Harpers Lakes

I popped up to Harpers Lakes, one of Exeter Angling Associations waters for an exploratory session today. Situated adjacent to the Tiverton Parkway railway station and Junction 27 of the M5 these two lakes offer tench, bream and carp fishing all in relatively tranquil surroundings considering their proximity to the railway and road.

On arrival I chatted to the only other angler on the lake who was feeder fishing and it turned out was a regular here. I learnt that the first lake was 5-6 foot deep at the shallower end and sloped down to around 12 foot. It held a good head of bream and small tench as well as crucians and carp into double figures. The Second lake on the other side of the railway line and much more secluded mainly featured carp. Both lakes had large shoals of rudd cruising the upper layers.

I had only made the call to go fishing the night before and hence only came armed with a can of sweetcorn and a can of spam. chose to set up the pole in the shallower corner near the weeds and went for a size 12 hook and 5lb hooklength to give me some chance should I hook one of the carp. A few nibbles on sweetcorn didn’t develop into anything, but after rooting around under a pile of weed on the bank that someone had obviously raked out of the swim recently, I collected a few juicy worms. These turned out a better option as I swiftly landed a small tench and a nice skimmer on worm.

A switch to luncheon meat resulted in me connecting with a bigger fish which I assume was a carp that I just couldn’t bully away from the weed, where it promptly transferred the hook leaving me with nothing but a big bundle of weed to drag back in.

Another fish followed, which I assume was either a crucian or a hybrid before I then connected with two more carp – one on sweetcorn and the other on meat – both of which were unstoppable with the pole. After this the bites dried up as it approached midday, so I packed up and took a stroll with the fly rod around to the second lake; mainly to have a look more than anything else.

The second lake is reached via the path the runs behind the first lake, up to the North Devon link road, where you walk alongside the link road over the bridge, across the railway before hopping over the crash barrier and heading down a flight of steps to the lake..

2017-05-28 Harpers Lakes 7096

The second lake was very secluded with only a handful of swims and much of the bank inaccessible. Large numbers of very skittish rudd were evident along with the occasional carp that could be seen cruising the surface further out from the bank. Space for a back cast with the fly rod was not that generous so I was limited to fishing quite close in. A small red grub type fly tempted the rudd whilst a squirmy worm slowly retrieved was the downfall of a greedy little perch. I only really had a few casts before deciding that lunch beckoned and that it was time to head home.

2017-05-28 Harpers Lakes - Rudd

All in all, Harpers Lakes were a pleasant diversion for the morning with plenty of potential for the future. Next time an early morning or evening session would be more sensible I think.






Fly Fishing for Mullet – River Exe

Now mullet as most fishermen will tell you are next to impossible to catch. My experience at casting flies to mullet in my local river, the River Exe have certainly always been hugely frustrating with the fish just ignoring all attempts to entice them. So frustrating when you can see large shoals of big fish almost under your rod tip, so close you can almost scoop them out with a landing net….. If you have a landing net that is.

Today, Isobel and myself took a stroll down the Exe Estuary on the way back from town, not really expecting to catch anything and really only going along to see if we could see any mullet for future expeditions, I travelled light. I took a rod and small bag of tackle whilst Izzy brought a packet of biscuits. There’s a lesson there somewhere about priorities! We left the landing net in the car.

We found shoals of mullet with no difficulty and could even approach right up practically on top of them without them seeming to be bothered in the slightest. Whilst there were the occasional big fish, the majority were small. What they lacked in size they made up for in numbers however. The fish seemed to be actively feeding with tails out of the water at times. Too good to be true it seemed so out when a fly…. and again and again. each time all the fish just ignored the offering.

Mullet fly - red tag diawl bach
Mullet Fly – “Red tagged diawl bach”

Rather than grow frustrated I decided to stick it out and persevere. I switched around between only three different fly patterns, all ones that I’d read were known mullet catchers. Isobel seemed quite content to stand on the bank watching my antics as long as the biscuit supply lasted. So I’d best keep at it I thought.

A brown “Flexi shrimp” pattern drifted downstream through the shoal led to a sudden twitch of the line which I was fairly sure had been a fish taking and rejecting the fly. I didn’t connect with anything.  After fishing on for a while longer I switched to a “red tagged dial bach”. Again, there seemed to be no interest from the fish until again the line twitched and I lifted into my first mullet. I’m not sure which of us was more surprised. An interesting battle ensued – but as long as the hook held I felt confident the fish wasn’t going to be getting away, as given it’s modest size; the mullet was a little out-gunned by the #7 rod and 10lb tippet I was using.. Once the fish seemed docile enough I slide it in close and lifted it out of the water by hand.

Whilst the fish may not be that impressive size wise, it definitely rates as one of my most prized fly caught fish and goes to prove they really are catchable. Inspired now, I’ll be re-visiting the Exe to try for more mullet in the near future. Next time I’ll bring my landing net and a bucket load more confidence.

As for today – the biscuits ran out and we went home.

2017-05-20 River Exe Mullet
Only a small mullet, but a mullet all the same and my first!

Fly Fishing Chew Reservoir

It isn’t often enough that my fishing comrade, Jason and myself can both coordinate our diaries and grab a day’s fishing together. This weekend was one of those times that the stars aligned and we managed to meet up. We had decided to try our luck out in the boats at Chew Reservoir and had got lucky enough in the preceding week to book the last free boat. Chew Reservoir is rightly famous for it’s trout but also it’s pike, and this is what really grabbed my attention. The opportunity to fish in a water that is known to hold a good population of very big fish! You only need to get lucky once after all…

Traditional pike fishing is only allowed at Chew on a limited number of days through out the year, and getting hold of a boat on those days is not easy to say the least. Bristol Water who run Chew, do however allow fly fishing for pike outside of those specific days. This seemed ideal to us, as Jason intended to target trout whilst I would target the pike on the fly. Having never fished Chew, myself I had no idea what to expect, but my hopes were high all the same.

We met at Woodford Lodge to collect our boat and were greeted by the sight of waves on the reservoir. A fresh wind was going to make things difficult for us but with the hope of being able to find some shelter around the lakeshore somewhere or other we weren’t too dispirited. Following the safety briefing and the opportunity to pick the staff’s brains on best location and flies to try we headed out into the wind.

2017-05-14 Chew 6989

We found some shelter in Vellice Bay before trying Herons Green Bay. Both locations offered some shelter from the wind and seemed to be where most of the other boats had decided to head to as well. We did see the occasional sunny interval, but overall the day stayed pretty grey and miserable. Jason and I, tried everything we could think of but to no success. I have to say I saw no-one else catch anything either which offered some conciliation and proved that it wasn’t just us being complete failures..

2017-05-14 Chew 6994

Later in the evening the wind did die down a little and we tried around off of Moreton Bank but again to no avail. By this time my efforts at casting a pike fly in the wind were growing tiresome but despite this there still seemed a faint hope that any moment I could connect with a surprise last minute fish which helped keep the excitement alive.

As time drew to a close we headed back towards the jetties and were pretty much the last boat back. I felt we’d given Chew a good shot and really enjoyed fishing from the boat even if it wasn’t successful fish wise. I’d love to revisit Chew in better weather and would fancy my chances at the trout in calmer conditions. At the same time, it would be rude not to have a few casts for the monster pike that lurk in there somewhere..




Boat Fishing at Minehead – Could it Get Any Better?

Wow – what a day’s fishing! Sunday’s trip out of Minehead on the “Edwin John” with skipper, Dave James couldn’t have been much better. The weather was faultless and the fishing pretty damn good too!

Mike and I fished our usual 2 uptide rods apiece and had numerous good fish in amongst the hordes of dogfish that snaffled our baits. It’s amazing how easy the fishing is when you don’t have to struggle to stay upright whilst fishing – the flat calm conditions really were a very welcome change from some of our recent trips.

We had an early start and an 8 hour trip, so plenty of time to get into the swing of things. We started off on the sand banks not far offshore, fishing pretty shallow water in search of rays. I fished sandeel, the ever favourite ray bait, on one rod and switched between whole herring fillet or whole squid on the other rod. All fish baits were eagerly greeted by the dogfish, but in amongst them came some good rays. My first two were both double figure small-eyed rays – one on herring and the other squid, by which time the tide had dropped sufficiently to allow us to move further along to another area of sandbank not fishable in the full tide flow.

At this new location we would again primarily be targeting rays but the sandbanks here could also through up the potential of smoothhounds as we were reliably informed by the skipper. So it was that the first decent fish I connected with here was a lively starry smoothhound which showed no hesitation in devouring the hardback crab used as bait. We both added further hounds to our tallies; me using hardback crab and Mike using fresh peeler crab; before the rays came back on the feed again.

Mike had a couple of nice Thornback rays on sandeel, whilst I had a couple of thornbacks too, and 3 more small-eyed ray, including another double figure fish. Again, my rays all with the exception of one which took a sandeel, were taken on herring or squid. After the tide had turned and picked up enough to make winding in even a small dogfish a strenuous activity, Dave called for a move. We headed back closer to the shoreline, to fish a patch of rougher ground where the skipper again announced we might expect rays, conger or hounds…. exciting!

2017-05-07 Minehead IMG_6981

Mike persevered with crab in the hope of further hounds, or he would no doubt have had more rays, whilst I only dabbled with the crab bait on one rod every now and again. It seemed to pay off when, I had another cracking bite on the rod fishing crab bait, only for the unmistakable feel of a conger to be felt as I wound up and tightened into the fish. Still, shouldn’t be ungrateful as it was another different species to brighten the day yet further.. Following this, I was fortunate enough to round off the day by adding to my tally of different ray species by landing a blonde ray.

Can’t complain about a day’s fishing like that – perfect weather, a smattering of smoothhounds, conger, dogfish, and 3 different species of ray. If only every trip could be half as productive and with weather to match…