I haven’t done a fishery focus for a while and a few people have suggested I do one on the River Isle so I thought I’ll cover the Ilminster AA stretches from Coxes down to Hambridge as these are the areas I know pretty well. I’ll try and point you in the direction of some of the better swims along with letting you know where to park and which methods and baits to use.The club holds matches on the Isle from October through to March but due to the delights of the British weather we end up fishing quite a few on Dillington if the river’s in flood. Matches are usually won with 10-20lb although this obviously depends on conditions and weights can be a lot lower or higher (Graham Field holds the current match record with over 43lb). Roach, chub and dace make up the bulk of catches although gudgeon, perch, minnows also feature and the odd bream or eel can show up as well. Brown trout are caught throughout the river although they are more common in the upper reaches, there are some good pike to be caught as well, particularly at Isle Brewers and Hambridge.
Club licences can be purchased from Mark Nicholas at Ilminster Warehouse, Ditton Street, Ilminster, Somerset and the fees are as follows
Adult Licence – £30
Juniors – £10
Concessions – £20
Ilminster AA website – http://www.ilminsteraa.co.uk/
I’ll start at the top end and access to Upper Coxes is via a track off the main road, if coming from Ilminster it’s the first turning left after you pass the entrance to Dillington House, if you go over the flyover you’ve gone to far! After a short distance there is a gate in front of you, go through it (please remember to shut it after you) and follow the track until it bears right and then you come to the bridge over the river.
Parking – There’s a little layby on the right just before the bridge with enough space for two cars or go over the bridge and park on the grass verges leaving enough room for the Wessex Water tankers to get by so they can access the sewage works.
Pegs – The peg numbers located on this stretch are peg 14 to peg 24. Looking upstream from the bridge, there is a public footpath just to the left of the bridge and if you follow it you’ll come to peg 14 which is the famous tanktraps swim, you can’t really miss it, there’s a weir pool and at the bottom some concrete tanktraps have been dumped by the far bank and the pyramids are great cover for the fish. It’s one of the most consistent pegs on the river and is especially good early on or when the river is up and coloured.
The next swim down, peg 15 is a lovely looking pool and you can fish from either side but most people tend to fish the opposite side to the footpath as it can get quite busy with ramblers and dog walkers. Holds lots of fish and you can expect to encounter quite a few brown trout. Pegs 17 and 18 just down from the bridge also hold a lot of fish, both are quite shallow though and better with some extra water on. These two pegs are best fished from the right hand bank looking downstream. The rest of the swims are normally fished from the left hand bank.
A cracking day in peg 15
Before I come on to Lower Coxes there are two swims (25 and 26) which are accessed by parking just before the flyover on the grass verge and walking down the steep bank (be careful, very overgrown and slippery). Both swims used to be stacked full of fish but have now sadly silted up quite a bit and are quite shallow and they haven’t been fished for years.
For Lower Coxes, go over the flyover and there is a farm track on the right but access is now blocked for vehicles. You can park on the grass verge and use a trolley to get down to pegs 27-29. For the pegs below the copse you will need to walk round the edge of the field.
Pegs – The three pegs in the copse used to be used quite often in matches, peg 27 is just inside the copse and fished from the left hand side on the gravel, 28 is the big bend in the middle of the copse and again, fished from the left hand bank looking downstream, peg 29 is called the stump and is fished from the right hand bank. All three swims used to be potential match winners but have gone off the boil somewhat for the last couple of seasons.
|Rob Cox with a nice net of fish from peg 28|
The next noted pegs are pegs 37, 38 and 39, which we haven’t pegged for a couple of years (due to the long walk) but used to be really good chub pegs, you may well be asking about pegs 30-36 but these are an unknown quantity as they haven’t been pegged in matches for years and may well be worth fishing (if you do have a go please let me know how you get on). Similarly peg 40 (the high bank) and 41 (the aquarium) haven’t been used in competitions for a long time but used to be really good pegs.
For Ilford Bridges carry on the main road and go round the sharp right hand bend (turn left there for Ashford, North Bradon and Redbridge), you go over a couple of small bridges before coming to a humpback bridge over the Isle.
Parking – A little awkward here and one of the main reasons we don’t fish it much, before you get to bridge there is a gateway on the right (if you’re coming from Ilminster) and you can park opposite on the grass verge where there is room for two cars. You can then access the river by walking across the fields.
Pegs – This will be open to discussion a little bit as this stretch hasn’t been pegged in a match for so long that I’m not really sure what the permanent peg numbers are. If you walk upstream until you come to a little weir (peg 43?), that’s Selvidge weir, it’s a fair old walk but it used to be a good chub peg, there’s also a good peg under some trees just downstream (peg 45?). As you walk downstream you come to several bends which used to be good for roach but now tend to throw up a chub or two. As you near the main road there is a good swim opposite the farmhouse (peg 49?) which has produced some good bags of chub for pleasure anglers but hasn’t been pegged in a match for years.
Across the main road and peg 50 is the first bend below the bridge, a decent peg with extra water on as is the bend below (peg 51). The next big bend (peg 52) is known as ‘The Bream Bend’ and surprisingly enough regularly produces bream and it’s where I’ve caught my one and only slab from Ilminster waters. Peg 55 is in the next field down and is known as ‘The Xmas Peg’ (don’t ask me why!) and is full of chub but we don’t peg it very often due to it being such a long walk.
Go over Ilford Bridge, round the sharp left hand bend and you come to the village of Puckington, take the first turning left and follow the road until you come to some houses (if you go past the dairy on your right, you’ve gone too far!).
Parking – Space for three cars on the grass verge but please park sensibly.
Pegs – Access to the river here is via two points, if you walk back up the road from where the cars are parked you will see a gate, go through the gate and over the river and if you then bear right (and climb over two barbed wire fences) you will come to ‘Hell Hole’ which is peg 72 and a peg that can produce some good weights. If you bear left after going through the gate, you will come to ‘The Council House’ swim (peg 70), which is probably one of the best pegs on the river but is rarely fished because the bloke who lives in the house opposite objects to people fishing there! If you carry on upstream, peg 69 is on a straight and worth a few chub and the ‘Stone Bridge’ (peg 68) used to win a lot of matches. Peg 66 is another chub flier (a very long walk though) and Janders once held the match record with 39lb 8oz of chub from here.
The second access point is a style in front of where you park the cars, if you follow the river you’ll go past ‘Hell Hole’ on your left, keep walking and the next decent swim is where the River Ding joins the Isle, rarely pegged but holds a lot of fish. Just downstream is peg 74 which normally holds a decent head of chub and regularly does good weights, the bend below can also produce chub.
Before you get to Ilford Bridges there is a sharp right hand bend and a junction, turn left and then take the next right, follow the road and you will come to Ashford (you’ll see a bridge in the field on your right).
Parking – As you get to Ashford, take the next left and there’s parking for two cars immediately on the left by the wall but as always, please park sensibly and with consideration for the residents.
Pegs – As you go over the bridge head right and the first peg you’ll come to is number 82 which is opposite the mill pool, a really good peg and very often you can see fish in the shallows. Please be aware of the overhead wires. If you carry on walking upstream past a couple of little bends (which are worth a try) you’ll come to peg 79 which can produce some good chub. Walk on further and you come to a little weir, rarely pegged in matches but always holds some chub.
The swim below the bridge is a really good small fish peg but awkward to fish after the bank got washed away. As you cross the bridge there is a gate opposite you, go over the gate and head left, in the corner of the field is peg 84, really good when the river is up and coloured but a bit too shallow under normal conditions. Follow the river down and you come to ‘The Big Bend’ (peg 85), a peg that wins a lot of matches with chub, the bend below is known as ‘The Dead Bend’ and holds some good fish but can be a bit hit or miss.
A busy day’s fishing
Go past Ashford and take the next turning right and just after a farm on your left you will come to the river.
Parking – A little awkward here, there is space for one car right by the bridge but make sure you get in tight! Otherwise park on the grass verge back towards the farm but again please be sensible.
Pegs – Rarely used in matches these days, the pool below the bridge looks really fishy and inviting but doesn’t seem to produce much. Most of the pegs are on the right hand bank looking downstream and the left hand bank looking upstream. The first bend below the bridge (number 96) is a cracker, holds some big chub and there’s a big pike in residence too, usually does well when it’s pegged in matches. As you walk down the river some of the straights have nice features like bushes and trees and are well worth a dabble and the right hand bend (peg 99 perhaps?) towards the bottom of the field used to be a flier for roach. Similarly the next peg down is number 100 I think and is the last peg used in this section in matches, below that is a bit of an unknown quantity (for me anyway) and a fair old walk.
Above the bridge you go past some nice looking swims but the first one that is pegged in matches is number 92 (The Roach Hole), a lovely looking peg that has won a lot of matches but if anything is too big a swim now with loads of places the fish can hide. The peg above always used to be a flier too but is rarely used these days and the same can be said for the swim above that in the little copse.
To get to Redbridge, carry on past the turning for North Bradon and keep going, you will reach a little village and when you see the church in front of you, go round the sharp right hand bend and you are nearly there.
Parking – Opposite the houses and just before the cattle grid there is some hard standing on the right where you can park three or four cars. It’s a bit of a walk to the river so a lot of people drive down, drop their kit off and then come back and park up before walking back. Note – at the moment, there is no parking or access here.
Pegs – Looking upstream the pegs are on the right hand bank and the straight above the bridge can be good for roach, I’m a little unsure of peg numbers above the bridge as it’s been so long since I’ve drawn there but the first bend (106 perhaps?) is a really good chub peg and wins several matches each year, there are several more fishy looking bends but they don’t tend to throw up that many weights.
|Chub from Redbridge|
The first peg below the bridge (108) is very deep but with lots of cover across it can throw up big weights of chub or roach. The river then becomes quite uniform in width and there are few bankside features, there are quite a few beds of stick ups and the swims are pegged around these. It can be a great area for roach if there’s colour in the water. otherwise you’re looking at the odd chub. The gas pipe swim (110) and the peg leading up to the overhead wires are both really good pegs.
A nice day at Redbridge
For Isle Brewers go past Ilford Bridges and through Puckington, round the sharp left hand bend and when you reach the next little village take the next left, signposted Isle Brewers. Keep on this road and you come to Isle Brewers, go over the hump back bridge and you then come to the river.
Parking – Drive over the bridge and parking is on the grass verge on the right, there is enough room either side of the gateway for four or five cars but please make sure you keep the gateway clear.
Pegs – This stretch is probably Ilminster’s most prolific at the moment so gets used a lot in matches, the pegs upstream are on the right hand bank and the straight just above the bridge (peg 125) is only shallow but holds a lot of fish and when the river is carrying extra water it can produce some big weights, Graham Field holds the match record from this swim with over 43lb. If you walk upstream you come to a left hand bend (which is very shallow) but above that is peg 124a (The Kink) which can be a good peg. The bend above (124) looks lovely and holds some big chub and roach, it was winning a lot of matches but has gone off the boil a little the last two seasons and the same can be said for peg 123 (The Fence), even though the big chub aren’t showing, there are lots of small fish to be caught.
Peg 122 is the bend below the inlet and is full of small fish but there are also some big resident chub, if you carry on upstream you’ll come to the weir pool (120) which is probably one of the most consistent pegs on the river at the moment, with lots of small fish and odd bigger chub featuring in catches. It’s a long walk either way but it’s probably easier to park at Redbridge and walk down.
The first bend below the bridge is peg 126 and is known as ‘Barney’s Bend’, a really good swim but currently a tree is restricting fishing, peg 126a is the straight just above and people have been catching well running a little waggler into 126 or fishing the pole across. A little further down is peg 128 (The Big Bend) and it’s probably the biggest peg on the river. A big sweeping bend that regularly throws up 20lb plus weights of roach, dace and chub. Carry on downstream and across the little footbridge and the next peg is 129, another great peg that has been throwing up some big chub and double figure weights of roach and dace.
|Nearly 20lb of mainly roach from peg 128|
The next peg that used to be regularly pegged in matches is 133, a lovely looking bend with a tree opposite but it is a fair old walk. Below this there are miles of pretty much untapped water, I believe Ilminster have the rights down to Hatch House but it hasn’t been fished for years as there is no easy access, you can park on the road that sort of runs parallel and walk across the field but it is a fair old walk. If you do make the trek I would be interested in hearing how you get on as when I last fished down there as a junior, it was a lovely looking piece of river.
Check out this blog post for a great day in peg 128
Go past the turning for Isle Brewers and carry on through the village of Hambridge, you go round a sharp-ish left hand bend and then the road goes over the river.
Parking – There is room for several cars on the grass verges before you go over the river but please make sure your car is off the road.
Pegs – The straight just above the bridge (peg H4 although there are no permanent pegs)) is fished from the right hand bank looking upstream and has produced some good nets of roach and the last time I fished it there was a good pike attacking fish under the bridge. The bend above that (H3) has thrown up some big weights of chub, roach and perch, H2 on the straight above the bend and H1 just below the sign for the wires can produce fish but not as consistently as the first two pegs. Below the bridge (H5 just past the sign for the wires and H6 by the tree) have been producing some nice bags of roach along with the odd perch and chub. H7 on the next bend looks nice but fishing can be patchy and H8 by the inlet screams fish and has been producing some nice roach.
It’s quite deep and looks very ‘breamy’ in places so if anybody gives it a go, let me know how you get on, send me some photos of your catch and I’ll put them on here.
The Midelney stretch is a SLAC water (Somerset Level Association of Clubs) so can be fished if you are a member of one of the clubs which Ilminster AA are.
Go over the river at Hambridge, past Chalon on the left, round a sharp left hand bend and then it’s the next right (just after the sign for Curry Rivel), follow the road until you come to a sharp left hand bend and turn right, carry on until you come to the river bridge. Access is via the gate on the left before the bridge (please ensure all gates are closed and you don’t block the access). Note – as far as I’m aware, fishing is only allowed downstream of the bridge, upstream is private land.
Parking – plenty of parking (for 7 or 8 cars) on the left just before the gateway.
Pegs – No permanent pegs but the four swims just down from the bridge tend to fish really well with quality roach, perch, chublets, hybrids, dace and even ruffe. There are some good sized pike present. As you walk up the track, there are loads of features and the swims look lovely but rarely get fished.
I had a lovely day there recently
Bait and Methods
Like everywhere these days, the pole is the dominant method but there is still a place for rod and line tactics and the stick, waggler or even the straight lead all have their days. I always take casters, maggots and hemp with me and casters are my number one hookbait. It’s worth having some lobworms with you especially if the river is up and coloured and some liquidised bread for when it’s low, clear and cold. If minnows are being a pain, even with double caster or lobbie, a switch to a grain of corn should deter them.