I’m a keen freshwater and sea angler, and also passionate about nature.
The North Devon UNESCO Biosphere is launching a Crowdfunder https://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/nature-needs-you to raise funds for a ground-breaking local initiative called Pledge for Nature! – to engage north Devon’s communities in nature’s recovery. We are extremely concerned by rapid declines in the quality of some habitats and populations of some of our key species like breeding cuckoos, lapwings and curlews in our farmland, salmon, sea trout and freshwater pearl mussels in the Taw and Torridge river systems, and even commoner species like hedgehogs, swallows and house martins, wildflowers and insects.
Nature needs more space and wilder areas to thrive. Pledge for Nature! aims to engage citizens and particularly farmers across north Devon in practical actions to tackle the damaging effect that decades of development and intensive land use have had on North Devon’s precious ecosystems. Their actions will help to boost wildflowers, insects and birds in farmland, gardens and greenspaces, plant trees and woodlands, and improve our rivers.
We are asking the National Lottery Heritage Fund to cover the majority of the coordination costs (and have passed the first round in the application process), but we urgently need to raise at least £10,000 as match funding to demonstrate to them that our community cares. Anglers are a really important group to help address some of these problems, and many are already very active (eg I’m a member of the Taw Fishing Club which is doing lots of habitat work).
I’d be really grateful if you could share the link to the crowd-funder site through the North Devon Angling website and social media and help spread the word in any way you can to friends and colleagues. I also attach a poster that can be printed and put up in community centres etc..
Many thanks for your help, and fingers crossed we can beat our target!
Torridge Fly Fishing Club members and guests are enjoying some great sport at Gammaton with plenty of quality rainbow trout to over 4lb. Day Tickets allowing 3 fish are available from Summerlands Tackle at Westward Ho!
The areas rivers are already at summer levels bringing concern amongst salmon anglers that we could be in for a repeat of last year’s disastrous season when rivers ran low for most of the fishing year. A brief rise last week after localised rain encouraged at least one fish into the Taw with Bob Lewington tempting a fresh run grilse of 6lb from the Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats. There are positive stories from the Taw and Torridge in that the brown trout fishing has been excellent with wild trout to over 1lb caught on Half Moon Beats of the Torridge. Anglers have also caught and returned good numbers of silver smolts on their way back to the sea a sign that all is not doom and gloom.
With salmon and sea trout scarce, I contacted Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce and suggested an evening fishing the middle Torridge for wild brown trout. Jeff was keen to visit a new stretch of water and I picked him up whilst the sun was still high in the sky.
Arriving at the river the lack of recent rain was apparent with the river running very low. When I say there has been a lack of rain this not entirely true as localised heavy showers had brought a short spate the previous week bringing the level up three feet. As is often the case in recent years the dirty river dropped very quickly as a combination of dry ground and thirsty trees mopped up the welcome water.
Despite its subdued and sedate flow rate the river and its surroundings looked resplendent in its late spring flourish of vivid life and colour.
I expected to see plenty of trout rising as fly life seemed abundant with insects flitting above the water illuminated by the slowly sinking sun. We walked to the top of the beat discussing the various holding pools as we passed them. Each pool held its memories and I enjoyed recounting stories of salmon and sea trout caught during previous seasons.
I had tied a small grey duster dry fly to my light tippet and started to wade carefully up a long glide. I cast the fly to likely spots as I scanned the water for signs of feeding trout.
A splashy rise twenty yards upstream raised expectations and I waded stealthily to get within range.
After a couple of casts there came that most delightful of moments as the waters surface was broken as the dry fly was taken in a sublime moment of deception. A flick of the wrist set the tiny hook and the water bulged, the rod flexed and line was ripped through the rings as I was forced to give a little line. A twelve ounce wild brown trout gives a pleasing account on a three weight rod. Jeff was soon at hand to capture the moment and commented that such a fish could be the best of the season.
I fished on for a while rising a couple of more trout that came adrift after a few moments. Fishing the upstream dry fly to rising fish is perhaps as close as one can get to the true essence of the hunter fisher. This searching and seeking is so different to the trapping mindset of the static bait fisher.
Don’t get me wrong I am not setting out one type of fishing as superior to another just highlighting the contrasting approach. Non anglers find it difficult to contemplate upon the diverse nature of angling. Why we need so many rods, reels, lines and tackles.
I am in danger of wondering into complex waters so to return to the night in question. Jeff was fishing a slower section further down and had found several trout sipping flies from the surface. I watched him place his fly delicately upon the water and hoped to see him connect. As I turned to walk away down-river I heard a triumphant exclamation. The Snowbee Prestige G-XS Graphene Fly Rod ( Matched with a Thistledown 2 Wt line) was well bent as a good trout battled gamely on the gossamer thin line. After a few anxious moments a delighted Jeff gazed at his prize in the rubber meshed net. A pristine wild brown trout that would probably weigh close to 1lb 8oz. A splendid prize that was twice the size of the trout I had returned a few minutes earlier.
Jeff held the fish close to the water at all times lifting it only momentarily from its watery home to record a pleasing image to take away. It would be difficult to surpass this success and as the sun sank the temperature dropped and we both changed over to nymphs and spider patterns fished down and across.
This style of fishing is less demanding than the upstream dry fly and allows the attention to wonder slightly absorbing the sights and sounds of the river and its banks. The electric blue flash of a kingfisher, the yellow wagtails, the handsome cock pheasants and the lively brood of beeping ducklings all part of the rich scene.
We both enjoyed success with hard fighting trout tempted as the light faded. Hopefully as summer arrives and a little rain the brownies sea run brethren will provide some more exciting sport.
Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club Members assembled at Blakewell Fishery the lake looking stunning with fresh green foliage forming a stunning back drop. Members elected to opt for the sporting ticket allowing two fish to be retained before continuing on a catch and release basis.
The competition was run on the first two fish caught.
1st – Colin Combe – 3lb 9oz
2nd – David Eldred – 3lb 7oz
3rd – Nigel Bird – 3lb 5oz
4th – Andre Muxworthy – 2lb 10oz
5th – Wayne Thomas 2lb 4oz
Small imitative patterns worked well in the clear water and bright sunshine with all members catching their allotted brace and then enjoying some exciting catch and release sport. From mid may until the end of June the English countryside is at its very best with everything a vivid green with bird and pond life flourishing all around.
Seth Tuson won Torridge Fly Fishing Clubs annual competition and Keith Wright won the cup for biggest fish .
The lakes at Gammaton are both fishing well. A day ticket angler got his 3 in 4 casts recently. He’s now joined the club !
Many thanks to Exmoor Fly Fishing for allowing me to use their report on the latest South West Fishing for Life trip to Wimbleball.
Today was the monthly meet for SWFFL ….South West Fishing For Life…this takes place at Wimbleball Reservoir. A massive vote of thanks should go to Mark Underhill and the team that now operate the fishing, the place has been totally transformed. Mark graciously lets the ladies fish there, the fishing is superb, the hard fighting Rainbows that one of the ladies encountered on a very cold, clear and frosty morning are testament to his hard work and foresight….the early “bird” certainly catches the worm……
“Fishing for force” Force is a local cancer charity, John Dawson is organising a day at Exe Valley Fishery by kind permission of Sue & Nick Hart, both John and myself will be in attendance offering tuition and help in all aspects of fly fishing.
It’s a very worthwhile cause, here’s a little bit more about the charity… details for booking are on the flyer….Chris🎣
At FORCE Cancer Charity we believe that anyone diagnosed with cancer deserves the best possible treatment and professional support, face to face and close to home.
We have a Cancer Support and Information Centre in Exeter for patients and their loved ones who need physical, emotional, psychological and practical support.
We also offer support and information and fund the delivery of chemotherapy once a week in Okehampton, Tiverton and Honiton.
When I started sea fishing over forty years ago many of fish we caught were killed to be weighed in at competitions, eaten or buried in the garden. Looking back what anglers did was wrong but we knew no different it was different times and there was little perception that fish stocks were dwindling. There was perhaps still a belief that god provides and that there would always be plenty more fish in the sea.
These are fortunately more enlightened times and most sea anglers practice catch and release keeping just the occasional fish for the table. It is vital that those fish we return to the water have a good chance of survival and I see more and more guidance on how to handle fish. The basics are to treat all fish with respect. Handle as little as possible and support the fish when posing for photos. Consider using circle hooks or barbless when appropriate and consider replacing trebles with singles. When weighing fish always use a purpose made weigh sling or carrier bag for smaller species. Do not dangle fish on the scales.
Coarse anglers have been returning fish to the water for the best part of a century and are in many ways ahead of the game. Weigh slings, unhooking matts and antiseptic ointments are now part of carp anglers standard kit. Rigs used are carefully designed to reduce the risk of tethering any fish that are lost.
Salmon anglers who once retained virtually every fish they caught now have to return close to 100% of the fish they catch. Salmon runs are generally on an alarming downward spiral for a multitude of reasons and it is anglers who are at the forefront of campaigns to protect the future of the species.
Please follow the following guide to good practice when releasing fish:
Use barbless hooks.
Use a fine knotless net.
Use strong tackle so fish can be played out and netted as quickly as possible.
Always net the fish: avoid handling fish and certainly do not pick them up by the tail to weigh or photograph.
Keep the fish in the water all the time: If you want to know the weight, measure the fish in the water and calculate accordingly. If you want to take a photo, do it while the fish is in the water.
Whilst there are those who seek to criticise or even ban angling on morale grounds it is frequently the anglers who are desperately trying to protect fish stocks from over fishing and habitat destruction. Perhaps it is because anglers have a direct interaction with nature by participating that they have a deep passion and love for the environment and the creatures that dwell within. I know that I am perhaps skating on thin ice here but many anglers I know have very a deep love of the countryside and the waters edge. There are of course those who leave litter, mistreat fish and show no respect for the countryside. These are unfortunately a significant minority within society as a whole.
As an angler I feel that I have a close connection with the environment both marine and countryside. Sometimes I question my deep passion for angling but it is this quest for fish that has taken me to some beautiful locations and I have seen many wonders of nature that many only see from their arm chairs on HD screens.
I have witnessed an alarming decline in our countryside in the half a century I have fished and I often fear that I am amongst a generation that has seen the tale end of anglings golden age. And perhaps if we are to believe the climate change protestors earths golden age as well?
It is vital that young anglers come into this wonderful pastime of ours and engage with nature. At Exe Valley Fishery they are catering for those first timers with a lake dedicated to young family fishing adventures. Chris Guest sent me this news story following on from young Haydo’s adventure.
“Fun in the Easter Sun, Haydo & grandpa went fishing and Haydo caught his first trout on Lobbs Lake at Exe Valley Fishery, a brilliant place to take kids for their first fishing adventure, this lake is bait or spinner, we float fished with some soft pellets and it wasn’t long before he had his string pulled, a couple of fish later he was enjoying a well deserved Cola Ice Pop from the fishery freezer, check it out!!!”
There is of course the main fishing lake for the dedicated Fly Fisher with trout to double figures!