ghosts on the trout trail

Fishing can take us to new destinations with new stories.
Today I will fish Crowdy Reservoir on Bodmin Moor in Cornwall. Crowdy stands in the shadow of Davidstow Moor Airfield, used by the RAF to launch bombing raids in WWII. The runways and some of the old buildings are still here, including the control tower. 

During wartime the airfield was the scene of some 40 crashes. Around 100 aircrew failed to return at all from their raids over Europe. This place certainly has its fair share of ghost stories - tales that tell of phantom service men and women and even of a stricken bomber that replays its crash landing on dark howling nights. 

I can't resist a closer look at the control tower. It's a hairy ride, bowling along the runway at dawn, trying to anticipate the car-swallowing chasms that suddenly appear here and there in the crumbling concrete.    

I want to tie some kebari from locally gathered materials too, so I park up and walk  amongst the sheep to look for some wool for my dubbing. As I cast around the ruins looking for my wool I can feel a dark mood  laying heavily on this land.

I gather some little scraps of sheep's fleece and use some of it along with a Herring Gull feather to tie some kebari. I will use them to try for some trout from Crowdy Lake. 'Try' being the operative word. I've done my research and the official verdict of the online forums is that Crowdy is devoid of fish. True, posts are scant but they all agree that Crowdy is a blanker's paradise. But seeing as I am staying just up the road I figure it's worth a go. 

But alas I am well and truly skunked at Crowdy and I fear it will take a better angler than I to unlock its secrets today. No matter, a change of atmosphere and frequency is called for, and a switch to a bright moorland stream is strong medicine.

Keen to put my herring gull kebari to the test, I arrive at the river with high anticipation.

It's what some anglers would term 'technical' little water
, - with complex braided currents, a low overhead tree canopy and highly contrasting lighting all adding to the challenge of presenting a fly and detecting takes. It's an easy river to read though, with obvious fish holding features in profusion. Creases, pools, slacks and undercuts all have trout potential and often the better fish occupy the best of these. The problem is all one of presentation, as often the best marks are separated from the angler by chaotic faster water.
The tenkara approach is ideally suited to such flow mosaics, except that here a rod long enough to hold line clear of the water is often too long to use under the low branches. My rod of choice is just 8ft in length. 

Even so possible fishing locations along the river are limited if a reasonable dead drift is desired. Down and across wet fly presentations with a low rod angle are more viable but invariably the fly skates across to end its swing in the riffles where the smallest trout parr seem to predominate. Relegated to the least favorable water these smallest of trout are hell bent on packing on weight and growing big enough to occupy the more profitable features and structure of the river.         

Given the choice I always prefer casting to sighted fish over 'prospecting' the water and so today is all about looking and watching. I soon see a splashy rise in a slack under the far bank. Some small pale flies are flitting around the bankside and the trout is keyed on to them. I angle a cast below the overhanging branches and my fly lands and is hit, the hanging line plucking taught for an instant then falling slack again. It's an encouraging start but I know this pool is blown now for a while.       

Further along, a down and across wet fly elicits those inevitable knocks from tiny trout parr, until a better fish properly takes. It's an average size for this stream, a lovely buttery 6 incher, now I know that my kebari is working! 

More walking and watching. The water is the colour of old malt whisky and the trout here have the most beautiful colouration - grading from burnt toffee on top through to butterscotch underneath, with a cosmic-camo of red, blue, black and silver along the flanks.
In the water though these fish are shadows, take your eyes off them and they are gone when you look back. I cast my fly to such a shadow, the fly lands and the tail of the shadow flicks but the fly swings too soon out of the trout's window. Not spooked though, but interested  and 'on the fin'. A change of angle gives a longer drift next cast but the fly passes through a reflection and I lose sight of the fish as well. There is no indication of a take but for some reason I lift and the fish is on.

A good fish for this river and the proof of the pudding for my Cornish kebari. And for me it's rare perfection.


  1. Nice to see you are back amongst the trout, not there is anything wrong targeting coarse fish. I tenkara fish them most of the time.
    I like your material selection approach. Not sure I could do that, although I do like tying with wool. May I suggest you have a look at the Spindrift category on this website - - there are quite a few natural colours there. The Spindrift wool is very 'buggy' and looks good when wet.

    1. Thanks David & yes I intend to dedicate more time this year to classic tenkara.. I've looked at the Spindrift stuff and really like it but haven't tried it yet so thansk for the link. Tight Lines!


Post a Comment