Fly Fishing River Chew

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been hearing some good reports from my mate Jason, on his recent exploratory sessions on the River Chew at Keynsham near Bristol. He’d caught a good variety of species, including, chub, roach, gudgeon, brown trout, grayling and barbel amongst others. Neither of us had previously caught grayling or barbel before so this was definitely one venue I needed to visit!

Annual licenses for substantial sections of the River Chew are available from Keynsham Angling Association for a modest sum of £20 which is a bargain in anybody’s book, especially when considering the variety of species present in what is a wonderfully picturesque and unspoilt little river. Even more surprising to me considering it’s proximity to such a large urban centre as Bristol.

River Chew Somerset

I met Jason up at Keynsham early afternoon with a view to fishing the “Mill Ground” section of the Chew. The weather was pretty hot and muggy with rain showers forecast for later in the evening, but when we met it was gloriously sunny, which whilst lovely conditions to fish in, weren’t necessarily perfect for tempting trout in.

We started off both fly fishing and explored the length of the Mill Ground stretch, Considering what a lovely section of river it is I was amazed to see only one other angler tucked away in a secluded swim float fishing in amongst the trees. It is a great section of water that is perfectly fishable without the need to wade and open enough to make fly fishing a relatively simple matter with an unimpeded back cast in most places.

A few fish were rising and I had quite a bit of interest (and missed a lot of takes) in one or two swims from what I think were small chub or dace. We had a couple of small fish on the dry fly between us and a thoroughly chilled out few hours, but results weren’t exactly mind blowing. Not really surprising considering the sultry weather.

Fly Fishing River Chew

In the end, after fishing our way down the river and with the afternoon wearing on, we decided to switch to coarse gear. Walking back up to the car to swap rods, a light smattering of rain confirmed the decision as the right one. Coarse gear on hand, we set up in a swim that Jason had caught barbel from previously. A heavy rain shower saw us sheltering under our umbrellas and we started off legering. Bites were instant and resulted in a non-stop stream of minnows and the occasional gudgeon all on double maggot. It wasn’t long at all until a rattly bite pulled down decisively and I connected with a very spirited little barbel. Barbel have been one of my long time targets and to say I was delighted would be an understatement. 2 more barbel and countless minnows followed before we switched swims once the weather perked up again.

River Chew Barbel

The new swim was more open, with some really fishy over hanging trees and some inviting looking reeds on the opposite side. With the improvement in weather, we both switched to float rods. Jason trotted is float in under some overhanging trees on the near bank whilst I targeted the far bank reeds. I had 3 more small barbel either on double maggot or worm and maggot, along with numerous chub and a coupe of small roach. Jason on the other hand seemed to have found a great spot for the trout, and proceeded to pull out 4 or 5 nice brown trout, most of which fell to worm and maggot trotted in under the overhanging trees. The trout really put up a phenomenal scrap for their size!

River Chew - Brown Trout

The onset of dusk put pay to our fun but the walk back to the car was accompanied with that warm glow that follows a successful days fishing! The River Chew certainly lived up to all I could have hoped for, led to the capture of a new species and has so much potential for future exploration. My next target will be the Grayling, and visiting some of the other stretches of water further upstream. oh… and actually catching a barbel on the fly! just need to find a few free weekends…

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Big Bass from Minehead

Not a fly fishing trip as such, but my Sunday boat trip prevented me attending the second day of the ‘Flyfishing for Coarse Fish” group weekend meet and was in itself quite successful so warranted a mention. Glorious, glorious weather and flat calm sea – perfect for fishing in comfort which happens very infrequently.

I took along some fresh peeler crab and frozen sandeels to supplement the locally caught herring and the squid that the skipper always provides. August often sees a few smoothhounds around and we’d had some the previous month so hopes were high. Both Mike and myself fished 2 uptide rods each as usual.

As it turned out, and exactly as the skipper foretold, there appeared to be no smoothhounds around and we concentrated on targeting the rays with sandeel and herring over the sandbanks off of Minehead.

One of the best things about fishing during August is that there’s not too many dogfish around (I only caught around 20 or so which is really not that many for the Bristol Channel believe it or not). Interspersed amongst the dogfish, I had a couple of conger eels before I finally landed a blonde ray. Meanwhile Mike totted up a conger, 3 blonde ray, a small-eyed ray and a spotted ray – all good sized fish. We both had a few baby tope snap up our fish baits – the teeth on these things even though they are babies really show you they’re not destined to grow up vegetarians! The crowning glory of the day however was a stunning 8lb Bass that fell to sandeel fished over the sandbank. What a breathtaking sight to see that coming to the surface! To date this is easily my best Bass, and given the rarity of seeing Bass of this size I’m not holding out much hope of repeating the feat for a while.. In any case, seeing a bass of that size being netted really will stay with me for a long while..

Bass Minehead

Sea Fishing Minehead

Flyfishing for Coarse Fish – Weekend Bash 2015

Last weekend saw the ‘Flyfishing for Coarse Fish” group weekend meet in Somerset. Fine weather for the weekend boded well and the Saturday morning saw us meeting bright and early on the Bridgwater & Taunton Canal at Upper Maunsell Lock. Day tickets are available online from the Taunton Angling Association’s website for £7.50 giving access to a large stretch of the canal and also the River Tone. Given the heavy rain of the two previous days, we were pleasantly surprised to find the canal spectacularly clear. The Bridgwater & Taunton Canal is generally quite shallow and with quite wide margins of reeds, making fishing tricky in places.  Our host & organiser for the event, fishing guide and writer, Dominic Garnett certainly knew what to expect and advised #3 – #4 rods for general coarse fish with the longer rods useful for being able to reach over the nearside reeds. He was right!

Fly Fishing Taunton Canal

The plan was to rove the canal for the day and cover as much ground as possible. The canal was crystal clear and allowed sight fishing to any fish spotted. The only issue being that we had to spot and cast to our quarry before we were ourselves spotted by the fish.

Finding fish in the clear, shallow waters wasn’t difficult and we were able to target the larger fish (Dominic certainly seemed to be able to at any rate…). Wandering the bank, Roach, rudd, bream and hybrids were numerous and easy to spot in the clear water, along with some cracking tench and a good few large perch. Pike (mainly small jacks) were also prevalent. To me some of the most impressive fish, alongside the tench, were the quality rudd and it was these that were the main target for the day.

Dominic lead the way in showing us how it’s done by promptly catching a couple of very nice rudd illustrating that he really does know what he’s talking and writing about.

Fly Fishing Taunton Canal Rudd

The rest of us did our best to try to keep up, whilst David concentrated on the large perch which are very much a favourite of his. Everyone caught fish, including myself. I managed half a dozen rudd and some roach but nothing quite in the league of Dom’s fish. David hit the mark with a splendid 2lb 1oz perch that was one amongst 3 or 4 that chased down his fly.

Fly Fishing Big Perch

Fly Fishing Rudd Taunton Canal

We ended the day between us with a variety of species including rudd, roach, silver bream, hybrids & perch but surprisingly considering how many were around, no pike. A post session pub meal and drink followed in the sunshine – bringing a thoroughly enjoyable day to a great end. Sadly due to having a pre-arranged boat fishing trip on the Sunday I wasn’t able to join the group for the sunday session but you can read about how the chaps got on in Dominic’s blog. Hopefully There’ll be a follow up day or weekend session arranged in the imminent future – maybe a 2016 rematch?! Looking forward to it already.

Brown Trout on Ham Mill, Beat 22

Having had some recent success with Brown Trout from the River Dart my appetite for small stream fishing for wild brownies had been wetted of late, so being ever on the look out for new venues to explore I set my sights on one of the Westcountry Angling Passport Scheme waters near Launceston. I settled on beat 22 – Ham Mill on the River Ottery – being a suitably picturesque spot with not only trout present but the possibility of Grayling. Grayling is a species I’ve never fished for and never caught so was to be the days ultimate quarry.

The River Ottery and Ham Mill is a cracking little river. Amazingly picturesque and peaceful. The water on the day was running reasonably clear and for the most part around knee deep with the odd deeper section. In a few places I found myself in waist deep water so would certainly recommend chest waders for this particular venue.

River Ottery, Ham Mill Beat 22

Peering over the edge of the bridge near where you park, I could see a grayling below straight away. Alway promising! After tackling up and getting down to the water, I started to work my way upstream towards the bridge where I my mind, a hungry grayling awaited. Alas, it wasn’t to be quite so easy and no suicidal near ravenous fish of any description seemed to be present. That’s not to say there weren’t fish feeding because there was loads of activity further upstream with fish rising. But no matter how carefully I waded the activity was always further upstream…

Eventually after trying various dry flies and nymphs, I had a result with a tiny beaded nymph below an indicator cast into a section of fast flowing water. As soon as the fly had touched the water, the indicator shot under and a quick lift of the rod meet with a feisty little fish. Disaster struck however just as I reached for the net – a stunning little grayling slipped the hook!! many, many choice words were spoken at that point!!!

Nevermind, where there’s one there’s bound to be more.. Not! I only had two further bites, and those were on dry flies, both of which brought beautifully marked brown trout, which whilst magnificently pristine fish, were not the greatly desired grayling.

Brown Trout, River Ottery.

In the end it was the River Ottery’s hungry brown trout that made the day. Neither of them big but both supremely energetic. A small brown dry fly cast into a riffle proved their undoing. Not a very technical description of a fly which undoubtedly has a name, but then hey – I’m a sea fisherman….

Dry Fly

Return to Two Bridges, Dartmoor.

Following yesterdays success in fishing for the wild brown trout of the West Dart up on Dartmoor, I decided to return and explore a slightly different section of the river. Yesterday I’d fished downstream from the Two Bridges Inn, whereas today I wanted to explore further upstream.

The weather had taken a turn for the worse over night with it being decidedly cooler as well as overcast and drizzly at times. There was very little in the way of rising fish which contrasted quite sharply with the day before. The river was still crystal clear and fast flowing but the fish didn’t seem to be feeding with quite the same vigour. I used the same flies that had been so successful yesterday and did eventually get a reasonable number of takes, but again think it was predominantly from tiny fish as I had real problems actually hooking any.

Eventually one small fish did save the day, but then with the onset of more persistent rain I decided to get back in the car and explore some of the other stretches of water available on the Dartmoor Fishery Permit even if I didn’t go on to fish them. I did have trouble finding some of the sections of water identified on the map that came with the day ticket and will probably need to bring along the OS map next time. Two easy to find locations that I thought looked worth a visit in the near future, were on the East Dart, particularly the sections at Postbridge and Bellever. Just need to find the free time to pay them a visit.

River Dart Two Bridges Brown Trout

Wild Brown Trout on Dartmoor

I headed up to Two Bridges, on Dartmoor yesterday to try out fishing a river for wild brown trout for the first time. My trout fishing to date has been limited to still waters, and has generally been for rainbows so I fancied seeing what could be gleaned from the small fast flowing dartmoor streams.

Two Bridges - West DartWest Dart

Day tickets are available via the Westcountry Angling Passport scheme for many of the Duchy of Cornwall controlled rivers across dartmoor. The Dartmoor Fishery Permit is only £10 a day. I picked my day ticket up at the Two Bridges Inn near Princetown and set off downstream from the Inn to see if I could tempt my first ever brownie from a river.

It was a sunny and warm day with a bit of breeze ruffling the water. The river was crystal clear and fast running. I took my chest waders and was glad I had done so in a few places. In many places the river was only ankle to knee deep although a few sections neared waist deep. Fishing with wellies may have been possible but would of severely limited accessibility in a few locations. I took along my #4 rod, with a floating line, tapered leader and 2.5lb tippet. With quite a few fish rising, I tried various small dry flies and had instant and pretty much constant action with numerous takes. Despite the number of takes, I found actually hooking anything particularly taxing. I’m guessing that these were mainly small fish, and as if to prove this hypothesis right, my first ever wild brownie from a river was a small and feisty, beautifully patterned little fish of around 4 inches.

Fly Fishing - Brown Trout

I only really fished a short section of the river as the bites didn’t really dry up so I felt no need to move on. I ended the day with 5 fish – 3 of them being tiddlers, but with two slightly better fish as well – the bigger of which really put up a scrap.

Fly Fishing Dartmoor Brown Trout

I did see a much larger fish that I’d spooked, that showed there are much better fish there and which gives something to aim for in the future.

With the profusion of bites, I experimented with various dry flies and found that anything small and darkish coloured would get a bite. The only fly I tried that had no interest at all on the day was a small white moth type dry fly.

My first day on a trout stream was pretty perfect with no shortage of action and a few fish thrown in too. It certainly showed the potential of fishing up on Dartmoor, and at only £10 seemed really good value.