Exe Valley – Talking Trout Report by Wayne Thomas

This weekend well known local angling journalist and pursuer of anything with fins, Wayne Thomas, visited Exe Valley Fishery to spend some time talking fishing, casting a fly and behind the lens of his camera.  Very kindly he has agreed that we may reproduce the article he wrote following his visit which first appeared on Wayne's excellent North Devon Angling News website.  

Just before I leave you to sit back and enjoy Waynes wonderful images and text, which I am sure will have you reaching for the tackle, please note that Exe Valley Fishery is open for business as usual following my recent decision to join the team at Farlows based in central London.  I will work behind the scenes to maintain the sport as always with my wife Sue taking on the day to day management. 

This week we have received several calls and messages while also hearing rumours that Exe Valley has closed down.  As can be seen from the following words & pictures ... this is very much not the case! 

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The salmon season over it was time to head off for a days Still-water Trout Fishing and hopefully put a bend in the rod. I was joining Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club to compete in their Rogers And Guard Shield Competition at Exe Valley Fishery. I can well remember Gordon Rogers who was one of the club members the shield was named after. Gordon was a Fishery Bailiff with the River Authorities of the 1970’s and a real character who many local anglers will have fond memories of.

The competition was due to start at 10:00am and I intended to get there in plenty of time so I set off just before 8.00am for an enjoyable drive across Exmoor.

Exe Valley Fishery is located just outside the boundaries of the stunning Exmoor National Park - image courtesy of  Wayne Thomas .

Exe Valley Fishery is located just outside the boundaries of the stunning Exmoor National Park - image courtesy of Wayne Thomas.

A good days fishing is more than just a day casting a line it is often all about the entire day. As I negotiated the narrow lanes up onto the moor mist lay in the valleys as the sun climbed higher into a bright blue sky.

I noted several keen photographers out and about catching the morning light. On the high moor I glimpsed red deer blending into the bracken; the autumn stag were undoubtedly bellowing their challenge across the open moor. It was an awesome morning to be going fishing.

I arrived at Exe Valley to find that one or two members were already raring to start. I grabbed a coffee and began chatting with fishery manager Nick Hart and his wife Sue. Nick is embarking upon a new adventure joining www.farlows.co.uk in Pall Mall’ London. I have fished with Nick many times over the years and share his enthusiasm for fishing. After over an hour of chatting I decided I had better head out and do a bit of fishing. I had after all paid £35.00 for a three fish ticket + the option to release three trout, as part of the fishery’s innovative ticket choice system.

An October flat calm - image courtesy of Wayne Thomas

An October flat calm - image courtesy of Wayne Thomas

The sun was shining down on a mirror calm lake that was surrounded by a dozen or so anglers. I tied on a small gold head pheasant tail nymph and a black buzzer on the dropper. Trout were active all over the lake and a couple of members had already caught their three fish bags so I was on a catch up mission.

After a few casts I had had no takes. With fish showing all over the surface it was obvious that the trout were near the surface. I concluded that a lighter fly would be more likely to succeed and tied on a lightly dressed cruncher pattern.

UV Cruncher - Image by  Nick Hart

UV Cruncher - Image by Nick Hart

First cast with this fly and the line twitched on the retrieve, the hook was set and the water erupted as a rainbow trout leapt from the water before putting a serious bend in the rod and stripping several yards of line from the reel.

Wayne bends into a hard fighting Exe Valley Trout - image by Nick Hart

Wayne bends into a hard fighting Exe Valley Trout - image by Nick Hart

Nick took a stroll around the lake and captured action with the next trout I hooked’ a handsome rainbow of close to 3lb 8oz. It wasn’t long before I had completed my three fish bag that was my competition entry for the day.

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I took the opportunity to have a walk around the lake and preserve a few memories of the day with my camera. I was surprised that not everyone had bagged up whilst the trout were in an obliging mood.

A beautiful October day - "These small Stillwater trout fisheries are undoubtedly more productive during the cooler months." Image by  Wayne Thomas

A beautiful October day - "These small Stillwater trout fisheries are undoubtedly more productive during the cooler months." Image by Wayne Thomas

The introduction of catch and release during the cooler months at Exe Valley has on the whole been welcomed by anglers who can choose various options combining catch and release and catch and despatch. The fishery has imposed strict rules to ensure that catch and release works as well as possible. Anglers must use barb-less hooks and rubber meshed nets. Trout should not be taken out of the water unless a quick picture is required as a memento of a special fish.

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I decided to pay a quick visit to the site shop and buy a couple of barb-less flies and borrow a landing net with a rubber mesh. I returned to the lake with a fly known as an owl on the point. The number of trout rising had now decreased but a few were still showing and it was these fish I targeted. Watching carefully I attempted to drop the fly in front of cruising trout twitching it soon after letting it settle. Twenty minutes later I had returned two more hard fighting trout.

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Wayne with a bright Exe Valley Rainbow - caught using a dry fly in October!

Wayne with a bright Exe Valley Rainbow - caught using a dry fly in October!

It was now time to head back and weigh in my fish with fellow club members. My three pulled the scales to 9lb and secured me the honour of winning the Rogers and Guard Shield.

It was now time for a coffee and a further chat with Nick about fishing past, present and future. One topic we discussed was the seasons of trout fishing. These small Stillwater trout fisheries are undoubtedly more productive during the cooler months. We both concurred that that there is value in revising the traditional trout fishing seasons. The trout season traditionally casts off in the spring and this is I suspect a follow on from the days before Stillwater trout fishing grew in popularity and wild fish were the target. A closed season during the winter months gave the fish protection during spawning time. This made perfect sense in rivers and where wild fish spawned. Modern day trout fishing on still waters is generally for triploid trout that are sterile.

During the cooler months the trout are more active and fight far harder. It perhaps makes sense to close many trout fisheries during July and August when weed growth is more prolific and water temperatures high. The English climate is not too severe and with modern clothing comfort is ensured.

We also discussed trout fishing tactics the importance of observing the fish to decide fly patterns and the idiosyncrasies of anglers. We could I am sure have talked for many hours. That’s part of angling’s joy for it is the trout and nature that make the rules that we anglers take great joy in analyzing. Before heading home I had a few more casts on the lake relishing the opportunity for one more catch and release rainbow before I left for home. It turned out to be handsome trout of close to 4lb.

It will be business as usual at Exe Valley for the foreseeable future with Sue taking care of the day to running of the lake while Nick embarks upon a new venture working with one of the countries most reputable fishing tackle companies.

Exe Valley Fishery  is managed by Sue Hart with assistance from new Farlows fishing manager  Nick Hart .

Exe Valley Fishery is managed by Sue Hart with assistance from new Farlows fishing manager Nick Hart.

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.

 

Anchor Lake – Closed Until Further Notice

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing this post to report that Anchor Lake is now closed until further notice.  After considerable investment in time and money during the last 12 months to improve the venue we are devastated but due to the enormous increase in the amount of weed during the last 2 weeks we have no other option.

29th June 2016 - Anchor Lake is closed until further notice.

29th June 2016 - Anchor Lake is closed until further notice.

We thank all of you for your support during the season so far and cannot apologise enough that we have been unable to remain open.  Behind the scenes we are working around the clock with various professionals to address the situation and if we succeed Anchor Lake will reopen.  Lobbs Lake is weed free and remains open as usual.

Please do not travel to the fishery in the hope of fishing on Anchor as the lake will not be in use until further notice.  Details will appear here as soon as more news is available or please contact the office on 01398 323008

This is a dark day for the fishery and the first time that this action has been needed during the last 10 years that we have been involved with the management of the venue.   Once again we apologise for the inconvenience and hope to have some better news for you in the coming weeks.

New Children’s Permits available at Exe Valley Fishery just in time for the bank holiday

It’s been a busy few weeks at Exe Valley fishery as finally we have experienced something like late spring weather.  This has got the fish up and feasting on fly so those prepared to try a dry have often been rewarded.

Small buzzers under indicators have also accounted for plenty of fish and if lures are your thing they will often work early morning.  By afternoon something a little more subtle might be required, try these Foam Head Crunchers, they are deadly!

Foam Head Crunchers - fish 2 on a 14ft leader and let the wind/current drift them along with a slow retrieve

Foam Head Crunchers - fish 2 on a 14ft leader and let the wind/current drift them along with a slow retrieve

Lots of great comments again this month as 155 anglers have tried their luck so far to 24th May including J Ratcliffe from Exmouth who said “very enjoyable, lovely tidy set up” after catching his 2 fish limit.  Len Woodland had “A very enjoyable time at a very attractive venue” leaving with a brace of fish. Paul Griffiths on holiday from Fishguard landed a 2 fish bag weighing 8lb 8oz with a best of 6lb and joined the long list of “will be back again” comments along with local angler Ian Nadin who said “Greats mornings fishing again!  I’ll be back”, after a full bag of 5 that pulled the scales to 16lb.

First Trout on fly for Brent Stephen - a 6lb beauty which took a Blue Damsel fished on a floating line.

First Trout on fly for Brent Stephen - a 6lb beauty which took a Blue Damsel fished on a floating line.

My fly fishing course guests have been getting amongst the fish including this lovely 6 pounder for Brent Stephen, the first fish he has ever landed on fly and we have had some great events such as the UK Hydrographic Office visit when 13 anglers took over Anchor Lake for the day.

The UK Hydrgraphic Office enjoy a day fly fishing at Exe Valley Fishery ...

The UK Hydrgraphic Office enjoy a day fly fishing at Exe Valley Fishery ...

... and some amazing weather

... and some amazing weather

Which brings me on to our new permits! Following the extensive work carried out on Anchor Lake last year we now have a designated permit.  There is much more room to fish on Anchor and since the work Lobbs Lake has seen very little action.  The current prices of 2 fish - £25, 3 Fish - £30, 4 Fish - £32 & 5 Fish £34.00 will remain but these permits will only be valid for fishing on Anchor Lake.

Meanwhile a brand new permit has been introduced which is aimed specifically at young anglers, although we welcome novices to purchase these permits and if you want some Trout for the BBQ the fish stocked into Lobbs will be of an ideal size.  This new Lobbs Lake only permit is available for fly fishing, spinning & bait with the following prices:

1 Fish - £ 8.00

2 Fish - £12.00

3 Fish - £15.00

4 Fish - £18.00

And there is more.  Up to 2 children of 14 years or below can share the bag limit of the Lobbs Lake permit! 

The new Lobbs Lake Permit - ideal for young & novice anglers keen to experience the thrill of a fish!

The new Lobbs Lake Permit - ideal for young & novice anglers keen to experience the thrill of a fish!

The forecast looks reasonable for the upcoming holiday so why not introduce your sons, daughters, grand children, nieces & nephews to fishing?  So many people seem to feel that children will find fishing boring but at Lobbs lake they have a great chance of catching.

It doesn't have to be fly fishing and once their first fish has been hooked I bet they will want to do it all over again, which is now very affordable with fish from just £4.50 each when purchasing our new 4 fish Lobbs Lake ticket.

Keep up to date with the changes as they happen on our designated permit page and click the link here for more on Lobbs Lake.  And please note that the A396 road is now fully opened!

As always if you would like further info and to check if the fishery is open etc before making the journey please call us on 01398 323008

Hope you have a tight line this holiday!

Nick.

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