Final Fling of Trout Season on the Rivers

With the end of the season for trout in our local rivers approaching and a couple of tokens for the Westcountry Angling Passport Scheme to use up, I headed up to the River Culm near Hemlock (Beat 4) for a quick after work session. Beat 4 is only 2 tokens which was perfect as that matched up nicely with how many I had left. Glorious weather and an hour and a half to spare before it got dark, I was feeling cautiously optimistic when I did eventually find the venue. Despite having lived in this area for a few years before we moved to Exeter, I still had real trouble finding the token box.

Upon arrival I noticed another chap fishing his way back up to the car. By the time I’d set up my rod, he’d arrived back at the car and was calling it a day. I spoke to him briefly to sound out if he’d had any success (which he hadn’t) and found out that he knew the river pretty well, having fished it on and off for the last 30 years. Apparently his last 6 sessions over the course of September had brought him a grand total of 4 fish – Now while catching vast numbers of fish isn’t necessarily a prerequisite for an enjoyable days fishing this news sent my hopes plummeting. No one likes the prospect of blanking and as most fishing is an exercise in sustaining the optimism that the next cast is going to result in a fish, hearing this news put a bit of a damper on things.

The River Culm on this section is pretty but tiny. Overhanging trees severely limit places to fish, and the fishing was from the bank, with waders not really offering any advantage. The flow was clear and quite fast with shallow sections and a few narrow but very deep areas.

Getting a drag free presentation with the flow proved difficult. I tried dry flies before switching to a nymph under an indicator but had no takes. In fact I saw no sign of any fish whatsoever, resulting in a less than satisfactory end to the river trout season for this year. Not quite how I’d hoped to finish it off. Still, it’s always good to try different venues and all helps to build up experience for the future.

Fly Fishing for Pike on River Avon

The plan for Sunday morning was a trip to the River Avon at Keynsham between Bristol & Bath in pursuit of Pike. It was an early start – I met Jason at the river a little after first light. The change in the seasons was quite apparent and it was the first time this autumn that there’s been proper frost on the grass. Other than the cold, it was sunny and clear and took a while for the sun to get up and warm things up a little.

Like the previous evenings trip to the River Chew, this was to be another quick visit as I had a couple of hours to spare before having to drive over to Cardiff to pick up my wife and her friend and see what kind of state they were in after attending a friend’s hen do. “Two day hangover” is all I’ve got to say on that front…

This was to be my first visit to this stretch of the River Avon so I didn’t really know what to expect. The river looked really, really, pikey! dark mysterious slightly coloured water, nice flow, loads of bankside vegetation and very fishy looking swims. I’d only brought my #8 fly rod with the view to fly fishing for pike, but with hindsight, if I’d known what the venue was like I would of been better off with a lure rod. High banks and abundant trees and vegetation made casting awkward.  Jason had the right idea and had brought his spinning rod.

River Avon

Jason’s decision to take the lure rod proved well founded as he had 2 small pike in the course of the morning whilst I unsurprisingly blanked. A white shad was the down-fall of the pike, one of which took the lure right under the rod tip.

Jason’s had a lot of success this year with the shads, and watching their action from up on the banks, it’s easy to see why they attract pike. The great action combined with the fact you can retrieve them fast, slow, up in the water or down deep really gives you options.

Pike - River Avon

Next time I visit this venue it’ll definitely be with a lure rod and not a fly rod. I think a few shads will be joining me for a swim as well….

Fly Fishing River Chew – September 2015

26 Sept  – arrived at the River Chew (Mill Ground), near Keynsham for a quick couple of hours fishing before dark. Met up with Jason, who had arrived shortly before myself. He’d been having loads of action on dry fly before I arrived. This combined with warm and still weather, without a breath of wind and plenty of sign of fish feeding on the surface – all boded well.

I fished dry flies mainly using my #4 rod. Small black or dark brown flies seemed most productive. I only landed 4 small chub / dace on the dry fly and missed a few other takes.

I did try briefly for a barbel with a heavy weighted bead head fly in the swim I’d caught the barbel in before but with no luck. I have to admit, that I didn’t really give it much of a go after the barbel and the slightly coloured water didn’t help either. Maybe something to dedicate more time too, another day…

Rays at Minehead

Fishing out of Minehead – 20 September. Glorious weather. One of those rare days in the Bristol Channel where it was flat calm with no wind. Lovely fishing conditions.

Mike & myself were both uptiding with 2 rods each as usual. We started out on the sand some way off of Whitemark and were into fish straight away. Catching steadily we stayed where we were for most of the day rather than moving out, further off as the tide dropped.

No smoothhounds around but a fantastic day of catching rays. I had a Blonde Ray (12.5lb) as well as 7 Small-eyed (biggest 11.5lb), 2 congers (25-30lb) and the usual horde of dogfish. Most of the rays came to sandeel whereas the congers were on whole large squid. Whilst I was busy with one of the congers, Mike even had a nice small-eyed ray on my other rod. Glad he was stood near it at the time as it was in danger of being pulled over the side of the boat.!

Using his own rods, Mike had a conger, a nice thornback ray a further small-eyed ray plus the dreaded doggies. Nice weather and plentiful fish. Perfect!

Minehead ray comparison

Beat 19 (Druxton), River Tamar

Fished Beat 19 (Druxton) of the Westcountry Angling Passport scheme near Launceston midweek. Great to be out fishing rather than in work. The weather was perfect but the river was quite fast and coloured with not much sign of fish rising. Only had 2 trout rise to take dry flies which I missed, and also hooked and lost a very small one. No interest from the fish at all on any nymphs or wet flies and certainly no sign of any grayling that I’d been secretly hoping for.

Being the first time I’d fished this river I really have nothing to compare it against but I’m assuming it’s not usually as coloured as I found it. Whilst the river was generally comfortably wadeable, there were a few deeper sections that given the fact I couldn’t see the bottom to tell how deep it was, I decided not to brave.

The river was picturesque and peaceful enough that I would consider returning – but overall I finished the day feeling less than satisfied with my efforts and had that nagging feeling I could of enjoyed myself more elsewhere. Maybe that’s not a fair assessment of this charming water and maybe the next time I visit will be a different story….

An Unexpected Plaice, Beer

Black Bream - Beer

We had one of our regular boat trips out of Beer on board the ‘Blue Lady’ on Tuesday. It felt especially good – probably a mixture of good weather and the fact that a day off of work was being put to such good use.

With only Myself, Mike and the skipper, Cyril fishing there was plenty of room to spread out on board the boat. Expectations were high as usually we can expect a good haul of tasty black bream on these trips at this time of the year. These fish are nearly always obliging with a distinctive rattling bite, a good scrappy fight and to top it all, they taste great!

We came prepared with plenty of bait – several boxes of tiny ‘party’ squid, a couple of boxes of large calamari, frozen mackerel, ragworm and other assorted bits and pieces. Now whilst this may seem excessive, when a shoal of bream are feeding well throughout the day, they really do go through the bait quickly – especially as the bite to hooked fish ratio can be quite infuriating. This particular trip however really bucked the usual trend, and we struggled to find any bream at all. Cyril and myself managed a solitary fish each in the whole day despite moving around searching for the fish, and those that we did catch were not particularly big. Even the dogfish and pouting just didn’t seem to be around or feeding….

After most of the day hunting the elusive bream we decided to admit defeat and had a few exploratory drifts for cod over the inshore reefs, during which Mike landed a nice 8lb cod, before we headed in closer to an area just offshore from Seaton seafront to drift for plaice.

Tub Gurnard

This move for the last hour of the trip, really saved the day with instant action from the start. All three of us were into plaice from the first drop. Mike pulled up a cracking, wonderfully coloured tub gurnard, in amongst the plaice. I finished with 5 plaice, the biggest of which was probably just over 2lb. All of which fell to a single ragworm on a long flowing trace, drifted across the sandy sea bed. The trick seemed to be to let out line as soon as a bite was felt in order to give the plaice time to take the hook. After a few seconds a slow retrieve invariably resulted in a lively little flattie.

Given that our trips out of Beer usually concentrate on the bream, the short diversion of plaice fishing proved most unexpected and a welcome change. We’ll definitely have to look to find an hour or so to try for the plaice in future alongside the usual bream fishing!

Plaice - Beer Boat

Plaice - Beer

Rock Fishing at East Prawle

Great weather and favourable tides at the weekend led me to explore some of the rock fishing marks at East Prawle in South Devon. I parked at the National Trust car park at Prawle Point and travelling light with just a rucksack and spinning rod, walked around the coastal path until I found a likely fishing spot at Langerstone Point.

Prawle Point Devon

With calm sea, glorious sunshine and blue skies I was feeling particularly hopeful of a good days fishing. If nothing else, it would be a good opportunity to explore a new area and try out lure fishing for wrasse which I’ve read so much about recently. I’ve usually targeted wrasse with float fishing tackle in the past but trying soft plastics on a light lure rod certainly appealed.

I arrived at low tide just after first light and aimed to fish up to high tide. Starting off with a shallow diving plug, in the hope of an early pollack or bass I hooked into and landed a nice sized garfish on only the second cast. Sadly, despite trying for the next couple of hours I just couldn’t connect with anything else.

A switch to the “Z-man Punch CrawZ” soft plastic lobster type lure brought a change of fortune. I rigged the lures with a cone lead and a worm hook to allow the lure to be fished ‘weedless’, and slowly bumped it back across the bottom with plenty of pauses along the way. I’d switched from fishing the deeper water on the outer side of the point to fishing the rocks facing the shore across a shallow bay. Bites were fairly decisive rattling bites which usually followed by all going heavy and meeting with a great scrap once the fish realised it had been hooked.

None of the wrasse were particularly big but they all fought typically well as wrasse do. I caught five wrasse from the bay before hunger and thirst prompted me to call it a day. I was pleased to have caught wrasse on lures after setting out to do so and really proved to myself that it is a very viable and extremely exciting method of fishing for them.

Wrasse Prawle Point

Wrasse Fishing Devon

Langerstone Point Bay