Beat the blues
Damsel Nymphs tempt battling blue trout at Cornwall’s Siblyback Reservoir
SIBLYBACK Reser voir is about 20 miles from where I live in Devon, on the other side of the River Tamar. Just the other day, as we were driving down, my pal Paul and I tried to work out how long we’ve been f ishing ‘Sibly ’. The f irst reser voir keeper and bailiff, as they were known in those long-ago days, was my friend Lawrence Emmett who was in charge from when the reser voir opened in 1969. South West Water took over from the Cornwall Water Board in 1974 so, plus or minus a year or two, we’ve fished Siblyback for knocking on 50 years. To say that it has changed would be an understatement. It’s now what is euphemistically called a ‘water park’, which in real terms means that there’s now a cleared, hard path all the way around the reser voir for ever y man and his dog to ask if you’ve “caught any thing yet”, while the dog, which should be on a lead, sniffs around your bag to see if there is any thing to eat. Then, if you’re unluck y, it sprinkles something nasty on it! I must also mention the windsurfers and paddle-boarders whose obser vation of the rules leave a lot to be desired when they come a tad too close because they don’t care. You might well have gathered by now that I’m not a fan of these multi-use water parks! Hav ing said all that, Siblyback is still a viable f isher y if you get there early and late in the day, before and after the prett y people have graced us with their presence.
Early & late
Early morning at Siblyback Reser voir is quiet. Those few hours before the ‘leisure activ ities’ send ever y f ish in the reser voir heading for an air raid shelter is the time when the f ish are up in the water, actively feeding. Late evenings can be good as well, but for me it’s the mornings. Perhaps it is because I’m ‘getting on’ and f ind myself lying awake from the early hours waiting for the rest of the world to wake up – much better I think to get up and go f ishing! We tramp our way around to the Marsh End, which – if you stand in front of the Lodge looking at the water – is away to your right. That bank, all the way along to the trees at Sparrett’s Copse, is a good area. There are often f ish all the way along that bank to the copse; after which the going gets a bit rough on that bank. If you then follow the path along and over the little bridge, it will take you around the bank to the bits of the reser voir which are least troubled by the rubber suits on a plank (see how polite I am). It’s a bit of a walk but well worth it. You can catch fish all season through by pulling lures, as you can on most reservoirs. But if you want the satisfaction of t y ing f lies and f ishing reasonably imitatively, then Damsels and Buzzers are top of my list at Siblyback.
It’s a Damsel day
Paul f ished an intermediate, and I set-up with a sink-tip line and a Beadhead Damsel to get it down a foot or two. I don’t
want to go too deep because there’s the occasional fish showing on the top, most likely mopping up some buzzers. But, what gives the game away to me, is the occasional bow wave of a fish high in the water homing in on something not far under the surface. Now, calling on past experience, a Damsel Nymph has worked not far down with a fast f ig ure-of-eight retrieve, and so it does today. What we’re not prepared for is that this tactic produces three or four blue trout, which hammered into the Damsels. A fter losing a f ish to a savage take, I up my fluorocarbon leader from 6lb to 8lb, which I have to say doesn’t appear to make that much difference to the number of takes. We also take several browns on the Damsels, but they’re small and are ver y carefully returned. I think South West Lakes Trust have increased the number of brown trout stocked, which is interesting, especially considering the fact that Siblyback often has some sensational late-season f ishing to daddies and ver y dark sedg y ty pe f iles.
Gramp’s Green Ass fly
Another pattern that works exceptionally well at Siblyback is the Gramp’s Green Ass, a close cousin of today’s Cormorant. A ll those years ago in the early 1970s we bought fibatube blanks from the Hardy factor y and built our own f ly rods and plastic covered f ly-lines. I used to f ish Friday evenings after work at Siblyback. Ever y time I went along the south bank toward Stocky Bay, I’d encounter an older gent who would answer to the name of ‘Gramps’. He had a f ly which lives on in Westcountry legend, known as Gramp’s Green Ass, a sort of nymph/mini lure hybrid that bears more than a passing resemblance to the f ly we now call the Cormorant. The story goes that Gramp’s f ly was the inspiration for the Viva, a pattern devised by Victor Furse who drove down to holiday in East Cornwall in his Vauxhall Viva! The Gramp’s Green Ass f ly still works as well today as it ever did.
“What we’re not prepared for is that this tactic produces three or four blue trout, which hammered into the Damsels.”
Fish also came from Siblyback’s east bank near the wooded copse .
Rainbow caught at Stocky Bay on the Gramp’s Green Ass fly. INSET: A beadhead beetle nymph also works well at Siblyback.