Try Small Flies & Fine Leaders at Exe Valley … not everything in the box!

“Loads of fish in there, none of them taking … tried everything in the box” is a phrase that has been echoing around Exe Valley on a regular basis recently.  I have tried explaining how to be in with a chance of catching during the summer months both verbally & online.  Some anglers are taking the advice while others I meet continue to believe that chucking & chancing with an assortment of patterns is going to succeed. 

Check out this leader I picked up on the shores of Anchor Lake yesterday.  The loop is not trampled or dirty so it has not been laying around all that long but the (poorly tied) Montana is rusty, which is not great considering that the hook is also of a very low quality.  Total length of the leader; no more than 6 feet.

Not unusual!  A leader found on the banks of Anchor Lake complete with a rusty hooked Monatna.

Not unusual!  A leader found on the banks of Anchor Lake complete with a rusty hooked Monatna.

This is not unusual.  I find similar leaders, some of them thick enough to land a decent sized Cod, during my walks around Anchor Lake.  Last week I bumped into one of the anglers for a chat about his day.  Unfortunately, he was not all that happy because he wasn’t catching using the thick end of a knotless tapered leader (around 5 feet) with a large Goldhead Cats Whisker attached!  This despite explaining to him upon arrival that small flies, fished in the upper layers of water, using static tactics such as an indicator or with a very slow retrieve, was likely to meet with success.  Catching up with him later in the day I was greeted with the “tried everything” phrase followed up quickly with “and I know what you said Nick but I like fishing heavy leaders so fish don’t snap me off when I hook them!” 

Small Blobs, fished very slowly to near static is worth trying as Mike Stone with a team of young rods from Cullompton found yesterday, landing 4 fish after a late start using this popular lure tied on a #14.  Meanwhile 4 other anglers who arrived much earlier blanked!  Mike is an experienced angler but plenty of novices are also catching.  Each week I introduce several complete beginners to fly fishing who have to learn how to cast before they can have a crack at the Trout.  Often this is after lunchtime when the lake has been pressured by anglers and yet they still manage to catch. 

A 10 fish haul caught on Sunday 6th August by a team of novice anglers.  The Crawford family were enjoying a two day fly fishing course and caught using a mixture of Blobs, Boobies and Buzzers fished under indicators or slowly retrieved in the upper layers.

A 10 fish haul caught on Sunday 6th August by a team of novice anglers.  The Crawford family were enjoying a two day fly fishing course and caught using a mixture of Blobs, Boobies and Buzzers fished under indicators or slowly retrieved in the upper layers.

It could be said that my guests have the benefit of my assistance and are shown the correct techniques.  But we are using very simple tactics, a fine leader & small flies such as Buzzers.  Or we chuck out a dry fly and just wait.  Sometimes we twitch a Blue Flash Damsel in the upper layers, especially in and around the feeder stream area.  However, standing over these fish while thrashing the water to a foam will not meet with much in the way of success!  Standing to one side of the moving water and using the current to fish the flies naturally is a far better option. 

More new fly anglers.  This is John Lovick on the left with a fine Trout landed on a Buzzer while his son Stuart was very pleased to connect with a similar specimen using a Blue Flash Damsel. They caught 5 fish between them on Thursday 10th August and until then had never even touched a fly rod, let alone cast one!

More new fly anglers.  This is John Lovick on the left with a fine Trout landed on a Buzzer while his son Stuart was very pleased to connect with a similar specimen using a Blue Flash Damsel. They caught 5 fish between them on Thursday 10th August and until then had never even touched a fly rod, let alone cast one!

All of the above advice I pass on to day ticket anglers in the hope that they have a good day.  No matter how many fish I stock to make it as easy as possible at this time of year the fish are simply not feeding hard and require a little more thought if a successful day is to be had.  The water remains warm during the summer months, the same as every year, especially following a heatwave.  While the rain is certainly helping to keep the water fresh the air temperature throughout the day and night is much the same.  In these conditions the fish are more inclined to take through curiosity rather than feeding instinct.  Here is another tactic ... float an egg fly (small!) under an indicator ... inquisitive fish can’t resist taking a bite!

I have been spooning fish and sometimes there are small buzzers, often there is nothing, which is also not unusual for the time of year.  Lures & goldheads on heavyweight leaders are not going to catch these fish!

Please note that the fishery will be closed all day on Wednesday 16th August for maintenance and I apologise if this is inconvenient.  Anchor Lake will reopen on Thursday 17th August and we have a special guest arriving in the afternoon but you will have to come fishing to meet him! :-)

Nick

Keep up to date by visiting the Exe Valley Fishery Facebook Page

 

Exe Valley Fishery voted one of the Top 50 Stillwater Trout Fisheries in the UK

It looks like the work to improve Exe Valley Fishery and most notably Anchor Lake is paying off as the venue has just been voted as one of the Top 100 UK Stillwaters by the Trout Fisherman magazine.  In fact the fishery entered the top 50, reaching 42nd place, even better news, this year the water remains open to anglers after last year’s disastrous summer when I had to close.  There is no doubt that the cooler air and heavy rainfall have helped, but extensive work to clear weed has also assisted.

Exe Valley Fishery - Enters into the Top 50 Stillwater Trout Fisheries in the UK

Exe Valley Fishery - Enters into the Top 50 Stillwater Trout Fisheries in the UK

Just yesterday I was down teaching Robin “Cooky” Cook from Wales and he caught several fish on a mixture of Buzzers & Tequilla Blobs.  No need to pull them fast, just throw out and figure 8 slowly, using any wind present to help drift the flies. 

Cooky couldn’t believe the power of our fish, especially considering it is summer and says he will be making the journey across the border and heading South to enjoy some sessions at Exe Valley.  Today Cooky and I we were on the river (which was also noted in the TF blurb about the fishery) and he landed his first ever Grayling.  The River beat is only lightly fished and available on a separate permit although booking well in advance is essential.

"Cooky" with his first Grayling from the River Exe which flows past the fishery.  He also caught several fish the day before using Buzzers & Tequilla Blobs on Anchor Lake.

"Cooky" with his first Grayling from the River Exe which flows past the fishery.  He also caught several fish the day before using Buzzers & Tequilla Blobs on Anchor Lake.

Meanwhile John “The Snakeman” Clarke has been back in action on the lakes using his favourite pink snake fly to good effect, bagging 5 fish to 3lb 8oz and seemed very happy leaving the comment “Brilliant morning, credit to all the effort moving the weed”.   Johns mate ( John Slaven) also bagged 5 to 4lbs fishing Buzzers and said “After a long spell of DIY it is nice to be back and not disappointed

Apologies that this current report is going to be brief, I am very busy with tuition and have to get organised ready for the next visitors.  So in summary head to Exe Valley and move around the lake using Buzzers, Blobs, Dries and nymphs such as the Diawl Bach and chances are you will enjoy some good sport. 

Anchor Lake is closed on Monday 7th August for a junior fishing day - reopening as usual on Tuesday 8th August 2017

Anchor Lake is closed on Monday 7th August for a junior fishing day - reopening as usual on Tuesday 8th August 2017

Just before I sign off please note that ANCHOR LAKE WILL BE CLOSED ON MONDAY 7th AUGUST 2017 for a junior fishing day.  The fishery is open this weekend and will be again on Tuesday 8th Aug as normal.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you at one of the Top 50 stillwaters in the UK very soon!

Nick.

Keep up to date online here at the website and also on the Exe Valley Fishery Facebook page

The Best Summertime Fly Fishing on Anchor Lake for 10 years

This morning I walked around Anchor Lake following another day working with Blair Woodland to keep the venue as weed free as possible.  Blair who travels up from South Devon to help out has pulled literally tons of Canadian pond weed and so during my checks this morning it was incredibly pleasing to see how much our efforts have achieved.  Considering it is July and we have experienced some pretty high temperatures coupled with low rainfall (until late last week) ... Anchor Lake is in fine form.

The cooler water which followed the rain on Thurs 20th & Fri 21st July has most certainly helped with the lake receiving a proper freshen up from the Barle River which feeds the fishery from high up on Exmoor.  Now that the algae has nothing to hold on to as we keep the Canadian Pond weed in check, it is struggling, especially in the deep water areas excavated over the last couple of years.  Even though the contractor did not fully complete the work correctly last year, requiring time consuming management this season in the form of several days raking and netting, the result is that Anchor Lake is offering some great sport and it is late July!

Exe Valley regulars Keith & Mary Ratcliffe said on their return “Brilliant Fishing.  Off the Top.  100 times better than this time last year” having caught a 5 fish limit each in mid July with the best fish weighing 5lb 4oz.

Keith & Mary with their fish - 100 times better than last year they say!

Keith & Mary with their fish - 100 times better than last year they say!

And following his most recent visit another regular, John Akhurst emailed his thoughts.

Just read your last report 7/7 and was a tad disappointed to read that fellow fly fishers have complained / reported their individual poor experience visiting your marvellous facility.

I concur wholeheartedly with your stance in that article and consider water & weather conditions to be part of the pleasure of fishing with the fly. Not catching is not the fault of the fish but in my opinion is solely down to the guy holding the rod. The fish are there and it's down to the individual to present the flies to induce a take. This time of year ripping lures may work occasionally and can induce some exciting follows but no take. So rarely the right choice for a pleasurable day.

I acknowledge and appreciate how difficult and how much effort it takes both in time and money to keep the water fishable and if it means anything I am very grateful to have continued access to be able to fish for I consider to be a very affordable £.

My last visit with my old colleague (a novice) was a brilliant day, as you earlier advised conditions were challenging, but adapting and applying the approach with rig and flies the fish do oblige with takes.”

Thank you to John and all the anglers who have continued to support the fishery.  Several seem to have decided to forget fishing here after the price rises and the introduction of catch & release but many regulars continue to visit and there are many new faces trying the fishery out including Mr Delaney who said “Only had 1, but well worth the 100 mile round trip.  Great fishery, well done!”

Please forgive me but I am also going to post up another map of Anchor Lake and following is some advice about fishing here during the summertime.

Two years of excavation work have resulted in a whole new section of water which was previously unfishable.  Try the North Shore, Stream End, New Bay and The Snags ... especially during the summer months.

Two years of excavation work have resulted in a whole new section of water which was previously unfishable.  Try the North Shore, Stream End, New Bay and The Snags ... especially during the summer months.

Back in 2014/2015 areas North Shore, Stream End, New Bay and the Snags were little more than 2 feet deep.  These areas are now 8ft to 12 ft deep and have constantly moving water, which means they are virtually clear of algae and of course we have cleared large amounts of other water weed.  On hot, still days in particular this is the place to fish, especially along the deep drop offs that don’t need much more than a roll cast to target fish.  Often you will see Trout cruising right below your feet - very exciting and a chance for stalking.

During the last few weeks I have seen many anglers head straight to Exe Shore, Boards and Pipe and then stay there for the day.  If it is very hot, and calm, these areas can be affected by algae although once again in comparison to seasons that I can remember spanning over a decade the “fishabilty” is better than ever, even in these areas.  As per my last report, small dries and buzzers will often do well in the summer months or if you like to pull, twitch a Damsel.  And if you are not into imitative fishing or slow retrieves try and arrive before the sun is high, which is when the fish are most active.

Just before I sign off ... this morning I bumped into an angler using heavy weight dark Maxima line, which the fish can see in such clear water so my advice is use low diameter fluorocarbons by companies such as Fulling Mill, Rio, Airflo or Froghair.

Thanks again to all the anglers who have visited so far this summer.  Unlike this time last year, Anchor Lake is open and I will add more reports soon.  Meanwhile Lobbs remains closed although I hope to have a favorable update in the coming weeks.

Thanks for reading and I hope to see you on the shore soon.

Nick 

Nick Hart is a full time fly fishing guide & the fishery manager at Exe Valley Fishery.  Find out more about Nick on his dedicated web pages.

Keep up to date with everything happening here at the fishery by going social on the Exe Valley Fishery Facebook page.

 

(Some) Frustrated Anglers at Exe Valley

On Tuesday I arrived into work and collected the returns from the anglers fishing the day before.  It was not a great start to the week as I read comments such as “Novice fisherman and really struggled, will not travel 2 hours to fish here again”

Other comments included “A very poor day, I will not be coming again”, “very disappointing” and “the weed did not help at all” I don’t think any fishery manager in their right mind would hope for this sort of feedback, especially after removing 50000 tonnes of silt/rock in the last two years and spending £1000s on weed removal, not to mention the time involved.  The most confusing comment was “Ranks as one of the worst 3+3 fishing days ever.  No takes on all flies offered right across the spectrum.  Plenty of fish, just not feeding, ran out of energy”

We have been in the grip of nearly constant high temperatures (both day & night) ranging from 20C to 30C during the last month with little in the way of rainfall.  The resident Exe Valley fish farmer recently reported that the water temperature in the morning (23C) was several degrees warmer than the air temperature.  In these circumstances the stock fish will often decline pellets so persuading them to take flies requires an element of thought.  Right now the water temp is regularly 15C to 17C+

Why head to banks where the water has the least amount of movement and algae is on the surface when other areas are completely clear?  Why use a sinking line when fish are rising?  Why use a long leader and a very heavy goldhead in areas of weed?  Why pull lures fast when the fish are visually lethargic?  I could ask many other questions because the fact is many anglers are using the same old tactics in their usual favoured locations around the lake and expecting “miracles”.

This isn’t the case for all anglers such as Tom Butt, fishing the day after the barrage of negative comments.  He managed 9 fish, all on tiny dry flies and filled in his return with “Brilliant day yet again”  While a new regular John Morgan landed 8 saying “Thanks again – excellent day”  Meanwhile Mr Honey might only have got a single fish but sensibly noted “nice fish observed, too HOT for them to feed”

Last year on June 29th I closed Anchor Lake and many asked why because they felt it remained in a fishable state, considering that it was summer.  This summer I am happy to report that we are open and Anchor is looking better than ever for this time of year.  It is not perfect and I continue to strive to improve the environment and fishing after it was neglected for in excess of 30 years.  In fact just before typing up this post I got off the phone having discussed possibly aeration solutions and by next week I will have a new algae skimmer to add to the pond weed rakes and nets recently acquired.

This is just one corner of Exe Valley weed raked during a morning session.  Since this picture was taken a new rake, twice the size of the original has been acquired and three days were spent clearing the lake.  More work is planned.  The lake is more "fishable" this July than it has been for the last 10 years ....

This is just one corner of Exe Valley weed raked during a morning session.  Since this picture was taken a new rake, twice the size of the original has been acquired and three days were spent clearing the lake.  More work is planned.  The lake is more "fishable" this July than it has been for the last 10 years ....

Last week I was due to be away fishing in Scotland with friends but felt that the lake needed attention so my trip was cancelled.  Instead my time was spent coordinating a weed drag with the result that large areas of the lake continue to be fishable.  Further work is planned.  Despite the planned work and maintenance already undertaken it is up to the anglers visiting to select the right tactics, observe where the fish are located and try to catch them.  I freely provide advice and assistance but largely it seems to be disregarded in the hope that the same old Montana & Cats Whiskers on leaders fit to land a decent sized Cod will suffice!  In warm water conditions these tactics simply wont work very well and in fact during the colder months this approach rarely succeeds either.

Even in warm water it is possible to catch Trout as 19 year old Jake Gransbury found out during one of his first ever trips.  Taking part in one of my two day fly fishing courses he latched into a few fish including this double which took a #16 Buzzer connected to 5lb fluorocarbon on a super hot, flat calm day.  Tactics to try in the warm weather are Buzzers under Bungs, washing line style (Booby on the point, buzzer on the dropper), Dry Fly and twitched Damsels.  Scale down pattern size, go for light leader and be prepared to fish slowly.  Concentrate efforts in flowing water areas; look for fish which you may be able to target with a stalking bug and where possible fish water that has not been affected by surface algae.  As can be seen from the picture below the algae is very minimal in comparison to past seasons ....

If in doubt and before travelling long distances please call 01398 323008 for an update.  I cannot promise that you will receive an immediate answer but please leave a message and I will get back to you.  Alternatively try emailing, (contact details are available on this website) and it is also worth checking out and getting involved with the Exe Valley Facebook Page

Fly Fishing is many things; mostly wonderful but just sometimes perhaps a trip doesn’t quite hit the mark.  Let’s be honest none of us like to part with our hard earned and walk away from our experience with anything but happy memories of lots of hard fighting fish.  I want nothing more than the anglers who visit Exe Valley Fishery to have a pleasurable day but in extremes of heat the chances are that the fishing will be difficult in comparison to the cooler months.  Some fisheries may benefit from consistently cool water but in fact most small stillwaters do not ... and many close.  Exe Valley has more fishable water than I have known than in over a decade and plenty of anglers continue to enjoy their visits.

Finally one important notice is that Catch & Release is no longer available until water temperatures return to a safe level.   I apologise to the large amount of anglers including holiday makers who have been visiting the fishery to enjoy a “sporting day” but fish welfare is a primary concern and in the current conditions I do not feel it is safe to continuing offering the service. 

Thank you for reading and please remember to call 01398 323008, instant message or contact me via the website before travelling long distances.  In between guiding I shall also endeavour to keep the fishery website ticking over with updates.

Tightlines, Nick.