Summer Fishing at Roadford with Duncan Keir

For the latest blog we joined Duncan Keir, a fantastic local angler who is well known by many, and he gave us his best advice, top tips and secrets to help everyone catch more brown trout at Roadford. There hasn’t been a more successful angler on Roadford in recent years so this blog will certainly help you master the mighty Roadford!

Duncan’s blog:

Roadford Lake, nestling at the western edge of Devon and with it’s beautiful scenery of rolling hills and Dartmoor backdrop, can truly be described as one the very best Brown Trout fisheries in the country. Even now, in the middle of summer, Roadford can offer some great sport for those that venture out to explore the wide open expanse of water and many bay’s that Roadford has to offer

Early season in recent years has seen some excellent fishing. Leech patterns cast close to shore and quickly retrieved, traditional wet fly patterns fished through the surface during March and April, giving way to superb dry fly sport in May and June, with fish eagerly feeding on the Hawthorn and Coch-y-Bondu beetle’s that can be blown on to the water in large numbers. As the Summer takes hold and the temperatures continue to rise the fishing can become considerably more challenging. But the fish are still there and now some changes in tactics will be needed in order to tempt Roadford’s residents.

Bank fishing will of course become more challenging now and boat fishing at Roadford gives the angler a huge advantage now. Fish will still move into the shallower water near the banks, coming within range of the bank anglers, but normally only during first and last light. If you can manage to set a very early alarm and then actually get up when it goes off and head for the water then you can be in for a treat and the bank fishing can still provide some excellent sport. The same applies during the evening, when the very best sport can be in the very last light of the day.

At this time of year, the early morning and late evening hatches can be very early and late and can be very brief, but for just a little while the whole lake can come alive and fish can be seen rising in all directions.  Cove Buzzer’s and Cruncher patterns fished just under the surface and Orange Emerger and Deer hair Sedge patterns fished dry can make for some fantastic sport.

Last light at Roadford. The bank anglers best opportunity at this time of year.

If you have managed to fish the dawn and as the early morning gives way to the day and the temperatures rise, the opportunities to catch will often be fewer and further apart, but there will still be chances. As always, when bank fishing at Roadford there are a few key rules that I always try to follow and this applies just as much now, in the middle of summer, as at any other time. Perhaps even more so. Keep moving and if you catch a Perch, move further! Fish the points, cruising, feeding fish will often be found here and as the sun rises and the skies get brighter, head for the steeper banks, where the deeper water can still be reached from the shore.

In terms of tackle for the banks at Roadford, a 9-10′ rod of 6# or 7# should be all that is needed. A floating line is a must and I would always have a sink tip line of some variety. Often, when the fish are not showing, this line can keep your fly in that crucial depth for just that little bit longer. An intermediate or slow sink line is rarely needed through the season here but just now can be worth carrying.

A huge fly selection is rarely needed, these are fish that have grown on and fed on the natural fly life in the lake. Damsel nymphs, tadpole and leech patterns will still prove successful but choosing smaller fly sizes seems more productive now. In the warmer water the fish will be more reluctant to chase for their food so a slow and steady figure of eight retrieve will bring the best results.

Searching different parts of the lake to find fish is always important at Roadford so travel light. If you can’t fit enough tackle into a backpack then the chances are you are taking too much ! It’s also far too hot now for carrying more than is absolutely needed.

But back to the boat fishing at Roadford. So much of the tactics from the bank will equally apply once afloat and this, coupled with the opportunity to cover far more water and access the deeper parts of the lake, can make for some great summer sport. There are a limited number of boats on the lake so booking ahead  is obviously required. Petrol motors can be provided and this gives easy access to the whole lake. However, there are some real advantages when using an electric engine, if you are able. Quietly entering the many bays at Roadford, subtle and quiet changes to a drift and maintaining position over the mysterious Roadford boils can make all the difference here.

An electric outboard also gives the ability to easily maintain a drift and constant distance from the banks, whilst casting into the banks. Although now, in the middle of summer, the fish will feed at greater depths but in the early and late season the resident trout of Roadford will feed incredibly close to shore, giving themselves away as their tails break the surface in the shallow water. Be aware however, the sheer size of the lake can mean that even two good size batteries can easily be exhausted during a day at Roadford. Something to be considered during the day if a long row at the end is to be avoided.

Choosing your day for fishing Roadford in the middle of summer can hugely improve your chances. Fish here simply do not respond well on bright days and if you can fish on a day with a reasonable breeze and cloud cover the fish tend to be far more active. In fact, having fished Roadford far more than I should have over the years, I have found that cloud cover is the single most important factor  at any time of the year. Quite simply, more cloud equals more fish and I have lost count of the days that incoming cloud has rescued very difficult days and cloudy days which have given way to sunshine has ended sport very abruptly. Recent weather has not helped with this.

If you have been fortunate to find a day with a little cloud cover then the fish will often move up in the water and although you may be fishing over deep water, there are many areas of the lake where depth drops to up to 100 feet, fish will feed just a few feet under the surface. Traditional wet fly patterns are a firm favourite in these conditions, using Bibio’s, Soldier Palmer’s and similar patterns with a floating or sink tip line.

On brighter days the fish head  deeper and to catch you must make sure your fly follows. Boat fishing gives the opportunity to carry and use a much greater selection of line densities and in these conditions Di3 and Di5 lines will be needed to reach the depths to tempt fish. Boat fishing with sunk lines will usually be more easily managed using a 10′ rod and 7# lines. This will also help dealing with the winds that can push across such a large expanse of water.

The Brown Trout of Roadford will tend not to shoal, as is so often the case with it’s bold and brash Rainbow cousins, but will live a more solitary life. As a result, the fish are more evenly dispersed around the lake and, as with the Bank fishing, staying mobile is again so important. All of the bays will contain fish but in the high temperatures of summer the deeper bays toward the dam end of the lake will usually be more productive. Slowly drifting each bay in turn, using a drogue on all but the calmest of days and covering as much water as possible will usually find fish. Most of the bays at this end of the lake drop away to at least 40-50 feet or more so the fish have the opportunity to feed in the shallow water of the bays during low light but can quickly retreat to the deeper water during the day and they will still feed and fishing as deep as possible can bring results.

The main body of the lake will also contain a good numbers of fish throughout However, this can be water of up to 100 feet and on the brighter days the fish will often hold deep for the majority of the day. These fish will rise up in the water but for more consistent results it pays to search the depths.

During the summer, some of the best fishing can be found around Roadford’s infamous “boils”, above the aeration pipe which run down the lake from the valve tower for around 200 yards. During early season the aeration pipes are active for only a few hours each day and timing your fishing can be a hit and miss affair but during the summer these are on all almost constantly. Oxygenated water is pushed up from the depths and as food is swept upward, the Trout congregate and follow.

Early morning over the boils.

At this time of year fish will often congregate around this area in what can be very large numbers. Maintaining position close to the boils brings the best results and most takes will occur as the fly actually passes through the boils during the retrieve. The force of water pushing out either side of the boils can make holding station a real challenge and to effectively fish here an electric engine is an absolute must, as is a spare battery to ensure you can still get back to the jetty at the end of the day without relying on the oars or the rescue boat!

Often the fish will rise high in the water around the boils and a floating line and dry flies can be very effective. Wet flies, Hoppers and Daddy Long Leg’s proving productive. One or two drifts along the length of the boils will soon determine if the fish are moving and taking in the surface layer’s. If not, then searching the deeper water is required. Fish will often hold around 30 to 40 feet down during the warmest months of summer and this is when a fast sinking line may be the only way to ensure your fly is reaching the depths at which the trout are holding. Di5 and Di7 lines are essential now to successful days.

Choosing flies that will reach the deeper areas is of course crucial so larger, weighted patterns on the point will be needed but more imitative flies fished on the droppers will often pick up fish. Once again, gold head black Wooly Buggers are a firm favourite but similar flies and, in particular black and chartreuse combinations, can be very effective. Another favoutite, designed to imitate the fry and minnow in the lake, are Minkie style patterns. Using zonkered pine squirrel and ice dubbing you can create highly mobile patterns, the squirrel giving fantastic movement in the water.

The Squirrel Minkie. The Squinky!

Obviously, as those that have fished Roadford in recent years will be well aware, Perch arrived and flourished and must receive a mention but this is not the doom and gloom story many feared. For a time it seemed that the trout fishing was doomed and would never return to as it had been. True, before the arrival of the Perch the Brown Trout fishing had been simply outstanding, but this was during the initial years after Roadford opened and nothing could ever really compare. This was  fishing in the opening years of a newly created and flooded reservoir, the trout thrived and grew well in the rich feeding this provided.

Roadford and the Perch have now settled down. The Perch numbers have reduced significantly. They are still there and will shoal up, often in the shallower water. Fishing Roadford from a boat helps reach deeper water where the Perch are far less likely to be found.

The Trout have remained and as the Perch numbers have reduced the Trout fishing has continued to improve. Recent years have seen more and more of Roadford’s bigger fish caught, with fish over 5lb each season making an appearance. Almost all of these fish have been returned and many of the local anglers will have experienced trying, often in vain, to land these fish on the occasions they are hooked. Many are lost during what can be an explosive fight as the fish charge as quickly as possible into the depths ! The continued stocking of fish which are allowed to grow on in the lake  has maintained a healthy head of fish, feeding and thriving on the abundant feeding.

The last few years have seen Carp arrive and thrive in the lake. I feel confident that the Roadford Trout will take these in their stride, as they have with the Perch, and this will do no harm to the continued resurgence as a first class Brown Trout fishery.

Roadford will rarely be described as an easy fishery but it has returned to excellent form in the last few years and, when conditions are right, has provided some spectacular returns. Given the huge variety of trout fishing available in the area it is of no surprise that Roadford is often overlooked but it can offer the dedicated and determined angler, prepared to venture out into it’s water an experience that is hard to beat.

SPECIAL OFFERS FOR JULY AND AUGUST

Why not take advantage of our special offers for the remainder of July and August!

Rainbow trout anglers can take advantage of our 2 for 1 offers on day tickets during July and August. Buy any day ticket for Kennick, Burrator, Stithians or Siblyback and get the second free. The tickets must be used by the end of August. To buy your tickets please call our office on 01566 771930 Monday to Friday 8:30am-5:00pm.

Season ticket holders can fish at any of our trout lakes regardless of the season ticket you have for the remainder of July and August.

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