BIG FISH IN PERSPECTIVE

            It has been said that many anglers go through several stages in their angling journey. The first stage is undoubtedly to catch a fish. From this point most anglers progress into different directions. Some will become competitive entering the world of match fishing and trying to catch more than other anglers. Others will become specimen hunters attempting to land big fish, others will adopt a particular type of angling becoming Fly Fishers or lure -anglers. Some will be labelled pleasure anglers a strange term as surely all anglers fish for pleasure?

Whilst I have dabbled in all branches of angling I guess I tend to lean towards being the specimen angler. I have always tried to keep my feet firmly on the ground keeping a perspective on my angling goals. In angling as in all sports and pastimes there is a danger that targets become unattainable diminishing the participants enjoyment.

Back in 1980 I caught my first double figure carp a mirror of 14lb 8oz that was tempted on float-fished sweetcorn. I remember it clearly an accidental capture using just 3lb b.s line and 13ft match rod. For over half an hour  I played a game of give and take until the fish was coaxed into my landing net. Back then this seemed a huge fish and for a while encouraged me to fish for carp after reading a wealth of literature available at the time as carp fishing began its trajectory towards todays state of play.

Just three decades before this carp fishing was shrouded in mystery with a twenty pound carp considered a monster. Richard Walkers book Stillwater Angling was published in 1953 and within its pages is documented the capture of the British Record Carp scaling 44lb. The previous record carp was caught by Walkers friend Peter Thomas and weighed 28lb 10oz. Both fish came from Redmire Pool a location that is revered as the spiritual home of  carp fishing. Close to seventy years later carp of this size scarcely raise an eyebrow and even here in North Devon we have waters such as Furzebray that hold a stock of carp superior to that of Redmire Pool in its heyday.

Todays carp anglers have in truth never had it so good. The advent of modern methods have also de mystified catching of carp making them relatively easy to catch.

Many of todays young carp anglers expect to set out and catch a twenty pound carp treating ten pound fish as insignificant catches. There was a time when a double was a worthwhile catch a twenty a significant achievement and a forty was the fish of a lifetime. Has this change in the merit of fish weights brought extra enjoyment to anglers?

This phenomena is not of course exclusive to the carp angling world. I clearly remember fishing Wistlandpound Reservoir when it was stocked with rainbow trout that averaged 12oz to 1lb. A limit bag of five trout was a good day even if the total bag was less than 5lb. During the eighties came the era of put and take trout fisheries with large rainbows stocked into double figures. Within a few year’s anglers wanted bigger trout and expected to get their limits. In response to demand fishery owners stocked ever bigger trout but had to increase prices to achieve the angler’s expectations.

I have caught a few double figure rainbow trout but I know that they are stocked into a water and need no special skill to tempt. An 8oz wild brownie from a tiny stream is in truth a greater catch and there are an increasing number of anglers who appreciate the value of wild fish.

Anglers are perhaps a complex and diverse group who are perhaps a mirror on society and how it changes. As the decades have passed how we value many things has changed. Forty years ago we had perhaps three channels to watch on the TV, now we have hundreds. Fifty years ago we had black and white TVs. Are we happier today?

To hark back to the carp; imagine Richard Walker casting into the mysterious waters of Redmire Pool. They new it held monsters but they had no idea how big. As the line trickled out on a dark night they had no idea what had taken the bait. It is this mystery that we have perhaps lost in this modern age? What are your thoughts are we happier anglers with today’s well stocked lakes and modern?

AN AUTUMN GRAYLING

In these troubled times time with the rod is so precious bringing a sense of stability to life that is in the shadow of ongoing uncertainty. To the East of Dorchester there are a number of small quintessential English villages nestled in the Upper Frome valley that exude that reassuring essence of continuity we perhaps need during these unprecedented times.

The River Frome is a chalk stream that rises in the Dorset downs passing through Dorchester and numerous villages before converging with the tide at Wareham before entering Poole Harbour.

For an angler the Frome has a rich and varied variety of fish to pursue with the upper reaches dominated by game fish and the lower reaches more suited to coarse fish that grow to specimen sizes. Salmon and sea trout also migrate throughout the river their dwindling numbers of concern as they are throughout the land.

The autumn and winter months are grayling season on the Upper River with the spring and summer trout season. John Aplin is custodian of several stretches of the Frome and carefully nurtures the river to provide a thriving habitat where wild trout and grayling reside within the crystal clear flowing water between swaying fronds of ranunculas.

Pauline and I were staying at the Dairy House West Stafford a well-furnished and comfortable Self catering http://www.chalkstreamflyfishing.co.uk/accommodation/

The accommodation is situated just a short walk away from an exclusive beat of the River Frome that has a reputation for producing huge grayling. It was these grayling that I was hoping to connect with and a day fishing had been booked to coincide with our stay.

The Autumn weather preceding our trip had been unsettled with weather fronts rushing across South West England from the Atlantic. I hoped that the rain had not rendered the river out of sorts as had happened on my previous two visits to the river in search of grayling.

We arrived mid-week and walked the river in late afternoon as the light began to ebb from the day. The river had a tinge of colour but was at a good height and certainly fishable. A herd of Sika deer were grazing in the meadow a large stag in attendance with his harem of fertile females. In the river a pair of swans searched for food gliding gracefully upon the water. Rooks swirled above the trees and leaves fluttered to the ground as the mild westerly gale swept the valley.

Rain pattered upon the windows overnight driven by the westerly wind. I slept fitfully through the night my mind full of weighted nymphs, running water and grayling.

After breakfast I assembled the tackle and chatted with John who told me that the river had dropped slightly and should be in good order despite the overnight rain.

I headed eagerly for the bottom of the beat the path winding its way through dense woodland. The river was slightly clearer than the previous day and at a good height. I was using a 10ft 3 weight nymphing rod, and  two weighted nymphs on a 4lb fluorocarbon leader.

Whilst with polaroid’s I could glimpse into the river spotting fish would not be easy. My tactics were to wade carefully upstream searching likely lies trundling the nymphs over the gravelly runs and probing the deeper darker lies. Reading the water is a skill that is learned over many trips to the river though it is fair to say that  all rivers share many characteristics and the language of the chalk-stream I waded now was not that different to the River Umber I explored as a child angler many decades ago.

Searching the water is a wonderfully cathartic experience requiring total concentration as the bright tip of the line traces the progress of the nymphs bouncing the gravelly runs. Each flicker of the line as the hook catches weed required a tightening of the line in case it is a fish that has been deceived. The wind conspires to send each cast astray, tree branches reach down to ensnare and tangle the nymphs that I have collected after succumbing to tempting emails and posts from https://www.barbless-flies.co.uk  I hoped the grayling would be equally impressed!

After half an hour of searching I lifted the rod to flick out another cast but there came a pleasing living resistance. For a moment I was almost spellbound in disbelief as the rod plunged over, the line moving purposely upstream. The fish hung powerfully in the strong current then used the flow to gain a few yards of line heading down river. I caught sight of a silver flank and the distinctive sail like dorsal fin. Tense moments followed before the fish was safe within the folds of the net. The tiny pink nymph fell from the fishes underslung mouth, I gazed in wonder at the lady of the stream, put a number to it weighing in quickly in the net

(2lb 12oz) and took its portrait before holding the fish in the current relishing the sight of the fish swimming strongly away into the stream of memory.

I sent a picture to Pauline who was relaxing back in the Annexe. I fished on up through the beat immersed in the contentment of success. An hour later I broke away from the river for a late morning coffee.

Shortly after midday I was back in the river Pauline close at hand to take a few pictures of the river as I flicked my offerings into the stream ever expectant now having had my confidence boosted by success. One more grayling succumbed in early afternoon a feisty fish of perhaps 12oz. I caught a glimpse of a couple more grayling that had undoubtedly seen me before I had focussed upon them in the ever running stream.

The day passed away far too quickly as most days beside the water do and I packed away the rods and waders as the light faded. I will return to the river again in search of grayling and maybe even in the height of summer when the water meadows will be lush and green, the river running crystal clear and wild browns will be supping mayfly as the river meanders quietly on.

The following day we headed for home two more anglers were on the River undoubtedly spurred on by news of my grayling. The grayling of the Frome grow to record proportions with fish caught in the past to over four pounds. This autumn has seen at least three fish of over three pounds tempted but these are not prolific fish. Such a grayling is hard won and I look back upon my success contemplating how small the margin is between catching the dream  or not. There are many hundreds of casts in a day on the river and with these rare and precious fish there is often only one cast that will connect with the top prize.

Where have North Devons cod gone?

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Fish populations are a regular topic amongst anglers and sea anglers in particular speculate and debate the ever changing fluctuations. Whilst commercial fishing undoubtedly has a dramatic impact on fish populations there are many other factors that can influence migration including weather patterns and the availability of food.

I noticed a post on Facebook recently commenting on the forthcoming winter season and the expected arrival of cod along the North Devon Coast. I was fortunate to fish the North Devon coast during its cod fishing heyday back in the 1980s and early 90’s when each winter saw numerous double figure cod landed along with the occasional twenty. Capstone Point at Ilfracombe was amongst the hotspots with anglers packing the rocks on favourable winter tides.

Big lugworm’s baits or large fish baits were anchored in the strong tide as winter swells surged against the rocks. South Westerly winds undoubtedly brought the best conditions with coloured water bringing good results.

I have been reporting on angling along the North Devon Coast for the past twenty years and have seen a dramatic reduction in cod catches. Whilst the occasional codling is caught especially from the estuaries large cod from the open coast are virtually unheard of.

During the peak days of cod fishing whiting and pouting were also abundant and catching live-baits was never difficult.

What I find strange is that cod numbers have not shown this dramatic decline further up channel. The Minehead area upwards still has a viable winter cod fishery from both boat and shore. Whilst this fishing coincides with murkier waters I cannot believe this is the answer to question.

Climate change could well be a factor but why would this impact upon North Devon and not Somerset? Food availability could be a factor but observations would not indicate this as herring and sprats are abundant at times throughout the channel.

Other species have become more abundant with spurdog, bull huss, smoothound and ray more prolific. In addition bass can be caught throughout the year and their numbers have not declined in North Devon in the same way as winter cod.

I have no idea what has changed in the past thirty years. It would be interesting to hear readers thoughts on this?

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.

Autumn Sharking – West Cornwall

Since visiting Looe as a child back in the early 1970’s I have had a fascination with shark angling and try to make at least one trip to Cornwall each season in search of blue shark. The top grounds for blue shark are undoubtedly off the West of Cornwall where a few skippers take anglers to fish the clear waters of the Atlantic off Lands End.

Thats me in the shorts fascinated by the sharks ! so good that those days of need less slaughter are consigned to the history book.

This year James and I met up with Bruce Elston, Jason Barrow and Pete Gregory for a trip on Lokie Adventures based in Penzance. Kieren Faisey the young skipper has a vast amount of knowledge having being ably tutored by Robin Chapman the skipper of the renowned Bite Adventures on which I and many other anglers have enjoyed many successful forays. So successful are these two skippers that it is often essential to book up over twelve months ahead to secure a booking.

As is so often the case the trip was hanging in the balance due to the weather forecast that was giving winds from the North West at varying strengths ranging from 10mph to 20mph. Past experience was that anything close to 20mph would result in a cancelled trip winds between 10mph and 15 mph would mean it was potentially doable.

There was then of course the ongoing threat of COVID-19 restrictions being imposed at any time.

Eventually two days before the trip the weather forecast indicated that we might just squeeze the trip in with a gale due to sweep in from the Atlantic the day after our trip.

James and I climbed aboard Lo Kie adventures at 07:30 with a brisk cool North West breeze sweeping across the harbour. After weeks of warm sunny weather an autumnal chill was certainly in the air as we greeted skipper Kieren and our fishing buddies.

First stop is generally to gather a bit of fresh bait within the bay. Down went our strings of feathers. Soon the pleasing rattle tattle could be felt as mackerel seized the lures and were reeled on board to be stored for bait later in the day. After twenty minutes we had a good bucket full of bait and began the long steam out to the sharking grounds. As expected the calm waters of the bay were no reflection on the sea state several miles offshore.

The boat cut through the choppy waters at a pace with the occasional larger swell sending spray high above the boat to plummet on the deck. Gannets and gulls glided above the sea with the gannets occasionally plummeting into the ocean to snuff out the life of some unsuspecting fish beneath the waves.

We chatted enthusiastically about life, fishing and the world with good humoured banter that would continue throughout the day.

It was as always a welcome moment  when eventually the engines were cut the Cornish coast now barely visible in the far distance. Kieren was immediately at work, rubby dubby sacks over the side, a basket of mashed fish suspended in the water. Shark traces un-ravelled, floats secured, baits prepared and impaled upon barbless circle hooks. The baits were paid out and set at various depths the furthest from the boat being set deepest.

Then lots were drawn with me getting number one. And so, the drift began the boat rocking and rolling in the moderate swell created by the North West breeze. Baited feathers were sent to the ocean bed many fathoms below where whiting immediately filled each string to be winched aboard to be used as shark baits.

I always consider the anticipation to be a key element in shark fishing the tension growing as the minutes tick past. Time to take in the vast panorama of the ocean and sky. The early rain had blown over to be replaced by blue skies and white clouds.

After perhaps twenty minutes a reel screamed its warning as the first shark of the day hit a bait. It was great to get the scoreboard ticking with a blue of perhaps fifty pounds. And so the day proceeded with sharks coming steadily with several double hook ups causing mayhem as  Kieren managed to miraculously weave his magic to avoid tangle lines.

It is a joy to do battle with the shark on the quality tackle provided on both Bite Adventures and Lo Kie charters. The ridiculously heavy 50lb class outfits issued by some shark skippers has been replaced by far lighter tackle that ensures the shark give a great account with plenty of screaming reels, bending rods and aching arms.

There is always the  hope that someone will hook that extra  large specimen that will be forever etched upon the mind. Several 200lb plus blues have been brought to the boats this year fish that would have been considered unlikely catches just a few years ago.

The day drifted by all too quickly with the wind steadily increasing and ominous stormy clouds building on the far horizon. Most sharks were between 50lb and 70lbs all fighting hard giving thrilling encounters. A sight that we will all remember was the arrival of a blue beside the boat nudging the dubby bag and taking chunks of whiting tossed to it. James even managed to get some amazing underwater footage on his Go Pro.

A squall passed by early afternoon with strong winds and rain lashing us as we battled with the shark. This was a taste of things to come later in the afternoon.

Three of the larger shark were brought onto the boat the biggest tamed by Jason at a calculated 109lb. Great care is taken to wet the deck before bringing the shark into the boat with the sharks carefully handled with Kieren giving strict instructions on how to hold the shark for that quick photo before its is slipped back into the depths.

Kieren was delighted to announce that we passed a milestone of 1200 sharks for the season with another month still remaining. Testament to Kieren’s dedication and hard work in putting anglers on the shark day after day.

It is interesting to look back to the so called golden era of shark angling back in the sixties and fifties when the Shark Angling Club of Great Britain sailed out of Looe. In 1955 the Looe fleet of shark boats recorded 1200 shark. These numbers grew each year as the appetite for shark fishing increased until in 1960 the total exceeded 6330. These numbers were for the entire fleet not individual boats. Sadly that generation of anglers failed to value the life of the shark with most fish despatched to be brought back to port where their carcasses were displayed as they were hauled onto the scales in-front of the ice cream licking tourists. Fortunately, all shark fishing is now catch and release with anglers now valuing the beauty of these fine fish briefly before release back into the aqua blue ocean.

It would seem that the revival of the blue shark off Cornwall is a good news story, that and the return of the tunny brings hope that our seas can prosper with good management. The fear is that overfishing will once again deplete the pilchards and mackerel that are at the base of the food chain.

Late afternoon saw storm clouds build and the wind increase. Jason battled gamely with  a good shark and grimaced as his cap was torn from his head by the fierce wind. This was extreme fishing! Nobody objected when Kieren suggested we stop at five sharks each to head back to the sheltered waters of the Bay.

The ride back was exhilarating as the boat rode the swell. We glimpsed dolphins in the boats wake, watched gannets dive and as we approached calmer waters a huge tunny leapt from the water.

We paused to catch a few mackerel for the pike fishing later in the coming winter. Dark clouds formed a perfect backdrop as the sun illuminated the towering St Michaels Mount.

www.redgill.co.uk

RIVERS IN DECLINE – Who Cares ?

See Below message from Alex Gibson of the River Taw Fisheries Association. I have repeatedly stressed the need to report incidents and concerns to the relevant bodies. It is sadly true that they may do nothing but at least our concerns are registered and if there is enough concern shown then just maybe something will be done.

The River and the Estuary; the EA and IFCA

While the cat’s away the mice will play.

As you all know our EA Enforcement Officer, Paul Carter, retired earlier this year. As things stand it is not clear when or indeed if he will be replaced. This presents us with a major problem not just for the river, but also for the estuary. Paul was cross-warranted to IFCA.

It is therefore even more important than ever for members to report pollution, poaching, illegal abstraction and other untoward events on the river as well as suspicious fishing activity including fixed long lines on the estuary where no netting is permitted except for sand eels. By putting reports into the EA we will demonstrate the importance of having an EA enforcement officer on our river. IFCA which is Brixham based with no North Devon presence or cross-warranting currently will send officers to the estuary to look into illegal fishing activities if there is appropriate intelligence information.

EA Hotline 0800 80 70 60

Devon & Severn IFCA (Brixham) 07740 175479

Alex Gibson

DIRTY WATERS – My Personal view – Wayne Thomas

I was wading down through the River Torridge a few weeks ago with a good height following heavy rain. I enjoyed my couple of hours swinging the fly across well known lies but I was down hearted by the lack of response in near perfect conditions. As I walked the river I struggled to get a grip on the slippery stones. It was as if the river bed had been coated in a layer of grease and eventually I lost my footing and fell heavily onto the stones. Fortunately my pride took the biggest blow and I fished on with a wet arm vowing to buy a new set of studs for my waders.

Last night I was wading the foreshore casting for bass waring the same waders and I reflect now that the rocks were not slippery. They were not coated in a film of slime like those in the river. Reading the article in the Guardian below I can relate to how our rivers are sadly being allowed to decline. It is a sad story and we must do all we can to stem this sad decline born of neglect and lack of focus. We must put this higher on the political agenda for surely the health of our river and environment is priceless?

I grew up in the village of Combe Martin and fished the River Umber that is the heart of the long valley that I once called home. Precious childhood memories abound of a stream full of life, crimson spotted brown trout with bellys of buttercup yellow hues. Elvers ascended the river in early summer and could be found under every stone close to the rivers mouth. I was chatting with a fellow villager  a few weeks ago and he related to the river of our youth. “Don’t see any trout in the river these days, not since the sewage works was built up river”. The sewage works was of course built to end the disgusting practice of discharging effluent directly into the sea. I can well remember the turds floating in the sea at Camels Eye close to the outfall. Whilst this was not an ideal situation and not acceptable I sometimes wonder if we have just hidden the problem shifting the issues. Investment is of course the answer but who pays?

In a corrupted world it is the environment that pays the price. But eventually we will create a vast cesspit and from what I have seen with the litter left strewn around there are those who would not mind this.

See below link to an article that recently appeared in the Guardian.

Wayne Thomas

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2020/aug/12/government-britains-rivers-uk-waterways-farming-water-companies?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

LITTER – A BIG PROBLEM

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I used to fish with Tim Tanton on a frequent basis years ago when he was a keen sea angler and member of the Combe Martin SAC and have kept in touch from time to time via Facebook. I know that Tim like myself has strong views on the importance of the environment so when I saw  a post regarding  litter and in particular angling related litter I asked Tim if he would write an article for North Devon Angling News and I hoped his words would carry more weight than mine. I have had previous rants about litter and have joined in with beach cleans and inspired angling clubs to organise their own. I do not believe that anglers are worse than others in society but I know that a significant number of anglers seem to have little or no respect for the beautiful coastline they visit. I cannot understand how anyone can find it acceptable to intentionally leave litter. The occasional loss of tackle to snags is inevitable and I am sure we have all had that moment when the wind catches a bait wrapper or something and blows it out of reach into the sea. The litter we see on the coastline on a regular basis is not accidental its just pure ignorance and a selfish disregard for the coastline its wildlife and those of us who want to visit and fish a pristine and wild landscape.
Many thanks to Tim for writing and providing images to illustrate his view of the litter that blights our coast. The litter issue is indefensible and it loses fishing and give angling a very bad name.
Most of the images below were taken in the vicinity of one popular North Devon Rock Mark!

Tim Tanton – Litter 

There has always been a rubbish problem during the summer months in our beautiful part of the world ….. the South West! It’s a tourist area, and attracts people from all over the world. Not that it can be all blamed on tourists, as to be honest, we all know there are local elements that have total disregard for their surroundings. The area has many attractions that are linked to the Ocean. My interests lying with surfing, sea fishing, kayaking, rock climbing, and general walking and coasteering, along the rugged North Devon and North Cornwall coast line.
Alas our infrastructure doesn’t grow, but it does have a massive spike in population through the summer, that now extends into the weekends through the winter.
Not sure if it’s ever been that bad though. The lockdown! Covid-19?
A recent trip out for a walk, along a part of the coast that I have fished, surfed, swam, snorkelled, climbed etc, saw me kneel down and weep. For at the bottom of a rope, down a cliff face, that to be honest, we never used a rope on ourselves, when younger, I found carnage! Smashed bottles scattered across the rocks, empty beer cans, used towels, a pair of trainers, used cutlery and bbq trays. The worst of it though was the molten plastic, the burnt tent that was half buried.
One may possibly think it was due to the fact that nightclubs and pubs were closed. People are having their own parties, and it seems they are using the tucked away beauty spots. Actually unsure as to whether it’s a party, or a group of anglers camping out! They were good tides and conditions for fishing for sure.
These culprits were surely obviously old enough to drive, park up, and walk down over the cliff, and to set up a tent, have a bbq, drink, smoke and then smash the bottles over the rocks and make a fire to burn the tent, and then cover a lot of the remains! A deliberate act. No way should excuses be made. A young child knows the dangers of broken glass. This isn’t in-depth environmental education, or health and safety, this is basic risk to others. Basic right and wrong. This is downright lazy selfish behaviour. There are no reasons to make excuses for their actions. Blatant disregard. Visitors or locals, it doesn’t matter. It should be policed, and they should be punished. For some punishment works, for others education and punishment. Generally I found that through the summer months the fishing spots were dumping grounds of human faeces and rubbish. Cheap fishing tackle and junk food wrappers. No common sense …… we’ve become too soft and liberal. So easy to make excuses for them
The burning of disposable tents etc is new for me, and a blight on our oceans and planet.
Mass production of cheap items that are used at the beach are a huge problem, as seen with bodyboards.
And this new trend of burning and burying is such a risk to wildlife and children, and also adults.
I’m a tad old, and there was neither the disposable income, or the actual products to cause such a mess. Everything was made to last, and people and children, had to look after their things, as there wasn’t the money to buy again.
Society has surely changed. We no longer are a country of design, manufacture and production like before, but of importing cheap toxic goods from China, and similar countries of mass production. Plastic everywhere, not wood and metal that could be repaired easily, or treated with linseed oil, or repainted, or basically just washed clean of salt water.
So many more small plastic items . . . . Gimmicks of angling! Traces are like Blackpool illuminations or Christmas trees! On rugged ground, where do they end up?
I grew up in tune with respect for Mother Nature, as did so many of my friends. We were always outside embracing what it had to offer. We were taught to bring our rubbish home. A different world for sure. I believe we were very fortunate. We definitely had less, so there was less packaging, and less to throw away! True, not all those of my generation were the same.
Covid-19 has created a different mentality. One we hoped would change people to understand the importance of love, care and kindness to our fellow man, and to the planet as a whole. Alas, it appears for many, it’s gone the opposite way. Selfish, entitled, lazy, disrespectful etc
The lockdown for sure saw so many benefits. Think of all the wildlife that were venturing into the villages, and to places they probably existed hugely, before man built more and more second and third homes for holidays!!!!!!!!
All have an impact on how some now see the south west and other beauty spots. It’s a throw away. Been there, trashed that……. next place and so on. It’s world wide on rubbish but when one visits some other countries, it is way less so. Yes, facilities are both better and cheaper, and rubbish less …….. but then looking around, quite often the density of people is way less.
I’m seriously tempted to remove the rope at Saunton, as it only encourages this wanted destruction and pollution of our seas. The metal stake has rusted through, and now someone has tied the rope to a rotten wooden post. The farmer must be sick of the damage by anglers. They’re also doing the same at the last layby at Downend. I met two anglers whilst there, as they climbed down over. One had never been there, the other only twice. They came at the wrong state of tide, no bait, no idea, and didn’t offer to help clean up. The selfish entitled cover all walks of life. I don’t have the heart to ignore the damage and destruction. So many anglers are ignorant. I’m finding more and more elastic thread. This stuff is a nightmare. A full spool is endless as it wraps in weed, debris, rocks, and then wildlife! It’s not ocean friendly and is a killer to marine life. I don’t have the heart to fish much these days, due to what I am seeing. Anglers focus catch and release, but obviously don’t highlight the lost line, and tackle that litters the seabed, or the bottom of lakes and rivers. Things need to change.
I spend my life cleaning up after others, rather than fishing and walking.
Saunton carpark on the first day of opening was rammed. And, no toilets! Hundreds of cars equate to a lot of people, and a lot of human waste, along with their general waste
Just a note! People were parking up, and camping out everywhere. Way before they were officially allowed to. Campervans and van rental places are not apparently concerned about renting out at this time. With no camp sites open, and minimal rubbish facilities, including recycling centres, that are closed to vans! I guess people just saw it as a free for all
The mentality is obviously not focused on our planet. And I’m seeing numerous middle and older ages couples parking up! Whilst many younger adults are in smaller cars with tents parking up and camping in any green space or sand they can find 🙄
Oh for sure, it’s not just anglers. Much of it is young people. There is the vanlife element too. Cheap imported throw away tents etc. Where to you start and finish. And also without any element of racism, Eastern European and Asian. It’s is also locals and visitors. Poorly educated or middle class, it’s across the board. It’s all too easy now.
Way too much plastic involved in fishing rigs. 
Apologies for any intrusion but the masses appear to think they are entitled to visit, and if services and resources not provided, tough ……. not their problem. Many won’t return to see the damage they cause. I could go on, but I would get very non pc ………
An example in Sri Lanka, more people arrested for breaking curfew than people testing positive for Covid-19
The reaction of some to my recent Instagram post, was of making excuses for those that smashed and burnt the items
Quotes like, they probably haven’t been taught at school that it’s wrong. That they’ve not been educated. Unbelievable some people. I had another prospective sponsor but I’m feeling I’ve lost him, through his belief that it’s not their fault! Ffs!
Alas we are now having generations of entitled that pass it down, and then the good start feeling oppressed by it all, and then say ‘feck it’, I’m done with clearing up after others
I never not come back with rubbish. If I park and there is rubbish near my van, I pick it up. If I fish, and see discarded line, bait wrappers, trace packets and food packaging, I pick it up. If I surf, and walk back up the beach, and see something, I have a spare hand, and pick it up. If I walk a friends dog, I carry the poo the whole distance and also pick up rubbish. Most walkers and dog walkers do not pick up rubbish. Fact! I watch them. It takes just the two minutes to make a difference 😢
I organised beach cleans in the past at Saunton, as part of the charity, Paddle4Relief, I founded back in 2005. Didn’t get any official help back then. Only other organisations sending me their flyers etc
Only during lockdown did we actually get to enjoy the clean beach for less than a hour, but it was good, and each trip a little more rubbish was collected and at the end, there was no rubbish …….. and now it’s back again 😭
It scares me that my first thought is to kill them. That this world does not need these selfish ignorant lazy disrespectful entitled idiots. A quick 9mm and the planet is spared their toxic attitude. Alas the nanny state find excuses for their behaviour and wrap them upon cotton wool, and protect them, so as to create another generation of idiots 😤😢😩
I hope that this opportunity for Tim to speak out will make a difference. It is my view that we all need to speak up and make it known that this is not acceptable. If enough people make it known their disgust then just maybe we can shame these members of society into keeping the countryside clear.
There are a few things we can all do;-
Don’t leave litter .
Pick it up and take it away – The Angling Trust had a take 5 campaign.
Think about the rigs we use and how we can reduce tackle loss.
Use the national line recycling scheme.
(Above) Heather at Summerlands Tackle Westward Ho! Binning fishing line for recycling.

Summer Fishing at Wimbleball

WIMBLEBALL

As we enter July trout fishing tends get harder going as the water temperature rises and the fish go deeper. I was eager to get out onto Wimbleball before the summer doldrums set in and had arranged to meet with Snowbee ambassador Jeff Pearce for a day afloat.

I met up with Jeff at the boat launching bay just before 9.00am and my spirits were immediately lifted by the enthusiastic banter that was flowing amongst the anglers gathering for a day on the water. I have found that angling has been a great antidote to the widespread doom and gloom of the COVID pandemic.

We were all greeted cheerfully by Trevor the fisheries resident guide and bailiff who is always willing to offer valuable advice on where to fish and what tactics to employ.

It seemed the perfect day for trout fishing with a moderate westerly breeze and broken cloud cover. If this had been a month earlier teams of buzzers would have been the way to go I am sure but general consensus was now for deeper water and lures.

During the more difficult days of mid to late summer a boat gives a significant advantage allowing a larger area of the lake to be explored.

Jeff and I decided on a few casts in the sailing club bay just to get warmed up so to speak. As we drifted slowly Jeff caught a glimpse of a good sized rainbow estimated at 6lb + and put his olive damsel into the area. The fish immediately seized the offering and erupted from the water in a flurry of spray. I grabbed for the camera to no avail as Jeff pulled in a slack line to reveal that the hook had partially opened out. Testament to Wimbleball’s hard fighting fish or a dodgy hook?

I had one trout follow my lure in the bay but after this early success we decided to head out onto the lake proper. The deeper water up near the dam seemed a good idea so it was off to there that we headed powered by the petrol outboard.

Drifting the margins Jeff had the first chance as a trout likened to a tuna chased a damsel nymph to the side of the boat. A few more glimpses of trout brought excited comments from Jeff as we explored the lakes margins that dropped off into deep-water within just yards of the bank.

After a few tentative plucks the first fish of the day was secured. A small handsome rudd of just over 8oz!

The Upton Arm has a reputation for producing some superb wild brown trout. And so we headed up into this delightfully wooded bay. Drifting with the strong breeze proved a little too fast even with the drogue so we decided to drop anchor at a promising looking spot not too far off the shoreline. I often ponder upon this for when we fish from boats we often strive to get close to shore whilst when we shore fish we aim to put our flies as far out as possible. In truth the margin of the lake is its biggest and most often productive zone.

This area soon proved a good call as Jeff hooked a fine rainbow of close to 5lb that used its broad tail to good effect. Over the next couple of hours Jeff added another three rainbows to the tally. I couldn’t get a pull and started to question what I was doing wrong. I was on a sinking line and fishing a damsel nymph whilst Jeff was on a sink tip with using various large nymphs on the point a yellow and red buzzer on a dropper.

As the fishing eased we decided perhaps unwisely to try elsewhere and headed for the deep water of the Narrows close to some old boat launching steps. Sticking with  the sinking line and a damsel nymph I searched the deep water. Suddenly the line zipped tight and a rainbow of a couple of pounds graced the net. Over the next couple of hour’s we drifted around anchored  for periods and it was me that started to enjoy success adding a couple more to the days total.

As afternoon drifted into evening we decided on a last half an hour back in the sailing club bay. After a few casts another rainbow hit my black zulu on the dropper. With four trout each it seemed a good time to head for home.

As we packed away the gear the lake looked superb in the early evening light. We reflected upon an enjoyable day of two halves. A morning when Jeff seemed to charm the trout and an afternoon when I somehow found the key to success. These long hard summer days though challenging are often just as rewarding as those easier days of plenty in the early season.

We will be back in search of those broad backed tuna shaped rainbows with full tails before too long!

Angling Heritage – Sturgeon update

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A little while ago Keith at AH wrote a short feature for North Devon Angling News relating to sturgeon I have added to story with Angling Heritages up to date list of sturgeon catches in the UK. Wales was undoubtedly the hotspot for these magnificent fish. Its so sad that we have allowed out waters to become devoid of these mighty fish.

Sturgeon in North Devon – Can you help?

I am sure many of you will see that we are compiling a list of sturgeon “captures” by whatever method, caught in UK waters.  This seems to have aroused a lot of interest so we have set up one of the “Articles” on the webpage to show an up-to -date listing of the data we have found so far. The link is http://www.anglingheritage.org/p-27672-list-of-sturgeon-catches-in-uk-waters.aspx for those who have problems finding it.

There are also plenty of other articles which make fascinating reading there too.

REPORTING POLLUTION INCIDENTS TO THE EA – 0800 807060

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REPORTING POLLUTION INCIDENTS TO THE EA
Our rivers are in my view the arteries of the land and it is our responsibility to do all that we can to safeguard them. As anglers we spend many hours both beside and in the water and have the opportunity to spot signs of pollution or activities that could have a negative impact. The Environment Agency are the main body responsible for dealing with issues and it is to them that we must report our concerns. The more we report the more chance of issues being addressed. I have heard comment from some that there is no point reporting things as nothing gets done. This attitude has no benefit for it just reinforces the belief. Speak up raise awareness of issues and then if its not dealt with raise the fact with your local MP or other body. We have a voice they are our rivers and deserve to be cherished.
Anglers are reminded that reporting incidents to the EA is an individual responsibility. It is particularly important in times of drought or low flows.
If you come across an incident that includes any of the following:
  • damage or danger to the natural environment
  • pollution to water or land
  • poaching or illegal fishing
  • dead fish or fish gasping for air
  • main rivers blocked by a vehicle or fallen tree causing risk of flooding
  • flooding from any river, stream, canal, natural spring or the sea
  • illegal removals from watercourses
  • unusual changes in river flow
  • collapsed or badly damaged river or canal banks
 
You should call the EA Incident Hotline on: 0800 807060 – without delay. Time may be of the essence. 
 
Your report will be made in complete confidence. Save the number into your mobile phone and pass it on to others.
 
If you make a call to this number it is recorded and the EA are duty bound to act on it. Do not hesitate or prevaricate.