We took a short evening walk beside the River East Lyn. The water tumbled over boulders as it raced to the sea. The valley was in sombre mood with mist hanging in the warm summer air. The vivid vibrant green of summer was subdued in the early evening gloom.
I fished this beautiful river frequently for close to thirty years and caught my first salmon in 1981 a silver bar with sea-liced flanks. When I say the River valley is in sombre mood what I really mean is that I am perhaps in a sombre and reflective mood myself. The river holds a wealth of memories of fish and fishers. Whilst salmon and sea trout still forge up through the vibrant tumbling water’s they are far scarcer than they once were.
Today all salmon must be returned to the water and whilst I am happy to fish with a fly on the Taw and Torridge, I have reservations about spinning and worming with the dangers of deep hooking. The Lyn is not a river for the salmon fly fisher.
It is not the salmon anglers that have decimated the salmon of the Lyn but it is mankind I feel sure that has contributed to a sad demise. So when I walk the banks of this river the memories come thick and fast. To think of the river with no salmon or sea trout is like a book with no words or a candle with no flame. As an angler I have taken gleaming salmon from the river and extinguished their life. I remember that momentary sadness as that vibrant hue faded from silver flanks. I will never forget the power of the salmon as it battles on the line, the rod bending frightfully in my hands. Strangely this direct contact and interaction with the salmon brings the angler close to the fish and its environment.
I guess what I am saying in a clumsy sort of way is that as angler on the river I feel that I have been in the film instead of watching from afar. I fear that day when no salmon swim the river and that glimpse of silver is no more.
The recent rainfall has boosted rivers levels and brought a welcome run off salmon and sea trout to both the Taw and Torridge. Around a dozen salmon have been tempted from the River Torridge and I suspect a similar number from the River Taw. One angler was certainly in the right place at the right time catching three salmon in a short session on a middle Torridge beat. If we get more rain to top up the rivers more sport can be expected.
A fantastic fresh run 18lb salmon was caught, landed and returned safely by Jamie Walden who was fishing alone in a challenging location mid river, on the Little Warham Fishery testament to his skills being able to land it on his own. Jamie also lost two sea trout in the same session.
After a prolonged spell of dry weather recent rainfall has brought a very welcome rise in local rivers. The next few days should see salmon and sea trout caught from both Taw and Torridge as the river levels drop back and the water clarity improves. Windows of opportunity are often brief so it is essential to hit the river as soon as conditions allow.
I have already heard of a few salmon from the Lyn a river that very often becomes fishable within twenty-four hours of a spate. The Taw and Torridge tend to take a little longer to hit the perfect colour. I would expect salmon fishing to be very worthwhile over the next week with sea trout fishing likely to be excellent as the water clears with nocturnal forays likely to bring exciting sport.
Excellent salmon and sea trout fishing can be expected at Little Warm Fishery on the Torridge.
Pete Tyjas who published Fly Culture Magazine tempted this beautiful springer from a middle Taw beat on a cascade. Whilst there have only been around half a dozen salmon from the Taw so far; as the water warms I expect a few more to be tempted.
Dave Mock caught his first ever salmon estimated at 8lb from the Barnstaple and District Angling Association Water below Newbridge.
It was good to once again arrive at the Half Moon Inn at Sheepwash as members of the River Torridge Fishery Association assembled for the AGM. This is always an enjoyable occasion with members coming from far and wide to reaffirm their commitment to the river Torridge by supporting the great work that is undertaken each year to protect and promote the river, its fish and ultimately the unique community that it supports.
Last summer was one to be forgotten so far as salmon fishing is concerned with the long dry summer resulting in very low flows and consequently poor fishing. Catch returns show a rod catch of around 30 salmon and 75 to 100 sea trout. The nets took a total of 35 salmon and 23 sea trout from the Taw and Torridge Estuary.
The Torridge Fishery Association Website carry full details and all the latest news :-
SUBSCRIPTIONS: for 2019 are now due please. If you have not already paid, please forward your cheque for £20 to the Secretary at the above address, making cheques payable to The River Torridge Fishery Association.
EA Proposals to reduce exploitation by rods and nets: Just before Xmas DEFRA gave us the good news we had been hoping for. The new salmon and sea trout byelaws have been confirmed. All netting for salmon in our estuary has now ceased. This together with the ban on drift netting twelve months ago means that there is no netting in our estuary apart from netting for sand eels.
Catch and release remains voluntary but the EA expects a release rate above 90% for salmon. This effectively means that anglers are expected to release all salmon. If the release level above 90% is not achieved, DEFRA will not hesitate to make releasing all salmon mandatory.
Your committee is concerned about the stock of sea trout and recommends that as well as salmon, all sea trout are released.
Please follow the following guide to good practice when releasing fish:
Use barbless hooks.
Use a fine knotless net.
Use strong tackle so fish can be played out and netted as quickly as possible.
Always net the fish: avoid handling fish and certainly do not pick them up by the tail to weigh or photograph.
Keep the fish in the water all the time: If you want to know the weight, measure the fish in the water and calculate accordingly. If you want to take a photo, do it while the fish is in the water.
Three year juvenile survey programme: Three years ago your committee agreed to fund a three year programme of juvenile surveys. The results of the initial survey (a semi-quantitative survey by the West Country Rivers Trust) in the summer of 2016 were disappointing. Salmon fry were present in only 10 of the 35 sites. In 2017 a full quantitative survey was completed by the EA. The results were much more encouraging with salmon fry present at most sites. Salmon parr numbers were poor but brown trout were evident throughout the catchment. This year the West Country Rivers Trust completed the third survey. This survey showed a continuing slight improvement particularly on the Okement and Lew tributaries. The three surveys have given us a better picture of the health of the river and where to target habitat improvements.Siltation and compaction of the spawning gravels continues to be a major problem.
The Salmon Hatchery: The rearing programme this winter has again been very successful. The broodstock of 5 hens and 5 cocks were all returned safely to the river. In the last week of March, 26,000 swim-up fry were stocked out into selected sites in the headwaters of the Torridge, Walden, Lew and Okement. For the dedicated team of volunteers, it is a great relief when the last fry are released into the river after five months of hard work.
Prospects for 2019:
After the disappointment of very poor fishing conditions in 2018 caused by the summer drought, we are all hopeful that 2019 will provide some good fishing. At least four salmon have been caught in March and even more encouraging sea trout have been caught as far upstream as the Junction Pool, where the Okement joins the main river. On 1stApril I saw the first trout rise of the season and anglers fishing the Half Moon beats at Sheepwash have enjoyed some good sport on dry fly and nymph.
Clay Discolouration: on the middle and lower river continues to be a problem after heavy rainfall, sometimes making the river unfishable just when it is an excellent height and colour for fishing. Discussions between the EA and Sibelco are continuing to minimise the problem. The obvious time to discharge clay water is when the river is in full spate.
The Fishermen’s eyes and ears:Our fishery officer, Paul Carter, is now responsible for all the rivers in North Devon and more than ever he is dependent on the eyes and ears of fishermen. If you have any concerns (poaching or pollution) please call him direct on 07768007363, or the EA Emergence Hotline 0800807060 or the Association Secretary 01409231237.
The Annual General Meeting: held at The Half Moon Inn on 5thApril was a great success with 46 members attending. The presentation by Adrian Dowding (WCRT) was particularly informative and interesting. We all enjoyed an excellent buffet and social get together after the meeting.
IF YOU HAVEN’T ALREADY DONE SO, PAY YOUR ASSOCIATION SUBSCRIPTION, BUY YOUR FISHING LICENCE, AND ABOVE ALL ENJOY YOUR FISHING.
These spring days are full of contrasts as the seasons turn. Fresh green shoots all around, the call of chiff chaffs, warm sunny days and cold days as the wind swings to the North.
As I drove to the river sleet settled on the windscreen and the temperature gauge read 3 degrees. Yesterday it was double figures and warm sunshine. It was good to wade in the lower Taw this evening and see the first sand martins swopping over the river. I have been fishing the river since the seventies and there is a certain reassurance in the constant flow through familiar lands. I glimpsed fry in the shallows and wondered what they were; minnows, trout or maybe roach or dace fry?
A fish swirled half a dozen times in the narrow run at the head of a pool. A salmon, a sea trout or a large brown trout? I asked the question swinging the fly across the river but got no answer! High water had reached above Bishops Tawton half a mile or so downriver. Had a fresh springer come in on the tide?
Just three days ago fourteen year old Ed Broggio landed his first salmon estimated at 8lb ten miles or so upriver close to the Junction with the Mole. Great to hear that a young angler setting out has enjoyed success.
At least two salmon have been tempted from beats on the the Torridge this weekend with Jonathon Sykes catching a 9lb sea liced fish at Beam and Anthony Ward tempted a fine fresh run salmon estimated at 13lb from a middle Torridge beat. There are also reports of a few sea trout to around 4lb. Not had any reports from the Taw but I suspect a few fish have been tempted over the weekend.
After a week or so without substantial rain the rivers are starting to drop back and run clear. Northerly winds are forecast over the next week with lower temperatures which could impact on sport. Best chance for fish will come from the Lower beats of both rivers and spring tides towards the end of the week could encourage a few fresh fish to run. It won’t be long before we are hoping for rain.
A new salmon season gets underway on March 1st and with river levels looking good there is optimism that a few spring fish will be tempted. The River Taw Fishery Association have sent recommendations to all their members who fish the Taw. See below.
As you are all probably aware we move into a new era on the river this coming season. We will no longer have any salmon and sea trout nets on the estuary and while we have campaigned successfully against mandatory 100% catch and release (C&R) the Environment Agency expects us to reach and maintain a release level for salmon of over 90% for 2019 and beyond. Failure to comply could result in the imposition of mandatory 100% C&R.
When we fish this coming season and thereafter how should we adjust to the fact that the EA expects us to maintain this release level for salmon bearing in mind that our release levels were 88% in 2017, 79% in 2016 and 85% in 2015?
Given the 90% plus C&R target, the EA salmon bag limits which form part of the River Taw byelaws have become largely irrelevant – 2 fish in any 24 hour period, 3 fish in any 7 day period and 10 fish in a season. From now on, in theory, an individual would have to catch and release 10 salmon before keeping one to ensure the Taw stays above 90% C&R. In practice this translates into each of us operating on a 100% voluntary C&R basis whenever we possibly can. The RTFA Committee now recommends this.
It will be important for RTFA members, including our three fishing hotels, to take responsibility for getting this message out to non-members and visiting anglers who fish their water.
We appreciate that will not be to everyone’s liking, but it should beremembered that during the consultation process we were faced with the real threat of mandatory 100% C&R.
If we turn our attention to sea trout, for which the EA is not setting out an expected release level, our historical release levels were 77% in 2015, 82% in 2016 and 81% in 2017. Again the EA bag limits have become largely irrelevant – 5 fish in any 24 hour period, 15 fish in any 7 day period and 40 fish in a season. All of us know, particularly the specialist sea trout fishermen amongst us, that sea trout numbers have been falling dramatically in recent years. In 2017 for
example, the last year for which we have complete figures, sea trout numbers dropped below salmon numbers for the first time – 193 to 243 (EA rod catch figures). From preliminary numbers that I have received this situation persisted last season. We are still trying to understand the reasons for this decline, but without knowing the cause we cannot put together any remedial plans. As a result your Committee recommends that until there is a significant improvement in sea trout numbers we should practice voluntary 100% C&R whenever we possibly can.
By operating the same system for salmon and sea trout we will ensure that the largest possible numbers of both species are able to reach their spawning grounds. At the same time we will continue to make as many river improvements annually as funding permits. Particular emphasis will be placed on finding out what is behind the sea trout decline and taking appropriate remedial action to the extent that it turns out to be an in-river problem.
The beginning of the season is a good time for each of us to remind ourselvesof “good practice”. Our Good Practice Guide can be found on the RTFA website – www.rivertawfisheries.co.uk.
Let’s hope for a successful season this year with a full river and no droughts. That will give us a good opportunity to assess the true condition of our lovely river and its fish stocks.
Mid winter and high on the moors salmon and sea trout are cutting redds ensuring the ongoing survival of these enigmatic fish that forge into our rivers each year in a struggle that is every bit as dramatic as the migration of the wildebeest on the Serengeti. This marvel of nature is overlooked by many who pass over swirling waters without a thought for these majestic creatures.
Anglers have a deep fascination for these fish and a passion to preserve stocks for future generations. I joined members of the River Torridge Fishery Association for their annual trapping of salmon for their hatchery located close to a tributary of the Torridge.
Below is a copy of Newsreel by kind permission of Charles Inniss.
The River Torridge Fishery Association – News Reel
Over the weekend 10/11thNovember we successfully trapped the broodstock: 5 hens and 5 cocks all about 8/10lb and all in excellent condition. On Saturday 8thDecember we were able to strip all five hens in one go despite the gales and heavy rain. We now have just over 30,000 eggs laid out in the trays. All the fish have been successfully returned to the river and this year for the first time there was no sign of disease on any of the fish. So far so good.
The West Country Rivers Trust surveyed 40 sitesduring the late summer and early autumn. The results have not yet been published but apparently several sites on the Okement and Lew were encouraging. The sites on the Upper Torridge again revealed poor densities of salmon fry and parr.
This spring we released some salmon fry from the hatchery into the mill leat by the hatchery. This is a controlled area with no natural salmon production. The juvenile survey in September revealed good densities of salmon fry. The hatchery team was delighted to know its offspring were doing well and surviving in their natural surroundings.
The Annual Dinner and Raffle:
Another superb evening at The Half Moon. Over 50 of us enjoyed an excellent meal followed by the raffle and auction. Once again member support for the annual raffle was tremendous and over £1,500 was raised which will go towards continuing our efforts to improve the fishing on this beautiful river. In particular this money is used to finance the running of the hatchery and the cost of the juvenile survey. Particular thanks to Paul Ashworth, our Chairman, and his wife Geraldine who organised the raffle and the auction. There was the usual wonderful array of prizes.
The Fishing Season:
There are good years and poor years. 2018 will go down as one of the poorer years. Low river levels and high water temperature made fishing difficult. Too many of us, me included, wait for the ideal conditions and do not bother when the conditions are unfavourable. Those who ventured out caught fish having some success with the sea trout using dry fly.
Proposed Measures to reduce salmon exploitation:
Despite rushing through the consultation process in the autumn of 2017, all has since gone quiet: presumably the proposals are sitting on a desk at DEFRA. Let’s hope a final decision can be made for the 2019 season.
My very best wishes to you all for a peaceful Xmas and a healthy New Year.
In 2012 River Reads Press published “Torridge Reflections” a fascinating tome by Charles Inniss I am delighted that a fresh print run of 100 copies has been announced wirh copies available from River Reads, Cochybondu books and Charles Inniss. The first edition sold out and is highly sought after by book collectors and lovers of fishing in North Devon.
Observation of salmon, sea trout and brown trout spawning is an important part of river monitoring and since the dramatic reduction of Environment Agency staff this job is often undertaken by volunteers. The South Molton Angling Club visit the spawning areas on their waters on the River Bray each winter to assess the numbers of salmon spawning. This years observations have been encouraging with good numbers of salmon, sea trout and brown trout seen before winter spates clouded the waters.
Just a quick update on our redd counting morning from Ed Rands.
“The river was in good shape to see what was going on although most other rivers were high and brown.
We walked a familiar strech of river and saw several salmon and sea trout.
There were also a good number of redds there, of different sizes e.g. brown & sea trout and salmon had been spawning which is very encouraging as we didn’t see much last year.
Hopefully they will hatch in the spring and go on their intrepid journey to keep these precious and vulnerable fish in our rivers.
We also picked up plastic and other foreign bodies from the river.
So all in all a very enjoyable morning, thanks to those who attended.
Ed Rands shared a number of old photos with me that had been found in the attic of a house during a house move. They are fantastic images that give a fascinating glimpse into the past.The images are from the Fortesque Hotel at Kingsympton and show salmon caught from the River Taw probably from the Junction Pool area. The these spendid catches of salmon were made during the 50/60’s.
In those days of plenty virtually all salmon were killed as stocks were abundant and few feared for the future of the species. Whilst anglers undoubtedly contributed to dwindling stocks other factors have had a far more dramatic impact. Pollution, Poaching, Global Warming, Disease, Over Exploitation, Farming Practices,Silting of spawning grounds, Obstacles to Migration, Predation and other factors have all played their part. These days anglers are fighting for the survival of these magnificent fish removing barriers to migration, improving habitat, campaigning to remove netting, practicing catch and release and attempting to improve stocks by using hatcherys to improve fry survival.
It is sad to see how stocks have been allowed to decline over the years. We have lost a great deal from our rivers it would be tragic if salmon were to be consigned to the history books like the mighty sturgeon that once migrated up many of our local rivers.