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.