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.

Thought for VE Day

In these troubled times we look back at the dark days of the second world war and some have drawn parallels to those dark times. Can we really compare the sacrifice of staying home to stay safe with the terror and destruction of a conflict that raged for more than six years?

I recalled a photo I saw a few years ago sat upon the mantle piece of a fishing hut beside the peacefully flowing River Torridge. It is somehow reassuring to stand beside a river and feel the continuity of nature. I am sure there were anglers who rested here thankful to have survived the horrors of conflict whilst casting a line across tranquil waters.

In the coming months it is to be hoped that anglers can once again return to the waters edge. Sadly the numbers of salmon are much depleted since those days 75 years ago when the nation celebrated Victory in Europe.

FAVOURITE PLACES –  I  have fished Part 1

There is plenty of reminiscing going on at present and I guess that’s inevitable in these strange times when our freedom has been taken away. Looking at a wide range of pictures on social media has prompted me to put together this short article highlighting a few of the wonderful places that angling has taken me to. I will add that North Devon and my home waters are far higher on the list than these notes indicate. The reason for this is that on trips away there is perhaps a fuller emersion in the angling dimension.

You may notice that each section contains a photo of the expedition party as we all know its not just about fish and places its also very much about friendship!

SARK

            Arrival to this Island situated out in the English Channel takes one to a world apart where life runs slower. There are no cars, no street lights and few shops. Steep cliffs descend to clear waters where huge grey mullet were our target. Sadly, the numbers have declined since our early visits when we often glimpsed double figure specimens. We also caught black bream to over 4lb on float-fished bread-flake. On our early visits we took the ferry from Weymouth and carried huge packs of gear. We fished all day for mullet then retired to our accommodation for tea before heading out to fish for the huge conger that lurked at the base of the harbour jetty. It was then the then hike back up the harbour hill the autumn leaves smelling of decay as they collected on the path. It was then time to dine on cheese on toast, enjoy a last brew and crawl into bed for 1.00am.

Up at 7.00am,  fry up and back out on the push bike for another day watching floats bob upon the water disappearing from time to time followed by a bent rod and screaming reel.

There were of course the occasional visit to the Islands two pubs. The Belle-air ( The Tourist Pub) or the Mermaid Tavern that was like stepping back into the 1970’s. Sadly modern times had started to catch up when we last visited but I remember fondly the smoky haze and nicotine stained décor that reminded me of my youth.

IRELAND

            I have been to Ireland on three or four fishing excursions. A week plugging for bass on the Copper Coast. A week fishing for grey mullet on the Copper Coast around Dungarvan and a week on the West Coast with the Combe Martin SAC. Ireland is a beautiful land to cast a line an angler’s dream. In a week long bass fishing trip I managed to blank! But I loved every minute.

When I went back a year later I caught a PB mullet of 6lb 15oz and glimpsed several mullet that would have crashed the scales to over ten pounds. I really must return!

There is a wonderful valley where the River Tay meets the sea at Stradbally Cove. As the tide floods into this tranquil sheltered cove grey mullet drift like grey ghosts into the river mouth. I remember seeing a large sea trout sadly languishing with disease and wondered what treasures this river had once held as it ran through the green and pleasant land on its journey from high in the mountains that the sun set behind each evening as we relaxed after a hard day on the coast.

This wooded valley hidden on the Copper Coast is  a place I often wander to in my minds eye. A boat moored upon the bank and mullet browsing as they move in on the flooding tide. The quiver tips poised expectantly as we wait in the peaceful valley far from the troubles of the world.

Norway

            The land of the midnight sun. Clear cold waters, big fish, snow-capped mountains, glaciers. Almost too much for words to describe or to do justice for as I write I realise there is so much to say and so little time.

So many highlights from our two journeys to this spectacular land. Our fishing was largely divided into day time fishing with lures for cod and coalfish searching the mighty Fjords with deep and mysterious waters that teamed with life. Or drifting the shallows in the long evenings for the mighty halibut with fresh dead-baits bounced over the sand.

On one memorable night we fished through a windless night on glassy tranquil waters catching huge numbers of hard fighting cod the best falling to Rob Scoines a mighty fish of over 40lb on a light bass rod. I will never forget that night with mist hanging in the air as we savoured  a twilight of delight to the sound of sheep bells drifting in the cool clean air.

Another highlight had to be climbing a mountain to gaze across a vast vista of mountains and fjords.

Iceland

            A fish every cast I was told by our hosts! To my disbelief this was not too far from the truth for at most marks the rod tip bounced within moments of the bait hitting the sea bed. Codling two at a time, plump dab most over a pound. I also witnessed a shore caught plaice of over 7lb.

The many highlights of this trip included a whale watching excursion where we found several pods of humpback whales getting so close the spray from their blow spume drifted on us in the arctic air.

We fished a competition on a beach and as darkness fell the Northern Lights danced mesmerizingly above the mountains. We bounced back across a rugged road to the hotel and the presentation night as Motorhead blasted out on the car radio; “Born to Raise Hell”. A truly memorable fishing trip and I came second in the competition catching 52 fish if my memory serves me right.

Egypt

            In total contrast to the cold lands of Norway and Iceland in 1997 Nick Phillips and I ventured to the vast Lake Nasser in search of Nile perch. We enjoyed a week long adventure camping each night in the desert and fishing in temperatures that at times exceeded 100 Degrees Fahrenheit. At the time the comet Hale Bop was traversing the night sky. It was strange to think that the last time this had been seen from earth the ancient Egyptians were building pyramids.

I guess one highlight had to be catching a Nile perch of 83lb whilst casting from a rocky shoreline. The huge fish smashed into my Rapala lure its body erupting from the water as it shook its head violently before diving deep into the lake. Twenty minutes later I struggled to hold the mighty fish aloft for a photo!

Then there were scorpions, crocodiles and feasts under the midday sun. The Nubian guides were great people and showed great warmth and friendship.  I remember clearly an Island we fished one day where snake skins littered the boulders upon which we stood. Cobras we were told; get bitten by one of those and it’s probably the kiss of death!

,

Scariest moment had to be when I was unhooking a Nile perch of around thirty pounds. The loose treble found the middle of my finger going right through! The perch was still on the other treble and thrashed around in the boat. A big 3/0 treble and thick gauged wire with a big barb was not good. I have to admit I felt a little dizzy as the blood oozed. A pair of pliers came to the rescue, an oily rag stemmed the blood flow. A hospital was far away; at least six hours and there were fish to catch. Amazingly by the end of the week my finger had healed and all I have is a scary memory.

The first night of our stay was in a luxury hotel I remember the heat and buzzing of a mosquito in our room. Music seemed to drone on in the distance until the early hours. We got to bed at midnight and were on our way into the desert to begin our adventure shortly after 4.00am in the morning. We stayed on safari boats camping at a different location each night as we fished our way along the vast Lake Nasser. I loved the remote desert but I cannot say I relished the craziness of Aswan and Luxor. Dining on a boat moored up beside the Nile was however a memorable experience.

Anglers Paradise

Tackle Memories

I was sorting through the tackle shed today and there is a quite a lot of old tackle some of it given to me over the years. It has dwelt in those old tackle boxes for years but this lockdown has given time to delve into the boxes and start to tidy. Much of it will never be used again but it does unlock a few memories.

(Above)The Mepps spinners that were favourites for salmon and sea trout in those days of plenty before the Fly Only Rules came into protect stocks.

The Mackerel spinners, Devon Minnows and classic the ABU Toby. 

(Above) The Winfield Shanny – Made in Gt Britain 

I notice the Winfield Shanny that brought back a fond memory of when Woolworths sold fishing tackle. Every Saturday afternoon my parents went to Barnstaple to do the weekly shop. I would wander off to visit the Rod Room or Gales. Or perhaps to Woolworths to buy a cheap bit of tackle or look through the record department. Them maybe call into A J Watts for some trendy clothes and finish off with a coffee in John Gays Coffee house.

TEN YEAR AGO – North Devon Journal Report – March 28th 2010

With the ongoing lockdown and no fishing I thought I would start digging into my North Devon Journal Archives.

Late March 2010 and salmon fishing is top of the agenda and the debate rages regarding how to safeguard salmon stocks. Ten years later stocks continue to dwindle despite a massive investment in habitat improvements.  It s good to see a few familiar names in the competition results.

ANGLING REPORT

ULTRA have ambitious plan

            Salmon and sea trout of our local rivers provide the pinnacle of angling experience for many attracting game fishers from all over the country. This has been a significant part of the rural economy for many years with prime salmon fishing commanding a high price. A significant drop in salmon and sea trout numbers has lead to a decline in a once thriving rural industry. Many local anglers can recall a bygone era when riverside Inns such as the Rising Sun at Umberleigh would be packed with anglers each evening returning from the river with their bright silver prizes.

It was therefore apt that a new group calling itself ULTRA held an inaugural meeting at the Rising Sun. The Upper & Lower Taw Rivers Alliance is a group of anglers and riparian owners who have an ambitious plan to restore the spring salmon run using native broodstock to produce smolts for restocking. This is a complex issue that a working party has been set up to explore. The Environment Agency has given early indications that they will be likely to consent to the scheme.Tim Clarke is Chairman of the alliance and Dave Smith secretary; details of the group can be found on their website www.rivertaw.org

The web cam at Umberleigh that proves a valuable window on the river for anglers is temporarily out of action following a fire at Murchs’ Antiques Emporium upon whose building the camera is fixed. Web cams of a dozen West Country Rivers can be viewed by visiting www.therisingsunfc.co.uk

There are rods available on a prime stretch of salmon and sea trout water on the Taw and Little Dart at Tremayne near Chulmleigh. Anyone interested in this opportunity should contact John Smith on 01363 84804.

As spring slowly progresses carp anglers are enjoying action on several of the regions lakes. I fished Furzebray carp lake near South Molton last weekend and found myself fishing a swim between brothers Ally Laird and Ian Laird who had already landed three double figure carp during their weekend session. During Sunday afternoon I was privileged to witness them land a further three carp, two of which were prime mirror carp weighing 16lb 6oz.  Boilies, corn and pellets are all tempting fish on this well landscaped fishery.

At Angler Paradise carp are feeding well with several twenty pound plus fish caught including a 25lb 8oz mirror to the rod of Chris Rainbow and a 21lb 8oz specimen for Tom Cole.

Anglers Paradise

At Highhampton lakes the owners have been working hard preparing their lakes for the coming season. The trout lakes have been drained, refilled and restocked in time for the Easter weekend. The coarse lakes already healthy stock has been added to with double figure carp, quality tench and bream. There are also additional facilities including a new toilet and cooking area.

Ilfracombe Match groups latest match at Legge Farm near Hatherleigh saw Peter Slade take top spot with 34lb 15oz of roach and skimmers on soft pellet hook bait. Andy Gray took runner up spot with 31lb 15oz of skimmers on corn hook baits. John Lisle was a very close third with 31lb 10oz of carp on corn the loss of a carp of around one pound in the margins costing him dear. The silver fish bag went to Peter Slade with his fine bag of roach and skimmers.

Don’t forget its time to renew your rod licence at Local post offices or online at www.environment-agency.gov.uk/rodlicence Remember that finance received from licenses is invested in promoting and protecting angling and the environment. Failure to carry a rod licence can result in prosecution and a substantial fine.

The latest heat of the North Devon League saw Julian Stainer secure the top two spots for Triple Hook Club with dogfish scaling 2lb 7oz and 2lb 6oz.

Tony Gooch won Bideford And District Angling Clubs Mid Week Rover with a dogfish of 2lb 4⅝oz. In runner up spot was Jazza John with a doggie of 1lb 15⅞oz and in third Dick Talbot with a dog of 1lb 12½oz

Dick Talbot won Bideford’s 24 hour rover with a thornback ray of 8lb 2oz. Dick also secured runner up spot with a doggie of 2lb 3oz. Nathan Clements was third with a dogfish of 1lb 15⅝oz.

Triple Hook Clubs Flyfishing match at Wistlandpound saw Steve Ousley victorious with a four fish bag totalling 5lb. In runner up spot Daniel Miles and Ashley Curd with three fish each for 3lb 12oz.

More Magic Memories from the River Lyn

Many thanks to John Slader for contributing to North Devon Angling News following on from William Ould’s writings.

(Above)A Young John Slader receives Fly Casting Tuition from his Father Bill Slader whilst fishing the Rivers East Lyn

Your recent post with the contribution from William Ould I found most interesting and it brought back many happy memories of the river Lyn I like to call home.

Not sure if William will remember me but for sure he will recall Bill my father.  There is not much difference in age but being brought up and going to school in Barnstaple our paths didn’t cross that often.  I remember him along with Michael Shute and Chick Andrews, not to mention a host of other individuals that frequented the river.

Regretting not having kept a diary, I nevertheless vividly recollect an occasion fishing for mullet just below Lyndale bridge on a high tide.  William was also there and at the top of the tide he hooked and landed a specimen of a mullet.  I have in my mind it was much bigger than the 4lb 9oz show in the photograph.  It drew a crowd of visitors and Jack Clapp came out of his café to see what all the fuss was about and killed the fish by breaking its neck.  Not such a fitting end to a splendid fish.

As a child I often accompanied my father when he was salmon fishing but my true first time for salmon was in 1960 when at the age of nine he bought me a day’s  licence as a birthday present.  Costing the sum of five shillings, a not insignificant sum in those days, he bought it at Tregonwell’s on the Tors Road.  We sat on the first floor looking down the river as Ronald Burgess filled out the paperwork and my father enquired whether there was a concession for a child. He was told there wasn’t as it was not expected someone of my age would fish for the king of fish.

Licence secured, we went up to Watersmeet walking up the path behind the house towards Stag Pool and Horner.  The route taking you well above the river and what my father always referred to as the “Hangings”;  an area which brought me into contact with a number of fish in later life.  The path eventually comes back into close proximity to the river below Stag pool.  I was given instructions to stay put whilst my father back tracked and ventured down to Dumbledon a particular favourite pool of his although not so easy to access.

As I was waited for his return I looked into the river to see a salmon laying back in what was a very small pool.  I cautiously took a few steps closer and surprisingly managed to get into position without disturbing the fish.  Using a No 4 mepp I cast upstream but my inexperience kicked in as I managed to line the fish which immediately shot off and took sanctuary in the white water.  My heart sunk believing I had scuppered my chances but I had a couple more blind casts only to find myself attached to the fish hooked fair and square in the mouth.  Typical youngster I held my ground not wanting to give the fish an inch and shouting at the top of my voice “Dad, Dad….”  A waste of breath really as any shouting would have been drowned out by the sound of the river.  As luck would have it, looking down river, my father’s head appeared over the rocks as he exited Dumbledon.  He quickly negotiated the rocks to join me and help land the fish; a grilse of just over 4lbs.

Returning to Watersmeet we each had a celebratory small bottle of fizzy grapefruit and Dad caught up on the news with childhood friend Roy Nercombe.

I went on to catch many more salmon in the 60’s / 70’s but none stick in the memory quite as much as the first.

The last time I fished the Lyn for salmon must have been over 15 – 20 years ago.  I was visiting my parents in Barnstaple in August after very heavy rainfall; what would have been the perfect conditions in years gone by.  I arrived in Lynmouth at lunchtime but questioned if I would be able to find a parking space although to my surprise there was only one vehicle parked above Vellacotts.  Thinking everyone had caught their brace and gone home I ventured down to the river to find an angler fishing in Overflow who, along with a friend, had travelled from Cornwall for a day’s salmon fishing.

We chatted and although he had caught a grilse he had little else to report.  Because I couldn’t see the salmon I assumed he had returned it but later during the conversation he opened his bag to reveal the fish.  I went on to fish until dusk casting in every known pool from the Tors Road to Watersmeet without a touch and nor did I see a fish in what I considered perfect conditions.   Rather disheartened I travelled back to Barnstaple wondering whether I had seen the last Lyn salmon!  So sad when I think back to those days of abundance we enjoyed and took for granted back in the 60’s.

Although I still purchase a migratory fish licence I really do call into question whether I will ever cast for a salmon again.  I think I would rather live with my memories and feel privileged that I experienced first hand those days which, when we look back on them, were so special.

John Slader

17th February 2020

(Above) Bill Slader with a fine brace of Lyn salmon

Recollections from Lyn Waters

posted in: Article, Game Fishing, Sidebar | 0

My thanks to William Ould for this valuable contribution to North Devon Angling News.

(Above) Vellacotts and above Chick’s Rock around 1968.

I noticed a comment whilst browsing on social media relating an old photograph of the River East Lyn at Watersmeet. “I love this place and caught many salmon in the two pools back in the day.” Wrote William Ould. Intrigued as always by any story related to the Lyn I sent an enquiring message. The following feature was the result of our exchange.

William Ould was a successful angler fishing the Lyn and the North Devon Coast as young teenager. He was taught the art of worming for salmon by Cliff Railway Worker and Londoner Chick Andrews. William was an observant young teenager who was prepared to walk miles in pursuit of salmon sea trout and brown trout.

William caught his first salmon in 1962 on a trout spoon whilst fishing for the Lyn’s abundant brown trout during a late season spate. The fish was to be life changing experience for young William. “ My spinner was rising from the milky spate water, just fining down, this huge fish followed and took it not seven feet from my eye. A 5lb grilse, but huge to my eyes when seeking a large Lyn brown trout of 8oz or so. The fight also caused the destruction of my KP Morrit’s Standard fixed spool reel.” William kept a diary of his salmon fishing exploits in the following years recording 29 in his first season of 1963, totalling 257 salmon between 1962 and 1966, including a record catch of 17 salmon in a single day with 15 returned. It would not be permitted today! On another single day when everything seemed to feed a brace of salmon was followed by a full limit of peal and a number of browns too. Such catches of salmon over a season would not have been considered out of the ordinary back in the early sixties when the River East Lyn had an abundance of salmon and sea trout from May onwards as I discovered whilst researching for my book “I Caught A Glimpse’ Published by the Little Egret Press in 2019.

The 14 lb salmon July 26 1963
(Above) Place of capture Willums Island
Peal of 6 ¾ lbs Taken of No. 3 gold Mepps

After leaving North Devon William would return on a regular basis to visit his mother whilst she lived in Lynton. During these visits Wistlandpound Reservoir was a regular excursion to test new fly fishing skills learned on the great reservoir of Grafham Water, which was itself enjoying record returns. Success at Wistlandpound with bag limits of 8 fish on opening day sometimes got repeated later in the season as natural life abounded in warmer waters. However success was certainly not assured on birthdays in June when bright conditions and long days were teasingly challenging.  One occasion produced lethargy towards lunch and a buzzer on a super long leader was launched away from the bank.  In the light wind the line was allowed to work back towards the shore with rod resting against a bag as drink and sandwich was consumed – then line sailed away drawing rod towards and almost losing it and sandwiches to the water but with a fine rainbow resulting. A Happy Birthday!

William also fished the rocky shores around Lynmouth visiting Lee Stone, Hewitt’s Rock, Lee Bay and Woody Bay. One of Williams first good sea fish was a 4lb 8oz grey mullet caught from the roadside wall at Lynmouth using bread-paste as visitors looked on during a high tide in August.

Fortunately, grey mullet still haunt the harbour as they did then and high waters often see me catching grey mullet as the visitors look on asking those familiar questions. “ What do you catch here then?’. “Grey mullet they’re hard to catch aren’t they?”.  I have had hundreds of conversations with visiting anglers whilst fishing for both mullet and bass at Lynmouth.

(Above)  Bass 7 ¼ lbs from the Esplanade Lynmouth Taken on Brent squid. Had whole crab inside

Lee Stone was a popular venue back in William’s youth and he recalls stories of intrepid locals fishing the deep water off the Stone for conger using handlines and 2lb leads when accidents were not uncommon as two pound of lead was swung around the head like a slingshot and launched seawards, trailing big sharp conger hooks and half herring for bait. In those days it was considered improper to fish on a Sunday but it was told that one of the early hand-lining fisherman of the name Hicks went to the Stone one Sunday but returned to town running as fast as he could and in a distressed manner convinced that the devil was after him!  He’d never fish on Sundays thereafter.

One night in summer William was enjoying an all night trip on the Stone when he got “a good but teasing bite, hooked, and reeled the animal ashore. In the dim light from a paraffin hurricane lamp imagine my distress as the very horns of the devil appeared over the ledge. Heart in mouth I lifted it into view. My first fine lobster!”

Right – Will with salmon 11lbs 8oz (l) taken from Overflow and Mike Shute with a salmon 8 lbs 8oz from Willums. 4th June 1963 

Bill Ould  10/2/2020

My family always knew me as Will, and many Lynton people likewise. Thereafter I’ve been known as Bill since when joining industry there was already a William in the same laboratory. My colleagues chose Bill for me.

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