|February 27th was not the best Wednesday to have picked for the club's winter fishing trip. The previous days had seen torrential rain, and the forecast was for more of the same with the opportunity to experience a drop in the ambient temperature, together with gales, sleet and some snow on high ground.
The only thing that was hot was the phone the night before. "Are we still going?" was the most common question. I swear that I could detect a certain pleading in the voices that maybe the club would relent and call the whole thing off. "Ring Mike Weaver or Keith Hicks" was the easy way of passing the buck, and I used it.
Passing over the top of Haldon, seeing the whitened tors of Dartmoor against a blackened sky, and feeling the car being buffeted by the high winds, I envisaged the fishery to be flooded out and totally unfishable.
|But once we hit the other side of the hill and dropped down into Chudleigh, the wind abated a little, the sun came out and the fishery appeared completely untroubled by the severe weather of the past two days.
The sight of fourteen members and a guest making the trip from all parts of the South West (Is Swanage in the South West? - perhaps not - apologies Mick), was sufficient to cheer us all up. I remember thinking "At least I'm not the only mad one here".
The speed with which some members put up their rods and raced for the lakes left me gasping. I only realised why when I finally got sorted and discovered the only space left was facing directly into the wind with tall trees behind and a rose bush at my feet (obviously another angler had passed away whilst struggling on this very spot)
In between the gusts, the fish were being extremely obliging, and in the first hour, most of us caught at least one rainbow and had several other takes.
After this, the sun came out and warmed things up but the fishing became a bit dour for a while.
One nice aspect of this stillwater is that there are a few benches beside the lakes where you can take your ease, have a sandwich or even sit down to cast a fly. Can anyone identify the famous fly-fishing journalist?
As the day passed a definite pattern in fish feeding behaviour developed.
Whenever it clouded over in preparation for another horizontal lashing of rain or sleet, the fish began to feed avidly. Whenever the sun came out again, they stopped.
Quite a dilemma. Should you heed this biological indicator as a warning, and head for cover, or should you try to stick it out and catch the fish?
In the early squalls I decided to keep fishing and was rewarded with my best fish, a 19" brown trout which looked as if it had overwintered in the lake. Just my luck that the brown trout season did not start for another 16 days.
The rain and sleet were a couple of reasons why I don't have many pictures of the fish which were brought to the net. Another reason was whenever I raced around the bank with camera in hand, the fish immediately detached itself from the unfortunate angler's line - after a while I started to think I was a Jonah, and from then on I kept out of sight of any bent rods.
Bob Swinhoe (seen here almost landing a nice rainbow) had caught his limit by lunchtime and was kindly permitted by the management to continue to show us how it should be done.. something which he did with aplomb when I stopped photographing him.
|Without doubt the day was a complete success even though most of us got a bit chilled toward the end. For most of us who had seen no fishing since the autumn it was just great to get out in the fresh air and cast a line. The fish were an added bonus, and on the whole they were in very good condition for the time of year weighing up to 3+ lbs.
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