As the year races past it is essential to ensure that plans discussed at the start of the season get acted upon. At the Roadford Fly Fair at the end of February I chatted with Luke Bannister about a trip to the river that was discussed further when we met up at the Orvis Outlet Opening at the Arundell Sporting Hotel in March.

After a few messages back and forth Luke and I set a day to meet up and fish the Arundell’s water in early June. We arranged to meet at the Arundell at 9:30am where we could meet up with David Pilkington who would allocate a beat for the day and give valuable advice.
The Arundell has over twenty miles of fishing on the Tamar and its tributaries with an abundance of wild brown trout fishing along with salmon, sea trout and grayling. It was the wild browns that Luke and I would be targeting and with a few mayfly still showing we hoped for success on the dry fly.
It was very busy when we met up with David Pilkington who had allocated us beat 4 on the River Thrushel a beat I had glimpsed briefly during the visit to in March.
Enjoyment of the day was undoubtedly top of the agenda and Luke and I retreated to the Arundell Deli for a fresh coffee before venturing to the river. There was of course plenty to discuss and Luke didn’t expect the trout to start rising until late morning.

The Arundell is undoubtedly in good hands with the present owners well versed in what their fishing and shooting clientele require to ensure an enjoyable stay. Luke and I both appreciate the value of such sporting hotels to the rural economy and of course to the future of fly fishing. Key to the survival of this is the health of the regions rivers. The declining salmon and sea trout stocks are of concern as is the decline of insect life brought about by the use of insecticides. These issues and others of the wider world were dissected over coffee before setting off for the beat.
The day was bright and sunny with a cool westerly breeze. It is always exciting to explore a new venue and I was fortunate to have Luke’s company as he had fished the beat on previous occasions.
Luke is renowned for his exquisite hand built split cane fly rods, fly boxes and leaders.

I had intended to discuss rods with Luke but in our keenness to get fishing such discussions didn’t materialise. Luke put together a very pleasing looking 7ft 4 Wt cane wand whilst I took out my 7ft Snowbee Classic Carbon 4wt. Armed with this suitably matched reels, lines and a few flies we set out to the river after looking over the old stone bridge to assess the state of the river.

The river was running low with just a tinge of colour reminding me of beats I have fished on the Upper Torridge a river that shares many characteristics with the Tamar.
The Thrushel as described on the Arundell’s website: –
The Thrushel and its own tributary, the Wolf, is a pretty, lowland river which affords excellent trout fishing. The Thrushel itself is a small to medium sized river with a good number of open pools for the novice fisherman to target some excellent wild brown trout. Its tributary the Wolf is slightly smaller and trickier, requiring more fishing experience. Both rivers are characterised by short gravelly runs with trout holding pockets that flow into rock formed pools. To get the best from your day, the ability to cast from both shoulders is preferable as many of the runs and pots require working your way up the river from side to side and between access points. A short rod of 7ft or so is recommended. It should also be noted that the water levels on the Wolf are controlled by output from Roadford reservoir ensuring that it is often fishable when all other rivers are running too high after rainfall.
Species – Brown Trout, Grayling
Size of River – Medium/small
Wading difficulty – Medium
Ease of access and Fishability – Medium
Trout Equipment – 7’6”- 8’6” #3/4 weight rods

Whilst I very much enjoy fishing alone there is undoubtedly great value in sharing a day with a fellow angler and it was a privilege to explore this delightful river on this early summer day.
Tactics were discussed with Luke opting for a single bead headed nymph. We discussed the merits of New Zealand style tactics that are often used to explore the water giving the best of both worlds in many anglers opinion. Whilst Luke agreed with the effectiveness he prefers to focus on either dry fly or nymph tactics believing this a more rewarding and enjoyable way to fish

We entered the tranquil and shaded riverside and paused to take in the surroundings. A chiff chaff’s song reverberated through the air. The trees were in full leaf offering areas of shade as the river flowed tranquilly between rocky banks that were interspersed with tree roots. A river that could easily be the setting for the author BB’s delightful tome ‘The Little Grey Men’, a book that tells of the adventures of four gnomes as they travel down a stream. In all its full summer beauty: throughout the story runs the secret music of the stream, the songs of the water birds, the whisper of the sedges.
We watched carefully for signs of rising fish.

Luke demonstrated an extensive in depth knowledge of entomology talking of the flies he expected to see throughout the season and which patterns are best used as imitation’s.
Luke’s approach was calm and measured and I felt totally at ease in his presence. Sometimes there can be a degree of pressure when sharing a day as you don’t want to show incompetence by tangling in the trees or scaring the wily trout.

We took it in turns to fish the pools and glides. Discussing where we thought the fish would lie and delighting in dropping the fly into the sweet spot. Reading the water is a skill gleaned over many days even years beside the water. And whilst every river is different there are similarities that are common to all rivers from tiny brooks to the majestic lower reaches.

As we fished we talked of past fishing forays in waters both at home and abroad. We both caught a few small crimson spotted wild browns that were a delight to briefly admire before slipping back into the river.
After reaching the top of the beat we headed back down river to revisit promising lies. I waded into a deep run to search with a weighted nymph whilst Luke watched on. As I turned to wade back I slipped into a deep pocket and lost my balance momentarily slipping forwards into the deep water. Cool water surged over my wader top and I felt a moment of panic and then embarrassment at my clumsiness.

It proved costly as my phone though never totally submerged later packed up requiring a costly repair. I really should make sure I keep it within an aqua-pack.
After this brief moment of angst we continued on and headed for a stretch we had been advised to fish at the Lower end of the beat below the road bridge.
We entered a new stretch through a padlocked gate. A deep and shady pool was at the very bottom of the beat. Luke suggested I start at the bottom of the pool whilst he fished the run above.
I made my way carefully through head high undergrowth of water hemlock and nettles. A trout rose under the overhanging branches. I crept into position and flicked a grey duster delicately where the rings had shown. A shadow appeared and a trout sipped in the fly. A pleasing wild brown of perhaps 8” was brought to the waiting net.

I dried the fly and cast again and was thrilled to see a good sized trout of perhaps 1lb approach the fly before turning away with disdain.

I fished carefully up the pool and hooked another similar sized trout at the head of the pool. Luke and I compared notes and I suggested he try for the big fish at the shady tail of the pool. I fished slowly up the promising looking run above. I saw a fish rise and put my offering onto the spot. This is surely the most satisfying of moments in angling as the trout again rose and I felt that delightful harmony of deception and connection. The fish was the best of the day a pleasing brown of perhaps 10” its flanks olive and bronze decorated in crimson and black spots.

Luke captured the moment on camera and we walked up river having a few casts here and there before converging at the bridge.
It was late afternoon and we had shared a great day at the waters edge. Catching close to a dozen trout between us.
I cannot cast off without mentioning those hand crafted split cane rods. I would draw a parallel to classic sports cars that get you from A to B no quicker but do so in a manner that is undoubtedly pleasing to the soul.

Last casts made its time to head off home.