Monday, 30 May 2011
The search for exciting, interesting fishing takes us to some wild, unspoiled places. It also takes us to some crusty, bizarre locations. I'm quickly coming to the conclusion that unlikely fishing is often good fishing. The trout in and around the Exe and Lowman in Tiverton are a prime example. Grubby surroundings, yes. But even the shadow of recent pollution doesn't seem to have killed a surprisingly rich environment. Visiting angling scribe Theo Pike has a particular interest in these urban gems, having taken an active role in restoring the River Wandle close to his own home in London. Visiting family in Devon, it seemed the perfect opportunity to have a crack at some similarly townie trout. It was nice not to be the only nutter walking about town with a fly rod anyway. Judging by a few kick samples, you could hardly call these urban waters infertile:
We found the trout highly receptive. The only bother they usually get here is an occasional misplaced clearance from the football pitches, or the odd rusty spinner or beer bottle. Appearances can be so deceptive though. Reminds me of some advise my dad once gave me- "never pick a fight with an ugly person..?." No, it was something about judging books by covers. And this particular book, is such a world away from its rather shoddy cover. Amidst the usual debris and a staggering four shopping trolleys and a drowning flat screen TV we picked our way through a series of curious little pools and runs. Theo opted for miniature sedge patterns in 16s to extract some lovely brown trout, looking every inch wild. Most were in the small but pretty stamp, although one or two really took us by surprise.
Are urban trout any different to those of more idyllic places? It seems that they are well used to the odd passer by, so perhaps spook less easily- or at least take less time to settle again after a misplaced cast. It was a week of urban fishing in fact, with some rudd, bleak, chub, a skimmer and even a lost tench on the Bridgwater stretch of canal.
All good fun then. Not the most peaceful fishing exactly, but there's always a curious excitement about catching fish from places where it doesn't look possible. I even managed to produce a trout simultaneously as a passing chav issued the classic "you won't catch nothing in there" line. I was about to point out that this was grammatically incorrect, but didn't want a punch in the face and the fish seemed a decent enough reply. I guess that the moral of the tale is not to judge the fishing by the scenery then. In fact, a strange setting only adds to interesting fishing. My favourite snap shot from a few erm, "vibrant", urban locations has to be this one however, Theo Pike trying to spot rising fish beneath the hulking mechanical arm of a neighbouring scrapyard. It's fly fishing Jim, but not as we know it:
Monday, 23 May 2011
Perhaps due to their sheer popularity there is an anti-carp current within some fishing circles. I love the species- it's the methods and condition of the fish that don't always inspire. Hence a big push this week to explore some different venues with methods high on excitement this week, from fly fishing to free-lining baits in the margins.
Abbrook Pond (above), run by Exeter Angling Association, is definitely what you'd call a classic, "old school" carp lake. Once visited by Dick Walker, it might be noisier these days with a local quarry and even the racket of a punk band's rehearsal at one point- but when all settles down, what a beautiful place. As per usual, I tried both old and new methods but found free lined or float fished baits by far the most effective. Sometimes I wonder if the modern era has gone bite alarm and static fishing mad. Each to their own, but it's so much more effective as well as more fun to use lighter tackle and be mobile. I lost a decent something on an overnighter, only to grab a beautiful common on float fished bread paste next morning. Nothing to write home about at eleven pounds? Not in my book- perfectly conditioned and ridiculously strong on a float rod.
The weeks other kicks have been on a fly rod, with the added pressure of fellow angling writer and film maker Steve Lockett on camera at Stafford Moor. The fish needed some coaxing, but eventually got going in the sun and gave a pulverising display on a fly rod. With the exception of one mirror taken on a terrestrial, the key on the day was regular loose feed in the right spot.
To cap off a fun week of carp I also took an evening ticket at Creedy lakes for some further action. Fewer but bigger fish here- and after seeing several good sized cruising fish on the top pond, I tempted a solid common on a good sized dry fly. Not a "bait" fly this time, but a nice bushy stimulator presented by overhanging cover. A fly that looks a little big and clumsy- until you see the size of a decent carp's laughing gear close on it! On an seven weight outfit the fight was nothing short of sensational another good reason to give this enthralling method a try.
Wednesday, 11 May 2011
Throw together a four weight fly rod, sunny water and even the odd mayfly and you might guess I'd been on a trout stream this week. Not by a long chalk- but in their own strange way, the canals around Tiverton and Bridgwater can be just as cute. No trout here of course, but plenty of pretty rudd and roach to divert an angler torn between fly and coarse schools. The Taunton to Bridgwater fished in fits and starts, between boat traffic which sadly robbed the water of its clarity. I had called Somerset Angling to see how the cut was fishing and when I asked if the water was clear, the response was classic- "no mate, it's always dirty. This is Bridgwater."
Never mind. The rudd were still rising and the canal showed the sort of mad, burgeoning insect life that would have David Bellamy himself frothing at the mouth- although I wouldn't advise any "wummaging through the undergrowth" around the wrong end of Bridgwater. Swarms of black gnats were everywhere- and the rudd were sipping at the top. Most of my success came to small emerger buzzers in size 16's and 18's. I like these "no hackle" flies because they're easily sucked in- stiffer hackled traditionals can simply bounce off the lips of Mr Rudd.
It was an afternoon of fleeting spells of pleasure- interrupted by churning boats and grey clouds. And yet when it was good it was very good. When the sun remerged and the water settled, it was like someone turning a light on- suddenly visible rudd everywhere. On two occasions I got a double shot of rudd on a single cast by fishing 2-3 little buzzers- like these two beauties:
I couldn't resist a stop on the Grand Western on the way home either- which was clearer, but the roach were trickier to tempt in spite of being miles easier to spot. A small f-fly accounted for a couple of solid roach though, and it still seems to me that whilst pike are now par for the course on a fly rod there is a great deal of totally unexploited fishing for roach, rudd and other species. What beautiful fish and beautiful places these are too, the banks already awash with summer growth and life of all kinds. The flag iris with its brilliant yellow flowers is always a summer favourite:
Monday, 2 May 2011
If fishing were about beauty rather than size, we'd all be having very different debates about the "perfect" fish. But would your vote go to a stocked or wild fish? Fishing for carp at Angler's Paradise I found my usual assumptions turned upside down after catching some stunning looking fish- not big, but the most incredible pearl gold coloured mirrors. The name "Fatboys" lake perhaps does a disservice to these perfectly proportioned carp which fairly glow in the sun.
The Angler's Nirvana section of the complex was as quiet as a mouse for our visit- a dead mouse perhaps, judging by the evidence we found on the bank! Last spring I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of a circling barn owl on the lush, grassy banks here- this time no owl, but plenty of evidence in the form of owl pellets:
Aside from some fun fishing, we had curry and a glass or three of wine at Zyg Gregorek's famous bar. It was also a good chance to bring my other half, Jo, back on the bank after a long absence. Predictably she caught the best fish- and lost a much bigger one too. Check out the links on my site for more on Angler's Paradise.
As for Devon's wild trout, the fishing has been surprisingly tricky on the streams. A bone dry April meant low river levels and not a great deal hatching on a visit to the South Yeo, part of the Westcountry Angling Passport scheme.
It proved to be a real hands and knees job. Beetles were the only creatures notable by their abundance, with occasional splashy rises telling their own story under the gnarled branches and undercut banks.
Having lost a decent fish, I managed a few smaller ones to diminutive traditional flies such as the Beacon Beige (see the site for last season's Total Flyfisher article on this fly)- but wished I'd tied a few more Coch-y-bonddu flies in small sizes to match the hatch. Never mind, it is great to be back on the streams- beautiful fish and beautiful places. I'll let you decide whether a brown trout or a golden mirror carp wins this week's beauty contest. Not entirely sure I can decide!