Seasons underway on Taw and Torridge

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The first day of the salmon season brought success for anglers on both the Taw and Torridge an excellent omen for the coming season.

Seth Tuson fished the Lower River Torridge and got his season off to a great start  tempting a fine fresh run salmon estimated at 8lb.

On the River Taw Chris Steer fished the Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats on the Taw and tempted a 7lb bar of silver.

Guidance for the new salmon season

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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.

EA Consultation: Managing Salmon & Sea Trout Fisheries. RTFA Committee Recommendations.

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.

Alex Gibson, Chairman February 2018

Winter Salmon and Sea Trout News –

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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

President: Lord Clinton

 

Chairman: Paul Ashworth                                                                   Secretary: Charles Inniss

e-mail: charles.inniss@btinternet.com

NEWSREEL: WINTER 2018.

The salmon hatchery:  

            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.

(Above) Members of the River Torridge Fishery Association on Hatchery trapping day.

Juvenile Survey:

            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.

Winter well:

            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.

(Above) South Molton Anglers head to the river to count the redds.

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.
Merry Christmas.
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.

What once swam under the bridge?

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I was chatting to a fellow angler at the weekend about salmon fishing on the Taw and how the fishing has declined since I first started fishing the river over forty years ago. As is often the case talk reminisced on large fish caught and the angler in question told me of his first salmon a fine fish of around twenty pounds. One particular fish was etched on his memory and he described spotting the dorsal fin of this huge fish on a lower Taw beat. The fish was lying close to the edge in a well known lie its dorsal fin showing above the water. He and a fellow angler climbed high up on the bank and peered into water. They were awestruck at the sight before them; a huge salmon estimated at between four and five feet in length. The fish sensing their presence swam slowly into the depth of the pool never to be seen again despite their efforts to tempt the fish with rod and line.

Later on that evening I did a little research leafing through the pages of that Classic tome, ” The Doomsday Book of Giant Salmon” written by that late master of angling history Fred Buller. Within the pages of this book are a couple of huge West Country salmon one of which is the famous 57lb salmon caught in a net by Mr Stephens and Jimmy Hill at Fremington in September 1925. This huge salmon would have been around the same length as the fish sighted by my fellow angler.

Whilst this salmon is likely to be amongst the largest to have run our local rivers it is intriguing to wonder what fish have swum under Barnstaple Bridge and into other North Devon Rivers. As salmon numbers continue to dwindle huge fish are probably consigned to the history books. But there are I am sure people within the local community who can tell of large salmon seen or indeed removed from local rivers in the distant past.

It would be great to hear any stories of large salmon or sea trout from North Devon Rivers even if they were caught many years ago by less than legitimate means. I would be delighted to air any such tales here on North Devon Angling News; an ideal read for those long winter nights. You can email any stories to info@northdevonanglingnews and I will publish over the Christmas period! I will not of course publish the names of the authors unless they are happy for me to do so. It is important that any stories are shared before the generations pass and with them their knowledge.

Salmon Season End of season flourish

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After one of the worst salmon and sea trout fishing seasons for several years it is good to report on a few fish as longed for rain brought a significant rise in both the Taw and Torridge. I expect to get a more details of fish from the Torridge when I attend the end of season Egg Box Dinner at the Half Moon but below are few images of fish caught in the last week of the season.

(Below)Ian Blewett’s early morning brace of Taw salmon

(Below)Chay Boggis caught this pleasing grilse of around 3lb from a middle Taw beat

(Below)The middle Torridge earlier this week fining down fading light.

Rain Brings hope of silver tourists

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Rain has brought a rise and colour to the River Bray it is to be hoped that further rain will follow and swell the entire river system.

Heavy rain has brought a welcome rise in river levels that could bring in a run of fresh salmon and sea trout to save what has been a dreadful season as a result of drought conditions throughout much of the summer. The final week of the season will see fish just a couple of months away from spawning and it is is imperative that angers follow good practice in practicing catch and release the following link give information and advice regarding C & R.

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/impact-of-catch-and-release-angling-practices-on-survival-of-salmon

The tragedy of salmon farms

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I received this email today from James Barlow. I have decided to share  here on North Devon Angling News website because I share the concern regarding salmon farming and its devastating impact upon salmon, sea trout stocks and the wider impact this has on the environment. I have visited the West Coast of Scotland and talked to local people who have witnessed the dramatic decline in salmon and sea trout numbers. We have seen dramatic declines in the West Country but not as rapid as seen in parts of Scotland. In Norway I caught cod and halibut with their stomach contents packed with pellets. The water on calm nights shimmered with oil that I believe came from the waste from these farms. The cod and coalfish we caught were also carrying large numbers of lice.

As anglers we all care for the long term future of fish stocks for we have a vested interest in one sense in that we want to catch fish but also because anglers care about fish and the environment in which fish live.

This July I assisted in the rescue of 75 salmon from a local estate after over 100 wild fish had already died. We believe the deaths were exacerbated, if not caused, by lice infestation from local salmon farm cages in Loch Roag, Isle of Lewis. The regional Fishery Trust biologist recorded between 500 and 700 sea lice, a parasite, on several live fish between 5-8 lbs. These wild fish are literally being eaten alive. My photos from the first day can be viewed here.

‘The One Show’ episode is available to watch on iPlayer until 18/10/18. The relevant article commences at 3 mins 10 seconds and runs for 9 minutes.

They highlight the plight of farmed salmon in cages which, like the wild fish, are suffering from appalling predation by lice. Last year, of the 208 salmon farms in the UK, 82 farms declared that they had exceeded the statutory Government acceptable limits for sea lice – that is 39.4% of all UK salmon farms.
Due to transportation costs, for the past two years the Scottish Salmon Company, proprietors of the farm in Loch Roag, has been burying thousands of dead fish (morts) in a ‘temporary’ landfill site in North Uist.

In the summer of 2017 over 175000 fish died of disease or attempted treatment at salmon farms in the Hebrides (The Telegraph). If this mort rate, or the effect of their farming methods on wildlife, were to occur to a mammal or on land the public outcry would be deafening, I’m sure. On average Scottish fish farms expect a mortality rate of around 23% of their stock. Such a high death rate would not be tolerated in any other form of animal husbandry.

Please take the time to view the programme and decide for yourself whether this is a quality product which you are happy to eat or serve to your family. Even ‘organic’ salmon can be treated with antibiotics yet still receive certification. EU regulation states that, “chemically synthesized allopathic veterinary medicinal products including antibiotics may be used where necessary…”. While ”excessive” treatment can result in removal of the prestigious Organic certification fish may still be treated under veterinary guidance then sold as ‘Organic’. Standard farmed salmon are regularly dosed in an attempt to ameliorate their condition. When you watch the video it will be clear why this is necessary.

Thank you for taking the time to consider this request. If you have any questions I will endeavour to answer them to the best of my ability.
Further video and photographic evidence can be viewed via this link to a Salmon Fishing Forum thread – ‘Sad, Sick Salmon both Farmed and Wild’. My contributions are under the username ‘Lewis.Chessman’.

If you feel sufficiently moved, please forward this mail to your friends and family. This industry will not change its methods unless its profits are threatened by consumer pressure.

My thanks to you all,

James Barlow.

RISING RIVERS SALMON and Memories

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Salmon and sea trout anglers have been hoping for rain all summer to bring the local rivers into spate and bring fresh run migratory bars of silver into North Devon’s rivers. The rain that fell on Sunday whilst welcome was not enough to bring a substantial rise despite washing a great deal of sediment into the rivers. The Taw and Torridge both came up and ran dirty but have dropped back quickly. It is to be hoped that a few fish have been encouraged to move up river. A few anglers have cast a fly on the Taw and experienced rod John Kenyon fished the Weir Marsh and Brightly Beats of the Taw to tempt a fine fresh run salmon of 15lb using a Willie Gunn micro tube.

A few sea trout have been reported from the Torridge but no reports of salmon to my knowledge.

One of my favourite local rivers is the East Lyn that tumbles to the sea from Exmoor through the Watersmeet Estate. The riverside walk has been made even more popular following the TV appearance of Julia Bradbury in a program that showcased the beautiful wooded valley. I have many fond memories of the River Lyn and walking its rocky banks brings mixed feelings. The Lyn was undoubtedly an amazing salmon and sea trout fishery that offered splendid fishing at a low cost. I fished the river extensively over a twenty year period and landed a good number of salmon and sea trout. When I first fished the river back in the eighties individual local anglers often caught in excess of fifty salmon in a season. I never approached those figures but often walked away from the river with a brace of salmon caught on worm or spinner. Back then following a spate the river would be lined by anglers who traveled from far and wide to enjoy the short window of opportunity that followed each spate . When the river flowed with a colour of a fine ale salmon would seize the anglers Mepps spinner with gusto fighting the rod and line in a flurry of spray in the confines of the boulder strewn water course. As the  water cleared the worm reigned supreme as anglers stalked individual salmon. Spotting the salmon is of course an art in itself with a keen eye required to locate the salmon in the turbulent flow. Experience built up over many seasons helped greatly for the salmon would frequent the same lies year on year enabling the anglers to target the right spots.

Pauline and I walked the river on August Bank Holiday following a day of heavy rain the water looked perfect as it tumbled towards the sea. Surely a Mepp’s flicked across the pools would bring a silver reward? But time has passed by and we saw no anglers searching the water. There was once a thriving community of anglers who fished this river who would meet up each season to share stories of past seasons and other waters. There was a darker side to fishing on the Lyn with snatching of fish endemic before the fishery bailiffs stamped their authority.

There are of course a few salmon still running the river and the occasional angler practicing catch and release. As we walked the river we came upon EA Fishery Officer Paul Carter who was hoping to glimpse a salmon as he walked the banks  ensuring that any anglers fishing had their rod licence. Paul also has a vast array of memories of North Devon’s rivers and many characters who have trodden the fishermans paths. Today Paul has the latest technology to help record any hostile reaction from poacher or unlicensed fisher. Sadly the precious salmon stocks have dwindled and it is so important the present stocks are protected. Ironically the anglers who chased those silver bars for many years are those that care most for the future of the iconic fish.

We did see two fishers on our walk, a trout fisher and a heron. Long may there be fishers on the Lyn for a river without fish or fishers is somehow rather empty.

RIVER UPDATE

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After a prolonged drought; the most significant since 1976 there has been some welcome rain though not enough. Local rivers have only risen slightly with each spell of rain and have dropped back quickly. Reports of any salmon and sea trout are scarce with a couple caught on the Lyn last week. If you have any news of fish from the Taw or Torridge please let me know.

I ventured onto a Middle Torridge beat in the middle of last week and found the river extremely low despite it having risen 18″ two days before my visit.

It was good to be back on the river however and I was initially hopeful that a few fish may have moved up with the rise in water. After a couple of hours without seeing a fish move I began to have concerns that the river was devoid of life. As I stepped into the river at the top of the beat I caught a fleeting glimpse of electric blue as a kingfisher flashed past. Following its flight up river I admired the view as evening sunlight broke through illuminating the trees.

I fished my way downriver searching the lies and noting the contours that were exposed by the low river. I would hopefully retain some of this info later in the season when the river is once again running at more healthy level. A savage pull on the line yielded a pleasing brown trout of close to a pound.

Its not been a good season for the salmon angler with no water equaling no fish. A few signs of autumn brought a slightly melancholic atmosphere  to the session as I wondered slowly back to car in the fading light.

Torridge Salmon Season -No Extension

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The Environment Agency have decided not to extend the salmon Fishing season on the River Torridge this year. Over recent seasons anglers have enjoyed an extension to the season from  September 30th to October 14th and this has been a welcome addition with good numbers of salmon landed. The decision will come as a bitter blow to fishery owners and local businesses who receive welcome revenue from visiting anglers. It is to be hoped that dwindling stocks of salmon will recover and that this decision will be of benefit to salmon stocks.

This season has been a very poor fishing season as a result of the prolonged drought conditions that have persisted since May. The start of the season was blighted by snow melt and very high water. In the longer term it is to be hoped that weather conditions results in good fishing once again. Such weather conditions have been experienced before with older generations recalling the drought of 1976 when rivers and local reservoirs ran very low.

A fine salmon caught at Liittle Warham during last years extension.