Charles Inniss has sent this news to members of the River Torridge Fishery Association. It is great news for angling in North Devon.
NEWSREEL: XMAS 2018.
New salmon and sea trout byelaws:
At long last DEFRA has confirmed the new salmon and sea trout byelaws, which will become law and come into force on 1stJanuary 2019.
As far as the rivers Torridge and Taw are concerned:
All salmon netting in the estuary will cease. Currently there are three licensed netsmen and their licences will not be renewed. Following on from the ban on drift netting for bass and mullet in the estuary twelve months ago, this means that all estuary netting (apart from netting for sand eels) has come to an end.
In my wildest dreams I never thought the day would come when I would write the above!!
Being classed as rivers “Probably at Risk” there will be voluntary catch and release for salmon with the expectation that release levels are above 90%.
To support the new byelaws and to ensure as many salmon and sea trout are able to spawn successfully, the Torridge Fishery Association encourages anglers to return all migratory fish. In recent years the decline in sea trout numbers has been more pronounced than salmon, so returning sea trout is just as important as releasing salmon.
You can find all the details of the new byelaws on the EA website.
The 2018 Westcountry Fly Fishing Course has been running for thirteen or fourteen years at the Fox and Hounds Country Hotel at Eggesford and has become an eagerly anticipated event amongst those in the know. The event is organized by Crediton based Fly Fishing Tackle.co.uk and the Devon School of Fly Fishing. The format is to gather some of the countries top Fly Fishing Guides together with an assembly of top Fly Fishing Tackle from Vision Fly Fishing UK. Anglers who want to learn are invited and for the cost of lunch enjoy free casting tuition and advice. The event takes place in a riverside meadow that is reached via a pleasing stroll through the hotels grounds.
Fortunately the event was once again blessed with good April weather with just a light shower during the afternoon.
Peter Tyjas from the Devon School of Fly Fishing launched the event giving a passionate talk about the River Taw. Peter opened by talking of his love for the river and concerns about the effects of modern developments on the rivers future. He explained how intensive work by local organizations including the River Taw Fisheries Association has helped the river environment by improving upstream migration routes for migratory fish.
Peter then talked of fishing the Taw from its source high on Dartmoor near Belstone, down through the wooded valleys near Crediton and from there to the Fox and Hounds beats and then on to the bigger river below its junction with the Mole where the waters of Exmoor and Dartmoor converge.
Each section of river has its own characteristics and challenges requiring a slightly modified approach and ideally tackle suited to the quarry and surroundings. For the higher open moorland a 10ft 3 weight rod was recommended, whilst in woody confines an 8ft 4 weight was considered best. As the angler moves lower down the river a 9 ft four weight rod is better for the trout. The salmon and sea trout obviously require heavier tackle and this was described in detail with switch rods and double handed rods explained in depth.
Peter described the tactics likely to succeed and the correct approach. Some key points being the need for stealth and careful consideration as to where the fish will be lying. Being a Fly Fishing Course there was of course emphasis on how to put the fly in front of the trout using different techniques.
Entomology was explained in some detail and which flies to select for different occasions. The need for good presentation was given a great deal of importance for Peter is a great exponent of putting the fly in the right place without scaring the fish. Far better to present the wrong fly right than the right fly wrong. Fish have only a few seconds to decide whether to take or eject the chance of food.
Peter repeatedly expressed his views on taking care of the precious resource of the fish within the river system. A fish should be held only briefly close to the water for a quick photo. The traditional pose with the angler holding the fish out of water is frowned upon.
I found Peters section on salmon and sea trout very thought provoking realizing that I can at times become a little mechanical in my own approach. Whilst the standard across and down searching of the river is often effective it is not the only way to fish. The use of streamer type flies cast across or upstream and pulled briskly to stimulate an aggressive approach from salmon and sea trout is a technique I will try more often. I have caught using sun-ray shadows and had aggressive follows and takes whilst retrieving the fly briskly but have tended to resort to these tactics on rare occasions late in the season. I have been guilty on many occasions of going through the motions. Pleasant as this can be there are times when thinking a little more out of the box may bring a bonus fish.
Following on from Peter fascinating talk we were treated to a talks and demonstrations from Jim Williams AAPGAI Master level fly fishing & fly casting instructor, sales manager for Vision Fly Fishing UK and Ian May AAPGAI Master Instructor based in Hampshire, teaching both single and double handed disciplines for salmon, trout and grayling. These talks focused on casting techniques to combat the weather, improving presentation, accuracy and distance. Loop speed, lines, rods, tension, balance, rods actions, materials and personal preference were all given careful deliberation and explanation in an entertaining way.
An hour’s break for dinner took us all to the bar and dining room of the Fox and Hounds. The walls here are decorated with an array of fascinating photos. Many of which show ladies and gentlemen from a long gone generation posing with splendid catches of salmon and sea trout. Whilst in this more enlightened age we return the fish we catch we should not judge these anglers who took fish for the table in times of plenty. It would be wonderful to see the return of those runs of fish. There are some pictures that show a day’s catch of salmon that would today constitute a season’s haul not just for one angler but for whole beat.
With our hunger sated we once again sauntered back to the water meadow for practical demonstrations on how to tackle the river. Peter Tyjas and Sam Baycroft displayed the art of fishing New Zealand style with a nymph and dry fly combination whilst Jim Williams gave a fascinating insight into the art of French nymphing.
A short session of further casting instruction and rod waggling followed in the field before proceedings were brought to a close with a draw for a quality landing net donated by Vision. I am sure all who attended left eager to get out fishing trying out their new found skills. Thanks must go to all involved in the delivery of the day. Such events are invaluable in promoting the sport. It would be good to see a few more ladies and young anglers at the events as there is much to enjoy within this wonderful sport that engages with the environment and fosters a deep appreciation of the countryside. There are also I feel many benefits to participants for both mental well being social interaction and good health.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 http://www.riverflies.org/rp-riverfly-monitoring-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: –
It’s hard to believe that a new salmon season gets underway on Wednesday, March 1st. It may not feel much like spring at present but it is on its way with daffodils, crocus and primroses already flowering in sheltered spots. Frogs have already spawned in many locations and a few toads are starting to show.
The rivers are in good trim or at least will be within a few days as the weekend’s rains may have muddied the waters slightly. Its typical spring weather really, bitter cold days interspersed with days of warm sunshine.
The salmon angler knows that fish will probably be scarce during those early days. There is of course the chance of that great prize a Silver Spring salmon fresh off the tide.
The Rising Sun at Umberleigh is greeting the new season on Wednesday evening with the first of this seasons salmon soirees. An opportunity for a get together to enjoy the optimism that pervades as anglers meet up and enjoy a toast or two to a new season.
A few years ago I met with Ron Warwick and discussed fishing on the river Taw whilst researching my yet to be published book. Below are a couple of extracts from those meetings.
Ron Warwick moved to Devon in the early 1980’s and fished the River Taw for salmon for the first time on March 1st 1984. The fishing at that time was controlled by the Rising Sun, which was at that time the hub of salmon fishing on the Taw. The Inn controlled three and a half miles of fishing split into 7 beats. March 1st was opening day and a party of anglers would meet up each year to greet the new season. In those days it was essential to book a room at the hotel well in advance if you wished to fish the river on opening day. Many anglers would return year after year making it a special time as friendships were rekindled following the long winter break. This influx of spring salmon anglers brought a welcome boost to Umberleigh’s village prosperity. I am sure many happy reflections were made over glasses of amber nectar in the bar full of anglers. It was a sad day when Jim and Norma who ran the pub during this period sold up.
River bailiff Geoff Eame’s accompanied Ron on his first trip to the river in 1984. They fished a beat below Umberleigh where Ron cast his brown and gold Devon minnow into a section of river known as Sandpits. He had only been fishing for half an hour when a fine fresh run spring salmon covered in sea lice took the lure. While I was talking to Ron his wife Iris reminded him of the long Johns she bought him to keep him warm whilst wading in the icy cold river of early spring. Ron recalled that it was a surprisingly warm spring day with blue sky and sunny spells. After walking back to the Hotel over a freshly ploughed field carrying his prize he recalls perspiring heavily. He hasn’t worn the long Johns fishing since.
That March day in 1984 saw three salmon caught the best a fine fish of 20lb caught by Michael Martin. This was a great start to Ron’s time on the Taw. Between 1984 and 2007 he caught 275 salmon and 396 sea trout. His best salmon weighed in at 18lb 8oz and his best sea trout 15lb 8oz.
I doubt we will ever see a return to those days of plenty but you never know nature moves in cyclical ways and sometimes against all odds and with a little help from as all! Whatever happens with each cast there is hope of that electrifying tug on the line and the singing of the reel in the spring sunshine. What better excuse could there be to once again walk along those fisherman’s paths.