The water might be cooler and fly hatches fewer as we feel the chill, but there are still some fantastic small still waters open for year round fly fishing in Devon. In fact it’s a damned shame so many fair weather fishers pack up at this time of year, because many of these waters really come into their own.
It’ll get a lot colder yet, but stream-fed waters stay ice free even on the bitterest days and there are some great fish to be caught, along with a few surprises thrown in. That next pull on the line could be a flawless two pound brown or a specimen rainbow trout, and all the fisheries listed here hold fish of this quality.
The choice of tactics is yours, but we’ve advised a handful of recommended fly patterns for each fishery. Lure fishing has a visceral thrill all of its own on a cold day, watching fish follow in the clear water. But don’t be too surprised to find natural fly hatches and some excellent imitative sport right through the winter months. Buzzers will still hatch as each day thaws out, while many of our weedy Devon lakes are still packed with shrimp, corixa and sticklebacks.
Here are six great Devon trout fisheries to try, along with our recommended fly patterns for each water:
Simpson Valley Fishery
A series of excellent trout lakes in this North Devon complex, which offers great value fly fishing. If you’re taking kids or beginners, the two fish ticket at just £10 is a bargain. It also offers the welcome offer of catch and release fly fishing on lakes such as Skylark.
You’ll get plenty of bites on small trout lures here, with the Kennick Killer working very well. But if there is any breeze, perhaps the most enjoyable way to catch is by drifting buzzer patterns.
There’s also coarse fishing on site, with the chance of perch and even a few pike on the fly too. Also a lovely spot to take the family for an afternoon, with some nice walks and picnic spots.
Recommended fly patterns: Diawl Bach, Emerger Buzzer, Kennick Killer
Location: Holsworthy, Devon EX22 6JW
A pretty, secluded spot and a number of excellent smaller lakes here provide great imitative fly fishing at this delightfully different venue run by Chris Atwell. Trickle stocking and sensitive management make for intimate fishing, with plenty of cute corners and features to explore.Damsels, nymphs and shrimp patterns score well right through the winter. It can get a little more coloured if there is heavy rain, but rubber legged flies such as sinking daddies still catch. The fishery also host regular fly fishing competitions.
Recommended fly patterns: Hare’s Ear, Blue-RayDamsel, Rubber-Legs Daddy
Location: Near Tiverton EX16 9EXBlakewell Fishery
This spring fed lake runs clear even in the very depths of winter, when other waters are frozen over. In fact, the colder the weather, the better the fishing often gets. It can be cold on the fingers, but large, aggressive rainbow trout are the draw here.
Perhaps the classic spot on the lake is the finger of land that reaches out into the middle. This is a natural passing point and always seems to produce well. With the right fly, such as a dark, slow fished lure, you have a good chance of a double too, so don’t fish too light.
Recommended flies: Black Woolly Bugger, Bloodworm, Blob
Location: Muddiford, Barnstaple, Devon EX31 4ET
Tavistock Trout Fishery
A variety of pools here are ideal for a roving days sport, with both rainbows and brown trout in residence, including some really good-sized fish. The lakes have plenty of features, including some lovely deep spots to try sinking lines in the winter. Try a fast sink line and a Booby for the deeper spots, or a bloodworm on a long leader and floating line.
There is nice, varied fly fishing here and stocks of large browns and rainbows, with an excellent chance of catching a fish of ten pounds or bigger. The Trout and Tipple is a great fishing pub across the road too, should you fancy a pint of real ale to celebrate the day’s catch. For the travelling angler, the fishery also run fly fishing breaks in Devon, with self-catering accommodation by the lakes.
Recommended Flies: Black Booby, Humungous, Apps Bloodworm
Location: Tavistock, Devon PL19 9JW
Bratton Water Fishery
A very pretty spot in the North Devon countryside. Brown trout dominate, with many well-conditioned fish in the two to three pound bracket. For those who prefer traditional sport with our native fish, Bratton is a way to keep the flame burning, offering fly fishing for brown trout in Devon through the winter- and boy do they battle well!
Huge numbers of corixa and freshwater shrimp ensure that small, scruffy nymphs will always catch here. Olive or black lures also draw some big hits from large, well-conditioned rainbows here.
Recommended fly patterns: Tan Shrimp, Corixa, Black Woolly Bugger
Location: Loxhore (Near Barnstable) Devon EX31 4ST
Click here to watch the video: Winter Fly Fishing at Bratton with Dom Garnett
In keeping with Zyg Greorek’s eccentric ways at this famous Devon fishing complex, the fly fishing lake is rather unique and stocked with some unusual surprises. Along with the usual suspects, you’ll also find a number of blue, gold and tiger trout, plus a few mystery residents. Even on cold days, the rainbows will bite though, and it offers welcome catch and release fishing.
It’s a pretty, matured site at the far end of the fishery. Buzzers and Diawl Bachs work most of the year, and for some reason green flies work well. If it’s cold, look to the deepest bank and the stone monk, where the water drops several feet. But if you fish it in the early spring, the margins heave with tadpoles, which the trout eat avidly.
Best flies: Green Daiwl Bach, Olive Flexi Buzzer, Black Tadpole
Location: Beaworthy, Devon EX21 5XT,
Top Flies, Gifts & Stocking Fillers…
Based in North Devon, Turrall have been producing deadly flies for many decades. See our full range at www.turrall.co.uk or order online from one of our recommended fly stockists.
Devon Fly Fishing Tuition: Dominic Garnett offers guided fly fishing in Devon, from stillwater trout fishing to adventure trips for pike, perch, chub and other species. Find out more here: www.dgfishing.co.uk