North Devon Angling News readers kindly sent me few images to remind everyone of those better days. I got to thinking what fishing am I missing most?
Alex Gibsons report due to have been delivered at the RFTA AGM at the end of March.
A couple of salmon were caught from the middle Taw before the present lockdown. The rivers are now dropping quickly after a couple of weeks without rain. A cold North East Wind would not have been good for fishing.
CHAIRMAN’S REPORT 2020
First some thanks to the whole Committee for their support and the work they have done during the last 12 months.
Particular thanks to Richard Nickell, our Treasurer, and to Ian Blewett, our Secretary, for all their good work; to Judith Kauntze for the excellent Newsletter she produces; to Bryan Martin for looking after the website; to Chris Taylor for his auction work which unfortunately has been delayed this year. Thanks also to John Smith for representing us on the Dartmoor Steering Group and to Andy Gray for keeping the Committee up to date on all farming matters affecting our river and also for printing and mailing our Newsletter.
The weather continues to dominate our fishing lives and I thought the story about the businessman who went to Bergen for a week might lighten the tone. It was raining when he arrived and rained solidly every day. As he was leaving his hotel in dreadful weather on the last day he turned to a small boy standing nearby and asked: “Does it ever stop raining in Bergen?” The boy replied: “I don’t know I’m only seven.” The North Devon version would have a different ending for the businessman who goes to South Molton in November. The reply he receives is: “Not in the winter, but in the summer we get hardly any rain at all.”
Simply put, last season low water conditions seriously reduced the number of good fishing days. The rain didn’t arrive till October. Abnormal weather seems to be the new normal weather these days.
This of course affects the rod catch numbers. I have continued to do the annual beat survey, canvassing all riparian owners. Last season’s results show 82 salmon and 265 sea trout against 2017 figures of 72 salmon and 71 sea trout. The provisional EA numbers for 2019 are 76 salmon (91% returned) and 239 sea trout (86% returned). We can take some comfort from the upturn in sea trout numbers and I believe our salmon numbers will look good relative to the numbers for other south-west rivers when we see them. Brown trout fishing had an excellent year with almost 3,000 fish caught, up from about 2,000 in 2018. The brown trout fishing community is of crucial importance to us since they are the custodians of those parts of the river where the fish spawn and spend their early life.
Turning to the Mole pollution incident, let me summarise where we are with this disastrous event. Back in July last year a large digestate spill apparently wiped out the fish population over a 5km stretch of the Mole from above South Molton to the junction with the Molland Yeo. I say apparently because the EA will not release to us the fish survey they conducted after the incident for fear of prejudicing their prosecution of the person responsible. A figure of 10,000 fish has been mentioned, but we do not know the number of salmonids in this number, nor the breakdown by type and class. We originally understood all invertebrates were wiped out, but recently were told by the EA that the invertebrates were affected only slightly. This is encouraging in terms of recolonization, but we have not seen the invertebrate survey either.
Fish Legal has been briefed to mount a civil claim for us, but this cannot proceed until the EA is much further along with its prosecution and we can obtain the fish survey.
This is all very frustrating.
On the other hand, the EA have confirmed that they will do a fish survey on the polluted stretch this summer. The results will be interesting. The problem however is that we will still have no base line to work from, namely the original fish survey. Until we learn otherwise we will assume that all salmonids were killed and that any juveniles that show up in the survey are the result of last winter’s spawning and recolonisation.
The sad situation that we find ourselves is the direct result of having anaerobic digesters on our catchment. There are three, one on the Mole and two on the Little Dart. We had identified the threat, but were powerless, just waiting for an accident to happen, you might say.
As many of you will know there is a chain, winter maize from farm to anaerobic digester, digestate from anaerobic digester to farm. If any part of the chain fails, and that includes the anaerobic digester itself, the river is threatened. That of course is without considering the siltation damage caused by growing winter maize in the first place. In the last two years in particular the character of the Mole has changed. It now runs dirty for longer and silt is deposited along its length. The optimists think that the New Agriculture Bill will solve all these problems created by bad farming practice; the pessimists adopt a more cynical approach. Things can go spectacularly wrong as evidenced by the Mole incident. While waiting for new rules and regulations to be implemented it may be a good idea for us to keep our fingers crossed.
This brings me neatly to river improvement work which is driven by the siltation problem. The Committee has decided that the “best bang for our buck” is to continue our gravel cleaning programme in conjunction with WRT. This is a short term solution until farming practices change, but we don’t know how long short term is. Last year we spent almost £20,000, having carried £10,000 forward from the previous year. The full 2019 gravel cleaning report can be read on our website. In summary we did 8 days on the Molland Yeo, 3 on the Crooked Oak, 8 on the Mole, 8 on the Little Dart and Sturcombe and 11 on the Upper Taw. To encourage recolonisation an emphasis was placed on the Mole. For this season the Committee has committed £10,000 for gravel cleaning work. Again there will be some emphasis on the Mole.
This continues to be a difficult climate in which find complementary funding. We were unable to gear up on the funds we spent last year. This year look more encouraging.
We continue to be concerned about South West Water’s 35 sewage treatment works on our system. South Molton and Chulmleigh, perhaps the worst, are due for an upgrade in the next 5 years, partly as a result of pressure we have applied. We will continue to press for further improvements.
To broaden our fight against sewage in the river and also the threats from siltation and anaerobic digesters we link up with other organisations who share our concerns. These include South West Rivers Association, Westcountry Rivers Trust, The Rivers Trust, Angling Trust, Devon Wildlife Trust/North Devon
Catchment Partnership and Surfers Against Sewage. These problems are not Taw specific, nor south-west specific, but national. Fortunately there is a growing groundswell of public concern which we welcome.
Paul Carter, our EA Fisheries Enforcement Officer, retires in April. My intention was to make a presentation to him at the AGM and to thank him in a proper public arena for everything he has done for us. The presentation now has to be done behind the scenes unfortunately. It consists of a day’s fishing on seven of the best beats on the river. Paul is a very keen fisherman.
Paul has worked tirelessly for us and has always been available to give us the benefit of his advice. His contributions to our Fisheries Management Meetings and Committee Meetings have always been valuable and valued. He has been a good friend and supporter of the Taw. We shall be sorry to see him go and wish him well. To date it is unclear how he will be replaced.
One final point. I have been Chairman now for about 13 years which means it is probably time for me to step down. The 2021 AGM would seem to be the right moment. Discussions with Committee Members have started and, when these are brought to a conclusion, I would expect a prospective successor to emerge who has the full support of the Committee.
My best wishes to all members for the 2020 season.
Alex Gibson March 2019
Barry Kift sent me this picture of his personal best bass weighing 11lb 3oz, caught from Ilfracombe Pier in 1981
Well, after taking a walk down the pier the evening before, and seeing a 9lb Bass landed myself and my brother, Lee Kift decided to go the next evening. Fishing side by side, Lee went to help land a conger down below. Asking me to look after his rod. Well, 2 small bites later, on his rod,.I was hooked into this. By the time he came back up the fish was nearly at the pier. He shouted, GIVE ME MY ROD, I told him to f*** off and go back down to land it ! He was not best pleased and hasn’t forgiven me to this day 😳😳😳 cant imagine why 🤣🤣🤣
Many thank’s to my good friend Jeff Pierce who sent me this short article that demonstrates the Fly Tiers Art.
Fly tying is a fascinating & most absorbing hobby in its own right, but made even more hypnotising when you catch your first fish on a fly you tied. That’s when it takes on a whole new dimension, the obsession of outwitting the trout not only on the water but on the vice, in the comfort of your own home. Blending, colours & textures of natural & synthetic materials together to match the hatch & fool the fish, trust me you’ll be immersed in no time, not to mention being buried in fly tying materials & hooks! Or to the uninitiated, creating an imitation of fish food by wrapping feathers, hair & synthetic sparkly materials to a hook, hoping it will fool a fish to take it…
Combe Martin SAC member has found that the enforced lockdown has given him time to indulge in his passion for painting the fish he seeks with rod and line. Below are just a few of Ross’s superb paintings inspired during his visits to the waters edge.
(Below) Ross with a nice bass from the North Devon Shoreline
With the ongoing lockdown and no fishing I thought I would start digging into my North Devon Journal Archives.
Late March 2010 and salmon fishing is top of the agenda and the debate rages regarding how to safeguard salmon stocks. Ten years later stocks continue to dwindle despite a massive investment in habitat improvements. It s good to see a few familiar names in the competition results.
ULTRA have ambitious plan
Salmon and sea trout of our local rivers provide the pinnacle of angling experience for many attracting game fishers from all over the country. This has been a significant part of the rural economy for many years with prime salmon fishing commanding a high price. A significant drop in salmon and sea trout numbers has lead to a decline in a once thriving rural industry. Many local anglers can recall a bygone era when riverside Inns such as the Rising Sun at Umberleigh would be packed with anglers each evening returning from the river with their bright silver prizes.
It was therefore apt that a new group calling itself ULTRA held an inaugural meeting at the Rising Sun. The Upper & Lower Taw Rivers Alliance is a group of anglers and riparian owners who have an ambitious plan to restore the spring salmon run using native broodstock to produce smolts for restocking. This is a complex issue that a working party has been set up to explore. The Environment Agency has given early indications that they will be likely to consent to the scheme.Tim Clarke is Chairman of the alliance and Dave Smith secretary; details of the group can be found on their website www.rivertaw.org
The web cam at Umberleigh that proves a valuable window on the river for anglers is temporarily out of action following a fire at Murchs’ Antiques Emporium upon whose building the camera is fixed. Web cams of a dozen West Country Rivers can be viewed by visiting www.therisingsunfc.co.uk
There are rods available on a prime stretch of salmon and sea trout water on the Taw and Little Dart at Tremayne near Chulmleigh. Anyone interested in this opportunity should contact John Smith on 01363 84804.
As spring slowly progresses carp anglers are enjoying action on several of the regions lakes. I fished Furzebray carp lake near South Molton last weekend and found myself fishing a swim between brothers Ally Laird and Ian Laird who had already landed three double figure carp during their weekend session. During Sunday afternoon I was privileged to witness them land a further three carp, two of which were prime mirror carp weighing 16lb 6oz. Boilies, corn and pellets are all tempting fish on this well landscaped fishery.
At Angler Paradise carp are feeding well with several twenty pound plus fish caught including a 25lb 8oz mirror to the rod of Chris Rainbow and a 21lb 8oz specimen for Tom Cole.
At Highhampton lakes the owners have been working hard preparing their lakes for the coming season. The trout lakes have been drained, refilled and restocked in time for the Easter weekend. The coarse lakes already healthy stock has been added to with double figure carp, quality tench and bream. There are also additional facilities including a new toilet and cooking area.
Ilfracombe Match groups latest match at Legge Farm near Hatherleigh saw Peter Slade take top spot with 34lb 15oz of roach and skimmers on soft pellet hook bait. Andy Gray took runner up spot with 31lb 15oz of skimmers on corn hook baits. John Lisle was a very close third with 31lb 10oz of carp on corn the loss of a carp of around one pound in the margins costing him dear. The silver fish bag went to Peter Slade with his fine bag of roach and skimmers.
Don’t forget its time to renew your rod licence at Local post offices or online at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/rodlicence Remember that finance received from licenses is invested in promoting and protecting angling and the environment. Failure to carry a rod licence can result in prosecution and a substantial fine.
The latest heat of the North Devon League saw Julian Stainer secure the top two spots for Triple Hook Club with dogfish scaling 2lb 7oz and 2lb 6oz.
Tony Gooch won Bideford And District Angling Clubs Mid Week Rover with a dogfish of 2lb 4⅝oz. In runner up spot was Jazza John with a doggie of 1lb 15⅞oz and in third Dick Talbot with a dog of 1lb 12½oz
Dick Talbot won Bideford’s 24 hour rover with a thornback ray of 8lb 2oz. Dick also secured runner up spot with a doggie of 2lb 3oz. Nathan Clements was third with a dogfish of 1lb 15⅝oz.
Triple Hook Clubs Flyfishing match at Wistlandpound saw Steve Ousley victorious with a four fish bag totalling 5lb. In runner up spot Daniel Miles and Ashley Curd with three fish each for 3lb 12oz.
With fishing off the agenda there is little to report on North Devon Angling news but with everyone at home I wondered if anyone would like to take on a challenge. Several who have read my book, “I Caught A Glimpse” have commented on how it brought back memories of early days at the waters edge and how our paths have been similar.
Its not easy staying at home away from the waters edge so I thought it would be good if a few readers could take half an hour to recall your earliest angling memories from North Devon. If you could send me your contributions via email or messenger ideally with an image I will have a read through and publish. [email protected]
Of course if your at a loose end you could always settle down in garden and read a good book!
My friend Mark Everard shared this post vis his Email link. The Angling Trust has stated that we should all refrain from fishing as advised. Whilst fishing itself is low risk we all need to stick together without exception.
LET’S BE CLEAR. THE LOCKDOWN MEANS NO FISHING. WE WILL SEEK CLARIFICATION AS TO WHETHER FISHING IS AN ALLOWED FORM OF EXERCISE AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, BUT FOR NOW WE CAN’T LEAVE OUR HOMES FOR ANYTHING OTHER THAN THE REASONS STATED BELOW. STAY SAFE
People in the UK will only be allowed to leave their home for the following purposes:
Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible One form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home Police will have the powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings. To ensure compliance with the instruction to stay at home, the government will:
Close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship Stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with Stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed.
I had hoped that angling could continue in its solitary form with anglers pursuing their pastime safe in the countryside social distancing with no risk to themselves or others. Sadly the actions of many members of the public ignoring advice will surely lead to a lock down. The majority of the West countries fishing Waters are now closing their facilities for the foreseeable future. This includes South West Lakes Trust, Wimbleball Lake and Furzebray Carp Lakes. Ammo Tackle are also closing down their operations for the duration of the crisis. Most charter boats are also stopping all trips in compliance with government guidelines.
SNOWBEE Tackle have put out this statement.
Due to the current Coronavirus (COVID-19) situation, our retail shop will be closed with immediate effect, until further notice.
This action has been taken, in line with government guidelines and with a view to protecting both our staff and customers.
If local customers wish to collect items from our retail shop, please ring the office on 01752-334933 and we will have your order ready for collection, adhering to recommended safe distancing guidelines.
In the meantime, the business will remain open, as long as possible or until we are advised otherwise, by the government, but to help our customers, we are offering all mail-order deliveries with free carriage, until further notice.
Snowbee (UK) Ltd.
There will obviously be limited angling news over the coming weeks so I will not be posting as regular. I will try to keep things ticking over with a few articles and news as I get it. When this is all over I will ensure normal service is resumed. In the mean time there is plenty of archive articles and reports to sift through whist our away from the waters edge. I have a few ideas for the site in the future so keep an eye on it. In the mean time if you can get out fishing enjoy the isolation.
These are very difficult times for us all but if we work together we will hopefully be back at the waters edge at some point.
Members of South Molton Angling Club enjoyed a day planting trees close to one of their sections of fishing on the River Bray. In total they planted around 700 trees including oak, willow, birch, alder, hawthorn and holly. The conservation minded gesture was in exchange for increased access to a section of the river following a change in land ownership.