Turrall Top Tips: Fly Fishing at Fernworthy Reservoir

Turrall Top Tips: Fly Fishing at Fernworthy Reservoir

Fly Fishing at Fernworthy Reservoir: Top flies and tactics


Of all the places to go fly fishing in Devon, Fernworthy Reservoir is right up there with the best of them as far as Turrall’s team of fly tyers and field testers are concerned. Sitting on the edge of Dartmoor, you could be fooled into thinking this manmade reservoir was a natural venue. Ruggedly beautiful, it has a prolific stock of both wild and introduced trout, with samples to over 7lb already netted in 2024! It’s also suitably challenging, however, with various styles coming into play depending on the season.

We couldn’t resist making a film there this spring, such is the allure of the South West Lakes Trust venue- and it didn’t disappoint! However, there were several big lessons to learn, along with standout tactics and fly patterns recommended by Rodney Wevill and Dom Garnett, who have both fished the lake for many years.

 Check out our VIDEO on Fernworthy fly fishing here ...

Top tactics for Fernworthy


Arriving on a rather chilly spring morning, we had hoped to get the fish going on loch style patterns. However, while favourite flies like the Bibio and Kate MacLaren are winners for brown trout on Devon Stillwaters, they are not the only answer.

Rodney often fishes with dark lures and long leaders in the early season, to get down to stubborn fish. Meanwhile, Dom enjoys fishing buzzer style patterns here quite often- or mixing and matching things like epoxy buzzers and Diawl Bachs with bushy loch flies. This can really pay off when more subtlety is required- for example, when the fish have seen extra angling pressure or conditions are calmer.

On blustery days, Fernworthy trout love a loch-style fly!

If you can time your visit, though, a blustery day is ideal! Don’t let that wind put you off- Rodney has caught some excellent fish on days when it was blowing a gale! In fact, a good general rule is that the choppier the water, the more aggressive the trout become and the harder you can pull flies.

On our visit, the fish didn’t want to hit right on the surface. Nor did they want to come very close to the bank. We can only assume this was due to the coldest spring temperatures in several years. A shame, because this can be thrilling sport, even for anglers who lack distance casting skills.

A pattern soon started emerging- the vast majority of takes came early in the retrieve after a long cast. Counting down for a few seconds seemed to help, too.

The best flies early on were a Blue Zulu or Snatcher- but Rodney also had some joy on beaded nymphs or even a Martian- a green and black fly usually associated with rainbow trout!

Leaders, set ups and best flies

Another important consideration on stillwaters is your set up. A longer leader gives you so much more flexibility with flies, allowing you to try different patterns and depths. Our leaders tend to be a minimum of 15ft, with three flies. It might sound a little heavy, but our anglers seldom drop below 6lb fluorocarbon- and there are big reasons for this. First, we tend to be fishing in a breeze and when pulling bushy flies the fish aren’t studying our tackle! Stiff fluoro reduces tangles, too, while it also means that should you hook that fish of the season, the chances are you’ll land it.

Tough and tangle resistant fluorocarbon is first choice.

The one exception to this rule would be in calm conditions, particularly fishing a single dry fly. In this instance, you’d be better off with a tapered leader and a tippet of as little as 3-4 lbs.

As for rods, reels and lines, the trout fight brilliantly on light tackle. However, with long casts and breezy conditions to take into account, typical gear would be something like a 5, 6 or 7 weight rod of at least 9ft. Floating fly lines are the norm- like the ultra reliable Cortland 444 – and the only time we’d take a sinker would be when pulling lures early or late in the season.

The session…

You’ll get a good flavour of how we fished from the video linked above- but there were also some really noticeable takeaways to note! Every day and season is different, of course, but here are just some of our tips and general advice for Fernworthy and other breezy Devon fisheries with brown trout:


  • Early in the season, especially if it’s a cold spring, be prepared to let your flies sink and even try a weighted nymph or lure on a long leader.
  • Normally, it pays to wade with care and try close to the bank. However, in cool spring conditions, the fish will often hang further out.
  • Trout on Fernworthy have definite feeding spells. From around 10am to 2pm seems capital, but there is often an afternoon lull. Sport will often pick up again in the evening though, so have your excuses ready to get home a bit later!
  • It’s always worth trying different styles and colours of fly. Try starting out with three quite different offerings- you can always switch around later according to what the fish want. Nor is it a sin to double up with a pattern that’s working a treat!
  • Move your feet regularly. Spots near fishing huts are always popular, but for those who can be bothered, a long walk will often be rewarded. You will often find the fish “cluster” in certain locations- and this is especially true of stock fish.
  • As a general rule, the windier the conditions the more aggressive the fish and the more you can “pull” flies! At the other end of the scale, on gentle and sunny days try smaller, slimmer flies, like buzzers, bachs and dark emergers.
  • The main hatch on the lake is the buzzer- and these can quite often be small, so carry flies in sizes 14 and 16 as well as standard lake flies.


Best flies for Fernworthy Reservoir

The list of patterns that will work is endless. However, these are staples we constantly have in our boxes!

BLUE ZULU: a brilliant all rounder, with a dash of colour and good presence


BIBIO: A classic for browns on all Dartmoor lakes.

KATE MACLAREN: A great fly to mix things up and contrast with darker patterns.


EPOXY BUZZER: Underused for browns, this is ideal to fish on the “point” and we suspect that on tricky days the fish will are attracted to bigger flies on the droppers before inhaling this more subtle option.


SEDGEHOG: Fantastic fun when used as a top dropper. Add floatant twice- once at home and again on the water, for maximum buoyancy. When the fish are really up and aggressive, you’ll get spectacular hits on the surface!

BLACK & SILVER HUMUNGOUS: Always have a black lure or two handy in case things get tough! Even on the trickiest days, a dark, moving target can provoke a fish or two. In the early season, it’s worth trying a dark lure, cast as far as you can and allowed to sink right down before you retrieve.

SHUTTLECOCK BUZZER: Buzzers are the main hatch at Fernworthy- but don’t go OTT with sizes. In calm conditions, the dry fly can work beautifully and this pattern is a winner in smaller sizes.

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