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Thanks Dr Beeching

December 8 2008

This article was published in the February 1994 edition of Trout Fisherman under a different title.

So what has Dr. Beeching got to do with fishing? Well, if it wasn't for his infamous massacre of Britain's railways a particular piece of branch line on the Devon-Cornwall border might still be in use.

Instead about 220 yards of a secluded cutting has been nurtured into an idyllic piece of private fishing for Rainbows and Browns. The railway closed in 1963 and I can still recall riding, as did many others from the locality, on the last steam train from our small Cornish town. The piece of line in question remained unused until 1985 when the owner built a dam at one end of the cutting creating 100 yards of water about 30 feet wide and around 9ft. deep. That same year an initial stocking of 40 twelve inch Rainbows and 10 twelve inch Browns was introduced into this virgin water to provide sport for the owner and some fortunate friends.

A few Minnows were also put in at this point and the fact that their numbers have remained low proves they are doing their job in providing food for the larger inhabitants. Also just four Loaches were added and now there's one under every other stone.

The cost? Initially about £1500 but this was not a site designed purely for fishing. The pond and its immediate surroundings were intended as a conservation area and have proved very successful. Ornithological sightings have included Kingfishers, Herons a white Egret and Canada Geese Insect life has also prospered with a stunning population of iridescent Damsels as well as a profusion of Butterflies and Dragonflies.

The first year was not, however, without problems! The predictable one, in a water this size perhaps, was lack of oxygen in high summer. Emergency measures were taken by pumping oxygen into the water to try and persuade the Trout to stop swimming upside down and a long term solution seems to have been found in Potaganta Crispa. This is a curled pond weed and an excellent oxegenator also it is very soft stemmed, the advantages of which you'll read about later!

In 1988 the water was extended further back up the railway line, creating shallows at the 'top' and a heavily weeded area which proves very popular with the Trout. At this time the pond was drained and, having kept a close record of the numbers of fish caught, the owner found himself about 30 short. Picturesque Herons may be, but along with Cormorants they were, no doubt, responsible for the deficit. A change in stocking policy remedied this problem as introducing the Trout at 2.5 to 3 pounds seemed to make them too big for the predators to handle. The Trout are no mean predators themselves as the following account explains.

The owner and his young son Ben were at the waters edge one evening when Ben found a full grown frog in the bankside vegetation. He 'kindly' slipped it back into the water and it started out for the other bank. Both spectators were observing its progress when a dark shape approached the luckless amphibian. The water was barely disturbed as an enormous mouth opened and leisurely closed, engulfing the frog completely. Now there's a challenging imitation for an enterprising fly tier!

A beautiful summers afternoon in June formed the perfect backdrop when I was given the opportunity to fish, allowing the owner a chance to get some photographs at the same time.

I tackled up with an 8'6" rod, level 61b 10ft leader and a single pheasant tail nymph. The physical shape of the water and the wonderfully lush vegetation makes casting a little tricky and it's surprisingly difficult to reach the other bank, a mere 30 feet away. The owner obviously knows the water intimately and suggested a lure with a predominance of yellow would get the best results, but as I prefer using a more natural pattern I stuck with the pheasant tail. I started at the dam end and worked my way along, covering the water 'fan' style and varying the depth as I went.

I had not moved anything by the time we reached the 'top' where the trees open up a little and the weed provides excellent cover and, no doubt, an abundance of food for the residents. So, a yellow lure is it? The ends usually justify the means and just such a fly lurked in the box.

With a bit more room to manoeuvre I could just about manage a steeple cast to the other bank, dropping the fly next to a tree stump and letting it sink a couple feet before starting a steady retrieve. Two casts to the same spot and about 4 steady draws into the retrieve, the fly slowed up in a most leisurely fashion just like being snagged on some soft weed. I eased on a little more pressure and as the line accelerated away I tightened into a fish. Wallop! The Trout cleared the water in a burst of spray and headed off down the pond in a fashion reminiscent of the steam trains that once thundered over this very spot. Within a couple of seconds the entire line and 20 yards of backing followed the fish helplessly into a large weed bed where everything went solid. There's nothing to do in such cases but steadily pump line back and hope the fish is still attached, luckily (aided perhaps by that soft-stemmed pond weed) it was and I now had it under a little more control. She turned in front of me (I could see it was a hen fish) and I felt a pang of guilt as her mate appeared fleetingly beside her then vanished, surely just curious, following an instinct, although it could have seemed, to those with a vivid imagination, a last farewell. The battle was almost over now, a couple of despairing lunges for the nearest cover was all she could manage, the weeds over her snout testament to her efforts. The net slid into the water and the fish was mine.

She was quickly despatched and turned the scales at just over 8lb 8oz, a fish of classic proportions grown on from a couple of pounds and in all probability nearing the end of her natural life. The late afternoon sun provided some beautiful natural light for the photographs and although I could have stayed and fished on I felt spoiled enough. Very rarely does the opportunity present itself to fish in such gloriously unspoilt surroundings. Combine that with the quality of the quarry and it's more than enough for most anglers, certainly for me.