Minehead – where have all the Smoothhounds gone?

Wow! how can two trips just a couple of weeks apart be so different? May / June / July are usually top times for the smooth hounds in the Bristol Channel, when we can happily expect to see them in good numbers. Last month when I started my peeler crab verses hardback crab test was no exception, and we had plenty. This trip, and not only was the weather decidedly un-summerlike but the smoothhounds seemed to have largely moved on – presumably to pastures new.

I had been hoping to continue the peeler / hardback test and had bought peeler crabs and caught a bucket of hardback crabs as well. Sadly it wasn’t to be and I struggled to catch anything except the ever ravenous dogfish. No smoothhounds bothered my crab baits on this occasion and the vast majority of the crabs experienced only a short period of captivity before being released at the end of the day to swim free…

Mike did prove that there were some hounds around by catching 3 and then proceeded (as usual) to show just how good (or lucky) a fisherman he is by pulling in, a nice thornback ray, a spotted ray, a 3-bearded rockling and a couple of doggies for good measure… I only just managed to save myself from a “dogfish only day” by landing a nice spotted-ray. phew…! The surprising thing with both the spotted rays we caught was that they came whilst out deeper – my one took a fillet of herring. Surprising really as usually if fishing for spotted ray we’d be close inshore on some of the near-shore sandbanks and fishing with sandeel.

2016-06-26 Minehead - Spotted Ray

That’s fishing I suppose. Can’t catch loads of fish all the time… even if it would be nice to.

The continuation of my crab comparison will have wait until next trip, when hopefully the hounds will be around in greater numbers. Wouldn’t mind a few more ray next time too…

River Brue – Big Perch in Murky Waters.

Why do I bother paying any attention to the weather forecasters?! Looking at the forecast leading up to this weekend and it all pointed to a cracking start to the coarse fishing season – warm, overcast, dry and little wind. In fact there was supposedly no rain in the Somerset region for a good few days leading up to our planned trip to the River Brue. Perfect for stalking chub on the clear, lily lined waters of the river Brue, or so I thought…. One look over the bridge told a different story… the water was high, flowing fast and the colour of hot chocolate. All this water hadn’t come from nowhere – damn those weather forecasters!

I thought sadly of my boot full of fly fishing tackle and was very glad that some sixth sense had told me to pack a float rod, reel and bit of coarse tackle. Guess some little hidden corner of my mind had remembered all the times the weather didn’t quite live up to expectations and prepared for the worst, just in case. In stark contrast, Jason had come prepared properly with full compliment of coarse fishing gear and bait which as it turned out was the right choice.

We started off at a churning, foam flecked weir pool and realised that to have any chance of catching fish would mean ledgering. I’m not a fan of ledgering when coarse fishing and much prefer a float – I spend enough time watching a rod tip when sea fishing so don’t really choose to did it when tackling fresh water. First cast and Jason was into a lovely perch that took his ledgered lob worm. Not a bad fish for the first one of the years open season, in fact first fish on the first cast.

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Having planned on fly fishing, I’d stupidly brought very little in the way of bait other than a few small and pathetic worms from my compost heap. Jason being the gent he is shared his maggots which got me off the mark with my first fish of the season – a minnow. A steady trail of minnows followed, along with the odd small chub and gudgeon. Jason followed his first perch by loosing another, only to catch it a short while later to afford the opportunity t remove the baited hook he’d lost in it on his first attempt. The next rod bender turned out to be a foul hooked eel – oh the shame! Whilst the next turned out to be a surprise brown trout of around 2lb.. unexpected to say the least!

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I managed to salvage my reputation by landing two nice perch and loosing one, but couldn’t quite compete with the trout.

When the bites dried up, we tried a few other spots at various places along the river with only limited success from the river’s smaller inhabitants. I eventually decided to give the fly rod a go, when I saw evidence of the occasional fish rising. Given the murky water, and knowing that there are some big old chub lurking in the river Brue, I decided for the biggest and most visible dry fly I had – a ‘Chernobyl Ant’. Not sure what kind of creature if any it was supposed to represent but I felt it would at least make an attention grabbing plop when it landed in the water and would be pretty visible. Hopefully a hungry chub would mistake it for some kind of hapless terrestrial and devour it without looking too closely. As it turned out, I did get two fish have a go at the fly. Sadly I didn’t connect with either, but oh what could of been!

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Such a frustrating day! good but frustrating. We did have a few feisty perch between us, along with the bonus trout, but I can’t help but wish conditions had been better and that we could of stalked the big chub of the Brue in clear water. If nothing else, the session wetted my appetite to return again soon!

Carp on Dry Fly

Yes! Eventually I’ve managed to catch a carp on a ‘natural’ dry fly rather than one of the dog biscuit of bread imitation flies. It wasn’t a big fish, but it felt like I’d caught it ‘properly’!

Flt Caught Carp Luccombes

 

It’s taken a while but today’s conditions just seemed made for the occasion. The weather forecast was a bit iffy with rain and wind forecast later on, but I managed to sneak down to Luccombes Fishery near Exeter first thing, for 2 hours of fly fishing for carp. The weather being hot, humid and overcast certainly seemed conducive for getting the fish feeding on the surface. I fished the middle of the 5 ponds at Luccombes, right next to a small reed bed which had quite a few fishing moving in and around. Plenty of fish seemed to be feeding on something at the surface but I couldn’t see what it was. Fishing at close range meant it was nice and easy to make a good presentation to the fish and see up close how they reacted to the bait.

I started off by loose feeding dog biscuits and fishing a biscuit imitation fly over the top. I used my #5 rod and floating line with straight 10lb fluorocarbon tippet. There are a few carp in the mid twenties at Luccombes so I wanted to make sure that if by any miracle I did hook one of the bigger fish I had a chance of landing it.

I didn’t feed many loose offerings but even so, whilst the carp did eventually pick off the biscuits one by one, they weren’t exactly going crazy for them. I only had one fish make any attempt to examine my fly, only to reject it pretty smartly. It seemed the fish were preoccupied with something else.

After a while, the clouds of small black midges that were everywhere made me realise that the fish were probably feeding on the emerging midges…. A swift change to my smallest black fly did result in a carp inhaling and ejecting the offering but frustratingly that was the only interest on that particular fly. I didn’t have anything else that might resemble the midge lava in the fly box, so had to experiment. It wasn’t until I switched to a daddy long-legs fly that I eventually got lucky and had two fish competing for the fly that I connected with a fish.

It came as no surprise given that I was fishing within inches of the reedbed that as soon as it was hooked the carp went straight into the reeds. Thankfully with the sturdy tackle it was easily muscled out and quickly in the net, photographed and returned swiftly.

The excitement seemed to have turned all the fish off of feeding on the surface, and with the forecast light drizzle arriving it seemed prudent to call it a day. Still – I’ve finally caught a carp on a ‘proper’ dry fly!

Fly Fishing Luccombes

 

Brown Trout at Two Bridges

An amazing meeting of good weather and some free time on Sunday allowed me to get up to Dartmoor to fish the River Dart on the Westcountry Angling Passport scheme. I arrived at Two Bridges late afternoon / early evening and decided that with only a few hours of daylight left I’d fish the section nearest the Inn.

The weather was particularly glorious with sunshine and calm conditions. What a joy to be able to fish in shorts & T-shirt! This was to be the first trip here for a while, and I opted for wellies this time on the basis that the temperature would see me sweating profusely if I wore my neoprene waders… besides, the river Dart here is quite shallow in places and I preferred comfort over fishing convenience on this occasion.

I took along my trusty #4 rod with floating line, and tried a selection of small dry flies. Despite there being quite a lot of insect lift, there weren’t that many fish rising. I had 4 small brown trout and lost another, but only saw one sizeable fish on my wanderings (which I didn’t spot until I’d already spooked it). The end result of my efforts was a thoroughly pleasant evening in idilic surroundings, no other fishermen in sight with the bonus of a few fish. Next time maybe I’ll manage to spot the better fish before I scare them off…

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