Coarse Fishing the River Brue

I met up with Jason for an afternoons fishing on the River Brue near Glastonbury. The wind was pretty strong – certainly strong enough to dissuade me from even getting the fly rod out of the car. We both decided to tackle the river with float rods and a combination of maggots and lobworms for bait. The water was slightly coloured and with a bit of chop on the surface not exactly my ideal conditions. We set up on a corner of the river with the wind behind us where we had a bit of shelter and started loose feeding maggots. We both started catching a steady stream of silver fish – mainly chub and roach although I seemed to have found my very own shoal of minnows.

After an hour or two we moved further along the river, with the intention of targeting some of the big perch we know inhabit parts of the Brue. Fishing was slow and steady in the main, although after a while I had built up a swim of tiny but ravenous little chublets. I got lucky in the closing stages to land a lovely perch, but other than that the session was not as productive as we were hoping or expecting.. Still – this remains one of my favourite rivers.

With a couple of weeks holiday coming, it will be a while now till I get the chance to fish the Brue again. It’ll be interesting to see how it fishes in the autumn and on into the winter.

 

 

 

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Small-Eyed Ray bonanza in the Bristol Channel

When boat fishing at Minehead I’d usually expect to catch a few rays; Blonde, Small-eyed, Spotted or Thornback. Some days we can catch quite a few during the course of the day but our last trip out of Minehead was spectacular for the quantity and quality of the Small-Eyed Ray.

Mike and I fished our usual two uptide rods each; I started with sandeel on one and herring on the other. We were fishing in close over the sand and targeting ray so it was no surprise when the first couple of Small-Eyes came up on the rods fishing the sandeel baits. The next half dozen ray came to the herring however, at which point I switched to fishing herring on both rods. Mike followed suit, and we had managed close to 20 fish in the first 2 hours – not bad fishing by anyone’s standards! To top things off, Mike pulled up not 1 but 2 small turbot. Adding to this, the complete lack of dogfish, who at this time of the year seem to go on holiday really marked this out as a red letter day!

By the time the bites tailed off, the falling tide had left us with almost no water under the keel so a move out to deeper water was in order. There we fished a variety of baits, and proceeded to land our first couple of doggies of the trip and a few conger eels. I had a few Starry Smoothhounds on crab whilst Mike boated a beautifully marked Spotted Ray. The day’s only disappointment for my point of view was losing a good fish that put a serious bend in the rod as soon as I wound into it, before giving a couple of shakes of it’s head and proceeding to bite straight through my 80lb hook length.. Needless to say, but I didn’t hear the end of that mishap for the rest of the trip.

Once the tide had turned and begun to pick back up, we moved in closer again hoping to pick up where we’d left off earlier. It wasn’t to be, and although we did have a couple more Small-Eyed Ray, they weren’t as prolific as earlier in the day. Arguably, my highlight of the day was to pull up a small turbot on a herring strip – My first ever turbot I believe!!. Small but perfectly formed!. To crown our trip off on the last cast, Mike caught a welcome bass as well, just to add to the species count. All in all I don’t think the trip could have gone much better.

 

The frustration of fishing for mullet

Following my recent success with catching mullet on the fly rod I was bringing to feel a certain confidence that, as it turned out wasn’t justified as my two most recent trips proved. For the first, I took advantage of the calm and warm conditions to chase the mullet again with my fly rod. I ended up walking along the river Exe and fishing every dozen yards or so for the mullet that were plentiful along the whole stretch of water. All to no success it has to be said. Nothing I tried made the mullet show even the slightest interest. After an couple of fruitless hours in the heat I made my way dejectedly back to the car and on the way got chatting to a group of coarse anglers. They were all float fishing – generally trotting baits down the far bankside. It turned out that they had been fishing this stretch for a couple of days now with some success; generally chub, dace & roach, although they had caught several mullet. This piece of information coupled with my complete failure spurred me to try coarse fishing tactics for the next trip. A light float rod with a pint of maggots and half pint of pinkies seemed a sensible approach. Again, the weather was fantastic and the mullet were visible & feeding everywhere. Bites on the other hand were far from plentiful. A couple of dace and chub fell to the float fished maggot but other than that I remained fishless. The mullet could be seen feeding in the clear shallow water, and were clearly ignoring maggots and pinkies. Loose feed remained on the bottom with the mullet seemingly feeding on the weed / algae around the maggots. It only took a couple of hours of frustration to lead me to conclude that today wasn’t going to be the day I nailed the mullet on maggot. For a second time in the space of a couple of days I found myself heading home, mulletless….

Smoothhounds & Dogfish at Minehead

This months trip out of Minehead didn’t look like it was going to go ahead when I checked the weather forecast in the days leading up to the weekend; fresh north westerly winds not being ideal for the section of Bristol Channel we usually fish. However, the message we got the night before from the skipper was that we were good to go.

I met Mike at the harbour on Sunday and admired the cloudless blue skies and blazing sunshine but have to admit my smile faded somewhat when I walked out onto the harbour and felt the strong NW wind howling. I consoled myself that at least the wind would take some of the edge off the heat.

We were fishing a short 6 hour session over the top of the tide so had the opportunity to head straight out to deeper water rather than shelter in close from the tide as may have been the case otherwise.  Mike and myself fished two uptide rods each as usual and both started with fresh crab baits aimed for the smoothhounds. I baited one of my rods with herring or squid throughout the day. A steady procession of dogfish inevitably came in on the fish and squid baits, including numerous double hook ups when fishing big squid baits; each hook in the pennell set-up accounting for a dogfish which just shows how many of them must of been down there.

2017-07-02 Minehead Dogfish

The crab baits on the other hand didn’t attract much attention from the dogfish. I think this is mainly due to the fact that we fish crab with the shells on. Fishing crab with the shells on, doesn’t deter smoothhounds of rays at all but does help minimise hassle from dogfish.. I had half a dozen good sized smoothhounds before we had to call it a day, and Mike also had a few; the majority being starry hounds although a couple were the ‘common’ variety. Unusually for Minehead we didn’t catch any rays at all – in fact nothing but hounds or dogfish. Having said that, we finished the day feeling we’d had a successful fishing trip which is the aim of the game….

2017-07-02 Minehead smoothound

 

River Brue – Summer Roving

I met up with Jason at the river Brue; after yesterday’s solo fishing I was looking forward to having a fishing companion. Much like the previous day, the weather was quite spectacular. The wind had died to a slight breeze and with cloudless skies and blazing sun, temperatures were scorching hot. We started off fly fishing; searching out shoals of chub visible amongst the lilies & reeds. We caught a steady stream of chub, mainly on bead headed flies but some fell to dry fly. Nothing big graced the net but we did see some very large bream basking near the surface obviously enjoying the sunshine too. The larger chub were all very skittish and would inevitably melt away before we could get within casting distance despite our best efforts at stealth and the help of the verdant bankside vegetation.

A few hours of stalking chub in the sunshine was enough for us, and we moved along to the West Lydford stretch of the river Brue to try some more sedentary fishing. The glorious weather had brought people out bridge jumping & swimming, so we put as much distance between us and them as possible. We settled into a couple of swims and tried float fished maggot and bread baits but after an hour or two had little to show for our efforts. Some good chub were visible on the surface lurking under the far bank vegetation so with a lack of action on the float rod, I switched to fly fishing with a large wasp dry fly. Almost the first cast one of the larger chub idled over to the fly and slurped it down – somehow in my eagerness or possibly surprise I mis-timed the strike and pulled the fly out of it’s mouth..! Cursing my stupidity I recast only for one of the smaller fish to intercept the fly, which after playing and landing meant that every other fish in the vicinity had become instantly more wary. No more fish followed after that.

2017-06-17 River Brue 7267

With evening approaching we jumped in the cars and headed to another section of the river hoping for some of the large perch we had encountered there several times previously. We arrived to find a section of the bank and a large tree had fallen into the river right at one of our favourite and most productive spots, but set up anyway on the basis that the tree would only provide the fish a nice bit of cover. I found I’d left my rod rest in the car and could face the trudge back to the car in the heat, so had to improvise with a conveniently shaped and proportioned stick. Who says you need to spend a fortune on fishing tackle?

2017-06-17 River Brue Rod Rest 7284

Jason built up a swim opposite the new feature and had a steady procession of bites and fish; numerous chub, roach and gudgeon – & even a cheeky little brown trout not to mention a decent sized eel. In the meantime I float fished maggots at various spots and really struggled to get bites, eventually concluding with a small chub, roach and a solitary gudgeon. The days exploits were nicely finished off with a fantastic Chub that Jason tempted on a ledgered lobworm from beside the new submerged tree feature.

2017-06-17 River Brue 7272

For me the evening ended with a half chewed gudgeon that was savaged by something with teeth on pretty much the last cast. Whilst not the spectacular end to the day I might of wished for, we could at least face the drive home with memories of a varied and fun days fishing.

Emerald Ponds

A short session at Emerald Ponds near Highbridge in Somerset produced a few fish for My daughters and me. A match on the pond we had been hoping to fish meant we had to make do with one of the other ponds – a much smaller and shallow one that we hadn’t fished before. We set up the pole and fished with worm and spam and had a steady trickle of fish from a spot tight against the reeds of an island feature. We landed a couple of small tench along with a few good sized roach, rudd and skimmers. Isobel was delighted to catch her first ever tench along with a skimmer / roach hybrid?.

Sadly the session was cut shortchanged by the need for the small people to use the toilet combined with the fact that neither of my daughters or wife would use the toilet on site. At 3 against 1, I knew the odds were stacked against me so beat a hasty retreat to a local pub for a first class Sunday roast and pint.

2017-06-11 Emerald Ponds 7227

 

 

 

Quality Smoothhound and Plenty of Ray

This months boat trip out of Minehead supplied plenty of Ray as well as some quality Smoothhound for Mike and myself. The 5:30am start did nothing to dampen our optimism, and we were into fish as soon as the first baits hit the bottom… dogfish of course; and boy did we catch a few of them this trip! The doggies were present in near biblical plague proportions, with any fish bait gobbled up within moments of settling on the sea bed.

Spotted Devil / Dogfish

In amongst the spotted devils there were good fish to be caught, with both Mike and myself having some good smoothhounds, in fact everyone was nudging double figures if not just over the mark. We had around a dozen hounds, both starry and commons; We also had more than a dozen ray between us, mostly Thornback Ray but also a few Small-Eyed Ray. The skipper, Marcus who also fished this trip for a change had a couple of Small-Eyed as well before calling it quits once he’d had enough of pulling up the dogfish.

A couple of small congers graced us with their presence as well, although the smallest of which could have easy passed for a large green eel, size wise… Other than that – the dogfish ruled the day! The only way to not catch them was to fish with hardback crab for the smoothhounds!

The early start paid dividends as we up-anchored and headed for the harbour, watching some of the other boats just heading out – just as the heavens opened and the rain lashed down.

2017-06-04 Minehead SMoothhound

 

 

 

Going off Script

Sometimes you can go fishing and everything just works out perfectly; the fishing is easy and it just all works. I love those kind of days…. Saturday was an example of just the opposite!

I’d promised Rhianna that we’d go fishing. We had the bait, the tackle, the time and some ok weather. Rain was forecast later in the day, but we’d be finished before it arrived so nothing to worry about.

We jumped in the car and paid a trip to a fishing shop I’d never visited before in Crediton, before heading over to Harpers Lakes near Tiverton Parkway. What with the detour to the shop it took quite a while to get to the lakes and when we did we found it pretty busy, but worst of all the parking places were full. Undaunted we tried the nearby car park only to find that the ticket machine was only taking cash and the card payment wasn’t working – we didn’t have enough cash which posed a problem…. All the road nearby is double yellows so the only other option would be a very long walk or to park illegally. By now I had a slight nagging feeling of frustration tinged with paranoia that maybe things weren’t going our way. With that at the back of my mind I chose not to tempt fate by parking without a ticket or on the double yellow lines and decided to head off to another series of ponds – Newcourt Barton. We’ve fished there numerous times before and knew we could count on the carp there to put a smile on our faces. Just needed to get there now…

We left Harpers Lakes to find the North Devon Link road and M5 Junction 27 solid with bank holiday traffic. Not a problem, we’ll head across country around the back roads. This did the trick and whilst it did take a while, we got to our destination at Newcourt Barton ponds without further mishap or any lengthy waits in traffic.

Several other people had also had the same idea and the top ponds we usually fish were busy so we opted to fish the bottom pond. We set up a pole, our chairs, landing net and all the tackle, food, bait etc. I plumbed the murky depths to find the swim we’d chosen was no more the 8 inches deep. At this point before I could even utter any expletives, the first drops of rain fell. We hastily stuck up the umbrella and huddled underneath as the rain steadily grew more intense.

We ate our food whilst watching the rain and weighed up the options – brave the rain, cart all the tackle to a different swim and try to get our fishing mojo back or alternatively to throw the bait in, pack up and scarper back to the car.

We chose the latter option and drove home – all without so much as baiting a hook.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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…