37 - Top Tips - Fly fishing at Burrator Reservoir, Dartmoor

Fly fishing at Burrator Reservoir, Dartmoor 
With grand views and plenty of hard-fighting trout, Burrator Reservoir is a great place to go fly fishing in Devon. Check out the best flies and tactics for this beautiful Dartmoor fishery. 

For those who don’t know it, Burrator offers something a little bit special in Dartmoor National Park. Nestled in the of the South West of the moor, it combines craggy scenery with some excellent fly fishing.

Flies and tactics for moorland rainbows

Meeting at the well-known Pig Trough Bay area on the lake (there’s a handy map on the fishery website with a useful map), we tackled up at Longstone Point for what looked like a crisp, sunny but cool morning. A short walk further on led us to the water.
Already, we could see trout rising through the wind lanes forming along the shore. The fish here are not huge on average, but are fit, strong rainbows that quickly adapt to conditions up on the moor. The typical stamp of fish is in the pound to pound and a half mark, along with a reasonable head of wild browns, and even the odd monster.

The locals to the resavoir had been having some great success up here with small lures and damsels. Using a Cortland Fairplay 8/9 rod, floating line and a Kennick Killer was the chosen tactic for one or our group that proved a winning combination. This sounded a bit heavy to me, until we felt the wind kick up- and noticed the the 8/9 was still kicking a good long cast out!

Dartmoor is famous for its windy, changeable weather, so I was glad I’d brought my seven weight outfit, coupled with a floating line. A long leader is a must for presenting nymphs properly, so I’d taken 18ft of 7lb fluorocarbon, to a finer 5lb end section. A Coral FAB sat on the point, while I also added a dropper with a small UV buzzer. But would the fish want loud or natural looking flies today? 
Hands on buzzers 
Seeing so many fish moving, in spite of a cool morning, hopes were high. Within just two casts and with buzzers laid to cruising fish there was an instant, line-jangling take. A typical rainbow, of perhaps a pound and a quarter, leapt three times on the way in, giving us an acrobatic start. These small, super slim UV buzzers are certainly great little flies to fish in a team. 

Oddly, though, we just couldn’t quite get the fish going on naturals. In fact, most of the nips and pulls were coming to Ollie, who was using a Kennick Killer, which is still one of the best flies you can find for reservoir fly fishing. 
Older anglers don’t always like being shown up by a youngster, but the youngster in the group was catching as much as the rest put together. He got an ear bashing for it, but he just kept hooking another fish and grinning back! 

Eventually though, instead of haranguing the youngster, we watched him more closely and noticed what he was doing. The trick seemed to be a slow figure of eight retrieve, rather than a fast strip.  

As we were fishing the catch and release ticket, of course, we crushed the barbs on our flies (and these black forceps are ideal for the job). 
Blobs and dark clouds
The weather was already looking a little menacing by the time we all started catching up on takes with the leader. I managed to catch a couple on FAB blobs, at least. 

Using a FAB on the point seemed very effective – although tellingly, it was a slow retrieve they wanted. In fact, several nips and takes came as the fly was stopped altogether for a few seconds at a time. 
The rain then fell for a while and we decided on a move. It wasn’t warm by any stretch of the imagination. As the breeze stiffened and light rain fell, we all marvelled at one of our groups bravery for starting the day in shorts! Only in England.

Moving spots
As the day got a bit more cheerful, and a few other anglers came out to fish, we moved spots to try and keep the action coming. It seems that mornings can be a great time to fish here and some locals swear by an early start. The early season seems best, too, and Burrator is renowned for having its finest form between the early spring and June.  

The fish definitely seemed to have feeding spells and would switch on and off. With a group of us fishing together, it also made sense to give them a break and find a new spot every so often. Burrator isn’t short of promising places to cast from. Even when the wind gets up harder, you can find sheltered areas- such as the Back Bay here. Waders are a must, though, to get to some of the best bits- or sometimes wade to reach fish rising further out. 

In fact, our best spot for the early afternoon wasn’t so far from the parking at Pig Trough.  Again, we began to see moving fish and the bites returned and we had a chance to put a Turrall Blue Flash Damsel to good use.


The trout in here are no monsters, but they’re incredibly fit. And with the tough, moorland environment, it’s sensible to put fish in at slightly lower weights so they can thrive.
Insect hatches are not always heavy up here in the acidic soiled moor, but there are some notable exceptions. Buzzers are a constant presence, but most we saw were small (size 14 and 16 imitations recommended). Terrestrials will always work in summer, while evening sedge hatches are also a feature. 
For our visit, however, it’s the brighter, larger flies the trout want. It easy still early and very cold, after all! The key seems to be just to trip the flies along and not hurry them- and a lot of our fish hit on the pause or, tellingly, just as the angler’s attention is distracted. In fact, it got predictable, to the point I was deliberately talking rubbish or pausing to watch the world go by. For whatever reason, a pause of four or five seconds and the line would often pull tight.

Most of our fish went straight back, and when you’re wading they needn’t ever hit the bank. That said, you are allowed to keep one fish on a catch and release ticket, making it even more of a bargain on a £14 ticket!

By close of play, we’d enjoyed around two-dozen fish between us. The fishing had got a bit slower by late afternoon, in spite of some welcome spring sunshine.

Another interesting factor had been that the leader of our group in catches had used just the one fly all session. Could using two or three put the fish off? Some anglers thought so noticing more takes once they had reverted to fishing one. Perhaps once an area has been fished for a while, three flies is overkill and can spook them? Who knows? Certainly lots to think about on our visit- and as the season progresses, lots of other hatches and tactics will also come into play here. 
The most fish on the day went to the guy with the least fancy kit, it must also be said. His 8/9 weight Cortland Fairplay setup worked very well in the blustery conditions- although in more favourable weather you could go right down to a 4/5 weight setup here. These kits offer excellent value at under £100 for a rod, reel and excellent quality Cortland fly line.

Top fly patterns for fishing Burrator Reservoir

Our most effective flies on the day could be boiled down to perhaps just four or five main choices: (L to R) Kennick Killer (original), Kennick Killer (sunburst), Blue Flash Damsel, FAB (coral), Epoxy UV Buzzer.