Torridge Fly Fishing Club – Gammaton Reservoirs

We called into Summerlands Tackle shop to pick up our Permits for Gammaton Reservoirs and It brought home to me the vitally important role these establishments play in bringing anglers together. Mooching around the shop was long-time friend, angler and local guitar maestro Jim Crawford. We exchanged greetings and once again talked of a joining up for a long awaited foray beside a mysterious tree lined carp water.

Parking up at Gammaton memories flooded back of a time many years ago when I came here to work with the South West Water Authority. The two reservoirs used to provide water to Bideford via a water treatment plant consisting of slow sand filters. A labour intensive process that employed a small team lead by the resident Superintendent who would now of course be a manager. Charlie was a hard working countryman who lived in the water workers cottage. The garden was neat and tidy with rows of runner beans and a few spuds, a vision of Beatrix Potter’s Mr Mc-Gregor’s garden. My memory imagines pink roses somewhere in the garden though the mists of time perhaps enhance the vision.

The house still remains, and some of the old infrastructure still lingers from the water works but the old wooden work mans shed is long gone. A place where we would take a lengthy tea break or shelter from the rain. Charlie was a hard worker and took a great pride in the water works and the reservoirs. I remember the old Allen Scythe grass mowers that would be used to keep the grass dam trimmed. Old hand bill hooks were still used and honed sharp with a carborundum stone. I well remember talking with Charlie about the weather expressing concern about a particularly dry spell. “ Nature has its way of balancing out he told me; rainfall levels tend to average out throughout the year”.

When I started with the water board over forty years ago it seemed a very different world. Charlie and the water board men worked in a stable environment that had flowed along for decades where time seemed abundant. The water flowed from the two reservoirs gravitated through the old filters, a bit of chloros was added to kill the bugs and the water was distributed to the people of Bideford. In the summer the grass was trimmed and in the winter the ditches were kept clean and the fences mended. If it was wet the Allen Scythe would be oiled and maintained its blades sharpened. The old wooden shed would smell of oily rags and topics of the day would be discussed over a cuppa.

No spreadsheets, no technology except the landline that was linked to a bell on the side of the shed.

I digress in a bit of reminisce brought about by the location and the fact that I Leave SWW next week after close to forty two years. Besides it is worth recording a memory of times gone by before its gone.

Above the dam little has changed over the years. It’s the last day of April and primroses line the banks. Fresh growth burst forth from the trees and birdsong emanates all around. Lambs skip about in adjacent fields and the panorama of North Devon stretches out beneath a bright blue sky.

The fishing is controlled by Torridge Fly Fishing Club established in 1959, day tickets can be purchased from Summerlands Tackle permitting visiting anglers to keep three fish at a reasonable cost of £20. The trout are predominantly rainbow’s averaging 2lb to 4lb stocked by Bulldog Trout Fishery.

Several anglers were fishing when James and I arrived and made us very welcome offering much advice on flies and tactics.

We started on the lower dam searching the water with a floating line and long leader. The water was crystal clear rippled by a cold North wind that had prevailed throughout this April. A few fish broke the surface beyond casting range and after half an hour we decided to move to a promising looking area that had been made vacant by a successful angler.

The water here was deeper and I cast with greater confidence. After ten minutes James exclaimed surprise as a rainbow erupted from the water on a tight line surging away at speed the rod arching in battle. After a few tense minutes a full tailed rainbow of close to four pounds was safely in the net and given the last rites. The catching of the trout was given additional provenance as the rod James was using was the treasured possession of James fiancée’s grandpa who loved fly fishing for trout in the reservoirs close to London. A nine foot six inch Silver Creek Reservoir rod that has a rather forgiving soft action in line with the time it was manufactured.

Ten minutes later another rainbow was hooked by James and promptly threw the hook. By this time, I had not had a pull and was wondering what I was doing wrong. A feeling that was added to when James added a second rainbow to his tally.

Several small yet handsome perch seized our flies between trout bringing a bit of variance with their pleasingly smart defiant manner.

Persistence paid off eventually and the line zipped tight as a pleasing and very hard pulling rainbow seized my blue flash damsel.

As the afternoon passed I suggested we wander up to the top lake and try our luck. The familiar path had not changed over the years as it lead us to the slightly more open top lake.

The water here appeared deeper and I was confident of success especially when I spied the bent rod of a fellow angler on the far bank.

After ten minutes my line pulled tight and another fighting fit rainbow was brought to the net. Followed a cast later by another stunning fish of close to four pounds that pulled beyond its size.

With my bag completed it was time to relax and take in the view. I took the camera for a walk and captured the scene as swallows swooped in the cool evening air.

James persisted trying for his third trout but it seemed that luck had deserted him for the day and eventually after several last casts he decided it was time to head off for portions of fish and chips on the way home.

And so ended another almost perfect day in an angling life especially so in sharing it with James after a long break from fishing together in part due to the COVID times we have all endured.

Out of Lockdown Trip to Wimbleball

I took advantage of the partial easing of lockdown on Monday and travelled to Wimbleball Reservoir high on Exmoor in search of the venues hard fighting rainbows. On arrival a cool breeze was blowing and mist shrouded the hills, with sunshine forecast later in the day it was likely that the best sport would come early in the day. The water was certainly cold as I waded out to begin searching the water. A floating line and long leader with small black lures proved effective and soon brought a few pulls before I eventually stayed connected to a hard fighting rainbow of around 3lb. This was followed by two more similar sized fish before midday when the sun broke through as forecast.

The lakes surface reflected the blue sky and shimmered brightly, birdsong reverberated all around, buzzards soared high above and a pair of greater crested grebes flirted in the spring sunshine. The croaking of toads drifted across the water and fresh buds where bursting out from the tips of the bankside trees. There is far more to this fishing lark than catching fish!

As expected the fishing went quiet for a while but a change to an intermediate line in late afternoon brought further action with a wild brown trout and a brace of superb rainbow the biggest estimated at over 6lb.

Throughout the day I changed my flies several times in search of the correct pattern for the moment. I often ponder upon the value of changing patterns and its actual impact on results. The six trout I tempted were tempted on the following patterns; black wooly bugger 2,  Blue flash and olive Damsel 2, black buzzer 1 and orange blob 1. It is important to remember that there are many other factors to take into consideration beyond the choice of fly/lure including feeding depth, light values and rate of retrieve. It is also worth asking the question as to whether we are trying to imitate natural food that forms part of the trout’s diet or trying to stimulate a reaction? Generally early season I tend to go for black or olive and probably had  a black lure of some type or a damsel on the point throughout 95% of the day and fished a team of 3 flies throughout. The biggest fish of the day fell to the orange blob yet I only put this fly on late in the day when I had swapped to an intermediate line and speeded up the retrieve. Most decisions are made on the basis of an educated hunch and for most of my fishing I stick to the tried and trusted though this has changed over the years as patterns have come in and out of vogue.

It is this continual search for the answers that keeps us fishing the fun part is that each day has a different set of questions and different answers.

VARIETY ON THE PIER

Fishing covers a wide spectrum and its always good to hear of anglers successes and experiences. Ilfracombe angler Toby Bassett is an allrounder who catches pike from the local reservoir, sharks off the coast and also enjoys scaling right down to experience the wonders of multi species fishing with LRF tackle. Many thanks to Toby for his  account below.

Every year i try and catch as many species as I can and this this year like everyone else I have been limited to just the Bristol Channel due to travel restrictions which has given me plenty of time to focus on local marks and where better then the pier to rack up my tally? I have always heard of weird and wonderful fish coming on out on the LRF gear so thats been my main goal and the clingfish always in the back of my mind as one of the more prized mini species, so when i actually caught one i was stunned, such an awesome slimy little morsal and a big tick off the list! That brings my tally to 20 species so far this year, i still have a few trickier fish to target as the year goes on such as the illusive tadpole fish and the dragonette but this cornish sucker has made me one happy focker lol!  Toby Bassett

Wild Brown Trout on the East Lyn

Many thanks to Simon Francis who sent me this inspiring feature on the tumbling waters of the East Lyn.

Wild Brown Trout on the East Lyn

The season for wild brown trout has sprung into life on North Devon’s East Lyn. Having bought my ticket from Barbrook Petrol station, I fished the National Trust Watersmeet and Glenthorne fishery, especially the stretch from Crooks Pool (that used to be called S Pool) up through Rockford, to the Meadow Pool in Brendon.
Whilst cold on the opening days plenty of fish were taken. Mostly from noon to 3pm. Almost exclusively they took the point fly and invariably this was a barbless bead head hares ear, or pheasant tail. I tried shrimp and caddis patterns, but it was the gold head hares ear that took the majority of fish.
The fish held just off the main current, and takes on my New Zealand rigged setups were pretty gentle, just a pause, a dip or the wool just drifted under. I saw just two rises on the first two days, presumably parr, most fish were sat right on the bottom.
A few Grannom, a rare March Brown and a couple of Stone Fly were hatching. Heron, Dippers, Nuthatch, Treecreepers, and Ravens kept me company, but the Otter spraint from previous weeks was absent.
Whilst I’ve not fished the river this week, I’ve walked it every day, it’s dropped and has cleared, and is crystal clear now. The fish have risen in the water column, and a hatch will trigger surface action. I’ll be out in the next few days armed with some elk hair caddis, March browns, but also general attractor patterns.
I saw one, quite large, sea trout or grilse quite high up the river, and will return with something heavier than my 3wt and 2.5lb tippet!
For anyone that hasn’t tried the East Lyn before, you should. It is stunningly beautiful. It’s wild fishing. It’s as far away from bashing put and take rainbows as you can get (fun though that can be). It’s not for the wobbly, or faint hearted, as some of ravines and rocks are hard work, but the rewards of wild spotty in your hand are more than worth it.
If you are passing Primrose Cottage www.primrosecottageexmoor.co.uk in Rockford, pop in for tea and tell us how you are getting on, or for emergency flies!
Rod Licenses are required. Fish barbless. Leave no trace of your presence and pick up any other rubbish you see. Tickets are available at the Barbrook Petrol Station,Barbrook Filling Station, Barbrook. Tel: 01598 752248 or the Tourist Information Centre, Town Hall, Lynton. Tel: 0845 6603232
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A CRISIS IN OUR RIVERS – A BROKEN TRUST – Ian Blewett

There has been considerable coverage recently in the media regarding the dramatic decline in the health of the UK’s rivers and I have written several short articles on this here on North Devon Angling News. I asked Ian Blewett secretary of the River Taw Fisheries Association if he would write an article highlighting the issues we face here in North Devon as I believe that it is important to bring these issues to as wide an audience as possible. Sincere thank’s to Ian for producing a hard hitting and thought provoking feature.

A CRISIS IN OUR RIVERS – A BROKEN TRUST

In September this year, the government released a report that revealed something that many Anglers and Angling bodies had known for some while. The Environment Agency (EA) report showed for the first time ever that not one single river in the whole of England had achieved a good chemical status rating. Proving beyond doubt that pollution from sewage discharge, chemicals and agriculture is having a hugely detrimental impact on river quality right across the country. The contrast with the ratings of a previous survey in 2016 couldn’t be more stark – then 97% of rivers were judged to have good chemical status (albeit the standards are now tougher). Put simply it means that there is not a river system in England that isn’t already polluted and becoming more so. It proves that over the last decade that the water quality in all English rivers has rapidly declined and that the EA had failed in its statutory duty to protect and enhance. This is worrying situation if you are an angler or interested in the environment because it means that we are failing in our fight for clean water and have been badly let down by governments at all levels.

Despite North Devon being such a wondrous place – remember we are an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with a uniquely important UNESCO biosphere slap in the middle of it, we don’t have a single river system or catchment that is not being routinely polluted and degraded as a fishery or wildlife habitat. Every catchment in N Devon is affected.  Every lake that collects water from the land, every stream that flows into a river, every river that has an estuary and every river estuary that flows out to sea across a beach. Anglers of all types are affected by this and given that fact, it means that anglers, wildlife enthusiasts and people who care must do more to protect our catchments. It means that those whose job it was to protect and enhance – the EA and other responsible bodies; DEFRA, the agricultural industry, local councils, planning authorities and of course the filthy, leaking, under- performing utility companies are routinely choosing to fail. The reality is that we put our trust in elected politicians and Govt institutions at National and local level and we have been badly let down. We must do better at holding the EA, local government and South West Water to account.

This EA diagram shows how well South West Water are doing in the under-achievers league:

Only Southern Water are worse. See Link below

https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/921087/Water_and_sewerage_companies_in_England_environmental_performance_summary_graphic_for_2019.pdf

In N Devon river pollution comes from three major sources: Sewage pollution. Chemical Pollution and Agriculture.

Every house in every town and village is linked to a sewage works or treatment facility. Every rural house or cottage if not connected t mains sewers probably has some form of septic tank or ancient drain away. Every seaside town probably has some form of combined sewer outfall. They are all linked in one way or another to water courses and thus to rivers and the sea. Many of these treatment works or facilities are very old, some are crumbling and many lack capacity. All treatment works are designed to discharge “treated” wastewater into existing water courses (streams & rivers) and at times of high flows or extraordinary demand, untreated sewage is also routinely discharged directly into existing water courses. On the Taw system alone there are at least 32 sewage treatment works. The EA licences SWW to discharge within a given set of discharge criteria but then asks the utility company to self-monitor and report itself when it breaks the rules! Guess what? It is documented that Utility companies regularly break the discharge consents and somehow forget report themselves.

A lack of infrastructure and capacity is a widespread problem in N Devon. Let’s take just one example. The South Molton Town Plan sees an additional 2,240 homes built over the next 10 years or so, that represents a growth in population of probably nearly 20%. The town has a Victorian sewage works that has been upgraded but it is maxed out in terms of space. It also has a system that collects raw sewage from one side of the town and pumps it back to the current sewage works. Currently it lacks the capacity to contend with the growth. SWW say there are plans to upgrade it – but they won’t say how, with what or even when. Why then did the planners give consent for all those houses if SWW can’t deal with the domestic sewage waste? Last year, residents in the area reckoned that the sewage works discharged raw sewage into the Mole for months on end but because they are self-monitoring it is difficult to prove a case for it happening. This is a pattern that is likely repeated across N Devon. Sewage pollution routinely occurs in places like Ilfracombe and Combe Martin and it could be happening near you.

Sewage contains poo. It also contains all sorts of chemicals (washing powder – enzymes), pharmaceutical residue (drugs, hormones and anti-biotics) and micro plastics. Much of the solid waste and bacteria is filtered out by the treatment process but in higher flows the harmful chemicals (nitrates and phosphates) and drug residues (hormones and anti-biotics) all go down the overflow pipe and into the river and because the EA has ceased routinely monitoring the health of our rivers we don’t know what sort of effect this is having. Modern septic tanks tend to contain their contents but must be emptied regularly or they will overflow with similar results. They must by law only be emptied by licenced companies using licenced disposal facilities.

Farmers are of course the custodians of the countryside; we need them to produce our food, but in recent years farming has intensified and N Devon hasn’t escaped the effects of that intensification. The face of agriculture has changed, arguably not always for the better. There are now fewer Dairy farmers but the milking herds are much bigger. Cows are kept indoors and fed a mixed diet of feeds that includes silage and haylidge. Fields are cut often twice or even three times a year to provide the raw material. The waste (shite) is collected in vast lagoons and then applied as slurry to fields once cut as fertiliser. It is potent, powerful stuff and quite devastating and dangerous if it gets in a pond or watercourse. When using or applying slurry or digestates as fertilser Farmers are supposed to comply with DEFRA’s Rules for Water – but a surprising number have never heard of them. Remember, a modern dairy farm milking 300 head of cattle produces as much waste as a small city and uses a vast amount of water so they have a responsibility to abide by environmental regulations and dispose of their waste accordingly. If you witness anyone discharging farm waste directly into a watercourse or spreading slurry in the immediate (within 5m) vicinity of a watercourse you should report the incident to the EA who should investigate.

A combination of so-called green incentives and bigger and more powerful machinery has also seen the face of arable farming change in N Devon. Farmers are being incentivised to grow whole crops and winter maize to feed a demand from biodigesters and intensive farms. Winter Maize is being grown on a large scale. It is harvested in October and November, the wettest time of the year. During the harvest vast amounts of mud are generated from topsoils disturbed by heavy machinery and if the weather is bad then much of that topsoil is washed into our rivers as tons of silt. You see the mess on the roads. Not only does this clog the spawning gravels used by migratory fish, it reduces salmonid spawning success by as much as 90% (GWCT figures). Increased flows also wash this silt down into the estuary affecting water quality and clarity and it is deposited in vast, dirty shifting banks that encourage algal growth in the Summer. These intensive crops need fertilising and growers routinely use, commercial fertilisers, slurry and digestate which is 3 x more devasting than slurry if it gets in the river. Not only that but each maize crop is sprayed several times in a growing season with a powerful aphicide, the residues of which all end up in the water. It all has a cumulative and negative effect particularly in low flows.

It must be said that the majority of farmers are environmentally friendly by inclination and go to considerable lengths to negate the impacts of farming on our rivers and watercourses but there are those who are not and they can do a lot of damage.

What can you do to stop or lessen the effects of pollution on our rivers? I’d like to suggest that there are a few simple steps that we can all take right now and they are as follows:

–           Put this number 0800 80 70 60 in your mobile. Every angler should have it. Keep your eyes open. Report incidents of potential pollution to the EA. Do not just walk by. If you see damage being done to the environment, flooding, any form of pollution (including excessive silt run off or raw sewage flowing into the river or estuary), dead fish, illegal water abstraction or incidents or spillages at waste disposal sites, ring the number and report the incident. All incidents reported to this number are logged and treated in total confidence and must be addressed by the EA. If you see something that looks or smells like pollution then it probably is – take some photos and report it immediately.

–           If you see a planning application for a development that is troubling you, then think about putting a question to your Parish, Town or North Devon District Councillor or even your MP (who states on her website that she will fight for the environment). Don’t just think about it – make an objection. Inquire about the provision of suitable infrastructure and capacity and do not be fobbed off. Ask them why it is that they are not fulfilling their environmental obligations – every political party makes them. Ask them why they aren’t holding the EA and SWW to account. They are supposed to be your elected representatives – hold them to account as well.

–           Whatever sort of angler you are you should probably think about joining an Angling body or Environmental organisation like the Angling Trust or the Wildlife Trust. These organisations are actively fighting the anglers/wildlife lovers corner. Give them your backing, they have access to top quality legal representation and are influencers, get involved and have a say.

–           You might even like to support Surfers Against Sewage in their latest campaign to stop river pollution. Sign up here: https://www.sas.org.uk/endsewagepollution/

–           Maybe if you are a river angler you might think about joining the River Taw Fisheries Association (RTFA – website here: http://www.rivertawfisheries.co.uk/index.html ) or its equivalent on the Torridge. The RTFA has modernised in recent years, it raises thousands of pounds each year and works with Westcountry Rivers trust to fund the removal of weirs, conduct river improvement work and spawning gravel washing.

The angling Trust have launched a campaign that anglers can join to fight against pollution. See link below.

Anglers Against Pollution

Now is the time to get involved. We cannot keep treating our waterways and rivers like open sewers – this is the 21st century and we deserve to have clean water. Our rivers, lakes, estuaries and beaches are incredibly important wildlife habitats and provide us as Anglers with opportunities to enjoy countless hours of fun. Get involved and throw your weight behind the wheel because many voices are better than one and we have to make the EA, our local representatives and SWW do better.

Once in a lifetime – Truly epic day – By Dan Welch

posted in: Article, Sea Angling, Sidebar | 0
Many thanks to Daniel Welch for sending this superb report on a truly epic days fishing.
Fishing is so much more than just catching a fish. It’s about the preparation, anticipation, the journey, the wildlife and the environment that surrounds you. It doesn’t matter how well prepared you are you never know what the result will be. Little did we know this trip was going to be one of those really special unforgettable ones.
Last Sunday the weather and tides were just right to go on the hunt for what some one say is one of the UKs ultimate fish, the porbeagle shark!
The alarm was set for 03:30 and we left harbour on high tide in the dark, the lights of the town and faded into the distance as we steamed out. As the first glimpses of daylight arrived the silhouette of the land began to appear and the surface of the sea shimmered, the conditions looked promising. We arrived at the chosen location a couple hours later.
3 shark rods were set at various depths all rigged with barbless circle hooks suspended beneath brightly coloured bottles. There were a lot of dolphins and a number of whales in the area surely this was a good sign. After a short wait the middle float disappeared and we hooked into the first shark of the day it was by no means big by porbeagle standards but a nice shark around a 100lb photos were taken and the fish return. We had a few more takes over the next couple hours and landed another two sharks and lost one and saw others cruising around beneath the boat in the crystal clear water.
Whilst fighting one shark there was a sudden commotion about 20m from the boat it was a shoal of skip jack or bonito sized tuna jumping clean out the water hitting bait fish, we could not believe our eyes. I frantically grabbed a lure rod and cast at them hoping one would grab the lure. Within a blink of an eye they vanished back into the depths and my focus returned to landing the shark. We were elated not only had we landed some of our target species we had also seen and come close to getting a tuna. Our expectations for the day had already been surpassed.
As low water approached fishing slowed down. We had been hearing load splashes and a commotion long way from the boat. As time past these got closure until we could actually see what was going on, it was huge feeding frenzies. The feeding frenzies got closer and closer until they were just a mile or two from us at this point we had to go and investigate. We steamed out at full speed to get out to the feeding frenzy before it moved again. When we arrived we came across an incredible site of multiple whales, dolphins, hundreds of sea birds, sharks and what we believed tuna feeding. Neither of us had seen anything like this before. We cast lures into the feeding frenzies and put whole mackerel baits in. Ross suddenly hooked something on a lure only for it to be ripped off the hook we then saw another shark beneath the boat and then the rod I was holding which had a whole mackerel bait was taken and it ran off at speed, it turned out to be a hard fighting male porbeagle. By the time I landed the shark the feeding frenzy had gone quite and we were left with a couple dolphins and whales around the boat and slick smooth water created by the fish oils released during the frenzy. We were so privileged to witness this off our own coast line and chances are it’s a once in a life time experience. We are just glad we managed to capture some photos and film to share without preconditions friends and family.
We hung around a bit longer but had no more bites so decided to worked our way back home fishing wrecks and reefs on the way back. We caught a number of bass and even a John Dory doing this.
In total we landed 4 sharks and lost one, the largest shark was estimated at 150lb. An incredible and almost unbelievable day! Ross summed it up saying “you don’t normally hear epic and fishing in the same sentence but today was truly and epic day”.

Benyon Review on Highly Protected Marine Areas – Angling Ban looms!!!

posted in: Article, Sea Angling, Sidebar | 0

Many of you will have heard of the Benyon Review on Highly Protected Marine Areas. Whilst I support the general principles of these reserves I do not believe that recreational angling should be included in proposed restricted activities. Now is the time to have your say for if you cannot be bothered you may find angling banned in large areas that have always been fished. The loss of sea angling along the North Devon coast would be a tragedy for many depriving many of a much loved hobby and putting many local businesses out of existence.

My Letter below:-

Dear Selaine Saxby,

                                         I am writing to you to express grave concerns regarding the recently published Benyon Review on Highly Protected Marine Areas. I have been a keen and dedicated sea angler for close to fifty years and it has always been a big part of my life. I was born in Combe Martin and have fished the local coastline since being introduced to the pastime by my late father. I have been a member of the Combe Martin Sea Angling Club since the age of thirteen and have served as both Secretary and Chairman of the club for over forty years. In addition I am a regular contributor to angling magazines, an author and write the weekly column in the North Devon Journal. I also run a popular local website North Devon Angling News.

               Sea angling is a popular pastime in North Devon and supports numerous businesses including Tackle Shops, Charter Boats, Holiday accommodation and many other local businesses. The Benyon report itself estimates a national spend of £847 million.

        I personally have always believed in the value of Marine Conservation Zones and fully understand the principles behind them. I have witnessed a dramatic decline in many species of fish during my long recreational angling life. I like most anglers now practice catch and release for most species taking only the occasional fish for the table. I do not believe anglers have a significant impact on fish stocks and should not be included in the same category as commercial fishing that has undoubtedly decimated fish stocks and caused severe damage to marine life with destructive fishing methods.

      I suggest that angling bodies should be consulted regarding these proposals with the Angling Trust engaging with the relevant bodies to seek a way forward with anglers working with conservation interests to promote improved fish stocks.

The template for such cooperation can be seen across the world where angling works with conservation bodies to protect fish stocks supporting a high value recreational resource that in turn supports many local businesses.

        I urge you to consider the value of sea angling in North Devon and the importance in providing a healthy pastime that is good for both mental and physical health. I’m writing to ask if you would write to the Rt Hon George Eustice, Secretary of State at DEFRA, and ask him to reject the proposals to bring in an automatic ban on sea angling in all of the new HPMAs and to support the recommendations of the Angling Trust’s response to the Benyon review.

Yours sincerely, 

                                         Wayne Thomas

Visit the Angling Trusts website for guidance on how to respond. I have sent a letter to our local MP and suggest you do the same its only takes fifteen minutes. Take time to write and save our wonderful pastime.

https://anglingtrustcampaigns.net/blog/angling-trust-response-to-hpma-benyon-review

Unlocking the mystery of the eel

Unlocking the mystery of the eel

Wistlandpound Reservoir was created in an enduring feat of engineering by building a clay core dam  across Bratton Stream during the late 1950’s. It supplies water to a large area of North Devon and has become a popular area for walkers and is used by the Calvert Trust to provide adventure holidays for disabled adults and children. The lake is managed by The South West Lakes Trust who also control angling at the venue which has a long history as a trout fishery.

My good friend Steve Dawe is a keen eel angler and member of the National Anguilla Club and we got talking about waters that contain eels and in particular large eels. I recalled how twenty or more years ago eels had become trapped in the inlet of the local water works and that these eels were of a good size.

Wistlandpound had never to our knowledge been fished for eels and it is a well-known fact amongst eel anglers that venues that have not been fished and have limited access for eels can hold the eels of dreams. The European eel has been known to live to over 100 years so it is possible that any eels trapped within Wistlandpound when the dam was constructed could still be present.

Steve and I spoke with Ben Smeeth who is head of angling at SWLT and after due consideration Ben agreed to an exploratory session to investigate the lakes eel potential.

Steves credentials as an eel angler are well documented so it was a welcome opportunity for me to join Steve and learn more about how to catch specimen eels. Whilst I have caught many eels over the years I have never caught a specimen of over 3lb and this target is now firmly in my sights.

Eventually in mid-June I met up with Steve and struggled to the banks of a depleted Wistlandpound with an array of tackle, bivvies’ and provisions. The weather forecast was a little ominous with a weather warning in place for thunderstorms and possible flash floods! This did little to dent our enthusiasm as eels are reported to become  more active during thunderstorms.

With the reservoir at around 60% capacity we had a good choice of accessible bank and selected a swim that gave access to deep water.

Steve gave me useful advice on the rigs to use and how to mount the small dead-baits to give a good chance of hooking an eel. Fortunately, we arrived before the rain and managed to get set up before it arrived in spectacular fashion accompanied by a very long resounding  rumble of thunder.

The rain beat down on our shelters and I looked out the rods hoping that a run would not come at this time. After a couple of hour’s, the rain eventually eased and we brewed a hot drink and began chatting about fish and fishing.

Suddenly Steve’s alarm burst into life and he was at his rod in expectation. To our disappointment he failed to connect and reeled in to find that his bait was gone.

We didn’t have long to wait though for within minutes my alarm sounded and I hoked into the culprit. It was no eel but a stunning wild brown trout of around 1lb 8oz.

Within half an hour Steve was in action again and connected this time to bring to the net a stunning wild brown trout that must have been over 3lb. I wondered just how big these wild browns grow to within the lake. I suspect there are a few surprises as there is now an abundance of silvery rudd residing in the lake perfect prey the lakes wild browns to grow to a large size.

Recent seasons have unfortunately been blighted by an abundance of thick green algae making fly Fishing difficult at times. Whilst trout are no longer stocked into the reservoir there is a good head of wild brown trout present and I am sure that Fly Fishing during the autumn could produce the goods as these large browns feed on the lakes abundant fry.

As the evening descended Steve and I talked extensively about our fishing lives and the many places  that we have visited and plan to perhaps visit in the future.

As we chatted we frequently cast our eyes upon the rods perched beside the lake their tips pointing into the green water. As the light faded expectation grew as this was surely the eels meal time?

After last hot drinks we both retired to our shelters to catch some sleep. Occasionally an alarm would give a single bleep and I would tense in anticipation. On one occasion I looked out to see a shadow flit away from the rods, an inquisitive fox I believe.

Just before light some type of bird gave a repeated cry that echoed around the lake in a strange almost stereo like mode. I spoke to Steve later who thought it could have been a type of hawk. Thinking back, I should have recorded it on my phone.

I snoozed intermittently as a grey and misty day dawned. I took a look at the weather forecast that told of heavy rain from 8.00am. The rods remained poised at the waters edge but by now our expectations of catching the mysterious eel had faded. After a rushed brew and breakfast we packed away our gear to escape before the rain. The question remains unanswered for now. The problem is that life is short and big eels can take time to find.

Fortunately there are plenty of other SWLT waters that have proven big eel potential. Upper Tamar lake, Lower Tamar, Melbury and Jennets all hold eels of over 4lb with far bigger eels likely to be lurking in the mysterious depths.

Sturgeon in North Devon – Can you help?

Sturgeon in North Devon – Can you help?

Angling Heritage has embarked on a project of finding out about the history of wild sturgeon in the UK, whether they were found as corpses, caught in nets or on regular tackle. (This doesn’t include stocked fish captures).

The Severn estuary was a stronghold in the past and as 5% of fish return to spawn in the wrong river we hoped there may be other records that you could help with or put us in contact with people who have some knowledge.  We have some information that one of 160lbs appeared at Bideford Bridge on May 17th 1862 and that three were in the Taw but that is the sum total information we have of North Devon.

Their last stronghold in the Europe is the Gironde in France where they believe there are only 500 wild fish left.  Conservation is being considered, but with males and females spawning in alternative years, the likelihood of wild fish breeding is very low.

A task force in Europe is looking at where the fish used to be with a view to reintroducing them. In the UK, where we have the longest coastline in Europe, they used to be plentiful but netting wiped them out as they used to be a staple food centuries ago. So any information would give an insight into where they lived in the past and  a indication of potential sites for introduction the future.

It is very early days and there is so much work to do in just compiling this database, but any help would be much appreciated.

Finally, if you catch one, put it back after photographing it and measuring it for the long term health of the species.

ANGLING TRUST CONFIRM FISHING TO RESUME ON WEDNESDAY

Looking Good stay Safe and follow the rules.