"Part of what makes Exmoor such a stunning place is the presence of water throughout the region. Spectacular valleys are often brought together by beautiful Rivers, the Coastline is constantly chewed by never ending waves while here and there a Lake puts in an appearance, a natural mirror quietly hiding amongst sprawling meadows.
For the Exmoor Fly Fisher it is what lives within these watery realms that provides the real interest. This
short article is a guide to what you will need to tackle fly fishing on Exmoor.
There are many to choose from including the Exe, Barle and Lyn. Day tickets are freely available from various outlets including hotels, local farmers, tourist offices and specialist fishing agents. For a complete guide to the South West region and the venues which it offers, I can recommend the "Get Hooked" Guide. This little booklet represents excellent value and is available in most tackle shops and some newsagents throughout the area.
Freshwater Species: Salmon, Sea Trout and Wild Brown Trout. There are also possibilities to catch Pike on the fly.
For River Trout fishing a 7 1/2 to 8 ft rod is ample, coupled to a number 4 / 5 weight floating line. Leaders should be fine, going as low as 2 1/2lb, with a maximum of 5lb. There is no real need for a net but a small pan version is recommended just in case a big one puts in an appearance. Most Wild Trout on Exmoor are very small, with 3 making a pound. However, there are good specimens available and it is possible to catch a monster with time and patience! Techniques need not be complicated with upstream dry fly and down stream spiders taking many fish.
Flies should include :
Migratory species such as Salmon and Sea Trout should be approached with stronger equipment to cope with the hard fighting character of these fish. A rod of 9 - 10ft long matched with a 7 to 8 weight line is the order of the day. Floating lines are all that is really needed, using various sink tips to gain depth. Leaders should not go below 6lb for the Sea Trout and 8lb for the Salmon. During spate conditions 10lb is recommended. A net is a must due to the large size of these fish, (hopefully!) A Gye net with shoulder strap is ideal. Expect Sea Trout in the 2 - 6lb region and Salmon going into double figures.
For Salmon, Flies should include not much more than Regular and Silver Stoats tails. This is a fantastic pattern which can be fished in mostwater conditions other than full spate. A good supply in size 14 - 8low water doubles is ample and don't forget a few tube versions in 1 - 2 inch. When it is mucky the Willie Gunn is superb in similar sizes, although it would be sensible to carry a few larger, say a 6 in hook and 2 1/2 inch in tube. Various other patterns such as the Allies Shrimp will also catch but the Stoat and Gunn are well proven.
Sea Trout are not Salmon ! Many anglers fish for this species as they would it's elder cousin.
However, leaders need to be finer, flies smaller and the places fished, chosen with care. Slow deep pools will
often yield a Sea Trout by day (yes they can be caught by day!!!) and during the hours of nightfall try the
tails and throat of well known pools. These pools are easily found with some careful reconnaissance in local
hostelries! The Stoats tail in small sizes such as 14 - 12 low water doubles will do some damage, but also try
the Alexandra, Teal Blue and Silver and by day a selection of Nymphs from 12 - 8. GH Hares Ears are often
The Salmon season runs from 1st March until 30th September.
It is not true that all licence holders can fish anywhere in the National Park!
Conservation has helped Salmon stocks to recover, it is an on going process and all who fish Exmoor
can help. Keep to fish limits where applicable, and check size rules. Any fish that are not to be kept should
be carefully returned to the water allowing plenty of time for them to revive. Where possible always use
barbless or de barbed hooks.
Should the worst happen and you spot a pollution incident quick reactions could save many fish,
invertebrates and other animals who rely on the river.
Lakes / Reservoirs / Small Stillwaters
There are a good number of these throughout the region. Species include Rainbow Trout, Brown Trout and at some fisheries unusual varieties such as the Blue and Tiger Trout. There are Day permits available which are often self service from a kiosk on site. Venues from 2 acres to 385 are to be found, some providing boat fishing.
Tackle should be as for most other lakes, 9 - 10ft rod, 7 weight lines of varying densities, leaders of 6lbs or so and a net. Flies need not be complicated and favourite patterns would be : Black and Peacock, Hares Ear, Buzzers, Mini Lures and Hoppers or Bobs Bits. Most food which these fish expect to see is of dark colouration so opt for blacks and browns. Beware, especially when Boat Fishing, that the climate of Exmoor is prone to extreme and sudden changed! Always wear a buoyancy aid.
Seasons vary enormously, with many of the small venues open all year. As a rule of thumb most reservoirs on Exmoor open during March and close in October. Once again a rod licence is compulsory.
CLATWORTHY RESERVOIR. MAP ST043313 12m from Taunton in Brendon Hills; 130 acres brown and rainbow trout; fly only; 2¼m bank fishing. Season Mar 25-Oct 18. Tel: 01984 623549.
WIMBLEBALL LAKE MAP SS967301
Near Dulverton. 374 acres. South West Lakes Trust, fly only, well-known stocked rainbow trout
fishery. Season March 25 -Oct 31, boats including wheely boat for disabled available. Dt £18.50, boats £11,
tickets from self-service kiosk at Hill Farm Barn.
Bass and Pollack are to be found in many areas in and around Exmoor. It is possible to hook these using
conventional heavy Trout gear and streamer style flies incorporating silver / white. Sizes should be 10 -6
longshank in most circumstances. Try various rock marks, estuaries and harbours on a rising tide. Mullet also
fall to the fly, but are very difficult. Dries, Nymphs and patterns to look like Bread! or Maggots! will work
So while taking in the relaxing atmosphere of Exmoor why not try and outwit a fish or two ? My perfect holiday would be a day or two on the Exe for Wild Brown Trout, followed by a spot of Sea Trouting on the Lyn and a session boat fishing Wimbleball. Of course the grand finale would be a trip to the coast!"
Dulverton Angling Association: