This weekend I decided to visit the Exe Valley Fishery in North Devon, after speaking to James at Exeter Angling. He assured me that although relatively small in size Exe Valley fishery would provide me with some excellent sport on light tackle. Sounding like my kind of place I loaded up the Turbo Wagon and set off early Saturday morning.
Exe Valley Fishery has been hatching and rearing fish on a large scale for more than 110 years. As well as the hatchery / smoke houses it is the home to Nick Hart Fly Fishing and the Hart Fly shop. Nick Hart is an extremely accomplished fly fisherman and a AAPGAI casting instructor which you can benefit from by taking up one of his fly fishing courses.
The location of the fishery is probably one of the best I have seen. The River Exe forms part of the fishery boundaries giving you a great view of the Exe bridge and a chance to see many of the wild fish rising (which can be fished for on a separate permit). The walk to the main lake takes you over a small stream running adjacent to a series of houses with beautifully landscaped gardens.
Before fishing I took a walk around the main lake and was pleasantly surprised by the clarity of the water and a very interesting feature. The lake is supplied by a fast flowing small stream through a channel at the shallow end of the lake. This creates conditions very similar to that of a river and a number of nice fish could be seen sat in the slack waters next to the faster flowing water waiting for food to come their way. This ‘flow’ continues across almost 1/3rd of the lake until the water deepens. Having such a high rate of water flow should mean that the fish benefit from the higher levels of oxygen and should be of quality in terms of taste and fight.
Without wanting to miss an opportunity I quickly assembled my 4wt Wychwood Truefly rod and attached a black Diawl Bach. It is always magical to watch fish oriented against the flow of water, and even more so being so close and with the chance of catching them many times over. I made a small cast and watched the Diawl Bach drift slowly through the slack water against the flow of the faster water. The fly drifted a little too far in front of the fish so I gently retrieved the line and made another cast. Disaster, the line brushed against one of the fish spooking it into the fast water. I made a third cast. The fly gently drifted towards the fish and with an extremely small tweak I induced a take. I struck and the fish exploded out of the water, jumping straight into the faster water. After receiving a face full of fly line and spooking everything (including myself) within an 8 mile radius I moved further down the lake to the deeper water.
Towards the middle of the lake there was a lot of fish activity and when the sun came through the cloud dark shapes could be seen moving. There were so many fish concentrated around this area I was constantly casting over fish and spooking them. To reduce this I decided to start with a short cast, increasing the distance each time. Despite the large number of fish I was struggling to get any positive takes and after 2 hours, some swearing and trying quite a few sub surface patterns I thought it would be a good idea to try a dry fly.
My favorite dry fly pattern has to be the Klinkhammer. For me it has always been extremely effective and consistent on rivers, streams and still waters. It remains buoyant, easy to see and if using a foam topped Klinkhammer is robust enough to be able to catch more than one fish. I started with a black Klinkhammer, applied a small amount of gink to the emerging part of the fly and made a short cast to some fish moving. As soon as the fly hit the water a fish burst from the water, I wasn’t expecting such an instant response and stuck into all the slack I had in the line.
After missing another take I struck into a fish that felt rather solid. It started to swim towards me and I had trouble keeping in contact, it turned and made a series of lunges stripping enough line allowing me play it on the reel. The fish happily swam around making my Pflueger Trion scream. After a nice 5 minute fight I had a 7lb rainbow in the net.
Over the next couple of hours I managed to catch (and lose) some great fighting fish all of which greater than 3lb in weight. My favorite fish of the day had to be a 4lb’er that was very dark in colour and in great fighting condition.
As mentioned in previous posts small trout fisheries can prove to be quite tricky to fish and many people come away disappointed because they have failed to catch. Even though they contain a large number of fish in a small volume of water they can become very wary especially after a day of fly lines slapping the surface. If you find that your are struggling, talk to other people who are catching and see what a change in approach can do.
Exe Valley Fishery provided me with a great day of sport amongst beautiful surroundings. I opted for a 5 fish ticket at £25 which is very well priced considering the size of the fish and the oxygen rich environment they have been given. Amongst the small fly fishing venues in Devon the Exe Valley Fishery is one of the best. If you are new to fly fishing, looking to improve / gain confidence or just for a place to relax and have some fun then you should definitely visit the Exe Valley fishery.
For more information on the fishery and Nick Hart take a look at the following websites.
View Exe Valley Fishery in a larger map