed using a pair of neoprene gloves as protection and photos taken of only the second pike I’ve caught on a fly, I held my new pike PB in the water until it recovered and headed back to the depths.

A personal best pike - but not for long
Once I had got my breath back I checked the flies, leader and knots and cast back in. Now where were those trout ? 

Another twenty minutes saw us drifting on to an area known as the 'Sunken Island'. Half way through a short jerky retrieve my rod tip bent round and there was a reassuring knocking from the business end of the line. 'This feels more like a trout', I said to Kelvin, 'I think we’ve found them at last'. Suddenly the rod took on a frightening curve. Visions of a new Chew Reservoir Trout Record flashed before my eyes; articles in Trout & Salmon, free tackle form top manufacturers, oh the glory, where would it all end ! 

Once again we were being towed all over the place and a dark green 'submarine' appeared some way from the boat, until it disappeared in a tail-thrashing dive back into the depths. Kelvin laughed madly as my jaw dropped in amazement.. How was I going to get this fish in the net, let alone the boat? ? After some considerable tussling, grunting loudly, and complaining about how my arms were aching, the fish made a last break for freedom but finally was in the net. I heaved it aboard and the arms of the net bent beyond repair. Unfortunately we didn’t have any scales to weigh the fish but Kelvin and I agreed that this, my second pike, was twelve to fourteen pounds. Amazingly, it too had taken the hothead damsel fly, which was, once again securely in the 'scissors'. However, the bend of the hook was now almost straightened out; with one more run it would have been free. Now that’s fisherman’s luck !  Once the photos were taken by my boat partner, I unhooked the beautiful beast, held it to let it recover, and it slowly swam downwards.

Now that is a 'Personal Best'!
After that it was all an anti-climax. A move to another location saw me hook a Perch of about a pound and a half, but still no trout.

Still not a trout!
So, where were the twenty thousand trout hiding in this reservoir? With numerous moves by our three boats, and all the other boats we saw, we covered most points of the compass. With all our different lines from floaters to ultra fast sinkers, to say nothing of  many changes of fly, we were unable to find a single trout between between us. So at 4.45pm we headed back to the Lodge to find Peter and Tony already packed up a deeply fed up. It turned out that only three trout had been caught that day, and not by any of us.

However, I had the compensation of two very splendid pike to make  an otherwise uneventful day one I won’t forget for many years.

Mark Clark