South Molton Angling Club – AGM

South Molton Angling Club held their AGM at The Coaching Inn South Molton on April 12th. There was a good attendance with the Environment at the forefront of discussions. The local Environment Agency Fisheries Officer Callum Underhill gave a brief outline of the vital work undertaken by the EA across the region. Good news is that two Agricultural EA Officers are being recruited to focus on the issues surrounding agriculture and its impact on the regions rivers. He also reported on a successful operation to target illegal netting last year in the local estuary with cooperation between EA officers, IFCA and the police.

The clubs members have undertaken citizen Science studies in the local rivers including water quality monitoring, River Fly Surveys, gravel washing, redd counts and river clearing.

The clubs trophies were presented with:-

Steve Bendall winning the Mac Trophy for the biggest trout with a fine rainbow from Wimbleball weighing 6lb.

The Tope Cup was won by Matt Brady with a tope of 30lb.

The best specimen was won by Ed Rands with a cuckoo wrasse of 1lb 8oz.

The Bass Trophy was awarded to Wayne Thomas

Mike Moser gave a fascinating presentation on Nature Recovery in the North Devon UNESCO Biosphere.

Mike highlighted the many issues that face the rivers and watercourses within North Devon all of which flow into local coastal waters. He highlighted what we can do as individuals and how local businesses and organisations are collaborating towards a recovery for nature following many years of miss-management.

The decline of salmon and other fish throughout Devon was discussed at length with members sharing many memories of days when fish were more abundant. The loss of habitat for breeding bird populations and mammals was also highlighted.

Mike outlined the many benefits linked to the reintroduction of beavers in South West Rivers.

The clubs chairman Edward Rands would like to thank all those who attended the 53rd AGM last Tuesday at the Coaching Inn who provided us with excellent facilities and food.
Edd opened the meeting at 7.30 pm and gave a very comprehensive re’sume’ of our 2021 season which included all the hard work carried out by members attending bank clearing, redds counting, the Riverfly checks, and the introduction of the Citizen  Science program being carried out by himself and the secretary.
The treasurer’s report included the current healthy bank balance but he is concerned about the lowly number of paid-up members for 2022 so far. The resumption of some more normal post covid activities could put pressure on our funds for 2022. The only other expense will be the new website being released shortly.
Our chairman Edd invited Calum Underhill who is our new EA bailiff and gave a short talk and report. This was followed by a very interesting talk given by Mike Moser who is the chairman of the Nature Biosphere Improvement Group. 
The meeting closed at 9.45pm.
On a personal note I visited the Lower River Taw the morning after the meeting to cast a line in hope of salmon. The river was running low and clear and it was alarming to note how slippery the rocks have become so early in the season. A layer of algae and weed smothers the river bed undoubtedly a result of high nutrient levels in the water. It is sad to observe the decline in the river over the past forty years. I remember fondly how a visit to the river thirty or forty years ago would almost always result in the sighting of a salmon or sea trout leaping from the water.
The decline of salmon and sea trout during my own lifetime has been alarming and if it continues these iconic and once prolific fish could be extinct within twenty years. The reasons for this decline are as I often state complex. Agricultural practices and sewage discharges are undoubtedly a major factor in the decline of the rivers health. Many in the general population fail to appreciate the devastating impacts of intensive dairy farming. Investment is needed to eradicate pollution and improve farming practices. A buffer zone should be implemented beside rivers to create a wildlife corridor boosting biodiversity.
Cows grazing contentedly beside river at what cost to the rivers?
On a positive note it was heartening to catch several silver smolt during my short session and to observe good numbers of fry in the margins. If action is taken rivers can return to health in a relatively short time.
As I walked back from the river I noted the discarded junk lying throughout the river. A Childs buggy, an old piece of carpet and a vast array of other relics illustrating a total lack of respect for the rivers that are at the heart of the land in which we live.