South West Lakes Trout Fisheries Report (October 2017)

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The report below is unfortunately a little short of news from North Devon with little reported from Wistlandpound our local brown trout fishery that has not been fished as much as it perhaps deserved. I know some anglers who fished there enjoyed some fine sport with the brown trout that were stocked and the population of resident wild brown trout. I will speak with South West Lakes Trust over the coming weeks and try to discover what the future holds for North Devon’s Trout anglers.

I caught my first rainbow trout at Wistlandpound Reservoir back in the mid 1970’s and the memory is etched as a vivid memory in my minds eye. Back then the reservoirs were under the ownership of The North Devon Water Board. A great deal has changed since then when several of our local reservoirs were trout fisheries. Melbury, Jennetts, Upper Tamar, Upper Slade and Lower Slade were all stocked with rainbow trout and all had a small head of resident brown trout.

The political and commercial landscape has changed dramatically since those far off days. It is easy to look back with rose tinted glasses at those days and the years that followed. The arrival of small well stocked still-waters with bigger easier to catch fish has to some extent changed many anglers expectations and bred discontent.

To a large extent trout fishings future will be dictated to by the price anglers are prepared to pay for their sport and numbers that buy a permit. There is vast range of fly fishing on offer to suit all the most important factor is going to be number of younger anglers that are motivated to pick up a rod.

Wayne Thomas

A fine Wistlandpound brown Trout

A good number of fish have still been feeding from the surface, which has led to some exciting dry fly sport, particularly with Daddies and Hoppers. Water levels are now starting to rise, while water temperatures are now between 13 ºc and 15 ºc. The Trust’s Brown Trout fisheries closed for the season on 13 October, with the Rainbow waters open until the end of November.


Kennick – Weekly rod averages varied between 1.5 and just under 3 fish per angler over the month, with most fish being caught from the banks (boat anglers did the best when fishing into the margins). Clampitts Bay, Smithacoot Bank and the shallow water off Laployd Bank produced the most fish. When fish fed from the surface in early mornings and evenings, dry sedge patterns and buzzer emergers caught well; otherwise small subsurface nymph patterns (Diawl Bach, Hares Ear Nymphs, Damsel Nymphs and Montanas) fished either singly or in teams on floating lines produced the best results, with deeper fish taking slow fished Boobies. The best fish caught in the month was a 3lb 7oz Rainbow caught by Mr J. Rumbold, while Mr Peppitt, from Newton Abbot, caught the best bag of 16 fish.

Siblyback – Two Meadows and Stocky Bay continued to produce the best sport, mainly for anglers fishing from the banks. While not many fish fed from the surface, they could still be tempted up with Daddies and Hoppers, although the majority of fish were caught on sub-surface nymph patterns (Diawl Bachs, Hares Ears and Pheasant Tails), while Red Blobs and Orange lures caught some of the deeper feeding fish.

Burrator – Longstone Peninsula continued to provide the best fishing from the banks and, with the presence of numerous sedges on the water, Deer Hare and Hares Ear sedge patterns produced good dry fly results, along with Silver Invictas fished on a floating line just under the surface. Parachute Emergers, fished in conjunction with a team of Buzzers and Diawl Bachs, proved to be a productive combination, especially in the mornings, while Kennick Killers fished on an intermediate or sinking line proved to be the most effective deeper pattern.

Stithians – This fishery produced the best surface sport over the region, with a wide variety of floating patterns catching fish, including Dry Grey Goose, Bobs Bits, Deer Hair Sedges, Black Spiders and beige Klinkhammers, otherwise small nymph patterns fished just under the surface (Diawl Bachs, Hares Ears, Hares Ears and small Montanas) on floating or sink-tip lines produced good results. A few deeper feeding fish were caught on White Nomads and Cats Whisker Boobie patterns. The best locations included North Bank, Pipe Bay, Mossops and Goonlaze banks and the deeper water by the dam

Roadford – Numbers of Daddy Longlegs blown onto the water meant that fish were looking up to feed and were caught on Dry Daddies and Hoppers or Gold Head Daddies fished under the surface film. Dark patterns caught well, including Black Pennells and Black and Peacock Spiders, fished on sink-tip floating lines. Bank anglers picked up fish from Davey’s Bank and Gaddacombe Creek, while boats did well in Goodacre Bay, the deeper water near the dam and fishing over the boils.

Drift – Badger Bank continued to provide the best bank fishing, with good fishing to be had throughout the day now that temperatures have started to fall. While there have been some fish showing on the surface on calmer days and late evenings, anglers have favoured sub-surface dark patterns (small black nymphs, UV crunchers and small Woolly Buggers), preferably in teams, fished on a floating line.


The Trust’s prestigious ‘Best of the Best’ final, supported by Snowbee UK, was held at Kennick on 15 October, with 43 qualifying bank anglers taking part. Weather conditions were perfect, with a good ripple and plenty of fish showing all day. Takes were tentative and a frustrating number of fish were lost before netting, although 70 Rainbows, 20 Browns, and 1 Blue were landed. Last year’s Runner-up, Rob Gale, out-fished everybody and managed to bank six fish for 10lb 14oz to take the Winner’s trophy and a cash prize of £1500. Runner-up Paul Jones landed five fish weighing 10lb 3oz to take the £750 cash prize and Runner-Up Trophy.

Changing Seasons -Autumn thoughts


Another salmon season has drawn to an end as I walked out to fish on the Middle Torridge. On arrival I realize I had arrived too late as the river was up and coloured with flotillas of leaves floating down stream.

As I am there I decide to fish anyway but have little confidence as I work my way down casting across favorite lies with little hope of a salmon locating the fly. Time has run out on this season all too quickly. Leaves collected in riverside eddies a rich variation of browns, gold’s and yellows those green shoots of spring have long gone. Summers gone yet I wish it could linger longer for I had so much more to do.

As I walked back to the car I listened to mournful mewing of young buzzards high above. I had one more trip to the river. and it proved to be my second season without a salmon. I look for no excuses as plenty have been caught just not on my watch.

We had just returned from a week in Scotland. Not a fishing holiday though a rod did get taken along. One afternoon Pauline and I walked up to a small dam within the glen. The mountains towered high above and stags bellowed their war cry across the brown livery of the glen. I cast across the dark water and was thrilled at the tug from a small trout. I caught four perfect wild browns of just a few inches more than enough reward for a miles walk in such splendid surroundings.

This was the only fishing I did yet fishing was never too far from my thoughts. I spoke with a local angler who painted a grim portrayal of salmon and sea trout fishing in the local rivers. He doubted if the species would exist in these local rivers in ten years time.

Whilst I knew that the sea lochs had great potential I did not see anyone fishing throughout our weeks stay. It seemed strange to have harbors that had no mullet. I was told of Pollock and coalfish from the rocky shoreline and wished I had light spinning rod or LRF set up to find out what was there. In the sound of Mull I peered into the deep and clear waters. At Tobermory I talked of common skate within deep waters off shore. Perhaps I need to return one day to answer some of my questions.

Back in North Devon my thoughts turn to autumn sea angling. Grey mullet, bass, conger and tope. As the nights draw in I know where I will be heading and look forward to the excitement of dark mysterious waters.

This angling game brings its frustrations and an awareness of the passing seasons; a brief spell of melancholy is soon replaced by optimism as the next chapter unfolds.

Little Warham a great first season for new owners.

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Little Warham Fishery on the river Torridge has enjoyed a very successful season with 18 salmon caught from the beat and 11 sea trout. The biggest salmon was caught by  Anthony Willmington and was estimated at 19lb. Jamie Walden also caught a salmon estimated at 17lb 8oz.

In addition to salmon and sea trout the beats also gave some superb trout sport with numerous brown trout tempted in the 2lb range.

(Above)Jamie Walden
(Above) A typical Torridge brown trout

Pauline and I visited the fishery in mid summer and walked the beats that have some fine looking pools and runs. We will certainly be returning next season rod in hand. Little Warham also boasts a delightful holiday let that is available throughout the year; an ideal escape from the stresses of modern life.

(Above) Little Warham Holiday Cottage

(Above) A cozy retreat

(Above) Down by the river

(Above) The sun sets on a Torridge Season

Anthony ends season in style!

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Save the best until last!!! A beautiful female salmon estimated at 19lb plus, tail walked the pool four times before being safely netted by Anthony Willmington . This stunning fish was safely returned to continue its journey after a very quick photo!! This is the biggest fish caught this season at Little Warham Fishery. I hope to carry a full review of the Little Warham Fisheries season within the next few weeks.

The Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash was  packed with members of the Torridge Fishery Association enjoying their end of season Egg Box Dinner on October 7th. This annual event brings members together at the seasons end in conjunction with a raffle to raise funds for investing in the River Torridge Fishery. There was encouraging news from the river in that fry surveys have indicated that areas stocked exclusively with swim up fry from the hatchery were showing encouraging numbers of surviving fry. It was also noted that 2017 has seen encouraging numbers of salmon and sea trout landed by anglers.


The salmon season over it was time to head off for a days Still-water Trout Fishing and hopefully put a bend in the rod. I was joining Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club to compete in their Rogers And Guard Shield Competition at Exe Valley Fishery. I can well remember Gordon Rogers who was one of the club members the shield was named after. Gordon was a Fishery Bailiff with the River Authorities of the 1970’s and a real character who many local anglers will have fond memories of.

The competition was due to start at 10:00am and I intended to get there in plenty of time so I set off just before 8.00am for an enjoyable drive across Exmoor.

A good days fishing is more than just a day casting a line it is often all about the entire day. As I negotiated the narrow lanes up onto the moor mist lay in the valleys as the sun climbed higher into a bright blue sky.

I noted several keen photographers out and about catching the morning light. On the high moor I glimpsed red deer blending into the bracken; the autumn stag were undoubtedly bellowing their challenge across the open moor. It was an awesome morning to be going fishing.

I arrived at Exe Valley to find that one or two members were already raring to start. I grabbed a coffee and began chatting with fishery manager Nick Hart and his wife Sue. Nick is embarking upon a new adventure joining in Pall Mall’ London. I have fished with Nick many times over the years and share his enthusiasm for fishing. After over an hour of chatting I decided I had better head out and do a bit of fishing. I had after all paid £35.00 for a three fish ticket + the option to release three trout, as part of the fishery’s innovative ticket choice system.

The sun was shining down on a mirror calm lake that was surrounded by a dozen or so anglers. I tied on a small gold head pheasant tail nymph and a black buzzer on the dropper. Trout were active all over the lake and a couple of members had already caught their three fish bags so I was on a catch up mission.

After a few casts I had had no takes. With fish showing all over the surface it was obvious that the trout were near the surface. I concluded that a lighter fly would be more likely to succeed and tied on a lightly dressed cruncher pattern.

First cast with this fly and the line twitched on the retrieve, the hook was set and the water erupted as a rainbow trout leapt from the water before putting a serious bend in the rod and stripping several yards of line from the reel.

Nick took a stroll around the lake and captured action with the next trout I hooked’ a handsome rainbow of close to 3lb 8oz. It wasn’t long before I had completed my three fish bag that was my competition entry for the day.

I took the opportunity to have a walk  around the lake and preserve a few memories of the day with my camera. I was surprised that not everyone had bagged up whilst the trout were in an obliging mood.

The introduction of catch and release during the cooler months at Exe Valley has on the whole been welcomed by anglers who can choose various options combining catch and release and catch and despatch. The fishery has imposed strict rules to ensure that catch and release works as well as possible. Anglers must use barb-less hooks and rubber meshed nets. Trout should not be taken out of the water unless a quick picture is required as a memento of a special fish.

I decided to pay a quick visit to the site shop and buy a couple of barb-less flies and borrow a landing net with a rubber mesh. I returned to the lake with a fly known as an owl on the point. The number of trout rising had now decreased but a few were still showing and it was these fish I targeted. Watching carefully I attempted to drop the fly in front of cruising trout twitching it soon after letting it settle. Twenty minutes later I had returned two more hard fighting trout.

It was now time to head back and weigh in my fish with fellow club members. My three pulled the scales to 9lb and secured me the honour of winning the Rogers and Guard Shield.

It was now time for a coffee and a further chat with Nick about fishing past, present and future. One topic we discussed was the seasons of trout fishing. These small Stillwater trout fisheries are undoubtedly more productive during the cooler months. We both concurred that that there is value in revising the traditional trout fishing seasons. The trout season traditionally casts off in the spring and this is I suspect a follow on from the days before Stillwater trout fishing grew in popularity and wild fish were the target. A closed season during the winter months gave the fish protection during spawning time. This made perfect sense in rivers and where wild fish spawned. Modern day trout fishing on still waters is generally for triploid trout that are sterile.

During the cooler months the trout are more active and fight far harder. It perhaps makes sense to close many trout fisheries during July and August when weed growth is more prolific and water temperatures high. The English climate is not too severe and with modern clothing comfort is ensured.

We also discussed trout fishing tactics the importance of observing the fish to decide fly patterns and the idiosyncrasies of anglers. We could I am sure have talked for many hours. That’s part of angling’s joy for it is the trout and nature that make the rules that we anglers take great joy in analyzing. Before heading home I had a few more casts on the lake relishing the opportunity for one more catch and release rainbow before I left for home. It turned out to be handsome trout of close to 4lb.

It will be business as usual at Exe Valley for the foreseeable future with Sue taking care of the day to running of the lake while Nick embarks upon a new venture working with one of the countries mots reputable fishing tackle companies.

Wistlandpound Club – Visit Exe Valley

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The above rainbow of 3lb 6oz was part of the three fish bag of 9lb that secured to spot for me(Wayne Thomas) in Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Clubs Rogers and Guard Shield Match at Exe Valley Fishery. Runners up were David Richards and Steve Edmunds who landed three trout for 8lb 12oz. Forth was Andre Muxworthy with with 8lb 8oz.

Members enjoyed an excellent days sport in the warm autumn sunshine. I will be publishing an in depth feature on the visit later this week.

Many thanks to Nick Hart for these two stunning images. It is business as usual at the fishery with Sue Hart looking after the day to day running of the fishery whilst Nick takes on an exciting new role with Farlows.

LITTLE WARHAM FISHERY – End of Season Flourish

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Above -A fine salmon estimated at 12lb.

Anglers visiting Little Warham Fishery have enjoyed some fine back end sport with several salmon caught the best a stunning fish estimated at 18lb was caught by Jamie Walden. ( Below)

As the autumn leaves fall silently from the trees into the river salmon are approaching the culmination of their journey their flanks mirroring the golds, bronze and brown hues of the season. Torridge anglers are enjoying a last few casts of an extended season admiring these splendid fish briefly before slipping them back into the cooling water.

The season extension ends on October 14th fishing is strictly catch and release and permits must be obtained from Charles Inniss before fishing.

Business as usual at Blakewell as new season gets underway!

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Its business as usual at Blakewell Fishery that has just reopened after closing for essential maintenance. The road closure does not impact upon access to the fishery where anglers are enjoying sport with hard fighting rainbows with plenty of quality trout between 3lb and 5lb.

The lake is not the only restocking to have taken place the tackle shop has also seen a restocking with plenty of tackle to tempt the visiting angler.

Above – Blakewell’s well stocked tackle store.

A smiling angler and typical Blakewell rainbow.

Local Angling Guide moves to the Big City

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I have known local angling Guide Nick Hart for many years and fished with him on numerous occasions on local waters. Nick has supported North Devon Angling News since it formation in 2016 and that support has been much appreciated. After twenty odd years of guiding Nick is taking on a new role  as fishing manager!  at the London based Farlows store located at 9 Pall Mall, a business with an incredible 177 years of history, by Royal appointment and intrinsically linked to the DNA of fly fishing.

Congratulations to Nick in his new venture.

Game Fishing News

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The salmon fishing season on the River Taw came to an end last Saturday and rods enjoyed some late season sport on the Weir Marsh and Brightly Day Ticket beats. Len Francis landed salmon of 9lb and 5lb. John Shrimpton a 9lb salmon and Graham Nichols a grilse of 5lb. Over on the Torridge around at least a dozen salmon were caught during September with most from Mid to upper river beats.

(Below)England Junior Fly Fishing Team Member Seth Tuson caught his first salmon from a middle river Torridge beat.

Torridge Fishers can enjoy salmon fishing on the Torridge until October 14th but must obtain a special permit from Charles Inniss prior to fishing that is strictly catch and release with single barb-less hooks only.

Following a Committee Meeting the River Taw Fishery Association  has decided to follow the lead of the Angling Trust and South West Rivers Trust in its response to the Environment Agency Consultation on Managing Salmon Fisheries. In brief the, RTFA considers that all salmon netting should be stopped and that rod fishermen should continue to operate under voluntary catch and release while aiming for a very high release rate and adhering to appropriate good practice.

Salmon anglers are being urged to respond the consultation by visiting the E.A website and completing the relevant documentation. Submissions must be completed by October

Fly Fishers missing the river can ensure they keep their casting action in good shape by fishing for the hard fighting rainbow and brown trout in local stillwaters. Blakewell, Bratton Water and Exe Valley.

Blakewell Closing for One week- Maintenance In-preparation for Autumn Season

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The lake will be closed for essential maintenance for up to one week from Tuesday 19th September 2017 we intend to re-open on Monday 26th September.
We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. We will endeavor to complete the work sooner and we will advise via our website email & Facebook if this is the case.
All our other facilities at Blakewell are open as usual, including the family fishing ponds and the cafe.


Jeff Pearce Blakewells resident Instructor sent me this short article on a project to help those with breast cancer.

‘Fishing for Life’ Organisation come to Blakewell

‘Fishing for Life’ is an organization, which provides fly, fishing sessions for people who all have one thing in common – breast cancer.

The organisation formed back in 2007 after learning how fly fishing techniques had been proven to be very beneficial to build up tissues and muscle for anyone suffering from breast cancer.

On the 6th September I had the pleasure of being invited along to the launch of their North Devon & 9th group at Blakewell fishery.

Interest in the group has been promising and 10 people have so far shown an interest in attending the North Devon group. The group will be meeting monthly in the future between 2pm and 4pm on the first Wednesday of each month.

As well as those attendees suffering from breast cancer, we had a group of nurses attend who wanted to learn more about the organisation and how fly fishing could help. As you can see from the above photo, having received some tuition they were soon captivated by the sport and keen to try and catch their first trout too!

Across the lake the ladies were engrossed in the tactics & seemed to be genuinely enjoying the sport. In fact, so much so that when afternoon tea was being served back at the café, one of the ladies just couldn’t be prized from the lake. Eventually returning carrying a decent trout and a big smile on her face!

It is hoped this group can now go from strength to strength and a decent number will make the monthly meet. It is further intended that if the weather is inclement during the winter months a fly tying workshop with a general will be held in the café instead, no doubt by this time there will be plenty of fishy tales to be told.

So, if you are one of these people who all have one thing in common – breast cancer and would like to come along or know anyone else who might benefit from joining this group, you can ring Gillian on 01398 371244 or check out their website at

Salmon on Day ticket Taw water

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The recent rain has resulted in a succession of spates that has brought salmon into the rivers where anglers have enjoyed success when the river drops sufficiently to fish. The Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats on the Taw produced several salmon including fish of 11lb and 4lb to the rod of Len Francis, 7lb to the rod of Graham Nichols and 9lb and 7l to Bob Lewington.

Day tickets can be obtained from the Rising Sun at Umberleigh.


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Eat Sleep fish is a free online publication that contains some excellent writing predominantly fly-fishing article from all over the world of angling.

News from the River

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Len Francis fished the day ticket Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats on the River Taw to catch a fine brace of salmon estimated at 14lb and 10lb.

Day tickets can be obtained from the Rising Sun at Umberleigh. Click on image below for details.

I fished the Torridge on Sunday morning as heavy rain beat down (above) the river colored quickly as I fished and I failed to connect with any salmon. Following this rain the river came up over a metre and was very coloured with sediment. By the end of the week conditions should be near perfect and I expect several salmon to be caught.

Stalwart of local angling is remembered with great fondness.

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Mac McCarthy worked tirelessly for the River Taw Fishery Association and South Molton and District Angling Club his passing will sadden all who knew him in the local angling community. The above picture shows Mac beside Head Falls shortly after the project was completed making upstream access for salmon and sea trout much easier hopefully ensuring the long term survival of these enigmatic fish.

Mac McCarthy
It is with great sadness that I report the death of Mac McCarthy earlier in the week. As you will all know Mac loved the Taw. He was an active and successful fisherman and a stalwart of RTFA in his role as Treasurer over so many years. Our finances were kept in impeccable shape by Mac and his help was invaluable to me from the moment I became Chairman. This is particularly true in respect of the two fund-raisings for the Taw Access over Weirs Project and TRIP. He will also be missed more widely in the south west where he was well known by all the river associations from his time as Treasurer of the South West Rivers Association. Mac moved away from North Devon to Hampshire about two years ago.

Alex Gibson

Anglers in the North of England have landed several Pacific salmon I don’t thin any have been landed in local rivers but if you do catch one please ensure you notify the Environment Agency and of course North Devon Angling News. More info on below link.

The Taw and Torridge have both now dropped to a good level with every chance of salmon and sea trout from both rivers. As the sun shines each day will undoubtedly see prospects decrease. Several salmon have been hooked and lost at Little Warham on the river Torridge where one salmon and sea trout were landed. The best time for contacting salmon or sea trout is undoubtedly in the early evening. A sound plan would be to fish for brown trout through the day and then target the salmon and sea trout from late afternoon. Even if you do not catch the river in early September is a wonderful place to spend a day.

SWLT – Latest Trout Fishing Report

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Stocking quality rainbows

South West Lakes Trout Fisheries Report (August 2017)

Stocking quality rainbows


Although water temperatures dropped slightly (to around 18 ºc) in August, the reservoir fishing across the region proved challenging, particularly with Rainbows. Generally bag numbers and the size of fish caught were down on previous months, with Brown Trout, particularly in the evenings, providing the best sport. The Trout, particularly Rainbows, have been lethargic and not keen to feed, preferring to retire to the cooler, deeper waters of the fisheries. Water levels continue to drop, exposing fresh areas of bank.

Stocking quality rainbows


Kennick – The Top End, Narrows and Boat Bay proved to be the most productive areas for both boat and bank anglers, with the best sport to be had in the mornings and evenings. The most popular fly patterns included Damsel Nymphs, Diawl Bachs and teams of Buzzers fished at varying depths, with deeper fish taking Boobies and Tadpoles. The occasional fish would rise to small midges and Black Gnats, particularly in the evenings. The best fish caught included a 3lb 12oz Rainbow, caught by Mr R Goss from Exeter, using a Booby and a 3lb 9oz Rainbow, caught by Phil Bryant from Ermington, using a Cruncher. Barry Ware from North Tawton caught a bag of 11 fish whilst fishing from the bank early in the month. The majority of fish stocked and caught during August were Brown Trout.

Siblyback – The majority of catches during August were taken either from Stocky Bay or Two Meadows, with late afternoons and evenings the best time to fish. Although few fish were feeding from the surface, the occasional fish could be tempted to rise to Hopper patterns, sub-surface Montanas and teams of Buzzers as well as deeper-fished weighted dark patterns (Black Tadpoles and Gold-head Nomads in particular) which proved to be the most successful method.

Burrator – The banks at Longstone Peninsula and the South Bank produced the best fishing over the month, with Bobs Bits, Buzzer Emergers and Black Gants all taking rising fish. The majority of fish, however, have again been caught on sub-surface nymphs (Damsel Nymphs, Montanas, Black Crunchers and Black and Peacock Spiders) fished on either sink-tip or intermediate lines, with more fish now being taken on dark lures (Boobies and Tadpoles) fished on sinking lines. Local angler Alan Lawson caught the best fish of the month, a 3lb 3oz Rainbow caught on a drowned Black Gnat.

Stithians – The presence of midges and beetles over the water meant that fish continued to look to the surface for food, with a variety of dry patterns, including Sedges, Hawthorns, various emergers patterns, Muddlers, F-Flies and Black and Peacock Spiders fished in the surface film, all producing results. The majority of fish, however, were taken on nymphs and wet patterns, particularly teams of Buzzers, Caddis pupa, Pheasant Tail Nymphs and Hares Ears. Fish were well spread out over the fishery, with the best locations including Pipe Bay, Sluice, Goonlaze Bank, Pub Bay, Carmenellis Bank and Yellowort Bay. Mr R Lambourne from Lanner caught a number of Rainbows of around 2lb using a dry Deerhair Sedge and Claret Emergers.

Roadford – With fish rising in the mornings and evenings, small dry patterns (Black Gnats and Black Spiders in the surface film) have been fishing well, particularly off the banks (Daveys and Gaddacombe). There are also large numbers of damsel and dragonfly nymphs present and Roadford’s Brown Trout are feasting on these. Damsel and large olive nymphs are producing good results. Boat anglers are enjoying success, either fishing nymphs into the banks or pulling muddlers and lures over the boils.

Colliford – Large Browns are chasing shoals of sticklebacks in the shallows near the dam – pulled lures and muddlers should produce some exciting sport.

Wistlandpound – Anglers averaged just under two fish per rod, with the best fishing in the deeper water by the dam and from the jetty, generally with small nymph patterns.

Chris Hall (August 2017)

Trout Fishing On Exmoor

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Nick Hart at Exe Valley writes : I Just love introducing new people to fly fishing and this weekend I have been looking after The Crawfords … and how well did they catch?! Celebrating Robins 60th birthday, his sons Adrian and Gary treated the 3 of them to a weekend away on Exe Valley. After casting tuition yesterday they got stuck into the fishing and in tough bright windy conditions picked out 4 nice Trout (and a whitebait!) using a washing line with Blobs. Better was to come as today they excelled with Robin fittingly topping the leader board with 4 Trout to 6lb. Their total bag of 10 pulled the scales down to 36lbs … and they lost at least another 6. All fish caught on #14 quill buzzers in the top 2 feet. Very well done guys it has been a pleasure to fish with you this weekend!

Russell Hill and Samantha Fullerton joined NIck Hart on Exmoor’s wild streams chasing the beautiful wild brown trout that abound in these clear waters.


Keith Armishaw fishing the Torridge

River Reads are a specialist angling book shop operating out of Torrington well worth a visit as they carry a vast range of angling books on all disciplines. Here is their latest Newsletter penned by owner Keith Armishaw.

Well, it’s been a while since we wrote the last newsletter, but as the weather is too windy for sea fishing and the local rivers are running like soup and fly only, it seemed the ideal time to sit down and pen a few things that have been happening of late.

I have been continuing to add photographs of books to the site as I think it will aid decision making to be able to see exactly what the book you are after looks like and in what condition it is in. I have just completed the fly tying, fly casting and tackle catalogues having done the fly fishing, coarse fishing (carp, pike etc as well) earlier in the year. I hope you find it of use, and if you have any other ideas that would help, please feel free to e mail us.

Whilst we are on the subject of books, Dominic Garnett who writes a weekly column for Angling Times called in for a chat. He is probably best known for his Fly Fishing for Coarse Fish book, but also promotes the fishing in Devon and Somerset. He dropped off some of his other books – Crooked Lines and Tangles with Pike – which he signed whilst we talked fishing, had a cuppa, and recorded him talking for the Angling Heritage archive which you can now hear on line. We had an interesting time which just flew by.

We have also recently acquired quite a lot of our “Vintage Tackle”. Whilst several cane Hardy rods and reels have been added, we have also now got a great selection of nearly new – in many cases unused – high quality modern tackle too including carbon rods from Sage, Orvis, Sharp, Hardy, Greys etc so if you aren’t an old timer stuck in the mud like me, now is the time to buy your fantastic new tackle at great prices. Also acquired with the rods are reels from Orvis, Bruce & Walker, Hardy, ABU, Snowbee and many more.

If you are looking for any new or antique items, now is the time to peruse the antique tackle section.

Finally, I’m looking forward to our shark fishing sessions in Looe next month followed by what we hope will be an annual trip to British Columbia to fish the Frazer, then on to Vancouver Island after salmon. I went with Hugh Miles last year and we loved every moment so have booked the same again this year. If you fancy an overseas trip with the comfort of home where you can stay in spa hotels for your family, this is THE place to go. You can keep up with all my escapades in the “Diary” section of the website, or get a brief overview on our Facebook page.

Autumn is nearly here and I think this is the best time of year to fish, so get out there and good luck.

Frustration in perfect conditions

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I have very much enjoyed two recent sessions on the Taw and Torridge with both rivers in perfect trim. On the Taw I was privileged to fish a middle river beat that has a very good track record. I fished the prime lies carefully searching with a high degree of optimism. A couple of large sea trout or grilse leapt tantalizingly from the river but as my fly drifted across the spot there was no delightful tightening of the line. It was as always a delight to be on the river as kingfishers frequently flew past. As we enter the second half of August the evenings are growing noticeably shorter as autumn looms and it easy the feel slightly melancholic as the light fades from the day. It is heartening to remember though that the next six weeks should give every chance of some good fishing.

I arrived on the Torridge to find the river up at a perfect height the water resembling real ale. Surely there would be a silver salmon waiting today!

In my favourite upper pool a salmon erupted from the water thirty yards below. I fished with great concentration down through the run and had sharp tug on the line where the salmon had cleared the water. I had one other gentle tug on the line so I knew I had been tantalizingly close to success. I fished through the run twice more changing the fly on each occasion. Two mink frolicked on the far bank; creatures I viewed with mixed feelings. It was fascinating to observe nature up close but I am well aware of the destruction these vicious predators can inflict on bird life. I was also a little surprised to see them as there is a healthy population of otters on this river and the two do not generally mix.

Perfect Conditions – On the Torridge

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I enjoyed a couple of hours on the Mid Torridge last evening with the river in perfect trim. As I fished carefully down a favourite run the line zipped tight and there was a flurry of spray as I lifted the rod. “Dam” I exclaimed as the rod sprung back and line hung limp. First hook up this season and its off in a few seconds. This bodes well though as there are plenty of salmon throughout the system and so long as we have few wet spells I am sure there will be more chances.

Day ticket opportunitys exist at Little Warham a couple of mile above where I hooked my fish.

Salmon a plenty on the Taw and Mole

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Peter Tyjas of the Devon School of Fly Fishing tempted this fine salmon from a Taw beat earlier this week one of numerous salmon landed from the river and its main tributary the Mole.  Chris Windsor landed a 16lb salmon from the Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats; one of many double figure fish caught over the past fortnight. John Kenyon and Richard Jewel tempted grilse estimated at 5lb from this same stretch of day ticket water. Information on fishing can be obtained from the Rising Sun at Umberleigh.

Wistlandpound Fly-Fishers – Result

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Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club held their Berry Shield Summer Competition for the single best trout a cool North West Breeze kept the fish down. I won the event with a 12oz brown one of three I tempted using a team of wet flies fished with a floating line. All three were tempted with a Montana nymph on the point. I also landed numerous golden rudd. Colin Combe was runner up with a brown trout of 10oz.


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Whilst the recent rain has not been welcomed by summer holidaymakers it has brought a much needed rise in local rivers that has brought a run of salmon into North Devon’s rivers. I fished the Middle Torridge on Saturday and whilst I did not connect with any salmon the river was in prime trim. Several salmon have been caught on beats on the Upper Torridge which indicates that the salmon have forged up through the river system and are now well spread out.

Little Warham Report – From Amanda and Anthony

After a series of good spates with occasional overcast days, last weekend Anthony caught a couple of fresh salmon with the biggest being 9lb. He also caught a 5lb sea trout. The second spate saw a 13lb salmon caught by a visiting rod. Gary Pearson one of our seasonal rods also caught a 6lb Grilse. Anthony also caught another salmon and see trout over the weekend.

Friday August 4th Johnathon Hellyer, one of our seasonal rods caught two salmon of 12lb and 6lb.  Anthony caught a small sea trout and a 14lb salmon!!

Walking the river bank it is evident that the season is passing by all too quickly with spiders webs glistening in the grass and hazelnuts swelling in the trees. The salmons flanks are also starting to take on those richer autumn hues as what is perhaps the best of the season approaches.

Ian Blewett was among successful anglers on the River Taw landing and returning this cracking specimen from a Middle Taw beat.

I have also heard of a 16lb salmon from the Day Ticket Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats of the Taw where several salmon have been tempted in recent weeks. Tickets can be obtained from the Rising Sun at Umberleigh.

Decisions- Whats your top fly?

EXE VALLEY FISHERY – Voted into top 50 of UK Stillwater Trout Fisheries

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It looks like the work to improve Exe Valley Fishery and most notably Anchor Lake is paying off as the venue has just been voted as one of the Top 100 UK Still-waters by the Trout Fisherman magazine.  In fact the fishery entered the top 50, reaching 42nd place, even better news, this year the water remains open to anglers after last year’s disastrous summer when I had to close.  There is no doubt that the cooler air and heavy rainfall have helped, but extensive work to clear weed has also assisted.

Bratton Water Fishing Well

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Bratton Water is fishing well with the lake is in excellent condition and the water  bright and clear with water temperature at  13-14c. The recent rain has freshened things up and weed growth has not been significant despite a long dry warm start to summer. Mike Williams tells me that most fish are being tempted on small dries and nymph patterns.

Check out Bratton Waters updated website just click on the advert below.

SOUTH WEST LAKES TRUST – Trout Fishing Report

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South West Lakes Trout Fisheries Report (July 2017)


Temperatures have remained high throughout the month and, with bright sunshine and water at around 20 ºc, the Trout, particularly Rainbows, have been lethargic and not keen to feed, preferring to retire to the cooler deeper waters of the fisheries. Water levels have now started to drop, exposing fresh areas of bank.


Kennick – The warm conditions meant that fishing proved challenging during the main parts of the day, with best results to be had early in the morning or in the evenings, with the Top End and the Narrows producing the best fishing for boat and bank anglers alike. Fish were still happy to feed near the surface, with Hoppers and dry Buzzer Emergers producing reasonable results, although sub-surface nymphs, particularly Damsel Nymphs and Diawl Bachs or teams of Buzzers, fished on an intermediate or sink-tip line caught the most fish, with the occasional Trout taking a deeper-fished Tadpole. The best fish caught in the month was a 4lb 8oz Rainbow, caught by Mr A. Dunstone from Plymouth, using a Gold Ribbed Hares Ear nymph fished from the bank at the Top End, as part of a full bag. During the hot weather the lake will now be stocked with Brown Trout.

Siblyback – Late afternoons and evenings produced the best fishing at Siblyback, when fish could be taken on Daddylonglegs and Dark Hoppers from the surface, or more successfully on a selection of sub-surface nymphs (Diawl Bachs, Buzzers and Montanas) fished on floating and intermediate lines. The best fish of the month was a 3lb 3oz Rainbow, caught by Dave Johns from Holsworthy.

Burrator – The banks at Longstone Peninsula and along to Sheepstor Dam have produced the best fishing over the month, with Hoppers, Hawthorns and Black Gants all taking rising fish. The majority of fish, however, have again been caught on sub-surface nymphs (Damsel Nymphs, Montanas, sunk Bibios and Kate Mclarens) fished on either floating or intermediate lines, while the occasional deeper fish have taken pulled Vivas and dark Cats Whiskers.

During the summer holiday period there is a special offer of a £5 reduction in ticket and boat prices – see the South West Lakes Trust website or contact the fishery for more details.

Stithians – In spite of the high temperatures, anglers averaged just under 2 fish per rod during the month. The most productive locations included Yellowort Bay, Chapel Bay, Pub Bay and Pipe Bay. With a lot of midges and brown beetles blown onto the water, fish are still looking up to feed and dry patterns have fished particularly well – in particular Beetles, Black Hoppers, Hawthorns, Bobs Bits and dark dry sedge patterns. A selection of small sub-surface nymphs have also produced some good results, particularly Hares ears, Buzzers, Diawl Bachs and Pheasant Tail Nymphs, when fished on sink-tip lines. The best fish caught during the month was a 3lb Brown Trout, caught by Mr R.Keast from Penryn, using a Gold-ribbed Hares Ear at Yellowort Bay.

Drift –Rods averaged 3.5 fish per angler, which included a number of full bags of both Rainbows and Brown Trout. Bank anglers achieved the best results fishing from Badger Sett Bank and the North Bank, while boats and float-tubes caught well off the woods and by the dam. Subsurface patterns fished on a floating line caught the most fish, with Diawl Bachs, Black Crunchers and small black nymphs, all producing good results, either singly or fished in teams.

Roadford – In spite of the hot weather, the Brownies at Roadford have continued to look to the surface to feed, particularly off the banks (Daveys and Gaddacombe), where fish have been taking a selection of small nymphs, wets (fished on sink-tip lines) and dry patterns (including Daddies and Beetles). Boat anglers have also enjoyed success while fishing into the banks and over the boils – Andy Birkett from Plymouth caught the best fish of the month, a stunning 5lb 8oz Brown (as part of a bag of 16 fish), while fishing a Soldier Palmer under the bubbles.

Fernworthy – Anglers have had a tremendous month at this picturesque Brown Trout water, averaging over 6.5 fish per rod. The annual arrival of the swarms of beetle have meant that the fish have been looking up to feed, resulting in excellent dry fly sport, with foam beetle patterns, Dry Bibios, Sedges and Spiders producing outstanding sport, with a few sub-surface feeders taking Hares Ears, Montanas and Damsel Nymphs. Fish have been feeding well throughout the day, with most fish caught by the permit hut and from the Lawns. The best fish caught during the month was a grown-on Brown Trout of 2lb 1oz using a Bracken Beetle, while Paul Ackland from Plympton caught and returned 32 fish using a Black Ethafoam Beetle – in his words, a ‘red letter’ day!

Colliford – The fishing has at last started to pick up at Colliford, with local angler Dean Boucher losing a fish estimated at over 5lb at the net, as a final run pulled the hook.

Taw and Torridge Update

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(Above) Emma Tyjas with a fine Taw salmon

Rain brought a slight rise in local rivers that brought in a trickle of salmon and sea trout. On the Torridge Duncan Betts fished a mid river beat and landed four grilse, all fresh run fish of around 5lb.

Sea trout specialist Martin Weeks and his brother Ed fished two nights on the Middle Torridge to land 17 sea trout up to 3lb.

On the Taw salmon to 11lb were landed and a huge sea trout of over 14lb is rumoured to have been caught on the River Mole. Edwin Barclay landed a brace of fresh run 8lb salmon from the day ticket Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats of the River Taw.

At this time of year salmon and sea trout anglers fishing the lower beats are often privileged to witness the prehistoric looking sea lamprey spawning. These eel like fish are an encouraging sign, as they require good quality water in which to survive. Reaching lengths in excess of three feet they are often mistaken for eels but unlike eels they cannot be caught on rod and line.

(Above) Thomas Downing sent me this picture of a dead lamprey on the Torridge estuary

A Trickle of fish into Taw and Torridge

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Ian Blewett landed the above 5lb 12oz grilse whilst fishing for sea trout at a quarter to midnight on a Middle Taw beat. The recent rain has encouraged a trickle of salmon and sea trout into both the Taw and Torridge. Two salmon of 5lb and 11lb were caught on a Middle Taw beat on Friday. Rumours are circulating of a 14lb + sea trout from the River Mole?

On the Torridge four grilse were tempted from a Middle River Beat despite the river being very low.


Image Jeff Pearce

Summer evening on a trout lake in early July lush green vegetation surrounding the mirror calm surface. Swallows swooping over the water with trout cruising clearly visible in crystal clear water.

I was enjoying an evening at Blakewell with their resident instructor Jeff Pearce. Jeff was as always kitted out with the latest top quality tackle from Snowbee a Spectre 5 weight rod matched to a 2 to 5 weight thistledown fly line that has recently won a prestigious European Fly Fishing Trade Award.

Image by Jeff Pearce

I had elected to contrast Jeff’s top of the range modern tackle by bringing along a 7ft Scottie Split Cane rod that I purchased from a work colleague last year. I later discovered that the rod had once been owned by Richard Mann a regular at Blakewell who sadly passed away last year. Whilst I am not a devout advocate of vintage tackle I do have a fondness for angling history and split cane rods have a certain feel that is somehow more in sync with nature than the steely modern perfection of carbon fibre.

Image by Jeff Pearce

We had decided to restrict ourselves to dry fly only on this warm and sultry evening planning to savour the visual delights of this method. It is surprising that so many anglers miss out on the best trout fishing summer has on offer by concentrating their efforts during the daytime hours often fishing office hours between 9.0am and 5.00pm when they could arrive at 5.00pm and fish until dusk when the fish undoubtedly become more active.

After a days work that had entailed a meeting in Plymouth I was relieved to eventually arrive at the lake at close to 6.30pm where I found Jeff chatting to a couple of visiting anglers.

Trout were clearly visible, some cruising and others were suspended lethargically almost motionless in the water

I tied a small grey duster to my 4lb point and worked the fly line until I had found the range of the target trout. Jeff was soon into action tempting a fish on a small caenis imitation. After a pleasing tussle a beautiful spotted brown trout of a couple of pounds was being admired.

It was obvious that the actively cruising trout were the fish to target as they were we guessed on the lookout for food. After a few refusals I dropped my fly into the path a cruising fish and watched as it nonchalantly swam up to the fly and slurped in my offering. The satisfying tightening of the line and well-bent rod followed this delightful moment of deception. This was the first decent sized trout I had hooked on the old Scottie as previous outings with the rod had been on the river where I had relished catching 4oz wild browns. This 2lb plus rainbow was a more severe test for the rod though I lent into the fish with total confidence enjoying every moment as the old cane absorbed every lunge.

As we fished on Jeff enjoyed success with a small sedge pattern twitching it a few times and then pausing. This often provoked a rise from the trout and a well bent rod. I followed suit tying on a sedge pattern myself and casting to active trout. This was fascinating fishing watching each fish’s reaction to the fly. There is surely no more enjoyable way to catch trout than with the dry fly?

Image by Jeff Pearce

As the sun slowly sank the trout became more active as the air-cooled and more flies hatched around the lake. There was no hurry to catch fish as we enjoyed the ambience of the summer lake. Chatting about fishing here and there and hatching plans for fly-fishing excursions in both saltwater and fresh. Jeff is a dedicated fly angler and relishes catching on this method above all others.

As the sun sank we took the opportunity to capture images of reflections in the water as the summer day ebbed away. A pair of kingfishers flashed across the water a pleasing glimpse of blue and orange. A heron wheeled above the trees emitting a primeval cry and resembling a pterodactyl that once flew millions of years ago. Such summer evenings are to be savored as the evenings once again begin to shorten as summers glorious peak of perfection passes.

Big Sea Trout and several salmon on the Torridge

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On the river Torridge sea trout specialist Martin Weeks landed a fine sea trout of 10lb and lost a far bigger fish when the hook pulled free after the fish tried to empty his reel of line. Dr Jonathon Compson landed five sea trout averaging 1lb 8oz from an upper river beat and Paul Carter landed a 4lb grilse from a middle river beat. Graham Roberts also landed a grilse of 4lb and Adam Baron caught a 10lb salmon and a 3lb sea trout.

I fished a Middle Torridge beat and whilst I failed to tempt a salmon or sea trout I did manage to catch a beautiful brown trout of around 1lb. Unfortunately the picture suffered from some incompetence from me!

Taw Salmon Brace

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Taw regular Ian Blewett landed a fine brace of salmon from a Middle Taw beat. The fish both carefully released were estimated at 11lb and 8lb and were tempted on a home tied size 10 gold cascade.

Several large sea trout have been hooked including a massive fish that was played for over ten minutes before it headed back down river towards the sea and parted company with the unlucky angler.


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The recent rain has brought a welcome rise in North Devon’s Rivers giving excellent prospects of salmon during the coming week.

I took a walk up the Lower reaches of the Lyn earlier today (June 30th) It looked absolutely perfect for spinning and I received confirmation that a salmon was caught from the river the previous day. This 7lb salmon was tempted on a worm presented on a de-barbed circle hook as supplied with the anglers permit purchased from the E.A. Permits are now available from Barbrook Petrol station from 7.00am.   The Lyn is now 100% catch and release and as a result it is not fished by as many anglers as in past seasons. Whilst the reduction in angling pressure is undoubtedly good for the salmon stocks I cannot help but feel slightly sad as I remember my own days on the river a couple of decades ago when after a spate like this anglers would hurry to the river in large numbers from miles around. There was quite a community back then and many of those characters have passed away. As I jumped up onto familiar rocks to study the water and search for the sight of a salmon I remembered those anglers and almost expected to glimpse them searching the water with worm or spinner.

On a wet summers day I can think of no better place to be. The river holds many happy memories and whilst I only saw this magnificent river as its salmon and sea trout run started to decline I had a glimpse of what it once produced and in my forthcoming book I can reveal some of its former glories.

The Torridge has also risen and should be fish-able within a couple of days as the turbidity drops out of the water. Day tickets are available at Little Warham Fishery and at the Half Moon at Sheepwash.

Day Tickets are also available on the Taw from the Rising Sun at Umberleigh who can also provide tickets for the Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats controlled by Ivan Huxtable.

The Rising Sun at Umberleigh

Grayling just over the border.

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Sadly we don’t have any grayling in North Devon but there are a few just over the border in Somerset where Nick Hart operates out of Exe Valley Fishery.

Nick Hart takes a lot of photos of people with fish but every now and again something a little bit different happens like this one today. Here a mate (Phil) holds the net while his mate (Alan) displays his first ever Grayling caught on a #16 cdc elk dry during a session on the River Exe. Just love their expressions, shows the buzz to be had from fishing.

South West Lakes Trout Fisheries Report (June 2017)

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The latest report from South West Lakes. Looks like a few anglers need to get up to Wistlandpound (our local water) that does offer some superb brown trout sport. Great value fishing

7lb rainbow trout from Kennick


With some of the highest temperatures across the country for many years, water temperatures rose quickly, especially in the shallower layers, to over 21ºc, resulting in catch rates falling towards the end of the month as fish became more lethargic. Water levels are still full or nearly so on all waters.


Kennick – Rods averaged 2.5 fish per angler over the first three weeks of June, with the fishing becoming more challenging toward the end of the month. The best Rainbow of the season – a beautiful fish of 7lbs – was caught by Mr. J. Bailey (from Esher) while fishing from the bank at the Narrows using a Black Bobbie on a sunk line. A 5lb Rainbow was caught by Mr. G.Hext, as part of a full bag, fishing from a boat.

The Narrows was the most productive area for both boat and bank anglers, with boats also catching well in the deeper water by the dam and in Clampitts Bay; the banks at the Top End and The Lawns also fished well. Dry patterns fished particularly well early in the month (especially Buzzer Emergers, Black Gnats, Black or Claret Hoppers and Daddies), while small nymph patterns fished on floating or sink-tip lines (particularly teams of Buzzers, Diawl Bachs and Damsel nymphs) caught well throughout the month. Towards the end of the month sinking lines fishing Boobies, Tadpoles and Fry patterns started to produce good results.

South West Lakes Trust will be stocking hardier Brown Trout during the warmer months of July and August in order to continue good catch rates.

Siblyback – Anglers also averaged just over 2.3 fish per rod over the month, with most fish being caught from Two Meadows, Stocky Bay and the North Bank. Afternoons and early evenings generally produced the best fishing and, while some fish were caught on dry patterns such as Sedges, Bibios, Hoppers and Beetles, the majority of fish were taken on nymph patterns (particularly Damsel Nymphs, Montanas, Diawl Bachs and Pheasant Tail Nymphs).

Burrator – The banks at Longstone Peninsula and the North West shoreline have produced the best fishing over the month, with Black Gants, Beetles, Buzzer Emergers and Hoppers all catching rising fish. The majority of fish, however, have been caught on sub-surface nymphs ( Damsel Nymphs, Montanas, Buzzers and teams of Black and Peacock Spiders) fished on either floating or intermediate lines, while deeper fish have taken pulled Vivas and Cats Whiskers, particularly towards the end of the month when surface temperatures exceeded 22 ºc and the fish took to the deeper water.

Stithians – Anglers again averaged over 2.5 fish per rod during the first three weeks of June before the high temperatures resulted in more challenging fishing as the fish retreated to sulk in the deeper water. Fish were well spread out, with Pub Bay, Carnmenellis and Yellowort Bay producing consistently good sport. Other productive locations included Chapel Bay, Pipe Bay, Goonlaze and the deeper water by the dam. With plenty of beetles and emerging Buzzers on the water, dry patterns proved to be the most successful method, with Beetles, f-flies, Hawthorns, Bob’s Bits and dry Sedge patterns all catching well. Small sub-surface nymphs (Buzzers, Orange Diawl Bachs, Hares Ears, Pheasant Tails and Damsel Nymphs) fished on a floating line and long leader also produced some outstanding results.

Drift – The water here is still crystal clear, with Badger Sett bank (where fish have been regularly rising) and the North Shore producing the most consistent sport, while boat anglers and float-tubes have enjoyed great fishing off the Woods and in the deeper water by the dam. Palmered Coch-y-bondhus and Hoppers have taken surface-feeding fish, although the majority of fish have been caught sub-surface on Damsel Nymphs, Diawl Bachs, Black Crunchers and Buzzer imitations. Malcom Griffiths (from Gloucester) caught the best fish of the month – a 3½lb Rainbow – while float tubing near the dam.

Roadford – The fishing here has produced some excellent results, with large catches (rods averaged 6.6 fish) and some wonderful fish. Daveys Bank has produced the best sport from the bank, while boat anglers have caught well at Goodacre Bay, by the dam and over the boils, with dark patterns all catching well – Dry Black Gnats, Beetles and Black Spiders fished in the surface film, as well as sub-surface Black Pennells, Bibio patterns, and teams of Black Buzzers fished on sink-tip lines with long leaders. Duncan Kier (from Belstone) caught (and returned) bags of 32 fish and 20 fish up to 3lb 1oz fishing from the boat, while David Best (from Newton Abbot) caught fish up to 2lb 10oz.

Fernworthy – Anglers have had a tremendous month at this picturesque Brown Trout water, averaging over 6.5 fish per rod. The annual arrival of the swarms of beetle have meant that the fish have been looking up to feed, resulting in excellent dry fly sport, with foam beetle patterns, Dry Bibios, Sedges and Spiders producing outstanding sport, with a few sub-surface feeders taking Hares Ears, Montanas and Damsel Nymphs. Fish have been feeding well throughout the day, with most fish caught by the permit hut and from the Lawns. The best fish caught during the month was a grown-on Brown Trout of 2lb 1oz using a Bracken Beetle, while Paul Ackland (from Plympton) caught and returned 32 fish using a Black Ethafoam Beetle – in his words, a ‘red letter’ day!

Colliford – The fishing has, at last, started to pick up at Colliford, with local angler Dean Boucher losing a fish estimated at over 5lb at the net, as a final run pulled the hook.

South West Lakes Trust is introducing two boats for anglers during July and August this season at Colliford. This is exciting news as it will be the first time anglers have ever had the opportunity to fish the deeper waters where the larger resident Brownies are known to be. For more information and to book, call 01566 771930.

Chris Hall (June 2017)

For more information, please contact:

Rosie Vine

Communications Manager

South West Lakes Trust

01566 771930

A first Twelve months – Thank You

North Devon Angling News has been up and running for just over twelve months and I hope that it has been of benefit to the local angling community. My intention has always been to entertain and inform. The site would not work without regular news stories from anglers in North Devon and with huge support from my sponsors who have placed adverts with me. I try to give good value and welcome any new supporters who would like to come on-board.

I was going to put up a few highlights from the past year but on reflection this would be difficult as there are so many and I would undoubtedly over look so many so perhaps I should just encourage you to take a look back over your particular area of interest. And don’t forget  to send your latest news and images. If you want to comment you can always do so via the Facebook or twitter feed or even using the telephone.

Saltwater Fly Success

Jeff Pearce is a dedicated Fly Fishing enthusiast who takes his fly rod to the coast on a regular basis. His last two sessions have brought success with both bass and grey mullet.

(Above) Bass on the fly too! About 2lb, small Chartreuse Clouser minnow! #5Wt 8′ 6” Snowbee Spectre rod and reel

(Above) This hard fighting grey mullet estimated at 5lb was tempted on a black bass fly from a local beach!

Salmon fishers Annual Pilgrimage success!

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This well deserved fresh 7lb salmon was caught by Stuart Eynon at Little Warham on Saturday morning( June 24th). After persisting with the low water levels and mainly fishing dusk till dawn for sea trout, this was a welcome surprise!

Amanda at Little Warham sent me this delightful  image above of an enthusiastic group of young anglers who have been making an annual pilgrimage to the fishery. Lets hope they can all pose for the same picture in 2024 and that they will again enjoy success with the Torridge salmon.

The guys first came here in 94 by responding to an advert in the local rag by Group Captain Peter Norton-Smith. They were vetted by him and Terry and told that they were expected to catch! On their first day here fortunately one of the lads caught a salmon and then became annually welcome to the Fishery. Their number of salmon caught at Warham now exceed 100. It was great to have them back and great sitting outside the hut listening to the stories of the Fishery over the years. Terry’s reluctance to have four seventeen year old lads from the north east has certainly paid dividends for the fish numbers and its great being in touch with them and having that connection to the rivers history over the past 23 years! They still love the river just as much and their enthusiasm certainly hasn’t diminished and hopefully will continue to make their annual pilgrimage to Little Warham.


Swallows swooped to and fro above as Pauline and I sat savouring tasty paella on the patio. We were guests of Anthony and Amanda the latest owners of Little Warham Fishery nestled deep in the Torridge Valley near Beaford. It was Midsummer Eve and birdsong resonated all around with pigeons cooing peacefully in the trees. We had met with the new custodians of Little Warham back in the autumn at the Torridge Fishery Associations annual Dinner at the Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash. Summer seemed a long way off then with the leaves turning brown and the evenings growing longer. Anthony and Amanda had told us enthusiastically of their plans for the coming year and invited us to join them at some point for a look around the fishery.

Those eight months had certainly flown past, as life seems to these days. The old Farmhouse has a timeless air about it and glimpses of its history linger. Anthony showed us the larder in which the salmon were stored after being collected from the river by horse and cart. An ancient dark wood smoker stood beneath a fine copper beech tree. The house is thought to date back to around 1790 and was for many years a fishing lodge undoubtedly visited by many salmon anglers in far off days when I guess it was predominantly the gentry who would cast their lines.

We talked of fish, of fishing and life before setting off to the river down a delightful path that lead to fields of wheat and oats that stretched before us to the river that was hidden from view by a row of trees that were in their resplendent peak of lush green. Summer flowers lined the hedgerows. The yellow flowers of spring having now given way to pink fox gloves and dog roses of summer. The scents of summer drifted in the air.

We came to a path leading down a steep slope towards the river that could be glimpsed through the trees. As we reached the valleys base the damp musty smell of the river filled the nostrils. The famous fishing hut stood here the heart of the fishery and place of peace, contemplation and I am sure the focus point of many enduring friendships.

I was passed the key and carefully opened the door of the hut stepping inside to a hut full of memories. The smell of wood-smoke hung in the air. An old gaff hook hung upon the wall and cheap white plastic chairs contrasted starkly with the historic feel of the hut. Anthony lifted the trap door that concealed the cool recess where salmon were stored until the days end.

On the fireplace sat an old black and white photo within a frame. Winston Churchill stood inspecting a row of military personal, one of which was Group Captain Peter Norton Smith the late husband of Theresa Norton Smith who had resided at Little Warham since the mid 1960’s when they had moved to Devon following a long distinguished military career that culminated when he was appointed CBE.

Captain Peter Norton Smith and his wife were instrumental in helping to rejuvenate the River Torridge that was at that time heavily polluted by farm effluent.

Norton Smith was Chairman of the Torridge Fishery Association a post later held be his wife. A hair wing salmon fly was created in his honour and the Norton Smiths were also the subject of a poem, “Torridge Salmon” by Ted Hughes.

Carved into the roof of the hut is the outline of a huge salmon weighing 32lb one of six magnificent salmon landed on April 10th 1932. The six fish totalled 106lb and were landed between 10.00 am and 1.00pm. A fact that reminds me of a conversation I once had with Charles Inniss who told me that the best time to catch a salmon is when you have just caught one.

After lingering for a while within the atmospheric fishing hut it was time to wander downstream to view the river and some of its 17 named pools divided between four beats. Guests fishing the river traditionally swap beats half way through the day after breaking for lunch in the fishing hut. The river was at low summer level and showing its bones. Despite this I knew there would be salmon and sea trout hidden within the deeper pots and expected to see a splash and a glimpse of silver at any moment.

This enchanting stretch of river meanders with a mixture of slower pools, glides and rapids. The far bank descends steeply to the river and is densely populated with pine trees. The right bank we walked upon is populated with sycamore, withy, ash and majestic oak trees. Anthony informed me that the oaks were planted beside the river so that they could be felled and timber floated downstream to the boat builders at Appledore.

Amanda talked of walking the riverbank during the spring and of the snowdrops, wild daffodils, primrose, bluebells and wood sorrel that had preceded our visit.

One of the joys of walking a river is reading the water and guessing where the rivers fish will be stationed. The occasional trout rose as flies drifted down, we saw a mayfly drifting slowly in the surface film and wondered how long it would be before it was devoured by a hungry trout.

As we strolled we caught site of the flash of electric blue as kingfishers darted above the water. The whole valley had a timeless ambience undoubtedly enhanced by a lack of intrusion from road or rail. The Torridge unlike the Taw has long stretches of river that are far from such transport links ensuring it remains silent except for sounds of nature and occasional rumbling thrum of a farm tractor.

Our walk was interrupted at one point by the discovery of a sheep that had become trapped upon its back beside the river. Anthony quickly scurried down the steep bank and helped the poor creature to its feet. It staggered drunkenly for a few yards and then trotted out into meadow free to continue its simple life.

The fishery retains its character no manicured banks here just a few well-placed lengths of rope to aid access to the pools. Anglers have wondered its banks for many decades and little has changed accept perhaps the fish populations that are undoubtedly just a shadow of what they were in those halcyon days of old. It is sobering to think of those Victorian anglers loading horse and cart to take their days catch to the salmon larder at the house.

Anthony with his first salmon from Little Warham

I look forward to returning once again to the river when a recent spate has brought in a fresh run of salmon, descendants of those fish angled for many years ago.

I will undoubtedly be able to put the flies I purchased during the visit. For they carry a selection of flies tied by those detained at HMS Prison in Exeter.

After reluctantly leaving the river we were taken into the recently refurbished holiday cottage that will make a wonderful base for both anglers and lovers of deepest rural Devon. The cottage is furnished to a high standard with Amanda’s artistic touches evident throughout. A wood-burner ensures that the cottage will be warm and cozy during autumn and winter when the valley is decorated with a crispy layer of frost, autumn leaves flutter to the ground and the salmons journey culminates as they spawn in the river of their birth.

I have tried to paint a picture of the river valley but when I returned home that night I thumbed through the pages of a book in my collection. “ A Summer on the Test” by J.W. Hills.

“ Indeed valleys are not only objects of natural beauty, but necessities, if you are to keep in tune with your surroundings. And there is another point. It is not only that the valley itself is pleasing, but the running water of the river gives it heart and life as a fire gives life to a room: and therefore you have both the attraction of moving water and also of its surrounding scenery. And further, if you follow the river and not the rail or the road, you will find that in its twists and turns it is always showing you the distant view under another aspect and you get a totally different idea of the country from that gained by one who scours the straight highway only. If also you go right down to the level of the water, as you do if you either fish or go in a boat, you step into a different plane of life. You see much that is hidden from him who only walks the banks – the habits of birds, and their nests, and flowers, which before were unnoticed. You see all this life, not from above, but on an equality, as though you formed part of it. All these attributes are the peculiar advantages of river valleys. And they have the further merit that in no other part of the earth can the changes of the seasons be observed better.”




Wistlandpound Club – Visit Blagdon Lake

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Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club Members traveled to Blagdon Lake the birthplace of Stillwater Trout fishing in the UK. The day was probably the hottest of the year to that point with a clear blue sky and relentless hot sunshine blazing down upon the mirror calm lake. Far from ideal conditions for trout fishing and I don’t think anyone expected the fishing to be easy.

(Above)Matt Kingdom

The fishing did prove challenging but England International Matt Kingdom and I managed five fish each all hard fighting rainbows with full tails.

Dave Mock boated the biggest trout of the day at 4lb 8oz.

1st – Wayne Thomas – 5 Rainbow Trout 13lb 4oz

2nd – Matt Kingdom – 5 Rainbow Trout 11lb 3oz

3rd -Colin Combe – 2 Rainbow Trout – 6lb 2oz

A fin perfect Blagdon rainbow for Wayne Thomas

News From The Torridge

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A short period of heavy rain brought a welcome rise in the River Torridge initial optimism from local anglers keen to reap the benefits was temporarily thwarted as a surge of white water descended down river from clay workings. This ongoing issue has brought condemnation from angling bodies who are working hard to improve the Torridge environment.

As the waters cleared anglers enjoyed some exciting moments with Peter Stemp catching a fine brace of salmon from a middle river beat estimated at 14lb and 12lb. Colin Buckingham caught a 12lb salmon from an up river beat and another angler hooked a huge salmon estimated at 20lb that gave the angler a tantalizing glimpse at it leaped from the water before shedding the hook.

I fished a middle river beat one recent evening with my son James and enjoyed a tranquil few hours beside the water. The start of our trip brought optimism as a fine salmon leaped from the water. Whilst we failed to connect with the king of the stream we both enjoyed a pleasing diversion catching hard fighting brown trout using upstream dry fly fishing tactics. The fleeting glimpse of a kingfisher added to our enjoyment.

We left the river as the colour faded from the day and owls began hooting in the nearby woods. If we had the time and no work next day we should have commenced fishing for the silver sea trout that often succumb in the still of the night.

Little Warham salmon

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Recent rainfall  brought a welcome rise in the River Torridge and Anthony and Amanda Milner of Little Warham Fishery took the opportunity to cast a line. Amanda was delighted to tempt a hard fighting silver sea trout on Monday June 12th. Anthony fished the following morning and tempted a fine 12lb fresh run salmon.

This is the couples first full season on this delightful fishery on the River Torridge where they provide both accommodation and day ticket fishing for salmon, sea trout and brown trout. I hope to bring a full report on this fishery in the very near future.

Fun on the dry fly

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North Devon’s Rivers hold plenty of beautiful wild brown trout that provide superb sport on the upstream dry fly. My son James landed this spotted beauty close to twenty years after catching his first fish. These wild fish are a treasure that we must ensure continue to thrive as their presence is an indication of a healthy river. My own fishing journey began on a tiny stream catching brown trout and I still get just as excited by these feisty little fish fifty years on.


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Izzy Moser of the Devon Wildlife Trust shared these images on Devon Wildlife Trust Twitter Feed today they show the extent of sediment in the Taw today following heavy rain. As game fishers we all look forward to a summer spate that brings fish in from the sea but we hope to see a river the colour of beer not a muddy torrent.

Izz Moser writes :- Sorry for circulation email but I was fairly shocked looking at the River Taw this morning to see how brown the water was after last nights rainfall. This is definitely the worst I have seen it. It was disgusting.

I thought I would use the photos to hopefully raise the profile of sediment issues.

Photos attached – although I have to say they really do not do it justice.

If anyone would like to share the photos further, please do… I have shared them via the Devon Wildlife Trust Twitter feed.

Izzy Moser (Left) at the Fly Monitoring earlier this spring.

South West Lakes Trout Fisheries Report (May 2017)

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Water temperatures continue to rise with the recent warmer spell of weather, now to around 16ºc, resulting in an increase of insect activity, buzzers emerging and fish feeding nearer the surface.


Kennick – Rods averaged just over 2 fish per angler, with some superb fish caught – plenty in excess of 4lb. The best fish of the month was a 7lb 1oz Brown Trout, caught by Barry Ware Jnr from Okehampton, as part of a full bag, which also included a Rainbow of 4lb 4oz while fishing from the bank. Darren Everitt, from Moretonhampstead, caught a 5lb 12oz Brown Trout from the bank, using a Damsel Nymph. The best Rainbow caught in the month was a 5lb 6oz fish caught by Mike Steer, from Bovey Tracey, using Damsel Nymph fished from the bank in Boat Bay. Clampitts Bay, The Narrows and The Lawns were the most productive locations for both boat and bank anglers and, with Hawthorns starting to be blown onto the water, along with buzzers emerging (particularly on the warmer days), Hoppers, Emergers, and Snafflers all produced good results. The majority of fish were caught on Nymph patterns (Damsel Nymphs, Diawl Bachs and Montanas) and teams of Buzzers fished on a floating line, while a few deeper fish were caught on Boobies fished on a sinking line.

The Bank Pairs competition was held on 7 May and was won by father and son team Barry Ware Snr and Jnr, with a bag of 20lb, followed by John Hern and Rob Gale (bag of 17lb 7oz).

Siblyback – Anglers also averaged just over 2 fish per rod over the month, with most fish being caught from the Marshes and Stocky Bay and from the North Shore toward the end of the month, mainly from the bank. With Hawthorns very evident at the beginning of the month, Dry Bibios, Hoppers and Hawthorn imitations caught well fished on the surface. Lures such as Cat’s Whiskers, Baby Dolls and Orange Blobs, fished on intermediate lines, were the most productive, with nymph imitation catches (Damsel Nymphs, Buzzers and Diawl Bach) improving as the month progressed.

The best fish of the month, a Rainbow of 5lb 2oz, was caught by C.Hall (from Pensilva), while Mr Long (from Liskeard) caught a Rainbow of 4lb 12oz.

Burrator – With the reservoir level starting to fall, boats are now available through the Burrator Fishing Club. Anglers averaged 2.4 fish per rod, with Longstone Peninsula the most productive area. Buzzer Emerger patterns and Hawthorns fished on the surface have produced some great top-of-the-water sport, while the majority of fish have been caught on nymph patterns (Damsel Nymphs, Pheasant Tail Nymphs and Spiders) fished on Intermediate or Sink-tip floating lines. The best fish of the month was a 3lb 13oz Rainbow caught on small black pattern fished on a floating line from the bank at Longstone. Jonathan Rood caught a 3lb 4oz Rainbow at Longstone, using a Small Damsel nymph fished on a floating line.

Stithians – Anglers averaged 2.5 fish per rod over the month, with fish well spread out and being caught in a number of locations, particularly Pipe Bay, Pub Bay, opposite the activity centre, Goonlaze and Yellowort. There are plenty of Hawthorns being blown onto the water and this, combined with a lot of hatching fly-life, has meant that dry flies have produced some exiting sport (particularly Black Hoppers, Hawthorns and Spiders fished in the surface film). Subsurface nymph patterns have also caught well (especially Damsel Nymphs, Buzzers, Diawl Bachs and Pheasant Tail patterns).

The best fish of the month was a 3lb 6oz Rainbow caught by J. Dolley, from Redruth, using an Orange and Yellow Blob, fished from the North Bank.

Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Clubs Boat ( Above)

Wistlandpound – The water level is now about two metres down from full and the fishery has been producing some fine fishing, with rods averaging 11.5 fish per angler (on a catch and return basis), with one boat session bagging (and returning) fifty Browns up to 1lb 8oz, with Damsel Nymphs, Sedgehogs and weighted mini Tadpoles all catching well.

The Fisherman’s Hut

Several years ago I wrote an article that appeared in the Get Hooked Angling Guide it revolved around an old fishing hut that belongs to B&DAA. In the article I reminisced about days gone by and the anglers that fished the Lower Taw and rested a while at the old hut. Rods would be propped against the railings as the anglers paused to enjoy a smoke a drink and a chat. I wrote that piece back in 2006.

I returned to the club water a few days ago and fished down through the old haunts. It was apparent that old trees are no longer removed from the river and their skeletal remains now lie rotting in what were once prime pools. The river was very low following the dry spring and algae coated the stones. There have been a few salmon caught so far this season and I had caught a glimpse of a couple myself a few days before when I fished the water for the first occasion in over a decade.

It was as always good to be by the river as the sand martins swooped to and fro across the water. At my feet I was pleased to see minnows swirling in the clear water undoubtedly feeding upon food I dislodged as I fished methodically downriver.

As the light faded I wondered up river and followed a path through the trees to the water. I worked my fly down through the old buttress pool and tempted a small brown trout with vivid crimson spots upon its flanks. As I turned to wonder back out of the river I remembered the  old fisherman’s hut and made my way up through the lush green growth to find the hut that was now fully embraced by nature. I realize that ten years on there are even less of us who remember those spring and summer days when the hut had several visitors every day.

There is a certain feeling of timelessness beside a river the ever-flowing stream yet sadly there is also a profound sense of time evaporating as life passes by. I paused once again below the bridge and looked up through the arches. The banks are now overgrown for this is not an easy place to cast a fly. I remember casting a Mepps across the deep slow moving pool and feeling that delightful throb as the lure worked deep in search of silver salmon.

We have lost so much in the past forty years as fish stocks have dwindled and with it to some extent the richness of an angling life. The decline of salmon and sea trout stocks has resulted in the essential introduction of many restrictions that has reduced the angling effort. With that has come the demise of a whole social scene that once thrived beside the river.

Below is my original article on the Fisherman’s Hut written in 2006:-

The Fishermen’s Hut

I stopped on the bridge as always to peer into the river below. The sun shone and the river took on that blue green translucence typical of springtime. A few martins and swallows swooped above the river seeking nourishment following their long flight from far off lands. After a brief survey of the pool I moved on and came to the old gate that leads to the riverbank.

The gate hung partly unhinged, it’s fastening asp broken, a few bits of litter caught my eye discarded by some ignorant motorist. A problem that blights our countries hedgerows tarnishing our land with an urban feel, continuing down the steps I glanced at the old fishing sign, rusting and grimy, the clubs name still present above the words, “Private Fishing Club Members only”. The pathway beside the river had always been well trodden at this time of year (Early April) yet now it was partly grown over. Celandine flowers brightened the waterside meadow with their bright yellow hues. It felt good to be walking the riverbank again after a long break but strange melancholy feelings drifted into my mind. I glanced at the old corrugated fishing hut its door was open, someone was about I thought, tidying up or fishing somewhere down stream.

My club membership had long since lapsed and I was heading to fish the free water a hundred yards or more downstream. I had fished this section of river heavily twenty-five years ago hoping for a Silver Spring salmon but had visited rarely over recent seasons. However a river is like a long lost friend familiarity returns quickly and certain things retain a core character. The constant flow of a river towards the sea has always given me an almost spiritual and reassuring sense of stability. A feeling I had always treasured each spring as I trod the banks rod in hand hopeful of one of anglings greatest prizes, a fresh run silver salmon. The grass flourishing, buds bursting into life on riverside trees and spring birds filling the air with song, migrants returned from a long cold winter, a sign of the coming warmth of summer.

I had very little time today just a grabbed moment from life’s busy schedule no time to fish methodically, just a few random casts into favourite lies. I remember long ago seeking a salmon a prize that seemed unattainable. Eventually after many days by the river I had tempted a salmon, what had seemed so difficult I realised was really quite easy. You just had to be in the right place at the right time with a little good fortune. Salmon are a perplexing fish, totally ignoring all offerings one minute then suddenly erupting from the water to seize your bait, lure or fly with an unbelievable determination. After catching that first salmon an angler will forever be able to cast in hope for he believes in the impossible. This faith remains forever fuelling the desire for cast after cast.

I climbed down the riverbank entering the water above a sweeping bend in the river. An old tree stood, its roots exposed from constant attack by annual winter floods. Beneath the tree was a favourite lie that had held many salmon and sea trout over the years. I waded out into the river, relishing the feel as the cool water pushed against my legs. I extended my fly line above the water and dropped a bright orange Ally’s Shrimp fly near the far bank. I allowed the fly to swing tantalizingly across the flow, took a step downstream and repeated the process. Many times in the past I had seen salmon and sea trout leap from the water at this spot. I hoped to see one now, I really didn’t need to catch, to glimpse the prize would suffice.

Strange really, since the introduction of catch and release in the early season I have lost much of my determination to seek salmon. I always used to relish taking that first fresh Springer home to enjoy with new potatoes and lashings of butter. I regularly fish for a wide range of species returning 90% of the fish I catch. I have no problem returning a coloured salmon in the autumn but I somehow struggle with returning a bar of silver sea liced salmon. I often think of Hugh Falkus’s comments on catch and release and his views that it was somehow wrong. Somehow I feel he had a point there is something undignified in toying with a fish so magnificent as the Atlantic salmon. Perhaps I just don’t like being told I have to return the fish, I remember catching a well-mended Kelt several years ago. It had inhaled the Mepps spinner to the back of its throat and was bleeding profusely. I gently returned it to the river, to my horror it keeled over and drifted away to die. How would I feel if this happened to a prime fresh run fish?

This leads me on to another restriction that has been imposed to preserve stocks. In the early season I and most other anglers used the spinner to fish for salmon. A Mepp’s spinner or Devon Minnow was cast into the cold waters and retrieved slowly its throbbing reverberated through the line to the rod giving a physical transmission between angler and river. At any moment there was the anticipation of the electrifying take as a bar of silver attacked the lure. I fully support the need to preserve salmon stocks and if that impinges on my pleasure then so be it I guess, I just wonder about the long-term effect of these restrictions on our freedom?

I continued to fish on down stream, ice cold water started to seep into my chest waders. I realised that my repairs to the holes had failed and a new pair of waders would be needed before my next trip.

It was soon time to leave I had to collect my young son from his cricket coaching. I climbed from the river my boots squelching as I retraced my way along the riverside path. I came again to the old fishermen’s hut, the door was still open, and inquisitive I strolled over and peered inside. The door had been broken from its hinges, the old leather seat was torn, old mugs stood in an old wooden cabinet where mice had made their home the old hut was damp and derelict. A feeling of sadness came upon me. I immediately understood the melancholy feeling I earlier sensed. Twenty odd years ago I had spent many hours beside this river and talked with the club anglers of the day. They were anglers in their fifties or sixties who had fished the river for many of life’s allotted span. They generally had a tale to tell of the good old days, of encounters with huge spring salmon, some won some lost. They had intimate knowledge of the river and a deep respect and love for the salmon. Each year working parties would trim troublesome branches and carry out repairs to gates and stiles. The fisherman’s hut was a meeting place where tales were swapped over cups of hot tea. Fishing magazines sat on the table to provide inspiration during a break in fishing or tending to the riverbank. There was always a rod leaning against the old rails that segregated the front of the hut from the bank side. A bench dedicated to an angler invited one to, “rest here and find pleasure”.

It dawned upon me that a generation of anglers had passed away. Few anglers now trod these banks in search of spring salmon. Upriver on prime beats people still pay large sums to fish but here on the club and free water few bother to cast a line. Perhaps restrictions have taken away the motivation for these anglers to fish or perhaps people no longer have the patience to chase dreams. I realise that back then we seemed to have time to talk, time to fish and time to dream.

The faces of a host of anglers fill my minds eye as I walk away from the river and the derelict old fisherman’s’ hut. I realise that whilst the river flows relentlessly on we anglers are just passing spirits. The comfort of the rivers immortality is temporarily shadowed by the realisation of our own fleeting visit to its banks.

As I walk across the bridge I again pause as always for one last look at the river. A car races past, a train thunders along the nearby track I re-enter the modern world and walk back to the car. On getting home I think back to the old fishing hut and vow to jot down my thoughts before they get lost and drift away like the old anglers who once fished the river.

Since writing the article my views on catch and release have mellowed and I no longer yearn to keep that spring salmon believing it far better to carefully return it to continue its upstream journey.

Salmon from Taw and Torridge despite low water.

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A few salmon have been tempted from both the Taw and Torridge despite low water conditions. Three salmon have been tempted from the Torridge all-fresh run fish between 6lb and 10lb and landed from beats on the lower, middle and Upper River. On the Taw Tony Kibble fished the Weir Marsh and Brightly Beat and landed a fine 10lb fish. A few sea trout have been seen trickling upstream.

Catch and release catches on at Exe Valley

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The latest monthly report from Exe Valley where catch and release has proved a popular option.

Simon Curtis is a happy man after landing this 8lb Rainbow using a dry fly! Part of a 4 fish bag that totalled 20lb. Loads of fish rising at the moment with imitative flies catching plenty of fish.

Another month has passed far too quickly at Exe Valley with the first taste of summer now upon us.  Although some inevitable weed has appeared during the hot spell Anchor Lake continues to provide excellent sport.  The deep areas are looking in better condition than this time last year and up to today, 27th May 17, 147 anglers have caught 547 Trout for a very healthy rod average of 3.7 fish per person.

Another month has passed far too quickly at Exe Valley with the first taste of summer now upon us.  Although some inevitable weed has appeared during the hot spell Anchor Lake continues to provide excellent sport.  The deep areas are looking in better condition than this time last year and up to today, 27th May 17, 147 anglers have caught 547 Trout for a very healthy rod average of 3.7 fish per person.

Just this week I used imitative tactics while guiding Andy & Carl from the Birmingham area.  We had to experiment with a couple of different fly patterns and in the end enjoyed some great sport using a washing line consisting of a Black Hopper Booby on the point and a simple Crank Shank Buzzer on the dropper.  Fish fell to both patterns and the takes were fantastic; not to mention the fighting qualities of these fish!

If you are interested in improving your casting techniques please see Nicks website Nick Hart Fly Fishing

Little Warham – 18lb Torridge Salmon

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The latest catch report from the picturesque Little Warham fishery on the River Torridge

Our latest catch by John Graham here yesterday.

John Graham’s perseverance was rewarded yesterday with this fine salmon, after having several fish not quite making the net earlier in the season at Little Warham. The pictured fresh run fish measured in at 35.5 inches, believed to be in the region of 18lbs. Despite the unfavourably low water levels and sunny conditions, John managed to successfully land this wonderful fish alone and release it again safely.

The following is a quote directly from John:

“The fish took the fly @ about 4:50. In a micro-second, I was down to the backing, with the fish heading for the sea. It was impossible to hold, and twice more it stripped the line nearly to the end of the backing. The only way to stop it was to run down the river bank. To say it was an epic fight is an understatement, especially when I was only on 12 pound breaking strain. In the end, it came in and after cradling it in the water for 3-4 minutes it swam powerfully away. What made it all the more satisfying, is that it took a fly that I had recently tied”.

Estuary bass and river salmon

After hearing of a few bass in the lower estuary I had a short trip as the tide started to flood and caught a couple of small school bass on a surface lure. The wide expanse of the estuary was a sharp contrast to the intimacy of the river Torridge I fished the previous day.

There have a been a couple of salmon caught on the Torridge with fish from middle river beats. The river is now fining down after a small spate and there is every chance of a fish or two over the next few days.

Snowbee Open Day at Blakewell Fishery

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Blakewell Fishery hosted an Open day last Sunday sponsored by South West based tackle company Snowbee.This was a friendly relaxed event with the opportunity to mingle with fellow anglers and witness impressive fly casting demonstrations from Snowbee’s Simon Kidd.

Simon also gave tuition to visiting anglers including a young gentlemen called Tom who landed his first ever fly caught trout a hard fighting 3lb plus rainbow.

Simon Kidd ( Right) and pupil Tom with his first trout.

Simon Kidd gave casting demonstrations and discussed all the latest tackle from Snowbee with particular attention to Fly-Lines. The general consensus is that a quality fly line is a more worthwhile investment than a fly rod or reel. A good fly Line will dramatically improve the performance of any rod whilst a poor line will spoil the performance of even the most expensive fly rod.

The latest tackle from South West based company Snowbee was available to try and I was particular impressed with the thistledown fly lines that delivered a long line with a minimal amount of false casting.

Jeff Pearce a member of Blakewells team put this to good use tempting a hard fighting rainbow. ( below)

Throughout the day anglers mingled chatting about past adventures and spawned plans to visit new waters. Several newcomers to the sport will undoubtedly be hooked on fly fishing. The lakeside proved a delightful location to savor a beer and burger provided by Blakewell co owner Richard Nickell.

Chris Payne enjoyed success during the open day landing a stunning rainbow trout of 11lb 5oz.( Below)

Rare sights at Bratton Water

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One of the joys of fishing is the wildlife we see whilst at the waters edge and at Bratton Water there have been some exciting sightings in recent weeks with owner Mike Williams sending me these images he managed to capture of an osprey and a great white egret! Mike tells me the fishing has been excellent recently with some stunning brown trout tempted by visiting anglers. Dry fly and small buzzer nymph patterns always tend to work best at this picturesque water.

The fishery is renowned for the superb quality of its brown trout that have been caught to double figures.

A stunning brown landed earlier this spring by Danny Ford.

Wistlandpound Fly Fishers enjoy brown trout sport at home venue

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Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club held their Edwards Cup Floating line competition at their home venue.  The competition was for the best brace of trout and was won by Dave Mock who landed who two trout for 2lb 15oz, Close behind was David Eldred with a brace totalling 2lb14oz and in third Paul Grisley with a single trout weighing 1lb 9oz.

Salmon news from Torridge and Taw

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A wonderful 10lb spring salmon has been caught from Little Warham Fishery on the Mid Torridge . The fine fish was tempted by Gary Pearson, who is usually a familiar face on the River Taw. Gary was was enticed this season by the beauty of Little Warham and the River Torridge. Gary caught the fish during the late afternoon in rainy, cloudy conditions, during this continued period of low water – which is very encouraging to us anglers. The fish was photographed and returned safely. Well done Gary, your first Torridge salmon.

The long spell of dry weather has been frustrating for salmon and sea trout anglers though some have ventured out and enjoyed success on the Lower beats of both the Taw and Torridge. Steve Maddox fished Barnstaple and District Angling Associations water at Newbridge to bank a stunning 18lb fresh run salmon. Steve told me it was his first and gave an amazing account before being brought to the net.

On the Lower Torridge five salmon have been tempted from Half Moon Beats below Beam Weir all of them double figure fish including a fine 12lb springer to experienced rod Charles Inniss.

A few sea trout are also being tempted including fish to 3lb on middle river Torridge beats.

Learning the way to tempt more bass

When the rivers are low and salmon and sea trout are hard to find many fly fishers are turning to the the estuary where the silver flanked bass can provide exciting sport on both lure and fly. Nick Hart provides tuition in Fly Fishing in both fresh and saltwater, in rivers and still waters. His latest pictures show some happy anglers making the best of ideal conditions where the estuary meets the sea. Investing in guided fishing can make a huge difference to your catch rates boosting success over many years into the future.

Wistlandpound superb brown trout sport

Below is a report sent to South West lakes Trust by a very satisfied customer!

Jon Ogbourne enjoyed a Great day on Wistlandpound fishing from the clubs boat. He fished with Peter Coleman-Smith and Mark Stewart taking turns on the oars. Fish came from all over the lake with 50+ to the net by the time we landed at 6pm, the best was pushing 1.5lbs. All fish came to either traditional wets, sedgehogs or weighted mini tadpole patterns on the point. Steady wind blowing up toward the dam all day. Sunshine with broken cloud. Buzzers and hawthorn flies around perimeter of lake but not much out on the water. Fish didn’t seem to mind.

Blakewell Open Day and fine sport

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David Hill visited Blakewell Fishery and had a pleasing days sport landing four quality trout for 17lb including a handsome 4lb brown trout.

Next Sunday May 14th the fishery are hosting a Snowbee Open day with casting demonstrations, tackle on show and the chance to mingle with fellow anglers whilst enjoying food and refreshments.

Riverside ramblings

A tumbling river in springtime with the smell of ramsey and birdsong filling the air has been a part of my life since I was a child catching crimson spotted brown trout from the River Umber that runs through the village of Combe Martin. A few weeks ago I found myself looking into the river where I first tempted those spotted trout. Sadly there were no signs of the descendants of those trout  which is a sad refection on the waning state of our countryside.

Fortunately there are still plenty of rivers in North Devon that still have healthy populations of trout. I took a wander along my local river wielding a split cane rod I had bought from a work colleague. The old scottie rod had been bought at a car boot sale and I later found that the rod had been taken there by Richard Mann who I had fished with on several occasions at Blakewell Fishery. Richard was a very enthusiastic angler who had fished far and wide with many a tale to tell. In latter years he had done a huge amount of work for a local branch of the Salmon and Trout Association. Richard sadly passed away last year.

I flicked the flies upstream and thrilled as the free rising trout seized the fly.  The old rod flexed as the trout gyrated and darted to and fro in the clear water. I wondered what other adventures the rod had been on? It didn’t really matter what rod as the small river didn’t demand distance casting, a bit of precision perhaps. A modern carbon rod could have ticked every box in functionality but perhaps the old rod was more in keeping with the late spring evening? The river had those same characteristics I had enjoyed close to fifty years ago, perhaps that is one of angling’s greatest attributes in that it brings back those childish perceptions and feelings.

A couple of nights later I was casting a fly across the River Torridge in hope of  salmon. The river had dropped away but still had a nice tinge of colour. I started hopeful but as the evening swept past I felt slightly melancholic at the lack of salmon surely after the recent spate there would be salmon present? It was a glorious evening full of birdsong and riverside aromas. I did catch one or two glorious spotted brown trout but these were not enough tonight for I had set my expectations higher and with that came a slight feeling of failure. I will of course be back casting again full of expectation next time the river rises and brings fresh hope of silver tourists.

Sea Trout – A fine first fish on the fly

A glance over the bridge at Umberleigh revealed the Taw running with a slight color perfect conditions for a fish a two.

We called into the Rising Sun at Umberleigh to enjoy their Wednesday steak night. A glance into the Fishing Log revealed the days catch! Spencer Whitbread fished the Rising Sun’s water at Umberleigh and was delighted  to land his first fish on the fly a handsome sea trout of 5lb 10oz. The fish was tempted on a Wille Gunn a favorite early season fly on the Taw and Torridge. Spencer was expertly tutored by Mark Izzard.

It was a delicious steak! Two for £20!

Stunning rainbow on a dry fly

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9lb 1oz on a dry fly for Mr Gilbert. Fish right up in the water even when cold & windy.

With the warmers days fish are moving up n the water so Nick Harts suggests “try an Owl, a Hopper or stick a Buzzer under a Bung.”

Nick Hart reports:-

So far to today Friday 28th April 188 anglers have visited since the beginning of the month catching a total of 599 Trout to set a very good rod average of 3.2 fish per rod.  Amongst them have been some great fish such as the specimens shown below and we were also pleased to see that one of our Trout was selected by Trout Fisherman as Fish of the Month.  Well done to the captor John Ratcliffe.

Rain brings promise.

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I was passing the river today so I had to take a look the water was perfect the colour of real ale ideal for casting a Mepps down and across to twinkle and throb in the turbulent waters. Sadly there were no anglers cars in the car park a symptom of modern times I am afraid. The Lyn once had an impressive run of both salmon and sea trout and when the conditions were right anglers descended from miles around. Catch and release has never caught on on the Lyn which is a spinning and worming river not ideally suited to the fly angler.

The careful angler should be able to enjoy some fine sport on this beautiful river and if barbless singles are used on the spinners fish can be returned to continue their journey. The E.A have after careful consideration allowed the use of the worm after June 16th  and provide anglers with the mandatory circle hooks to promote a high survival rate.

Permits for the Lyn can be purchased from Barbrook filling station that is Open seven days a week from 7.00am until 7.00pm

The weekends rain has also swollen the Taw and Torridge and this should encourage a few salmon up river over the next few days. I will report on NDAN as soon as I get news.


At the end of March I attended the Torridge Fishery AGM where we were given a fascinating presentation by Izzy Moser of the Devon Wildlife Trust. I spoke with Izzy the following day at the Riverfly training event when she kindly offered to share information on the efforts to restore freshwater mussels. I have thrown together a few information leaflets and some of Izzy’s notes from the slide show to give an overview of the project and the fascinating life cycle of the mussel. The project is supported by Blakewell Fishery.

This project has been set up in north Devon’s river Torridge

The aim of the project is to protect and restore FPM populations, and with this, to improve water quality for all users of the river.

Broader water quality issues – for example, pollution (soil, nutrients, pesticides), acidification, heavy metal inputs… and how we can improve these.

Partner project – Biffa funded etc.

Margitifera Margatifera – latin name

Freshwater Pearl Mussels are filter feeding bivalves from the group mollusc. They are one of the longest living invertebrates known (they can live over 100 years) and they inhabit the beds of rivers in the UK. According to the documentation, the require clean, well oxygenated, fast flowing waters

Filter 50 litres of water /day. In large numbers they can help to improve water quality through filtration.

Part of their life cycle is spent attached to the gills of salmonids (brown trout and Atlantic salmon, so good populations are vital to the survival of juvenile mussels.

Currently most of the populations are in Scotland but FPM were once widespread across the UK and could be found in the Tamar, Exe, Dart, Teign, Taw and Torridge. Currently, the only know populations are in the Taw and Torridge and these are relatively low numbers.

On the Torridge there estimated to be around 2000 individuals and this makes up the 4th largest colony in the UK.

However, these mussels are not thought to have breed successfully since the 1960’s, and are therefore aging significantly.

FPM critically endangered and nationally protected.

Genetically different from populations in northern England.

Thriving mussels populations can help to improve water through filtering

Thriving mussel populations are a sign of healthy rivers.

The West Country Fly Fishing Seminar 2017

The West Country Fly Fishing Seminar 2017

Close to seventy fly fishers from novice to expert assembled at the Fox and Hounds, Eggesford for the annual West Country fly fishing seminar all keen to learn more about the art of fly fishing. Fortunately it was a warm spring day with new growth bursting forth on the trees and recently arrived swallows swooping around the old fishing and hunting hotel.

The event is hosted in a collaboration between the Devon School of Fly Fishing and Fly Fishing who are based locally in Crediton. There were a team of expert guides from all over the country to assist in the delivery of talks, demonstrations with tuition on casting, watercraft, fly selection and a whole lot more relating to fly-fishing.

The morning commenced in the meadows beside the Upper Taw where Peter Tyjas (Above) opened proceedings with an informative talk on the event and aspects of fly-fishing including tackle and his undoubted passion for casting a fly in various waters; especially for the wild brown trout that swim in the Upper Taw.

The guides present included:-

Jim Williams
AAPGAI MASTER level fly fishing & fly casting instructor, Sales manager for Vision Flyfishing UK

Jim Fearn
AAPGAI qualified salmon casting instructor and Rio Pro-Guide. He is responsible for product development at Guide Flyfishing who distribute RIO Lines, McLean Nets, Redington, Fishpond, Loon

John Legg
Managing Director at Guide Fly Fishing and AAPGAI level instructor.

Pete Tyjas
AAPGAI qualified instructor and principal of the Devon School of Fly Fishing, together with his team of fully qualified guides.

During the morning session each of the instructors gave a talk on their area of expertise with casting demonstrations that included in depth advice on spey casting, double haul timing, casting the perfect loop and the need for practice.

After these extensive and fascinating displays and talks the anglers were encouraged to assemble into relevant groups where they could receive relevant tuition dependent upon their knowledge or avenue of interest. There was also the opportunity to handle and cast the latest fly rods with lines and reels.

Lunch time gave the opportunity to mix and mingle in the dining area of the hotel and to have a drink in the bar where hundreds of old photos of salmon catches of bygone days decorate the walls.

After lunch it was back to the meadow where at this point the guides got into the river to talk about watercraft and the wide range of techniques available to the fly-fisher. Dry fly fishing, New Zealand style presentation, czech nymphing and American style streamer fishing. Whatever style you choose observation of the waterside environment is vital with weather, water condition, temperature and light values likely to impact upon the food available to the fish we seek. In addition to this watercraft is valuable in providing an educated guess as to where the fish are likely to be. All the above factors will influence the tackle required. Though in reality it is impractical to carry all the rods and reels required for each technique and presentation compromise is therefore required for most of us.

The choice of fly or lure is of course important but the need for a vast range is generally not required as presentation and positioning are of more value. The importance of the leader is also an important but often overlooked component in the link to presenting the fly correctly. Tapered leaders aid good presentation with a stiff butt leading to a fine tippet via the middle transition section. One of the key factors in dry fly presentation is of course ensuring a drag free drift.

The guide giving my wife Pauline tuition told us that the key areas to consider when fishing for trout are: –

Presence – Not alerting the fish to your presence

Presentation – Presenting the fly in a natural manner

Pattern – Choosing the correct imitation on the day

By the end of the day we had been given a huge amount of information and thought provoking ideas. Success in angling is undoubtedly boosted by attention to detail and the best anglers fine tune their tactics to suit the fish they seek, I realized that despite being an angler for over fifty years I know very little about the sport I love. Being an all-rounder I must concede that I will never be an expert in any discipline of angling if such a thing exists. In angling it is the fish that write the rule-book and the only certainty within that book is that fish don’t always follow the rules.

Fortunately we have a vast range of waters in North Devon to practice on and I look forward to casting a line far and wide this coming year. Hopefully with her recent tuition Pauline will also connect with the wild fish that swim in river, stream, lake and sea.


Anchor Lake has been fishing its head off ! One angler  had 9 in under 2 hours and there have been a couple of 7lb fish in amongst some limit bags including this cracker caught by Daniel Stocker which was also tagged so he  headed home with £20 and an Easter Egg! Despite the concerns about C&R making the lake hard we see no evidence of it and today of the 14 anglers fishing 7 are on sport tickets, all catching using a variety of tactics including washing line, straight nymphs & dries.


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After several weeks without substantial rain the rivers have started to drop away. I fished the Middle Torridge on Saturday and was pleasantly surprised at how well the river level has held up with it at a height that I would expect fish to be present. I fished the lies carefully and failed to move any fish. It was as always a delight to in the river with fresh green growth sprouting forth all around and birdsong filling the cool spring air.

Spring tides over the previous week should have encouraged a few fish into the river. Sea trout will start to show soon with every chance of double figure fish in the early season. Ideally we need some heavy rain within a couple of weeks to replenish the rivers. If the rain does not come it will be well worthwhile targetting the wild brown trout that populate our local rivers. Early season fishing sees the fish rising freely to bushy dry flies ideally fished in conjunction with a small beaded nymph in the so called New Zealand Style.

I received this report from Barnstaple & District Angling Clubs John Webber

“Just received details from Taw Cottage Beat. Owner John Saunders invited local angler Bob Lewington to fish his top beat on Good Friday afternoon, resulting in a fresh run 12lb salmon.Bob was wading in deep water with high bank when fish hooked and managed to net whilst still in the water. This was Bob’s his first catch of the season, which I understand brings total fish landed on the Taw to 14.”


The day ticket Brightly and Weir Marsh Beats of the Taw have produced a fine couple of spring salmon with Andy Nixon catching a fine 10lb salmon and Len Francis one of 10lb 8oz. Day tickets can be obtained from Ivan Huxtable on 0777 9214909 or by calling in to The Rising Sun at Umberleigh where they also have fishing available. Click on the link below.

Below are a few notes from Roger Furniss relating to smolt survival. These highlight the range of problems that impact upon the smolt as they journey to the sea sea. Without smolt of course we have no salmon.

SWRA Council Meeting – 11 April 2017 Paper 5
From Headwater to Headland – Improving smolt survival in rivers and estuaries

From Roger Furniss


I attended a two-day conference in Berwick with the above title, organised by Atlantic Salmon Trust and Tweed Foundation – Programme attached. The Proceedings will be published but there was so much information relevant to how we manage our rivers I have summarised the key points below.

At the end I draw some conclusions about how we should manage our rivers in the light of the information

Freshwater Influence on Smolt Production and Survival

  •   Increasing freshwater temperatures are causing average smolt age and size to decrease (1+ smolts average 10 cm, 2+ average 13 cm on Burrishoole);
  •   Smaller smolts have lower marine survival;
  •   Smaller 1+ smolts tend to produce MSW’s, larger 2+ tend to produce grilse;
  •   Smolts have a narrow ‘window’ when they are in right condition to go to sea;
  •   Run timing is getting earlier (temperature effect) and causing mismatch betweenfreshwater and sea conditions, especially temperature, with cold springs better (sea temperatures do not rise as quickly as freshwater) – earlier migration is correlated with lower marine survival – effect is worse in rivers with short/no estuaries;
  •   Pesticides, herbicides, etc adversely impact home river imprinting, ability to cope with change to sea water;
  •   Smolt survival in freshwater and transit time down river and through estuary inversely proportional to river flow;
  •   Most smolts transit estuary on ebb tide, irrespective of time of day;
  •   Small loss of scales OK, large loss bad;
  •   Managing freshwater phase critical to marine survival;
  •   Hatchery reared fish have poorer survival;
  •   Wetted area of juvenile habitat vital; Smolt Migration in Rivers
  •   Environmental change is happening faster than evolutionary adaptation and may be different on different rivers;;
  •   Rivers with impoundments and in-stream structures have higher smolt mortalities than rivers without;
  •   R Bush salmon run 1975 – 1995 averaged 30,000 pa, reduced to 5,000 pa by early 2000’s. Now back to 30,000;
  •   Factors affecting Bush were siltation of redds exacerbated by weed growth, lower marine survival and predation;
  •   Inland movement of cormorants (increased numbers on coast and less inshore fish) killed 600-1200 smolts a day, totalling 50% of smolt run;


  •   Cormorant shooting/scaring must start early in the run and early in the day – break the habit;
  •   Cormorant control biggest single factor producing better adult runs – also gulls on weirs;
  •   Most smolts leave freshwater in the dark;
  •   Allier (Loire) smolts travel average of 32 km/day, with early migration ‘passive’ – ifnot rapid enough smolts killed by high temperatures and missing the ‘window’;
  •   Impacts of hydro schemes can be direct (shear, pressure and mechanical injury inturbine) and indirect (delay and easier predation) – latter exacerbated by cumulative


  •   Bindon (Frome) hydro (unscreened Archimedes) with parallel river route showed nodifference in smolt survival, speed of travel, or marine survival of smolts passing down turbine and smolts passing down river.

    Smolt survival in the lower river, estuary and coastal waters

  •   Norwegian sea trout from 100’s of streams fall into only four genetic groups, ie individual river stocks are not separate;
  •   High flows increase the proportion of daylight smolt migrants;
  •   Low flow sea trout smolt losses in freshwater can be as high as 50% and kelt 30%,normal flows 20% smolts and 5% kelts;
  •   Model smolt production by classifying habitat (0 unsuitable – 4 very good) andestimating proportion of catchment in each class; survey juveniles in each habitat and

    model survival to smolt;

  •   Deveron – 40% smolt loss between headwaters (80km upstream) and estuary, mainlypredation by sawbills and large trout – loss of 0.77%/km, 18 days average travel time

    – faster smolts more successful;

  •   Dee smolts move out of harbour very quickly (average 1 mile in 40 minutes);
  •   26 % in-river smolt mortality (0.78%/km cf Deveron);
  •   In-river migration speed flow related;
  •   In Moray Firth smolts ‘wander’ in daytime (?feeding?) and go in straight lines at night(?active migration?)
  •   Moray Firth smolts trapped 70km above tide, 50% loss in freshwater;
  •   Salmon smolts move away from river mouths more quickly that sea trout;Impact of Predation
  •   In Denmark recent changes in cormorant numbers and behaviour have had significant adverse impact with coastal population pressure and reduced sea fish stocks pushing birds inland;
  •   In 300 sq km estuary in three weeks 25% of tagged smolts eaten, 50% of tagged eels and all flounders;
  •   Seals, cod and saithe are major predators in inshore waters;
  •   In freshwater up to 70% of smolts lost to predation at some low dams (pike but mostlycormorants);
  •   In some Danish rivers cormorants are the main factor reducing fish stocks to belowWFD standards;
  •   Cormorant egg oiling not very successful, night shooting at roosts better;
  •   Relative values of salmon and cormorants key factor in driving policy;


  •   In 2012 England inland cormorant population rose from 2,400 pairs in summer to >30,000 in winter;
  •   Hampshire Avon coordinated catchment-wide cormorant shoots (licence to kill 20% of estimated population of 700, ie 140 birds);
  •   Scaring include use of lasers, gull spikes on weirs, dummies, starting pistols;
  •   Restigouche (Canada) – increased numbers of double-crested cormorants reversedsalmon recovery – mouth of river colony went fro no birds in 2000 to 2294 in 2015;
  •   Miramichi (Canada) – striped bass in estuary 1990’s nearly extinct, conservationmeasures now 300,000 in estuary at time of smolt migration.


  •   Smolt losses in freshwater are a major factor limiting adult runs;
  •   Climate change is adversely affecting production, migration and survival;
  •   Shading to keep freshwater temperatures down could help;
  •   Helping smolts get to sea quickly will help unless it’s too early (warm freshwater,cold sea) – use of water banks on regulated rivers;
  •   Micropollutants (agri-chemicals) adversely affect survival;
  •   Remove as many impoundments as possible and treat downstream migration asseriously as upstream – potential conflict between maximising smolts to sea and


  •   Archimedes Screws may not be a problem for smolts;
  •   Management can help, especially predator control, habitat improvement – needsa much more aggressive, coordinated approach to cormorant and goosander control.

Torridge Fishery Association – AGM

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The Torridge Fishery Associations Annual General Meeting was held at the Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash on March 31st and was very well supported by its membership. I always look forward to attending this meeting as this and the Annual Dinner is the  time when most members get to meet up and share in their passion for the river and its health.

As always the river Environment was at the top of the agenda and of course the fish stocks. Paul Ashworth gave an update on the hatchery. The clubs project to attempt to stem the decline in salmon and sea trout numbers. The past winter has proved a successful one with brood stock successfully caught stripped and returned to the river. The result has been 30,000 fry stocked out into tributaries of the Torridge. It is impossible to know for sure if previous years stockings have proved fruitful but with a 95% survival to swim up fry stage there has to be a chance that a few eventually make it back as adult fish.

Environment Agency Fisheries Officer Paul Carter gave a report on the latest regarding staffing levels with the agency and highlighted the need for anglers to act as the eyes and ears of the river bank. Any environmental concerns or suspicious activity should be reported immediately either direct to Paul or via the agency’s hotline – 0800 807060. Paul expressed concern at the apparent lack of salmon spawning activity on the upper reaches of most local rivers. My own hope is that this is a temporary situation with a poor return of salmon as a result of the extensive and severe floods of 2012 washing out large areas of the salmon’s redds. In light of the ever decreasing stocks Paul emphasized the importance of catch and release and in particular ensuring large fish of over 70cm are returned to the river even later in the season as these fish are often the ones returned by anglers fishing earlier in the spring. Provisional 2016 returns for the Torridge indicated 58 salmon and 206 sea trout.

Izzy Moser from Devon Wildlife Trust gave an enlightening talk on the successful attempts to breed freshwater pearl mussel with the intent of reseeding areas of the Torridge where the species is threatened with extinction. These mollusks can live for over 100 years and require pollution free waters to survive. The creatures can also contribute to the rivers health by filtering large quantities of water as they feed. For more information on this fascinating project visit

One of the major factors impacting upon the Freshwater mussel is that of sedimentation caused largely by farming practices. Devon Wildlife Trust is working with anglers towards a purer river that will benefit both mussels and salmon.

Adrian Dowding and his colleague Phil Turnball of the West Country Rivers Trust gave a presentation reporting upon  an extensive fry survey undertaken last season. This did not make good reading with fry numbers very disappointing throughout most of the Torridge catchment despite extensive work over recent years to improve habitat. The survey highlights the urgent need for extensive efforts to address habitat issues on our rivers. The loss of salmon and sea trout in any of our West Country Rivers would be a tragedy.

Invasive species are also a major concern with Himalayan Balsam one area that anglers can make a difference. A campaign encourages anglers to pull up ten of these plants every time they visit the river.

Despite all of this concern for the river anglers remained upbeat and optimistic for the season ahead with river levels now dropping after several spates some fish should be caught. John Hellyer caught a fine 10lb salmon from the lower river, the second so far this season showing that a few salmon have already moved in.

The Half Moon Inn has for many years been the hub of fishing on the Torridge and fortunately this is set to continue as the new owners Andrew Orchard and Alan McIntosh have vowed to continue the Inns future as a premier fishing Inn that will undoubtedly be well supported by Charles Inniss whose years of knowledge and enthusiasm has provided inspiration for generations of visiting anglers.

Top Spring Trout Sport at Blakewell

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Thirty anglers gathered at Blakewell Fishery for their Spring Competition a day that was to be blessed with warm spring sunshine. It was certainly a jovial atmosphere that pervaded the morning with old friends and new talking eagerly about the days fishing ahead. These competitions are little more than an excuse for a bunch of anglers to get together for a social with a bit of banter and a bent rod.

After the draw and a coffee we all set out to the lake that was tinged with colour after heavy rain two nights previous. This was probably a good thing as bright sunshine is seldom good for trout fishing. The morning session saw anglers enjoy steady sport with the fish fighting hard in the cool water. Glancing around the lake it was apparent that a multitude of patterns were producing fish. My first peg proved challenging and I only managed the one trout a handsome brown that was to be the heaviest brown of the day at 3lb 5oz.

My next peg proved more productive and within the second hour I had completed my mornings quota of five trout.(below)

This gave me the opportunity to wonder around the lake and capture a few images before lunch.

(Above) Gary Matthews with a handsome brown trout

The hour-long lunch break saw the hungry anglers tucking into a hearty meal of sausages, potato stew, salad, fresh bread and red cabbage and onion. This was washed down with a cool can of beer followed by a slice of delicious homemade cake.

All of this was of course punctuated by plenty of tales of fish and fishy places.

(Above)Brian Howarth with a 3lb brown trout

The afternoon session is often the hardest and that one fish can often prove hard to tempt. But with a blue sky and fresh green buds all around it was not too much of a problem if it took a while to complete the days bag.

The competition came to a close at 4.00pm and all but two of the thirty anglers had completed their six fish limit. The scales showed that it had been a very close event with just three pounds separating the top twenty-five anglers.

Andy Facey with two of the brown trout from his winning bag


1st Andy Facey – 6 fish – 15lb 7oz

2nd John Buxton – 6 fish – 14lb 15oz

3rd – Phil Martin – 6 Fish – 14lb 10oz

4th = Wayne Thomas – 6 Fish – 14lb 9oz

         Colin Matthews – 6 Fish – 14lb 9oz  

             Paul Grisley – 6 Fish – 14lb 9oz

Is there a better looking trout than the brown?


Whilst none of the big trout for which the fishery is renowned were caught several were glimpsed in the lake. A fine 13lb double figure rainbow was landed the previous day.

The fisheries facilities have been upgraded with a new toilet, fish weighing room and extended decking that will prove a hit on summer evenings when John and Richard Nickel plan a few summer BBQs and fishing events.

Richard Nickel feeding next years trout

Next month sees the fishery host a Snowbee Open day when the latest tackle will be on display and available to try out with casting instruction from the Snowbee  and Blakewell teams.

Wistlandpound Fly Fishers venture to Clatworthy

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Wistlandpound Fly Fishing Club traveled to Wessex Waters Clatworthy Reservoir where they enjoyed some exciting sport. David Eldred won the competition with a five fish limit bag totaling 23lb 6oz that included a superb rainbow of 9lb 10oz. In runner up spot was Danny Ford with 21lb 12oz and third Richard Hopson with five fish for 18lb.

David Eldred’s 9lb10oz rainbow trout

Riverfly monitoring

The River Fly Partnership


“Riverfly Partnership tutors deliver one-day workshops to fishing clubs and other organisations committed to establishing a group to monitor the biological water quality of their local waters.

Anglers are natural guardians of the river environment, and are in an ideal position to monitor the health of the watercourses they fish, by using the riverflies they aim to imitate with their artificial flies. Many angling and other interested groups expressed an interest to be able to carry out health checks on their waters. The Riverfly Partnership spearheads an initiative to allow interested groups to take action that  will help conserve the river environment. This initiative provides a simple monitoring technique which groups can use to detect any severe perturbations in river water quality and puts them in direct communication with the local Ecological Contact of the Environment Agency (EA) / Scottish Environment Protection Agency – participating areas (SEPA) / National Resources Wales (NRW) / Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA). “

            I joined a group of enthusiastic volunteers for a days training on the River Fly Initiative at The Fox and Hounds Country Hotel near Eggesford. The course was run in conjunction with the North Devon Biosphere and our tutor’s for the day were Matthew Edworthy from the North Devon Biospere and Izzy Moser from the Devon Wildlife Trust.

            The group of volunteers was a mix of anglers and members of the community with a passion for Devon’s wildlife. All understood the importance of a healthy river and how the river fly population can act as a natural barometer to its health. Fly Fishers of course have a long established link to a rivers fly life as it is these creatures that the anglers mimic when trying to tempt the trout that live within the river.

            It was observations by anglers that had helped to establish the vital link between the abundance of fly life and the richness of the river habitat. Observations over many decades revealed an alarming decline in fly populations. It was this that had lead to the River Fly Initiative.

            The sampling of a section of river and careful gathering of data relating to fly life populations is a proven way of detecting any decline in the river health. This can show up problems long before any fish kill or visible signs of an issue.

            The first part of the day was spent in the classroom where we were given a thought provoking briefing on health and safety and the risks we may encounter at the waters edge including the ever-present threat of Leptospirosis/Weils disease and lyme disease. We were then briefed on the identification of the fly groups we would be looking for within the river.

Caddisfly (sedge) larvae – Cased Caddis Caseless caddis

Up-wing fly larvae – Mayfly Ephemeridae  , Blue-winged olive, Flat-bodied Heptageniidae, olive Baetidae

Stonefly Larvae Stone Flies

Freshwater Shrimp Gammarus


The life cycle of these river dwellers proved to be a fascinating insight into the rich variety of the life within our rivers and as an angler for close to fifty years I was somewhat dismayed at my lack of knowledge. Though this was one of the reasons I had enrolled on the course as knowledge of the river life enhances each day spent by the waters edge fishing.

The previous night had seen heavy rain fall over much of North Devon resulting in a brown and swollen River Taw. It seemed that our all-important practical session would be impacted upon but fortunately one of our party owned a delightful property with a small stream running through its meadow. After lunch we all tramped down to the river with our nets and buckets. Along the way we were delighted to see numerous rare snakehead fritillary flowers in the meadow.

It was refreshing to share in the joy of messing around in the river with a group of like-minded people. Whilst the exercise had a valuable purpose I could not help but remember childhood days spent exploring a babbling brook. My angling life began with this fascination for rivers and the life within.

Izzy Moser, Devon Wildlife Trust and Matt Edworthy

The sampling method involves 3 minutes of intense riverbed kicking and a minute of rock turning. This resulted in several buckets full of river life and detritus to take away and analyze.

To our delight it soon became apparent that we had struck upon  a rich vein of river life with all our target species present in good numbers. Sorting the fly larvae into their respective groups proved a fascinating exercise and there were plenty of enthusiastic exclamations as various larvae were revealed.

We returned to the Fox and Hounds for a briefing on logging our data and how this vital information would be used by the Environment Agency to monitor river health. There is of course a political background to this citizen science for a significant reduction in funding means that those that care about the environment have to get out there and work for the protection of the riverside habitat. It is my belief that the rivers are the arteries of our green and pleasant land. As an angler I of course have an additional link to the river in that I cast my line into it in the hope of connecting with its fish.




Salmon on Taw and Torridge

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The Taw and Torridge have both dropped to a good level  and as a result a couple of fine salmon have been tempted. Nick Briant landed a fine 12lb fresh run spring salmon with sea lice on the Rising Sun water just below Umberleigh Bridge. The fish was tempted using a black and yellow tube fly. On the Torridge a fresh run fish of 10lb was landed at Beam.

I cast a line on a middle Torridge beat; my first trip to the river this season with a month almost past by already. The daffodils that line the river in early March have already started to wilt though the primroses are at their best. Despite a lack of success it was great to be once again treading familiar paths and asking questions with the fly.

Trout Fishing Opportunity

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The Taw Fishing Club (TFC) owns/rents exclusive fishing rights on 3 miles of the Upper Taw river sited on unspoiled and tranquil land between

Brushford and Hawkridge bridges in



The club is fly-only and members

predominantly fish for wild brown trout. Sea-trout and the occasional salmon are present in TFC waters.


Taw Fishing Club is looking for a small number of new Full Members. (Junior members and family groups are also particularly encouraged to apply. )


For club details see:

Contact with the club can be initially made using email:

River Taw Fisheries Association AGM

Alex Gibson RTFA Chairman and Simon Evans Wye and Usk Foundation

Members of the River Taw Fisheries Association assembled at High Bullen Hotel on March 17th for their Annual General Meeting an eagerly anticipated date in the Taw angler’s diary. Whilst primarily consisting of salmon and sea trout anglers there is a growing number of enthusiastic trout fishers who share the love of the river and care greatly about its future.

Many of the association members are riparian owners who work together for the overall good of the river within this well run organisation that has over the years contributed a great deal to enhancing the Taw habitat.

The meeting commenced with Chairman Alex Gibson summarizing the past twelve months on the river. The initial good news was that two salmon had been landed from the Taw in the past week. Alec introduced the evening’s guests including the main speaker Simon Evans (Chief Executive) of the Wye and Usk Foundation and Paul Carter our long serving Environment Agency Fisheries officer. Alex also acknowledged the achievements of Roger Furniss of the West Country Rivers Association and the attendance of Adrian Dowding of the West Country Rivers Trust.

I was saddened to learn of the death of Ron Warwick who I met with on several occasions to share his passion for fishing on the Taw. He was for several years my main source of news from the river and could always be relied upon to have up to date catches from the waters edge. I will always remember catching a silver barred spring run salmon from the Hall water on a silver stoat tail tied by Ron’s own hand. Ron was a true gentlemen his enthusiasm for life and fishing an inspiration.

(Above)The late Ron Warwick beside his beloved River Taw

Last years catches were disappointing with provisional catch returns indicating 146 salmon ad 299 sea trout. This was undoubtedly due in part to a lack of water throughout much of the season. The licensed salmon nets took 44 salmon and 55 sea trout from the estuary. Good news is the increasing number of brown trout being caught in the River particularly in the Upper Reaches.

There has at long last been success with the imminent removal of all drift netting from the estuary and its approaches (IFCA Approved subject to ratification). This will eradicate bye-catches of salmon, sea trout and bass. It will also help to protect vulnerable grey mullet populations and make policing the estuary far more straightforward. Salmon seine netting is EA controlled and will continue in June and July, there are three nets fishing, but net limitation order is for one.

The West Country Rivers Trust have carried out important work throughout the Taw to improve habitat with removal of debris dams, walk over surveys, fry surveys, farming advice and the collation of a catchment action plan. There is also the Riverfly Initiative

Paul Carter gave an update on the latest from the Environment Agency with welcome news of additional support of trained enforcement officers to assist in the patrolling of West Country Waters. Paul expressed concerns at the disappointing redd counts experienced last winter.

Simon Evans (Chief Executive) of the Wye and Usk Foundation was the events main speaker and did not disappoint delivering a passionate talk and presentation covering the work of the Wye and Usk Foundation and the many challenges that we face both now and in the future.

Key elements in the talk were the need for all stakeholders to work together for the good of the environment. Habitat improvement is seen as the key with acidification, fish access, abstraction, drought, phosphates and soil wash off all major issues. The Wye and Usk Foundation have made huge efforts to engage with farming interests to address many of these issues. This is all very complex and we must realise that how we live, what we buy, and what we choose to eat has an impact on farming practices. It is clear that there are ways that farming practices can be modified to improve the environment and at the same time increase efficiency. Soil run off being a typical example, the loss of millions of tons of quality topsoil into rivers is clearly damaging to the river environment and a significant loss to the farmer.

The closing section of Simon’s presentation was perhaps the most alarming and covered the issue of Climate change and in particular the impact of temperature change in relation to salmon spawning and fry survival. There is a critical temperature typically 10 degrees C above which salmon do not spawn. In addition to this high water temperature can lead to premature hatching of fry in late winter instead of springtime when there is adequate food for fry growth and survival.

Global warming is of course a contentious subject that not all subscribe to, despite a huge amount of scientific data to support its existence. I personally accept that climate change happens and has always happened the only question is how much has mankind contributed? There is hope that salmon will adapt and that evolution will ensure their survival. This could of course mean that they simply stop inhabiting our local rivers and shift further north?

The presentation was followed by the annual fund raising auction that provides a significant proportion of the associations income. The association thank all who have made generous donations to the auction and all those who took part in the enthusiastic bidding for lots.

Talking around the table over our meal afterwards it was clear that we had all seen a dramatic decline in populations of both sea trout and salmon populations in local rivers within the last thirty years. It was also apparent that there is still a great passion for the future of angling and an almost inexhaustible optimism for each coming season.

For more information on the Wye and Usk Foundation visit: –

For more information on the River Taw Fisheries Association visit: –

The glorious Taw in summer

Trout Fishing starts on local rivers

March 15th sees the start of the trout fishing season on running water and we are fortunate to have miles of wild brown trout fishing here in North Devon. What these trout lack in size they make up for in their beauty and tenacity giving a spirited fight on light tackle. Perhaps the real joy of wild trout fishing is the being beside our rivers as spring unwinds all around with wild flowers and birdsong reverberating through the air.