Bellbrook Fishery just north of Tiverton in Devon was the venue I was first introduced to fly fishing. On that particular day a little wild brown trout caught in the gathering dusk had saved me from blanking, so when I made a long overdue return visit to Bellbrook yesterday I was hoping to do so with a little more success. Bellbrook Fishery consists of 6 small lakes arrayed down a wooded valley with 5 of the lakes stocked with ‘normal’ fish and the 6th stocked with specimen fish of a higher average size. From the off, I had elected to give the specimen lake a miss and concentrate on the other 5 waters. The weather on arrival was blue skies and sunshine but with a bitterly cold wind blowing straight up the valley which made things chillier than it looked. Having decided I didn’t like the look of the very top lake of the 5 Normal ones, this left me with the remaining 4 to try my luck on – Sedgemoor, Exmoor, Dartmoor & Bodmin lakes.
Chatting to a few of the other fishermen there and a couple just leaving, it seemed everyone was catching fish with the most popular flies being gold head nymphs, blood worms and montana’s all fished slow and deep. There was very little in the way of rising fish so I followed the crowd in using a floating line with sinking leader and gold headed nymph. By the time I started fishing there were only a few other fishermen remaining, so I started on Exmoor Lake and had the lake to myself – looking down the valley it was pretty much one fisherman per lake.
I was thankful I had the lake to myself as my casting was atrocious and I seemed to have taken a drastic step back in ability in the intervening couple of weeks since my last trip. A fruitless hour or two and I finally started to get into my stride with regards casting. A move around to the other side of the lake resulted in a savage take that came completely out of the blue and gave me a fleeting moment of elation before the fly was returned to me with the hook straightened out. Curses! Nothing else I tried could tempt another response on that lake after that so I decided to try the others.
By now pretty much everyone else had left. I watched the last remaining angler catch his final fish of his 5 fish limit before picking his brain as to his success. The chap was extremely helpful and it transpired he was fishing pretty much the same set up to myself – floating line, sinking leader and switching between nymphs & bloodworms – he could just cast further (and was a far better fly fisherman obviously)… After he had left I then had the place to myself and the pick of the lakes. With the afternoon wearing on and a little more sign of fish activity I felt more hopeful. This combined with an improvement in my casting and I started to see lots of fish follow and investigate my fly as well as having a few plucks and nibbles. I had follows on all 4 lakes, with both gold head nymphs and bloodworms but just couldn’t connect with any fish. They always seemed to veer away at the last moment.
Time running out I switched to a bright orange blob fly which straight away produced lots of follows from fish. I briefly hooked and lost a fish on Exmoor Lake before moving up to Sedgemoor where I eventually hooked and landed a fine rainbow trout on the blob fly. The fish hit the fly with serious conviction even though, or maybe because, I retrieved it pretty fast making the blob twitch and jump around in the water. Either way the fish really fought well on my 5/6 weight rod and I certainly sighed with relief when I got the net under it, especially given the many near misses and disappointments of the day.
I fished on for another half hour after that but without any more success. It meant I finished the day with a lovely plumb rainbow trout and thoroughly enjoyed the sport and venue.
Bellbrook is a great little fishery, with some lovely lakes, good facilities, and reasonable prices and is definitely a place I’ll be revisiting.