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Author Topic: Sweethope Report - July 19th  (Read 2259 times)
bracken
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« on: July 20, 2014, 07:07:31 PM »

The venue: A long overdue return to Sweethope Loughs which are two freshwater lakes almost 1 mile (1.6 km) in length, the smaller one just east of the larger, in the southern part of  Northumberland and lying between the A68 road, and the A696 road. They lie about 18 miles (29 km) west of Morpeth; 4 miles (6 km) west of Kirkwhelpington; and 6 miles (10 km) east of Bellingham. There is a crossing between the two lakes, which are lined with trees and surrounded by hills. Both lakes can be fished, but the larger one is used for float tubes and boats. There is a Caravan Club CL on site, with electric hook-ups and water behind each pitch.

Sweethope Lough is a renowned fishing location stocked with large rainbow trout, blue trout and some nice browns – (browns must be returned). The waters are suitable for every angler, from novice to expert. Sweethope Lough boasts good access to those anglers with disabilities, and annually hosts The Viscount Devonport Sweethope Challenge for Disabled Anglers. Some hope for several of the elderly BFTA mob here then!

The lakes have recently been reopened under a very friendly and welcoming new manager, Chris. Gone are the silly session ticketing arrangements, and there are now definitely a very good head of hard fighting decently sized fish in the lakes. There are a variety of tickets available to suit your needs, ranging from a catch and release only to a three fish ticket. Pensioners get a £2.00 discount on the published prices. This very scenic water is a joy to visit and fish now. You must make the effort to go and have a go!

The weather:  The weather forecast was absolutely atrocious for this day, with severe thunderstorms, torrential rain and strong winds predicted. In the event, it thankfully turned out that the forecasters need to get some new seaweed and a bigger crystal ball. It was a lovely quiet day for floating around on a largely mirror glass water, which was occasionally disturbed by  showers and a very gentle breeze which barely ruffled the water surface.

On Friday there were very strong winds which disturbed the surface quite well even on this well sheltered lake. Our Northern Correspondent and his father in law claimed to have caught several fish in these conditions. (I did see father in law catch a three pounder shortly after wading in and nearly stepping on it). I cannot verify the claims of the other fellow though!?  As our day turned out it was a strong case for you should have been here yesterday!

In reality this is one of the few days where I would have liked to see a little more breeze so I could have fished dry flies more. Now you don’t often hear me say that do you?

Nature notes: A very peculiar situation here. Very few birds of any kind were seen, and an abundance of rabbits were present in the surrounding tree belts. I reckon that due to the paucity of the supermarkets for about 25 miles in any direction, the locals have eaten all the waterfowl for their meat supplies. Mind you I could be wrong! However, it was strange not seeing lots of coots and ducks etc. on such a lovely large lake. An osprey is reported as visiting to get its lunch on regular occasions, but Tony B. must have frightened it away this day.

In Ephemera terms, there were some very delicate little damsel flies around and some extremely tiny gnatty thingies skating over the water. The place was alive with common house flies, but thankfully no midges. Some small ginger flies were hatching onto the surface and then taking to the air, looking much like tiny size 16 or 18 bumbles. I think these are what the trout were taking  as buzzers sub surface and a few off the top.

The fishermen: A great bunch of chaps, all well known members. These included a couple of rarely seen Northumberland men who you need a translator present to converse with, a Scottish emigrant, some men from the North West, our Thrybergh organiser, myself and Andre. (I’m lost for words about Andre, but ‘Jammy Ba****rd’ would figure in the string)! Seven stalwart good fishermen in all.

The fishing: The atmospheric conditions were quite oppressive, humid and high pressure with a NE wind overnight and thunderstorms forecast. Not the ideal conditions when combined with a match fished in the worst hours of the day, when everything with any sense sleeps it off! We did hear a couple of rumbles of thunder in the distance about a third of the way through the match and had received strict instructions to come off the water if lightening arrived. How Andre was going to achieve this we couldn’t work, out as he had cleared off a mile down the other end of the water. Mind you he is regarded as mostly expendable anyway; so Dave said he wasn’t really bothered as long as the rain didn’t soak his supply of bacon butties!

Typical this; Andre had been told by Tony B. that the fish were quite partial to ginger hoppers so he had one on his cast, (as did I), about two minutes after the start, a fish threw itself onto Andre’s hopper and became number one in the bag! After that it all went very quiet and we dispersed a fair distance apart across the lake. I never got a touch of interest until around one p.m. when a fish finally rose to my ginger hopper and I felt it briefly but the hook never set.  I had also cast this team of cinnamon and gold, a ginger hopper and a small sedge at a couple of trout head and tailing a few feet from me – they could not have failed to see them and  carried on past and under the flies. Not being slow on the uptake on this occasion I gathered they were not too interested! I had already tried a variety of buzzers at differing depths from just sub surface to near the bottom and had begun to wonder whether I was again cursed. A variety of damsel nymphs and one or two other old favourites had also failed me on an intermediate line and I was beginning to get a bit concerned. I knew of one fish caught on a sedge and another on a cats whisker quite deep by this stage. Then Dave C. steamed past me on a calm water and laughingly told me that Brain had had a fish on a white zonker, (pure traditionalists these two chaps)! Now I had reckoned on going down in the water, as it was also by now getting amazingly almost sunny. I had a couple of white flies, but also a lovely traditional North of England pattern which I selected – a Consett Budgie!? Our man who lives in this wasted town nearly choked when I showed him after the match – can’t think why!

I had also noticed a few fish rising in the arm where nobody had for some reason bothered to fish, so I quietly made my there towing my budgie and a damsel to keep it company. Nothing! Then I turned and cast into the gentle breeze keeping the tube stationary, at the same time slowly figure of eighting the line back. It appeared that I was not retrieving fast enough or the water was shallower than I thought because the hook kept hesitating as I was drawing it back. Suddenly there was a massive pull and a fish was on. Oh Hell this is a barbless hook, went through my mind! I got the rainbow to the surface and bullied it into the net, it gave a very good account of itself on the way too. Now pleased that I had found the method, I then went for another hour before repeating the same trick, stationary in the tube casting into the wind on water that hadn’t been disturbed retrieving very slowly, result was another couple of tail nips and a pull which I lifted on and didn’t connect and thought that would be that, when a few seconds later tail nips again and finally a take which I did connect. Another rainbow about  2.1/2 lbs in the net.  I fished all the way back to the entrance of this arm casting into and across the breeze – it was now about 2.30pm and I felt the need to get into the shallows and stand up for a bit! Chris quietly motored round me with his camera and took a couple of pics. It’s a good job he didn’t hang around too long otherwise he would have got quite a newsworthy photo of me standing up in the water. Dave C. was near me again and told me he had been broken off by a good fish at the other side of the entrance to this arm. He then went off where I had been catching and I went over to where he had been and then worked back into the arm alongside the weed beds. I thought I had hooked a granddaddy of a fish here but this time it really was a snag on the bottom so I tubed round behind it and luckily retrieved my one and only Consett budgie. I now swapped the dropper fly for a weighted orange nomad to keep the point fly lower. Again fishing very slowly almost drifting with the gentle breeze I had a splendid take and  the fish ripped line and came to the surface about a cast away. It appeared to be a brownie so I gave it some gyp to get it back for release, it then showed again nearer to me and I realised it was the peaty water that made its deep silver flanks look like a brownie. It wasn’t a rainbow either, but looked and fought more like a salmon and then I realised it was a blue which I did not know were present in this water, so gave it a bit easier ride, all the time hoping the barbless hook would stay in contrary to my normal experience with these retrograde designs. Finally it was in the net and I had amazingly completed my bag by just after 3.20pm. This blue had taken the orange nomad dropper which I was really only using as a weight.

When I returned to the launch point, Andre was waiting having caught his three in the morning, before manufacturing a leaky valve to get an early shower and gear drying session! He told me that Tony B. had also had three early on – I expected no less from a local expert who had spent days practising to win this match. Mind you anybody but Andre winning would have been good, he’s getting more than cocky about his prowess this season.

I cannot report much about the others, I only had chance to talk to a couple of people on this big water. Brian and Dave C. both had success with white zonkers. Andre caught his on a ginger hopper, a sedgy thing and I believe a damsel.(Probably with a spinning rubber tail)! Dave M. caught one on a cat’s whisker. Tony B. was reputedly using dabblers, hoppers, damsels and other locally renowned small flies. He actually caught four, but put two couple of pounders back as being too small, and ended up weighing in two quite nice fish – I think one of these was a blue. Andre also had a blue. The three of us with ‘full’ bags had all discovered that a slow presentation caught the fish. I think Brian and Dave were both covering fish regularly, as was I for a long time, but we were all fishing too fast. None of the boat fishermen I saw caught anything in areas where I knew there were trout, and all were stripping the lines back quickly. A floater with something small and gingery just subsurface would take fish, but a slow intermediate with a weighted fly near the bottom actually probably took more, suggesting the fish may have been feeding at two levels in the water.  Dick did tell me on the water what he was using but lacking an interpreter and being both deaf and daft I couldn’t quite make out what he was telling me – but congratulations on the nice fish you caught anyway Dick.

Brian and Dave C. managed to get exactly the same weight for the two nice fish each they caught, much to Dave’s disgust as he wanted to win their little competition.

In summation a very hard days fishing with some really nice trout caught, which fought well and looked in great condition – particularly the blue trout, these were superb! Everybody expressed their enjoyment and pleasure for a lovely day on the water despite the very wetting rain which ended the day and soaked everybody and everything after the BBQ was lit!? It really is a pity this water isn’t 250 miles further South, it would be in range of me fishing it more often rather than having a 320 mile journey to get there. All members should try and fish this water if they can it really is worth the effort to get there. (Make sure you take a plentiful supply of food / comestibles with you if you are the hungry type, this really is out in the wilds and well away from any shops)!

Asides: I cannot think of any faux pas’. I was looking forward to watching, (form the dry warm shelter of the fishing lodge you understand), Tony B. do a BBQ in strong rain, as I thought these Northumberland types were born waterproof. It appears however, that the post Thatcher era has allowed the natural grimy coating of coal dust and iron to wash off, and they are now just as vulnerable as the rest of us normal souls, so he chickened out  - leaving some of us very disappointed and hungry for the night I might add!

You will never believe this one – (yes you will if you know him), Andre will get his picture in the paper posing as usual, and assisted by snagging a trout right in front of the camera at the opportune moment when Chris was desperate for an action shot! We should have chucked him in, but didn’t know until it was too late!

I really did try to beat Andre into second place, but I’m obviously not as adept at rolling my fish in the gravel as him, so lost by a couple of ozs! I must therefore congratulate him through gritted teeth on yet another win this season. I don’t think there is any doubt about where the Trophy will go now, he has an almost unassailable points tally. (Stevie confirm please)!

There was some talk by our Northumbrian organiser about prizes at the beginning of the match, although he did repudiate the rumour that it was a flying visit holiday to Eastern Ukraine! I suspect they may have been Sweethope fishing tickets, in which case he is welcome to keep mine as recompense for organising the day and giving me a beer at the end of the match.

Acknowledgements:  Many thanks to Chris for hosting us and welcoming us so well. Thanks to Tony B. for organising the day. Thanks must also go to all the members who made the substantial effort to come and fish this remote venue.

Four pics taken by Chris on the day are included below. Hopefully if you click on the attachment tab underneath they will open up. If they don't open let me know and I will try and affix them differently. The last one is of Pot-hunter Russell playing a blue for stardom!?
« Last Edit: July 21, 2014, 11:09:04 AM by bracken » Logged
davec
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« Reply #1 on: July 20, 2014, 09:59:16 PM »

great report Tony, hard going but still fun, well run fishery, will definitely fish here again Brian caught his last fish 10 minutes before the end to draw with me. (BUGGER) but I am still 3/2 up. Due to the lack of KFC's on the way back we didn't stop. Brian managed the 3 hour trip in 2hrs 20 mins, my wife had to carry me inside and put me on liquidized pie and chips through a drip feeder to recover.
                               
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bracken
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« Reply #2 on: July 20, 2014, 11:10:44 PM »

My word Dave you've caught a good un there! Carried you in, then fed you by gosh!

I cannot claim to keep with Brian's speed prowess. It took me about seven hours to get back, but I did stop briefly for a bacon bap, (just the one sadly), the missus laid claim to the other one to stop me eating it!? I guess hauling a car behind a 24 foot motorhome does limit speed a bit and the noise of the diesel being sucked into a thirsty 3 litre mill can be quite frightening - even when not wearing hearing aids.
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