Wowed by Wimbleball
Nick Hart and England’s Matt Kingdon sample a rejuvenated Wimbleball reservoir during early season...
A rejuvenated Wimbleball reservoir produces supercharged early season sport
the season, some good news began to circulate. A lease had been advertised for tender and it seemed that f inally South West Lakes Trust were actively seeking a solution to the fate of this once great fisher y. Enter Mark Underhill, a Devon fish farmer with decades of experience producing high-quality trout and perhaps, more importantly, a successful businessman. Could Mark be the person to bring back Wimbleball from its demise? If my recent session in the company of good mate and England International Matt Kingdon is any thing to go by the answer is a resounding “yes”!
Proof of the pudding
Tackling up on the eve of Easter it doesn’t seem possible that just the day before our trip the chocolate box scener y surrounding Wimbleball had been covered in snow. Giving way to heav y rain throughout the night and early morning, the snow has disappeared, but the low temperatures remain. Cladding ourselves in multiple layers it requires a determined effort to assemble the tackle and tie up leaders in air temperatures below 5 degrees C, lowered further by a biting wind chill. Early social media reports were favourable regarding the sport that we might enjoy, and it seems crazy that there’s just one other angler who’d braved the elements, but then again perhaps we’ve lost our marbles! I must confess to asking myself this ver y question when on my second cast the Di-3 medium sinker snaps tight. All thoughts of cold vanish in split seconds and I’m attached to a supercharged force heading out into the middle of Ruggs Bay. A few minutes later both Matt and I gaze at a stunning specimen rainbow, weighing over 4lb, heavilyspotted and f in perfect. It’s the best Wimbleball fish we’d seen in years! Despite f ishing catch and release permits Mark’s policy is to ask for the f irst t wo f ish to be dispatched to ensure a turnover of stock. Priest administered I ask Matt to pose with the fish as I’m on camera duty and must have looked quite a sight hiding beneath the fuchsia pink umbrella I’d borrowed from my daughter! As it happens my far from camouf laged shelter is much needed because the Exmoor climate does ever y thing it can to ruin our day, although – to be honest – that one f ish has already made it. While I clean up the lens and check the SD card, Matt gets back to fishing and of course you know what happens next … fish on! Another screamer of a run and Matt really struggles to keep control as a solid rainbow thrashes the surface and dives deep. One of 5,000 fish stocked to kick-start the venue after its brush with ‘death’, we can’t believe our eyes when another f in-perfect rainbow f inally gives up and succumbs to the folds of Matt’s net. Less than 15 minutes into our session and already we’ve experienced some phenomenal sport. Like excited children we chat about the prospects of dr y f ly f ishing for such f ish on a summer’s eve. Counting down his sinker for 10 to 15 seconds three more fish are caught, fooled by his team of Blobs and Boobies brought to life with a fast, snappy f ig ure-of-eight retrieve. Meanwhile I hide beneath my
“Another screamer of a run and Matt struggles to keep control as a solid rainbow thrashes at the surface and dives deep. One of 5,000 fish stocked.”
little pink house feeling cosy and happy that we’ve some images for the editor, although I wish that I was on the other side of the lens enjoying this Wimbleball renaissance. When sport slows we move on from Ruggs around the corner to the deeper water next to Bessoms Bridge. I can stand it no more and grab the 10ft 8 wt Sage and send out along cast. Covering as much water as possible improves catch rate but we often find the fish within a few yards of the shore, patrolling the ledges, so hanging the f lies at the end of each retrieve is imperative and accounts for many hook ups. I manage a quick fish to a Black Booby and have just added it to the bass bag when new manager Mark appears. Gabbling excitedly both Matt and I must seem like schoolboys as we applaud the brilliant morning we’ve had, despite the wet, wind and cold. This is one of our most memorable Wimbleball sessions ever!
The stock will be maintained
We quiz Mark on the stock and ask if he can maintain quality as the fish sofa rare some of the best we’d seen in the last few years fishing across the country. Just as Mark says that stock will be maintained and that he has 10,000 fish earmarked for next season our talk is interrupted by Matt’s rod curving yet again into a 3lb-plus rainbow, which erupts from the water in a flurry of spray. Five exciting minutes pass as Matt struggles to subdue this silver torpedo before the barbless hook is removed and the fish returned. I question why Mark would take on a 374- acre lake with a reputation in tatters, especially with so many other business interests to take care of. Succinctly he replies, “I had to have a go to see if I can turn things around and would have regretted it forevermore if I didn’t at least try ”. Judging by the stock introduced, it seems as if Mark has already achieved this goal, but he has even more plans to put into action including introducing a f leet of boats. Matt releases another f ish, we leave Mark to catch up with a few more anglers and head off for a warm cup of coffee at the local Duck Café.
Search for shallow water
Rejuvenated by our break, the rod racks and a 4x4 facilitate our movement and by travelling with minimal tackle we adopt a roving approach. Now on the western shoreline we can’t resist a quick trip to one of our favourite locations, Farm Bay, but we can’t find any fish. Figuring that we need shallower water we jump back in the truck and return to the north side, stopping off to try out Bessoms Bay, one of the most popular hotspots during high water levels. The fish are here, and Matt has the method dialled, switching to a floating line ,11 lb two-fly leader and his favourite Beaded Bleeding Damsel lure on the point with a Jelly Blob on dropper. It’s a deadly method that he’s used in the past to win the South West Lakes Best of the Best competition. Casting out, counting down to 10 and then retrieving with a series of very short snappy pulls accelerates his catch with four more cracking rainbows released, one of them with a ‘spade tail’. Images in the can I seize my chance, extract one of Matt’s deadly flies and pass over the camera. The sport is so good that we don’t want to leave, adding several more fish that we play to the net, quickly facilitated by heavy fluorocarbon and barbless hooks. It’s the weather that finally beats us as the much-improved afternoon gives way to biting cold once again, sending us off in search of an open fire and beer. We complete our catch returns before joining a packed bar, speaking of nothing other than the day we’d just experienced and the necessity for anglers to support Wimbleball if such sport is to remain available. The anger, sadness and frustration are gone, Wimbleball is back and better than ever before!
Matt with the kind of stock anglers can look forward to.
MATT’SBLOB/DAMSELSET-UP Floating fly line 5ft Orange Jelly Blob 5ft Beaded Bleeding Damsel www.troutfisherman.co.uk
A lively stripped retrieve proved successful. Deadly early season reservoir patterns.
BLOB&BOOBYSET-UP To a Di-3 fly line 10ft of 12lb fluorocarbon 5ft Orange Blob 5ft Black & Green Booby
Rod holders are a useful investment for your vehicle.
A chunky, strong rainbow is slipped back to the water.
Strong fluorocarbon helps to get fish in fast ready for release.