The Benefit of a Local Fishing Guide

The local knowledge of a water is invaluable in most cases and can make all the difference between success or failure. In effect having someone guide you acts as a bit of a short cut with you avoiding the need to explore a water and build up a knowledge of swims, times, best tactics, tackle and bait etc.

Last year I had a couple of successful trips to the River Chew, near Bristol. My fishing buddy, Jason had been catching quite a variety of species including barbel, trout and grayling. I joined him for a couple of sessions on the Chew and managed to catch my first ever barbel. Nothing big, but a new species at that time all the same. Whilst I did manage to catch barbel last year, the grayling was another species that has always eluded me, and at the start of this year was one of my main goals.

This weekend’s trip highlighted the benefit of having someone familiar with the water you’re fishing, showing you around. Jason had been exploring the upper reaches of the River Chew with some success this year and discovered a few locations where he was confident in catching grayling. Needless to say, the prospect was too tempting to resist, and we met up with the principle goal being to find a grayling or two.

We were going to be float fishing with maggots for the fish today, travelling light and hopping between various swims. The dense undergrowth and tree cover that greeted us proved that the minimalist approach was definitely the right way to go. Grayling on a fly rod would have to wait. The River Chew is a delightfully wild and overgrown river in places and you can very quickly forget you’re only a short distance from Bristol. The river varies in depth from shallow fast runs where you can stand in wellies to deeper sections which might be too much even for chest waders.

The first swim was fished by standing in the stream and trotting a float down with the flow. I fished with double maggot on a size 16 hook set only just over a foot deep. It was quite difficult fishing with the bankside vegetation closing in over the river. There were numerous bites straight from the off and frustratingly it took me a while to get my eye in, with me missing lots of bites and bumping off a good few fish too, before the first, a trout, came to the net. A couple more trout and several small chub followed whilst Jason patiently and very gentlemanly watched on, giving me free rein. A solid resistance on the line signalled a better fish and my first ever grayling gave it’s all in the current to try to get away. It was such a relief when the net slid under the fish I have to say!

2016-07-31 River Chew 1st Grayling blog

It was to be the only grayling we saw that day, but was well worth it. The fact that it came from a swim that I probably wouldn’t have fished in a million years on my own just reinforced the value of having someone showing you where to fish.

We fished a couple of other lovely swims in the section of river, and had more trout, chub, roach and some monster gudgeon! I’ve always liked gudgeon – they always bring a smile to my face but to catch them at this size was another highlight of my day. Not very often you see them quite so fat – I had to check twice to make sure they weren’t small barbel.

With time running out, we headed downstream to the ‘Mill Stream’ section of the river where we hoped to find a few barbel where we’d had them in the past. We did try several swims with Jason consistently catching trout – and some of them were a good size too. I on the other had struggled to catch, and the barbel eluded both of us. Small chub and minnows made up the numbers on this section.

Not looking forward to the long drive home, I threw in the towel, said my goodbyes and drove home happy. I was absolutely delighted to catch my first grayling, and had a thoroughly enjoyable days fishing. It’s so much fun to travel light with just one rod exploring a new river never knowing quite what you’re going to hook next. Really must return again soon.  Just need to find the time now.


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.

2016-06-19 River Brue 4705

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!

2016-06-19 River Brue 4715 crop

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!

2016-06-19 River Brue 4714

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!

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…

2016-06-05 River Dart 4594

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.

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….

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…

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.

Bank Holiday Weekend at Bellbrook

Last Weekends bank holiday gave the perfect opportunity for a spot of fly fishing. The Saturday saw me heading out for a return to Bellbrook Fishery near Tiverton, Devon. Whilst the weather was particularly uninviting with strong southerly winds and rain predicted, I banked on Bellbrook being sheltered from the winds given it’s location in the steeply sloping wooded valley. It was with great relief after driving up from Exeter that I found the lakes flat calm and then only had to deal with the near constant drizzle.

Learning from my last trip to Bellbrook, I fished various flies, but after speaking with another angler who was just leaving with a good bag of fish, I concentrated on using a green, bead headed fly at his recommendation. This went on to elicited lots of follows and nibbles from fish. Whilst it’s all very encouraging to see the fish, they kept turning away at the last second, or else just nibbling at the very end of the fly. It didn’t seem to matter what kind of retrieve I used – fast / slow / smooth / twitchy – I still couldn’t quite connect with any of the fish.

Eventually up on Sedgemoor lake I managed to successfully tempt a fine, if modest sized rainbow trout about a pound and a half. This may have been because I had the opportunity to present the fly in the midst of a small group of 5-6 fish, and the resultant competition between fish saw one of them seize it whole heartedly without hesitation. Either way, it was fantastic to finish with a feisty little specimen – and I didn’t blank.

Rainbow Trout Bellbrook

Following my success of Saturday I managed to wrangle another away pass from the family on the bank holiday Monday itself, with the plan to revisit Bellbrook yet again but this time with my fishing buddy, Jason. Again the weather forecast was for strong southerly wind and rain, and again we found Bellbrook nicely sheltered in it’s valley.

We started off (and spent most of our time throughout the day) up on Sedgemoor and Exmoor lakes. These two are probably the smaller of the lakes at Bellbrook. First cast and I hooked and lost a fish using a green damsel fly, before hooking and landing a rainbow on my second cast! Wow! By my standards this was going amazingly.

Both Jason and myself tried various flies throughout the remainder of the day but concentrated on using the green damsel’s as they certainly seemed to generate plenty of interest from the fish. The fish themselves definitely seemed to switch on for short periods before it would all go quiet for a while again in a repeating cycle.

I ended the day with 2 modest sized rainbows up to a pound and a half in weight, whilst Jason caught his first ever trout with a cracking wild brown trout of a pound in weight before proceeding to land two rainbow trout up to 2.5lb and losing another at the net. We finished with 5 fish between us, and only called an end to proceedings with the onset of some pretty persistent heavier rain.

Wild Brown Trout Bellbrook

A great trip fishing wise to my mind and I felt we really learnt quite a bit during this last trip but I was still left frustrated with my, at times atrocious casting. I’ll definitely be looking into another casting lesson at some time during the summer to work on consistency and presentation. Hopefully before then there’ll be a lot more fish on the bank…