47 - Fly Fishing at Wimbleball Lake- Best flies and tips for spring stillwater fishing
Fly Fishing at Wimbleball Lake- Best flies and tips for spring stillwater fishing
Looking to get your stillwater fly fishing season off with a bang? We opened the season with an enjoyable session, with some interesting findings on the best flies, tactics and location.
Offering excellent sport from bank or boat alongside wonderful scenery, Wimbleball Lake is quite simply one of the best places to go fly fishing in Somerset and the South West. As well as phenomenal rainbow trout, with four pound plus fish always possible, however, it also has some cracking wild browns. Anything but predictable, it also lends itself well to different tactics throughout the season, from lures to dry flies. So where’s your best starting point?
The spring is as good a time to visit as any. Following a new intake of trout and fly life waking up, sport can be excellent. Or at least, hopes were high for us as we launched out on a fairly bracing early spring day on Exmoor. With a fairly stiff easterly breeze, we would be up against the elements as well as the fish.
For anyone who knows Wimbleball, however, the rewards can be well worth the effort. The trout here are some of the best conditioned you’ll find anywhere, with bright, muscular fish of three to five poundscommonplace.
Top flies and tactics for Wimbleball Lake
Regardless of the time of year, one excellent tip for any angler fishing in company is to try different tactics. Indeed, doing quite different things to a mate or two will cover more bases- and you can always copy your fishing friend if they hit on a winning formula.
On that basis, Ollie starts on a floating line set up with his absolute favourite starting fly, a Kennick Killer. He’s also gone for his heaviest trout set up, an 8/9 Cortland Fairlplay outfit, to combat the stiff crosswinds! Dylan is also fishing a floating line but using a bright lure, while Dom will start on an intermediate line and a team of three flies. He likes to combine bright and natural patterns on the same cast, the thinking being that a Sunburst FAB on the point will draw the fish in, while two crunchers or Daiwl Bachs on droppers will tempt any fussier diners.
Regardless of your fly choices, one must is to tackle up with a long, strong leader for fishing a big reservoir. One common mistake is to fish with too little, but using a minimum of twelve, or preferably fifteen foot plus of leader material, is infinitely better, allowing your flies to behave more naturally and get deeper. As for strength, there is no need to go too light! Not only does 7lb+ fluorocarbon tangle less, it means less risk of break offs – important when many fish are 3lbs+ and fight like fury. Nor are they especially leader shy early in the season.
Beating the wind
Our first port of call is to head for the northerly, bridge end of the lake (going left from the boat launch- the website has a handy map HERE). We hit the far bank and find a stiff wind and drizzle. Which are less welcome! Rather than use a drogue in these fierce initial conditions, both of our boats opt to anchor up. Drifting with the drogue would usually be our preference, but for now, it’s pick one vantage point at a time and move if no bites come .
What a start it proves to be, just at the end of a tree line, about forty yards from the bank. Within seconds of sorting the cameras and sending flies out, there are excited cries and thrashes at the surface. The trout certainly don’t mind the dull, windy conditions. They’re up in the water, hungry and within seconds every angler is into a fish! Dylan also manages to catch on one of the new Ukraine coloured lures, a current fundraiser to help those in need right now.
It’s visceral, exciting fishing and from our first casts it seems that these spring rainbows want bright flies and aggressive retrieves. It’s blistering fishing, and for perhaps forty minutes we wonder if it’ll be one of those days the trout come almost too easily. If only- but it’s nice while it lasts!
Best of all, as Dom talks to the cameraman, a solid fish takes hold. He’s just been explaining how even on a fast retrieve it’s worth adding at least one break or pause, when the line pulls rigid. Even with a seven weight and 8lb leader, there’s no rushing this one, and a full-tailed rainbow of between four and a half pounds takes several minutes to subdue. Interestingly, it took a UV Cruncher on a dropper, rather than the brighter point fly.
What a start! Incidentally, we’re on a catch and release combi ticket today. This is a great option for those who want to fish all day without filling the fridge. You keep the first two fish, but then fish on with barbless flies and release fish with care and minimum handling. See the Wimbleball website for all the various prices and ticket options.
As thrilling as our first hour or so of fishing is, conditions soon change and the fish move on. This is quite often the pattern, even with newish stock fish. Indeed, it’s quite noticeable that with rods bent on a regular basis, a few boats gather in one spot and the trout buzz off. It’s therefore time for our anglers to do the same.
While the sport isn’t as electric, by shifting spots we keep the odd take coming. This is a lesson well worth noting for any time of year, too: the only reason to stay in one location is if you’re seeing fish or getting takes.
Another great point about Wimbleball is the immense amount of space and variety of water to try. Moving back up the lake, we’re content to soak in some sunshine and take a break for a bit, before heading for the leafier dam end, which holds some challenging and spectacular brown trout.
For a time, we seem to have gone from feast to famine- with the trout preferring the earlier mucky conditions far better than humans, it seems. Staying persistent and mobile is definitely the way to go, and experimenting with different distances from the bank.
Another consistently good idea is to loiter around any “point” spots where the bank juts out. In these places, you can be sure that fish will pass at some point, and it’s here we get back in touch with the fish. We also switch flies around, just to see if this makes a difference.
It’s by a reedy outcrop we get our next takes, although Dom is perplexed at three nippy bites in a row with no hook up. Minutes later, we have our culprit, as a gorgeous brown trout is played and carefully returned without needing to be taken onto the boat. At about half a pound, he might look small, but is in wonderful condition and every bit as welcome as his hulking neighbours.
Back to the start
As the weather gets cold again, it’s noticeable that sport picks up. There’s no predicting these fish today! They are very mobile and seem to like the opposite conditions to us. Another key lesson is to wrap up well, because boat fishing gives the angler no shelter- and it’s no fun shivering away.
Once again, it is the north-western end of the lake that produces the goods after another move- and finally, with the wind abating, we can drift a little more happily.
It’s never quite as hectic as the start of the day, but great to find the bites coming back. Ollie seems to catch well on a Black Kicking Damsel. Dom is getting attention on a Sunburst Blob, meanwhile.
Of course, there are all sorts of flies that will come into play throughout the season. It’s interesting that even after only 2-3 weeks in the lake, however, some of the better fish are already taking natural patterns such as a UV Cruncher- and this trend will increase as the weeks stack up. Buzzers are hatching sporadically by mid afternoon, while anyone visiting in the summer simply must try some dry flies such as Hoppers and even a dry Coch Y Bonddu, because the trout definitely will latch onto a terrestrial later in the season.
It’s been a fun, if a little bracing, session overall. While we’ve not had a cricket score of fish, everyone has had a handful of trout, along with plenty of other hits and misses.
Indeed, with a great balance of challenge and action, it’s easy to see why anglers love Wimbleball Reservoir to get their fly fishing fix. No two days are quite the same, but there’s always the chance of something special, whether that’s a muscle bound rainbow, or a big, wild brown trout. And while you’re right up on Exmoor, there’s also plenty of other activities for non-fishing family, as well as decent food and drink for a cold, tired angler- with nearby pub The George Inn especially well recommended.
We’ll be back in the summer, to test out some dry flies along with the Blobs and Buzzers, that’s for sure! Our thanks go to all the staff at Wimbleball for their help and excellent service, which make this an even better fly fishing venue.
Top 6 Flies for Wimbleball Lake & spring fly fishing on reservoirs
From Left To Right
You just cannot go far wrong with this fly! It works for rainbows and browns alike and is especially good in clear water. Also a good fly to ring the changes if everyone is on the bright stuff.
Another favourite, this fly offers that something extra with two kicking legs and lots of movement.
A brilliant attractor fly, especially as the “point” in a team of three or four. Especially deadly when fished on an intermediate or sinking line.
A few standard blobs are also a must and a good opening gambit is to try different colours to see which one the trout prefer on the day.
This is our most consistent stillwater lure bar none, whether it’s spring or autumn. Shown is the Golden Olive variant, but be sure to pack a few different colours, from drab to bold.
This is a terrific all-rounder. While the UV hot spot will win takes from stockies, it is also subtle enough to tempt wiser, warier fish as the season goes on.