Its Back – Catch & Release Returns to Exe Valley Fishery

Its back … Catch & Release that is!  I first introduced this service back in Feb 2017 and it was an instant success.  As expected the warm weather spoilt the fun for a few months but now that the cool weather has arrived, along with shorter days, the water temperature has fallen significantly and we once again welcome back those people who like to put back what they catch.  Just recently the phone has been kept busy with anglers keen to fish on a sporting basis and so it is therefore a great pleasure to be able to offer the opportunity once again.

Of course, we also welcome anglers who like to take home a few fish for the table and so our flexible permits reflect this. £25 – 10 fish sporting tickets through to £45 – Keep 5 and Release 5 permits.  There is no obligation to release fish having reached the keep limit, but the option is there for those who would like some more time at the water’s edge, which of course makes the pricing even better value for money.

Exe Valley caters for anglers who like to release their fish ...

Exe Valley caters for anglers who like to release their fish ...

The Catch & Release rules are strict and a few anglers have queried this, especially the compulsory use of barbless hooks, rather than those that have been crimped with a set of pliers or forceps.  By upholding this rule we ensure fish welfare (the most important consideration), eliminating the possibility of injury caused by an improperly debarbed hook.

Barbless hooks are stocked in the lodge for people who would like to tie their own and all of the most popular and successful Exe Valley patterns are available for sale, tied on top quality hooks.  We use Fulling Mill to supply our flies and also have a great range of Blobs tied on Dohiku hooks and incorporating the revolutionary FNF Jelly Fritz.  These are crafted by top competition angler Matt Kingdon who was part of the England Fly Fishing team that won the gold medal on Chew back in May 17.

Rubber mesh nets are also required.  Some anglers already have them but when this is not the case we provide complimentary nets for use while fishing to those people who have the old-style material mesh.  In the not too distant future this rule will change as I intend to provide nets for all anglers using the lake, whether or not they are catching & releasing.  The nets will be stored in a convenient location and a disinfectant bath provided so that they can be dipped prior to fishing and afterwards.

... and those who like to keep for the table.  And you can enjoy the best of both with our keep some, release some permits.

... and those who like to keep for the table.  And you can enjoy the best of both with our keep some, release some permits.

Meanwhile on Anchor Lake the weed is dying back, although not completely so tactics and length of leader are an important consideration in some areas, meanwhile fresh stock continues to be introduced on a twice weekly basis.  Even so some anglers struggle and inform me within the comments section of the returns, by email or both if they have had a tough day.  Here is an excerpt from an email sent by an angler questioning my decision to offer Catch & Release to our customers.

“ I have been reading the catch reports at Exe Valley so decided to travel up from Sidmouth to fish . I fished it last year and found it challenging but was able to hook up with some nice rainbows.  This year there is a major difference and that is c and r.

My visit yesterday Monday 25th was very disappointing. When I arrived about 2 o’clock I was the only fisherman on the property, heaven. Started on the dries, for an hour, nothing. Put flies in the flowing water of the inlet, this area has trout written all over it, perfect, nothing, a couple of half-hearted rises, but I can see plenty of fish hovering at the end of the moving water.

So I moved all around the lake, moving and casting with dries, buzzers, nymphs and finally lures. Had a couple of half-hearted plucks, finally hooking a 2lb rainbow at 6oclock . The lake is full of hook shy fish and that is a consequence of catch and release. Weed is a problem but not as bad as too many fish hooked and returned.

I would love to see the novice anglers of which you speak on your web site catch these fish and I think it a little condescending of you to say that a lot of your customers are poor fishermen / women if they can’t catch. Mixing Catch and release and catch and keep is a very big risk, especially on a small water, and is no doubt reliant on a meticulous restocking policy. I myself am guilty of regularly using C and R waters but on them all there is a common thread, many visible fish, plenty of follows, few hook ups, and it is quite clear when there has been fresh stocking as fish can be caught.”

Name & Email Address Supplied

As a footnote to this email the lake had been restocked prior to the authors visit and anglers had also visited the lake earlier in the day. 

In contrast, a few days later I received the following email.

“I hope you are well. My brother and I decided at very short notice to fish again at Exe Valley again on Sunday, it is fast becoming our favourite fishery.

The fishing was for some reason was very difficult that day with the fish showing no or very little interest in naturals. Despite that my brother caught five with a total bag weight in excess of 16lb with the best fish weighing in at an impressive 7lb 14oz. He caught using black snakes a white gold head daddy and a largish green buzzer under an indicator. He caught his five fish before I caught any. He was fishing in the fast-moving inlet water.

When my brother had caught his bag, I moved to the same spot and quickly caught three, bag weight 10lb 14oz with the best fish at 5lb. Catching on a Black-Eyed Pea and a White Apache. Lures were definitely the order of the day in that fast-moving area of water but interestingly the trout were not showing any interest in lures either in other areas of the lake. Both of the larger fish caught have been entered in the Trout Master competition.

We have now made 4 visits to Exe Valley and between us have managed to catch 41 fish all of which have been in excellent condition. Apart from a very picturesque, cast friendly, well maintained venue the thing that attracts us most and we really appreciate is that you can guarantee the quality and hard fighting nature of the fish stocked.

We will be back again soon.

All the best.

Kind regards

Mike Duckett

The above shows what can be achieved by anglers visiting on a regular basis and searching for the correct tactics rather than a variety of assumptions arrived at following just one unsuccessful visit.  I have been an angler since I was a small boy and sometimes the day just doesn’t pan out and on others it does.  Wouldn’t fishing be very boring if we guaranteed sport on every single occasion that we wet a line?  I would love to hear your views and please feel free to use the comments section below or drop me a line. 

Ultimately my goal is for every angler visiting Exe Valley Fishery to enjoy a fantastic day and one thing is for sure, regular stocking is maintained to offer everyone the best opportunity.  However, I can’t influence the weather (no honestly, I can’t!) and if I provide advice regarding the tactics/flies and it is ignored then there is not a lot more I can do to help.  The disgruntled angler above was clearly offended by my Try small flies & fine leaders at exe valley … not everything in the box post published here on the catch report.  That was not my intention and to anyone else who I may have offended I apologise of course.  However, rereading the post, I feel that it is inoffensive and merely designed to try and assist anglers visiting the fishery … after all that is what the catch report is for!

Moving on to other news I can confirm that Lobbs Lake is currently out of action although work continues to reinstate this part of the venue.  Anchor Lake is very much open for business and as per the post title, Catch & Release permits are now available once again.

I reiterate the above paragraph because just recently I made the news public that from mid-October I will be working with world famous London based tackle suppliers Farlows.  If this is of interest you can find more about the change in my career by reading this blog post over on the Nick Hart Fly Fishing website

Exe Valley Fishery will be managed by Sue Hart with Nick Hart providing assistance behind the scenes as he begins working at Farlows in London.

Exe Valley Fishery will be managed by Sue Hart with Nick Hart providing assistance behind the scenes as he begins working at Farlows in London.

Exe Valley Fishery will continue to remain our business with my wife Sue taking on the day to day management, which she has been involved with for many years.  So, nothing changes other than we also have a couple of other individuals helping out behind the scenes and of course I myself will visit to catch up with all the regulars and because I absolutely love being on the site!  As many of you know who fish with us regularly the venue has had large amounts of development and further improvements will follow.  If anyone reading this post is interested in becoming involved with the management of Exe Valley behind the scenes please make contact by email here or try calling 01398 323008.

This weekend the Wistlandpound Fly Fishing club will visit the venue on Sunday 8th October although this was a late notice booking so if you were hoping to fish we are open as usual with plenty of space and another stock of fish about to be introduced.  Looking ahead to the weather Saturdays changeable conditions look like they will give way to reasonable temperatures on Sunday, with sunny spells and light winds.

More reports soon and we hope you will visit for some great autumn sport which is now better value than ever before with the option to Catch & Release.

Thanks for reading & good fishing,


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