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.

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More Bellbrook Trout

After the previous weeks success with the rainbow trout at Bellbrook Fishery, it seemed only natural that when I found myself at a loose end on Sunday I should pay the lakes another visit. The drive through the Devon countryside to get to Bellbrook was an experience in itself – the reason I found myself at a loose end was that a planned surf trip had been cancelled due to the massive storm battering the west country this weekend. Waves are good for surfing, yes – but storm force winds not so good and discretion being the better part of valour I decided to stay on dry land. After being buffeted by wind, dodging flooded roads and branches in the country lanes I eventually reached Bellbrook. This series of lakes tucked away amongst the trees in their steep sided valley really is like some secret hidden valley from some mythical tale.

Stepping out of the car it was pretty amazing just how sheltered the valley is from the westerly gale. Whilst I could hear the wind howling in the trees further up the valley the lakes themselves were reasonably sheltered. Thats not to say that the odd gust didn’t rippled the water, but on the whole it was calm.

I’m guessing that the weather forecast had put most people off, as I was untroubled by other fishermen whilst I was there! With the place to myself I flitted between the different lakes. I missed a fish on the first cast, and then had a few takes following quickly afterwards, before landing the first trout of the day on my favourite lake here – Sedgemoor.

After moving down the valley to Exmoor lake I swiftly proceeded to miss a few more tentative plucks from fish before landing the 2nd rainbow of the day. This fish really made me work for it as well, with 3 spectacular displays of jumping and tail walking before being guided to the net.

Bellbrook Rainbow Trout

Moving on down to Dartmoor I fancied my chances of having 3 fish from 3 different lakes in less than half an hour, and with a take on the first cast I thought it was all over for the day. It wasn’t the case though as the fish slipped the hook almost as soon as it had taken it, the next few cast all had plucks and nibbles all without me managing to connect with anything. Things then went quiet and it took a move back up to the other lakes to get back into the action.

I headed back up to Sedgemoor lake and hooked into something that went berserk and disappeared to the other end of the lake in one massive surge. 30 seconds later I lost the fish without ever seeing it. Devastating!! don’t know how big it was but it felt pretty hefty! curses…

A third and final sparkling rainbow trout finished the day off quite nicely  shortly afterwards, bring to an end a great afternoons fishing.

Similarly to the last trip here the successful setup was a #5 rod, braided leader, 4lb flourocarbon tippet and damsel fly. 2 of the fish came to a white and lime green fly with gold bead head (nice and visible in the murky water) while the other fell to the trusty olive damsel. Slow and deep retrieves seemed to be the order of the day on this occasion.

white and green fly

Starting 2016 with a few Rainbows

The combination of terrible (fishing) weather and the pull of surfing conspired to keep me from wetting a line for the first few weeks of the year. My first fishing trip of 2016 ended up being at Bellbrook Fishery near Tiverton chasing rainbow trout. I’d fished this venue with some success previously, and on this occasion was joined by my fishing buddy Jason on his first trip of the year also.

With the short amount of daylight at this time of year and the desire to not have to start off at the crack of dawn we opted for half day tickets that allowed us 3 fish each. Starting around midday we would just about have enough daylight to make full use of the half day tickets if necessary.

We started up on ‘Sedgemoor’ lake and switched between this and ‘Exmoor’ and ‘Dartmoor’ lakes, and were both into action pretty much from the start. The fish seemed to really be feeding and we both had takes and lost fish aplenty before landing the first trout. This proved to be the format for the day as we hopped from lake to lake.

The successful flies were montana’s and olive damsels. Sometimes it was the swift, shallow retrieves that worked but more often it was the deeper and slower approach that scored. We had loads of plucks, takes, hooked and lost fish besides the banked fish. We could easily have filled our quota in the first hour!

My setup was the trusty #5 rod, with a floating line. I used a braided tapering leader and a few foot of 4lb fluorocarbon for the tippet. This set up allowed the beaded damsels & montana’s to sink slowly and seems to be really working for me for these stocked rainbows.

Successfully finishing the day with my quota of 3 trout, the only task remained to find a friend or neighbour who wanted the fish.. maybe my new years resolution for this year should be to find a good recipe for trout!

A less than auspicious end to 2015

A wet and rain drenched new years eve was my last chance for a fishy end to the year. Given the atrocious weather of the last few weeks, I decided to pay a visit to Bellbrook Fishery up near Tiverton in the hope that the venue would at least be fishable. The River Exe was seriously flooded with the surrounding fields looking like one gigantic lake. Quite an impressive sight but I was glad to get to Bellbrook without having to traverse any flooded roads.

The lakes at Bellbrook are set within a steep sided valley that provide shelter from most wind unless its a northeasterly, so even though I could hear the wind howling in the trees when I arrived, the lakes themselves were flat calm. The lakes are stream fed and due to the heavy rains were quite coloured: the bottom lake especially was particularly murky and downright un-fishable due to the strong flow from the stream discharging into it. The remainder of lakes looked worth a go however.

I tried various flies, concentrating on large and brightly coloured flies due to the murky water conditions. Within a few casts my fly choice seemed well founded when I connected for a second or two with a fish. Sadly this seemed to be the tale of the day as I then went on to miss takes from, or lose another 6 or 7 fish! Whilst I might expect to lose the odd fish, it seemed inexplicable to have so many takes and yet not catch any of them. I must of been doing something wrong, but frustratingly for the life of me couldn’t figure out what.

I did see a few other anglers fishing, and at least a couple of them caught a couple of nice rainbows, so this proved the fish weren’t uncatchable. Not how I’d hoped to end the year but that’s the way it goes sometimes I guess.

I’m looking forward to the coming year now and hope to build on the success of this last year. New years resolution? Catch more sea fish on the fly! A two week holiday in the Scilly Isles in the summer should be a fine opportunity to do so. I just need to find some other venues closer to home to get to test out the saltwater fly fishing!

All that said, it’s been a great year of fishing! hopefully 2016 will be as fruitful!

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….

First visit to Barrow Tanks

Easter bank holiday weekend with good weather and time to kill saw me testing the waters at the Barrow Tanks near Bristol. These three reservoirs managed by Bristol Water are stocked with trout and are reserved for fly fishing, very accessible, reasonably priced and by all accounts quite productive.

I’d never fished this venue before so wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but was very pleasantly surprised by what we found. Granted, it was great weather with no wind which always helps make an enjoyable day, fish or no fish!

Trout Fishing Barrow tanks

Meeting up with Jason at dawn we crossed over the road to start off fishing reservoirs 1 & 2. There was very little sign of fish on the surface although as the day wore on, there was masses of midges and other insect life around. We saw various other people around the lake catching fish which is always an encouraging sight and helped keep our spirits up throughout the day.

My casting left a lot to be desired to start with but did pick up a bit with practice by the end of the session, although I still felt I was severely lacking distance, which on such large waters as these is probably quite a disadvantage. We tried various flies but not knowing any better, I for one majored on a using a little dry fly with a buzzer fished below, New Zealand style. A few fish-less hours on tanks 1 & 2 and we decided to explore reservoir 3 but with no more success than on the other two.

Neither of us had our casting practice interrupted by fish bothering us at any stage during the day and we had glorious weather in pleasant surroundings so couldn’t really complain about our bank holiday fishing. Maybe next time I’d like to catch one of the pesky trout!

Fly Fishing Barrow Tanks