A Guide to Fishing at Fernworthy

Introduction

Fernworthy is set on one of the highest points of Dartmoor at 350m (1100 feet) above sea level. It is extremely picturesque and provides traditional fly fishing for wild and stocked brown trout. Fernworthy, Roadford and Colliford form a trio of stocked brown trout waters under our control. Fernworthy is for walkers and fishing only as there are no watersports activities.

The fish and our stocking

Fernworthy is stocked twice a season which works really well – once in March and once in early May. We stock fish up to 2lbs with the average size being 10-12 inches and have stocked fish up to the 4lb mark in the past. The fish do grow on a few ounces each year and even the smaller fish fight really well. There is a terrific head of fish in Fernworthy and year on year the rod averages are very consistent.

The Fishing

Fishing is from the bank only other than when we allow boat fishing for short periods on a pre booked basis. Fish the margins and walk the banks to cover as much water as possible. Catch and release is encouraged (barbless hooks to be used), otherwise up to 4 fish over 7” may be kept per day depending on the permit purchased. There is no a specific catch and release permit.

Fish can be caught from all areas of the bank – they can be very close to the bank and in very shallow water when feeding.  Anglers have caught fish literally inches from the banks here.

If you want to get a feel for depths have a look at the surrounding land and how steeply it runs into the lake. What you see above the surface often reflects what’s going on below. This can help with fishing as slightly larger gradients could provide deeper water close in and food and shelter year round.

Step and cast is a good tactic at Fernworthy but don’t be afraid to stop for a while if you find an area where fish are feeding. Some areas like Farmhouse Bank can produce excellent buzzer hatches and you will find fish congregating to take advantage of the food.

Wading done carefully can add options to how you approach your fishing at Fernworthy. Careful wading helps to keep the angler less visible as he or she is lower to the water.  It can also be stealthier than crashing around the heather and grass on the bank.  Chest waders are great and very versatile but you don’t need to wade out as far as possible! Don’t go any further than knee deep as its really not required. Before you start wading its absolutely essential to try a few casts into the marginal shallows. Depending on the wind, fish along the bank rather than straight out and start with short casts and gradually lengthen your line. If you do wade take care as there are areas with underwater structure that can trip you up, there are deep holes and drop-offs, and areas where the mud is very soft.

Look for features and areas that provide food and cover for fish. Walking the banks when the water is low can be very informative particularly for the following season when water levels are at their peak once more.

Watch the swallows and house martins when they are at the lake and if they are feeding low and close to the water it’s because the insects are there and fish will be on the move. If the birds go high or disappear it’s because they are following the insects and it might be a good idea to take a break. Keep an eye out for subtle rises as fish take buzzers just under the surface. You will see dorsal fins emerging for a very short time and fish can be caught during this time if you can get your flies in the right place.

The fish can switch on or off very quickly here.  Early and late is good during the summer months, but especially early in the season there is often a period of good fishing during the middle of the day.

Boat fishing is usually for a short period of time in the summer and with limited booking slots available. Keep an eye on our website page www.swlakesfishing.co.uk to see when they are available.

Fishing Map

The fishery map which has all the commonly used names referred to in this guide can be found in the permit room at Fernworthy or here on our website.

Tackle

At Fernworthy you will not need anything heavier than a 6 weight rod.  A floating line is the best choice and if you want to get a bit deeper use a sinking polyleader or put a weighted fly on the point.  If it is very windy then an intermediate can help to prevent your line getting blown around on the water as it does get pretty windy here at times!

Do not overload yourself with lots of rods and tackle as it’s really not required. As with all of our brown trout waters travel light, stay mobile and carry as little as possible. A good selection of flies is important but take note of the flies mentioned below as these will be the key to your success but no guarantees are provided!

It’s not set in stone that you must not use barbed hooks but we do recommend the use of barbless or de-barbed hooks at all times. The vast majority of our anglers at the brown trout waters return most of their catch. We have a head of natural browns in Fernworthy so you will catch the odd undersized fish (under 7 inch) which must be returned. Barbless hooks will be perfect for the conservation of those fish and they also present more of a skill challenge trying to land anything you hook!

Fly Patterns & Techniques

Small dark flies are pretty reliable but over the years fish have been caught on all sorts of things so experiment.  Flies fished with confidence are always more successful than ones you don’t have faith in!

Traditional dark fly patterns such as Black Gnats, Bibios, Beetles, and Hoppers as well as sedge patterns like Invicta and Sedge Hog work well at Fernworthy. Dry fly can be very successful even if there is nothing showing on the surface as a good meal can drag them up from the depths.  Small dark scruffy things like hoppers and Bobs Bits are good prospecting patterns but the fish here can sometimes get pre-occupied for example on Hawthorns when the hatch is rife.

If fish are feeding on buzzers just under the surface then try suspender buzzers or shipmans buzzers, or small wet flies retrieved slowly just under the surface (although the wake from your line/ leader can be a problem).

 Picture: damsel nymph emerging at Fernworthy

Traditional and not so traditional wet fly tactics work well a lot of the time.  Dark traditional flies (black, brown, claret, red) are a good bet but success can be found using flashier flies as well such as silver and pearly invictas. Surface waking flies such as muddlers and greased up sedgehogs can be very effective.  Probably at their best when there is a bit of a wave but not to be dismissed at any time.  They drag fish up from a long way.  The only downside is that you sometimes get a lot of missed takes. Some anglers have been known to fish a team of two or even three sedgehogs.

Modern lures like an apache do work well at Fernworthy on the right day. Also, on warm still days in the height of summer the fish sometimes seem to get fixated with damselflies and a dry damsel imitation is the best to try when this is the case. Into the late evening on such days a small muddler stripped back can work very well but any surface fly will work.

Weekly catch reports

During the season weekly catch reports are produced for Fernworthy so you can see how its fishing, what flies are working and which locations have produced fish. The locations on the weekly catch report also correspond to the fishery map and this guide. The weekly catch report is posted in the permit room, on the Fernworthy page of the website and on our Facebook page ‘Trout Fishing South West Lakes Trust’.

The season and tickets

The season runs between 15th March and 12th October inclusive. Day tickets are available from the self service permit room on site (cash or cheque) and also available online through our website. Season tickets are also available and we have an evening ticket here which is just £10. Full day permits are just £15.50 and concession day permits £13.50. season permits are available through our website or by calling our office on 01566 771930.

You can also use the Westcountry Rivers Trust angling tokens as payment for fishing at Fernworthy.

Staying safe

Please take care at Fernworthy. As described before wading is generally fine but you never know what`s under your feet. Mobile phone coverage is very patchy so please ensure you tell someone you are visiting Fernworthy. We don’t recommend you wade any further than thigh depth and that you have a wading belt on. It can be very cold at Fernworthy so dress accordingly and the weather can close in quickly so make sure you have your waterproofs and a flask with you!

Conclusion

Fernworthy is a fantastic fishery and anglers regularly catch up to 15 fish in a trip. It’s an absolutely stunning place to be regardless of if your catching fish or not.

Hopefully this information will help you to get the most from your trip. A full list of rules and regulations can be found on our notice board at the fishery and on our website. Please remember to fill in a catch return every time you fish and leave it in the permit room at the lake or you may find it more convenient to use our online return service which can be found at www.swlakesfishing.co.uk Its really important to let us know if you have caught or not as this can influence our decisions on future stocking and development for the fishery.

Thanks for reading – good luck at Fernworthy.