The Venue: Kennick Reservoir, S.Devon. A popular and very scenic water on the Eastern edge of Dartmoor. You do need a very high level of Cartographic capability to locate it!
The weather: Forecast to be very bad for relaxing fishing with winds up to 28mph and heavy rain. However, we arrived in sunshine with an extremely light breeze just rippling part of the surface before launch. The first hour and a half saw the weather gradually cloud over and the breeze stiffen slightly – enough to blow the tube down the lake if you were not paying attention. Around midday the promised rain arrived, gently at first, and then with some vengeance and it persistence until we had had enough by 3.00pm. Fishing gear and float tubes now weighed two or three times their normal weight and water streamed off the gear.
Nature notes: This water is located in a remote and wild place, as a result there is a lot of interesting wildlife to be found and seen by the interested observer. Stevie is fairly certain that he spotted an egret flying over the water, if he is correct this is an unusual spot this far west in the UK. I must admit to being slightly flummoxed, and have to join Gary’s club regarding identifying a raft of around twenty diving ducks which were within a hundred yards or so of us late morning. These ducks were rusty brown in colour and had brighter ruddy coloured heads, initially I thought these may have been pochard, then I changed my mind to think they may have been gadwall, but this doesn’t seem right as they should have had more grey about them. They could also have been mergansers, but this seems unlikely. Beaten me so I’ll just accept that they were ducks Gary!
There were mallard around too. A group of five of these were quite happily feeding along the shore within ten or fifteen feet of me for quite a long time and were not in the least bothered by my presence – so much for float tubers disturbing wild birds!? There were also a number of little grebes on the lake, many of them youngsters. I find these busy little birds a delight to watch diving after small nymphs and fish etc. A couple of cormorants flew in and landed down by the shore at the dam end of the lodge bay and then started fishing for their mid-morning snack.
The fishermen: The officers of the association, Ivan (who deserves special commendations both for coming down and then finding his own way to this lake), Martin from Manchester, Brian who takes the prize for travelling the furthest down from Preston, Steve and Ric (who were down for the beer and potential firewood collection), Gary who came to weep over second place and to keep Andre company. Dave Williams drove up from the far south-west.
We were also pleased to see our Vice Chairman Stevie out on the water once again. Additionally, it appears that he has not lost any of his piscatorial capabilities over the last two years as a result of his extensive lay-off preparing a food and wine guide to nearly all the restaurants and wine bars in the UK – many of the notes and pictures are to be seen on facebook! Russ also managed to escape his bed-making and chef duties to have a pleasant float round; I think Kevin was giving him all the gen. on where and how to catch fish from a float tube, rather than the pedalo’s they normally go out to play in these days! Sadly Kev. failed a little here as he only managed to lurk off out of sight and land one fish.
The fishing: Prospects were not that exhilarating as the rod average had apparently dropped to about 0.3 in the previous weeks. However, most of this bunch have the capability of catching fish anywhere in the country, in any case it was not a desperately important match other than to scoop the £60 kitty for beer money. A jovial and helpful atmosphere prevailed throughout.
It appears that the fish were mainly in and around the bay where the littles stream comes in to the left of and opposite the lodge. There were also trout in the long arm going away to the shallows at the far end. Fish were also showing in the middle and across to the dam while we were tackling up, although I am not aware of any of these being caught. Brian and I went across the lake towards the dam and then turned North to join the others. Neither of us had a pull. We then encountered Steve and Stevie who were getting pulls and Steve had already caught two on damsels with red eyes. I was surprised that it was damsels which were working, as I would have bet on a black fly with some red in its dressing; the red bit is the trigger on this water. Cut throat cat’s whiskers work well on this lake as do holo red diawl bach’s. Over many years I have noticed that successful members have caught fish when red is present in the fly.
Ivan had also been fishing in this area a little higher up and nearer the middle of the lake. He had netted one and lost a couple of others as well as getting a lot of pulls. Having been told by Steve what he was catching on I changed to something similar and a couple of casts later while working the shore line I netted a very lively blue trout. A short while later while on the opposite side of the bay I had another, but this time it had taken a small bibio on the dropper. A while later in almost the same place another fish took the red eyed damsel, but this time it was a rainbow of around 1.3/4lbs. In the meantime Stevie had commandeered the spot where I had caught my first fish and was regularly getting pulls, losing fish or netting one. Steve F. was working beside, across and around him while getting pulls and losing fish. Ivan persisted, eventually netting three and losing four in the same area. Martin finned through the swim having caught one fish but didn’t get any other offers. Brian fished the bank where I had caught my last two, he lost one and had another break him off.
Elsewhere up the far arm, Ric and Russ had caught three apiece opposite the large rock on the east shore. Gary came out of the arm also having got three in the net and then had several other pulls and I believe fish losses. Andre was up the arm with the others but didn’t manage to catch anything. He then joined us and caught one deep on a Hi D line, but had little other interest - until he decided to head back and get out of the heavy rain. As he passed the point of the bay he caught another good fish deep down. He then decided against heading home and tried to catch another – but unsuccessfully. Dave Williams had been quietly amassing a bag of three before heading back towards the dam where he caught a good sized brown trout to make a winning bag of four fish. At the end of the monsoon when we landed, Steve F. had also finally managed to contain a fourth to share the kitty.
At the time Andre caught his first fish I was in the shallow end of the bay in the company of the mallard. I stood up to check that my new RIRI zip was working, then lazily watched the mallard about a two thirds of a cast away tipping up to feed in the weed-bed, which was only about 9 inches below them. I then saw bow waves and dorsal fins cutting through the water near them, probably made by trout picking up the fly / nymph life disturbed by the ducks. Having regained my float tube seat, satisfied that the new waders worked to specification, I thought that I might make a few casts into the area for curiosity, despite having the most unsuitable combination of an 18 foot leader on a midge tip and a slightly weighted damsel tip fly. (Not the best choice for 9 to 12 inches of water over weed you will understand). The result was four very savage pulls of which sadly none connected, although it was probably just as well because the fish would have gone straight down into the weeds and likely broken me off. By now I had also come to the conclusion that getting drowned in the monsoon above the water was not what I went fishing for and I was ready to head for home. It was a smidgen damp to say the least! At this point several of us had got three affirmed fish and catching more had now become a bit tricky, as well as a soggy endeavour. Soon everybody gave it up as a bad job. We then got back and landed just as the rain eased off! Typical!
Martin kindly helped carry my float tube the last few yards to the car for me, but did find it very heavy he said. Actually it was very lightly kitted with fly boxes as compared to normal, but the weight of water which had soaked into it and probably got trapped between the case and bladders made it two or three times heavier than usual.
It is fruitless here to go into the best line, fly combination as anything appeared to work. A splash of red ‘tag’ was a definite advantage however. The secret was as usual finding the fish and the depth. The fish were very definitely working the shoreline around the bay, as evidenced by the quiet moments and then lots of activity for a while when the shoal(s) reappeared. There were fish wider out than this – Steve F. Gary and Andre caught or had pulls from several, as did I believe Brian. From midday onwards the fish appeared to go deeper where Andre found them – perhaps they didn’t like the heavy rain!? From what I could gather afterwards, there also appeared to be a concentrated shoal higher up the long arm where Ric was fishing with Gary in the morning. Anything outside these areas, although they were seen rising early on, appeared deeply suspicious of flies and unwilling to take what they were shown.
As a group however the BFTA did rather break the previous week’s rod average by a considerable margin. Two members had four fish, at least five others had three and I know of two singles. I am not aware of anybody blanking. I think that although in the end he did not win the kitty, Ivan should be given a special mention here. He had the moral victory of having had at least seven fish well hooked, and persisted with the task when in reality he must have been feeling quite unwell for at least some of the time. His bag of three at the end was hard earned.
Asides: It is not my intention at this point to comment very much on the proceedings at the Sandpiper or the AGM. Suffice to say that we all had a brilliant time. However, one little incident did stick in my mind for some strange reason, (except perhaps I’ve been around Steve F. too long). In fact it is Steve who indirectly provoked the incident by instigating a presentation trophy to our Chairman. This was given after the Chairman had presented the seasons cups and trophies to the worthy winners – (mostly to Ric). A little box was handed over, with some speculation from the assemblage as to what it contained; the primary guess was Viagra! At which point from the women’s section at the end of the room came shout(s) of “He doesn’t need any of that”! We were I am sure all pleased to hear this. I am however going to be a bit careful about getting near the lady with the big crutch from now on!? (Did that scan correctly – Oh well)?! I am pleased to announce that the Chairman in fact received a nice name badge which I am sure he will wear with pride, entitled “Numpty”!
It was great to meet the wives and partners of the members. Many of them are now old stagers but a couple of new ones joined the fun and were brilliant company. I understand that the celebrations out in the town were very quiet this year with Laraine managing to keep the participants both sober and in good order. Sue I understand did find it tricky to cope with a drink and two walking aids so was reportedly unable to consume too much. Get well soon Sue.
Andre will produce the minutes of the AGM when he gets time. They usually get published around August!?
Acknowledgements: The major accolade must go to Russ and Helen for organising the Friday night “blow out” meal, and for accommodating us comfortably at the Sandpiper. The breakfast in this establishment is superb and was greatly appreciated by all.
The other major thanks must go to all who attended this AGM and fishing weekend, having made the effort to join the proceedings with some travelling from an extremely long way away.
I would also like to thank Dave W. for taking me to and from the water. I am full of admiration for both the navigational knowledge and the ability to safely traverse the goat tracks leading to the water. This trip would definitely be bad for my heart as a driver even if I could find my way there.