Fluff Chuckers – Brown Trout Bank Day – Colliford

I joined the Fluff Chucker’s group event at Colliford Lake on Saturday March 26th in search of wild brown trout. Cast off for this informal competition was at 9:00am with pre meet at 8:00am.

I arrived on time at the car park to meet with fellow fluff chucker’s who were eagerly debating the day ahead and recent excursions with their fly rods. It was my first visit to this vast lake of 900 acres situated high on Bodmin Moor and my first impression was that it was a little daunting. These fears soon evaporated after chatting with fellow anglers who assured me that the trout were often found close to the margins.

I had undoubtedly been lulled into a false sense of security over recent days of warm sunshine as I had underestimated how cold it was likely to be. Whilst there wasn’t a cloud in the sky a bitter east wind was blowing across the lake creating many white caps.

We all donned our waders and set off shortly before 9.00am eager to cast a line with the majority heading for a bank that gave some shelter from the wind.

The lake is surrounded by ancient moorland with craggy granite outcrops and wind swept stunted trees. Sheep grazed here and there with old stone walls and fences dividing this harsh yet beautiful landscape. The water clarity was good and peat stained resembling the finest malt whiskey.

I approached the water’s edge with a degree of stealth and put out a short line with a small black lure on the point and a black spider pattern on a dropper. As I retrieved and lifted the fly ready to recast there was a swirl in the water and the glimpse of a golden flank. This gave my confidence an immediate boost.

It was however three hours before I actually made contact with one of the resident trout after moving to a bank that was being battered by the strong wind. A pleasing wild brown of 12” bringing welcome reward for my efforts. I had spoken with a few other anglers as I wandered the shoreline and knew that no one seemed to be catching a lot which was not surprising in the conditions.

I wandered back and forth along the shoreline trying different retrieves and searching the water. I had confidence in the flies on my leader and stuck with the tried and trusted.

Success came once again as I stripped the lure to suddenly feel that delightful connection as a good fish hit the fly leaping from the water in a somersault of spray.

I was relieved when a pleasing 15.5” wild brown was safely within my net. After a quick photo and careful measuring the fish was returned and swam strongly away after holding in the cold water for a few moments.

The remaining hour or so was a little frustrating  with four more trout being hooked briefly before shedding the hook.

It was all back to the car park for 5.15pm and the prize giving. The event was generously sponsored by Partridge of Redditch, Yeti, Hooks and Hackles and South West Lakes Trust.

I was delighted to receive the runners up prize for the second biggest fish of the day.

Full results below with thanks to Rodney Wevill who was the events main organiser.

Fluff Chuckers / Partridge of Redditch Brown trout bank event.

Not a great day for pictures at the event today.

Bitter cold easterly winds made it a day of heads down and try very hard to find some fish.

A very good turnout with anglers travelling from North Devon, Somerset and the usual pirates from Cornwall.

The overall winner was Roger Truscott with the longest fish and the most fish caught.

The runners up being Jack Welshman, Wayne Thomas and Jon Allen.

Even though it really wasn’t ideal brown trout weather there was a good amount of fish landed with respectable fish from 13” to 17”.

Fluff Chuckers would like to thank all the anglers that supported the event a great turnout and most importantly the sponsors for their great generosity providing the prizes.

Partridge of Redditch

YETI

Trout Fishing South West Lakes Trust

Hooks & Hackles

RIVER TAW FISHERIES & CONSERVATION ASSOCIATION AGM

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After a two year break it was good to once again sit down at High Bullen House Hotel for the AGM of the River Taw Fisheries & Conservation Association. Chairman Andy Gray gave a warm welcome to a good number of members who attended despite ongoing concerns regarding COVID.

As always conservation of the river and habitat dominated the agenda with enlightening talks given by Adrian Dowding from the West Country Rivers Trust and Dr Jamie Stevens who has been working on the SAMARCH project. https://www.samarch.org

Adrian reported on the results of fry surveys undertaken on forty sites across the River Taw catchment. The results were encouraging for some areas of the Upper catchment with some evidence of improvement following gravel washing programmes over recent seasons.

The RTF&CA has adopted a science based approach to conservation efforts funding valuable research into the river’s health. Good scientific based data is vital in providing evidence needed to establish the requirement for funding.

The complexities of nature were made apparent by the fascinating talk delivered by Dr Stevens. The  five year SAMARCH project uses the genetic codes of sea trout and salmon to establish their movements within the marine environment. This is undoubtedly highly complex scientific research that provides an extremely valuable tool in determining where conservation efforts need to be focussed. The mapping can be used to inform on decisions relating to Marine Protected Areas (MPA’s).

Nature is complex and the more we understand the more able we are in successfully managing it. We wouldn’t need to if we didn’t abuse it!

The associations secretary Ian Blewett gave a passionate summary of the vital work undertaken by the RTF&CA highlighting the need for numerous bodies to come together in an alliance for the long term good of the rivers. There are many groups with different agendas regarding the river who share a basic need. My own personal view is that rivers are the vital arteries of the land and as such should be fit for both fish and humans to swim within.

Ian explained that alliances between interested parties that have at times not seen eye to eye is vital to ensure improvement in agricultural practices and in ensuring adequate treatment of  waste effluent. There are many groups that are starting to work in partnership giving some hope that there is a brighter future for our rivers.

I frequently use the term “Our Rivers”. This is not because we actually own them as we are in reality custodians of the environment with a responsibility to look after this part of the natural world ensuring its long term health. My reasoning is that by inferring ownership it inspires a responsibility to look after that which we perceive as owning.

The catch statistics from the river revealed that in 2021 a disappointing 65 salmon and 120 sea trout were caught by anglers. These results reflect a long term reduction in catches. Low water conditions and COVID lockdowns undoubtedly had some impact on these results so it is possible that this season will show an improvement. At the time of writing at least five salmon have been caught on the Taw and three on the Torridge.

The AGM was followed by a fundraising auction ensuring valuable funding for future conservation projects.

The dinner that followed was delicious and enabled a welcome chance to gather around the table and swap many tales from the riverside and beyond.

Those who value the River Taw should consider joining the River Taw Fisheries & Conservation Association.

http://www.rivertawfisheries.co.uk/index.html

Spring Salmon Fishing – Brightly & Weir Marsh on the Taw

After hearing of a fresh run springer of 11lb caught by Tony Watkins on the Weirmarsh and Brightly fisheries on the River Taw  I decided it was time to reacquaint myself with this prime stretch of water above Umberleigh.

The drive to the fishery culminating in a pleasing country lane lined with spring flowers brought back happy and poignant memories of time spent with the late Ron Warwick whose bungalow overlooked the Taw valley and the river that he loved. Visits to many riverside beats and fisherman’s paths rekindle many memories of those we have known through angling and time at the waters edge. It would be impossible for me to fish the Weirmarsh and Brightly Beats without remembering Ivan Huxtable who looked after the fishing and the anglers for many years. Whilst Ivan himself was not an angler he was always very supportive of the angling community and the river. He also raised a huge amount of money for local charity’s including the North Devon Hospice with his regular sponsored walks over Exmoor.

https://www.northdevonhospice.org.uk/news/ivans-terminal-diagnosis-will-make-for-poignant-exmoor-ramble/

I met with fishery manager Chris Steer for a quick and invaluable refresher on the beats and the likely holding lies enabling me to prioritise my efforts when it came to searching the water.

The fishing is split into three beats; Upper, Middle and Lower with the day rotating between beats with changeover at 1.00pm.

I was fishing the Upper and Middle beats both of which boast some stunning Fly water with good holding runs and pools. As Chris explained the likely holding lies, pools and crossing places I struggled to retain much of this valuable information though when I returned to the water with my rod a short time later much of the briefing had undoubtedly sunk in. As I fished methodically downriver I recalled much of Chris’s wisdom in relation to likely taking spots.

Knowledge of these taking spots are invaluable on any salmon fishery and learning where they are can require many decades of fishing. Fortunately, if anglers share their knowledge these hot spots can be passed down through the generations enabling anglers to have a better chance of hooking into that silver prize.

These taking spots do of course change over the years and also change in relation to the river’s height and flow. As salmon populations dwindle this knowledge built up over the generations becomes ever more vital. Whilst the river is constantly changing to a degree some features that create the perfect resting place for salmon remain. Yet learning about catching salmon becomes increasingly difficult as the experience becomes ever rarer.

I took my rod to the top beat at around 10:00am and began swinging a trusty black and yellow pattern across the first run below the railway bridge. I fished down through each pool and run methodically full of anticipation tempered with a degree of realism in that my prize whilst undoubtedly present is scarce.

As spring flowers bloom beside the riverside path, I cannot avoid contemplating the changing times. Many have walked these paths and some of the pools reflect their names and events that have occurred. They may have sat upon the angler’s bench during times of war and trauma. They would perhaps have been reassured by the perpetually flowing water and the changing seasons. If they could perhaps through some miracle revisit they would be saddened and troubled by the demise of the salmon and sea trout along with dwindling numbers of elvers.

The demise of our migratory fish are undoubtedly an indication of the rivers failing health. This should be of concern to all as water is as vital to life as the air we breathe.

Myself and many others marvel at migrations undertaken by swallows, martins, swifts, cuckoos and chiff-chaffs. The sight of that first swallow always brings a sense of joy yet surely the silver salmon is equally important as an indication that all is as it should be?

Imagine the dismay if we could no longer glimpse the swallow as its scythes through the warm  fragrant summer air. Surely we should be equally dismayed if salmon no longer reach our rivers?

Whilst I continually try to raise the many issues that blight our rivers it is perhaps wise to appreciate the wonders that we still have. The river on this Spring day certainly appeared in superb health with clear water and plenty of fry visible in the margins. There were also what I assume were a few olives flitting above the water though no signs of rising trout.

The warm sun beat down upon lush green fields and lambs played friskily as I waded in the cool spring river. It is pure joy to be immersed in this idyllic rural landscape and fishing somehow connects you and slows things down enabling an appreciation that is not possible during a fleeting visit or walk.

Over the years I have observed wildlife at close quarters for as an angler you merge slowly into the scene. If you observe the patience of the heron as it fishes you will notice its slow and deliberate movement. As anglers we should perhaps mimic this unhurried patient approach for there are undoubtedly far more fish in the river than we perceive.

The late great nature writer BB has this quote at the start of his many books; –

“The Wonder of the world, the beauty and the power, the shapes of things, their colours, lights and shades, these I saw.

Look ye also while life lasts.”

 

I recently received a delightful email from Dr M George who has fished the Taw for many years. Dr George  expressed appreciation of the river and the wonderful environment. He had fished the river on the same day fishing further up the system. Over the years Mike has landed many salmon and  sea trout during his weekly visits that are often short sessions focussing on the prime taking spots. He gave a valuable piece of advice in that he always holds the rod very high as salmon take “On the dangle” and hook themselves against the loop in the line. No loop a tug but no fish ! I reflected upon this as I read the email for during my day on the river I had received a strong tug as I lifted the fly to recast. Perhaps if I had just slowed down and given a little slack a silver salmon would have pulsed at the end of my line? As we fish we learn and modify our stance those little amendments can eventually make us better anglers. Many thanks to Dr M George for sending the beautiful images (Below) from the River Taw.

Those who value the River Taw should consider joining the River Taw Fisheries & Conservation Association.

http://www.rivertawfisheries.co.uk/index.html

In search of Spring silver

The March River

It was great to be back once again swinging a fly across familiar salmon lies on the River Torridge. The river level was just about perfect with the first week of the season hampered by high flows and turbid waters. Spring salmon are a great prize that have become increasingly hard to win in recent seasons. Ten years ago today I was lucky to hook and net a beautiful fresh run fish from the Middle Torridge. I have fished every March since without repeating this. I will keep trying savouring the spring flowers and the hopes of a new season.

It is sad to see the empty shell of a freshwater pearl mussel. These mollusc can live for over 100 years are not thought to have bred successfully since the 1960’s.

SAVING FRESHWATER MUSSELS ON THE TORRIDGE

An out of season brown trout brought a welcome pull on the line. I hope to target these wild browns later in the Spring when they will hopefully take well presented dry flies or nymph.

ROADFORD FLY FAIR – 2022

Fly Fishing enthusiasts from across the South West and beyond gathered at Roadford on March 6th for the popular Fly Fair. After a two year gap due to COVID the event was rejuvenated with an overwhelming sense of joy at a return to a sort of normal.

The event organised by South West Lakes Trust is an invaluable show case for Fly Fishing providing a platform for companies to display their products and more importantly for anglers and lovers of the waterside to mingle generating firm plans for the coming season.

When I arrived home after a day chatting to fellow anglers my mind was buzzing with talk of flies, presentation, tackle, fish and the waters in which they swim along with the extensive environmental challenges. I will try to give a brief account of the day but would urge all who love fly fishing to attend next year.

Thanks must go to South West Lakes Trusts Dil Singh, technical lead for game fishing who organised the event along with his dedicated team. The event was opened by the Fairs patron Charles Jardine who gave a warm welcome stressing how vital angling is to us all during these challenging times. The fairs main sponsor was Chevron Hackles.

Fair Organiser Dil Singh and its Patron Charles Jardine

Charles delivered a fascinating Fly Casting demonstration later in the day. This was delivered with his normal repertoire of humour with clear inspiring instruction illustrated with a few tales from the waters edge. To watch Charles cast is a true reflection of how an expert makes a task look so easy and effortless. The bitter cold North-East wind was conquered  as he both mastered the conditions and captivated the audience.

The basic principle to learn about fly fishing was the importance of relaxing and being at one with the rod and line.

Amongst the fly fishing topics covered were trout, pike and salmon. A rather sad observation made by Charles was that today salmon fishing consisted of plenty of casting practice with the vague chance of catching once a year. This is rather a poignant statement that to my mind very much describes the state of West Country salmon fishing!

Casting a fly line with broomstick!!

Charles ended his demonstration by casting a fly line using a broomstick!

Retreating to the warmth of the conference centre there was an abundance of Fly fishers to engage with and discuss the wonderful places we share and the issues that we feel so passionate about.

Fly Tying demonstrations

The environment was high on the agenda with members of the fish pass team present to discuss the many miles of water available across the South West via their fishpassapp.co.uk  The invasive species stand gave valuable information about how anglers can reduce the inadvertent distribution of species by cleaning and drying waders and nets between trips.

South West Lakes support the Invasive Species initiative

Several Fly Fishing groups and associations were well represented with Burrator Fly Fishing Association, Kennick Fly Fishers, Siblyback Fly fishers and Stithians in attendance along with the Pike Fly Fishing Association. Apologies to those I have undoubtedly failed to mention.

Simon Kidd of Snowbee gives valuable advice and tips.

Snowbee Tackle were well represented by Simon Kidd and one of their ambassadors Jeff Pearce who mingled with the many angler’s present discussing the finer points of Fly fishing.

Nigel Nunn and his wife Julia enjoy chat at the bar with Jeff Pearce of Snowbee and Wimbleball Fishery manager Mark Underhill

It was a delight to catch up with so many friends that share my passion for fishing. The planning of future forays at such social gatherings is undoubtedly vital for the future of fly fishing and it is very clear to see how valuable quality time at the water’s edge is for our mental health and well-being.

Pete Tyjas is editor of Fly Culture magazine a publication that provides a brilliant and inspiring read incorporating quality writing on fly fishing from across the globe. Pete also produces the excellent Fly Culture podcast that makes for fascinating listening on those long drives to fishing destinations. www.flyculturemag.com

John Aplin and Pete Tyjas sharing in the fun of the fair

It is always good to catch up with John Aplin Managing director at Casterbridge fisheries Limited.  I have been very fortunate to visit Johns wonderful stretch of the River Frome in Dorset and even catch some of the marvellous grayling that swim within the clear waters of this tranquil chalkstream. http://www.casterbridgefisheries.co.uk

I was introduced to Nigel Nunn from Kent who has turned his hobby into a full time job.

Pete Tyjas and Nigel Nunn

Nigel is now a full time Fly Tier crafting flies that are intended to catch trout and not anglers. Nigel is a frequent visitor to the South West with his wife Julia who shares his love of fly fishing. Since becoming a full time fly tier Nigel overcame the challenge of impaired vision after developing cataracts on his eyes. Working with fellow anglers Nigel creates flies to imitate the wild insects hatching across the country. He explained how he receives orders from across the country reflecting the timing of fly hatches that move through the rivers of the land generally from South to North.

www.nigelnunnflies.com

Fly Tier Nigel Nunn and Julia discuss the finer details of split cane craftsmanship with rod maker Luke Bannister

Luke Bannister builds high quality split cane fly rods for the connoisseur who delights in the qualities of split cane as a tool to deliver the fly. Luke relishes fishing for wild brown trout that abound in West Country rivers.

www.splitcane.co.uk

Rodney Wevill is vice chairman of the Pike Fly Fishing Association and a keen member of the Facebook group fluff chucker’s. Rodney is a keen fly fishing devotee who targets a wide range of species beyond pike.

www.pffa.co.uk

Rodney Wevill
Selection of pike flies

Rodney has enjoyed success with that most elusive of fish the grey mullet. I expressed my own frustrations at chasing these fish with the fly. Catching mullet on bait is often difficult enough without complicating matters. Rodney and his good friend discussed the intricacies of stalking these mesmerising fish using small flies to imitate their natural food.

Selection of flies to tempt the wily mullet

Shallow water and feeding fish being the key. This summer will once again see me wading in the shallow clear water of summer following wise words of encouragement from Rodney and his good friend Gary Brazier.

Alan Riddell’s stand with an impressive range of flies

I even managed to find a present to take home for Pauline!

I spent several hours at this year’s fly fair and left buoyed with optimism for the future of Fly Fishing. The challenge for the future is of course to encourage more young participants. Angling has undoubtedly received a boost as many have discovered its true value whilst escaping from COVID induced lockdowns etc. In these increasingly dark times solace can often be found at the waters edge. The ability to wander free with a rod and line is without doubt an experience to both cherish and share.

2022 Trout Fisheries Prices

View our guide to catch and release angling here

View our float tubing good practise guidelines here 

Trout Fishery Season Dates Day Ticket Concessionary
Day Ticket
Daily Bag
Limit
Catch & Release
Day Ticket
Evening Ticket Under 18
Ticket
Evening/
Under 18 Bag Limit
Burrator 12th March – 30th November £21.00 £19.00 5 £15.50 £14.50 Free with paying adult 2
Colliford 15th March – 12th October £17.00 £15.50 4 n/a £11.00 Free with paying adult 2
Fernworthy 15th March – 12th October £17.00 £15.50 4 n/a £11.00 Free with paying adult 2
Kennick 12th March – 30th November £27.50 £25.00 5 £20.00 £19.00 Free with paying adult 2
Roadford 15th March – 12th October £17.00 £15.50 4 n/a £11.00 Free with paying adult 2
Siblyback 12th March – 30th November £25.00 £22.50 5 £20.00 £17.50 Free with paying adult 2
Stithians 12th March – 30th November £21.00 £19.00 5 £15.50 £14.50 Free with paying adult 2
Wistlandpound 15th March – 12th October £11.00 n/a 2 n/a n/a Free with paying adult 2
Dil Singh of South West Lakes Trust

OPENING DAY –APPOINTMENT WITH FULL TAILED RAINBOWS

The sun was rising above the hills of Exmoor illuminating the sky in shades of golden yellow as I drove the winding road towards Wimbleball Lake. Whilst silhouettes of trees still told of winters grip the roadside snowdrops and rising daffodils told of the coming of spring.

It was the last weekend of February and the first day of a new season on Wimbleball Lake a fishery that has been rejuvenated in recent years following careful management by the Underhill family.

I met with Snowbee Ambassador Jeff Pearce at the lake for 8:00am and chatted with fellow anglers who had travelled down from the North of Bristol leaving shortly before dawn in their eagerness to connect with the first trout of the season. The two month break certainly rejuvenates enthusiasm with over thirty keen anglers booked into fish on this opening day.

Jeff and I had elected to fish the bank confident that the fish would likely to be close in. We started off near to the boat launching jetty where cheerful fishery assistant Trevor helped anglers on their way with words of advice and encouragement. Wading out into the icy cold water I pushed out my intermediate line with a small black lure on the point and a cormorant on the dropper. I paused a few moments allowing the line to sink whilst I looked around admiring the scene before me. Early morning sunshine casting light upon the cold waters that were ruffled by a cold South Easterly breeze. The stark outline of the surrounding hills and trees framing the lake.

I began a slow and lazy retrieve relishing the early season anticipation and expectation. On the second or third cast there came that delightfully electrifying tug as the line pulled tight the rod tip jagging. I lifted into the fish the rod hooping over as the rainbow surged away into the lake. The fish fought gamely testing the tackle and my patience  as I coaxed the fish to the waiting net. A full finned rainbow of close to five pound was a great start to the season. Jeff was busy welcoming anglers to the boats and rushed over to catch a few images as I posed with my prize in the icy water.

During the following half an hour I added another three stunning rainbows to the days tally. The icy water stinging the fingers and numbing the toes seemed of little consequence.  Jeff eventually joined me hoping to savour his first trout of the season yet by now the South East breeze was increasing in strength making casting more difficult.

We decided to move to a more sheltered area and start a fresh search. Wading out into the waters of a shallow bay we again began the routine of searching the water. Jeffs line zipped tight and he enjoyed battling his first trout of the season a silver rainbow of over 2lb.

We fished the bay for another half an hour without further success and decided once again on a move to deeper water close to Bessom’s bridge. Fishing here proved challenging with the strong icy wind battering the shoreline. Confident that fish would be present we fished hard and I was rewarded with a stunning looking long lean rainbow of close to 4lb.

We gave it another half an hour in the teeth of the wind before conceding defeat and heading once again to sheltered waters. A few fish were being caught in the bay and we fished optimistically before stopping for a bankside sandwich and a coffee.

We discussed tactics and decided to move once again and escape the cool wind. Moving to the far side of the sailing club we found calm sheltered water. By now the sky was a vivid blue with bright sunshine shining into the clear water. Once again my line zipped tight and a wild brown trout exploded from the water performing an acrobatic summersault. Jeff secured a few pics of the immaculate wild fish before it darted away to freedom.

It was mid-afternoon and we sensed a slight easing in the wind speed. The area close to the boat launching area seemed worth a revisit following the success enjoyed earlier in the day.

We braved the cold wind for an hour before conceding defeat at close to 4.00pm. Late February high on Exmoor can be brutal but the rewards are high with Wimbleball’s hard fighting rainbow trout amongst the hardest fighting trout I have ever encountered.

Fishing this vast often windswept lake feels truly wild.

Early season the fish can be concentrated as the catch returns revealed at the end of the day with some anglers recording up to twenty fish. Both bank and boat fishing giving great sport with the popular lures of the day working well.

I have always found black lures or olive damsels to produce well in early season fished down in the water at a slow pace. Anglers often follow fashions with favoured variations proving successful each season.

I look forward eagerly  to my next Wimbleball session and once again connecting with its full tailed battling rainbows.

River Taw Fisheries and Conservation Association 2021 Review

Below are extracts from the River Taw Fisheries and Conservation Association 2021.

By kind permission of Chairman Andy Gray. To read the full report I suggest joining the association and supporting the extensive work that is undertaken.

The River Taw Fisheries and Conservation Association 2021 Review and Newsletter

.

It was a tough season for many of us with low water blighting our rivers and a reportedly low run of fish. There is however hope that our efforts are not in vain; the Taw and Mole have had a run of Shad, and the Westcountry rivers trust study suggests that our gravel cleaning work has been improving habitat!

All the above and more are covered in far more detail, and far more eloquently by our contributors accessed through the link below, our 2021 year in review.

I would like to personally thank the authors for their kind words and permission to publish their articles.

We are pleased to announce we are having an AGM, in person this year. It will be at The High Bullen Hotel at 5:30pm on the 25th of March, and will include our fundraising auction, a guest speaker (details below) and dinner.

Our speaker will be

Dr J. R. Stevens

Biosciences

College of Life and Environmental Sciences

University of Exeter

The subject: – Use of genetics in fisheries management and conservation for Atlantic salmon and trout and also covering the SAMARCH project

Kind regards,

Andy Gray

Chairman’s Report 2021 Salmon: 66 Sea Trout: 129 We are all licking our wounds after a particularly poor season for migratory fish on our system. The water heights were often not helpful. The worrying part of the story is, when we did have good water, fish numbers were still low. The reports from the estuary were not encouraging either. Is this a particularly bad year amongst an ongoing set of poor years? Recognizing trends, is easy, but identifying causes less so. Our fish have complex life cycles in complex landscapes. Add the unfathomable influence of the sea and then understanding and interpreting the cause of this downward trend is well-nigh impossible. Influencing and arresting the decline, more so. We are not alone, all the rivers in the southwest are experiencing the same ongoing decline. We have science proving that siltation suffocates fish eggs, often all the eggs in effected gravels. We have observed a step change in soil run off in recent years, especially driven by the increase in maize in our catchment but also due to a general decline in soil health. Hence our work gravel washing. We are also continuing fry surveys, and these may help interpret the result of this initiative. We are aware of increased phosphate pollution partly from sewerage, partly from agriculture. Phosphates directly affect water quality and therefore how productive our river is. These are national issues, requiring national solutions. As an organization we have vociferously added our voice to countless others lobbying on these issues.

What changes can we expect and how soon? The sewage problem has just reached some form of resolution. The new environment bill has changed the environmental framework the water companies work within and has tightened the screw slightly. They have to move more rapidly towards solving the storm overflows, and also provide more data on their polluting activities. There are more improvements needed. Alex and Ian did a lot of work on South West Waters (SWW) PR19s last year. This is a review on sewage treatment works (STW) capacities, identifying which STWs need the most work and then having them recognized in SWW 5-year investment plan. South Molton on the Mole, Chulmliegh, Winkleigh and Bow, on the Upper Taw were all identified and will receive investment. These investments should help protect our water quality. So, we have progress on sewage. The effect of these changes will not be immediate. Farming – There is an increasing recognition that many practices are unsustainable. This recognition is leading some farmers to adopt regenerative techniques to improve soil health. Others will not do this unless induced by payments or beaten into change through properly enforced legislation. We are living through an example of improved enforcement right now. The EA have finally decided to enforce the existing manure spreading legislation. This is leading to howls of protests from farmers, especially over “autumn spreading when there are no proven plant requirements”. The farmer’s argument is the nutrients are absorbed by the soil in readiness for plant requirement in the spring, the EA, that the nutrients will leach into ground water and run off into rivers if not assimilated by plants soon after spreading. We have had two legal disputes running on our river over damage caused to the system. Alex will give you the details in a short article later in the newsletter.

The Environmental Land Management Scheme (ELMS) is still being formulated. This is the payment system replacing existing direct payments for owning land. It will require land-based public good in return for government payments. If the right schemes are implemented, we could see a dramatic improvement in water quality, but don’t hold your breath… Carbon trading and biodiversity offsets could well have a more beneficial effect on our landscapes and rivers. They may channel money from polluting industries and travel into paying landowners to use their land in ways that improve the quality of the water draining from it. These changes will take time to filter through and help our beleaguered salmon and seatrout, but there are some positives in an otherwise troubled picture. Andy Gray Chairman

River Taw Byelaws Seasons Salmon 1 March to 30 September Sea Trout & Brown Trout 15 March to 30 September Methods Fly fishing permitted all season Spinning for salmon only permitted until 31 March No other method or bait fishing permitted No rod caught salmon or sea trout to be sold or offered for sale Salmon No salmon to be retained before 16 June No salmon greater than 70cms in length to be retained after 31 July Sea Trout Size limit 25cms Brown Trout Size limit 20cms RTFCA Strongly recommends that you practise catch and release whenever possible.

West Country Rivers Trust

Electrofishing Fry Index Survey Taw Catchment The 2021 Index Survey, funded by our association, is n all honesty is not pretty reading. We will circulate the report in its entirety in due course as it provides interesting reading. However, set out below is a summary The Westcountry Rivers Trust (WRT) undertook a number of semi -quantative fry index electrofishing surveys in the River Taw catchment in August and September 2021. Electrofishing uses a controlled electric current to induce fish to swim toward an anode and into a hand net to be counted and assessed. The aim of the programme was to identify the issues that prevent salmonids from effectively completing their life cycle.

The WRT surveyed 40 semi-quantitative sites on the Taw. The survey identified that the Taw catchment does have the potential to support salmonid spawning of varying quality and indicates the importance of the main river stem and tributary spawning sites for salmon and trout reproduction. Salmon Fry Results Out of the 40 sites surveyed only seven were classified as A ‘Excellent” and four were found to be ’B’ of ’Good’. This then equates to 11 out of 40 or 27.5% of sites being at an acceptable level of recruitment for salmon. Worryingly of the 40 sites tested 11 showed no signs of salmon fry at all, 27.5%. Whilst this makes for bleak reading it is to be noted that of these many did not show salmon fry in 2016. The sites that have deteriorated are restricted to; · Fox and Hounds, Taw (D-E) · Nymet Bridge, Lapford Yeo (D-E) · Huntacott Bridge, Huntacott (D-E) · Milltown Bridge, Little Silver Stream (D-E) There is good news, however, of the 33 sites surveyed that had been surveyed before 17 show signs of improvement in salmon numbers. This suggests that the vital work of our association is making headway. Even more encouraging is Yeo Farm on the River Yeo, Molland which has improved from B ‘good’ to A ‘Excellent’. This site has had gravel cleaning works performed in 2021 and has been cleaned in the last three seasons. This shows our work is having a beneficial effect.

Trout Fry Results Trout fry appeared to fare less well than salmon in the sites surveyed. With no sites across the catchment being classed as ‘A’, ‘Excellent’. Trout fry were absent from 19 sites out of the 40 surveyed. Whilst concerning, hope is found in that 7 sites have shown improvement between 2016 and 2021.

Going Forward It is clear that we need to repair trout fry habitat in all waters in the Taw catchment. As regards Salmon while the Bray and the Upper Taw are in good condition there is a great deal of work to do on the rest of the catchment.

The Return of the Shad Five years after the completion of the River Taw Access Over Weirs project, evidence is building of its growing success. In 2007 The River Taw Fisheries & Conservation Association ably supported by and in partnership with the Westcountry Rivers Trust, the EA and others began a catchment wide programme to improve access for migratory species over a series of man-made obstacles – mostly old industrial mill weirs that were either impairing or blocking access for migratory fish species. The aim was to ease passage up and downstream thus enabling better access to spawning and improve the recruitment of juveniles. Although the work was primarily aimed at important keystone species like salmon, sea trout and brown trout, it was hoped that the project improvements would benefit other important migratory species such as sea lamprey, brook and river lampreys, the red listed European freshwater eel as well as the resident coarse fish population.

Between 2007 and 2015, twelve weirs were either removed entirely or improvements and easements made to allow fish easier access over them. Some of these obstacles were truly enormous, requiring substantial fundraising efforts and major engineering works to get them out. Some were all but impassable in anything other than very high flows. In the Spring of 2011 and 2012 observers began to report that game fish were turning up in parts of the catchment much earlier than they used to. Moreover, river watchers reported sightings of sea lampreys spawning on the River Mole and Bray above the now removed weir at Head Mill. These were the first sightings of this species in this part of the river catchment for generations. Sightings continue to be made both in this part of the catchment and now elsewhere.

But other things now appear to be happening beneath the surface. There have long been historical reports of twaite shad and perhaps its larger relative – allis shad being caught in nets in the shared estuary of the Taw and Torridge. Perhaps, in the dim and distant past the Taw system had its own spawning population before they were largely extirpated by the erection of weirs in the industrial revolution. Twaite and allis shad are relatives of the herring. They live in the sea, migrate upstream to breed in freshwater and their young migrate downstream to the salt to grow. They are a rare fish in the UK.

But now it seems shad are turning up in the Taw catchment and the most amazing thing is they may be spawning in the river and its tributaries. In the late spring of this year, two shad were caught by salmon anglers, one at Watertown on the Mole: two miles above Head Weir, a barrier formerly impassable to shad and the other in the Taw above the junction pool. Both were males and both were in spawning condition. The anglers immediately recognized the species as protected and the shad were therefore returned unharmed to get on with nature’s important business. This follows previous reports of shad caught and released in 2020 and 2019.

As an Association of anglers and conservationists we should be hugely encouraged by this turn of events. It could be that by helping to open up fish passage on the Taw catchment we have, perhaps inadvertently, assisted a rare and endangered fish to re-colonise a river system that it once may have flourished in. Shad spawn in late May and early June and the process is described as a frenetic affair. With males chasing females through the shallows on the tails of pools where the eggs are released and fertilised and allowed to drift down onto fine gravel. There is often a substantial amount of splashing as the shad announce their presence. If you should catch a shad, then please treat it carefully. If you can photograph it then please do and if you can include an indication of scale and size, then even better. Then release it carefully and unharmed. Please report any captures or sightings of shad spawning activity to the Chairman [email protected] or Secretary with accompanying photos as we may be able to put together a case to secure funding in order to be able to help this endangered species and improve the health of the river still further. All of our members are fishers and conservationists at heart and these reports represent a new and exciting chapter in our efforts to secure the future health of the river. Only time will tell but this could well be another successful outcome in the journey to return the catchment to more sustainable and natural state.

Ian Blewitt

Update from the South West Rivers Association SWRA is the voice of riparian owners and game angling in the South West. It is the umbrella of the individual river associations in the South West and a powerful lobbying body regularly consulted by the Environment Agency and Government. This is my last contribution to the Taw Association’s Annual Newsletter as I (finally!) retired at our AGM in October. However SWRA is in the excellent hands of my successor William Entwisle a retired senior naval officer, keen angler and much younger! It’s also an opportunity to thank Alex Gibson for the support he has given to SWRA and the Taw and welcome Andy Gray – another younger man! William has reviewed the way SWRA works and, with the unanimous support of our Council, has instituted a small Executive Group to focus on work strands of highest priority. The Annual National Salmon Stock Assessment and Angling Trust Salmon Angling Advisory Group William is joining the reformed Advisory Group which will work with the EA to ensure a more robust and reliable assessment of salmon stocks in each river. This is a key element in determining appropriate voluntary and mandatory control of angling – we are committed to the former as the best means of protecting our interests and maintaining a high level of interest in the future of salmon.

As I write Defra’s formal public consultation ‘On Approach to Beaver Reintroduction and Management in England’ is live with a closing date of 17 November. SWRA’s response will focus on the threat of unrestricted beavers to salmon and sea trout migration to and from spawning areas using a detailed report commissioned from Professor Ian Cowx of the Hull International Fisheries Institute. In particular we shall be seeking for the easy ability to manage beavers and their dams without excessive regulatory bureaucracy. Our response will also be available to the Taw Association as a template. Cornwall IFCA Salmonid Byelaw Consultation Unlike Devon, where SWRA and the TFA worked closely to ensure a good byelaw to protect salmon and sea trout in inshore waters, the Cornwall IFCA’s proposals are inadequate and much weaker than originally presented. They matter as fish destined for the Taw are known to pass through Cornish waters. SWRA will be lobbying robustly for a byelaw similar to Devon. Regional Water Resource Planning SWRA has a seat on the stakeholder group set up to influence the three water companies (South West, Wessex and Bristol) charged by Defra with producing a plan to ensure adequate supplies for the next 25 years. This is to take account of predicted population growth, the effects of climate change and the need to protect river flows. We are not aware of any plans affecting the Taw will

Water Quality After a long delay caused by COVID restrictions SWRA’s meeting in October had a presentation from Alan Burrows, SWW’s Director of Environment and Culture, on the company’s approach to sewage treatment and sewer management, a topic on which RTFCA has lobbied strongly. Although he stated that sewage only caused 1.5% of poor SW river quality compared to agriculture’s 48% he acknowledged the need for better performance, especially on the growing number of discharges on untreated sewage from storm overflows. A significant problem often raised by the RTFCA is unrestricted population growth with no consideration of the impact on sewer/sewage treatment capacity – Alan explained that Planning Authorities no longer have a duty to consult the company on new developments and that developers have a statutory right to connect to the company’s sewers.

Access and Canoeing We continue to work with Angling Trust/Fish Legal to put pressure on Canoe England to withdraw their misleading opinion about access rights which fly in the face of the settled law that there is no general right of public navigation on rivers. There is little hope of progress.

Regional Hatchery Three rivers are now taking advantage of SWW’s willingness to support the salmon hatchery at Colliford on the Fowey. There is good evidence that climate change is having a negative impact on salmon with high winter temperatures causing low survival of egg and alevins. The warm winter of 2016 is known to have severely reduced juvenile salmon numbers in several Welsh rivers and such winters are predicted to become more frequent. It is probable that taking stripped fertilized eggs to a hatchery with chilled water may be the only way of bridging this block to successful natural recruitment. SWRA will continue to develop the concept of a regional hatchery and lobby the EA for a change in policy Roger Furniss Outgoing Chairman SWRA One of the most important aspects of the Westcountry CSI scheme is that through the increasing number of people closely watching the rivers and streams we are more likely to spot pollution incidents and enable them to the be reported to the environment agency. The Environment Agency is the responsible body for recording and responding to pollution incidents in England. It has a dedicated incident hotline that you can call 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

0800 80 70 60 [email protected]

By kind permission of Pete Tyjas, Editor in Chief, Fly Culture Magazine – Extracts from an interview with Mikael Frodin speaking to the magazine about open cage salmon farms and the impact they are having. Mikael Frodin is a Swedish fisherman, author, the pioneer of the SALAR series of hooks and spends most of his time behind the vise devoted to finding “The perfect tube fly”. Through his writing, blog and social media he has worked against overfishing, hatcheries and fish farming problems. His commitment to conservation is evidenced by hid guiding philosophy. Any wild fish are worth more than a million hatched—any ecosystem is worth more than all the money in the world” Do you feel a greater sense of responsibility, as a famous salmon angler, to take action on conservation? The older I get the more time I spend with conservation. Maybe also because the older I get the fewer wild fish are left to fish for. As an angler I have a responsibility, as a pro angler I have an even bigger one. I spend more time on rivers and get a wider personal perspective. I cannot just say that things are wrong and that it is for others to change. I believe, and maybe also proved, that as individuals we can make a difference. We must take action and say when things are terribly wrong.

In the UK there is still resistance to conservation measures, while the Environment Agency continues to lose both funding and teeth? Do we now need tighter regulations such as barbless hooks and compulsory catch and release? – Even if it means some anglers stop salmon fishing? I think that catch and release is wonderful. We can have our cake and eat it too. We can build a sustainable eco-tourism around salmon fishing without negative effects on the wild stocks. We have to keep on reminding politicians about the fact that a dead salmon for food is worth a few pounds and that a salmon caught on a rod is worth 100 times as much for society. We have to be even stronger telling the truth around the fish farming industry. The three most important reasons for the decline of wild salmon stocks all come from fish farming: spreading of disease, sea lice problems and genetic pollution from fish farming escapees. If we don’t change the direction of the industry, if they don’t clean up and move into closed containments – we will have lost ALL wild salmon stocks. Very soon! Some of the larger donors to some salmon conservation charities are involved with aquaculture. Is that an untenable position now we know the damage fish farming is doing? The more the right people are involved in the industry the better it is. We need help to have the change into closed systems happen fast. If people clean their dirty conscience by supporting sustainable environmental movements without really caring about the damage – they should be ashamed and we should put the lights on this. We need powerful help from inside the business or from powerful investors saying they will support what’s sustainable and not an industry that will be the reason for wild salmon stocks to go extinct.

It has been suggested that closed containment farms may become the primary method in Scandinavia. Does that offer a solution to the crisis? Yes, I think so. Closed systems give control. There is no genetic pollution, no sea lice problem, no spreading of disease to wild stocks, no waste problem. The problem without fishing the ocean for food will still be there but some of the urgent problems will disappear and this will change the course and save the wild stocks. This MUST happen and it is very urgent. If we wait another couple of decades all stocks of wild salmon will be extinct. What took evolution hundreds of thousands of years, the fish farming industry has destroyed in three to four decades. The industry knows that fish farming will end up in closed containments. We need to make sure that the change will be fast.

In the UK we have seen direct action on environmental and conservation issues, from Extinction Rebellion to striking school children, yet the majority of people remain unaware and uninterested. How can we get regular people on our side? – And how can we put genuine political pressure on our governments? I believe in the power of the people. We who know the problem must take the fight and use some of our time to educate the public. Politicians too of course but if the public will be aware, the politicians will follow – this is the good thing about democracy. The politicians need to have the people behind them. I am absolutely sure that the public will change and will not eat farmed salmon or support the industry if they are aware of the effects on the wild fish and also the negative impact on our health. We need to use our fishing channels, mags and TV, social media and local papers. We need to spread the word about the environmental crisis caused by the fish farming industry . We need to scream and shout it out loud so as many as possible hear us! Who would want to support an industry with a mortality rate of 25%, what farmer would get away with that? 53 million farmed salmon died inside Norwegian fish farms in 2017. It’s an outrageous animal cruelty crime that the public have no knowledge about.

How do we reconcile the global need for greater food security with a conservation-minded approach to aquaculture? We need to spread the European Food Safety Authority regulations. Regulations showing that farmed salmon is not a food source that will lead to a healthier population – quite the opposite. We need to question why we should be able to eat salmon seven days a week, 12 months per year. Salmon is a seasonal food source. When the fish come into our rivers we can fish a certain percentage and let the rest spawn. We can do this in a sustainable way. And we should know that it can be done only a couple of months a year. The reason for us to think that we should eat salmon all year round and as often as possible is ONLY because the industry wants to make as much money as possible. We are fooled to think this is natural and generally don’t see that we are victims for the massive fish farming PR machine. We need the industry to be sustainable and society to demand that. This is to respect future generations. At what point do we need to consider a moratorium on salmon fishing? Should we stop chasing a fish that is in so much trouble? Again – we are the solution. The catch and release-based ecotourism generating more money than the commercial fishing is a powerful tool that should be used to protect the wild stocks. A moratorium ends up in poaching and forgotten rivers. I have no belief in that. Do you think away from fishing that the general public are being engaged about salmon farms? The general public have no idea of the problems. They don’t see fish farming as a threat and they don’t know that wild stocks are on the way to extinction because of this industry. We need to educate and teach people what’s going on before it’s too late.

Petitions are great but do you think they actually have an impact? I do – if we can hand over one million signatures to the responsible ministers they need to listen! The power of the people works this way and also through the consumers. If the consumers don’t buy farmed salmon the industry will change. Pete Tyjas

River Taw Fisheries Association Committee Chairman: Andy Gray Secretary: Ian Blewitt Treasurer: Richard Nickell Lower Taw: Peter Tyjas, Charlie O’Shea, Mark Maitland Jones Upper Taw: Simon Phillips, John Smith, Gordon Murray River Mole: Andy Gray, John Macro, Chris Taylor Former Chariman: Alex Gibson IT Advisor: Brian Martin Torridge Representative: Paul Ashworth

Sea Trout Studies We reproduce the following two articles for you showing the studies currently underway. Our understanding of sea trout behaviour is very limited. Hopefully the knowledge gained in these studies will help inform netting regulation and further protect sea trout at sea. SAMARCH Projects on sea trout. Tracking of salmonids through estuaries and coastal waters Dr Céline Artero In spring 2018 and 2019, project scientists with the support of the Environment Agency tagged 359 sea trout and 457 salmon smolts with acoustic tags on the Rivers Frome and Tamar in the UK and Rivers Scorff and Bresle in Northern France. This is to investigate their migration speed and mortality rate through the lower river, estuaries and out to sea. Each winter since 2017 we have tagged a total of 314 seat trout after they had spawned in November and December (known as kelts), as they migrate back to sea with Data Storage (DST) and acoustic tags. The acoustic tag will tell us when they left the river and when they return to the same river to spawn again.

SUMMARY FINDINGS SMOLT TAGGING Detection loss of smolts was gradual along the estuaries and no specific areas accounted for pronounced increases in detection loss. Further analysis is ongoing to assess the acoustic detection efficiency and smolt mortality along their migration through transitional waters. · Estuarine detection loss of smolts varied between species and study sites but remained relatively constant between years. · Detection loss was higher for salmon than sea trout smolts. · To date, 26% of the deployed DST’s have been recovered. 10% from recaptured fish in traps and by electrofishing and 16% have been found on beaches. · The tagged sea trout exhibited a strong diving behaviour reaching depths of up to 80m. However, the pattern of this diving behaviour appeared to vary between study sites and by time of day. · 27% of our sea trout kelts died at sea from predation. Recovery of the DST tags will give us information on the migration routes and behaviour, including their swimming depth, of sea trout while at sea. This information is crucial to advise the management of commercial netting at sea to better protect salmon and sea trout. The sea trout were tagged in the River Bresle in Northern France and the Rivers Tamar and Frome in the south of England. So far we are recovering some 26% of the tags through electric fishing the sea trout when they return to the river, being found on beaches or using the Environment Agency trap at Gunnislake on the Lower Tamar and the Agency of French Biodiversity trap on the lower Bresle

Trout genetics – to create a genetic database for trout in rivers in the Channel area and a map of areas important for sea trout at sea By Prof Jamie Stevens, Dr Andy King & Dr Sophie Laurney In the summers of 2017, 2018 and 2019 some 2000 samples were collected from juvenile brown trout along 80 rivers in the channel area to develop a data base of trout genetics. Samples were collected in England by Environment Agency teams in the south of England. In the summer of 2019, under dispensation from the Environment Agency, the project set fixed gill nets to catch salmon and sea trout around the coast of Cornwall and Dorset. This was to collect samples for genetic analysis to monitor movements of fish by comparing their genetics and marine location to the genetic data base. On average 1.7 sea trout were caught per 600m of gill nets set each evening an d recovered the following morning SAMARCH (2017 – 2023) is a seven-year project that will deliver practical tools for management to better protect salmon and sea trout in coastal waters. SAMARCH has 10 partners, five from England and five from France and is led by the Missing Salmon Alliance (MSA) Partner, The Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT) and has a budget of £9m which is funded 69% by the European Union’s Interreg France England Channel Programme. www.samarch.org.uk

Legal Matters Upper Taw After the EA took no legal action against a farmer who had dredged a section of his beat, Chris Lynden, the riparian owner, supported by RTFA, put the matter in the hands of Fish Legal. The long-running case was issued at court, but settled before it got to trial, allowing both parties to resolve their dispute and work together in the future for the management and protection of this important section of the Upper Taw. Details of the settlement remain confidential. Mole Following the EA’s successful prosecution this year of those responsible for polluting a 4.7 km stretch of the River Mole with anaerobic digestate, RTFCA has put the matter in the hands of Fish Legal with a view to taking legal action for damages. Proceeds will go towards remediation work on the Mole. The pollution incident took place in July 2019. At the time more than 9,000 dead fish were recorded, including salmon, sea trout, brown trout, bullheads, stone loach and minnows. The total number of dead fish was estimated to be around 11,600 with whole populations of salmonids from mature adults to fry wiped out. To support our private action the necessary data is being gathered. This will include the original EA Fish Kill Technical Assessment and rod catch information as well as historical EA juvenile surveys and Westcountry Rivers Trust fry index surveys. RTFCA’s membership will be kept informed as matters progress. Alex Gibson

SEARCHING FOR THE LADY OF THE RIVER

The Dorset Frome at West Stafford near Dorchester holds some fabulous grayling that I have been fortunate to target on a couple of occasions over recent years. We stayed at  http://www.chalkstreamflyfishing.co.uk/chalkstream-fly-fishing/the-home-beat/

Evening Light as we arrive for our three day break

The Dairy Annexe is a perfect escape from the troubles of the modern world where we always receive a warm welcome from John and Andrea Aplin.

Whilst the short break was to celebrate Pauline’s birthday I had also booked a day’s fishing hoping to connect with one of the grayling for which the river is renowned. My last visit in October 2019 https://www.northdevonanglingnews.co.uk/2020/10/31/an-autumn-grayling/ had produced a personal best grayling of 2lb 12oz.

As often seems to be the case our trip coincided with stormy conditions the river slightly up and coloured following the fallout from storm Dudley. Fortunately, when it came to my day on the river the colour was starting to drop out. It wasn’t going to be easy but if I fished hard I would be in with a chance.

It was a mild day with a strong blustery wind blowing downstream from the west and casting was not easy. I was using a 10ft nymphing rod with a large weighted nymph on the point and a small nymph on a dropper 12” above. https://www.barbless-flies.co.uk

I decided to start my search on the Upper section of the beat after chatting with John who was keen to assist as always. I walked the bank carefully peering into the clearing water that was frequently ruffled by the strong wind. Whilst I hoped to spot fish it was obvious that searching the water methodically was my best chance. I dropped the heavy nymph into gravelly runs and deeper channels watching the bright line indicator intently. Where possible I fished from the bank wading only when beneficial.

After searching for close to an hour. I glimpsed the movement of a fish; just a momentary blur. I dropped my nymph above and as the flies drifted I saw a flank turn and lifted the rod to connect. The grayling came up in the water its dorsal fin standing proud in the current. The rod bent over as the fish used the strong current to its advantage surging downriver towards the sanctuary of a mass of tree branches. I held the grayling hard and persuaded it back into mid river. The silvery sides and crimson red dorsal fin a splendid sight. A tense couple of minutes passed before I eventually coaxed the prize into the net. A splendid grayling that was undoubtedly well over 2lb.

I took a couple of quick pictures to capture a memory. Slipping the lady of the stream back into the cool water. Delighting as the fish disappeared with a flick of its tail.

I searched on for a while before returning to the warmth of the Annexe for a hot coffee and a snack.

I returned to the river with Pauline searching the lower stretch of the beat carefully. The gusty wind made fishing tricky and my fishing rhythm seemed to have temporarily deserted me as my nymphs seemed to find overhanging branches and tangle frequently. It was also slightly annoying to feel the slow ingress of cold water into a leaky wader! I persisted and eventually started to fish with my previous confidence with only occasional minor tangles.

Tangled lines (:

Birdsong reverberated from the nearby trees. A couple of mink appeared beside the river appearing rather bold despite my presence. The search of the water was enthralling as I became lost in concentration and expectation as I surveyed the ever flowing water.

Searching the River

I lifted the rod to each flicker of the bright tippet indicator. A brief connection with a grayling brought renewed hope the electrifying jolt of life and the glimpse of a silver flank. I spotted a couple of grayling elusive shadows in the stream.

The fading light of the day.

The hours passed by all too soon and the light levels started to drop. I had numerous last casts before conceding my day was done. Walking slowly back through the trees I caught sight of a few Sika deer and enjoyed a brief encounter; stood just a few yards from a deer we stared into each other’s eyes in the fading light.

The following day Pauline and I called into Lyme Regis on our way home. It was surprisingly mild and sunny as tourists strolled around the sea front. Talk was all about the coming Storm named Eunice. Within the delightfully untidy shelves of the second-hand bookshop, I discovered a small booklet; The Fish of Exmoor, by H.B. Maund. More of that in a separate feature….

WINTER PERFECTION

The trees were stark and dark looming out of the mist as night gave way to day. The line was punched out and allowed to settle the lures sinking slowly in the clear water. I began the retrieve attempting to impart life into the two flies. The cool water stung the fingers as I settled into the rhythm of fly fishing for Stillwater trout.

After five minutes the line drew tight with an electrifying tug and for a magical moment there was life on the line. It was short lived however the hooks failing to find a grip.

This brought the essential ingredient of anticipation to the hunt for a trout. The following fifteen minutes or so resulted in several missed takes but no actual hook ups.

I became immersed in the search relishing the cool fresh air, the ever changing light on the water and glimpses of birds upon the lake. Cool rain was driven by the Southwest wind but I hardly noticed as I focussed on the line as it entered the water expectant of that connection with life beneath in an unseen dimension.

After a quiet half an hour I moved fifty yards along the bank and restarted my quest. The line drew tight and life once again pulsed at the end of the line. After a pleasing tussle a handsome brown trout of close to 2lb was brought to the net and admired briefly before being slipped back to disappear with a flick of its tail. Another brown trout equally handsome followed a couple of casts later; half the size of the first.

After an hour without further success the nagging doubts began to set in prompting a move. Once again I cast out into the lake ever expectant. I watched anglers on the far bank and wondered how they were faring? I changed flies, small lures, large lures, small imitative patterns, slow retrieve, fast retrieve, erratic, smooth, deeper and shallower. This is the fascination of fly fishing on a large wind swept Stillwater. Whilst the trout are stocked the fishing has a feeling of wildness that is not experienced in the smaller commercial trout fisheries.

Location is of course vital in the search for success and after three hours without a winter rainbow I decided to move to the far bank. I walked back to the van, broke down the rod; loaded the gear and drove to the next car park.

A hot coffee from the flask and I set off to fish a new area with renewed optimism. I waded out and punched the line out across the lake. A stiff breeze was blowing and the water felt cool as I stood waist deep. It was now early afternoon and I sensed that the best of day had passed. Suddenly the line zipped tight and the rod hooped over as a hard fighting rainbow threw itself into the air. It was a relief to get a rainbow on the bank a pristine fish of a couple of pounds.

I fished on with  renewed expectation and was soon rewarded as a heavy pull resulted in connection with a super fit rainbow that took the line almost to the backing. The rod was hooped over as I relished the moments as the fish shook its head on a tight line making repeated powerful runs. After several tense minutes the rainbow was coaxed over the waiting net. Four and a half pounds of fin perfect perfection was given the last rites and laid to rest beside the other rainbow.

The winter sun eventually broke through illuminating the landscape. Shots from a nearby shoot drifted across the lake. I fished on content with success and was delighted when once again the line drew tight and a third prime conditioned rainbow was brought to the net after another exciting tussle.

The sun was now sinking closer to the hill tops and I decided to head for home after an exciting and rewarding days fishing. Wimbleball remains open until New Year’s Eve and is well worth a visit. I look forward to returning at the end of February at the start of a new season. Many thanks must go to Mark and Trudi Underhill for providing what is undoubtedly the jewel in the crown of South West trout fishing. Its not always easy but those rainbows are true piscatorial perfection!

Berkley Wire Cutters – Handy Snips

Berkley Side Wire Cutters

“Pike anglers are strongly advised by the Pike Anglers Club to always carry a strong pair of side cutters in case there is a need to cut through hooks to aid unhooking.” These Berkley Side wire cutters are ideally suited to this purpose and a wide range of other uses for the sea angler and lure angler.

They are excellent tools for snipping off those old rusty hooks on lures prior to replacing them.

It is also a good idea to carry a pair of side cutters for use in an emergency. I once had a large hook penetrate a finger whilst in Egypt fishing for Nile perch and was forced to have the hook cut free to remove it from my finger. Many hours away from hospital I dread to think how we could have proceeded without a pair of side-cutters.

Heavy duty wire traces used in sea angling need top quality side cutters for cutting traces to length when making traces and for the occasional instance when a hook is too deep to remove from a fish.

The Berkley side cutters have carbon steel jaws, Corrosion Resistant Composite Coating, Ergonomic Co-moulded handle, spring assisted one handed operation and an adjustable lanyard.

These smart looking side cutters are a useful addition to any  sea angler or lure fisher’s armoury.