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,

Nick.

Check out the Exe Valley Facebook page here for regular updates and please give us a Like if you enjoy spending time at the fishery.

Exe Valley Catch Report: Top of the water sport has started!

With the May bank holiday upon us I am pleased to report that top of the water fishing is taking off on Exe Valley.  Just yesterday I helped a complete novice catch his first ever Trout and we used dry flies exclusively.  Even during the cold wind the fish have been on the surface!

Visiting from America, first time fly angler Derek Beckman with his first ever Trout and he caught it using a dry fly!

Visiting from America, first time fly angler Derek Beckman with his first ever Trout and he caught it using a dry fly!

Indicator fishing has also been successful with a size 12 Black or Olive Buzzer set at 2' to 3' depth.  No particular area seems to be producing better than any other although my first choice would be somewhere in Littlebrook Bay or fishing right in front of the Snags over the deep water area.  Chuck out a tungsten buzzer, let it sink and then retrieve ensuring a slow deliberate lift up the ledge.  Watch carefully and often you will see the fish grab the fly ... very exciting!  Not sure where these areas are?  Check out our map below.

So far to today Friday 28th April 188 anglers have visited since the beginning of the month catching a total of 599 Trout to set a very good rod average of 3.2 fish per rod.  Amongst them have been some great fish such as the specimens shown below and we were also pleased to see that one of our Trout was selected by Trout Fisherman as Fish of the Month.  Well done to the captor John Ratcliffe.

Fish of the month in the most recent copy of Trout Fisherman magazine went to John Ratcliffe who caught this stunning Rainbow on  Anchor Lake  using a Black Nomad 

Fish of the month in the most recent copy of Trout Fisherman magazine went to John Ratcliffe who caught this stunning Rainbow on Anchor Lake using a Black Nomad 

We receive so many lovely comments that it is impossible to print them all but thanks to all those who have visited in recent weeks, there are plenty of old faces but also some new ones including a few younger rods in their 20s keen to take advantage of the £25 Catch & Release Permit.

Paul Mattin put it simply “Fantastic!!” after catching 3 fish for 9lbs including a four pounder while Mr Gilbert said “Great Days Fishing.  Nice Size Trout” after weighing in 2 fish for 13lb 4oz including the 9lb 1oz below ... and he went on to release a further 2 fish. 

Mr Gilbert from Barnstaple with his 9lb 1oz Rainbow which he caught using a Dry Fly!

Mr Gilbert from Barnstaple with his 9lb 1oz Rainbow which he caught using a Dry Fly!

Ian Robinson lost 7 but did release 5 all on imitative patterns commenting “Great Day Fishing!  Taking on Dries & Buzzers just under the surface” Alan Lewis from Cullompton was also pleased after banking 2 for 5lbs and once again commented “Great Days Fishing.  Will deff be coming back

Meanwhile Jonathan Lewis enjoyed his first ever day fly-fishing with his son, catching 2 fish weighing 5lbs and left on cloud 9 with the comment “First time fly fishing for myself and my son, absolutely fantastic time.

Simon Curtis with another fulled tailed Rainbow which he caught on Anchor Lake, part of a 4 fish bag for 20lb.  Simon also released a further 2 fish.

Simon Curtis with another fulled tailed Rainbow which he caught on Anchor Lake, part of a 4 fish bag for 20lb.  Simon also released a further 2 fish.

This weekend the temperatures are due to increase once again and although wind has been forecast this can actually improve the fishing.  There is no need to cast a long way and techniques such as the Roll Cast can be used to present flies to fish that will relish the oxygenated surface.  Throw out a buzzer let the current do the work or fish close range with a nice bushy dry fly. 

If you are stuck on what to use please ask us as we have been improving the fly display with a variety of patterns including new dries, bungs and a great selection of barbless.  The Blue Flash Damsel is still a favourite but we have currently sold out so the Hothead Straggle or even an Olive Snake would be my choice for pulling.

More news soon and if you would like to see regular updates please visit the Exe Valley Fishery Facebook Page.  Have a great bank holiday weekend and many thanks for reading.

Nick.

Dan Stocker not only bagged this cracking Rainbow but also won himself an Easter Egg & £20 when he found the specimen fish was also tagged.  Troutmasters is going to be hotly contested this month!

Dan Stocker not only bagged this cracking Rainbow but also won himself an Easter Egg & £20 when he found the specimen fish was also tagged.  Troutmasters is going to be hotly contested this month!

Catch Report, Latest News & Troutmasters Fish Off

To kick off this catch report I would like to say thank you to all who have supported the fishery after the recent changes, in particular the new Catch & Release options

The majority of anglers have embraced the opportunity to spend more time at the fishery while others are enjoying the experience of fishing Exe Valley without the need to kill what they catch.

We kicked off on 7th Feb with nobody here but the following day 11 anglers turned up and to today (22nd Feb) we have welcomed 67 of which 12 went for the full C&R option. Rob Wilkinson from Exeter released 8 and said in his comments “C&R is a great idea”.  Phil Frapple from Taunton released 10 commenting “Good Day, Fish all went back safe & sound”   Mr Morgan from Newton Abbot also got 10 and Danny Ford released 7 to 8lbs although unfortunately I was not there with the lens for that fish!  However he did very kindly allow me to take a sequence of shots which shows perfect catch & release practice.

The 67 anglers caught a total of 265 fish to take the rod average to 3.9 with 109 fish released to fight another day.  Several anglers including Chris Heal (3 Fish weighing 7lb 8oz), Paul Winterson (4 Fish weighing 12lb 8oz), Ian Nadin (5 fish weighing 21lb), Bob Turner(4 Fish weighing 11lb), Dave Bull (3 Fish weighing 10lb), Rod Lawrence (3 Fish weighing 11lb), John Clarke (3 Fish weighing 12lb), Jenny Harris (2 Fish weighing 6lb) & Rosie Coles (2 Fish weighing 6lb) all caught there limit bags prior to releasing. 

A helpful set of guidelines has been produced to assist people when Catching & Releasing, to ensure the welfare of the Trout.  Barbless hooks and Rubber Nets are obligatory, there is a good stock of flies now in store and we can loan nets to those who only have regular material mesh.

Amongst the fish we have had some real crackers on a host of different tactics although a Hot Head or Blue Flash Damsel has been particularly successful.  Buzzers & Diawl Bachs are also working very well and there is no need to cast them into the middle of the lake. 

I had the pleasure of spending several days on the lakes myself last week hosting fly fishing courses and both Andi Avery & Blair Woodland caught using heavy tungsten Buzzers fished in the deep water opposite the feeder stream.

New to the Sport.  Andi Avery caught a total of 9 Trout during his visit using Tungsten Buzzers.

New to the Sport.  Andi Avery caught a total of 9 Trout during his visit using Tungsten Buzzers.

Making up part of Andis limit bag prior to releasing was this double that we stalked in the deep water in the corner of the lake.

Making up part of Andis limit bag prior to releasing was this double that we stalked in the deep water in the corner of the lake.

Other top fish over the last couple of weeks include ...

Rob Pithouse - from Wiltshire - 8lb 14oz Rainbow

Rob Pithouse - from Wiltshire - 8lb 14oz Rainbow

George Hext from Cornwall - 9lb Rainbow (landed on a #4 weight brook rod!)

George Hext from Cornwall - 9lb Rainbow (landed on a #4 weight brook rod!)

To round off this catch report please note that we will be hosting the Exe Valley Troutmasters Fish Off Heat here this Sunday 26th February so unfortunately Anchor Lake will be closed until 1pm.  If you are fishing the heat then we look forward to welcoming you.  There has been a particularly healthy entry this year and it should be a good match.  Please sign in at 8.00am There will be a briefing at 8.30am and the match will kick off at 9.00am, finishing at 1.00pm

The competition will be fished to a 6 fish kill only limit with a maximum of 2 fish per peg.  Anglers will move pegs every 30 mins and the competition will be decided on weight plus a time bonus if applicable.  Please note that if as a competitor you have not completed your limit you will be able to fish on after the match and for those who have completed a limit you may return to fish on a catch & release basis up to 4 more fish.

As always thank you for reading and if you are thinking about heading over to fish please call us on 01398 323008 for help & assistance.  Plus you can also Find Exe Valley Fishery on Facebook Here.

Nick Hart

Exe Valley Introduces Catch & Release Permit Options

During the 15 years that I have been involved with Exe Valley Fishery, firstly as an instructor and then as the manager, the only option available has been to catch & kill any Trout caught. 

However times are changing rapidly and increasingly I talk with anglers who don’t want to dispatch fish and fill their freezers.  I also meet plenty of anglers who are put off by the thought of reaching their limit and then having to head home prematurely, cutting short their enjoyment & experience. 

Therefore after a number of successful catch & release events, such as this one in December 2016, I have decided to introduce a new trial permit.

New Year, new options.  Catch & Release is being trialled at Exe Valley Fishery during February & March 2017.

New Year, new options.  Catch & Release is being trialled at Exe Valley Fishery during February & March 2017.

The Catch & Release options will start on Tuesday 7th February 2017 and will be available until Sunday 9th April 2017.  During this time we will listen to your thoughts and welcome feedback.  If the fishery is well supported during these changes the options will be made available throughout the year, other than during periods of high water temperatures.  Full details will be available at the fishery regarding the rules applied to catch & release.  The key points include:

- Catch & Release available on Anchor Lake only

- Rubber mesh nets only (we can loan nets)

- Barbless flies only (not debarbed – barbless flies will be available for purchase in the shop)

- Fish to be released must not be removed from the water. 

- No Boobies.

- Kill tickets – Fish limit must be killed prior to Catch & Release.

Catch & Release Permit Options & Prices (07.02.17 to 09.04.17)

10 Fish Catch & Release Only - £25

2 Fish Kill & 2 Fish Release - £30

3 Fish Kill & 3 Fish Release - £35

4 Fish Kill & 4 Fish Release - £40

5 Fish Kill & 5 Fish Release - £45

Although there is an increase in permit prices, the first for several seasons, the new structure with the inclusion of catch & release offers some of the best value small stillwater fishing in the West Country if not the UK. 

Barbless hooks (not debarbed) only will be allowed for Catch & Release Fishing.  Boobies will not be allowed and modern rubber mesh nets must be used to land fish.

Barbless hooks (not debarbed) only will be allowed for Catch & Release Fishing.  Boobies will not be allowed and modern rubber mesh nets must be used to land fish.

The option to share a bag limit with a young angler, age 14 or under will continue as usual and I am also considering a concessionary ticket for over 60s, under 17s and the disabled.

Meanwhile our new cafe is close to fully functioning with a range of hot & cold food plus we have also introduced a new FREE Tea & Coffee facility for anglers.  More news to follow and meanwhile if you have any questions or would like to comment on the changes so far please call me on 01398 323008 or use the comments section below.

Moving on to how the lakes are fishing I am pleased to report that the mild weather conditions have attracted plenty of anglers during January.  117 visited in total, catching 370 fish for an average of 3.2 per rod.

Top flies include Black Nomads, Blue Flash Damsels and some anglers have been finding success with Buzzers.  Fish are being caught all over the lake and even when the weather has taken a turn for the worse the fish have been biting such as this perfectly conditioned Trout weighing 8lb 9oz, caught by John Ratcliffe using a Black Nomad on 2nd Feb. 

8lb 9oz of  Anchor Lake  Rainbow Trout for John Ratcliffe, caught in early Feb 2017 using a Black Nomad.

8lb 9oz of Anchor Lake Rainbow Trout for John Ratcliffe, caught in early Feb 2017 using a Black Nomad.

We hope that the Wistlandpound club enjoy such good sport when they bring one of their club competitions to our shores tomorrow, Sunday 5th February 17.  Please note that the lakes will be closed all day for this event.  Apologies if this will cause any inconvenience. 

The fishery will also be closed on Monday 6th February while we stock and get ready for the introduction of the new catch & release permit on Tuesday 7th February 2017.

Yesterday the phone also began to ring as competitors booked into our Troutmasters Fish off which will be held here on Sunday 26th February 2017.  If you caught one of our big fish last season, winning a Troutmaster badge, a letter should have arrived this week so please give us a call to book in on 01398 323008.

This is going to be a big week for Exe Valley as we open up the opportunity to Catch & Release fishing. Please come and support the fishery and look out for more news on these pages soon.

Many thanks for reading & good fishing, Nick.

Keep up to date with the latest catches & news on this page and Find us on Facebook