WHEN the grass is crunchy underfoot and the fallen leaves make a random pattern of colour and ice crystals, then you know instinctively that the fishing will not be that easy! So what do you do? In some respects it depends how desperate you are to catch fish. Have you pressured yourself by buying a full day ticket and are you determined to remain until you have caught your limit? Or have you bought a two-fish ticket, planning to fish through just the warmer part of the day and if you catch one, will go home happy?
Bellbrook through the years Bellbrook Valley Fishery is one of those fisheries where the changes over the years have been so subtle that they hardly seem noticeable. Such natural beauty has an ageless quality and I had to think hard to place those almost imperceptible differences from when I fished Bellbrook, 25 years ago. Bodmin Lake was at that time the big-fish lake, but the dark brooding quality of this most sheltered lake still has an ambience daring you to unlock its secrets, a challenge which still intrigues many of the anglers who fish it today. Nowadays under the ownership of Chris Atwell, Bodmin Lake is a normal stock lake. Up the valley from Bodmin Lake are Dartmoor Pool, Exmoor Pool, Sedgemoor and Ottmoor Lakes, which all contain normal stock averaging between two and three pounds with a few surprises, and they are "good fish" in excellent condition. Some time ago, I well remember fishing a warm overcast day on Sedgemoor Lake, which is near the top of the valley and taking several nice fish off the top on a size 14 Black Gnat. No one else had ventured that far up the valley and I had the lake to myself for the best part of the day. It's funny how such long, relaxing, lazy days live in your memory. The Bellbrook Specimen Lake today is Iron Mill Lake, which last year saw an average weight of over 5lb recorded, so there is some great fun there if catching larger than average fish is your thing.
As we tackle up, fishery owner Chris Atwell comes down from the field where he's been feeding the horses. His pack of dogs don't take long to sniff out which bag has the sandwiches in, so after moving it to safety in the back of the car, I have a play with the dogs while Chris brings us up to date with how it's fishing. Most anglers it seems have been pulling everything including Cat's Whiskers, Vivas and Zonkers.
Well, today's going to be a bit different as we're going to fish Buzzers and Bloodworm off intermediate and floating lines. In particular I'm going to try some flies I've tied with a weird soft squirmy rubber material I've found on the Veniard stand at the Tackle & Guns Show. It's so soft that if you pull the tying thread too tight, the thread will cut right through it. Also you must not use conventional varnish or anything containing toluene. But Superglue works just great. When I first saw the Worm Body material, Bloodworm was my first hought - San Juan worm-style - and today is the first serious outing for these flies. Now I know that some of you will be looking puzzled at these flies, one gentleman on a Facebook fly-tying page dismissed these flies as "90% rubber and 10% hook". And you know what, he is absolutely right, because this really is the easiest fly in the world to tie, once you realise that you must not pull the thread too tight!
Let's start fishing!
Second cast I allow the fly to free-fall when the line just tightens and I don't know which of us is the most surprised - me or the fish? After a determined scuffle the trout slips into the net with the blood-red Wiggly Worm fly right in the front of its chops. So okay, there is one daft fish in Bodmin Lake. Are there any more? Another fish a few minutes later has my pal ferreting about in my fly box looking for one of these Worms. After a brew and sandwich we walk over the road to Iron Mill Lake. I see some fish moving in the middle of the lake in the early afternoon sunshine. Without a doubt these fish are feeding on buzzer. On another day I'd have switched over to a couple of size 12 or 14 Black Buzzers and greased my leader to keep them high in the water. But today is the trial of these crazy rubber Bloodworms and I'm eager to fish this maniac fly on the drop through those fish. It doesn't take long. A long cast, straighten the line and wait. The subtleness of the take is as if the fish has no hesitation at all about taking the fly. I truly believe the rubbery bits waving about under the weight of the hook and few turns of lead must be so realistic that the fish don't hesitate to take the fly. This stuff works and you have to get some. I am usually hesitant about fishing this sort of fly. But truth be told, if it came to a choice between pulling something horrid or tweaking a bit of rubber like this in the colder months, I know what I would rather be doing.
How to fish the Squirmy Wormy
Without doubt the easiest and most effective way to fish this piscatorial confection is on the drop. Just cast out to where perhaps you might see fish moving and allow the fly to sink through them without any added movement. Be patient, let it sink, the fish could be curious and following. When you think the fly is in danger of hooking the bottom, commence a jerky figure-of-eight retrieve, with lots of pauses to let the fly sink of its own accord again. If you are confident in your casting, so that by using a dropper you will not tangle every other cast, then put a conventional Bloodworm pattern on the dropper. Fishing on-the-drop is a lethal method for more conventional Buzzer-type patterns as well. Fishing these patterns under a strike indicator will no doubt be a lethal combination. I suspect I will get some rude and adverse comment for saying that. But in truth if you're not 100% certain of your ability to detect subtle takes, then a strike indicator is a good learning aid and shouldn't be frowned upon.